cjbanning: (St. Thomas)
[personal profile] cjbanning
Is X necessary for salvation?

In some ways, there's a tension between two ways of asking this question, revolving around what we mean by "necessary" and what we mean by "salvation." The question "is X necessary for salvation?" where salvation is defined as "not going to Hell" is, essentially, an attempt to game the system: it's trying to find out what's the absolute least we have to do without "losing the game," so to speak. For those of us who find the doctrine of eternal damnation problematic to begin with, it's asking the wrong question.

(On reflection, it's not eternal damnation per se which is the problem so much as the Reformation doctrine that we inherently deserve eternal damnation as a result of our total depravity, rather than damnation being something we bring onto ourselves by actively and knowingly opposing God and separating ourselves from God. I think the latter understanding is perfectly compatible with the orthodox understanding of original sin being our tendency to choose evil as a result of our wounded--but not totally depraved--nature, and with a robust counter-Pelagianism.)

The other way of asking the question is "what am I called to do in order to become my most authentic self (as a Christian)?" (where "becoming my most authentic self" is essentially what we mean by salvation) without assuming that falling short of becoming our most authentic selves is going to result in us being poked by pitchforks forever and ever, amen. In response to that question, I don't think there's anything absurd in noting that Church tradition is fairly clear in teaching (for example) that, yes, "a pubic display in which a little cup of water is poured upon your head" (whether as a child or an adult, and of course never denying that full immersion represents a valid sacrament as well) is necessary, that baptism by water is the fullest and best enactment of the sacramental infusion of regenerative grace, a good and rightful and necessary thing.
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My Prayer

"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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