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Torah & Spirit
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Which Way to the Exit - Conflicting Salvation

One of the primary tenants of Christianity is that "all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." This, in their mind, entails every person (babies, children, the mentally retarded): "Through one man sin entered the world, and each man is guilty because of him." This belief is inconsistent with the TaNaKh. No where in the TaNaKh is it contended that a man will be responsible for a sin not his own. Christians further believe in the existence of a hell - another concept foreign to the TaNaKh. They believe hell is a place, or state of being, of eternal torment. Finally, those who are not forgiven for their sins, they believe, will end up in hell. This sets the stage for the Christian notion of salvation: since every person is doomed to hell upon their birth, every person - regardless of who they are - requires salvation. Now, how does, according to the Christian scriptures, a person attain salvation? Well, that's a little difficult to determine:

Matthew contends that people achieve salvation through their deeds:

Matthew 19.16-18
"And behold, one came and said to him, Rabbi, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? And he [Jesus] said to him, "Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, and that is God. However, if you will enter into eternal life, keep the commandments. He said to Jesus, "Which?" Jesus said, "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself. The young man said, "I have kept all these things from my youth, what do I lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go and sell all that you have, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven: then come and follow me."
[on a side note - John 2.4 records Jesus saying to his mother, "...Woman, what do I have to do with you?" - this can hardly be called honoring his mother! Apparently, he didn't follow his own advice!]

Mark 10.17-19 recounts this same episode. For other passages that state salvation is achieved through good deeds see Luke 10.25-28, 18.18-22, Acts 10.35, James 1.25, Romans 2.13, 1 Corinthians 7.19 and John 5.28-29.

In the book of Ephesians, the author contends that people are predestined, and were, before the creation of the world. Evidently, God, like some capricious dictator, has already chosen long ago who will be saved and who will be damned.

Ephesians 1.4

He has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to his good pleasure.

Acts 13.48 is another example of a passage that contends that people have no choice in determining their own salvation - God has predestined them.

Finally, some books contend that faith is what determines salvation - the belief in Jesus.

Acts 16.30-31
[The man said] "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They responded, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your house."

Other passages making this claim are John 3.15-16, 6.28-29, 11.25-26, 14.6, Acts 4.12, 13.39, Romans 1.16-17, Hebrews 11.6, and Ephesians 2.8-9.

As may be clearly noted by the collection of verses listed above, there are not only conflicts on how a person may be saved, but this conflict exists for several books within themselves! Evidently, there either wasn't a clear teaching from Jesus on this, or the Christians invented this whole dilemma themselves to create a means of scaring people into converting.

For the TaNaKh, salvation is tangible. If people do not repent there are present consequences for them that they will have to deal with in this world. Does this mean that everyone is punished for their deeds by God? No. In fact, the book of Job teaches us that God may choose to "punish" those who have done nothing wrong!