Monday, October 4, 2010

emergents' selective salvation

Archbishop William's book, Writing in the Dust, closes with a thought about this story and the dust Jesus wrote in: "He does not draw a line, fix an interpretation, tell the woman who she is and what her fate should be. He allows a moment, a longish moment, in which people are given time to see themselves differently precisely because he refuses to make the sense they want. When he lifts his head there is both judgment and release." The judgment is against those who want to make God, first and foremost, a judge and condemner of humanity. The release is for those bruised by life, by their own foolishness, yet who receive mercy and grace from God

This story represents a shift in God's character--or, if it makes you more comfortable, a change in our perception of God's character. Either way, if God or the perception of God had changed, the Jews could not remain unchanged. The problem was that they wanted to remain the same. This was the dilemma Jesus created among them. "We know youare a teacher who has come from God," Nicodemus says in the book of John. But the unspoken issue was that by acknowledging that Jesus came from God, the Jews either had to make him conform to and affirm their ways or had to shift their own thinking to embrace his new theology. They preferred the former, which, of course, didn't work because Jesus didn't come to conform to conventional standards of God's kingdom.
Burke and Taylor, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, pp 161-162

Is any of that true?

For example, was Jesus' condemnation directed at "those who want to make God, first and foremost, a judge and condemer of humanity"? Was his release directed at "those bruised by life, by their own foolishness"?

Since they seem to engage in some speculations, perhaps it gives me a bit of license to do so, too. What if, for example, the husband of the woman was among those in the crowd? Could he not be considered among those "bruised by life and (his) own foolishness", the foolishness of marrying a woman who was not faithful? If mercy was directly only at the woman, what about him?

And who did Jesus condemn in this story? Is there any condemnation at all? Can Jesus' words that the one without sin may cast the first stone be seen as him condemning them? Maybe, but it seems far from plain.

Yet if we want to look at the Gospels as a whole, then the idea of condemnation cannot be escaped. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil." John 3:16-19

This is, I think, a telling passage. God did not send Christ to condemn, but to save, but the further truth is that those who did not believe in Christ were already condemned. The judgment had been rendered--the deeds of the members of mankind, men and women, are evil, so they love the darkness.

Hardly a bright, cheery view of humanity. But there is hope--"Whoever believes in him is not condemned". Those who believe in Christ, believe in the Christ of the Scriptures and not a christ made up by men, are not condemned.

How simple, how so very simple. How very far from the physical-only salvation through works the emergents want us to buy into.

All are condemned, no matter their socio-economic status, the size of their pocket book, or whatever sad-sack story they can tell about their life. But all can believe and be saved, no matter their soci-economic status, the size of their pocket book, or whatever sad-sack story they can tell about their life. God sent Christ to save us, we who are sinners, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us".

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