In the Christian Church, I don’t care which denomination—it doesnt matter, they all share the same foundational metaphysics—what does it mean to be saved?
Now, you might think that this question is a prologue to a deep and meaningful disquisition of Christian soteriology. However, I can assure you that this is quite uneccesary…for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the vast majority of Christians find such a thing completely useless (and couldn’t even begin to comprehend it even if they wanted to…which they don’t). They fancy themselves far too divinely enlightened and practical (they are in fact neither) in their theology to bother with something quite this abstract. In this case, then, I will answer the question according to the “enlightened” and “practical” faith of the Christain church:
It means to believe in Jesus.
But that seems awfully vague, and it is, so we must press a little.
What does it mean, exactly, to believe in Jesus?
It means to renounce your sins and vow to obey God’s moral commands. It is a commitment to reject your “natural” self—your “pre-salvation” you—and to be “born again”.
Now, here is where the whole thing goes off the rails, wheels flying wildly in all directions. Because here we get into the metaphysics of it…though most Christians, to their own folly, don’t even recognize the word. And this is why discussing soteriology with Christians is a complete waste of time. The whole religion dissolves into mysticism; and “faith’ becomes an antonym to “reason” and “sensibility”. Interestingly enough, and sadly, this is also where Christianity goes completely extra-biblical…or anti-bibilcal, really. In other words, there is little to nothing of Christ in any of the Christian ideas one would normally associate with salvation .
The root assumption behind salvation in Christian theology (or rather, ideology) is that the “born-again” you is both fundamentally different from and fundamentally the same as the the “natural you”. And it is this metaphysical contradiction which undermines the faith, and reduces it to either quaint novelty (as in the Amish or Mennonites), anodyne and stultifying cynicism (“middle America” mainline churches) or mendacious, civilization-wrecking autocracy (Augustine, Luther, Calvin); and all degrees within and among these. You see, the “old you” by dint of birth is unable to please God due to the pervasive wickedness which is a function of your base existence, period. In other words, the very fact that you are is why you are evil and cannot please God naturally. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” the Chruch perversly and irrationally interprets to mean that the very birth of men condemns them to fall under God’s wrath. Man’s “original sin” is that he is born at all. You qua you—you as existant—is evil incarnate.
Of course Christians will take issue with my use of the world “interpret”, claiming that they are simply declaring what the Bible “plainly states”. But this comes from the false belief that what is written in the Bible is somehow immune from interpretation—that somehow the Bible is a closed system of meaning. That it’s a truth in and of itself and thus outside of man, and therefore it is a truth that man must be “enlightened to”, as opposed to something written specifically for him and from him and speaking to his particular existential frame of reference.
This is mystic nonsense—an iteration of Christianity’s pagan-gnostic roots. The Bible is written in language, and as such it is necessarily interpreted by those who posses the innate ability and inherent reference to give it meaning: man. Christians do not simply “declare” the Bible, despite what they may think and claim, they interpret it. And they do so badly.
So, prior to salvation you can do no good thing because of your fundamental depravity. Now, I understand Christians will object to this, arguing that, on the contrary, you can do good but that you have a “tendency” to “trend” (by which they mean inexorably) toward evil; however, this claim does not suffer rational scrutiny. You see, according to the metaphysics, man’s evil is not at root a function of what he does but what he is. And since what he is is evil, then all he does is evil by definition, no matter how “good” it may appear. Because man’s nature is utterly fallen, and “fallen” is the place from which all men are categorically spawned, there is no moral difference between the man who runs an orphanage and the man who burns one down. Both men are equally evil in root nature, both men require salvation in equal measure. and thus what they do must be morally valued equally. Ethics always follow metaphysics, and actions are valued by essence, NOT the other way around.
Man’s existential evil makes him unable to be good, which means that he cannot choose Christ…for such a choice, even if made by him, would necessarily be meaningless. Absolute Evil cannot conjoin with the perfect Good of God’s Son, no matter how much it wants or chooses to. A mystic conversion is the only “solution” to the existential conundrum in which man finds himself. Hence the get-out-of-reason-free cards of election and predestination. God arbitrarily—as far as man is concerned—chooses those who shall choose Him…and if this seems like good old fashioned contradiction, that’s because it is. So don’t waste your time trying to make sense of it. Those who are saved thus become “new creatures”, no longer defined by their collective existential depravity, but by their collective identity as “God’s chosen”. In other words, it has nothing to do with what a man chooses, individually, to do or not do, according to his own singular reference and volition of “I’ or “me”; no, his new identity in Christ is merely a function of some mystical and mysterious conversion from existential “evil” to existential “good”.
In as much as man’s “evil” has nothing to do with what he thinks about himself or does for himself from himself, but everything to do with simply what he is at root…his evil, thus, is in a sense “outside” of him. He has no choice in it…his choice is irrelevant. Everything he does is evil, no matter what it is, because he IS evil. And likewise his “new nature” in Christ—that is, it has nothing to do with him. What he chooses or thinks, in and of his own individual Self, is irrelevant to God’s determining power. Man is a bystander to both his damnation (from brith) and his salvation (from “new birth”). In this sense then, his salvation is collective, NOT individual. It is an Ideal into which he is gang-pressed, not a choice he makes for and from himself. The proof of his salvation is his membership in the Church; and the Church is the collective institution which is given the authority by God to manifest the salvation Ideal upon the earth.
So what does this mean post-salvation for the new Christian? They have been chosen…they are saved, no longer totally depraved, right? No longer victims of their natural, sinister, sinful selves. They are free…free to choose and do good, right?
Well, yes and no, and thus we have more of the same contradiction which undermines all rationality within Christianity. The same rational inconsistencies which plague pre-salvation man and his election unto and into Christ following him to salvation. Man is saved in spite of himself…he does not actually choose Christ because this requires a natural and innate ability to recognize good, to choose it, and to follow through with it, and this ability he does not have because he IS Evil. And this being the case, by what means or power can man, now saved, recognize and do any good thing? By the same power which saved him, of course—that is, God’s grace. Which of course, like salvation itself, has nothing fundamentally to do with man qua man. By ”God’s grace” Christians mean God’s absolute, all-pervasive power over all of Creation, to determine it to its inevitable divine conclusion. So the “good” that the saved man is, and the “good” he recognizes and obeys are an essence and action which are not really of him at all. In short, it’s fair to say that post-salvation man is still just as vile and wicked as he was pre-salvation. Nothing has changed but semantics. Man is not “changed”, but rather, “covered”, which is as close a euphemism as you can get I supppose.
When we are talking metaphysics…when we are talking about the very root essence of a thing, this essence is utter and absolute. It is not transmutable; it is not transient; it is fundamental. It is the infinite core of what a thing IS, by which it exists in reality in the first place. What a thing is existentially is that immutable core from which it exists, period. And thus “this” cannot become “that”. If man is evil, existentially, before salvation, then he is likewise evil, existentially, after. And there is no argument one can make to the contrary which is not ultaimtely going to be punted into the cosmic abyss of “God’s mystery”. There is no means except the surrendering of one’s sense where one can reasonably declare that Absolute A becomes Absolute B.
And Christians know this, at least on some level, which is why they insist that even the saved can still commit sin. You get sin from where? Sin nature. Otherwise, it’s not sin, its just bad or immoral action. To describe an act of sin is to describe the act according to a nature that pervades man at his very root. Christianity recognizes that man’s immutable sin nature follows him into his salvation, which is why the church encourages the laity to “preach the Gospel to themselves every day”. Even Christians need to be reminded how they can do no good thing, and to recognize salvation as a life of “grace”, not individual and volitonal moral living, as though man is capable of such a thing. Try being a Christian and taking credit for any moral or rational choice, and proclaiming that you thus justly earn the reward of such a choice. You will be patently and shamelessly accused of rank heresy on the spot…of ignoring or being blind to God’s grace. Though, to be fair, they may say it nicely. But keep it up and see what happens. Christians have short patience for rejections of “grace”.
Christians never dawdle in reminding each other that it is foolish pride for them to consider the idea that they, at any time, pre or post-salvation, possess any inherent ability to do any good thing. Indeed, the mark of a false Christian is one who believes that he is somehow good in himself. He is not. He is evil. His salvation was God’s mysterious grace, and likewise whatever good he does or befalls him after salvation is entirely a product of that same grace. Man’s nature never fundamentally changes. He is saved entirely in spite of himself, and likewise his salvation is “worked out” in spite of himself. In other words, there is nothing of You qua You that has anything at all to do with why God chose to save you, and how God manifests this salvation in your life. You qua You—the “I” of “My Self”—is utterly evil, and thus must be completely sidelined before, during, and after salvation.
So back to our original question: What does it mean to be saved?
Well, the real answer is that it means nothing for YOU, because YOU are nothing. You qua You—You, the Individual—are exchanged for the collective Ideal of what it means to be “Christian”. “Christian” is a collective. “You” are now an indistinguishable component of the Church, which is the physical incarnation of the Ideal. “You” have been aborted by the metaphysics. Only the Collective matters.
This is salvation.
And this is a lie.