Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Are We Saved Right Now?

Your Evangelical friends like to ask the question: “Are you saved?” Notice the passive perfect tense, indicating that an agent took action for you in the past which continues today. The question assumes that salvation is accomplished already for you, presumably through Jesus Christ.

Would Lutherans ask the same question? Is salvation something that has already been accomplished and given to us through faith? Is there any future aspect to salvation? In other words, when we talk about our salvation by grace, through faith should we use past tenses? Is it right to speak of our salvation in future tenses? Is it right to speak of salvation as a conditional–as something which might happen?

I think most LCMS-trained pastors would answer the last question with a resounding “no!” That’s what I was taught at Concordia Seminary. So why do we pray something else?

Stir up, we implore you, your power, O Lord, and come that by your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and be saved by your might deliverance… (Advent 1, LW p. 10)

Grant, almighty God, that the birth of your only-begotten Son in human flesh may set us free, who through sin are held in bondage… (Nativity 3, LW p. 17)

O God, in the glorious transfiguration of your only-begotten Son you once confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of the ancient fathers, and in the voice that came from the bright cloud you wondrously foreshadowed our adoption by grace. Therefore mercifully make us coheirs with our King of his glory, and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven… (Transfiguration, LW p. 31)

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ chose to suffer pain before going up to joy, and crucifixion before entering into glory, mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find this path to be the way of life and peace…(Monday in Holy Week, LW, p. 41)

There are many more collects which pray this way: that God would do such-and-such, so that we may be saved, cleansed, forgiven. It raises the question: hasn’t such already happened? Have we not already been saved, found the truth, forgiven and so forth?

I raise this issue to point out that there is a discrepancy between our lex orandi and lex credendi–our faith prayed and faith believed. If we truly believe that Jesus accomplished our salvation on the cross and that the promise of heaven is ours today, if we have been completely and totally justified by grace through faith, then why do we pray for salvation, enlightenment and so forth in the present or future subjunctive? Should these collects not be changed to thanksgivings for salvation, “the way of life and peace,” being made “coheirs with our King” because they have already been granted us? I think that would be more consistent with our LCMS theology.

What do you think? Should these have been changed?
Do you think it is right to change the historic collects (beyond updating archaic language) in order to fit our theology?