30 May 2004

Small addition to the post about the Atonement and salvation

It seems advisable, when one's readership is as tiny as mine, to respond to the suggestions of one's readers. Therefore, a brief comment regarding an observation from my friend Jan: my post on the Atonement and soteriology didn't mention the position that salvation is immediate (like a Pop-Tart), but that constant pickle-like activity must be maintained in order to preserve one's salvation, or it will be lost. Maybe that's the "toasted Pop-Tart left out on the kitchen counter on a summer's day" position.

About that, I only want to say that it sounds pretty frightening. I also believe that it would be a position defined as outside of Christian orthodoxy by most of the major historical branches of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant). But who cares about that? It's definitely the position of some smaller, less-orthodox branches of Christianity (taking orthodoxy, again, as defined by the major historical Christian traditions). And it's also the private position of plenty of individuals who profess to faith in one of the major, "orthodox" traditions. Lots of Christians are privately terrified that they're going to lose their salvation if they don't do X, Y, and Z, and lots of "orthodox" Christian congregations encourage this point of view. And there is, of course, a kernel of "truth" (bearing in mind Pilate's famous unanswered question) to it: If faith is an ongoing, living relationship between the individual and God, can't we choose to let that relationship sour by our own apathy or turning away?

My own position on this is this: It certainly is possible to have a terrible relationship with God if our spiritual practice is weak or nonexistent. And it's not that God doesn't expect anything of us; we are expected to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, and to love our neighbors at ourselves--and he means the "get out there and do something" kind of love, not just the "warm fuzzy feeling" kind. But what's at stake is the quality, not the existence, of that relationship. For Christians who are afraid that this is not the case, that there's "stuff" we need to do in addition to having faith, my advice is to read Galatians. It's only six chapters. It'll do you good. And have a cup of warm soup. :-)

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