Unfettered Thanks

The hard thing about receiving grace is that it transcends and undermines all norms of the world, the very norms that have had a profound influence on how we are personally substantiated and oriented to the world. The biblical concept of grace is a clear expression of God’s sovereignty, and thus it is not subject to any system of exchange or any power structure in the world. To live in the purity of grace is to live in a state of being that breaks the dominating system of the world, and the only response to such a grace is unfettered thanks.

5 Responses to “Unfettered Thanks”

  1. Anthony Velez  

    This post, by the way, is inspired by a vision I have yet to enter in. I mean, in those fleeting moments when I get a clearer picture of grace my response is always “No Way!!! This just can’t be!”

  2. K.L.B.  

    As a Protestant I’ve heard grace described as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” However, that never really said anything to me, and I found such “teaching,” insubstantial and wanting. I write insofar as the oblique association with “equality” thing to which I had also been exposed, and a corollary to which it was inextricably allied – that being, equality with Christ, and therefore heirs to all God has.

    Yes, that was (and probably still is) a teaching predominately found in some Protestant traditions. The final “end” of such teaching was that it essentially made God a mystical Santa Claus – a type of “gimme God,” wherein we ask, and He must do what we ask because we ask according to some particular formula or guidelines. It is also heretical.

    The thing, however, about being an heir is that someone must die – and typically, it is the donor whom dies – and Christ did, yet He is resurrected. Yet it is us who die. We die in Him, and are resurrected in hope.

    I find the teachings of the Catholic Church however, to be more fully thought out, and therefore by extension, more precisely explained. The Catechism defines “grace” as “The help God gives us to respond to our vocation to become his adopted sons and daughters. The divine initiative of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits our free response in faith and commitment. Sanctifying grace is a habitual gift of God’s own divine life, a stable and supernatural disposition that enables us to live with God in and to act by his love. Actual graces refer to God’s interventions in our lives, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.”

    On a personal level, I think I can identify with what you wrote about “a vision I have yet to enter in,” for I too, wrestle with the question of “what is it You want me to do?” That is, perhaps and rather more accurately, “what can I do for You, which would be only a partial return for all You’ve done for me?”

    When you write that “it is not subject to any system of exchange or any power structure of the world,” I understand that your perspective is from a quid pro quo, rather than from act freely given with no requirement (or expectation) of return.

    The “invisible reality” of God’s grace is His initiative of redemption “through the death and Resurrection of His son,” which is properly called grace since it is the “free and loving gift by which he offers people a share in his life, and shows us his favor and will for our salvation. Our response… is itself a grace or gift from God by which we can imitate Christ in our daily lives.”

    In essence, grace is “the result of God’s favor and initiative.”

  3. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin – Yes, when I wrote about God not being subject to any system of exchange, I was addressing quid pro quo dynamics, but I was also trying to get at something more. God is qualitatively not like other beings we relate to. In saying that, I am particularly thinking about God’s deep access to the intimate nuances of our being. An encounter with God is not like two autonomous agents meeting one another where one just happens to be vastly bigger and more powerful. God is at the foundation of our being, and in him is the all of our becoming, which is to say that we are constituted relationally upon Him; we are structured to be who we are through His energies working in the fabric of our constitution. This means that we cannot postulate what humans are apart from God, and after this postulation determine how we are to relate to God. Humans are to be defined by the reality of who God is and what he does (in Him we live, move and have our being). Thus, the very nature of His being, and His relationship to us, means that we cannot have a kind of exchange relationship with Him as we have with other creatures or things in the world.

  4. K.L.B.  

    I may not have expressed my thoughts as well, perhaps, as you. And as I reflected upon what I’d written – indeed, while I wrote – that it would be very easy to misunderstand what I’d written, and in fact, I recollected verses that I would imagine others would quote to take point directly opposite what I’d written.

    The long and short of it, is that my remarks shouldn’t be taken out of context. They all are “fitly joined together.”

    Yet, I don’t mean to suggest that you’ve taken my remarks out of context, but rather my purpose is to acknowledge that it would be easy to do.

    Now… addressing your remark that “we are structured to be who we are through His energies working in the fabric of our constitution,” I suppose atheists and others would or do attempt to construct some rationalization to answer the great question, “why?” And indeed, they do.

    I’ve never argued faith with my atheist friend, but rather, as I do with anyone else, speak freely of my faith, and witness to Him. On occasion, I recollect once, when we were dining, asked me, “Do you think Jesus spoke Greek?”

    I didn’t take that as a question that possessed any offense or trickery, and I answered as I would any other question asked by a friend – frankly.

    Answering, I said, “Being God, I suppose He could speak any language He wanted. And since He was a Jew, so I suppose He spoke either Aramaic or Hebrew – the two languages that would have been spoken by His people.”

    Travis laughed, and agreed with me.

    What was especially interesting was that some young men were overhearing our conversation, and I heard them chuckle at my answer. Of course, I thought my answer rather rational and based, of course, upon what I held to be true about the Almighty.

    How does that relate to your question or reply? Maybe it doesn’t. It just came to mind as I wrote. Maybe I was thinking about what atheists think about what humankind’s purpose is – what reason for existence.

    Anyway… I question about on what level you perceive us to be. On one hand, it seems one of equality, while another remark seems to contradict that. Would you please elaborate, particularly the last sentence of your reply?

  5. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin – I am not sure what I said that could have expressed a sense of superiority on my part. However, I am wondering if my tone is the culprit. If so, let me just say that I am attempting to identify, or clarify something that is not yet clear to me. In saying this I am reminded of a work by Thomas Merton, “Raids on the Unspeakable” I think this title expresses what I am trying to accomplish and the accompanying feelings that such an endeavor creates. If I come across as condescending I am sorry, but that is not my attitude toward you or anyone for that matter. I am struggling to nail this down. The thing is, I know there is something there about how we relate to God as an object of inquiry or theological speculation that many people (whether religious, agnostic, or atheist) seem to overlook when they talk about God, and I am haunted by it, and am not sure how to get at it. The only thing I can think of at this moment, that touches upon what I am getting at is that God is not like any other object of inquiry, because more than anything else he is the Divine Subject, and as such he does not fit the categories we use to make sense of the world and all things of the world. Asserting this creates another set of problems I realize, but I will deal with that in due time.