Thursday, July 12, 2007

review 5--a different kind of christian

I'm actually writing this a bit out of order. How it will effect how I write about what comes between the previous entry and this, I don't know. What I've been doing is reading ahead, and what I've read has been such that I suppose I need to write about it now.

I've been reading chapter 10. Dan has another meeting with Neo, this time in something like a pub, and Neo lectures again, this time about salvation.

"He said that he had been believe that the central story of the Bible was about saving individual souls. The gospel...was about getting individual souls to heaven...Several years earlier he had begun having problems with this for several reasons..."

Neo's reasons were this--this way of viewing the gospel seemed selfish, individualistic, and one dimensional.

Selfish--"Would God want a heaven full of people who wanted to be 'saved' but didn't necessarily want to be good?" I had a thought about this a few months ago, when I first read this, and it's returned to me now--that the message of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles was 'repentence'. I think that in at least one point the gospel was referred to as 'the gospel of repentence'. The nature of repentence is to "turn from sins to serve the living God", so if repentence is kept in mind, then the rather mercenary way of looking at salvation Neo refers to is not possible.

And I think that is not what has been preached in the places I have been. I have heard many appeals for the lost to come to Christ, so I cannot speak for all of them, but from what I do remember of them, they did involved acknowledgement of sinfulness and need for Christ to wash one clearn of sins, to repent and turn from one's sins, and to be forgiven.

Individualistic--This one is unclear to me in his description. He compares it insider trading on the stock market, where salvation is only for a few, and that right-thinking people would not want it if it wasn't also for their friends. Maybe he has some form of Calvinistic predestination in mind, where God may choose some for salvation and others for damnation.

But this is a non-starter, to my mind. It's griping against things that are already addressed in the Bible, and that Christians already believe. We already have the Great Commission, we already have many people who try to live out their Christian faith in everyday life.

Also, if there is a person drowning in the ocean, is that person necessarily selfish for wanting to be rescued? I honestly don't think so. More to the point, it is only when the person who was drowning is rescued and put on the solid place, be it land or a ship of some kind, that the person can then turn from their own predicament and become useful in helping others who are drowning.

So far, Mclaren may as well open his eyes, and realize that his complaints are of things that are not happening, at least not in all places. No doubt there are churches and people claiming to be Christians like he describes, perhaps people who at one time believed but went back into the world, or prodigals, or churches who have stopped preaching repentence because preaching something else brought in more people. But most evangelical and fundamentalist churches that I am aware of still preach repentence and living out their faith in their lives, sharing their faith and leading people to Christ.

I think the third is most telling--Neo's claim that salvation has two dimensions, not just one. Salvation, he says, is not just about saving souls, but about "saving the human race and the planet from destruction". He claims that the "biblical view of salvation was comprehensive of both".

This probably can't help but be nebulous. He describes different views of the Kingdom of God, and says that his view is that one that has a current social aspect. The church is some kind of catalyst for the Kingdom to go the world.

For one thing, he gives no scriptural support for his view. Second, there are already many Christians who are active in social concerns--helping the poor, helping the helpless, trying to insure justice. Whether they do it because they're trying to be catalyst is to my mind irrelevant, though I would suspect they do it more because they love God and love people and try to help them not just with physical needs but with spiritual ones, too. I would guess there aren't many Christians who aren't involved at some degree in such things, though some may not be as visibly dramatic as others.

But can we really say that salvation has this second dimension of saving the world and humanity? I can't see that very well. I don't deny that their is a social aspect to obeying God, but as well there is an aspect of that where it stands against society. In the NT we are told to obey those in authority, but that also "we ought to obey God rather then man". Paul did not lead a slave revolt, nor encourage one, but instead encouraged slaves who believed to obey their masters. He did not tell wives to stand to up to their husband and demand their rights, but to submit. He had words for husbands and masters, too. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to live quietly, and do their work.

In fact, rather then having a rosy picture of the world, Jesus and the Apostles had a view that was decided more pessimistic, or would be if it wasn't realistic. Jesus realized that the world hated Him, and would hate those who followed Him. I think it was Peter who described the world as being "reserved for fire". Themes of judgment and punishment for the world are not uncommon, and themes of redemption are closely tied to those 'negative' themes.

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