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TH 513 Systematic Theology II Dr.

Mark Hardgrove, Instructor

Geisler, Norman Vol. 3 Systematic Theology II
Chapter Seventeen

“The Content of Salvation”
pp. 524-553

The Content of Salvation
In this chapter Geisler wrestles with the thorny of issue of what a person must believe (the content of his faith) in order to be saved. Though differences between denominations may be subtle or stark, the question of content is important in terms of establishing what we must believe in order to be saved, and thereby acknowledge one another as “brothers” and “sisters” in the body of Christ.

 Geisler makes distinctions between different aspects of

believing and of faith:
 The Object of faith vs. the Basis of faith  The Object of faith vs. the Content of faith  The Conditions for Obtaining a Gift vs. Conditions for

Losing a Gift
 Absolute Conditions vs. Normative Conditions  One-Time Normative Conditions vs. All-Time Normative

 Explicit Necessary Conditions vs. Implicit Necessary

 Consistent Beliefs vs. Inconsistent Beliefs  Denying vs. Not Believing

The Difference Between Absolute and Normative
It is normally but no absolutely necessary to use dry wood in order to build a fire. Similarly, God could will as normatively necessary what is not absolutely necessary for someone to be saved. For example, He could will as a normative salvific condition that all people believe in Christ’s substituionary death (atonement) on their behalf, even if this particularly belief were not an absolute necessity for salvation. The present issue is not whether in fact Christ needed to die for our sins in order for us to be saved but whether belief in that reality is an absolutely necessary condition for salvation.

The Difference Between Explicit and Implicit Normative Conditions What is implicitly necessary for salvation is not
always explicitly so. It would seem that all essential salvific (saving) truth itself is necessary for salvation in its comprehensive sense. However, even granting this (as most evangelicals do) does not mean that a person must explicitly believe every element of it in order to receive the gift of everlasting life. It is possible, for example, that a certain truly saved person never heard about (let alone believed in) Christ’s virgin birth or ascension at the time he believed the gospel and was saved (cf. Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-6).

Geisler’s Assessment of Content

In the final slide of this presentation is a chart (found on pages 544-545 of Geisler, vol. 3), in which Geisler, using the delimiters of absolute, normative, explicit and implicit, indicates what he believes is essential for salvation. Absolutely refers to what is nor isn’t an absolute necessity for belief today to be saved; that is, whether God could or couldn’t save someone unless he or she believed it.

Geisler’s Assessment of Content

Normatively refers to whether something is mandated by God but is not absolutely necessary; that is, whether the belief is required by God for His own reasons, not because salvation wouldn’t be possible without that specific belief.

Geisler’s Assessment of Content

Explicitly refers to whether a person must overtly believe in a specific truth in order to receive salvation. Implicitly refers to whether or not a certain truth, while not an explicit part of the belief content necessary for salvation today, is implied in another truth in which belief is explicitly necessary for salvation today.

Geisler’s Assessment of Content

Familiarize yourself with the chart on the next slide. Ask yourself if you agree with Geisler’s assessment and why you agree or disagree.

What Is Necessary to Believe to Be Saved? Absolutely Normativel Explicitly Implicitly
y Only
1. Human Depravity 2. Christ’s Virgin Birth 3. Christ’s Sinlessness 4. Christ’s Humanity 5. Christ’s Deity 6. God’s Unity 7. The Trinity 8. The Necessity of Grace 9. The Necessity of Faith 10. Christ’s Atoning Death 11. Christ’s Bodily Resurrection 12. Christ’s Bodily Ascension 13. Christ’s Present Session 14. Christ’s Bodily Second Coming No No No No Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No No No No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No No No No No No No

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