Reasons to Believe

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

Snow White seems to be Hollywood’s fantasy heroine of choice this year. Last Friday (June 1) brought Snow White and the Huntsman, the second Snow White film of 2012, to theatres. As a fan of Walt Disney’s version of this fairytale princess, I’m looking forward to seeing Snow White and the Huntsman at the movies. The film’s extended trailer reveals a unique and grim twist on the old fable.

Rather than wishing simply to be “fairest of them all,” the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) must consume her beautiful stepdaughter’s beating heart in order to achieve immortality. It seems Ravenna craves not just beauty, but also the ability to cheat death. Like other villains of her ilk (Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort comes to mind), the corrupt queen turns to black magic to manipulate and defy nature.

Yet fear of death haunts all of humanity, not just fictional villains. Many of us wonder, “What will happen after I die?” Myriad attempts to answer this question exist in the marketplace of ideas. In his newest book, 7 Truths That Changed the World, RTB philosopher/theologian Kenneth Samples discusses various views of the “afterlife.”

  • Naturalism: “The grave is the final end of each person’s collective life, existence, and consciousness. After death a person will never think again. Never experience again. Never love again. Only oblivion awaits. And nothing more.” (p. 16)
  • Islam: “Muslims believe that paradise is a just reward and hell is a rightful punishment....A Muslim’s destiny hinges on the preponderance of his actions as measured on a scale. Generally speaking, Muslims have no assurance that they will earn paradise, but this dilemma is often understood as an incentive to strive for greater submission to Allah’s requirements.” (p. 135)
  • Man-on-the-street spirituality: “The typical person on the street apparently thinks that while most people are not as kind and compassionate as Mother Teresa, they clearly are not as evil as Saddam Hussein. Therefore, the vast majority of people in the moral middle will get a passing score on God’s graded curve.” (p. 136)
  • Christianity: “According to historic Christianity, in the eyes of God no one is or becomes morally acceptable by his or her own merit....salvation is not achieved through human moral merit; rather, salvation is the free gift of a loving and forgiving God that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.” (p. 136)

Ken classifies the biblical view of salvation as Christianity’s fifth dangerous idea because it is so unusual compared to other views. Unlike naturalism, Christ’s sacrifice offers hope and a destiny beyond this life. Unlike the Islamic hope of paradise, biblical salvation is a guarantee, not an uncertainty. In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul triumphantly declares:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of Godthat is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And unlike the popular grading curve idea, Christian Scripture declares that no one can earn God’s grace and, thus, entrance into heaven. Like the traditional Snow White, we need a Prince to rescue us; we cannot do it ourselves. Yet many despise this version of salvation and accuse the biblical God of being unfair.

But, in truth, God is more than fair in His offer of salvation—He is overwhelmingly merciful and generous. He did not have to offer it, yet He did and at an enormous price—His Son’s life. He does not arbitrarily change the rules or “play favorites” based on a person’s background (think of the repentant thief crucified with Christ). He extends the offer to everyone equally, whether they accept it as children or on their deathbed (Matthew 20:1–16).

— Maureen

Resources: For more on salvation by grace, check out these RTB web resources.

Scholar articles:

Straight Thinking podcasts:

Take Two posts:

Subjects: Heaven and Hell, Salvation