Tag Archives: salvation

Salvation: More than a ticket to Heaven?

God Saves

When someone says, “I’m Saved!” There is always the contextual question, “Saved from what?” Except if it’s said at Church. Within Christianity Salvation has become synonymous with Eternal Life. Salvation means that if I believe, one day I will go to Heaven. Yet, should Salvation always equate to being rescued to Heaven?

There are many places in the Scriptures that Salvation is past, present, and future to the author or reader. One tricky example is Romans 13:11 the Apostle Paul writes,  “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed?” Was Paul saying that he was not “saved” yet?

Or take for instance Luke 19:9. Jesus said Salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day. Does this mean Zacchaeus died and entered Heaven that day?

“In the Old Testament, God’s acts delivering the people from hunger, bondage, and other difficulties are usually called ‘saving’ acts, and Yahweh is repeatedly praised as the Savior of Israel.  In the New Testament, ‘salvation’ may mean either healing or deliverance from sin-and sometimes both.  Thus, salvation has to do, not only with one’s eternal destiny, but with everything that stands in the way of God’s purposes of communion with creation-and specifically with the human creature.  Thus salvation includes both justification and sanctification.

In the Greco-Roman world in which Christianity was born, there were many religions offering ‘salvation.’  Most of these understood salvation mainly or exclusively as life after death, and often combined these notions of salvation with the ideal of escaping from the material world. Given that context, it is not surprising that quite often Christians lost the fuller notion of salvation that appeared in their Scriptures, and came to think of salvation merely as admission into heaven-sometimes even seeing such admission as an escape from this physical world.  Perhaps the most notable development in soteriology [the Study of the Doctrine of Salvation] in recent decades has been the recovery of the wider notion of salvation as including, not only salvation from death and eternal damnation, but also freedom from all sorts of oppression and injustice.  Salvation, in its fuller sense, certainly includes eternal life in the presence of God; but it also includes the process of sanctification, whereby we are brought greater communion with God; and it includes also the destruction of all the powers of evil that stand between God’s purposes and present order of creation.”

-Justo L. Gonzalez, Essential Theological Terms. pg 162-163

Salvation cannot be understood in reference to one particular saving act of God. Jesus has rescued us from many things, and will one day rescue, redeem, and renew us and creation. The one unifying aspect of Salvation throughout the Scriptures is that God does the saving apart from the help or interference of man.

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Wonderful cross or place of death?

We often sing of the wonderful beautiful cross. And because our mind cannot handle the intensity or cruelty of the cross we grow numb to the brutality of the cross. Yet, we have to remember the cross was torture leading to death. Jesus experienced pain at the highest levels of the human experience.

The cross was not just some uncomfortable experience, like the awkwardness of telling a stranger on the plain you’re a Christian, or the embarrassment of getting to front of the line at the grocery store with a cart full of items and realizing you forgot your wallet.

Jesus died on the cross. He bled, and breathed his last breath on the cross.

When we sing of the cross it should be in the sober reality of what happened, why it happened, who it was that died for us.

The cross is the anchor point of our faith, not some pithy poppy featurette of the Sunday lineup. Our God died at the hands of his creation; the creation he loved and formed. Our God suffered and was humiliated by the very people he gave life to.

The cross is not wonderful, it the shame of humanity, and the glory of God. The cross does not represent the best in man, but the worst. The cross is the premiere exhibit in our museum of disgrace.

I understand why people wish to forget the cross, and down play its reality. As a humanitarian why would I want to highlight the cross any more than I would want to highlight the holocaust as an act of human civility and love?

All one should do at the cross is fall down before it and cry out, “I will never deny you again. With my heart and with my actions I too crucified you, but never again. I will serve the King whom I killed. He will be my God.”

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Speaking of the Trinity

trinty

The trinity is something unique to Christian thought. It is one of the great mysteries of God. In this doctrine alone, one can see how truly transcendent God is from our way of thinking. Roger E. Olson and Christopher A. Hall write in their book, The Trinity, “According to the Church Father Augustine anyone who denies the Trinity is in danger of losing their salvation, but anyone who tries to understand the Trinity is in danger of losing their mind (pg 1).”

The assertion that the doctrine of the Trinity is core to receiving Salvation seems hard to swallow. However, as one begins to look at the development of the Doctrine of the Trinity, it becomes clear why the Church placed such a strong emphasis on clarifying this divine mystery represented in Scripture.

The doctrine of the Trinity was developed as an polemic against the many forms of heresy arising in the Church. The basic problem the doctrine addresses was the tension between monotheistic worship of the Father (God), with the New Testament precedent that Jesus was worthy of worship as well. The doctrine of the Trinity really tried to answer how it was that Jesus was “one with the Father?” Was he one in essence or substance, or was Jesus some kind of divine “offspring” which leached a part of the Fathers being when he was created, or was he a separate deity?

The church Fathers concluded that Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were all of the same substance as the Father; that they were in fact all one, in will though and action. To affirm that Jesus was an offspring or offshoot of God, would not only contradict the monotheism of the Old Testament but it would also corrupt the nature of God because some of his divine would have been given to Jesus making the Father “less god.”

Tertullian was the first to formulate this “one substance three persons,” and use the Latin word trinitas when referring to God (O’Collins. The Tripersonal God. Pg 105.) From his influence the doctrine of the Trinity really moved forward. What was the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit? This had been one of the greater issues that the church sought to resolve since its conception, and here somewhere between 300-400 AD the answer was finally found in the doctrine of the Trinity. However, for as much as this doctrine explains it still leaves so many questions… and this is ok. However, to deny it is really to deny the Christian faith, because without you are left with a Christ-less Christianity.

Heresies Concerning the Trinity:

Arianism/Strict Monotheists: The affirmation of God the Father, but denial of the deity of Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit.

Modalism/Sabellians: The belief that God is one but revealed himself in three distinct ways throughout history; the Father in the Old Testament, The Son in the Gospels, and the Holy Spirit in the present age.

Multiple gods: The worship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but as separate individual gods, divided in will, mind, and authority.

Hierarchy within the Trinity
One other major concern when speaking of the Trinity is the apparent hierarchy within its three persons. Specifically from the Gospels Jesus is submitted to the Father. The question then becomes why? If Jesus is God, the same substance as the Father, why is he submitting to the Father?

“Although God’s being is characterized by the hypostatic distinctions of Father, Son, and Spirit, all three persons are one in their will and Activity. They are not autonomous persons in the modern nuance of “individual,” each with its own separate “ego” and “center” of consciousness. Rather, they have always and will always purpose and operate with one will and action. They are one God, not three.

…Jesus’ human will is distinct from his divine will in the economy of the incarnation. In Gethsemane Jesus in obedience submits his will to the Father, while his divine will remains one with the Father’s.
In the same manner, when Jesus speaks of the Father as being “grater than I,” the reference is to the economy of the incarnation. The Father is indeed grater than the Son with reference to the Son’s humanity. ‘Without this [key] distinction between theologia and oikonomia we would have to interpret the obedience of Christ to the Father as an indication that even in his divine being he was subordinate to the Father—and this would be the end of Nicene trinitarianism.’ Again, in the Trinity we have one God, not three. (Roger E. Olson and Christopher A. Hall. The Trinity. Pgs 36-37.”

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