Last weekend I witnessed another example of why evangelical Christianity always left me bewildered and uncertain. The referenced occasion involved a sermon on the subject of the "Assurances and Security of the Believer".
As a young man, attempting to adhere to the precepts of my inherited Baptist faith, this subject was near and dear to my anxious heart. In those impressionable years, I constantly worried about my salvation, wondering if my faith was sufficient and troubled by what I perceived to be an inadequate life transformation. I couldn't seem to muster the religious zeal to experience the inner peace which I had been taught should result from a true salvation experience. I agonized and waivered, constantly begging God to assure me of my acceptance.
Now when I hear sermons today on the subject of the believers security I can just imagine the thoughts that go through the minds and hearts of those listening. Invariably, as a part of these lessons, the speaker will allude to the evidence which should be visible in the life of the believer and point to this as the proof that a true salvation experience has been achieved. Even those who hold to the doctrine of eternal security, i.e. the true believer can never lose his or her salvation, most often clarify that belief by suggesting that some if not many who fill the church rolls are not real Christians because they fail to demonstrate the proper attitude, religious enthusiasm, and piety which should follow a true conversion. The very real message in saying this is that church members can easily be mistaken about their salvation.
The irony in these "security" lessons should be obvious. Under the subject of security the preacher invariably enhances insecurity in the believers. In the incident to which I specifically refer, I witnessed several church members in obvious agony, wondering if they were saved or sure that they were not and needing to quickly do something.
This is the ever present conundrum of salvation by right doctrine and right doing. There will never be any security in that. The suggestion of any assurance of salvation is a chimera as long as I must serve as the final weak link in the salvation process. Of course, I am not the only weak link in that process. The church messenger is a weak one also. In fact, the church taught plan of salvation starts off with two great links, God and Christ, but then it ultimately depends on me and the preacher. If a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, we know what kind of chain this turns out to be.
As I left the church, having experienced again the evangelical concept of salvation and the associated security, I wondered what the real purpose of the preacher was. Did he want to assure people that they were saved or convince them that they were not, so they could do something about it. One can assume that He wanted to do both, depending on where the hearer was, saved or unsaved. That may sound noble and possible, but in reality by introducing all those nebulous measures of achieved salvation into the subject of security, I can only believe that many more people came to doubt their security than were convinced of it.
As I have noted before my salvation can only be as secure as the process by which it is achieved will allow. As long as people are taught that they can believe they are saved when they are not, that they can be faithful church members for years and still be rejected by God, how in the world could anyone feel safe? It's not going to happen.
Just one last thought on this subject. What does it say about our God ordained instructors if they have to tell us that under their tutelage we can remain in such a state of ignorance that we sincerely believe we are saved but in reality are not? I would have to wonder why we need instructors who can't instruct any better than that.