Questions about the Christian Doctrine of Salvation

The first question we will ask about Christianity in this blog concerns the doctrine of salvation.  According to the doctrinal statements of virtually all of the Christian religions, anyone who wants to spend eternity in heaven with God must believe that Jesus Christ existed, died for our sins, and rose from the dead.  This doctrine is a central tenant of the Christian faith; it is part of what makes Christianity different from other religions and philosophies.  This is an exclusive claim; all who do not accept Jesus Christ will be condemned to hell for eternity.

On such an important doctrine as this, it is imperative we understand the logical consequences of that belief.  As philosophy has long taught us, if we discover inconsistencies or contradictions within a particular belief we must question the validity of that belief.  The Christian philosopher David Elton Trueblood instructs us:  “It is not intellectually honest to hold a position after it is known that the position leads inevitably to other positions which are recognized as false”. [1]  The effectiveness of examining our beliefs for contradictions is illustrated by Albert Einstein.  He stated part of how he came to his revolutionary theories of the universe was to examine contradictions in scientific beliefs that were apparent for years but, for a variety of reasons, ignored. [2]  As a result of Einstein’s work, scientists now have a better understanding of how our universe is constructed.  Likewise, by examining our Christian beliefs for contradictions, we will either further verify our beliefs or we will discover areas in which our understanding of how God relates to us is deficient and needs to be revised.

Because Christians claim that Jesus is the only way we can be saved and go to heaven, three questions immediately surface.

1.      How can God be a God of love and justice and yet condemn people to hell who either have not heard of Jesus or whose culture and/or religion tells them Jesus is irrelevant?

2.      God made us finite; he constructed our existence so certainty in regards to historical events is not absolute.  For example, while there is substantial evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, there will always remain an element of doubt.  So how can God condemn people to hell for not believing in something for which they cannot obtain certain proof?

3.      God seems to confuse the issue of what salvation is.  There are at least 70 verses in the New Testament which state salvation is obtained through belief in God or through our conduct, pattern of behavior, motivation, use of abilities, and repentance.  If belief in Jesus is the only way to heaven, why did God include these verses in the Bible?


What should we do about these contradictions?  Most of us acknowledge these problems but respond in ways that do not resolve the issue.  Either we repeat the answers Christians have used for years (we will show in future blogs those answers are not valid) or, because we have no answer, we essentially ignore it.  Some ignore this problem by asserting that God knows what he is doing and we will find an answer to this problem when God explains it to us in heaven.  I do not have a problem if Christians rely on their faith to resolve this issue but it does not work for me for two reasons.  First, both of these responses do not make these contradictions go away and these contradictions only serve to drive people away from Christ.  Second, like Pascal, I believe there must be a resolution of all contradictory passages in the Bible or God has no meaning at all. [3]  On an issue as critical as the salvation of our souls, I cannot believe God has constructed our existence like some Alice in Wonderland world in which we must believe in a half a dozen impossible things before breakfast [4] if we want to be saved.  If there is a contradiction in our theology, the most likely explanation is our interpretation of the Bible is in error—we do not fully understand what God is telling us.

I believe there is a resolution to these contradictions.  In the next three (3) blogs, we will explore in detail each of the contradictions we have listed to ensure we fully understand the problem.  It is imperative we have a full grasp of the problems we face before we attempt to resolve these issues.


[1]   David Elton Trueblood, General Philosophy (New York:  Harper & Row:  1963), pp. 9-10.

[2]   Ronald W. Clark, Einstein:  The Life and Times (New York:  The World Publishing Company, 1971), p. 86.

[3]   A. J. Krailsheimer, Trans., Pascal:  Pensées, (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England:  Penguin Books, 1966), p.106.

[4]   Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass (Mahwah, NJ:  Watermill Press, 1983), p. 187.

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