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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: salvation

McLaren, continued


St. Louis ArchOk, so I've been gone for awhile.  You may notice, I blip on and off like a bad TV that's been hit by lightening.  True.  When busyness hits, I go underground - at least on the blogosphere.  I wish it weren't so because it's wonderful to write for no other reason that to write, process, and share.  Anyway, this week in September is the busiest week of my year and September is generally the busiest month.  But this summer in general was just plain busy. There are a couple new books I'm reading, or almost done with.  The first is GloboChrist: the Great Commission Takes a Postmodern Turn by Carl Rashke.  If you'd like to read an excerpt, click hereTall Skinny Kiwi has been blogging about it, and I hope to engage it a bit in the coming weeks.  I'm pretty much done with it.  I'm also half way through Andy Crouch's new book Culture-Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling.  Both are good books, and I've enjoyed them both.  Lots to say about Crouch's book.  Raschke's is provocative, interesting, sometimes overstated, and just OK.  I'm going to be starting Gordon MacDonald's book Who Stole My Church soon as well as Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church with one of my youth pastors.

On to McLaren.  I wanted to share a quick metaphor that McLaren used when he was talking about The Gospel and salvation and Kingdom.  To truncate it a bit, Brian was talking about what I've mentioned before about the message from many that the penal substitutionary theory of atonement or receiving Jesus as one's personal savior is the Gospel.  Someone in the audience had questioned him about where he stood on this theory, etc. as the Gospel.  McLaren used a metaphor in which he said something to this affect, "People want to talk a lot about going to Florida and what I think about Florida and how to get to Florida, when I thought we were going to California."  I didn't really like his metaphor, although I thought it raised some important issues.  When you talk to people (like me... and Brian) about the Gospel, our view is wider than the theory of substitutionary atonement or receiving Jesus as Savior.  However, when many people here that, they think we've forfeited the gospel.  I would argue that we are actually saying that the Gospel is more than that, not less.  And for sure, Christ's work on the cross as our substitute to atone for our sin and rebellion against God is key, and core to the Gospel.  However, it is not itself the gospel. 

So, I have an alternative metaphor.  Think for a moment about the St. Louis Archway.  It was originally built in the '60's to commemorate Thomas Jefferson and the Westward expansion of the Americas.  So, imagine with me that the Arch were the actual gateway to the the West, that you would have to pass through the archway to get to the western frontier.  And let's say that the Eastern United States was ruled by a different king and under different rules than the Western United States.  So, let's say you live in the east, and friends of yours have told you about the King and Kingdom of the West, how different it is, how much more humane, how much healthier, etc. it was.  So, you head West from your home in Washington DC and you come to the St. Louis Archway.  You take pictures; you go to the top of the Arch; you even take the helicopter ride.  Then, you settlt there on the banks of Illinois just to the East of the Mississippi river, or maybe you cross over and you set up your new home on the western banks in St. Louis, Missouri.  But, you never go West (young man).  You never see the sprawling Iowa and Nebraska plains, the deserts of Nevada, the mountains of Idaho, or the California coastline.  Even so, you think you've travelled West. 

That's the metaphor I think of when we truncate the Gospel to a theory of atonement, to a sinner's prayer (which much of the time is misunderstood while it's happening), or being born again (not in the biblical John 3 sense - which is more like the West , but in the contemporary sense like the banks of the Mississippi).  Those are all gateways, are all part of going West, but the Gospel is about the King and his Kingdom that are both coming and have come.  And as CS Lewis said, we must go "further up and further in" to experience the beauty and wonder of the place Aslan has prepared for us. 

I'm certainly interested in the St. Louis Arch and getting across the Mississippi, but I also really want to see the Rocky Mountains, the Snake River, the Tetons, the Black Hills, the Grand Canyon, the vineyards, and pacific coast beaches.

After McLaren's talk, my friend and I had the highlight of the evening when we stopped at one of my favorite places:  Traverse Bay Pie Company.  If you're ever near one, you have to stop and have at least a piece of pie, but don't go alone.  Make sure you have a good conversation partner along.

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Gum, Geckos, and God Blog Tour pt. 4


James SpeigelWelcome to the Gum, Geckos, and God Blog Tour!  I was delighted to be invited to participate.  I not only enjoyed reading the book, but interacting with Jim has been fun, too.  Jim Speigel is Philosophy Professor at Taylor University in Indiana. (Also, Jim and his wife just launched a new blog as well, called Wisdom and Folly.)  I had a hard time confining my questions, so I asked Jim a series of questions.  I'll be posting a new one every couple of hours, and I hope you find these engaging.  Here's the fouth installment. Embarking:  You seem to walk on some potentially dangerous territory with some evangelicals when you say, "...if fetuses and infants can be saved, then belief in Jesus Christ must not be necessary for salvation.  So whatever must be necessary for saving faith, it can't be belief in Jesus." [p. 198]  "One lesson here is that we must reject the narrow concept of explicit faith as necessary for salvation."  [p. 199] And then again when you open up salvation to those who have an implicit faith limited by the amount or type of information or understanding they receive this side of heaven.  If I were CS Lewis, I would tend to agree with you, since he opens up salvation to a post-death experience in his Great Divorce (although admittedly, almost no one survives the trip to heaven from hell and goes further up and further in).  Most people would at least say that faith in the God of Abraham is the same as faith in Jesus, but in those cases, Moses, Abraham, David, and Elijah all knew Yahweh - who even then was the same Trinitarian God.  Can you make any type of biblical case for salvation outside of faith in the Trinitarian God - whether people encounter Christ or not?  A couple things come to mind: 

  1. We are post Jesus, so we're in a different situation than the OT people.  
  2.  Would Paul open salvation to those he talks about in Romans 1, but who never encounter Christ?  
  3. On what grounds can we possibly open up salvation for those who have not heard the gospel?

SPIEGEL:  I addressed this in my response to one of Roger Overton's questions on the A-Team blog last Friday.  To answer your specific questions, in reverse order: 3) my main basis for believeing God can save some who haven't heard the gospel is consistency with the fact that infants (who die) and O.T. saints never heard the gospel but they (or many of them) are saved, which shows in principle that hearing the gospel (or having explicit beliefs about Jesus Christ) is not a necessary condition for salvation; 2) yes, I think Paul would allow for this-see my comments on the A-Team blog for my reply to the counter-argument from Romans 10:14-17; and 1) to say that our temporal location, relative to the life of Jesus, changes the criterion for salvation is arbitrary and groundless.  This is one reason why one may not hear the gospel.  Note that it is temporal in nature (applying to those who lived prior to Christ coming to earth).  Another is spatial (applying to those who don't hear the gospel because of their geographical location-that is, they happen to live in places where the gospel has not been preached).  Now if God can show mercy to some who are temporally removed from the gospel (as we must believe from Scripture), then why can't he also show mercy to some who are spatially removed?  To say that one is decisive while the other is not seems utterly arbitrary, particularly since Scripture makes clear that God transcends both time and space.

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