Review: Images of Salvation in the New Testament

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If you have read N.T. Wright and William Willimon, then you know that modern theologians are no longer concerned with one particular image, or imaging, of salvation in the New Testament, almost diving into the current trend of Scripture arguing with Scripture. Instead they offer an amendment to that discourse in that theologians now simply allow for different literary techniques to be employed to tell the greater story. Colijn’s great wealth as presented in this book is to compile the recent discussions on these images into one account which bears great interest for those tempted to repeatedly exchange their theological currency, inflating and thus deflating other marketable images. Instead, she is able to easily show that the various images of salvation aren’t opposed to one another, but instead, presents a salvic mosaic which helps to increase the reader’s literary participation in the epic which is the Gospel story. Using not only recent scholarship, but an acknowledged command of literary usage and the Greek language, Colijn is able to build a cohesive image of salvation – that no one pictured satisfied the ancient writers.

My one real issue with her book is that it is often times a restating of recent scholarship. Is this a real problem? Not really, especially when she is able to show that these images are not competing against each other, but completing one another. Her entire understanding of the existence of these images is bound up in the notion that salvation is too great of an event to cast in only one literary image by the authors (p13-14). Instead, she maintains that we cannot limit our understanding of what salvation means to one image, but we have to be ready to allow for often times more than one in order to fully express our current view of salvation. She is right, of course, that the ‘New Testament images of salvation tell a single story – the story of God’s love for his broken creation, his desire for covenant relationship, and his patient shaping of a people who would reflect his love to one another and to the world. (p313)’ In telling this story, she is able to deal easily enough with Justification, New Creation, Reconciliation (my big three), Election, Theosis, and Sanctification, among a few others. These are the images she sees and these are the images she believes tells us what has happened through Christ. She isn’t wrong.

While this book doesn’t break a lot of new ground, and indeed, her index of authors provides support that she is compiling more than she is telling, what is important here is that she is able to place one view of salvation next to the other, not as a slight or an argument against, but an argument for. This is important to modern theologians as often times, they are falling into the same compartmental patterns that their fore-bearers fell into -  that only one image is right or necessary. Colijn’s book must be used in the formation of young theologians and clergy as well while they are attempting to find their own theological footing. Let them search for their theologia crucis, indeed, but a work like this shows that one image along shouldn’t be a bedrock or singular perspective, but rather perhaps a hermeneutic focus. In that, while Coljin often repeats current scholarly and theological trends, she is able to showcase the mosaic splendor of a life led in Christ – wherein one set of words can barely describe the joy which salvation truly brings.

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Post By Joel Watts (9,927 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, working on the use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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