12 May 2016
The Christian mission is not ‘the salvation of souls’; it is the salvation of the world
The resumption of meat-eating after Easter was met with rejoicing and relief in my university chaplaincy. Abstaining from meat in our community is an ascetical rather than an ethical practice: we give it up because we enjoy it. The idea that abstaining from meat might be a positive sign of God’s kingdom provokes resistance and even derision among many Christians I know.
This is not surprising when you so often hear people express the purpose and meaning of Christian faith in terms of “the salvation of souls”. I don’t understand how we have got away with this language for so long when it is really bordering on the heretical. In modern English, it inescapably implies that God’s purpose in salvation is to retrieve from the mire of earthly existence a spiritual essence of each human being, which will be whisked away to somewhere called “heaven”, where it will float in a blessedly immaterial manner for all eternity.
As though God’s first creation, this world, was simply furniture, a pleasant setting for our brief sojourn; as though its manifold non-human lives are just passing entertainment, the sea and sky, mountains and forests a pretty backdrop to the true drama, which is conducted in a vaporous realm of soul and spirit.
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