I know the topic of salvation raises concern like no other because it hits at something foundational to our Christian faith and what we believe gives us a right to call ourselves Children of God.
Recently someone I only slightly knew from my old neighborhood growing up but with whom I’ve come to admire and respect after connecting on FB wrote this on my blog after reading my blog post on Salvation by Being Good:
James chapter three advises that “not many of you should become teachers..” To be certain of your findings is worrisome. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3
But here’s the thing. We have to consider that it’s quite possible, or even quite likely, that for the last 2000 years Christian thought has progressed to a point where any true representation of God as a God who loves his children enough to overlook their sins without them even asking – like most any father does with his children – seems “too good to be true”, because we have been so accustomed to accepting a belief about God that makes him to not have even as much grace and compassion as your typical human father?
We must consider that when Paul warned his audience about having itching ears that that sword cuts in both directions. That is, it’s been the dark side of human nature that actually WANTS to believe we are OK with God because of our Christian belief while those who don’t agree are on God’s bad side. Can you see a human tendency toward elitism or favoratism? And it is exactly THAT tendency that James is addressing by warning about those who gather the masses by giving them what they want to hear, rather than a message that says “God is better than human fathers”? I contend that those masses with itching ears are the ones who go to church to hear their pastor tell them of all the benefits they have as believers in Christ, and how they need to get the word out to others who aren’t members of this exclusive tribe we call Christianity.
I wonder if it’s even possible to preach the love of God without being accused of pandering to itching ears. The bar of the nature of God has been set so low – in no small part to the influence of Calvinism – that it takes only a small portion of belief that God loves this human race to be over the top.