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Aug 13 Gathering: The Oxymoron of Personal Salvation

person holding brown wooden cross

Sin, Holiness, and the Anthropocene: Week 3

A note from Joe: Lately I’ve been reading John Green’s bestseller The Anthropocene Reviewed, a series of essays on aspects of modern life and the way they are influenced by contemporary humanity. This series is inspired by that book and recent conversations in various contexts about the concepts of sin and holiness. For a full description of the series, please see this post.

For generations, the vast majority of Western Christianity has been structured on the notion of personal salvation…the idea that when we as individuals die:

  1. Our individual disembodied soul travels to a postmortem destination called heaven;
  2. If we assent to the right set of ideas about Jesus atoning for our individual sins;
  3. By satisfying God’s wrath against our individual unholiness.

We have collectively named that formulaic process “salvation”…and we have chosen to interpret the way we relate to other people and to the natural world through that highly individualistic lens.

But what if that’s not the point at all? In fact, what if it is so antithetical to Jesus’s actual ministry that it drives people further away from his message of radical solidarity with the marginalized in order to disrupt the status quo of individualism in favor of a more unitive consciousness?

And what if the point of spiritual enlightenment has less to do with elevating our own sense of righteousness than with the sort of societal reimagining that Jesus seems to be about?

To quote modern-day mystic, Episcopal priest, and author Cynthia Bourgeault:

…(E)nlightenment really happens not as a personal holiness trip, but as a way to transform the energy and circumstances of this planet.

Cynthia Bourgeault, “Pure and Undivided” (theworkofthepeople.com)

This week at New Wineskins we’ll continue our summer series, “Sin, Holiness, and the Anthropocene” by discussing the myth of personal salvation and how it has been advanced by fundamentalist evangelicalism’s ironic embrace of the modernist project it originally sought to stand against.

Our discussion video from The Work of the People features Dr. Bourgeault discussing what she calls the oxymoron of personal salvation and the kind of transformation of the world that comes about as more people become truly spiritually enlightened.

Join us this Sunday, Aug. 13, in the New Wineskins Virtual Theology Pub powered by Zoom for Week 3 of “Sin, Holiness, and the Anthropocene.”

Click here to view this week’s discussion video (email address required)

6:00pm ET: Happy Half-Hour (informal meet & greet time)
6:30pm ET: Presentation & conversation begin

Sin & Holiness in the Anthropocene Series

(Tentative: subject to change)

  • July 30: Breaking Wholeness: Lisa Sharon Harper on sin as the breaking of relationship
  • Aug. 6: Womanist Theology: Dr. Barbara Holmes on the perspective of Black women in the search for wholeness
  • Aug. 13: Pure and Undivided: Cynthia Bourgeault on the oxymoron of personal salvation
  • Aug. 20: Hypocrite: Fr. Richard Rohr on our tendency to “act out” Christianity rather than be transformed
  • Aug. 27: Amnesia Therapy: Marlon Hall on the ways art informs wholeness

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