Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Grow up

Some time back, I wrote on the term "Born Again" as understood in the Anglican branch of Christianity.

James Gibson at Sanctus has posted a really fine piece, Outgrowing Spiritual Adolesence. His piece is well worth reading, because he makes his case right from the Bible and because it shows the value of orthodox, traditional Christianity which avoids the Liberal error of ignoring fundamentals and the Fundamentalist error of editing the Bible into a few propositions.

Interestingly, both Liberalism and Fundamentalism veer into legalism. Liberalism says that one is not a Christian except by holding certain political positions and taking part in certain causes. Fundamentalism says that one is not a Christian unless one gives verbal assent to a list of statements.

Here's a sample from Sanctus:

Salvation, then, is not complete until we are reformed in the perfect image and likeness of Christ, who is "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus says that in order to see his kingdom, we must be “born again” (John 3:3). To be "born again" is to be "born" after the manner of Christ himself, "not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but born of God" (John 1:13).

Unfortunately, many in the Church today believe that being "born again" is the be all and end all of Christian experience; that once we are "born again," our salvation is complete. But this is not consistent with biblical teaching. Peter writes, "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God" (1 Peter 1:22-23).

In other words, you have been born again. Now, grow up!


David Handy+ said...

Thanks, Tim+, for posting this valuable call to maturity by Fr. Gibson. I note that he lives and ministers in Lexington, SC, and doubtless this piece reflects a concern to help those of us who live in the Southeast amidst a sea of Southern Baptists and other revivalist type Christians.

This message reminds me of a famous story I love about one of our great English scholar bishops, the renowned NT scholar and Bishop of Durham in the late 1800s, B. F. Westcott. One day this former Cambridge professor was accosted on the train by a Salvation Army worker who rather timidly approached him and she politely asked, "Pardon me, bishop, but are you saved?"

Now, I'm afraid Bp. Westcott replied in a way that was curt and somewhat rude, but very instructive. His reply?

"My dear lass, do you mean esotheyn, sodzomai, or sotheysomai? And when she was left speechless, he went on,

"That is, do you mean 'Have I been saved, am I being saved, or shall I be saved?' For of course, you know that the New Testament speaks of us being saved in all three tenses, don't you?"

Well, no, actually she didn't know it. And neither do many of us.

But the bishop was absolutely right. Evangelicals and fundamentalists tend to use the verb only in the past tense. And that's a glorious part of the truth. "For by grace you have been saved (past act) through faith..." (Eph. 2:8).

But we are also being saved daily from the ongoing power of sin in our lives, and the largest number of references to being saved in the NT actually use the future tense. For instance, see Romans 5:9-10 (below):

"Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled , will we be saved by his life."

"Salvation" is a much broader concept in the NT than mere justification or rescue from damnation. It includes the whole process of being made whole. And it's not complete until we receive our new resurrected bodies and are so utterly transformed that we won't even be tempted to sin anymore. And in that crucial, biblical sense, we aren't fully saved until we are part of the New Creation ushered in at Christ's return in glory someday.

Unitl then, yes, let's grow up!

TLF+ said...

Thanks, Father David, for that insightful comment! Most helpful.

Again, an informed Christianity that knows the Bible and studies it honestly (vs. much of Fundamentalism) and is faithful to the message of the Bible (unlike Liberalism) is a great gift that Anglicanism can offer to the world.

I know that you advocate the New Reformation, and I pray that this is the kind of Christian witness it brings.