Friday, April 26, 2013

No Reserve 'Chute?

No, you didn't somehow stumble onto a skydiving blog. No Reserve 'Chute is about Christianity and, well, controversy. Mostly, the significant controversies surrounding the doctrine of salvation. And you can't discuss the doctrine of salvation without diving into issues like Calvinism and Arminianism and free will and God's sovereignty and, well, I could go on.

So here's the basic idea behind the title: A skydiver relies on his parachute to get him to the ground safely after he has flung himself out of a perfectly good airplane thousands of feet above the ground. If he hits the ground without a chute, he will die instantly. Skydivers' lives are at stake. An improperly packed 'chute or damaged hardware could lead to disaster. So, it's a good context in which to discuss the idea of "trust" and consider how that might relate to the concept of the gospel as presented in the New Testament. More on that shortly…

The subtitle says "Christian Apologetics From a Free Grace Perspective." Christian Apologetics is a discipline oriented toward giving a reasoned defense for Christianity. And there are many 'reasoned defenses' to be given. But somehow theology, and the doctrine of salvation in particular, gets left out of discussions about apologetics. And that strikes me as a little odd because salvation and the gospel is really the core of Christianity. And if we can't take a stand on that, if we say those details don't really matter and we can just "agree to disagree" about, for example, whether a person can lose their salvation, then why learn about defending the Christian faith? You'd think there's nothing important to defend.

"Free Grace" is a term for a theological system which affirms faith alone in Christ alone, and actually means it. Most folks within the Free Grace movement would understand that there are deep flaws in aspects of Arminianism and Calvinism both, and that asking, "Which is right, Arminianism or Calvinism?" is a false dichotomy. There are more than two options.

Back to the parachute metaphor: In numerous places in the New Testament, Jesus and the New Testament writers implore their audiences to "believe" in Jesus Christ, and that those who do will be saved from eternal separation from God and will receive, as a free gift, eternal life.

Well, the word translated "believe" in many of these passages is the Greek verb "pisteuo" and this word conveys the idea of trust or reliance. And the title of this blog connects with that in what I think is an interesting way.

A skydiver knows his life is at stake. He knows something could go wrong with his main chute. And so, as a "B plan," he carries a reserve chute which he can deploy in case of trouble. This reveals something important: The skydiver does not trust his main chute, and we know this because we see that he carries a reserve. You show me a skydiver who jumps with only one chute--with no reserve 'chute--and I'll show you a skydiver who really trusts that one parachute.

I'm convinced that if skydiving had been a sport during the 1st century A.D., Greek-speaking people of that day would have used the word "pisteuo" to describe the skydiver's reliance on his parachute.

There's an expression in Christianity that encapsulates how salvation is received… I've already invoked it once just in this introduction. That expression is "Faith alone in Christ alone." But what does it mean? Well, I'm convinced it means that God is inviting us to jump out of the plane with no reserve chute. He wants us to trust in or rely on Jesus Christ completely, without relying on anything else in addition to that. Not our works, not our obedience, not our commitment, not our promises, not our performance. It's not that we shouldn't do good works or be obedient or any of that, it's just that we shouldn't rely on those things for our salvation. But it's quite common today to hear that if you're performing poorly, if you lack works and if you're disobedient beyond some undefined threshold, you should doubt your salvation. Likewise, if you're performing well, if your good works are plentiful, then your salvation is rendered more certain. But this is what it looks like to rely on your own performance. It's a kind of reserve 'chute.

Within Christianity everyone seems to give lip service to the idea of "faith alone in Christ alone," but is that all it is? If we examine popular Christian teaching carefully, will we find a genuine commitment to the idea of "faith alone in Christ alone," or will we find many popular Christian authorities mouthing those words one minute, while instructing us to pack a reserve chute the next?

Call me crazy, but if we're going to learn to give a "reasoned defense" for Christianity, then I think we should understand just exactly what we're defending. And that means examining the issue of faith and works more critically in addition to all the standard topics you're likely to find in discussions about apologetics.

1 comment:

  1. Great introduction, Pete. I believe you're on the right track with the reserve chute metaphor.

    I'm not adding to what you've said, but reading it prompted me to think about why believers trust God and why we don't trust our main chutes.

    It necessarily implies that we understand that we are imperfect, that we can make mistakes, and in order to counter our imperfections, we must rely on things such as reserve chutes.

    It also necessarily implies that in order to truly trust God, we must believe he is truly perfect. It is the only way for one to have complete faith in someone else, and God is the only entity that we, as believers, understand to be perfect.