Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Good question. For me it is the promise and assurance of eternal life spent with God based on my acceptance of His Son and his sacrificial death for me.
I find that where problems generally arise is with various definitions of salvation in and outside of Friends. There are those who would define salvation by good works and would judge others accordingly. Thus, if you're saved, "you do this and not that". However, Paul warned against this and the rules that I believe the Galatians were bogged down with of "don't taste, don't touch". I think we would be better off finding a biblical defintion and sticking with it without adding our own requirements and then loading people down with them. Once we've done that, then we can begin to live in the fullness that salvation brings.
I grew up Presbyterian and was taught that God selects only certain people to be saved & the rest he damns to Hell. (Yes, that wonderful Calvinist theory.) I could not accept such a callous, cruel God so I left the Presbyterian church and became an evangelical Christian. They believed that anyone could be saved and that God didn't have hand-picked favorites. But they strongly believed that you had to believe in Jesus as your Savior or you couldn't get into Heaven. To know you were saved you had to say the "Sinners Prayer" in which you admit that you are a lost sinner and ask Jesus into your heart & claim him to be your Savior. I was told that was the ONLY way into Heaven. For years I believed that. But over the years I met far too many non-Christians who were deeply spiritual and from whom goodness seemed to flow out of them. Were these people damned to Hell? I pondered and pondered this question. Was Gandhi in Hell? What about Buddha? Both were very Christ-like. They spoke of loving your enemies and living good, moral lives in service to others. But according to my evangelical friends they were definitely in Hell.
I later became a Quaker because, in part, I loved the idea of the Inner Light being in all people. Eventually I came to believe that salvation means to change your way of thinking. No longer are you just concerned about yourself and your wants and needs. You start seeing everyone as your brother and sister and the glory that is all of creation. It is an awareness of the transcendant. So anyone can have a "Christ-spirit" in them. When Jesus said that no one comes to the Father except through him it means that Jesus judges a person's heart and he decides who gets in and who doesn't. It doesn't mean you have to pray a "Sinners Prayer" or belong to a specific religion. That is how I see salvation.
I just finished the book "Saving Paradise". The writers point out that the earliest Christian art did not include images of crucifixion. The mosaics showed images of resurrection, healing, the garden of Eden.
That is salvation for me - Jesus as teacher and healer.
There's the usual theological sense, sure.
But practically, I truly believe in my redemption when I experience God's unconditional love through another human- when a friend or Friend is there for me in such a way that God's love becomes clear.
I also believe in redemption when I'm able to overcome my human nature and show that love to someone else, despite all the difficulties.
When I am able to admit that I've sinned and then really believe that I am forgiven, I also understand that I am saved.
When my faith helps me struggle through times of overwhelming depression when I feel worse that worthless, I feel redeemed, given value again (like when, as above, I am able to show love to someone else).
When my faith helps me overcome my flaws and to say something better than I could alone, or be braver or gentler or kinder or just better than I could be relying on myself- then also I understand that I am saved by faith.
I could go on.