Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Salvation question

Ilona resurrects one of the oldest questions of the faith: Is it possible to lose one's salvation?

When I hear it asked there is an echo of voices from my Baptist past...Once saved, always saved!...intoned with firm conviction, typically in the wake of some serious discussion of sin in one form or another. The statement was reserved for the most controversial of conditions, since everyone understood that in everyday living, it is not an issue that threatens a good Christian. Only when one strays too close to the cliffs of perdition is it important to invoke those words of comfort and reassurance. And it has to be a declarative sentence pronounced with finality. To question the truth of it is tantamount to questioning the fact of salvation itself.

The realization that salvation is more than an event has been for me an important source of strength and encouragement. Salvation is also a process. Here for my personal record, and for the edification of anyone else who may be interested, is my response to ilona's query.

You have brought up one of the most persistent unanswered questions of the faith. If the answer were clear we would not still be asking. I do not propose to answer for anyone else, but for me there was one important insight: salvation is more than an event. Salvation, though it may be (pick one: found, appropriated, seen, launched, understood, given, other) as an event, it is significant as the beginning of a process.

That process of salvation is what enables a Christian always to be a participant in his own redemption. With God's help through salvation he is able to move from sinfulness to safety, assured that with every step he is closer to a better place than he was before. Like Edison's tireless elimination of materials that didn't work to make a better filament for the light bulb, Christians keep on looking for a better way to let their individual lights shine. Every time we try something that fails, we are one step more toward the end we seek. In a sense we lose our salvation with every failure, but that does not mean that it is lost entirely. In the end we know we will not only endure, as Faulkner said; we shall prevail.

A simile comes to mind. Salvation is to the Christian what sobriety is to the alcoholic. As mortals we are born with the seeds of damnation, but every day we also have the option to embrace salvation. As oft as we do it, we can have life, and have it more abundantly. But if we neglect (read "take for granted") our salvation, we are in danger of losing it (read "making a fatal error").

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