The percentage of those saved

A description of an argument the Inklings had with each other sheds light on their theology of salvation:

At another meeting, an argument arose about the proper interpretation of Matthew 7:14, which reads, “Because stait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

Lewis writes, “I had a pleasant evening on Thursday with Williams, Tolkien, and Wrenn, during which Wrenn almost seriously expressed a strong wish to burn Williams, or at least maintained tat conversation with Williams enabled him to understand how inquisitors had felt it right to burn people. Tolkien and I agreed afterwards that we just knew what he meant: that as some people at school, college punts, are eminently kickable, so Williams is eminently combustible” (Collected Letters 2:283)

The juxtaposition of moods is particularly interesting: in the context of a pleasant evening and agreeable conversation, which happened to e about the proper interpretation of a passage of scripture, the discussion gains such intensity that Williams is deemed “combustible” by a group of his dear friends.

Regarding the debatable passage, Lewis says that the group concluded, “Our Lord’s replies are never straight answers and never gratify curiosity, and that whatever this one meant its purpose was certainly not statistical”

-Diana Gyler, The Company They Keep, p.78

While the anecdote about burning Williams at the stake is amusing, their conclusion about the passage is really quite interesting to contemplate.

Many theologies really DO treat this verse statistically.

Narrow is the way and few who find it. “Few” could be reduced to an actual percentage, right?

Of course, if you’re a universalist, that number is 100%, which just goes to show how silly it is to try and pull universalism out of the Bible.

Calvinists would say this number is a mystery that was already set before the earth was created. Some of the Puritans probably thought it was around 5%? The more optimistic post-millenialists would say God has PLENTY of time to jack that “few” up to maybe even 70%. Those who study the “remnant” principal in the Old Testament are more likely to land on scarier numbers, like 10%.

If you’re an open theist, than that number is still up for grabs. It depends on you. If we work hard in our missionary efforts, God has granted us the opportunity of raising it a few points. Eeek.

The only thing I have to say is that “few” implies less, not more. So that would be under 50% at least, which doesn’t tell us much.

On the other hand, is “finding the narrow way” synonymous to eternal salvation? Calling on the name of Jesus is supposedly all you need and that seems easier to me than finding (and walking!) the narrow way. Perhaps the verse is really about discipleship.

Interesting though, despite having four strong opinions, none of them thought it’s purpose was statistical? Clever.