Sin and Salvation
It is this simple. We are saved through Christ’s life and subsequent death on the cross. Jesus did not die for us—anyone can die for something, but to LIVE for something: WOW! That in and of itself is divine. The death is only meaningful if the life was worth knowing about! There is suffering and evil in the world, and the church should not try to explain how they were created. Suffering and evil just exist, and we must deal with them. We can provide new insights, we can remind people of philosophical and moral ideals, but pastors should not be in the absolute answer business but rather in the questions and insight business.
“The church is not in the morals business. The world is in the morals business… and it has done a fine job of it, all things considered. The history of the world's moral codes is a monument to the labors of many philosophers, and it is a monument of striking unity and beauty. She is not in the business of telling the world what's right and wrong so that it can do good and avoid evil. She is in the business of offering, to a world which knows all about that tiresome subject, forgiveness for its chronic unwillingness to take its own advice…But the minute she even hints that morals, and not forgiveness, is the name of her game, she instantly corrupts the Gospel and runs headlong into blatant nonsense. Then the church becomes, not Ms. Forgiven Sinner, but Ms. Right and Christianity becomes the good guys in here versus the bad guys out there. Which, of course, is pure garbage for the church is nothing but the world under the sign of baptism.” (Capon, Hunting the Divine Fox 132-133).
If grace is true and to be trusted, we must have faith in it. We cannot worry that this will lead to all sorts of permissiveness and such open minds that our collective brains will fall out. We are to take the example of the parable of the prodigal son. Jesus tells us that the son gets a kiss instead of a lecture, a party instead of probation. By bringing in the elder brother at the end of the story and having him raise objections Jesus gives a great example to the church. The brother is angry about the party. He complains that his father is lowering standards and ignoring virtue—that music, dancing, and a fattened calf are, in effect, just so many permissions to break the law. And to that, Jesus has the father say only one thing: “Cut that out! We’re not playing good boys and bad boys anymore. Your brother was dead and he’s alive again. The name of the game from now on is resurrection, not bookkeeping.”
This view renders all saved through Christ period. I view all need for justification as largely a human need of reassurance. The church provides this but keeps this in check by saying to the concerned parishioner “Yes, you’re saved in Christ and given the grace of God, just like everyone else.” The church is to make no distinction or try to step into God’s role and come up with formulas as to figure out who is in heaven and who isn’t. As far as the church is concerned, everyone is getting into heaven because of Christ’s saving life and this is the Good News to be preached to the world. The church is at its best when it’s in a Universalist mindset. What God has done through the incarnation and the death and resurrection of Jesus conquers and saves all (NO Limited Atonement!). However, there is still room for a hell, which would be a disbelief and self-exile from God’s grace. Jesus came for the sick, not for the healthy (Mark 2:17), so it is a mistake to think that everyone will come through the doors of the church. That doesn’t mean the church should keep quiet, but instead proclaim without anxiety and with confidence.