I'm writing a script adaptation of Pilgrim's Progress for our middle/high school homeschoolers to perform in March, and we're in the middle of registering kids for the program. A friend of mine, whose daughter is a natural ham (I wrote a couple parts in the script with her in mind), told me that they won't be participating because their family has doctrinal issues with the book.
Well, for Pete's sake.
Call me stupid, but it really never occurred to me that anyone in our Christian homeschooling group would have issues with the content of Pilgrim's Progress. Kim, my beloved producer, enlightened me a bit; she said that some people may read it as Christian (the main character) earning his way into the Celestial City (heaven) with his good works. That's not how I read it. And that's not how I intend my adaptation to be understood. I'm going to go back now and re-read what I wrote to be sure I'm clear on this point -- because it's entirely possible that John Bunyan had some Arminian-extremist leanings that got past me. (theopedia.com -- look it up)
But getting past the theological discussion this prompts . . . my friend's (and she is a good friend) decision perplexes me. Only here in Iowa, among the homeschoolers, have I met parents who seem to be concerned with their children being led astray by doctrinally unsound Christians more than with them being led astray by the lies of the world. I don't get that. We're usually talking about minor differences in emphasis or wording here.
My former pastor called it "salvation by information". The idea that we are saved by knowing the truth -- the exact truth, on every detail. Any deviation from my version of the gospel leaves you in jeopardy. But it seems to me that being saved by what we know is as much a fallacy as being saved by what we do. To paraphrase the prolific apostle, Satan and his demons know what's true even better than we do, but it's not saving them.
Yes, there is basic truth you must know and understand to be saved. There are basic actions you must take to be saved ("confess with your mouth . . believe in your heart . . "). But it really boils down to having a right relationship with God. Personally, I believe this leaves room for the salvation of those whose doctrine is way off and those whose behavior is completely out of line. If the relationship is genuine (and who knows that but God), then it is also always developing -- and the doctrine and behavior usually "fall into line" over time. If they don't, I suppose we do have a right to doubt the condition of the relationship -- but always with the humility to know we could certainly be wrong.
The truth is, nobody's eternal destiny is dependent on their knowing truth to perfection. And that truth should fill us with boundless gratitude.