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This question is about the liberal versions of Christianity, the versions which don’t have a conception of Hell. Put simply, without Hell, just what exactly is Jesus saving me from?

Even the most liberal Christians say that sin is inescapable. So Jesus cannot be saving me from sin. Without Hell, he can’t be saving me from God either. Or the Devil.

I really don’t see how a liberal Jesus could be anyone’s personal saviour.


Question inspired by Nathaniel in the comments at Slacktivist.

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    Are there really any Christians who don't believe Jesus saves us from hell or from sin? Matthew 1:21 is quite explicit that Jesus saves from sin. Looks like a straw man question to me, more designed to state an opinion than to ask a real question. But if there actually are such Christians, then maybe it's a real question. I'd suggest getting more specific about who actually believes this. And if nobody does, just delete the question. – Lee Woofenden Jul 9 '15 at 20:11
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    I don't know of any Christian group that says there is no "hell" of some kind. Perhaps you are thinking of the universalist kind, who say all people go to heaven, however, the devil and the demons do not. I think, as Lee suggests, this needs to be framed a bit better. Who specifically are you talking about? – 3961 Jul 10 '15 at 17:29
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    @TheFreemason Thanks for the link. The Wikipedia article doesn't discuss Unity's views on sin and hell. Are you aware of an article that does? And does Unity actually classify itself as a Christian denomination? – Lee Woofenden Jul 10 '15 at 17:46
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    I agree with Lee and Fred. Please demonstrate that this is a real belief so that it moves from a hypothetical question to a concretely answerable one. – Mr. Bultitude Jul 10 '15 at 18:21
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    @TRiG How do you define "Hell?" There are plenty of Christians who believe that Jesus saved us from Hell, but they probably would not define Hell as a metaphysical realm/afterlife of eternal suffering. – Ryan Jul 13 '15 at 5:38
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"Liberal Christianity" is a loosely defined and wide-ranging group, and there can be many approaches to salvation, but let me describe a commonly believed approach.

While we often use the word 'salvation' as if it was synonymous with 'rescue', in the original languages it doesn't really mean that in a simple way. The word has connections with both 'healing' and 'wholeness'. It would be as reasonable to say that "Jesus heals us" or "Jesus makes us whole" as to say "Jesus saves us". In fact many 'liberal' Christians are driven by a desire to get away from a 'caricatured' Christianity, in which Jesus' only reason for coming was to make sure that we don't go to Hell when we die, and our only purpose on Earth is to tell other people how they can avoid Hell.

Thoughtful evangelicals will usually admit that Jesus does more than just rescue us from Hell. He restores our relationship with God and with each other; he saves us from the guilt which our sins have brought us; he heals us in body and mind, from broken-ness brought on not just by our own sin, but by others and by the world around us; he restores creation to the state God intended; he gives us "life in abundance". All of those things can be done not just in the future, but here and now, and all fall under the category of 'healing' or 'wholeness', and therefore also of 'salvation'. And he does them personally for each one of us.

Those are the sort of thing you will hear if you talk to a 'liberal' Christian about a Jesus who saves.

  • This is a great answer : ) – Cannabijoy Jan 31 '17 at 14:43
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Without Hell, from what does Jesus save? Even the most liberal Christians say that sin is inescapable. So Jesus cannot be saving me from sin.

If one were to exclude consideration of the eternal state, faith in Jesus has other benefits.

  1. Knowledge of truth.

John 8:31-32 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

  1. Freedom from the compulsive power of sin.

Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

  1. An increase in the knowledge of the will of God.

Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

  1. A new mind.

Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

  1. The Holy Spirit as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 1:22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

  1. The ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

  1. Freedom from worldly entanglement.

1 John 2:15-16 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

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Correction – just because “even the most liberal Christians say that sin is inescapable,” that does not mean that Jesus cannot save people from sin, particularly the consequences of sin. Another flawed argument is the suggestion that if there is no Hell then Jesus can’t save people from God. Regardless of what people think hell might or might not be, every person will face the ultimate moment of truth when they come before a holy and righteous God and will be judged according to His standards, not ours. Just because people don’t like the idea of accountability doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law. That’s a hard, cold fact of life, and the principle holds true after death. Another misconception (held by some) is that the Devil is in charge of Hell – he is not. He does not hold the keys to it. The Devil and his cohorts will be thrown into the lake of burning sulphur where they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Rev. 20:10).

If the liberal version of Jesus is accurate (Jesus loves me and a loving God would never punish people for eternity) and if we are all going to get a second chance to be forgiven and to be saved, then why did Jesus come to earth and die that agonising death? Liberals who believe in annihilation, soul-sleep, second chances to be saved and universal salvation would like to do away with the concept of Hell (whatever that might be). They try to squeeze God into a box, to make Him conform to their own ideas and preferences. Yes, God loves us, but His holiness is such that He cannot live with evil:

“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13)

From what does Jesus save? Quite simply, Jesus saves us from the consequence of sin. The ultimate consequence of sin is death:

“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)

This not only refers to physical death, but to eternal separation from God:

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2)

This is the foremost consequence of man’s rebellion against God. As a direct result the unrepentant sinner forfeits the reward of eternal life:

“For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23)

Because we all sin, we all die. That is a hard, cold fact of life – death, the opposite of life. Since death is inevitable, and that is our expectation, if we simply cease to exist, if we are annihilated and that’s the eternal end of us, then why would we need saving? It would simply be a case of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Just make the most of this life because that is all the life there is. No judgment, no condemnation, no punishment, no hell – just nothing – oblivion.

But what if physical death is NOT the end of everything? What if, after the body dies, the soul or the spirit continues to exist and there is awareness? What if there are consequences to be faced up to after the death of the body? That would be a game-changer, a consideration that would focus the mind on the here-and-after instead of simply being content to consider the here-and-now. Let’s put it this way – the opposite of being saved is to be lost. And we’re talking about eternity. First, let’s consider the future of the lost. Some of the consequences to be faced up to after the body dies are mentioned in the Bible.

Jesus said “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24)

Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment – Hebrews 9:27

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13)

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction” (Galatians 6:8)

“Whoever believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18)

”Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36)

The consequence of sin is death, but “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The good news is that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That is the prospect for all who have repented from their sins and who have been forgiven (1 John 2:2). Ultimately, those who have been saved look forward to the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-26) and to eternal life (John 3:36). The opposite of being saved is to be lost. For those who are lost, and who have rejected Christ Jesus:

“Blackest darkness is reserved for them” (2 Peter 2:17).

That’s what Jesus saves us from. He returns to judge and rule the nations with an iron sceptre (Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). People can choose to ignore what Jesus and the Bible say about what happens after we die and the judgment to come, but I believe the Bible.

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I thought it was always apparent that Jesus was saving us from death. I'm formerly a strict Pentecostal, and even though I believed in Hell I still always thought it was meant to be presented this way.

Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.

John 8:51

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

Revelation 20:14

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 10:28

Honestly, believing in Hell just seems to complicate the matter; why does Jesus keep saying that only He can give you eternal life? How can you be conscious for all eternity, but not alive?

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. In particular, answers here must focus specifically on answering the question, from the requested perspective. Though your answer does start to answer the question, it then veers off into discussion, which isn't what this site is about. See: How we are different than other sites. Meanwhile, I hope you'll stick around and read some of the other questions and answers here. – Lee Woofenden Apr 15 '16 at 0:50
  • No, Christians still die. As your quotation from John indicates, there is a 'second death' - an eternal judgement - which is part of what Jesus saves us from. – EleventhDoctor Feb 2 '17 at 21:31
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To find the answer, we have to spread the net wider, broaden the context of the topic. All this while, we have understood the Gospel to mean good news for Jews, but now we should consider the possibility that it is good news to non believers too. A clue is found in Acts 17:18, where the presence of Stoics and Epicureans ignites the interest of Paul. We will come back to this to find out exactly how.

The common problem both theists and atheists, meaning all of mankind, face, is what to do with death, since their world view, no matter how grand, is reduced to nothing in the face of it. Theists are able to offer answers to what happens after death, generally that God, who they believe exist, will reward those who have lived righteously. The problem with this common view, which atheists are quick to point out, is that no existing view, until the Gospel was preached, offered evidence about the truth of the version of the view offered by each religion.

How could a person know for sure that a reward awaited the righteous? Most religions offered compelling explanations about the reasonableness of its view, but it all boiled down to faith, a hope that it was true, based on the truth in the explanations. Judaism based its confidence in the truth of the Bible based on the predictions that had been fulfilled about it, and the high percentage of the prayers that had been answered by its God, and above all, a set of teachings that all recognised as righteous:

Deuteronomy 4: 3You have witnessed what the Lord did at Baal Peor, how he eradicated from your midst everyone who followed Baal Peor. 4But you who remained faithful to the Lord your God are still alive to this very day, every one of you. 5Look! I have taught you statutes and ordinances just as the Lord my God told me to do, so that you might carry them out in the land you are about to enter and possess. 6So be sure to do them, because this will testify of your wise understanding to the people who will learn of all these statutes and say, “Indeed, this great nation is a very wise people.” 7In fact, what other great nation has a god so near to them like the Lord our God whenever we call on him? 8And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this whole law that I am about to share with you today? However, even Judaism could not prove that God existed and would reward the righteous, to the satisfaction of atheists. The Gospel, the good news proclaimed to Israel, with some nuances to its content (who were the children of Abraham?) announced that the children of Abraham would finally become blessings to the world, as promised, through showing the existence of God, AND His presence with His followers, thereby motivating them to also follow Him:

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Luke 7:22So he answered them, "Go tell John what you have seen and heard: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news proclaimed to them.

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Luke 11:14Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the man who had been mute began to speak, and the crowds were amazed. 15But some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons, he casts out demons.” 16Others, to test him, began asking for a sign from heaven. 17But Jesus, realizing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed, and a divided household falls. 18So if Satan too is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? I ask you this because you claim that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19Now if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you.

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John 3:1Now a certain man, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council, 2came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”

That is the claim of the Gospel, that those baptised in the name of Christ would receive the Holy Spirit and fire, evidence of God’s presence (Emmanuel, God with us) and clear understanding of Scripture, God’s requirements from His followers.

They would be manifesting great works and revealing wisdom from God, like Moses, and motivating people, like the children of Israel in Egypt and Rahab in Jericho, to come out of darkness, leave serving mammon for self interest, to serve God, by living selflessly.

Exodus 4:1Moses answered again, “And if they do not believe me or pay attention to me, but say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you’?” 2The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3The Lord said, “Throw it to the ground.” So he threw it to the ground, and it became a snake, and Moses ran from it. 4But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and grab it by the tail” – so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand – 5“that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you”.

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Exodus 8:18When the magicians attempted to bring forth gnats by their secret arts, they could not. So there were gnats on people and on animals. 19The magicians said to Pharaoh, “It is the finger of God!” But Pharaoh’s heart remained hard, and he did not listen to them, just as the Lord had predicted.

How did this view affect non-believers like the Epicureans? These last believed God created the world, but abandoned it, a view called Deism. He never answered prayers, He was not interested in giving substance to human existence. It was left to humans to create their own purpose in life, and for Epicureans, it meant doing acts that had been carefully thought out to provide meaning and joy. Epicureus recorded that when he went through difficult periods, even when dying painfully from stones blocking his urinary tract, memories of those events sustained him, gave him relief from the suffering. So the Gospel has a universal appeal, and not just to Jews. When the Epicureans heard that God did have the interests of His creation in His heart, they were open to hear more:

Acts 17:32Now when they heard about the resurrection from the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33So Paul left the Areopagus. 34But some people joined him and believed. Among them were Dionysius, who was a member of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

To summarise, Jesus saves from not having a hope:

Ephesians 2:Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh – who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands – 12that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, 15when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, 16and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, 18so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The hope being supported by evidence:

Galatians 3:14in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.

All Scripture from the NETBible.

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