Sunday, June 29, 2008

Personalized Salvation: Right and Wrong

23 Then he [Jesus] said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self? 26 If any of you are ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. --Luke 9:23-26

We Americans use the word "personal" incessantly. By it, we usually mean customized or selected according to our preferences, tastes, whims, consumer values, ad nauseum--YouWorld and all that.

Danger ensues, though, when we think of salvation--a restored standing with God through Jesus Christ--as "personal" in the sense above. A customized salvation by our own personalized definition is God on our terms--a comfortable God, a God in our own image. But this is not the triune, holy, just, loving, Incarnation God of the Bible and space-time history, but a customized counterfeit.

God is not an iPod play list or a fashion statement. He is not a selection of foods on the smorgasbord. God has a fixed and determinate character. Christ has "made him known" (John 1:18) uniquely, finally, and incomparably through his life, death, and resurrection.

God has now commanded all people to repent (Acts 17:30; Matthew 4:17), to believe on his Son (John 3:16), and to receive forgiveness and justification through Jesus Christ (John 1:13-14; Romans 5:1-8). This is not customized, but it fits every receptive soul who heeds the divine call. This salvation is not automatic and you cannot presume upon God to provide it on your terms. However, it is highly personal in that you must give yourself--body and soul--to God. Jesus said, "Come to me..." (Matthew 11:28). What does God want from us? He wants us for himself forever--and nothing will ever be the same again.


pgepps said...

hear, hear! There is one God, and one Mediator.

God may well call whosoever will, but salvation is of God who calls, not of any of us who will be saved.

The Scottish Reslers said...

Thanks for the blog. I do have a suggestion for possible meditation in light of the "customized" soteriology that you rightfully denounce.

Since we are each created uniquely, with an unique personality and with unique gifts, does it not stand to reason that God deals with each of us uniquely as He draws Himself to us? If this does indeed occur, then in a since isn't our salvation "customized"?

As a disclaimer, I agree with Doug here that we as humans fall into the trap of defining our salvation on purely human terms and methods - I being unfortunately in the "trap" too often.

Any thoughts?

Ken Abbott said...

Just one minor, niggly correction:

23 Then he [Jesus] said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.

Maybe it's politically incorrect, but I just can't fathom an ungrammatical Jesus. I suppose that's a preference.

Tony Bolos said...

I can fathom inclusive language. I suppose that's a preference.

Ken Abbott said...

But, Tony, the use of the third person pleural pronoun as an all-purpose genderless substitute for the third person singular is not inclusive, just ungrammatical. In this case, the pronoun does not agree in number with the referent, which is "whoever," a singular pronoun as told by the agreement of the verb "wants."

English already has a genderless third person singular pronoun--"one." The problem is that "one" sounds stilted and formal in spoken language.

Doug Groothuis said...

This is the TNIV translation.

Laura said...

Here's an enthusiastic, Yes! Yes! Yes! to personal faith in the true sense of the word--person to person. It is a shame that the word "personal" has been stripped of this meaning in common American speech. Truth is, when the meaning of "personal" is restored, our faith becomes truly personalized, for Jesus--a person--relates to us as persons. This is so much deeper than these false consumeristic notions.

Gary said...

I would argue that the TNIV illustrates the point quite nicely--customizing according to our preferences, tastes,whims, consumer values. I find changing the text to reflect PC values a loss for Bible translation and for lovers of English grammar. "Joe" cannot deny "themselves," only himself. Could say "All who want to..." but, of course, that isn't what God said. Such textual tamperings and grammatical travasties would never have been allowed in a pre-postmodern world. Still, we don't want to exclude women... uh...wopersons.

Ken Abbott said...

Dr. G.--Was that an explanation or an apology? Or both? ;)

Jamin Hubner said...

"ad nauseum"
haha, thats funny (but true).

Doug Groothuis said...

Not an apology.

pgepps said...

yeah, the agreement error is especially obvious when a reflexive pronoun is being used. I think it's great to use "humanity" rather than "mankind," but it is far from true that using a plural for a singular is an accepted *written* form, and still less true that it is commendable.

All of which has precious little to do with the quite correct emphasis of the post.