Who Saves?

The main game screen in Civilization II.
Image via Wikipedia

I wish I could say that the reason that I haven’t blogged in a whole bunch of time was because I was out doing something super-spiritual.  Or that I’ve been in some life-or-death struggle.   The truth is that the time I’ve spent on blogging in the past I’ve wasted on the new(ish) Civilization game.

Don’t do it.  That thing is more addictive than pringles.  Or crack.

Anyway, a slightly more respectable thing I’ve been investing my time on is the new Rob Bell book, Love Wins.

It’s… uhm…. pretty much amazing.

I don’t want to review the book right now.  I don’t even want to directly address any of his main thesis.  Instead, I’d like to explore something that was a bit of a tangent to his main ideas.

He spelled out something that I’ve been trying to put my finger on and express.  What he did was ask the question, “According to the Bible, who is saved?”

And what he found was that there was a lot of different ways that the bible answers that question.  For example, Luke 18 implies that the Roman Centurion’s faith puts him in better standing than the whole of Israel.  In Luke 23, the man on the cross next to Jesus is promised a seat in heaven apparently because he asked.  In Mathew 6, though, we’re told that if we don’t forgive others, then God won’t forgive us.  A chapter later, the operative issue is doing the will of the father.   Three chapters after that, though, we’re told that “those that stand firm will be tested.”  And in Luke 19, salvation comes to Zacheus’ house because he’s willing to pay back double of what he cheated others out of.

Bells list continues quite impressively.  It can be found on pages 14-18 of the hardcover.

Niether I or Rob Bell are suggesting that the bible is self-contradictory.   There is this belief that it’s all about a simple prayer said one time.  That belief has a slightly more cosmopolitian sibling.  This belief says that believing the contents of that prayer is what it’s all about.  (Usually the contents of that pray go something like: Jesus is uniquely the son of God and all humans are sinners who need Jesus sacrifice to be reunited with God.)

It’s not that this belief in either of its forms is wrong.  It certainly can be biblically supported.  But there’s plenty of other claims which can be equally well justified about how we get to experience new life in Jesus.

My issue is that the traditional view is so narrow and unidismentional.  There are so many cases where we feel like we’ve got a monopoly on the truth because we can provide a single verse that implies this.  Strangely, we don’t feel obliged to explain other verses which suggest that the picture is wider than our pet understandings.

That is certainly the case here.  Belief in Jesus is incredibly important.  But I think we start to tread on dangerous ground when we place God in a box by assuming we know what this is definitevely going to look like.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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