Monday, November 28, 2005

Basics of Salvation

On Scot McKnight's blog there is a discussion about the "tug of war" between evangelicalism and the Emerging Movement over how the EM should be defined. (You can read the discussion here.) I made the following comment:

I don’t expect the EM to have a detailed statement of theology on every issue, such as women in ministry or the character of the end times, but it is not unreasonable to expect ANY Christian group to be able to agree on certain basic doctrines (things like the nature of Jesus, the means of salvation, and the nature of the Bible) and be willing to define their beliefs on such core doctrines. Even if we move “across the borders” there are certain core doctrines that we should be able to unite around.

Scott M (not Scot McKnight) made the following response to my comment:

I just want to point out that one of the things you define as a “basic” doctrine, the means of salvation is, in fact, something that (in my mind) indisputable “Christian” groups have disputed over. While all agree it involves Jesus, the specifics have varied widely. So I see some danger in too narrow a perspective.

My response was:
I maintain that the means of salvation is a basic doctrine. This particular issue is not directly pertinent to the topic at hand, so I don’t feel that I should clutter up the post with a discussion of various views of salvation. My point was that there are certain basics about the nature of salvation that are essential. We can disagree on other issues related to salvation, but on the basics there should be consensus.

Here is the question for discussion: Are there certain basics about the means of salvation that are essential doctrine for all Christians to agree on? If so, what are those basics?

Here's my list of the non-negotiable basics about the means of salvation:
  1. Salvation cannot be achieved by any human goodness, works, or effort. Salvation is not attained through religion, baptism, church membership, or partaking of any sacraments. It is entirely the result of God's grace.
  2. Faith in Jesus Christ is the means by which we receive God's saving grace.
  3. Salvation was made possible by Jesus' sinless life, His death, and His physical resurrection.

Remember, we're focusing on the means of salvation, rather than the broad implications of what salvation is all about.


Nate Custer said...


I am glad to see you have gotten a blog. I have found that participating with your own blog is a great way to work ideas out.

One part of that is that the easy with which people can ask you to elaborate ideas.

Reading your basic statements on salvation I was wondering if you could elaborate on why you think: "Jesus' sinless life" is foundational to any discussion of salvation.

I think the sin -> substitutional sacrifice -> atonement/salvation axis is part of how we should understand the cross, and its central place in christianity. But, that it is only part of the picture christians should seek to paint.

I would be hesitant to add that to any set of axioms, because I think the gravitational mass it would have in any conversation would distract from the fleshing out of the other parts of the cross. It is that very fleshing out that has been required in my life and ministry.

That said, I am still young, and reserve the right to be wrong a great deal. Can you help me understand why you think the sinless life is so important?

Nate Custer said...

As a quick follow up, I went and checked the Nicene Creed, the Athenisian Creed (sp?) and the Apostles Creed, I did not see any mention of the sinlessness of Jesus in either of them.

If the sinless life was not axiomatic for the church fathers, why is it axiomatic now? Are there heresies now the church has fallen into that need that kind of protection?

Tim Sweatman said...


I know how much commenting on other blogs has helped me to work out ideas and to see things from a new perspective. I hope that this blog will help others, as well as myself, to keep doing so.

The reason I list the sinless life is that if Jesus were not sinless then He could not have been an acceptable sacrifice for our sins. I saw a survey (maybe Barna, but I don't remember) that claimed that about half of professing Christians believe that Jesus sinned. Maybe we have not emphasized the sinlessness of Jesus enough in our teaching.

I agree that the "sin -> substitutional sacrifice -> atonement/salvation axis" is only part of the big picture of what it means to be saved. However, I see it as the foundation on which everything else is built.