The interpretation that salvation lies outside of ourselves completely is a common one in Christianity today, but was not always so. First of all, the competition between various interpretations of Jesus, his message, and his work, clearly shows that many early followers picked up a sense that Jesus was telling people to look inward to what they were given as a gift from God, and to develop that. So, if one looks at some texts that were considered "scripture" among many early Christians (such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Truth), you find these types of sentiments expressed.
Secondly, these expressions in non-canonical works are not inconsistent with the Bible that we know today. For example, as mentioned in a previous post, a possible interpretation of Luke 17:21, and the interpretation used in the Eastern Church, is Jesus statement that "the Kingdom of God is within you." In 1 Cor. 6, Paul writes, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you..." There is ample evidence in the mainstream Bible of this sort of belief in a "divine spark," if you will. And it is not at all uncommon, particularly in regards to the Holy Spirit, to hear modern Christians speak of having God within them. People also commonly say, perhaps saying more than they intend, that they have Jesus in their heart.
2 Thoughts in direct response to the comment:
- This does not imply that we don't need God or anyone else to be saved. It means that we have a gift from God (which obviously implies a need of the gift giver) that needs to be cared for and nurtured through our actions as tangible expressions of faith. We also need the community of believers around us to help us stay the path of "The Way."
- When applying this thinking to the issue of capital punishment, I am thinking in terms of eternity rather than in terms of rehabilitation into society. I have many concerns about the death penalty [the possibilty of false convictions (which we have seen in some cases); the arrogance of taking the power of life and death into our hands; the message of violence that it sends (like a parent striking his/her child to teach the child it's wrong to hit); etc.] but most on point with this comment is that with capital punishment we extinguish the divine spark before it has been given the fullest opportunity to be developed. I'm not suggesting we set murderers free, even those who undergo "Jail-House conversions," as there is still the proper issue of justice in society. I am suggesting, in part, among other concerns, that we should not take it upon ourselves to extinguish life and the opportunity of achieving a full relationship with the divine.
Finally, I don't disagree with the final quote from Romans at all, in fact, I think it supports my point. It fits w/ an anecdote from my pseudonym Gandalf the Grey in the Lord of the Rings. Frodo says it is a pity that Bilbo didn't kill the creature Gollum. Gandalf asks Frodo (paraphrasing), "Some live that deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Do not be so quick to deal out death in judgment." With that sentiment I agree. God gives us life and the spark that makes us fully human, not mere organisms. I am content to let God handle death as well. I should not presume to be his avenger. History has shown us too many cases (w/ 9-11 being one of the most dramatic) where people think they are bringing God's judgment of death to people. People who do evil should rightly have fear, but not of me. And if I should not have that power, and I don't think any other individual should have that power, then should a collection of individuals- the government- have that power? Do we invest our government with that divine authority? And are we really that confident in our government to think it should have that power?