Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Grace and Salvation

If you google "grace" you get about 95 million hits. If you google "salvation" you get about 20 million. I have no idea what the roughly 5 to 1 ratio of grace to salvation means.
But I was pondering these words yesterday after a couple of women came to our door peddling, I presume, salvation. I'm not certain of their pitch because I wasn't at home and my partner* was on the phone and didn't answer the door.
In any case, I'm sure most of you have, at one time or another, answered a similar knock and been asked, in one form or another, "have you been saved?"
I've seen variations on that theme become the center of debate at Presbytery meetings where the concern is not so much for the salvation of folks at the meeting -- after all, we Presbyterians are God's frozen-chosen. The question at such meetings usually arises during questions to candidates for ordination who will be asked something along the lines of "do you believe God saves all people?"
It's a trap, for universal salvation has been considered heresy according to orthodox Christian theology for roughly 1600 years. The orthodox position, crudely stated, is that Christ's death on the cross was the necessary atonement for the sins of humankind and trust/faith in that saving death is necassry to receive salvation.
Of course, as with most theological arguments, there is an orthodox tenet that undermines the orthodox position. In this case, the essential Reformed tenet of God's sovereignty. When one considers the Biblical witness that God desires communion with all of humankind on the one hand and the belief that God is sovereign -- God gets what God wants -- on the other, some form of universalism seems the logical conclusion. Don't try that on the floor of Presbytery, though, because pretty soon you'll get the Hitler question -- e.g., Do you believe Hitler was saved? Actually, Hitler is a great example, because he presumably had "accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior."
Ah, salvation theology ... a sticky wicket. What do you think?

*I'm using that term just to drive a little closer to the edge all those folks out there who have had a field day speculating about my sexuality in the months since my church's stand regarding weddings was in the news.


Marty said...

I dont get it ... saved from what? I would like to think that people, when they die, have made peace with themself and with those that they have crossed, and if they haven't, well, I think thats about those that are sticking around. Was Hitler saved?, well I hope not ... I know that he did not make peace or care about all those victims and families of the holocaust ... why should I care? ... I do think that people on death row go through a salvation when they reach out and try to right the horrors that they might have caused ... live life ... right your wrongs ... and hopefully you'll pass at peace with yourself.

Cheryl said...

But clearly, to me, Hitler could not have "accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior" and behaved as he did. No grace; no salvation. Faith without works, and all that.
Does that make me a heretic??

Anonymous said...

From Bryan: I guess in my anger toward the atrocities Hitler committed, I would want him to burn in Hell for eternity. However, we are all sinners and no sin is greater than another. How can something that is bad, be a little bit better or worse than something else that's bad? It's all bad. We can't degree sin; if we do that is our own human wisdom, not God's.

I hope that Hitler did realize the blackness that was his heart and I hope before his demise he asked for forgiveness. We all have done horrible things in our lives; horrible things that we're ashamed of...perhaps some we aren't ashamed of...but thank the Lord that we have grace from God and have forgiveness. If I have been given so much grace from God than I have to give grace as well.

I think it's irrelevant to question whether Hitler was saved, because it really doesn't matter and thinking about it doesn't help my life in any way.

Anonymous said...

From Bryan: And one more thing---I can't say I believe that God will save everyone. If so, what was the point of Christ's death and resurrection? It's not about who deserves what...it's about acceptance of Christ as Lord and Saviour. He is the mediator between humanity and God nd without Him there is no salvation.