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November 10, 2005



I know you know this, but as innocent (and biblical!) as what you say sounds, it is dangerous and subversive out here in the world of Reformed Christianity. But take heart, the Kingdom of God is breaking in even there, even amongst many of my fellow seminarians, who are no longer cowed by the stay-in-line forces that want to keep salvation "in my heart."


I know you know this, but the Gospel, the real Gospel has always been dangerous and subversive. It is the message that there is a Kingdom of God with a King, namely, Jesus.



Tuck - this is outstanding, thanks for this. Another angle on the "is that all there is" came to me today when someone mentioned that God in Christ is restoring His entire creation. A part of that restoration project includes our personal salvation. I love this - I think it opens up all kinds of avenues for addressing the question that was raised.

Very encouraging to be reminded of "God’s promise to undo the mess of life," not just deliver us out of it. thanks.

A thot: I usually attribute the overspiritualized, heading-toward-dualism view of salvation you describe to a combination of old Greek attitudes and modernist individualism that have infected Christianity. But now I wonder if its not the fall itself that leads us toward a world-denying dualism. We see so much brokenness and not enough (for us) undoing of it. So we experientially conclude that God's not fixing things. But we know, having tasted it, that He is real in our lives. So we end up figuring the spiritual stuff is real and the world is not of God's interest. Indeed, the just shall live by faith.

John, I haven't "thot" of that, but it makes sense. The Fall leaves us with a bias against God and against the life he wants for us -- I imagine we can twist just about any good thing into something less than it ought to be.

The flip side of "is there more to salvation than we think?" is the question - "is there more to sin than we think?" Does the fall only affect the individual and the moral? Or does it infect everything?

I have found that people are remarkably consistent theologians. If they express salvation in only individual or ethical terms, then they will have a similar scope in their definition of sin. If they see sin as also infecting everything - institutions, the physical world, passivity/activity, etc - when they sing "far as the curse is found" they mean everywhere.

One way to communicate the extent of salvation is to teach the extent of sin. The typical Evangelical wants to appreciate the severity of sin, but usually does so only in quantitative terms - "We sin hundreds of times a day." What is missing is that sin affects a lot more than individual ethical actions.

Incidentally, the thesis of Divided by Faith (M Emerson) is that this is why white Evangelicals have been unsuccessful in their well-intentioned attempts to address racism. They can only speak of it in terms of overt individual prejudice. Their individual-ethical theology has not been able to address the collective misuse of power in a racialized society.

The “flip side” is exactly why so many social problems go untouched by evangelicals. We are far more accommodated to the individualized private therapeutic faith than we realize. Of course salvation and sin is individual, but we “super size” it. We don’t seem to have categories that allow us to think about or appreciate the structural/social/cultural dimensions of either sin or salvation. Yet – God created a whole world, and placed human beings in that world to develop its beauty socially and culturally through our relationships, work and play. Thanks for the reminder that a salvation as deep as the curse is only huge if we rightly grasp that sin touches both persons and the societies and institutions they build.


Wonderful article. Very rich and encouraging. Beautiful and compelling. I think that's what so many of the folks in the emerging church are looking for: a multi-dimensional perspective on salvation. A holistic, consistent Reformed approach might be what they are missing. As things stand I think lots of emergent folks are ex-dispensationalists "leap-frogging" over the Reformed tradition and looking to the Eastern Orthodox for their soteriology.

Shall we send them all to you to get their thinking straightened out?



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