Nature and grace again

Barth and Brunner
College is facilitating my blogging.

So I continue to converse with my conservative evangelical brothers and sisters in ways which are always fruitful, for me, anyway. Like 'iron sharpening iron', I seem to grow from these kinds of dialogues. I have had reason to consider often the debate between nature and grace. I have looked at Hooker and his influence on the beast that we understand as Anglicanism. He was revered just the other week as we remembered him for his contribution as we prayed the daily office in the morning. It would seem for him that there is something inherent within 'man' by which he can know something of God, that there is in his nature a 'lawe of natural reason'.

Calvin or at least polarised versions of his methodology seem to wrestle with this, finding nothing in man but a depravity since the fall.

Barth, it would seem, with his Christology from above, understands knowledge of God as an act of pure revelation from the Holy Spirit and Brunner, once a missionary in Japan writes that:

"The relationship between God and man can never be described in terms of the sole efficacy of God, because God's creation of man posits from the beginning a relationship of mutality. This means, and it is God's will, that the divine actions with regard to man always respect man's subjectivity. Also God's acts of grace are not a manipulation of man, but an intercourse with him. This intercourse is the opposite of manipulation, because through it God's Word of love changes man's defiance into voluntary obedience. . . . God is always concerned that man, even as a sinner, be not overwhelmed, but addressed as a subject. The decisive fact behind the concept of Anknüpfung is that God always approaches man by addressing him" (Brunner, Der Mensch im Widerspruch, p. 553). 

My own experiences in working alongside those without Christian faith, finds me praying that God might do his thing and lead people towards him by his Spirit but I look also for 'a point of contact', now whether I am understanding the theory that has developed around this term fully, I am hoping to set right, well, to develop, anyway.

So I now begin three weeks of study (deadline pressing) on 'point of contact' theory and particularly the positions taken by Karl Barth and Emil Brunner. As I engaged with David Ould over in Sydney on the nature of God's grace and our nature, I hoped to be in a better position to answer his questions regarding my position on this issue. I hope that once I have spent a little more time considering these things, I might be able to hazard a guess as to what such thinking might do for modern missiological praxis. I have some suspicions about what I hope to have confirmed but as with any of these things, i am open to suggestions and critiques.

Any books, blogs or articles you can recommend would be greatly appreciated.


David Ould said...

The Barth vs Brünner debate is fascinating - enjoy!

Any more thoughts on Rom 2:14-15?

David Ould said...

I hope that once I have spent a little more time considering these things, I might be able to hazard a guess as to what such thinking might do for modern missiological praxis.

I think it confirms that the Bible is entirely correct - the only hope for the world is the proclamation of the gospel through which the Holy Spirit of God works to regenerate sinners.
Any lessening of our view of sin almost inevitably means we end up putting our confidence elsewhere - in particular we start trying to evoke something "back to life" in the person we're introducing to Jesus rather than simply trusting God to give _new_ life.

Anonymous said...

As for things to read:

let me please recommend a novel, "Small Gods", by Terry Pratchett. This is a very serious recommendation; it gives a fascinating new way of looking at certain issues (such as the God/human covenant, and some other issues).

I'm waiting on answers to my own musings. But in the meantime, I'm reading various on the relationship between Wittgenstein and theology; the grammar of theology if you will.


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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions