Sunday 13 December 2015

Alliance (and a response to the accusation of wishful thinking)

We should regard ourselves as being, as we actually are, in an alliance with God.

The plan was God's; we agreed to it and volunteered for mortal life. God placed us; we choose, struggle, err, repent, strive.

God is our loving Father (loving and Father); and we can be aware that He is in control of our ultimate situation; and therefore will never place us in an impossible situation - but always we should feel in alliance with Him and look for the ways which He has provided for our education and growth towards divinity.

(We may place ourselves in an appalling position, it may seem impossible in terms of the choices and actions we have made - but it never is impossible: repentance is always efficacious, no matter how painful.)

Is this merely wishful thinking? Well, it is certainly something well worth wishing for! The true understanding of Life is indeed optimistic, positive, hope-full.

In our alliance with God we cooperate to live in this mortal world while firstly giving it full value, yet in the fullest possible awareness of its eternal context.

But, the method is by choices, striving, trial and error, and education by consequences - including suffering, requiring the recognition that it has some-times been self-inflicted. Life requires surviving without succumbing to either hatred or pride, or eroded by despair - but instead fuelled by love and courage underpinned by hope.

Actual life is not easy, and is not meant to be easy - so is this metaphysical model merely a product of wishful thinking?

Would not wishful thinking make life entirely easy, pleasant, comfortable, interesting - with guarantees? None of this is true of Christian theology - so if it was merely wishful thinking, then it makes a poor job of it.

No - this is realism: and the reality is (we realise with joy!) that mortal life is in its essence (not continuously nor necessarily by quantitative measure) optimistic and positive - ourselves and God:

We are in-it together, in alliance.


Geraint Apted said...

Faith and/or Works?

I lifted this because I thought it was well explained. But here is the link:

Romans 5:1 — Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 4:5 — But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Romans 3:28 — Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

There is also

James 2:24 — Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

... which might support the different view that we are justified simply by works and how we act. However, context is important and James goes on to say

James 2:26 — Indeed, as the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

The point is that faith engenders good works.

Matthew 5:16 — Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Galatians 5:22 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

We are not justified by slavishly following the Law (which is what “not justified by works” is saying) — we are justified by faith, and that faith will transform our lives with the fruit of the Spirit which pervades every act so that our works show that we are justified.

Peter wrote of this in 2 Peter 1:

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is short-sighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Peter deliberately lists the fruits of the Spirit. In "making every effort" to add those virtues to faith, Peter is saying "allow the Spirit to do his work" because a living faith will engender good works (cf James 2:26). Any effort we bring to bear for ourselves is using our conscience to do good works. Verse 4 says that we participate in the divine nature by virtue of God's great and glorious promises. This means that it is necessary that we believe those promises will be fulfilled: this is faith.

This is not to say that good works are not inherently good! They point towards — and ultimately come from — God, as Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI have pointed out. One's conscience is God-given, formed by the natural Law, and in doing what we inherently perceive to be good we are allowing the Spirit to work in our lives.

But we are saved by faith. That is all that is necessary. Everything else comes from faith.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Geraint - I can't see the link with the post.

I agree that we are saved by faith - but being saved is only the first step - and (in most societies) an easy one.

It is what happens next - variusly termed theosis/ sancitification/ spiritual progression/ divinization - that is our main effort, the main focus of life, post-conversion and into immortal resurected life.

Geraint Apted said...

Here is the link:

Geraint Apted said...

Yes, I see that theosis is important. I assume that just being alive and a believer will lead to theosis. For some it will be slower, for others faster.

I have often wondered whether an intelligent believer can "get on" better than a person with average, or less than average intelligence. My prideful self tells me that intelligence helps me to understand God and grow the way He wants. But I instantly recoil from that because I know without a doubt that God dislikes pride, and that instinctively I am wrong.

So many people who are average in intelligence and who believe in Christ as Saviour, behave in ways that are unselfish and kind to others throughout their lives. They may not be great thinkers, and have never read or heard of the great Christian theologians; they may not have read the Bible in any great depth, but they believe and treat other people as God would wish.

Instinct tells me that such people's souls are growing in stature all the time.