A Contradiction at the Heart of the System

The Christian doctrine of salvation states we must believe in Jesus and his death for our sins to be saved and go to heaven.  In this blog and in my book we have asked three questions about this doctrine.  One of these questions is:

  • What kind of a God would condemn to hell those who have never heard of Jesus or who have a distorted view of Jesus?

This question has been asked for centuries but no one has developed answers that are logical and Biblical based.  Having no answer for this question creates serious problems concerning the validity of our Christian faith.  As David Trueblood, a Christian philosopher, states:

What kind of God is it who consigns men and women and children to eternal torment, in spite of the fact that they have not had even a remote chance of knowing the saving truth?. . .A God who would thus play favorites with His children, condemning some to eternal separation from Himself while admitting others, and distinguishing between them wholly or chiefly on the basis of the accidents of history or geography, over which they had no control, would be more devil than God.  In any case He would not even remotely resemble Jesus Christ, and thus there is a contradiction at the heart of the system. [1]

If we have a contradiction at the heart of our faith, how can we justify adhering to our faith?  Now I understand that we are finite and will not understand why God does everything the way he does.  As a result we will need to take some things on faith.  But I have a hard time believing that God would place a contradiction at the heart of our faith and expect us to essentially ignore it.

There must be a solution to this problem.  So why have we not resolved it?


[1]   David Elton Trueblood, Philosophy of Religion, New York:  Harper & Row, 1957, pp. 221-222.

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Of Being Very Sure

In an article on the impact black holes have on galaxies and the various theories scientists have about that subject, John Kormendy notes that “Scientists get very sure of things that they think they’re very sure of.  And sometimes they’ve been wrong—and when they are, it’s a hell of a job to change the folklore”. [1]

We are no different than the scientists.  In his Curious Cat blog, John Hunter notes that it is difficult for all of us to change.  Part of the problem is that once we invest so much in a particular way of thinking, to change that way of things means what we have done in the past is wasted. [2]  And none of us like to think we have wasted a considerable part of our lives. But regardless of what it costs us we should follow the advice of a Turkish proverb:  “No matter how long you have been on the wrong road, turn back.”

Now Christians can use what is stated above to convince someone to become a Christian.  In fact that is what Christianity is all about—admitting our failures and resolving to take a new direction.  However, we should also follow this Turkish proverb when we encounter problems with our beliefs.  For example, in this blog and in my book we have raised three questions about the Christian doctrine of salvation.  For centuries, Christianity has not addressed those questions.  In this blog we have proposed a solution but accepting that solution requires that we change some of our beliefs about our doctrine of salvation.  Will we continue down the wrong road on which Christianity has been or will we turn back?


[1]   John Kormendy as quoted in Camille M. Carlisle, “Of Black Holes and Galaxies”, Sky & Telescope, February 2017, p. 20.

[2]   Gerald Suarez as quoted by John Hunter, http://management.CuriousCatblog.net, June 25, 2014.

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Focusing on the Past

In this blog (see the posts of 08-24-2014 and 08-31-2015) and in my book, we have noted the curiosity that while Christ’s resurrection is one of the most celebrated Christian events, it is hardly mentioned in our theology.  Why?  Several other Christians have recognized this and one is H. A. Williams.  He states that if the concept of the resurrection is just an historical event as in Christ’s resurrection or if it is just a future event as when we will be raised from the dead, then the idea of the resurrection is merely theoretical and therefore meaningless to us.  In other words, it has no impact on our current lives. [1]

Williams asserts that the resurrection should have an impact on our lives because only if we experience resurrection in the present can we expect to experience it in the future. [2]  Additionally, the Bible teaches us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 that Jesus’ resurrection (which is described in the perfect tense) is a past event with present consequences which is the new life God wants us to live.  The only way we will experience true resurrection after we die will be if we experience true resurrection while we are alive.  We must become a new creation if we expect to experience the presence of God when we die.  Why is that not part of our doctrine of salvation?

Also in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, the past tense is used to describe Jesus’ death for our sins.  There is nothing more we need to do about our sins; Jesus paid the penalty and that is final.  It is so strange that in our doctrine we Christians focus on what happened in the past, on what is already been accomplished, while ignoring what God has planned for us today.  Why?


[1]   H. A. Williams, True Resurrection, Springfield, IL:  Templegate Publishers, 1972, pp. 3-5.

[2]  Ibid., p. 13

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Thou Shalt Not

“Augustine defined sin as any word, deed, or desire against eternal law.” [1]   How are these eternal laws expressed?  Most of those that come immediately to mind are negative.  Consider the Ten Commandments.  Only two are positive.  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy and honor thy father and mother.  The other eight tell us not to do something—“thou shalt not”.  Why is so much of the Bible negative—don’t do this, don’t do that?  What kind of person is God if he is someone who just tells us what we cannot do?

However, the eternal laws given in the Bible are not all negative.  The Golden Rule is positive–“Do unto others. . .”  The Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 are all positive—Blessed are those who. . .”  In Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.  Both are positive.

We Christians tend to be negative about our beliefs because of our emphasis on the necessity of believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.  In order to be saved we must acknowledge that we are sinners, that we did what is wrong.  However, the good news is that the forgiveness of our sins has been dealt with in the past; it has already been accomplished; it is a done deal.  So why is our emphasis on the past?

What our emphasis should be on our future; it should be on the new life God has planned for us; it should be on the type of person we God wants us to be; it should be on the new creation God wants us to become (II Corinthians 5:17).  Our focus should be on what we are to be or do instead of what we should not be or do.


[1]   Timothy McDermott, editor, St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, Norte Dame, IN:  Christian Classics, 1989, p. 250.

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Religion and Morality

I’m reading Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Everett Perguson.  In this book Perguson notes that morality was not associated with religion in Greco-Roman paganism.  Rather, morality was taught by philosophers and teachers or was the result of one’s national customs.  Perguson also notes that this distinction between religion and morality is strange to those of us of the Judeo-Christian heritage. [1]

But is this separation between religion and morality really that strange to us Christians?  Our doctrine of salvation states all we need to do to be saved is to believe and nothing else.  Our ethics or morality has nothing to do with our salvation.

However, this blog and my book reference multiple Biblical passages that contradict the notion that our ethics have nothing to do with our salvation.  One example is in Galatians 6 where Paul is talking about Christians and Christian problems; he is not talking about unbelievers.  He says:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-9 ESV)

Religious rules for Greco-Roman paganism were largely ceremonial and not ethical.  Major events in a family’s life were celebrated by offering gifts to various idols and gods. [2]  Is that much different from salvation being just a matter of belief?  Is God satisfied, are we saved, just because we say the right words at one point in our lives?  Is God satisfied if we have a ceremony of professing belief and baptism?  If you answered “yes” then it appears that the practices of the Greco-Roman pagans were not much different from our practices as Christians today.  If you answered “no” then we need to change our doctrine of salvation.


[1]   Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993, pp. 65 and 165.

[2]   Ibid., p. 165.

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What Is the Great Commission?

In the last blog we briefly mentioned the Great or Divine Commission which is contained in Matthew 28. It is Jesus’ final instructions to his followers.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

What is of interest is that all of Jesus’ commands contained in the Great Commission are action words—things we are to do.  Nothing is said about belief.  Jesus did not say to make believers of all nations; he said to make disciples.  So why is not our doctrine of salvation the same?  Why does our doctrine of salvation only concern itself with our belief in Jesus and his death for our sins and say nothing about the actions the Bible says we are to take?

Now before someone will be a disciple of Jesus or follow Jesus’ command they undoubtedly would first believe in Jesus.  However, that still does not negate the emphasis Jesus places on actions in the Great Commission.  And as we have shown in this blog and in my book, the entire Bible has the same emphasis; our actions are necessary for our salvation.

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The Divine Commission

Frank E. Wilson, in his book The Divine Commission:  A Sketch of Church History, places considerable emphasis on the church fulfilling the divine commission Christ left his followers.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

What interested me was that his book, while recording the partial realization of the divine commission, was mainly a record of how unlike Christ the church has been throughout history.  The people in leadership positions in the church were more interested in money, power, and prestige than about the things of God. [1]  They were quite willing to torture and kill those who disagreed with their theology and practices, even for very minor differences. [2]  In our own age we have seen priests molest young children, TV preachers amassing wealth at the expense of their poor followers, and all sorts of financial and personal misdeeds by Christians.

What is incredible is that throughout this sordid history of the church the teachings of Jesus have remained valid.  I do not see how that could happen if Jesus’ teaching were just a human construct.  The hypocrisy of the church teaching one thing and doing another should have ended it long ago.  The fact that it did not indicates to me that Jesus’ teachings are of divine origin and in spite of the fallible people who are this church, his teachings remain the ultimate guide for our lives.  This is one reason why I believe.


[1]   Frank E. Wilson, The Divine Commission:  A Sketch of Church History, Delhi, India:  Facsimile Publisher, 1927, p. 209.

[2]   Ibid., p. 114.

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Does Christianity Work?

Science can be defined as the “logical and systematic study of nature and the physical world”. [1]  In order to study our physical world, scientists develop theories about how our world is constructed and then perform experiments to determine if these theories are true or false. [2]  But as Popper notes, it is logically impossible to prove a theory [3] because science rests upon the foundation of the inductive method which we cannot prove.  (See chapter 5 in my book if you want more information on why this is so.)  However, science does work [4] as is evidenced by our technologically advanced society.

Can our religious beliefs be evaluated like science?  Is our faith testable?  The Christian philosopher Trueblood thinks so:

There is really no hope for the Christian faith apart from tough-mindedness in matters of belief.  If God is not, then the sooner we find it out the better.  If belief in God is not true, it is an evil and should be eliminated from our entire universe of discourse.  False belief is evil because it diverts energy from practical tasks that require attention.  If prayer is not an objective encounter with the Living God, we shall do well to make this discovery and give up the nonsense as soon as possible. [5]

As is demonstrated in my book, we cannot definitively prove that Jesus died and rose again for our sins.  But like science we should be able to demonstrate that Christianity works.  Our faith should produce results in our lives.  If it does not then we have reason to question its validity.  The problem is the track record of Christianity is a mixed bag.  Christianity has been a major positive influence on this world with all the assistance it has provided to the poor and suffering.  However, it has also committed atrocities such as the Inquisition and Rwanda so it is no wonder that many in our world question the validity of Christianity.  Maybe if we Christians understood that salvation is the change of our soul so it becomes like God and not a set of beliefs, then it would be more evident that Christianity works.


[1]   Dick Teresi, Lost Discoveries, New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2002, p.15.

[2]   Henri Poincare,  The Foundations of Science,  Lancaster, PA:  The Science Press, 1946, p.127.

[3]   Bryan Magee,.  Philosophy and the Real World,  LaSalle, IL:  Open Court Publishing Company, 1985, p. 22.

[4]   Ibid., p. 17.

[5]   David Elton Trueblood, A Place to Stand, New York:  Harper & Row, 1969, p. 19.

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Recent research has shown what many Christians suspected is true—the Christian church is losing many young people and the major reason is serious intellectual doubts. [1]  Now when we talk about doubt and Christianity, most immediately think about doubting the validity of Christianity.  While there are many such questions, Christian apologetics has been very successful in addressing those doubts.  I took the certificate program in apologetics from Biola and it clearly demonstrated that Christianity is a very reasonable faith.  This is not to say we have iron clad proof for Christianity but given the human condition (we are finite) we have a wealth of evidence for our faith.

However, demonstrating the reasonableness of our faith is only part of the answer.
There are other doubts besides the validity of Christianity such as theological or doctrinal questions.  These questions must be dealt with as well.  In this blog and in my book, we have asked three of those questions.

  1. What kind of a God would condemn to hell those who have never heard of Jesus or who have a distorted view of Jesus?
  1. What kind of God would make us finite (which means our ability to know what is true is limited) and then condemn us to hell for eternity for not believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection for our sins (an event for which we cannot have certain proof because we are finite)?
  1. There are over 70 verses in the Bible that teach salvation is through belief in God or through our conduct, pattern of behavior, motivation, use of abilities, and repentance. Why did God put these verses in the Bible?

It is unfortunate that the Christian community has not addressed these questions.  Until it is willing to do so, doubts will remain and we will continue to lose not only our young people but others who thoughtfully examine our faith.


[1]   Craig Hazen and Larry Barnett, “Young People are Indeed Leaving the Church”, Biola Magazine, Fall 2016.

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Sins of Omission

In the past two blogs we have discussed the book Why We Make Mistakes.  Another point the author makes is that research has shown people feel more responsible for their actions than their inaction.  He notes that inaction means we did not do anything and we typically need to do something to feel guilty or good about what we did. [1]

However, the idea that failing to act is as much of a sin as wrongful acts is not a foreign concept to us.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that “. . .it is just as bad to passively accept evil as it is in inflect it.”

In Ezekiel 3:16-21God tells Ezekiel and in Ezekiel 33:1-9 God instructs Ezekiel to tell the people of Israel that it is our responsibility to warn others of danger or of the error of their ways.  If we do not, God will require that person’s blood at our hand.

In the study of the theology of sin one way of categorizing sin is by sins of commission and sins of omission.  Sins of commission are when we take actions that are contrary to God’s commands.  St. Thomas Aquinas states “a sin of omission violates a command to do something positive”. [2]  So in either case are we not violating a command of God?  Would that not make a sin of omission no different than a sin of commission?


[1]   Joseph T. Hallinan.  Why We Make Mistakes.  New York:  Broadway Books, 2009, p. 53.

[2]   Timothy McDermott, editor, St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, Norte Dame, IN:  Christian Classics, 1989, p. 250.

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