Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Monday, August 6

On being saved

Rev Sam has an interesting post On being Saved.

He raises soime good points about Salvation as an experience rather than a philosophy, saying this is why athiests don't get it.

Unfortunately, he also misses the point on sin and salvation.

To be fair to Sam, I have not had time to read in detail everything he has said together with comments, responses, and subsequent related posts. But I think I have got the gist right enough.

He follows the increasingly popular view that penal subsititution is not a good way to describe what happens. This starts off because his definition of sin neglects the fact that sin is primarily sin against God himself. He reduces it to sins against the self - the things that enslave us.

Once you have conveniently dispensed with the fact that God is the one we have offended, you can also leave out the notion of God being a little narked about it, and this leaves the door open for more socially acceptable doctrines of salvation.

In another post "Some notes on divine forgiveness" Sam goes further to misprepresent penal subsititution. He falls for the usual idea that this is cosmic child abuse. He can't understand that the forgiveness achieved for us by Christ through Penal substitution is a genuine forgiveness. He thinks that Penal Substitution means a trinity at war with itself, even though it is obvious that all members of the trinity collaborate through penal substitution to bring justice and mercy together, satisfying both of these inherent characteristics of God together in one act. Sam also misquotes that verse "Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy not sacrifice." Becasue in the place that this comes from, Hosea 6v6, it is clear that it it means "Don't think you can do evil and then get away with it just by bringing a token sacrifice. Following the letter of the law this way won't help - I want you to do what is right in the first place". Hence, following the detail of the law is not the point, which is why Jesus raises it in Matthew when speaking to cold-hearted legalists. And the verses quoted, even on Sam's blog, all speak of God's anger and judgement on those people for their sins. Where is the mercy in that? So that verse does not mean that God himself sidesteps his own prescription for a sacrifice to atone for sin - it just means that the system is not there to be abused.

So God the father loves us and wants to forgive. In the form of Jesus, he takes onto himself his own frustrations at our sins. And he gives us a full and free forgiveness through this mechanism.

Sam wants an Islamic type of forgiveness that occurs without sense at the whim of God. he calls this 'out of the box' - I call it 'black box' - you can't see what is going on. But in penal substitution you see the strong evidence for your forgiveness and you also see the cost of it. What Sam is proposing really doesn't make any sense to me.

Apart from anything else, If God wanted to simpy forgive in the way that Sam describes, then there is no need for the cross at all. All his stuff about defeating the devil is all there, but doesn't need the cross, it could have happened differently. The cross is not fully explained by these ideas. It was for our sins that Christ died (1 Cor 15 v3). Penal Substitution fully explains the cross, why we celebrate Eucharist, how we are saved, what it cost, etc.

Sam says:

"This is a salvation issue. That is, it seems to me - and I have seen much too often - that if the doctrine of penal substitution is heartily believed then salvation is prevented. The believer in this doctrine does not experience redemption and the forgiveness of sins. They may feel better for a short while - the ways of the human heart are undoubtedly mysterious - but this underlying rottenness will come to the surface eventually.
For the diabolical doctrine states: God doesn't really love you. He hates you because you're a sinner. But he's been bought off by the bloody sacrifice on the cross. He's like an abusive parent kept at bay by a restraining order. There is always the fear that one day he'll come back. And so the soul remains crippled. God's true character is obscured and occluded."

As a hearty believer in Penal Substitution, I say:

1 My salvation is not prevented - it is enabled.
2 I fully experience redemption - permanently
3 I fully experience forgiveness - permanently
4 there is no underlying rotteness -i am washed by the Holy Blood of Christ, i am a new creation.
5 God really does love me
6 He does not hate me because of my sin - he loves me despite it and has washed my sin away
7 he has not been 'bought off' - he has devised an ingenious plan to miraculously reconcile the apparently conflicting aspects of his nature
8 he is not an abusive parent, but a loving, caring and providing one.
9 he is not kept at bay by a restraining order - of his own loving initiative he has sorted out the issues, within himself, without recourse to external parties
10 he will come back as promised, and I look forward to the joyful union
11 my soul is not crippled; it is healed, restored, forgiven
12 God's true character; a just and merciful God who by his grace loved me and found a way to forgive me while I was still a sinner, is revealed and made visible.

13 Sam, sometimes you are great but sometimes you talk bollocks

14 If you call this a 'diabolical doctrine' - I point you to Matthew 12 v 24-32 - If you attribute the work of God to the devil you could be in serious trouble.

And while i am ranting, please drop this idea that we must do good work for our salvation - that is true slavery - good work is the fruit and goal of salvation, not the path to it. If we do not do good work, clearly we have not been saved. No good work, no salvation. But the salvation itself comes from forgiveness, not from the good work.

Acknowledging that Sam's work is eloquent and mine is garbled, I rest my case.

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