Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Rapture Ready

My primary job this summer is to bond with and take care of my 5-month-old son. As I rocked him to sleep yesterday afternoon, I turned on TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) to see what the face of Christianity looks like to the millions at home watching TV and happening upon this giant Christian network.

What I got was "Rapture ready." This is the calling card of TV preacher Rod Parsley on his program, Breakthrough. In the future, maybe a long post on the idea of the Rapture can happen, but for today let's simply think about where this puts the focus of our faith: the end of time. It seems to me that a lot of TV preachers have two foci: earthly material wealth and "being saved" from hell. Where do these ideas put the focus of our faith? MY material wealth in this life and MY personal salvation are right up front. Of course, most preachers also focus on converting others so that they can have wealth and be saved, but the engine that drives all of this is self-aggrandizement and self-preservation.

I am not degrading the value of a good life or eternal life, but were these the greatest concerns of Jesus? Of Paul? I would argue that they were not. In fact, the focus of Christ seemed to be giving up material wealth. Certainly, personal salvation was extremely important, but personal salvation in the context of how that transforms our lives and our priorities, not simply how it saves us from hell.

Are we saved? If so, praise be to God for eternal life. But, does that not have a massive impact on how we live NOW?

I believe it does, and it has little to do with accumulating cars, houses, or blessing me with $35,000 if I pray for 10 people. There is a good deal of patient endurance in Christ, of struggling with brothers and sisters in Christ, of showing Christ to others in word and deed, and of constantly challenging ourselves and others to conform more to His likeness.

More on the (lack of a) Rapture (a word that does not appear in the Bible, and a word that is rooted in Latin, not Hebrew or Greek) another day.

Oh, and today, make sure you are Rapture ready.

6 comments:

Travis said...

In regard to salvation, I like the ripple effect analogy. Save yourself first, then work to save your family, then work to save your friends, then work to save others, etc, etc, etc.

If done in order, they get easier. A saved person has a better chance of converting a family member than a lost person.

If you and your family are Christians, then it's much easier to convert a friend. And so on.

But to your point Cort, which I believe is this: our focus should be on the present and how we live now, with an eye on the future.

After your conversion, the way you live your daily life becomes MORE important, not less important. You're a Child of God, act like it. You're an example, act like it. You're saved, act like it. You get the point.

Kevin Burt said...

Cort and Travis,

In Orthodoxy, the emphasis is always on saving yourself. St. Seraphim of Sarov once said, "Acquire inward peace, and thousands around you will be saved." Of course, inward peace is a synonym for salvation, and the idea is to save yourself; in so doing, those around you will be saved not by your own efforts, but by the power of God demonstrated in your life. And this emphasis on "self" is actualized in service, love, and humility towards others. It refuses to judge anyone but oneself. By such a life, our neighbors cannot but see God.

The typical show on TBN is, simply put, heresy. It does not conform to the Faith in any shape, form, or fashion. It is a modern, American development. It is the quintessential example of ethnic Christianity.

Salvation is "theosis," or becoming like God. God, perfect in Himself, in need of neither riches nor extra longevity nor better health, is our goal. The "power" that is "unleashed" when a saint is progressing consistently towards that end is the greatest power towards the conversion of others that exists. Conversion by doctrinal emphasis or pragmatism or "promised blessings" or "rapture preparation" is salvation to those things, not to God.

r. justin said...

I hate the term "saved," personally. I understand what it means, and obviously it's true. But (to the nonbeliever especially) it puts the focus on this mysterious place called "Hell" and the fact that we're all destined for it... at least at first. (Funny how a lot of preachers who would deny depravity doctrine still use the term "saved"!)

On my reading, salvation is the immediate product of a Biblical faith in Jesus Christ. Grace, however, continues in myriad ways... the grace of a loving father, indeed. And so relationship with this father, this God, is meant to be the focus of all our post-salvation life; that relationship obviously should affect all our others—and will, if the God relationship is being kept up.

And as far as wealth goes... bring it on! I'd like a pool table, myself. But I don't have a room big enough for one... so I'll probably need a new house, too.

Kevin Burt said...

Justin,

Like you, I agree that the word "saved" carries a whole lot of unfortunate baggage.

Biblically, "salvation" is something that happened at the Cross, when we are born again through Faith and Baptism, that is happening each day that I live in Christ, and something for which I hope.

The problem with "salvation" in contemporary parlance is that it is usually limited to one specific "event." Either baptism, or "faith only," or whatever. But in the Faith and Scriptures, salvation is much more all encompassing. It has happened, is happening, and will happen, if I remain faithful to God (for I know He will remain faithful to me).

I think when you speak of "post-salvation life," you limit salvation to a very small shadow of what it is meant to be. Look at the way the term is used throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, and the Christian Scriptures, and one finds an ongoing "relationship" of God the Divine Savior, constantly "saving" his people from danger, and INTO holiness. My own growth into the likeness of God IS my salvation.

As the old hymn says about the "Rock of Ages," it is the "double cure, for it both "saves from wrath," and "makes me pure."

R. Justin said...

I suppose I'm using "salvation" to mean "conversion," in places. I don't mean to say salvation just happens and then we're done with it; obv., you're correct that the salvation is something continual, which manifests itself throughout a Christian's earthly days.

However, I will now ante your symantics: "It has happened, is happening, and will happen, if I remain faithful to God (for I know He will remain faithful to me)." This last is a mistake, if not a small heresy: Our salvation certainly does not rest in our "faithfulness," for if it did, I'd have alternated between Hell- and Heaven-bound countless times in the past years. Rather, the Holy Spirit enables our faith, a faith which our flesh and Satan continually try to quash. I know it is quashed within me often. It is strong and rooted and so it re-emerges, like a plant dead in winter but with a seed ready to rebirth in spring. Still, I rest knowing that despite that unfaithfulness, salvation is still within me. Aside from the unnamed and unknown unpardonable sin, it will not be taken from me, no matter how unfaithful I become. This is the crucial difference between our faith and all others.

Kevin Burt said...

Justin,

Not sure I understand the "ante of symantics," but I hope I've not given the impression of "upping antes" or arguing "semantically." Anyhoo....

Well, we could start a whole new doctrinal discussion over the Calvinistic doctrine of "perseverance" or "once saved always saved." Tossing verses back and forth is kind of pointless though; I imagine you agree.

From some of your posts (and Shelley's), I sense that some of your ideas regarding the "historical church" have been formed more by Roman Catholicism than by what I'd call "Apostolic Catholicism" (of the Apostles' Creed or Nicene Creed type).

In Orthodoxy, we just don't see things in legalistic terms. To us, both Roman Catholicism AND Calvinistic Protestantism approach salvation from an over legalistic, juridical perspective. Our view of Christ and His work and our response is more akin to the concept of "salvation" in the Jewish Scriptures, than to a courtroom pronouncement that may or may not play itself out in life (depending on the level of Calvinism adhered to).

Orthodoxy has a very different way of looking at it and, like the early Apostolic Fathers, you'll hear us speaking both of assurance AND the possibility of one falling from grace. Obviously, my view of what constitutes "heresy" is based on the Scriptures as understood by the Fathers and the historical Church, so a synergism between God and man is the truth, not heresy, to me.

But, unless you want to discuss that somewhere -- via email or on a blog like this or something -- I won't start giving my "reasons." Perhaps I'll post a link or a short (haha!) post on my blog in the near future explaining the Orthodox understanding of salvation, assurance and apostasy.

IN the meantime, the peace of Christ be with you, brother!
Kevin