I always had a problem with the concept that Jesus died to pay for our sins - even those we had not yet committed. Somehow the time line seems important to me. If he had atoned for my sins - the ones I had not yet committed - then somehow the need to commit them ought to have been negated. But we know that is not the case.
Re The Guardian article, when I was reading it I noticed this line:
Rethinking Sentencing begins the much-needed debate into what our judicial system would look like if it was premised not on the logic of salvation as debt and repayment, but on the idea that crime is the breaking of a relationship within the community, and that genuine justice must be all about relationships restored.
That rang a bell with me. I suddenly recalled one definition of heaven (and eternity) as "being in the presence of God" - when all time ceases to exist - there is only an eternal "moment". It is sometimes referred to as the "Beatific vision".
Anyway, if that is what Heaven is meant to be, then clearly it is about relationship with God, not physical issues of warm, sunny days, palm trees, and even an Angelic Choir singing Bach! Those are essentially inwardly focussed issues - the pleasure principle continued from Earth into our concept of Heaven.
So, if Heaven is to do with our relationship with God, then it is easy to think that "salvation" (which at its linguistic origin means "healing", NOT "debt repayment") ought be to do with relationships with God (and his representative on Earth - ourselves and other people (and animals, and the planet too, if you are feeling a bit Buddhist).
So, peace and harmony are the route to salvation, because they deal with relationships.
I mention relationships with ourselves firstly - as I believe that true inner peace is probably the hardest relationship, but the most important, and the source of the breakdown of most other relationships - with other people, and with society. And it is that breakdown which gets people classified as "criminals".
So, working backwards, from the concept of Heaven, to what is Salvation, we find relationships are the key. So, sin (crime) is based on selfishness (personal gratification) above fairness (justice) to others.
Salvation comes from healing, not payment of debts.
So there, I have given you a brief run down on our relationship with God (and ourselves and other people, etc) and only used the word debt once - in the last line. And only then, to say what salvation (justice) is NOT about.
Only trouble is, it does not build into this theory of salvation the death of Christ.
However, that can surely be incorporated. But I would be inclined to say that Jesus' greatest contribution to our lives was his life, rather than his death. It was through his life that he showed us how to live, surely.
Personally, if I think about Jesus, I think of the Sermon on the Mount in preference to his death on the Cross. After all that was a political act by the Jewish Hierarchy acting in cahoots with the Roman politico/military occupying forces. And so, one can actually see that as an expression of Society's inability to deal with the simplicity of Jesus' message.
I think Salvation comes from Christ's message - his example, and his words, more so than from his death. But, if one took that sentence too literally I would probably be classed as a heretic. So, don't stress that point too much.