Life Made Livable

So I ask you for the umpteenth time, dear blog reader, what does it mean to be saved? Does it mean some part of you, your spirit let’s say, is saved to exist in a non-spatial, non-temporal existence following your death? That your spirit is “harvested” for a “spiritual” postmortem existence? A saved ghost preserved in a heavenly museum? If so, small wonder that some think we’ve got heaven and hell all rolled into one.

Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while

Yes, I know the Bible can be read in such a way that salvation looks like this — part of you is saved for another time and place — but it’s a tragic misreading. And, sadly, it’s a common misreading. Which, I suppose, is to be expected, thanks to the massive doses of Platonism and Gnosticism which seem to be the very religious air we breathe. The “vapors” of Gnostic Platonism have caused popular American Christianity for the past two centuries to be unabashedly dualistic; to the extent that a dualistic reading of Scripture seems to be orthodox, when in fact it is entirely unorthodox.

It’s frustrating.

So what is God trying to do? What is God in Christ attempting to save? Parts of people for another place (actually a place that is no place, because it is non-spatial and non-temporal)? Is this the salvation of God? It’s certainly how Plato understood salvation. It’s exactly how he understood salvation. And make no mistake about it, this concept of salvation did not come from the Hebrew prophets or Christian apostles, it came from Plato. (And it doesn’t matter at all if you don’t know the first thing about Plato, it is the origin of this kind of dualism.) So forgive me for asking the obvious question, but what does a pagan Greek philosopher know about the salvation wrought by Yahweh?

True salvation is a Jewish style salvation.
Or as Jesus said it, “salvation is from the Jews.”

The salvation which the Jewish and Apostolic Scriptures speak of is not a final escape to a spiritualized, dualistic, postmortem, non-spatial, non-temporal, Platonist heaven. No! Instead, it is present, earthy and holds out hope for this world. This is why so many earthy elements are found in the salvation story: conception and birth, swaddling clothes and a manger, tears and sweat, bread and wine, wood and nails…and blood. The story of salvation in Messiah faithfully told is not the saving of spiritual parts for a spiritual place, but the saving of…us. Human beings in the totality of our humanness.

This is why God in Christ joined humanity, so that being human could be recovered. Sin has so damaged humanity as to essentially make life unlivable. But God through the Incarnation joined humanity to restore humanity.

And what about the future aspect of salvation? That’s resurrection. A physical event where physical bodies gain immortality.*

(* For you would-be theologians out there: When the Bible speaks of immortality it is not speaking of the immortality of the soul; this is a concept imported from Greek philosophy. Rather, when the Bible speaks of immortality it is speaking of eternal life; it is talking about life in its fullness immune to death. Immortality is not something intrinsic to humans, but is an attribute and gift of God. If you are in doubt of this, simply examine the five times the word “immortality” is used in Scripture: Romans 2:7, 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54, 1 Timothy 6:16, 2 Timothy 1:10)

So we await the immortality of resurrection, but in the meantime we live out our salvation by (I don’t know how else to say it)…

Living a life made livable by the Incarnation and Resurrection of the Son of God is what salvation is about.

Salvation is lived out by living life well.
By doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.
By forgiving, healing and liberating people.
By creating, restoring and improving things.
By worshiping, working and enjoying life together.
By loving, laughing and living as redeemed people.
This is how we live out our salvation.

Life made livable is what salvation is about.
It begins with being reconciled with God.
And moves to being reconciled with others.
(And it must move in this direction or the whole thing is suspect.)
The reconciling of all things through the blood of the cross is the cosmic accomplishment of Christ.
(See Colossians 1:20 if you think I’m making this up.)

Salvation is all about reconciliation. We must be people who are engaged in the business of reconciliation — working to reconcile people to God and to a life made livable.

As I’ve said before…

We should reconcile people to God, we should reconcile people to one another, we should heal the sick, we should elevate the poor, we should set the captive free, we should bring justice to the oppressed, we should do good work, we should play enthusiastically, we should beautify the world, we should work for peace, we should work for prosperity, we should get married, we should raise children, we should compose music, we should write novels, we should paint masterpieces, we should create art, we should educate ourselves and others, we should study God’s creation, we should study the stars, we should study the sand, we should live beautiful lives, we should celebrate human existence, we should climb mountains, we should swim in the ocean, we should love, we should laugh, we should live, we should confer dignity upon one another, we should worship and work and wonder, and we should do all these things to the glory of God.

That’s what salvation looks like!

I continue to hammer home my point…

Is Jesus Lord?
Lord of what?
(That’s what the principalities and powers– human and demonic — want you to think.)
Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth.
And our task as the body of Messiah is to work to make heaven and earth one.

And while we work, we pray our most important framing prayer:
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven

Another question:
Where is Jesus right now?
Exalted at the right hand of God.
And where is the right hand of God?
(Hopefully you are a good theologian.)
God’s right hand is everywhere!
So where is Jesus exalted as Lord?

So, please, let’s stop trying to rip salvation out of its natural habitat. Keep salvation where it belongs. Here.

I’m so weary of salvation being presented as loading up the church bus for a one way trip to heaven. Everybody wave bye-bye! That’s dualism! That’s Platonism! That’s Gnosticism! It’s not Christianity! The “this-world-is-not-my-home” paradigm causes people to look at us as if we’re aliens…because we believe it ourselves! Madness! This is my Father’s world and this world is my home! It’s not the devil’s world! What kind of theology cedes God’s good creation to Satan? I realize this style of world-denying theology goes nicely with dispensational eschatology, but it’s a hermeneutical train wreck which forces its adherents to the margins of irrelevance. I reject it entirely.

Jesus didn’t come to organize an evacuation, he came to accomplish restoration. In the end Jesus is not going to destroy God’s creation, rather he is going to destroy all that has marred creation, including death, and deliver creation back to God fully healed! (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) And until we get our salvation paradigm in line with Scripture, we will be massively out of sync with what the Holy Spirit is trying to do. I can’t tell you how passionately I feel about this!

Jesus is intent on restoring all creation to God’s original goodness. The essence of salvation. The accomplishment of the cross. Two days before his death Jesus said that through his crucifixion the ruler of the world be cast out (John 12:31-32). The cross of Christ accomplished its intended purpose:

* The debt of sin was paid in full.
* Humanity was elevated from the fall.
* Satan’s dominion came to an end.
* The curse of the law was canceled.
* Alienation became reconciliation.
* Hatred was swallowed in love.
* Death was swallowed in victory.
* The cosmos was reclaimed for God.

Salvation here!
Salvation now!
Making life livable again.
All to the glory of God in Christ.

This is my mediation for Holy Week.


Our Good Friday theme: It Is Finished
Our Easter Sunday theme: God’s New World

(The painting is Farmhouse by Vincent Van Gogh)