The Problem: Schism & Death
In order to answer the question “what is salvation?” we must understand what we are being saved from. Put another way—what is the problem being solved? Just what is wrong with the world, with our lives, with the way we act?
The account of humanity’s fall from union with God into death is narrated in the third chapter of Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible, or ‘the Old Testament’. While many become distracted debating whether the first chapters of Genesis are a literal, documentary history, or whether their language is purely allegorical, these arguments miss the greater point: the value and focus of the Genesis narrative is its theological content.
We learn in the first and second chapters of Genesis that humanity is created by God, in a unique manner—in the very Image and Likeness of God—and that creation is completed by God breathing His own breath into humanity, causing him to live. That is, the first thing we learn is God Himself is the source of humanity’s life. God then sets the human beings in a garden, giving them authority over all the creation, and the responsibility to “work it, and to guard it.” That is, the second thing we learn is God set humanity as His steward over creation.
Humanity is then convinced by a serpent to eat the fruit of a tree, the eating of which God told them would lead to their death. The serpent convinces them, however, that they can become like God by so eating—they do, but in doing they lose their innocence. Further, when God appears in the garden, they hide from Him. God finds them and explains that because they have eaten of the tree, they are now at odds with creation: childbearing and agriculture now will be painful and difficult; they are now at odds with each other: woman’s desire will be contrary to her husband’s and he will rule over her; and their lives are now finite—they will return to the dust from which they were formed. That is, what we learn is by attempting likeness to God apart from communion with Him, humanity has separated itself from the Source of their Life, and now lives in enmity with each other and the whole of creation.
Writing to the Christians in the city of Rome, St. Paul explained the nature of the problem this way: Just as sin entered into the world through one human’s sinful act, and through that sinful act death entered into the world—so death spread into all humanity; further, because of death—because of our mortal human nature—all have sinned. (cf. Romans 5:12)
The problem, therefore, is this: the result of our separation from God is death. This disease of death has spread genetically throughout all of humanity, and it carries as its symptom sin, that is, actions contrary to our nature as humans, and our calling to live with God.
Continue to The Cure: Reunion & Resurrection
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Polycarp the Holy Martyr & Bishop of Smyrna; Proterios, Archbishop of Alexandria; Gorgonia the Righteous, sister of Gregory the Theologian; Damian the New Martyr of Mount Athos; Boswell, Abbot of Melrose Abbey