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Volume 14, Issue 2: Doctrine 101

Helicopter Salvation

Patch Blakey

Some Christians view salvation in terms analogous to a helicopter rescue. I recently heard one Christian gentleman make such a comparison. The unsaved sinner was pictured as a man hanging by a branch on the side of a cliff, about to fall to his death when a helicopter arrives with a rope dangling down for him to grab and be rescued.

Such an illustration presumes that the man being rescued has all of his wits about him, that he recognizes the danger, and that he is aware of the help offered. But, does this analogy agree with the biblical description of our spiritual state? Of course it is difficult to depict an accurate illustration which adequately describes our spiritual situation, but is there a similar picture that possibly presents a better analogy of our spiritual condition than the one above?
The Apostle Paul described our spiritual condition as being dead in our sins, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). "Even when we were dead in sins, He hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)" (Eph. 2:5). How well can a dead man know what is going on around him? He can't see, he can't hear, he can't cry out for help, and he can't reach and grab any aid that is proffered. He has no knowledge of his situation or condition. How then would a man be described if he were spiritually dead?
The Apostle John wrote, "But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes" (1 John 2:11). Also, "He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them" (John 12:40). Man's spiritual eyes are blinded so that he cannot see spiritual truth.
With regard to hearing, Scripture says, "And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people" (Acts 3:23). Also, "According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear" (Rom. 11:8). Hence we know that the ungodly cannot hear spiritual truth.
How about the ability of the spiritually dead to call upon the Lord? Isaiah wrote, "For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity" (Isa.59:3_4). And the Apostle Paul said of sinners, "Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness" (Rom.3:13—14).
As for the ungodly reaching out for God, Wisdom said, "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded" (Prov.1:24). Paul quoting Isaiah, said, "But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people" (Rom.10:21). Rather than reaching out for God's deliverance, the godless will cry out instead for their own destruction, "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:15—16).
In fact, those without God in the world cannot even recognize spiritual truth to be able to respond to it. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). And even if they could recognize it, they still wouldn't receive it, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7).
So we see that those who are spiritually dead are no more capable in and of themselves of responding to God's mercy through the gospel than a dead man can respond to an offer for aid. They are both as detached from the reality that surrounds them as is possible.
The fallacy committed by many Christians is to think that because a man is physically alive, then he must be spiritually alive to some degree as well. But what if we were to reverse the situation and say that a physically dead man needed to call upon the Lord to be saved? We would all get a hoot out of such a preposterous idea. Yet biblically, this is a close comparison to the spiritual condition of the unregenerate.
With the Scriptures in mind, a better analogy using the idea of a helicopter rescue would be to have the man lying dead at the bottom of the cliff, and then have the helicopter fly down, pick him up, and revive him, apart from any action on his own. This would demonstrate the biblical teaching that salvation is a work of God alone, and leave no room for man's persistent pride. Anything less would be to suspend the truth and fly in the face of Scripture.

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