God's "consuming fire" is the fire of holy love. It doesn't await sinners in the future; it burns up sin itself.
There is salvation in no one else. And he has other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
We might Bible-study our way through most of this difficult parable, but what do we do with the guest who is pulled in off the streets and then kicked out?
In Williamsburg, Virginia, where I live, the fraternities and sororities of The College of William & Mary invite new members in (and leave others out). What's in and what's out translates cunningly into who's in and who's out.
Looking back to history to find yet another approach to atonement will not solve the problem, but a reconsideration of the physical or mystical theory of how Christ saves us might contribute to more fruitful and civil conversation.
Psalm 51 does not let any of us off the hook—not the progressives, the evangelicals, or the feel-good agnostics.
Many Christians can name the hour and the place of their salvation. For me it was answering not one but two altar calls at Billy Graham crusades in the 1960s. For Reinhold Niebuhr, who was asked if he could name the time and place of his salvation, it was “2,000 years ago on a dusty hill named Golgotha outside Jerusalem’s wall.”
As much as we might like to make the faith about spiritual enlightenment or ethical ideals or the broad love of God that inspires tolerance, the fact of the matter is that the gospel is at root a rescue story.