Against Salvific Minimalism: Passion & Cosmos

Christians often adopt an anthropocentric conception of the purpose of the history of salvation. The trope goes that God became fully man in Jesus of Nazareth so that man might be saved. 

It is important to note that this is true, and is reflected in St. Athanasius' line that "God became man so that man might become God". Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to confine the effects of the salvific work of God to just the human. 

A starting point would be the passage in the Gospel of Matthew that depicts what happens immediately after the death of Jesus, when "the veil of the temple was torn in two" (Matt 27:51). This is a significant tract, for it signifies the removal of what separates God from humankind. At the same time, however, the biblicist Scott Hahn is quick to remind us of the significance of the temple at the beginning of his A Father Who Keeps His Promises. The temple is not just the place where man worships God. Looking through a covenantal lens, Hahn argues that the temple is also a microcosm of for the entire universe. When the barrier between God and the temple is removed, so too is the barrier between God and the whole cosmos.

To paraphrase Graham Ward's Christ and Culture, in an act of worship, the whole universe is brought before God. In worship humankind, according to St. Bonaventure, is the crucial link between God and all of creation that leads the entire cosmos on the path to God. Thus, when Jesus saves, the Christian ethicist Allen Verhey reminds us that the effects of his Passion go right to the edges of the cosmos. 

With this in mind, we must as Christians resist the minimalist idea that salvation is a purely spiritual nicety, and we also must resist that only-slightly-less-minimalist notion that through the Resurrection, God saves only humankind in soul and body. Bonaventure reminds us that salvation implicates nothing less than the entire universe, and it is against the horizon of the salvation of the cosmos, and the return of that cosmos back to God, that we work for life, peace, justice and reconciliation. They are not optional addons to salvation, but are constitutive part of the salvific mandate.

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