Five years ago, I wrote a quick article on questions that Christians do not like to answer. Recently, there’s been some controversy/ buzz about the first question I posed in that article. Here’s the question:
If the earliest Christians within the first two centuries after Jesus did not need a New Testament to qualify their faith, why do modern Christians have such a need? If they did not sanction or consider any other writing beside the Old Testament to be scripture, then isn’t it a digression from the ‘true faith‘ of the earliest believers to incorporate something new as scripture? The first New Testament was codified and canonized by the heretic Marcion who believed that the Jewish YHWH was not the true God, the first time the largest Christian Church sanctioned a New Testament was during the Synod of Hippo in 393 CE, some 360+ years after Jesus.
One of the more telling issues with the questioned posed above is that those who have responded to it believe that the question was tricky to answer. I agree it is tricky to answer, that’s the very reason I asked it in the first place! I therefore, don’t find that description of the question to be a problem, it’s more an affirmation that I framed the question properly in the first place. I’m essentially asking one question:
Is the New Testament required to be believed in for salvation in Christianity?
In other words, can someone be a believing Christian without having need for, or being dependent on the New Testament? Can someone reject it and yet, still be saved? This is effectively how the earliest Christians lived, without a New Testament. Some have tried to respond with the following passages:
- “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15)
- “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31)
These verses do not answer my question. What these verses teach is that you should believe in the good news, but it does not require belief in this or that or any other Gospel. The authors of Mark, over its centuries of development, never emended the text to say, “repent and believe in this gospel,” there’s a reason for that, the verse is conveying the point that it’s good to believe in what Jesus brought, i.e. his message, not the documents written by people decades later who never knew him. Rather, what is emphasized for belief is in him, Jesus, not any written work by any man. That’s the point I’m trying to make here. There is no requirement to believe in the New Testament as God’s inspired revelation to be saved in Christianity. Consider for a moment, this very important passage:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV).
It’s useful for lots of things, except for salvation. This passage does not state that belief in scripture is a requirement to be saved. Scripture is useful for many things, but it’s not a requirement. It’s like the difference between having an umbrella in the rain and not having one. Sure, the umbrella is useful and it is good for many things when it’s raining, but it’s not a necessity or requirement for when you’re going into the outside world. This is the distinction between something’s usefulness and it’s necessity, one is clearly not the other.
So then, the question begs itself, doesn’t it? Do you require the canonized and codified New Testament, to be believed in, as a requirement for your salvation in Christianity? The earliest Christians did not seem to think so, so why do you?
and God knows best.