Jesus the archetypal bounded set thinker
Much of what I have read on the Church and this topic essentially says that it is more helpful to view others without the confines that Bounded Sets impose and instead to use a Centered Set that puts everyone on a type of scatter plot in their relation to Christ. However, I think that this is an artificial construct in that in the end the question still remains “Is that person a believer, a member of God’s Kingdom, or are they saved”. The real question is “does it ever matter if an individual accepts Jesus as their Savior or not?” If not, then Centered Set is fine, but if it does matter then a person is actually Saved or Not, which would necessitate a Bounded Set. On one side of the set you are outside of God’s saving grace, not because His power doesn’t extend that far, but because that person has not accepted the free gift of salvation.
So, how did Jesus approach this issue? Did he see and thus speak on salvation in terms that were all inclusive or exclusive? Here are some quotes from Jesus that illustrates His view:
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30) This is also found in Mark and Luke.
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26).
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
“The Son of Man will send out his angles, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42).
There are many passages that illustrate Jesus as stating that there are clear boundaries that exist between Heaven and Hell. But her is a final one:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Now Jesus did not simply ascribe to following the law for the sake of the law, so in that sense he eliminated false Bounded Sets that the Pharisees constructed. After Jesus convinced the Pharisees that they were unable to stone the women that was caught in adultery because none of them were without sin, He said “Then neither do I condemn you”, Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).
So, I believe that Jesus clearly viewed Salvation in Bounded Set terms with a clear delineation between those who are saved and those who are not. He also taught that many of the issues that the Pharisees championed as a holiness test were wrong, like washing hands before eating, picking grain on the Sabbath, doing good on the Sabbath, among others. The Old Testament was a very rigid Bounded Set with the law, but Jesus was able to reach across the boundaries and to defeat sin and Satan. His example is how we are to approach the issue, but reaching across the divide but to ignore the divide does not make it less real. Deny gravity all you want, but if you walk off a cliff you will realize your mistake soon enough. We are to love and minister to people who are not within the kingdom and to realize that God wants ALL people to enter His kingdom, but if Scripture is our guide, then we must recognize that everyone will not make it.