© August 13, 2018 | Schulter Etyang
I had a dream last night. I was invited to speak to a group of people about grace. I spoke at length, although I cannot remember the exact words. But I was speaking about grace and human effort and how Jesus has done it all for us. All we need to do is to receive what he has done for us. It was something along those lines.
After I was done speaking, a great debate, almost chaotic scenes ensued. People began questioning, whether what I had spoken about grace, was license to sin. They asked, don’t we have anything to do? What is our part? You mean Christianity is about “doing nothing?” We need to do something, they contended. In the dream, there was a huge uproar against what I had taught.
My reading for this week is Paul. F. M Zahl’s book, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life. This morning, after the dream, I read this:
Before moving forward to define grace and grace specifically in relation to law, an objection has to be faced. Whenever I say “the law has no future” or observe the impotence of law to create the virtues it requires, including for Christians, objections start to fly. These objections claim that such a negative gloss on law as I am suggesting is antinomian. `Antinomianism” is the formal word for any teaching that is critical of law or undermines or overturns the law. Antinomianism is regarded as the opposite posite of law and order, which would turn a religion such as Christianity into an excuse for “license,” which usually means sexual libertinism and promiscuity, not to mention drug use, thievery, casual violence a la Mad Max, “Girls Gone Wild,” and a total breakdown of law and order. It is safe to say that whenever grace is preached in relation to the law, preachers of grace are – wrongly – labeled “antinomian.” Ironically, being accused of antinomianism is a sort of badge of honor for those who preach the doctrine of grace, because this reaction means that the doctrine of grace is hitting home. The accusation means that grace is making law-bound people uncomfortable.
So, I will wear as a badge of honour the reaction I witnessed against the preaching of grace. It meant grace was hitting home – grace was making law bound people uncomfortable.
Thank you, Paul F. M Zahl.
That’s what grace looks like
The Very Rev. Dr. Paul F. M. Zahl is a retired Episcopal priest. He formerly was rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, MD, and dean and president of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, Ambridge, PA. Dr. Zahl has written several books.