Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Dean of Perth: Salvation is not about who is in and who is out

[...] In the New Testament Jesus announces the coming of God’s kingdom by forgiving sins and healing the sick. This is the work of salvation, which the Church would continue, instituting a new Heaven and a new Earth.

At least three things stand out. The first is that this salvation is experienced corporately, not individually. The Old Testament writers speak in terms of a community in which the presence of God could be experienced within a fellowship bound together by devotion to God. For the writers of the New Testament, Jesus was never to be thought of as a personal saviour, as though He were our personal toothbrush.

We are not saved individually, as though by some private act of divine indulgence. It is within the community that we can find forgiveness for the past, and hope for a way of beginning again.

Second, there is no evidence to suggest that what is required for salvation is an intellectual assent, a signing-off, which would effect a once-for-all change in us, whereby salvation is instantaneous, and we are passive recipients of its benefits.

It would be wrong to imagine that salvation occurs in a single act of religious fervour. The most usually quoted example of such an apparently swift transformation is Paul’s conversion. Yet, according to the account in Acts (ix, 1-19), it was not suddenly on the Damascus road, but only after the laying-on of hands by Ananias in the context of the care of the house of Judas, and after the scales had fallen from his eyes, and his sight was restored, that Paul was baptised, and his strength returned.

Salvation cannot be confined to one cataclysmic event; it requires engagement with a process in the context of a community — the Church. The transformation of human life that salvation suggests takes time, and needs to embrace many aspects of Christian insight and understanding.

Third, salvation is not about who is in or who is out — who are sheep or who are goats.

Can we really imagine the God of all creation, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, being fussed by the status of everyone’s individual belief? Salvation is concerned with the transformation of life. All life. Barriers to the flourishing of all human beings are to be overcome, whatever stage people are at in the awareness of this life-giving dynamic. What matters is that we have all been freed to be all there is in us to be. Otherwise Christ has died in vain. Read more
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