Collective Salvation, part II

So what is collective salvation?

If you’re like me, you’ve spent the last two weeks scouring the internet trying to find a clear definition of this elusive doctrine. And, if you’re like me, you’ve been largely unsuccessful. It seems obvious, though, right? If individual salvation simply means that my salvation is dependent upon my individual faith in Christ, then collective salvation must mean that my salvation is dependent upon the collective faith of the community, right?

I don’t think this is what it means, though. I don’t think it really has anything to do with a doctrine about salvation or faith or (dare I say it?) Christ. It denies the very foundations of the Christian faith: that core idea that we all have sinned, and the penalty for that sin is spiritual (and, might I add, eternal) death; that Christ took the punishment of our sin and conquered death so that we might live; that being one of the community (of Jews, of God’s chosen) is insufficient to save our spiritual selves; that salvation is by grace and through faith–a free gift of God Himself.

See, collective salvation isn’t really about salvation at all. It isn’t about faith.  Oh, they may say it is. But look at what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said about Liberation Theology (the parent of the collective salvation doctrine) :

Many liberation theologians continue to use a great deal of the Church’s classical ascetical and dogmatic language while changing its signification.

So don’t be confused when they tell you it’s about salvation. It’s not. It’s not about faith or hope or Christ or salvation. It’s not even about the community that makes it “collective.” It’s about social, economic, and political power. It’s the stripping of individual rights and responsibilities, sins and redemptions, choices, opinions, desires.

How long will it be before someone who is ungreen will be seen as a threat to our collective survival? Does it not become the job of the government-savior to convert me to green for the sake of the community, of the state, of the country, of the world? It has to. It has to become someone’s job, or it would still depend upon my individual conscience.

But that’s just it. Suddenly, I can’t trust my own gut to move me to charity or compassion. Suddenly, I can’t trust my own gut to tell me it’s wrong to lie, cheat, or steal. Suddenly, I can’t trust my own gut to decide whether I should stop and help the man whose car just went off the road in front of me.

No, collective salvation requires a conscience on behalf of the community. And believe you me, the collective conscience will trump your individual conscience every time. Our government will make sure of it.

Folks, don’t buy into this. Don’t be enticed by the pretty idea of saving everyone. Salvation is not my job, not your job, not the community’s job, and certainly not the government’s job. It is the work of Jesus the Messiah. Any other “salvation” will fall short in the end.

Is it our responsibility as Christians to love our neighbor? To show compassion? To help the poor and needy? Absolutely. It is a matter of our faith, though, and we answer to God for those choices–not to the government.

Wow. It just hit me: If there is no individual conscience, no individual salvation, then there can also be no individual worth or need. Everything will become a matter of community. Everything will be weighed on its health pertaining to the community (or to the perception thereof). Isn’t this the end game, after all?

If you’re still looking for answers, begin with Ratzinger’s notes on Liberation Theology. Let me know what else you find, folks. I’m trying really hard to understand these issues, myself, and I welcome the dialogue and–where necessary–correction.

Pax Domini.


Collective Salvation

There’s been a lot of buzz around the internet about the idea of Collective Salvation–whether or not our President believes in it, whether it is a spiritual or political idea (or somehow both, perhaps), whether it is taught in Scripture, etc.

Can we set aside the current politics of the discussion for just one moment?

Israel was not expecting the Messiah that came. They were looking for a king, a political leader who would “save” Israel as a whole, as a nation, not as individuals.  Many today are still waiting for that Messiah.

But when Christ came, he made salvation specific to each man and woman. Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to be a Jew. Suddenly, it had never been enough. Suddenly, everything depended upon grace and mercy and forgiveness and love.  And nobody could give or receive those things on your behalf, you had to choose them alone, with no one else to blame if you chose poorly. Here was a man, who spoke truth–who was Truth–who broke down the barriers between races and genders and the classes of society, and offered freely to all. Those who would, could become Children of God.

So is there room in Scripture for the idea of collective salvation? It seems that Jesus himself came to dispel that doctrine. Aside from pre-Christ ideas of national salvation and a ruler who would establish peace for the Jewish people, I don’t see any foundation for it. And again–this was the idea that Christ himself countered.

That is not to say that our faith has no relationship to others. It certainly does. But our salvation is not dependent upon another person; it depends solely upon Jesus the Messiah.

What do you think? Have I missed some crucial piece of Scripture? Do you see Collective Salvation in your Bible? If so, please share.

Pax Domini!


Dear Ben & Guest Blogger Ben

I confess, I am disheartened.

After reading that non-Reformed Christians focus more on self than anything, I felt it appropriate to share the foundation of my own faith–the words that I come back to time and again when trying to define Christianity. You might remember this…it’s a couple of years old:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.


Divine Foreknowledge will never unite the Body.

Free Will will never unite the Body.

There is One faith. One hope. One baptism. One Lord.

Calvin wasn’t it. Arminius wasn’t it. Molina wasn’t it. Wesley wasn’t it. Spurgeon wasn’t it.

John Piper…isn’t it.

Can we stop demeaning one another long enough to unite under the one thing that can truly unite us?

I love you, Ben Lem…and I love you, Guest Blogger Ben. You can be in my Jesus Family, even if you disagree with me.

Pax Domini, brothers.


Send Glenn to Oxford

If you’ve been reading my blog at all this past year and still haven’t clicked the link to Glenn’s blog on the sidebar, I’m going to give you a chance to get in the game.

Go HERE. Right now. Go on, CLICK. Then prayerfully consider whether you can help send Glenn to Oxford.

If you’re able to help Glenn, I hope you’ll do so. This is an incredible opportunity for him, and nobody (trust me, nobody) could be more deserving of it than Glenn.

If you do decide to support Glenn, please send me an email and let me know. I don’t want details (that’s your business), but I would love the opportunity to thank you for investing in Glenn’s ministry.

So…did you CLICK yet?

Cake & Contradiction

In spite of what the proverb tells us, I believe that I can ‘have my cake and eat it, too.’  That’s right.  I love fence posts, particularly in dealing with theology. It’s why I’m a Molinist–because I welcome the alleged paradox of Man’s Libertarian Free Will and God’s Exhaustive Foreknowledge. I love that many of my blog viewers just experienced Sudden Head Explosion* trying to read that statement.

Extremism is so unhealthy. Always, we must seek balance. Do we like a hot climate, or a cold climate? When we speak of climate, we somehow use that out-dated common sense of ours to rule out the idea that someone might actually want to live in a climate wherein his physical body would perish. Logically, when we say we like it hot, we are talking about 70, 80, 90 degrees…maybe even a few freaks who like it triple! How many people do you know who want to feel their flesh burning off their bodies? We naturally and logically seek balance.

And yet, in heavier matters, we insist upon extremes. Christians WILL attend Church every Sunday. Grassroots movements ARE NOT Conservative. War is wrong. AIG Executives should NOT receive their bonuses. Et Cetera.

What a silly game of extremism we play, insisting that some things are true to the forsaking of all other truths. This is, in my opinion, what has gone so incredibly wrong in the Global Warming** debate. The truth, in my best articulation of it, is that Mankind has stewardship of this planet and we ought to take care of it. But the detriment is in exalting this to a truth above all others. I understand the temptation to try and regulate household temperatures, for instance; but I find it appalling that some jackanapes in D.C. is going to decide how much heat I can have in Upper Michigan in the middle  of a February blizzard. How about we move all of our politicians to the U.P. for one winter–just one winter–and I’ll decide whether or not to heat their homes. And when their little tootsies freeze at night, I’ll encourage them with the knowledge that they are saving the planet.

This kind of extremism is destroying us. It’s not even logical. Take another approach: Everybody knows that we need water and oxygen to survive. But we also know that too much of either of these things can kill us just as well as a deficiency of them! So would you prefer hyper- or hypo-thyroidism? Yeah, you don’t want either one, because your body is created to be balanced–not too much, not too little.

And it is often true that the things that seem contradictory are actually synergistic.  Rather than arguing about who is right, perhaps we should be looking at what each perspective contributes to functionality. Perhaps we should be looking for the middle ground–the give and take that allows us to be save our money AND pay our bills, that allows us turn the heat up during the blizzard and down during the warmth of daylight, that allows us to be awake and alert during the day and then sleep during the night. It’s all about the balance, the middle ground.

Believe it or not, the Bible is a proponent of this idea. We could look at several passages, but I’ll just share my favorite, from the Ecclesiastes, chapter 7:

16: Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise–why destroy yourself?

17: Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool–why die before your time?

18: It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.

G.K. Chesterton gives great perspective on this, as well. From Orthodoxy:

The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic…He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that. Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also. Thus he believed that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but nevertheless ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth. He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not. It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man.

So what do you say, friends? Shall we have our cake and eat it, too? Or shall we continue to play this silly game of Extremism? Politics, social and economic justice, faith, temperature…these are matters that demand Absolute Truths; but Absolute Truths do not require Extremism and Exclusivity.

I vote for cake.

Pax Christi.


*It’s Glenn Beck’s fault. I didn’t know heads could explode until I heard it on his show.

**Are they still calling it Global Warming? I think they’re calling it “Climate Change” now to account for Cooling as well as Warming. Thumbs Up.