Chapter 7: The Just Are Saved By Faith… (Well Sort Of)
Perhaps The Most Fundamental Of All Fundamentalist Doctrines
This teaching can best be represented by these two scriptures:
If you want to know more, the book of Romans and much of the book of Hebrews to this same subject.
Here is a quick summation of this concept; we are by nature so full of sin that nothing we could possibly do would be sufficient to pay for our crimes; we deserve death and eternal damnation plain and simple. But to remedy this situation, we only need to believe on Jesus as our savior and accept his death as a payment of our debt. Then our sins are removed from us, making us saved by this act of grace. If you have ever heard the song “Amazing Grace” then you should already be familiar with this concept. After being saved, if the believer makes mistakes or unknowingly sins, than he or she must continue to ask God’s forgiveness and keep going.
Most diehard proponents of this doctrine will insist that all crimes and offenses simply disappear once the sinner accepts Christ. This explains why fundamentalists try to spare death-row prisoners who claim to be saved. Although normally they are the first in line to push the power button on the electric chair; by accepting Jesus, his crimes have disappeared and all is forgiven. Many will argue that his sentence should even be repealed and he should be set free. Old debts are to be forgiven and spouses are encouraged to forget past adulteries because they are ‘under the blood’ thrown in the sea of forgetfulness to be remembered no more. They will teach that alcoholics become sober and homosexuals turn straight the very instant they accept Christ into their life.
Fundamentalists are convinced that everybody outside their church is desperately searching for peace and wallowing in misery because they’re not one of them. Only by admitting this and becoming one of them can one be saved, otherwise they are just denying the truth and still wallowing in misery. For them I am a living breathing impossibility. Why? Because if you could ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that I am one of the happiest and most peaceful person they ever met. I will go further into why I have such peace in another book or on-line article.
This exposes a huge contradiction in their belief system. As an atheist interacting daily with Christians, I am astounded by their inability to comprehend that I don’t believe. In the United States, Christianity is so predominant that most people have no other concept of religion or God, so it makes sense that the have never questioned their original assumptions. They just ‘know’ that Jesus is real because they have never taken the time to think critically about it.
Because of this cultural bias, they will say that down deep inside, you really do know that Jesus is the way and you are just stubbornly refusing admit it. But according to this tenet of belief, if you know in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God, then you’re already saved and don’t need their help. So if I am already saved then why are they bothering me? But if I’m not saved then I must telling the truth about my lack of belief.
Lastly I want to discuss the most important issue I ever faced, that of reason verses faith. I have seen so much that’s false and so many people taken away by their own emotions that I need evidence I can take to the bank, evidence that can’t occur just by coincidence, evidence that can be repeatable by anyone who needs to have the same proof. Science calls such proof Empirical Evidence, religion says I can’t have it.
All their talk of faith, feelings, hope and a warm fuzzy feeling mean nothing to me and have no value. I need logical arguments and evidence that leaves me with no doubt that God is real, who he is, and what he stands for. I am sorry if this offends people, but I cannot put on and take off faith as though it were an overcoat. I never chose not to believe and I am not a god-denier. I just don’t believe it is real.
Given actual evidence of God’s existence, I could make a choice to accept it or go on living anyway I wanted to. But by making the choice to do what I want, any punishment given to me would be deserved. I could accept being punished for choosing not to accept a god that I know exists, but I refuse to accept that I will be punished simply because I can’t believe without evidence.
I’ve heard the allegories given for faith, ‘you can’t see air and yet you believe in it,’ but I can still create an experiment that can demonstrate the existence of air, I can measure its side-effects, and even make accurate predictions of future events based on my theory that air exists. But there is no test that can be devised that will prove the existence of the Christian God. Jehovah will fail every time. Trust me, I have tried. Nothing else fails like prayer.
Another argument from the man of faith is that you need more faith to believe science than you need to believe in God. Anyone who makes this argument knows nothing about science at all. Science is a collection of conjectures and hypothesis that have stood up to experimentation and are able to make predictions about future events. This is why scientific ideas are called theories; they are nothing more than educated guesses about the nature of the universe. I don’t have faith in science; I just accept science’s conclusions because they are testable and can be reproduced. And even if science didn’t exist, that still wouldn’t mean that Christianity was right by default. Christianity being right or wrong is a completely different question.
Take any cherished idea from science, such as the “Theory of Relativity” if we conducted an experiment tomorrow morning that proved it was wrong; then we would write various other scientists letting them know. They would also do the same experiment to verify our results, to make sure that we did not introduce error into the process. And if they got the same results, no matter how much they didn’t like it, they would throw the “Theory of Relativity” right out the window and replace it with something else that was closer to the facts. The religious individual is much more likely to ignore the evidence and hang on to his theory of God no matter what may come or go. So unlike religion, science doesn’t involve faith at all. If you don’t accept a theory then do the experiment yourself and see if you get the same results.
For example the Theory of Evolution predicts that (unless an environment wipes out all organisms,) that over time organisms will evolve so that they are immune to previously deadly environments. We see this in bacteria becoming immune to antibiotics and insects growing immune to insecticides. We hear about this problem all the time. So the Theory of Evolution seems to explain the evidence found in the fossil record as well as how organisms are behaving right now.
Let’s look at what the Bible has to say about faith,
In other words, Biblical faith is the ability to believe without evidence or even in spite of it, something usually called blind faith. In my view, blind faith is one of the worst evils ever created by mankind. The crusaders who murdered millions during the Middle Ages had blind faith; Japanese Kamikaze soldiers during World War II had blind faith; Shiite Muslims who hijack airplanes in the name of Allah have blind faith; the 600 that drank cyanide laced Cool-Aid in Jonestown, they all had blind faith. They can have it, I don’t want it!
Here is some food for thought. The most praised example of faith in the Bible was the patriarch Abraham. He is most famous for his sacrifice of his son Isaac to God. Stop and think about this supposedly touching story, a man tried to kill his son because he heard voices in his head. When people behave this way today we put them on death row. Think about it!
One more difference between the scientist and the fundamentalist is what they do with evidence once they get it. The scientist throws out any ideas that do not fit the evidence, while the believer throws away any evidence that is contrary to his preconceived notions. The scientist is searching for the truth where ever it may lead him, while the fundamentalist is only looking for evidence that supports the position he chose for unknown reasons.
I don’t know about you, but I am more likely to trust someone who is willing to see all sides of an issue more than someone who only considers evidence that he already agrees with.
Science with its reliance on evidence liberates us from a world of ignorance and fear making the world a better place to live in. While Christian fundamentalism, with its reliance on blind faith becomes a prison built of guilt and shame, snaring the believer into a paranoid web of mental illness and obsession. Watching it spread, I would call it a highly contagious and infectious psychological disease. The fundamentalist belief system cannot withstand assault by truth or common sense, and anyone who loves reason and liberty is compelled to oppose it.
The Age of Accountability
As a footnote I should mention the difference in how fundamentalists view children and the church. I am mentioning it partly because some Christians (especially Catholics) baptize small children and babies. In a fundamentalist church this never happens. Why? Because all Christian fundamentalists believe in a concept called the “Age of Accountability.”
I am not aware of any scriptural reference for this doctrine, yet they all share this belief. It appears to be based on the Puritan concepts of self reliance and independence combined with the obvious distastefulness of a Calvinistic view of the universe. The resulting idea is that no one can be saved until they are old enough to understand the message in the Gospel and accept it. Some will pick a magic age like thirteen while others will only say only God knows when a child has hit that mark.
Fundamentalists believe that someone must be able to comprehend what sin is and make an informed choice to forsake it, before they can become a Christian convert. It is obvious to them that a child cannot properly make this decision, but a teenager might be able. So somewhere around the age of twelve to fifteen a magical point of understanding is reached, where the concepts of right and wrong take shape making them accountable for their own actions. Only then is the child able to realize that he or she is a sinner and be saved. Until this realization of right and wrong occurs, there is no meaning to salvation and true conversion is impossible. This is being discussed in the chapter on faith because the heart of this discussion is at what age faith can begin.
To a fundamentalist all that baptizing an infant would do is make a child wet. And while you may see children testify or sing in fundamentalists churches, it is looked at as cute mimicry and rarely taken serious. You may see movies and television shows with fundamentalist children portrayed as preachers, but this would only be tolerated by fringe groups and not at all normal for Pentecostal or Apostolic churches. It is true that I began preaching at fourteen, and had my minister’s license at sixteen however this was considered highly unusual.
This leaves us with a question…
Since children cannot understand the Gospel or be saved…
What happens when a child dies?
While many fundamentalist don’t go so far as to accept that an innocent child would be eternally punished, I have heard many others proclaim that all children are born with “the stain of original sin” inherited from Adam and Eve and that they are eternally lost without Jesus. If they weren’t old enough to hear or understand the message, that’ just too bad. There is no telling which way a given fundamentalist will go on this question, what appears sometimes to be the most compassionate Christian can have no problem believing that innocent children will burn in agony forever for no reason at all! Absolutely stunning!