16 Sep 2020

BMS ep. 146: Defending the Reformed Protestant Doctrine of Salvation Through Faith Alone

Bob Murphy Show, Religious 6 Comments

Audio here.

6 Responses to “BMS ep. 146: Defending the Reformed Protestant Doctrine of Salvation Through Faith Alone”

  1. Harold says:

    Menken’s explanation of the resurrection, if you have it right, is not a very good one. A far more reasonable one is that Jesus did not rise from the dead.

    Regarding tribes in S. America who have never heard of Jesus, I took away that they are not saved even if they have never heard the message, because otherwise spreading the message would be a bad thing. If you do not accept Jesus you are not saved, full stop. Is that right?

    More serious is that people born in a non-Christian culture overwhelmingly reject the message. It is not your fault if you have been brought up in a culture with a different set of beliefs, but this will inevitably result in you being less likely to accept the message. God has created a world where the majority are not saved.

    John 3:16. This is only in John, the latest gospel, written longer after Jesus died than the others. If this is the central most important thing for salvation it seems a bit remiss of God not to have inspired the authors of Mark, Matthew and Luke to have included it. Why wait until John? There are always explanations possible, but it seems a bit odd.

    You say that it is contradictory to argue that God should have made it so that we die and also that we are forced to live for a while with suffering. That makes sense, but why should the majority be forced to live for a while with suffering with no salvation at the end? God has created a world where most people will not be saved.

    Justification depends on what lack of salvation means. If it means non-existence without suffering, then you can conclude that life is good and those not saved have been given a short time to have life they otherwise would not have had. God has taken nothing away from them, but has granted them a boon in having life at all. The souls of the non-saved are simply extinguished and are not eternal.

    If non-salvation means suffering, it makes no sense. God has condemned the majority of people to suffering. You have indicated that you do not hold to this view, but very many Christians do.

    Again, it seems a bit remiss of God not to have made this clearer. If you were from a different culture, with your own gods and myths, then several Christians appear. They all tell you different things about the most important aspects of their religion. It is all in the bible, they all say, but give you radically different interpretations of what the bible means and what happens after death. What possible way could you be expected to change your beliefs and accept one of theirs? God must realize that this is completely unconvincing. If God does not, surely you can see it.

    When you get to heaven, most of the victims of the holocaust will not be there because they were not Christians and are not saved. Hitler might be there.

    • Zach says:

      I think you raise some decent objections. However, part of the problem is that you assume the incorrectness of the Christian worldview in your objection. Your problem with individuals suffering for “not being saved” misses the reason for why the suffering happens.
      In the Christian worldview, all human beings were created by a loving God. He made us in his image and gave us everything. Whenever we turn away from him in sin, we are attempting to de-throne the God who created us and gave us all good things.
      According to the Scripture, all people know that God exists (Romans 1:18ff). You say that God was remiss in not “making it clearer.” But according to the Christian worldview, God has made himself clear in creation to every human being. If people do not worship Him it is because of a sinful, willing disbelief. You might not agree with this, but it is hardly fair to fault the Christian worldview with not being consistent with non-Christian premises. In other words, if someone goes to hell it is because they knew full well who God is and chose to reject Him anyway.
      On the other hand, Scripture acknowledges that IF someone could live a perfect life, they could go to heaven without knowing about Jesus. (This is Paul’s argument in Romans 1-3). However, no one lives a perfect life. So they suffer for active rebellion against the holy God who made them. The message of salvation in Jesus is the gift of perfect righteousness for sinners, for those who deserve hell. In other words, there are no innocent people in hell.
      There is no doubt that the Christian worldview has difficult thoughts, for example, how do we deal with the fact that victims of the Holocaust might be in hell. But the alternative seems worse: A world without a righteous judge is a world in which there is no standard to condemn what Hitler did. If we all die and cease to exist, then Hitler and his victims receive the exact same fate. This doesn’t seem to provide a more morally satisfactory solution.

  2. Harold says:

    “you assume the incorrectness of the Christian worldview in your objection.”
    I am not assuming it is incorrect, but I see reason to believe it is correct and lots of things that suggest it is incorrect.

    ” but it is hardly fair to fault the Christian worldview with not being consistent with non-Christian premises.”
    It is fair to fault Christians for not being consistent with the world as we see it. For example:

    “According to the Scripture, all people know that God exists”

    I question the idea that everyone in China and India in 500 AD was able in any way to know Jesus. Most of them probably believed in some god or gods, but they were not able to be saved by Jesus because almost all of them had never heard of Jesus. I cannot accept that as active rebellion.

    One solution to this is to give people a pass who have not heard of Jesus – this was rejected above.
    Another solution is to reject the idea of suffering after death – no hell as such, just non existence. The ignorant heathen is not punished for their lack of knowledge, but gets no reward. They are just bit players in the grand scheme.

    “how do we deal with the fact that victims of the Holocaust might be in hell. But the alternative seems worse:”
    Why is it worse? If hell is suffering we have most people suffering for eternity, whilst only some are saved.

    “If we all die and cease to exist, then Hitler and his victims receive the exact same fate.”
    Yes, but with hell, many more people will go on to suffer much more than the victims of the holocaust. An even worse fate, many of them through no fault of their own.

    Most systems of justice in the world have a gradation of punishment. Minor crimes get small punishments, major crimes more serious punishments. This works in families too. God’s system is all or nothing. Hitler gets the same punishment as Gandhi if he did not repent and the same reward as Mother Theresa if he did. Both Gandhi and Mother Theresa were flawed, but to my mind they deserve more reward than Hitler.

    I can accept that people just die and there is no reward or punishment. I do not know this, but it a concept I believe is consistent with evidence. Sure, the holocaust victims get the same as Hitler, but if that is what it is then there is nothing I can do about it, however much I might desire a different outcome.

    But with the Christian God the victims and Hitler *still* get the exact same fate, which as you say does not provide a morally satisfactory solution. Either this is non-existence, which leaves us in the same place as atheism, or it is Hell, which leaves us in a worse situation.

    • Harold says:

      My first line should read “i see no evidence that it is correct and lots of things that suggest it is incorrect”

    • Zach says:

      I understand your concerns. I think part of the point is that you won’t agree with Bob’s (or the Christian more generally) understanding of salvation if you reject the idea that mankind is in rebellion against God. Again, the point being that many Christians (though not all, so many of your objections are not entirely incompatible with the Christian worldview) would disagree with your assumption that people go to hell through “no fault of their own.” So that may just have to be where we agree to disagree.
      However, I would like to clarify two points where I think your critique is off a bit. First, the claim is not that people in India and China knew Jesus. Rather, the claim is that they knew they were created and that they had a conscience they were supposed to live by. Thus, in the Christian worldview, had Gandhi always obeyed his conscience he would in fact receive a reward. The argument (and the reason salvation is through Christ alone) is that he didn’t do this.
      Secondly, I am not aware of anyone in the orthodox (little o, not the Eastern variety) tradition who would say that Hitler and his victims receive the exact same fate (although, as you point out, that is in fact the position of the atheist). Rather, Jesus speaks of hell being “worse” for some than others. This has been the nearly universal Christian position. Dante’s Inferno is based on this concept and the Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck offers extensive defense of it as well. So it simply isn’t accurate to suggest that Christians believe Hitler and his victims will receive the *exact* same fate. (Again, I can see the objection being yes but they’re both still in hell, etc. Fair enough, but to be clear it isn’t the exact thing in the Christian view.

      • Harold says:

        “would disagree with your assumption that people go to hell through “no fault of their own.”

        I think we agree that it is impossible for any human to be perfect, so cannot lead a perfect life to gain salvation without Jesus. Since it is impossible, it is not the fault of the individual that they do not achieve the impossible.

        The 5th century Chinese person is therefore not going to be saved unless he accepts Jesus. If he never encounters the bible or hears of Jesus during his life, I do not think it is any fault of his.

        It seems a difficult argument to make that if a person did not believe in something he has never heard of, is not aware of, has no reason to seek and has no reasonable way to discover is at fault for that failure.

        Gradations of torture do help a bit, but do not offer a morally justified outcome. It does offer some consolation that the victims may be tortured less than Hitler.

        However, I think the biblical evidence for the details of hell are rather sketchy at best. I do not know that much about the bible, but the quotes I have seen when looking this up are ambiguous. Christian views of Hell seem to vary according to the mores of the society. That is because the bible is so unclear about it. Hell used to be a place of temporary suffering until repentance (Origen Adamantius), Then it was place of eternal torture in a lake of fire (Augustine of Hippo). Now maybe it is simply extinction, or different forms of torture, or maybe everyone is eventually saved. The point is, we cannot determine which it is from the bible. People were happy to consider eternal torture was compatible with the bible, until society moved on and came to believe this was immoral. Then justifications could be found in the bible for this new interpretation, though many preachers still thunder about hellfire from the pulpit.

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