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In what ways can one talk of Jesus' death being salvific today?
Salvation: the broader concept (out of 'salvation' and 'atonement'), which assumes that the life of human beings, and the state of the world as a whole, is in some sense self-destructive or incomplete, and denotes the healing or 'making whole' of both individuals and social groups. Atonement: offers a 'focus of particularity' under the broad scope of salvation, and asserts that 'salvation' depends upon the restoration of relationships ('at-one-ment'), particularly in the case of Christianity between man and God. 'Subjective': an interpretation of atonement is said to be subjective when it describes salvation as a process in present human experience. 'Objective': an interpretation of atonement is objective when it locates salvation in a past event, cut off from our experience and feelings. A theory of salvation, then, will combine both subjective and objective elements. Things to clear up: What are we being saved from?
What does 'being saved' entail/lead to?
Theories of atonement are never likely to grasp the objective/subjective balance adequately, but rather are conceptual tools intended to point us toward a mystery - another aspect of the mystery of 'what God is' that essentially constitutes Christianity. The Christian Church can only make use of metaphor - in 'sacrifice', 'redemption' and 'justification' - to attempt to understand the work of Christ during his time on earth.
Paul Fiddes - Salvation in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology Christianity is increasingly moving away from a 'forensic' view of salvation, as an acquittal for humanity before the divine Judge, toward an understanding of salvation as 'divinitisation', or as becoming the 'likeness' of God, being drawn more deeply into the relationships in which God stands as a 'Trinity of love' (p176). Von Balthasar: 'coming closer to God', 'an ever intensifying relationship' (Theo-Drama p373) This transformation is not merely individual, but involves the person in relationship, in joyfully responding to the ethical demands placed upon us by the very existence of others, and thus the concepts of a future salvation and a transformed human community now go hand-in-hand - Salvation occurs in three tenses in the NT: we have been saved, we are being saved, and we shall be saved at the eschaton. A new people is being formed now, for the realisation of salvation in the future. This expectation of future salvation has a creative effect now, making the Christian discontent with the status quo, and demanding that he challenge oppressive social structures. The Christian understanding of salvation is characterised by its diagnosis of the 'human predicament', and Christian theology borrows from other spheres in describing this situation. Humans are perceived as being alienated and estranged from the world in which they remain entrenched, and their relationships, with each other, with the self and with God, become fragmented. The reason for this is traced back to the human consciousness' attempt to control and rationalise the world without respecting the inherent 'otherness' of other persons, and of the natural world as a whole. The Christian concept of Sin is woven through this analysis, pointing toward the breach between creator and created - salvation is 'from' Sin and 'to' divinitisation.
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