Thursday, May 11, 2006
salvation from what?
Of the articles I have read, one has been a comprehensive exploration of the Bible's support of our conventional definition of hell. I am told there is none. I am looking for an article with convincing argument to the contrary, just for balance. The non-existence of a place of eternal torment certainly makes sense to me. I have never quite been able to reconcile the idea of hell and a God of love.
The Jehovah's Witnesses visit me almost every week, and I always enjoy our talks. When our conversation drifted to the subject of hell, they explained to me that they don't believe in it. They said that God only promises to give eternal life to the righteous. In order for there to be a hell in the modern understanding of the word, God would have to first give eternal life to the unrighteous, and then throw them into hell. It's inefficient, illogical, and I'm finding has no base in scripture.
All of this leads me to what feels like the next most logical question..... If there is no hell, what does universal salvation save us from?
I suppose that the answer to that question could be simply death. Is it possible that aside from Christ's sacrifice, the human soul upon leaving the human body would simply cease to exist? This would make sense to me, after all, the introduction of sin is what supposedly caused man to become capable of dying, although I had always thought of that (as I think a lot of people do) in a physical sense. It had never occurred to me that the soul could cease as well. Maybe this is a result of my upbringing, or maybe the instinctive knowledge that I have indeed been saved.
I meet few people these days who don't believe in the ongoing life of a soul after the death of its body. Perhaps these people also sense the salvation of Jesus, regardless of their specific religious or spiritual beliefs.
The other nagging thought in my head is the question of whether a soul can be destroyed. Energy can't be created or destroyed, it only changes forms. Is a soul like energy? As far as I can tell, this is not a biblical idea, but I would like to explore it. I sense a foreboding conclusion at the end of that line of logic, but I want to educate myself further on the idea before I start working myself into a lather. Any thoughts on the subject would be helpful.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
If so, the love and justice of God are called into question. If not, christian theology regarding salvation and the role of Jesus are called into question. Really, there's no winning.
Being a cold and heartless bitch with a mind for logic, I presented some half-baked reasoning of my own. Maybe there's a loophole for people who haven't had the opportunity to pray the formulaic jesus prayer in which we put so much trust. Sort of like an "If..... Then.... Else... equation in a computer science assignment. I wanted to make two conflicting ideas somehow fit into one paradigm.
Well I made the mistake of opening my inarticulate mouth to one of my more dogmatic friends.... and she flipped out. "What did Jesus die for then?"
Her response only served to embed the matter in my psyche. If she had calmly considered the issue, I may have let it pass, but her intense reaction only told me that there was something important and frightening in the question.
I didn't understand it fully at the time, but as I've given it more thought over the years I'm starting to understand why it's scary. I mean, a christian's entire identity is built around the divinity and death of Jesus. The necessity of Jesus dying implies a need for salvation, which alludes to the concepts of heaven and hell, and it provides the exclusivity which christians seem to enjoy so much.
But if Congolese Pygmies can go to heaven if they haven't had the opportunity to reject Christ then there's a way to be saved aside from Jesus, which means that Jesus didn't need to die in the first place. This would imply that an entire belief system is built on.... well..... not much?
I will be perfectly honest, it scares me too. My childhood was wrapped up in Jesus, my adolescence absorbed in the knowledge of Jesus, everything I ever learned somehow wrapped around Jesus so that He is the very epicenter of my consciousness.
Who is Jesus? What is salvation? Salvation from what?
There's so much more I'd like to say on the subject, but another day. Your assignment for tonight is to dream up all the correct answers and tell me them in the morning.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
A Reasonable Doubt
I was attending a bible school at the time, where you would think a clear answer would be available, but alas, only vague explanations were given and quite frankly I didn't want to jeopardize my tuition by pressing the matter. You know how these Christians are, very defensive about their holy book.
But it's never left me alone. I mean, who was the guy who said it first "this book is the infallible word of God." Joseph Smith said that about the book of mormon, but apparently that's what makes him a fruit (I've noticed that the church's definition of a cult is also, coincidentally, the definition of a church) but I digress...... who said it first, and why should we believe him? Once one generation of christians believed it, the next inherited the belief, and the next after that.....
These days, if you suggest to a baptist that the bible is not the magical inerrant spellbook that he believes it to be, you're likely to have a fight on your hands. But how many of these people actually know where the bible came from? And why do they cling to the myth of infallibility?
I think most of them don't have a clue. I hold the leaders responsible. They're supposed to know these things, they're supposed to educate us. More and more lately I get the feeling I've been misled, that information has been kept from me in order to keep me in the fold. I am learning so many things lately which, had I learned them earlier, would have changed the course of my spiritual progression.
For example, no one suggested to me that the complications of translation, coupled with the number of times it has been translated, make it extremely unlikely that the current text of the bible is consistent with the original. Nobody told me about all the scripture that has been left out of the bible. Nobody told me that there were many gospels floating around at the time that matthew, mark, luke and john where chosen for their relatively easy to understand narrative and popularity with the masses.
So I'm left feeling like the victim of a conspiracy. The clergy can't be trusted.
I was taught that as a christian it is impossible to lose my salvation. I have fire insurance, if you will. So I'm sure no one will mind if I separate myself from my indoctrination. I've been driven out by a reasonable doubt.