Question: If you are a Baptist, how do you ensure God’s election of you into his eternal love and heaven?
Answer: Baptists tend to think that you have to say a sincere, and I would say magical, prayer with the right beliefs in it. This prayer is in response to the Holy Spirit’s inner working, and is evidence of God grace. And if you do it right, it guarantees God’s love, and removes his judgment: “Once saved, always saved.”
Thus a moment of decision in the right frame of mind is important to Baptists.
But I don’t think it is.
If God exists, God is going to do with us whatever (s)he is going to do. No amount of magical posturing is going to change that. The right belief, right prayer, right living memes that have a hold of so many religious imaginations are just ways for reducing anxiety. They don’t really change what God will do with you. They offer the illusion of control.
At least that is my belief. I’m an agnostic. And I think that the all-powerful God (if God exists) is love.
Why I believe such a thing about God is no more grounded in evidence than a Baptist’s belief about God (or any other religionist with a formula for salvation). So we’re kind of stuck: do you believe that the all-powerful God is ultimately loving or ultimately judgmental? To which kind of God, in other words, do you direct your final act of faith?
And so people who are atheist or agnostic (like me) have a faith insurance policy as well: deep down inside of us we tend to think that if we’ve been wrong to treat religious claims skeptically, and God in fact exists, that God still loves us, and loves you too: “Never really lost, always saved.” This may be foolish, but it is a faith exactly like the religionist’s own—one on which evidence is lacking but that confidence intuitively adheres. And maybe atheists and agnostics, by clinging to this confidence, are actually in touch with what is, in fact, the true inner voice of God in the human soul.
Or maybe not.
But wouldn’t it be ironic if the least religious among us were more in touch with the heart of God than those professing religion? Perhaps it is the atheist and agnostic who, deep down, trust God the most.
The first shall be last?