Book Review: The Language of Salvation: Discovering the Riches of What it Means to be Saved, by Victor Kuligin
While leading a weekly Bible study in Namibia, Victor Kuligan saw that Paul’s letter to the Romans described salvation in rich, multi-faceted ways often missed in the modern church. Out of that conviction, he has given to us this marvelous little book, The Language of Salvation, outlining 13 different facets of the jewel that we call salvation.
Most, if not all, of the concepts that the author outlines will not be new to any knowledgeable evangelical, but Kuligan has provided a fresh look at the doctrines related to salvation by asking the reader to see them as all being of one piece. Thus, he would call us away from seeing salvation primarily in terms of, for example, the biological language of regeneration, the courtroom language of justification, or the family language of adoption. Instead, he wants us to hold all of these portrayals of salvation together in order to see the riches that God has given us in Christ.
While the book is doctrinal in nature, Kuligin seeks to be practical, and each of the chapters contains brief sidebars with suggestions regarding the implications for witnessing and worship of the particular concept of salvation that he is discussing. In addition, the book is written in an easy to read style including numerous illustrations. Kuligin, who grew up in and received most of his education in the United States, has spent most of his years in ministry in Africa, and that provides him with a global perspective that would see varying aspects of salvation to be especially meaningful in different cultural contexts (as in his discussion of adoption in light of the cultural situation in Namibia or his discussion of “participation,” or union with Christ, in light of other aspects of African culture). In one story, he told of his children visiting Hindu friends who had to ring a bell to wake up their household gods each morning. While most westerners will be inclined to laugh at the story, the author reminds us that it is in this kind of world that we are called to witness to our salvation in Christ.
While Kuligin’s determination to view each of his areas of salvation as being of equal importance is a strength of the book, it is also a weakness as the author sometimes seems to struggle with a need to see logical and chronological priority in the various facets. Thus, while concepts such as justification, which he calls the language of the courtroom, and sanctification, the language of industry (refinement), are both essential concepts for understanding salvation, it is important to see justification as logically prior. Kuligin also seems to struggle to some degree to maintain that sanctification and fruitfulness (the language of agriculture) are works of God’s grace while also emphasizing the Christian’s effort and participation in it. Recognizing that good works are the evidence and fruit, not the cause, of our sanctification would be helpful in that regard.
Nonetheless, he has provided us with a helpful, gospel cenetered and Christ honoring work that shows us the breadth and depth of salvation in a way that many of us have likely not considered. This book could be a useful help for a Bible study group or the basis for a sermon series on salvation.