Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Is Salvation Mere Forgiveness?

Salvation is not just forgiveness, but a new order of life.

What does it mean to be saved?...

Is it possible that, through historical process and the drift of language use to reflect special theological interests, we've lost touch with the root meanings of concepts...?

We rigorously reject shallow thinking and erroneous conceptualization on the part of a computer analyst or a bridge designer or brain surgeon. For some strange reason, though, we find it easy to put our minds away when it comes to religion, when it comes to bringing the same type of care to our faith as we would to other subjects.

One specific errant concept has done inestimable harm to the church and God's purposes with us--and that is the concept that has restricted the Christian idea of salvation to mere forgiveness of sins. Yet it is so much more...

Paul [says we are] "saved by his life." (Romans 5:10)

Forgiveness as the all-in-all of salvation is not part of the earliest Christian outlook...

As the pages of the Gospels amply show, Christ's transcendent life in the present Kingdom of heaven is what drew the disciples together around Jesus prior to his death. And then the resurrection and postresurrection events proved that life to be indestructible...

The cross, which was always present in their thought and experience, came to the center because the force of the higher life was allowed to dissipate as the generations passed by. The church's understanding of salvation then slowly narrowed down to a mere forgiveness of sins, leading to heaven beyond this life...

So the emergence of the cross signifies what we today would call a "paradigm shift"... the basic structure of the redemptive relationship between us and God came to be pictured in a way radically different from its previous New Testament conception. The cross act was first narrowly interpreted as mere suffering and then mistaken for the whole of the redemptive action of God. Christ's life and teaching were therefore nonessential to the work of redemption and were regarded as just poignant decoration for his cross, since his only saving function was conceived to be that of a blood sacrifice to purchase our forgiveness.

The message of Jesus himself and of the early disciples was not just one of forgiveness of sins, but rather was one of newness of life!

I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly" John 10:10

Dallas Willard, Spirit of the Disciplines


  1. I love this. I think this is my next book after Renovation of the Heart which I am about halfway through. (It is waiting on my bookshelf, lol)

    In my reading of R.o.t.H., I get the feeling that a curtain is being pulled back showing me a view behind the facade of modern culture, family life and relationships.

    My wife is going to read it when I'm done. I've tried to explain to her how much of it relates to life and parenting in terms of what one would want to form in their children.

    I may even be leading a small group through it at church.

    1. That thrills me, William! We have gotten countless benefit from the teaching of Dallas Willard. We have even watched some videos of his at church. Many times on the road, I will start a YouTube video of his and just listen as I drive. Some of what he teaches continues to bring transformation in my life. I must admit that my brother, Keith, has long said some of the same things I have read in Dr. Willard's books. It's exciting to see someone else recovering some lost realities of the Christian perspective. Godspeed, my friend!