Scot McKnight's soteriology


(Christy Hemphill) #41

Read Romans. I’m sure you’ll find there’s a really clear cut and easy answer to that question. Or maybe not.


(Raymond Isbell) #42

Agree. But if I heard McKnight correctly, he claims that the salvation is not a gift, but must be earned through obedience. He doesn’t say it directly like that, but insists that if the obedience is not there, there’s no salvation. It’s the same thing. Calvinists use this same strategy. There’s a Reformation ditty who some attribute to Calvin, “We’re saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” It’s subtle, but is effective in confusing folks about the freeness of salvation. Of course, Calvinist derive this from their ordo salutis where regeneration precedes faith.

Does this fit the Matt 7 passage?


(Christy Hemphill) #43

No, that’s not what he is claiming.


(Mitchell W McKain) #44

Here is where we have some common ground. The parent does what the well-being of the child requires regardless of what the child demands even screaming and crying. The portrayal of God as one who saves us from His own wrath is that of a mafia godfather running a protection racket. That is a message which I could never have seen any value in.

True, but where is the real test of this? Because what I see all time is a game of semantics where, where Xtians simply say that all the things Jesus said were necessary (like in Matthew 25) are works, while the things that Gnostics say are necessary (knowledge, like of certain dogmas) are not works but faith. I think that is nonsense and the real test is laid out by Paul in Romans 10 in the distinction he makes between a righteousness based on law and a righteousness based on faith, explaining that faith does not ask the question of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. That right there is the real test to distinguish the legalism of salvation by works and the faith of salvation by the grace of God.

If you think you have a means to say who goes to heaven and who goes to hell then what you have is a righteousness based on some law you have concocted and that is a gospel of salvation by works, whether it is the good works spoken of by Jesus or the mental works pushed by the Gnostics. This should be especially clear in modern times with intellectual property rights – work is not just manual labor but anything you think you have a right of recompense for. A righteousness based on faith does not even ask the question, but simply does what is right for it own sake without expecting rewards or seeking entitlement or assurances. After all what makes something work is the expectation of wages, and thus all the things Jesus said were necessary are not works, if you do them without such an expectation. That you do these things without an attitude of entitlement is the essence of faith.

Yes. I do not buy into this semantic game that tries to get around this by simply saying that you do these things because of a faith which is given to you by God. The result is they make faith into a power God gives you to save yourself. No. Faith is what God asks of us and grace is what God gives to us. But doesn’t that mean that faith is some kind of mental works? No. Since faith seeks no wages, no assurances, no rewards, no entitlement but does what is right for its own sake, not asking who goes to heaven or who goes to hell – that is what makes it the opposite of works. And yet what James says about faith without works being dead is quite correct, for what kind of faith is it which simply doesn’t expect wages for doing nothing.

There is a very sound logic behind all of this. What God is after is a change in the human heart or as He constantly puts it in the OT, that the law of God is written on our hearts. When we do things for others with an expectation of wages then it does not come from our heart or any feeling for others but only from a concern for ourselves. It reeks of superficiality and the only things which shines through is a grotesque self-righteous attitude of entitlement which God wants no part of.

God simply gives people what they want. Following a righteousness based on law and a gospel of salvation by works does very little to hide the fact that the heart remains full of lust and avarice with very little regard for others. As I like to say, hell is our heart’s desire, while heaven is God’s desire for us. And if you think this makes hell sound good then perhaps you do not comprehend the depravity of the human heart. And this is not to support the Calvinist idea that nobody is capable of any good. That is wrong and based on the idea that if we really could do anything good then we would earn a place in heaven. But it is not that simple, heaven and hell are not about rewarding good and punishing bad. It is really about the fact that sin is degenerative – bad habits which multiply like a virus and eat away at everything of good in us – degrading our love, blinding our awareness, closing our eyes and ears to the truth, and destroying our free will. That is why we cannot alter our ultimate destination ourselves.

Sounds like the Gnostic gospel of salvation by works of knowledge and belief, which produces a distorted view of God as well – one who can only be a parent to us if we believe the right things. Faith is not knowledge or works of the mind by which we earn a place in God’s heart – as if, …I mean really??? It is not completely without merit, since I do believe that it is a memetic inheritance from God which makes us His children. But don’t think the contents of this is the dogma of some religion but has to do with the very essence of our humanity in believer and unbeliever alike. Indeed it has much more to do with the regard we have for the well-being of others because we see their innate value as persons – in a sense, looking at them with God’s eyes.

There is only one thing which can separate parent and child, and that is when the presence of the parent in the child’s life does more harm than good. But even that doesn’t change the parent to a judge or the child to a criminal, but only requires the parent to step back and let the child face the facts of life on their own (Gen 3:17-19). This only changes when we accept the fact that the real problem is not God but ourselves, as we do when we realize Jesus died on the cross because of us.

I cannot agree with the words “eternally secure” because that sounds like entitlement. Wages for believing the right things is still wages for works. Making it works for the mind doesn’t change this and in fact makes it worse. At least those who seek wages for helping their fellow man are doing some small good in the world. But entitlement for ideological alignment makes this nothing more than a tool of power and manipulation.


(Raymond Isbell) #45

Sola Scriptura is as you know the idea that scripture alone is God’s communication to man and provides completely all that God intends for us to know. Neither the Pope nor anyone else can add new revelation. Becoming convinced of the truth of that requires a lot of study in textual criticism, etc. Not all Christians will come to a settled conviction of it. I’ve studied it and believe its truth, but I’m always open to discussion on it. I believe that the Bible and modern science are completely in agreement. I can’t prove it and thus, I’m in the Biologos forums to see what others think who take evolution to be true as opposed to ID or YEC. It’s very interesting, and it’s challenging. I’m open to all arguments. At some point, I’ll declare what I’ve learned and have accepted as the truth and why. For now, it’s lots of reading and exchanging ideas with folks in this and other forums.

I will push back on this conclusion. Salvation in the Biblical sense is primarily focused on salvation from the Justice of God. Since all men have sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect righteousness, we are under God’s judgment. Worse, we can’t do anything to save ourselves. Only God can do that, and He did by sending the 2nd person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ into the world in human form to take our judgment upon himself. He did that, and it’s done. Based on that, God can offer every man a pardon not because He’s big hearted and will ignore His justice, but because God’s justice was satisfied by Christ’s work on the cross. Theologically, God is said to be propitiated by the work of Christ. God is now free to offer eternal life to anyone who will accept it as a free gift. Part of the gift is God’s very own perfect righteousness. God simply asks you to accept what he has done for you by trusting Him. That’s the meaning of the Greek word πίστις (faith/belief). So to be saved, you must have the judgment of the sin problem addressed and you must have God’s righteousness. God offers both in the gospel. An unbeliever becomes a believer the moment he accepts that as true. You simply trust God to deliver on his promise. When you do, you are eternally saved and it cannot be lost. At that moment you become a believer and are now in the family. God is not longer your judge; He’s now your parent.

Living the Christian life is the next order of business, and requires growth and a stronger more robust faith. You get that from learning scripture. (Faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the word of God, Rom 10:17) Satan, of course, doesn’t want you to grow as it will demonstrate the grace of God which is why we were created in the first place. He attacks scripture and its authority as he tries to keep new believers from growing. He attacks the Salvation message itself (keep unbelievers from believing the gospel) by adding works in addition to faith or in lieu of faith (either way, faith is not enough to be saved according to them). He also attacks scripture by trying to add to it, and other ways. Christy was right saying that living the Christian life is tough. It requires a serious commitment, and willingness to endure. That commitment and endurance are not required to be saved. Many believers will never grow because they’re never taught correctly. Much of today’s clergy are not even believers, and in my view will be the ones in Matt 7.

Believers who don’t grow are nonetheless saved. They along with all believers will be judged at the Bema seat. Many think this judgment is about our works and we will be rewarded for the good works. Bad works will be burned up. Accordingly, believers are supposed to be incentivized by a desire to receive awards. Perhaps, but I think the stronger incentive is to honor the one who saved us. In fact, when we walk away from the Bema seat after our judgment, the predominant take-away will be how much Christ and the Holy Spirit did for us. It will dwarf any feelings of regret for our shortcomings. Our focus in eternity and our source of ultimate joy will be on Christ and what He did to save us. That’s my version of the “win/win” scenario.

The struggle of science vs. religion is an important one for Christians, and requires a huge effort on our part. Soteriology is one of the biggest battle grounds of all, and I have focused on it for the last 50 yrs. I feel confident about my views, but am always open to criticism.

Remember, the Angels are watching us with great interest. I’m in this forum because I’m convinced that God designed these tough issue to be solved. The process of doing the hard work involved will ultimately bring God the glory that He deserves.


(Raymond Isbell) #46

Perhaps the Lord saw the pride in this young man thinking he had done all that’s required to inherit eternal life, and so He quickly summarized the law to ensure the man understood it. Indeed, if anyone can keep the law fully, he’d be saved. But no one can, and that was one of the Lord’s points to young man. Once he truly understood the demand of keeping the law, he walked away dejected. I suspect that later, he came back a little more humble the second time and the Lord told him to trust in Christ. Much easier than keeping the law.

Amazingly, we still have people today who reject the free gift, but instead insist that obedience and allegiance are the way to eternal life. Good luck.


(Raymond Isbell) #47

Actually, we are talking about salvation. Faith when extended to include works is just a subtle way of bringing works into the formula so that one hearing the message starts to think they cannot be saved by simple childlike trust, but must also show allegiance, commitment, etc. The latter are issues for the believer, not the unbeliever.


(Raymond Isbell) #48

Is taking up your cross and following Christ a work? Allegiance can only be assessed if it is measured over time. That’s works by any other name.

How was Abraham saved? Faith in Christ! The OT believers were saved by looking forward to the cross (it was promised). We look historically to the cross with the same child-like trust to be saved. The object of faith for both is the person and work of Christ.


(Christy Hemphill) #49

No, not in the sense you are using it. It’s a response. I don’t accept that faith is mere childlike belief, any more than I accept that love is merely an affectionate feeling. Both faith and love have active components and involve responses that are actualized in actions.

I disagree. He was saved through membership in God’s covenant. The terms of covenant membership changed with the death and resurrection of Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But membership in God’s covenant people has always been by grace through faith. (That’s some New Perspective for you. :wink: )


(Raymond Isbell) #50

Are you a 5pt Calvinist? I think all 5 points are wrong.


(Christy Hemphill) #51

Do you not believe that God judges believers?

What do you do with the following passages about believers relating to God in a Judge capacity?

2 Timothy 4:8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Hebrews 12:23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

James 5:9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

Hebrews 10:26-30 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people" It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


(Christy Hemphill) #52

I am not a Calvinist by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not even a very good Baptist, though that would be the faith tradition I claim. I share McKnight’s reticence to let a theological system be the grid through which I interpret the Bible (See what I did there? Keeping things on topic. :wink: ) There are a number of Reformed theologians and Bible scholars that I respect greatly though.


(Dennis Venema) #53

Exactly.

And the idea that “faith” could be mere intellectual assent without any accompanying actions just isn’t on the NT radar as a positive option! When the idea comes up, it is explicitly rejected.


(Dennis Venema) #54

You assert this, but you’re not providing evidence that this is the case.

In linguistics, usage determines meaning.

In Paul’s time, we have good examples of pistis being used as loyalty and allegiance. Matthew Bates cites examples in his book, Salvation by Allegiance Alone. If that’s how Greeks used the word at the time of Paul, and that’s the word Paul chose to convey his meaning, then that has to be accounted for. Simply asserting that it means “belief” or “trust” to the exclusion of loyalty or allegiance simply won’t fly. If Paul wanted to exclude those ideas from what he was saying, he wouldn’t have used the word pistis.


(David Heddle) #55

I’m not a John MacArthur fanboy, but I will always be grateful for his book The Gospel According to Jesus that addressed this so-called “Lordship Salvation” debate. I agree with those who argue that Hodges’s theology is extreme easy-beliefism. Even garden-variety easy-beliefism (say the Sinner’s prayer and your’e in!) is preferred over Hodges, who sees no need for repentance, and no acknowledgement that “by their fruit they shall be known,” since an absolute lack of any progress in sanctification is not to be taken (according to Hodges) as a sign of a lack of saving faith.

In Hodges theology, the “even the demons who believe” do not shudder, they are saved, if his simple intellectual assent salvation is applied consistently.


(Jay Johnson) #56

Yes, I got a great deal out of it. Mainly, it caused me to seek out better sources on the subject, which led me to read more serious theologians and, eventually, come to better conclusions. Or, at least, I like to think so!


(Marshall Janzen) #57

The trouble with glancing at the forum while looking after a two-year-old and only beginning a response when said two-year-old settles into a nap is that threads like this move almost as fast as that same two-year-old. What I’m responding to is already way up-thread.

Many have already responded to show, by New Testament usage, that pistis has a wider semantic range than the English word “faith.” But given your concern about this tactic of unwarranted word expansion, have you considered whether you might be stretching the word “works” to encompass more than Paul intended?

Your posts seem to assume that when Paul speaks of works, he means all that a person does, except for what they think. @mitchellmckain has shown the inconsistency in this, and how once you consistently view works as everything a person does, what they think or choose to believe are works just as much as any external action. And so “simple acceptance/belief” reduces to yet another variation on works-salvation in which the necessary works are accepting and believing.

Also, @Jay313 has shown how much needs to be added between the lines to square this construction with what other biblical writers reveal. Matthew, for instance, isn’t too interested in teaching an assurance of salvation to those who have given simple assent to Jesus. Whether Jesus speaks to crowds or just his disciples, Jesus in Matthew reveals that when God judges everyone, obedience and actions will count and there will be surprises (e.g. Matt. 7:21-23; 10:37-42; 13:40-43, 47-50; 18:8-9; 24:45-51; 25:1-46). Trying to adjust all these passages to support the externally-deduced ideas of assurance of salvation and salvation as “simple acceptance/belief” is not going to respect Matthew’s own emphases. He did not write to make his readers at ease and self-assured – especially not those who thought they were already “in”!

But back to Paul. The New Perspective, which McKnight largely advocates, suggests that Paul generally speaks of works as the special things the Jewish people do to show they are God’s people: things like keeping Sabbath and festivals, circumcising males, eating only the right foods. These works are boundary markers, and Paul is upset that his own people are trusting that these things show they are fine with God rather than aligning with what God has actually done to rescue humanity in the person of Jesus.

The basis of the New Perspective (somewhat ill-named) is seeing Paul as a first-century Jew rather than an anachronistically early contributor to medieval philosophy. Readings of Paul that see his works language directly rebutting indulgences and other accretions of the medieval Catholic church make as much sense as, to steal from @jpm, suggesting Jesus renamed Cephas “Rocky” after Sylvester Stallone.

This thread has turned into a great discussion, but I hope it will continue in the spirit of learning from each other, not of needing to show someone wrong and unelect and darkened in order to dismiss what he wrote in the second half of a book on Adam (or rather, what he assumes as the impetus for what he wrote). I don’t think there are many participants here, regardless of their position on Adam and creation, who will find that a compelling chain of reasoning to refute the evidence for evolution.

That would be the case even if your argument didn’t end up painting most “Catholics, Arminians, Calvinist[s], Restorationists” as similarly wrong, unelect and darkened.


(Mitchell W McKain) #58

This is more common ground between the two of us! Though to be more accurate you should say all 5 points of TULIP Calvinism because it has been pointed out that these do not actually come from John Calvin, and who knows where he might have stood on them himself.

  1. Total Depravity: we are incapable of any good. Incorrect. All of us are capable of both good and evil. It is true that we are utterly incapable of saving ourselves, but not because we can do no good. But heaven and hell are not about rewards and punishments for the good and evil we do. Hell is the ultimate destiny from sin which will destroy everything of good within us eventually. Heaven is the surgeon’s table where this cancer of sin will be cut out of us. And in neither case does the good and evil we do become irrelevant. There is no escape from the consequences. But it is our choice whether the consequences consist of being eaten alive by sin or having them cut out of us. I guarantee the latter will not be pleasant and if you seek the more comfortable choice that will be boiled frog option in hell with our sins free to devour us.
  2. Unconditional Election: God chooses people to be saved without looking for anything good in them. No. First of all election has nothing to do with salvation. God can choose us for all kinds of divine tasks and missions and it does not mean that we are saved. But when it comes to salvation the choice is OURS.
  3. Limited Atonement: Christ only died for an elect few. Absolutely not! Christ died for all. The difference between being saved or not, is in us – our choice – not in God.
  4. Irresistible Grace: God’s grace cannot be resisted. While some may have an experience like this, it is really God giving a person a break from the slavery of sin so they can make a free will choice. But if they return to their sin like a dog to its vomit then they will have made their choice, don’t you think?
  5. Preservation of the Saints: this answers the question of whether you can lose your salvation, by saying no. The biggest problem here is the faithless question itself. Salvation is never something that belongs to you in the first place. The real question is whether you are entitled to salvation, and the answer is always, NO!

Is any of what I explained here something necessary for you to know in order to be saved? No, it is not. It really just comes down to a choice between good/life and evil/death. Life is growth and learning. Do we avoid life and love our sins, or do we embrace life and struggle against the bad habits which are tearing us down?


(Mitchell W McKain) #59

And none of this is to say that I am right and @Raymond_Isbell is wrong, and therefore I am the one who has salvation rather than he. That is precisely the kind of thinking we are rejecting to say that what we know and believe is somewhat irrelevant. Despite my life-long habit of seeking understanding of everything, I finally came to the epiphany that understanding has no power whatsoever to save us. How could it when Jesus says it impossible for us to achieve salvation – only God can do that for us (Matthew 19).


(David Heddle) #60

Whoever pointed it out was wrong, except in the limited sense that Calvin did not invent the acrostic TULIP. But the five actual points (not the mostly strawmen you presented) are clearly found in his commentaries and the Institutes.