Written on January 15th, 2007 by Shawn Anthony
My readings in Classic Anabaptist theology have led me to the following articulate statement re: Christian Soteriology offered by C. Arnold Snyder in a work titled Following in the Footsteps of Christ: The Anabaptist Tradition. It says, simply:
At the heart of the Anabaptist world-view is a human problem: self-willed human alienation from God, and a steadfast denial that there is any such problem. Equally disastrous, they believed, were the humanly pleasing inventions that purported to solve the problem of human alienation and disobedience, but actually only made things worse. There is a clearly marked way to salvation, back from the path to perdition, they believed, and that path back to God is clearly described in both Old and New Testaments - properly read and understood. The ‘fear of God’ is the biblical door that stands at the beginning of the path back to God because it describes the necessary attitude and frame of mind needed to get reality back into proper focus.
The Christian realizes his/her need for salvation. Too, it is a realization founded upon the idea that we all are in need of actually being saved from something seriously detrimental. The Christian believer understands the reality and ramifications of our obviously broken human condition. Sin is the problem! The question then becomes one re: a proper and authentic cure. What or who will save us from this condition of self-will? Only One will save: Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Lord and Savior!
I think those living in our present postmodern context (at least in North America) are more likely to understand and acknowledge this condition of ours as reality when it is described in tangible terms of alienation and disobedience, or ’self-willed human alienation from God’. I think this language properly identifies our universal human condition in a contextual and Biblical fashion while simultaneously pointing toward the foundational “Sin” problem that is its ultimate catalyst.
Self-willed alienation and disobedience resonates with people today, and personally so, in spite of the embrace of all things relative. We all bend away from God and lean toward self-reliance upon our own will and capabilities, regardless of how limited each are in reality.
Secularism is but a symptom of this dedication to self-will. The New Age movement and its self-help para-ministries are too. The blind, reckless and hell-bent effort to pack all religions under one tiny, egalitarian-friendly tent in spite of an insurmountable number of damning philosophical and theological self-contradictions is one more. Witchcraft - which is gaining slight popularity in the US today, thanks largely to a few curious but short-lived peeks by uncommitted outsiders and Unitarian Universalism - epitomizes the human penchant for self-will through spells and incantations meant and designed to accomplish predetermined goals via a supernaturalism existing apart from the One True God. Even liberal ‘Christians’ will have to admit that their modified idea of salvation is nothing more than humanism decorated with a few historically familiar Christian words and phrases. Yes, today, self-willed disobedience reigns. It saturates our land.
All of this self-willed disobedience and the resultant alienation created between a people and their God is a terrible shame. It is a terrible shame because God desires a people who depend upon Him and Him alone for all that they need, so that He might actually provide for them that which they need, and bless them. We should be going to God with our needs and desires. We should be leaning upon Him for our daily sustenance. Jesus of Nazareth was not suggesting that we all pray a new prayer when he taught us to pray “… give us today our daily bread.” No, it is not a new theme at all! This thoroughly theological theme is key to both Testaments of the Bible.
Self-will is direct disobedience to God. The attempt to fix the problems created by a reliance upon self-will through more self-will does nothing but create even more problems! So, what is the solution for our broken human condition? Jesus Christ! We must all reach a point in our lives when we simply and humbly bow and let God be God in and over our lives. There is no other way.
Do we work? Yes, of course we work. Do we progress and advance forward? Yes, of course we progress and advance too. However, we do it all while in a right relationship with God, and for the glory of God. We do it all as we simultaneously dance and celebrate with Him … for being our All in All. Yes, God is our All in All!