Six Investigative Questions
Like an investigative reporter, I needed to ask six questions to myself about the topic of salvation: why, when, where, what, how and who?
- Why should I worry about salvation? Why is it important?
- When and where does salvation begin? Here and now, or there and then? Does heaven begin on earth?
- What is salvation? Just eternal fire insurance? Does it include sanctification or just justification? Good works are just faith? Is it a new reality in us or just a new relationship with God?
- Most important of all, how are we saved? ( This question is not the difficult, technical and speculative question of how the atonement works, how God manages the spiritual technology, so to speak. That is a question of theology, not apologetics. The hard question for apologetics is the apparent arbitrariness, narrowness and even what seems the injustice of the only way to heaven doctrine.)
- The how question turns into the who question: is Jesus the only Savior? If so, does that mean that no non-Christians can be saved? ( The “who” question is thus two questions: Who saves? And, who is saved?)
The Importance of the Question
One of the most unforgettable bishops in New York’s history electrified the large audience in the Bronx at his inaugural speech early in the 20th century. He had been preceded by a typical “brick-and-mortar” administrator, fundraiser, organizer and nice guy. But the new Bishop announced, ” I am here for one reason and one reason only. Everything I do for you will have one single aim: to save your soul.” Unfortunately, most of the people had never heard anyone say that before.
The only justification for every dollar raised, every Bible or hymnbook ever printed, every speck of dust swept up from under every pew is salvation. That is the business the Church is in. The Church’s main mission and sole purpose is salvation.
But the Church also seems to be in the social service business, the counseling business, the fund-raising business, the daycare business and dozens of the same worldly businesses the secular world is also in. Why? What justifies these things? The Church’s ultimate end of all these things is different from the worlds and; it is salvation. This is her distinctive and unique “product”.
Why put on a product that is just the same as other companies, products already on the market? Why would anyone expect such a product to sell? That’s why the modernists and liberals within the Church that offer the same products that the secular world also offers, is simply not selling. The only reason for any of the Church’s activities, the only reason for the very existence of the Church at all, is exactly the same as the reason Jesus came to earth: to save lost humanity from sin and eternal death. The Church, after all, is in the same business as her Head. When the body runs in a different direction from its head, it is like a chicken with its head cut off: it goes nowhere and quickly dies. Parishes are closing, Catholic schools are closing, church attendance is at an all-time low, Catholic weddings are at an all-time low, baptisms are at an all-time low. The only items on the rise are divorce and people leaving the church. This is because the modernist and liberals within the church are selling products that the secular world also sells, therefore the customers can get better deals with other companies.
Jesus did not come to be a philosopher or a doctor. He did not come to eliminate poverty or bring social justice. If his mission was to eliminate poverty and bring social justice than he failed miserably. It is true that Jesus healed some people but he left most of the world just as sick as he found it. He healed some bodies to show that he could heal all souls.
Not only is salvation the sole reason for the Church’s existence; it is also the ultimate reason for your existence: your end, goal, point, purpose, hope, final cause, summum bonum, meaning. The difference between success and failure at life’s first task – becoming who you are meant to be – is not the difference between riches and poverty, fame and obscurity, health and sickness, pleasure and pain, even niceness and nastiness, but between salvation and damnation. Leon Bloy wrote, “there is only one tragedy in life in and will and will: not to have been a saint.” Jesus said, “What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” No one in history ever asked a more practical question than that one. In other words, don’t get all A’s but flunk life.
This is why ordinary people, as distinct from scholars and professors, always ask questions about salvation whenever they think about religion. And that’s why apologetics must address this topic: it’s what religion is for.
Literally everything is at stake here, and I mean everything. It’s a matter of eternal life or death. How could anyone who is sane rank any question before this question “What must I do to be saved?” This is by far the most important question ever asked in the history of humanity. Salvation was the reason for the Incarnation, the reason Jesus came an infinite distance, from heaven to earth, and even to hell, from the highest life to the lowest death. It was the very reason for your conception, the end God had in view from the beginning. It was the reason for the very creation of the universe. The galaxies.
Life is a play, and God was setting up the stage and the scenery for billions of years before arranging for the players to enter it. The point and consumption of His play is Salvation.
To be continued in Part 2 “The When and Where of Salvation”