05 September, 2007

Can People With Really Bad Theology Be Saved?

Today in Prolegomena we discussed the idea of dogma. We defined it according to the uses in Hebrew and Greek and showed the various ways that the Scriptures use the concept.

During the discussion time, one of our new (and insightful) students asked the question, "Can someone who does not hold to the dogma of the Church [which we loosely defined as the Ecumenical Creeds] be saved?"

I immediately thought of a quote from my best-est-est-est friend, Shawn Anderson. Samuel Rutherford, in Against Separation answers this question in his mind blowing way. This is very important as we live in times of great theological confusion- the Lord saves apart from our works (which includes our theological endevors.)

DISTINCTION ONE. One may believe that Christ is the Son of God by a Divine faith, as Peter does (Matt. 16:17), and yet doubt of the necessary fundamental consequences. Ergo, Christ must be delivered into the hands of sinners, and be crucified, as the same Peter doubted of this. For as one may fall in a grievous sin, though regenerated, and fail in act[ion], and yet remain in grace, in habitu [in condition], the seed of God remaining in him, so may Peter and the apostles doubt of a fundamental point of Christ’s rising from the dead (John 20:8, 9), in an act of weakness, and yet have saving faith in Christ, as it is like[ly] many of the saints at Corinth denied an article of their faith, the rising again of the dead. One act of unbelief makes not an infidel.
DISTINCTION TWO. A simple Papist and a Lutheran, not well educated, believes upon the same former ground, that Christ is true man, and has an habitual faith of this article, that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of David, and yet holds transubstantiation, or consubstantiation, that Christ’s body is in many sundry places in heaven, and earth, on this side of the sea, and beyond sea. Yet the connection between Christ’s humanity and this monster of transubstantiation not being possible, all error may be merely philosophic, that the extension of quantitative parts without or beyond part, is not the essence of a quantitative body, while as the rude man believes firmly that Christ is true man, and so believes contradictory things by good consequence. Therefore the quality of the conscience of the believer is to be looked into, since fundamental heresy is essentially in the mind, and pertinency and self-conviction does inseparably follow it.
(1.) There is a conscience simply doubting of fundamental points, this may be with a habit of sound faith. (2.) A scrupulous conscience which from light grounds is brangled about some fundamental points, and this is often in sound believers, who may and do believe, but with scruples. (3.) A conscience believing opinions and conjecturing and guessing, as in atheists; this is damnable, but where obstinacy is, as defending with pertinency transubstantiation, and that it is lawful to adore bread, this pertinacious defending of idolatry does infer necessarily, that the faith of the article of Christ’s humanity is but false and counterfeit, and not saving.
DISTINCTION THREE. There is a certitude of adherence formal, and a certitude of adherence virtual. A certitude of adherence formal is, when one does adhere firmly to the faith of fundamentals. A certitude of adherence virtual is, when with the formal adherence to some fundamental points, there is an ignorance of other fundamental points, and yet withal a gracious disposition and habit to believe other fundamentals, when they shall be clearly revealed out of the Word. So [in] Luke 24, Christ exponed the resurrection, and the articles of Christ’s sufferings and glorification (vs. 25-27), to the disciples who doubted of these before, and yet had saving faith of other fundamental points (Matt. 16-18). (Source)


Mark said...

Interesting post. It's a difficult subject, to say the least, but that seems to be a pretty good view of things.

Droll Flood said...

I think I would have chafed a bit if this was one of your Spurgeon quotes, Nate.

MarkPele said...

This is indeed a distinction we try to deal with in our Reformed circles - that we can have fellowship with many who call themselves Christians in churches who further damnable heresies. The point is that while those people "subscribe" to the heresies and may even defend them, they do not understand the real consequences of their ideas. For example, the Arminian who still believes that they were saved by Christ doesn't really understand that their faulty theology says the opposite - that they saved themselves.

It is this that gives us the ability to have true fellowship with believers from different denominations, since we do not know their heart. We must assume, unless proven otherwise, that these are true, but mistaken, believers, just as we are true, but mistaken, believers. We can then rejoice with them that God does not give a theology exam as a requirement for entrance into heaven, only the blood of Christ applied to our sins can merit that.