Monday, July 14, 2014

Train Metaphor for Salvation


I recently stumbled across the following train metaphor used by some Christians to describe how they believe the Christian doctrine of salvation works:


We have, Jesus, Jesus' mate (the Holy Spirit), and God, in a train station. In this train station there are no ticket booths. Just a bunch of people wandering around living their lives. Now you are standing there with no ticket and Jesus' mate comes up and tells you to jump on an express train which has the most expensive ticket price. You ask for the ticket so you don't get kicked off train after its left the station. Jesus' mate tells you you don't need one, just get on the train and not to worry about the ticket, it's been covered. So now you have a choice, either stick around the train station, or jump on the train without a ticket. 
If you stick around the train station, Jesus' mate may or may not come back and tell you to jump on another train. Until that happens you're left in your old life, in that train station. You may or may not be happy with this, doesn't matter. Now if you decide to jump on the train you'll grab a seat and wait for the ticket master, God, to come along and kick you off. Instead, the ticket master comes along and gives you the ticket that has been fully paid by Jesus. Now all you need to do is stay on the train and ride it to the end, where you'll get a bunch of stuff you never deserved. And you'll live with the two guys who built the station, the railroad, the train, and paid for your ticket. If you take this option your life will change and your old life will be left behind at that station. 
You can get off the train at any time by jumping off (express trains don't stop), but then you'll find yourself back in the train station with everyone else who hasn't taken up Jesus' mate's offer of the train ride. 
Jesus has paid for everyone's tickets and at some point you'll be asked to get on the train without a ticket. When God decides to shut down the train station, everyone who hasn't made the trip or boarded a train is stuck. Then the railroad is demolished soon after. (Anonymous Internet Christian)

Issues With This Metaphor


I find much with which to take issue in this metaphor. While my original intent was to write a line by line refutation of its many problematic assertions, upon finding that exercise too ponderous to hold my interest, I instead offer-up three problematic observations:

  • "So now you have a choice" - if salvation comes to those who are dead in tresspasses and in sins (Ephesians 2:1), and therefore incapable of making spiritual choices (Romans 8:7), and if salvation is not of him that willeth (Romans 9:16), then we can be absolutely certain that one's hopping aboard the Salvation Express is not the result of any choice on their part.
  • "You can get off the train at any time by jumping off" - This bears no resemblance to the salvation described by the Lord Jesus Christ who gives unto his sheep eternal life and they shall never perish (John 10:28).  
  • "Jesus has paid for everyone's tickets" - Jesus testimony is that he gave is life to purchase tickets for the sheep, not for the goats. (John 10:11,26)


TETH's Attempt


If I were to use a short train metaphor to represent the salvation taught in the scriptures, I believe I would put it this way:

  • There's a dead man in the train station. (Ephesians 2:1) 
  • God the Father purposed to deliver that man along with a host of other dead men to a blessed final destination via the train. (Ephesians 1:4-5) 
  • God did not purpose to deliver ALL dead men to this same blessed destination by the train (John 10:11,26) neither was he obliged to do so. (Exodus 33:19)
  • Jesus made a covenant promise to deliver the man along with a host of others, and he will do it without losing one. (John 17:2)
  • Jesus bought the dead man's ticket and put him on the train. (Romans 5:6) 
  • The Holy Spirit resurrects the man. (Galatians 4:6) 
  • Once on the train, the man will be delivered to his destination along with all of the others on the train and nothing can prevent them from reaching their destination. (Romans 8:38-39) 
  • During the journey the man along with some of the passengers are blessed to hear the story of how and why they were put on the train by God. (Matthew 1:21, Hebrews 10:14)
  • By the time the man believes what Jesus has done for him he has ALREADY passed from death unto life (John 5:24), else he would still be dead, still be in the train station, and still be incapable of receiving the such truth (I Corinthians 2:14). 
  • His believing is an evidence of an existing state of grace as a current passenger who is already on the train (Hebrews 11:1) not a prerequisite required for boarding the train to obtain grace. (I John 5:1)
While all metaphors have their limitations, I believe this train metaphor accurately depicts the way in which sinners are saved described in the scriptures, and avoids the crass decisionism of the more popular attempts I have encountered.


4 comments:

  1. SUGGESTION: How about you write something against atheism? Or Budhism? Or mormonism? or any other really false religion? Or how about write something against the civil liberties union? you know, stuff like that. quit criticizing other Christians and the ministries that the Lord has entrusted to them. they are not the enemy, dude.

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    1. Anonymous,

      Thanks for taking the time to interact with my blog. Let me respond to your questions and comments:

      ANONYMOUS: How about you write something against atheism? Or Budhism? Or mormonism? or any other really false religion?

      TETH: I have written a commentary on the YouTube video entitled “Mormon Church Beliefs” which is an explicit refutation of the LDS claim to be a “Christian church.” (http://theearstohear.blogspot.com/2012/06/commentary-on-youtube-video-mormon.html) A strong motivating force for me in creating my blog was to address the errors that are commonly promoted under the rubric of Christianity. I believe that Christians should go about the work of removing the beam of theological error from our own eyes, and in so doing, avoid proselytizing others in falsehood.

      TETH: As for Buddhism, or atheism – so many errors, so little time. Lord willing, I may take up such challenges as time permits.

      ANONYMOUS: Or how about write something against the civil liberties union? you know, stuff like that.

      TETH: If you feel the need to write against the ACLU, I would likely support that as a worthy cause. It is easy enough for you to start a free blog to address such issues following these simple instructions (https://support.google.com/blogger/answer/1623800?hl=en).

      ANONYMOUS: quit criticizing other Christians and the ministries that the Lord has entrusted to them.

      TETH: This is a very dangerous position to hold, IMO. Being in Christian ministry does not place one outside the domain of objective, biblical criticism. Anyone who thinks that it does has no business in Christian ministry because such a position is a denial that such ministries are under the authority of the word of God.

      TETH: Examining another’s teachings in light of the word of God is an activity for which the Bereans were praised in the bible (Acts 17:11). They did not merely accept what Paul said as “gospel truth” because Paul was an apostle, they searched the scriptures daily to see if these things were so. If the apostle Paul’s teachings are not beyond the realm of scriptural scrutiny, then neither are the teaches of the ministers of our time beyond scriptural scrutiny.

      ANONYMOUS: they are not the enemy, dude.

      TETH: To the extent that they are teaching error, they are enemies to the truth of the word of God.

      May God bless us with Berean nobility, courage, and wisdom as we attempt to navigate a world that is literally filled with false teachings and doctrines under the moniker of Christianity.

      teth

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  3. Aye, so many priorities, so little time. To me it is a worthwhile thing to try to "rightly divide the word of truth." It helps the perspective on all the other things.

    It is a comfort to know we are not as important to the salvation process as we might have originally believed. Being the object of God's love is importance enough, and it is fine with me if He does everything. I like to think that I am fairly reliable. But, I know I am not perfectly reliable.

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