Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

This is the start of a series of meditations on grace. The series starts by considering some of the ideas about grace in theology and in the Bible.

Grace comes through Christ. This seems like something on which all Christian should agree. Grace is God’s goodwill, his benevolence. God so loved the world that he sent his son, and sending his son was the most significant, irrevocable act of grace since creation itself, the very foundation of God’s grace towards a people who had lost the true knowledge of God.

So why do we talk about conditional election or unconditional election instead of Christ? Why do we talk about limited atonement and unlimited atonement instead of Christ? Why do we talk about irresistible grace or prevenient grace, instead of the grace that comes through Christ? When we talk about “irresistible grace”, we’re not talking about “God sending Christ into the world.” When we talk about “prevenient grace”, we’re not talking about “God sending Christ into the world.” That “grace” is some other means of grace, some other way in which God relates to us, besides Christ.  

Are we so sure that there really is another “grace” apart from the grace that comes through Christ? Sure, “grace” is a word with plenty of history and several meanings, but when we’re talking about receiving God’s love and favor, is there another grace apart from Christ? Irresistible grace is said to be some kind of electing grace that comes to us before Christ and apart from Christ, to lead us to Christ. Prevenient grace is much the same, just resistible. Both think of grace as some hidden thing that does not come through Christ, and in that sense is disconnected from Christ.  

But what if the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only such grace there is? What if it comes to us not in some mysterious inexplicable way, but by hearing the message of Christ? When we teach about God’s love and grace, what if we resolved to know nothing except Christ and him crucified? What if baptism is a sign to us that we’re united with Christ in his death and will be united with him in his resurrection? What if baptism proclaims the message that we’re forgiven and God calls us his children? What if the Lord’s Supper tells us that Christ’s body was broken for us and his blood was shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, and that we are welcome at his table? What if the good news of Christ is itself the power of God for our salvation?


Howard said...

Excellent - spot on.

Aron Wall said...

A lot of people feel like God was guiding them, and benevolently looking out for them, and preparing them to recieve the Gospel, even before they "heard the message of Christ". Do you think that this is a delusion?

Or do you think that God exhibits any goodwill and benevolence towards non-Christians, prior to revealing the gospel? If he does, then it seems like your theology MUST include a concept similar to "preveient grace", even if you choose to call it by a different name.

To be sure, the entire universe was created through the (pre-incarnate) Son, and therefore in that sense it is quite true that we have no grace apart from Christ. But that is different from saying that grace comes only through explicit conscious knowledge of Christ's human incarnation.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Howard

Thank you for the encouragement.


Hi Aron

Actually to some extent you're talking about the next installment in the series ... I kind of debated which one to post first since they're so intertwined.

Rather than do a preview of the next post, I'll catch you after the next post. :)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Aron Wall said...

OK, great! Looking forward to the next installment then. (I did notice that your last paragraph consists mostly of questions...)

By the way, I hope my previous comment didn't come across as too snarky. I didn't really intend it that way, but it seems a tad aggressive now that I look it over again. But different people have different amounts of tolerance for that sort of thing, so I thought I'd check.


Martin LaBar said...

What if?

As always, food for deep thought.


Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Aron

Don't worry about that, I'm sure it comes from caring about the topic.

Actually, I was wondering one thing: whether you were interested in posting your own perspective on prevenient grace on your own blog. I'd link it back.

The reason I ask: I have the advantage of already knowing the general outline of what I'm going to post as I have this longish series planned (likely to still be going in July, at my current rate of posting). I know, when all is said & done, that I still won't mean quite what an Arminian would want to say, though from the first post alone you couldn't really get a full picture of where I'm going with it. So if you were interested in writing about prevenient grace, I'd be glad to link you for the sake of the conversation, if you were interested in the topic for its own sake.

Besides, more interaction generally makes for a better conversation.

No pressure at all, just an invitation.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Martin

Thank you for the kind words.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF