The Only Saving Work   2 comments

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray,

and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve;

pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy,

forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask,

but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 204

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Daniel 9:8-19

Psalm 62:1-8

Romans 10:4-18

Luke 9:28-45

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Faith comes by hearing, St. Paul the Apostle tells us down the corridors of time.  However, as we read in Daniel 9, Romans 19, and Luke 9, hearing does not always lead to faith.  Not everyone who hears the words of God responds to them as the author of Psalm 62 did.

As I write occasionally in posts, when the topic arises, God sends nobody to Hell.  Hell is real.  I understand Heaven and Hell to be realities, not places with coordinates and boundaries.  Neither Heaven nor Hell is north of x or southeast of y.  God seeks to draw all people in.  As Karl Barth asked, if God were to save everybody, would that be bad?  Universal salvation would be nice, but many people reject salvation.  God sends nobody to Hell.  All people in Hell condemned themselves.

I also affirm that, assuming one goes to Heaven, one may experience some surprise at who is present and who is absent.  Theological humility is a virtue, and should not rejoice to conclude that anyone is in Hell.  I also admit to discomfort at the assertion that admission into Heaven depends on passing St. Peter’s canonical examination.  To transform doctrine into a Heavenly litmus test is to understand the acceptance of received orthodoxy as a saving work.  In my theology, Jesus is the only person who ever committed a saving work.  He did it for all of us.

The appalling strangeness of the mercy of God,

as Graham Greene called it in Brighton Rock, is wonderful.  I choose to embrace it, for such love deserves and affirmative response.  That extravagant, divine love must come with the option of human rejection if human acceptance is to mean anything.  And rejection of it leads to self-condemnation.  In these cases, both salvation and damnation entail receiving what one wants.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GENE BRITTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HADEWIJCH OF BRABERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF KATHE KOLLWITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN ARTIST AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VITALIS OF GAZA, MONK, HERMIT, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 625

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2 responses to “The Only Saving Work

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  1. Yes, I agree with you!

    • Although I did not write the following in the post, the following sentence constitutes essential theological foundation for the post. As Martin Luther advised baptized, practicing Christians who feared going to Hell because of their sins, trust in the faithfulness of God.

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