T4G: Salvation

Articles VIII-XIII of the Together for the Gospel statement all deal with salvation, in this case with a strong focus on justification. (Note that the link above is to the final revision of the statement rather than the earlier form I have referenced in previous comments.) Those who have read my previous entries on this topic will not be surprised to hear that I do not agree with the emphasis of these statements.

My objections can generally be placed under two headings: 1) Elements that undergird Calvinism, and 2) Elements that constitute what I call “salvation by correct theology,” which I regard as an even more insidious version of salvation by works.


Let me first state that I do regard Calvinists as Christian brethren, but I do not think that Calvinism and predestination are consistent with the gospel. I cannot see how it can be regarded as “good news” that God has ordained that certain people will burn in hell. I understand that some find it comforting to have the assurance of election, but that assurance comes at the cost of the election of certain others to eternal punishment.

I’m going to limit myself to these few remarks on this issue at this point, because this issue has been beaten into the ground. Some of my own thoughts on salvation can be found in my essay A Fruitful Faith.

Salvation by Theology

I want to give a bit more time to the second issue, what I call “salvation by correct theology.” While there are numerous statements that relate to this in the articles I cited above, the concept is best illustrated by this quote from Article X:

We deny that there is salvation in any other name, or that saving faith can take any form other than conscious belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving acts.

Notice the elements involved in saving faith, just according to this one sentence:

  • Conscious belief
  • Acceptance of Jesus as Lord
  • Acceptance of Jesus as Messiah
  • Knowledge of the saving acts of Jesus

Now I’m assuming that the T4G statement is written carefully, and that the authors actually intend all of these implications. It is still unclear, of course, just how much one must understand about each of these elements. What are included in the “saving acts?” How much must one know? It seems from the remaining articles that the authors of the T4G statement think one must know quite a bit, and some quite specific theology.

All options such as a limited knowledge of God, such as described in Romans 2, are eliminated. One must consciously believe specific things in detail. One wonders how much detail Paul and Silas taught the jailer in Philippi before they baptized him, but they seem to have gotten done by morning. The possibility of salvation for those who have not heard the gospel is eliminated as well. Only conscious belief in details will do.

I would suggest that this view stands against a number of texts, such as Romans 2, and the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46, in which people who clearly do not realize they are saved are nonetheless received by Jesus into his kingdom.

Why do I regard this as more insidious than salvation by works? At least good works are of some value in themselves. But more importantly, one who is not a deep thinker can understanding doing right and avoiding wrong. Loving one’s neighbor is accessible to the intellectually challenged as well as to geniuses. Theology, especially systematic theology, is only accessible to a minority. Salvation by correct theology limits God’s kingdom to certain people who can understand and be consciously convinced of a number of intellectual propositions.

Worst of all, it equates “put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” with intellectual assent to a set of propositions.

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