Explorations in Theology

The series explores a theology that is human friendly! Jesus as the true human shows us who God is, and because of his consideration for us ('who are we, that God should make note of us?') defines who humanity was created to be. The nature of sin is to fall short of the glory of God. The glory of God as revealed in the truly human one - 'we beheld his glory full of grace and truth'. This volume is a foundation for the other volumes. And there are ZOOM groups available...
Volume 2 Significant Other and Volume 3 A Subversive Movement now also available!
El libro electrónico (en Español) también ya está disponible

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Resistable Grace

Leave the TULIPS growing in the field

Hope you like the title. TULIP has been far too influential for too long, so time for a push back. My one success in my theological studies days was when I pushed a professor (a bit of a Calvin expert) to agree that he was holding to ‘God desired all to be saved, but only chooses some’. An all powerful God who can do what he wishes and chooses to do something he does not desire? Really? All systems leak, and mine simply leaks less than the next person. So I am not in favour of the ‘irresistable’ part of TULIP. [Note to self: have to come up with a new acronym.]

A couple of texts that of course ‘prove’ my perspective (we all love proof texts, all one has to do is to ignore the non-proof texts!).

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain (1 Cor. 15:10).

we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).

Not in vain… seems to imply that the grace of God can be received in vain: from the same verb as in Phil. 1:6 regarding the kenosis of Jesus… the self emptying of Jesus, so it seems ‘in vain’ is along the lines of ‘deprived of power’, ‘without achieving the desired results’. The grace of God could be without desired results, and the deciding factor regarding the outcome in these verses was Paul, or the Corinthians. I don’t think it really gives the idea of ‘irresistable’.

Charity. When we see someone who is desperate it is right to be moved and to give without knowing much more something that will at least enable that person to survive. Charity though is not the meaning behind the word ‘grace‘ or ‘gift‘ in the NT. Both charity and gift / grace are given with no strings attached, neither demand a return, neither buy the person’s allegiance. The difference though lies in the consideration given that lies behind the act, the reason for the act. For gift to be truly gift / grace it is given without strings attached, but with the consideration that what is given will enable this person / situation to pull toward their destiny. Without the gift it will be very difficult for them to move onward and upward, indeed, unless something similar comes from another source, the movement toward their destiny will not be possible. That is the purpose of grace. Paul responded in such a way that he moved on to fulfil his destiny, and he is appealing (second verse quoted) that the Corinthians will respond in like manner.

Paul gave the escaped slave Onesimus back to Philemon as a gift. Philemon could receive him back as a slave, but the gift was given to pull Philemon to a new level. He might be a slave owner (in that culture) but he was being given a gift to enable him to pull himself higher and to humanise all people, regardless of economic status. (We might add that Paul gave some fairly strong arguments, and perhaps a bit of emotional weight, to strongly encourage Philemon not to receive the gift ‘in vain’.)

Gifts given are given because they carry an inherent power… if pulled on. In order to be truly a gift we will need to know something of the other person / situation, so that what is not ours (in the sense of ownership) but is ours to steward can be given freely. There will be a relational, but not transactional, element to the gift.

2022 – I have had on my heart for some days ‘a new economy being birthed’. Resistable grace has to be part of it.

[Now to work on that very clever acronym.]

4 thoughts on “Resistable Grace

  1. There is a lot of work being done on the bioeconomy just lately, which is basing economics on biological resources and regeneration. I have concerns though that it could easily be co-opted into business as usual with a green veneer. A focus on too much technological wizardry and not on the underlying issues. I have to prepare a course on the bioeconomy for Landscape Architects, helping them to understand what they need to be designing, and how, in the future to promote this regenerative economy. It means sitting in on various seminars and asking some hard questions. So yes! A new economy is being birthed, based on land, based on regeneration, but we have to pray it is not stillborn.

  2. Yes, it is being birthed but oh boy way too many people are resisting the grace available to them. My part in it is twofold. I am teaching climate change to planning students. They will have to make the decisions that will keep cities habitable in the future. The course starts them at 2030 with the assumption of middling success in meeting goals. They look at all aspects of life and plan until 2050. They will lead the transformation of cities where most people will live.

    And this week I move to another part of Canada, to an acre site, with a new passive house. Time to figure out how this site is going to regenerated and stewarded now that the build is complete. It will be a spatial, visual, and hopefully fruitful (I mean that literally) model of a new economy.

    The new economy is here. It is full of grace. More of us need to embrace it rather than resist it.

    1. Interesting Anne that we are both teaching students who will be designing and planning for the future. My students, on the whole, design with minimal knowledge of the exact components of their green designs, now I will be getting them to think about the what and how those green and blue spaces are used in the new economy – not in an exploitive way but in a regenerative way. Interesting to see what they use going forward.

  3. Thanks for the comments… and the warnings. Exploitation / colonisation is so much part of our world (sadly). More people as you say (Ann)… but motivated by love, giving that is grace.

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