Sunday, August 20, 2006

Salvation Through Christ Alone?

One of the resolutions that came before our General Convention in Columbus was Resolution D058, titled “Salvation Through Christ Alone.” Some guy from Western Louisiana proposed it, trying to make our General Convention take an up-or-down vote on Jesus Christ. Sheesh! These people are forever looking for ways to embarrass their fellow Episcopalians!

We say the Nicene Creed every Sunday, and we do not say it with our fingers crossed! We renew our baptismal covenant a few times per year. But these dissidents have a knack for crafting “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” resolutions in an effort to hamstring our General Convention. I am convinced they submit these resolutions in a concerted effort to embarrass The Episcopal Church, in hopes they can get publicity points afterwards and get more funding from their neo-con supporters. What a waste of time and energy!

Here’s the actual text of this tiresome, unnecessary resolution, should you want to see it:


, . . . That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church declares its unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved (Article XVIII); and be it further

Resolved, That we acknowledge the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6); and be it further

Resolved, That we affirm that in Christ there is both the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of God's unlimited and unending love for all persons; and be it further

Resolved, That we renew our dedication to be faithful witnesses to all persons of the saving love of God perfectly and uniquely revealed in Jesus and upheld by the full testimony of Holy Scripture.

Never mind the very bad theology and soteriology in that ill-conceived resolution. Mostly, it’s just bad because the people who took it to General Convention wanted to embarrass The Episcopal Church much more than they wanted to glorify Christ. OK, that’s their schtick. Let it be upon their heads.

And now . . . here comes the ever-gentle and non-aligned Barbara Crafton. Some of you may be – as I am – subscribers to her “Almost-Daily eMos,” in which she sends out more-or-less daily reflections on life and/or the lectionary.

I was particularly struck by this one, which she distributed last week. It speaks to that “salvation through Christ alone” theme, which I found especially sensitive and nuanced and thoroughly Anglican. Read, mark, and inwardly digest this!

Barbara Crafton's "Drawn by the Father"

No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. - John 6:44

Let us remember who the Father is in the gospel of John -- it is the Father who creates the world. It is the Son through whom the world is created. Life comes from God, everything that is. Without the Father and the Son, nothing is made.

And so the idea that God the Father is involved in the sorting of people into the company of the saved and unsaved -- or that Jesus engages in such sorting -- seems unlikely in this context. It is the entire creation that is soaked in God's creative power. This drawing that God does is the omnipresent love that caused us to be here in the first place and orients our longing in the direction from which we came. It hasn't gone anywhere. It hasn't been withdrawn from any of us. We may have made decisions about how we will or will not respond to it, but God hasn't left any of us behind.

And so the favorite verses in this gospel that seem to point toward a salvation invent involving an elite few -- or even an elite many -- only do so if we are determined to remake John the Evangelist in our own narrow image. Nobody comes to the Father but by me, his Jesus says, and we think that means that lots of people just don't come, just don't get in, just don't make the grade, because they didn't sign up with the historical Jesus or with his organization.

No. What Jesus says here is much more matter-of-fact. Are you saved? Yup. Who saved you? God. How? Through Jesus. Are there any people who got saved another way? Nope, Jesus was there for every last one of us, whether we knew it or not. There weren't any exceptions. God's love doesn't have exceptions.

Well, what happens to you if you don't accept Jesus Christ as Your Personal Savior?

Well, I may engage a personal shopper or a personal trainer or a personal assistant, but I don't have a personal savior. I have the same one everyone else has, and I have him by virtue of having been created through him. My salvation is my return to him, from the midst of the worst muck-ups into which I can stumble. It is not my reward for good behavior or for having the right answer when someone asked me a question about him.

As always, we are uncomfortable with a love that all-encompassing, not least because it cuts us out of a decision-making role in the matter of who is in and who is out. It turns out we're all in.

What we do with who we are, and whose we are, is up for grabs. We can ignore it. We can decide we don't want it, although that won't change God's mind about us. We can determine to experience none of it as long as we live. We are free.

Or we can turn into it. Now. Before we have to live another minute unaware of its beauty.

Lectionary readings for the day:
Deuteronomy 8:1-10
Ephesians 4:(25-29)30-5:2
John 6:37-51
Psalm 34 or 34:1-8


Blogger BillS said...

If this resolution is so tiresome, and unecessary, and we say the Nicene Creed, and renew our baptismal covenant, why would there be any controversy about passing it?

All in favor? Aye, Opposed? Nay, Motion passed -next order of business.

It should have been two minutes, no controversy.

That obfuscatory language and procedure used to derail this means that there is some agenda that this statement threatens.

8/21/2006 6:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

bills, your questions are answered in the post I cited. Once you read that essay, you may want to raise any remaining questions over there.

8/22/2006 5:48 PM  
Blogger BillS said...


I have read all the posts, I have read the resolution, and I have a hard time finding anything in the resolution that is objectionable. On narrow technical grounds, maybe it was in the wrong committee, but if we believe that the Jesus is the way so what? Pass it, say Amen, halleluejah, high five, whatever, and move on.

Again, that any Christain would object to this is evidence of some other agenda, or paranoia.

8/22/2006 8:43 PM  
Blogger BubbaHoTep said...

I, like Bills, don't understand what is so objectionable about this resolution.

It should have passed in two minutes, and would have gone a long way to assure traditionalists and moderates that they are still welcome.

8/23/2006 10:41 AM  

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