Deification Through the Cross

A paragraph, and a bit more, from the introduction of Khaled Anatolios’ book ‘Deification Through the Cross’

The third factor that I have suggested to be an obstacle to the contemporary appropriation of the Christian teaching on salvation is the lack of experiental access to this doctrine. Perhaps this is especially the case in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, where the claim to an experience of “being saved” is frowned upon. But legitimate caution against hubristic certainty about one’s eternal fate does not mean denying the experiential accessibility of the content of Christian salvation. For those who have put on Christ and who can say, along with the elder Simeon, “My eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:30), rejection of the experience of salvation is not a tenable option. Nor is it everywhere rejected. It is true that certain strands of the Protestant tradition still place a premium on the felt assurance of being “saved,” and proponents of liberation theology insist that salvation be acted out and made manifest in bringing about justice and peace. However, my complaint about the lack of experiential access to the Christian teaching on salvation presupposes that the ultimate touchstone of Christian experience is neither individual affect nor external action but liturgical worship. If that is true, the loss of the sense of worship as the performance and celebration and actualization of salvation must be counted as a prime cause for the modern inaccessibility of the “joy of salvation.” The kind of worship that would mediate this joy would have to include an interpretation of liturgical prayer not onlyu as an appropriation of the effects of Christ’s salvific work but also as a participation in the internal dynamiosm of that work. At least in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, such an understanding and experience were given in older conceptions of the eucharistic liturgy as representing, in some manner, the salvific sacrifice of Christ. There was a similar understanding of sacramental confession as a sharing in the internal dynamism and the fruits of Christ’s salvific work. For a variety of complex reasons having to do with both modern conceptions of liturgical worship and vagueness and perplexity with regard to the doctrine of salvation, Christian communities today inadequately appreciate liturgical worship as an experience of salvation, as an entering into the very dynamism of Christ’s salvific work, and as a conscious participation in Christ’s saving death and resurrection. Without such a basis in liturgical experience, the christian doctrine of salvation is bound to remain vaguely numinous and somewhat esoteric, like a mythological construct that can be evoked by a variety of strange metophors but to which we can have no concrete experiential access.

Positive Requirements for Contemporary Soteriology

As surely as the doctrine of salvation itself dwells on the negativities of the human condition only in reference to their overcoming in Christ, so our elaboration of some key factors in the modern malaise with respect to this doctrine must issue in a constructive program for the reversal of this malaise. It is fitting, then, to follow our three complaints with three positive prescriptions, as follows.

First Requirement: Fidelity to the Canonical Scriptures

The first requirement for a modern, intelligible reformulation of the Christian doctrine of salvation is that the entire scriptural witness must be considered normative for the understanding and exposition of this doctrine. Of couse, this should go without saying in any endeavor that that claims to be Christian theology. . . .

Second Requirement: The Normativity of Tradition

A second requirement for the renewal of soteriological dictrine is that a critical hermeneutic of charity must be applied to the tradition. We must strongly resist dismissing any significant and longstanding interpretation of salvation within the historical experience of the church. . . .

Third Requirement: The Normativity of Liturgical Experience

A third requirement for the modern reformulation of soteriological doctrine is that it must stimulate and inform the concrete experience of Christians. christian salvation is not merely a theoretical construct but the lived experience of every Christian, and the summit of this experience is worship. . . .In the Byzantine Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the words of institution, which commemorate the death of Christ and which are remembers as the “precept of salvation,” are embedded in an anaphora of praise that identifies liturgical worship as the very culmination and ultimate fruit of God’s work of creation and salvation

It is fitting and just to sing to you, to bless you, to praise you, to give thanks to you, to worship you in every place of your dominion….

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