Many Salvations

Posted on April 5, 2009 by


Last night Heather and I watched the movie Bulletproof Monk. I enjoyed it as a fun action flick, but it had a sub-theme of enlightenment that stuck out to me. Just before the movie, I had been reading 3 Nephi 14, wherein Jesus says,

strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

That put my mind onto the subject of salvation. What can I make of Jesus’ statement above? That most of mankind is doomed to eternal misery? Stephen Robinson wrote a book a while ago whose theme was just the opposite. Robinson was addressing persistent Mormon guilt, that sense of “I’m not good enough to be saved by Jesus’ atonement”. He replies by saying something like, “How can we call Jesus the Savior of the world if He doesn’t save anyone?” And I think he has a good point — I do not believe that God sent all of us down here so that only the few most righteous might be saved and the rest condemned to hell. But how do I reconcile that with Jesus’ statement above?

My answer is that the strait gate that Jesus is talking about and the salvation that Robinson is talking about are two different things. Perhaps there is more than just one kind of salvation.

I think Jesus is talking about discovering God during mortal life, while Robinson is talking about an eternal reward in the next life. Each of those are important events, and each could be considered salvation in a sense. We know that not everyone who attains the celestial kingdom will enter the church in this life, and not all who enter the church will be saved in the celestial kingdom. Are we saved once at baptism, and then saved again in a different way when we enter God’s heavenly kingdom after death?

This is where Bulletproof Monk comes in. The monk in the movie equates enlightenment with self-knowledge. “Enlightenment” is analagous with “salvation”. It is the object of a lifelong spiritual quest.

So between Jesus, Robinson, and Bulletproof Monk, I have three kinds of salvation: salvation through affiliation (baptism), salvation as an eternal reward (the grace of God), and salvation of wisdom (enlightenment). So what other kinds of salvation might there be?

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and The Glass Bead Game talk about salvation through commitment to a discipline. Islam teaches salvation through submission to God, and Buddhism teaches salvation through resignation of one’s desires. Many people believe in a merit-based salvation, earned as a gift in exchange for righteous actions. And, of course, there is temporal salvation — the salvation of prosperity and freedom, having one’s earthly needs met.

That’s eight different kinds of salvation. I’m sure there are plenty more. So when we as Mormons talk about being saved then, what kind(s) of salvation are we talking about?

Posted in: Church, Musings