Welcome to Right Religion. Through this tab, we will introduce articles written for SOS that revolve around the religious issues inherent in our discussions of what is happening on The Hill. We hope you will read them in the thoughtful manner in which they are presented.
I AM NOT WHO I WAS
What must I do to be saved?!
I cannot imagine what the Baptist denomination looks like to the non-believers. The beauty of the Baptist church is that we have no creed but the Bible, and recognize no priest but the priest created in us by the Holy Spirit. That beauty is also our curse, for we spend as much time, if not more, arguing the minutiae of our faith amongst ourselves than practicing that faith; meanwhile the rest of the world stares in bewilderment. The takeover at Shorter University is one example of such confusion. One group feels another group is wrong, and the two groups fight until one wins and the other is ousted. Where is our witness in this? How are we bringing people to Jesus? I hope this short article can lessen the damage we have caused to our witness.
Well the SBC says…
A group of pastors and seminary leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention has convened and drafted a statement on what “traditional Baptist soteriology” is. (Soteriology being the study of salvation.) These articles are admittedly drafted in defense against a rising reformed theology, known as Calvinism and Neo-Calvinism. The SBC leaders propose that salvation is offered to all through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A person is free to accept this grace, and God wills that everyone would. The Calvinist proponents hold that God’s “elect” are chosen for salvation, and that the grace offered through Jesus is irresistible. The chosen, once grace has been extended, are unable to separate themselves from it. These two groups propose very different interpretations of salvation and how God goes about saving us. As usual, many folks fall somewhere in between these two extremes. And also as usual, the truth is usually somewhere in the hazy middle ground.
A shocking realization
If Scripture is true, then we read in 2 Peter that God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance.” The issues we face here are paramount! Does God want to save everyone, but cannot? Does God want everyone to accept Him, but will not force anyone into salvation? Or will God indeed force people to accept Him at the end of days? None of these answers are completely satisfying.
God is too complicated!
I hear my students ask me all the time, “Why are you making things so complicated? Just tell us the answer!” I then refer them to the easy answer that God has given us: Jesus! Jesus is the fullest revelation of God Himself. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. His sacrifice shows us the meaning of love: that we should also be willing to place our lives in God’s hands. My hope is that He doesn’t call us all to death on a cross, however!
Salvation is the knowledge of Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection that were affected in order that we might have life to the fullest. Such love requires devotion on our part that forsakes ourselves and seeks to love God and our neighbors.
Is it just a nice story?
I challenge you to find out. Place yourself last for a while, fulfilling the needs of others first. Allow yourself to truly encounter people as greater than yourself: worthy of love, acceptance, forgiveness, and salvation. This is the mind of Jesus, who, though He was God, did not abuse that power. He humbled Himself and died for a world that did not know Him. In these acts of service and love we find true happiness. Here we find true fellowship with each other and with God as well. Stop making it difficult for people to come to know Jesus!
The Battle We Don’t Need to Fight
Evangelicals have long been divided on the seeming tension between the narratives of Genesis 1 and 2 and the theory of evolution. I would like to offer an interpretation of these passages that not only changes our view of the creation accounts, but also makes evolution a non-issue by removing the tension between biblical authority and evolution theory.
Scripture is about God!
When we read Scripture, we tend to read it and impose ourselves as its subject. Meaning, when we read the creation accounts, we are focused on ourselves and how we are created instead of focusing on God. Scripture is God’s revelation about Himself, and is completely accurate in describing God and our relationship with Him. We do God and Scripture itself a great disservice when we superimpose ourselves as the objects in the narratives.
Why are there two stories of creation?
Genesis 1 and 2 provide two separate accounts of creation! We see creation finished in Genesis 1. Then God rests at the beginning of chapter 2. Then God creates everything again! Now, if God has inspired the canon of Scripture, then He has intended these two passages to be presented back to back, and therefore we have something to learn from them. If we do not believe this, then we open up cans of worms about authorship, style, date, pre-dating myths, and so on. Not only is it easier to accept that God has preserved the text in this way for us, it is infinitely more rewarding.
Transcendent and Imminent
Issues of style aside, we see two fundamental differences in the two creation accounts. In chapter one, we see God creating ex nihilo, by simply speaking the earth into being. In the second chapter, we see God forming creation with His own hands and then later interacting with creation. What does this mean? How can God be doing two different things at the same time? We can view this tension as a literary device to attribute two seemingly contrasting traits to God at the same time. We believe that God is transcendent, wholly other than us, and that He has the power to create ex nihilo everything that we see around us. We also believe that God is imminent, that He is active in His creation, comforting, healing, teaching, and ministering to us through His grace. So we have two stories of creation, with God taking two different approaches simultaneously.
Why worry about evolution?
This interpretation, which focuses solely on how God has wanted to describe Himself to the world, removes the need for battling with evolution. We can simply know that God wanted us to know we were created, and that He both transcends, and interacts closely with, His creation. If we make these verses a story simply about us, we lose the majesty and wisdom of God’s preserving the canon to teach us amazing truths about Himself.