Abductive Columns

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Community Salvation

When anyone Jesus is seeking becomes involved in a faith community it creates a sense of belonging. Such sociality does not operate in exclusion of personal faith. Rather, personal faith is incomplete without socialization because faith always has an implicit dimension. (Theological distinction has been made between personal faith and implicit faith. Personal faith is the explicit trust that I as an individual agent places in an object, such as God and the promises of his Word. Implicit faith signifies the trust one places in others who have a clearer grasp on the trustworthiness of an object.)

When I think of faith in this way it forces me to revisit the perplexing questions about the salvation of those with developmental disabilities. These questions arise in part because developmentally disabled people lie outside the reach of modern methods of evangelism.

The level of development most often puts them in the awkward boundary where mainstream is hoped for, but always slightly out of reach. I know an autistic young man who has excellent math skills, but his ability to grasp concepts is limited. His capacity to read interpersonal cues that for the rest of us trigger empathy, pity and so on is limited.

If an understanding of the propositions of the gospel is necessary for salvation, on what grounds can the developmentally challenged be saved? The traditional approach is to assert that anyone with autism and other developmental disabilities, as well as those who are stillborn or aborted or die in infancy, are an exception to the general rule that salvation requires individual assent to the propositions to the gospel.

A visitor from Florida chases after me under the mistaken impression that we are crossing a snow-covered field but boldness quickly turns to panic when we pass a fisherman pulling a fish from a hole in the ice. My friend’s understanding of the situation is badly mistaken, but I am a trustworthy guide, and my friend is safe.

If faith is always to some degree implicit, then the majority who take a pew seat on Sunday rely upon those who explicitly exercise faith. On the other hand, those who have a developmental disability have a faith different from ours in degree rather than kind. Salvations power extends from the community that explicitly exercises faith to those who are unable to cognize (as well or at all) but are properly understood as insiders of the faith community.


At 10:01 PM, Blogger shannon said...

Substitute any of these words (implied, inferred, tacit, understood, unsaid, unspoken, unuttered, wordless, practical, virtual, absolute, unconditional, undoubting, unfaltering, unhesitating, unquestioning, unreserved, wholehearted) for the word implicit in the sentence ".. personal faith is incomplete without socialization because faith always has an implicit dimension.” I still do not understand the meaning of the statement.


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