Friday, July 28, 2006

Common Grace -- and Naming Christ

John Creasy put up a mental stew stirrer over on his blog Life, Faith and Culture. In it he talks about recognizing Christ's work in the world -- particularly in other peoples lives:
Thanks to one of my professors at PTS, Dr. Andrew Purvis, I've developed a really strong understanding of Christ's work in the world. I've learned to stop thinking of my own acts of kindness and care for people as the work of Christ and think of them more as my own actions which join Christ in the work that he is already doing in people's lives. I am not the barer of Christ, but the witness to Christ's action.

That quote alone is worth the price of admission -- it makes absolute sense for us Calvinists to realize that when we're acting as salt and light, we're not really doing the work of Christ - but rather we're instruments in the much larger work of Christ that's going on. And yet how often I let my hubris puff up with grandiose thoughts that I am scoring goodie points for my saltiness and lightiness (lightiness? lightness? -- how about brilliance? I like brilliance).

John then talks about how Dr. Purves speaks of bearing witness to the work of the Living God by first of all pointing to His goodness, then interpreting that goodness, finally engaging in symbolic acts of goodness. John posits that with post-christian, burned out types, we must first begin with the symbolic acts (loving them into a relationship), but that at some point, we have to interpret the grace (naming Christ as the author of all blessing) John writes: "The question floating around for me is how long should we act symbolically before naming Christ as the barer of grace. I'm convinced that the purpose of mission is not fulfilled if we do not at some point make an attempt to name grace as Jesus Christ, but I think it may at times take years to do that. On the other hand I don't think we need to be scared to name grace."

We have this wonderful doctrine of common grace -- the idea that God has not abandoned the world, but leaves truth, beauty, and goodness as a means of testifying to his greatness. Every time we experience truth, beauty, and goodness -- there is God graciously bestowing kindness upon us. Jonathan Edwards saw this was the case -- in Marsden's biography, he talks about how Edwards often walked the fields and the woods, glorying in God's creation. Marsden relates how on one outing, Edwards saw a spider floating by on a strand of web blown by the wind, and he relates Edwards' later naming of the grace: "We hence see the exuberant goodness of the Creator who hath not only provided for all the necessities, but also for the pleasure and recreation of all sorts of creatures and even the insects and those that are most despicable" (pg 65) Edwards rightly saw that all knowledge can point us to the Living God.

This is also part of the appeal of Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project. He's been in the press all this month (Time, AP News, NPR) promoting his new book about his life as a scientist and his deep abiding faith as an evangelical Christian. Check out this quote from an interview from the Counterbalance Website:

For me, as a person of faith, that moment of discovery has an additional dimension. It's appreciating something, realizing something, knowing something that up until then no human had known - but God knew it. And there is an intricacy and an elegance in the nature of biology, particularly when it comes to the information carrying capacity of DNA, which is rather awesome. And so, in a way, perhaps, those moments of discovery also become moments of worship, moments of appreciation, of the incredible intricacies and beauty of biology, of the world, of life. And, therefore, an appreciation of God as the creator.

Naming the source of the Grace -- the living triune God. Thanks John Creasy for being used by the Holy Spirit to stimulate thought.

Soli Deo Gloria