Friday, 3 June 2011

Deep(ish) stuff from a wayward mind

My mind once again took to wandering off on its own paths despite the best efforts of Sunday's preacher (sorry!). We had a reading from John 14, including that well known phrase "I am the way", etc. This got me thinking - how often is this verse simply used (in evangelical circles at least) to bolster the idea that faith in Jesus is the only way to "get saved" and saying nothing about what happens "thereafter"? This tends in my mind to be a bit of a "get them inside the fold" mentality where Jesus as the "way" almost becomes merely a "gate" to get us in to eternal life. What if his being "the way" is referring to the way to live - how to be "fully human"? Maybe salvation should be conceived less in future terms and "getting a ticket" or the like and more as an ongoing reality with a future aspect. So, being saved is being (or growing to be) like Jesus as well as having faith in him. Perhaps I'm too pre-occupied with the imitation of Christ idea I'm toying with, but there seems to me to be a clear connection to this theme even in John 14:6.

Well, it would seem that my brain isn't the only one to wonder along such lines, as I found out when reading a really good little book this week "The Imitation of God in Christ" by E. J. Tinsley. It's not new, it's about 50 years old, but it is still great stuff. He links the "way" to the Old Testament calling on Israel to imitate God, actually translating Torah as something like "signpost". The constant theme to walk in the ways of God as embodied in Torah (which is narrative as well as legal, of course) finds fulfilment in Christ as he imitates and thereby reveals the Father. The NT then points to an imitation of Christ, which is not merely a copying but being conformed to Christ by the Spirit. Good, eh? If you want to know more, either read it or ask and I might blog a bit on it.

Brian Mclaren has also been thinking and writing about John 14:6, wondering if the exclusivist interpretation often encountered is really helpful or accurate. Not quite the same thing as I was wondering, but food for thought I suppose. Like Brian, though, I think it can be unhelpful to be so focussed on who is "in" or "out", rather than on getting on with actually being what God has called us to be - like Christ. Perhaps we should be less ready to pronounce with certainty who is "saved" - but then I ought to watch out perhaps as statements like that tend to get people in trouble.... (Mr Bell for example)!

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