Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Transactional Salvation

Some time back, Michael Spencer, the InternetMonk, posted a piece about being "Out of Business" with God. Since Michael's death earlier this year, it has been reposted here.

He observes that we tend to look at God quite transactionally. In other words, if I do this, God will do that. The extreme case of this is the prosperity gospel but I think we do tend to view our spirituality this way. (my examples not his)
  • If I commit my life to God, he will save me from hell.
  • If I pray more, God will hear me better.
  • If I read the Bible more, God will ....
I've heard this preached for years now... Since I was a kid. There could be lots of reasons for treating the Gospel like this. Michael summarized his question with this...
Let’s summarize what I’ve covered so far.
  • I’m questioning whether Christianity is a religion of transactions with God, particularly transactions where our actions are the primary reason God acts or responds.
  • I believe the Gospel doesn’t proclaim a transactional “contract,” but a new order where the sovereignty of God expressed through the Lordship of Christ is the ultimate reality of the universe.
  • The incarnation and death of Jesus are sacraments in which we see and experience the reconciling forgiveness and mercy of God for a fallen creation, and particularly for sinners. Reality itself is sacramental, as is the focused life and worship of the church. These sacraments proclaim to us the eternal, gracious mediation of Jesus.
Before I talk about some of the helpful applications of this theology, I want to acknowledge the obvious: the Bible is written in covenantal language which is generously transactional. Because the Bible is a historic, temporal narrative written in a mixture of points of view- some divine, some human- transactional language is not surprising.
Michael went on to suggest that we should be looking at salvation sacramentally, rather than transactionally. It would definitely be to your advantage to read the post as my summary doesn't do it justice.

What I found interesting is that, for the last couple of years, I have felt uncomfortable of the "version" of salvation that I was taught and have ascribed to. Whether it is due to the fact that some of the theological baggage preached along side that view which, in my traditions has tended to be, to some degree, more or less Calvinistic, or whether it is because, the version I grew up with leaves a lot of questions open as it is held up to the mirror of the Bible, I am not sure.

I found a link, however, in one of the comments, another view of the Transactional Paradigm (right click and save as to download) that was quite worth reading. I know nothing about the author as there isn't even a name on the paper.

This author contrasts the transactional paradigm with a love paradigm where, rather than making sure both sides of the transaction are satisfied because of the debt owed, but because of the love expressed.

He states that, until Christ, man was under a transaction paradigm (The Law?). After Christ, however, love takes over.

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