Other ways of speaking salvation?
I am in a foul mood. A little depressed, withdrawn, edgy, suspicious, tired.
My wife comes to me and I snap at her.
She does not respond by snapping back. She offers me a drink and a chocolate biscuit.
In a sudden, I am overwhelmed by her grace in the face of my behaviour. She doesn't deserve my ill temper.
My realization changes me. In graciously giving of herself, my negativity is absorbed. In an instant I am saved and restored.
I notice similar transformations involving everyday grace. Here's another:
My toddler guilelessly joins in the circle we form around the communion table in Church. I pick him up.There are many biblical models for salvation and atonement, all of them inadequate on their own. One of them almost comes close to this - Abelard's idea that the free self-giving of God in Christ overwhelms us and transforms us.
He comments without any concern for others' opinions that there is bread and wine being handed around. When it comes to him he holds out his hand, too.
His presence brings smiles to other faces. The mood of the circle is lifted.
Why? It is, I think, because of the grace of the gift of himself to us. His unconcern for himself - his living his life without calculation - brings a glimpse of grace.
We see him, just briefly, as a gift. And that glimpse momentarily transforms those of us around him who witness it.
(There's a touching example of this 'economy of grace' triumphing over the 'economy of hatred' right at the moment of the crucifixion. A Centurion who sees the way Jesus dies - his treatment by others and his refusal to respond with hatred - is in that moment converted: 'Truly this man is the Son of God'.)
Often though such a 'moral example' theory puts the emphasis on us to choose to respond to grace, and that is its weakness: that it is too 'subjective'.
My experiences described above though involve no moments of calculated choice. I am simply overwhelmed by grace, I have no choice in the matter at all.
The Church has never given its approval to any particular theory of salvation. None of the early Creeds focused on it. Pragmatically speaking every theory is a rhetorical construction of its age whose aim is to help us recognize our salvation for ourselves.
What would the rhetoric of salvation look like today if it traded on twenty-first century experiences, anxieties and dreams?
Generous answers on a post card...