New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Password:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:
 
 
Comment >

Giles Fraser: When the real question is: ‘Are you saved?’

Earlier this year, John Humphrys and I had a mammoth argument about God around his kitchen table. This is a person who has tried extremely hard to find and understand faith (Books, Interview, 5 October).

Faith is something he admires in others. But he cannot get there intellectually. He cannot believe, simply because he finds the whole God thing incredible. So, after endless looping circles of discussion, the question of whether there is a God reached a predictable stand-off.

Then I suggested that we had begun the whole conversation in the wrong place. The reason I am an Evangelical of sorts is that I believe the first question of theology is not the philosophical question: “Does God exist?” but rather the existential question: “How are we saved?” — or, to make it more direct, personal, and uncomfortable: “Are you saved?”

Of course, this raises the question of what we mean by salvation. What are we saved from? The answers to this have been many and various: saved from death, from error, or self, suffering, sin, meaninglessness, or oppression. The list goes on.

St Paul runs sin and death together. We are saved from sin/ death, because sin is a form of death. Real sin — rather than the watered-down, overly sexualised version we too often employ as a substitute — is cold, and hollow, and meaningless. Hence it is death. Furthermore, real sin is not a terribly religious thing. One does not have to be a believer to feel threatened by the deathly chill of human self-absorption.

So the question of salvation, the first question of theology, is something like this: have I found a way to be released from the sin/death composite, or am I trapped by it? It begins with a sense of one’s own captivity, and how incredibly difficult it is to free oneself when one is for ever being sucked back into sin, like being sucked into quicksand. It was no surprise to me that the question of salvation jump-started our ailing conversation around the kitchen table. Suddenly, we seemed to be talking about something that really counted.

Although my background is in philosophy, I am at one with Luther when he wrote: “I believe I owe it to the Lord to bark against philosophy, and speak words of encouragement to holy scripture.” If we turn the question of God into a philosophical question concerning God’s existence, we have chosen the wrong terrain for the whole debate. In doing that, we ensure that God will never be found.

The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Team Rector of Putney. His most recent book is Christianity with Attitude (Canterbury Press, £9.99 (CT Bookshop £9); 978-1-85311-782-4).

Top feature

Ebola virus: ‘impact is still real’

Ebola virus: ‘impact is still real’

Sierra Leone is officially free of the Ebola virus, but the devastation caused by the disease has left lasting scars. Molly Hodson visited the country to see how it is coping  Subscribe to read more

Top comment

It's both hands together

Christianity needs political visibility on both Left and Right if it is to remain untainted by partisan associations, says Nick Spencer  Subscribe to read more

Thu 28 Jul 16 @ 19:23
Church news, features, jobs and appointments on your iPhone or iPad: https://t.co/6tMbLla2P3

Thu 28 Jul 16 @ 16:37
In tomorrow's paper: clergy wear, the Sisters of Bethany at 150 & finding prophets: https://t.co/O0XrBsvndI https://t.co/Zy6x4IMDT7