The Road(s) To Salvation
Salvation is the most important tenant in the entire Christian religion, yet for reasons that remain baffling, is also one of the most ambiguous topics in the entire Bible. It is both bewildering that "God’s Word" fails to outright agree with itself anywhere on the matter, and amusing that there are so many people pretending that they are crystal clear and somehow more “in the know” than anyone else, when Scripture is anything but clear on the subject. In the entire Bible, only a dozen plus passages allude to what specifically must or must not be done in order to attain salvation, and one need only read them to see that there aren’t even two verses that agree with each other on what that might be. So how are we to achieve salvation? Simply follow the following advice:
1. According to Jesus, you can inherit eternal life if you, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:25 Just share the love, baby! That’s it, nothing more.
2. On a different occasion, according to Jesus, you can inherit eternal life if you,“Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, and honor your mother and father.” Mark 10:19-26 Unlike the above example where salvation is achieved by what you do, here it is guaranteed by what you don’t do, which is essentially following 5 out of these 10 commandments (which, incidentally, aren't even part of the group of 10 thigamjigs that were actually called "The Ten Commandments.".....but I don't want to blow your mind right now. That'll be for another hub...) When the man to whom Jesus is talking here replies that he has done all these things, Jesus tells him he is still lacking one thing more (then why didn’t Jesus mention it in the first place?), to: “Sell all your possession and give to the poor.” We are told this makes the man very sad because he was a very wealthy man. Jesus then utters the famous words, “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The implications of this statement are that wealthy people have no method of achieving Salvation that doesn’t involve parting with their wealth and worldly possessions. (I wonder if anyone from the Vatican is heaven-bound?) Note that Jesus didn’t mince words. He told the rich young man that he lacked only one thing in order to receive eternal life: to sell all he had and giving to the poor. So…why do we still have wealthy people in church?
3. According to Jesus, an alternate route by which people can savethemselves is,“If they die in my name or for my message.” Mark 8:35 There is no further elaboration as to what particular message he’s referring to though, possibly because he isn’t quite sure himself what message he’s trying to spread. As we’ve all seen, Jesus pretty evenly divides his message into two distinct categories: parables that nobody understands, and plain teachings that contradict the last thing he just said.
4. Again, according to Jesus, “If people are hated because of me, but endure to the end, they will be saved.” Mark 13:13 He does not specify what people have to endure to the end of - though it probably just means “life” - nor does he state that they have to do anything else. In this case, apparently just “being hated because of Jesus” is enough to get you saved.
5. According to Jesus, “Only those who believe my gospel AND ARE BAPTIZED will be saved.”Mark 16:15 Aside from the troubling fact that we already have four different options for salvation in the same book, Jesus’ gospel up to this point is not the same gospel that Paul later refers to. Paul’s message and Jesus’ message are very different. If any sense can be deciphered from Jesus’ teaching or gospel, it is that the Kingdom of God is at hand (or will be eventually, since it turned out not be as immediate as Jesus was telling everyone), and that people should be prepared for it. Paul’s gospel was essentially just trying to convince people that the stories about Jesus were true.
Interestingly, it is not noted anywhere else in the Bible that baptism is necessary, but if it actually is, this means that for the several hundred years between the writing of Mark (30-40 years after Jesus’ death) and the official formation of the Bible, there were many people who followed the only instructions for salvation that were available to them at the time, but will perish nonetheless because they didn’t know they were suppose to be baptized as well. Jesus’ own words here effectively nullify any and every other method. (and since the Bible wasn't widely available until the middle of the 15th century, and since it still wasn't even fully legal to own until like 400 years after that, there will be a lot of sad people come Judgment Day when their loving Maker tells them it was all for naught but a bath.)
6. In Luke 7:50, a woman who has just washed Jesus’ feet with her hair has her sins forgiven by Jesus, and is told that her faith has saved her. In this particular instance Jesus required no profession of any set of beliefs, no adherence to any commandments, no refraining from anything “sinful,” and no baptism. We are not even told what it is that she had faith in: just that she is saved andreceived forgiveness of her sins simply by washing his feet! I wonder what she would’ve received for spit-shining his sandals…custom engraved pearly gates?
7. According to Jesus in John 3:18, “Anyone believing in my name shall not be condemned.” There is no mention as to what capacity that belief must extend.I mean…of course I believe in the name “Jesus”….because it a a real name that can be spelled, uttered, and bestowed upon people. It's really a real name that exists. If it meant that we are supposed to believe certain things about the person bearing that name...well, that might have been good information to include!
8. According to Paul and Silas in Acts 16:31, “If a man only believes in Jesus, he and his entire house will be saved.” Well, well. Leave it to Paul to invent something completely out of the blue: Vicarious Salvation! By what authority was he able to issue that bizarre coupon? Again, there is no mention as to what capacity Jesus must be believed in; but, incredibly, doing so in whatever capacity is implied savesnot only the believer, but also his entire house! Family gets in free! (limit 12 per household) Actually, Paul doesn’t put a cap on the number of people, just the stipulation that they all be in the same house. Perhaps this is the origination of the Fire Marshall’s “maximum occupancy” limit.
9. In Roman 8:24, Paul tells us in a less than helpful manner that,“We are saved by hope…but not in a hope that we can see.” Pardon me? We are saved by…hoping??? In a hope that we can’t see??? As opposed to the kind of hope that we can see??? Where does one even find this “visible hope,” one wonders? Imagine if this was were the only Bible verse you ever got to hear! Seriously, imagine your plane crashed on a deserted island and none of the survivors had ever read the Bible, but a Bible on board survived the crash, but most of it was burnt up and unreadable except for that single verse. You'd be screwed!
10. According to Paul in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead you will be saved.” This is usually the favorite scripture of Christians to be trotted out while they’re proselytizing, though it’s unclear why, as it’s just as arbitrary as all the rest. For that matter, why are Christians quoting Paul on the matter of salvation, rather than Jesus? That seems a bit like the plane from the last analogy going down, and they've asked you to try landing it, and you decide on consulting a flight attendant - as opposed to the captain - on the proper method of an emergency sea landing. Paul introduces a brand new set of ideas here, which have not yet been mentioned by anyone, including Christ. Paul doesn’t elaborate on whether this belief must be in a bodily resurrection, or merely a spiritual one, but apparently declaring belief in whichever one makes more sense to you gets you into heaven.
11. Only 4 verses later however, Paul states that, “One need only call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.” Romans 10:13 So which is it, Paul? All that confessing and believing and declaring, or do we only need to call upon the name of the Lord? And what does that mean, exactly? Does it mean just, like you know, yelling his name out real loud?
12. Paul begins to make things really interesting in Ephesians 2:8-9 when he declares, “We are saved by grace through faith, not through works so that no one can boast.” This idea is reaffirmed in 2 Timothy, “It is grace, not works, which saves us.” That sounds pretty cut and dry. We are saved by faith. Works play no part in salvation, lest anyone have something to boast about.
That’s all just peachy until we get to James 2:14,17, which asks,“What does it profit a man to say he hath faith and have not works? Can faith save him?.........faith without works is dead, being alone.” WTF!!! Let me see if I can summarize those points: Works play no part in salvation, which is subsequently achieved by grace through faith alone. HOWEVER, faith without works is dead, because faith alone has no saving power. I think I’m beginning to understand how the little brown men in the little white coats manage to stay in business.
13. And if that weren’t confusion enough, Paul throws one more log (and a 50 gallon drum of gasoline) on the proverbial fire by stating as clearly as anything has ever been stated that Christ sent him,“Not to baptize, but to preach unto salvation.” 1 Corinthians 1:17 Really??? Are you kidding me?!! Come on now, Paul…the same guy who said you can’t be saved unless you get baptized, sent you to preach salvation, but not to baptize? That’s the story you’re going with? Can’t you guys at least consult with each other before you commence to making this stuff up?
So there you have it, folks! The path to eternal life is achieved by loving God and your neighbor, and/(or?) refraining from lying, stealing, killing, and adultery, while honoring your father and mother (which Jesus wasn’t particularly fond of), and ridding yourself of all wealth and material possessions, making sure all the proceeds go to the poor. (wouldn’t that make the poor people wealthy? How would that help their salvation situation?) Either additionally or alternatively, try dying in Jesus’ name or for his message…if you can figure out what it is, AND/(OR?) enduring to the end (of something) while being hated because of Jesus…unless you simply believe in his name…or ever get the opportunity to wash his feet (which also gets your sins forgiven), but ONLY if you get baptized (really sucks to be an Eskimo…”That’s right, Mr. Inuit, if you don’t let me submerge you in this ice-fishing hole, Jesus won’t let you into heaven.”) BUT WAIT!!! Act now and we’ll also throw in salvation for everyone in your house if you only believe in Jesus, using a simple method we call, “invisible hoping.”. Actually, simple belief isn’t going to be good enough…you’re going to have to believe it AND say you believe it out loud…well, not the thing we just discussed, but the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead. OR, just call on the name of the Lord (would that be “Jesus” or “Lord?”), but with the understanding that it is your faith alone that saves you, not your works, though without works your faith is dead. Got it? Good.