I started following the Jesus Way in 1980. I was too late for that counter-culture charismatic religious event called the Jesus People Movement, and too early for any of the revivals that would later occur in the Vineyard and Hyper-Charismatic circles. This was much like the rest of my life. I am a product of the Baby Boom generation, but I was too young to remember where I was when Kennedy was assassinated. I was too little to hang out in Haight Ashbury. Even though I was frequently in the Bay Area when I eight to ten years old, I had no idea people were turning on, tuning in and dropping out. I missed Woodstock, and maybe that says it all. My head was underwater the entire time – literally. I was in a pool repeating laps, struggling to put a ball in a goal, or in the ocean trying my best to get pummeled by large waves. Needless to say, I have been late to the world my whole life.
By 1985, I was a young pastor in a small church, and over the next 32 years, I simply became an older pastor in a small church. I have seen the trends of soteriology in Christian circles over these 32 years, and with all of the changes that have occurred in evangelical theology, I find the movement toward an immediate soteriology to be one of the most dramatic changes. I think this transition in how the church thinks about salvation (sorry, definition is necessary here: soteriology – the doctrine of salvation), is one of the most fundamental changes.
Salvation was viewed as both a here and now, and a there and later experience in my charismatic/evangelical circles in 1985. To a certain degree, this still holds true today. Yet, saying that, there was a clear focus on the there and later element. Salvation was focused on getting to heaven, and my here and now life was informed by my understanding of the judgment of God that would come later. Skipping the pages of a 32 year transition, of which I would have far too much to write, we find ourselves in 2017, and many of the influential Christians I know have transitioned to a belief that here and now is the central focus of soteriology. God is about making us better people, and this a better world. Some have jettisoned the concept of eternal judgment altogether, and others have made the gospel and the work of salvation something that benefits the people and the planet here and now, with little focus on the hereafter.
This is not to say that everyone has made this transition in soteriology, but in the circles I dodder in, I have found that the here and now has taken the driver’s seat of soteriology. The ideas of judgment and heaven or hell are relegated to a few old “dotards” (word for the day, thanks to Kim Jong Un and the Korean News Service).
I for one still believe in the hereafter, and tend to navigate my life in reference to the fact that I will face God one day. This informs my activity from day to day. I live for now in the sense that making this world a better place now points us all to a better day down the road. Where do you stand in your soteriology? Do you see salvation as something focused on the future, or is God more concerned about the earth and its people here and now? Or perhaps you find yourself balanced between those two positions. Sound off!
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