Originally I started this note by calling it: Saved by Grace - or by correct beliefs?
It’s bigger than that however…
For whatever reason, I checked out a site I used to participate in – until I left because it seemed so contentious. A particular thread caught my eye so I started reading. And sure enough the ‘ol blood pressure began to rise as many of the same old voices argued the same stuff they were debating 2 years ago when I left. Ridicule, sarcasm, snideness, insults, a certain strain of pretentious piety, all drenched in a sort of condescending arrogance and, for lack of a better word, ego. A general aura of “how on earth could any even a marginally intelligent person believe THAT!” Can’t they see the obvious truth??
Ahhh yes – I mused – the body of Christ…
Sincere (I’ll assume all were sincere) and certain (they all sounded like they were) and brimming with confidence that their views were the correct way to apprehend God and His desires for and dealings with men, it was hard to miss the underlying impression that one is saved by right thinking; by correct convictions; by picking the right combination of words and phrases to express truths. And the best way to understand truth, real truth, is to understand and embrace the way THEY saw things… And I lived anew the reasons I left that “fellowship”.
Early on in my discovery of God, of the wonders of the Christ, I read Brennan Manning and wondered when he called God the great iconoclast. We build images and ideas of God that are good and helpful. But they are not God; they are mere idols and must be smashed to smithereens by God. For no words, no theology, is adequate to contain the full reality of who God is. Visions thus shattered, we start afresh and build better ideas, with better words and deeper understandings. But they too are of course inadequate to contain and encompass almighty God. So they too must be shattered. And the sacred process of defining and comprehending God all over again begins anew.
And reading my old site confirmed for me the wisdom Manning was trying to share. Ideas and words and beliefs do not save; for by grace you have been saved – and that not of yourselves (or all your “correct beliefs”) – it is the gift of God that saves.
As I see things, the ones who naturally understand this concept best, and most naturally, are believers in Universal Restoration. The saving is God’s work alone; at which He is utterly indiscriminate. Of course ideas have varying degrees of merit and validity; some are simply better than others. But all our ideas and words fall far far short of the reality that is God. And God will not let, forever, our imperfect language and constrained notions of Him define Him. UR, it seems to me, has an inbuilt mechanism by which to grasp that reality.
Grace then simply cannot be constrained and it alone is the vehicle of our salvation. To posit a force, or power, or capability that can overcome and defeat grace (be it fallen “free will” or the intractability of sinful minds or whatever,) simply does not comport with my understanding of grace.
Grace; both the reason for and the means of our salvation. Mysterious to be sure. But any explanation of Grace that does not recognize UR, is simply penurious (great word meaning miserly; poverty stricken… long story!) and does not accept Grace’s proper scope and depth.
In ever deepening awe of the implications of Universal Reconciliation/Restoration,