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A further reflection on grace and nature...
Dr. Hart, with regard to grace and nature, I’ve been reading John Barclay’s Paul and the Power of Grace. In reading his book I can’t quite make out his position. He seems to advocate grace alone but also the necessity of our response. This leaves everything hinging on our response.
So if we are saved by grace alone it’s through receiving the grace.
And if we don’t receive and respond to the gift/Charis then the grace alone which could have saved us fails to benefit us.
So if we are saved it is by grace alone, but if we are damned it’s because we rejected the grace alone which could have saved us.
So then our receiving of the grace doesn’t add to the power of grace to save us, but grace can’t save us unless we receive it.
So if we are saved it’s all by the grace of God, but if we are not saved it’s our fault for not being saved.
So then it’s 100 percent grace if we are saved, and 100 percent our fault if we are not saved.
But then what about God’s foreknowledge?
How helpful is the gift of grace to us if God knows in advance that we will, or just might, fail to receive it.
It seems that those with this with this kind of position want have their cake and eat it too. They want to claim that they believe salvation is by grace alone, and that our decision to receive it is only instrumental and not meritorious. But then if we fail in our instrumental and non meritorious reception of grace we are damned.
This makes the instrumental part of our reception of grace finally decisive and beyond that which grace can guarantee. This ultimately I think drives a wedge between nature and grace which I have trouble with. If salvation really is all of grace, then even our ability and desire to ultimately receive grace is driven and empowered by grace. Finally then grace and nature are two sides of the same coin and inextricably linked. They finally collapse into the same thing.
Is this a fair reading of Paul, or am I importing something into Paul that’s not really there?
When challenged on the whole "by grace not by works" spiel by one of us catechumens (ahem), my Lutheran pastor claimed that anyone who was truly "saved by faith" would be inspired by the grace of God to perform the works anyway. So it was to the grace, not to the works themselves, that the glory attached. This struck me as a tidy way to avoid the whole issue, which was that to diminish the significance of works seems rather against the spirit of the Gospels. (I know this is obvious, or should be; was just reminded of the exchange. I liked Pastor Craig.)
Dr. Heart, I enjoyed a recent talk of yours in Australia including and the inclination of people to look for divine purpose in suffering and death. What do you make of the passage from John 11:4-11:15 on Lazarus that reads “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Is this speaking directly to the issue of meaning or purpose in suffering? Does it in anyway deviate the position you took in your talk? Thank you.
I am currently in a debate about Grace, with someone who is claiming that Arminian theologians can claim in their theology that salvation is by grace alone, because the human decision is instrumental, but not meritorious with regard to salvation. What I’m wanting to argue, is that the human decision, even if it is not seen as meritorious can certainly be disastrous and negate salvation if the decision is not made correctly. so I want to maintain that if salvation is indeed by grace alone, in the largest sense of that concept, and if Grace goes to all in the largest sense of that concept, and if there really is no real distinction between grace and nature in the largest sense, then, salvation, and indeed everything else, is by grace alone, in the sense that everything is driven and powered by grace and that our necessary cooperation although we really have to do it is still assured.
Arminian and other types of “Free Will” theologians want to claim that they still affirm salvation by grace alone in the protestant tradition, at least, and as I see it magically, they make the decision for salvation not count in any way meritoriously even though it is still decisive towards whether salvation occurs.
A question about grace and nature. In your New Testament introduction you write “In truth, I suspect that very few of us, in even our wildest imaginings, could ever desire to be the kind of persons that the New Testament describes as fitting the pattern of life in Christ. And I do not mean merely that most of us would find the moral requirements laid out in Christian scripture a little onerous—though of course we do. Therein lies the perennial appeal of the venerable early modern theological fantasy that the Apostle Paul inveighed against something called “works-righteousness” in favor of a purely extrinsic “justification” by grace—which, alas, he did not. He rejected only the notion that one might be “shown righteous” by “works” of the Mosaic Law—that is, ritual “observances” like circumcision or keeping kosher—but he also quite clearly insisted, as did Christ, that all will be judged in the end according to their deeds (Romans 2:1–16 and 4:10–12; 1 Corinthians 3:12–15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 2:16; and so on). Rather, I mean that most of us would find Christians truly cast in the New Testament mold fairly obnoxious: civically reprobate, ideologically unsound, economically destructive, politically irresponsible, socially discreditable, and really just a bit indecent.
I think I see where you are going with trying to say that the later developed idea of salvation through grace alone as an impartation of imputed righteousness can be seen as a later theological development. On the other hand, I still think of Grace as a larger concept, which contains everything that God gives to us, and that we have from God without us having to do anything. So I would say that by grace, I am a child of God, who is capable of being taken into union with God, without having to be changed into something that I’m not.
In the biggest picture of all, I would say that it is by grace, that I am part of the creation of a supremely good God, who will ultimately restore the creation, and bring all of God’s children into union with God.
Now, all of this does not mean that I deny that there is a real work of cooperation that I must participate in, and also a real experience of judgment, which I may have to go through, in order to purge myself of anything that is unworthy. But I am also insisting that by grace God is at work in me, and helping me to do my part so that I can be assured that I will not fail to be able to do my part of the work. And here I would not be asserting that in my work, I am somehow trying to earn my salvation or justification.
What might be your thoughts?
Mox audiam; et tibi dicere me valde honoratum inclusum fuisse in ipso catalogo sensisse volui.