What if Salvation is More Like an Ambulance Ride?

traffic-lights-49698_1920 (1)

It started with a podcast. I’ve been mentioning Alisa Childers on my Facebook page and blog for a couple of months now. Her podcast and its interviews of various incredibly-smart-Christians has been rocking my brain. And I love it.

My husband, who also started listening to Alisa Childers, found this particular two-part series first. Consistent with his systematic approach to life, my husband started at the beginning and has been slowly working his way through the episodes in numerical order. My approach is more haphazard. Basically I just scroll through the options, see what sounds interesting, and listen to that.

Anyway, my husband asked if I’d listened to the podcasts on Molinism yet. He went on to say that he didn’t really like these episodes because they were complicated and confusing. He also didn’t think he agreed with the guest who seemed to say that everyone was saved unless they rejected Jesus.

What in the world was Molinism? I’d never heard of that before. I expected it to be some strange cult that Alisa and her guest were refuting, but my husband said that they appeared to agree with the theology. I skeptically checked out the podcasts the next day.

And I’ve been thinking and processing ever since.

lossy-page1-220px-Molina_-_De_Justitia_et_jure,_1759_-_272.tif

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Molinism refers to the teachings and theology of Luis de Molina, a Jesuit priest and scholar from Spain who lived in the 1500s. Molina was part of the Reformation, but unlike more well-known reformers such as Luther and Calvin, Luis de Molina chose to stay within the Catholic Church and try to reform it from the inside out. His attempts didn’t work since the Church rejected his teachings.

Molina attempted to reconcile the Scriptures that talk about free will with the Scriptures that also talk about the sovereignty of God. Rather than reject the idea of human free will, like John Calvin, Luis de Molina saw the opportunity for both. He suggested the concept of Middle Knowledge: that God not only knows everything that has and will happen, He also knows all of the “what ifs” that lie in-between. To put it in more modern terms, God knows all of the different timeline possibilities (thank you Avengers). Therefore, God is still sovereign and totally in control, but in at least some instances, He allows humans to choose. This concept is known as Libertarian Free Will.

This intense theological thinking definitely boggles my mind and I know it’s an intellectual stretch from some of my other blog posts. But, I really believe that wondering about theology is good for us! Paul told the Philippians to, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12-13).

As I skeptically listened to the podcast episodes, Alisa and her guest, Tim Stratton, starting discussing analogies regarding salvation. They agreed that salvation is totally the work of God and tried to explain what little part we play in it. Alisa suggested that salvation is like a sick person going to the doctor and being given medicine. It’s their choice to take the medicine or not. But Tim wanted to take it a bit farther and this is where I’ve been stuck ever since.

He roughly quoted author Kenneth Keathley’s  Ambulatory Model of Overcoming Grace. I know this because after I heard the episode, I looked it up. Here is the blog post on Tim Stratton’s website called FreeThinkingMinistries.com.

And here is Kenneth Keathley’s model in his own words.

“Imagine waking up to find you are being transported by an ambulance to the emergency room. It is clearly evident that your condition requires serious medical help. If you do nothing, you will be delivered to the hospital. However, if for whatever reason you demand to be let out, the driver will comply. He may express regret and give warnings, but he will still let you go. You receive no credit for being taken to the hospital, but you incur the blame for refusing the services of the ambulance.”

Tim Stratton, after discussing this ambulance model said these words that have embedded themselves in my brain ever since, “If you do nothing, they will save you.”

helicopter-999680_1920

My brain struggled to reconcile this new idea with the theology I’d always been taught. But my heart resonated with a God who was this big and loving. I cried my way through the rest of the podcast.

The idea within this Molinistic view is that God’s grace and forgiveness is available to everyone. (Something I agree with.) We are able to resist God’s grace and reject Jesus. (Something I also agree with.) However, if we do not resist, God will bring us to the place where He saves us. (A new concept I am still wrestling with and yet find myself wanting to accept.)

If you do nothing, they will save you.

When I think about this Ambulance Model regarding personal salvation, I totally resonate with it. Waking up in an ambulance and allowing your EMT’s to take you to the hospital requires just a couple of minor things from you. First, you have to become aware that you are in trouble and need saving. And second, you have to recognize that these guys can save you. Then you have to let them. Is it just me, or does this just scream the Real Jesus?

It’s not Universalism, the idea that everyone goes to heaven no matter what, although I supposed people could take it that way. I am not a Universalist, nor do I intend to ever go there. I’m not saying that by doing nothing, or staying neutral, we will be saved. I still strongly believe Jesus’ words in John three.

“Whoever believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” John 3:18.

Jesus death on the cross is the only way to be saved. But, too often God gets viewed as distant and angry. Religious Christianity says that we need to do the right things in order to appease Him. Salvation becomes something we attempt to achieve by a series of correct behaviors.

What if the Divine Trinity is more like a team of EMT’s? They not only want to save us, they are fully capable of doing it. All we have to do is agree that we need saving and let them save us. Just do nothing. 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” Ephesians 2:8-9.

As much as I adore this view of salvation, I also love this picture of sanctification. So much of our relationship, or rather our lack of a relationship, with God is based on resistance. Whether it’s lies we believe about Him or about ourselves, an idolatrous love of earthly things, or sin we refuse to let go of, it often feels impossible to change. But what if real life and healing is found in letting go? What if repentance is simply changing our mind and admitting that we need saving? If you do nothing, they will save you.

It’s also called surrender.

free-1785964_1920

Could the Real God be so big, and so powerful, and so full of love, grace, and forgiveness that if we do nothing He will save us? From sin? From lies? From ourselves?

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1.

My guess is that when we stop resisting, He will come close. He will do the work He has wanted to do for a long time. We will be amazed at His love and mercy, and His indescribable beauty will cause us to love Him in return. Because we love Him, we will want to obey Him and through that obedience we will experience even deeper closeness. By doing nothing, we will find the life that is truly life.

Imagine that you are on that gurney in the back of the ambulance. What does it look like for you to lie still and let the Holy Team of EMT’s save you?

Name

A High Ropes Course Called Life…

I strongly dislike high ropes courses. But, I adore zip lines. This has been my dilemma as a youth pastor’s wife for the past five years. High ropes courses seem to go along with youth retreats and camp experiences. I hate them. They terrify me. But, I want to participate, to be a positive example to teens who are also terrified. Plus, there’s almost always a zip line at the end! Did I mention that I love zip lines?

Don’t miss another thing! Click here to subscribe to my newsletter.

For those of you who have never experienced a high ropes course, let me explain the horrors. High ropes courses are called “high” for a reason. They are located in trees or atop poles that I’m sure are at least 50 feet in the air. Okay, maybe not 50 feet, but high enough so your brain is fully aware that if you fall, you will die. Even though your brain also knows you are strapped into harnesses and ropes and such, there is still a primal fear that never really leaves. All obstacles are designed to terrify you further and are concocted with tiny, wiggly, cables, moving pieces such as swings or logs, and wobbly ropes that you are supposed to use to balance.

I do not attempt high ropes courses because they are fun. I do them to get to the zip line. Until last weekend.

Last weekend, I was at a special women’s retreat and one of the optional afternoon activities was a high ropes course. There were no teens around to encourage, and I didn’t even know if there was a zip line at the end. But, I knew that I needed that high ropes course. I needed a physical example of trusting God.

abandoned-1846195_1920

My personal life is kind of like a high ropes course right now. It’s been a hard year…full of challenges, and fears, and doubts. Things haven’t gone like I wanted. Stuff fell apart. It’s been scary. It can be easy to look at the circumstances around me and wonder if God is really real, or if He’s really powerful, or if He really cares.

So there I was, standing at the bottom of the high ropes course that no one was making me do, talking to Jesus, telling Him that I needed a visual example of trust. I had my harness on, my lobster claws attached (see the next image), and my helmet secured to my head. The guy running the ropes belayed me as I clambered up some metal spikes stuck into the tree, and soon I was connecting my lobster claws to the cables and unclipping the carabiners holding me to my belay rope. It was just me, and my equipment, and the looming course.

climb-1599870_1920

The first obstacle was a single tightrope with a few short ropes to help you balance. They were too short to keep hold of across the entire tightrope, so you had to let go of one and grab another. Who puts a tightrope as the first obstacle??

I made my shaky way across, talking to Jesus, telling Him that I wanted to trust Him. Somewhere in the middle, this verse popped into my mind: “You hem me in behind and before…”

I couldn’t remember where the verse was located or what came after that, but I realized something. In the high ropes course of life, Jesus is our harness and lobster claws! He’s beneath our bum and above our heads securing us, holding us together, keeping us safe. In the same way that my equipment was protecting me up in the trees, Jesus was taking care of my crazy life.

When I teeter across a challenging obstacle and all I can see is a shaky wire under my feet and the 20 feet of air beyond that, my equipment is still holding me. I might not notice my equipment or even think about it, but that doesn’t make it less real. Isn’t that just like Jesus? When prayers don’t get answered, or we get terrible news, or things are falling apart, and all we can focus on is the scary challenge ahead…when the terror is real…when we can’t see Jesus…He is still there holding us.

People, I prayed my way through that high ropes course! I made it to the end in one piece. And guess what? There was a zip line! 🙂

Later, I looked up the phrase “You hem me in behind and before” on my phone and this is what I found:

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” Psalm 139:5-6

The whole first part of Psalm 139 is all about God knowing us intimately and His Presence never leaving us. So much beautiful truth! Our challenges, our circumstances, do not change who God is. Our inability to see or notice Him does not change the fact that He is with us. I love that!

No matter what terrifying or heart wrenching obstacle you are on in this high ropes course called life, Jesus is your harness and your lobster claws! He will not let go and He will not fail. You can trust Him. 

high-ropes-course-614_1920