Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The consumer salvation

The Myth [of Christian Uniqueness] celebrated a decisive move beyond exclusivism, and beyond the inclusivism which acknowledges the saving work of Christ beyond Christianity, to a pluralism which denies any uniqueness to Jesus Christ. This move, the "crossing of the Rubicon," is the further development of what was described by John Hick as a Copernican revolution - the move from a christocentric view of reality to a theocentric one (Hick, God and the Universe of Faiths). The further move is described as "soteriocentric"- it has its center in the common quest for salvation. Even the word "God" excludes some concepts of the Transcendent Reality and is therefore exclusivist. But what is "salvation"? It is, according to Hick, "the transformation of human experience from self-centred-ness to God-or Reality-centredness" (Myth, p. 23). The Christian tradition affirms that this salvation has been made possible because God, the creator and sustainer of all that is, has acted in the historical person of the man Jesus to meet us, take our burden of sin and death, invite us to trust and love him, and so to come to a life centered in God and not in the self. The authors of the Myth deny this. "Reality" is not to be identified with any specific name or form or image or story. Reality "has no form except our knowledge of it." Reality is unknowable, and each of us has to form his or her own image of it. There is no objective reality which can confront the self and offer another center-as the concrete person of Jesus does. There is only the self and its need for salvation, a need which must be satisfied with whatever form of the unknown Transcendent the self may cherish. The movement, in other words, is exactly the reverse of the Copernican one. It is a move away from a center outside the self, to the self as the only center. It is a further development of the move which converted Christian theology from a concern with the reality of God's saving acts, to a concern with "religious experience," the move which converts theology into anthropology, the move about which perhaps the final word was spoken by Feuerbach who saw that the "God" so conceived was simply the blown-up image of the self thrown up against the sky. It is the final triumph of the self over reality. A "soteriocentric" view makes "reality" the servant of the self and its desires. It excludes the possibility that "reality" as personal might address the self with a call which requires an answer. It is the authentic product of a consumer society.

Lesslie Newbigin. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, pages 168-9
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