Monday, November 13, 2006

Who, then, can be saved?

This was the question that the disciples asked Jesus when the person that they thought was already being blessed by God (the rich young man) turned away from Jesus' call. Jesus turned their paradigm of salvation upside down. It was not enough to say that since the man was being materially blessed that he was therefor righteous and therefor being blessed by God. A friend recently told me that many years ago Winkie Pratney made the comment that he foresaw a day when people would have to be educated before they could be saved. I sharply disagreed with this assessment. I am more in line with the thinking of Donald McGavran that a person should not have to leave their culture in order to become a follow of Jesus, i.e. get saved.
In the emerging church conversation the question of "What is the good news" is talked about a lot. The context often revolves around the question of the uniqueness of each church to live out the mission of God in the context in which they find themselves. This is a bit of a shock to evangelicalism as the concept of salvation is atonement based. Salvation, primarily, means forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven. But, when we look at the context of Jesus the idea of salvation had more to do with deliverance from political oppression, from the demonic realm, and of sickness and disease. They already had a means to achieve forgiveness of sins and there debate as to the existence of life after death. Thus, the EC question is a valid one and one that each community of faith must wrestle with. How much do we thrust the atonement to the forefront of proclaiming the good news? If we are living in an increasingly post-Christendom world, then the concept of being sinners and needed salvation from our sin nature would first have to be taught before a person could be saved. But, is that was salvation really is? Yes, Jesus did forgive sins and ultimately his death provided means by which sin was forgiven once and for all, but Jesus' call was not "Come and get your sins forgiven" instead it was "Come and follow me". This begs the question about the meaning of "repent" and if we are to discuss it we must start to peel away our cultural understanding of that word (more on that another time). For this post I'll simply say that when Jesus told people to repent he was calling them to a complete change in life and what they thought it meant to live as the people of God. Consequently we don't see Jesus giving the 1st century version of an altar call for people to confess their sins. He was calling them to follow him and thus to live the true meaning of the Kingdom of God.
Who can be saved? When is a person saved? These are questions that we must understand in our own setting and let our conclusions shape our communities of faith and how we live out the meaning of the Kingdom in our unique contexts.

1 comment:

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