Sunday, October 30, 2016

Some Theses on the Church in North America Today (8)


8.    Talk of salvation as restoration to the genuine humanity God created us for raises the question of who God created us to be in the first place. Who we assume or think ourselves to be determines the kind of salvation we can envision God achieving for us. Our Western heritage of individualism, especially in the form we experience it today, has decisively shaped the salvation we believe we experience.



a.    We think of ourselves as “Billiard Balls.” Complete, self-sufficient, independent, we fancy ourselves moving through life as though around a billiard table. We make contact with other balls and the table rails which changes our direction but these contacts make no difference to who we essentially are.

b.    The Bible tells us, however, that God made us like molecules, a configuration of atoms connected by various sorts of relations. We are not complete, self-sufficient, or independent; rather we are who we are only in relation to God and others. Without these others we cannot become who God intends us to be.

c.    Sin is, in fact, just the illusion that we are and can be complete, self-sufficient, and independent, that we can by ourselves, for ourselves, and by our own power – and we should! Luther called this condition the heart “curved in on itself.”

d.    Salvation, for billiard balls, can only be thought an individual matter of each billiard ball turning to God and receiving grace and forgiveness. They become, then, “saved” complete, self-sufficient, and independent persons. They may now well care more for others than they did but not in a way that these others become part of their self-definition.

e.    God, however, saves us as molecules, in and with our relationships. He calls us to a body, a community, a sociality – the church. God created humanity to bear his image together.



So God created humankind in his image,
          in the image of God he created them;]
          male and female he created them.” (Gen.1:27)

As God created us so shall he save us. Together. As we were meant to be. As a city, the New Jerusalem, the bride of the Lamb.

f.     Until the church recovers the reality of our connection to each other (and, indeed, to all of creation) as God’s creatures our experience of salvation will be truncated, our ethics short-sighted, and our gospel increasingly incredible in a world that now knows we are all connected and what each does impacts everyone and everything else we live in a fantasy world that blasphemously favors the haves over the have-nots.

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