I’m now about a third of the way through Keith Ward’s book, and I’ve got to say, I am getting into it. I don’t agree with everything in the book, but it certainly is a good read, with some really great bits in it, and it gives a lot to reflect on. Recommended. “A Challenge for Fundamentalists”, and more interesting thoughts for Liberals.

Just as the human body is that by means of which the self changes the world and acts in it, so conscious beings in the transfigured universe will be the means by which Christ changes the world, acts creatively in it, and brings about his purposes. That does not imply that created persons have no purpose of their own. But all those purposes can be woven by Christ into one harmonious whole which also expresses the purposes of the Creator, just as the conductor of an orchestra can direct the players to a specific interpretation of a piece of music, while each of them strives to complete their own part as well as possible…

…the universe, in its redeemed and transfigured state, should be the body of Christ…

…To participate in the divine nature is to share in the being of God, which is to love, to become instruments of that love and experients of that love, bound together in a community beyond ignorance and desire, suffering and sin, where ‘there will be no more death’ (Revelation 21:4). That is the ultimate meaning of salvation.

“Salvation” is a word that if heard almost always makes me cringe, because there are many fundamentalist, evangelical Christians who will say that salvation is being a Christian and believing that Jesus Christ (who we must confess in) died as a sacrifice to appease the father and give us a chance of being slightly less unclean and sinful than we are. Or at least so that the Father would be able to forgive us for that.

The word “salvation” has got a lot of bad press, because it’s usually linked with the fundamentalist approach I just described. But to me, salvation is not about being “saved” by confessing that you believe in someone who thankfully sent their child to take my heavy burdens in his blood. God no. In fact…

Jesus, as the image of God, is the image of what humanity under God should be.

Jesus was and is a divine example of what a truly Christian life is all about. Love. Jesus died not to appease the “wrath” of someone looking disgustedly down from the clouds, but because his vision of peace and love for humanity (God’s true desire for our world) was worth dying for. It’s that important. That beautiful vision of togetherness in humankind, of community, of heaven on earth.

Jesus spoke to all. No one was outcast from “salvation”. Salvation is not about picking the “right” tradition and being rewarded for turning up in Church each Sunday.

Salvation is about turning away from your sins – the literal translation of sins is “human failings”, which sounds a lot less eerie doesn’t it? -, choosing what is right rather than wrong and living in the light of God: of compassion and love. No “original sin”, no passing on of dirtiness from parent to child. Hold a newborn baby in your arms. How could they possibly be banished to a furnace of fiery flames because they weren’t sprinkled with Holy Water? We all make mistakes. We all fail sometimes. “Sin.” But God forgives us and we forgive ourselves. Because of Love.

And I am certain that “salvation” applies not just in the earthly world but in the next. I don’t believe God would banish anyone to “Hell” (an absence of God). I believe that even in death, with no earthly chance to redeem oneself, God would forgive. Why? Because I see God as a divine parent. I see him, her, hugging and sharing tears with the pained. I see God as a brother. One who walked upon the earth and knew of the corruption and doubt that can be seeded. And I see God as a Spirit, as strength, as redeeming Grace.

2 Corinthians 13:13: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

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2 Responses to Salvation

  1. If we say there is only Heaven and no hell, then we make a critical mistake of saying that all people of all religions go to Heaven. This is contrary to the Gospel of Christ in that Christ said “I am the way and the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Without Christ, we are lost and condemned to Hell.

    Also, the Wrath of God is a crucial piece of the Gospel. We can’t just ignore it.

    • Rachael Eliz says:

      I don’t expect either of us to agree with one another and I’m not looking for a back-and-forth debate, but I wanted to respond as I did not want you to think I was simply ignoring you for thinking differently, and I hope my response helps you to understand my different opinion, regardless of whether you agree with it. You have every right to have another opinion, and I respect it. I hope you can respect mine and the opinions of others too.

      First of all, I am not saying that there is no Hell. I believe that Hell is an absence of God – a place that is chosen by people when they die rather than a banishment. Do I think then that people of all religions can go to Heaven? Well yes I suppose I do. I certainly believe that Christianity is the true religion, but what is at the heart of Christianity, I believe, is Love. And Love comes in many forms. Many people in poorer countries never hear of Jesus for example, but I believe without a doubt that God would still open his arms to them. I believe that when we say we believe in Jesus Christ, we should be saying that we believe in his life and what it meant, of Love, the Love of God, for that is what Jesus embodied. Whilst I do not think that books such as the Qu’ran are God-inspired, I believe that people of other faiths can really be seen to be worshipping our God, simply with a different name. For example, one of God’s names in the original language literally translates as “no-name”. God is the source of Life, and that is what we all pray too. Atheists? Well if they embody love then to me they have Christ in them, whether they see it in the moment or not.

      But then that doesn’t really answer the point you made – you said that people of all religions cannot get into heaven – whilst I believe that people of all religions can get into heaven, this is because simply I believe that heaven is not somewhere you need necessarily to earn access to through your life on earth. I don’t see life as a system of rewards and requirements. I believe that when we die, God gives us yet another chance to let his love and grace into our hearts. To forgive ourselves as he forgives us, whatever we have done. God could not turn his back upon someone if they repented (turned around) from their sins (human failings), even if that moment came in death. If one truly loves and accepts God into their hearts, whatever time it is, God will always be there for them. Because God loves them. Because God is our parent, our sibling, and lives at the center of us in Spirit.

      Therefore, without Christ we may feel lost, as we may feel isolated without the love and vision of peace that gives humanity some hope and strength, but we are not, I believe, “condemned to Hell” as you put it.

      As for the Wrath of God – I’m not ignoring it because bluntly it isn’t a crucial part of the Gospel, for the reasons I just discussed. Jesus didn’t die so that God’s “wrath” would be appeased and Jesus as the ultimate blood sacrifice would stop the need for more animals to be slaughtered in the name of sin. People brought forth “sin offerings” because they wanted to give something back to God. To thank him and to say sorry for things. Keith Ward describes the way in which one takes a small gift (a box of chocolates for example) to a party as a metaphor for this. It was not about appeasing wrath. For the Jews sacrificing animals in the Old Testament, it was about being with God and giving something of theirs to show that they cared. Jesus came because he wanted to show us who God really was. That he felt our pain as he suffered on the cross, and that his vision of peace and love, of being open to all, is what saves people, is what salvation is.

      And in response to the Bible passage you have quoted, I ask that you go to this PDF file to avoid me typing out an even longer response to read what I think in the great words of Brian McLaren. Here’s a snippet:

      To me, the dynamic core of this passage is found not in verse 6, but in verse 9: Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Here the irony becomes nearly unbearable (to me), as we contrast this statement with the conventional interpretation of verse 6. Jesus says in verse 9 that the invisible God has been made visible in his life. “If you want to know what God is like,” Jesus says, “look at me, my life, my way, my deeds, my character.” And what has that character been? One of exclusion, rejection, constriction, elitism, favoritism, and condemnation? Of course not! Jesus’ way has been compassion, healing, acceptance, forgiveness, inclusion, and love from beginning to end. But our conventional interpretation of verse 6 seems to say, “Forget all that. Forget everything you’ve seen in me … the way I’ve lived and treated people, the way I’ve accepted prostitutes and tax collectors, the way I’ve welcomed a Roman centurion and a Samaritan woman. Forget all that. Believe instead that God will reject everyone except people who share your doctrinal viewpoints about me, because I won’t let anyone get to the Father unless they get by me first.” It makes me want to scream.

      Like us, in this time of uncertainty the disciples want to fall back on conclusive data (“Show us the Father. That’s all we ask!”), clarity, intellectual knowledge, something they can grasp with or without Jesus. But Jesus keeps turning them forward, toward trust. He keeps wanting to lead them ahead to trust even when he will not be physically present; he calls them to continuing obedience and love – to how they should live. They want a roadmap but he gives them a promise, a promise of his continuing presence, which he will soon elucidate in his words about the Comforter and in his powerful image of a branch abiding in a vine. In fact, if they will trust him through this uncertain time when he will leave them and go somewhere they cannot follow, they will discover not an end to their adventure, but an exciting new chapter.

      We want to know with clarity exactly who’s “in” and who’s “out.” Our preoccupation gives rise to the uncomfortable suspicion that some of us won’t be as happy being “in” unless sufficient numbers of people are “out.” But Jesus gives us not the in-andout information we may want, but what we actually need: he reassures us that we don’t have to understand everything as long as we trust him, and the vision of the Father we receive through him.

      God be with you.

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