A few days ago my son came home singing and doing the motions for this verse of Jesus Loves Me:
Jesus loves me, He who died
Heaven’s gates to open wide
He will wash away my sin
Let the children come in. (? I think)
Then my daughter came home singing “From the Rising of the Sun”, a familiar chorus that I sang often in the Nazarene church growing up. Then my son sang that same song in the bathtub.
It is great to see them learning the songs I grew up with, but I am realizing that my kids are getting a big dose of Protestantism at their Christian school. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I am waiting for my children to come home asking me if they’re saved.
The Orthodox view of salvation, in many ways, is similar to the Protestant take on it. We believe that we are all sinners, that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, rose from the dead and overcame death, and that we are to repent from our sins, believe in Him as God and Savior, and live a life of worship and devotion to Him.
However, the Orthodox view of time changes our idea of salvation a bit. If you ask an Orthodox Christian if he is saved, he might say, “I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.” For Orthodox Christians, the seeds of salvation begin at baptism. Baptism does involve the parents and church committing to raise a child in the faith (much like a Protestant baby dedication), but something spiritual also occurs. The child has entered into the kingdom of God. As that child ages, he/she continues in his/her salvation journey. The idea of one moment of “getting saved” does not really exist. I think Protestants could understand this if they think about it. In the early church, Jews who believed in Jesus as Messiah and converts were baptized into the faith. Also, I know that the Church of the Nazarene believes in a second work of grace called sanctification, which occurs sometime after being saved as the believer desires to be more and more Christlike and less and less sinful. Is that not a salvation process?
After all that theology, I think I would say what an Orthodox friend of mine suggested: “Do you believe in Jesus? Okay then, you’re saved.”
I once overheard a conversation Conor Cunningham (a theologian) was having with a Nazarene theologian. Connor shares a similar view to you. At any rate, the Naz. was insisting that it is necessary to have some moment when we recognize that we are converted. To this, Conor replied (in his thick Scottish accent), “Yes, but all sorts of people do that. And they still throw petrol bombs [i.e. molotov cocktails] into building.” In other words, uttering a kind of magic prayer is not necessarily all that it’s cracked up to be. Not that prayer isn’t important, but it don’t guarantee nothing. We can live into a prayer that was prayed for us.
David – you’re so right. Actually, in Thailand, I had several Asian friends that told me they never had a moment of conversion, but they’d just always been in the church and always been believers. And they were dedicated Christians, so I realized then that it’s not always as simple as the “ask Jesus into your heart” prayer.