Salvation and Christ in History & Politics – Defining Salvation, Christ, and the Kingdom

Salvation – From ancient to contemporary times, the theology and emotion surrounding the concern of salvation has been diverse and passionate. Gutierrez, along with other liberation theologians, examines the nature of salvation as both quantitative and qualitative mystery. The ‘two-dimensional’ mystery plays out in contemporary culture, with public attention given to debates about those who have been saved or risk being “left behind.” For Gutierrez, the theme of salvation has both a quantitative sense, as a cure for sin, and a qualitative sense, as communion with God and community (Gutierrez, 84-85). Departing from the preferences of the quantitatively inclined, Gutierrez locates salvation in the world as “something which embraces all human reality, transforms it, and leads it to its fullness in Christ” (85). Key to Gutierrez’s thought is the theology of salvation as present in human history, salvation as “intrahistorical reality” (86). Rather than existing beyond the borders of history, salvation is recognizable as “historical-salvific fact” and requires human agency in its fulfillment (89).

Christ – If salvation is seen as a present feature of history, Christ then becomes the bearer of this salvation and liberation. Gutierrez identifies sin as “the fundamental alienation, the root of a situation of injustice and exploitation” – a deeply tangible historical reality (103). For Gutierrez, Christ enters into this reality of sin in historical context as liberator. Christ is the redemptive historical and salvific figure who addresses three categories of liberation from sin: “political liberation, human liberation throughout history, liberation from sin and admission to communion with God” (103). Christ is the figure who fulfills the mystery of salvation in historical context.

Kingdom – A salvation and a Christ which are linked in historical reality enriches an eschatological vision which is equally tied to history. The future and present of human history are made intelligible through God’s participation in human reality (95). God is not separated from history, but an actor in it. God’s kingdom is thus also a reality of history, incompletely encountered, but promised as a feature of eschatalogical reality. The promise of God’s kingdom for humanity “is a process which occurs historically in liberation, insofar as liberation means a greater human fulfillment” (104). The fulfilment of God’s promised kingdom rests not only on God’s presence in the world, but also on the human agency that presence allows. This agency also finds its center in history: “Without liberating historical events, there would be no growth of the kingdom” (104). The promise of salvation in history and the coming of God’s kingdom require and give meaning to human actions for liberation.

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