Updated: Jun 27
We are born to love stories. Kids read tales of dragons and knights. They play cops and robbers. As teenagers, we dream of changing the world. We want to be someone with a great story, someone worth writing about.
In the Bible, we believe in a particular kind of story.
There is a creation; man falls into sin, and we attempt to get back but ultimately fail. Jesus comes to be the salvific sacrifice that finally leads us to transfiguration, both here on earth and in the New Jerusalem. That's the Christian take on the story of humankind throughout history and our lives. Most Christians go through some kind of creation-fall-attempt-salvation-transfiguration in their life.
They are born (creation) but mess up at some point during their life(fall). They throw temper tantrums, curse, or do some other not-so-nice thing. After that, most people try to find their way through life on their own strength, either for a season or a few decades (attempt). But eventually, they come to Jesus Christ and submit to his leadership and love (salvation). Then, with God at the center of their life, they begin to remake their entire being into something that reflects their "new creation" (transfiguration)
That's the Christian take, but like I said, everyone loves stories.
There is a non-Christian take. John Mark Comer of Bridgetown Church in Portland coined the term "Secular Salvation" to describe the experience of people with no faith orientation.
It goes like this. People are born into the world as innocent children (creation). However, we don't stay that way. The prevailing belief is that we are all inherently good and that it is the world that oppresses, changes, and makes them evil.
This is "the fall." Parents encourage a specific kind of sexuality. A political party forces an ideology. The world's influence oppresses us and changes us into something less than.
The rest of our lives are spent trying to return to that innocent baby we were before the world's oppression changed us. This is the secular attempt at salvation. Our attempts include yoga, meditation, and "throwing off the chains" of whatever ideology you feel is oppressive and discriminates against you. It's all about finding who we really are.
However, we can never honestly throw off everything that has influenced us. Our parents will always shape our views, culture will always have something to say about our sexuality, and we cannot get rid of these things by our strength.
So our search for "salvation" becomes a hopeless wandering through the desert. There is no secular salvation, so we settle for secular pacification. The statistics show that there has been a drastic increase in drug use in the past decade, including Schedule II drugs like opioids and other inhibitors. If we can't reach the "ultimate" or have salvation, humans have a habit of drowning their desire for more in drugs, alcohol, or other substances.
This causes us to have a "transfiguration." But unlike the biblical new body in a new heaven and new earth, we transform into a shell of our former self. As a result, the person on the journey towards secular salvation will never have that fulfillment of our innate desire for "something more."
It's here that we can lose hope, which is the most dangerous thing.
Without hope of something more, we can turn nihilistic and pessimistic about a wonderful, beautiful life. We were designed for a biblical story that brings us ultimate fulfillment and joy in Christ, but without Jesus at the center of our story, we settle for pacification. We settle for a life that was designed for so much more.