Disenchanted Salvation: Part 3, A Spirit-Less Salvation

Over the last few years, having made a close study of Paul, especially Romans 5-8, along with reading more from the church fathers, it's increasingly clear to me how vital a part the Holy Spirit plays in our salvation. I've been writing more about more about this, the role of the Spirit in salvation. Last fall I did a six-part series entitled "The Spirit is Salvation" drawing out this connection.

Summarizing, if you read Romans 5-8 it's clear that we're saved by the Spirit when the Spirit joins with our mortal flesh, thereby overcoming our vulnerability to Sin and Death. This was also the understanding of the church fathers. Our fundamental predicament is mortal corruptibility--death--and the Spirit gives us the supernatural power and (meta)physical constitution to overcome this corruptibility.

To revisit the point I made in Part 1, another reason forensic visions of salvation, such as penal substitutionary atonement, disenchanted our visions of salvation is that they removed the Holy Spirit from the picture. In the forensic visions of salvation all that is required is "forgiveness," and that drama takes places within the heart of God. The Holy Spirit has no part to play. The only thing required is the sacrifice of Jesus which "allows" God to forgive us. In the forensic views of salvation the drama is wholly between the Father and the Son. The Spirit isn't involved.

All that to say, if we want to recover a properly biblical vision of salvation we need to recover the central role the Spirit plays in giving us the supernatural power and constitution to overcome Sin and Death. Biblically, salvation isn't just about forgiveness, it's also about mortal weakness and incapacity. As the church fathers pointed out, God might forgive you, but that doesn't change the vulnerability of your mortal flesh to the forces of Sin and Death! Something has to change your very being if you want to be fully saved and liberated from Sin and Death.

But here's our trouble. Due to pervasive disenchantment in many sectors of Christianity, we lack the ability to embrace this more enchanted vision of salvation. How many Christians believe that the Holy Spirit has made them a new creation, as in literally a new creation? You were once one sort of being, and now you're a different sort of being. An ontological break has occurred. You're not just forgiven, you've been materially changed. How many Christians believe that the Holy Spirit has changed their very being, transforming their mortal flesh into something physically different? (Think: the transfiguration of Jesus.)

Because of pervasive disenchantment, this view of salvation is so foreign and hard for us--that the Spirit transforms and recreates our physical substance--that most Christians haven't even considered it, and likely can't even imagine it. I bet most of you are scratching your heads right now. Is Richard really saying what I think he's saying? And yet, this is the Christian vision of salvation.

You're not just forgiven. You're a new creation.

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