Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What must I do to be saved?

How did the question of the phillipian jailer (what must I do to be saved?) become the only real question that the content of the gospel could answer?

In evangelical circles this question is often smugly paraded as the smackdown to all discussions of what the gospel is (yes yes.. but if a dying woman rang you up and asked 'what must I do to be saved, what would you say).
This is annoying for a number of reasons,
it reduces the possible situations the gospel might address to individual, deathbed conversions
it ends up with a gospel whose focus is on the individual rather than on Christ
it ignores Paul's own description of his gospel
it (often) ignores Paul's own answer 'believe on Christ', or imports a whole bunch of other things that of course Paul 'must' have meant when he said 'believe on Christ', usually a mechanism of penal substitutionary atonement
it ignores the content of the gospel proclaimation in acts, not least he first one by Peter, which was responding to the question 'are these guys pissed or what?'
and most most most most annoying is the simple fact that most people are NOT running up to me and asking 'what must I do to be saved?'. They have all sorts of questions though, that the genuine gospel can address, and yes their own salvation is part of that. But if we think the content of the gospel, at it's most purest is the simplest possible answer to the question 'what must I do to be saved', then we will try and manipulate people into asking this question, so that we can give them the answer.

It is just dumb. I cant believe this kind of dumb crap still gets bandied about. But hey, even our lecturers do it. Lets talk about Jesus, lets talk about his saving death, lets talk about the kingdom breaking in around his person an in his resurrection,lets talk about his ascension and rule and his return, and giving thanks to god and turning from idols and his fulfillment of Israels hopes and his penal , substituting death (two mentions just to be safe), and the gathering in of the gentiles and the pouring out of the spirit and the transformation of ourselves and the witness of the unified church, and his power for holiness and love and new life and his grace for sinners and his return from exile and his pilgrim people and their cruciform life and his new creation and his grace and love for you and me and his restoration of the failures, and his shaming of the powers and authorities and his intercession for us and his faithfulness to Abraham.
but who needs all that... that would just be gospel plus right
let me draw you six boxes


byron smith said...

What must I do to be saved from an anemic gospel?

Mike W said...

Hi Byron,
it was only after I posted this that I remembered that this was the issue that got me blogging in the first place.

I'm starting to think a lot of it is driven by a fear of the proverbial dead flies. Pastors, as people burdened with the weighty responsibility of speaking on God's behalf, are scared of getting anything wrong. The best way to secure certainty is to say less and less. The way we map that long string of propositions about Jesus onto the complex world that we experience is difficult and sometimes ambiguous. So the way to security is to cut off the text from our world with as few connective theological tissues as possible. We believe the Bible, absolutely, we just dont believe in reality. So, God may be gathering his people to shame the powers in the text, but that has no bearing whatsoever on how we view our church etc.
Of course a culture of fearing mistakes isn't very good at admitting them either. But that is for tomorrows post

byron smith said...

So the way to security is to cut off the text from our world with as few connective theological tissues as possible. We believe the Bible, absolutely, we just dont believe in reality.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike

I am posting anonymously, so I don't get in trouble at work(!) But hopefully you can tell who I am :P

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes to this post. Ohmygoodness I can't explain to you how much of a relief it was to read this on this particular day.

Actually. I Am going to send you an email so that I don't incriminate myself... :S


I am so fired up!

Anonymous said...

Oh man!

I don't have your email address, only Rosie's...!

Unknown said...

Amen Mike. But how are you going to fit all that in 6 boxes? You might need 7. That's a good number anyway.

Amen to commment back to Byron too. Here's the question, will I give into that fear too? God save me and my hearers.

Mike W said...

Hi Anon. Uh, my guessing ability is pretty bad. Though I have some hunches. I'm both impressed and slightly worried that someone who works actually reads this blog.
Probably best to send the e-mail to Rosies address then I"ll pass on mine