Traditional church wisdom teaches an instantaneous salvation. Salvation is achieved in the “twinkling of an eye” at the instant one completes all the necessary requirements. Salvation is thus gained by doing what is necessary. To mask the obvious fact that one’s doing is the critical step in this process, preachers of this doctrine resort to ludicrous quibbles about the human part of it all being the mere acceptance of a “free” gift. A gift which, as typically taught, requires one to renounce many of his or her former life habits and to embrace a rigid church dogma is hardly free by any stretch of the imagination. To be required to make a complete transformation through concerted personal commitment and effort is akin to that of asking a smoker to quit cold turkey in order to win the lottery. One could call the offer a free gift, but that doesn’t make it so.
The concept of instantaneous change of status is a glaringly questionable aspect of conventional church soteriology. Sin is so obviously a problem of the mind and heart, which develops over time. Most, even those in the conventional church, see life as beginning in innocence. Some see the baby in the cradle as already sinful but not the majority. In fact, many assume “sinlessness” exists until some ill defined “age of accountability”. How could it be, that a problem which develops gradually can be solved instantaneously? If sin is the problem, why wouldn’t its solution involve a reversal of the process by which sin initiated?
The idea of instantaneous salvation leads to the tradition of the 20-30 minute “sermonette”, along with the endless “alter calls” and invitations to come forward and accept Jesus. The Truth to which Jesus referred is not so easily grasped and embraced as these preachers would have us believe. The Truth which sets one free is a counterintuitive Truth which requires personal reflection and contemplation before it can be transformative. Conventional church theology must reject a gradual salvation because it leaves the poor sinner vulnerable to Hell fire while he is mulling over the message. Thus, the church teaches the “quickie” version. It just suits the preconceived notions better and makes things a lot easier for the teacher.