Transcendence and Salvation

I have written a great deal about God's transcendence over the last few years, describing how God exists differently from objects within the world. 

In his book Christ on Trial Rowan Williams reflects upon how transcendence affects our visions of salvation. Just like we can't imagine how God exists given God's difference, in a similar way there is an element of surprise in how God saves us. If God exists differently from creatures then God saves differently from creatures as well. For example, we might have a notion about what rescue, peace, and security look like in our lives and therefore expect that God's saving must be of the same sort. But if God is transcendent, the rescue, peace, and security he provides will be other and radically different. 

Our vision of salvation gets distorted, according to Williams, when we posit some creaturely vision of salvation and then demand that God give us that. Such a salvation inevitably keeps us trapped in the patterns of this world. God's salvation becomes substituted for my own wants, desires, dreams and wishes. Salvation becomes my vision of winning the lottery. But that is not what we encounter in Christ, especially when we encounter him on the cross. 

Even more importantly, this view of transcendence keeps us from instrumentalizing faith and God. When faith becomes a tool for bringing about some reward I envision for myself, God becomes a means rather than the end of salvation. A truly transcendent vision of salvation pursues God for God's own sake, in God's radical otherness, and not as some tool to obtain some other good or reward.  

Williams describing these points:
[T]he challenge remains, to re-imagine what it is for God to speak to us as God--not as a version of whatever makes us feel secure and appears more attractive than other familiar kinds of security. For if our talk about God is a religious version about human safety, the paradox is that it will fail to say anything at all about salvation. It will not have anything to do with what is decisively and absolutely not the way of this world.

Religious speculation talks a good deal about transcendence...[But] we cannot properly think of transcendence merely by projecting what we know and what seems to help and reassure us to the highest point imaginable. Transcendence meets us, and surprises us, when we are shown simply that the way of the world is not the final and exclusive truth...[What we sense as] good, holy and merciful just is what it is, for its own sake; it has its substance in itself, not in its dependence on any outcome. It is not a strategy for attaining something other than itself; it needs nothing else. When the vanquished and tortured man in the Gospel story says 'I am' to his tormentors, he claims exactly that character of independence--he is something that is for its own sake and needs no justification.

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