Karl Barth once described British Christianity as “incurably Pelagian.” Pelagius was a British monk who was pretty high about human nature. Motivational speakers of our era must have liked him. Anyway, sometimes I wonder whether all of us are “incurably Pelagian.” Somehow we could not just accept that Christ is sufficient “for us and for our salvation.” Our prayer to God so that we could be stronger and more faithful and better in our life could be an earnest prayer, but I wonder if it actually masks the underlying assumption that we, indeed, must be better for God before God could accept us fully. Notice that the analogy of rope and thread, which represents the work of Christ for us and our human effort, respectively, even though it says that our thread will not be able to add anything to the solid rope, does require us to hold on to the rope. On the other hand, when Jesus told the parable of a good Samaritan, notice that the victim does not do any single thing in the story. The good Samaritan practically does everything for the victim.
I am not saying that all of us now should go into the equally abominable way of antinomianism, but, likewise, I don’t want us to think that salvation is about us. I’ve read a few works of historical theology, and I noticed how they characterized the age of church fathers where the church formulated its theology and Christology, and the age of Reformation where the church formulated its soteriology. Apart from the underlying assumption that since they have figured it out then theology must be a finished task, which is wrong, by the way, since theology must be sought afresh, this claim is also misleading. I think it is more appropriate to say that the early church fathers formulated an objective soteriology (that Christ is for us and for our salvation — this phrase came from the Nicene Creed) and the Reformers formulated a subjective (i.e., existential or experiential) soteriology (i.e., how Christ is for us and for our salvation). And it is of course in line with the humanistic (in the neutral sense) spirit of the Reformation era. Luther’s question could only be asked by Luther and by no one else. So, when we say that salvation has been accomplished in Christ, we must insist that it is, indeed, a mission accomplished. Thus, the question to be solved is what faith actually is and what role it has in such an objectivist construal of salvation.