Soteriology

 

á      Universal assumption that life is in need of liberation, healing, transformation

á      Traditions vary in how they understand the conditions from which we need to be delivered.

 

Paths to liberation:

á      Faith; devotion; disciplined action; meditiation & insight

á      Typically a combination within a given tradition but emphasis tends to rest upon one.

 

1.    The way of grace through faith

a.     Belief in transcendent power requires faith, as in intellectual assent (assenses), but also a total response of the person – heart, mind, and will = trust (fiducia): confident reliance on divine grace, unmerited love and dependence.

b.     The self is abased and helpless, unable to achieve liberation on its own.

c.      Common to all three Western monotheistic traditions, especially stressed in Protestantism.  Also found in Catholicisim, Hinduism , and Mahayana Buddhism (Pureland).

d.     Luther

                                      i.     Struggled with question of his worthiness of GodŐs forgiveness and mercy.

                                     ii.     How to find the balance between spiritual dread of GodŐs righteous judgement and security in GodŐs loving mercy?

                                   iii.     Penance vs. repentance 

                                   iv.     Righteousness as:

1.     GodŐs demand of justice and His punishment of the sinner

2.     A gift of God, disclosing His mercy = a new conception of grace

                                     v.     Good works are necessary for the maintenance of civil society but irrelevant to personal salvation, which comes from God: justification by grace through faith and repentance

e.     Mahayana Buddhism and the Pure Land

                                      i.     Mahayana: focus on the life of the Buddha and his selfless acts of compassion

1.     Cf. Theravada – focus on individual effort, and the arhat

                                     ii.     Ideal figure in Mahayana = a Bodhisattva: those who have achieved enlightnement and are on the brink of nirvana but remain in the world to bring others to enlightenment and so out of suffering.

                                   iii.     The Pure Land: A Western paradise where one knows eternal bliss

1.     Originally a way station for those poised for nirvana, eventually a goal in itself.

2.     Amida Buddha (Butsu) – bodhisattva associated with the Pure Land, calls all to say/repeat his name – namu amida butsu with trust and devotion.

3.     Shinran (12th Century):  Nambutsu (saying the name of Buddha) as an act of self assertion that brings merit (good karma). 

a.     Rejected merit and claimed that human ignorance and estrangement from truth is ineradicable.

b.     Liberation comes from Amida BuddhaŐs great compassion and acceptance (despite our being unacceptable)

4.     The result of AmidaŐs acceptance, compassion = thankfulness, joy.

2.    The Way of Devotion

a.     Joy and exaltation as a response to divine grace leads to acts of devotion

b.     Devotional acts are also the means to the ultimate end – liberation,

c.      Emotion, relationship, personal dimension, engagement of the body

d.     Ecstasy, rapture – often patterned after

Examples:

e.     St. Teresa of Avila (16th Century) – p. 296.  Ecstasy, thirst for union

f.      Quote from Jalal al-Din Rumi

g.     Krishna Devotionalism in Hindu Traditions: paradigms for devotional love

                                      i.     Krishna as divine child – parentŐs love for child

                                     ii.     Krishna as divine lover – love between lovers