Saturday, June 18, 2011

Salvation: from what?

Typically we (Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians) consider this issue of salvation as a deliverance from "the World, the Flesh and the Devil."

In this context "the world" is a reference to the a system of behavior, and authority running the program of history and being directed in some way by the devil, but also subjected to the problematic results of a curse put upon it after the Fall in Genesis 3.

Yet, Evangelical Christianity is more regularly considering the fact that the world is in need of being saved from not just the curse of the Fall, but of our poor use of it. So salvation is being viewed as encompassing the idea of Creation being saved from humanity, and our devastating impact upon it.

Then the idea of salvation as a deliverance from "the Flesh" is a clear denotating that Evangelical Christian theology views each and every human as needing to be saved from themselves. Slavoj Zizek (Lacanian-Marxist Theorist, atheist, and most popular of philosophers today) recently made the point that breaking the social barriers which create "untouchables" will not occur simply by elevating those untouchables to a position of "children of god" as many have been trying to do in India's caste system, but "the first step should rather be exactly the opposite one: to universalize their excremental status to the whole of humanity." (Living in the End Times pg. 23) He then references Martin Luther as an example of properly thinking through establishing an egalitarian ethic.

Before the promotion comes the demotion.

This is the heart of Evangelical soteriology. It is the core of the idea of repentance followed by acceptance by God and elevation to a noble status. This highlights the concept of being saved from ourselves. Yet it also places us in the tension of living between the sewage trenches and the palace. This is us being saved from ourselves.

Then the identification of an external enemy with malevolent designs enters the picture of this struggle of life and death. The world may be an external force, but it is stupid (unthinking, broken and failing in some kind of post-apocalyptic vision all around us.) We may at times be malevolent toward one another, and perhaps even toward ourselves, but salvation from self (the Flesh) is a far more difficult enemy to overcome, because as we typically discover in our struggles - we like Paul understand the tension of doing those things we don't want to do, and not doing those things we do want to do (Romans 7).

Yet, the third enemy, "the Devil", is an outside, personal, and malevolent force. That is how much of Christian theology views this part of the dynamic of salvation. We have an enemy and he has designs against us. Therefore we should be wary, and recognize that the World and the Flesh may at times become resources for the intelligent and malevolent designs of the Devil. He is trolling our lives, making accusations, and setting traps. Unlike the previous external unthinking, and internal forces this third purposely malevolent force appears to have no hope for salvation, and so there is no view of reciprocal evil being paid back to "the Devil" such as we find man in his destruction of the world. So it is, that in some way we are becoming like devils ourselves through activities which are like his own, and thus we need to be saved from him, and from becoming like him all at once.

This thing called salvation appears to have an all encompassing demand. There may nothing untouched from its reach into our lives.


Cern said...

'the world is in need of being saved from not just the curse of the Fall, but of our poor use of it. '

To quote Agent Smith Humanity is a cancer.

'The world may be an external force, but it is stupid (unthinking, broken and failing in some kind of post-apocalyptic vision all around us.)'

Perhaps it is US who are unthinking, stupid. The idea that the world is not sentient and therefore a thing to be used as we wish is why the world needs saving from unthinking, stupid humans. The notion that the world is broken and failing might be missing the point... perhaps we only perceive the world as broken and failing because it isn't serving our demands and doing what we want it to. Perhaps the world is fighting the cancer. Perhaps the way to demote ourselves is to recognise that we are part of the world, not apart from the world. Within Christian thought is the notion that we are unable to fully know the mind of God. Perhaps, if we understand our universe as God, we might recognise that we are unable to fully know the mind of the universe (and our world). Perhaps one cell in a human is unable to know the sentient mind of that human. Perhaps we humans might be thought of as cells within the divine Universe, unable to know the mind of that universe. Instead, we multiply and destroy other cells to our own end, failing (as do cancer cells) to recognise that we are forging our own destruction, either by destroying that which we live upon or by causing that which we live on to erradicate us.



Pastor Phil said...

Hi Mike,

Great comments.

I do come form the basic non-poly/pantheistic worldview, and make the assumption that the earth is stupid (meaning that in a non-derogatory manner) - non-sentient. Because man is sentient, he may act stupidly, but can not be fully stupid, and so immorality s more of a problem in our behavior - or negligence - or ignorance.

Humanity as a cancer is an interesting thought, but might be more dramatic than I would want to assign to humanity, because I see as much nobility as evil.

Miss you bro. Love writing back and forth with you.

Having a bit of a problem with a troll going by 4 different names on my blog right now.


Cern said...

That 'different worldviews' bit can be very interesting. Especially when trying to frame your own worldview in terms that might communicate and be understood by someone who has a different worldview. Also interesting just to see how a different worldview works, as we both know. :)

The humanity as a cancer bit can work if you remember that cancer cells are cells that have modified from ordinary cells. There will be humans who are still ordinary cells too. :)

Missing you too and wishing I could find more time to write. Well, other than articles, proposals, developments of projects and reports that is. :D

Trolls.... feeding them tends to encourage them. :)



Pastor Phil said...

The different worldviews issue has been interesting. Communicating outside of my own has been easier than communicating within it. Perhaps primarily because I have been seeking to be a bridge from my own worldview to others, and therefore appear to look like a departure from the norm, when I am in fact trying to be a re-defining of a non-departure (well, usually - some departure from the norm is of course the nature of reformation, and/or renaissance).

I suppose my view of redemption, and humanity sees each individual as both cancer and ordinary cells all wrapped up in one package. We are both noble and warped all at once. So in some way the cancer illustration breaks down for me. (Although it does have its place.)

That of course is why I will go a certain distance - even with trolls. Somewhere down inside there is still hope for honesty, and grace to emerge. But, I will only go so far. In this case it is for the 4th time with the same troll, because I do see so much good in the person, and want to help.

Stephen said...
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Stephen said...
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Steve Hayes said...

Thanks for that, Phil.

It seams that Evangelicals and Pentecostals differ from most Calvinists, who hold the penal substitution view of the atonement, that what we are saved from is not so much the world, the flesh and the devil, but rather God's just and righteous punishment of those he has chosen for damnation.

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Steve,

Indeed the idea of being by God from Himself does carry some problematic elements, and I find myself regularly leaning away from theology which sounds like that.