Thursday, September 06, 2007

The metaphor of "Salvation"

Some of the Emergent Church ('emergent village' to be precise) folks, at least around 2001, were making a pretty interesting rumbling about the use of metaphors. What was uncovered for me was how many of my thoughts about God and God+life (i.e. my theologies) were actually based on metaphors. Including "salvation," "son," even the word/idea "trinity."

My first reaction was to say, "No!" Not metaphor but rather real.

Then I came to believe that the reason for metaphors was to express something fully on my human level while pointing to (?) something greater than I could understand. The beauty of using a metaphor is that it often has more "levels" allowing my increased understanding and experiences with God to enlighten more levels - the metaphor doesn't contain ALL there is to grasp but allows me entry into the idea; often allowing more doors to be opened inside the metaphor itself since the metaphor is pointing to, explaining, something so grand.

The point . . . the idea of being "saved" (in a non-Biblical, non-Christian-specific way) usually means to be removed from a situation - saved from something. I read N.T. Wright write about God allowing bad things ("the theodicy problem"). Good article. It got me thinking about how unique our Salvation is compared to the typical use of the word. Our Salvation does not remove us from the location of the problem (sin, imperfection, distance from God, no-relation to God, unable to live as a subject of the King, etc.).

But perhaps this metaphor has been tainted by our common use of "salvation." Is it possible that part of what has happened in Western theology is that we use the Salvation metaphor so much (I would propose it is the primary metaphor, eclipsing all other metaphors combined) that we have accidentally let it focus our attention on the "out of here" nature of the word? God through Jesus didn't come to save me out (off) of this planet. But the metaphor reinforces this kind of thinking, I think.

N.T. wrote his article using a more "healing" than "saving" metaphor. Really, picking up the "redemption" metaphor more than the "salvation" one. Healing vs. Fixing. Living in this new metaphor, on purpose, for a while might change my view on people, my disobedient kids, my awful parenting, my neighbors, my thought-life, etc. I tend to like shiny, new things. What if I have to "recycle" everything (sorry, a bit of my Washington home coming through here!)? My assumptions about the innate evil-ness have to be replaced if something is redeemable. [Like our last house - some saw it as evil and needing to be destroyed, Tara saw it as redeemable]

I'd rather be fixed - the Bible stories-out healing. I'd rather be saved, God seems to choose redemption (buying back, re-owning, re-valuing).


Anonymous said...

I like this thought - especially since I have been learning and thinking a lot about health and healing and all that (specifically in the physical body) I have been realizing more and more that health is a process and it's a complex process...healing takes time... it is intricate and unique for each person and, well, involves beautiful balance at times and derastic extremes at involves the whole being...maybe spiritual healing isn't all that different...

Malcolm XYZ said...

I have only discovered this emergent church line of thinking in the last couple of days. but i have been relgious and a postmodernist for a long time, so it is sort of like coming home. One thing that i have noticed about the emergent church line of thinking is an attempt at rapproachment with other religions using postmodernism as a way into dialogue. Buddhism has the Boddhisatva ideal which stresses involvement in the world and enlightenment and work IN the world. I think the salvation metaphor takes in the opposite direction, as you have said. we need to talk about participation, not removing ourselves from what is.

Vince D. said...

I am skeptical of the Emergent Doctrine. Especially when the proponents use Eastern Mysticism to explain their points. (Boy this comment must scream Western Thinking!!!) Anyway The Emergent Church appears to be dangerously close to teaching Christians (I think they don't like this term, which is weird 1Peter4:16) that they must "change their thinking" to 'a better way' of looking at 'Christ', 'sin', Humanity etc. The Emergent language seems to be mushy (sorry its my best adjective at this time) and not clear on specific matters like Truth and False Doctrine. Almost erring on the side of a universalist perspective of God. I'm Ok and You're OK. Ick!

David Malouf -- said...


Love your thoughts here! I'd suggest that the Emergent Village folks aren't all that mushy if you look at what they are saying *from their point-of-view* (which is not necessarily post-modern). That is, the questions they are asking are not YOUR questions, thereby they come across mushy on what you would call key-points.

For example, most 'Modern' Christians hold to the ideal of "absolute truths" yet concur that they are never fully accessible by humans BUT they still call their 'truths' "ABSOLUTE!!"

Isn't that mushy?

(Perhaps I'm a hypocrite here, but I DO believe in Absolute Truth(s) but they come FROM the Absolute One (or 3 - haha) and this One is NEVER bound by them for they come FROM Him - and, yes, I still think the One calls HIMself a Him!)