Friday, July 08, 2005

The Problem with Salvation

Yesterday I found myself in the middle of the Nashville Cohort Meeting at Flying Saucer. During the course of an hour or so, we transformed a back billiard room into a scared space as we discussed both the eternal and existential aspects of that scary Christian word: salvation.

Being emergent types, we had more of a “here and now” application to the idea of salvation, and did not hold it as an exclusively “then and there” type of event or process or phenomenon. Of the 8 men gathered there (Lynnette was there in spirit and got the ball rolling with her previous post), we did not speak as scholars or rote theologians. We didn’t even speak as pastors. We spoke as individuals profoundly affected by the grace of God. We knew that our lives had been changed and that we lived differently because of some action we received and in which we participated. We believed in that experience enough to talk about it, which is a great first step.

As good discussions do, we left with more questions than answers. We struggled with issues of justice, inclusivity, evangelism, math, Scripture, and the eternal. But I was comforted by the words of a Buddhist I met in Cambridge: “Nothing great theologically comes without struggle.”

What is this problem then with salvation? Is it a definition problem, one of mere words and prepositions that will have us wrangling over what we are saved from, to, by, because of, with, or for? Is it an ontological problem, one that leaves our minds grappling over how this salvation exists, whether it happens in an instant, whether it happens for eternity, or what forms it takes either in the present or in the forever? Is it an epistemological problem, one that makes each person wonder if their experience was real, if their assurance is justified, and well, whether or not it all makes sense? Or is it a different kind of problem entirely, one that no one has yet thought about, but will inevitably hit someone in the worst possible moment, like the night before a big test, or the day before a wedding, leaving us shaking and sweating, and wondering if we said the prayer right, if our baptism counted, and if Jesus was even paying attention during all of this or instead was out bowling with the disciples?

We can do word studies, we can read Scripture, and we can debate intent, cause and result. But, yesterday, I saw the reality of salvation. It was a reality that brought people together from different walks of life, and different theological backgrounds to drink some beer and eat some chicken fingers. And it was in the middle of a setting like that years ago that Jesus stepped in and said: “He or she who believes has everlasting life. (John 6:47)”

Some walked away and grumbled to themselves, and some walked away and believed. (John 10)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

what must i do to be saved?

so i've already used that title for a post on my blog. oh well. on to a comment about salvation...

since i grew up a cooperative baptist and now work in the united methodist world, i find tension surrounding the idea of salvation.

one of my coworkers recently visited a church which she described as "very baptist." she talked about the "invitation" at the end. apparently a young child walked down the aisle to make his or her "profession of faith." she seemed somewhat appalled by this action. i guess she thought i would be appalled too.

and i suppose i might be. except for the fact that i can remember one particular night in my childhood when i experienced some sort of calling from God and decided that i wanted to be identified with this God. i initiated a conversation with my parents that evening. several weeks later, i walked down the aisle. several weeks after that, i was baptized.

i don't know that i would describe any one point in my life as the point of salvation. i tend to think of salvation more in terms of process and journey than a one-time event. i don't really recall any time in my life apart from God. but as a child i did experience that moment of recognition...and i wouldn't write it out of my life story.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

July Cohort

Greetings All,

The next gathering of the Nashville Cohort will be this Thursday:
July 7
at the Flying Saucer
111 10th Avenue South
Located behind the Union Station hotel
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 259-PINT
  • here
  • for directions.

    In the Pool Room.
    (When you walk in the main entrance, continue straight ahead into the pool and game room. You'll find the cohort in the far back.)

    Our conversation will center around the topic of salvation in the emerging/missional church context.
    Post any questions you have about the topic here. We'll use them to guide our discussion on Thursday.

    See you there.
    Peace and love,