Monthly Archives: May 2009

rescued from being saved

Below is my email response (edited and polished up a bit) to a friend of mine regarding a conversation we had about the word ‘saved’.  This snippet of the conversation pretty much stands on it’s own without much context but to give a little bit of context to the conversation, we were talking about how the term ‘saved’ is used in the Christian vernacular today.  I personally believe it would benefit Christians to drop the term altogether because when the word is used in the manner many Christians use it it sets a trajectory for attitudes that are not beneficial to how we live our lives and how we invest in our communities.  There is a much bigger background on this discussion which is a much longer conversation, but I wanted to share some of my brief opinions on this word ‘saved’.  If you want to hear the whole story you can buy me a beer.  I truly value quality conversations.  🙂

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A couple thoughts – my thoughts are not explicitly coming from the ‘emergent church’ – they’re the same thoughts that many of my ‘conservative’ friends share and at the same time they’re thoughts that some emerging friends hold, so I think it’s difficult to lump it into one camp or another.  But I also would push back a bit on your thought that one certain camp is straying from the Word of God.  I see quite the opposite – last week I spent almost an entire day with Brian McLaren; I heard his heart and saw how all of his ideas were explicitly tied to the Bible.  Every thought he posited was backed up by the Bible.  I am still chewing on his thoughts and don’t completely agree but also don’t necessarily disagree with everything he posited but it was most definitely tied to the Bible.

My thought is around how most people interpret and define the word ‘saved’.  The words/terms ‘being saved’, ‘personal savior’, ‘accept Christ as your personal savior” are not found in the Bible (nor is there a ‘sinner’s prayer’).  In the old testament we mis-translate the original Hebrew word into ‘salvation’ when it actually means ‘rescue’, which I would interpret as being able to continue on with your life after being ‘rescued’.  The way many Christians have used ‘saved’ connotes that after saying a magical prayer that you’ve reached a finish line and that you’re done – you’ve achieved what you set out to do and there’s nothing left to do except to wait to get into heaven, pass the popcorn.  When ‘rescue’ is used in the Old Testament it is talking about being rescued against the Egyptians, against King Saul, and against a multitude of other oppressors.  But when modern translations replaced ‘rescue’ with ‘salvation’ it took on a whole new meaning and morphed into being saved from hell (which then can spiral down into the ‘gospel of sin management’ as described by Willard).  Re-read Exodus 15:2, and 2 Samuel 22:3 (and a host of other verses) and replace ‘salvation’ with ‘rescue’, and ‘rescuer’ and see how it gives it a subtle but refreshing twist.

I don’t want to downplay a specific moment when someone might’ve been ‘saved/rescued’ (although paradigm shifts are seldom that easy of a transition to reduce to a specific second in someone’s life – we all know this from personal experience but you can also reference Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions for a great description of how we process paradigm shifts) but as sticky as semantics is and how words can take on a whole life of it’s own (such as this one has when it was blended in with the modern concept of formulaic thought patterns) I think we might be better served in replacing the term ‘saved’ with ‘a decision to follow Christ and being rescued from things that detract us from God’ – which is quite a mouthful  haha 😉  but maybe that will set a more accurate trajectory for us in our present life.

One of the things I appreciate about what you wrote was how you referenced them as YOUR thoughts and beliefs.  That’s the beauty of worldviews and theologies – we’re free to develop our own theologies and bounce them off each other and most importantly the Bible.

And at the same time we’ll always realize that no matter which words we choose it will always be a matter of the heart and intent.

And the true fruit shall follow on the flower.

–Paradiso, XXVII.148

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Posted by on May 25, 2009 in theology


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salvation of what?

“To believe in God is to believe in the salvation of the world.  The paradox of our time is that those who believe in God do not believe in the salvation of the world, and those who believe in the future of the world do not believe in God.

Christians believe in “the end of the world,” they expect the final catastrophe, the punishment of others.

Atheists in their turn…refuse to believe in God because Christians believe in him and take no interest in the world…

Which is the more culpable ignorance?

…I often say to myself that, in our religion, God must feel very much alone: for is there anyone besides God who believes in the salvation of the world?  God seeks among us sons and daughters who resemble him enough, who love the world enough, so that he could send them into the world to save it.”

–Louis Evely, In the Christian Spirit (Image, 1975)

“Infinite Goodness hath such ample arms,

That it receives whatever turns to it.

–Purgatorio III, 121-123


Posted by on May 24, 2009 in theology


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when you think you know…

I think we too often find ourselves trying to figure out complicated issues to please an inner longing of knowledge.  Cogito ergo sum.  (Thanks be to Descartes and the enlightenment era for the damned statement of, “I think therefore I am.”  But it can more aptly be translated as, “I am thinking therefore I exist” or also, “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am”.  That statement, which implies the incessant desire for knowledge, has had a large ripple-effect that has wrought great strife in today’s world and also in interactions with some of my friends.)  Knowledge is not inherently a bad thing but while answers are blissful to some, to me there is great beauty in mystery.

Personally I was the kid who grew up constantly asking, “Why?”.  I have always enjoyed knowing the “why” behind whatever it might be I’m curious about.  When it comes to theology I have discussed and heard many ‘arguments’ on many different topics which are touchy theologically – exclusivism, inclusivism, hell, purgatory, pre-destination, vices, sexual-identity, homosexuality, evangelism, leadership qualifications, sin, pornography, grace, redemption, abortion, the environment, denominations, Biblical inerrancy, Biblical controversies, Biblical contradictions, etc.  While some of the arguments and debates, taken from every viewpoint on these topics, can often-times be extremely compelling I think there might be a slippery slope in trying to ‘figure out’ too many of these topics.  Ponder and muse?  Yes.  But arrive at a cemented school of thought?  Not always a good thing.  I’m a guy from Kansas who enjoys baseball, a good book, a good movie, a good beer, a good wine, a good steak, a good dessert, and a good cigar.  Believe it or not I’m a simpleton so when it comes to that fun grey area I’ll do as Lesslie Newbigin suggests, “Hold to Christ, and for the rest be totally uncommitted”.

Not only that my language I distrust,

But that my mind cannot return so far

Above itself, unless another guide it.

–Paradiso, XVIII. 130-133

Below is a passage from Brian McLaren’s book, “The Last Word and the Word After That”. It pretty much describes the place I find myself theologically currently.


Spirit of Creation, you

Fill all space as sounds waves do.

Your music makes a chamber

Of my soul, resonating,

An organ-filled cathedral.

Bass pipes thunder; trebles sing.

When old spaces shrivel up,

Shrunk wineskins, crushed paper cup,

You seek new vessels to fill.

So, reverberating now,

New spaces blossom; you will

Rush in, wide wind, holy fire.

Filling, not consuming us,

With thankful joy, high desire.

Come Holy Spirit.


All we know is but a spark,

Rising from the blaze of mystery,

A falling star in the dark,

Descending from a height we cannot see.

In mists that rise from woodland streams,

The way that we could fly in childhood dreams,

Truth comes in on winds that blow

From beyond the rim of all we know.

I have my doubts about certainty.

It’s not all that it’s made out to be.

I trust in things I cannot see,

And reach out for the love that’s reaching me,

In mists that rise from woodland streams,

The way that we could fly in childhood dreams.

Truth comes in on winds that blow

From beyond the rim of all we know.

The secret things remain concealed,

(And that’s a gift): the rift is healed.

And there’s a treasure hidden in this field,

In mists that rise from woodland streams,

And the way that we could fly in childhood dreams.

Truth comes in on winds that blow

From beyond the rim of all we know.

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Posted by on May 24, 2009 in theology


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calcio, and an open mind

I have had no time to blog recently because of the crazy-busyness of coaching soccer that is ramping up, and slightly down, the past couple weeks and still continues for the next two weeks.  Today my girls (girls I coach, I have no children of my own) played great in the President’s Cup, but unfortunately were not able to advance out of group play.  In two weeks I’ll take my boys team (again, boys I coach, I still have no children of my own) up to Bentonville for State Cup and we have a great chance at winning state which would then send us to North Carolina (I think that’s where it is this year) for regionals. We’ll see what happens in two weeks.

In the meantime if you’re looking for thoughts from this ‘heretic’ I’ll let you chew on this…it’s regarding how I view my theology in deconstructing my past theology and allowing it morph into new ideas for my current theology. It’s not saying that any one thought I have is right or wrong, but it allows me to come to a more full understanding of how I view my God…who is probably your God too…in a roundabout way.

This passage is from Leslie Newbigin’s “Proper Confidence” – the first part of the passage is from Polanyi’s “Personal Knowledge” the second is from “Proper Confidence”.

“But this does not make our understanding subjective. Comprehension is neither an arbitrary act nor a passive experience, but a responsible act claiming universal validity.  Such knowledge is indeed objective in the sense of establishing contact with a hidden reality, contact that is defined as the condition for anticipating an indeterminate range of as yet unknown (and perhaps yet inconceivable) true implications.  It seems reasonable to describe this fusion of the personal and the objective as personal knowledge. (Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, pp. vii-viii)

Polanyi’s concern was to alert the scientific community to a danger which, if not faced, would destroy it.  But his thinking has obvious relevance to the subject of this essay.  In the debate which goes on among religious people about the respective roles of faith and doubt in the search for certainty, Polanyi invites us to consider whether we are not operating with an entirely false and deceptive idea of certainty.  It is the dominance in the public mind of this false and illusory ideal of certainty which hopelessly confuses the debate among Christians about the certainty of their faith.”

These passages talk about the whole of religious ideas in regards to the Christian faith but for me it helps with the deconstruction of different ideas (ideas mentioned in previous posts in my blog) which in the past I held as an absolute necessity in my faith to believe otherwise my faith might unravel.  Looking at how I no longer hold some of these ideas as absolute necessities I relish the fact that my faith is still in tact and not unraveled and I would also like to believe it is stronger than ever. It’s not complete, but it’s better.

“If we allow the Bible to be that which we attend to above all else, we will be saved from two dangers: The first is the danger of the closed mind.  The Bible leaves an enormous space for exploration. … The second is the danger of the mind open at both ends, the mind which is prepared to entertain anything but has a firm hold of nothing.”  How are you reading the Bible? I would hope with an ability to read a fresh version that moves us beyond unquestioned traditions.

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Posted by on May 17, 2009 in Uncategorized


an evening with Brian McLaren

L to R: Tad, Brian, John, and MeI’m going to do what my buddy John did and give a link to Tad’s page which is a good summation of the evening we had with Brian McLaren a couple weeks ago.  The evening included a ‘talk’ by McLaren and then McLaren invited us over to a guy’s house for further, more intimate discussion.  It was a provocative, compelling, great evening with plenty to chew on.

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Posted by on May 9, 2009 in theology


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