(Here’s my Theology Thursday post, just two days early.)
I’ve always confused grace with salvation, and I don’t think I’m alone in that confusion. Grace does not equal salvation, grace makes salvation possible. Grace is the means, through faith, that we receive salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the core of Christianity, and without the centrality of this event, Christianity would not exist.
Recently, I have been reading and thinking about Universalism, or universal salvation. As Wikipedia puts it, universalism is, “the belief that all people will at some point receive salvation, because of the love and mercy of God.”
Morally, I like the idea. I find it hard to believe that just because someone doesn’t choose to follow the same God as me, the path that I have determined to be True, they will not receive eternal life. This is a hard concept to consider.
But religiously it just doesn’t work for me. I know they throw around passages to support the universalism idea, but none of them are straight-forward, and all require some sort of interpretation. Whereas the most popular Christian passage, John 3:16 clearly states, “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.” (John 3:16 NRSV italics added) There is only one interpretation of that: believe in him and you shall receive eternal life.
If everyone is going to heaven anyway, regardless of belief, why follow Christ? His isn’t the easy way. It is one of pain and suffering, as he states in Luke 9:23, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” So why choose this path? Yes, it is supposed to be the better one and all of that, but that doesn’t change that fact that being a Christian isn’t one of ease.
So the concept that I have been thinking about is, “Does a universalism negate the gift of free will?” Universalists say that everyone receives salvation whether they believe in God or not. So if someone chooses not to believe in him, and they receive the gift of salvation anyway, doesn’t that mean they weren’t actually given the choice?
Grace is a gift given to everyone. And I like to think that it is received unless rejected, but no matter. Salvation is obtained via grace, but through faith. Now I have no idea what God’s plans are. I only know what is written in the Bible, and accept it as True. I might not fully understand it, or know how to interpret it all properly, but I believe it to be the authoritative Word of God. So if his mercy is such that all, regardless of belief, receive eternal life, that is his choice, and I would say a wonderful one. Right now, for me, I think faith in Jesus Christ as Lord is required for salvation.
(These are my current thoughts on the topic, though seeing as how I’m going through this period of huge changes in my theology, nothing is set in stone. If you don’t agree, please let me know. If you think I have something wrong, please correct me. The best way I learn is through discussion with other people. If you don’t like what I said, and it offends you, let me know. If it pisses you off, please stop reading.
I am struggling with this issue from a moral vs. religious standpoint, and am currently putting more weight on the religious side. Which is funny since this is on the conservative side of things, and I’ve always been more on the liberal side when it comes to Christianity. I’m also not big on throwing around Bible verses, but it was needed.)