August 12, 2006

Is “Salvation” worth saving?

Posted in church, religion, theology at 5:16 pm by Jerry

What would Evangelicals do if they rid themselves of their concern for personal salvation? What if their salvific agenda was removed entirely?

Is the focus on the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” today’s euphemism (and deflection) for the preaching of the “good news” and avoidance of “fire and brimstone”? Has it replaced, but not diminished, the threat of damnation?

More and more, I’ve been gaining a greater disdain for a particular branch of theology — soteriology. I need to clarify myself here. Soteriology is the study of salvation. I’m not saying that people should avoid the study of it. What I am saying is that the concern for one’s own salvation and the salvation of others needs to be dropped!

Does this mean I’m a Universalist? Who cares?!!

Why is Universalism a threat? Who is it a theat to? Does universalism make Evangelicals feel less significant or special? Do they feel the need to be favored by God over others? Is this some type of spiritual sibling rivalry for their “Father’s” love?

Is salvation just a salivation for my reward and your misfortune? Is it the Church’s ultimate “I told you so”?

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18 Comments »

  1. Barnabas said,

    Good luck, because they will only pry the preaching of the gospel out of my hands when I am being murdered for my faith in the ressurection of Christ. “There is no other name given among men whereby ye must be saved” “that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead thou shalt be saved” You can not divorce the subject of the message and the doctrine of salvation and still have any message left. It is being tried, but the net result will be that more people will become Christians not less people and it will never die out.

  2. Jerry said,

    Barnabas,

    I think God is bigger and better than what biblical writers have written about their spiritual experiences. Hiding behind scriptural passages hasn’t answered a single question I’ve asked in this post.

  3. Paul Connors said,

    Wow, you know that Barnabas is super hardcore because he was quoting from the KJV.

    Here’s the thing, Jerry bro, I totally understand where you are coming from. The political message of Jesus has been lost because people have only focused on His message of salvation. I am tired of hearing other Christians condemn another person to Hell. That is God’s job, if He so chooses.

    However, at the same time I think it is incorrect to discount the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. We need to change how we share it with people because the old school ways suck. When we do share it, we must do so in a spirit of humility and tolerant love.

    As Newbigin wrote (and I paraphrase), I don’t deny the possibility that salvation will be universal, but at the same time I take scripture and its warnings seriously so I’ll share the Gospel of salvation when I get the chance.

    Paul

  4. Jerry said,

    Hey Paul,

    It’s in fact, the scriptural “warnings” that I’m bothered about. Why the do-this-or-else-eternal-trouble message? No matter how much people soften their “sharing” of the salvific message, when it comes right down to it, the scriptures put Evangelicals into a desperate thrust to “save” themselves and others no matter what the cost. Because any cost for our loved ones, other than eternal damnation, is worth it.

    Was Jesus’ sacrifice meant to encourage any other sacrifice to get into Heaven?

  5. Kevin said,

    Dear Jerry,

    It is impossible to move ahead from your position. If we don’t trust scriptures call for all to repent and be saved and its call for christians to participate in that call, which as you say are clearly a part of scripture, then how can we trust scripture’s call to walk justly and love mercy?

    What happens then is that we project onto scripture those “values” which we like and pick and choose what will be authoritative. In essence rather than being formed by the mind and will of God, we create God in our own image.

    The main thrust of scripture is God working out his salvation amongst his people. Jesus described his ministry on earth as an attempt to “seek and save the lost.” If we remove salvation from Christianity, than we have nothing.

    Kevin

  6. Jerry said,

    Hey Kevin,

    I’m not saying the Christian bible doesn’t have anything good to say. But I do think everyone projects their own values onto the bible in some form, whether by believing others’ opinions about that book or creating their own. Whoever says the bible is the mind and will of God are, themselves, picking and choosing this scripture to be authoritative in their lives.

    And this reason, among others, is why I think morality precedes scripture. Societies and cultures, for milleniums, have discovered among themselves what is not good. They have learned how their actions can hurt others, and thereby, innately becoming aware of human morals. Through this ethical journey, the GOOD is more and more being recognized. Good things like a healthy life and a compassionate death. Good things like knowledge. Good things like peace, love, charity.

    For those who believe in God, they recognize that these things considered good, can only come from God. They claim these good things to be God’s will. And by that claim, they are claiming a revelation of God’s mind.

    Kevin, every Evangelical interpretation of the scriptures is creating “God in our own image.” And every Evangelical backs up their interpretations with some sort of reasoning. And by this, we know that Scripture is not the first and foremost authority for the Evangelical. Their first and foremost authority is their own experiences, then reason (created or borrowed), and then tradition.

    You said, “If we remove salvation from Christianity, than we have nothing.” Are you saying you don’t believe Christianity offers anything of worth in this life and the next other than the avoidance of eternal suffering?

  7. Tree said,

    Excellent post. I would love to see you explore this more than you have in your original post. It would be a great post to actually attempt some various answers to the last question you posed, “Are you saying you don’t believe Christianity offers anything of worth in this life and the next other than the avoidance of eternal suffering?” I believe I will do this, as well.

    grace & peace to you,
    Tree

  8. Kevin said,

    Dear Jerry,

    I think Christianity offers a great deal in this life, but there is an integrity to scripture and Christian Theolgy and you can’t simply take out God’s major priority and expect all the other related concerns to go on as if salvation were incidental. Removing salvation from Christianity will cause it to colapse in upon itself and we will be left with mothing. You of course can sift through the ruins and find neat teachings here and there to support our pre-existing moral philosophies. But that is quite a stretch from being Christianity.

  9. Jerry said,

    Thanks Tree. Before I comment on what I think Christianity has to offer outside of Fire Insurance, I want to hear a representation of what all Evangelicals think they would be left with. If “Removing salvation from Christianity will cause it to colapse in upon itself and we will be left with mothing,” is what all Evangelicals think, then my first questions in my post have been answered.

    So, Kevin, what you’re saying is “God’s major priority” is to keep all who don’t obey or love him, from ever having the good life (to state it mildly)? God’s major priority is to enforce a limitation of his grace? God’s major priority is to maintain the eternal suffering of his “children”?

    If this is the summation of Christianity, I don’t understand why anybody would want it. I understand why people would be desperate to obey or “love” God, but I don’t understand why anybody would want a so-called “relationship” with anyone who gives the ultimatum — ‘It’s Me or else.’ To me, a relationship based on fear instead of desire is abusive.

  10. Kevin said,

    Dear Jerry,

    God’s major priority as it would seem from scripture is to reconcile man to himself. That is the work of salvation, God’s work that out of grace he has allowed us to participate in. His grace is sufficient for all, yes certainly, but God will not force us to love him or be reconciled to him against our wills. I suspect that you know this already.

    Kevin

  11. Jerry said,

    Kevin, I can only speak for myself when I say that I am willing to give up my freewill to a wholly good Being if that would mean that others would not suffer endlessly.

    I’d love to hear anyone else’s explanation, including yours, why someone would not be willing to give up their freewill to a wholly good Being if that would mean that others would not suffer endlessly. Because, if a majority of people would be willing to give up their freewill to a wholly good Being for this purpose, then, there would be no reason for anyone to suffer endlessly, would there?

  12. Tree said,

    I guess I’m not thinking along the lines of an Evangelical regarding salvation, since I am not an Evangelical. I have, for some time now, believed that salvation has more to do with this side of the tombstone than the other, and that Jesus would have us be more concerned over what he was doing at his first coming than whatever a possible second coming may or may not mean. And I do believe myself to be a Christian. So I am content to read this discussion for now, but I’d be glad to join in later on for a talk about what non fire insurance based Christianities may look like.

  13. Jerry said,

    Thanks for being patient with me, Tree. I also would love to explore non fire insurance Christianities. But I’m still gonna hold out a little longer. I desperately want to know how Evangelicals think a relationship based on the ultimatum ‘love me or suffer endlessly’ is a healthy relationship. How is this kind of relationship Godly?

    Thanks for your comments, Tree.

  14. Tree said,

    This is intended to be enlightening, not derrogatory, so I hope it is received as such: the answer that non-Evangelicals seem to believe an Evangelical will give is, “because the Bible says so”. Period. I have good relationships with several people who reason this way, and it is no stumbling block in their minds. However, I see it as a serious stumbling block to deeper Biblical-issue discussions becuase it effectively ceases any discussion, declaring the “Bible Believer” (as if those who disagree are somehow not not believers of the Bible) the sole arbiter of right and wrong as coming from the Bible.

    I would be happy to have this discussion, as well. Please don’t let my interest in another topic come across as a lack of interest in this topic.

  15. Jerry said,

    Ya, it’s as if Evangelicals prefer blind obedience to the perceived will of God without exploring God’s intentions communicated within His/Her “revelation”. There seems to be such a reverence for the bible, that some people are afraid to damage the paper (human product) the book is made of. With such Fear-Based beliefs, faith in “God’s Word in words” takes on an extreme atmosphere of biblio-worship and denial of human participation in the creation of the “inspired” scriptures.

  16. Eric said,

    Hey Jerry,
    First, I won’t even get into my issues with how revered the bible is (most of which stem from my knowledge of where bible stories were borrowed from in the first place and then translated [pardon the pun] God-only-knows how many times to suit people living 2000++ years ago) but instead I would like to ask a question. Maybe you know the answer or maybe you know how these evagelicals may respond to me saying, ‘You know what? I don’t need saving, thank you very much. I’m quite content with my life, my experience of the world and my desire to explore it in the way that fits for me mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Life is beautiful, why would I want to be saved from it?’
    Oh, and in answer to your original question of “Is ‘Salvation’ worth saving?”
    Thats easy, God no!

    This is asubject for more discussion, but lets start there.

  17. Tree said,

    I honestly still believe the question to be flawed. Even among Evangelicals there are discrepancies regarding the meaning of “salvation”. For some it’s certainly fire insurance, but for a growing number, it has as much to do with this side of death. For right or for wrong, the teaching is being spread that being saved means that one is saved not only from something, but also, and very importantly, for something. Even if we are to disagree with much of the Evangelical theology, God forbid that we act in a way as to squach a kindling desire to do good towards others while still living!

    So, yes, “salvation” is very much worth saving when well-defined*

    Re possible Evangelical backlash: listen before you flame me saying I’m merely trying to define salvation as I see fit and return to the texts you profess a reverent belief in. In those very pages, it is made clear that salvation is healing of the sick, sight to the blind, restitution to the victim, aid to the widow, care for the orphan; and that we are to be agents of God’s salvation. Last i checked, I’ve never literally raised another being from the dead, but I have been plugging away at lifting others from the shit they’re stuck in while living on the streets, battered, abused, depressed, despondent, ill, lonely, and “lost”. God makes plan in scripture that those are issues of salvation, and the very issues Christ came for, in the very words of Jesus (to free the prisoner, give sight to the blind, and to heal the sick; It could very well be more than literal, but then he goes and does those very things as signs of who he is and what he believed). In the passages where a lack of salvation results in weeping and gnashing of teeth, take very special care to note that the majority of those descritpion occur inside parables and metaphorical speech, where the original Hebraic belief of hell is symbolic of pained living.

  18. Jerry said,

    Eric, Tree, great to hear from you both.

    I suppose, it was my hope that the title of this post Is “Salvation” worth saving? would be interpreted by it’s readers in such a way that capitalizing and adding quotation marks to the word salvation would point to the common traditional/religious view of salvation in the afterlife. And at the same time, I was hoping the worth saving part of my title would remind us that, as Tree put it, there are somethings in this world worthy of being saved from and for.

    We all know there are injustices in this life worthy of being saved from (including within ourselves), and there are values in this life worthy of being saved. But when salvation is interpreted as a “relationship” based on an Afterlife Ultimatum, I think it needs to be dropped. I will not support this belief in pursuing an abusive relationship with God.


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