Believe Correct Things and Thou Shalt Be SavedMarch 2, 2011
Both rightly ask why the defenders of so-called orthodoxy feel the need to question the salvation of those whose doctrine differs from the popular doctrine of the day. As Ellis puts it, “Since when does one’s belief about the afterlife call their salvation into question? Grace covers a multitude of sins, but not misunderstanding?”
Listening to some, one might conclude that while God can forgive murder, rape and child molestation, he won’t forgive a mistaken belief on certain theological issues. I can understand being held responsible for my actions. I have some control over those (assuming I have a free will). But I have little to no control over my beliefs. Contrary to common Christian appeals, the average person can’t really “choose to believe” anything. Try it. Try believing that the earth is flat. You can repeat it to yourself all day long, but you won’t actually believe it unless presented with evidence and reasons sufficiently persuasive to change your mind.
So what does God do with the sincere believer whose experience and reason genuinely leads his brain to conclude that X is true? Will God punish him if X is not true? Is being wrong the unforgivable sin? Has the church replaced “faith in Christ” with “faith about Christ”?
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive for correct beliefs or that we shouldn’t challenge questionable theology. But we need some grace for those who reach different conclusions.
At times, the evangelical community seems possessed by an unhealthy need to control the theology of its members. I believe that at the heart of the problem lies an insecurity. Deep down, we worry that our beliefs might actually be vulnerable, so we shut down dissent to avoid having to scrutinize our own doctrine too carefully. After all, we might wind up doubting some of our previously secure convictions and that’s scary. It’s much easier to dismiss those with dissenting beliefs as dangerous heretics than to allow their perspectives to challenge our own.