JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Eternal salvation

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My post on Tim Tebow got me thinking a bit about the talk of “eternal salvation.” It is repeated quite often—”the only way to eternal salvation is through Jesus” and “one day, because so-and-so has Jesus in his heart, he will walk with the lord.” Believe me, I wish I felt for certain that one day I’d be walking with the lord, because it sounds a heckuva lot better than rotting in my casket (or, if my wishes are followed, being turned into ashes, then dumped over Lake Mahopac for thousands of local swimmers to drink).

Maybe someone can explain this to me: Why reference “eternal salvation” at all? Doesn’t it muddy the motivational waters in a major way? In other words, how do we know whether a religious person is doing something because it’s the right thing to do, or whether he/she merely wants to one day float on a cloud with James Dean, Tupac, the second drummer from Kiss and Great-Great-Great Grandma Bessie? And shouldn’t eternal salvation be, if anything, a reward—not a dangling carrot?

I know people will say, “Eternal salvation isn’t used that way” or “It barely comes up, if you read the Scriptures,” but, well, that’s not true. And while I’m far from a page-by-page Biblical scholar, I am a student of AM Christian radio, and have heard heaven used as a bargaining chip, literally, hundreds upon hundreds of times.

We agnostic reformed Jews have flaws (the food sucks), but we never, ever, ever talk about heaven. If an agnostic reformed Jew is giving a homeless guy a hamburger, it’s because the man looks hungry.