I have had a long struggle to understand what Christians mean by salvation. No two Christians seem to really think of it the same way, and it is a pliable concept that is rolled out to apply to almost anything, a kind of fit-all platitude.
So some salvation talk is about salvation from Hell. Although this isn’t really being ‘saved’ per se, as we aren’t in hell at the moment. Maybe being saved from our destiny in hell, say. Which, I have to say, is the definition that fits least well for me, since penal theories of hell are deeply inconsistent and illogical (not to mention stupid).
Then there’s salvation from sinfulness. Which never sits well with me, because Christians are at great pains to point out (normally) that they aren’t sinless. So maybe it is salvation from the consequences of their sinful action. Only they don’t get to escape those either (plenty of broken relationships in Christendom, and plenty of Christians in jail). So maybe just the consequences of their actions that are psychological – that the Christian can actually influence themselves. Funny that. Not a huge reason to praise God, really, seems a pretty minor achievement to make us feel a little better about our screw-ups.
There is another psychological track. Salvation from the destructive thoughts and psychology that Christians claim they once had. Again this is convenient because it is psychological and therefore under the person’s control to some extent anyway. And the salvation is usually partial or temporary, at least in the cases I have observed at close hand.
More rarely I’ve heard Christians claim they were saved physically. A miracle of protection and deliverance from a dangerous situation. Now Christians as a whole don’t survive more often than anyone else, but individuals can interpret their lucky survival as salvation (more normally there was originally very little danger, but it becomes mortal danger and a miraculous salvation in the retelling).
But the last three of these are odd because Christians would normally affirm that Jesus alone has the power to save. Yet all three of these types of salvation can be afforded in other ways. Other people have the power to save. For some people it is their job.
So it was with pleasure I saw the stained glass window above. The photo is taken from inside All Saints Parish Church in the South Wales town of Oystermouth (as the name suggests it is famous for its fishing). This is a church justifiably well known for its stained glass windows, ancient and modern. This one celebrates lives laid down by Lifeboatmen, brave souls who go out in the worst weather to save people from the clutches of the fickle sea. Here they are immortalized in a modern window of a 900 year old church. And looking around the other stained glass windows, of the Christ in Majesty, of Jesus Blessing the Children, of Moses the Lawgiver, the Lifeboatmen stand out for me as the only true Saviours depicted.