My last post, A Story of Separation and Salvation, discussed the promise of reconciliation we have in Jesus Christ that the Apostle Paul speaks of in Colossians 1.21-23. I asked the question of whether we could have faith in the reconciling work of God in Christ or must we put our faith in Christ plus __________. A “Christ plus” faith is a faith that requires something in addition to Christ to find reconciliation with God and ultimately salvation.
It is important to remember that our alienation from God is not just propositional. it’s also existential. That is to say that alienation from God is separation from the very breath and source of life. It’s a slow death physically, spiritually, socially, and so on. Even more, it’s a death that is felt in the core of our being and experienced throughout life from the damaged relationships to violence to hatred and so on…and we want, we long for, something to be done about it.
The gospel of Jesus Christ essentially says that God has done remedied the situation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s called salvation and it will be brought to its fullness in the second-coming of Jesus Christ when all things are made new. Yet as believers in Jesus Christ, we still struggle to have faith in this work of God and nothing else.
Some believers are becoming syncretistic by turning to new age spirituality and other religious beliefs/practices. I’m not entirely sure why this has become so attractive so I won’t speculate. However, I will say that to do such shows a complete lack of faith in God’s ability to bring about reconciliation in Christ and ultimately transform and renew creation into new creation.
Other believers have developed a “Christ plus” faith by relying on Christ plus their sense of religious legalism or intellectual ability to know and practice the right doctrines believing that these additions are necessary requirements for salvation. So the religious legalist creates a list of do’s and don’ts that must be maintained in order to have salvation in Christ. The fundamentalist believes that salvation hinges upon having the correct belief on a number of doctrinal issues. Just think of how many Christians have been told that one sip of wine will doom them to hell or how many Christians have been doomed to hell over the view they held on the millennial issue (i.e., a-millennialism, pre-millennialism, post-millennialism).
The problem is that when we doom someone to hell because they do not hold to a practice or belief we feel is biblical, we are also saying that God is dooming that person to hell for the very same reason. Yet this ultimately says that we need not just Christ for our salvation but Christ plus our list of legalistic rules to be kept or Christ plus our right intellectual understanding of doctrinal issues to achieve salvation.
What it all boils down to is this: Is God’s work in Christ sufficient for our salvation? If so, can we have faith in God’s work in Christ alone?