I was going to wait until Polycarp got back, but we’ve got another thread running here in GD that makes this relevant.
I’ve noticed among some Christians a need to determine who “gets into heaven” and who doesn’t. “Gets into heaven” is in quotes because its such a vague term with so many meanings. In talking this over with Polycarp off-line, I’ve reached a few conclusions about this, but I’d like other people’s opinions. It seems to me we’ve got two competing paradigms here.[ol][li]If everyone gets into heaven, then getting into heaven is meaningless and there’s no point in being good or striving to achieve salvation because everyone goes.[/li][li]If some people are excluded from heaven, how do I know I’m not one of them?[/ol][/li]
Having come from a background where I spent a lot of my time being excluded, I get nervous when I hear “A are not getting into heaven.” You see, in my experience, A becomes B, and C (or CJ!)'s next. When I was treated as least worthy, I was included. On the other hand, I can see how someone dealing with the same sense of unworthiness I’ve fought could say “I may not be worthy of much, but at least I’m better than A”.
Still, I’d like some help understanding this point of view. I’m not interested in playing dueling Bible verses. What I’d like help with is understanding the opposite point of view and finding out where the denizens of GD think about this.
From the understanding I have gleaned in discussions with the non-exclusivist Christian element here and my own experience when I used to be theist myself, I feel it must be all or nothing: Everyone in heaven, or no afterlife whatsoever.
The broadest, and perhaps most “Christ-like”, criterion I have found is this: That if one shows Love, via good works, then your imperfections will be forgiven and you will become one with God even if you didn’t believe in him at any point in your life. Similarly, a believer of any other religion, or even one who actively rejected God, but who showed love through good works, would be accepted.
Now, the problem I have with this is that every single person has commited an act of goodness in their life, even if they subsequently comitted acts of great cruelty or atrocity. We are thus asked to believe that either God has some running score on us - a threshold of good works or expressions of love which it is possible to fall below and thus be barred entry, if you will - or Hitler is in heaven.
Of course, this bookkeeping operation might be perfectly fair (by definition!), but it still leads to the logical conclusion that two people separated by the tiniest atom of goodness are granted or refused entry to heaven because they fall infinitessimally either side of the magic threshold, and I simply cannot take this idea seriously.
So, it’s life after death for everyone in my view, if at all. And if life after death, why not life before birth? I have met very few people who credit their existence during those billions of years before their conception. And so, perhaps a little reluctantly since immortality is so nice an idea, I am forced to conclude that no one enters heaven, and that an afterlife is mere wishful thinking.
Since it is all guesswork (even though we might like to call it other things), how about:
Stay with me here…
If we are nothing much more than the sum of everything we do and think and if at the end, it all gets tossed in the furnace, then the way in which we experience this will be different depending on what we are primarily made out of.
If most of what I am made of happens to be the bad stuff, then this experience will be terrible and at the end, there won’t be much left of me. But what remains will be good, however small.
If most of what I am happens to be the precious metals, it will be like having a boil lanced and cauterised - the majority of me remains intact, but the worthless part is gone forever.
Of all the things that you should be sure of, it’s your eternal destiny. To say “I hope I’m going to heaven” is like standing at the open door of a plane 25,000 feet in the air and, when asked “Have you got your parachute on?” answering with “I hope so.” You want to know so— and you can, simply by obeying the gospel. If you repent and place your faith in Jesus Christ, He will give you eternal life and you can know that your eternity is secure. These verses also make clear that those who refuse to trust in the Son of God can likewise know that they do not have eternal life—they will remain dead in their sins.
I can see a parachute. I can’t see my salvation, and, as your Lord said, some of the people who are most certain of theirs are just arrogant jerks. That verse, amongothers, also contradict the idea that something simple and unambiguous like standing up and saying, “I have faith in Christ” is enough to get salvation.
It’s not. Repent and believe. The first link can be translated "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Those who practice lawlessness are those who continually break the commandments, and no one can serve God and sin. It is simple, not umambiguous. There are many people who call themselves Chrsitian because they feel this is an insurance policy, yet do everything the Bible tells them not to.
Humans (as a group, not individuals) have proven over and over that they have a need to feel better than someone else. Race and religion have been frequent and convenient ways to determine who that group of other lesser beings is.
People with the opinion that they are SURE of what will happen to others after death always rub me the wrong way. I’ve never felt that I am capable of reading God’s mind. If eternity is filled with these people, I’m not so sure I want to be there.
If I were more of a stong Christian and less of a lapsed one, this would still go. The Bible only tells me, really, to do two things: Love God and love others. The rest of it doesn’t really matter, especially the Old Testament.
You’ve probably been asked this before, but OK, you’re pretty sure you know what the Bible says about XYZ, but how do you know that what it says (on which you have based your certainty) is actually right?
I might weep for the souls that are lost, except that I think to myself: Is not Jesus Lord of all things, for all time? And does He not love us, each one? And is His love not perfect? How then are the souls of His children lost, but for a moment in the vast halls of eternity? Where shall they go, that He cannot find them?
So, I do not weep, but have faith, that the Lord save each soul that will be saved. And it is by Love that our souls are made immortal, not by deeds.
But I shall endeavor to live my life in love, out of love of God. Doing what is good is good. It needs no reason other than itself.
What possible purpose can be served by judging someone else – especially when we, as Christians, have been told not to?
No one is perfect, but if we try to show some measure of acceptance, kindness, patience, forgiveness and grace to all that we meet, then we are showing love for our neighbor. If we judge and correct and condemn and scold, we are not being loving.
Our lives are our way of teaching others.
Get your hands off your hips, your finger out of my face and let’s break bread together.
…Unless, of course, you have issues with anger and control and correctiveness. Those compulsions have nothing to do with following the teachings of Jesus other than to interfere.
Hmmm, I’d have to say, based on my own personal experience, that *non-*Christians are typically the ones demanding our position, as though the destination is determined by a majority vote or somesuch.
Anyway, as I’ve noted in that other thread you mentioned, I believe that there is only one name under heaven by which men are saved, Jesus Christ. I also believe that there will be many who will be judged at the end of the age by God worthy of His Kingdom, though they might never have heard the Gospel. I don’t think this is “an easy out” for those, having heard the Word, choose to avoid, evade, deny or delay choosing faith in Christ. I am concerned by those who seem so cavalier, so nonchalant about this issue. Can’t get worked up about it, willing to take the chance on being wrong, willing to “duke it out” with God when that day comes. Does anyone seriously expect God to say, “Hmmm. So, you hear the Gospel message, oh, about six gazillion times during your normal lifespan, just thought you’d take a ‘wait and see’ attitude, and now, you’re hoping I cut you a break?”
I mean, my word! Where is the devotion and dedication and honor due the Creator by His creation? What chutzpah to expect God to be a ‘Sugar Daddy’ right when your keister’s on the line!
It seems to me we’ve got two competing paradigms here.[list=1][li]If everyone gets into heaven, then getting into heaven is meaningless and there’s no point in being good or striving to achieve salvation because everyone goes.[/li][/QUOTE]
This is an outrageous suggestion, and not based on Scripture, mind you. Think Hitler, kicking back in heaven, no change in character, what-so-ever. Now, think of all those tyrants, despots, truly evil men throughout history, all comfy and warm. I want to meet the person who seriously, honestly believes that would be heaven. It sounds like a repetition of earth; perhaps hell on earth, for eternity.
[li]If some people are excluded from heaven, how do I know I’m not one of them?[/li][/QUOTE]
Faith in God, repentance of sins, following His commandments. When I read those passages that suggest that some will be rejected (“Depart from me. I never knew you.”) I am, curiously enough, reminded of lousy actors, playing a part. Pretending to be what even they know they are not. I don’t believe God ever intended His message to be one that the average layman couldn’t understand, at least at the basic level. I find no evidence of God using secret coded messages, secret handshakes, or the like.
None are worthy of God. Salvation is a gift, not a reward. We do not deserve this honor, but God’s love for us grants it. I suggest you study the Bible, seeking the patterns of God’s thoughts and desires for His creation, and disregard those who claim to know with perfect foresight who will/will not get into heaven.