Is the purpose of all of this God business strictly to get to heaven? Most churches will use this language when preaching the gospel, this reasoning for having faith.
That’s it? The best we can do is some other life? Is this really just fire insurance? Is this our message to the world? That’s despair. No wonder we have to use words like relevant, the message is all about another world.
I need help today.
Rob Bell, Isn’t She Beautiful?
Bell brought to light some questions that I think we all have; he questioned the nature of salvation itself. In many of the churches we are a part of, questioning something like that would result in either blank stares or being asked to leave. Those sorts of things aren’t allowed to be questioned.
This weekend they were.
He took us through around 30+ scripture verses talking about salvation. It was intense and very cool. In the end it seemed that to take the modernist approach to the scriptures would mean there were at least a dozen ways of “receiving salvation”. Bell said:
Salvation is a free gift given by God, there’s nothing you can do to get it. So all you have to do is…wait, that doesn’t work.
Salvation is free, there’s nothing you can do to get it, all you have to do is…(shouts: Accept it! Receive it!)…Really? Because those sound like verbs.
Rob Bell, Isn’t She Beautiful
His point was that the nice neat and simple answers fall apart when you actually live. Not only that, but “if you only had the Bible to find out about salvation” (a nice little jab, I think) it would appear there are many different ways one can be given the kingdom. There are accounts of things being said (Luke 23), accounts of rebirth (John 3), forgiveness (Matthew6v14), belief (John11v25-32), salvation through the faith of friends (Matthew 9), and even an awkward exchange of questions (Acts 9). In the end Bell’s point was to show that there seems to be a number of different ways you can enter the kingdom. In fact it looks like God is willing to meet people right where they are. Is there a limit to salvation? Can we put a limit on God’s salvation? Are we doing a disservice when we say that “this is the one true way?” Oftentimes, I would say, we are saying the one true way is the way that we were taken in.
People stumble into the kingdom in all sorts of ways.
Now, the different theologies. He described destination theology and journey theology. Destination theology involves the “in” or “out” metaphor and language. The point is to get “in” and then bring other people “in”. (I have even talked about the exclusive nature of a Christian ‘club’ before…)
We are all very familiar with destination theology. Journey theology, however, is the understanding that salvation is a way of life that you enter into – one in which there isn’t a single destination. There are many moments of arrival along the way. There is the moment you were able to forgive, the moment you overcame self doubt, the moment you were able to trust again; and all of these things are a part of your holistic salvation.
Is that exciting or what?
Of course the cross is about personal salvation. That’s a big part of what this is all about. But it isn’t all. This thing is as wide as creation itself – the cross extends to the end of the earth, and that is what we’re all a part of. Again, it gets exciting to think about (just think of this practically, explaining this to a group of kids at a youth event) being a part of something cosmic, something that wants to bring about shalom, a peace, to the entire world.
Live the kind of life where God can dwell among us. Be weary of any form of spirituality that argues that the goal is escape. God has not given up on this world; he will not, and he wants to reclaim the whole thing. God is looking for partners. Be weary of any escapist theology that locates our home as anywhere else than what God has always called our home. Our home has been invaded but it will not last. The story does not begin with sin – it begins with shalom. Creation begins in Genesis 1 and 2, not Genesis 3.
Rob Bell, Isn’t She Beautiful?
This life isn’t about the next. It’s about this one. Bring salvation to this world. Bring the kingdom to this world. Stop thinking about heaven and hell as abstract things that we will someday encounter. Heaven and hell are here. We’ve all experienced tastes of heaven and we’ve all experienced hell before. Instead of looking forward to a day to come, we need to look around us and say “What can we do?” As Christians, as living eucharists to the world, what can we do?