The understanding of how people are saved and go to heaven was turned into gobbledygook at the Council of Nicea, where God was first divided into three Persons.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with early Christian history, let give you some of the background that led the Church to make decisions that rendered the process of salvation unintelligible.
A man by the name of Arius was challenging the Church’s claim that Jesus was divine, and insisted that the Lord was inferior to the transcendent Father. To stop this new, heretical movement from growing, a synod of bishops got together in the year 325 in the town of Nicaea to mount a counter attack. These bishops were faced with the complicated task of explaining their affirmation of one God, but consisting of three distinct Persons.
The bishops invented new, high-sounding words (not found in Scripture) to explain their Trinitarian doctrine in a way that would preserve the Lord’s divinity, such as “hypostatic” union, which allowed the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be distinct, yet be of one personal divine substance.
According to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, while the bishops endeavored to escape a wolf, they “ran into a Lion.” Now, the dynamics of salvation had to be described by giving each distinct God a special duty. If each divine Personage requires the help of the other in saving humankind, then they cannot – by any stretch of the imagination – represent the fullness and perfection of the Godhead individually. There is also a problem of logically explaining how the Son was begotten from the Father when each existed from eternity (begotten suggests a sequence in time). But don’t worry – we can simply say that such illogicality is a great and beautiful “mystery” of faith. Things do not get any better when the different duties belonging to each particular God are seriously explored.
First, God the Father is pissed-off with humans. So the Father sends the Son (who apparently had nothing of value to do up to this time) to be slaughtered on the cross and take upon himself the sins of the world. The Lord defeats death and emerges in righteousness. But this victory over sin (through bloodletting) has no direct benefit to us. The Lord’s merit and righteousness is merely transferred to a divine “credit card.” The Father does not impute this merit and righteousness of His Son (the Redeemer?), until those who by grace, obtain faith. Then the Father sends the Holy Spirit to use His divine credit so as to actually implement salvation for those who have the proper faith.
This is redemption. It is given to only the elect.
There are two big problems here. First, God cannot be seen as having Infinite love and mercy for all people – only for a select few. He hates some and accepts others (the Son and Holy Ghost simply follow orders from the Father). Second, we have absolutely no say in the process.
As a result of this spiritual “limbo,” we are put in a schizophrenic state of panic in which we try to acquire the proper FAITH. We rush to church, take part in its rites, listen to sermons, then cross our fingers (because the final outcome is still up to the judgment of the Father).
The strength of one’s faith is in the strength of one’s belief that the Lord is our Savior and Redeemer through His vicarious death on the Cross. We must believe, believe, and believe – until our eyes pop out of our sockets. And, during all this believing, we should overlook our transgressions, since we wouldn’t dare take merit for becoming a better Christian and person.
This dismissal of personal responsibility in matters of salvation is why some church leaders believe that Christians are above the Law (God’s Commandments), since through the crucifixion we now need only approach Christ. Yet even Christ states that we should approach the Father when He taught us the LORD’S PRAYER. The whole thing is a mess!
But change is coming. The New Jerusalem will usher in a more adequate theology for today’s world. In fact, it is yours for the taking.