Monday, April 28, 2008

what is salvation?

So I am wrapping up a final semester of my M.Div. (dang, that has gone fast) and I'm taking a class called "What is Salvation?" We figure it out. We finish off the perfect theology of salvation in this class. Okay, not really. In fact we don't even try to. We do explore the various theologies found in the NT, historical theologies, and contemporary theologies that highlight different perspectives and theological spaces that are created throughout the history of the church.

I was reading James Cone today for my class tomorrow night, a book called God of the Oppressed, and came across this:

"Whatever else the gospel of Jesus might be, it can never be identified with the established power of the state. Thus whatever Christians ethics might be, it can never be identified with the actions of people who conserve the status quo. This was the essential error of the early Church. By becoming the religion of the Roman state, replacing the public state sacrifices, Christianity became the opposite of what Jesus intended." (Page198)

And also this:

"Liberation as a future event is not simply otherworldly but is the divine future that breaks into their social existence, bestowing wholeness in the present situation of pain and suffering and enabling black people to know that the existing state of oppression contradicts their real humanity as defined by God's future." (Page 159)

Powerful words that seemed quite timely for me in the midst of Obama's campaign and his pastor's remarks. If you ever get a chance to read Cone, I highly recommend his profound works on God, justice, racism, liberation, and salvation. I hope for more regularly scheduled blogging as school winds down and graduation grows closer...not to mention the new addition to the Hayden family!


Kristen Gardner Photography said...

darn... I thought you were going to explain salvation to me. If you come up with a definition, I promise that I'll believe you.

Josh said...

well Kristen...for a small fee, I might be willing to give you the answer. in exchange for pictures of our little guy, i will explain the intricacies of the four spiritual laws (which is the only means of salvation) to you. i'm willing to barter however, so just let me know if you have a better idea...maybe it will save you (mwa ha ha ha).

Leah said...

Josh don't worry about Kristen I think she's predestined to be saved. It's Tim I'm not so sure of....maybe your next post could be: What is Tim's salvation?

Josh said...

Leah. you are so right. i mean, there is so much to think about when it comes to the salvation of Tim. he surely has not been elected, and i'm pretty sure that he has realized this as he keeps growing beards...which will help him to light up quicker in the firey flames of hell. thus, the pain will be less and over more quickly.

it's too bad, we were friends. long Tim.

Brendan said...

Can you ever say never though J $? Seems some religious folk identify themselves with the "established power of the state"--that necessarily problematic? Does he mean "established" as in how things are now, like in the way he uses "status quo" in the next line? Or does he mean any identification with the state is problematic? If he means the latter, while i haven't thought through the issue entirely, i'd be interested to see if you think that some such as Jim Wallis, or any other's acting out some faith-based sentiments in hope of affecting politic change, should be excluded from his "never" statement there.

Josh said...


good questions man. i won't try to speak for Cone (b/c that would be exactly what he wouldn't want from me as a white dude!), but i will give my best reading of him: namely, that for African-Americans, the government and its policies are rampant with racism. for black christians, to put hope in the government with its history of established racism, is to misplace hope. this does not mean that political change should not be sought after or achieved. Rather, change must necessarily be worked out in reality, but it is important to recognize the established gov't has been established in deep-seeded racism. and any people (gov't related or otherwise) who preserve the status quo (think of Dr. King who said that the worst people were those who were indifferent or asked him to slow things down...he'd rather people hate him and the movement than preserve the status quo) are those both in gov't and anywhere else who don't work for real change for people experiencing oppression.

Cone might also be saying that to mistake the governement as the kingdom of God, or a marker of God's action in the world would be a huge mistake, for the U.S. gov't is largely racist and was built on racism. so the church and/or the kingdom of God cannot be understood or equated with the government.

i personally think that Jim Wallis and the like do bring great change, but i think that often Wallis puts too much hope in the government to change its ways. i think that political change is important but it is important for churches not to be co-opted by the state to achieve its own ends and be controlled by the gov't.

Tom said... the man Josh.

Brendan said...

Interesting response Josh, thanks for it. While i'm not sure if i think the "US govt is largely racist," i think there have certainly been some significant problems perpetuated by the govt, and funding that has been way short b/c of lack of govt awareness and/or appreciation for racial inequality (i wrote about this some in this piece:

As you'd probably agree though, i think the church has done their fair share of perpetuating racism too(even if by their neutrality or lack of involvement in solutions).

I haven't followed much of Wallis' specific involvement with politics, but have tended to think that he represents an engagement with the public sector that's pretty unique. With that said though, how does it seem that he's placed too much hope in govt. change in your view?