What or who are we saved from?

This is the question being asked by Brian McLaren, as reported by John and Olive Drane, thanks to Sally for the link:

One other thing we’ve been thinking about is the way Brian focused the atonement debate, with this question: what or who do we need to be saved from – from God (who is angry with us), or from evil, which is against both us and God?

Before I attempt to answer this question, I will give you, my readers, the chance to tell me what you think.

0 thoughts on “What or who are we saved from?

  1. Per Scripture we need to be saved from both:

    1. From God’s wrath because of our sin (Rom 5:9).

    2. From sin because it has broken our relationship with a holy, loving God (John 1:29; Rom 3:23; 6:23).

  2. Hi,

    I was at the same event that John and Olive refer to. If I get a chance I’ll blog about my own perspective on the whole conference.

    It seemed to me that Brian was clearly inferring that that the somewhat traditional / reformed position that we are saved from God is wrong.

    My understanding, from reading the scriptures, and from reflecting on this issue, would be that we are saved from a large number of things:

    – saved from ourselves
    – saved from sin
    – saved from death
    – saved from other people?
    – saved from condemnation
    – saved from hell
    – saved from Satan
    – saved from darkness (i.e. evil)
    – saved from sickness
    – saved from God

    If all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and God is a righteous and just judge who has come and is coming to judge the world, then surely we are saved from the wrath of God that would otherwise be poured out on us? I understand the traditional view here, so can anyone post with an understanding of the “not saved from God” POV?

  3. Brilliant question.
    I always found it a strange concept to think that God would send Jesus to save us from Himself.
    I look to when Paul says in Collosians 1 that man was reconciled to God not the other way round which seems to be preached a lot. God the Father did not have to be convinced to save us, it has been his mission from the very beginning. He has never abandoned us, despite the fact that we constantly turn our face from him.
    God’s wrath will of course be poured out on sin, but as C.S. Lewis says ‘hell will be locked from the inside’. The trinity saved us from sin and death which includes ourselves, not from the Father.

  4. Thanks for the various answers, especially Ferg’s which seems to me the most revealing so far. Yes, we need to be saved from God’s wrath, but what does that mean? Certainly not that God hates us and wants to destroy us, but Jesus saves us from that wrath. I think I need to post my answer rather than just comment here, so watch this space!

  5. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom » What or who are we saved from: my thoughts

  6. then surely we are saved from the wrath of God that would otherwise be poured out on us? I understand the traditional view here, so can anyone post with an understanding of the “not saved from God” POV?

    I agree with Alistair’s list except for ‘saved from God’s wrath’.

    It seems to me that ‘saved from God’s wrath’ is either a semantic point and therefore an irrelevant statement to all but the most pedantically inclined. Peter articulates what I’d call the ‘semantic’ argument above.

    Or we really do believe in God’s wrath towards human beings, in which case I can see no convincing reason why God would even try to save us.

    I believe that the Old Testament prophets wrestled with this problem as well. Jeremiah held open the possibility that God could possibly get so fed up with Israel’s disobedience that God would abandon his covenant with them. Isaiah held that God would never abandon his covenant with his people, no matter how many times they broke their side of the covenant.

    For me Jesus and his life, death and resurrection answers the question definitively: Isaiah and those who agreed with him were right. Not only does God not abandon his people but we find out that ‘his people’ extends beyond Israel to all peoples of the world.

    I think that we are saved not from a wrathful God but rather from our own human projection that God is wrathful.

  7. Thanks, Pam. I’m not quite sure if I agree. I wouldn’t accept that the idea of the wrath of God is entirely a human projection, but I would suggest that the idea has become seriously confused because of human projection.

  8. Pam, thanks for your insight into this. I have to admit I am still a little confused. Whilst agreeing with you in principle that God is for us, not against us, the issue is not humanity per se but sin. Unfortunately us wonderful humans are sinners.

    Romans 2:8 [TNIV] “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger”

    The context seems to clearly attribute this wrath and anger as coming from God, and that this wrath and anger will be poured out in God’s judgement. So surely its more than semantic jiggery pokery to declare that through the gospel men and women can be saved from this judgement, which is a judgement that Jesus himself will be handing out?

    Isn’t that why Paul is writing all of this in the first place…to warn about a coming judgement, that both Jews and Gentiles will be subject to it, that none of us can trust in our own works, and therefore we need to live by faith, in Christ ?

    If there is a radically different way of exegeting this, I am open to reading…any commentaries you would suggest?

  9. f there is a radically different way of exegeting this, I am open to reading…any commentaries you would suggest?

    Hi Alistair:

    Are you limiting me to exegeting this particular passage and nothing else? Because if so, then you win.

    My question is: How do you exegete the entire Bible and the story of God and of salvation that it tells?

    How does a person believe that God loves him or her and, additionally, is also wrathful toward him or her?

    If God’s wrath toward me and you has ceased because of Christ, why is it vital for us to believe that God hates us?

    This is where what I’m calling ‘semantics’ comes in. If you believe that Christ has saved you then why is it important to believe that he also hates you? Why is it not enough to believe that he hates sin?

    I grew up in a congregation that believed it was much more important to emphasise God’s hatred of sinners (not of sin, but of sinners: you and me) than to emphasise God’s love. I put it to you that no human being can sustain simultaneously the idea that ‘God loves me and God hates me’ and that we will default to one idea or the other. And I have seen the damage that is done by believing ‘God hates me’.

  10. Pam, you are reading into this passage something which Alastair may also be, though he doesn’t explicitly say so: that God’s wrath is actively directed towards humans. But the passage doesn’t say this, and in 1:18 it is clear that the wrath is directed at godlessness and wickedness. As I see it, the point is that if humans remain in the wrong place they will get caught up in the flood of wrath directed at something else. But I think your problem here, Pam, is that you are reading too much of what the congregation of your youth believed into what Alastair and I are saying. Another problem is with the word “wrath”, which I think we totally misunderstand as it means something quite different from human anger.

  11. Pam, is that you are reading too much of what the congregation of your youth believed into what Alastair and I are saying.

    *Possible tangent alert*

    I think what I learned from the congregation of my youth is the ‘nature’ of interpretation. (Not sure if ‘nature’ is a good term but I can’t think of another one offhand.)

    I sincerely believe that if we only look at individual passages in the bible and single them out the way that Alistair has done, then we get many passages that directly contradict each other. I sincerely believe that focussing on individual passages is not a useful way of making sense of the bible.

    You could be right and Alistair could be right about ‘The Correct Interpretation’ of this passage. I don’t know what Paul meant and I don’t claim to know. I also don’t believe that everything Paul wrote is necessarily infallible.

    I can only make sense of the bible by trying to find in it a metanarrative and my metanarrative is the one I indicated earlier: a disagreement as to whether or not God would abandon his people, a resolution of that debate in Christ and an extension of the concept of ‘God’s people’ from Israel to all peoples.

    You are arguing that my experience of being told that God hates sinners and not only sin is an ‘irrelevant’ experience that is colouring my objectivity. My argument is that my experience is relevant in exposing me to the damaging consequences of that theology. I most certainly believe that there is a difference between ‘God hates sinners’ and ‘God hates sin’ and it most certainly comes from my experience.

    I’m not sure how much more I’m going to contribute because you do seem to operate this blog on the presupposition that there is one right intepretation for each bible passage and that it can be discerned by human beings. I don’t believe that. And my past experience – both growing up and on the internet – is that such conversations never lead to people hearing each other and always[1 ] lead to acrimony.

    [1] I say ‘always’ because I’ve not yet had a positive experience in this regard. But who knows? Maybe I will someday.

  12. Pam, I don’t “operate this blog on the presupposition that there is one right intepretation for each bible passage and that it can be discerned by human beings”. On the contrary, much of what I write is intended to question the interpretations which many people claim are right, to point out that there are other possible interpretations. Perhaps sometimes I suggest that my alternative is right and theirs is wrong, but that should be understood as rhetoric rather than a conviction that my understanding is objectively the only correct one.

    I never intended to suggest that your “experience of being told that God hates sinners and not only sin is an ‘irrelevant’ experience”. It is highly relevant here to how you interpret passages like this one, and indeed to your whole approach to the Bible. As to the suggestion that your experience “is colouring [your] objectivity”, all I will say to you is to repeat that I agree with you that there is no single objective way of interpreting the Bible, that everyone including to myself brings to it the subjectivity of their own experience.

    I entirely agree with you that “there is a difference between ‘God hates sinners’ and ‘God hates sin’”. This is what so many people have missed in their interpretation of Paul’s letters, for Paul is careful to write the same, that God’s wrath is not against sinners but against sin – at least, that is my interpretation of what he wrote.

  13. Thanks Pam for your additional comment. I don’t believe its vital to believe that God hates us, and I don’t think I’ve ever made that claim. I agree with you that emphasising the love of God is very important. I think the importance of the wrath of God (against sin) is with people who are indifferent to the sin in their lives, especially when it is harming others. Yes, the gospel informs them that God loves them, but should it not also inform them of the coming judgement and need to flee from wrath and therefore trust in Christ? Certainly the narrative of Acts seem to feature such an exposition of the gospel, in my reading at least.

    This whole debate about whether God hates the sin or the sinner, I think in some ways is splitting hairs. Yes, God loves the person and hates the things they do, but how can we neatly divide the person into who they are (loveable nice person) and the things they do (sinful)? That seems like nonsense to me. We act out of who and what we are. That’s why I wonder if its helpful to use terms such as I’ve coined in the past like “God loves us, but hates what we’ve become [without him]”. That also accepts the reality that to come to Christ is to die with him and be raised to new life, because the old person could not be redeemed at all – he/she had to die.

    It seems to me this is where the answer lies, avoiding the two extremes of either saying God hates someone on one hand (even though he loves them!), or otherwise saying God loves you 100%, but he is mad at the sinful things you do, and that you are so compromised by sin that you [old person] need to die with Christ and have your flesh crucified.

    So in summary, I think there is a place for both the wrath of God (properly understood), and also for casting doubt on what I would consider to be narrow understanding of the love of God which doesn’t consider the necessity for our union with Christ in his death.

  14. Alastair, God doesn’t love us because we are nice loveable people, but despite us not being. I’m not sure if you are approving or rejecting as extreme “saying God loves you 100%, but he is mad at the sinful things you do, and that you are so compromised by sin that you [old person] need to die with Christ and have your flesh crucified” – but that sounds very like my position.

  15. God’s wrath is poured out against unrighteousness. With the Flood and Noah, God resolved to destroy humanity, bar a handful of people. Following this, we have the promise that will never again destroy humanity, except for the events that lie at the end of this world.

    God’s anger does come against both the aware (and repentant) sinner and the unaware or unrepentant sinner. Even Christians are not spared for sin, but this is more on account of discipline (Heb 12) rather than true wrath, which is a foretaste of what is to come, and a snapshot of the true extent of God’s perfect justice. Wrath comes upon those who have not submitted to God in repentance, and continued to live a life of faith in God’s means of salvation, namely His Son, Jesus Christ.

    When we say that God ‘paid the price’ for our sin, I have found C.S.Lewis’ description from ‘Mere Christianity’ good – that God was ‘footing the bill’ for the cost of human sin throughout all time. We are, as such, saved from being objects of wrath – people who will be judged and condemned at the Judgement Seat, if we continue in a life of faith. There are benefits that come with salvation besides this Great Escape, but principally we are spared suffering the full extent of the price of sin through final condemnation at the hand of God’s perfect justice.

  16. My Bloglines feed for this blog isn’t working so I’ve missed all these comments.

    First, sorry to Peter for having the wrong view of your hermeneutical process.

    or otherwise saying God loves you 100%, but he is mad at the sinful things you do, and that you are so compromised by sin that you [old person] need to die with Christ and have your flesh crucified.

    I’m not following the logic here? You’re suggesting that if a person thinks that God love them 100% that they would take it as a license to sin? I feel the opposite: that I’d want to try to be good (yes, I know we can’t ‘be good’ to save ourselves) for someone who loved me and that I’d rebel against someone who told me that they didn’t love me 100%.

    Or am I not understanding you correctly?

  17. Thank you, Pam. There certainly have been and still are people who take God’s love as a licence to sin. So what Alastair wrote made sense to me. But we are all different in such matters.

  18. But we are all different in such matters.

    I’m afraid I find the idea really disturbing that people shouldn’t think that God loves them 100%. This is why I’m Methodist. Not because we are the only ones who believe that God loves us but because we don’t think God’s love is a bad thing that can potentially ruin a person.

  19. Pam, I agree that everyone should know that God loves them 100%. My point about people being different was not that. It was that some people react to that love not as a stimulus to be good but as a licence to sin. Of course God doesn’t want that, and indeed because of that he also disciplines his children, not because he doesn’t love them but because he loves them too much to let them ruin their lives with sin.

  20. Peter – very true.

    Divine love takes on a variety of forms, and it is precisely because of God’s love that Christians are disciplined.

    Just as we can choose to accept or reject God’s love, and continue to do so throughout our lives, we also choose how to live in light of the revelation of God’s love that we have. Hence the reason that some take grace as a license to indulge sin, rather than throwing it off (Heb 12). God does love us ‘100%’ (a strange description), otherwise why did Christ die for us ‘while we were still sinners’?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image