Thursday, January 14, 2010

Part I: Sin and Salvation

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.


Tit for Tat said...

Ive always wondered if maybe the story of Jesus is that we ARE "eternal beings". Maybe he was just pointing that out to help us live better in the present. You know, minus the fear of obliteration. Unfortunately it seems most may have missed that possibility.

chris said...

"The church is at it's best in a Universalist mindset." I couldn't agree with you more, anything else is nothing but self righteous, moralistic religion. Great post!

Anonymous said...

"Jesus did not die for us—anyone can die for something, but to LIVE for something: WOW!" (Luke)

Awwww...the best things in life are free! I just love this idea - watched Joe Strummer 9the future is unwritten' last night - and I saw some of this in that doc.

"The church is not in the morals business" (Capon)

This is where me and Capon will disagree - because if the church ain't in the morals business - I am not sure what good for society it can be? Even ideas of grace/mercy and forgiveness (and repentance) are moral ideas for the change of the person.

It's really a balance thing (which is like the key to interpreting the bible I think). We are called to morality and being good citiizens of humanity...but we also need need ot be humble to realize our weaknesses and short-comings...and move towards God in that moment...not away. But we come back and keep living - but living a good life - correct? Morals are part of the equation and when a church ushers them out - I might join the thelemites.

"Your brother was dead and he’s alive again. The name of the game from now on is resurrection, not bookkeeping.”" (Luke)

Great point! Forgiveness is the key for a new person to move into that 'newness'. If we keep dragging them thorugh the weeds and brumbles - then they may never change.

"This view renders all saved through Christ period" (Luke)

I disagree with the view - but I also see it's value in being a perspective that works. Everyone is equal (fact IMO) - and this is how we need to approach people - whether that is in regards to life in general or some state of after-life. I see the point of universalism in it's grace for allof humanity - it captures that and forgoes the judgment. I really get that part - I love that part.

I also am aware of real justice and satisfaction for such justice. Yeah, grace also has it's limits. Again - this is more of a blance thing concerning the ideas of grace/mercy and justice.

Luke said...

" am not sure what good for society it can be? Even ideas of grace/mercy and forgiveness (and repentance) are moral ideas for the change of the person." -SVS

you're right Jason... what I interpret Capon for getting at here is that the Church isn't the morals police. if it is, then we get to become high and overly righteous like we see with Jerry Falwell's comments after 9/11 and Pat Robertson's comments about Haiti recently. i think the church is about healing and interpreting culture and ethics not about establishing them. our culture already has standards and laws, it's the church's job to see how best to navigate them. does that make sense? i should flesh that out a little more.. thanks for that critique.

"it captures that and forgoes the judgment."

i don't view it as doing as such. i feel that it is more in Kant's categorical imperative system than forgoing the judgment. i'm into the justice issues as well but into a holistic style of justice that takes care of both oppressed and oppressor. take for example the movie "the Corporation" where some hippies come to protest the CEO of some company in Britian. the CEO sits down and has tea with them and talks about how he is largely powerless to effect any change in his system and that he shares the same concerns as the hippies. it was a touching scene but i had to disagree with him on the "powerless" part. i always look for that third way that tweaks the system for the betterment of humanity. maybe i should stop attempting to compromise, but it's worked so far!

thanks for your thoughts... i'll ponder them a bit.

Sabio Lantz said...

Your type of Universalism (albeit Christian ;-) ) will do the world good ! I pray your boldness continues.