Willimon on Salvation as a Theological Narrative, not Anthropological

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A commentator noted a few of these posts ago that Willimon liked Narrative Theology. I am not always a fan of any theology which seems to force Scripture interprets Scripture as the only means of interpretation, however, which Narrative Theology, on the surface, seems to enforce. I do, however, like a theology which can take the whole of Christian canonical experience and create a story, but without prohibiting the free study of the individual parts. I’m not sure where Willimon fits into this quandary here, but in this chapter (3), he does use Narrative Theology to tell the story of Salvation.

He begins with the statement that, “Salvation is God’s projection of God’s desires upon us.” Agreed. He moves to write, “Salvation is the story, the whole story, from beginning to end, the discernible shape of the narrative that is being told by God, not just the end of the story.” Agreed, doubly so. I note that many view salvation as a one time moment in their particular history, in that they have a religious experience or moment of compunction and declare themselves saved, but (and I think that this is where Willimon’s nascent Wesleyanism comes in at) salvation is a long, broad path which the Christian journeys upon to a final destination which is really just the beginning. In the back of my mind is Paul who writes of having been saved (past), of being saved (present), and of being saved (future). Paul, Wesley, Barth and now Willimon are saying nothing different – that salvation, having already occurred at the Cross is now something people are called to participate in, but that there will be a final realization of it in the Eschaton.

Willimon says something else though, something that I find particularly intriguing today. He says that we have been taught to listen to “Scripture anthropologically rather than theologically.” He’s right. Often times I hear well intentioned people saying, “How does Scripture speak to me?” or “what does this mean today?” Instead, Willimon what us to understand that Scripture is not about us, but about God and then, only because Scripture is it about God, it turns to us. Scripture is not speaking to us as Dagon, but it is God’s story which we are invited to listen too.

For Willimon, Salvation is a Comic Event (Christus Victor?) which is only something that God can accomplish. The more I read Willimon and others, the more I come to see Salvation as indeed a past event, decided already, for everyone, at the Cross. While it is an on going ‘Mass’, it is forever set in History, and yet above History. It is something we are called to participate in, but we cannot validate it or ’cause’ it or even ‘accept’ it. In my opinion, any of these actions would take Salvation out of hands of God and put it into our hands, as if we can somehow either cause it or prevent it. I would agree with Willimon, that God’s desire is one which reaches from Genesis 1 and 2 (more 2 than 1 in my opinion) and completed at Golgotha. He writes, “The restless Creator became the relentless Redeemer. The Redeemer is the same fabricator of the chaos whom we met as Creator. The work of the cosmic Christ is cosmic salvation.”

From here, he knows the question which will be asks and goes to answer it, “Is the hope of universal restoration, the hope that all people will be saved – that hell will not be eternal and that God will eventually be “all in all” (1 Cor 15.28) – a legitimate Christian hope?” Well, is it? (He answers it, but you, what do you say?)

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