Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Lost: Belief in Salvation

One thing has become alarmingly clear through my recent conversations with a number of non-Christians. Unlike those of the past, many people today perceive no need for salvation of any type in a spiritual sense. In place of some questing for wholeness, some search for forgiveness, one finds often vague notions about either 1) a naturalistic significance and termination to life or 2) an ethereal, one-size-fits-all, everybody and their labrador goes to heaven type of mentality. Though children are still raised to confess wrongs when committed and ask for forgiveness, this practice no longer foreshadows any greater accountability. It seems that "wrongs" are merely momentary impediments to another's happiness, not actual infractions against the standard of deity. As such, they are to be confessed merely to restore harmony, not to signal any deeper acknowledgement of objective wrongdoing. Hand in hand with this loss of the significance of sin goes the idea of salvation. Redemption sits forgotten in the corner in this age, banished there as therapy and subjective experience have their damning say.

In speaking of the loss of a belief in salvation, I'm not talking simply of belief in the Christian understanding of the idea. I'm talking about any mass subscription to the concept. This was not so in centuries past. Certainly, your average peasant in the medieval period thought some kind of personal redemption was necessary for the afterlife, however fractured that conception may have been. Similarly, in the Islamic East, the general populace certainly saw a need to be saved from one's personal sins, and saw oneself as the means to that end. Even in early post-Enlightenment Europe, which held loosely to a deistic worldview, individuals sought salvation from something, even if they located that something in man, not God, and found their means to salvation in themselves, not God. No, I think we're in a unique time nowadays, one we entered into just a half century ago, in which a large part of the population, though claiming belief in God, finds no culpability for sin and thus no responsibility for salvation. The Christian witnessing to non-Christians today may well discover themselves to be in a position very different from the witnessing Christian of most any other time period. Where once common salvific belief existed, now the Christian stands alone in that theological territory. The task, then, is a very different one than that posed to us in most any other generation: we must convince people of the desperate need of all people for salvation. The age old question of evangelists, "if you were to die today, do you know where you would go?," may give way to another: "did you know you need salvation?" The answer makes all the difference.


Post a Comment

<< Home