Wandering on the limited world of the internet, one can stumble across The Blasphemy Challenge where a person is invited to “damn yourself to hell” by uttering certain guttural sounds. Specifically “I deny the Holy Spirit.” (This challenge claims to be based on Mark 3:29, although a reading of the context would indicate that is an inaccurate reading of what constitutes blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.)
Be that as it may, Evangelical Christianity certainly holds to the proposition that a person can perform an act that will damn them to hell. Whether saying a certain phrase is enough is up for debate.
I ponder the opposite end of the spectrum. Could Christians develop a video site in which people utter a certain guttural sound and “propel yourself to heaven”?
Or are words enough to damn us, but not enough to save us?
My brother hit a deer last fall. Although he had never done so in his life, he decided to butcher out the meat. What to do? Simple—download the instructions from the internet. And by carefully following those directions he was successful.
The other day I was reading how to tear apart and fix my television. Apparently if one is willing to pay a spy enough money, they can obtain the directions on how to build a nuclear bomb. We can find instructions for about anything.
But, what Christianity claims is the single most important decision of our earthly lives, we are left fumbling for directions on how to do it correctly.
Starting slow and simple…
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Rom. 10:9-10
Two straightforward steps: 1) Believe God raised Jesus from the dead and 2) acknowledge it out loud. Clearly it cannot mean an oral proclamation. Any person who was mute could therefore never be saved. I have never met (although there is bound to be one!) a person that claimed that the inability to speak would bar a person from being a Christian.
It is unfathomable to me that someone would be convinced to the point of belief that God raised Jesus from the dead, but then refuse to acknowledge it. And if they had the ability to speak, it seems even more unlikely that they would believe, but refuse to utter the words. (Kinda the point of the Blasphemy Challenge, isn’t it? That atheists believe enough to the point that saying the words is meaningless? To continue…)
Yet it says what it says, so let’s take it at face value. Two steps. Speak and believe.
Is speaking really that significant? “Jesus is God, Lord, and Savior.” There. I said it. But I didn’t really mean it, and everyone probably knows that. Just saying it is not enough. “Jesus had an unclean spirit from Satan.” (Which is closer to Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.) Did I cancel out my previous statement? Again, the words are not enough; again I didn’t mean it.
The focus on the necessary steps is belief—not proper enunciation. The author of Acts also focuses on belief as being the prerequisite of being saved. Acts. 16:30-31
According to Christianity, we already believe there is a God. Rom. 1:18-21. In fact, we don’t just believe it, we know it! Looks as if we are halfway home. Already knowing there is a God certainly helps—the only thing left to do is figure out which human portrayal of god(s) is the correct one.
Honestly—growing up in America—how hard is it to believe in a Jesus that was raised from the dead? We have churches on every corner. Jesus on bumper stickers, billboards, boxes, bags, bandages, bed sheets, books, beads, bottles, bracelets, and bandwagons. We have Good Friday, Easter and Christmas. Everywhere we are bombarded with the image and story of Jesus.
To believe in a God but NOT Jesus would take a minor miracle. For many, we were raised in an environment that Jesus being raised from the dead was such a basic fact, we hardly had to process the fact. Like being asked “What is 2+2?” our brains didn’t even have to blink to produce the answer. “Was Jesus raised from the dead by God?” “Sure! Ask me a tougher question, like the square root of 25.”
We believed, we confessed. We’re in, right? Shoot the scene, record the sound and that’s a wrap.
Now we start to get caveats. Exceptions. Further requirements. In the legal world we have a saying, “What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away.” We’ve just read the large print. Apparently the small print makes this instructions more complicated.
For some, they add the caveat of election. One must be predestined to be saved. Oh, they create fancy explanations and long words about how only the predestined have the ability to believe in the first place, and some attempt to maintain freewill by the one-two punch of “paradox” and “God is mysterious” but in the end this exception; this requirement says that God had to pre-select the believers first. (Rom. 8:29, Eph. 1:5) Apparently belief and speaking is only a part of the process.
Others claim we must continue to believe. Endure to the end. (Mrk. 13:13, Mt. 10:22; 24:13) If we become unconvinced, then our previous statements are for naught. Which raises the same question as to the unpardonable sin. If speaking, and believing something at one point condemns a person, regardless if they later change their mind, why can’t speaking and believing save someone, regardless if they change their mind?
“I believe God Raised Jesus from the dead”
“I do not believe Jesus existed, but there is a God.”
“Well, you are not O.K. Try to believe back in Jesus.
“I do not believe in a God.”
“You have some issues. Try to believe back in a God”
“I believe back in Jesus.”
“Good thing, we were worried.”
“Ulp. Nope. After further study, back to no god.”
“We still will pray for you.”
“Hey. Did you notice that Jesus had the spirit of Satan?”
“Oh, NO! Up ‘till now we had hope. But now that you have uttered those immortal immoral words, you are doomed! DOOMED, I say!”
(Oddly, if belief is a prerequisite of committing Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, an atheist couldn’t do it. Since they don’t believe in a Holy Spirit. Unless one claims under Romans 1 they secretly do, which means they have completed ½ of Romans 10. Which is it? Do we believe or not?)
Still others put the prerequisite of baptism as an additional instruction on being saved. (Mark 16:16) Or must show a sign of being baptized by the spirit. (1 Cor. 12:13) I’ve debated a fellow that claimed a person who is saved never sins. (1 John 3:6)
Jesus put an interesting spin on how a person obtains eternal life in Matt. 25:31-46. Doesn’t say a thing about belief. All he talked about was feeding and clothing the poor as well as encouraging the lonely. (See Also Mt. 19:21 and Luke 19:8) Of course, in the later Gospel of John, with a more advanced view of Christ, we slip back to the idea of belief. (John 3:15-17) And that those who believe would receive the Holy Spirit. (John 7:18)
Which leaves us back at the beginning—is belief, with acknowledgement enough? After reviewing the Blasphemy Challenge, I wonder this—what would Christians propose we video in order to demonstrate the opposite—that a person is saved?
It seems the infidel has it easy—all we have to do is record the right words. Specifically, “I do not believe in a god” and this is enough to condemn us. But if we could record anything, even some measurement of “belief”—is there anything a person could record that would be sufficient to say they are saved?