Monday, August 03, 2009

Why Do People -- Ahem -- "Get Saved"?

While wasting precious time on Facebook this afternoon, Father A. came across a brief form of this advertisement:

I realize this sounds a little cynical but really… who do you know who ever got saved because of an altruistic motive? Okay, time's up.

If then people only get saved because they have a need, a want, some problem, or some fear, then you should show them, right in your ad, how you and your church can help them get what they want.

I’m not talking about the prosperity gospel here. I am talking about better marriages, stronger kids, closer relationships, fellowship with God, a sense of meaning and purpose – things like that! Your Church most likely does that for people all the time. Let the people who are reading your ads know this and more people will respond to your message.

Um. Well. We suppose that this may reflect a certain kind of voluntarist religiosity popular in America, in which one decides for oneself to be saved, and makes that decision based upon a sober cost/benefits analysis. And we suppose that advertising the supposed benefits makes sense. (Although, in all frankness, there was a time when advertising the probably costs worked just as well -- "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die," etc.) That these benefits are classed as "altruistic" is a little odd, but let it pass for now.

And we further suppose that those of different theological persuasions might have different answers to the question. A Calvinist might respond that [some] people are saved because a sovereign God has willed it from eternity, and a Methodist that people are saved by grace, but can only appreciate it as they grow in holiness. An Unitarian might look puzzled and murmur, "Saved? From what?"

For the record, it seems to us that there is only one right answer to the question of why people get saved: Because the incarnate God suffered and died for their sake, only to rise three days later in victory. As to why they are able to believe it -- to receive the gift by faith -- we can offer no answer except another act of divine grace. (And incidentally, the only motive involved here is thoroughly altruistic -- and belongs to God.)

But of course the sort of people who place ads like this are really not asking about God's saving power; they are asking about an act of human will. What they really want to answer, then, is this: Why do people come to church? And that's a pretty good question. We doubt, however, that slick copywriting has much to do with it.

1 comment:

Diane said...

right again, as always. two separate questions: why do people "get saved"? (interesting way of phrasing it, anyway), and why do people come to church?