Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Williams on grace

"[...] the proclamation of Jesus makes concrete the presence of a non-competitive other: God is not to be approached through skilled intermediaries who will see to it that God's 'interest' is safeguarded in a transaction that, by giving privilege to us, may compromise the divine position. And, if God is conceived as needing to be conciliated so that violent reaction may be averted, as in the mind of the unprofitable servant in the parable [see Luke 19.11-27], God is still within the competitive framework; God has a 'good', an interest, that is vulnerable. Whereas, if God's reaction can never be determined by a supposed threat to the divine interest, God's action and mine do not and cannot occupy the same moral and practical space, and are never in rivalry.

"God's action is never, in this picture, reactive: it is always, we could say, prior to human activity, and as such 'gracious' - that is, undetermined by what we do. This in turn changes how I am to see my activity: what it can never be is any kind of bartering for a favourable or advantageous position vis-à-vis the universe and its maker. That God is not threatened by finite action entails that there is a level at which my own being is not capable of being threatened. It is simply established by God's determination as creator - that is, by God's will for what is authentically other to the divine being to exist. My behaviour does not have to be a defensive strategy in the face of what is radically and irreducibly other, because the radicality of that otherness is precisely what establishes my freedom from the necessity to negotiate with it. [...] God's acts are undetermined by ours, and [...] therefore we can never and need never succeed in establishing our position in the universe."

- Rowan Williams, "Interiority and Epiphany: A Reading in New Testament Ethics" in On Christian Theology (Blackwell, 2000), 249.

If God's loving commitment to me is not established or threatened by my actions or inactions, then I am not burdened by the necessity of making something of myself. The infinite challenge posed to each of us is not to meet God's needs, but to live in the freedom of God's infinite acceptance.
Fifteen points for picking the Sydney location.

14 comments:

Dave Taylor said...

Wow that's really encouraging! I wonder where the living out of the image of God fits into that framework?

Anthony Douglas said...

Speaking of God's grace, that looks like South Cronulla...am I right? Great beach for kids.

byron smith said...

Dave - Funny you should ask. That's where the next paragraph goes, though I thought I'd already included a long enough quote.

Anthony - you're incorrigible. And incorrect.

Christian said...

I'm sure it's different with the context, but that quote sounds like it's describing a rather deistic view of God and his grace.

If the world was made through his Son and out of love for his Son, then the finite actions which occur within creation bear quite a direct relationship to the being of God the Creator, and the stewardship of the Son's image bearers can pose a direct threat to the divine interest. I don't think the grounds of my ontological assurance rest most of all on God's otherness or immovability in relation to humanity, but rather on the head he has appointed over humanity - who shares the moral and practical space of both my creator and my race and ensures that the two will never be rivals.

Exciting news about Edinburgh, by the way, Byron!

Paul said...

Thanks Byron. I'm starting to appreciate Williams quite a lot.

I recently had an ethical dilemma when an organisation I am associated with suggested I use the Romans Road tract for evangelism. After reading this and Kim's take on Penal Substitution I am more than confident to reject it.

I'll take my working definition for evangelism from William Abraham:
"...conceiving it as that set of intentional activities which is governed by the goal of initiating people into the kingdom of God for the first time."

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Clovelly?

byron smith said...

Nope.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Pyrmont?

byron smith said...

Not Pyrmont.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Glebe (point)?

byron smith said...

Nup.

byron smith said...

I admit that there is not much to go on in this picture. Sorry.

Matthew Moffitt said...

Balmain?

byron smith said...

No.