According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Biblical Considerations for an Inclusive View of Salvation


by Rachel Held Evans
posted November 16, 2011

friendly kids in Cochin, IndiaIn light of our conversation about Anne Frank yesterday, I thought I’d repost this rather lengthy piece from 2008 (back when I thought people liked to read 1,000-word blog posts) that details some of the biblical support for a more inclusive view of salvation.

Now I’m not a biblical scholar, but these passages of Scripture have informed my view of the “un-evangelized” and given me much hope regarding God’s love for humanity and his intention to restore all things to himself.

I’m indebted to Clark Pinnock and his excellent book A Wideness in God’s Mercy for helping me see some of these familiar passages in a new light.

I’m also thankful to NT Wright for explaining that salvation isn’t simply about “winning souls to heaven” but about being part of God’s relentless work of restoration, reconciliation, and redemption among all of humanity.

Some Things I Know:

If the God of the Bible is true, then His love is universal, and His grace is not limited to certain people groups or nations. (Genesis 9:17; Psalm 82:8; Isaiah 25: 6-8; John 3:16; 1 John 4:14; Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:11; I Cor. 2:19)

Some Things That Give Me Hope:

To the same degree that the Fall devastated mankind, God’s grace is able to redeem it, “for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (I Cor. 15:22) God did not lose his hopes and dreams for humanity to Satan when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. Total depravity, though devastating, is not beyond total redemption. (See also Romans 5:12-21)• God does not appear to relish in the damnation of the unsaved, but desires that all receive His mercy. (Isaiah 30:18; 2 Peter 3:9; 2 Timothy 2:4; Romans 11:32)

God may have determined when and where people would be born, but He did not leave Himself without a witness among them. (Acts 17:26-27) He created people in such a way that “they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us.” (Acts 14:16-17) This is commonly called general revelation.

Since creation, God’s “invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature” have been revealed to all. Those who practice unrighteousness are “without excuse” because they have access to enough general revelation about God to know better. (Romans 1:20) Exclusivists usually stop there, but as Dale Moody comments, “What kind of God is he who gives man enough knowledge to damn him but not enough to save him?” It is reasonable to assume that just as God has revealed enough of Himself for people to reject Him without excuse, He has revealed enough of Himself for people to accept Him without rejection.

• Scripture makes it clear that people are justified by faith. It does not stipulate how much a person needs to know about God in order to be saved, but simply qualifies that the fruit of saving faith is good works. Paul writes that “it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.” People who have no knowledge of the Law but who “do instinctively the things of the Law,” will be judged, not on the basis of how much they know, but on the basis of how they respond to their conscience. (Romans 2:9-16)

Throughout Scripture, we find evidence that God worked in the lives of people who were neither Israelites nor Christians. Take, for example, Job, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedeck, Abimelech, Jethro, the Queen of Sheeba, the Magi, and Cornelius. The famed Hebrews 11 passage includes several of these so-called “pagan saints,” in its elite “cloud of witnesses,” emphasizing that they were saved by faith in a God who “is a rewarder of those who seek him.”

Although God revealed Himself uniquely through the person of Christ, God’s grace is not limited or exhausted by Christ. If we truly believe in the Trinity, then we know that God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also at work in the world, and that the breath of God is free to “blow where it wishes.” (John 3:8) Looking at things from this Trinitarian perspective, it is reasonable to assume that one can maintain a saving relationship with God the Father through the Holy Spirit without necessarily knowing the name of Jesus Christ. Just as a right relationship with Jesus results in a right relationship with God, a right relationship with the Father is, in effect, a right relationship with Christ. (John 8:19, 42)

• Jesus says that when it comes time to “judge the nations,” the Good Shepherd will separate the sheep from the goats based on their treatment of “the least of these.” (Matthew 25:31-46) We forget that Jesus Christ is indeed present in every nation. He is present in the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned. Perhaps many will choose to reject or accept Him as he appears in that unlikely incarnation.

The book of Revelation paints an extremely optimistic picture of the universal scope of God’s salvation. The prophet writes that great multitudes will worship God in heaven, “from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Revelation 7:9; see also Revelation 15:4; 21:24-26; 22:2.)

Throughout the Bible, the consistent theme concerning judgment is that of God separating the wicked from the righteous, not separating the elect from the non-elect or the Christians from the non-Christians. The focus is on justice. Isaiah wrote that “a throne will be established in loving kindness, and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness…He will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.” (Isaiah 16:5) The writers of the Hebrew Scriptures look forward to the day when the unrighteous will finally receive justice and the oppressed mercy. (Psalm 1:5; Psalm 94:15;Ecclesiastes 3:17) James writes that “judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13)

Some things I don’t know:

I don’t know the degree to which God is present in religious systems. I’ve seen both very good and very bad fruit come from organized religion--including Christianity--and prefer to think of each individual as spiritually unique rather than the sum of his or her religious culture. I can only hope that non-Christians would do the same for me.

I don’t know exactly how God will judge in eternity and I don't presume to know where other people stand in relation to their creator. However, I know that those of us blessed with the knowledge of Jesus Christ, should be slow to judge and careful of over-confidence, always heeding Christ’s warning that “not everyone who says to Me on that day, ’Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 7:21-23; See also Matthew 12:26; Romans 2:1-5; I Peter 4:17)

• C.S.Lewis put it this way: “We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.”

• I don’t know how to interpret Christ’s teachings regarding hell. I’ve heard theologians make a good case for the impermanent “trash heap” [(the theory of annhilation)] and a good case for the traditional view of eternal torture. But I'm still sorting it all out.

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