Saturday, May 17, 2008

Who's your Savior?

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

for He has looked favorably on His people and redeemed them.

He has raised up a mighty savior for us

in the house of His servant David." (Luke 1: 68-69).



... In the first century, [savior] did not yet mean what it means for many Christians today. Because Christians have for centuries spoken of Jesus as saving us from our sins through his death on the cross, many Christians automatically connect Jesus as savior with atonement for sins. But in the Bible, the primary meaning of the term is "rescuer," "deliverer."


For example, Psalms speaks of God as Israel's "Savior who has done great things in Egypt ... and awesome deeds by the Red Sea" (106: 21-22). So also Hosea connects God as savior to the exodus: "Yet I have been the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt; you know no God by me, and besides me there is no savior" (13:4). A song attributed to King David speaks of God as "my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence" (2 Sam. 22.3). Jeremiah addresses God as the "hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble" (14:8). In none of these instances is there any connection between "savior" and being saved from sin. To think that speaking of Jesus as savior refers primarily to his death as a sacrifice from sin narrows and reduces the meaning of this rich term.


... what the "mighty savior" of whom Zechariah sings will do is the theme of the middle part [in Luke]. He is the fulfillment of God's promise, "the oath that God swore to our ancestor Abraham," namely, "that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us," so "that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him in all our days" (1:71, 73-75). "Being rescued from the hands of our enemies" is the role of the "mighty savior"; this is what it means to be saved."


The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Birth, by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan.

I'm wondering if the idea of Jesus as a Savior from sins, and thus saving "to" heaven, is taking the easy way out. The salvation itself is something that comes to past in the next life, is something one must have faith in. Therefore, it's not something that can be necessarily demonstrated in this life. Yes, we can see amazing turnarounds in the lives of those that repent -- but we can see that turnaround in any sort of religion. We can even see that in someone who goes from a fundamentalist Christian to agnostic/atheist.

Not only that, but the sin is very self-centered. Jesus saves you from the sin that's inside you, the "old man," the nonspiritual man that has earned the wrath of God. The focus becomes on being rescued from something you deserve ... and if you think you deserve an eternal torment, it might be hard to ask for salvation from an unjust situation, because is there such a thing?

But if you start saying that God is a Savior from times of trouble, or from war, or from enemies ... that' something that speaks a lot more towards this life. Being rescued from the land of Egypt was something that occurred in a non-heaven life. Even the song that Zechariah sings about Jesus gives the impression of this life. Of something that can, or even will, occur in the here-and-now. God saves an innocent person from the hands of his/her enemies. Half the time in Psalms, the psalmist seems to be crying out over the injustice, asking God to deliver him from something that he doesn't deserve.

12 comments:

mysteryofiniquity said...

I've found that the hardest part of faith is believing in a God/Jesus that steps into the world and rescues it from peril. I wonder if it's only our perception that sees an "active" God in the Jewish Scriptures when really Israel was in the same boat believers are now; attributing acts to God that really are not. Is God active or a savior in every sense of the word? Or is the "salvation" message one of ultimate definition. In other words, God is absent until the end of time? Or are we merely being anthropomorphic here? Thanks for always thoughtful posts!!

OneSmallStep said...

MOI,

I also find that hard. I don't know if the problem is self-justification, or if it's because the proclaimed instances are so subtle, but anything I've seen that could be attributed to God stepping into the world can also be described with natural causes.

It's weird ... a great, powerful, spectacular God is described in the Bible, one who can essentially violate the natural laws on a whim, if He so chooses ... and yet so many stories we hear about God and His intervention are often not anything like God setting soaking wood on fire.

societyvs said...

Great points all around!

I have looked into this idea also when debating with others about 'salvation' and I found salvation to be a very real - here and now thing in all instances in the Tanakh. From the exodus to cries from the prophets about salvation.

I think - and this has been my postulation for some time - we are to live lives of 'salvation'...that's being like Jesus. Maybe we are to be 'rescuers' and 'deliverers' also (in some small scale) - as to be 'godly'. Point being - making life the best for others around us how and when we can (even fulfills the law and prophets).

I have struggled with a 'savior' that is only about 'me' and makes the faith about the 'there and then'...it's just so meaningless here.

Maybe the faith starts off selfish - dealing with only ourselves (that makes sense to me) - but it must grow to include others in a way that is 'salvific'. I think if one's faith does not get there - then they have not grown or refuse to grow. If we don't become about the 'other' and our treatment thereof - I think our faith is wasted more or less (like some seed on rocks).

Salvation is an action - the act of saving someone. I think the church takes a mediocore stand more concerned with getting people into the church more than one's 'well being'. When 'saving/rescueing' is about the whole person - physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental - and getting through some good ideas - or a way to live. We all need it at times also - and if we are smart - we watch and learn.

Pastor Bob said...

First, if you look to the cognate verb swzw it refers to a variety of things including sickness. One is saved from sickness. To suggest that the verb or the noun refer only to salvation from sins is a misreading of the New Testament.

Paul usually uses the word in the future tense. Thus when people say that they have been saved Paul would say you will be saved. And that salvation is not just a soul into heaven. It is the renewal of the whole of creation.

And yes, you can't just look to the New Testament. The New Testament continually looks back to the Old and uses the language of the Old typologically to talk about Jesus and salvation. Thus Paul refers to redemption from Egypt as a type to describe redemption from sin. Matthew makes the same suggestion when he quotes Hosea to describe Jesus coming out of Egypt.

Just because people misuse the language of the New Testament to describe themselves, (and view the New Testament through the lens of modern American individualism) does not mean that the New Testament authors intended to say what people say it means.

The New Testament writers had a much bigger picture of salvation than is usually used in modern conversation about salvation.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**Maybe the faith starts off selfish - dealing with only ourselves (that makes sense to me)**

That makes sense to me as well. I think in order to be salvic towards others, we'd first have to get ourselves straightened out. If not completely, then at least on a different path, where we are "redeemed" in some sense. If we're still clinging to the old/bad haibts, we can't really help anyone else with salvation, nor can we be like Jesus.

**Salvation is an action - the act of saving someone. **

Yes. And I think my response will always be, if I'm asked if I'm saved, is "Saved from what?"

Pastor Bob,

Thanks for the input. It does seem to be a dominant reading though -- saved from sins, especially one's own personal sins. There are times when we are innocent, and still need salvation.

Lorena said...

But if you start saying that God is a Savior from times of trouble, or from war, or from enemies ...

The problem with saying that God is our savior is that He saves us from what WE THINK IS BAD. It is all a matter of perspective. Life happens and we attribute to God whatever good we think is happening.

For example, I had a job for 7 years that I was always thankful for, because it paid well. Looking back, I can see the job was a curse not a blessing. I endured much abuse and discrimination there, and I should have quit. But I didn't, because I thought the job was a blessing straight from the hand of God.

Many women also find that the husband whom they thought was such a blessing turns out to be a real curse.

Bottom line, nobody is saving us. We are on our own, and the sooner we take responsibility for our own lives, the the faster we will save ourselves.

Luke said...

it's like that Jewel song, who will saaa-hey-heyvvvvveee your soul? i think her answer of "la-dee-dee-dah" is apt. ;-)

when ppl say "Jesus saves" i always ask, from what/whom, how, and why? i'm thinking Jesus saves us from ourselves is apt. from Empire and System is another... but what do you think?

D said...

"I'm wondering if the idea of Jesus as a Savior from sins, and thus saving "to" heaven, is taking the easy way out. The salvation itself is something that comes to past in the next life, is something one must have faith in. Therefore, it's not something that can be necessarily demonstrated in this life."

I just posted on the subject at my blog, ironically. But I think you're right on. It is the easy way out.

Salvation is an afterworld thing. The atoning work of Jesus isn't his death/resurrection.

It was his life.

OneSmallStep said...

Luke,

**"Jesus saves" i always ask, from what/whom, how, and why? i'm thinking Jesus saves us from ourselves is apt. from Empire and System is another... but what do you think?**

I think those are excellent things to ask. In today's age, it seems as though salvation has become a rather simplistic notion. Believe in certain things, and you get to heaven. Salvation doesn't appear as though it was suppose to be that simple.

D,

As another thought, it's like you can say that dying is easy, living is hard. Through death, you can escape this world, your troubles, and move onto paradise where nothing bothers you. Here, a whole lot of things can bother you, and the challenge is how you let it affect you. Do you still love those who hate you, or do you let their hatred change you?

John T. said...

I was thinking once.......or maybe twice. ;) Maybe Jesus(GOD) sacrificed himself because he thought we were too messed up with all our animal sacrifices and such. So he decided to relate to us the only way we could see things, and that was through blood and guts. So he got nailed to a cross and died and lived and then said look you now have everlasting life. Good plan, though he forgot to take into account that we humans dont learn too quickly. We seem to still like the Blood and Guts thing.

OneSmallStep said...

John,

**Good plan, though he forgot to take into account that we humans dont learn too quickly. We seem to still like the Blood and Guts thing.**

Do you think this could be in part because of how the message of salvation is explained? There are aspects that say God required a bloody death, that God required the perfect sacrificial death, that you're so awful that only such a death could appease the wrath of God and so forth.

John T. said...

I have always wondered if maybe Jesus was actually just a Man a real Man who had reached a point of enlightenment and figured out that there was no actual death. And with that knowledge he was able to transcend the barriers of our Physical world and thats how he resurrected himself. That seems more plausible in my mind then God needing a sacrifice, to atone for our Sins.