Monday, June 5, 2017

A Contractual View of the Gospel

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mulad/5061213382/

Many evangelicals have a contract mentality about salvation, that salvation is a matter of quid pro quo, of this for that. They have simply exchanged the contract of works for the contract of faith. In the works contract, God says, “If you do this (works), I will save you; if you do not, I will send you to hell.” In the faith contract, God says, “If you do this (faith), I will save you; if you do not, I will send you to hell.”

Some have tried to simplify this contract as much as possible, and it becomes all-important to them that they get the terms of the contract right (terms such as “repentance” and “faith”), that they are understood correctly, because heaven and hell are seen to hang in the balance. In that context, the idea of certainty becomes paramount for them. Or in the parlance of my former tribe, it is “knowing for sure that you will go to heaven when you die.” And if you are not certain, it is likely that you have not properly understood the terms of the contract, and your soul may be in great danger.

The problem with this whole way of thinking is that it remains nonetheless about a contract. But the truth of the gospel is that God does not deal with us according to any contract, neither one of works nor even one of faith. God deals with us according to Christ, and our inclusion in him through his Incarnation. But when we make the gospel about contract, or about the certainty of going to heaven, we have displaced Christ. And instead of seeing him as our desired end, we have made him merely the means to our desired end, a ticket to our destination of choice — and that is an idolatry.