During the next several years (2009 – 2012), I explored a variety of scientific and philosophical arguments. Although my son was happy and healthy, the thought of him dying in apostasy would pop into my head often. Related to this, I would ponder the frequent debate within Christianity regarding the permanence of salvation. In summary, it’s once saved, always saved vs. you can lose your salvation. People often quote the scripture: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:19). Many believe that when a Christian abandons their faith, it shows they were never really saved to begin with.
These different viewpoints regarding the permanence of salvation reminded me of something else: Denominations.
Different denominations take opposing stances on the possibility of losing your salvation. It has routinely bothered me that we have 1,000’s of Christian denominations in the world. (Wikipedia counts 41,000). Just a few of the most prominent include: Lutheran, Anglican, Calvinist, Anabaptist, Plymouth Brethren, Methodist, Baptist, Apostolic Church, Pentecostal, Episcopal, Charismatic, Quaker, Eastern Orthodox, Nazarene, Seventh Day Adventist, and Church of God. While many denominations have only small variations in their style of worship and governance, there are often significant differences in belief. Many teach that they are the “one true church” — the only group with the correct interpretation of the Bible. Over the years, I regularly worshiped at 5 different church denominations spanning 30 years. I was surprised by the significant differences I often encountered.
I previously thought that the huge variety of denominations allowed people to connect with God in a manner that spoke to them best (e.g., different styles of worship). But we have to admit that this many denominations is crazy. From an outside perspective, it would appear that God is the author of confusion rather than the author of clarity.
My son and his fellow critics would raise this troubling point: “There are over a billion Muslims who believe in Muhammad and in their holy book, the Quran. And there are nearly a billion Hindu’s and millions of Mormons and Catholics, etc. Their teachings are very contradictory to one another. They can’t all be true. But they all could be false.”
I admit, he had a point.
If someone asked me, “why are you so sure that Christianity is true and that Islam, or Hinduism , or Judaism isn’t the right faith?” — I would have answered that Christianity is the only religion where man can’t work his way into heaven. It’s the gift of God. It’s all about grace and faith. While that is distinctive of Christianity, it wouldn’t answer the question of why it’s true. Honestly, I felt humbled and blessed that I grew up with the “correct” religion while others had been deluded.
Whenever I would consider the zeal, passion and commitment of people who believed something other than the Christian faith, I often saw far greater zeal. For example, there are terrorists who believe so passionately in their dogma, that they are willing to die for it. There are some 1 billion people who stop whatever they are doing, 5 times a day, to prostrate themselves and pray toward Mecca. There are many non-Christians who become life-long monks, forsaking marriage, freedom and worldly possessions. There are many young adult Mormons who commit 2 years of life in missionary duty. This religious passion exceeds that of most Christians and I would ask myself often, “why would those who believe something that grossly contradicts the Bible (and was thus obviously false in my mind) – – how could they have such zeal and passion for lies??”.
I supposed I comforted myself with the common answer, “Satan is quite the deceiver”, but the question still haunted me.
What happened next for my son, was very unexpected.
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