There is not ONE single passage in the Synoptic gospels where Jesus says that belief in him atones for sins (except for in the long ending of the last chapter of Mark, “Believe and be baptized…”; a known, blatant, scribal addition). The doctrine of atonement first appears in the last Gospel written, the Gospel of John, at the end of the first century, as a means for the Church to control the masses through the sacraments. Read here:
Of course, some Christians will respond by saying that you have to add up all the Gospels together to get the complete story. However, the key point here is that if Jesus actually said that you had to believe in him in order to be saved, then Matthew, Mark and Luke would have at least mentioned something about that somewhere! If it was central to Jesus’ teachings that you need salvation by faith, then why didn’t they mention it at all in the first three Gospels? The logical reason is that they never heard of nor supported that idea, because it didn’t evolve until later when the early Christians decided to add that doctrine, as in the Gospel of John. So we can logically conclude that if Matthew, Mark and Luke were with Jesus when he was on earth (assuming they are even eyewitnesses which isn’t even claimed), then Christ probably never said anything about faith, belief, or the atonement either!
Since the atonement and salvation by faith concept isn’t taught until the Gospel of John, therefore it is logical to conclude the following. About 50 years after the first three Gospels, the Church decided that a Gospel based on simple good works and kindness was not enough. They needed more power over people. And they needed a way for people to feel totally powerless in their own works so that they could be completely dependent on the church and its salvation sacraments. They needed the belief from their followers that they alone were the only way and religion. So they added the salvation by atonement doctrine to Christianity, in order to justify the church’s sacraments that were required for the salvation of souls, which in turn gave them power over people. That’s why the newest Gospel, John came into play. The Gospel of John was a result of the developing theology of the Church at that time. That book is where the verses about salvation by faith, being “born again”, the atonement, and having to believe that Jesus died for your sins came from. On many pages in it, you will find Jesus saying something about having to believe in him.
When Christian cite Gospel verses about being saved, they always refer to John. (No wonder many Christians say the book of John is their favorite book.) Just take a look at a Christian pamphlet or tract, and you’ll see that the verses they mention about faith and believing on Jesus are from the book of John, such as John 3:16 and John 14:6. When they quote Jesus, they usually refer to this book. Yet this book did not come for at least 50 years after the first three Gospels. Therefore, logically whatever Jesus actually said would have been recorded more accurately in the earlier Gospels, which emphasize good works and charity instead.From this it is apparent as to how the Salvation theology evolved in the Church while the New Testament books and letters were still being written. Another fact that indicates this as well is that according to Mark, Christ was a man. But according to Matthew and Luke, he was a demigod, while John insists that he was God himself. That also shows an evolution of the concept of Jesus from a man gradually to a deity status. This is common with religious founders throughout history, because no matter what they claim themselves, their followers eventually try to deify them and make them into a God to worship.
There you have it, THREE Gospels of good works being enough to satisfy God, versus ONE Gospel of faith and atonement. Three against one! Again the central doctrine of the Evangelical Christian Gospel loses by the numbers (as the doctrine of infallibility did in Argument # 1). Case closed.
This is in fact good news for people, because it means that Jesus probably never preached that you had to believe that he died for you to be saved, which means that billions of people now and throughout history who didn’t convert to the Christian Gospel won’t spend eternity in hell after all, like Evangelicals warn. Therefore, for those worried about either themselves or their unsaved loved ones, this takes a huge burden off their shoulder. Now they can rejoice, celebrate, and yell “Hallelujah!” (See also Evolution of heaven and hell in the Bible from Zoroastrianism – Good news for the fearful)