Disenchanted Salvation: Part 2, Salvation as Social Justice

In the last post I discussed how forensic notions of salvation disenchanted the more enchanted Christus Victor visions of salvation. And yet, even those forensic visions of salvation, like penal substitutionary atonement, can still be too enchanted for many disenchanted Christians.

Penal substitutionary atonement might have pushed the drama of salvation into the heart of God, but what if you struggle to believe in God?

In that instance, salvation has to become a 100% "this-worldly" human affair, a purely political vision of emancipation. Basically, I think doubt and disenchantment about God is one of the reasons liberal, progressive Christians are so attracted to liberation theology. Salvation just is social justice.

To be very, very clear, I think the clear witness of Scripture is that salvation involves and demands social justice. If you are not agitating for social justice you're not involved in God's mission to restore all things.

That said, what happens when salvation reduces to social justice, with no remainder? What happens when salvation just is defeating and eliminating oppression on the earth?

Well, I think we know that answer, don't we? Doesn't a wholly politicized vision of salvation tend toward utopian revolutionism? Taking, controlling and deploying power to eliminate and eradicate evil?

All that to say, if salvation is the Revolution I think we're going to have some problems. To be clear, this isn't a reason to care less about social justice, just the suggestion that salvation might mean more than social justice. I don't want to minimize the footprint of social justice in our visions of salvation. It's just the opposite actually, I'd like to see more emphasis upon it. But along with that increased emphasis I'd also like to see a bigger, more robust vision of salvation to house and guide our social justice efforts.

But my concern is this: That bigger, more expansive view of salvation is likely going to pull in more enchantment. There's more to salvation than putting oppressors in their place. There's standing, for example, alongside all of humanity, as a forgiven sinner at the foot of the cross. And there's something in that experience of grace that breaks and softens your heart. The enchantment of grace humanizes you.

And that enchantment just might be exactly what the Revolution so desperately needs.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply