Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Resurrection and the Nature of Salvation

We have been thinking about the resurrection of late -- both that of Jesus and more generally.  Resurrection fits in with other related issues, including judgment and salvation.  I'll leave off the discussion of judgment for the moment, except to say that in one form or another judgment does take place.  But more to the point of salvation.  

In today's study groups, we'll be looking at N.T. Wright's consideration of the "Hope of Salvation."  In that context we must ask what salvation entails?  Does it mean, being pulled off the earth to live in some "heavenly estate," most likely disembodied - a sort of Caspar the Friendly Ghost?  For our discussion, I'd like to throw out a statement from Wright's book Surprised By Hope.

As long as we see salvation in terms of going to heaven when we die, the main work of the church is bound to be seen in terms of saving souls for that future.  But when we see salvation, as the New Testament sees it, in terms of God's promised new heavens and new earth and of our promised resurrection to share in that new and gloriously embodied reality -- what I have called life after life after death -- then the main work of the church here and now demands to be rethought in consequence.  (Surprised by Hope, p. 197)

So, the question is -- how does our view of salvation impact our view of life before death?

Wright notes that the New Testament understanding of salvation starts with life here and now.  We enjoy it partially, but it is there for us to experience and live out.  As Wright ruminates about salvation, I'm reminded of the Disciples of Christ identity statement:  "A Movement of Wholeness in a Fragmented World."  What we do and say, the invitation we give, is a means to bring wholeness/healing/salvation to a world that is broken and fragmented.  We do not bring this in its fullness, but we work toward it.  

Wright offers:  

For the first Christians, the ultimate salvation was all about God's new world, and the point of what Jesus and the apostles were doing when they were healing people or being rescued from shipwreck or whatever was that this was a proper anticipation of that ultimate salvation, that healing transformation of space, time, and matter.  The future rescue that God had planned and promised was starting to come true in the present.  We are saved not as souls but as wholes.  (pp. 198-199).   
 Wholeness for a fragmented world -- salvation!

4 comments:

Doug Sloan said...

What is the Good News? The most concise answer and the best illustration is Luke 15.

The lamb was lost. It was the shepherd who searched, found, retrieved, and celebrated the recovery of the lost lamb.

The coin was lost. It was the woman who searched, found, retrieved, and celebrated the recovery of the lost coin.

The younger son is lost. The lost child rejects the father as though the father were dead. Even in rejection, the father is generous. This wandering aimless child lives a selfish and self-directed life without the father. Finally, the life of the child reaches a place on the path where there are no options and no direction and without any chance of rescue, no charity, no hope, no family, no meaningful life, complete separation from love and kindness and friendship and companionship, an abomination of an existence – this is death and hell. At such a time under such circumstances, what happens next is natural and unavoidable – the child goes home. It is not a choice. It is an inevitable continuation of the path and journey that every child travels. The father has been waiting and watching because some day that lost child will finish the journey, the last mile of which always leads toward home. When the father, who has been waiting and watching, catches that first distant glimpse of the returning child; the father rushes out to retrieve the child, once lost and now found, to shower the returning child with generous hospitality, and to begin the celebration. In this parable, the son never even gets to finish that well-rehearsed speech of contrition and humility. All that matters is that the wayward son is home – for the son was never lost to the Father, the son was only lost to himself.

The older brother is not happy. (Question: Is the home-bound brother like the nine coins safely gathered in a known location or like the ninety-nine sheep left in the wilderness?) The brother wants to know: why is there a celebration for the lost when there has never been a celebration for that which was never lost? Why are there not punitive consequences for destructive decisions and a selfish unproductive wasteful life? Why is there a father’s happiness for a bad son – a child who never lived in accordance with the lessons and wisdom and will of the father? The father warmly affirms his love for the older brother and gratefully acknowledges the accomplishments and stewardship of this steadfast older brother. The father also rejects rejection. There has been enough separation. There will be no more separation – separation is finished. Now there will be acceptance and inclusion and a great party.

Being a Christian is practicing generosity and hospitality; living non-violently without vengeance; living here and now as one family where all are invited, welcomed, and included without exception or qualification; living in constant relationship with God; and living here and now – not later and not someplace else – living here and now a life transformed by resurrection.

David Mc said...

Can't argue with that!

John said...

Doug,

Yes to a generous Christianity.

My question of the morning then is how do we effectively communicate our beliefs about a generous Christianity: first, to those of our Christian brethren who believe in a more brutal form of Christianity, and second, to a world which is aware of only this brutal form of Christianity?

The brutal form of Christianity to which I refer encompasses the misguided teaching that within the structure of the universe God is in covenant only with those who profess a genuine Faith in Christ, and this Faith in Christ is composed of a fixed list of non-negotiable and oppressive principles which appear designed with the objective of maintaining purity of thought within the faithful community, and that only those who pass the test of orthodoxy gain entry into this tightly restricted and closely guarded community, and that God brutally maintains the integrity of this universal structure by the fear of enforcement a set of certain and unavoidable punishments and rewards. (Yes, it sound exactly like a communist dictatorship! or ... Sh'aria Law!)
My perception is that within this teaching there is limited room allowed for genuine forgiveness, compassion, neighborliness, hospitality or love, because such beliefs and practices, especially when extended to those outside of the faithful community, are perceived as threatening to the integrity of the group and the group's theological purity.

And lastly, I ask (myself mostly) how do we communicate the message about a generous faith in a generous fashion?

John

Doug Sloan said...

1) An addition to my original post:

What should have been the behavior and response of the older brother? Luke 10:25-37 (The Parable of the Good Samaritan)

2) John: "How do we communicate the message about a generous faith in a generous fashion?"

We neither confront nor oppose.

In fact, to the extent that their faith sustains them, uplifts them, and provides a source of joy and fullfillment - We affirm their faith, support their faith, and will protect and defend it. All we ask in return is the same Christian consideration and freedom.

In my faith journey, here is what I have discovered...

3) Listen, learn, understand

4) Speak and educate persistently. I would strongly recommend "Living the Questions 2.0." for the Elders or a Sunday School class.

For the Elders (the Elders must be first, then the entire congregation), a sequential course would be (either before or after) "Unbinding the Gospel" by Martha Grace Reese.