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Binary Opposition


Javelin
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The bible contains theoretical opposites

 

law - grace

works - faith

mercy - sacrifice

poor - rich

last - first

God - flesh

gift - obligation

compassion – correction

forgiveness – obedience

 

This predictably leads to doctrinal confusion. There is ample scriptural evidence to validate a doctrinal belief in salvation by works or salvation by grace through faith excluding works. How does flesh reconcile this apparent dichotomy with any degree of certainty?

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In his writings Dogen once said that when one side of something is lighted, the other side is dark. I think reality is bigger, deeper and more complete than our ideas can ever be. Therefore, ideas merely cast light upon some aspect, some particular system or object within a system, but do not capture the whole, or heart, of reality. It is not my belief that the biblical writers, especially the ancient Hebrew writers, were all that concerned about analytical philosophical thought and with constructing a perfectly systematic, air-tight, everything-in-its-place conceptual framework. There is no formula or program that can generate Truth.

Edited by Mike
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There is ample scriptural evidence to validate a doctrinal belief in salvation by works or salvation by grace through faith excluding works. How does flesh reconcile this apparent dichotomy with any degree of certainty?

 

For me, your question brings up two main considerations, Javelin:

 

1. Salvation. This is usually understood in Christianese to mean, "getting out of the going-to-hell line and getting into the going-to-heaven line." I find this to be an extremely narrow and myopic view of salvation. If I remember correctly, the root word for "salvation" doesn't so much apply to future destiny, but to "wholeness", to being made complete, integrated. This is especially reflected in the Psalms where David feels, not that he is going into eternal torture, but broken. He feels less than whole.

 

2. As long as we narrow the interpretation of salvation to ONLY destiny, then, yes, it lends itself to a very dualistic paradigm. Where are you going to go when you die? Heaven or hell? Only the Catholics have a middle-ground of purgatory. Within this mypoic view, Christians indeed fight over whether your destiny depends on what you do (repentance with works following, as Jesus taught) or on what Jesus did (grace, opposed to works, as Paul taught). But if we open ourselves to the understanding that salvation is wholeness, completeness, spiritual health, then we can see that God calls into active cooperation with the salvation that we experience. We might call this a response to grace. Wesley called it a warming of the heart. Protestants, usually being opposed to any mention of "salvation by works", don't want to consider that our response to God in our lives is a "work" - something we do. But it is. It is just that it comes from the inside out, from a point of acceptance - not from the outside in, in order to gain acceptance.

 

So, for me, once I let go of the concept that salvation was ONLY about my future destiny SOMEDAY and began to understand that it was about my spiritual health NOW, then I realized that God and I are in this thing together. He doesn't do it all for me. And I don't do it without him. It's about relationship, and relationships, good ones at least, always involve give and take on both sides.

 

PS - I don't feel like I am trying to "earn my way to heaven." I'm an agnostic about a literal heaven. It sounds like a boring place to me. :) But I am excited about the wholeness and health that I experience spiritually with God. I don't have to try to discern what is God and what is me. If we are truly "in God, in whom we live and move and have our being", then there is no need to worry about what is works and what is grace. It all ultimately comes from God, but it does us no good unless we actively join with God in becoming whole.

Edited by billmc
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The bible contains theoretical opposites

 

law - grace

works - faith

mercy - sacrifice

poor - rich

last - first

God - flesh

gift - obligation

compassion – correction

forgiveness – obedience

 

This predictably leads to doctrinal confusion. There is ample scriptural evidence to validate a doctrinal belief in salvation by works or salvation by grace through faith excluding works. How does flesh reconcile this apparent dichotomy with any degree of certainty?

 

Jesus' description of the Last Judgment makes it clear that we will be judged on works. "You saw me hungry and you fed me, etc."

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For me, your question brings up two main considerations, Javelin:

 

1. Salvation. This is usually understood in Christianese to mean, "getting out of the going-to-hell line and getting into the going-to-heaven line." I find this to be an extremely narrow and myopic view of salvation. If I remember correctly, the root word for "salvation" doesn't so much apply to future destiny, but to "wholeness", to being made complete, integrated. This is especially reflected in the Psalms where David feels, not that he is going into eternal torture, but broken. He feels less than whole.

 

I don’t always agree with your conclusions Bill, but your post are always interesting and though provoking. I agree that one of the common precepts of religion is the avoidance of hell. Religion has a tendency to produce list of do’s and don’t with the don’t holding a clear numerical advantage.

 

2. As long as we narrow the interpretation of salvation to ONLY destiny, then, yes, it lends itself to a very dualistic paradigm. Where are you going to go when you die? Heaven or hell? Only the Catholics have a middle-ground of purgatory. Within this mypoic view, Christians indeed fight over whether your destiny depends on what you do (repentance with works following, as Jesus taught) or on what Jesus did (grace, opposed to works, as Paul taught). But if we open ourselves to the understanding that salvation is wholeness, completeness, spiritual health, then we can see that God calls into active cooperation with the salvation that we experience. We might call this a response to grace. Wesley called it a warming of the heart. Protestants, usually being opposed to any mention of "salvation by works", don't want to consider that our response to God in our lives is a "work" - something we do. But it is. It is just that it comes from the inside out, from a point of acceptance - not from the outside in, in order to gain acceptance.

 

Scripture seems to validate your thoughts. Luke 17: 21Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

 

 

Also Jesus summary of the law when He said we are to love God and love others. The command, or message, found throughout scripture is that we are to love one another. This may explain God’s concept, or command, regarding “work”.

 

 

So, for me, once I let go of the concept that salvation was ONLY about my future destiny SOMEDAY and began to understand that it was about my spiritual health NOW, then I realized that God and I are in this thing together. He doesn't do it all for me. And I don't do it without him. It's about relationship, and relationships, good ones at least, always involve give and take on both sides.

 

 

I find wisdom in your thoughts Bill. The difficulty, at least for me, is shaking off 40 years of fundamentalist indoctrination that ingrained a different message into my psyche

 

 

PS - I don't feel like I am trying to "earn my way to heaven." I'm an agnostic about a literal heaven. It sounds like a boring place to me. :) But I am excited about the wholeness and health that I experience spiritually with God. I don't have to try to discern what is God and what is me. If we are truly "in God, in whom we live and move and have our being", then there is no need to worry about what is works and what is grace. It all ultimately comes from God, but it does us no good unless we actively join with God in becoming whole.

 

 

I agree that salvation should be understood in the concept of a relationship rather than authoritarian compliance which is probably more commonly practiced. I appreciate your thougths on this topic Bill.

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Ha ha! My “conclusions” aren’t so much conclusions, Javelin, as they are just reflections of where I currently am on my journey. Like you, I’m coming out of fundamentalism. That involves a lot of deconstruction and reconstruction, but my reconstruction is done more with silly putty and pipe cleaners than with concrete footers and steel beams. :D

 

One of the strengths of our community here, as I’m sure you already know, is that we have the freedom to discuss matters of importance with each other without insisting that we agree. Don’t take me wrong, agreement is nice, it fosters a sense of belonging. But focusing on agreement can often take on the role of forcing others to be like us or us to be like them – something that the fundies do all too well.

 

So I appreciate that my posts give you pause for thought just as yours do for me. I’m working through all of this just as you are, my friend. For me, this often hurts like hell and takes a lot of time. So I sometimes take hiatuses from the forum while I “process”. But I’ve never once been shown the door and this community gives us room and freedom.

 

I’m interested in hearing some more of your own thoughts on this subject and more from others here.

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name='billmc' date='03 September 2009 - 09:37 AM' timestamp='1251988670' post='18486']

Ha ha! My conclusions arent so much conclusions, Javelin, as they are just reflections of where I currently am on my journey. Like you, Im coming out of fundamentalism. That involves a lot of deconstruction and reconstruction, but my reconstruction is done more with silly putty and pipe cleaners than with concrete footers and steel beams.

 

.....So I appreciate that my posts give you pause for thought just as yours do for me. Im working through all of this just as you are, my friend. For me, this often hurts like hell and takes a lot of time. So I sometimes take hiatuses from the forum while I process. But Ive never once been shown the door and this community gives us room and freedom.

 

Im interested in hearing some more of your own thoughts on this subject and more from others here.

 

Thanks for your insights Bill. Having been locked in a religious system that taught sin will get you a ticket on the express elevator to hell post haste has admittedly damaged me and my thinking. Ive found it exceedingly difficult to emotionally rid myself of that kind of thinking even though Ive intellectually rejected it.

 

If salvation is lost each time a believer sins then religion is little more than a spiritual craps shoot. The words of a dying friend stunned me and have been locked into my memory. She way dying of cancer and knew she only had hours left to live when she said, I hope Ive done enough. She was a beautiful, sincere, faithful, Christian lady who died wondering if she had done enough good works to appease God and avoid eternal damnation.

 

Thats when I began to rethink religion and my own personal beliefs. I am a follower of Pauls teaching because that is the only thing Ive read in the NT that offers assurance. If Pauls teaching is correct then assurance is found in faith not in works. It Pauls teaching isnt correct then I dont think it matters how religious anyone is because nobody can do enough works or live sinless enough to become righteous. According to scripture one sin is sufficient for eternal damnation. I agree with your previous point that religion is mostly about avoiding hell and that would seem to be impossible without grace.

 

Im trying to adjust my thinking so that it is focused on a spiritual relationship rather than works, but Ive found that is easier said than done. My legalistic training continues to linger in the recesses of my mind. Christianity continues to struggle with the grace/works dichotomy and so do I.

 

I find wisdom and comfort in your thoughts Bill.

Edited by Javelin
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Bill,

 

Protestants, usually being opposed to any mention of "salvation by works", don't want to consider that our response to God in our lives is a "work" - something we do. But it is. It is just that it comes from the inside out, from a point of acceptance - not from the outside in, in order to gain acceptance.

 

As a Presbyterian I learned that sanctification followed justification. First the grace of justification in Jesus Christ then a life lived out of that grace moving ever closer to the footsteps of the Christ - as you said - it comes from the inside out, a result of grace.

 

Dutch

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