At the end of my last post I asked the question, ‘what about those folk who have grown up in a Christian home and church environment and who have never consciously made a response to the Gospel – are they “saved”’? I am sure most Christians have at some time heard the statement that just because you live in a garage does not mean that you are a car. But why is it true that someone brought up in a Christian environment, and who conforms to the outward norms of Christianity, is not necessarily saved?
Ever since the enlightenment, and particularly since the reformation, the distinction between mind (soul) and spirit has become blurred and even non-existent. The early church theologians regarded human beings as triune creatures comprising body, soul, and spirit. However, modern theologians see human beings as dualities or even modalities – creatures comprised of a physical and a non-material aspect (spirit/soul) or beings where these aspects are so integrated that they constitute an undifferentiated whole. As a result of this type of thinking, many Christian teachers regard ‘salvation’ essentially as a change from one way of thinking to another. So, the presentation of the Gospel becomes a reasoned argument and a persuasive exercise, and salvation itself is seen as more an act of the human will than a supernatural act of God. Yes I know I might be oversimplifying things and that most evangelicals would not accept that they might be thinking this way. However, I do think that this is a definite underlying problem in much of today’s church.
|A few components of Salvation|
It is true that we need to change our minds about ourselves, God, and the need for salvation; this change of mind and heart is part of what we label ‘repentance’. It is also true that we need to exercise our wills to accept what Jesus has done for us and to ask him for a new spiritual life.
However, and this is a huge ‘however’, this is only the small ‘manward’ side of salvation, the simple response to what God has done and what he offers to do for us. The two overwhelmingly major components of our salvation are firstly what Jesus Christ did on the cross of Calvary to make our salvation even possible, and secondly what the Holy Spirit does in creating a new spiritual life within us. This miraculous act of creation is called the New Birth. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3), and again, “unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (vs. 5). Yet again Jesus said, “You must be born again.” (vs. 7).
A baby cannot be born without an actual, and most times traumatic, birthing experience. Babies do not slowly materialise until one day the surprised mother says “O look! It seems we have a child!” In similar fashion to be born again of the Spirit is a definite and momentous event – it is supernatural creative miracle!
I have written this post not just to answer the question concerning people who grow up in Christian environments but to draw attention to the deeper issue of recognising the new birth of the spirit as an essential and definitive Christian experience. Do you have any thoughts on this? If you do I would love you to comment on the blog.