One of the common claims found within Christianity is that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. For those who understand contemporary Christian thought, you will be familiar with the trajectory of this teaching. It stems from a mixture of Jesus’ exclusivity claim found in John 14:6 combined with a number of passages from Romans that teach that faith is the replacement of the law. There is more to it, but essentially this sums up the thrust of most modern Sunday morning messages.
Essentially this idea of faith alone in Christ alone has become the new threshold for salvation. There is also quite a substantial number of churches that teach that a person has to invite Jesus into their heart and ask forgiveness for their sins as the threshold too. In fact, thresholds are not new. In the past the church has told people they must be baptized, or at least compete confirmation classes. Others insist on regular church attendance, some the reading of scripture, others the speaking in tongues. In fact there are so many different practices for ensuring a person goes to heaven within Christianity that if we ever took the time to evaluate the differences between them then we would probably be very very surprised.
While man has conveniently taken his favorite bible verses and weaved them into a theology and a religious structure, Jesus wasn’t so willing to do that. In fact when we actually read the bible we find people being saved in what we would now consider unconventional ways. Many are saved because they wanted a physical healing and afterward they figured, hey, if I can now see then this must be a man of God worthy of my faith. Others were centurions, tax collectors, fisherman, or the poor who after believing went back to their life, with no mention of joining a local church or changing that much about their lives.
The rich young ruler meets Jesus desiring to believe, but is denied because his heart is really about his wealth. Still another invalid doesn’t even ask for salvation but is forgiven of his sins all because his friends lowered him down from the roof of the house to get healed. In both examples there is a narrowness and a wideness to how Jesus is evaluating people.
Another interesting point in this discussion is that most modern Christians agree that people such as Abraham, Moses, Solomon and David are all in heaven with Jesus. Are these men Christians? For that matter of fact, was Abraham even Jewish? He and his faith come way before the law and the people who are known by his son’s (renamed) name-Israel.
From my vantage point, this highlights the silliness of modern Christianity and the evangelical priority of salvation as if Jesus’ sole mission was soteric (salvation). It may have been largely soteric but certainly not exclusively. So how does the modern church explain it’s disproportionate focus on getting people saved? By the way, most modern churches are doing a terrible job of the one thing they are claiming to focus on exclusively.
Is it easy to get to heaven or difficult? All kinds of religious power plays and institutional programs have been made on both sides of the coin. Some teach narrowness, other teach wideness. Some teach many, others teach few. The bible seems to teach both and much much more. If a person is not able to appropriate God’s goodness in their present life, what makes them think that they would ever have the faith to apprehend eternal life? Yet many go around begrudging this world as evil and bad and live with the sole desire of evacuation. Seems like they missed something if you ask me.
Clearly, the bible teaches something more. Is it possible for a person to fully apprehend and apply the wisdom in the book of Proverbs and be saved? If not, then what hope does anyone have that the smartest man in the world (Solomon) and his son David are in heaven? If they didn’t make it, it’s doubtful any modern person has a chance. However if they made it, then the threshold for salvation is something entirely other. And that is what I would expect since scripture is so paradoxical. What saves a person is God himself. Furthermore, he saves precisely who he desires to save and exactly how he desires to save them. Heaven will be an interesting place to discover just how many ways a person has been reached and drawn in by God. We will all be surprised by who is there, and most certainly by who is not.