Rethinking Salvation With Matthew Bates

Rethinking salvation with Matthew Bates. A couple quotes I thought were worthwhile:

“The movement from outward to inward rapidly accelerated with Saint Augustine (354–430).

Augustine’s infinitely influential views on faith informed the medieval Catholic synthesis, as well as the Protestant Reformers. Faith became more introspective, psychological, emotive, and passive (or receptive) than is encouraged by the biblical witness. Faith came to be less about external allegiance to Jesus the king and more about what God does in us to cause intellectual belief in correct doctrine as shaped by love (medieval Catholicism) or cause inward trust in his promises (Protestantism). In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther’s most extensive definition of faith describes it as God’s gift, as belief in the correct body of doctrine, and as invariably resulting in good works. Since it involves seizing upon God’s certain promises it does face outward, in part. Yet Luther stresses that it is characterized by personal confidence or certitude and specific internal emotions:

Luther’s treatment, akin to Augustine’s, primarily divides faith into doctrine to be believed and internal feelings of trusting confidence. Like Luther, John Calvin grounds faith in God’s external promises but also treats it as if it is primarily an inward conviction (passively received) rather than actively embodied in outward-facing relationships:

For Calvin, faith is “not content with a doubtful and changeable opinion,” but “requires full and fixed certainty”—even though fear, temptation, and doubts will assail. For faith to be genuine, God’s promises of mercy must not remain “outside ourselves” but must be “inwardly embraced” with confident assurance.22 Calvin finds scholastic distinctions worthless between implicit faith (faith without knowledge, e.g., allegedly by infants at baptism), unformed faith (faith as mere intellectual assent), and formed faith (intellectual assent shaped by hope and love). This is primarily because the first two are not regarded as biblical faith at all, and the third compromises faith’s uniqueness. Saving faith involves true albeit imperfect knowledge in response to God’s proclaimed word, but always goes beyond intellectual assent. The assent portion of faith is “more of the heart than of the brain, and more of the disposition than the understanding,” so that true faith can never be separated from a “devout disposition.” Calvin thinks this is what Paul is trying to convey by the phrase “the obedience of faith” in Romans 1:5. Calvin correctly notes that in the Bible pistis has many definitions. But for him saving faith, as the Spirit permits, is primarily an internal conviction that God’s promise of mercy in the atonement through Jesus’s priestly mediation is indeed trustworthy.23

The flight of faith toward inward subjective feelings of trusting confidence would only accelerate thereafter.”
– Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Christ Misses for Salvation in Christ

“The flight of faith from the outward to the inward was helped along by related ideas. Faith, as it moved from outward to inward, became something that happens in your mind or will or spirit, rather than in your body. Yet this is not how faith was generally understood in the New Testament world. Faith was embodied.

When flesh and spirit are regarded as differing substances in the Bible, the intention is not to contrast the physical with the nonphysical. Like his contemporaries the Stoics, Paul probably believed spirit/Spirit to be an invisible diffuse material substance of heavenly origin, and so it had a physicality just as flesh does. For Paul, the distinction is that the Spirit above all characterizes God’s realm and the new age of the Messiah that God is unveiling, but the flesh characterizes the mundane old order. This is why Paul thinks that those who live according to the flesh will die, but those who live according to the Spirit will find eternal life:

The contrast is not between physical and nonphysical. Rather it is between the old order and the new. The flesh and its sinful appetites are associated with death and the old order, the Spirit with life and the new order…

It may be popular today to think that the Bible envisions a nonmaterial spirit world that is in contrast with the physical, bodily world. But this is a simplistic reading of the Bible. And it has direct bearing on the faith-works question. For we cannot argue that faith is a spiritual or mental thing separate from bodily doing. Faith is embodied and enacted from start to finish.

Faith is embodied because our bodies are open to the environment and can be colonized… This is why Paul speaks of sin as a personified, colonizing agent. Salvation involves a recolonization through union with the Messiah.

In the Spirit we are no longer being jerked around by the hostile power of Sin that colonized the flesh under the old order. The Spirit uses its new-creation power to recolonize the human flesh thoroughly, delivering it from its previous enslavement to sin, the law, malevolent spiritual powers, and the fundamental structures of the old order. In the Messiah via the Spirit the entire allegiant community has been colonized, each self, all the way down to each person’s living-by-pistis flesh.”
– Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Christ Misses for Salvation in Christ

Published by davetcourt

I am a 40 something Canadian with a passion for theology, film, reading writing and travel.

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