Friday, July 6, 2018

Who is saved? Understanding salvation beyond Christianity.

Salvation, that is to say the redemption from sin and an eternal fellowship with God, is often a difficult topic to confront in the 21st century as Christians, we have heard it all, from the first Christians who were martyred in order to be saved, to the Medieval and Humanist Christians who persecuted others in order to save them, to Calvinistic Protestants who believed (and some still do) that God chose some and rejected others. 
Shortly after the Reformation, especially under the reign of Edward VI, Anglicanism departed from its roots and adopted a Calvinistic inspired concept of salvation based on the doctrine of predestination which lasted for the entire length of the Tudor dynasty: God selected only a certain few to to receive eternal salvation.


Thankfully, during the 17th century, Anglicanism began to readopt a more Christian idea of soteriology, especially thanks to the Caroline Divines, a group of high church theologians that lived during the reigns of Charles I and Charles II, after the Restoration - figures such as William Laud, Lancelot Andrewes and Thomas Ken, introduced an Arminian idea of salvation. Arminianism is the redemption, the freedom from sin through grace, unlike in Lutheranism, in which human nature is considered intrinsically sinful, or Calvinism in which human nature is in bondage to sin, despite in both cases human nature posses free will - in neither of them there is a conditional election, in Arminian theology one's faith makes salvation conditional, by choosing Jesus who made it possible through his death. Justification is by faith as in the previous too, but only because of Christ's sacrifice to redeem mankind, this is when Anglicanism readopts a more Orthodox concept of salvation and regains continuity with its millenary history as the English branch of the Church, founded by Saint Augustine in 597, a catholic idea of salvation akin to that of the early Christians and the Orthodox. Arminianism and this gentle, reformed and yet catholic, approach to salvation influenced various Christians, among them John and Charles Weasley, the founders of Methodism, and our Church to this very day. Most Anglicans, especially thanks to the Catholic Revival of the 19th century adopted an even more traditional idea of salvation based on the importance of receiving the sacraments of baptism and of the eucharist, and so do also good works play an important role, indeed they are also a sign of grace and faith. Salvation, or damnation, for Anglicans is not automatic, it is the fruit of our own faith.


However, what is my point in this article? Quite recently, I went to a Bible Study where a fellow Anglican, however enthusiastic was making points on how only Christians can be saved through Jesus, indeed the Bible says that, but I also believe that as Anglicans the three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition and Reason here gives us a huge help in not coming across as fundamentalists and really it is all about the sense of continuity of this ancient English Church and its ancient but welcoming concept of salvation. Historically, Anglicans always had a positive concept of salvation and of human nature, even the harsh words of the Prayer Book are just really there to make sure we'll do well. So what when it comes to those who haven't accepted or received Jesus? How do we dare, for example, judge two of the Abrahamic religions that share so many of our beliefs? Judaism and Islam.
I think we can look with confidence at the Catechism of our fellow Roman Catholics which states the role of Jews and Moslems in the economy of the salvation of all men, I personally agree with them and I know they reflect almost any recent Anglican idea of salvation for all men.


Judaism:

The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, the first to hear the Word of God. The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.


Islam:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honour Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.


I believe that sometimes we don't often look to other Abrahamic faiths as Christians and we do not realise how the roots are the same and salvation is but inevitable for the Jew and Muslim that leads a good life, like any Christian; God doesn't forget his promise of the Old Covenant, he doesn't forget the people he first revealed himself to, neither the people that gave birth to Mary, Joseph and Jesus - nor does he forget those who adore him and respect the Son and his Mother. God doesn't forget those who honour the Father, day by day. Didn't Christ die for the sins of all men? How about those who haven't even heard of our Abrahamic monotheistic God? 
All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city...
The second of the 39 Anglican Articles of Religion reads: whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men. Surely a God of love would save rather than reject? This is what Christ came for. I do not mean to do wishy washy theology, I do believe in God and Satan, in salvation and damnation, of course the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ is an essential mean of salvation, and his very Incarnation and Passion are incredible signs of God's love for us, but in this article I wanted to explore the case of the non-Christian in the eyes of Christians, evangelisation in the 21st century does not have a Crusader attitude, we should let people of other faiths keep their beliefs, we should focus on the non-believer, and we should bring Christ's light into the world through faith and love, not fanaticism - I just also believe that God, a Lord of love, and a whole company of saints and angels  are constantly fighting for us to enjoy his eternal presence.
The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Romans 3:24-25). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Mark 13:31).

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