Saturday, September 24, 2011

SALVATION....janurary 3, 2010..note to Edward Fudge

Hi Edward.  I'm always perplexed and saddened that people have such deep wonderings of whether or not they  are 'saved'.  I Think this is because no matter what  'words'  the Christian community uses what people still hear is that there is a 'check list' somewhere that we are all being compared to. I feel that is such a tragedy. Also I am rather confident that if a person seriously has this laboring question about themselves that they can 'know' they are saved. This is especially true considering that  salvation is described as present reality, for example in the gospel of John, not just a future state. It is actually themselves they should ask.
The Word Is Near You, In Your Heart
I hear the apostle saying in Romans 10:8  that the answer is within, 'The word is near you, in your heart'. And I think it is presumptuous and nonspiritual to think his statement refers to some specific 'written word' that has been learned from material pages as I was first taught.  We have been deluged with the idea of some external standard regarding Salvation instead of accepting the assurance that seems to me can come from nowhere except one's own heart. And a center piece of any 'good news' is that the answer is yes. Once we know salvation is secured then we are more likely to be about living as moral and loving life with others as lies within us. The whole question often strikes me as quite egotistical and the answer is often more of the same.

 'Words words  words' do truly get in the way and humanity has never been more  'word' oriented than present day Westerners.  Not just our religion but our whole cultural world view is perceived nearly entirely through the intellect, the Word, the Greek Logos. Word, rather than heart, is our god and  Eros has been lost. We are adrift in a sea of words.  It seems  we really don't know we have  a heart, a soul through which the most real and personal authority of God speaks. These kinds of questions from your readers say so much about all of this.  I used to think it was just my Church of Christ background but  now realize it is a deeply embedded cultural phenomenon that  makes finding the spiritual path so very difficult in our day. Because we have all been taught to look only on the outside for both our directions and our promise. We even turn 'belief' into a  'work' that can save. We are subtly reminded we need to believe 'well enough' the 'precise right thing' to be successful in analyzing our salvation.   We look usually in the wrong places. All of this simply fails to meet the human condition as it is. I am convinced that  Jesus did that exact thing, looked to his own heart and encouraged others to do the same for assurance. He met people as they truly were, not through some model that was supposedly how they were. That is such a big difference. When one is met in such a way, he/she knows it without any other affirmation.

Edward, as much as you seek to encourage people to give up 'legalistic' views of securing spiritual salvation I think I still hear your language  promoting a rather  strong 'we-them' model. I know you are joined by most everyone in that perception of humanity and I confess I often fall into it, but I  think we can know better. I think this is something that Jesus was  helping people get over. As soon as we think of others as significantly somehow  less 'saved' than we are, whether due to their behavior, response to religious formula(even if intellectually derived from Bible writings) or attitude we have added to the 'we-them' mentality that cripples humanity and causes every kind  of harmful judgment. A 'we-them' model of humanity is always backed by
Strong 'We-Them' Christian Painting Of Last Judgment ..Stefan. Lochner 1435
some, even if unspoken, kind of ultimate and precise standard that we are being judged by. Also such a judgment is one we humans, not just God, are confidently able to make regarding self and others. And we commence to do that arriving at our list of the 'saved and unsaved.' Is this kind of judgment a Christlike activity, even when Jesus' gravest warning is to ,' not judge' each other? Do your questioners pull you into playing their game here?  I recall the judgment scene  passage in Matthew 25:31-46  where Jesus  is pictured explaining that whatever side  of this 'good-bad'  polarity we may be on at any moment that we are not even able to 'know' it. ...'when saw we..???..both groups ask'.  Jesus is asking them to look inwardly against their insistence on an external standard. Sound familiar?

The deeper meaning of such complicated yet simple statements of scripture are best used to help us to learn to not judge others as having  'good or bad' faith for we simply are unqualified to make such judgment, even against ourselves.  This is the source of humility and  of a much more humane world that healthy religion can facilitate. Unfortunately well meaning religion seems more often to do the opposite. It does no one any good to take satisfaction that there are literally such groups of people, ie 'good and bad' even if there are. Closer to the truth is that we are all 'both/and'  not  'either/or'.  Is anyone so prejudiced that they really think sheep are good and deserve to live and that goats aren't?  Biologically they are very closely related, even able to crossbreed.
'Goats On His Left'

'Sheep On His Right'

 Jesus is teaching  a contrarian, thus often against our common logic, way for people to live, to think and relate; the 'way of the kingdom'.  It remains as novel in the midst of organized religion today as it was then.  Things have changed so little.   

Words do little good if they serve to shore up peoples'  inclination to see 'we- them'  in humanity and thus to gain some  false  confidence that ' we are  saved and not they.'  Most 'salvation questions' fall into such activity. Nothing demonstrates this at its worse than a religious argument.  Just knowing we and they are  'saved'  as far as we can know removes all motivation or need  to ever see God's humanity as 'we-them'. We should  leave this to the politicians and sadly  the religious who are determined to have a 'law in words', no matter how strongly they profess the doctrine of grace. We should pray that even a few high political people might today understand that to attempt to solve the deepest social/ humanity problems with a  'we-them' mentality is doomed to failure. It always has been.

Edward, this is one of those times I am not at all thinking of you personally as I write for I am aware that this topic is quite universal among religious people.. Your words just  sparked my thought process.  Thanks and Blessings , Jim

BAPTISM & SALVATION By Edward Fudge In GraceMail January 4, 2010
A preacher friend and gracEmail subscriber writes: "Edward, From your commercial message for the Billy Graham Crusade I see that you once again are hinting that baptism has nothing much to do with salvation. Am I correct? Yes or no?"
* * *
No. I am not hinting that water baptism has nothing much to do with salvation. It has very much "to do with" salvation, although it is no part of the work which sets us right with God. That was the perfect doing and dying of Jesus Christ our representative. It is the very news of Christ's saving work to which a believer responds by being baptized.

What does baptism have to do with salvation? It is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) -- for it expresses faith by which one obtains remission of sins (Acts 10:43), faith in Christ's blood which was shed for remission of sins (Matt. 26:28). Baptism is a visible manifestation of trust in Jesus Christ as Savior -- a declaration of, commitment to, and reliance on the perfect work which Jesus accomplished and by which alone sinners are set right with God (Col. 2:12). It is a silent declaration that the believer died and rose again when Jesus died and rose, for he was our representative who acted in our stead (Rom. 6:1-11).

Baptism is a formal request to God for a good conscience, based on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Pet. 3:21). It is the means for subjective cleansing, as one calls on the name of the Lord for salvation (Acts 22:16). By it, one is saved or delivered from identification with this crooked generation, inasmuch as baptism marks off one as a believer over against the unbelieving world (1 Pet. 3:21). We are saved from sin by grace (not by baptism) through faith (not through baptism). Baptism is a visible, tangible confession of that faith, an act of obedient trust in Jesus Christ who only is the Savior of the world.

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