Is sincerity in belief enough to be saved?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: Please analyze and respond to the following statement, "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere."

Answer: I’d be pleased to share a few insights on the sincerity issue. The notion of sincerity-as-the-measure-of-all-things is amusing on some levels… and tragic on others. But either way, there are logical limits to the sincerity issue, and the main one is as follows.

Believing with all your heart, your mind, and your soul, believing in perfect purity and with no false motives, believing with constant and abiding faith and believing with great energy — all these together, forever, and for all eternity — can never make a false thing true. One might then ask, what would be the harm in believing in something sincerely for sincerity's sake? The harm comes on many levels.

Hitler believed that exterminating the Jews while he advanced his (and other similar) race(s) would lift humanity to its rightful heights. Centuries earlier many ancient Eastern people believed with all their hearts that they should toss their living trusting babies into an iron furnace because this sacrifice to the god Molech was entirely appropriate. Now, note that both Hitler and the baby-burners were very sincere. They didn’t just talk-it-up; they killed with determined energy! And that proves sincerity beyond mere words. In fact, I judge that these were sincerities of the highest order. But most sane people would never condone such atrocities, so most sane people would not be congruent while stating that the sincerity of a belief is the absolute qualifier for acceptability. Nor could that measure be of paramount importance when deciding on behaviors.

God put within us all a sense of what is right and what is wrong. Only a defective mind, an extraordinarily calloused soul, or a demon-possessed person could sincerely believe that such a horror as the torture of babies is an appropriate way to advance our culture. So, should we give people who believe such things in pure sincerity an equal seat at the table — that place where we, as humankind, decide which are acceptable behaviors? I say no, but we do quite a bit.

If all our decisions had such horrid-and-in-your-face results, our task would be easier, but we live, not so much in the black-and-white as in the gray areas. Most parents would never kill their children, but what about the sincere belief that stuffing a child with junk food will cause him no harm? How about perpetuating the Santa Claus myth? How about condoning abhorrent lifestyles by letting him watch endless TV? These issues are not so comfortable to manage, so we manage them by not managing — that is, by tolerating certain behaviors. Life is hard enough without jumping on every substandard activity. We need room to live. But here’s the rub. Teaching tolerance, whether directly or behaviorally, will always pull our ambient morality downward. When we tolerate or ignore wrongness, that shall always pull the middle of generally-accepted behaviors away from godliness, and godliness is the gold-standard for sensible living.

Jesus was crucified in no small part because he refused to tolerate wrong things. He frequently confronted the religionists of his day who were parading around as God's standard-bearers, thinking for sure that they had all the answers. One might argue for them, what is the harm in a religious sect acting congruently? The harm is that Jesus said that such behavior was wrong and that it was sending them and others in their circle of influence, to hell.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
(Matthew 23:15, ESV).

Frankly, we need no further input than answering the question, what would Jesus do? I realize that this phrase might be a little overworked in the popular Christian culture, but it is, none the less, always the appropriate question. Jesus did not always tolerate — nor did he pussyfoot around — the sincerely held beliefs that were sending people to hell. You see, he loved. He did not tolerate. He spoke the truth as the Truth. This is love, whereas tolerance is... well... tolerance. And if you still think that tolerance is a high value, tell your spouse, "I tolerate you!" and see how that works out. We, too, should speak the truth in Jesus' name, never grinding our own axes but always be grinding his.

All persons, whether Christians or not, should teach their children rightly what to tolerate and what not to tolerate, since tolerating everything for tolerance's sake is absurd — and such an all-encompassing definition puts an unnecessary burden upon the notion of tolerance itself. For instance, I know of very few parents who would tolerate having a child molester as a teachers-aide at their local school. Should they be rebuffed for such intolerance? Hardly. There is no necessity, therefore, to give the credence of tolerance to every non-truth just because some people sincerely believe it to be true.

The world can say (and all day long) that any sincerely held philosophical belief will get you to God, and that all such “ways” stand together in parity and compatibility on some level — and that all we have to do is to let others be, and we’ll all find God (or whatever). They can talk all day, but such talk makes nothing true. Jesus, by his own lips, tells us, not only that he is the way, but that any others who say that they also are the way are thieves and robbers!

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.”
(John 10:1–2, ESV).

Today I give you the truth as best as I can tell it. But do not blame the Christian. Blame the Christ.

His way is singular — and it cannot, by the constraints of simple logic, coexist with any way that has as its foundational statement “All sincerely believed ‘ways’ are equally valid.” That "sells" pretty well in the world of the lost—I mean, it sounds so huggy and inclusive. But biblical Christianity is exclusive. Although God offers salvation to all (For God so loved the world... ), he'll not overthrow the free-will of any persons who choose to exclude themselves from that benefit. Christianity is not complex. It is a yes or no proposition. People are free to choose heaven or hell, but they are not free to change the rules of mutual exclusivity. It is nonsensical to insist that a system which says of itself, "I cannot coexist as true with any other system," must — by the imagined constraints of tolerance — be forced to coexist as true with any competing systems that are also true. Either Christianity is true or another way is true. They cannot both be true.

In all this I am not saying that all sincerely held religious beliefs will damage every culture, every time — for some are clearly kinder to humanity than others. What I am saying is that sincerely believing in wrong things is not a God-approved method of coming to him, that the Bible nowhere teaches that we should tolerate wrongness, and that simple logic will not allow the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ to coexist as truth with any competing notions... even if we hold our breath and wish very hard.

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