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Home > 2014 > September Online Only > Why I Gave Back My Assurance of Salvation

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I think this is a very human tendency: to see the formula of faith through me-colored glasses. As a result, my tendency was (and is) to cast spiritual doubt toward anyone that is not like me. My particular culture, tradition, economic values get woven into the assurance formula. Where does that leave the people who are not like me?

Now, there are people all over the world who are nothing like me. My buddy Josh and I were talking a few years ago about this. We were both learning from organizations like The Sold Project and Slavery Footprint about slavery around the world. I remember that I said to Josh:

"There is possibly no one more different than me than a little girl in Southeast Asia, whose family is so poor that they concluded that selling their daughter was their only course of action … and in the hands of her 'owners', that little girl is isolated from education, religious institutions, nurturing adults, resources for basic personal health … she may live her short life in a semi-conscious state (drugged up by her 'owners') and then sold multiple times a day as an erotic toy for grown men to play with."

Now, Josh, if the formula of faith adds up to someone like me, what possible hope does that little girl have? I am quite confident that that little girl does not and most likely will never have access to most of the things that my religious training most values … the sort of things that lead to an "assurance of salvation."

What is the hope for her? What is her hope if the formula adds up to look like me?"

I want to have hope for that little girl.

As a result, I have decided to give back my assurance of salvation—or at least to give back the formula. I cannot trust myself to conceive of it in any non-self-serving manner. Maybe it is just me, but I am blinded by self-preservation.

If I am sitting at the poker table of eternity, I am putting all my chips on this: "In the end, God will be just. He will be just to me and he will be just to her. Come what may."

No more formula that adds up to me being 100% sure. I realize that this means that I may find myself on the outside of the eternal blessing, but if there is hope for my neighbor on the other side of the world or the person very different than me, then there will also be hope for me. Hope in a just God.

Does this mean that I have rejected God or divine love? No. I actually believe that my confidence in God is even higher. Does this mean that my personal desire for God, the fulfillment of God's kingdom or my hope of heaven has waned? Nope. I want all those things in a very deep and penetrating way.

I guess you could say that I am putting my hope in a person, not in a formula.

I was sitting in a classroom 20 years ago, listening to a wise professor from a most famous and most conservative theological seminary. I remember that I was sitting in the third row, center in the tiered college lecture hall.

From the podium at the hall's front, the professor looked across the packed room, his eyes following the room's length and back again. Then he said,

"There are only three things that I am sure of, in regards to heaven:

First, I am sure that I will be surprised who is there.
Second, I am sure that I will be surprised who is not there …"

(And he paused to insure that all were listening)

"And third, I know that I will be surprised if I am there."

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Tony Kriz is a writer and church leader from Portland, Oregon, and Author in Residence at Warner Pacific College.

Related Topics:EvangelismGospelKingdom of GodMissionSalvation
Posted: September 1, 2014

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Displaying 2–6 of 6 comments

Tony Kriz

September 08, 2014  7:13pm

Tim, I like your addition to the deeper idea I was trying to illumine through this article. Thank you for taking the time to share it. I DO agree with you. The problem is that I have been taught to so prefer one side of the false dichotomy over the other (mercy over justice, grace over judgment, love over wrath) that I think I need to steep longer in the quickly dismissed side of those pairings before I can truly conflate them fairly. I hope that makes sense. Blessings, -tony

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Tim S

September 07, 2014  4:56pm

Hi Tony; you raise some important points in this article, as usual; and I love the heart of it. I think you're right in calling us all out on being too sure of ourselves and being too formulaic. But I also think we in the church, particularly in conservative evangelicalism have a tendency to make the mistake of separating out God's mercy and justice and play one against the other (Just like we have a tendency to do with mercy and judgment, love and wrath). I'd like to humbly submit that they are one. I think we all have a tendency to forget that God is not divided against himself. If God IS love, then everything flows from that and is included in that. I think we have (traditionally) horribly misunderstood the nature and purpose of God's judgment and justice, and turned them into something negative.

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Tony Kriz

September 04, 2014  6:28pm

James Boston, thank you for your important addition/critique of my article. I am really glad that you wrote it because... I was haunted by the same question during the writing. Several times I battled with myself as to whether I should, at least, include "mercy" within the dialogue. I ultimately chose not to. Growing up in Christendom (particularly conservative evangelicalism), I was taught that a focus on "justice" was the "liberal agenda" (social justice gospel). Therefore, I learned to quickly skip over placing hope in God's justice into redirecting that hope to "mercy." James, I agree with you, it is also about mercy... but maybe we need to marinate further in our hope in justice. I am learning to believe that God is purposed to "do justly" just as much as to "love mercy" (Micah 6:8). -tony

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James Boston

September 03, 2014  2:17am

Salvation is not earned by declarations of faith. Catholic kids used to fear hell for sinning. Baptist kids used to fear hell for not having made a real enough profession of faith. Both groups tried to be good, plus the RC kids went to confession more and the Baptist kids got rebaptized as they felt the need. Happily, most went on to place their faith, not on their own faith, but on Christ's love and the Father's mercy. That seems to be the experience of Tony Kriz. I am happy for him. I would suggest that placing one's trust in God justice may not be as Biblical as placing it in God's mercy. Justice has its place, but my prayer is, "May God have mercy on us all."

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Josh

September 02, 2014  8:01am

Hi Tony, I honestly feel as if you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater here. I don’t see how being clear about the promises of the gospel or having appropriate confidence in it’s power to save all comers amounts to rejecting others who are not like us. Like you I believe that Christ can save all kinds of people. Yet, I think you’re exchanging this precious truth for a lack of clarity in the gospel itself. In reading what you've said here and elsewhere, you seem keen on arguing that we can never define anything for fear of alienating some. Yet, I submit that if we sacrifice truth on the altar of love, we lose both the gospel and genuine love. Pitting Jesus the person against warranted clarity on ultimate realities is misguided and dangerous. Humility and love are paramount, and life is full of mystery, but this doesn't mean seeking to remove every possible distinction. The gospel crosses all boundaries but it has a definite shape. Just ask the Galatians. Blessings, brother.

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