Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?

Is Jesus Christ the only way to heaven?

Yes . . . but it’s not what you’re thinking!

Here’s the deal. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ is God. There’s nothing in the Bible about him being the second Person of a Trinity. That was a purely human invention. (See “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”)

Isaiah 44:6 says:

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

Guess who the New Testament says is the first and the last?

If you guessed Jesus Christ, you get a gold star!

Just take a look at Revelation 1:17–18; 2:8; and 22:12–13. The context makes it clear that the one who says in Revelation, “I am the first and the last” is none other than the risen and glorified Jesus Christ.

When Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied,” Jesus replied:

Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)

And in John 10:30, he said plainly, “I and the Father are one.”

The message of the Bible is clear: There is one God, and Jesus Christ is that God. So according to the Bible, all people who believe in God believe in Jesus Christ, even if they do not call God Jesus Christ. There is no other God to believe in. “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”

In other words, according to the Bible, saying that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven is the same thing as saying that God is the only way to heaven.

Is there any religious person, of any faith, who would really disagree that God is the only way to heaven? Obviously, God, the Creator of the universe, who has all power in heaven and earth, is the only way to heaven. If it weren’t for God, there wouldn’t be a heaven. And if God didn’t give us life and the ability to choose heaven over hell, not a single one of us could go to heaven.

So Christians who think that anywhere from 68% to 99.99% of the world’s population is going to hell because they’re not Christian, or because they’re not the right kind of Christian, are really denying that Jesus Christ is God.

Let’s look at a few of the Bible passages these Christians quote to support the mistaken and non-Biblical idea that only Christians go to heaven.

What’s in a name?

Acts 4:10–12 says:

Jesus Christ . . . is “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.” There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.

One difference between Christianity and other religions is that Christians say that Jesus Christ is God, whereas people of other religions don’t think of Jesus Christ as God. This means that Christians use the name Jesus Christ to refer to God, but non-Christians don’t.

So does Acts 4:12 really mean that anyone who doesn’t use the name “Jesus Christ” for God cannot be saved? Is the Bible really that trivial? Does it really mean that if we say with our mouth, “Jesus Christ,” we’ll be saved, but if we say with our mouth “God” or “Allah” or “Lord” or “Jehovah” we won’t?

Excuse me for saying so, but that’s just plain silly. And it’s not what the Bible means.

Every religion has its own names for God. In fact, every religion, including Christianity, has many names for God.

It’s not the name itself that matters. It’s what the name represents that matters.

If you look up the Greek word for “name” that’s used in Acts 4:12 and elsewhere in the New Testament, you’ll see that it means not only “name,” but also “reputation, status, fame, or power.” This is a common meaning of “name” in many languages. When we talk about someone having a “big name” we’re not talking about someone whose name is very long. We’re talking about someone who has widespread fame and reputation because of what he or she says or does.

When the Bible speaks of believing in the name of Jesus, it does not mean using the particular name “Jesus Christ” rather than some other name for God. It means believing in the qualities or characteristics that the name Jesus Christ represents in the Bible.

This means that all people who believe in the things Jesus Christ expressed through his words and actions are believing in the name of Jesus Christ, regardless of whether or not they literally use the name “Jesus Christ.”

What does this mean, practically speaking? Here are a few examples:

  • When people believe in loving God above all, and loving their neighbor as themselves, as Jesus taught, they are believing in the name of Jesus.
  • When people believe in loving their enemies, they are believing in the name of Jesus.
  • When people believe in laying down their lives for their friends, they are believing in the name of Jesus.
  • When people believe in helping those who are hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, they are believing in the name of Jesus.

When people believe in any of the things Jesus taught, and especially when they live according to those beliefs, they are believing in the things that the name Jesus Christ means.

Jesus himself said:

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:20)

Those who live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ will go to heaven no matter what religion they come from. Those who merely say the name “Jesus Christ” when they pray, but don’t do the will of God (which is what Jesus Christ taught) will not go to heaven.

What does it mean to believe?

John 3:16–18, one of the most commonly quoted passages in the Bible, says:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

We already covered what it means to “believe in the name of the only Son of God.” It means to believe in the principles, qualities, and characteristics that Jesus Christ taught both in words and by the example of his life.

What about where it says, “those who do not believe are condemned already”? Doesn’t that mean that everyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ is condemned?

Once again: Yes . . . but it’s not what you’re thinking!

What does it mean to believe? What is faith in Jesus Christ?

Many Christians seem to think that “belief” and “faith” are things we do in our head. But in reality, belief and faith are the things we live by. Here’s how the Apostle James put it:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:14–16)

He goes on to say that even demons believe that God is one, but they are horrified by that belief. Real belief, real faith, is shown by how we live.

If I say, “I believe in honesty,” but in fact I lie and cheat whenever it seems advantageous to me, do I really believe in honesty? Obviously not.

And if I say I believe in Jesus Christ, but I hate my enemies, don’t help people who are in need, and generally live a greedy and self-centered life, do I really believe in Jesus Christ? No, obviously I do not. If I did, I would do what Jesus Christ commands me to do.

Belief and faith are not some head trip. They are the things we live by. The people who do not believe in Jesus Christ are the ones who show their unbelief in their lives by engaging in lying, stealing, cheating, anger, bitterness, greed, and selfishness of all kinds.

But people who live a life of honesty, service, self-sacrifice, and love for God and for their neighbor truly believe in Jesus Christ, even if they do not say “Jesus Christ” when they pray. Here’s how Jesus himself put it:

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’

“He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went.

“The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go.

“Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said, “The first.” (Matthew 21:28–31)

It is not what we say, but what we do that shows our true belief in God. Or as Jesus put it once again:

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. (John 14:12)

Jesus the way to the Father

Let’s take up one more Bible passage for now. In John 14:6 Jesus says:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Looks like an open and shut case, doesn’t it? The only way to the Father—who is God—and therefore the only way to heaven, is through Jesus Christ.

The thing is, that’s true! As I said at the beginning, Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.

However, this means something very different than what most Christians think it means.

Most Christians think Jesus meant that only those who believe that Jesus Christ is God—meaning only Christians—can get to God, and therefore to heaven.

But if that’s what he meant, then why, in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31–46, does Jesus say that all the nations will be judged according to whether or not they took care of people who were in need? Why did he say that those who did not take care of their fellow human beings will go away into eternal punishment, but those who did will go into eternal life?

And why does the Apostle Paul tell us in Romans 2:5–11 how non-Christians can be saved? Here’s what he said:

But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

Jews and “Greeks” (meaning polytheists, or pagans) are not Christians. Yet Paul says that Jews and Greeks who engage in good deeds will receive eternal life, while those who do evil will experience anguish and distress. And here’s the capper: Paul goes on to say in Romans 2:16 that all of this will happen “when God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.”

Do you see what Paul is saying here? He is not saying that God, through Jesus Christ, will accept only those who believe that Jesus Christ is God. He is saying that God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all people, whether Jews, Greeks, or Christians, and will give eternal life to all who seek eternal life by patiently doing good.

Yes, Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. But what this means is that Jesus Christ saves all people who live lives of love and kindness toward their fellow human beings according to their own beliefs and their own religion.

If, as Christians believe, Jesus Christ is God, then isn’t Jesus Christ the God of all people, and not only of Christians? I understand that for Jews, Muslims, and people of various other religions, the idea that Jesus Christ is God is an anathema. But do our differing religions and beliefs change who God is?

Jesus Christ either is God or isn’t God. And if, as the Bible says, Jesus Christ is God—the first and the last, who has all power in heaven and in earth—then as Paul says, the salvation of all people, of every religion, takes place through Jesus Christ.

Yes, Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. That’s because Jesus Christ is God. And the Lord God Jesus Christ has the power to save all people, everywhere, of every religion: Jew, Greek, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Bahai, Shinto, Native American, New Age, Rastafarian, and all others who believe in God—or at least in some of the good and true qualities and realities that come from God—and live it out in their lives.

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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Posted in All About God, The Bible Re-Viewed
166 comments on “Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?
  1. Doug Webber says:

    The way I say it is Jesus is the Divine truth in human form. Others, who follow the Divine truth in their life, and are unaware of who Jesus was in physical form, are essentially following him in their heart whether they realize it or not. For all are saved by the Divine truth, it is truth that fights against sin.

    Even in the NT, it says that Jesus preached to those who were caught in the underworld in the afterlife, and taught them who he was before taking them up with him into heaven: “being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:18-19)

    What was true then is true now: even in the afterlife, there is the opportunity to learn. And those who have lived well can learn more easily than those who think they know but do not do.

  2. Lightrays says:

    Reblogged this on God is not a bully and commented:
    The best answer I’ve read yet about who gets saved and who dosen’t

  3. Mesele Mark says:

    I believe in Trinity, it’s not invention of men but it is biblical truth. It is not also denaying the devinal power of Jesus Christ, if you want I’ll give biblical evidences!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Mesele,

      Thanks for your comment.

      For more on the Trinity, please read this article:
      Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

      The problem is not with the idea of a Trinity, but with the idea that the Trinity is made of “Persons.”

      We can discuss it more at the end of that article if you’d like.

  4. Hiroyuki-Kei says:

    Thanks for your article.
    I’m not offending you, but the moment you said “jesus christ is the only way to go to heaven”, you lost me. Yes, it’s for christians not for everyone.
    I’ve read several articles of you and i gained a lot of knowledge from those. What i understand that,
    God is love, believe and faith and whatever you think God is, he’s not a human being just like us. He is an invisible aura, the ultimate force that we cant define in words. So, no matter what you think of GOD is, god lives in every living and non-living things. In short, god is in you, in me, in trees, in animals, in objects, in illustrations and in everywhere. Saying a particular to A God, is not appropiate.
    I believe that jesus was just a medium of god, may be an angle because you said earlier that god sometimes send angles to show the right path to follow.
    Now, you said Bible is true,..HOW? Hindus says Geetah or whatever it is, is true.
    Believe me or not, it was’nt written by God, it was written by humans.
    You’re getting kinda biased towards christians.
    OK, i’ll be straight, im not christians hater, i respect all other religions as well as jesus. If christians found their beloved god in jesus, then it’s fair but by saying Jesus is God or the only way to go to heaven..it’s for perticular religion’s belief not others think the way they do.
    If you truly want to go to heaven, then love your haters, love everyone, love yourself, always be helpful towards people.
    Thank You, Lee.

    • Lee says:

      HI Hiroyuki-Kei,

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      Just to be clear, even though I believe that Jesus is God, I still think that people of all religions go to heaven if they believe in God as their religion teaches about God, and live a life of love and service to their fellow human beings. I disagree with Christians who say that you have to believe that Jesus is God, or that Jesus died for your sins, in order to be saved. That is what I was saying in this article.

      About the Bible, and whether it is written by humans or by God, you might be interested in this article:
      How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads

      Short version: God wrote the Bible through particular human beings and their cultures, so that it is written in terms of those cultures and their ideas. But inwardly it contains universal truth from God about God, spirit, and our path toward heaven.

      I do agree with you that God lives in all things. However, I also believe that God is above all created things, and has a being distinct from them. God is in nature, continually holding it in existence, which is a process of creating it second by second. However, God is not nature, but is distinct from nature.

      But big picture: If you live a good life according to the beliefs and teachings of your religion, you will go to heaven!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Hiroyuki-Kei,

      Thanks for your most recent comment, However, I have unapproved it because it goes against our comments policy.

      I am happy to answer your sincere questions based on my beliefs. However, if your purpose here is to tell me that my beliefs are mistaken, I have no interest in that kind of debate. It would be a waste of your time and mine. I am very comfortable with my beliefs–just as you seem to be with yours. Also, my understanding of Christianity is very different from your description and characterization of it.

      Just as I am respectful of your beliefs even though I don’t agree with some of them, I ask for the same respect from you if you wish to comment here.

      Thank you.

  5. Meaghan says:

    I have been so lost lately when other suggested my friends and family who do not identify as Christian will not go to heaven. Your articles have been so helpful to me. One thing I would like you to clarify, if possible. I have always thought that the parable of the sheep refers to helping all people in need, but sadly I have been seeing interpretations lately that imply the language of “brothers” suggests only Jesus’ disciples apply here. That seems unlikely that Jesus would suggest we only help those who believe or who are “good.” Have you seen those interpretations, and do you have thoughts on that?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Meaghan,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I’m glad the articles here are helping you to understand God, spirit, and heaven in a deeper and broader way than is often presented by some Christians and Christian sects.

      I have found that when Christians who belong to particular churches read the Bible, they interpret everything in it to support their church’s particular beliefs:

      • If they believe that faith alone saves, they’ll see that everywhere in the Bible.
      • If they believe that only Christians go to heaven, they’ll see that everywhere in the Bible.
      • If they believe that we should love and serve only those who agree with our particular beliefs, they’ll see that everywhere in the Bible.

      In the parable of the sheep and the goats, I see no reason from the story itself why “brothers” there should be interpreted to mean only believing Christians. After all, at the beginning of the parable he doesn’t say that all Christians will be gathered before him, but that “all the nations will be gathered before him” (Matthew 25:32). Since the parable is about all the nations, it makes no sense to think that “brothers” in the parable means only Christians.

      Also, if you read everything Jesus said and did in the Gospels, you will find that he taught, preached to, and healed not only his fellow Jews, but Samaritans and Romans as well. Though at first he and his disciples focused on spreading their message to their fellow Jews, they soon broadened their ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing to include all people, regardless of religion or race.

      The example of Jesus and his disciples shows us that Jesus’ teachings, including the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, apply to all people, not only to believing Christians.

  6. David Gray says:

    Hi Lee,

    A few years ago I was chatting with Jewish coworker and he asked me, “Why do I have to believe in Jesus? Why can’t I just believe in God if Jesus is God.” And at the time I did not have an answer, which caused me to examine my own theology a bit. I had also been challenged in the past in the context of John 3:16 of what it means to “believe in” Jesus. I think that your explanation is reasonable. I think people can be saved through Jesus even if they don’t know him. There are some people in other faiths that are so good that I am not comfortable relegating them to hell (or annihilation which I lean towards now). Of course this conclusion bothers me somewhat for several reasons:
    1. Paul did not seem to have the attitude that whatever religion you believed was fine — he went into the synagogues and debated the Scriptures with the Jews. The Jews already believed in God, so why make this effort if they could just go about doing their own thing?
    2. Romans 10 *seems* to indicate that one must hear the gospel to be saved.
    I was also wondering what you might think of the great commission in light of your view. Would the great commission mostly be about getting out the truth about God as represented by Jesus opposed to saving people from hell?

    David

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      I just noticed that I never responded to this comment of yours, which is now a few months old. So here is a quick, belated response:

      1. Paul actually did say how non-Christians can be saved, in Romans 2:5–11, as quoted in the above article. And he said it before his much more famous statement in Romans 3:28 about being saved by faith. Paul was far more open-minded than his Evangelical Christian followers are today.

      2. About the Great Commission, please see my article, If Non-Christians can Go to Heaven, Why should Christians Evangelize?

      • David Gray says:

        Hi Lee,

        Thanks for the response. I think I came across that verse in another one of your articles. Yeah, it basically says that those who do good will be rewarded with eternal life and those who do bad will be punished, sort of like Matt 25.. In the evangelical community, where we try to reconcile these verses with the concept of being saved by faith, we are taught that the “good people” are the ones that are “saved” and the “bad people’ are the ones that are “not saved.” I am now realizing that basically we are submitting these verses to the “saved by faith alone” concept. Whereas evangelicals try to figure out if they are saved, I would think that people who subscribe to a more works view of salvation would be trying to figure out if they are “good enough?” I know elsewhere we have talked about different levels of reward in heaven and different levels of punishment in heaven. If we are going to be judged purely by the quality of our lives, I would have to wonder where the cut off is between heaven and hell. How good does one have to be to get to heaven? And how bad to you have to be to end up in hell? Honestly, I feel as though the bible is not really clear about some of the most critical questions that humanity has, that’s why we are all on these web sites debating 🙂

        Hope you are well!

        David

        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          Thanks for your reply.

          To be quite honest, the materials I read by evangelicals seem much more intent on arguing that the Bible says what they think it’s supposed to say based on their own doctrines than on reading the Bible and paying attention to what it actually says.

          To my mind, central to being saved is not thinking primarily about ourselves and our own salvation, whether by faith or by works. Worrying about whether we’re saved by faith, or whether we’ve done enough good works to make the heavenly cut, is in itself an indication that we are not loving God above all and loving the neighbor as ourselves, as Jesus commanded us to do. If we focus our lives on loving God and the neighbor, and let God worry about whether we’re saved or not, then we can go about the business of believing in Jesus and living by his commandments.

          I simply don’t see the Bible going into paroxysms about whether we’ve done enough good works to be saved, and how to tell whether we have or haven’t. The Bible simply tells us to repent from our sins, believe in Jesus, and love and serve our fellow human beings. That is very simple and straightforward. Anyone can do it, with God’s help. And it is all the Bible requires of us.

          I think the Bible is very clear.

          However, those who have adopted false doctrines not taught in the Bible, such as salvation by faith alone, make it complicated because they are imposing their own doctrines on the Bible rather than paying attention to what the Bible actually teaches.

  7. Donna Newby says:

    Correction to your statement from the Bible:
    Taken from Isaiah 44:6
    “6“This is what the Lord says—
    Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
    I am the first and I am the last;
    apart from me there is no God.”

    You said: “god”, that means something completely different.

    There are many gods, but only one God.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Donna,

      The original Hebrew does not have capital letters, so whether or not “God” is capitalized is at the discretion of the translators. I took the quote from the New Revised Standard Version, which doesn’t capitalize it.

  8. Christine says:

    I am so glad I came across your site! I recently found out about Swedenborg’s books that lead me here. This is exactly what I believe in my heart but did not know how to explain it..So many christians do not know the true meaning of the scriptures and what Jesus really meant. I had an awareness of this within me, now I know how to express it! Thank you!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Christine,

      Welcome to the site! I’m glad you’re finding the articles here helpful and in harmony with what you believe in your heart. It’s good to be able to put clear concepts to what we feel must be true. I’ve heard this from many people discovering Swedenborg’s teachings for the first time. He speaks clearly what the human heart instinctively knows. If you have any questions as you read and learn more, please don’t hesitate to ask.

  9. Yoo-kyung says:

    Hi Lee! This article really resonated with me – it really eased a lot of my doubts that I’ve been having lately. However, to many Christian denominations, your words may sound quite blasphemous and really liberal. Even I, at some points, found myself becoming slightly nervous and thinking, “Oh this line of thinking sounds dangerous…” How do you validate your research here against the claims of relativism and humanism that many Christians claim are corrupting the faith today?
    Lastly, if we only need to do good works and be kind and compassionate to our fellow brothers and sisters to be saved, then… Why should we be Christians? Why should we read the Word and believe in Jesus? Why should we lead disciplined lives of studying the Bible, attending church, singing hymns and worship songs, etc.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Yoo-kyung,

      I’m glad this article struck a chord with you. And thanks for all of the good questions. I can’t do justice to them all in the comments, but I invite you to spend some time reading the articles here, and see if they begin to satisfy you.

      Meanwhile, here are a few quick responses, with some links for further reading.

      Personally, I’ve long since stopped worrying about what “many Christian denominations” say about the teachings expressed on this website. I’ve read and studied the Bible all my life, and I am quite comfortable and confident that these teachings are in accord with both the letter and the spirit of the Bible.

      Furthermore, the basic teachings of those Christian denominations that criticize and attack these teachings are themselves not in the Bible, but were invented by human beings hundreds, or in some cases over a thousand years after the Bible was written. Such teachings as a Trinity of Persons in God, salvation by faith alone, and the idea that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins are not only not in the Bible, but some of them are specifically rejected by the Bible. See: “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach, and the articles linked from it.

      The millions of Christians who believe these non-Biblical teachings seem to need them, and for the most part I don’t argue with them. But their beliefs are ultimately mistaken and contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible. I’ve satisfied myself of this through many years of searching the Scriptures, including all of the passages that those Christians quote at me, and finding that what they say is taught in the Bible simply isn’t there, or is directly contradicted by plain statements in the Bible.

      About why we should be Christians if good works, kindness, and compassion will save us, please read this article: If Non-Christians can Go to Heaven, Why should Christians Evangelize?

      Belief is important. It shapes our lives. But what the Bible means by “belief” is not some intellectual assent to particular doctrines taught by the church. Rather, it is an active willingness to live by the teachings Jesus gives us in the Bible. Our true beliefs are shown, not by what we say we believe, but by how we live. The “faith” that the Bible talks about is not some doctrinal belief, but the willingness to make our beliefs real by living them out. As Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits” (see Matthew 7:15-20). For more on what faith is and is not, see this article: Faith Alone Is Not Faith

      If you have further questions as you read the articles here, please don’t hesitate to ask.

  10. Chris says:

    Wouldn’t this theology undermine the price Jesus paid for us on the cross? Why would Jesus sacrifice his life for us and be resurrected if we only had to do good works?

  11. I think you are terribly mistaken about your concept of the father and the son. Claiming Jesus is also the father shows a lack of understanding. That Jesus said he’s one with the father doesn’t mean he is also the father. Jesus himself prayed to this father, he asked him that we may be one, that is his disciples and believers may be one in him. I suppose that if we go by your logic, then if I’m one with God then maybe I’m God and I should be worshipped. Paul wrote in 1Cor 6:17 he that is joined to the lord is one spirit. I guess I’m an invisible spirit that should be worshipped. Why does the Bible say a man and woman shall become one? See, the Bible interprets itself, it doesn’t need your intellect to unveil it. The father is one with the son in the same way a married couple are spoken of as one. The father is distinct and also is the son and holy spirit, however, they are of the same nature and character and are in a perpetual, inseparable union. John affirms that there are 3 that bear witness in heaven, the Father, word and spirit. The word was made flesh and became Jesus.

    • Lee says:

      Hi churchundstate,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      I do understand that the statements Jesus makes about his being one with the Father can be read as saying that he is one with the Father in the same way that we are one with God, or that a married couple is one with each other. And if you find it helpful to think of them in that way, then of course you are free to do so.

      However, as I read the Bible, the oneness between the Father and Son is of a different level and closeness than that of us and God. We are one with God as created beings to the Creator, and our oneness with God can never be perfect and complete, since we are also fallen beings and therefore we always create at least some separation between ourselves and God, even while having a certain level of oneness with God.

      Jesus, on the other hand, is neither a created being nor a fallen being. And Jesus therefore can be and is fully one with the Father in a way that we created, finite, and fallen humans never can be. The oneness that Jesus has with the Father is an entirely different level of oneness, as shown in Jesus’ words to Philip:

      Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

      Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. (John 14:8-10)

      It would be blasphemy for any one of us created humans to say that anyone who has seen us has seen God, the Father. Jesus has a type of oneness with the Father that none of us ever does. And I believe that the oneness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not a partial oneness, as the human-invented doctrine of the Trinity of Persons asserts, but a full oneness, so that together they form one God, in one divine Person.

      Once again, you are free to disagree. But there is not a single place in the entire Bible that says that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are “Persons” of God. That was a human invention, promulgated by human councils.

      About 1 John 5:7-8, which reads in the King James Version:

      7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

      8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

      Bible scholars broadly agree that the words:

      in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

      8 And there are three that bear witness in earth,

      were a later addition, and were not part of the letter as John originally wrote it, so that it should read:

      For there are three that bear record, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

      The added words are known as the Comma Johanneum, which you can read more about at this Wikipedia link.

      Though the Comma Johanneum is almost certainly a much later addition to the text, even if, as some believe, it does belong in the text, it still does not say that the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons of God.

      Of course the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, and are not the same as one another. But that doesn’t mean they make three “persons” any more than we humans are three persons because we have a soul, a body, and actions that flow out from us. The soul is not the body, and the body is not the actions. Each is distinct from the other. But we are still one person, with these thee essential components of soul, body, and actions without which we would not be human.

      In the very same way (after all, we humans were created in the image and likeness of God), God also has three essential components, which the Bible identifies using the human metaphors of “father,” “son,” and “sacred breath” (which is what “holy spirit” means in the original Greek).

      For more on this, see these articles:

      Once again, you are free to believe what you wish. But the Bible itself never says that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct or separate persons. It everywhere says that they are one. And it is clear from the statements in the Bible that they are one in a way that we humans are not one with God.

      • Steve says:

        Yes, yet that one-ness with God is what the reconciliation of Christ on the cross has now made available. Then we live it out by walking in the Spirit.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Steve,

          Agreed.

          And in Romans 2:1–16 Paul makes it very clear that this reconciliation is now available to all people, of every religion: not just Christians, but Jews, “Greeks” (pagan polytheists), and Gentiles (non-Jews or non-Christians) generally.

          See also Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus tells us in words as plain as day how the people of all nations (not just the Christian nations) will be judged for eternal life or eternal punishment based on whether they have, or have not, done deeds of love and service for their fellow human beings in need.

          The reconciliation and salvation that Jesus Christ brought about not just through the Cross, but through his entire life, teaching, and victory over the Devil, has now made it possible for all people, of every religion, to be saved if they live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, whether or not they intellectually think of Jesus Christ as God. Jesus Christ is God. As the above article explains more fully, all people who love God and live by his commandments are, in fact, loving the Lord God Jesus Christ, living by his commandments, and being reborn and saved by his power.

  12. Hi Lee, I noticed in my NLT bible that Romans 2:9 uses “also for the Gentile,” though a footnote at the bottom admits that in Greek it actually says “also for the Greek.” Do you know what the basis for this change is? It seems a little strange!

    • Lee says:

      “Greek” was another word for “non-Jew,” or “Gentile.” The idea was that Greeks were not monotheistic Jews, but polytheistic pagans.

  13. ivy1017 says:

    Hey Lee, thank you so much for this highly insightful article (this entire website, really)!

    I’m not sure if strictly related, though, but may I ask about what you feel about determinism? To me now, it seems only logical that everything happens because of certain reasons, which in turn come to exist because of prior events/causes as well. Hence, the future seems fixed. Even if something relatively inexplicable happens (like the side a coin lands on after flipped), there is still one ultimate end result, and the question of “why did X happen instead of Y” still remains.

    As such, everyone’s life and path seems determined.

    Whether someone attempts to reach out to God, whether they make the choice to embrace spiritual pursuits and so on seem, to me, are so determined by prior events, experiences – basically external events (which are in turn engendered by previous causes). What is the spark, the inexplicable human effort, that makes us who we are and makes us different spiritually?

    I would hate to believe the idea that because everything is inevitable and because some people, in life, become spiritually impure and some people go to hell, it follows that some people are simply destined to never be with God, to go to hell, and so on.

    • Lee says:

      Hi ivy1017,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and kind words. I’m glad you’re enjoying the website!

      In response to your question, although from a mechanistic perspective things may seem to be deterministic, in the past century even science has become less deterministic in its view of the material universe than the old Newtonian model suggested, what with relativity, quantum mechanics, and so on.

      On the religious side of things, determinism is represented especially by the Calvinist conception of predestination, in which God predestines some people to heaven and leaves others to receive eternal damnation, so that our fate is already sealed by God’s will before we are even born.

      It would not be putting it too strongly to say that from a Swedenborgian perspective, Calvinism is the very bottom of the barrel when it comes to terribly false doctrines. Regardless of all the fancy verbiage that has been woven around it by Calvinists over the years, it amounts to a denial of human freedom, which strips us of our very humanity. And it makes God out to be a terrible tyrant who creates some people for eternal bliss and others for eternal torment.

      So short version: I reject determinism, especially when it comes to matters of human spiritual life.

      I believe that God created us with freedom of will in spiritual matters so that as self-responsible adults we can choose whether we wish to live a life of good that leads toward heaven, or a life of evil that leads toward hell.

      Of course, we don’t have absolute freedom. There are many things we cannot do given the constraints of our parentage, culture, and innate character. However, within those constraints we have an area of freedom in which we can choose good over evil, or the reverse. And whichever choice we make during our lifetime here on earth within the area of freedom that we have, that will determine our eternal direction.

      Though I don’t yet have any articles here dealing specifically with freedom vs. determinism, I do take up some of these issues in the article, “The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation,” and in the comments section there.

  14. Hannah says:

    What about atheists? They don’t believe in any god, but many are great people. I hope they are included in salvation as well.

  15. Andrew says:

    Wow! This is fantastic Lee! I’ve always found it hard to reconcile my beliefs in the accuracy of the Bible with the logical inconsistencies it seemed to portray pertaining to other circumstances in the world with other people who lead different lives or genuinely do not have the opportunity, access, culture, or even mental capacity available to them to intellectually choose Jesus. How can they be cast aside and separated from God at death? It seems cruel and inconsistent, even passive-aggressive given the other qualities Jesus possesses. It also puts to rest the argument that God must not exist because it is a system in which all someone like Hitler has to do in order to be saved and forgiven is “believe” in the salvation gift that Jesus provided physically and believe in his existence, which is not true in the literal sense at all. This is beautiful work Lee…it bridges the gaps of my theological struggles over the years and truly brings a real meaning for the first time to the concept that this is indeed “the good news!”

    • Lee says:

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your good and kind comment. I’m glad this article hit home for you! The news is indeed good if we can see it clearly, and from a spiritually-minded perspective. I hope you’ll stick around and read some of the other articles we offer here.

      Meanwhile, godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  16. Michael says:

    Will I have my same name in heaven or will I be given a name or will I choose a new name or keep the one I have???????

    • Lee says:

      Hi Michael,

      Good question!

      Our name in heaven perfectly reflects who we are as a person. If your earthly name does that, then you might actually have the same name in heaven—though of course, it would be the equivalent name in the language of heaven, which is not the same as any of our languages here on earth. But if your earthly name really doesn’t suit your character, you will have a very different name in heaven that expresses and reflects the person you are.

  17. Victor Olutoye says:

    I would like you to answer these questions Mr Lee:

    1. Who was Jesus talking to when He prayed?
    2. Your doctrine is that good works from anybody from any religion leads to Heaven?
    3. Are you aware that it is only the ‘Religion of Christ Jesus’ that has no provision for doing evil (retaliation, violence, etc) ?
    4. What about religion whose founder(s) says, there is one God but clearly encourages violence against not adherents?
    5. Since Jesus prayed to the Father and He spoke of the Holy Spirit, doesnt that proof he Trinity as different personalities that agree?
    6: Wouldn’t it be deception if Jesus Christ was praying to Himself?
    7: Are “my Lord said to the LORD” the same person?
    8: What happens to the categorical statement “No man Commeth to the Father but my me”?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Victor,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your questions. In response:

      1. For an answer to this question, please read: “If Jesus Christ is the One God, Why Did He Talk and Pray to the Father?
      2. If the good works are done in obedience to God’s commandments and to benefit the neighbor, then yes. Both Jesus (in Matthew 25:31–46) and Paul (in Romans 2:5–16) say very clearly that people of all nations and all religions will be judged according to whether or not they have done good deeds for their fellow human beings. This is not my doctrine. This is the Bible’s doctrine, and it is basic Christian doctrine.
      3. That is not true, as you would know if you studied the various religions of the world. For example, Jainism, with its principle of ahimsa, is far more thoroughgoing than Christianity in forbidding violence of any kind. And practically speaking, Christians have fought and continue to fight many wars, just as people of most of the other major religions have done and continue to do. Further, Jesus himself engaged in armed violence in the incident of the cleansing of the temple in John 2:13–17. It is simply not true that Christianity has no provision for violence. See: “Can Christians be Hardass?
      4. Yes, what about so-called Christians whose Founder, Jesus Christ, generally discouraged violence, but who are engaging in wars and violence all over the world as we speak? And what about the “Christian” churches that support those wars and that violence?
      5. See the article linked in answer to your question 1.
      6. Ditto.
      7. In the original meaning of Psalm 110, whose opening line Jesus quotes in Matthew 22:41–46, “the Lord” was referring to YHVH, the God of the Hebrews, and “my lord” was referring to the ruling human king, David. However, because of its metaphorical language, it also came to be interpreted to refer to the Messiah, which Jews believe to be a future human king, but Christians believe to be “God with us,” Jesus Christ.
      8. Apparently you didn’t even read the above article before commenting on it. Please do so. That passage is taken up and explained there.
  18. Steve says:

    Hi Woofenden’s. We all need to pay attention to sound doctrine, especially those who are ordained and are writing and teaching as well. Sir and Madam, only those led by the Holy Spirit are God’s kids (Romans 8:14), to receive and then be led by the Holy Spirit, first man needs to be made Holy and righteous, so we can receive that which is most Holy, that being the Holy Spirit.
    That is why Christ died on the cross, so we can be made right with God (see 2Cor. 5:21). Then we can receive the Holy Spirit, and then the being led by process can begin.

    As well, to be led by the Holy Spirit, we need not put confidence in ourselves that is (the flesh) so much, or our own skills or resources or our ability to reason and analyse. As the flesh is limited. Too heresies and false teaching comes from the flesh (Gal. 5:20). As opposed to being in the spirit and led by the Holy Spirit, where man is led into truth.

    Please doctrine is so important, we cannot know and be led God if we are not alive to Him. Its like trying to watch satellite tv on an old style television which doesn’t even have the ability to tune in to satellite… Yet only in Christ Jesus we are made alive to God. Ephesians 2:1 so we can tune into God.
    Have been living with folks of various religions. Yet its only those who are in Christ (Born of God) who are alive to God. It is only those who are made right with God through Jesus Christ who can be led by the Holy Spirit. It is only those who are able to walk in the spirit who are able to do works which are pleasing to God.
    Romans 8:8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. NKJV
    Steve.

    The kingdom of God, is not in word but power…

    • Lee says:

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      Yes, sound doctrine is important. It is not the most important thing. That would be love for God and the neighbor, just as Jesus taught. But sound doctrine is indeed important as a guide to right living.

      That’s why it is so unfortunate that the vast bulk of Christianity has abandoned the sound doctrine taught by Jesus Christ and the rest of the Bible, and substituted for it human traditions and teachings. For more on this, please see these articles, for a start:

      1. “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach
      2. Does Doctrine Matter? Why is it Important to Believe the Right Thing?
      3. Today’s Christianity: Vastly Void of Truth

      Yes, only those who have the Holy Spirit within them are God’s children. But the Holy Spirit is not a narrow, limited thing as traditional Christians seem to think. The Holy Spirit is God’s universal spirit of truth and power going out to all the universe. Anyone who has any truth in them at all, and lives by it, has the Holy Spirit within them. There is no other source of truth or of the power to live by it. The Holy Spirit does not have limited power, so that it operates only among Christians. The Holy Spirit is all-powerful, and reaches out to all the earth.

      And yes, we must be made holy in order to receive the Holy Spirit. But that does not happen by some parlor trick whereby Christ makes people look holy by covering over their sinfulness with his holiness, and thereby fooling God the Father into thinking that people are holy when they’re actually evil sinners. No, that is not how God works. Rather, Jesus Christ, who is God, transforms people from the inside out, so that they are no longer sinners but righteous people. This is what Jesus meant when he said that we must be born again. And it is what Paul meant when he spoke of our being new creations in Christ. God is not fooled. God looks at the heart. If we are still sinners, we are not holy. It is only when we repent from our sins before God and start loving and serving our neighbor as Jesus commanded us to do that we become holy, and receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts, minds, and lives.

      I could go on, but instead I will urge you to read the articles I have linked for you, and to read the Bible more carefully, and notice that it simply does not teach the false doctrines that you have been taught to believe.

      • Steve says:

        I am a Kiwi, by birth. I am a child of God by birth. I am made righteous through Christ by birth, or the new birth you can say. We can only do God pleasing works by first being made right with God, or Holy. That is being being reconciled to God and no longer a child of disobedience, am then free made to do works. Romans 8v10 is a wonderful scripture. If Christ is in us, our spirit is made alive to God through the gift of righteousness given through the indwelling Christ. Which is all received by faith alone.

        Then after being born again, we can now walk in that Holiness which is a gift, not worked for but received by faith. Then by the spirit as it says in Romans 8v 12 we put to death the deeds of the body, or stop committing sin. Anyone who sins is a slave to sin.
        Sir I have a question. Are you and your wife Born Again? Two do you speak in tongues. As tongues is a wonderful gift that enables fellowship with God…
        Closing, people believe that Jesus came to take away sin, which is true. Yet what he has given us is so much more. His indwelling enables us to stop sinning. Christ indwelling enables us to live the higher life. Adam ushered in sin. Jesus the last Adam un-did the wrong the first Adam did. See that’s why as bible says we are born again of the incorruptible..
        Then we can live incorruptible or sin free lives….
        Sir have you been delivered from sin?
        As Christ said to woman just from adultery go and sin no more..
        Steve

        • Lee says:

          Hi Steve,

          I agree with much of what you say.

          However, there are at least two clear non-biblical errors.

          First, the Bible flatly rejects justification by faith alone in the only place it actually speaks of faith alone:

          You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

          Luther was wrong to invent the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and he was wrong to try to remove James and three other books of the New Testament from the Bible because they contradicted his newly invented doctrine. Millions of Protestants have been misled by his hubris and his error ever since. See:
          Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does

          Second, we are not first saved and then gain the ability to do good works from the Spirit. We are saved as we gain the ability to do good works from the Spirit. That is the process of being born again. It is not instantaneous. It happens through “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

  19. William says:

    2nd Corinthians 5:21

    • Lee says:

      Hi William,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comments.

      Unfortunately, 2 Corinthians 5:21 is almost always mistranslated because the translators have not paid enough attention to the dependence of the New Testament on the Old Testament, especially via the Septuagint (commonly written as the LXX), which was a pre-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament in common use among first century Jews, including the early Jews who converted to Christianity.

      Unfortunately, the King James Version and nearly every translation that followed it fell prey to this error. The KJV translates 2 Corinthians 5:21 as:

      God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

      This makes no grammatical sense. People (including the divine person of Jesus Christ) do not “become sin.” Sin is something we do, not something we are. Grammatically, it is a noun, not an adjective. Paul was not such a bad writer that he would have composed such a ungrammatical, nonsensical sentence. Rather, he was saying:

      He made the One who knew no sin to become a sin offering on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (Tree of Life Version, italics added)

      You see, in the Hebrew of the Old Testament חַטָּאָת (chatta’ath), the common word for “sin,” is also used to mean “a sin offering.” The LXX similarly translates it as ἁμαρτία (hamartia), the Greek word for “sin,” wherever it is used to mean a sin offering in the book of Leviticus and elsewhere in the Old Testament.

      Paul was steeped in the LXX. His Greek quotations from the Old Testament scriptures regularly follow the language of the LXX. And in 2 Corinthians 5:21 he is using the Greek word ἁμαρτία in that sense. This makes perfect sense out of a passage that is otherwise ungrammatical nonsense. And it fits in with Paul’s whole teaching that Jesus Christ was the sacrifice for our sin.

      In short, Jesus Christ did not “become sin.” That makes no sense whatsoever. Paul knew the difference between a noun and an adjective. He was a better writer than that. Paul’s real meaning in 2 Corinthians 5:21 is that God made Jesus Christ a sin offering on our behalf.

  20. William says:

    The Epistle to the Hebrews have sufficient answers to many questions.

  21. William says:

    The good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, the word for is used of sacrifice with the death envisaged is on behalf of someone else.

    • Lee says:

      Hi William,

      Yes, of course Jesus Christ died on our behalf. But that does not mean he “paid the penalty” for our sins, as is commonly believed among Protestants. The Bible simply never says this. And it is a complete misunderstanding of the meaning of sacrifice in the Old Testament.

      For the ancient Israelites, sacrifices were not “payments” or “penalties” for sin—despite the shockingly bad translations of Leviticus in some of the more modern versions of the Bible.

      Rather, sacrifices were a way for the Israelites to ritually enact their repentance from sin, and thereby return to the good graces of God. I could go on, but I have in mind to write an article about the real meaning of the Jewish sacrifices, and of Jesus’ sacrifice, that will explain all of this in much more depth.

      Meanwhile, here is the short version: Jesus died in order to take upon himself the deathblow that the Devil intended for us, thus saving us from the Devil’s power. And in defeating the Devil through his whole life, his death, and his resurrection, Jesus made it possible for us to defeat the Devil, evil, and sin in our own lives through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us. We do this, as he and his disciples all preached, through repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

      Until I am able to write the article about the meaning of the sacrifices, here are some articles I recommend to you for the real meaning of Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection:

      There are plenty more where these came from, but that’s enough for now.

      • William says:

        seems like he paid the penalty if as you say in your in your short version…”Jesus died in order to take upon himself the deathblow the Devil intended for us”….It seems he did something for us on the cross. However we choose to look at it, a price was paid and we were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body.

        • Lee says:

          Hi William,

          Being bought for a price is not the same thing as paying the penalty for our sins. Search the scriptures. Nowhere will you find it said there that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. That is simply not a biblical teaching.

  22. William says:

    When a person doesn’t live up to the standard of good and misses the mark, should one just make sure they have done more good to outweigh the bad or is forgiveness needed? if forgiveness is needed, what provides for that forgiveness?

    • Lee says:

      Hi William,

      It gives me sorrow to see that you, like so many millions of other Christians, have been misled by faulty human “logic” that has nothing to do with anything said or taught in the Bible.

      The Bible nowhere says anything about our needing to do a certain quantity of good deeds to outweigh the bad deeds we have done. Rather, it simply says that we must repent from our sins and live a good life instead. Here is one example from the Old Testament:

      But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:21–23, italics added)

      According to the teaching of the Bible, we do not have to do a certain quantity of good deeds to outweigh our bad deeds. Rather, we need to repent from our bad deeds (our sin), stop engaging in them, and start doing good instead. Then none of the transgressions we have committed will be remembered against us.

      Jesus and his disciples taught the same thing when the preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins to the people. So yes, we need forgiveness. And the Lord God Jesus Christ is merciful, loving, and ready and waiting to forgive us as soon as we repent from our sins and begin to live from love for God and the neighbor instead.

      Do we have to be perfect? No. That is the ideal that Jesus sets before us, but God is not a nitpicker. If each day we repent from our sins and replace our wrong thoughts, words, and actions with good thoughts, words, and actions, the Lord God Jesus Christ will look at our heart, see that our intention is good even if we sometimes slip along the way, and will forgive us and bring us to himself in heaven.

  23. Steve says:

    is it not better to cease from sin….That’s only possible by walking in the spirit..

    • Lee says:

      Hi Steve,

      Walking in the Spirit is what makes it possible for us to cease from sin. As we walk in the Spirit, we repent from our sins and begin living a righteous and holy life instead, not from ourselves, but from the Spirit of God dwelling in us.

  24. William says:

    Is there any connection with forgiveness of sins and the cross of Christ?…What is symbolized by the cup that Jesus prayed may pass from him?

    • Lee says:

      Hi William,

      These are big questions. I can’t do them full justice in a comment. But I’ll do my best to give you the most important points from the Bible in response.

      Of course, the cup that Jesus prayed might pass from him refers to his upcoming crucifixion, which the New Testament presents as a sacrifice in the model of the Old Testament sacrifices.

      However, if you are thinking that the connection between the forgiveness of sins and the cross of Christ is that God the Father forgives us because he saw Jesus die on the cross, and that death satisfied God’s requirement of death for our sins, then you are very much mistaken. This sort of thing is taught nowhere in the Bible. It was invented by human beings many centuries after the Bible was written.

      Most of the time, the Bible connects forgiveness with repentance from sins. For just a few examples in the New Testament, see Mark 1:4–5; Luke 3:1–3; 24:45–47; Acts 5:30–31.

      The main connection that the Bible makes between the crucifixion and forgiveness is not in connection with the crucifixion itself, but with the Holy Supper where Jesus says to his disciples:

      Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27–28)

      And of course, what Jesus actually gave them was not a cup filled with his blood, but a cup filled with wine. Clearly, it is not the blood itself, but the symbolic meaning of it that he was referring to when he called the wine “my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

      This had nothing to do with God seeing Christ’s spilled blood and forgiving us on that account, as traditional, non-biblical Christian doctrine holds. Such an idea shows a complete lack of understanding of the meaning and significance of the Old Testament sacrifices.

      What was really happening in the Old Testament sacrifices was a symbolic (and also literal) feast with God to seal and celebrate the relationship between God and human beings—and in the case of sin, guilt, or trespass offerings, to bring the people back into harmony with God’s will through publicly recognizing and repenting from their sins, and celebrating their return to faithfulness through the sacred feast of the sacrifice.

      It is little known and understood among traditional Christians that for most of the sacrifices, only part of the animal was burnt on the altar. The rest became food for the priests and for the people bringing the offering. For the people, sacrifices were a literal feast in which they ate fine food (only the best was permitted for sacrifices) in the presence of God and God’s priests, at God’s holy Temple. God symbolically participated in the feast when the smoke of God’s portion, burned on the altar, went up to God as “a sweet savor to the Lord.”

      When Jesus spoke of “my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins,” there was no meaning or even hint of placating the Father through his death. Rather, in the context of a sacred meal with his disciples, he was bringing out the meaning of feasting with the Lord (himself), and receiving forgiveness of sins through receiving the Lord’s lifeblood into themselves.

      The Lord’s lifeblood is not literal blood. Otherwise he would have slit his wrists and poured his literal blood into the cup so that his disciples could drink his literal blood. He didn’t do that. Rather, it was “the blood of the new covenant.” And the Covenant, in the Old Testament, was the Law that defined the relationship between God and human beings:

      Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, “See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:7–8)

      Here the blood of the covenant is connected directly with words of the Lord given to the people on Mt. Sinai, which included the Ten Commandments and many other laws that the people of Israel were to obey. The blood of the covenant sealed the people’s expressed willingness to abide by that covenant, meaning their commitment to live according the word (the laws and teachings) of the Lord. In living by that covenant, the people would repent from their sins, and thereby be forgiven for their sins by the Lord. Forgiveness always follows repentance from sin.

      In “shedding his blood” of the new covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ was invoking that meaning of the blood of the old covenant given through Moses. Now, people will receive forgiveness of sins through living by the words (the teachings) of Jesus Christ given to us in the Gospels. That is the meaning of the Lord’s blood of the new covenant that is poured out for us for the forgiveness of sins. It is the sacred meal that seals our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through our willingness to repent from our sins and live according to his teachings and his example. In this way, we receive forgiveness of sins.

      It has nothing to do with God forgiving us because he saw the blood of Christ on the Cross. That is an utterly false and non-biblical teaching. Nowhere does the Bible say any such thing. It is a pure human invention—and a wicked one at that. It slanders the good name of God by presenting God as a bloodthirsty tyrant.

      Rather, in dying on the cross, Christ completed his battle against, and victory over, death, hell, the Devil, and the power of evil that had enslaved humanity. He sealed that victory through his resurrection, showing that he was master even over death, both physical and spiritual. When we turn to the Lord and accept his Word (his “blood”) and his Love (his “flesh,” or substance—God is love 1 John 4:8, 16) into our lives, we receive with them the power to overcome sin, the Devil, evil, and hell in our own lives, through the power of his Holy Spirit working in us.

      This is the real connection between the Cross and forgiveness. Through the full victory over the power of the Devil that enslaves us, which Christ completed by his death on the Cross and his resurrection from death, he took to himself the power to overcome the grip of the Devil on the lives of all people that accept his truth (the Word of God), his love, and his power into themselves, to repent from their sins and to live from the Lord’s will rather than from their own fallen and sinful human will.

      This is the teaching of the Bible for anyone whose eyes are open to see it.

  25. Will says:

    I have very much enjoyed your articles. I have almost read them all. I came across a verse that has made me confused. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). Does this verse imply we have have to confess “Jesus is God” and believe that God did raise Jesus from the dead in order to go to heaven? I would love to hear your comments and opinions on the matter, for I am very confused. Thank you

    • Lee says:

      Hi Will,

      Glad you’re enjoying the articles here! Thanks for your comment and question.

      When reading the Bible to gain sound teachings (“doctrine”) from it, it’s important not to add to or subtract from what the Bible says. This applies to individual verses as much as to whole chapters and to the Bible a a whole.

      Romans 10:9 says, once again:

      because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

      It doesn’t say, “If you don’t believe and say this you will be damned.” It says, “If you do believe and say this, you will be saved.” The verse is about opening up a path to salvation, not about closing off all other paths.

      The whole passage is about how salvation is available to everyone. It’s really about how easy it is to be saved. To make it into something about how difficult it is to be saved and how only those who do what this verse says in the exact right way will be saved is not only not what the verse says, but it’s contrary to the whole spirit of the passage in which it appears.

      Notice also that it says we are to believe in our heart. That’s not the same thing as believing in our head. Lots of people profess to believe things, and even think that they believe them, but then they don’t act as if they believe them. That’s because they believe them theoretically in their head, but in fact, in their heart they believe something entirely different. What we believe in our heart is what we live by. As Jesus taught us, the heart is where our deeds come from, good or evil.

      In other words, Romans 10:9 isn’t about being saved by believing and saying the correct thing. It’s about being saved by taking the Lord’s resurrection, and his teachings, to heart. Confessing with our mouth is not some mechanical thing we can do to turn the crank and be automagically saved. It is the expression of believing in our heart. And of course, as Jesus himself taught, not to mention Peter, Paul, James, and all the rest, true belief is what we express in action. That’s especially so when we believe in our heart. Believing in our heart means being transformed into a new person from the inside out: heart, head, mouth, and hands. Those who are transformed in this way by the Lord’s presence in their heart and life will be saved.

      Saying some formula with our mouth when it doesn’t express what’s in our heart not only doesn’t save us, but is hypocrisy—and can even make us worse off than if we simply said what we really believe in our heart. Altar calls and sinner’s prayers accomplish nothing at all if they aren’t the expression of a person who is being changed and transformed inside and out.

      As for people who aren’t Christian and therefore don’t believe in their head that Jesus is Lord, so that they don’t confess it with their mouth, they, too, have a path to salvation, which Paul had already explained earlier in Romans 2:1–16.

      I hope this helps!

      • Will says:

        Not only are your arcticles beautiful, but your comments are as well. I am surprised to see you not only respond to my comment, but quickly. The meaning behind my original question is…
        I have met people who don’t believe in God or Jesus, but they display the love of Jesus more than I can comprehend. I work with an atheist, and truthfully I would rather spend my time talking with him than the other pepole I work with who are Christians. I’m not trying to say the other people I work with are bad or are better than the atheist, but the atheist seems to understand love in a different way that I am attracted to. The idea of this young, smart, intelligent, compassionate, caring man living in eternal hell just because he didn’t say some words or believe a certain way made my heart heavy. I like to believe anyone can be saved. I’m slowly… very slowly, moving away from legalism. I usually feel like God doesn’t love me, because I never live up to my full potential or what God thinks my full potential is. I have grown up in church learning the “Christian way” and it has caused me so much bondage and misinterpretations of what God is trying to tell me. You have shed a lot of light for me. Thank you Lee

        • Lee says:

          Hi Will,

          Thank you for your kind words. I do enjoy responding to readers’ comments, especially if I can help clear up some confusion and pain for people.

          The “Christian way” taught by many “Christian” churches is “Christian” in name only. It is the opposite of what Jesus Christ teaches. It has done and continues to do a great deal of damage to many millions of people, not to mention giving Christianity a bad name. I believe that much of the atheism in today’s world is due to so-called “Christian” churches teaching false, human, non-biblical doctrines in place of what Christ himself actually taught in the Gospels.

          All of that falsity and all of the damage it causes is why I continue to write and post articles here about what the Bible actually says, compared to what these so-called “Christian” churches say it says.

          About your atheist friend, just in case you haven’t already seen it, here’s an article for you:
          Do Atheists Go to Heaven?

          Atheism is now on the rise. I believe that’s primarily because these old “Christian” churches need to die out before the real truth about God and Christianity can finally come to the surface broadly in the world. The move toward atheism is, unfortunately, a necessary part of the destruction of a corrupted and false “Christianity.” On that, see:

          Unfortunately, the old, corrupt so-called “Christianity” is still what most people think of when they think of Christianity. That’s the Christianity that atheists are rejecting. It’s the same Christianity that I reject.

          But for many of these atheists, the damage already done by false religion is so extensive that they will not be able to return to any belief in God while they are still living on this earth. In the afterlife, when they realize that God is not the insane tyrant that traditional Christianity paints God as, they will once again be able to believe in God. They’ll realize that all of the good values they strive to live by come from God, and are the real nature of God.

          Meanwhile, atheists often live out the teachings of Jesus Christ better than so-called “Christians” do. That’s because atheists are generally unencumbered by the false teachings still masquerading as Christianity. Not that there aren’t also bad atheists. There certainly are. We’re all human beings here. But the bulk of atheists are not atheists because they reject any kind of morality or decency. They’re atheists because they reject the immoral and indecent teachings of a corrupted Christian Church that needs to be destroyed before genuine Christianity can take its place.

          When that happens, I believe good and thoughtful people who would otherwise be atheists will start returning to a belief in God, spirit, and the afterlife. But that may take many more generations to happen. The old, false “Christianity” has been around for a long time, and it’s not ready to give up just yet. A lot more people will have to vote with their feet and abandon it before it finally gives up the ghost.

          Meanwhile, I’m glad you’re breaking away from that false “Christian way,” and gaining new insight on what Christianity really is. If you have more questions along the way, please don’t hesitate to ask.

          Oh, and about God loving you, here are a couple of articles that might help:

          God is not a perfectionist nitpicker who can’t tolerate the slightest sin or error in us, as evangelicals often paint God to be. The Bible simply doesn’t say that. You don’t have to be perfect for God to love you. God loves all of us even though every single one of us is imperfect—and some of us are real jerks. God keeps right on loving every single one of us anyway:

          You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43–45)

  26. Will says:

    I should correct myself. I have definitely not almost read all of your post. The more I read them, the more I discover you have more. I agree with you on your view of atheism. I’ll check out your post about God’s love; I know I could use more of it. Thanks again for your comments; they have been extremely helpful.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Will,

      There are currently 317 posts (and counting!) here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life. I figured there were probably at least a few you hadn’t gotten to yet. 😛 Not long ago I did some calculations and figured that there’s enough material here for over 20 books! Of course, quite a few of the posts are on current events or are book notices or other such things that wouldn’t normally be published in a book.

      Anyway, I’m glad the articles and my comments are helpful to you. God is good, even if we humans have scrawled glasses and a mustache on God’s face.

  27. mondaine says:

    God bless you for your articles,but i have a few questions to ask;
    1.Budhist bow to Budha and the bible talks against idolatory.
    2.Muslims don’t believe in jesus as son of God.
    3.most religions don’t believe in jesus and the holy spirit.
    how can these people make it to heaven.
    God told niccodemus except a man be born of water and spirit,he cannot enter heaven,are these religions born of water and spirit?
    Although i agree it’s not faith alone but the bible tells us it is not work alone,it is both faith and works…so if someone do the works without faith that religion has lost it’s path to heaven so as faith alone..but faith in jesus to be son of God comes first before works follow..you can’t skip the first stage(faith) and jump to the second(works)..i will only agree if other religions have faith in jesus being the Lord otherwise they will be like the pharisees who did not acknowledged Jesus to be the son of God or God himself..Will the same God have different rules for different religions?,muslims to marry 1,2,3 or 4 while christians marry only 1?,budhist to bow to Budha?,…

    • Lee says:

      Hi mondaine,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and kind words, which I do appreciate.

      The article itself covers much of what you are asking about. I would add that “faith” in the Bible does not mean mere belief, but rather faithfulness to God. See:
      Faith Alone Is Not Faith

      So it is not just believing in Jesus, but being faithful to what he taught. And most of what he taught is about loving God above all and loving our neighbor as ourselves. People of all religions who do this are being faithful to Jesus Christ and his teachings even if they don’t have “faith” in Jesus as that is incorrectly understood by most Christians today.

      For Jesus’ own teaching about who goes to eternal life and who does not, see Matthew 25:31–46. There is not a word in it about faith. It’s all about how we treat our fellow human beings.

      For Paul’s teaching on how non-Christians are saved, see Romans 2:1–16. Paul says very clearly that people of other religions who live according to their conscience will be saved through Jesus Christ. And that is exactly what I am saying also in the above article and in other articles here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life.

      Keep in mind that the Old Testament was addressed specifically to the ancient Israelite / Jewish people, who were required to worship Jehovah their God, and not the gods of the nations around them. And the New Testament was addressed specifically to Christians, who are required to worship Jesus Christ as God. Christians who reject Jesus Christ have rejected their God, which is never a good thing.

      Meanwhile, God has appeared in different ways to people of other religions. And if they are faithful to the God that they have been taught by their religion, then they are being faithful to Jesus Christ, because he is the one God of heaven and earth.

      Yes, we must have both faith and works to be saved. But nowhere does the Bible say that faith is more important than works. Paul was talking about the “works of the Law,” i.e., being an observant Jew. And Paul himself puts love ahead of faith (1 Corinthians 13:13), just as Jesus himself does.

      Yes, we need faith. And people of other religions who believe in and follow God as they understand God do have faith, and their good works are guided by that faith. And Jesus Christ saves them based on that faith.

      The Pharisees rejected Jesus because they were more interested in their own power, reputation, and wealth than in the truth. That is why Jesus condemned them. A teacher of divine truth was standing right in front of them, and they rejected him.

      I am a Christian. I believe that true Christianity is the highest form of religion available on earth. Otherwise I wouldn’t be a Christian. But other people and cultures have their own religions. And if they follow their religion faithfully, believing in God and doing good deeds of love and service for their neighbor as their religion teaches them to do, then God will accept them into heaven just as Paul and Jesus himself taught in the Bible.

  28. finitesky says:

    John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
    I don’t see any other religion apart from Christianity knowing/believing in the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit living in a person and acting as the witness, no one can enter heaven under the new Gospel of Christ. That is the truth. No other religions can enter heaven.

    • Lee says:

      Hi finitesky,

      Why, then, does Paul tell us in Romans 2:1–16 how non-Christians can be saved through Christ?

      And why does Jesus Christ himself tell us in Matthew 25:31–46 that he will judge for eternal life the people of all nations (not just Christian nations) if they engage in acts of love and kindness toward their fellow human beings?

      No, my friend, you are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. God is God over all the earth, not only over the Christians. The Holy Spirit’s power extends throughout the earth. It is not limited to those who claim the name of Christians, whether or not they actually live by the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  29. finitesky says:

    I am not trying to claim I am the truth. Jesus said that so I just refer Him.
    If you say I am wrong then interpret John 3:3 your way.
    Even I didn’t know why I suddenly wrote that the Holy Spirit will be my Witness until I checked back in the Bible,
    Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children

    So now I know it was God who guided me to write it, not me. Sorry about that.

    • Lee says:

      Hi finitesky,

      Most of this is already covered in the above article. Nowhere in John 3 does Jesus say that only Christians can be saved. And as explained in the article, believing in Jesus is not a mere matter of intellectual belief, but is a matter of living according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. All who do this, of whatever religion, are saved. And Jesus himself boiled down his teaching into the two Great Commandments: To love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

      Jesus also never says that only Christians can be born again. Being born again is also not a mere matter of intellectual belief in the “correct” doctrine about Jesus Christ. It is becoming a new person by repenting from our sins and living a new life of love and kindness to our fellow human beings, just as Jesus taught. I explain one method of how to do this in this article:
      What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?

      The fact remains that both Jesus and Paul tell us very clearly how non-Christians can be saved by Christ. Any doctrine that claims that only Christians can be born again and saved is flatly contradicting the plain teachings of the Bible, and of the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

  30. Samson says:

    Hello, Lee.

    I have been reading a lot of your articles. They have all been helping me so far. And I am kind of hesitant to ask you questions because you seem to cover them all up in your articles. But this topic really has been bothering me now for many years, and I would love to get a personal response from you in regards to my concern, even though you might have already answered it in the article.

    As you already know, I grew up the baptist church. This means we should believe Jesus is God. However, I have not accepted this teaching quite bit yet. Because a huge part of my heart feels differently, especially when reading from the bible itself. So here goes:

    In response to your early details about Jesus is God, how would you explain verses like these:

    1. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. JOHN 14:6

    Since Jesus is said to be God, why would He say no one can go to the “Father” except “through” him ( Jesus Christ?)

    Instead of confusing people ( and God is not the author of confusion — see: 1 Corinthians 14:33) why not simply say “ Whoever comes to me comes to the Father, as I am the Father and the Son at the same time?”

    Lets have a look at the verse you used to defend your argument that Jesus claimed to be God by saying:

    “ I and the Father are one.”

    As I read further down the line, I am starting to see that Jesus isn’t literally saying he is God, but rather is “one” with God — like a husband and a wife is “one”.

    “20 I am not asking on behalf of them alone, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.”

    There are a lot of problems and contradictions in this verse alone if we are going to go with the idea that Jesus is God.

    First, he said God gave him the “glory” ( insinuating that another person aside from himself gave him this glory in order for them to become “one”, and that he ( Jesus) would give us this same glory so that we ( the people) may become one, just like God and Jesus are one.

    The fact that we, the people, would become “one” doesn’t mean we would shrink from billions to a single person.

    2. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17

    When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, the bible tells us that a voice from Heaven ( not Jesus’s own voice) spoke with pleasure for His son. If Jesus is God, who was this another person out of the cloud or heaven speaking and claiming Jesus His own son?

    3. Jesus replied “ Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” John 14:9

    As I read a little further down within this verse, I am starting to see Jesus clarifying to Philips that the Father ( the ultimate Creator/Spirit) was inside of Jesus’s body doing and performing His business, while at the very same time Jesus was also able to be within the Father, as they are truly “one” in “nature” as explained earlier, just like a husband and a and wife are “one” in a spiritual sense.

    21that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one — 23I in them and You in Me—that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You have loved Me.…

    There are plenty more verses showing Jesus showing outmost respect to his Father, but to save space here, and to avoid tiring you out, especially seeing that you have put in a lot of work putting together your thoughts, I will stop here and anticipate your response

    • Lee says:

      Hi Samson,

      I’m glad the articles here are helping you.

      About your overall question, some things in the Bible are very simple and straightforward. An example of this is that if you wish to be saved, you must repent from your sins (i.e., stop doing things that are evil and wrong), and live a good life of actively loving and serving the neighbor instead, based on a belief in and willingness to follow God. This teaching fills the Bible from beginning to end. And it is the most important and critical message of the Bible, since it’s what our salvation and eternal life depends upon. It is so clearly taught in the Bible that even Protestants laboring under the utterly false and unbiblical doctrine of justification by faith alone still generally get the message, and actually live according to Jesus’ teachings of repentance from sin and love for the neighbor. (And if they don’t, their so-called “faith” won’t save them.)

      Other things in the Bible are quite complex. The questions you raise about the Incarnation (God becoming human) and the relationship between the Son (Jesus on earth) and the Father are among the complex ones. We don’t necessarily need to understand these things in order to be saved. And the Bible is not a theological treatise. It does not waste time delving into abstruse explanations of philosophical and abstract theological points. It’s purpose is much more pragmatic.

      So as for the “confusion” in the Bible, the things that really matter to our salvation are very clear, whereas the theological background is veiled in parable, metaphor, and symbolic language. This metaphorical language is necessary because most people simply don’t have the level of philosophical and theological training and awareness to grapple with the cosmological issues of divine, spiritual, and material reality. Most people would quickly tune it out if the Bible spent much time at it. For example, many people get completely lost in Jesus’ philosophical discourses in the Gospel of John. They’re fantastically compact little theological treatises, but leave most Christians just scratching their heads, and most Christian theologians hopelessly lost in their own false doctrines and misinterpretations of the Bible. Much more of that sort of material in the Bible, and the Bible would lose people altogether. So it largely sticks to concrete stories and pithy, memorable metaphors.

      Another factor is that nearly 2,000 years of gradual but definite departure from biblical teachings has rendered most of “Christian” doctrine today more confusing than helpful in reading and understanding the Bible. I’ve covered this in a number of articles here. In order to properly understand the Bible, it is necessary to unlearn many centuries worth of increasingly false doctrine.

      Specifically relevant to your questions, in order to understand what the Bible is actually saying, and what’s behind it, it’s necessary to unlearn these false doctrines that “Christian” theologians have invented along the way:

      • God is a Trinity of Persons; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each eternally coexisting persons of God.
      • Jesus was the Incarnation of the second Person of the Trinity, who had existed from eternity.
      • As the Incarnation of the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ was fully divine from birth.
      • The Bible is to be taken literally unless it is obviously speaking metaphorically. Literalism is the default.

      Of course, I cannot delve into each one of these in depth here. But here are several articles that do take up some of these points. Relevant to your specific questions here, I particularly recommend that you read the one on Jesus praying to the Father. I will draw especially on that one in my more specific responses in a separate comment below.

      I know that’s a lot of articles. And I’m actually doing my best to cut it down to the most relevant ones. There are a lot more where those came from! However, your questions are big ones. And a certain amount understanding the answers involves simply learning the concepts that are necessary in order to understand the answers. That is going to require some time and effort.

      Eventually, I would recommend that you really bite the bullet and read Emanuel Swedenborg’s great work of Christian theology, True Christianity. That’s where these questions are answered in great detail and with great depth. Several volumes of Swedenborg’s Secrets of Heaven (Arcana Coelestia) also deal largely with the process of the Incarnation and with Jesus’ inner state and inner struggles during his lifetime on earth. So you can go as deep into these questions as you are willing and able to go.

      The Incarnation is arguably the most complex event that has ever happened in the universe. It involves God “bending the heavens and coming down” (2 Samuel 22:10; Psalm 18:9). And that required bending just about every rule and principle known to humankind, as God bridged the gap from the divine through the spiritual to the material level of reality. We will probably never fully understand how God accomplished that. But despite the confusion induced upon the human mind by traditional “Christian” theology, a good basic understanding of it is available, as partially represented in the above-linked articles.

      Meanwhile, I’ll respond in a separate comment on at least some of the Bible passages and issues you raise, with an emphasis on those that aren’t already reasonably well covered in the above-linked articles. However, reading those articles will also help you to understand my responses here.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Samson,

      You write:

      1. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. JOHN 14:6

      Since Jesus is said to be God, why would He say no one can go to the “Father” except “through” him ( Jesus Christ?)

      Instead of confusing people ( and God is not the author of confusion — see: 1 Corinthians 14:33) why not simply say “ Whoever comes to me comes to the Father, as I am the Father and the Son at the same time?”

      First, it’s necessary to understand that “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” as used in the New Testament are human metaphors for greater divine realities. It is not like literal human fathers, sons, and breaths. Rather, those terms are meant to express metaphorically, using examples of concrete human concepts, something about the nature of God and of the relationships among the key “components” of God. What each of them represents is explained more fully in my article, “Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?”—which is among those linked in my previous comment. Here are the basics, quoted from the opening section of that article:

      The basics about God are easy to understand. We humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). If we look at how we are made, and we realize that the Bible uses symbolic language, we can understand what God is like.

      • “The Father” mentioned in the Bible is like our soul.
      • “The Son” is like our body.
      • “The Holy Spirit” is like everything we say and do.

      Here’s another way of looking at it:

      • At our core is love. That’s because God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). When the Bible mentions “the Father,” it is talking about God’s love.
      • We express our love through intellect or wisdom. In the Bible, the light of God’s wisdom is called “the Son” (see John 1:1–14).
      • We express our love and understanding through the things we say and do. In the Bible, God’s words and actions are called “the Holy Spirit.”

      One human being is made of many different parts. In exactly the same way, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three different parts of one God.

      If you read the New Testament with this in mind, the confusion about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will begin to clear up in your mind.

      Second, it is necessary to understand that during his lifetime on earth, Jesus was the Son of God in a somewhat more literal way than the above explanation covers. Specifically, Jesus had a human mother (Mary) and a divine Father (God), as covered in the birth stories in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. This means that during his lifetime on earth, Jesus had both a finite human part of his person and character that came from Mary, and an infinite divine part of his person and character that came from God, and that was God in him (since God is indivisible). The part of him that was the “son of Mary” (the finite human part) was also the “Son of God,” since God did father him in the womb of Mary.

      What happened after that miraculous conception was a process of Jesus gradually setting aside everything of the finite humanity that came from his mother, and replacing it with a divine humanity that came from his Father. This is covered briefly in the article linked just above, and somewhat more fully in the article that in my previous comment to you I especially recommended that you read: “If Jesus Christ is the One God, Why Did He Talk and Pray to the Father?

      Providing all of the biblical basis for this would go far beyond what I can do in a comment. That’s where reading True Christianity would come in.

      Meanwhile, what this means is that during Jesus’ lifetime on earth, he was not fully God, and therefore could not call himself “God.” That would have been false and incorrect. And during his lifetime on earth, he did still have a relationship with God that was at least partly like a human son’s relationship to a human father. That’s because he was still partly the son of Mary as well. In other words, he was still partly a finite human being. This is explained more fully in the article I just linked for you about Jesus praying to the Father.

      It is only after the Resurrection that we get plain, unfiltered expressions of Jesus being God, because it was only after the Resurrection that Jesus was fully God, having left behind in the grave the last vestige of his finite humanity from Mary. This, for example is when Thomas addressed Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28), and Jesus did not correct him, but rather chided him for requiring physical proof in order to believe this. And the book of Revelation contains many fully divine descriptions of Jesus. The closest the Gospels had come to this fully divine depiction of Jesus during his lifetime on earth was the event of the Transfiguration, which only his three closest disciples witnessed, and which they were utterly confused by.

      About no one coming to the Father except through the Son, if we understand the Father as God’s soul, or the Divine Love, and the Son as God’s body, or the Divine Wisdom, then we can understand that we cannot approach God’s soul directly, but must do so via God’s body, just as we cannot approach another person’s soul directly, but must do so through interacting with their body.

      More spiritually, we cannot come to God’s love unless we first learn God’s truth. It is the truth that leads us to God’s love. This is what Paul was really talking about when he said that we are justified through faith. It is through believing in and following Jesus’ teachings that we come to know God’s love, even though the love is actually prior to and more important than the faith that leads us to it.

      And more concretely, for Christians, we come to know God by coming to know Jesus Christ, both as Jesus is described to us in the New Testament and as we encounter Jesus in our own lives, either within our minds and hearts, as is more common, or through an actual visual and experiential encounter with Jesus, which some people do experience. (Swedenborg was one of these people, and it set him on his course from being a scientist to being a theologian.)

      Once again, these are huge topics. I hope these rather brief answers, plus the linked articles, help in giving you some of the concepts required to understand the Gospels “confusing” (but only based on traditional “Christian” misconceptions) statements about Jesus’ relationship to the Father.

      Since this is getting long, I’ll post it and continue in another comment.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Samson,

      You write:

      Lets have a look at the verse you used to defend your argument that Jesus claimed to be God by saying:

      “ I and the Father are one.”

      As I read further down the line, I am starting to see that Jesus isn’t literally saying he is God, but rather is “one” with God — like a husband and a wife is “one”.

      “20 I am not asking on behalf of them alone, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.”

      There are a lot of problems and contradictions in this verse alone if we are going to go with the idea that Jesus is God.

      First, he said God gave him the “glory” ( insinuating that another person aside from himself gave him this glory in order for them to become “one”, and that he ( Jesus) would give us this same glory so that we ( the people) may become one, just like God and Jesus are one.

      The fact that we, the people, would become “one” doesn’t mean we would shrink from billions to a single person.

      First, it’s important to read exactly what Jesus says in these statements, and not to put words into his mouth. He doesn’t say, “I and God are one.” He says, “I and the Father are one.”

      It is true that in the Old Testament, the Father is God. But in the New Testament, something new has happened: the Incarnation. Contrary to traditional “Christian” trinitarian theology, there is no mention anywhere in the Bible of a Son and a Holy Spirit existing from eternity. Though some statements in the Bible can be misinterpreted to make them sound that way, there is simply no Divine Son in the Old Testament, and no Divine Holy Spirit in the Old Testament either. Though the OT does talk about “the spirit of God,” that is not the same as the Holy Spirit of the New Testament.

      The New Testament is clear that the Son was born in time, in the womb of Mary, at a specific time in history. Before that, the Son did not exist. And though the issue of the origins of Holy Spirit gets a little complicated, John 7:39 does say, “The Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (there is no “given” in the original Greek), indicating that the Holy Spirit proper did not actually exist until after Jesus was fully glorified, which wasn’t until after the Resurrection.

      In short, the Son:

      1. was not the same as the Father
      2. did not exist prior to Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary
      3. was now part of God, just as the Father was part of God

      It is true that the Bible speaks of the Word being at the beginning with God, and becoming flesh (John 1:1–18), and Jesus mentions the glory that he had with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5). That’s because God did have a triune nature of love, wisdom, and action before the Trinity of the New Testament existed, and the Son and Holy Spirit are expressions of the Divine Wisdom (“the Word”) and the Divine Power (“the spirit of God”) that existed before the Incarnation. But the Son and the Holy Spirit proper didn’t exist until Jesus was born, and was then glorified in the course of his lifetime on earth. These were new expressions in time and space of the eternal God.

      I know this can be difficult to understand and conceptualize. That’s why I said earlier that the Incarnation bends just about every rule and principle known to humankind. The difficulty lies in the infinite and eternal God becoming manifest in the finite, time-bound, created world. Understanding this interface between eternity and time taxes the human mind to its greatest degree. We are immersed in space and time, and we have great difficulty thinking apart from space and time. However, here is one article that may help you to wrap your mind around it:
      If God Already Knows What We’re Going to Do, How Can We Have Free Will?

      A short version (mind-bending, I know) is that from the perspective of time, God changed by becoming human and taking on a Son and a Holy Spirit; but from the perspective of eternity, which is God’s perspective, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally present in the being of God, since God sees and experiences all of time and space in a single present view. This may not make sense unless you read the article I just linked. And even then, it’s just plain hard for us to set aside our time-bound thinking and see things from the perspective of an eternally present God.

      The reality remains that within the arrow of time, the Son and the Holy Spirit presented in the New Testament did not exist until God incarnated as Jesus. The traditional trinitarian “Christian” doctrine of a Son “born from eternity” and a Holy Spirit “proceeding from eternity” are false and unbiblical as they are usually understood by traditional Christian theologians.

      To circle back to your statement, perhaps now you’ll understand why I say that it is important to read exactly what Jesus said, and not to put words into his mouth. Once again, he didn’t say, “I and God are one.” He said, “I and the Father are one.” And in that context “the Father” is not the same as “God,” because now God has been incarnated as the Son, who is “God with us.” So when Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” another way of saying this is, “my divine soul and my divine human expression here with you are one.” Both are now parts of God, even though the divine humanity was not yet fully developed, and Jesus himself was still partly finite human.

      Second: If I haven’t entirely lost you by now, perhaps you’ll be able to see Jesus’ statements about God “giving him glory” in a new light. Without getting into another long disquisition, the glory of God is the splendor of the Divine Soul and the Divine Love shining into and through the Divine Humanity (“the Word made flesh”) that was Jesus’ divine side. That glory of the presence of “the Father,” or the Divine Soul of Divine Love, is what shone into and through Jesus during his lifetime on earth, and what still shines through Jesus, who is now fully glorified and fully one with the Father, as the Divine Wisdom or the human expression of the Father.

      I probably haven’t done this justice, but I’ll continue on anyway, in the hope that you’ll read True Christianity for yourself in time, and come to a fuller understanding of all of this.

      Third: It is true that based on the statements of Jesus that you quote the oneness of Jesus (“the Son”) with the Father could be seen as the same as the oneness that other human beings have with God. And many people who reject the full divinity of Jesus do hold to this view. It is a genius of the Bible that it can reach and enlighten even the minds of people who cannot fully understand or accept the magnitude of the unique event that happened in Palestine 2,000 years ago.

      However, looking at it from a more spiritual perspective, the unique oneness of Jesus with the Father also brings about a oneness of all of humanity (those who are willing) with the Father. And indeed, Swedenborg did picture the entirety of God’s kingdom, meaning of all people who have a consciously chosen relationship with God, as one vast human being in the sight of God. Not that we literally make a huge human body. But collectively, when we all work together for the love of one another and for the glory of God, we do make one vast, interconnected web of unique individuals each contributing to the whole very much like the individual cells, organs, and parts of the human body each contribute their own unique character and functions to form the human body as a whole.

      There is far more here than I can adequately cover even in these rather long comments. Once again, I hope this at least gives you a glimpse of what Jesus was talking about with his words about oneness with the Father and with all of humankind. It is God’s human presence with us, represented in the New Testament by Jesus Christ, that can draw us all together into one unified and interconnected human society. And I believe this is now happening as the world is becoming more and more interconnected into one worldwide collective human being.

      Along these lines, here is another rather philosophical article that may (or may not) be helpful:
      Containers for God

    • Lee says:

      Hi Samson,

      You write:

      2. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17

      When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, the bible tells us that a voice from Heaven ( not Jesus’s own voice) spoke with pleasure for His son. If Jesus is God, who was this another person out of the cloud or heaven speaking and claiming Jesus His own son?

      I hope what I have explained above is helping you to understand this better. The “Father” and “Son” involved here are not exactly like human fathers and sons, but denote more of a relationship within the different “parts” of God. However, they are represented to human beings metaphorically with the imagery of a father and a son interacting with one another.

      Plus, as I said, during his lifetime on earth Jesus was somewhat more literally the Son of God because he was also the son of Mary, and was conceived with God as his Divine Father. However, as I also said, God is indivisible. So when God’s being was expressed as the Divine Soul of Jesus, Jesus did not become differentiated from his Father as we human beings become differentiated from our fathers, but rather remained one with the Father, until the oneness was complete at the time of the Resurrection and Ascension.

      However, at the time of Jesus’ baptism, when this event in Matthew 3:17 took place, Jesus was still also the Son of God in the sense that he was not yet fully one with God, but was on the path to full oneness with God.

      This may still seem somewhat obscure now, but if you continue to read more of the articles and explanations here, I hope it will become clearer to you as time goes on. Basically, the Eternal God was still in heaven even while being expressed in Jesus on earth, and there was a divine connection and oneness between them via Jesus’ soul, which was God the Father; but Jesus was still also the Son of God in a more literal sense since part of his being and character still came from his human mother Mary. That’s why the Father spoke from heaven as if to a distinct being, even though in his soul Jesus was one with the Father, which was his own soul, and Jesus was the “body” that was expressing that soul.

      Looking at your point 3, I’m not sure there’s anything there that I haven’t already addressed. But as always, feel free to continue the conversation and ask further questions as you wish. For now, I’ll bring this to a close and let you contemplate and digest what I’ve written so far, in hopes that it will be helpful to you.

  31. brandon says:

    The Bible is clear that Christianity is exclusive. Only those acquainted with the person of Jesus Christ through the gospel are saved. You trying to open it up to anyone who generally tries to do good tramples the son of God and treats His blood as unholy. What reason would there be for Christ commanding “repent AND BELIEVE” or commanding His disciples to preach the gospel if all people had to do was “do good”? What use is the gospel if it is not exclusive?

    • Lee says:

      Hi brandon,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comments.

      However, the Bible never says that Christianity is exclusive. In fact, in Romans 2:1–16 Paul tells us very clearly how conscientious non-Christians (Jews, “Greeks,” meaning pagan polytheists, and Gentiles) are saved through Jesus Christ. Those so-called Christian preachers who proclaim that only Christians are saved are ignoring and contradicting the plain teachings of the Bible.

      The Gospel to repent and believe is indeed preached to all people. And those who repent from their sins and believe will be saved, even if their religion teaches them to believe in God, but not to believe that Jesus Christ is God.

      Is there more than one God to believe in? Is God (the Father) one god, and Jesus Christ (the Son) a different god, so that we must believe in two gods, not just one, in order to be saved?

      No, my friend. The Lord God Jesus Christ is the one God, who has all power in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in him. The idea that they are each “persons” of God is a human invention that is no different than pagan polytheism. See:
      Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Polytheistic?

      As I say in the above article, there is only one God, and Jesus Christ is that God, whether or not people understand and believe this. Therefore anyone who believes in God is believing in Jesus Christ because there is no other God to believe in.

      Christ’s blood was not shed to save only a few people, but to save all people on earth who are willing to accept that salvation from God. Traditional Christians limit the power of Christ’s blood by making it sufficient to save only those relatively few people on earth who are Christian. But the Bible tells us that Christ’s blood is sufficient to save all people who repent from their sins, believe in God, and live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ—whose essence is that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.

      People of all religions, not just Christians, can do this. And Jesus Christ, our heavenly King, saves the people of all nations, not just the Christian nations, who love their neighbor as themselves, and serve their neighbor out of love, just as he himself taught in Matthew 25:31–46.

      • bbrdca says:

        Sorry for the very late reply.

        Jesus Himself claimed exclusivity when He said things like “I am the door” and “I am the gate” and spoke of those who don’t enter by the gate being thieves. The issue is you’re conflating doing “good” things with salvation when in fact the Bible teaches that without true faith there are no good works. Those who don’t know Christ are not doing good works because they are giving excuses to turn away from the True God and source of all good. There is also the issue of motives among other major impediments to doing good. As Hebrews teaches without faith it is impossible to please God. Perception of what is good is important in being able to do good, so while doing good is a part of salvation recognizing the source of that good in Jesus Christ is the only way to truly guarantee that the works themselves are good and pleasing to God.

        The path is narrow and if it were as simple as “do works of charity” many more would find it. But men sell themselves to sin and the wages thereof, and only Jesus provides the ransom to escape that slavery.

        • Lee says:

          Hi bbrdca,

          Thanks for stopping by, and for your comments.

          In response, I hope you will read the above article more carefully. Yes, Jesus did claim exclusivity, and yes, Jesus is the only way to the Father. The error is in thinking that this means a person must intellectually believe in Jesus in order to have access to Jesus and by way of Jesus to the Father, and to salvation. Jesus says many things that flatly contradict this common so-called “Christian” view, including:

          I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34–35)

          He does not say people will know you are my disciples if you believe in me, but if you have love for one another. And he said that the most important commandments in Scripture are that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Further, in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31–46 he says that people of all nations (not just Christian nations) will go to eternal life if they engage in acts of kindness to their fellow human beings in need, and to eternal punishment if they do not. There are many more sayings of Jesus I could quote in support of this.

          It is very clear that Jesus Christ’s own teachings about who are his followers, and who are the ones who truly believe in him, is much broader than that of present-day so-called Christianity.

          And yes, both faith and good works are required for salvation. But “faith,” as the Bible uses that term, does not mean mere intellectual belief in some proposition, such as “Jesus paid the penalty for my sins” (something the Bible never says, by the way). Rather, it means faithfulness to Jesus and his commandments. That’s why James said that faith without works is dead, and that we are justified by works, and not by faith alone.

          For more on what faith is and isn’t, please see:
          Faith Alone Is Not Faith

        • Brandon says:

          Lee, you’re right that faith alone is not faith but that’s a totally different issue from whether acknowledging Christ as God is necessary(as I never said it was sufficient) for salvation. Christ said His sheep will know His voice, and knowing God is part of loving God. If someone hears the gospel and does not recognize the voice of their Creator that demonstrates that they do not know God, and as such are not capable of loving God. It is true that the disciples of Christ are known for their love for each other, but that too is exclusive to the community of Christ. When Christ said all nations there was no such thing as a “Christian” nation nor has their in fact ever been a truly Christian nation, as Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. The word for nation is people and it means that from every race or tribe some will be saved. And among every race and tribe there are men and women who profess faith in Christ and live by the teachings of Christ. To fail to recognize Christ as God is an implication that they do not love God, as they do not know God. Your explanation is nothing more than a human invention that ignores the chief moral cause is not service to man but fidelity of worship.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Please read what Jesus actually says in the Bible, and don’t add your own words and ideas to it.

          The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is Jesus’ clearest statement in the Gospels about who will be saved and who will not. And in it, he doesn’t say one word about believing in him, or about being a Christian, or any of the things you are saying are necessary. He simply doesn’t say, “This applies only to people who believe in me.” That is adding to his words. Rather, he says that those who do good deeds for their fellow human beings in need will go to eternal life, and those who don’t will go to eternal punishment.

          And quite frankly, I believe Jesus, not you, on this point.

        • Brandon says:

          You’re cherry picking but Jesus said this specifically to his disciples. I’m taking the whole of the Biblical witness, not a single out of context snippet and building my doctrine on it. Exclusivity of worship, in a real manner, is paramount to the mileui in which those statements took place. The idea that it is even possible to do good works without recognizing the foundation of those good works is foreign to the text, an anachronistic belief you’re bringing to it that is fundamental to your understanding of it. You need a lot more than a single passage out of context to throw out and separate the correct recognition of God from the doing of good works. To say that mental recognition alone is not enough is a wholly different character than to say that it is not necessary, and as passages like John 17:3 make clear that it is a necessary component. There are not many ways to heaven, only one, and that is a relationship with Jesus Christ that is based on knowing Jesus Christ and doing as He commands.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          A fuller reply will have to wait until tomorrow. For now, I will simply say that I am reading what the Bible says, whereas you are reading into the Bible things it never actually says.

        • Brandon says:

          No, you’re cherry picking a verse and ignoring what Paul said on the matter in Romans, ignoring the context of the passages, and reading an anachronistic idea into the text while completely disregarding the centrality of exclusive YHWH worship in the Old Testament such that death was the only appropriate punishment for someone even suggesting going after other gods. Inclusivism is a late heresy precisely because the idea that it is even possible to be “good” without having a relationship with Jesus in the fullness of the knowledge available is completely foreign to the Bible and entirely belongs with enlightenment thinking.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          A simple reading of Romans 2:1–16 will show that you are mistaken on all counts. Paul stated clearly how non-Christians are saved through Jesus Christ before he went on to the more famous passage about how believers in Christ are saved.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          I’m not inclined to argue with you about this. Both Jesus and Paul disagree with you, and that’s enough for me.

          You’re using some fancy-sounding words that I can’t find in the Bible. And you’re throwing around some fancy concepts that I also can’t find in the Bible. Jesus doesn’t disagree with himself. If he says that people of all nations (not just his disciples) are saved if they do good deeds for their neighbors in need, then he’s not going to say elsewhere that they’re not saved. And in fact he doesn’t say elsewhere that they’re not.

          You’re trying to make Jesus contradict himself because Jesus doesn’t agree with your doctrine. You’re also trying to make Paul contradict himself because Paul doesn’t agree with your doctrine.

          Once again, I’ll stick with Jesus Christ, not you, as my criteria of what teachings are Christian.

        • brandon says:

          I am in no way disagreeing with Jesus or Paul, just with your non-contextual reading of them. Jesus explicitly says that those who do not believe are condemned already in John 3, repeatedly speaks of the necessicty of believing throughout John. No where is it taught that belief is unnecessary. Your use of Romans 2, for example, completely ignores Paul’s earlier words in the same letter where he said:

          18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

          21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

          24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

          It seems more likely that you’re not inclined to argue because your position is weak and based on pulling a handful of passages out as proof texts rather than reckoning to the entire corpus of the Bible where the exclusivity of worship is presented as not only necessary but the chief moral concern. The earliest Christians died in order to not compromise the exclusivity of their worship to God since all they were being asked to do was sacrifice an animal to a false god. Now, if it truly were that they simply needed to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and visit those in prison and they’d be saved why would they die in order to preserve exclusive worship of Jesus?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Your comment contains so many errors both in reading the text of the Bible and in early Christian faith and life that it would take an entire article just to deal with them.

          In particular, the early Christians had no interest in “exclusivity of worship,” and would not have even known what it meant if you said it to them. They were interested in living in the way that Jesus taught them to live, and in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to all who had ears to hear.

          I have found that when people use fancy terms and phrases in their arguments, it usually means that they have no real understanding of what they are talking about. The fancy language is a way to hide their lack of any clear picture in their mind of what they are arguing for.

          I have already covered most of your flood of objections in other articles here. If you are interested in knowing the truth, you are welcome to read them. If you are not interested in knowing the truth, I could argue and debate with you for the next ten years, and you would still be just as blind to the truth of God, spirit, and the Bible as you are now, as evidenced by all of your comments here so far.

        • brandon says:

          Boy howdy are you full of hubrus. Quite simply, if they weren’t interested in exclusivity of worship what were they dying for? Why were the Romans feeding them to the lions, crucifying, and beheading them? They refused to sacrifice to idols, which if it were as simple as simply doing what’s in the one passage you keep refering to there would be no reason to object to sacrificing to the Roman gods and doing their civic duty. Yet they died in order to not do so. The gospel is offensive precisely because it is exclusive. But keep just repeating that you have the “truth” and feeling smug looking down on people for using a varied vocabulary while exposing your false beliefs.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          They died because the knew in their hearts that Jesus Christ was their God and Savior. Worshiping only him was a result of that, not the great cause for which they were willing to be martyred.

          Your position is like saying that a man who loves his wife and is bound to her in heart and mind would not commit adultery against her because he has a philosophical belief in faithfulness. Maybe he does. But he doesn’t commit adultery against his wife because it would be contrary to the love that burns in his heart, and would destroy the relationship that he holds most dear.

          That is what he truly cares about. That is why the sexiest woman alive has no allure for him at all, and could not tempt him even if she did the dance of seven veils for him.

          The early Christians were willing to die rather than worship other gods not because they “believed in exclusivity of worship,” but because they had that powerful a love for Jesus Christ in their hearts, and they would rather die than be unfaithful to him.

        • brandon says:

          While I agree that the fidelity was not a commitment to the fidelity of worship, it’s evidence that fidelity of worship was a chief priority of theirs. They didn’t preach any form of pluralism, and did not deny the necessity of belief. You’re making somewhat of an argument from silence, except the Bible isn’t silent about worshiping God alone. God is a jealous God and if men are not worshiping God as He exists, that is to say in the person of Jesus, then they are giving their worship to others. What may be known about God has been made plain to them. You’re taking passages that teach that deeds are necessary for salvation to say that they are entirely sufficient when the passages say no such thing. In order to demonstrate your point you’d need to find a place where necessity of belief is categorically denied, and no where is that statement made. In the Law Israel is commanded “You shall have no Gods before me” in the histories Israel is regularly rebuked for failing to worship YHWH and instead building Ashterah poles and Baal temples, in the prophets Israel is judged for abandoning YHWHistic worship. Everywhere in Scripture fidelity to God is preached, and that an actual recognition of YHWH. Baal worshipers who fed the poor and visited prisoners were not exempted because their baal worship demonstrated that they were not God’s people. The fact that you forward this belief as what the Bible teaches despite the fact that no one taught anything even close to it until the 18th century is rather baffling.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Once again, you should learn what I believe before you presume to criticize it. Your objections are beside the point, because you are objecting to things I do not believe.

          Honestly, I am weighing in my mind whether it is even worth responding to you, because you get so many things wrong, and you so constantly attribute to me beliefs I don’t hold, that I doubt you would listen or understand if I took the time to explain true Christianity to you.

          In particular, if you think that no one until the 18th century taught that people of all religions can be saved if they faithfully follow their beliefs and live a life of love and kindness to their fellow human beings, you have not read the New Testament with any understanding, and you have completely missed its meaning and message.

          In Romans 2:1–16, Paul explains how Jews, “Greeks,” and Gentiles are saved through Jesus Christ if they follow their conscience in living by the law that is written in their hearts. None of these people are Christians. And Paul states very clearly that these good-hearted non-Christians will be saved through Jesus Christ.

          And once again, in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31–46 Jesus tells us in words as plain as day that people of all nations who have done good deeds for their fellow human beings in need have done it for Him, and will go to eternal life.

          These are not “isolated snippets of Scripture.” These are major teachings by Paul and by Jesus Christ himself.

          It is truly astounding to me that you can think that no one before the 18th century taught that people of all religions can be saved if they live faithfully according to their religion, when it is right there in words as plain as day in the Gospels and in the letters of Paul, which have been in existence for nearly two thousand years now.

          I don’t blame it on you. I blame it on your so-called “Christian” teachers, who are blind leaders of the blind. They have so blinded your eyes that you cannot even read and understand the words that are right in front of you in the book that you hold in your hand.

          I counsel you to abandon their false teachings, let the scales fall away from your eyes, and read the Bible with eyes unclouded by centuries of human encrustation of false dogma. What you see there will be so much greater than what you now have that it will be like moving from the cold darkness of a winter night into the sunshine of a beautiful day in spring, when the trees and flowers are blooming all around you.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          The Gospel is not offensive, but breathtakingly beautiful to those who understand its meaning and message. And the only people who truly understand its meaning and message are those who feel the love of the Lord God Jesus Christ in their hearts. Such people have no use or need for the fancy philosophical arguments cooked up by fancy theologians who were wise in their own eyes, and therefore could not even see, let alone understand, the beautiful message of Jesus Christ and his Apostles.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Your fancy arguments and your personal attacks do not move me at all. There is no possibility that I would ever believe as you do. I know my Lord and Savior in my heart, and I know who Jesus Christ is. Any other Gospel, such as the one that you are preaching, holds no allure for me at all. What I have is so much more beautiful than what you are trying to sell me that believing your version of “Christianity” would be like abandoning my wife for a cheap whore.

  32. Aruthra says:

    What do you think about spiritual saints like Ramalinga Swamigal (Aka Vallalar) and Sai Baba? Can they be considered as prophets? Because the teachings of Vallalar are quite similar to Jesus.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Aruthra,

      I’m not familiar with the teachings of Ramalinga Swamigal or Sai Baba. However, I believe that God speaks to many different people, of many different lands and cultures. And regardless of “doctrinal correctness,” I believe that holy men and women who lead people toward love, compassion, and right living are messengers of God, and are doing God’s work.

      • Aruthra says:

        Do you think messengers of God can be perfect in teaching? For example, Sai Baba and Vallalar did teach love, feeding the poor, etc. Vallalar even did many miracles such as burning of oil lamp with water, taking multiple forms of his body at various points in crowded gatherings so as to facilitate the people to see him as near to them, speaking in an even voice and tone so as to be heard by the audience equally alike irrespective of the distance etc. (Refer http://vallalar.org/English/VORG000000009B). He even talked about the judgement day when God will come in a white horse.
        But very few of his teachings are different from that of Jesus’s. For example, Vallalar taught his disciples to eat only vegetarian food; He named God as “arutperunjothi” which means “divine light” but people took it in a literal form and took lamp fire as the symbol of God and kept in temples.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Aruthra,

          I think there are many genuine spiritual teachers throughout the world who deliver God’s truth to the people of their times and cultures. As for the miracles, I can’t say, because I wasn’t there. As for their teaching being “perfect,” I would say, rather, that it is a purer or more veiled expression of divine and spiritual truth, according to the mind and heart of the spiritual teacher, and even more than that, according to the cultural context in which he or she taught. Divine and spiritual truth are always adapted to the minds of the people through whom and to whom they are delivered.

  33. Mendel Faith says:

    Wow very interesting articles. I followed you up from Christianity stack exchange, where you gave a sweendborgs teachings on the death of Jesus.
    Following your articles,I see that your Understanding on the rolw of the Holyspirt in redemption is not clearly defined.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Mendel Faith,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Glad you’re enjoying the articles here!

      So far I have not devoted a lot of time to the Holy Spirit on this website, but we do have a very clearly defined understanding of the Holy Spirit. For the basics on the Trinity, including the Holy Spirit, please see this article:

      Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?

      For a much more detailed view, I would recommend reading the chapter on the Holy Spirit in Swedenborg’s book True Christianity. Here are some of the topics covered in that chapter, which will give you a sense of our beliefs about the Holy Spirit, from True Christianity #138:

      1. The Holy Spirit is the divine truth and also the divine action and effect that radiate from the one God, in whom the divine Trinity exists: the Lord God the Savior.
      2. Generally speaking, the divine actions and powerful effects meant by the Holy Spirit are the acts of reforming and regenerating us. Depending on the outcome of this reformation and regeneration, the divine actions and powerful effects also include the acts of renewing us, bringing us to life, sanctifying us, and making us just; and depending on the outcome of these in turn, the divine actions and powerful effects also include the acts of purifying us from evils, forgiving our sins, and ultimately saving us.
      3. In respect to the clergy, the divine actions and powerful effects meant by “the sending of the Holy Spirit” are the acts of enlightening and teaching.
      4. The Lord has these powerful effects on those who believe in him.

      Please feel free to continue the conversation if you have further thoughts or questions.

  34. Priya says:

    Hi Mr. Lee,

    I think you have greatly mistake. The glorious gospel. Any human on earth including a person who calls himself a Christian will not be saved unless He believes that Jesus is his savior. Jesus Christ made it very clear that He is the way, the truth and the life. It’s not about the attributes of Jesus a person believes in. But in Jesus himself coz no other God people call as Allah, Buddha or whoever it may be finished the atonement Jesus did on the cross. A divine transaction was made on the cross 2000 years back. To redeem the lost human kind. I personally don’t think any other God people call names by would have done that or truly did that. It was Christ who did that. So it’s in the mighty name of Jesus you got to believe in to get saved. Coz as you rightly understood no authority was given to anyone under the heaven to save mankind. And to precisely address your question about the people who are kind, loving etc. The book of Isaiah in the Bible says that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags and the book of Romans in the Bible says that we all have sinned and fell short of the glory of God. So we all need a savior and it’s Jesus. The name of of the Lord is a strong refuge. His name is very important. Please do not mislead people by choosing verses selectively to make your argument. I hope you read more of God’s word and know the truth for yourself. God bless!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Priya,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. In response, I would ask you to read the above article more carefully. Yes, Jesus Christ is the only Savior. This means that Jesus Christ is the savior of all people, not just of Christians. God’s arm is not short, but powerful. Jesus Christ is the God of all the earth, not just of those who say they are Christians—many of whom are not, because they do not live as Christ taught us to live.

      Unfortunately, much of what you have been taught simply isn’t in the Bible. It sounds sort of biblical, but it was made up by human theologians who rejected much of what the Bible says. For example, Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism and the inventor of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, tried to remove four books from the Bible because they didn’t agree with his new doctrine of faith alone. Look it up, and you will see.

      The teachings here are indeed based on the entire Bible, not just on a few verses in Paul’s letters wrongly understood. There are far too many articles here about this to link them all. Here are a few that I especially invite you to read:

      The Bible does not teach what you’ve been taught it does. If you truly want to understand what the Bible teaches about God and salvation, please take the time to read these articles, and some of the others on this site. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free from the unbiblical errors you have been taught.

  35. Priya says:

    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
    Philippians 2:9

    • Lee says:

      Hi Priya,

      One of the major causes of the wrong thinking in traditional Christianity is that its leaders think materialistically, not spiritually.

      If you read the Bible materialistically and literally, Jesus’ teaching in John 6 about our need to eat his flesh and drink his blood would mean that we must be cannibals in order to be saved. But he taught us in that chapter that his words are not to be taken literally, but spiritually. See:

      Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood

      Similarly, if we read Paul and Timothy’s words in Philippians 2:9 literally and materialistically, we will think of God as being two gods: a literal Father and Son. But fleshly thinking kills, while spiritual thinking gives life. Once again, there are too many articles here explaining this to link them all. Here are just a few to give you more understanding of the genuine truth of the Bible on this subject:

      I hope these articles will help you to gain knowledge, understanding, and wisdom from the teachings of God in the Bible.

  36. brandon says:

    I agree to those who it is drawing the gospel is the most beautiful message there is. But it is offensive to the point that those who preach it are persecuted on its account. No one in the world persecutes someone because they say that all paths are acceptable and all it takes is being a “good” person. The gospel through its goodness declares that men are evil and that enrages them. It is foolishness to the wise, a rock of offense. And that offense comes from claiming that man’s righteousness is wickedness and true righteousness is found in confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and believing in the heart that God raised Him from the dead.

  37. brandon says:

    There’s nothing fancy about my arguments, though I am confused in how you feel I attacked you personally? Is it by saying you’re full of hubrus? Because the reason I said that is you have not engaged much in the discussion beyond insisting on your own reading and yet you have the gall to retreat and declare you have the truth. I’m open to being wrong, that’s why I engage in debate and discussion so I can improve my understanding of God through defending my doctrine. Anyone who believes they have arrived at the truth and that they cannot possibly be wrong is arrogant beyond all measure. If I’m overly combative in my approach I apologize.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Brandon,

      Seeing and understanding the truth is not arrogant. Jesus captured it perfectly when he said, in response to similar objections against him:

      If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. (John 8:54–55)

      If you are truly open to improving your understanding of God, then I would be happy to continue the conversation with you. I would be a liar if I said I didn’t see and understand the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ better than you do. The beliefs you keep throwing at me are those of the swine. My only question has been whether I should throw my pearls in that direction. That is why I haven’t been engaging your arguments at length.

      I have no objection to strong language. I use it myself when the situation warrants it. I do object to blind ignorance that sees itself as the truth of the Gospel. That is where you are now. If you wish to get out of the muck of the false Gospel that you are now preaching (and that I do understand you sincerely believe), then I will stick with you as long as your ears are open.

  38. brandon says:

    I’d imagine you’ve got a few out of context snippets like how you use the Bible that don’t say anything even approximating conscious recognition and assent(belief) is necessary. I don’t know exactly what you believe, this is true, but am I wrong in that I have gathered that you believe that “belief” does not include mental assent but is purely a matter of acting in accord with Christian practice? That one does not have to mentally recognize Jesus is God in words, but that one can through their thoughts worship a different god in name(or even no god at all) but in fact they are worshiping Jesus? Does that approximate your belief? Because that’s what I’m saying you’d need to find a denial of conscious belief in order to prove.

    • Richard Neer says:

      Throughout the ages there have been people in this world who, through non-exposure or simple ignorance, do not know of any God, have no faith and never heard of Christianity. Yet, they carry on with their lives with the most moral structure they know of, and do right by each other. Are the prevented from finding salvation? Does God punish them for their ignorance simply because they do not profess their loyalty to God?

      What about those with mental or psychological disabilities and limitations which prevent them from even grasping the concept of faith, God or religion in general, much less the harrowed complexity of Christianity? Are they not saved? They are silent in their ignorance and faithlessness. Are they not saved either?

      Eastern religions have been around longer than Christianity and they do not conform to the same beliefs as Christians. There are far more people in that category than there are considered to be Christians. Are none of them saved?

      Or how about tribal people, even those in our own United States which believe in many Gods, or spirits which have helped guide their lives throughout time. They have not adopted Christianity and your beliefs. Are they not saved because they do not recognize Jesus is God?

      All of the aforementioned people have nothing except their actions to speak for them in most circumstances, so actions and good deeds carry the same weight as spoken words, if not more. It’s easy to talk the talk, but much harder to adhere to walking the walk, and walking the right path regardless of what one professes to believe in, does indeed matter.

      Your position seems terribly narrow in scope for one who professes to listen and consider other points of view.

      • Brandon says:

        Richard-
        You’re speaking to a slightly different issue, or else there is a misunderstanding. What I believe the correct Biblical doctrine is that people will be judged off of the revelation they have access to. Those who ignorantly do as the law commands without ever hearing of God will be judged righteous, but those who believe in things other than Jesus after hearing the message preached demonstrate they have no heart for God. My position IS incredibly narrow because the path is narrow, truth is exclusive. Nothing I have said is about a verbal confession, such things are worthless. But it seems to me that Lee’s position goes beyond the Biblical warrant for exceptional salvation cases and is trying to make it a norm that people are saved via a back-door sort of faith that does not require belief.

        • Richard Neer says:

          Lee did state “I believe that people must do good works out of a faith or belief in the best understanding of God, or at least of the qualities of God, that is available to them and that they can accept based on their own heart, mind, and culture.”

          “Qualities of God” is key here.

          By interpretation, that does not include an absolute belief in a single God and Christianity, Jesus, etc. Also, just because one chooses a different religious path after “hearing the message preached”, as you say, does not make them inherently unworthy of salvation.

          How they live their life by virtue of their heart, mind and culture is what determines their spiritual path toward salvation, not simply excepting your God as being the only possible answer and path to salvation.

          As paraphrased, “Many roads lead to Rome”. Certainly not all, but many.

          No God should be so narrow minded with infinite power, wisdom, love and capacity, as to not have the ability to see inside the person for who they are, not who they may or may not verbally express themselves as.

          Hence, one’s actions are a significant factor in salvation despite any associated, or non-associated, ‘religious’ belief.

        • brandon says:

          And that’s exactly the disagreement and where Lee is ignoring the general flow of Scripture in favor of a very specific reading of 2 passages. It is not for us to dictate to God how salvation should occur, certainly not according to what is most palatable to us. Rejection of the gospel certainly shows that they do not recognize God as He is and have exchanged proper worship for worship of images of their own making, as Paul Addresses in Romans 1. Ultimately we must bend our opinions to Scripture and not hang our hats on our hearts readings of single passages that go against the overall thrust.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          It is you, my friend, who are ignoring the general flow of Scripture in favor of non-Scriptural teachings that cause you not even to be able to read and understand the plain words of Scripture. When I refer you to them, and quote them to you, you are unable to accept what they say because your belief contradicts them. If I quoted every verse in the Bible, you would still say that I am “taking them out of context,” because your current belief does not allow you to see or understand what the Bible says.

          I have quoted for you the clearest statements in the Bible on these subjects. All other statements in the Bible agree with these essential passages if they are properly understood. But if you cannot understand the clearest statements in the Bible on a particular subject, then quoting many other supporting passages for you will not move you. You will continue to argue against the plain teachings of Jesus and of Paul because you have been taught another Gospel, which neither one of them preached.

          It is because of the false Gospel that your “Christian” teachers have preached to you that more people don’t listen to the beautiful Gospel of Jesus Christ. The preachers of that false Gospel are today’s Scribes and Pharisees, of whom Jesus said:

          But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. (Matthew 23:13)

          Through their false, narrow, and exclusivist view of the Gospel, and their preaching of that false Gospel, these false “Christian” preachers are locking people out of the kingdom of heaven, both by their false claim that only Christians can be saved, and by their repugnant teaching about a God who would condemn people of good heart and faithful lives to eternal torture in hell just because they don’t believe the “correct” doctrine. Any God who would be so narrow, petty, and bloodthirsty is not a God worthy of belief and worship. But that is the god (I won’t even capitalize it) that these false “Christians” are preaching, and expecting people to believe in on pain of eternal death.

          If the true Gospel of Jesus Christ were preached to the nations, then we would see the long-prophesied conversion of the Gentiles.

        • Richard Neer says:

          I don’t think anyone is attempting to dictate to God how salvation should occur. I know I’m certainly not, nor do I think Lee is. That would be a terribly arrogant position to take.

          My point is, just because someone may reject the Gospel of Christianity in favor of their own personal or cultural beliefs (or follow no religious one distinctly if that is their choice) does not make them unworthy of salvation. If, as Lee stated, they live by the code of their individual beliefs as presented by what is upon their hearts, minds and within their individual cultures, then God would except them and grant them salvation. Notice I didn’t say “should”, as that is not my presumption to make.

          But to disregard the very core of one’s being as they perform their lives in the best and loving ways they are capable of through demonstrating their belief in the “qualities of God”, or how they choose to interpret them, would somehow insinuate that God is very shallow, ignorant, terribly biased and cannot express unconditional love.

          And that goes against practically everything the Gospel professes the qualities and attributes of God to be.

        • Brandon says:

          There’s a massive assumption in your position that the plain reading of Scripture denies, and that is that it’s possible to do good apart from true worship. Baal worshipers other virtues weren’t considered they were condemned for worshiping Baal. There certainly were abominations that accompanied the majority of Baal worship but it was the worship of lesser things that was at the heart of the condemnation. It seems to me you and Lee are both looking at the world and seeing people who are “good” and wondering how God can condemn them, and then reading into the text that He doesn’t rather than seeing that the thrust of the Bible says they are not good. The fact that they reject the gospel shows that their hearts do not recognize God in fact even if there are “qualities’ of God they recognize. Now I’m not saying rejecting the teachings of a group like the Westboro Baptist Church or some other Calvinist formulation of God would make them evil, but even in that Jesus is presented and can call those who He is calling through the gospel. What Lee is denying is the power of the gospel itself to draw Jesus’ sheep by limiting what the “gospel” is to a perfect formulation of it. Its a very human-centered belief and fits right along side pretty much any other human philosophy. The gospel declares men’s deeds are evil.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          I would be interested to see the Bible passages you are thinking of that say it’s not possible to do good apart from true worship.

          As for not worshiping other gods, as I said in another comment (here), the point of that was not because God is insecure and needs us to worship Him, but because those other gods had their worshipers doing some very destructive things, such as sacrificing their children to them, engaging in self-harm such as slashing themselves, engaging in Temple prostitution, and so on. God did not want the Israelites to worship other gods because God did not want them engaging in the “detestable practices” that those gods required of their worshipers. See:

          Why Does God Require our Love, Worship, and Praise? Is God Insecure?

          Yes, the deeds of human beings are evil. God wants our worship so that we will pay attention to God’s commandment to repent from our sins and live a good life instead. This is the only way we can be saved.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Once again, you do not understand what I believe, or you could not say these things.

          About the narrow path, please read the article “Response to a Calvinist Critique of my article ‘Faith Alone Does Not Save,’” starting with the section headlined, “Matthew 7:13–14: The narrow gate.”

        • brandon says:

          I can only go by what you say and glean as best I can what you believe. You stated that those who cannot accept the pure gospel of Jesus Christ can still be saved. I can only read that as stating those who reject the gospel can be saved since I believe we have common ground on those who are ignorant of the gospel. Are you not saying that those who have heard the gospel but cannot accept it are still saved if they are “good” and do “good” things?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Not being able to accept the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ is not the same as rejecting the Gospel.

          If I attempt to teach a kindergartener about relativity and nuclear physics, and the kindergartener is not able to accept it, because the kindergartener does not yet have the ability to understand it, that is not rejecting what I am saying. It is being unable to understand and therefore accept it.

          Many people in this world do not have sufficient spiritual depth or development to be able to accept the highest faith and religion in the world, which is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ (not the false Gospel currently being preached as “Christianity”). For them, God has provided other religions adapted to their spiritual state and their culture.

          These people cannot yet accept the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ because they are still in an Old Testament state spiritually. They still haven’t moved beyond simple, unquestioning obedience to Law, which was the state in which the ancient Jews were.

          Islam, for example, is a religion of obedience to law. It is not for a Muslim to question the law as given in the Quran, but simply to obey it. And those who do are acceptable to God because they have lived according to the best religious belief that they are capable of accepting in their current spiritual state. Today’s Muslims are similar to ancient Jews in their faith and practice, except without the animal sacrifice. It is an Old Testament style religion. Because of their external, non-spiritual, obedience-based state of mind, they are also allowed to have more than one wife, just as the ancient Jews were allowed to have more than one wife.

          These are the people Paul was talking about in Romans 2:1-16. They don’t reject the Gospel. They simply haven’t yet attained the level of spiritual life at which they can accept the Gospel. They are like spiritual kindergarteners who do not yet have the ability to understand relativity and nuclear physics.

          And they are beloved by God just as much as those who are ready to hear the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ are beloved by God.

        • Richard Neer says:

          Lee,

          I think relativity and nuclear physics may be easier to understand than religion, for lot of people!

          ;-p

        • Lee says:

          Hi Richard,

          They are certainly easier to understand than what passes for “Christian religion” today! 😀

        • Richard Neer says:

          Agreed! Relativity and nuclear physics? Mere, basic kindergarten play!

          Christian doctrine as haphazardly and incongruently taught throughout the world today with its plethora of dissimilar guidelines, underlying philosophical variations and contradictory texts? That,I can’t begin to wrap my brain around!

        • Richard Neer says:

          Brandon,

          By your definition presented and by analogous comparison, someone would be an unlawful person worthy of punishment if they, for example, were taught and understood the local traffics laws but chose not to believe in, or agree with, them. Yet, they followed the laws anyway to the best of their abilities in simple compliance, or in their own selfish best interest, or in the safe interest of others.

          A simple, crude analogy, but a fairly accurate one nonetheless I believe.

        • brandon says:

          Your analogy fails to capture what I am saying entirely and it demonstrates the human-centric aspect of your views. The Bible presents it as morally critical to worship God as God, as Jesus quotes ” ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and [a]serve Him only.’”” Your analogy would only work if the person was lacking something critical to following the law, such as they refused to get a license to drive but still complied with things like speed limits. And that’s where the disagreement lies, Lee seems to think its possible to worship Jesus without knowing Him. Or to know Him without identifying Him accurately but by his “qualities.” Yet what I am saying, and how I read Paul is that if you know His qualities and are exposed to His teachings you recognize in the teachings the qualities.

        • Richard Neer says:

          Brandon,

          Well, I AM human, so I expect I would have human-centrist views. As I would that you do also, considering you are neither a deity or a designated right-hand servant of one.

          My analogy is accurate. In direct response to your propposed arguments as to why it is not, consider the following:

          There are countless, lawless people who do not have driver licenses yet adhere to traffic laws, if for no other reason, simply because they operate out of fear and do not want to get caught. They may also have a myriad of other moral or logical reasons for doing so which may include considering the safety of themselves or others, despite their despise for, and unwillingness to obtain, the license as required in the first place.

          I would certainly hope that God does not expect me to operate out of fear, for that would be a position I have no interest in succumbing to, nor would I ever demonstrate to such a God unconditional loyalty and love. It’s supposed to be a two-way street!

          I can see Lee’s position that allows the belief in other gods or truisms based upon ones location, upbringing, exposure and overall culture and, yet, if proper moral code as established and presented within these different environments is followed based upon what is ‘believed’ to be god’s word and desire, the same salvation is granted because all of these people are part of God’s realm. And God doesn’t expect that all people are equal and identical in their spiritual levels and individual capacities to accept the Gospel as the truest form of God’s words.

          Lee presents a narrative by which it is indeed possible to achieve salvation regardless of one’s inherent spiritual level and ability to accept of ‘the Gospel’.

          It is completely reasonable and fair to state that not all people share the same religious beliefs and that not all people adhere to only the Christian doctrine which you so closely cling to in admirable faith and interpretation. But, you also fail it in its purpose to include, unbiased, millions of people who lead their their lives stringently by what their heart and mind tells them is right based on their interpretation of ‘qualities of God’.

          I’m certain there are many passages in the bible anyone can quote as absolute and doctrinal based upon their own interpretation, but, then again, God did not write the bible. Man did. Not just one man in one lifetime either, but many, across generations. This significantly demonstrates interpretability is the major component of how the Christian Gospel is understood and received. And, simply, many forms presented today are just factually incorrect when analyzed, and defy even basic common sense.

          By contrast, the Quran was written by one person, during one lifetime, and more poignantly expresses the interpretation of God’s word made by a single person and then presented to the world. Millions of people rely upon this interpretation of God’s word as absolute and structure their lives to adhere to its laws. Are you saying all these people are lost souls who will never find salvation simply because they were taught the word of God through a different interpretation than yours?

          To me, that is very shallow and narrow-minded, not just an interpretation that the path to salvation is indeed narrow. Like I said previously, Christianity is younger and has member numbers far less than some other religions in the world.

          Is it not conceivable to you that all religions may just be different languages used to present God’s word, as Lee suggested, and that the underlying truth to finding salvation doesn’t lie necessarily in the absolute (presumably) context of what you read or what was possibly incorrectly presented, since not everyone has the same spiritual ability to accept such word as absolute?

          Is it not conceivable that underlying truth lies more in the basis that one believes in their heart and mind that the ‘qualities of God’ are meant as beacons to follow in our paths through life, regardless of what religion, denomination, faction (or complete lack thereof) any one person chooses to adhere to? Such a belief is still a foundation. It may not represent accurately what you construe as ‘absolute’ belief, but it is belief nonetheless.

          And if this belief is the driving force to ‘good works’ as demonstrated by how one leads their own life, why would this not be worthy of God’s salvation?

        • Brandon says:

          Your entire argument is based on what you desire to be salvation/how you have reasoned it must be. Not once did I say God wanted us to operate out of fear, but that belief is the gate through which salvation is achieved. In your analogy those people may still follow all the laws of the road for various reasons, but they are driving illegally and are deserving of punishment according to the law for the very fact that they did not enter into the driving in a legal fashion. The central question is not whether we can see something or whether we can conceptualize a manner, but what the Bible says. And the Bible says that those who do not enter via the gate are thieves. The only way for Lee’s position to be the correct one is if we understand “belief” in the Bible to mean something entirely divorced from its standard meaning both historically and presently, and that’s my contention with it. I don’t have a problem with his reasoning except that it is not Biblical.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Indeed “faith” as used in the Bible does not mean what most people think of when they think of the word “faith” today. Once again, please see:

          Faith Alone Is Not Faith

    • Lee says:

      Hi Brandon,

      If that’s what you think I believe, then no, you don’t understand what I believe.

      I do not believe that salvation is only a matter of doing good works, and that no faith or belief is necessary. Rather, I believe that people must do good works out of a faith or belief in the best understanding of God, or at least of the qualities of God, that is available to them and that they can accept based on their own heart, mind, and culture.

      Not all people can accept the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why God has allowed for, and even given, different religions for different people of different cultures. And those who faithfully follow their God and their religion as they understand them, and who live a good life of love and service to their fellow human beings based on that, are saved by Jesus Christ, as Paul says, because they have lived according to the law that is written on their heart, and according to their conscience.

      The Bible is clear that salvation requires both faith and good works. But your definition of faith is far narrower than what the Bible means by that word. That is why your current beliefs are mistaken and wrong. That is why currently you cannot read and understand what the New Testament says.

      • brandon says:

        It’s quite clear you think you have a better apprehension of the gospel than I do, but it seems to me your thoughts are more heavily influenced by an 18th century theologian named Swedenborg than drawing from the whole corpus of the Bible. There’s nothing blind in my belief, and to say that those who cannot accept the gospel of Jesus Christ are still saved in spite of their rejection is exactly where my objection lies. It is not in the idea that men can be saved apart from the gospel, as that I do believe there is warrant for, but that they can reject the gospel and still be saved. Jesus says quite clearly “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” If they do not know His voice in the gospel, they are not His sheep. It’s that simple.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Jesus also says:

          I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:16)

          Your view of Jesus’ power to save is narrow. But Jesus has all power in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18). His arm is not short, so that he cannot save the people of all of his pastures here on earth.

          Jesus Christ is not the God only of Christians. That is like the belief in the regional gods that many of the nations of Old Testament times worshiped.

          No, my friend, Jesus Christ is the one God of the entire earth. All flocks are his flocks, because there is no other God in the universe.

          In this life, it does not matter so much whether or not the sheep in these other folds clearly understand who their God is. No matter what God they worship, and no matter what their understanding of God is, if they worship that God sincerely, and live a good life of love and service to their fellow human beings because that is what their God requires of them, then they are, in fact, believing in and worshiping Jesus Christ, because there is no other God in the universe to worship.

          When such people of faith, good heart, and good works pass from this life and move on to the spiritual world, then the darkness of this world will be taken away. Then their eyes will be opened, and they will see that the God they have been worshiping and following all along is none other than the Lord God Jesus Christ, who is the one God of heaven and earth. Then they will rejoice to follow the Lord their Savior with clear eyes and an open heart.

        • brandon says:

          Again you’re taking things out of context. The “I have sheeps of other folds” refers to folds besides the nation of Israel. Nothing about “christian nations” as you continue to assert anachronistically. What you assert is nothing more than your own opinions being layered in a scriptural dressing. Not once does the Bible teach that people who reject the gospel will be saved via the gospel, and it takes grossly distorting things to do so. With the plethora of verses saying that belief leads to salvation and the bulk of information about a true fidelity of worship to the apparent character of God you would need at least one clear and direct statement that says that one can be exposed to true teaching and reject it. You’re preaching a broad-way “gospel” but Jesus Himself said the way is narrow.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          If the people of the world were being “exposed to true teaching, and rejecting it,” then they would indeed be condemned. Instead, they are being exposed to a false and unscriptural teaching, which is the false Gospel that today’s “Christian” preachers are preaching to the world through their megaphones.

          And once again, you are adding words to Scripture. Jesus does not say in John 10:1–16 that he is referring to the nation of Israel. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t, but he simply doesn’t say that. All of your arguments depend upon adding words to what Jesus, Paul, and Jesus’ other Apostles say.

          Rather, Jesus makes a general statement that he has “sheep that do not belong to this fold,” and that “there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

          In keeping with your small and narrow view of Scripture and of salvation, you have made Jesus’ words, and Jesus’ power to save, narrow, when in fact Jesus’ words are broad and sweeping, and his power is infinite, and covers the entire earth and all of its people.

        • Brandon says:

          You accuse me of adding words by reading things in context. Jesus doesn’t say He is refering to Israel but both the historical context and typical allusions in the Bible reflect this. The idea of a Christian sheep was not something that anyone present would have understood as such a metaphor was centuries away from being regularly used. The sheep metaphor regularly referred to Israel and the Jews taught that it was the physical heritage of judaism that restricted salvation. That’s what “all nations” and “sheep from another fold” are contrasting since that is the belief that would have been present at the time.
          While the various major Christian groups somewhat distort exactly what the gospel it is rarely presented without the love of Jesus which is exemplified in the sacrifice of the cross and as such those hearing it and rejecting Jesus’ deity and kingship are rejecting the gospel even if it is not a completely perfect picture of it.
          And we get to the crux of the question and the heart of our disagreement when you speak of “good hearted people” because I agree that God does not condemn good hearted people, but the general thrust of the Bible especially a verse like John 3
          16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
          Those who do not believe hate the light and are not good hearted, regardless of the appearance. It seems you have reacted to the teaching that belief alone is sufficient to such a degree that you have erred in the opposite direction by re-defining belief into something that doesn’t even come close to resembling belief and reading a handful of Scripture that address something else as addressing the necessity of belief. Rather than conforming your thoughts to what Scripture says you’re twisting Scripture to fit your desires.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          In response to most of this, please see this comment of mine in response to another of yours, and read the article linked from it. Thank you.

  39. brandon says:

    Still you insist on non-contextual readings. While I would agree in a vacuum it would appear that Romans 2 teaches that it is through the deeds according to the law that they are saved, but it must be understood within the context of Romans itself which opens with a discussion of how those who do not recognize God as He truly is are not practicing righteousness. In that context it is clear that the ones referenced in Romans 2 are ignorant of things like the gospel but in their ignorance demonstrate recognition. This is a wholly different animal than hearing the gospel and not believing it.
    The context in which these passages takes place must be considered and while the parable of the sheeps and the goats limits itself to a handful of issues limiting salvation to only those things mentioned is unwarranted.
    To say that belief and faith require more than simple recognition is one thing, but to say that it is less than that contradicts the plain reading of Scripture. In order for what you say to be Biblical you would need to demonstrate a negation, a statement that says that belief in a real sense is not necessary not simply passages that speak of men acting according to the law in complete ignorance and a very limited rendering of the requirements of salvation.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Brandon,

      You are adding words to Scripture. Paul does not say in Romans 2 that his words apply only to those who are ignorant of the Gospel. He makes general statements about how non-Christians will be saved, such as:

      There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:9–11)

      Your system of exclusivity shows partiality. God shows no partiality. And God saves Jews and “Greeks” (pagan polytheists) who do good according to their own conscience, and according to the law written in their heart. Paul says so in words plain as day right there in Romans 2.

      The reason you think that the “context” contradicts this plain teaching of Paul is that you do not understand Paul’s teaching about being saved by faith without the works of the Law. He gave that teaching in the context of Romans 2, and not the other way around. He was saying that it is not necessary to be an observant Jew to be saved, and also that it is our inner faithfulness to God, not our outward adherence to law, that saves us.

      Read Acts 15, and you will see the context of Paul’s arguments in Romans and in his other epistles. It is you, my friend, who are reading things out of context. You are pulling Paul’s statements out of the context of the issues and the culture in which he was writing them.

      And I don’t know how you can heap contempt on Jesus’ clearest statement in the Gospels about who will and won’t be saved by saying that it “limits itself to a handful of issues.” Do you think that you are a greater teacher than Jesus Christ? Do you think that you can just blithely ignore what he says in his final great teaching in the Gospel of Matthew before the events that led up to his crucifixion?

      • brandon says:

        I’m not “adding words” I’m reading it with what Paul said earlier in the exact same letter in mind. Being saved without works of the law is not what I have in mind for the context, but the chapter that precedes 2. The idea of salvation apart from the law is not in mind at all for me but this: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
        That’s the context that Romans 2 occurs in, and the context I am refering to in understanding what is meant by Romans 2 where the idea is that though they did not know what is in the law they did it. It’s a question of ignorance, not rejection and to add to it the quality of rejection is to go beyond the text.
        there is no contempt in Jesus’ teaching, it’s YOUR reading of it that I find no warrant for. Jesus never implies that that is all that is needed for salvation and its going beyond the warrant of the passage to teach that that is the ONLY thing needed for salvation. Jesus chose to highlight those aspects of salvation, but it is not the only statement on salvation so that pretty much demonstrates that there is more to salvation than what is in that passage alone.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Once again, you simply don’t understand what I believe, as demonstrated by your continually stating it wrongly. I have never said, nor do I believe, that the only thing required for salvation is to do good deeds. For example, doing good deeds in order to curry favor with people and get a reputation for being a good person will not save a person, nor will doing good deeds in order to rack up points with God so that God will let the person into heaven (“meritorious works,” in theological language).

          But Jesus did not agree with you about what is the primary requirement for salvation. You seem to think that faith, meaning correct belief, is the primary requirement for salvation. But in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus makes it clear that it is good works that are the primary requirement for salvation. This is why James said:

          A person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

          Yes, other things besides good works are required for salvation. But without good works, there is no salvation, and those who do good works from a good heart will be saved. Their faith is shown by their works, as James said.

          In attempting to contradict these plain teachings of Jesus, and of James, and of Paul also, you quote, among other verses in Romans 1, this one:

          For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)

          Now tell me honestly: Do Jews, “Greeks” (pagan polytheists), and Gentiles in general who do their best to live a good life of love and service to their neighbor because their religion and their God teach them to do so, fit this description? Do these good people who live lives of faithfulness and service to their God fit the description of “all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth”?

          Your reading of those verses in Romans 1 defies not only the plain words of Jesus, Paul, and James, but it flies in the face of reality and common sense. These good non-Christians are not the wicked, ungodly people Paul is talking about in Romans 1:18–32. Rather, they are the good Jews, pagans, and gentiles that Paul is talking about in Romans 2:1–16.

          For a fuller explanation, please read this article:

          Does John 3:18 Mean that All Non-Christians Go to Hell?

        • brandon says:

          The degree to which correct belief is in order of importance to salvation may be debateable, but that’s a theoretical debate. The question is whether it is necessary to have correct belief, which you seem to deny. Given the degree to which belief is emphasized and statements about God being a jealous God and all of the judgments on Israel for abandoning YHWH worship if Jesus meant to depart from the idea that worshiping God in name as well as action a statement would need to be said. But anytime we see belief discussed it is an ordinary sort of belief not the complex manner you’ve defined it to rescue your hypothesis. What you present is a God that is incompetent in communication since the vast majority of people who read the Bible come away with the impression that it takes belief as correct identification but you hypothesize a different meaning of belief that removes the requirement of correct identification. It seems to me your arguments in response to me don’t address my objections but instead deal with something you believe I believe(the erroneous protestant doctrine of faith alone).

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          I am aware that you don’t subscribe to the false Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone. But by your name and statements (and please correct me if I’m wrong), you seem to come from within the orbit of Western Christianity, the vast bulk of which, including both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, accept some variation of the satisfaction theory of atonement first proposed by Anselm in the 11th century. This theory is the basis on which Western Christians believe that “faith” in Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation, whether or not they realize this source of that belief.

          What you are missing is that your definition of “faith” is not a biblical definition. In the Bible, “faith” or “belief” never means mere intellectual assent to some proposition, except perhaps where James mentions “faith alone,” and in a few other similar passages. Few to no people in ancient times had our modern idea of separation between belief and action. In their mind, believing something, or having faith, meant acting upon it. For the exceptions who had an idea that you could have “faith” without acting upon it, James neatly and efficiently burst their bubble. Paul was not among the people who thought it was possible to have faith without acting upon it.

          Jesus also rejected the idea of “faith” in him without following his commandments:

          Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

          after which follows the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders. And there other places where he says that those who love him and believe him will keep his commandments. All of this is in line with the biblical meaning of faith, which is more like our present-day word “faithfulness” than the idea of “faith” as correct belief that reigns in Christianity today. For more on the biblical meaning of “faith,” please see:

          Faith Alone Is Not Faith

          The present-day unbiblical definition of “faith” is the reason for your lack of understanding of the Old Testament and New Testament commandments to worship the Lord, and him only. The point of this was not “exclusivity of worship.” Rather, it was a requirement to follow the Lord’s commandments, and not the commandments of other deities. This is why the common formula was, “Worship the Lord, and serve him only” (italics added). See, for example, Deuteronomy 10:20; 1 Samuel 7:3; Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8.

          Your interpretation of the commandments to worship only the Lord as “exclusivity of worship” relies upon a modern definition of faith that is anachronistic to the times in which the Bible was written. Rather, the requirement to worship only the Lord was a requirement to follow only the Lord’s commandments, and not to follow the “detestable practices” of the surrounding nations, such as sacrificing their children to their gods.

          In short, the main point of the requirement to worship only the Lord their God was to ensure that they would live good lives. Apart from that, it has no meaning or purpose. That is why worshiping and serving the Lord their God is everywhere connected with keeping his commandments.

          You are therefore badly mistaken, because even if you don’t accept the false Protestant doctrine of faith alone, you are separating faith from good works in your mind, which causes you to misunderstand everything the Bible says about faith, worshiping the Lord only, and so on.

          Now, if the primary purpose of “exclusive worship of the Lord” is to get people to live good lives, and that primary purpose is achieved by another means, such as worshiping the God of one’s own religion and living a good, moral, loving, and kind life as a result, then the biblical purpose of worshiping the Lord has been achieved. This, once again, is what Jesus is talking about in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, and what Paul is talking about in Romans 2:1–16. Your lack of understanding and acceptance of these passages is based on your unbiblical notion of “faith,” separating it from a life according to our faith. The life according to the faith is primary. The faith itself is a means to that goal of living a good life.

        • Brandon says:

          While I am mostly in agreement that the modern definitions of faith and belief are lacking a critical component of action in accordance with them it seems to me you’re trying to argue for something critically different and entirely divorced from the idea of faith to say that they are possible WITHOUT any sort of mental assent. You’re partially correct that I come from a western country and grew up in a western Christian tradition, but many of the components that are central to western Christianity I have rejected such as original sin, penal substution/satisfaction atonement, the filoque clause, among others. My theology is based on my reading of the Bible and historical Christian documents not what I was raised to believe. It seems to me in order to hold your position belief has to be entirely removed from any sort of definition that would be common to it either historically or presently, and the Old Testament demands for loyalty included both failure to recognize YHWH in that they were building shrines and Ashterah poles and promoting Baal worship through their naming schemes and forgetting the name of YHWH as well as the actions that included them. You demand a formulation of a statement that I don’t believe needs to be stated in a direct claim of mental assent, but it seems to me that in order for your position to be true the NT would need a direct statement separating what one mentally assents to from action. It seems to me you’re trying to say that it does not take entering through the gate.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Have you joined with an Eastern communion?

        • Brandon says:

          To argue that faith requires more than simple mental assent is true, but what you’ve done is gone a step further beyond recognizing that faith in the Bible included actions to excluding a real recognition. You are acting as if there is an amoral character to worshiping different gods, when over and over again the Bible emphasizes that exclusive YHWHistic worship is a moral imperative. It takes both the conscious recognition of God-as-God and the actions that meet with a true belief in God, neither is sufficient on their own. If Jesus(or even Paul) meant to overturn that with what they said in Matthew 25 and Romans 2 it would have taken a direct contradiction, especially since both can be understood without abandoning that principle.
          As for your question, there is much within the Eastern rites(primarily their views on Mary but there are others) I don’t believe is Biblical as well so no I haven’t joined an Eastern church. My main point was to say that while I grew up in a western tradition my beliefs while impacted are not determined by that rearing.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Are you worshiping with any congregation at all, or are you currently practicing your faith independently of any church connection?

          Based on your comments here, while I recognize that you have departed from various elements of your Western Christian upbringing, I think there is still much of it in you, including a concept of faith that is not entirely biblical, and an overemphasis on the need for specific, conscious belief in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. These are likely artifacts of the satisfaction theory of atonement.

          Also, I am beginning to wonder if you are actually reading my comments. I already covered the issue of worshiping other gods in two previous comments. As I said in those comments, the purpose of “exclusivity of worship” was not some absolute law that only worship of Jehovah is saving, but rather to keep the Israelites from falling into the immoral and amoral practices enjoined by other gods, such as the sacrifice of children, temple prostitution, mutilation of the body, and so on. Not following other gods is regularly connected with obeying the commandments of the Lord (plural commandments—not just the commandment to worship the Lord alone). For example:

          See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known. (Deuteronomy 11:26–28)

          And:

          Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria; for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria. He placed them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

          This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had worshiped other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced. The people of Israel secretly did things that were not right against the LORD their God. They built for themselves high places at all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city; they set up for themselves pillars and sacred poles on every high hill and under every green tree; there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the LORD carried away before them. They did wicked things, provoking the LORD to anger; they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, “You shall not do this.” Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law that I commanded your ancestors and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” They would not listen but were stubborn, as their ancestors had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God. They despised his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their ancestors, and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false; they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do as they did. They rejected all the commandments of the LORD their God and made for themselves cast images of two calves; they made a sacred pole, worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. They made their sons and their daughters pass through fire; they used divination and augury; and they sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.

          Judah also did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. The LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel; he punished them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had banished them from his presence. (2 Kings 17:5–20, emphasis added)

          And:

          This city has aroused my anger and wrath, from the day it was built until this day, so that I will remove it from my sight because of all the evil of the people of Israel and the people of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger—they, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the citizens of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They have turned their backs to me, not their faces; though I have taught them persistently, they would not listen and accept correction. They set up their abominations in the house that bears my name, and defiled it. They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter my mind that they should do this abomination, causing Judah to sin. (Jeremiah 32:31–35, emphasis added)

          Yes, worshiping other gods was a major sin. But that was because other gods had other commandments, which conflicted with the commandments of the God of Israel. Hence the regular mention not just of worshiping idols and other gods, but of engaging in various other evil practices that were not necessarily directly connected with worship, and of generally breaking and despising the Lord’s commandments.

          In short, the purpose of worshiping the true God only is to keep us faithful to the commandments of the true God.

          For another angle on this, please see:

          Why Does God Require our Love, Worship, and Praise? Is God Insecure?

        • brandon says:

          You speak to the satisfaction theories of atonement, but they have nothing to do with what we’re discussing. Our discussion centers around two things:

          1)Faith is more than simple belief and is inseperable from what we do

          Where it seems to me you go beyond that is that you seem to be arguing that faith is less than belief, or does not require accurate belief. Neither of these can be supported by any of your examples or your argumentation of Romans 2. In fact, each of your examples requires an accurare assessment and then is taken further. The virgins had to know which groom they were waiting for, the builders had to know which master, the son had to know which field, and the Greeks in Romans have to have consciences in line with the law.
          For Romans 2, no where does it say what the result of judgment will be and in fact it specifically mentions perishing because of sin in verse 12. You’re reading into it the idea of salvation because you’re ignoring what I’ll address in point 2.

          2)Worship is a part of doing good, and to worship gods other than Jesus is in itself a major violation of the law,

          The manner in which you are treating faith would require that worship be a non-moral and lawful action. Romans 1 eliminates this possiblity as it clearly says that though they knew God they refused to worship Him as God and instead worshiped gods of their own making. It is with this in mind that Paul launches into the discussion of the law and it follows a corollary of what he said in Romans 1. First, God can be known through external nature(romans 1) but more than that even those who don’t say they know God demonstrate that they know God through their inner convictions(Romans 2). Paul in both instances is demonstrating that God is just in judging unbelievers, and that they will be judged by the same standards as believers.

          Ultimately, it seems to me you’re arguing from a true premise into false conclusions that do not follow the premise. Simply because faith is not purely belief does not mean that it can exist absent a true belief. No where does the Bible imply this, and the bulk of the Old Testament stresses and implores belief in a true manner marking it off as a moral question. To worship any God but YHWH is presented as the highest crime man can possibly commit, one that called for death without mercy at the mere suggestion of a departure.
          Your arguments fail to demonstrate anything more than you reading a doctrine into the Bible that is not warranted. You have not dealt with my objections of the clear, plain language of the Old Testament that calls for strict adherence to worshiping YHWH in name as well as as He demands, but you’ve also failed to bring examples that show even a hint of individuals being saved apart from an accurate belief.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          To address your first point:

          In Romans 2, Paul is explicit that Jews and Greeks—who are not Christians, and who do not believe in the divinity of Christ—will be saved based on the criteria he gives. You just can’t wriggle out of this:

          For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:6–11)

          You can argue until you’re blue in the face, but Paul’s statement here is definitive on this point. You are just plain wrong, and the rest of your arguments on this point are therefore invalid.

        • Brandon says:

          Paul doesn’t say they will be saved apart from a true belief. This is where the central question Paul is addressing in Romans comes into play, as it was addressed to the Roman followers of Jesus who were having a problem with dividing themselves up into Greek believers and Jewish believers. Paul is saying all will be judged by the same standard and be accountable for themselves to do good. But as I said, the concept of “doing good” must be in accord with the rest of the Bible and as he had just gotten through writing about how worshiping other gods is evil it’d be rather strange if fidelity of worship was not at least a part of his conception of “doing good.” It is you who is making fancy arguments and defining things in ways that they no longer resemble anything approaching a standard definition either Biblical or modern. You are reading your doctrine into the text and it simply is not present there.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Paul does not say in the text of Romans 2 that he is addressing Jewish and Greek “believers” (Christians), and it is clear from the text itself and from its context that this is not what he is talking about. This claim is just a weak attempt by Protestants to avoid what Paul is clearly saying in this chapter.

          In the very next chapter, Paul addresses those who are under the new dispensation brought about by Jesus Christ, stating very clearly that they are not under the Law, nor are they saved by observance of the Law:

          But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, . . . Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. (Romans 2:21–24, 27–28, emphasis added)

          This is not compatible with the method of salvation he gives in Romans 2 for Jews and Greeks:

          All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. (Romans 2:12–13)

          In Romans 2, he is clearly addressing non-Christians, or “non-believers,” because the method of salvation he describes for them is not compatible with the method of salvation for those who are believers in Christ.

          Once again, attempting to make Romans 2, and Matthew 25:31–46, and other passages that talk about general salvation be only about Christians is not only adding words and ideas to the Bible, but flies in the face of a straight and careful reading of the Bible text.

          Once again, you can argue until you are blue in the face, and try your darnedest to get the Bible to fit into the old dogma that is still in your head, but Jesus, Paul, and the other Apostles, not to mention the entire rest of the Bible, flatly disagree with you.

        • Brandon says:

          You keep calling it a “method of salvation” when it is no such thing. No where is the idea of salvation present but instead a universal mode of judgment. It seems to me there are two different meanings to “law” in mind between Romans 2 and 3, as Paul speaks of the law being written on the hearts of people who do not know it and it seems a major stretch to equate that with the Law of Moses. Yet in Romans 3 the law spoken of is clearly a dividing line between the Jew and the Greek which can only be the Sinai covenant. Two different, though somewhat related, topics.
          As for who the letter is addressed to, that comes in the opening where he makes it clear he is addressing a group of people that are already familiar with the person and work of Jesus Christ and “are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” He begins with the general, universal aspects first by establishing that God can be seen in nature so those who deny Him and worship other “gods” are in fact guilty, and then he speaks of judgment via the law based on what we do.

          To separate out and say there are two methods of salvation, one for non-believers and one for believers, seems to me to do exactly what you deny and make God show favortism. There is nothing incompatible between the idea that we are each accountable to the law and will be judged by it, yet we are delivered from condemnation through apprehending the atoning sacrifice of Christ. In a sense believing the gospel is an act of God’s judgment, as it is God who reveals the truth to whom He will.
          I just noticed one of your earlier arguments saying that the New Testament is addressed to “Christians” to try to get around the requirement of belief that is present throughout. Quite frankly, it demonstrates the complete lack of historical basis for your doctrine as all a “Christian” is is one who believes in Christ. There is no hereditary Christian as there were hereditary jews, but a common belief despite diverse backgrounds. It is only in a world where Christianity has become a cultural phenomena where one can speak of “Christians” separate from the belief in Christ and to imply that the New Testament was written only for those who already believe stretches plausibility. Every single one of the people Paul and the other writers of the New Testament were writing to were converts, and at that it was made clear that among them there were non-believers who were in need of repentance.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Don’t confuse audience with subject matter.

          The books of the New Testament were written primarily to, and for the use of, Christian believers. But they cover many subjects, including how people of differing religions are saved. This was to put the specific matter of the salvation of Christian believers through a direct and conscious relationship with Jesus Christ in the context of how the Lord God saves people in the wider world and in various cultures.

          It is true that there is ultimately only one means of salvation, which is through Jesus Christ, who is the only God of the universe by whom anyone could be saved. There is no other savior or redeemer, as both the OT and the NT say. However, Christians are saved by a direct and conscious relationship with God as Jesus, whereas non-Christians are saved by a more indirect route, since although most of them do know God, they are not aware that the God they know is in reality Jesus Christ. So there are more indirect provisions for their salvation, which is what Paul is talking about in Romans 2.

        • Brandon says:

          And that indirect route is exactly what I say you’re reading into the text rather than being in the text itself. Romans 2 doesn’t deal with salvation but judgment, and it says that all men will be judged through Jesus Christ. To read it in the manner you’re reading it requires bringing with you a series of beliefs that do not fit with the rest of the Bible and come from an Enlightenment vantage point that treats all religions as essentially equal in moral value. Paul had just gotten through explaining that the act of turning to other gods in worship is damning, even if the people are lacking direct special revelation. What is in nature is enough to bring condemning knowledge of God but not a saving knowledge.
          The question at the center of the whole thing is what Paul means by “doing good” through which you beg the question by assuming that it simply means the types of goodness that is accessible through nature. It is a reading that draws on modern perceptions of good without considering how what is good is presented through the Bible which always includes an element of appropriate worship. Throughout the Bible the worship of other gods is presented as evil in and of itself, and a high form of evil at that.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          It’s clear that you are simply not going to pay attention to what Paul says in Romans 2. I’ve quoted and re-quoted and highlighted where he does indeed talk about the salvation of non-Christians, but you persist in saying that he doesn’t. If you are determined to ignore the plain words of the Bible in order to support your non-biblical doctrine, there is really not anything I can say except Godspeed on your spiritual journey, and remember these things when you enter the spiritual world and discover the truth.

        • Brandon says:

          It’s hilarious to me that you think I’m the one ignoring the plain teachings of the Bible while you try to force a small passage that almost can be read in the manner you’re reading it if you squint and ignore Biblical meanings to words and what immediately precedes the passage in the very same letter. Your entire argument rests on a very specific reading of this passage which if it was the “plain language” there would at least be hints of other people proposing a similar scheme throughout the history of people reading the Bible. Yet when we look to analysis of the passage by pretty much everyone who has commented on it they speak of it presenting the grounds upon which humanity will be judged without regard to salvation.
          Another key error you’re making is that you say that the Israelites didn’t require others to worship YHWH. While it is true they allowed for people not to worship they, and Biblical revelation, consistently taught that salvation was exclusive to worshipers of YHWH. People who died apart from worship were simply consigned to Sheol for eternity while those who were of the circumcision would be raised to new life. Where the Pharisees went wrong is that they taught that this was a matter of progeny, limiting salvation to those who had Israeli heredity. Jesus proclaimed that it is for more than the physical descendents of Abraham, and Paul taught that the promise proceeds via spiritual descendancy which comes through a relationship with Christ.
          The sheeps and the goats are just like the wheat and the tares and the other contrasting groups Jesus mentions. Nothing implies that these are unbelievers, but that these are groups that look similar. The separation between the sheep and the goats is a distinction made among those who confess faith not every single individual. The manner you’re reading it renders it into a contradictory statement with the rest of the Bible since the only thing mentioned is the deeds themselves which would lead to saying that we earn our place in heaven by doing good deeds. Considering the people to whom Jesus was speaking it’s more natural to read it as being directed at those who consider themselves disciples.
          By separating out commands for exclusive worship as being directed at “Christians”(whatever that is apart from belief) demonstrates the weakness of your claim and the length you’re willing to go to twist Scripture to fit what you want it to say rather than reading it for what it says. Just like dispensationalists who turn to “that’s not for us!” in order to avoid discussing verses that contradict their doctrine of “faith alone” you’ve entered into a realm where you’re no longer taking your doctrine from the Bible but instead dictating what the Bible must be in order to preserve what you desire/reason must be the appropriate means of salvation so that it is palatable to your view of morality.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          I am not particularly inclined to continue this conversation.

          I have quoted many Bible passages to support my statements, and referred you to further articles that quote yet more passages in support of them, yet you continue to explain those passages away and accuse me of simply following what I want to be true, following anachronistic Enlightenment values instead of the Bible, and so on.

          Meanwhile, you have quoted hardly any Bible passages at all, yet you claim many things that the Bible says, with little or no support from the Bible itself.

          The irony is that you are doing almost exactly what you accuse me of doing. You are imposing meanings and interpretations anachronistic to the Bible itself, and to its times and cultures, and claiming them as biblical truth.

          As for how Christians through the centuries have interpreted these passages, the unfortunate reality is that after Jesus’ disciples and those who knew them died off, the Church that Christ founded quickly lost its focus on the centrality of love that Jesus taught, and veered off into wrangling about correct doctrine. The result of this was that they wandered farther and farther off the path Jesus laid out for us both in doctrine and in life.

          You have inherited that legacy of departing from the teaching and example of Jesus Christ, and focusing on “correct belief” and “mental assent” instead, resulting in you, also, vastly missing the point of the Bible as a whole, and of the Gospels in particular.

          When it comes time for you to pass on to the spiritual world, in the clear light of heaven you will see the error and darkness of the so-called “Christian” beliefs you now hold, and you will recall the arguments you put forth here with embarrassment.

          However, I still hold out hope that you will see the light while you are still living on this earth, so that you will be able to make fuller and more rapid progress on your path toward heaven.

          And if you do see the light, feel free to return here, and then you and I will have much to talk about.

          Until then, I ask you not to continue your assertions and accusations here. You have made your position quite clear. There is no need to say any more. Thank you.

        • brandon says:

          While I am not refering to specific instances I have made specific Biblical objectives to your claims, objections which you seem to recognize as true saying things like ” Old Testament was addressed specifically to the ancient Israelite / Jewish people, who were required to worship Jehovah their God, and not the gods of the nations around them. And the New Testament was addressed specifically to Christians, who are required to worship Jesus Christ as God.” to explain away the undeniable truth of exclusive worship. The very notion of a “Christian” apart from the worship of Christ as God simply doesn’t make sense as a concept so there is no reason to apply a requirement of exclusive worship on a group defined by their worship practices. I could speak to Gideon who departed from God by creating an ephod, or I could speak to the tribe of Dan who is noted for their pagan practices and absent from the eternal inheritance listed in revelation, I could speak to the repeated commands for Israel to worship the Lord only. I could quote the repeated commands for belief from the New Testament. You handwaive it away by saying that it was for Israel only/the Christian only.
          You’ve presented Biblical material that you read your view into, but none of them demonstrate the point you seem to believe they do. Your insistence to read Romans 2 in a way that no one in the 2000 year history of reading the material has proposed except you as the “plain meaning” is unfathomable. To believe that the immediate removal of the disciples led to such a drastic departure from the basic principles is strains the imagination. Either Paul and the disciples were so bad at communicating basic principles that the central message changed entirely as soon as they were not present, or your 2000 year later “actual meaning” is in error. I know which one I lean towards.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          To address your second point:

          For Christians to worship any God other than Jesus is a major violation of the Law. For Jews to worship any other God besides YHVH is the highest crime possible to commit.

          But even Jews do not expect people of other religions to worship YHVH. Their tradition includes the Noachide Laws as laws binding upon all of humanity, which, if they are followed by non-Jews (i.e., non-worshipers of YHVH), will assure them of the reward of the righteous.

          Christians, unfortunately, have ignored everything in their Scriptures that should lead them to the same conclusion, just as you are making mighty efforts to ignore what Paul says clearly and explicitly on this point, and also to ignore Jesus’ teaching about the salvation of good people of all the nations in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.

          The fact that you can even say that I have “failed to bring examples that show even a hint of individuals being saved apart from an accurate belief,” when in fact I have quoted them for you over and over again straight out of the Bible, tells me that your beliefs are based on church dogma, not on the Bible. It tells me that you are still so blinded by dogma that even when shown the passages that state clearly what you think is not there, you still don’t see it, but still bring in other arguments to try to show that Jesus and Paul didn’t actually say what they did indeed say as clear as day right there in the plain text of the Bible.

          Once again, you’re just plain wrong about this, because you are rejecting the plain teaching of the Bible.

          I urge you to throw away the dogma, and read the plain words of the Bible. Don’t add words and ideas to it, and don’t subtract words and ideas from it. Then you will see the truth.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          First, clearly the Bible is not a book of systematic theology. We shouldn’t expect it to cover all aspects of Christian faith and life in abstract and discursive language. There is a little of this in the Bible, but the bulk of the Bible consists of narrative, laws, prophecy, and poetry.

          Does the NT explain in theological language that in cases in which there is a separation between what one mentally assents to and the way one lives one’s life, it is how one lives one’s life that prevails?

          No, it does not.

          But it comes about as close to doing so as is possible in the more pragmatic, life-centered style of the Bible. Here are some examples. And just to be clear, I have already quoted or referred to several of them.

          The first one I have already linked for you and referred you to multiple times. But since you are inclined to argue it away, I will quote the part most relevant to this particular issue:

          All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all. (Romans 2:12–16)

          Of course, Paul did not have the organized Christian Church to use as an example, because that was a later development. So he used the then-established Jewish religion, and the example of the Law, to make his point. And his point is that people outside of the established channel of salvation from God, which at that time was Judaism, and who therefore do not have a “mental assent” to the explicit law by which they could be saved, if they live according to it anyway, based on their conscience and on the law that is “written on their hearts,” they will be saved through Jesus Christ on the day of judgment. It would be hard for the Bible, in its now ancient style and idiom, to state this principle much more clearly than Paul does here.

          Jesus makes a similar point, but in the form of a metaphorical story, in the Parable of the Two Sons:

          “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

          “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

          “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

          “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

          “The first,” they answered.

          Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Matthew 21:28–32)

          Here it is very clear that the one who “mentally assents” in the form of a verbal assurance, but does not act upon that assent, is not saved, whereas the one who mentally dissents, but then does what he is supposed to anyway (“changes his mind”) is saved. And notice that Jesus explicitly connects this parable with “belief” in its final lines, illustrating the point that “belief” in the Bible does not mean mere “mental assent,” but rather those who actually live by what Jesus taught and preached.

          And one more verse of a passage I quoted for you previously:

          “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. . . .” (Luke 6:46–47, introducing the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders)

          Here, again, the person who acted wisely is the one who was saved, not the one who “mentally assented,” calling Jesus “Lord, Lord,” but didn’t act upon that “mental assent.”

          The Parable of the Ten Virgins, while its focus is somewhat different, includes similar themes:

          “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

          “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

          “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

          “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

          “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

          “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

          “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

          “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:1–13)

          Notice that both the foolish virgins called out “Lord, Lord,” indicating “mental assent” that he was indeed the “Master of the Banquet,” in metaphorical language. But their “mental assent” was not accepted, because they had acted foolishly. Meanwhile, the Parable doesn’t say that the wise virgins called out to the Lord. There is no record in the parable of their giving “mental assent.” (And remember, the Bible is not sloppy or loose in its language. It is worded exactly as it is meant to be worded.) But based on their actions they were accepted into the wedding feast.

          More and more passages could be quoted to show that it is not what people “mentally assent” to, nor is it whether they call upon the name of the Lord out of a “mental assent” to the Lord, but rather, what they do, that ushers them into heaven, or puts them onto the slippery slope toward hell.

          What must be “mentally assented to” is that we are to do what is good and right because it is good and right, and ideally, because we recognize that it comes from God. So yes, mental assent is necessary. But not to some proposition, such as “Jesus is Lord.” Rather, what is required mental assent to the rightness of what Jesus teaches, even if the person is not aware that Jesus is the Lord and God of the universe. Story after story, parable after parable, and prophecy after prophecy in the Bible affirms this. I have quoted only a few.

        • Brandon says:

          While you’re right the Bible is not a systematic theology textbook that doesn’t mean we cannot draw upon it for doctrine. As for your examples, in the first the son went and worked in the correct field. If he had gone to a different field and worked, would his work have been qualified? The rest can be addressed similarly but I don’t care to thoroughly dismantle them since they are more of you taking a principle that actions are required to then deny the necessity of true belief. You insisted earlier that you do not believe that it is simply doing good that is required, yet that is exactly what you are proposing here.
          Paul in Romans is speaking to the same truth he was speaking to in Romans 1 in that the truth of God is testified in nature, he is not laying out a scheme for salvation but a scheme for judgment by saying that when non-believers act in accordance with the law they are testifying that they are in their ignorance aware of the law and thus can be rightly judged by it. The key is in Romans 2:12 “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.” Through their sin they perish, and God remains just because their own actions testify that they know the law.
          Jesus is the only remedy to the problem of sin, and that comes through the gate of belief. We can look to a similar scheme if we look to Exodus 12 and the passover, something Jesus is regularly linked with. The jews had to mark their doors with the blood of the lamb in order to be saved, regardless of if they followed all of the rest of the instructions. If they had roasted the lamb, ate it with the bitter herbs and unleavened bread, and all of that they still would have been subject to the destroyer had they not marked off their doors.
          Your arguments that faith is something different from what we understand faith to be certainly justify including actions in the word faith, but they do not justify removing belief. Faith has a different shade to it but it is not a wholly different word completely divorced from our understanding of it. We have simply lost some critical components where it combines praxis and doxa.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          Once again, I wonder if you are actually reading my comments. I have said several times that I do not believe that good works alone save us, but that they must be done from a higher principle, which involves what could be called “faith” in the good qualities and true laws of God, whether or not the person recognizes that those qualities come from God, or specifically from Jesus Christ.

          The difference between your current belief and mine is that you are adding yet another requirement, which is a “mental assent” to a specific proposition: that Jesus Christ is God (or however you would formulate it). You are saying that without this specific mental assent to a specific proposition about God, faith is not saving. This goes beyond what the Bible says, and in fact conflicts with what the Bible says in passages that I have already quoted for you, and numerous others.

          For example, you are attempting to follow the standard Protestant reading of Romans 2, which excludes all non-Christians from salvation because, so the theory goes, all non-Christians are under the power of sin. This is integrally connected with the satisfaction theory of atonement, but I don’t want to get side-tracked into expounding upon that here. The result of this view is that all non-Christians are damned because all non-Christians are under the power of sin.

          But not only is that not what Romans 2 says, but Romans 2 specifically contradicts it:

          But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:5–11, emphasis added)

          Here Paul specifically and emphatically says that there will be eternal life, and glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, including Jews and Greeks, neither of whom are Christians. You don’t have eternal life, glory, honor, and peace if you are in hell.

          And continuing on:

          All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all. (Romans 2:12–16, emphasis added)

          Here, once again, Gentiles, who are not Christians, will be justified if they are doers of the law that is written upon their hearts. Moreover, they will be judged by God, through Jesus Christ.

          It does not say “condemned,” as you seem to want it to say. It says “judged.” And the context makes it abundantly clear that some will be judged for heaven, and others for hell. Otherwise, once again, “being justified” has no meaning. You can’t be justified by God through Jesus Christ, and have this result in your being remanded to hell.

          This passage also contradicts the Protestant shibboleth that no one is able to obey the law. The Bible simply never says this. God does not give people laws that they are incapable of keeping. God does not put us in a Catch-22 situation. Rather, what the Bible says is that people are not keeping the law.

          There’s a huge difference between “can’t” and “aren’t.” As a father, I would tell my kids to do things, and sometimes they would say, “I can’t!” But that was not true. I never asked them to do something they were incapable of doing. What it really meant was, “I don’t want to!” or, “I won’t!”

          God, similarly, is a good parent, who does not ask his children to do things they cannot do. This whole line of Protestant thinking is utterly false, and is an insult to the justice and mercy of God.

          Paul is simply not saying what Protestants, and even Catholics, and now you, are saying that he says. He doesn’t say that Jews, Greeks, and Gentiles will be condemned, but that they will be judged according to their works, and according to whether they abided by their conscience in keeping the law written upon their heart. And he says that those who do good will be judged positively, and will be justified, and will receive glory, honor, and immortality, and eternal life.

          I know you want the Bible to say what you believe about mental assent to the Godhood of Jesus being essential to salvation. But it simply doesn’t say that, and in fact, it specifically contradicts it.

          What it does say is that in order to be saved, people must live according to the law written on their heart, and according to their conscience. This implies “mental assent” to specific laws of conduct, ideally ones that they believe are enjoined upon them by God as they understand God—whether that is a Jewish God or a Greek god or a Gentile god. People who follow other gods to do evil are condemned. But people who do not have a specific belief in Jesus Christ as God, but who are faithful to the fundamental laws of love for God and love for the neighbor that Jesus commanded us to obey, and the laws of conduct that follow from them, will be justified, and given “immortality,” or eternal life.

          This is straight out of the Bible. It is what results when we read what Paul actually said, not adding to or subtracting from his words. The Protestant / Catholic version that you still seem to have imprinted on your mind requires adding to and subtracting from what Paul said. What I have outlined above is what Paul actually said, plain and simple.

          The same principle applies to the rest of the Bible passages I quoted from you. Once you take away the Western Christian additions to and subtractions from what Paul, Jesus, James, and the other Apostles said, they all affirm that it is what we do pursuant to our particular faith or belief that causes us to be “justified,” or deemed righteous, and to inherit eternal life from our Father in heaven. Not good works with no belief at all, but good works pursuant to higher principles—which are divine principles whether or not we recognize them to be.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brandon,

          About the importance of correct belief, please see:

          Does Doctrine Matter? Why is it Important to Believe the Right Thing?

  40. Richard Neer says:

    Brandon,

    I disagree.

    I personally think the vast majority of people who ‘attempt’ to read the bible and understand all of its’ meaning come away with a paramount level of confusion and are in serious need of help in interpretation. Even commoners find perceived contradictions in passages, as they interpret them, in addition to those which defy common sense, nor apply in any way to current life as they see it.

    You cannot lay such claim, as you did, “the vast majority of people who read the Bible come away with the impression that it takes belief as correct identification”. That is simply,and categorically, untrue. Passage after passage suggests that actions, even for those who don’t believe, matter. If you believe otherwise, perhaps you would indulge by showing statistics to support your claim?

    Christian doctrine, as presented today, is by far the most non-linear, incongruently presented set of inconsistent interpretations of all religions available. Its over-complexity has exponentially grown as various ‘versions of truth’ have taken root in civilizations across the world in efforts to micro-manage populations based upon the common intellectual level of the local groups and their ability to process that which is presented.

    If Christianity is a one-stop shop meant to collectively bring all the world together in a singular unifying belief that is flawless to its core, than there needs to be significant work to clean up, and out, all the bad coding that has built up over the generations of man’s willful ignorance and misguidance. All other major world religions would need to cease to exist in favor of your Christian interpretation. Unfortunately, I don’t see that as any possibly conceivable outcome in my lifetime, much less during many generations long after me.

    I cannot conceive a spiritual scenario whereby only your interpretation of ‘belief as correct identification’ is the end-all law of the realm, so to speak. Such a position is just not rationally conceivable, nor attainable for the millions of lives in this world.

  41. Luna says:

    What about the Christian belief that because God is perfect, and no one can be perfect, you must become Christian so that your sins may all be washed away because of how Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross? Only then can you enter heaven, because heaven is God’s kingdom, and God’s kingdom is perfect?

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

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