More Than Justification By Faith Alone11:50 AM
|"The Virgin Mary Consoles Eve," by Sister Grace Remington, |
Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, Dubuque, IA
Is this not the most beautiful image ever?
I wrote a little about my struggles with different theologies on justification and how that makes figuring out what a Christian is and does incredibly tricky. While we're celebrating the atonement and Christ's resurrection this weekend, I thought I'd share some of my recent conclusions on salvation.
I realized that most of my confusion came from stopping short of God's intentions in saving us. The events of Easter did three things:
1. Christ's death unseated the devil from ruling over the world and its sin-stained inhabitants.
2. Christ's atonement provides the cure for Adam's infinite sin passed on to us, his children.
3. Christ as the human translation of the divine life regenerates His church by forgiving our sins and giving us the ability to love again.
This means that our response as Christ's church is threefold as well:
1. We begin with the obedience and gratitude of slaves, fearing condemnation, bewildered that Christ set us free.(These concepts come directly from Bernard of Clairvaux's writings, namely The Steps of Humility and Against the Errors of Peter Abelard. I highly recommend him!)
2. We continue into the obedience and gratitude of mercenaries delighted in our ticket out of hell and into heaven.
3. We deepen into the love of of a bride, totally overcome by desire. This passion crowds out the need for concepts like obedience and gratitude because intimate love has been perfected.
What are the implications of this? It means that salvation is not merely justification, not merely legal language. It means that salvation is not merely about sanctification, about purification, about sin and obedience. It means that ultimately salvation is about participating in the divine life, one with the Triune God through our unity as a church with Christ.
In the end, it's not about tallying up good deeds and erasing sin -- though we must talk about those things because that's our biggest hindrance to love and unity. In the end, it's not about obedience and gratitude -- desire eclipses the struggle to obey, and gratitude is a small, small part of desire that cannot wrap its arms around the gracious life Christ offers us.
As an evangelical Protestant, I stopped short of salvation's mystery. I neatly wrapped it up with justification by faith alone: "Christ clothed me with His righteousness. I do good works and pursue righteousness out of gratitude. The End." He has saved me from far more than His wrath. He has done more than wrap my sick soul in Christ's righteousness and leave me there to try to be grateful and fight off my heart's plague.
The word salvation comes from the Latin salvare, which means to make safe or healthy. We need rescuing from the grip of sin and into the presence of God (justification), yes. But God's primary concern was not providing an atonement that would appease His wrath and allow us into His presence. His primary concern was healing us from our terminal sin and bringing us into His life.
What have been your recent thoughts on salvation this Easter weekend?