Rules of salvation, part 2
Picking up from the previous post, I’d like to examine what it means to believe something, in the context of salvation doctrine.
Let’s just assume that the only stated requirement for entering heaven is to believe a gospel consisting of certain assertions. The assertions might be something like this:
- There is exactly one god (God).
- God has exactly one son, Jesus.
- Jesus died, and his death atoned for every sin ever committed.
(The actual content of the assertions doesn’t matter in this discussion. I’m focusing on the belief criterion.)
- How strong a belief is considered “belief” for purposes of entering heaven? Do I have to believe the gospel to the same degree that I believe there will be a sunrise tomorrow morning, or only to the degree that I believe my goldfish will be alive tomorrow morning? (I believe both things, but not equally.)
- How much doubt (in intensity or in duration) can I experience and still be considered a believer?
- If my belief is based on false assumptions or a lack of information, am I still considered a believer? This is how it was for me: I took the names of the gospel books at face value and assumed that actual followers of Jesus had written them during and shortly after his death. I also assumed there was significant secular history to corroborate key events in the gospel story. And I assumed there was no other, more logical explanation for the origins of the gospel books. Now that I am better informed, I don’t believe the gospel. If I had always been this well informed, I would probably never have believed the gospel. Was I ever a real believer?
- Conversely, am I condemned if my lack of belief is based on false assumptions or a lack of information — that is, if a better-informed ‘me’ would have believed the gospel?
- Is timing everything? Am I saved if I die during a period of belief but condemned if I die during a period of disbelief?
How can any Christian be assured of his or her salvation without knowing the answers to these questions?