Holistic Salvation

Posted: May 9, 2011 in Uncategorized
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So a few of our church friends just returned from El Salvador and spending time with the ENLACE ministry in that place. They’ve witnessed true partnership between churches, community and a faith-based helping organization. The scope contains everything from sustainable agriculture to faith development. And an issue arises about salvation.

In many evangelical circles, in Latin America and elsewhere, that term, salvation, is defined very narrowly. For many it is solely a matter of the individual soul that knows itself saved from a life without God. And grace is the movement of God to get  it there. Some ontological (being) change has occurred at one moment of time, the dividing line of before and after.

Acts of kindness, compassion and justice-making are, in this understanding, fruits of  the sanctified life, what you do as a result of being saved. They are not God’s primary agenda but rather hang like good fruit on a healthy tree. Seeking justice and other things like it would not be a part of the official and authorized plan of salvation. Those kinds of pursuits would just comprise what the spiritually enlightened soul does, evidence that the real mission of God, the salvation of the individual soul, has been accomplished.

Others have defined that word, salvation, in ways more consonant with the ancient Biblical witness itself. In beginning of the 20th century it was called the social gospel movement. People like Walter Rauschenbusch described the Gospel in much broader ways that included the Christian’s action in the world as part and parcel of the theater of God’s sacred history. He and others like him were roundly reviled by evangelicals who accused them of seeking some salvation through works.

In the Hebrew scriptures it is clear that God is always saving somebody from something. People are saved from suffering, death, enemies and injustice. God is the one taking people out of bondage and ushering them into a new land. In the ministry, teaching and healing of Jesus it is the same. People are saved from the death-dealing forces of life, including illness, dark spirits and the blindness of a life without God. Ever so often he says something like, “Salvation has come to this house.” But it’s usually after they’ve seen the light about some ethical issue, like bilking the poor for their own benefit. Later, in the Pauline letters, we find that a relationship with God, intertwined with just relations in the community of faith, creates peace in the soul and the world. It’s both, not just one.

Hope has many beginning points, and any one point may lead to any of the others. Different strands of the new emergent Christian movement are discovering this new faithful activism along with other ancient practices. Everything matters and God is everywhere.

So back to the word, salvation. In Latin America and North America and everywhere it’s time to redefine it. Put most simply, God is the creator of all and cares about all. God cares that our spirits are in harmony with the Spirit of the universe. God cares that people suffer and we can do something about it. God cares about the planet. God cares about now, this life, and is the author of then, whatever comes next. God cares about the physically blind and spiritually blind. God cares about a pure soul and pure water. God intends the peace that passes understanding and peace between the nations. God cares about our baptisms and the flooding that washes away hope. God cares about everything because everything is what God created and is creating still.

Therefore, God saves everything. We’re going to call it Holistic Salvation. And we will interpret the parts according to the whole and not the other way around.

  1. Jeanette Ashley says:

    I agree with everything the writer says until in the last paragraph where the statement is made that God saves everything. He WILL save all who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. When someone truly accepts Jesus as Savior, their life will show it, because they will do the “works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

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