June 24, 2013

Salvation History: A Primer

Salvation history is the active participation of God through human history in the salvation of mankind.  The culmination of salvation history is the person of Jesus Christ - His preaching, teaching, passion, death, and resurrection.  In every age, God works in concert with human beings to make the gospel message known throughout the world.  Human beings are incapable of saving ourselves.  Salvation, like eternal life, is a gift only God can give.   

Let's go back to the very beginning.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived together in perfect harmony and happiness.  God and man, man and woman shared an intimacy we can only imagine.  We call this intimacy original intimacy.  Existing in perfect happiness, man's free will is preserved. If God had made us robots, loving only Him and serving only Him, we could not properly speaking be said to love.  Love by definition is a free choice.

Enter the snake.  The evil one said God really didn't love Adam and Eve.  The evil one said if they ate of the forbidden fruit their eyes would be opened and they would be like God. Seduced by the snake's words, Adam and Eve partake of the fruit - disobeying God and destroying the harmony and happiness of Eden.  Original intimacy was lost.  God allows the natural consequences of Adam and Eve's choice to befall them.  But He does not abandon them.

Salvation history begins in Genesis 3:15. There God says to the serpent: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel. This passage, also known as the Protoevangelium or first gospel, is the first announcement of the salvation to come. The woman is seen by church fathers and Sacred Tradition as the Blessed Virgin Mary.  "Her offspring," refers to the person of Jesus Christ who will ultimately defeat the forces of death at Calvary.

Two things are apparent.  One is that Adam and Eve in choosing to disobey God commit the first sin.  In eating of the forbidden fruit there is a need for atonement.  The first sin creates a rift between God and man.  Something must be done to heal that rift. 

Secondly, God does not leave mankind to its own devises.  Contrary to the new atheist critique that the universe is an unfeeling sequence of random events with no rhyme or reason, Catholicism argues that God is a loving Father who is constantly calling us to beatitude with our Creator.  God did not create us to suffer.  Sin and death are human inventions born when we reject God and His commandments.  The moment sin and death entered the world, salvation history began.

In the coming weeks and months, we  will continue to look at how God acted in human history to save mankind.  Stay tuned.

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