Bad Theology and Salvation

Our little group of "pastors, leaders, and dreamers" that used to meet at Barnes and Noble every Thursday has morphed into a more intentional discussion group that meets once a month at Cincinnati Christian University. Today was our first meeting. It was good!!

All of our regulars were there, plus two others. It's pretty interesting how group dynamics change just by adding one or two new personalities.

Anyway, we started talking about what it means to be "ecumenical" vs. "non-denominational" and how the more mainline/liberal theologies tend to prefer the word "ecumenical," while more conservative/evangelical types like the word "non-denominational" better.

Pretty soon we were talking about what the essentials of Christianity are and what happens if someone doesn't believe certain essentials.

To which I raised the question, "Can a person be saved and yet have bad theology?"

That's easy to answer when you're talking about something like infant baptism. If you come from the Anabaptist side, you might say that, yes, a person can still be saved even if they were only baptized as an infant. If you come from a more Reformed perspective, which holds that infant baptism is a sign and a seal of God's covenant with humanity, it really doesn't matter if someone else thinks you can't be baptized as an infant. They're just wrong on the issue, but they're still saved.

But what about issues like the resurrection or the virgin birth--so-called "closed hand" issues? Can a person who believes that Jesus' resurrection in the New Testament was really a metaphor for the spirit of Christ and his teachings being resurrected in the community of early Christians--can a person who holds that belief on the resurrection be saved?

Or can someone who doesn't believe in the virgin birth be saved?

I think that they can. Nowhere does the Bible say, "To those who hold to good theology and true doctrines, to them he gave eternal life." It says, "To those who called on his name, he gave the power to be children of God." (That's a rough paraphrase from John 1.)

All that's required for salvation is faith in Christ--even if the theology about Christ may be off-base.

This, of course, opens a whole new can of worms--one to which I haven't yet given enough thought. But let's open the can, anyway.

If a person can be saved even if they have bad theology (as I propose in all my wisdom and authority), does that mean that Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses can be saved? Or other theologies that might be branded heretical or cultic?

I don't have the answer to that....


DGH said...

Welcome to Mystery! It sure is fun in here...lots of questions without answers...but still a fun place to be! ;)

Ted said...

Markus, what a thought provoking post! It reminded me of the section in the Velvet Elvis book where Rob Bell is discussing what would happen to your faith if one of those "foundational" beliefs were proved un-true. I suppose there are many people who have "foundational" beliefs different than mine ... but have called on the name of Lord just like me. Very thought provoking post!

Michael Foster said...

"All that's required for salvation is faith in Christ--even if the theology about Christ may be off-base."

I have a hard time accepting this in light of the following passage:

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."

Why aren't we as bold as Paul? The question we must answer before preceding in this conversation is what is the gospel.

Markus Watson said...

Great point, Michael! I still think it's possible to be saved even with some misconceptions. But I also think that what Steve said on Monday was right on--that as leaders our responsibility is to help people better understand what the Gospel (as proclaimed in the New Testament) really is.

Michael Foster said...

I guess I just have little problem with saying things like the virigin birth is essential because it has to do with the person and nature of Jesus. If we get Jesus wrong, that is if we put our faith in a different Jesus, then we should have little confidence in our salvation. The problem with bad theology is that it leads to bad Christology.

Michael Foster said...

Qualification: The problem with bad theology is that it often leads to bad theology. But on the other hand, bad theology can lead to a nice name tag and a sweet bike......

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