I am a student looking to get some troubling questions answered and faith, and salvation, and creationism. Hopefully I will spell everything right.
The reason I created this page was to get one major question answered.
Right now I attend a catholic high school and often debate with my religion teacher about the bible, because I am a protestant and disagree with him. Right now we are talking about salvation. As of my understanding, a person is saved by accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior and putting their trust in him. My teacher says that he does agree with me, but he takes it to another level. He says that because God is love, and because we are called to love in the world, when we do love we are intrinsically accepting God and his grace, forgiveness and mercy. This allows for people outside the Christian faith to be saved by God because by the person loving, they are accepting Christ, even if they are Muslim, Hindu, or atheist. Does this make sense logically or theologically.
@NoahFincher Noah, thanks so much for asking that great question. May the Lord grant you wisdom in your class as you study. I’m not sure it would be helpful to directly engage your teacher on this issue again unless it comes up in class or you feel led to do so.
Your teacher has mixed together two questions:
how are we saved?
how will God judge those who have not heard of Christ?
Your teacher appears to be attempting to answer the second question by distorting what the Bible says about the first question, though I may be misunderstanding what he is saying. The Bible is clear that it is only through Christ that we are saved. And yet we also trust that God will do what is just when He judges - for He knows men’s hearts and has proven that He loves us by sending His Son.
Acts 4:8-12 - Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
The truth is that the Bible does not give us all the details on how God will judge those who have never heard. Some people try to resolve that tension by coming up with explanations - such as that all who love are doing so in God’s name because God is love. The Scriptures never offer us clarity on this point. Rather, by experiencing God’s love in our own lives through Christ we can trust that He is good and that He will judge justly - in grace and truth - all people, even if we do not know exactly how that works.
How Are We Saved?
Eternal life, per Jesus’ definition in John 17:3, is knowing the true God - the one true God. Some people use the story of the Good Samaritan to say that people who worship any god can be saved, but Jesus clarifies the issue with the Samaritan woman at the well - salvation is from the Jews. There is only one true God and the only way to eternal life is through Him.
John 4:22-24 - You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
John 17:3 - Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
And how can we know God? Through Jesus! What Jesus did on the cross reconciles us to God so that we can know Him and be known by Him and be a new creation.
2 Cor 5:17-29 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
I think another part of your teacher’s misunderstanding is that sin is not something we do - sin is false identity. Sin is when our identity is rooted anywhere but in the true God - it is idolatry. So ‘doing love’ is not what saves us. Rather, we must become a new creation through Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross. We must literally be born again.
Counterfeit gods sermon by Tim Keller:
What About Those Who Have Not Heard?
A brief summary of my position is that:
God has ordained history so that people might reach out and find him (Acts 17:26-27)
On the day of judgment, God will judge each person according to the knowledge they have and the thoughts of their own hearts (Romans 2:14-16)
We can trust that the judge of all the earth will do what is right (Genesis 18:25)
I hope some of those thoughts are helpful. Christ grant you wisdom
I’m wondering if your teacher is Catholic himself? If so, I don’t think his view actually matches up with the official Catholic teaching, which also requires a Catholic baptism to be justified before God (there are exceptions to this, however). Although, these official dogmas may not matter to him. That might be important to find out. Thus, you may want to just ask your teacher if he believes that the Catholic teaching on salvation is true or not, and, if yes, if he can articulate it to you more clearly. Perhaps even ask him where in the Catechism you can find what he is saying. However, if he rejects the official Catholic teaching, or simply is ignorant of it, then you may be dealing with someone who isn’t being consistent with their own belief system, or isn’t seriously committed to Catholicism.
That said, it may be important to also ask him whether he thinks people who consciously reject Christ as Lord and Savior are also saved. So, could a Muslim who knows the truth about Jesus , reject that Jesus is God and still be saved? If so, then I would present the biblical data to him and argue from the Bible (however, depending on what kind of Catholic he is, he may not fully accept the Bible as authoritative).
On the other hand, is he saying that Muslims who have only had access to Muslim teaching their entire life, and have never “heard” the true word of God preached, can be saved within their own tradition? In other words a 12-year old Pakistani boy who has only had teachings about Jesus through the lens of Islam, and who then dies, could be saved if, based on the amount of revelation he had, he loved God with all his heart. That seems to me to be a different position than the one above.
If those two positions are different, and I think they are, then it might make a difference in how you respond to him.
Good for you for wrestling with these issues and for standing up for the truth. While it may not be advisable to debate Catholic vs. Protestant theology at a Catholic school; when a teacher misleads an entire class with respect to salvation, someone needs to speak up for the truth. Scripture is clear that a belief in Jesus Christ and confession that he is Lord are necessary for the attainment of eternal life. (Romans 10:9,10; Rev 3:20, Acts 4:12, Acts 16:30,31) Having said that, I do not believe your teacher’s error stems from Catholic doctrine but rather from abandoning it. In fact, the notion that there are many paths to salvation apart from Jesus is a view held more commonly by some mainline protestant denominations. It’s also important to remember that Catholic School educators are not necessarily clergy, and some (perhaps many) do deviate from authoritative Catholic teaching.
Hi @NoahFincher, as former Catholic I appreciate your mature approach and courage for standing up for the truth.
I am an ESOL so I might have misunderstood what you wrote about your teacher’s answer (I read the others’ replies and I have a very different understanding of what your teacher is trying to say).
I think he is trying to say that being saved through
is kind of just the first step in our journey with the Lord. He might try to refer to what’s written in James 2: 18-26 (last verse “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”). I mean that we might contribute to salvation of people who have not put their faith in Jesus yet through loving them. How I understand it is that as a follower of Jesus I am called to represent them God’s unconditonal love, and (hopefully) due to my (actions of) love (over time) a crack might happen in the bastion around their hearts, so God can get access to their hearts and bring salvation. As salvation, as I understand, is a gift from God “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) (the very same happened to me, my friend’s unconditional - which does not mean affirmation of my actions - love of 10 years brought me and my husband to being born again)
I hope it makes sense and I pray for God’s wisdom and strength on your journey with Jesus.
I really appreciate you raising this question. One other thought that I think is particularly important in this situation is the power dynamic between a teacher and a student. Usually, from the student perspective, this can seem to be a disadvantage.
However, I think some reflection on the nature of the relationship can have some advantages for you. In particular, your teacher has a responsibility to you and the other students to set an example and to teach religious doctrine accurately.
I think this very much heightens the importance of you personally being gentle, kind, respectful, courteous, and in every way acknowledging your respect for your teacher’s position and role in the classroom. Be a model student - no cutting corners. And in your other classes too, and in how you conduct yourself in general, as I would guess that the teachers sometimes talk about students to one another.
Within that framework, what an opportunity you have! There are so many genuine questions that can advance the discussion. “Sir, I understand this is your perspective. Can you help us understand how this squares with official Catholic doctrine? If it is different, how is it different? Do you base your argument on your own sense of fairness, or does your view of salvation come from the Bible?” etc…
This is a really good question.
One problem up front, is that the question uses religious “lingo” (“salvation”) that has quite different meanings, in different Christian and non-Christian groups. I wish that Christian groups would spend more time on basic concepts and biblical vocabulary, than they do.
“Salvation” in English is sozo/sozomai in the New Testament Greek. It has much broader meanings that just getting your sins forgiven. It’s meaning is more the “kind providence” of God. And it points to the all-encompassing care and provision that God gives to his people. It’s almost an equivalent to the hesed of the Hebrew Old Testament (the “loving kindness” of God). There are entire Psalms that have the response “For his kindness endures for ever.”
As Paul says, in the covenant we have access to the forgiveness of sin. (So did the Jews in the Old Covenant.) This is part of the kind providence of God, and is available day by day. But his providence includes what we need to live day by day. And it includes protection from evil temptation that would be too powerful for us to resist. And it includes what Paul describes in Galatians, as the benefits that we have in Christ that go beyond just forgiveness of sin (freedom from the slavery to sin, adoptions as inheriting sons of God, and regeneration through God’s Holy Spirit).
Some groups collapse down the meaning of “salvation” to just “conversion” or “getting your sins forgiven.” But the language of the Bible points to a continuing process that goes on throughout our lives, and is not complete until we faithfully “finish the race” (in Paul’s words, “Those who endure to the end, will be saved”). And God “saves” us from the fallen world, the fallen sinfulness of our old nature, from Satan, and from evil people and difficult hardships in life. The biblical concept of being “saved” is very broad, and complete.
As for the teacher’s claim that love does it all, Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commands.” This is not the definition of “love” that the politically correct monoculture uses. Those who do not embrace God’s moral/ethical code, do not love God, and are the enemies of God (in biblical language). Those who do not live out lives of righteousness, as defined in the Bible, do not know God.