Saturday, January 15, 2011

Speaking Salvation

The day I was baptized in the cold waters of the Yamhill River, I made the "good confession." I placed myself in a line of many before me who had confessed Jesus as the Son of God as a part of my baptismal experience. My dad, who baptized me, made me repeat the confession, not just affirm it with a yes response to a question. I felt at the time that this was part of the burden of being a preacher's kid. I had a little extra duty to perform. I said after him, "I believe...that Jesus is the Christ...the Son of God." Of course, in my tradition, the really important thing came next--the baptism itself. The confession was merely the prerequisite for the thing that counted.

But I've reevaluated that moment over time. The confession, like all confessions, brought about a new state of affairs. I have a greater appreciation for Paul's statement in Romans 10, "with the heart we believe and so are justified, but with the mouth we confess and so are saved." Confession, I am convinced, does not just point to realities (though it does that for sure), but is part of what brings those realities into being. My confession that afternoon brought about a new state of affairs.

This, I realize, is a very strong view of language. I think I'm justified in this from both a philosophical and theological point of view. It will suffice here to say that in a faith that believes God speaks the world into existence, it is not too far a distance to affirm that what we say or speak participates in this larger work of creation.

From that perspective, it is not surprising to notice the numerous confessions that sprinkle the pages of the NT (and OT for that matter). Or to be struck by the pastoral epistles' insistence that Timothy and Titus focus on "healthy words" (sound doctrine) in contrast to the words of others "that eat away like gangrene." When we confess certain things, we participate in bringing about certain realities.

And this is salvation--participation in an alternative reality, in a new state of affairs. So, with the heart we believe and so are justified, and with the mouth we confess and so are saved.


The Hamzinger said...

Is it fair to say that, for many of us in this tradition, that's where confession should start? One of the biggest disparities I see between talk and practice falls under James' exhortation to confess our sins *to one another.*

Mark Love said...


You are, of course, on target here. If confession enacts a world, it is a world in which we tell the truth about both God and ourselves. The failure you point out is a part of an overall failure.

Noel said...

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. - Rom 11: 33-36 -