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Our conversion is the miracle of creative love.

25 Aug

This is the miracle of conversion by the gracious working of God the Holy Spirit.  He creates faith in us through the Gospel, that is, He brings us to our hold on Jesus.  Our coming to faith is not an act of our free will.  Yet it is not by compulsion; we may resist.  Our conversion is the miracle of creative love.  God’s love in Christ awakens us to responding love.  Love cannot be compelled or directed.  Love begets love, and there is no greater love than the love of  God in Christ.  — Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, pp. 243, 244.

–From Pastor Weedon’s fine blog (required reading for any serious blog reader : ) )

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19 Comments

Posted by on August 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

19 responses to “Our conversion is the miracle of creative love.

  1. Robert

    October 2, 2010 at 4:21 am

    “Our coming to faith is not an act of our free will.  Yet it is not by compulsion; we may resist. ”

    How do you understand this? If it is not by compulsion and we may resist then how is this not free will? Sounds free to me – the choice to accept or resist is ours and we are not forced.

     
    • infanttheology

      October 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm

      Robert,

      Really, I do not try to understand it. God has saved all men objectively and therefore we are to urge them to be reconciled to Christ. In any case, we are not forced, we are wooed – God makes our hearts want to come to Him and we do. This does not mean that people cannot lose faith of course. Perhaps some may even have faith for but a minute, before the devil steals the seed implanted in their hearts.

      I do not try to understand the Scriptures by putting them into some kind of logical, air-tight coherent system. I see the Scriptures primarily as informing the rule of faith that has exited from all time, which ultimately is about proclamation:

      https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/a-child-of-the-reformation/

      Best to you Robert. I believe that we have debated before, on Father Gregory’s fine blog if I recall.

      Love in Christ,
      Nathan

       
  2. Robert

    October 4, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    I only asked as true unqualified free will is a veritable pillar in Orthodox theology. We would say, “Our coming to faith IS an act of our free will. It is not by compulsion; we may resist. ”

     
  3. infanttheology

    October 5, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Well, we would certainly say that is really is the individual person who freely comes to the feast, who holds onto Christ. But we would emphasize that it is He who brings us into the banquet, He who grabs our hand – and that this is what transforms us, making us first cling in trust (perhaps desperate trust – even without love) a trust from which all true love flows. Many times, as with the child in infancy, it seems that we “freely choose” things, although we are not necessarily consciously aware of what we are doing, i.e. when it comes to infants at least, this is not primarily about will (as in conscious decision making power), but trust between persons, one who is perceived as being good, strong, trustworthy.

    And infants are our model of the way it is, and should be.

     
  4. Robert

    October 5, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Agreed, nevertheless we would stress that His will does not qualify our free will (so we don’s say that “our coming to faith is not an act of our free will”). Hence we speak of a true synergy (a working together) between the Uncreated and the created.

    Hopefully you will understand I am not being disagreeable, but merely wishing to clarify the Orthodox position.

     
    • infanttheology

      October 5, 2010 at 11:07 pm

      Robert,

      Oh, I don’t find you disagreeable at all. I am very happy you are here and are clarifying. I think the problem here is that we don’t talk about free will, but faith, understood as trust, knowledge, and assent, although with an emphasis on trust (as with infants). We would simply say we come to trust in God through His grace, period. We would call people to faith, to put their trust in Christ. We would see all talk about “faith as an act of our free will” as taking the focus off where it should be, namely Christ, who is the object of faith. We believe theology is ultimately for proclamation, and people either need to hear Law or Gospel (therefore the “child of the Reformation” post) all the time. Here are some other posts illustrating how we think about it:

      http://confessionalgadfly.blogspot.com/2010/03/illustration.html

      and this:

      https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/and-yet-not-a-calvinist/

      …but I doubt that will help us here at the crossroads we find ourselves at.

      ~Nathan

       
  5. Robert

    October 6, 2010 at 2:00 am

    “but I doubt that will help us here at the crossroads we find ourselves at.”

    So true. It would appear to stem from a different set of underlying paradigms. For instance “theology for proclamation” and “Law and Gospel as hammer” are quite “foreign” concepts to Orthodoxy. Speaking of faith as trust would seem to be merely dealing with semantics, as assent is part and parcel of this trust and without free will there we can’t speak of assent. (unless of course “free” is qualified – which it appears is just what is happening).

    But that is not to say we don’t have tons in common, and that is good thing, for which we can thank God!

     
  6. infanttheology

    October 6, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Robert,

    Indeed, we can thank God for the truth that we share.

    Re: assent as being part and parcel of trust, I would insist on defining faith as trust, assent, and knowledge. Assent would be part and parcel of faith, although with infants, trust is clearly the primary thing that is going on. There is very little in terms of “acts of free will” when we talk about a baby clinging to its mother (think about how it will naturally crawl to her breast immediately after childbirth). If anything, assent and knowledge are what happens to faith as it grows, with trust as the root.

    And again, Christ talks about having faith like a child and so this is what I am interested in. This is not to deny the fact that as we mature in Christ, assent and knowledge become more and more important. Especially as we get older and become captivated by more systematic ideas of understanding reality (apart from the more concrete sensory experiences), it, in my mind, becomes increasingly important not to have a childish faith (that totally shuns all more intellectual and abstract notions) but a child-llike one, i.e. one that constantly reminds oneself that there is nothing that I can do to earn God’s favor, that I am to be *willing* to be nothing but given to, that I have *nothing* – absolutely nothing – that I have not received. Most ideas of “free will”, seem to me, to be foreign to Scripture. Therefore, qualifying “free” is pretty much a non-issue for me. : )

     
  7. Robert

    October 6, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    “Most ideas of “free will”, seem to me, to be foreign to Scripture. Therefore, qualifying “free” is pretty much a non-issue for me.” – wow, I am surprised to read this, but it does clarify.

     
  8. Robert

    October 6, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Hi Nathan,

    As to the illustration to which you listed a link (http://confessionalgadfly.blogspot.com/2010/03/illustration.html) this analogy breaks down as faith and salvation requires our consent. I do understand your position however.

     
  9. infanttheology

    October 7, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Robert,

    I do not believe faith and salvation require our consent – unless, of course, this means strictly that we are free to reject it, i.e. upon being given the gift, we reject it. We choose neither to be created or saved. We can only commit physical or spiritual suicide. We contribute nothing but our sin to salvation.

    That may clarify a bit more even!

    ~Nathan

     
  10. Robert

    October 7, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Yes indeed, as a former Van Til calvinist I do understand your position very well. I ultimately found the “unless” and other such qualifications to be quite inconsistent with Scripture and the witness of the Fathers.

     
  11. Robert

    October 7, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Deterministic monergism did me under 🙂

     
  12. Nathan

    October 7, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    If I were a Calvinist, I think I would despair. But I’m a Lutheran, and we aren’t NOT TULIP: http://worldvieweverlasting.blogspot.com/2010/09/most-magesterial-tulips.html (starting around 1:20, though the beginning of this is quite interesting to)!

    I also don’t like the term monergism because I think it oversimplifies and takes the focus off of things that we should be focusing on. If we are not careful to recognize, acknowledge, and walk in the paths the Lord has for us – and to constantly hold God’s commands (and His forgiveness when we fail!) before our eyes, our faith is quite liable to grow weak, and even nonexistent.

    On the “unless”: in what ways does the infant, who receives God’s free grace and new life in baptism, consent? This is what you should be thinking about in the context of our conversation, not talking about Calvinism. : ) The video might help you to see how different we are from the Reformed here! (and it will entertain)

    In Christ,
    Nathan

     
  13. Nathan

    October 7, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    If you are really interested in another critical area where the rubber hits the road between Lutheranism and Calvinism, see this excellent paper:

    http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/carysolafide.pdf

    I think the EO would side with Luther on this one.

     
  14. Nathan

    October 7, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Robert,

    I lifted this from the comments on Pastor Weedon’s blog (where I got the original quote). If you are interested:

    Anastasia Theodoridis said…

    We may resist, and that is an act of free will. Or we may not resist, and this is not an act of the free will????

    William Weedon said…

    He deals with that in the paragraphs that precede – they were gold too. I just didn’t copy them. But here they are:

    But then, in God’s revelation of Himself there comes the utterly unreasonable. We learn of a God who loves us, thought hateful in our sin, who loved us so incredibly much that He sent His Son to become one of us. Taking our sin and guilt on Himself, Christ died for our sin where we should have died. In Christ there is now offered forgiveness full and free. In Christ we stand before God as His loved and happy children.

    To us, as we are by nature, this doesn’t make a scrap of sense. It is not fair. It is not reasonable. There must be some catch. We can’t believe it. The only decision we are capable of making, confronted by God’s revelation, is a negative one. That is what is meant when we say we have no free will in spiritual matters. We are incapable of choosing God as He has revealed Himself. It is just all too much for us.

    Scripture is quite explicit on this point. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them.” (1 Cor. 2:14). We are spoken of as dead, spiritual corpses. Even worse than being dead toward God is that we are in willful opposition to Him. “The carnal mind is enmity toward God.” (Rom. 8:7) This enmity against God is an act of our will. We are responsible for our rejection of God, for no one is compelled to reject God.

    William Weedon said…

    That is our sad plight. We are incapable of choosing God, for God is not within our grasp. God, of course, knows all this. He did not have the way of rescue achieved and proclaimed to us just to make us more wretched as if He were like the Greek gods, like the grapes of Tantalus, grapes that were lowered, then snatched back when grasped at by the tormented wretch. The love of Jesus, which took Him to the cross, moved Him also to send the Holy Spirit so that we might be won to the acceptance of Christ and of all that Christ achieved for us.

    Then the paragraph I cited, followed by:

    “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.” This radical change is called being born again or, as Ezekiel says, taking out the heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh. It is a conversion, that is, a turn around, the whole direction of our lives reversed. Without Christ we are heading away from God to utter ruin. In Christ we are turned around, and our course is set toward God and the life that is with Him. God’s will, God’s plan for us, is being realized in us.

    It is God’s plan that we should be His children, belong to Him and rejoicing in His love and strength. The fulfillment of that plan of God is the only thing that we can ever successfully be. A monkey was designed to be a monkey. It may resemble or mimic a human, but it can never be a human just as we may resemble or mimic a monkey, pig, or fox, but we can never be one. We were planned to be God’s children. When we try to be something else, we only achieve some pitiful clowning and the end is ruin.

    What beauty there is in the bud of a rosebud becoming a rose. It has fulfilled the will of God. So we fulfill the will of God as we become His children. Our becoming God’s children is a double becoming. There is our entry into God’s family by faith in Christ. When we put on Christ, we stand before God as His forgiven, holy children. We are His children, for we are in Christ. This is justification. It is utterly complete, for it is altogether of Christ. But we are not yet completely as God would have us be in ourselves. The flesh still clings to us. We still falter and stumble and fall. We frustrate the will of God in sin, following our own perverse will. There is division in us, the pull toward God and the pull toward sin and death.

    Knowing how our rebellions against God’s will grieve our Father, our hearts are crushed in sorrowing repentance. We look to Jesus as our only hope. We pray God may forgive us and grant us strength to conquer sin and grow ever more and more as His children. This growing, this becoming, is an unending process that lasts until our dying day. When we come to death, our prayer still will be, “O God, my sin is great, forgive me for Jesus’ sake and make me more Thy child.”

    Every day we are to grow more like what God would want us to be. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.

    So much more he wrote, but the point is clear. Exactly as we cannot choose to be born and given life; so with our rebirth. As a person once born has the freedom to continue to live or to throw life away, so with our new life in Christ.

     
  15. Robert

    October 7, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Nathan I didn’t mean to imply you are a Calvinist, I am aware of differences, most notable, in this context at least, modified monergism.

     
  16. Robert

    October 8, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    I only mentioned calvinism in passing to explain to you my background and understanding of the issues. As to infants and consent, well that seems a bit silly to me. Infants receive grace *because* they can’t give their consent. Without consent there is no responsibility. I have been referring to consent as it applies to adults – you and I can’t use the “we can’t give our consent” excuse as we are adults and are such before God. No need to drag the infants into this. 🙂

    We find ourselves at a crucial impasse, I am well aware of this. But thank you for explaining your position and clarifying your comments.

    Many blessings and much love to you!

     
  17. Nathan

    October 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Robert,

    The whole point of the blog is to “drag infants into this”. Jesus says that we are to have faith like a child, and the Scriptures often speak of even infants believing, in, trusting in, the Lord. Of course we can’t do this unconsciously as infants do, but they are to be for us, as much as possible, our models.

    Faith is being “*willing* to be nothing but given to” In other words, when we find out that God already has converted us, made us new, given us new hearts, etc. through the blood of His Son in the power of His Spirit, we are to constantly keep this before our minds, for “what do we have that we have not received?”.

    When it comes to the fact that we have peace with God, none of this has anything to do with giving our consent. Our responsibility comes in holding on to that grace which we have received and continually receive, as we share the easy yoke with him, walking in the paths he has prepared for us.

    So, in short, if you want to be an “adult” before God, I urge you to reconsider!

    Again, it has been a wonderful conversation. God’s richest blessings to you Robert.

    ~Nathan

     

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