The Assignment

It’s been two weeks since I received it, and I have not given this assignment the bandwidth it probably deserves.

I was listening to my Anam Cara (or Spiritual Director, hereafter referred to as SD) hold-forth about an oft-discussed topic in Evangelical circles which is Grace vs. Law. In the context of theology studies, advanced discipleship and other such lofty sounding intellectual settings it would be considered a pedestrian topic. The rough equivalent of pro-golfers having a discussion about “keeping your head down”, singers debating the merits of breath support or doctors debating whether diet and exercise are healthful…

(read with HIGHLY sarcastic tone): “OH! I should eat right and exercise if I want to lose weight? Is that riiiiight?!”

The Grace vs. Law “thing” is kind of like that. It’s understood…

But the intensity with which my SD was talking about it, the shear volume of words and his excitement started to gain my attention as much as the words themselves. (I have found that good students pay at least as much attention to the WAY a lesson is taught as they do to the content.)

I’m not always the best student, however, and it’s taken me a little time to catch on to my teacher’s passion.  And as of yet, I cannot claim to fully understand it – but I see it. There is something in this topic of Grace vs. Law that I am to explore more deeply. In fact he was explicit: “I want you to take the next year or so and think about this, write about this, live with it!”

Once the assignment registered in my conscious mind, an outline of sub-topics began to emerge – I began to see how the issue touched on more and more components of daily life. But I feel I should put those aside for now and follow a different path of exploration: from the beginning.

The framing of the topic is all wrong.


We have, in our very falleness,  invented a controversy where there is none. Our 80 year apprenticeship in the corporeal world immerses us in a law-centric existence, Newtonian in it’s predictability: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, energy can neither be created not destroyed, nature abhors a vacuum, what goes up, must come down, etc., etc., law, law, law. We are creatures of law.  Our substance is not only subject to law, it IS law.

But we are more than substance. We are “mind”, we are “self” we are eternal, and we cannot help but see this as anything but opposed to the temporal, corporeal and legal because these things dominate our view. And so we say Grace VERSUS Law.

But I don’t think that’s case. We need to frame this differently…


4 thoughts on “The Assignment

  1. I think it might be helpful if we define, first, what we mean by grace and law in a theological context … but maybe that was coming and I’m simply getting ahead of myself once again :-).

      1. Well …

        Grace is God’s unmerited favor showered upon those deserving condemnation.

        Law is, quite simply, Torah — those precepts found in the first 5 books of the Bible.

        1. I’ll take those definitions, with one addition for the purposes of this assignment: Law will include any codes of conduct added to Torah (or in place of Torah) by humans with the expectation that adherence to these codes will gain God’s favor.

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