Soteriology From The Tree You Eat From

Several things come together from various ends to suggest what we ought to think about belief as a means to salvation, from History and Philosophy and Psychology to scripture, culture, and language.

1) Pistis is faith.
2) Pistis is not belief (episteme).
3) No one can choose what to believe; what is believed is always what one thinks the case is.
4) All exceptions to 3 are when the case admittedly cannot be known and choice is of the “benefit of the doubt” variety and chosen — all such choices being by definition, dubious — because we must, given that
5) Belief is action, an attitudinal disposition toward some state of affairs.
6) There can be no evidence for deity, only abductive inferences about the world.
7) Logic doesn’t entail truth and its predicate, from premise to conclusion, is reasonableness.
8) Sound arguments for or against God are easy to make and are accepted outside of logical arguments.
9) God-talk cannot be about God since we have no frame of reference to conceive of God but the reality he transcends; all such talk is speculation and projection.
10) There is no moral compulsion in Christian life exclusive to the Christian that the rest of humanity lacks or disavows; in other words, there’s no reason to think choosing to believe something about God or Christ is at all necessary.
11) Belief (episteme) cannot be a requirement of atonement or any soteriology, given 9 and 10.
12) Belief (basic, persuasion, disposition) is a gift from God; this is pistis but it is not about beliefs (episteme) at all related to God in terms of soteriology.
13) Belief, pistis, is required for both atonement and salvation.

Explained, it is God’s active presence in the world (grace) that draws all humanity to himself; which is to say that God is the good, goodness. That draw is from our likeness to God, and resonance to it and with it is the persuation to act toward it (pistis). It’s not a matter of faith versus works. There’s nothing to believe in this sense and nothing to do.

Because of grace and because of faith, both of and from God to all humanity, we choose to act and we act freely. When we act toward the good we are transformed by the experience of enjoining it, and less so when we do not and by varying degrees. Atonement need no other sense to it than this, and indeed scripturally, there is no other statement about atonement that accounts for the point of existence, of choice, why judgement exists and why love stands as “that other tree” in the garden, and especially the idea that God is love and just.

Soteriology is left then, and to combine John’s gospel with Abelard: Jesus is the logos, hodos, alethea, and zoe. In plain English, Jesus is the way (hodos) God intended (logos) all humanity to be in the world (zoe), and Jesus is the truth (alethea) of what humanity is, its full revelation. Departure from Abelard is ontological however. Better behavior is not the end. A way to be, existentially, in the world is.

It seems that whether or not one even knows of Jesus the Nazarene or even has God in his mind at all, or even disbelieves there are deity or even denies deity exist, he may indeed be atoned and have salvation even still. To deny this is to suggest that God is not the good or that goodness is apart from God, it’s to deny that the goodness we find in all people is the result of God’s active presence in the world and, likewise to deny their actions toward the good are not a response to faith, a product of God’s grace, both gifts to all. To deny this is to deny the Holy Spirit too, which is the only sense in which God can be blasphemed. Affirming God is the good and to see the good in others but say these are not in God is to deny the obvious work of the Holy Spirit in their lives; blasphemy here is representing God as something he’s not.

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