The Ground of Faith

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The Ground of Faith


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APRIL 2004  What's so amazing about Grace?

"What's so amazing about Grace?". (Editorial)

Keble's hymn: New every morning is the love.. New mercies, each returning day, surround your people as they pray.. The trivial round, the common task, will give us all we ought to ask.. This love, these mercies, the trivial round are the grace of God.   Can there be anything in the whole wide creation which can NOT be the grace of God, the gift of his love? Unearned grace, freely given, perceived, received through faith. That's how things are.

  The heading of this editorial is the title of a book by Philip Yancey. He quotes the words of a counselor: "Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive, and live our God-given unconditional grace and forgiveness; and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people."

  Not only evangelicals, but all people of faith are tempted to believe that they have to earn the earn the grace and love of God.   Obey the Ten Commandments and a great many other ones, and God will love you.   That's what the Pharisees thought, and what too many of us think.   Mortal and venial sins, we know all about them.

  30   Jesus' teaching about the grace of salvation:

Jesus' teaching could not have been simpler: There was this wretched young man who had managed to persuade his father to give him his share of his inheritance in advance. He went overseas and squandered the lot in wine, women and song. Starving he feels forced to come home. What contrite apologies, what submissive acts of service, must he carry out, to avoid total rejection? But what happens? The father sees him a long way off, brushes the apologies aside, hugs him, and has a party.

  Message: if you want to come to God, just come, and he will be there to meet you.   Countless theologians and biblical scholars have fashioned much more complex soteriologies. There may be truth in them. But they should not negate the parable of the Lost Son.

  Jesus taught by his actions, what he taught in this parable. To the thief on the cross, to his "remember me" came the promise of the grace of paradise. In church we constantly remind ourselves that Jesus surrounded himself with society's rejects, the quisling tax gatherer, the terrorist, the harlot, the sick and the poor, the despised Samaritan, the lepers and so on. Sermons will continually remind us that it was these failures at rule-keeping who were open to love and to grace, new every morning.

  This fact did worry St Paul a little: Rom 6:15   What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

  St Augustine answered that worry with his "Love God and do what you like.'   Of course if you truly love God, you will love your neighbour. If you perceive and receive the Grace that is new every morning, the whole of you is likely to be in tune with Him.

  31 GRACE seen in the RESURRECTION.

  The same transformation by God's grace was shown at the resurrection of Jesus. The ordinary men and women who followed Jesus and fled at his death were astonished to discover that he was alive again. Their encounters with the risen Jesus galvanised them into new life themselves, and in turn played a part in changing the world.

Paul wrote For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised[1 Cor 15.16] But the dead are raised, and so is Christ. [See "Afterlife" February '04]

32 GRACE seen in PROCESS THEOLOGY

This theology is based on the thought of the philosopher A.N. Whitehead. There is much in this theology to agree or disagree with, but the key idea is the notion that every moment of time  that we experience is a gift of grace from an immanent and transcendent God.   God speaks to us loud and clear in the present moment. The question is about how we shall respond. (New every morning is the love..)

33 GRACE seen in MEANINGFUL COINCIDENCE

  There is a display of the workings of God's grace in our studies of meaningful coincidence or synchronicity Of course meaningful coincidence includes answers to prayer, and spiritual healing, all the ways in which Christians believe they see the hand of God in their lives. (But you might care to look at some of the synchronicity stories again, in October 2003. Do you remember the story of The Singing Stone? That can be found in August '03.

Here we can bring in the physicists to help us see grace in a different mode:

34 Firstly David Bohm, (in effect writing about a God who is in all through all and above all)

  • Space and time [the Explicate Order] might actually be derived from an even deeper level of objective reality. This reality he calls the Implicate Order.
  • Within the Implicate Order everything is connected, and, in theory, any individual element could reveal information about every other element in the universe.
  • The Hologram is BohmÂ’s favourite metaphor for conveying the structure of the Implicate Order. "Everything is enfolded into everything". The totality of the movement of enfoldment and unfoldment may go immensely beyond what has revealed itself to our observations. We call this totality by the name "holomovement". This is the "fundamental ground of all matter" The holomovement is ground for both life and matter."   from a summary of BohmÂ’s Gnosis, by Beatrix Morrell.

35 Professor Victor Mansfield, a physicist, has this to say about meaningful coincidence, which in effect is GRACE.

  • "even the most physical of experiences, whether mountains or microbes, are thoughts within a larger mind that simultaneously unfolds the experiencing ego as a thought complex within it." [p.129]
  • "Quantum mechanics teaches that the universe is non-locally connected and we participate in its definition."[p.136]
  • "Destroying the false belief in inherent existence is the prerequisite for recognizing the world as sacred" [p.144]
  • "Since mind projects our world image, then as long as we stay in the image we will never know the projector – the source." [p.198]
  • "synchronistic experiences . . . are a numinous expression of transcendent meaning that unfolds in both the inner and outer worlds. Synchronicity is soul-making; a revelation of the cosmic self or soul as meaning, an instruction through acausally connected events in both in the inner and the outer worlds. If we have the inner eyes to see, the self is providing us with both the necessary experience and meaning required for our transformation, our individuation."[p.199] Synchronicity, Science and Soul-making

36 Physicist Dr F.David Peat writes [arguably about the grace of dying to self and rising with Christ]:

  • Synchronicities have opened a window onto a creative source of infinite potential, the wellspring of the universe itself. They have shown how mind and matter are not distinct, separate aspects of nature, but arise in a deeper order of reality. Synchronicities suggest that we can renew our contact with that creative and unconditioned source which is the origin not only of ourselves but also of all reality. By dying to the self and its mechanical reactive responses to nature, it becomes possible to engage in an active transformation and gain access to unlimited ranges of energy. In this way, body and consciousness, individual and society, mind and matter may come to achieve their unlimited potential.

GRACE seen as the HOLY SPIRIT ( See August 2003 )

Inspection of the August issue will suggest that Grace and the Holy Spirit are not different. Both imply the action of a loving creative God self-expressing in our lives.

37 In the December 2003 issue we seemed to imply that St Paul ignored the Jerusalem church and relied on the grace of his vision of Christ :

  • St Paul: Let me tell you my brothers, that the gospel I preach is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor did anyone teach it to me. It was Christ himself who revealed it to me... But God in his grace chose me before I was born... when he decided to reveal his Son to me... I did not go to anyone for advice, nor did I go to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me. Instead I went at once into Arabia, and then I returned to Damascus. It was three years later that I went to Jerusalem to obtain information from Peter, and I stayed with him for two weeks... What I write is true. God knows I am not lying! [From Gal. 1.11-19 TEV And see article in Dec. '03 "After Damascus"]
  • But further consideration will remind us that Paul was no tabula rasa, no unwritten upon page, when Christ revealed himself.   As Paul says:
    Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Phil 3:5

Bohm's "everything folded into everything" reminds us that grace comes from every possible direction, and in Paul's case he cannot be thought of apart from a lifetime's experiences, his Latin, his Greek, his Hebrew, and probably Aramaic, the whole Hebraic, Graeco-Roman culture in which he lived. And on awareness special grace he laboured much to make sense of the Damascus light in terms of what he already knew.

38 John C. Lilley in The Centre of the Cyclone [p.119] describes ways of looking at grace.

  • One way, he suggests, is to say that we don't have to understand how things work. There is a Them who run the universe and me, and they do the job assigned to Them by Those above Them. I can listen to them, and ask them, and they will hear me, and help me. This way of looking is the way of those who believe in guardian angels, advanced spirits of higher realms. Even from the physicist's holistic point of view there may or may not be such entities. But we may note that in this view, there is some kind of split between Them and me.
  • Lilley describes a fourth way of regarding this apparent guidance, where we say "Thou art me, they are me, they, thou and I are one. They love thee, love me, love the one. The one loves them, loves us. The one is Love." [His second and third ways are intermediate between the first and fourth..]


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