No Salvation Outside the Church

Jason Micheli —  October 26, 2016 — 3 Comments

rp_Untitled101111-683x1024.jpgI’ve been working on writing a catechism, a distillation of the faith into concise questions and answers with brief supporting scriptures that could be the starting point for a conversation. The reason being I’m convinced its important for the Church to inoculate our young people with a healthy dose of catechesis before we ship them off to college, just enough so that when they first hear about Nietzsche or really study Darwin they won’t freak out and presume that what the Church taught them in 6th grade confirmation is the only wisdom the Church has to offer.

You can find all the previous posts here.

III. The Son

26. What Do We Mean By Salvation?

Healing.

In the Greek New Testament, to save (σῴζω) means “to heal.”

First and fundamentally, by salvation we mean the healing of God’s creation in the time made possible by God’s having raised Jesus from the dead. Thus salvation, the healing of God’s creation so that it becomes Easter new, is nothing other than the inauguration of the Reign of God, in which the prodigal world comes to itself and learns that it belongs to the Father and is in need of his redemption.

Secondly and correlatively, because the world needs to learn that it is the world, that is, that it is God’s good creation, by salvation we also mean the creation by the Spirit of a People called Church who are the witnessing embodiment of the alternative Kingdom that has come to us in Jesus Christ.

In this way, the Body of Christ, the Church, is both the means of salvation but also itself the goal of salvation.

Finally, by salvation we mean that it’s only as participants in the community of Jesus that we are healed of our own sin, for the restoration of our created image is only by conformity to the one who is the image of the invisible God. We are saved then only by being incorporated in to the Body of Christ through baptism- being drawn up into the story of God’s creation, reconciliation, and redemption of the world in Jesus Christ- where we learn to name the Powers that sought to crucify Christ and seek still to rule over us. Only in naming the Powers do we learn, slowly as Israel in the wilderness, to be emancipated from them.

By salvation, in other words, we mean deliverance from slavery to Sin and Death and into the promised land of Christ’s Body, which is the community of the cruciform Kingdom. Because salvation is the exodus from captivity by which Christ, our Passover, transfers us into himself, there is therefore no salvation outside his Body, the Church.

“Jesus said to Zaccheus, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

– Luke 19.9

 

Jason Micheli

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3 responses to No Salvation Outside the Church

  1. Interesting post at Jesus Creed today. Good question.

    So how can you justify Peter’s words to Sapphira (Acts 5:9)? (Spoiler: I think that even if her death was necessary, speaking like this to a new widow is cruel and unjustifyable.) And what does the slaying of Ananias have to do with the subject of the post here?

  2. So I’m getting to be a pill about this. Sorry.

    The thing is, nobody I know is willing to ascribe any moral decision to Peter in the judicial death of Ananias and Sapphira, and very few any agency whatever. That is, nobody questions whether Peter behaved rightly, although everybody agrees that the scene is entirely horrible. This lack is quite contrary to the flow, since Peter frequently exercises executive authority and often demonstrates his prayerful power to heal. If you like, say we are more sensitive to abuses of authority these days, but let’s admit that his words to Sapphira are (in our terms) abusive and not how Scripture adjures us to treat widows. The notion that the Abba of Jesus Christ would require the execution of disciples who dissemble about their financial contributions is ludicrous.

    Let us ask what is Luke’s purpose in relating this episode. The first part of Acts relates the short, steep arc of Peter’s Jerusalem church, which begins with the outpouring of the Spirit in 2:1ff and ends with persecution and scattering in 8:1, which also introduces Paul. The dispersed folk no doubt were instrumental in forming the ecclesia that Paul visited and so the Kingdom was advanced. The arc moves from “all things in common” and good feelings all around, through gradually increasing confrontation first with the Temple authorities and then within the community, in 5:1ff and again in 6:1ff, and at the climax Stephen is stoned by the townfolk. This narrative fits within the larger arc of Jewish history of the era, which was characterized by a pattern of violent confrontation among Temple, zealotry, and Romans, culminating in the utter destruction of the Temple and the lineage it represented, from which the Gentile religion emerged, as from the dead.

    Probably this history is existentially threatening to some branches of Christendom. Well, I didn’t write the book.

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