Rules of salvation, part 3
This could also be considered “The belief criterion, part 2.”
In the previous post, I tried to make the point that person is not simply a believer or an unbeliever with respect to a given claim. Belief can be very strong, very weak, or somewhere in between. As an example, I compared the belief that there will be a sunrise tomorrow with the belief that my goldfish will be alive tomorrow.
To those who happen to think absolute certainty is the standard, I would say there is no such thing as certainty, and that even ‘virtual certainty’ is theoretical.
Actual certainty is logically impossible. No matter what you believe, there is always the logical possibility that some evidence will emerge to refute your belief. For example, you might believe that the Genesis flood really occurred, but in the afterlife, God may tell you that it really was just a parable.
The best that a human can have is ‘virtual certainty’ of a claim, in which all of his or her actions are consistent with the claim. But we don’t even know ourselves well enough to know whether we would demonstrate virtual certainty of a given claim in all situations. Put another way, we don’t know how much we’d be willing to bet on a given claim until we actually have to make the bet.
If the requirements for salvation include certainty (or even just virtual certainty) of the central assertions of the gospel, then no one can be sure that he or she is saved.
If the requirement is for a lesser degree of belief than virtual certainty, the actual degree of belief required is a fundamental question. It is logically possible that anyone who has ever believed the central assertions of the gospel, to any degree for any period of time for any reason, is saved. It is also logically possible that anyone who has ever doubted the central assertions of the gospel, to any degree for any period of time for any reason, is condemned.
Finally, don’t dismiss the question by saying that God can simply forgive a lack of belief. Even if he can, the Bible certainly doesn’t promise that he will, and if he did, on what basis would he be doing it? Good works (credited as faith)? Arbitrary favoritism?
So again, where is the assurance of salvation?