If you declare with your mouth … and believe in your heart

Posted on 01/16/11 40 Comments

Romans 10:9-11

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

This passage is often appealed to in support of the claim that one must assent to two propositions in order to be saved by Jesus:

(1)  Jesus is Lord

(2)  God raised Jesus from the dead

Let’s call this the “two proposition view of salvation” (henceforth TPVS).

There are many problems with the TPVS. The first is that it is not taught in the passage in question. That passage declares at most that mental assent to two propositions is sufficient for salvation, not that it is necessary. And it’s a good thing too, since a rigid adherence to TPVS would exclude infants and the severely mentally handicapped.

This brings us to another problem. One could believe these two propositions but also believe other propositions such as the following:

(3)  Allah created God and God created Jesus

(4)  Jesus will cease to be Lord when Obama is elected to a second term

This creates a dilemma. According to TPVS belief in (1) and (2) is supposed to be sufficient for salvation, but (3) and (4) appear to be so off-base that they would negate the soterological benefit of (1) and (2). This would suggest that salvation depends critically on the total set of relevant propositions one believes such that (1) and (2) are not sufficient for salvation. Of course this problem only arises if you believe that it is necessary to believe (1) and (2) to be saved.

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  • PM

    Dr. Rauser,

    It would not exclude infant and the severely mentally handicapped if we follow many of the older theologians in saying that saving faith is the disposition to believe. If is regenerate and has sufficiently developed cognitive facultues, then one will profess faith. If a regenerate human does not have sufficiently developed cognitive faculties (i.e., infants and the
    mentally retarded), their faith will not be expressed as actual belief. But certain significant counterfactual conditionals will be true of them nonetheless, e.g., if they *were* to be granted sufficiently developed cognitive faculties then they *would* enjoy actual belief in Christ. (And, of course, they *will* be granted such faculties in the afterlife and eschaton.) This allows for my having saving faith even when I’m sleeping.

    There’s much more to comment on, but for now this is enough.

    • randal

      Thanks for your response. Could you explain more precisely what constitutes “sufficiently developed cognitive faculties”?

      • PM

        Dr. Rauser,

        In this context, developed enough to understand and confess the “great truths of the gospel,” as opposed to those whose faculties are not so developed, e.g., infants and severely mentally handicapped. Similarly, I might speak of sufficiently developed sexual organs in the context of what is needed to (help) produce offspring. In the context of dialogue, I’d assume the term was fairly self-explanatory. You seemed to indicate that there was a set of people whose cognitive faculties were sufficient underdeveloped to give “mental assent” to the propositions. You seem to have in mind a set of people or things who do not have sufficiently developed cognitive faculties to give mental assent to saving propositions SP, {x| x cannot give mental assent to SP}. You listed infants and severely mentally handicapped as ? {that which cannot give mental assent to SP} or {~(MASP} for short. The set of those with sufficiently developed cognitive faculties is disjoint with {~(MASP}. I didn’t get rigorous over the necessary and sufficient conditions for having sufficiently developed cognitive faculties in this context because, as I said, I thought it was fairly obvious. I can go into further detail if you have a more specific question, though.

        • PM

          Sorry, I meant for the ‘is a member of’ symbol ? to be included in this sentence:

          “You listed infants and severely mentally handicapped as ? {that which cannot give mental assent to SP}”

          but it looks like it inserted a ? instead.

        • randal

          PM,

          Thanks for this. Let’s forget about the infants and mentally handicapped for now. Instead let’s think about a thirty year old male with an IQ of 110 who works at a call center in Bangladesh. What are the propositions he must believe in order to be saved? (I am not saying that mental assent is sufficient for salvation but it is at least necessary.) If I understand you correctly the set of propositions that he must accept in order to be saved is called the “great truths of the gospel.” Could you list what that set of beliefs is? Given that salvation is at stake here, I would take it that it is enormously important that we have precision on what one must believe. And Christians have often disagreed on what the set of beliefs that constitute the “great truths of the gospel” is. So if you could spell out what you understand them to be it’d help me assess your position.

          Thanks

          • PM

            I take it that this convo has been merged into the one below, so read down for my answer.

  • PM

    Dr. Rauser,

    It is odd that you provide no citation to any theologian or Christian thinker worth taking seriously who actually holds the simplistic and naive position you attribute to them in this post. Your post is uncharitable and an attack on a straw man, then.

    Of course, Rom. 10 9-11 isn’t just some free floating text, cut apart from the rest of what Paul has been saying and arguing in the chapter, which give those passages their meaning and which undercuts (3) and (4) as compatible with them, and also undercuts the idea that saving faith, or assenting to (1) and (2), is “sufficient” for *salvation*.

    Furthermore, assenting to propositions isn’t even sufficient for having saving *faith*. I think the majority position is that saving faith is more than assenting to propositions. There’s receiving, resting, trusting, or the other ways of putting the same point.

    Moreover, as commentators (Barrett, Cranfield, Kasemann, Dunn, and Fitzmeyer)have pointed out, the confession in v.9 may reflect a pre-Pauline confessional tradition. So you’re leaving out obvious defeaters to your view. This isn’t an intellectual virtue.

    Of course, there are inclusivists and pluralists who assert those with sufficiently developed cognitive faculties do not need to profess faith in Christ in order to be saved. Is this your position? If so, you should be honest and avaoid acting as if you’re defending some “obvious” tradition within Christianity and your interlocutors are defending some benighted, fundy view of the faith.

    You also don’t answer the question: Can Dr. Z be saved if he consciously rejects that Jesus is lord and that he has been raised from the dead. Suppose Dr. Z says, “I used to believe in God and that Jesus died for my sins and fulfilled the law for me, but now I don’t. I don’t believe in God, at best Jesus was a misunderstood carpenter who was just a good moral teacher, and he certainly never rose from the dead.”

    Doesn’t God “command all men eveywhere to repent?” Doesn’t Paul say that If you repent and believe, you will be saved? What happens if you don’t?

    • randal

      I have defended inclusivism multiple times on my blog. But here I’m concerned with an exclusivist soteriology which says that a person must grasp and assent to certain propositions as a necessary condition for being saved. The blog post raises some specific questions. First, what is the set of propositions one must believe? Second, what if a person believes other propositions which are not inconsistent with the set of propositions provided in answer to the first question but which are inconsistent with Christian orthodoxy?

      Thanks for your input.

      • PM

        Dr. Rauser,

        I just started looking at your blog so am not familiar with what you have defended. I do find it odd though that many of your responses to Triablogue rest on hotly contentious and historically underrepresented theological positions. That doesn’t make them false, but it does make me scratch my head at the level of incredulity you express towards the Triabloguers as somehow making obviously false and ridiculous claims. (Furthermore, considering that on your home page you point out that you have a probabilistic defeater for your beliefs, i.e., you say that you are not half as right as you think you are, so P(Rouser is right if he thinks he is} < .5, and assuming you think you are right in this discussion, then I would have expected more tentativeness ;-) )

        In response, I should first point out that if the exegetical argument that some propositions need to be assented to in order to be saved is true, then that is enough to disprove your argument even if one doesn’t know exactly which propositions they are.

        Moreover, I do not need to list the “entire set of propositions” when if each are necessary then giving you a subset will be enough. With Paul, one needs to at least believe that Jesus is lord and that he was raised from the dead. That one is a sinner in need of salvation, and that Christ alone did all the work required for salvation.

        Second, contexts of dialogue will require more of an expansion on those propositions. Someone trying to needle you and “catch” you will require a much lengthier answer than one who you can take a certain amount for granted. This is a combox and I’ll expand when necessary, but I think the above argument is sufficient to get around your “whole set” point.

        Third, (3) & (4) are inconsistent with (1) and (2). They may not be formally inconsistent, but they are seen to be implicitly inconsistent when one reflects on the metaphysical implications of and Scriptural teachings on (1) & (2).

        However, your question is ambiguous between Christian orthodoxy required for salvation and Christian orthodoxy required for Christianity. For example, I do not think social trinitarianism is orthodox, but it doesn’t render one damned . So one could believe (1) & (2) and the proposition >>The identity relation between the person and the godhead is generic or common identity<<. But, one could not believe, say, (1) & (2) and the proposition >>my good works will be meritorious for salvation, I do not need Christ’s work<< and attain salvation if regimented in that belief until the last day.

        I take it that these are good paradigm cases and go some good way to answering your question. But the question is certainly a messy one and I am unaware of any who have laid out an entire list on the matter, so I will take it on a case by case basis.

        In conclusion: the argument is that there are some propositions necessary for salvation that a sinful human cognizer S needs to give mental assent to in order to be saved (taking into consideration the above dispositional account I gave), and there are some propositions inconsistent with the aforementioned propositions such that S cannot be saved if one has a positive cognitive attitude toward them. You need to argue, then, that there are no propositions necessary to be believed in order to be saved (taking into consideration the above dispositional account I gave), and that there are no propositions such that if a sinful human cognizer S believed them, S would be unfit for salvation. Is this your position?

        • randal

          “it does make me scratch my head at the level of incredulity you express towards the Triabloguers as somehow making obviously false and ridiculous claims.”

          I don’t think anybody has made a ridiculous theological claim.

          Touche on my epistemic fallibilism.

          “if the exegetical argument that some propositions need to be assented to in order to be saved is true, then that is enough to disprove your argument….”

          My argument is simply that it is not plausible to treat a text like Romans 10:9 as offering necessary and sufficient conditions of faith.

          “I do not need to list the “entire set of propositions” .”

          I think you do. If you want to argue that it is necessary to believe a set of propositions in order to be saved, but you do not know what the members of that set are, then you do not know what you need to believe to be saved, and therefore you cannot know that you are saved. But surely this isn’t right.

          “With Paul, one needs to at least believe that Jesus is lord and that he was raised from the dead. That one is a sinner in need of salvation, and that Christ alone did all the work required for salvation.”

          Does this mean a Oneness Pentecostal can be saved?

          You then add that (3) and (4) are implicitly inconsistent with (1) and (2). But for that point to carry we oblige a person to believe further things such as that “God” exists a se and that there are no other deities.

          To sum up, we are on a slippery slope in which to be saved we are obliged to believe an indefinite set of propositions while disbelieving other propositions.

          So while I am happy saying that the acquisition of certain beliefs (e.g. those mentioned in Romans 10:9) is the normative occasion for people entering into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ, I refrain from saying that belief in these or other propositions provide the necessary and sufficient conditions for entering into this type of salvific relationship.

          • PM

            Dr. Rasuer,

            “I don’t think anybody has made a ridiculous theological claim.”

            This all started because you believed Pastor Dustin made some ridiculous theological claims. I then asked about how Romans 1 fit into your posts on the matter. Hence we’re here . . .

            I don’t treat Romans 10:9 as offering necessary and sufficient conditions for salvation, and I’m unaware of who does. I am arguing, per the whole context (see above), that it is a fact that there are some propositions that are necessary to be believed in order to be saved (granting the dispositional analysis above).

            “I think you do. If you want to argue that it is necessary to believe a set of propositions in order to be saved, but you do not know what the members of that set are, then you do not know what you need to believe to be saved, and therefore you cannot know that you are saved. But surely this isn’t right.

            I don’t in this dialectical context. If you trace the argument I’ve been making from my first post, through the Dr.Z posts, to this post, you’ll see that my claim is that there are some propositions one must assent to in order to be saved, and if one denies them one cannot be saved.

            I believe much of this is a trap and is not conducive to posting in a combox. I can give you an answer but I do not have the time to cover the subtleties and entailments that can go along with them in answering someone trying to show a problem. Basically, one needs to believe that one is a sinner, that one needs salvation, that one can do nothing to save herself, that Jesus is God, Jesus did all the work required for salvation, that he died and rose again and that whosoever believes on him and trusts him and rests from their work will be saved. Many people can understand this. And if they truly have Jesus Christ as the object of their faith, trusting him to save them, he will. of course, one can needle any of these claims and talk about their implications etc.

            A oneness pentecostal can be saved, so can a Mormon. This would not be normal, and if they continued on I believe sanctification would bring them out of those churches. However, a knowledgable OP who consciously and intelligently rejects the doctrine of the trinity and believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, that they are doing a meritorious work, cannot be saved.

            Next: propositions can be inconsistent apart from the other things we require one to believe. However, yes, there are other things that will be believed.

            If the gospel is the good news about what Jesus did to save his people, then that includes, to state the obvious, all that Jesus did to save me. Now, you can give succinct reports of this battle and victory he won for me, or lengthy ones. Watching a TV episode about what the allies did to save the world from Germany is more detailed than reading a one paragraph article in Newsweek, and won’t be as detailed as watching Saving Private Ryan; but that won’t be as detailed as The Band of Brothers series, and those won’t be as detailed as watching a PBS series of real footage, and that won’t be as detailed as reading a 1,000 page historical account, etc.

            The herald who reports the gospel victory may report the story swiftly or elaborately, just as one may herald the town: “The Allies beat the Axis!”, or undertake a massive historical account. But if the gospel really is the news of what Jesus did to save man from his sin, then it is very lengthy.

            In one sense Randal Rauser is held to a higher standard, just as the author of the 1,000 page book should be held to a higher standard than the TV show, but that doesn’t mean they are reporting different events. So I think it is wrong to say that the above view implies that there are different gospels or it’s subjective or that the set is different. In one obvious and uninteresting sense, there are different gospels, just as there are different accounts of the Allied victory of the Axis powers. A 1,000 page book is different than a one paragraph highlight, which is different than the simple report, “The Allies have won!”. In a more interesting sense, the stories are the same. It reports the same event.

            I have denied that (1) and (2) are necessary and sufficient, I have stated that they are necessary. Do you grant that? If so, then if Dr. Z denies them, then Dr.Z cannot be saved. So, what would you tell Dr. Z? I think we’re still there.

            • PM

              I should add to this that as a Reformed Christian I believe that saving faith is one of the benefits Jesus won for us and gives to us as a gift. Thus he ensures that we believe the entire set of propositions needed for salvation. Therefore I can be saved even if I can’t deliniate the set, {salvific propositions}. Moroever, as a compatibilist, I hold that God causes me (and all the saved) to believe those propositons essential for salvation. With that I believe I entirely escape your worry.

              • randal

                I certainly wasn’t ever arguing that God couldn’t save people in the way you propose. I just claim that when one reflects on the position one encounters difficulties which support the conclusion that we lack the ability to state there is a certain set of propositions which are necessary and sufficient to provide a cognitive precondition for salvation.

                • PM

                  Dr. Rouser,

                  But you gave this defeater:

                  I think you do. If you want to argue that it is necessary to believe a set of propositions in order to be saved, but you do not know what the members of that set are, then you do not know what you need to believe to be saved, and therefore you cannot know that you are saved.

                  But my Reformed-defeater-deflector shows this isn’t so. I can argue both that it is necessary to believe certain propositions in order to be saved and that one can know that they are saved, even if one does know exactly which propositions those are (even though one might know what some of those propositions are). Agreed?

            • randal

              I think one cannot make a plausible case for the view that Christianity offers the only rational worldview, but if I called that ridiculous then I apologize. That’s rhetorical excess, showboating, grandstanding, etc.

              “I believe much of this is a trap ….”

              I hope you don’t think I am attempting to set a trap of some sort. I enjoy the repartee. However I agree that this is not a topic which is particularly amenable to a blog post and threaded discussion.

              It seems to me that your inability to identify which propositions are necessary to believe in order to be saved is a problem, but let me focus on your final point:

              “I have denied that (1) and (2) are necessary and sufficient, I have stated that they are necessary. Do you grant that? If so, then if Dr. Z denies them, then Dr.Z cannot be saved. So, what would you tell Dr. Z? I think we’re still there.”

              Whatever our disagreements, I think we agree that we both want Dr. Z to affirm (1) and (2) as soon as possible. So the question is what is the best way to do that? I don’t think it would be by telling him in that moment that if he fails to affirm (1) and (2) or another set of propositions that he will thereby be lost. Even if I did believe that I don’t know whether I would ever tell him. (Consider an analogy: Dr. X’s daughter is killed by a drunk driver. Even if I believed this was part of the meticulous providential plan of God foreordained from eternity to maximize God’s glory, and even if I hoped Dr. X might eventually come to hold that perspective, that doesn’t mean I would ever tell him that.) Back to Dr. Z: I certainly would pray for him, be with him, and do my best to shine the light of Christ into his tortured life.

              Thanks for the repartee

              • PM

                Dr. Rauser,

                “I think one cannot make a plausible case for the view that Christianity offers the only rational worldview,

                Well, right now I’m dealing with the topic of your posts that I came in on, viz., is atheism evil, or, is unbelief evil. After you agree with me on that argument we can move to the next :-) (though I admit that I’m not sure I can demonstrate it, but I think I can get pretty close).

                Oh, by the way, I didn’t mean that you were trying to do anything nefarious, I just know that since propositions entail many other propositions, you can make things get messy. That is, I don’t think you were asking in the same way as the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16:30. But, since I brought it up, check out the modality involved:

                Acts 16: 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

                31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.

                It seems to me that your inability to identify which propositions are necessary to believe in order to be saved is a problem, but let me focus on your final point:

                What’s the problem? The only one I can think that you have made explicit is one I think I sufficiently answered above. I don’t see any problem. The problem is that if there are some beliefs necessary for salvation, and if Dr. Z denies them, then Dr. Z cannot be saved, and Dr. Z will be under the judgment of God, and so it looks like he is culpable for his rejection of said beliefs, and so it looks like what he did was immoral, hence the argument I’ve been trying to make.

                “Whatever our disagreements, I think we agree that we both want Dr. Z to affirm (1) and (2) as soon as possible. So the question is what is the best way to do that? I don’t think it would be by telling him in that moment that if he fails to affirm (1) and (2) or another set of propositions that he will thereby be lost.”

                Well I’m not sure why the term “that moment” is included when I don’t see you having any basis for thinking Pastor Dustin, myself, or any other mean and nasty Calvinist ( ;-) ) is committed to something like that. But now it looks like the discussion is turning to the pragmatics of pastoral counseling. I’m not a pastor or a counselor, and I don’t see the relevance of this to what I’ve been arguing in these various threads.

                Even if I did believe that I don’t know whether I would ever tell him.

                But that’s a problem, unless you want to affirm that Dr. Z can go enter heaven even if he explicitly denies God’s existence, the deity of Christ, the resurrection, &c. Do you?

                If not, then consider an analogy:

                Smith pulls his car into your shop. You notice that the breaks are failing and that they could not supply the force required to slow Smith’s car down the large hill his house is at the bottom of. You also know that Smith loves his car, and that he takes it very poorly when others point out any defect in his “baby.” Would you, out of love for Smith, refrain from telling him? Would you consider the mechanic who informs Smith of his deplorable condition “unloving?”

                Now, if you believe Dr. Z will get along just fine without having those (what I’m calling) salvific beliefs, then that’s one thing. But look at it from our perspective. We are doing the most loving thing and we see you as doing the unloving thing. I suggest our position is the majority view of the church (and the one best supported by Scripture), and you have the burden in the argument.

                ” (Consider an analogy: Dr. X’s daughter is killed by a drunk driver. Even if I believed this was part of the meticulous providential plan of God foreordained from eternity to maximize God’s glory, and even if I hoped Dr. X might eventually come to hold that perspective, that doesn’t mean I would ever tell him that.)”

                Much of this probably reflects our theological intuitions and presuppositions. i actually find the above to be comforting, and I have found it comforting to others. But I wouldn’t jump into “answers” with this person right away. In the interest of full disclosure, the wisest council I know of, and that I would or have followed in times like this, is that of D.A. Carson’s in How Long O’ Lord.

                “Back to Dr. Z: I certainly would pray for him, be with him, and do my best to shine the light of Christ into his tortured life.

                I’m with you on the first two, but not the last one (assuming I even know what it means). I’m not a “little Christ.” I can’t “be Christ” or “be the gospel” to people. Jesus is totally unique, he’s the savior, and men need to look outside themselves and to him. If that’s what you mean (i.e., look away from yourself, trust and rest on Christ, believe the promises, etc), then I’ll agree with all three. It’s just that the way you phrased it looks man-centered rather than extra nos.

                “Thanks for the repartee”

                Likewise!

                • randal

                  A quick comment on Acts 16. I think we have to be careful about plugging verses like that into a systematic account of the necessary and sufficient conditions for a person being saved. The same thing would apply to Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16 ff.

                  • PM

                    Dr. Rauser,

                    I am unclear why you continue to speak of necessary and sufficient conditions of salvation wrt the propositions one must believe to be saved. It’s never enough for salvation to simply assent to propositions, in fact, that’s not even true of saving faith.

                    Anyway, the same thing does apply to Matt 19:16. According to the covenant of works, it is necessary to obey the commandments perfectly to attain eternal life. If one does not wish to be yoked to the burden of the law, in no small part because that way is closed for sinful humans(!), then according to the covenant of grace, it is necessary to profess faith in Christ to attain eternal life. Jesus points out that the rich young ruler has failed to meet the stipulations of the former covenant. Jesus then goes on to note that God himself will acheive salvation for his people since men cannot do it. Thus, your counter ends up consistent with my argument from Acts 16, and in fact is supportive of it.

                    • randal

                      The last reference to “necessary and sufficient conditions” was incomplete. Earlier I clarified that the issue is whether there are certain propositions to which a person must assent in order to be saved by Jesus. At that point I had clarified that mere mental assent to those propositions would not be a sufficient for salvation.

                      As for the Matthew passage, I appreciate your well articulated rebuttal. However, Jesus doesn’t say keep the entirety of the law (i.e. 613 commandments). Rather, he lists a smattering of commandments:

                      17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

                      18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

                      Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

                      Technically then if we were expecting Jesus to provide a rigorous account here of salvation under the covenant of works, then he failed to do it. This suggests that providing such a rigorous account was not in his purview at all.

                    • PM

                      Dr. Rauser,

                      “At that point I had clarified that mere mental assent to those propositions would not be a sufficient for salvation.”

                      Right; but I countered that this was uninteresting insofar as I am unaware of anyone who argues that mental assent is sufficient for salvation. You brushed off the claim that there were some propositions that are necessary to be believed for salvation with the infant/handicapped defeater. I raised an objection to this by making use of the conception of dispositional faith. I have since been arguing only for the claim that there are some propositions it is necessary to believe in order to be saved.

                      “As for the Matthew passage, I appreciate your well articulated rebuttal. However, Jesus doesn’t say keep the entirety of the law (i.e. 613 commandments). Rather, he lists a smattering of commandments:”

                      Right, that would make for quite a long and boring Bible if people did things like this every time. However, I don’t think we should read bible verses in isolation from the rest of the Bible. I use the analogy of faith as one hermeneutical tool. And after all, this claim is after Jesus says that if you keep just two commandments, you keep all of them. Moreover, in the Lukean account we have this story followed up by a couple of similar ones where Jesus gives different commands that need to be followed than he gave this man (viz., sell all you own). So it appears that Jesus has a “stockpile” of commands he can pull from when he wants to expose some person’s particular besetting sin.

                      But apart from this point is that it wouldn’t follow that since Jesus didn’t list all the commandments necessary for salvation that he didn’t list some of them. And he indeed did list some of them (one cannot work his way into the kingdom if he, say, murders). Likewise in the Acts 16 account. I have only argued that we see here a necessary proposition to be believed for salvation, not that Acts 16 contains all of them.

                      So, I do not think your response, true as it is, is responsive to the argument I’m giving. I think my minimal exegesis of Matt 19 is sufficient to show that it can’t be used as a defeater to my Acts 17 argument in the way you seem to mean it.

  • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

    I’m going to ask a theologically naive question because I honestly don’t know the answer. If it is generally agreed that Paul of Tarsus never met Jesus of Nazareth, what do Christians rely on to suggest that the Pauline Epistles are the inspired word of god?

    I could receive a revelation tonight with what I sincerely believe to be Jesus and thereafter write all sorts of gobbledygook. What do I have to do to get it included as a new book of the Bible?

    Just wondering.

    • PM

      TAM, most Christians believe that Paul met Jesus, thus he was qualified to be an apostle since that was part of the requirment.

      I believe special revelation is over, but even if it wasn’t, your new revelations would have to be consistent with prior revelation and carry other marks of divine revelation.

      • randal

        Let me expand on PM’s response. Paul defends his own apostleship in 1 Corinthians 15 when he notes that Christ appeared last of all to him. This appearance occurred to him on the Damascene Road (post resurrection). Paul clearly understood this to be an encounter with Jesus bodily distinct from a vision of Jesus such as was experienced by Stephen in Acts 7.

        Paul seems to believe that there were two conditions for apostleship as a formal office: (1) experience of the risen Christ; (2) special commissioning by Christ.

        In the midst of the discussion let’s not lose sight of the fact that Paul’s conversion represents one of the most extraordinary conversions in history. Even very skeptical NT scholars accept that Paul was initially a fierce opponent of the Nazarene movement and that something happened to convert him to the movement. It is also beyond reasonable doubt that he suffered greatly for his faith and was likely martyred under Nero.

        So what cause could be sufficient to persuade Paul of Jesus’ messiahship?

  • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

    Thank-you to PM and Randal for the explanations.

    Randal poses a question which I think has a fairly plausible answer: schizophrenia. Unlikely? Certainly no more unlikely than the physical resurrection of a decomposing corpse.

    The martyrdom argument gets you nowhere. The fact that people may be willing to die for the force of their convictions does not make those convictions true.

    One final question (if I may) – does anyone know the date of the earliest copy of the Epistle to the Romans that exists today? I don’t mean the consensus date among scholars as to when the Epistle was written (which seems to be somewhere in the 50s). I mean the date the earliest copy we have at present was likely written. If you could provide a cite, I would be most grateful. Thanks.

    • randal

      James, brother of Jesus, was also converted based on seeing the risen Christ. So were a host of others who were followers during the life of Jesus, believing that he would liberate them from the oppression of the Romans, only to see their messiah crucified like every other revolutionary.

      Mass schizophrenia?

      Concerning the text of Romans your question is ambiguous because textual critics refer to even a fragment of a completed work as a “manuscript” so you’d have to specify what you were concerned with: a complete copy or merely a manuscript. (Either way I don’t know.)

      Finally, I wonder why you’re concerned with Romans when 1 Corinthians is the relevant text for this discussion.

  • Walter

    I mentioned it in another blog post and I am going to mention it again: why should anyone consider Paul’s theological opinions to be the infallible, forever authoritative Word of God? Paul was a fallible human being who wrote his opinions on God and salvation. Sounds like the various feuding Christians here are hanging their hat on Pauline Infallibility. And each side believes the other is not properly exegeting the words of the Great Inerrant Paul.

    • Shawn

      Right with you Walter.

      Paul (if that’s who wrote the documents in question) could have made the whole thing up.

      From the context of what is known (from the written evidence) and alleged about his life, we know he was a missionary out to convert people to his new sect of Judaism (he didn’t call it Christianity, not did anyone at the time).

      It wouldn’t be the first time a new cult leader lied about his supernatural experiences, but we know this Paul is different, how?

      The earliest (actual) writings in existence concerning Jesus do not mention him as a God, as the Messiah, or resurrecting from the dead. This all got overlaid on him later (probably to be a more convincing sales proposition).

      One would do well to research the origins of these Christian writings from a historical and geopolitical perspective before blindly accepting their supernatural claims.

      But then again, the theists already KNOW they are literally and historically accurate, so why bother checking?

    • randal

      Some Christians take that view of course. I don’t. It isn’t quite that I affirm Pauline infallibility but rather that I affirm the infallibility of the sensus plenior of all the texts that were appropriated into the Christian canon of scripture.

      • Shawn

        And for the benefit of the readers who might now know, when (roughly) did that event (the texts that were appropriated into the Christian canon of scripture) occur, and who determined it?

  • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

    No, I don’t subscribe to the view that a mass hallucination occurred although there are precedents such as the apparitions at Lourdes. IMHO, we are treating these stories as historical records when there could have been all kinds of “editorial license” taken between the time the original records were written and the date of the oldest copies we have at present.

    Randal, have you read Edmund Standing’s essay “Against Mythicism: A Case for the Plausibility of a Historical Jesus”? If not, I’d be happy to email you a copy.

    • randal

      I welcome you to send it. hopefully I can read it soon too.

  • MGT2

    Rauser,

    The issue I have with this post is that you seem to have committed the same error as those you decry. Let me use the same term, TPVS. I can say with good support that this portion of scripture is not meant to be taken in exclusion of the total teaching of all scripture.
    Take proposition (3) Allah created God and God created Jesus. It is the clear teaching of scripture that there is no other God but God – never was and never will be. It is also clearly taught in the scriptures that Jesus is the Creator, being God. Additionally, scripture clearly teaches that Jesus is the alpha and omega and that there is salvation in none other. Thus, a true believer will never hold this proposition.

    Therefore, Romans 10:9-11 must be taken in light of what all of scripture teaches; it does not allow for the possibility of propositions (3) or (4).

    • randal

      MGT2,

      I have a specific focus in this post. I aim to critque the claim that there is some specific number of propositions a properly functioning adult of at least average intelligence must assent to in order to be saved by Jesus. I’m not denying that (3) and (4) are incompatible with all of scripture.

  • MGT2

    Rauser,

    I remember this discussion from a while back. I understood your point then to be that affirming the proposition with the expression “Jesus” (as being the Christ) was not necessary for salvation. Meaning that, pre-incarnation peoples, as well as those who have never heard the Gospel, would not be aware of these propositions. In a narrow sense I agree with you because the scripture declares that they will be judged by their response to the revelation they received, and all have received such revelation of God.

    What is not clear from what you post is whether you think that those we mentioned were, or can be saved apart from Christ. This is where I think there may be a misunderstanding of your post. This is where the objections are stemming from. Because the classical understanding is that whenever anyone (pre-incarnation peoples, as well as those who have never heard the Gospel) comes to faith in God, it is a tacit acceptance of Jesus the Christ who was “slain before the foundation of the world”. In that sense they are affirming Romans 10:9-11, even if they are not “aware” of it.

    Personally, I think you agree with the classic understanding.

    • randal

      MGT2, anyone who is saved is saved because of the grace of God as made manifest in the meritorious work of Christ.

      But what does this mean? “anyone (pre-incarnation peoples, as well as those who have never heard the Gospel) comes to faith in God, it is a tacit acceptance of Jesus the Christ who was “slain before the foundation of the world”.”

      More particularly, what do you mean by tacit acceptance? Do you mean a counterfactual willingness to believe the propositions in question had the person been granted the opportunity to do so? Or do you mean something else?

      • MGT2

        Rauser,

        I think that those mentioned who believe, would have understood and been open to God’s way of bringing salvation through Christ if they were presented with the propositions. Jesus declares that none can get to the Father except through him. So I believe that however and whenever God presents the opportunity for salvation, it is through Christ.

        The propositions as stated are simply artifacts of time (timing), but nonetheless present the way of salvation decreed before time.

  • Robert Fisher

    A lazy and sloppy analysis of a Biblical doctrine (what you call the TVPS).

    First off, methodology: if you were to analyze a view, why do such a slipshod job that only took one relevant verse into account? For instance John 3:18
    “he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

    You also tack on propositions (3) and (4) as if these did not contradict (1) Jesus is Lord, which they would if you were to do the proper exegetical work.
    Hence 1 and 2 are necessary for salvation, unless you feel obliged to redefine “Lord” in (1), which to be charitable, could be an oversight on your part, although a seminary prof should know better.

    As for those who are mentally unable to assent to 1 and 2, there is enough scriptural ambiguity (David’s relief after his first child died, Christ’s commendation of the faith of children) so we cannot say that we do not know how God will deal with such people when they die, although we have cause for hope. But there is no such hope given for people who have sinned and are capable of assenting to 1 and 2 but have not, whether or not they have heard the Gospel.

    Again, isn’t this effort a bit sloppy? Why bother addressing such an important issue at all if you don’t wish to do it properly?

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