(Un)made

Last month I wrote about creaturely reception, and how the right embrace of our creatureliness can help us to act in accordance with our created nature, which is to say, in a godly manner.

Forget about the Fall for just a second. Adam wasn’t created as a tabula rasa. He had a nature, and concomitant with that nature was a set of ordered desires, an ordo amoris. His response to Eve, for example, was ordered, non-arbitrary, part of his design. Adam and Eve were, in the words of the Confession, “good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will agreeably to the will of God.” This was a part of their essential makeup, their nature. In the Fall, that nature was injured, impaired, damaged, but not entirely changed. Adam’s desires changed, became disordered; what did not change was that he was made for holiness.

What I’m getting at is that this is still part of our makeup. Here’s what I said in that earlier post:

We have a nature, and we have ends. By embracing our creatureliness, we thrive, grow, flourish. By rejecting it, we betray our nature, and we will wither and die. To exist well is to exist as a creature.

If it is true that we have a nature, that human happiness and thriving depend on embracing that nature, and that holiness is attendant with that nature, then it must also be true that pursuing holiness is the way to human happiness and thriving. The flip side of this is that sin is necessarily contrary to our nature, and that sin can never make us happy or fulfilled. This probably sounds like I’m saying something simple and saying it in the most complex way possible, but I think there’s some benefit to this train of thought.

Remember the last time you sinned deliberately, because you really wanted what you thought sin would get you? Happiness, fulfillment, justice, significance? Can’t happen. Sin is an unmaking. It’s only ever destructive and ruinous. Sin is faerie gold, promising everything and giving nothing, and by the time you escape its lies (if ever), you’ve given the best of your years to the cruel.

If all this is true, then God is not arbitrarily demanding and callous in his forbidding certain actions and requiring others; just the opposite. Here’s how John Webster puts it:

The unholy is that which lies beyond the will of God. The unholy is the absurd affair in which the creature seeks to be creature in a way other than that which is purposed by God; it is, therefore, a way in which the creature– precisely by trying to cease to be a creature and to make itself– seeks to destroy itself. To this unholiness the holiness of God is implacably opposed.

John Webster, Holiness

When creatures sin, they attempt to enact their own unmaking. In redemption, we are not being torn away from our nature, and stripped of anything that gives us significance; we are being remade.

Heaven in the Real World

You know what's at the top of those stairs? One heckuva climb down.
You know what’s at the top of those stairs? One heckuva climb down.

“Why do we need a new earth if we’re all going to live in heaven anyway?” Someone asked me this question a short time ago, and it seems that there’s a sort of confusion among Christians about the final resting place of our final resting place– that is to say, will paradise be in heaven or on earth? Where will we actually spend eternity? Continue reading “Heaven in the Real World”

Systematic Surrender

John Webster on Barth in “From the Substance to the Word:”

[R]evelation is no more and no less than the life of God himself turned to us, the Word of God coming to us by the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ.’  Such a divine approach cannot be formalised into a set of axioms, and to attempt to do so (by, for example, developing a systematic biblical theology) is to take up a false stance to divine revelation, treating it as ‘a presupposition [Voraussetzung] which we can control.’  Properly undertaken, biblical theology effects no such settlement; it is simply ‘a series of attempted approximations, a collection of individual exegeses’.  What is required of the exegete is not systematic ambition but ‘surrender’.

Lord of the Word

I found this paragraph to be strikingly beautiful in John Webster’s Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (Current Issues in Theology):

Second, as God’s free self-presentation, revelation is a free work of sovereign mercy. God’s revelation is God’s spiritual presence: God is the personal subject of the act of revelation, and therefore revelation can in no way be commodified. God is – as Gèrard Siegwalt puts it – revelation’s ‘uncontainable content’. As spiritual presence, the presence of God is free: it is not called forth by any reality other than itself; it is majestically spontaneous and uncaused. Its origin, actualisation and accomplishment require nothing beyond God. Like the entire history of the divine mercy of which it is a part, revelation is unexpected, undeserved, possible only as and because God is, and present after the manner of God. In Barth’s curious phrase, ‘God is the Lord in the wording of his Word.’

Scripture is where we meet God in all the freedom of his self-revealing Lordship.