Saturday, 5 November 2011

What is salvation?

This link: Barth: What make a Christian Christian? takes you to a very interesting article in which the author discusses Barth's views on what it is that makes a Christian a Christian.  Is it in being 'saved' (yes, but...); is it accepting and living by a moral code (yes, but...); is it directing one's attention towards a future in which God's kingdom has been finally established (yes, but...)?  In his Church Dogmatics, Barth, according to Terry J. Wright, agrees broadly with these propositions, but adds that none of them are enough to encapsulate the being of a Christian.  Primarily this is because none of them are particularly Christ-centred.  They all suggest that the focus and centre of the Christian is, or should be, either individual salvation, moralism, or an other-worldly approach to the here and now.  For Barth, then, the centre of the Christian life has to be as a living witness to Christ's work and lordship, which is not a work that we can do, but is rather that in which we are invited to participate, however badly.

Interestingly, at Inhabitatio Dei, Halden is also talking about what it is to be and to become a Christian.  (See: To become and to be a Christian.  Thoughts about such things have been on my mind recently too, partly because I have been reading chapters of Robert Letham's The Holy Trinity (2004) in which he discusses the Trinity in relation to worship and mission (chapter 4), and the second section of Zizioulas's Being and Communion.  (Note to self: don't forget your totally unrelated PhD project!).  These works have brought to the fore issues of what it means to be saved, how, through whom, and for what.  Coming from an Anglo-Charismatic background I grew up with the vague idea that salvation was a specifically individual event, a choice that one made.  Clearly more than a little of the consumerist culture of contemporary England fed this belief; though I can also see it in a highly developed and not-particularly-individualist-form in Kierkegaard.  The point, though, is that I'm starting to understand that just as salvation outside of Christ is not an option, neither is salvation as an individual outside of the Church.  Thinking through the idea of theosis backwards, in which the Church is invited as the Bride of Christ to enter fully by grace (not by nature) into the Trinitarian life of God, our own sanctification/divinization is only possible in and through the Church as both the Bride and the Body of Christ.  Christ in us (singular), us in Christ, that Christ might be in us (plural), and us in Christ; that we might enter into the perichoretic union between the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit.  To borrow from Gregory of Nyssa: whenever I think of salvation individualistically, I must also think of it collectively, and visa versa; and whenever I think of it collectively, I must also think of it intra-trinitarianly.  No doubt I have expressed this cack-handedly, and am open to correction; but nonetheless, what appears to be coming into view for how I understand salvation is a thing of incredible beauty that privileges, to pilfer shamelessly from Gunton, both the One and the Many, of which we, individually and collectively, are invited to join.


  1. Well, that's the main thing.

  2. Hi, I am from Australia.

    The concept of "salvation" is of course about the meaning and significance of death, and therefore of how to live Right Life altogether.

    Therefore please find an Illuminated Understanding of death, and therefore everything else via these references.

  3. Well, there you have it from Mr Australian Anonymous. Did you check out the illuminated understanding of death, David?

  4. Well, I'm sure you meant well, but I'm not really interested in the sayings of Adi Dam (or Franklin Jones, or whatever he says his name is). Jesus isn't just another great spiritual teacher of the world religions, he is God revealed in human flesh. Why would I bother with Adi Dam? To quote an old UK advert for Galaxy chocolate: why have cotton, when you can have silk?

  5. Your exclusive devotion to Jesus is almost as exclusive as his claim to be the only Way. But I do think the Galaxy chocolate advert pretty much sums it up!