Several years ago I discovered Miroslav Volf, a wonderful academic with a rich background. He hails originally from the former Yugoslavia, and was considered a subversive due to conscientious objection in the 1980's. I've never read any of his books, but have read a number of articles by him. I consider Miroslav to be one of those global Christians who has an orthodox and deeply thoughtful understanding of the Christian faith and contemporary culture, while being able to articulate it afresh with new perspectives. I recently read an interview with Volf from The Other Journal, which is connected to both the Bakke Graduate School and Mars Hill Graduate School (so it must be good!). Here are a couple wonderful quotes from this particular article that were thought provoking or affirming:
"The Christian faith is certainly about the coming world of love, and for that a radical transformation of reality is necessary. No mere 'translation' of souls into some heavenly bliss will suffice; transformation of all reality, so as to become the world of perfect love is needed!"
I've been writing about this a bit recently. The idea is not to minimize the importance of a gospel of personal salvation to a heavenly eternity, but to raise the importance of the Kingdom realities that are concomitant with that personal salvation. In fact, the Scriptures seem to assume that salvation is not merely personal, or even primarily personal, but that it is wide, deep, and long and affects not only families, communities, and societies, but even the physical world in which we dwell. God's salvation is a holistic renewal of all creation, and we experience that personally through the doorway of our own sins being atoned for and redeemed. That's not the end or even the telos, it is the opening and the beginning. Volf goes on to say the following:
"...whether and how 'eschatological transformation' translates into 'historical transformation' is a very important question."
Whether and how indeed. Those are real questions. Is the eschatological transformation that God is and will do breaking into the here and now historical reality in which we live? If so, how? This is one of the questions that I often feel I need to have answered, and many who aren't Christians want to have answered as well. Is this God we talk about really changing this world? Then, Volf concludes this particular thought with these clear lines:
"...does Christianity aim at converting the present reality into something akin with the coming revolution of God's kingdom? I would say, very definitely so! And, if it not, then it isn't Christianity as it has originally been envisioned!"
The Other Journal continued to press Vold about this idea of "eschatological revolution," not in terms of the "translation of souls into a heavenly bliss," but firstly as a radical transformation of all reality into the world of love, and secondly, as a future transformation by God that is related to our transformative work in the present.
When asked what support he has for this broader view of the transformation of all reality, Volf cites the vision of the Old Testament prophets, the ministry of Jesus, the ministry of Paul, and the vision of Revelation as "the transformation of society…the transformation of the entire way in which we together live as individuals and communities before God." I have to say, it's wonderful to hear from someone like Volf speaking so clearly on the subject and even giving, me at least, a new language to articulate some of these things. I think it also gives much needed weight to the fact that those of us who are looking for a wider (biblical) understanding of salvation than the merely personalized eternity version some strong intellectual support.
One last thing. The Other Journal also asked a good question that bears repeating:
TOJ: Evangelical theology seems unable to get over the dualism that pits "eschatological salvation" against "historical salvation," and "personal salvation" against "social salvation."
I think what myself, Volf, and others are looking for is again an integral view of salvation that is both eschatological and historical, both personal and social, both spiritual and physical, and much much more. Beyond dualism.
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