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Friday, December 28, 2007

Are you saved?

Christianity Today has an interesting article written by Erik Thoennes, "Hour of Decision". In it, he talks about the different ways in which salvation is understood amongst, I believe, Evangelicals and confessional Protestants:

  "The term saved is popularly used to refer to regeneration and justification. But when the Bible uses the word salvation in a spiritual sense, it describes the broad range of God's activity in rescuing people from sin and restoring them to a right relationship with himself. Salvation in the Bible thus has past, present, and future tenses. A believer has been saved from the guilt of sin (justification, see Eph. 2:8), is being saved from the power of sin (sanctification, see 1 Cor. 1:18), and will be saved from the judgment and presence of sin (glorification, see Acts 15:11)."
"Much of American Protestantism has been influenced by revivalism, which places great emphasis on "making a decision for Christ" in a public, definitive way. These "moments of decision" often become the crucial evidence that one is saved. Other Protestant traditions, less influenced by revivalism (including some Reformed and Lutheran churches), may be content to leave the conversion experience unclearly identified, putting the focus on identification with the church. Both of these traditions have benefits, as well as potential problems."

It is interesting reading. The terminology is not entirely familiar to me, e.g., "glorification", but I am happy to take the approach I learned from a few favorite converts: terms may change but the focus should be on what those terms translate to. I note, too, that at least one Lutheran I know will disagree with the article on a few points. I would point out at least one common point of contention: for an article on salvation, nothing was said about sacramental baptism. But then this is not a mystery, since the article is about that particular point of deciding for Christ and this, not baptism, is what seems to matter mostly in American Evangelicalism. It pays to clarify here that I am not pitting that decision against the sacrament of baptism. They are both necessary as much as possible. Of course, the Catholic view of the obedience of faith makes that decision a lifelong iteration of one decision after another, hopefully, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a perpetually Christ-centered decision day in and day out. Which sounds a lot like being confronted by the Gospel everyday, according to Lutheranism, although there is more to it than that, I'll wager.

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