Saturday, 13 October 2007

Saturday roundup of columns

The Times Credo column last week had Jonathan Sacks on Religion and science are twin beacons of humanity.

This week it has Peter Selby on It’s time to stop giving credit to our culture of debt.

Guardian Face to Faith column: Fasting is not just about giving up food, but trying to be a better person for it, writes Hamza Yusuf.

Daily Telegraph Christopher Howse has The flowering of Exeter’s carvings.

Church Times Giles Fraser wrote about When the real question is: ‘Are you saved?’

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 13 October 2007 at 1:12pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Not so sure about salvation, but I would agree with Giles Fraser if it means a sense of fulfilment beyond the traps that hold us in. It would mean not being attached to what cannot deliver the good and worthwhile.

Posted by: p on Saturday, 13 October 2007 at 7:19pm BST

"Am I saved?" seems as much (if not more) of a hopeless question to me as "does God exist?" - perhaps because I tend to associate the former with a Calvinistic kind of outlook that is concerned solely with personal salvation and utter human depravity. Neither predestination nor total depravity interest me in the slightest, so I am forced to reluctantly shrug when the whole question of individual salvation - my own or anyone else's - is raised. 'God knows' is perhaps the only sane reply to Gile's question. And for that reason, alone of the congregation perhaps, I will insist on singing: "Saviour, *IF* of Zion's city/ I by grace a member am...|"

Posted by: MRG on Sunday, 14 October 2007 at 2:25am BST

Gracious me: I'd never thought of Giles Fraser as an evangelical before. A welcome reminder not to automatically associate evangelical with Reform.

Posted by: John Omani on Sunday, 14 October 2007 at 5:03am BST

Sacks wrote “What we disagree with is not science but scientism, the belief that what we can see and measure is all there is.” “…We need to declare a truce in this war between two equally quintessential aspects of the human condition… Religion and science are like the two hemispheres of the brain, one analytical, the other integrative... Religion without science is blind to the workings of the world. Science without religion is deaf to the music of creation.” Amen.

I loved Giles Fraser’s jumpstart question “Are we saved?” He refers to Paul’s imagery that sin is a form of death. Amen. Look at narcissist s (inverted or overt). They are never satisfied, no matter how much they consume or how many with whom they engage.

Grace is having a sense of sufficiency, of abundance and faith. That does not mean having the most or having it all the time. Nor does it mean relying on a divine “fudge” to provide for future generations or the outcastes.

Look at how souls perceive Jesus and his atoning sacrifice. There are those who claim that Jesus was not the Messiah, that his life and sacrifice were insufficient for women, non-Christians, the unborn, or non-humans. They are the narcissist theologians who are never satiated, who never feel abundance and deny that it exists in others. Isn’t it funny how similar they sound to fundamentalist atheists who also deny others’ religious experiences?

Yet another two articles address the question of sufficiency. Do we really need to become indebted to provide the basics, and can we be satisfied when we are doing without? The more I hear about Ramadan, the more I like it. Yesuf tells us “The prophet Muhammad said, "If one is not willing to give up bad behaviour during his fast, God has no need for him to give up his food and drink." Muslims are encouraged during this time to be better people, to treat others with more deference.”

The flowering of Exeter’s carvings remind us that when we picture a piece of art, or read a piece of scripture, if we are ignorant of the important symbolism at the time of the artist’s creation, we can fail to recognise messages the artist wished to impart. One of my favourite examples is how souls do not realise the importance of Jesus’ making a point of lecturing in level places.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Sunday, 14 October 2007 at 10:02am BST

Ah, yes, "Are you saved". For me, it just shows that the person asking the question practices a kind of Christianity so different from anything I would recognize that it is practically a different religion. We don't ask the same questions, we don't even recognize the same issues, we don't see things the same way at all. I'd submit they aren't even using it in the way they will no doubt point out it is used in the Bible. Salvation ain't about getting away with crime, nor about being one of the chosen ones who gets to play in God's sandbox after you die.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 15 October 2007 at 2:02pm BST


"Ah, yes, "Are you saved". For me, it just shows that the person asking the question practices a kind of Christianity so different from anything I would recognize that it is practically a different religion."

And yet, are you not one of those here who often criticise modern society for its shallowness and self-centrered, rights driven approach to life? Is it not valid to say that faith gives one a different outlook on life, a deeper meaning, and that this meaning can be "salvation"?

I didn't think Giles Fraser used the word in the conventional "are you saved?" way at all

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 15 October 2007 at 6:57pm BST

Hi Ford

I empathise with your concern about excessively judgmental or selfish Christianity.

In Giles favour, he is a gentle soul and he was one of the first to prophetically denounce TEC's abdication as a line of guard to protect GLBTs from the New Orlean's meetings.

When such a person asks the question, it becomes a more contemplative question of from what am I saved or how am I saved.

The paper made me think about narcissm and things never being "good enough" or never "having enough".

There are souls who lack faith that Jesus' sacrifice was sufficient, so they seek to exclude some souls from grace, justifying continuing accusations against others (which might be some of the same subsets), and still cling to "taking" what they need because they don't trust in God to provide.

Jesus' sacrifice was complete in and of itself. It has to be unique, because if there needs to be a second one then the Accusser can start to have a market place haggle of how many souls are covered and under what conditions.

You then end up with the Jewish dilemma that "the" Messiah never comes, because they can never convince the nitpickers or stubborn that "the" Messiah is here. The same as we can never have peace if we demand no more bombs are dropped. The nasty and violent just have to keep on doing one more bomb to prove that tyranny is still far from us.

That is why I am so proud of the Muslims for their overtures of peace that they made at the end of last week. Gotta love them. They trust in God and they believe that the millenia of peace is possible, and when God throws them a ball, they see how far they can bat it. :-)

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Monday, 15 October 2007 at 9:06pm BST

If someone asks me "are you saved?" I answer, yes.

Because Jesus died to save me...and it doesn't require my acquiescence. Furthermore, I am baptized, by which I accepted that he acted for me...and that he "marked me as his own forever" (to use the words of the TEC prayer book).

If that's not a sufficient answer for the person asking, then I know that person has a far different (and inferior, IMO) understanding of Christianity than my own.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 16 October 2007 at 11:34am BST

Neither did I. I felt the article was taking much the same attitude to the question that I was, that it has become a mindless Fundamentalist catch phrase, really just a litmus test of whether or not one is among the Chosen. It is a far more complex question than that. It is not a badge of who's in and who's out. It is certainly not about whether or not God let's us play in His sandbox after we die if we have been obedient little boys and girls in this life, scuttling around in abject terror that He will fry us for the least infraction. To me the question reveals a lot about the asker, things that reveal their concept of Christianity to be very different from mine and which is, essentially, fundamentalist. I'm not sure what you are getting at. I agree with what you say about rights based modern life and deeper meaning coming from faith. That has been my experience.

Posted by: Ford elms on Tuesday, 16 October 2007 at 1:09pm BST

"I'm not sure what you are getting at"

I must have misunderstood your post. I thought you had suddenly put Giles Fraser in the stereotypical evangelical camp, whereas I had read his article nodding to myself all along.

I was really replying to your: "For me, it just shows that the person asking the question practices a kind of Christianity so different from anything I would recognize that it is practically a different religion", whereas I had particularly liked the way he first put the traditional question and then gave it a less traditional but much deeper answer.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 16 October 2007 at 7:54pm BST

Yes, the "Are you saved?" phrase (like so many other good ones) has seemingly been co-opted by the fundamentalists, but as Giles points out, it still has very real meaning (although I'm not sure that I would go along with his idea that it is the "first" question that should be asked...).

The Hebrew for "salvation" carries the implications of liberation, freedom, wide space, openness, unlimitedness, and that has always helped me in understanding how I am "saved".

Who was it who always replied to the question: "Yes, I have been saved; I am being saved; and I shall be saved."?

Posted by: John-Julian, OJN on Tuesday, 16 October 2007 at 10:05pm BST

You are hardly the first person I have confused with my verbal pomposity. My partner claims it's deliberate! One of the problems is that I keep forgetting that a keyboard doesn't relay tone of voice and facial expression all that well. It was more of an "Ah, yes, Giles, old boy, I know what you mean!" Sorry to be so obtuse.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 17 October 2007 at 12:39pm BST
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