What is Salvation?

Autumn Reflections Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

Autumn Reflections Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

What is salvation? What does it mean to be saved? Indeed how is one saved?

To the best of my knowledge, the idea of salvation through faith came from the early Christian church. It appears to be a purely Christian idea. There are a number of different interpretations of what salvation means. Perhaps the most popular view is that Jesus, through his suffering and death, saved us from punishment by God for our sins. An extension of this in some Christian sects is that one can be saved only through faith in Jesus the Savior.

My concern about such beliefs is that some people, believing that they are assured of salvation by their faith, might consciously or subconsciously begin to think that how they live their life is not so important. Salvation by faith in Christ also implies exclusivity and favoritism of one group over another by God. This is not logical; God loves all of His children.

The above view of “salvation” would seem to relieve believers from accountability for their actions through intervention by someone or some thing outside of themselves. Consequently, there would be no need for one to take responsibility for wrongdoing because they would be forgiven by virtue of their religious faith.

This does not withstand the test of reason, because it suggests that it doesn’t matter what one may do since salvation would avoid retribution in the afterlife. However, without consequences for wrongdoing, there would be no learning, no incentive for change, and therefore, no spiritual progression.

In fact, I question whether faith in God has anything to do with whether or not one will find the Kingdom of Heaven. Rather, I believe what is important and essential is how one lives their life and the degree to which they are able to express their spirit. It is my belief that one has to live a life of love, compassion, and virtue to experience the Kingdom of God. In other words, entry into the Kingdom of Heaven does not rely on particular religious beliefs, but rather on one’s thoughts and actions.

Further, if we are to be “saved” from our transgressions, then we must save ourselves through right action and change. One’s belief in the Kingdom of Heaven and the divinity within us should be motivators for self improvement and actuation of the spirit. Jesus made it clear that following the spiritual laws that he taught and demonstrated about how to live and how to treat others are what will reveal the Kingdom of Heaven that exists inside each and everyone of us.

“All that is composed shall be decomposed.”

Omega Swan Nebula, Credit: NASA, ESA and J. Hester (ASU)

Omega Swan Nebula, Credit: NASA, ESA and J. Hester (ASU)

In the traditional or canonical gospels found in the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus or Yeshua, his Aramaic name, gives us a wonderful way of looking at spirituality and how to live a truly spiritual life. There are other records of the teachings of Yeshua that were excluded from the Bible. They are referred to collectively as the Gnostic gospels. I found three: The Gospel of Phillip, The Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.

After reading all three, the first thing that struck me was that they were almost completely devoid of stories about miracles. Instead they were composed of what we might call the wisdom or sayings of Yeshua. I saw nothing heretical about them; rather, they provided additional teachings to compliment those in the Bible. The three gospels provided a great deal of food for thought concerning spirituality.

None more so than the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. It was frustrating to learn that ten of the pages are missing. Frustrating because the missing pages are adjacent to what I feel are some of the most mysterious passages. What happened to the missing pages? Were they removed by someone to withhold certain secrets of spirituality, or simply damaged or lost? What do we not know in their absence?

The first ten lines from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene that follow had an especially powerful effect on me. The six pages that preceded these passages are missing from the documents that were found.

[…] “What is matter?
Will it last forever?”
The Teacher answered:
“All that is born, all that is created,
all the elements of nature
are interwoven and united with each other.
All that is composed shall be decomposed;
everything returns to its roots;
matter returns to the origins of matter.
Those who have ears, let them hear.”

The basic ideas in these passages are not new to me, but my reaction to them was totally unexpected. When I read these lines in the gospel, it felt like primal memories buried deep in my soul came crashing forward revealing a fundamental, profound truth. The feelings were so powerful that I felt a little disoriented and confused by the effect they had on me.

These passages spoke to me on a very deep level. The words were both mysterious and wonderful. All of creation is interwoven and united—YES! All that is composed shall be decomposed—that is, all that is physical is transitory. Everything shall return to the Source.

We are drawn to the Source. It is a force of nature that transcends belief. It is that inexplicable yearning for meaning and purpose unique to the human condition. It is the search for our spirit-self and its birthplace.

Shall the Meek Inherit the Earth?

Abstract Art Found in the Orion Nebula, Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScIAURA)

Abstract Art Found in the Orion Nebula, Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScIAURA)

Those of you with Christian backgrounds may recall the Beatitudes presented by Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount. They are all wonderful sayings by which to live a spiritual life.

One of my favorites is “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” This beatitude has been interpreted from the original Greek in a number of slightly different ways. For example, “earth” has also been interpreted to mean the Kingdom of Heaven which gives the beatitude a decidedly spiritual meaning. Alternate translations of the word “meek” include humble, gentle, and poor.

This beatitude could be interpreted as a prophesy of things to come, or simply as a statement of the most desirable sort of spiritual (and human) disposition. I favor the latter possibility. Although, I suppose, it is possible that all of the power hungry egotists could end up wiping each other out, leaving us “meek,” but not weak, spiritual people to transform humanity and save the earth.

I see meek or humble people as having great strength, self confidence, and restraint. They have a certainty that they are on the right path regardless of what others may think. Humble people understand that any talents they may have are gifts from God, and as such, credit should be given to Him whenever they are applied with good effect.

I believe that we should add humility and gentleness to our list of characteristics that describe spiritual persons. Who would be better than the “meek” to make the Kingdom of Heaven a reality on earth?