Celebrating Salvation

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.


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36 responses to “Celebrating Salvation

  1. Ian, good to have you back posting :-). That is a lovely window. I think you’re right – “salvation” makes no sense. Indeed, even if the Jesus thingy was a prerequisite, it is hard to argue that “accepting him into your heart” is coherent (or even particularly biblical). If Jesus wanted to be worth praise, it should have been for telling C1CE Jews to reject arguments from authority. Then he really would have been a Saviour of sorts. If anyone had listened.

  2. I have had a long struggle to understand what Christians mean by salvation.

    Wait, like myself, you were an adult fervent believer at one time, no? Did you struggle to understand what YOU meant by it?

    “Salvation” — I can do wrong things in this life and still go to heaven. Not sure about the mechanics of it, but I have faith. I am saved from the natural consequences of my sins.

    the Lifeboatmen stand out for me as the only true Saviours depicted.

    Totally agree !! Well said and well illustrated.

  3. Ooops, sorry, below the middle quote I meant to add: Isn’t this how many Christians view Salvation. But I agree, they fuzz up the word to include tons of stuff. Just like the expression “Faith” has been fuzzed up to be almost meaningless.

  4. The way I used to rationalise it was that Hell was not meant for us, but for Satan; in sin we unavoidably aligned ourselves with Satan, and doomed ourselves; Jesus was god’s plan for rescuing us from our fate, in the knowledge that many people were screwed and would not be able to be rescued. There are several reasons why this doesn’t cut the mustard, chief among them being the fact that it’s an inherently *rubbish* plan…

  5. @ Shane
    *Rubbish* sounds like a weak argument against a rationalization! 😀

  6. I was actually taught that salvation was — God saving us from himself. Which I think is really the same as your first point on being saved from Hell, just with clarification to take it to its Calvinist extreme.

    Another memory I have is of a Jewish pamphlet aimed at innoculating Jewish college students from Christian evangelism. It pointed out that salvation in the OT was never about saving one’s eternal soul, it always related to something about a person’s life, more like the stained glass window.

    The stained glass window is great, it brings salvation to a human level I suppose all could agree with.

  7. Ian

    Thanks for the comments.

    Shane – yes been a busy August for me, I’m glad to be back too.

    Sabio – my personal relationship with doctrine is quite difficult to unpick. Because I did a secular theology degree young, I learned the theological arguments and concepts pretty well, but kept any actual beliefs I had separate. So I’m not sure I could really say what I believed, because I (intentionally) didn’t analyse, for a long time. I made sure when I tried to rationalise, that I did so in ‘theological mode’ and any faith I claimed for myself was insulated from whatever that rationalisation might generate.

    I struggle now, with years of hindsight, to understand how I could have done that.

    So yes, I struggle to understand what I really thought about salvation. I’m considering another post in a similar vein on another issue that I can’t work out if or how I could have rationalized: sin.

  8. Ian

    attr – God saving us from himself. Wow, that is of course the bottom line for most theologies of salvation, but I’ve never heard it admitted in quite such bald terms. Was there any follow on from there about the morality of God for being such a tyrant?

  9. I imagine some follow on would have been required after that statement, to reclaim God’s higher moral ground, but I’m sure the word “tyrant” did not come into play. I don’t remember details.

    “Oh helpless worm am I, fit for destruction.” :^)

  10. Peter

    Guys, hi.

    Ian, I’m here via Shane’s blog, Answers in Genes, I’m one of the 5!!

    I’m a theist (the use of the spacebar is important :-), or a Shane says, I believe in pixies.

    I’ve been reading the comments on this thread, and I’m wondering if I might say, Shalom?

  11. Ian

    Welcome Peter, thanks for stopping by the blog! You’re more than welcome regardless of belief, and more than welcome to be as robust about your belief or not, as you wish.

    I realise it might not be the most supportive environment to do so, but would you be willing to share your understanding of salvation?

    You may say shalom, if I can reply “aleichem shalom”. 🙂

  12. Guys, a wee prop for Peter: he’s a good chap, cursed by belief in pixies of course, but up for some good banter. Peter, you misrepresent yourself *slightly* – you are an atheist with respect to Odin 🙂

  13. Ryan

    The most direct meaninf of salvation that I have found in the Bible makes it quite a bit more complex. Most of us who have been saved at a church walked down to the preacher crying and he flipped his book open to Romans 10:9 and said all we had to do was confess that we are worthless, horrible people and to believe in Christs’ death and that God raised him from the dead. Which is the furthest thing from obtaining salvation according to Jesus’ obtaining his and Paul reaching out for his.

    James explicitly states that faith without works is dead. In Phillipians chapter three Paul has written about how he too is trying to live just as Christ had to ressurect from the dead, but disclaims this lengthy statement by saying he has not acheived his “perfection” yet. At the end of his statement he goes on to say that he was going to keep moving forward to receive the “prize” (salvation). This has given me great reaon to believe that we are trying to achieve perfection as Christ did in order to obtain salvation and ascend into the clouds, the cosmic clouds of many lives to achieving divinity, which is a very Hinduistic concept, but it fits Christianity well after more insight.

    We have the account of Jesus’ entire life to see how he went about obtaining salvation and setting the example for us, saving us from the ignorance of how to do so and give us the true way and life to live to accomplish those things. He even says in Matthew 5:48 that we should be perfect as our father in heaven is perfect. He tells us also in John 14:12 that we shall do these things and greater than these things too if we go into the Father and allow the Father into us.

    I’m just giving tidbits for you guys to chew on, but to sum it up I believe that obtaining salvation is by becoming perfect as Christ Jesus and God are perfect and by doing so we will defeat death and ressurect to have eternal life.

  14. webulite [edit: URL Removed]

    The physical aspect you mentioned, made me think of that famous supernaturalist, can’t remember if it was pat robertson or jerry fallwell, talking about god’s “cone of protection” with regards to hurricanes.

    But on a more serious note. anyone interested in the actual study of the history of christianity? If so, get in touch with me. I am interested in the very early period, and am looking for others that are also interested in that to have discussions with.

    Cheers! [edit: URL Removed]

  15. Peter

    Hi Ian, thanks for the welcome.

    My understanding of salvation. Emmmm.

    My first feeling is to say (to Shane) that I thought Jesus was my crutch, but, ho hum!

    But, salvation…

    First up I’d say that my understanding has changed over the years, at least in emphasis, and I tend to think in broader strokes now rather than in smaller narrower individualistic terms. So I recoil at Shane’s stereotypical, ‘ask Jesus into your heart and you’re home and dry’, response as much as he does… even as a metaphor it’s difficult to pin down what it means.

    So I’ll try this as a starting point:

    ‘A return to the garden we heard about at the beginning of the story.’
    ‘A new earth, with new bodies (so we can kick football and press grapes and paint and sing and sculpt).’
    ‘And new galaxies.’
    ‘And new plants and animals to study and classify.’
    ‘No diseases to have to cure.’
    ‘Daisies. Lots of them, so we can make daisy chains and wear them at picnics.’
    ‘No more fear, or hopelessness, or death, or envy.’
    ‘New life, new prospects, new possibilities.’

  16. John Clavin

    Hi, I recently met Ian and therefore I am new to this, forum. Hi Ian.
    I observe contempory human behavior to understand religious concepts. Salvation to me is being saved from one’s own self destructive behavior. I think that is what the bible is trying to say. I am not a bible scholar so I am just making a guess.

  17. Ian

    @ryan – Thanks a lot for commenting. I appreciate your input. “I believe that obtaining salvation is by becoming perfect as Christ Jesus and God are perfect” Can I ask, then, why you believe that Jesus was perfect. You mention following Jesus’s example in the gospels. But Jesus in the gospels is really not a very nice person on many occasions. I know that most Christians *start* with the dogma that Jesus is perfect, and then go back and read the gospels. But if you start of the Gospel stories, I’m not sure how you can possibly get the impression that Jesus is perfect. As I’ve said before, he comes across to me as a bit of a dick at times.

    @webulte – I removed the 3 urls in your comment, because it appeared spammy. If you do join in the community here and make your voice known a bit more, I’ll be happy to reinstate the link to your site. If you want to have a discussion about early Christianity, by all means do. I’m not sure what you mean by the ‘actual study of the history of christianity’. Can you say more about your first point – it made you think of that, but what did it make you think?

    @peter – Thanks for the response. So there’s a kind of eschatology at work behind some of them, while others appear to be states of mind that could be accessed in the here and now. Do you see ‘peace’ (which I read as the feeling of being at peace) as being something that can be achieved now through your salvation, or is it also a communal experience for another life / another stage of creation?

    @john – Hey, welcome to the blog! it is great to hear from you here. When you mentioned the “lead us not into ego”, I found that really fascinating too. It is a perspective that isn’t often seen in Christianity, in my experience, but totally resonates with what I think about how people work. We externalise and personify parts of ourself. And by having some kind of story arc with that externalised person, we are actually fighting an internal battle with part of our own make-up. That is an important part of how I can relate to theists without fundamentally sharing their belief in a God. I’m going to post on your 12 steps soon too. Though I probably won’t have time before this weekend.

  18. Peter


    First of all I wonder if it would be helpful to say, based on quite a few of the comments already made here, I get the impression that what I might call ‘popular evangelical/fundamentalism’ has been pretty influential in determining/describing what we mean by ‘salvation’. Not that I’d disagree with it all, but I would want to say that it is a view which is… ‘limited’. And I’m wondering if it is an interaction with ‘popular evangelical/fundamentalism’ which is the cause of your reading of my use of the word ‘peace’? I wasn’t thinking in terms of ‘personal feelings’ although in my experience it is the case that many evangelicals speak of the evidence of salvation in ‘personal feeling’ terms. I don’t, at least not in the sense of thinking that just because a self identified Christian speaks of ‘feeling at peace’ it’s necessarily related to salvation.

    This leads me to thinking that one of the issues you raise here is, ‘what does Christian salvation look like?’, or, ‘what are the effects of putting one’s faith in Jesus for salvation?’, or ‘what will this mean, here and now, and is it any different from any non-believer who happens to display the same attributes of moral or ethical living, or purpose?’. Am I in any way close to where you are coming from on this?

    And finally, for now, to develop these thoughts, and to pick up on your use of the word ‘eschatology’, my thinking in writing those last comments was almost entirely, if not exclusively, eschatological! Now that does not mean that I think that Christian salvation is exclusively eschatological, but it does mean that pinning down the ‘evidence’ of salvation here and now is a bit more difficult! Life and faith are complex and ‘faith in Jesus’ or ‘salvation’ are not always going to look exactly the same for every believer, nor do I think they need to. But I suppose I would say that salvation ‘here and now’ is (among other things) a glimpse of ‘there and then’.

    I’d also want to say, both!! (individual and communal)

    And I wouldn’t disagree with John and what he says about self destruction.

    And when you reply to John by saying, “…by having some kind of story arc with that externalised person, we are actually fighting an internal battle with part of our own make-up.” I’d also be happy saying that that ‘battle’ is, in it’s most complete sense, fought as we encounter the “externalised person” of Jesus.

    Sorry, that was a bit more than, ‘finally’!

    Great blog BTW.

  19. Ian

    Great response, thanks a lot Peter.

    Yes, it is a knee-jerk reaction to read ‘peace’ as ‘peace in my heart’ kind of language.

    So I get that you are talking eschatologically. It is an odd use of ‘salvation’, however, to me, since it isn’t really clear what we’re saved from. More of a general kind of apocalyptic – the world will be remade and all the things we don’t like will be gone, and the things we do we will have in abundance. It seems that ‘salvation’ in this sense is somewhat stripped of its meaning as a word and used in a specifically theological sense to mean ‘Christian eschatology’. Or maybe it is just shorthand for ‘being a Christian’. Do you see where I’m coming from?

    On the non-eschatological effects of salvation. I think that pinning down evidence is probably objectively impossible. But I have a follow on question – do you think it is subjectively impossible too? In other words, given that there may be some non-eschatological component of salvation: do you think individuals who have been so saved can come to some unambiguous understanding of such? You say that things are going to be different for every believer, but can the believer know incontrovertibly themselves? Can somebody be wrong in thinking they are experiencing those elements of salvation? Can somebody who doesn’t feel they are experiencing such salvation be actually in receipt of it? If so (on both counts) is this a common thing?

    I ask because ‘being sure of your salvation’ is an evangelical teaching. And although many Christians reject facile evangelicalism, this doctrine has cropped up in conversations I’ve had with theological liberals who somehow worry about the fact that there isn’t some obvious result of their faith decisions.

    “as we encounter the “externalised person” of Jesus”

    Are you saying that you think Jesus (let’s say Christ, if we can, to distinguish from the historical figure), are you saying that you think Christ is a personification of things that are actually internal? Rather than being a separate ‘being’. Put in a more thought-experimenty way – if there was nobody alive who believed in, thought about, or remembered Christ, would Christ still exist?

    PS: I’m always a bit of a sucker for trying to find out more about the belief of real believers, and I’m aware that I ask too many questions and don’t know when to stop. Feel free to tell me that, whenever you get bored 😉

  20. Peter, I’d love to see you getting salvation from being stark staring bananas! 😉

  21. Peter


    What is it with you and edible plants?

    Perhaps your trouble is that I can deconstruct faith just as well as you can (perhaps better ;-)) and still remain a Christian. The psychologising of faith doesn’t bother me, not one bit.

    Anyway, if you think what I’ve written so far is bad, wait ’til you read my reply to Ian’s most recent questions!

    But won’t you, Shane, in the quiet, just where you are, bow your head and turn your thoughts heavenward? Aren’t you willing to turn to Jesus? He’ll really be your best-us fwend!

  22. Hi Peter, nice one! 🙂
    Nah, whether it’s bananas or cabbage, I’ll pass. See, the problem for me (as a Christian Atheist) is that I am not at all clear what Jesus (bestest fwend etc) is really supposed to be saving me *from*. I mean, I am certainly not in a spiral of self-destruction, so that one doesn’t work. I’m not going to Hell any more than I’m going to Lilliput (I don’t think even you believe that, even though you have been known to hug pixies ;-), so I don’t need saved from that.

    Indeed, I would suggest that all we need saved from (have a look at http://godwillbegod.com !) is an inappropriate deference to authority, and we atheists have already sewn that badge to our jumper (many of us anyway).

    So I would suggest that salvation is indeed in order – it is up to the *atheists* to save *Jesus*. Hence my marvellous mechanical mouse organ over at http://churchofjesuschristatheist.blogspot.com .

    Jesus said he did not come to bring peace, but a sword. It’s up to us nice folks to put our arms around him, march him away from the bar, sit him down somewhere quietly, and put up with him gibbering “I love you, man!” for a couple of hours until he sobers the feck up. That’s what a REAL bestest fwend would do. Save Jesus from himself.

  23. Peter

    Shane, hi, and Ian, before I post my longer reply to your last questions, what if, just for the sake of a conversation we change the preposition? What if I suggest we change ‘salvation from’, to, ‘salvation to’?

    What if I shift, a little, the common understanding of ‘salvation’ from, ‘being saved from the punishment of breaking the laws of a distant God’, to, ‘discovering/remembering again what it is to be truly human’? What if we understand salvation to be the journey, of those we call the ‘church’, from discord to harmony, from conflict to, well, shalom?

    And, can I ask, has the church really done such an appalling job of communicating a central tenet of it’s identity?

  24. Ian

    Hmmm… I thought you might go there…

    No I get that thread of Christian thought. But why call it “salvation” then? “Salvation to” – okay is fine, but that’s not really being saved is it? When in your regular discourse did you ever say “saved to” with the point of omitting the ‘from’?

    Saved has an implicit from. Even “saved by” and “saved for” dangle the from… “the monument was saved by the historical society” – from what? from demolition for the new bypass; “I saved the bottletops for you” – from what? from being thrown in the trash. Can you think of another use of saved or salvation where the ‘from what’ isn’t either given or part of the context of the utterance?

    But yes, we can talk about teleology. That Christianity is fundamentally about the destination rather than the alternative. And that’s fine. I can follow those discussions. But I don’t feel it gives me a satisfactory angle on salvation, or even what you mean by salvation, it makes me suspect you don’t really believe in salvation.

    I suspect, you see, that you know the range of what most Christians and the vast majority of Christian theologies over the millenia mean by salvation. And you don’t believe in that salvation any more than I do. But you don’t want to say that because that would be, well heretical. So instead you feel the desire to change the meaning to be basically teleological or eschatological. Is that fair? Or am I totally off base?

    But yes, as long as you understand that I think you’re not talking about salvation any more, you’re welcome to start talking in terms of ‘salvation to’… 😉

  25. John Clavin

    The lords prayer says:
    “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
    From the way the sentence is written, evil has to be the ego or some form of “self will run riot.” Also the 10 commandments list bad behaviors that are the results of self will. Today we call them the 7 deadly sins.

    I think that the concept of “original sin” is the same idea.

    The question I ask, is what drove the christians come to up with all this? They took basic human behavior and twisted it into a story about Jesus dying on the cross that somehow relates to salvation from, in my opinion, the self.

  26. Peter

    Hi Ian,

    This is a different reply to the one I had already started, the one I promised Shane; whether this makes me more ‘bananas’ or less ‘bananas’, I don’t know! 🙂

    I should say though that I’ve no problem with answering your questions, they are good questions, probably the best questions I’ve been asked about my faith (I wish we talked about them in church!) and you are unlikely to bore me, at least not quickly; however, where to begin, there are rather a lot, and I’m also stuck with a personality which wants to read, on the lines, between the lines and into the lines!

    I’d like to pick up on the subjective/objective thing because that interests me too, but I think I’ll start with a bit of ‘ground clearance’ because that might help us with communication, so here goes.

    You seem happy with the idea that Christianity concerns ‘destination’ but are less happy that this is what ‘salvation’ is or includes. And at that point I want to ask, why? Why, if I use the idea, ‘salvation to’, does this stop being ‘salvation’ for you. Surely the idea of a journey encompasses both ‘from’ and ‘to’ with my initial response being that if I am going ‘to’ somewhere I am also coming ‘from’ somewhere. Perhaps I’ll end up saying ‘both’ quite alot: both individual and communal, both, to and from, both here and now and there and then, or, to be a bit more ‘theological’ about it, both ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ (I don’t know if you are familiar with that phrase)

    Perhaps one of our problems is that the aspect of salvation which has received most attention in the Christian Church has been the ‘from’ aspect of it, almost to the exclusion of the ‘to’ part and to compound the problem the idea of ‘salvation from’, bubbling for a couple of millennia in a theological pot, has reduced and reduced until the average understanding of ‘salvation’ means, ‘safe from the gargoyle-y beasties in hell’; as I said, that, at best, is limited, if not an altogether sticky mess which has more or less lost any meaning it ever might have had.

    So I have deliberately opted to suggest that we turn around, face a different direction and ask a different question, without necessarily dispensing with any other facets of the term ‘salvation’ which there may or may not be. I am not discounting the ‘from’, but I am saying that to better understand the ‘from’ aspect of salvation we must take account of the ‘to’.

    Let’s return to your illustration of the monument. Yes, it was saved by the historical society from demolition for the new bypass, to what? To keep on being the monument it was intended to be. To keep on pointing to whatever it was intended to draw people’s attention to. To keep on ‘speaking’ to us. It was made to be a monument, had it been demolished it would no longer have fufilled it’s purpose, so it was *both* saved ‘from’ demolition and saved ‘to’ be what it was/is.

    Now one of the directions we can go is to think in terms of the myth of the garden in which we learn about the ‘image-bearers’ of God.

    And I’d still like to return to the ‘objective/subjective/personal’ evidence of salvation we touched on.

    “Completely bananas”. Is that what you want to say, Shane? 🙂

  27. Ian

    @John – I’ve never thought about that before, yes the juxtaposition of ‘temptation’ and ‘evil’ is interesting.

    I think a lot of what religion does well is to create characters out of tendencies or preferences we have. It is then easier to relate to those characters, and the way we relate to them influences the stance we take on the underlying cause. For example, if you make temptation demonic, then you can see yourself in opposition to the demon, which may be a source of strength in fighting the temptation.

  28. Ian

    @Peter – great response, thanks. If you’re interested in talking about subjectivity and objectivity, it might be worth me posting a starter for ten on that.

    I’m happy with thinking about Christianity as a destination, yes. But my point wasn’t one of theology, but of nomenclature. I don’t get why this is ‘salvation’ rather than just vanilla teleology.

    You say that Christians have focussed too much on the ‘from’. Well perhaps, but I find it difficult to track down thinking Christians who will spend *any* time talking about the from at all. This is the source of my confusion, because the liberal Christians I know all do what you do and run as fast as they possibly can to get off that topic. I guess for fear of sounding like Pat Robertson or something.

    But my point seems to be still hanging: what makes it “salvation” then, as opposed to just an eternal destiny? Rather than any other word you could use to describe it? I don’t mean what theological features does it have, but why do you want to call it that?

    You see, I don’t think being saved is a description of something’s purpose, not in its normal sense. Take two identical monuments that are standing in fine condition in two neighbouring villages: one had to be saved by the local historical society, the other did not. What is the difference between them? Certainly not their purpose! No the thing that makes one saved and the other not is that it was saved from something. In other words there was a specific threat to the monument that was averted.

    I’m not saying anything about whether your description of religious purpose is something real or not, just that what you are describing isn’t what the word “salvation” means to me, or to the OED, for that matter.

    And I think that is because you feel you have to use the word, because it is embedded in the cultural dogma of your faith; even though you don’t really believe in it. You instead believe in teleology, and you want to repurpose the word to refer to that.

  29. It is perhaps interesting to note that Jesus himself talks *very* little about “being saved” – salvation is a concept that is very much post-Christian.

    Peter, I think Ian has a point; you are too wedded by your tradition to words like “saved” and concepts like “atonement” that have a very minor and often questionable biblical basis.

    One big problem is that if you take nice atheists like wot I am, you surely don’t think there is anything that *we* need saved from? I have already been saved, and frankly I’m past that. So what *do* you think (sirs! 😉 I need to be saved from *now*?

  30. Peter

    Ian, (I’m hoping this isn’t too long)

    Emmm, OK, I see your dilemma.

    I suppose I do tend to avoid emphasising this aspect of my faith, perhaps for the same reason as the liberal Christians you know! You see I’m happy in discussing the concept of ‘being saved from’ with regard to me, but much more hesitant in discussing it with regard to others. Perhaps it is the ‘fundamentalist’ effect, (the often arrogant sounding, finger pointing, ‘repent you bad, and obviously worse than me, person!’), that, and the ‘from’ part isn’t the best of news; let’s face it, no village really wants to hear that their monument is in danger! And can I say something else; I’m also hesitant because of the immediate reductionism which often goes on and which has appeared already on this thread. I’m thinking of comments like Shane’s ‘asking Jesus into your heart’ or your comments about Hell; sorry, I even hate being ‘controversial’ in saying this! 🙂

    So, as I write this, I’m primarily thinking about me, which is my way of saying I don’t like ‘pointing fingers’; maybe your liberal friends don’t like doing this either. I also still want to say that ‘salvation’ must include the destination otherwise our picture isn’t big enough; I want to keep on saying, ‘both’!

    But this is all beginning to feel like more avoidance so I’d better get on!

    Can I run with this phrase of yours: “there was a specific threat to the monument that was averted.” and link it to what I said about ‘image bearers’.

    For me (and I’m meaning conservative/orthodox Christianity!) this idea of image bearers, or being made in the image of God is concerned with my identity, it tells me what and who I am intended to be. And this is not a matter of being ‘nice’ or ‘good’ or ‘ethical’, there are many many nice, good and ethical atheists and whoever, rather it might be termed the ‘Cultural Mandate’. Its the idea of being placed in a garden to make our mark upon it; to miss this, and many Christians do, is to miss out on why God ‘spoke/created’ in the first place. One of the greatest things we human beings can do is to make, design, create, think, investigate, communicate, build and so on, and in doing all these things we Christians say that we are reflecting God, that we are doing ‘his work’.

    Thought of in this way then, our ‘monuments’ are under threat. Human beings have destroyed as well as created, have plundered the earth as well as tending it, have been unjust as well as just, selfish as well as generous and, to that, Christians would add that we have also failed to recognise God as the ‘author’ of it all. It is at this point then that Christians use words like, ‘sin’ or ‘rebellion’ and so on, and why the biblical accounts says both, “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work”, and that, “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay”.

    The story begins with one creation and ends with another; it begins in a garden with a call to establish culture and it ends in a city; it begins with God walking on the earth and ends with God ‘moving’ onto the earth, an earth filled with ‘the glory of God’.

    I’m not asking or expecting you to agree but I do hope this makes, at least, a little bit of sense.

  31. OL, Peter, coolio. So you’re saying that because we don’t recognise god as author, we’re bring saved from copyright infringement?!?!?

  32. Peter


    Yeh, well, if you’re going to ignore the rest of what I said…

    Didn’t you know:


    We all like a bit of recognition, don’t we? 😉

  33. Ian

    @Peter, not at all too long, I really appreciate your tenacity on this! And really I’m striving after understanding rather than agreement, yes.

    Okay, so let me try to re-express your point in my words. You are saying that the ‘from’ isn’t something that is necessarily about our peril or a kind of personal destruction. But that it is (like the monument) the loss of something that stood for something, that had a purpose beyond itself.

    So the monument being destroyed is of no consequence to the monument itself. But it is the loss of a something that was supposed to trigger memories, to speak of past actions, or to inspire particular types of behaviour in those who see it.

    So when we are ‘saved’ we are saved from the waste of not fulfilling or divinely ordained purposes. In effect we are saved from unnecessarily having no cosmic significance, I guess.

    Is that fair? If so, then that does make sense to me, and is another use of saved I haven’t seen articulated in this way before. It is interesting, thanks. I don’t feel it is appropriate particularly to say what I find troubling about that now, maybe in a later post. But I do really appreciate you working through to this point.

  34. John Clavin

    Shane said: “So what *do* you think (sirs! I need to be saved from *now*?”

    Speaking for myself, last night I was woofing down a way-too-big cup of self serve chocolate yogurt, and thinking about the seven deadly sins.

  35. Ah, saved from a belly? 😉 Actually, does anyone know if the 7DSs are enumerated as such anywhere in the Bible? I have a niggling wee feeling that they first appeared in list form in the medieval period, but I could be wrong…

    Peter, my post was not intended to be an in-depth analysis of your post – indeed, I don’t even know where to start – so much cabbage, so little time 😉

    Nope, I do not need “saved” to be god’s image-bearer (whatever that might mean) – it seems to smack of obedience to a titular authority, and unfortunately that is something I just cannot do, and petulantly *refuse* to do. Now, you might say that that’s my “sin” right there – a truculent nay-saying. But it’s not. I will very happily take the advice of any god and bear the image thereof (whatever, again, the heck that means) if he/she/it can persuade me to do so with a good rational argument. But “just following orders” didn’t work at Nuremberg, if you recall, and I don’t think it is a “virtue” any *real* god would particularly value in her creatures. So I have no choice, really. I’m saved from being a lackey.

  36. Ian

    Shane, no the seven deadly sins are not in the bible.

    The nearest are Proverbs 6:16ff (which does say there are 7 things that God dislikes, but they aren’t the same 7 as we have now – no mention of gluttony 😀 ), and Galatians 5:19ff which has more than 7, and still doesn’t include gluttony.

    I think they are pre-medieval though. I’ll look it up.

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