Saturday, November 06, 2010

Theological Space and Grace

I have been thinking a lot recently about notions of grace. I had browsed through a book on John Wesley's theology and the author, Collins, used the term cooperative grace. I'm going to have to spend some time and see if there are correlations for me and my thinking on grace. Grace, in my understanding, is about an invitation. It is God's invitation to participate in the redemptive activity of God throughout the world. But two things have malformed this aspect of grace in many evangelical theologies. First the Reformed penchant for defending the sovereignty of God. (I think this is at the heart of the critique of open theism, I'm not completely sold on open theism but I do think it is worth reflecting on.) I find this all the time in Reformed thought, it is often characterized by a very deterministic worldview. The epitome of such a notion would be predestination, but even where predestination (and its bastard child double predestination) is challenged there still remains this concern over presenting a supposedly diminished view of God as sovereign. For me this kind of thinking flies in the face of God's kenotic self-revelation - God does not seem so worried about God's reputation or sovereignty. In fact that isn't where the risk is; I believe kenosis is by necessity a risk. The risk is not that God would (as if this were possible) somehow cease to be God. The risk is that we might choose to not accept the invitation God presents. For me the kind of God who is willing to risk it all on love is so worthy of worshipping with my whole life, the God who needs our defense is not. Such a God is simply insecure, and ceases to be God.

The second aspect that deforms this is the way we Westerner evangelicals have personalized sin. We have focused on spirituality as the private domain of the individual. This privatization gives theology no room to meet the needs of a world being destroyed by sin. Further, this way of viewing spirituality shows that not only is God insecure (as if that were possible) but that we are insecure in God's love. Grace should overcome all these insecurities (perfect love should cast out fear if we are to believe the scriptures). Grace is a self-revelation of God that evokes faith. Grace doesn't lose its sovereign dimension - because it is God's gift demonstrated by God's self-emptying, self-sacrificing holy gamble on humanity - as only a sovereign and completely secure God could ever make such a demonstration of grace. A God this gracious could not but be faithful to accomplish all that has been promised, therefore, our security is sure. But that isn't really the point.

The point is that grace opens up the possibility for so much more that merely our confidence in salvation. This kind of grace, that I'm describing, says that God continues to want to take a risk on us. Risking that we would keep saying yes to participating in God's redemptive work throughout creation. That we would participate in all that God continues to do in our world to defeat the power of sin and undo its terrible effects. This kind of invitation goes well beyond any personalized notions of me and my best friend Jesus hanging out for some supposed escape from this world. Rather, it is God saying, "This is the extent to which I'm willing to go with my love - so too are you called to participate with Me as we take My love to the whole world." I can get on board with that kind of grace, I can give my life for that kind of God.

What kind of God do we want to worship? What kind of God would it take for us to take up our crosses and follow?

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