Posted: Oct 05, 2013 10:43 pm
by willhud9
Alas I really wish I could tackle that rebuttal post because I really enjoyed reading it, but we must move this debate along and we are nearing the end my friends!

So within Christianity we have several key positions which I have done my best to defend. The first is the greater concept of the existence of God. The second is on miracles. The third was the defense of the literal resurrection. The fourth was the defense of the Bible. And the fifth is now going to be about a more theologically based discussion: Salvation.

What do I mean by salvation? I mean what about heaven and hell is rational? How can a salvation system which punishes universally those who profess a rejection of God no matter how righteously they lived and wholesale acceptance of anyone no matter the sins they have committed be a rational system?

Heaven and Hell are two places which I feel the Western world and the Church for that matter have heavily romanticized. Heaven is this place with angels and beautiful women and Hell is this place of fire and brimstone. The honest truth is that the Bible doesn't really describe either Heaven or Hell and so much of their descriptions came from the minds of future theologians speculating. Many of our popular renditions of both places actually comes from Dante's work of fiction, The Divine Comedy, hardly a qualifying book of theology.

So what is salvation? Contrary to popular belief, even within the church, the theology of salvation is not one of getting to heaven when you die, but rather a concept of being redeemed in the image of God. The Christian belief is that human sin has warped our very nature and because of that we are a fallen creation. Salvation restores that nature to what it was meant to be. How does one receive salvation? Paul sums it up in Romans 10:9: 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.

But why salvation? I mean what's the point of it? Is it so God can reward the just and punish the wicked? In many ways, that was the idea behind it. But it's not quite the full rationale. See the belief in heaven was not this spiritual paradise the soul goes to upon death. Instead in early Christianity the belief of heaven was of God's realm. It was the place which God dwelled within and in Christian eschatology there was the belief that God would restore Earth and bring Heaven and Earth together to recreate the Heavens and Earth. Hell on the other hand was not a place of fire and brimstone, but a place of eternal separation from God. It was a place where those who rejected God were finally severed for eternity from the goodness and righteousness of God. The Bible describes it as a place where there is much gnashing of teeth and pain and torture and from an early Christian's perspective that figuratively made sense. The separation from God, especially for eternity, was believed to be agonizing. Why anyone would choose to remain separated from God was baffling.

It is that concept which I shall focus on for defending its rationality. You see there is a drive within the universal church to bring people to know Jesus Christ. It was the Great Commission at the end of Matthew, it was Paul's mission in life, and it was the foundation of evangelism. Where did this drive come from? The desire for power? No as many evangelists/missionaries lead powerless and impoverished lives. The desire for companionship? Possibly, but there are other outlets for such a thing. What drives the church if not a sincere belief in salvation? Now I made mention in my first argument post how I found one of the greatest cases for God was personal testimony and I stick by that line of defense as there are some people who could not turn their life around without the assistance of a strong supporting character. That supporting character is in Christianity the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles was given to the church to assist them in their Christian walk. The same is said about the Holy Spirit in assisting Christians with their desire to bring salvation to the world. You see there are Christians out there who will go up to the most wicked criminals in prison and evangelize to them because they sincerely believe that anyone can be saved. What drives them? The Holy Spirit. But why? What good does the Kingdom of God gain by having a serial killer join them? It's not about the numbers, as the Anglican church and many protestants are woefully experiencing, it's about the desire out of love for everyone to become whole again.

Penn Jillette, perhaps my biggest role model, ever, expressed it perfectly when a Gideon evangelist handed him a small New Testament Bible. A Christian sincerely believes that without Jesus a person will experience agony at the separation of God in the end. They sincerely believe that. Penn continued with a situation in which you knew your friend would be hit by a car if he walked out onto the street. What do you do? Most people are morally obligated to tell their friend. Penn said the same is true about Christians and it is. Many Christians and the Church feel that without God, or Jesus, people will experience eternal agony and they sincerely do not wish that upon anyone. Now some do it a bit vehemently, but for a good portion of evangelists the love is sincere.

But how does that make salvation rational? In fact one could argue that it was a massive delusion driving the church and in a way I can see that argument, but a delusion the size of the entire universal church? A major difference between Christianity and the other large world religions is also in its evangelism. Islam for example stresses evangelism for the benefits of both parties. If you convert a non-believer to Islam, Allah rewards you. In Buddhism or Hinduism there is no major incentive to evangelize. But in Christianity there is no incentive to the evangelist. He or she is already saved and there is no promise of riches or treasures. Christianity the motivator is love for their neighbour and a sincere desire to see someone come to know Jesus. That is a powerful testament.

So by understanding the driving factor behind the church we can further add to the defense of the rationality of Christianity.

I await my opponent's argument post on the subject and am genuinely curious in the direction he will choose!