Thanks to Canon Press, a new edition of Face to Face has just been published. I’m especially grateful for this since it gave me an opportunity to clarify the text as well as to embed it more deeply in a Trinitarian context.
Along with a new Preface, a number of corrections have been made (and a few additions) which I hope have improved the whole.
Here’s a part of the new preface to give you a feel for what I’m talking about:
Friendship and hospitality are vital for life simply and fundamentally because God is a Triune being. He is not a solitary monad (like Allah e.g.), but Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. John reminds us that God is love (note: not that God loves but that love is fundamental to God’s very being). This can only be true because God is Triune. As a Triune being God has always existed in a communion of love, joy, and fellowship. The Father has eternally loved the Son and given Himself for Him; the Son has always loved the Father and given up Himself for Him; and the Spirit has always been the bond of love between the Father and the Son and ever lives to exalt both.
Man, being created after the image of God cannot but be a social being – one who finds his true humanity in society and fellowship and communion with others. Man, like God, is fundamentally a relational being.
This helps us to understand the disaster sin wrought by its entrance into the world through Adam’s disobedience. Sin isolates. Sin causes man to focus upon himself, love himself, and serve himself – i.e., become thoroughly inhuman. Sin causes “death” (isolation from God and man). We see it right away in the garden. Adam blames Eve for his failure and is apparently willing for Eve to perish in God’s wrath (“The woman that You gave me, she gave me of the fruit. . .”). Pretty callous. Amazingly indifferent to the one whom moments before he referred to as “bone of his bone.” But that’s what sin does to us.
This also helps us understand the whole business of salvation. Salvation is deliverance from the death and isolation of sin. Salvation brings us back into the life, love, and communion of the Triune God. It is, in the fullest sense, life. Life is restoration to communion, or perhaps better, restoration into the life of the Triune community (thus, we are baptized “into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”). Salvation involves a restoration of the image of God in us. Salvation makes us like God again – and that means that salvation is inescapably social. It doesn’t happen in isolation from others. God works through others to bring us to Himself and to restore His image in us.
It is interesting that the image God uses to describe the Church is not a solitary mountain retreat or a quiet, orderly monastery. Rather, He likens it to a bustling, thriving, vibrant city – with emissaries from the nations coming and going, bringing gifts, seeking assistance, rejoicing in the glorious love, and the infinite life and light of God Himself (Revelation 21-22). The focus is not upon a deliverance worked out as a private matter between God and the isolated individual. Rather, God brings the individual out of his isolation into the deliverance that has been worked for His people, the new Israel.
The work of redemption has as its goal the preparation of a Bride for the Son – and that Bride is the Church, the body of Christ. It is in the Church that one finds the Spirit dwelling in His fullness, hears the word of God plainly spoken, and enjoys the life of God as manifested in and through the other members of the family (the citizens of the heavenly city). And it is through communion with the other members of the body that each individual is nourished and built up to maturity in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 415-16).
The unhealthy over-emphasis upon the individual that we find in modern American evangelicalism has seriously undermined this way of thinking about salvation. We have reduced salvation to “going to heaven when you die.” We think of the Church as a nice, sometimes helpful organization where one can perhaps receive encouragement and comfort in times of need. But for far too many of us, “salvation” is something that is received, worked out, and experienced, solely within ourselves, apart from others.
God, however, sees salvation more along the lines of bringing you out of the darkness and isolation of sin and into the glorious hubbub and life of the Church. Salvation is incorporation into Christ. It involves being united by the Spirit to His body. It means not only having an individual relationship with God through His Son by the power of His Spirit, but enjoying and experiencing this relationship through vital communion with God through His people.
There’s more, but that gives you the basic idea. You can order a copy of the new edition here. In fact, order two copies. It’s for a good cause.