Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Missional Musing - 11-20-2012

I really like this thought from the Gospel Coalition blog (You can read the blog article here.)

I think the major failing of Reformed anthropology is that it assumes that human beings are completely empty vessels. The distinction between total and utter depravity above makes this clear. Tullian is right, people can be much worse than they are. He puts this down to something like “common grace” – i.e. God restraining us by his grace from being utterly depraved. I think a much better explanation, and one that is consistent with how the early Church understood Scripture, is that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. Human beings are intrinsically good precisely because God made us and called us “very good”. I know this will eventually go towards the endless arguments on human freewill or lack thereof. I don’t want to go there, but I will note that the Fathers, particularly the Eastern Fathers (including ones that the Reformed like including Athanasius and Chrysostom), had a robust theology of freewill. I didn’t see anything on human beings being image bearers of God in the above article. I just don’t think Christians can begin to talk about human beings without this as their starting point. What intrinsic value do human beings have if what we really are, in essence, is very bad? In Reformed theology, everything good is alien to us. We are not “very good” as God declared in the Scriptures. We must not take St Paul’s metaphors places where the text does not take us. Nowhere does St Paul say that being “dead in our trespasses…” means that we cannot respond to the Gospel – this is a non sequitur. Our deadness is caused because we have separated ourselves from Life. The consequence of sin is death – not because we are being punished for it, but because when we separate our selves from Life, we die. God did not tell Adam “if you eat of the fruit… I will kill you”. He said “if you eat of the fruit… you will surely die”. We are still God’s very good creation. We still bear his image – although this is obscured by sin. Things just aren’t as black and white as Reformed theology would have it. It isn’t Reformed theology OR Pelagianism. There is room for mystery in theology. How is it that we can hear God and respond positively? Our salvation is a mystery of the co-suffering love of God. Love requires a response, else it would not be love. It’s why the Revelator says that Christ knocks and waits, he does not barge in. We can respond to him precisely because we are his intrinsically good image bearers.

Now see Psalm 139:7-12

Living with the knowledge that we are fearlessly and wonderfully made should motivate us to live a life of gratitude to God, with thankful hearts for all that He has done for us, for living sent today. 

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