Tuesday 12 June 2018

Explaining the 'mechanism' of salvation and the necessity of Jesus (from the Fourth Gospel)

The beginning of the Fourth Gospel tells us that it was Jesus, The Word, who made this world; and it is this work of creation which enabled Jesus (and only Jesus) to be our saviour.


Having made this world; Jesus was then incarnated-into the world he had created; that is, he was incarnated from his creation, using the stuff of his own creation. This world has that primal and fundamental unity - of being created by Jesus - everything is inter-related and mutually-affecting, by kinship of shared origin.

So we too are all incarnated from this world, from the creation of Jesus. 

When Jesus died and was resurrected; this was the death and resurrection of the creator of this world, Jesus's mortal body and his resurrected body were both of this world (which Jesus himself had made).

We are incarnate from this world, Jesus became incarnate from this world (which he had made); we and Jesus are both Men; and therefore Jesus's death and resurrection had universal significance for Men. 

This it was, that made it possible for other Men to follow Jesus into resurrected life everlasting; and why only Jesus is our saviour.


Why then do we need to have faith in Jesus? Why doesn't salvation just-happen?

Because there are two things Jesus gave us; the first is 'physical' resurrection to eternal life, the second is 'dwelling' in Heaven (life 'everlasting', and life qualitatively greater - not merely unending existence...).

Resurrection just-happens, and it happens to all men. Instead of remaining as a severed soul - as was the case for all Men before Jesus; since the resurrection of Jesus, all Men (including those from before the time of Jesus) are resurrected.

Resurrection is not a choice - it 'just happens' - it is something like a change in physical reality; a change in what happens to the soul after death.


But Heaven is a choice, a decision, an act, an opt-in - and salvation therefore happens only through faith - that is love, trust of Jesus.

To understand this requires recalling the fate of the soul after the death of the body, and before the resurrection of Jesus - the soul was a witless, demented thing of little intelligence, little memory, little judgement, no free will... incapable of helping itself...

(This, at least, is how both the ancient Hebrews (with Sheol) and ancient Greeks (with Hades) regarded life after death - and other variants may be understood similarly. The soul after death was a damaged, incomplete, incapable thing - eternal life was merely eternal existence.)

I regard the Good Shepherd parable as providing the key to understanding salvation - which is that while the soul is always resurrected, resurrected Man cannot find his own way to Heaven.

The resurrected soul must be led to Heaven; that is, Man must choose to follow the guidance of the Good Shepherd. This following is not imposed, it is chosen.  

This was made newly possible by Jesus because the resurrected soul has greater capability than the discarnate souls destined for Sheol/ Hades; the resurrected soul has sufficient capability to recognise Jesus, to know him; it has the capacity and necessity to choose whether to follow the Good Shepherd, or not.

Why would the resurrected soul follow the Good Shepherd to Heaven, except that the soul loved and trusted the Good Shepherd?

That is the need for faith.


Thus Jesus was necessary to our salvation, only Jesus could give us salvation, only faith in Jesus can lead us to salvation.



Chiu ChunLing said...

At a fundamental level, it is our love for Christ (and through Christ, for God) which makes Heaven a desirable fate for us. If we cannot be led to Heaven by love, we have no place there not only because we will make it a worse place for others but because we cannot enjoy it ourselves if we do not desire to be with God.

Nigel Worthington said...

Bruce - What, in your view, is God/Jesus's motivation in requiring or needing such a mechanism as faith for salvation? Why let people without such a particular faith be lost?

If we view Jesus as the personal manifestation of the metaphysical structure of reality - the Logos - then, we may speculate that faith/belief in Jesus could be functionally equivalent to having faith in the structure of reality as it relates to the human condition. In other words that - despite all the suffering asnd evil of this world and our lives - the metaphysical structure of reality is indeed a good thing and we have faith that it is so, and therefore that we trust and align ourselves with the "the nature of things" (the Tao perhaps) as we intuitively know them with our faculty of intellect (in the medieval sense). Such an alignment affecting action could be considered "doing the will of God", another thing Jesus implied was a requirement for salvation. Are such notions consistent with what you are saying here? Or do you disagree?

I know you are not a JP fan, and I agree there is much to criticize, but in this clip he makes the point more eloquently than I can:


Bruce Charlton said...

@Nigel - Although your question is perfectly reasonable, it is difficult to give a concise answer because of the underlying differences in metaphysical assumptions.

I have tried to encapsulate these in a blog comment, but I just can't.

"Why let people without such a particular faith be lost?"

They aren't lost, they choose not to join; choose to reject the offer. Ultimately (due to our origin co-eternally with God), we are free agents and God cannot stop us rejecting Heaven - but he would not wish to compel us anyway.

What God is working towards is a loving family, love is the 'force' of cohesion in reality. God began with chaos, and made from it creation; sustained by love. The question is whether we, as individuals, want to be a part of this loving creation.

In an ideal sense, God would desire that everybody choose to 'join' - but, from the beginning - in our basic nature, some individuals have been hostile to this. Indeed, the situation is that each individual person is, always has been, unique - and some are, always have been, evil to different degrees.

God's scheme involves two aspects - salvation and theosis. The first is that people will choose to join in the loving work or creation (salvation); the second is that people (a sub-set of the above) will choose to become more divine, towards becoming fully divine (theosis).

Some people choose Not to join the loving work of creation, and others choose to stop at a level less than fully divine. None of this can be or would be compelled.

This isn't really a complex business, in the sense that it can be quite well explained using family metaphors of a very everyday kind, with God as the Father and his intention being to raise grown up children, as grown up as he is. (This is explained and elaborated in the work of William Arkle.)

But we tend to regard growing up physically - as either something that just happens, or due to 'socialisation' - whereas when it comes to divine consciousness, we need to regard growing up as an existential choice.

Nigel Worthington said...

Interesting viewpoint, but this seems to be kicking the metaphysical can down the road in terms of explaining things. If we are co-eternal, that evil is "built in" - then who is it that "built" reality this way if not God?

And isn't there an element of amoral arbitrariness in this plan of salvation, where likely many sincere and moral people will be lost for not "having faith" in something very particular and therefore "choosing not to participate"? Your viewpoint reminds me of Predestination. The family metaphor does make sense in explaining God's intention though.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NW - "then who is it that "built" reality this way if not God?" You haven't understood my point. Reality Just-Was this way - God did Not create everything from nothing (that isn't scriptural - it is an interpolation from pagan philosophy); God shaped pre-existant stuff including the primordial essences of what we now are.

Good and evil are (very roughly) to be on God's side with creation and divine family; or against all of this; and in favour of the destruction of creation, of loving relationships - and 'for' the supremacy of the individual will (aka Pride).

Chiu ChunLing said...

I'd point out that only personal evil (or wickedness) requires the supremacy of the individual will, impersonal evil can be against that as well.

I think that the difficulty arises because we can imagine a world in which there is no wickedness, but we cannot construct a world in which there is no impersonal evil except by ignoring the goodness of those things which must be abolished if there is to be no distinction between good and evil.

God exists, and this existence is good. But the fathomless abyss also exists, and yet we are stymied because we hesitate to call it evil simply because it is not wicked.

Because God seeks to extend goodness to those whom the abyss would inevitably claim, it is possible for wickedness to exist. But the alternative would still be evil, even though it would not allow wickedness.

Except that it isn't always an alternative. For some to whom God has offered the opportunity to escape the abyss, it remains inevitable that they will reject that salvation. For the terrible truth is that there is no outside of the abyss except in desiring to remain nearer to God.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Good thoughts.

This idea of 'inevitable' is difficult. We ought to know from personal experience that some people self-choose their own damnation, very obviously (many celebrities spring to mind) and that this is inevitable in the sense that nobody can do anything about it. Because physically preventing them from acting on their desires would not prevent the self-damnation.

Yet - of course - 'people' may also be influenced for the better or for the worse. But a specific person... may not actually be influencable.

We see this is Jesus's behaviour - he did not 'waste time' on individuals who could not be influenced.

(The behaviour of the wicked dwarves at the end of The Last Battle (CS Lewis's Narnia book) springs to mind - the dwarfs are In Heaven, potentially, but cannot be persuaded to recognise it, but 'project' onto their surroundings their own selfish desires... that bit of story rings very true to me.)

Chiu ChunLing said...

"There are none so blind as they who will not see."

Nor can sight be considered "good" by those who do not want to see what true vision might show them. If we hate the truth, then what can we prefer to darkness?

Well, I have betimes myself lain abed wishing for the sun to go back down in the morning.