What is Salvation?

Nuggets of wisdom seem to ooze from The Parish on a consistent basis. He reviews a movie by Andre Dubus and then writes:

I’ve been trying to save myself all my life: Jesus, alcohol, sex, adultery, drugs, cigarettes, cynicism…all of them have been part of a campaign to realize salvation in my own life. I’ve believed the story of my own fallenness and marveled at my ability to fuck up nearly everything while holding on to evangelical and fundamentalist notions of sin and salvation. They all try to perfect the human condition, but they do so by promising something that can’t be realized–holiness–or something that is ridiculous–imputed righteousness. Dubus plays the role of prophet in revealing the impossibility of holiness and the ethical telos of imputed righteousness (libertinism or self-righteousness) while granting permission for all of us to be simply human. Salvation is recognizing our humanity, finding those who love us in spite of it, and loving others whatever the cost.

AMEN to that. Can I get a Hallelujah?


13 thoughts on “What is Salvation?

  1. i recently read a very interesting article by NT Wright about “salvation”. his claim is that salvation (or whatever exactly we think we mean by it) MUST be a life change, similar to what dubus speaks of. Wright expostulates, however, that this comes not from our own effort to change ourselves, but from God changing us. he argues that God will change us as we place our entire life under his lordship. so he departs in a way from the “evangelical” model of salvation being about a “sinner’s prayer” and more about placing ourselves under Jesus’ lordship.

    agree or disagree, i think that NT Wright has a very interesting perspective, and i think even if a person doesnt believe in God, this makes much more sense than a stupid little prayer that “saves” us.

    i know many people (including myself) who “prayed the prayer”, but that didnt mean that we were “saved”. as the rabbi once said, “by their fruit you will know them. a good tree doesnt produce bad fruit.” so if a person prays the “sinner’s prayer” but are still being hateful, maybe they arent really “saved”?


  2. peter,
    I’m beginning to think you’re right, especially after reading Spencer’s (internet Monk’s) piece about transactionalism. To me it was mind-blowing and so much more about God than about us. I prayed the prayer also. What is “saved” anyway?

    I just got back from cruising your blog. Left a couple comments. 🙂

  3. I think the root word in salvation was salvo, which was like a salve, or to heal. So it would make sense along what Peter says, in that there should be a life-changing shift in one’s personality. We should be able to tell based on one’s fruit whether they have a life of healing or not. And it goes so far beyond a correct belief or saying the right things — it’s something that goes deep into the heart of a person and touches everything else.

    For some, that means submitting to God. For others, that means casting off God and seeing the good in creation and humanity, and trying to better that.

  4. mystoiniq

    thanks for going to my site. for some reason i didnt see the comments pop up in my wordpress dashboard, but i will look for them.

    by the way, i think internetmonk has a lotta good things to say as well.

    thanks for your candidness as always.


  5. Heather,
    I think it’s deeper as well. When I first encountered Christ I had no qualms about what happened or how I was “different.” My encounter was an overall “feeling” of blessing, love and acceptance. It was only when others told me I had to be in church that things went downhill. I think church caused me to lose the Christ of love I first encountered. 😦

  6. Robin,

    In practical terms? I think by opening up to the Love of “God,” “Universe” whatever we call it. By being a channel of that LOVE. By being inclusive not exclusive in that love.

    Even by loving those who annoy the hell out of us, like fundies. That’s the hard part. We can love them however by being civil and also by setting boundaries. Love doesn’t mean we allow others to walk all over us or that we must listen and acknowledge every little thing they say as true and valid. Love is also reciprocal. Practical love always has an element of complete freedom and the willingness to allow for mistakes without punishment. Practical love doesn’t chastise, but guides.

    Can I do this every time? Hell no, especially when commuting to work every day! But I know more about it now than I did when I first encountered Christ. Paul’s chapter on love was the best thing he ever wrote and something even he didn’t practice when he (quoting and agreeing with Epimenides) called all Cretans liars in Titus 1:12-14. Was Paul inspired then? Not so much, but he had moments.

    (excellent article about how Christians interpret this lack of love on Paul’s part and whether we should believe him when quoted “unbelievers”: http://www.wscal.edu/faculty/wscwritings/commongrace.php

  7. Peter,
    Ok, the reason you don’t see my comments is because I confused your blog with Dangerous Christian’s blog. My bad. I get lost on the internet sometimes. 😦 Too many choicesssssss!!!!

  8. Salvation,

    The use of reason to determine truth rather than any anchient authority.

    Adjusting your world-view to fit the reality of life you see around you.

    Putting off all mystical unrealistic beliefs and ideals, those which we all have been trying to live up to or even understand and reconcile, against the harsh reality of the real world, all of them of course except honesty and integrity.

    Finally, to think critically and never stop asking questions.

    and staying away from Church.

  9. OH boy… yay New Perspectives on Paul… there is a much larger argument behiond this one that I have only just started to unravel…

    OK so love, what is love, then? Is love always kind words and encouragement? Yes and no. Love can be gentle rebuke. Anger, too, is ok, as long as we do not sin in our anger (as some anger is very righteos). But Peter says to speak the truth in love. So while Paul may have been a hothead in Titus, it certainly did not mean he wasn’t exhibiting love.

    When we talk about salvation, we also can’t read the bible with the microscope. To say that salvation is God enabling us to sanctify us is only partly true. By that, I mean that it is true, but not the whole truth. Paul said that the righteous shall live by faith (Romans 1:17), and James very clearly said that faith without works is dead, but works without faith is meaningless.

    My point: Works are the fruit of our faith. With faith, we can’t help but be changed by God and His word. But if we focus on “whatever gets us there,” then we do NOT have saving grace (common grace, sure, but not saving grace).

    Christianity is not a 10-step way to a sanctified life because it’s not about us. When will we look beyond ourselves?

    I hate American culture…

    And noogatiger…. respectfully… wrong.

    Look to both your heart and your mind. Balance and temper each with the other. Look for your answers and at yourself honestly, then look up. Questions are good! Nooga is right in that we should never stop asking them! You will find yourself and salvation (as well as any other answers) in the heart of God, I assure you.

    God Bless!

  10. noogatiger

    i think you have many good pts. but i think one must be careful of generically rejecting “church”. it really depends on how we define church. you see, the word church just means gathering of people in greek. analogous to synagogue in hebrew. in Jesus’ day, synagogue was a place to discuss and interact with others in the community. yes, it was to read the Scriptures, but it was to ask Qs and to argue, etc.

    look at the early followers of Jesus. they went to the synagogues and discussed with the people. they didnt go and preach a dogma.

    i think the concept of a place that people are able to gather and freely discuss important topics and events and things in their life is a good thing. in some ways, you might even say a university campus is similar to a “church”. so in this way, i think church is actually a good thing. but i agree with you that many “churches” can be quite the opposite, instead being a place where blind dogma is taught. i wouldnt recommend anyone to go to a place like that.

    just my two cents.


  11. Peter, yes and no… discussions did take place, but the role of the Levitical Priests was also to teach the book of law to God’s people. In the Early Christian Church, there were still “elders” (“presbyters” in the Greek) who taught the good news.

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