Satan: You know when I told you I'd work to make sure humankind chose poorly?
God: How could I forget?
Satan: Normally, I wouldn't do this, but I've got a couple of weapons I think even you can't defeat. I've got a couple of doosies to throw out there that will muddle the waters so much your people will lose all sorts of traction. And I'm not even going to throw it into the rest of society. I'm just going to throw it into your precious body of believers: the Church.
God: You've peaked my interest.
Satan: Oh, these are good. Really good. First, I'm going to make some people think there are some beliefs that are absolutely central to salvation. I will make them so secure in their own beliefs that they know what is right and what is wrong that they become arrogant and obnoxious. They will boldly proclaim, "I am saved, don't you wish you could be like me?" Non-believers will become so turned off by their arrogance and smugness, that they will refuse to believe in you. They will refuse to attend any church. They will say, "I can't stand how obnoxious those people are."
God: I've got to hand it to you, that's a pretty good one.
Satan: I will then take it a step further. I will make them so certain that they are saved by their belief in Jesus that they will act like total jerks in public. They will sit at restaurants and become demanding and rude--after all, the lowly people who serve them should be in church and are probably sinners anyway. They will talk at the top of their lungs about how righteous they are and how much they give to their church and leave a meager sum for the waitress or waiter saying, "Oh the service was terrible." They will wear their finest clothing to church, look down their noses at anyone who may dress differently and even make suggestions to others about what they should wear to church. People will get the idea they are more concerned with what you wear than with an individual's well being. I will showcase individuals who attend church every week and then treat employees like dirt, paying them marginal wages and forcing them to work ungodly hours. I will have them become focused on morality and then reveal them to be immoral and unfaithful to their spouses and to others. Yes, I will have them focus on building giant monuments of church buildings and neglect the poor and needy--"for if they just turned their lives over to Jesus, then they would rise out of their poverty!"
God: Hmm. That definitely deserves some of my attention.
Satan: Oh, but wait. Wait. See what else I have in store for that beloved institution of yours. I've got this all worked out. For, you see, I will also infuse another group with disgust at those first group of church goers. This group will react with utter contempt. They, in turn, will offer no certainty at all. I will give them a healthy dose of relativism. They will believe that belief has little to do with faith. Instead, I will have them concentrate on saying, "It doesn't matter what you believe. Just do good to others. Try to make the world a better place." Their rallying cry will be, "Justice!" Before long, they will be saying, "Jesus is just one way of many ways. There are many paths to salvation." They will not hesitate to condemn the first group as moralists, and the first group will decry the others as liberal do gooders. Their contempt and anger for each other will grow exponentially as they vie to win the hearts and souls of non-believers. Their competition will drive non-believers batty as they ask, "Who is telling the truth?" It will be warfare without weapons, and the chaos sown will wreck havoc on your wonderful body called the Church.
God: Since you are being so judicious in your willingness to tell me your plot, shall I tell you how I will work?
Satan: Oh, please do. I really want to see how you will try and thwart this.
God: First off, I will make it known that I don't mind people believing there are some absolute core convictions to faith. Everyone needs something certain to hang their hats upon. Something that is permanent and lasting--something that helps them define themselves and what they believe.
Satan: Ha! So, you won't change what I am doing. The result will be the same.
God: Second, I'm going to redouble my efforts to help people see they are saved by grace alone. Apparently, I was wrong about Paul and Martin Luther being enough.
Satan: What is that going to do?
God: Well, isn't it obvious?
Satan: Would I be asking if it wasn't?
God: You are working on people to make them believe it's all about their actions--what they choose to believe; what they choose to do whether it's an emphasis on morality or doing justice and communal works. It's not about what they do. It's about what I do! Essential to salvation is my action, not theirs. They can't make salvation happen. Only I can.
Satan: I still don't see how that makes a difference.
God: Of course you don't because everything to you is consequential--If I want this, then I have to do this. When it comes to salvation, it's--If I want salvation, then I can do nothing. Only God can.
God: When people realize it's all because of my action, they will grasp a very important fundamental: humility. No one, by their actions or otherwise can get salvation. It comes from me. Period. No intellectual assent to belief will do it--I have to cause that to begin with. No amount of moral action can do it--you can't possibly be moral enough. No amount of justice you perform will save you--you can't do enough. Only I can. The fact no one can means the playing field has just been leveled. No one has reason to hold head high. All find themselves in the same boat.
Satan: Well, Mr. Smarty Pants, that sounds all well and good. Maybe you can get a few of those saps to actually humble themselves and refuse to attack one another, but what are you going to do about that whole relativism thing? I haven't heard anything described above which will combat that one!
God: Anybody else's god out there willing to die for them? Anyone else's god out there say, "I've got this covered?" Most of them I know say, "Follow this path, and you will get to me." I say, "I've beaten a path to you."