Regarding the last post and a comment by loyal reader Radoje:
I think these discussions of salvation really are at the heart of the differences between Orthodoxy and the rest of the Christian world. And some conversations I’ve been having lately with my mom indicate the same.
We need to talk about what it means to be “saved.”
As an evangelical Protestant, being “saved” meant two things to me: having Christ as my “personal Lord and Savior” and going to heaven.
As an Orthodox Christian, salvation means much more.
Mankind was created unique–with the image of God, made for a communion with its Creator that the rest of creation cannot understand. But we fell.
And the curse of that fall is more than just a legal understanding of transgression and consequence. It is about losing that which is more precious–life. We were created to be X, but now we are Y. It is wrong and we know it. By eating the fruit, by ignoring the commands of our God, we broke off the relationship with Him. We brought death into the world, and now we can’t get it out.
St. Paul’s assertion that the wages of sin is death is as much a statement of fact as it is a “legal declaration.” If I jump off a building, I will get hurt. No one sentences me to pain. It is a logical and rational consequence of defying the laws of physics which hold me to the planet. If I sin, I die. Christ’s life, His death, and His resurrection fix all that. It is for our salvation.
Salvation is life. It is the restoration of that which is spoiled. It is the repair of what has been broken seemingly beyond repair. It is healing that which is sick.
Frederica Mathews-Green writes that the parable of the prodigal son does not have the father saying, “Well, you can’t come home until somebody pays this Visa bill.” He loves him, and accepts him home and restores him to his place in the family. All the son had to do was turn for home and seek his father’s forgiveness.
Orthodoxy doesn’t primarily hold the notion of “substitutionary atonement.” The legacy of post-schism Western Christianity, largely because of the over-inflated influence given to St. Augustine and subsequently Anselm, is the reduction of the salvation to a legal act, and sets up the primary relationship between God and mankind as one of Judge and condemned.
Please understand, I am not minimizing the righteousness of God. The Bible is clear. We will ALL have to give account before Him for our every action and thought. But as with much of Christianity outside of Orthodoxy, some critical balance is missing. God is righteous, but God is love. And from the very moment of the fall, when Adam and Eve were cast out, He began to work for our ultimate redemption and restoration.
So to the Orthodox Christian, to me, salvation is about becoming that person I was created to be, to move toward a right relationship with God, and trusting in His grace to help get me there. Sure, heaven sounds fabulous. I want to go there, though, not merely because I don’t want to go to hell, but because I want to be with Him, in that relationship as it was always intended to be.
The Church, through the Sacraments, becomes a way to accept that grace, and to act in faith, to turn toward home and seek the forgiveness and love of the father.
Being “saved” is not just about bestowing a functional title on God. It is not about avoiding a rather warm eternity. It is about being a Christian…a little Christ. And that’s what He wanted for us in the first place.