central message of the Christian religion seems to be
its emphasis on "being saved." The evangelical
will meet you on the street and urgently inquire, "Are
you saved, brother?" When my daughter married a
Jew, a friend approached me one day shortly afterward
and, with earnest but misguided passion, asked, "Has
he converted yet? You know, if he doesn't, he's lost!"
of this emphasis on salvation seems to be based on Jesus'
comment in John 3:5: "No one can see the kingdom
of God unless he is born again." This is made more
specific by the writer of the book of Acts when he says
in 4:12: "Salvation is to be found through [Jesus]
alone; in all the world there is no one else whom God
has given who can save us."
just to be perfectly up front, I taught the doctrines
based on these verses for at least half of my 40+ years
in the ministry. I laid it out with the best of them:
"If you don't get saved, you face an eternity in
hell." "All other roads lead to damnation
- Christ alone can save." "You must be saved!"
"Today is the day of salvation." Etc., etc.
finally dawned on me that, as Christians, we were worshipping
a very incompetent God. This creator was such a poor
baker that he burned every single cookie he ever put
into his heavenly oven. Ruined them all. Messed them
up so badly that they all had to be thrown out. Except
he allowed his assistant to come along afterward and
scrape the black off the bottoms of his ruined cookies
in order to salvage some of them.
a sad vision of God! The God I have come to know doesn't
deal in damaged goods that need to be rescued from the
very nature which he created in them. What would make
us want to worship a deity like that? My God created
us with a glorious potential which is laid out clearly
in the very first chapter of the Bible: "God created
human beings, making them to be like himself."
(Gen 1:27) Now, unless you think God is a sinner destined
for hell, being like him means that we are not only
secure, but that there is no limit to what we can achieve.
that means, we don't need to be saved! We are
saved by virtue of the fact that we are part of God.
God is not going to reject his own essence, and that
is exactly what we are. In the same way that you are
part of a family by being born of your parents, we are
an eternal member of the heavenly community/the kingdom
of God/the spirit world by being part of God.
clear to me now that the Christian church is pointing
its people in exactly the opposite direction from which
they should be facing. All this emphasis on salvation
means that many people come into the church with a very
selfish agenda - making sure they get saved so they
can avoid the fires of hell. And when they are assured
that they are saved, they consider themselves more acceptable
to God than those who are not saved. In other words,
it's a very introverted program that appeals to the
worst in people - fear and ego.
on the other hand, we could finally realize that God
saved us the moment he conceived of us, we could stop
all this fear-mongering about the fires of hell and
realize that the reason we are in the church is not
to save ourselves but to save the world, to turn it
into the Kingdom of God on earth.
John W. Sloat 2004