Stick with me for a moment. This is might be confusing.
I was reading a book by Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong yesterday getting ready for seminary classes in August. In the book, Yong wrote about George Lindbeck‘s cultural-linguistic view of doctrine and practice in religion. Among other things, Yong wrote, Linbeck’s system redescribes the concept of salvation. For Lindbeck, salvation is coming to live in harmony or accord with the complex of beliefs and practices that make up the “grammar” of a particular religion. It is about becoming a native in culture.*
A lot of what they write assumes or is influenced by this view of salvation. At least, I think that is true. This view of salvation is not nearly so much about a supernatural transformation of human beings into holy creatures who will live for eternity with God. It is more about coming to speak, think, and operate under the rules of a new language and culture. I think Hauerwas or Willimon would say that only God can get us cultured up enough to really live like natives. They would see grace and the Holy Spirit acting as our Professor Henry Higgins. But there is something different between this Lindbeck-inspired definition of the word salvation and the old Wesleyan meaning.
I don’t have a really firm grasp on this yet. I have not figured it out. But when I read that line in the Yong book, I did have this ‘aha’ moment. I just need to discover what lies on the other side of that ‘aha.’
*After posting this, I dug out the book again. Here is Yong’s exact quote: “that rather than religious doctrines expressing the experiences of salvation, salvation is instead the process of being shaped, formed, and transformed by religious doctrines” — keeping in mind that doctrines in Lindbeck “function with regard to religious traditions … how grammars serve languages.”