Re: Salvation

Posted by: David

To understand “Why Salvation” we need to first consider whether not we think we have actual choice or “freewill,” and secondly, we need to consider whether or not we think there is a natural justice within the universe. If we grapple with these two concepts (freewill and justice) and decide, “Yes, I do have choices, and yes, there is true justice in the universe,” then the need for salvation becomes more clear.

I do not think that we could answer “no” to either of the questions independently. They hinge on each other. One could answer “no” to both and that would certainly be a sad Nietzschesque world.

Let’s skip freewill for now, that’s a whole topic on its own and I currently don’t have any convincing argument either way. It’s my “choice” that I believe we have freewill. If I had any argument, it would be that if there’s no freewill then there’s no real need for justice, because all things will just follow their predetermined routes. But I do believe in a perfect justice.

Justice is either all or nothing. The universe is either ruled by perfectly just rules or there is no justice at all. Could we live in a partially just universe? It must be a perfect justice or else it wouldn’t be just, would it? If a judge was to rule properly only some of the time, then he wouldn’t be a very good or just judge, would he? On the other hand, the universe could be ruled by haphazard rulings. This is how many religions and belief systems work. In these systems of belief, there are various gods that decide things on their various whims. It’s our role to capitulate to those whims. This system of belief is not one that believes in a just universe.

Natural laws abound and are all around us in our every day lives. If you fight those natural laws, it is to your own demise. I see the effects of a just universe (a just God) all around our natural world. There are clearly natural laws that rule the forces and matter of our universe. Fighting the law of gravity by jumping off a cliff would show me quickly that there are natural laws, and there are consequences when one doesn’t follow the laws. It seems to me that our universe is ordered. And in my understanding of things, when there is order, there is a justice that sees to keeping that order. In our government we call that the justice of the peace. The same name could be applied to the Governor of the universe.

So, let’s now suppose that there is true justice in this universe and we do have freewill. Then if we knowingly make destructive choices, then the justice that we live under will convict us. Or if we are falsely accused, this justice will acquit us. And here is our fate: all of us knowingly make destructive choices and we live in a just universe. Thus, if the governor or the universe is just, we will be convicted.

And it’s not just Joe or Adolph who should be convicted of a penalty worth death. We are all in the same family. We are all connected and co-conspirators. All of our subconscious minds have similar horrific thoughts. Some of us stab others with words. Others stab with swords. Some of the most pernicious acts are done with the eyes or a long, drawn out sigh.

This curious relationship between freewill and justice is seen in the story of the Garden of Eden. The mysterious first few chapters of Genesis can shed some light on what justice is and how we relate to it. In this story, that most everyone is familiar with, God gave man and woman choice. He gave us one rule and that rule was specific to us and our freewill. None of the other animals had that one law. The one law was that we couldn’t eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Notice that the tree didn’t have some obscure ancient name. It was written out clearly so we would all know what the fruit represented: the knowledge of good and evil. It was essential that a species with freewill not understand the difference between good and evil. For some reason, which we discovered later, we were not designed so that we were capable of dealing with that knowledge. By having that knowledge our species was doomed. We couldn’t handle it. That is why there was a law against it.

And let’s not think it’s unique to our species to have a unique law established for it. Each species or organization in our universe has unique laws that apply to it and not to others. A seagull cannot lay eggs in the pounding surf, but smelt can.

What makes us unique to all the other species on Earth is that we have freewill, which is why we were given that all important law, one that was essential to our distinct nature. Basically, God was saying, “You are special, and to keep this extremely special trait of yours, you must not know the difference between good and evil.”

You know the rest of the story. Unfortunately, now that we have the knowledge of good and evil, this has posed the most difficult problem to us. By possessing both freewill and knowledge of good and evil, we became self-destructive. We knowingly choose things that hurt others and ourselves. And by knowing this, we also try to prevent others from hurting us. We become bent on saving ourselves from the destructive habits of others. It is at this point when History began. Agriculture emerged. Cities dotted the landscape. Resources began to be depleted. War arose. Pointing fingers began. And that’s an important point of the story: with the fall we became aware of evil within others. We became the judge of others. We made our own government. We convicted others and were convicted. We became our own god.

However, unlike the natural justice described earlier, our judgment is not perfect. It is always a selfish judgment. The self will bias its rulings based on its desire for survival, which skews the weights and balances. Collectively, if not individually, we become psychotic, bi-polar, and communally and subsequently personally self-destructive. This is why the story of Cain and Abel follows the expulsion from the garden. Self-destruction became our nature. This nature could not be changed on its own, from within. The knowledge was with us and would be with us until the end. We must be transformed through an intervention, from outside our species to the innermost inside of our species.

This is why there is a need for our salvation.

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3 Comments

Filed under Christianity

3 responses to “Re: Salvation

  1. mhz1936

    Lots of things to be said here. Both “free will” and “justice” are concepts derived from specific philosophical orientations and should not be used in a discussion in which there is a stong attempt to divorce the arguments from a stock perspective. In your discussion, this is particularly true of “justice.” Whether or not there is “justice” in the world is not the issue; however, there are natural consequences to events – and to behavior. We are looking here at that – natural consequences.

    Your final paragraph is NOT supported by the discussion above. In addition, because the construct “salvation” is rife with specific meanings for the user of the term (frame of reference again), for that sentence to be clear in its meaning, you must define what you are talking about: salvation to person one is not going to mean the same thing to person two.

    Clearly, the terms that we are using (free will, justice, salvation) have too much excess and specific meanings for them to be generally useful, without clear explication as to what they mean for the writer.

    It looks like you are saying that because there is evil in the world, man somehow needs to be “absolved” of the blight upon our “souls.” If this truly is the case, the most parsimonious manner that this can be achieved is by each of us as individuals within ourselves and/or through a social (family/group…) process whereby the bad can be acknowledged, “forgiven,” and resolutions/monitoring can be made looking ahead to the future. Parsimoniously, there is no need for any other outside source to facilitate this process.

  2. David

    Yeah, it’s not a perfect argument, but I think it’s okay to talk about justice in a perfect sense. These are things we all think about, maybe not in these terms.

    Notice that I didn’t get into all the social and emotional issues revolving around salvation. I think you did a fine job of that. It’s a touchy issue. I was just laying out some foundation, the place that the thinking about salvation starts: justice and freewill. From there I did my best to explain how I understand it as a Christian.

  3. mhz1936

    Interesting! I wrote a long response to the above but pressed some wrong key and it evaporated! Thanks for the compliment. I’m torn in these entries to revisit issues and concerns that beg for further elaboration and comment; but at the same time have ideas for new issues to bring up. I expect that I will compromise and do some revisiting and some new. I have not carefully read your comments on Calvinism, but pleased to see the topic (as you can imagine) as I see the Calvinist approach to Christianity to be self-righteous, judgmental,, authoritarian, leading to sectarian conflict (more than normally exists) – and depressive.
    Talked with J regarding the blog; no demands for her to ever read it; but she said she would and is interested. I don’t want it to take an exclusively religious turn; rather open to any philosophical concerns. Also have no problem with adding bloggers (subject to some approval) to it: specifically J, at this point. U. Alan might even be interested in our postings; but I’m afraid he would have to receive via printouts, as he is not computer-savvy, as you know. (I will identify myself as MZ, at least for now). Thanks for your tolerance and patience.
    mz

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