The main basis of chapter 5 is to introduce readers to one of the core theological issues—salvation. McGrath (2017) points out that salvation is not assured to any religion and is used in the general context to imply liberation or emancipation. However, there is an obvious difference in understanding of its nature and goals among various religions. The current text is basically in line with the Christian approaches to salvation built upon the New Testament themes. The concept of the cross is significant in Christian theology—Jesus’s death on the cross is the climax and central mystery of salvation. It is a sign of Jesus’ sacrifice for the sake of our sins, victory over death, and forgiveness of sins—the three images of salvation (theory of atonement). According to McGrath, the death of Christ was a perfect sacrifice that protects and shields sinful humankind from God’s righteous anger against sin, reunites us with Him, and breaks the chains of our captivity. The death of Christ was a form of ransom to Satan to set us free.
Additionally, through his death, our sins have been forgiven. McGrath points out three models in which forgiveness of our sins is directly linked to Jesus’s death: participation, representation, and substitution. The death of Christ is representative of all humanity. Jesus won benefits for us by accepting to die on the cross as our representative; these benefits include the full and free forgiveness of sin. Through their faith and participation in the death of and the resurrection of Christ, believers can attain the benefits won by Christ. We are sinners, we should have died on that cross as punishment, but Jesus stood out for us and accepted to die on our behalf so that we might be redeemed.
The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith in God; it is also the presaging of humanity’s eventual outcome—like Jesus, we will be resurrected and attain new life and gain an eternal relationship with God. McGrath also notes that salvation is something that is yet to come—it has an eschatological dimension. Believers are justified in the past and sanctified in the present and attain salvation in the future.
McGrath provides a very solid introduction to salvation. The author uses simple language and a sequential structure that appeals to everyone which makes the text relevant to the general audience. One of the strengths of the text is that it makes references to relevant biblical passages and the work of key ancient theologians such as Thomas Aquinas, Athanasius, and Augustine of Hippo which makes it objective. One way to begin the discussion of salvation is to look at the images used in Paul’s letters. Throughout his writing, Paul uses a range of images to clarify the significance of the death and resurrection of Christ to human salvation. However, in his texts, he assumes that the readers have a background on both the cultic rites of Judaism and Roman cultural practices and hence can comprehend what the correlations were meant to convey. McGrath provides his readers with some of these ideas and aims to appreciate their significance in understanding the deeper meaning of salvation—he can be given credit for making theology easier.
Additionally, the text is highly neutral—it draws from ideas of some of the key ancient Catholic and protestant theologians, without a considerable denominational bias. It only details the basics, however; hence there are many facts left. But this text was meant to provide the basics. Therefore, the author cannot be blamed for this weakness. Also, he dedicates a section “Engaging with a Text” that permits interaction with sources for further reading.
A point of weakness is that I could not comprehend the line the author drew between the death and resurrection of Jesus in connection to salvation. There are many Christians who consider being saved to mean salvation. While death on the cross indeed saved us from sin, the resurrection of Christ was essential for complete salvation. This implies that salvation does not come with death only but with resurrection as well.
McGrath’s theological method in this text permits him to treat the essence and identity of Jesus with admiration and veneration that refrains from going afar the scope of scripture while still protecting the ancient beliefs that the church has held true about God. The text shows the strengths of the images of salvation as a foundation for the theological unity in Christianity and its essence for ecclesiology. The text appeals to anyone who seeks to learn more about their faith. It offers a means of understanding the complex allusions of scriptures to the universal and limited aspects of the atonement. One of the concepts that need further analysis is the similarity and difference between being saved and receiving salvation.
- McGrath, A. E. (2017). Theology: the basics. John Wiley & Sons.