Why I Gave Back My Assurance of Salvation
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.