We are often told, in matters of Christianity, that one must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. Generally speaking, it seems most people, Christian or otherwise, take this to mean that only Christians may enjoy Heaven. That is, only those who beleive that the literal facts of Christ's unique character (he was God), and his death and resurrection, may escape hellfire. This is also problematic for many, for membership within a particular faith does appear to be, in and of itself, a moral issue. Even if one willingly apothesizes from the Christian faith, even though he makes a conscious choice, and willingly rejects the Bible, it does not seem partularly wicked or harmful, other than for perhaps making God angry. If he truely rejects faith based on what he honestly thinks is reason, where is the harm , outside of angering a supposedly benevolent God? The unfortunate picture I had for years was of a God who seemed petty and jealous, punishing us for any lack of attention. This, I've come to realize, is a terrible and devisive untruth.
C.S. Lewis was an inclusionist who beleived it possible that there are some humans who are or will be saved without knowing it. How so? Because although they not beleive in or even be aware of the facts regarding Jesus, they are ernestly and diligently seeking the Truth. This explains well the situation of those who simply have not heard of Christ, or were brought in a non-Christian culture and taught the what were simply the wrong ideas. What are we to make of the atheist who resides in a throughly Christian culture, but is convinced that the events described could not have happened based on reason, yet whom honestly desires Truth, and who commits acts of genuine virtue simply for their being virtuous?
We are told, of course, that works will not buy one's way into heaven. And indeed this is true. But the case I have described is of a person who is NOT attempting to do any such thing, as they do not even beleive in Heaven's existence! One may also do good works in order to impress others with one's supposed virtue; in fact this is quite common. I suspect even that one "atheist charity" I noticed somewhere might have been for this very purpose--atheists need to brighten their reptution before the religous world will begin to take them serioiusly. I am not to judge, but it's true that beleivers have a far better record of giving to charity than atheists. This is something the polls can attest to, and most atheists will even reluctantly admit. They often state that there is not one act of kindness that you NEED religion for, but that is not really the point. The point is, are athiests or people of faith the more generous? So far the answer has favored the faithful. Here is some evidence:
Concervapedia is admittedly very slanted; but this is one area of study to which athiests are not able to offer any solid refutation.
However, the situation I described was of an athiest who worked virtue for virtue's sake. And does the Bible have to say about those who do good works?
For when the Gentiles (non-Jews) which have not the law, do by nature
the things contained within the law, these, having not the law, are a
law unto themselves: which shew (show) the work of the law written in
their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their
thoguhts the mean while excusing or excusing one another..Rom 2, 14-15
One's good works are an index to what resides within one's heart. That is the inportance of good works, ans why they cannot be separated form one's faith. Can such as person, then be said to truely "beleive", in sense of having a saving faith in the Truth? They surely must.
Here is a post (got permission to use it) form Sabbath Keeper's Forum, on the topic of the meaning of "beleif":
We read this word "believes" and a definition comes to mind and we
read on. But in other translations we are left to our own educational
expereince about just what this word means in general terms. Then we
use that to attempt to understand what the writer is speaking of here.
Here it is "believes in Him". But what does "believes" mean in this
articulation? Well, the Amplified Bible details it for us in
parenthesis. It says the "believes" means "adheres too, trusts in, and
relies upon Him, giving himself up to Him". To me, this really puts
the meat on this word or phrase "believes in Him".
Those who believe in Him adhere to Him; they "stick to Him". If I take
super glue and stick your hand to your cell phone, it’s going to be
there for some time. Everywhere you go and in everything you do, that
cell phone will be stuck to your hand. All uses of your hand will be
affected by that cell phone being stuck to it. As in this example, the
evidence that we are stuck to Jesus is that we are with Him and He is
with us everywhere we go. He affects all we say and do.
Trust is an incredible gift. It's kind of like an unhatched egg. Trust
has so much potential for the future, yet it must be cared for and
handled with care. We all know that if the egg is broken, all the
king's horses and all the king’s men cannot put it back together
again. Trust, when broken, is extremely difficult to re-establish in a
relationship. It is near impossible.
See, trust involves an investment of the heart. It places extreme
value on fidelity. It provides one with security and it protects at
all cost, the value of the trust. Our believing in the Lord Jesus
Christ should have all kinds of things in place, in confident rest,
rest in Him and His unfailing love for us. Our love for Him should be
unfailing as well. He invested His heart, and so much more, into us.
Therefore, He has the right to expect us to invest our heart and so
much more in Him.
The last of these adjectives expresses one "giving himself to Him".
Please note that it is the believer, that gives himself to Christ.
Believing is giving, much like in a marriage. You give your very life
up, for, and too the other person. To me, that is why Paul said "I am
crucified with Christ". Christ gave all His life for me, and expects
me to give my life to Him in the same complete way, nothing held back.
No other loves! No other gods! When a person dies on the cross, that
entire person dies. We die to the old sin nature completely and
finally, and in the consummation of our giving ourselves to Christ, He
becomes alive in us. It is from that point on, not us living inside of
us, but Christ Himself supernaturally fused with our spirit. Selah.
We can "rely" on Him. In another place Paul tells us that He is ever
faithful to our relationship, even if we are not, because as God He
simply cannot be otherwise. Praise the Lord God Almighty.
Oh the depths of His riches and glory. I could go on and on about this
verse, but I think you are getting the picture by now. As a Body, for
each part to read this word "believes", we could all have a slightly
different understanding. But we really need to understand this word
and it's importance together, and be in one accord. Not only does the
Amplified Bible help in this way, but the Holy Spirit uses it to
unfold revelation after revelation, if only we will slow down, spend
time with Him and even meditate on what is being said in His Word.
It is my prayer, that you have come to a better place of understanding
our belief and it's value to us, and to God. It's more than just "I
know about". It is personal, intimate, bonded unity with the Creator
of all things. Oh how many adjectives we could use, and not even come
close to what "HE IS". Belief is so much more than just a whimsical
word, it is a new life entered into by leaving an old life behind. To
God be the glory, now and forever amen. – Lahry Sibley