Lesson 10: Is Pat Tillman Saved?

When the young woman asked the question as a topic for the next meeting, I did not know what she meant. But the group expressed their approval, so I unraveled it before writing the paper that follows. You can read about their discussion in the first comment.

Is Pat Tillman Saved?

Anna asked a very important question for Christians living in our global village. We first asked, “Do Muslims go heaven?” allowing Matt to report on his experience hosting a Islamic student for a week. Now we’ll ask “Are people like Pat Tillman saved?” As you might know, Pat Tillman was a NFL star who joined the Army after 9-11. He was a moral but not a religious person. At various times he chose to remain loyal to his friends rather than earn more money. He was honest enough to oppose the war when he learned facts that forced him to question his former position.

He was part of the elite Rangers when he was killed by friendly fire. The army then covered up the truth, trying to use his death for propaganda. His family sensed the cover-up and forced an investigation that revealed the truth. The army tried to justify itself by claiming his family could not let go, because they were not religious and did not have the comfort of life after death. They were building on a statement made by his brother at the funeral, “Pat isn’t with God, He fucking dead. He wasn’t religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he’s fucking dead”. So our question is “Who’s saved?”

Let’s start by recognizing most people’s idea of salvation as escaping from hell and being admitted to heaven immediately after you die is not biblical. It only came on the scene 1000 years after Jesus. Heaven is not dying, growing wings, and sitting on clouds playing harps.

Salvation in the Bible is God coming to heal the world his people broke. He blesses Abraham, the father of all Jews, Christians, and Muslims, so his family can bless every other nation. That’s why Jesus speaks of salvation as nations from the East and West coming to eat at God’s table.

Notice this happens in history. Most of us ask pray each day “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Old Testament pictures this kingdom as being saved from despotic governments and finding one that practices justice that cares for all people. The dead share it through their children.

The New Testament pictures the same beloved community but promises that the dead shall be raised in the Last Days so they can share it themselves. Jesus makes clear this is a gift for everyone. He often speaks of it as a marriage feast where people including sinners, tax collectors, foreigners, and prostitutes gather at God’s table.

Martin Luther claimed the Bible gives us the right to say who is saved. He cites Galatians 3: 27, 28 “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. However, he also said we can not say who, if anyone, is not saved. He then cites Jesus telling us not to judge. His counsel is “Let God be God.”

1 Enlightened Reply

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  1. Pastor Fritz Foltz says:

    I can’t remember if the meeting took place before or after the uproar about Rob Bell’s call for evangelicals to stop framing their message in a heaven or hell framework. Whichever it was, the kids once again were right on target. However, they were not too interested in looking at the ideas in my paper. They wanted to hear what their peers believed. They covered all the ideas you would expect in a seminary class. Most of them felt we have no right to condemn anyone to hell; that only God could do that. But then others suggested we need some sort of accountability if we are to have an ethical society. The Young Adults group pretty much agreed with the high school youth. They especially appreciated Rob Bell’s courage in bringing up the subject. In fact, one said he would attend Church if Bell was the pastor. I knew his pastor would agree with Bell, so wondered if some of the Mainline Churches’ problems was never addressing the controversial topics of the day. The young people at our reading groups want to do exactly that.

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