Monday, May 29, 2006

Ordered List of Salvation

When I first started writing down a systematic theology, I wanted to make a positive contribution rather than simply nitpick other peoples' theologies. At this point I have explained at some length a theology that I hope owes first allegiance only to God's revelation and is founded, it is my prayer, firmly on Christ. Here is the same presented in summary as an ordered list of salvation. Note that the order in which certain items are listed is not some claim to know more than God has revealed about the order of his thoughts, but a logical sequence in which we are able to see what God has done and has made known.
  1. God, in love desiring fellowship with his creation, decreed that all things in heaven and on earth should be headed up under Christ.
  2. God, accordingly, made mankind in God's image and breathed God's spirit into man. Within boundaries that God set, God gave mankind a lordship of his own and, consequently, both the possibility of highest glory and the inherent risk of rebellion. The possibility of rebellion was inherent in making mankind in God's image and capable of a degree of lordship.
  3. Mankind rebelled against God. The actual rebellion was neither decreed as necessary nor forbidden by God, but was within the domain of possibilities God had circumscribed as part of creation. The possibility of rebellion was a necessity of creating a creature in his own image.
  4. Mankind's rebellion against God is a fundamental depravity: a mislaid foundation that affects everything we do and sets us at enmity towards the true God and towards each other. Mankind's rebellion against God is the root cause of all "evil" properly called. Evil is correctly attributed to man's rebellion, not God's decree.
  5. God, in his goodness, decreed that all evil would be destroyed. The sinner was appointed a day of destruction. Yet God's hatred of evil did not overcome his love for his creation. This is God's grace: that God sent Christ into the world; and grace comes through Christ.
  6. He sent Christ as hope for the sick and dying world: healing the sick, restoring all kinds of infirmities, freeing those who were tormented and imprisoned in spirit, and raising the dead.
  7. He sent Christ as hope for the guilty and ashamed: he proclaimed repentance and forgiveness of sins, cleansed the impure and the defiled, and was a covenant of forgiveness sealed with his own blood.
  8. He sent Christ as hope for the world to come: he raised him from the dead, breathed God's own spirit into the people, and sent his Spirit to seal and to renew mankind in the image of God.
  9. He sent Christ as light for the darkness, as the power of God for our salvation, whose words carry the Spirit of God and create the desire for God within us.
  10. Mankind's judgment hinges on the encounter with Christ. Christ sets us free from our slavery to sin and calls us to follow him, to die with him, to be raised to life with him. In Christ, the evil in us is judged and condemned, the good re-created and renewed. God turns to man only in Christ his chosen mediator, and sinful man returns to God only in Christ.
  11. Yet in Christ God has chosen weakness, and God's grace in Christ does not revoke the gift of creation: that we, bearing God's image and having some lordship and capable of fellowship with God, are then necessarily able to rebel and turn away from God. So salvation is properly attributed to God's will that all should repent and come to a knowledge of the truth, but damnation is properly attributed to the rebellion of man.
  12. At the Last Day, Christ will judge the world, both the living and the dead. Evil will be defeated and destroyed. The beauty and gladness promised in creation will be fulfilled. The hopes of God's fellowship with man will be consummated with Christ and his people.
For those who like equations in their ordered lists of salvation, I'd offer this:

sinner + Christ = redeemed.

To those who would add other things or remove Christ from the key place, I'd have just one question: Is Christ sufficient or not?

Thank you to the readers who have stuck with me through this long journey writing down a systematic theology. I enjoy theology and expect to write about it again. But I have a few other things on my list that I've been postponing for too long, and (after I field any questions as best I can) I'll be moving on to other topics for awhile.

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