Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The private drama of salvation

Thanks to a recommendation from Mystical Seeker and link from Adrian Worsfield (Pluralist Speaks), I've been reading Bruce Sanguin's, Darwin, Divinity, and the Dance of the Cosmos: An Ecological Christianity. This part leaped off the page at me:
Take salvation. The word itself means to make whole, or to heal. For at least the last 300 years, the church has regarded the planet as a kind of background stage upon which the drama of private salvation has been played out. Most of Christianity continues to be involved in what Thomas Berry calls a "redemption mystique." We are obsessed with our sinfulness and whether we're "saved." The purpose of Jesus' death, according to this fall/redemption model, was to redeem us from our innate depravity, thus saving our souls for eternal life, in a heavenly realm, somewhere beyond this universe. The vast majority of Christians are so focused on their own "salvation," or on saving others, that they are blind the deterioration of the very ecosystems that sustain their private dramas. Even in those denominations, like my own, that have moved beyond thinking that God is primarily concerned with the salvation of private souls, we still focus almost exclusively on the human realm of creation. It's time we place the salvation (healing) of the planet in the foreground of our mission concerns.
Darwin, Divinity, and the Dance of the Cosmos (Wood Lakes Publishing, 2007) at pp.29-30.

The ecological crisis is something that has increasingly drawn the attention of some Christian evangelicals, as reported in the press here in the U.S. for the last year or so. But the point is still a valid one, that a great many people who profess to be Christians are almost exclusively focused on the "private drama" of their own salvation. Even Martin Luther might be surprised at the extent to which people today preach, talk, and blog about our individual relationships with God.

It's something we might all keep in mind, but quite frankly, this struck me most in terms of where, I think, the neo-Calvinists get off track with their focus on sin and damnation. It should go without saying that we all sin, individually and collectively, and that we dare not be complacent when we fall short. But it seems bizarrely self-centered and anthrocentric to act as if the fate of all Creation turns on our individual struggles and efforts to "save" ourselves and other individual human beings. Yes, God loves each and every one of us and each is as valuable as the next, as well as our companion creatures, elements, and energy in Creation. But our private dramas are not the be and end all, and what good we can do, with God's grace, is not for us, not for getting us into heaven (what or wherever), but for the whole shebang.


Mystical Seeker said...

That's a great book. I read it a few months ago and was really impressed by it. The author has a new book out that I want to check out.

klady said...

Yes, I'm enjoying it a great deal. I'm sorry I should have credited you for suggesting it [which I've done now, having corrected the post above]. I'm afraid I lose track of where I read things. Thanks to both you and Adrian for discussing works like this.

One of my many regrets about the Unpleasantedness among the Episcopalians is that we cannot do more to tap into the Presiding Bishop's background as a marine biologist and how that has impacted both her faith and her theology. I'm afraid I haven't yet read wherever it was where she used some biological term that brought on more scorn from the neo-orthodox. If everyone was not so hung up about human sexuality, maybe she could help educate the non-scientists among us about how narrow conventional Christian perspectives can be on both how "things work" but our place in it all, as well.