July 17, 2009

What If We Are Wrong?

[Salvation #3]

What does it mean that our agreement on salvation appears to fall apart once we move from terms to definitions? Some of the implications are unsettling, at best:

1. That we—collectively, as the church—don't understand what the gospel is, apparently. Or particularly well, at least. Or well enough to explain it. Without contradicting or vexing other brothers and sisters who have spent just as much effort, study, and prayer to understand salvation as we have—if not more. Including those who have lived under persecution, who have sought truth with more desperation and at greater cost.

2. That there is a real possibility that many of us, individually, don't understand the gospel correctly. That we really don't know what we're talking about. Though we may think we do. Or at least act as if we do whenever we judge the salvation of those around us.

3. That those who sense these possibilities, who see the speck of error or uncertainty in our brother's eye and know what the mirror will reveal, live out their salvation with a gnawing insecurity about our apparent inability to get the story straight.

Insecurity would explain the gymnastics we require of people when we present the gospel—lest anyone fall short of the threshold due to our flawed understanding.
What if I miss a step in the recipe? What if I don't explain all necessary hoops? What if I forget the password? We act as if we fear we might be doing it all wrong—thwarting the great commission, even. As if someone's salvation was really up to us, dependent on how perfectly we make the pitch and close the deal.

Insecurity would explain our many lines in the sand, our lists of preferences, convictions, and doctrinal enemies. Our insistence on defining ourselves by our personal and denominational differences hints at a need to be recognized, approved, and proved right—or at least
more right than others. Where does the self-justification end? Splitting the church into micro-denominations, into pieces tiny enough finally that all members of our group agree with us? Would we then be content? Or is empire building necessary to buttress the worth and rightness of our opinions?

Insecurity would explain our longing for doctrinal absolutes and our passionate self-defense against ambiguity. We fear that our theological house of cards will come crashing down if we acknowledge any uncertainty. To acknowledge, even to myself, that I might have misunderstood
the gospel opens the door of possibility that I might be wrong about anything and everything. What else? How much? For how long? And what about my own salvation?

These are paralyzing questions.

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