Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

salvation by ritualism

5/9/16

 

In Christian Orthodoxies understanding of salvation, two sacred rituals are involved. Firstly, Jesus died as a perfect ritual sacrifice to appease God and meet His demand for justice. That ritual opened the door of opportunity for those who then follow a prescribed personal ritual which makes the first ritual effective for them individually.  Two rituals make us right in the eyes of God.

 

Thinking about the age old story of salvation in these terms focuses attention on just how unremarkable this particular religious understanding is. Pleasing the gods by ritual sacrifice or by ritualism in general is the basic tenet of many religions.

 

The fact that Christianity teaches that God provided a part of Himself as the sacrifice is perhaps unique but it is also bizarre. Supposedly the sacrifice had to be perfect and perfection was impossible for any but God, so God had to offer up His own perfection. One might logically conclude that God committed suicide as the means to redeem mankind. The Romans were merely the divinely inspired weapon of self destruction.

 

The improbability of all that we have been taught traditionally should encourage us to revisit our understanding of what salvation represents. If we are to be saved from God's wrath and righteous demands, then perhaps an appeasing ritual makes some sense. But how can an omnipotent, omniscient Creator be surprised by human malfeasance and then resort to some centuries long, convoluted plan to satisfy His own requirements for restitution. If man's Fall was no surprise, being known before creation, then there is no room for God to be upset afterward. His act of creation, in effect, brought about what necessarily followed. Given all this, the idea that God had to placate Himself is logically absurd.

 

Somewhere in all this we have missed the point of salvation. If salvation cannot logically be about being rescued from God's wrath, then we must look for another definition. For me, the early Genesis account provides another definition of salvation. The key is presented by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Whatever role that Tree represented in the plan of God, salvation must bring to fruition.

 

Few seem to pay much attention to the Tree other than to assume that God arbitrarily chose it as a divine prohibition, thereby testing mankind's faith and obedience. In fact, in the minds of many the Tree was an apple tree, thus completely ignoring the very name given to it. What did that name signify in terms of defining salvation?

 

It is obvious from the Bible account that eating of the forbidden fruit affected Adam and Eve directly without regard to God's reaction. God says they gained knowledge by eating. What was that knowledge and how was it harmful, even fatal in some sense? If this knowledge acquisition initiated the plan of salvation, then salvation must somehow relate to and deal with this knowledge and its effect on mankind. As I said earlier, that effect is not logically going to be God's displeasure and threat of punishment, so what was it? That is the essential question for any who care to dig a little deeper into their Orthodoxy.