Monday, March 7, 2011

Nature-grace model?

This week we had to read an excellent article from Alan Torrance titled, "Forgiveness: The essential Socio-political Structure of Personal Being." It's good to see continuity in our discussions as a lot of the things I read from Torrance sounds like conversations we've had with Dr. Campbell in class. Anyway, in this article, Torrance critiques what he calls the "nature-grace" model that has influenced Christianity in the West (for the worst). He defines this model as such:

"[it] interprets grace in terms of nature, where nature is understood by appealing to the categories of natural law as it is discerned by the light of reason and where reason is an independent capacity constitutive of natural man. Accordingly, it asserts the primacy of nature over grace and of (natural) law over grace. Grace presupposes and perfects nature and natural justice which provide the prior context, structures, and categories in terms of which alone grace can be understood. On this model therefore nature is interpreted separated and independently of Christ."

He then goes on to give some examples of how the nature-grace model has informed the church to its detriment. Here is an excerpt of those examples:

The theology of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa is grounded in the Federal Calvinist dichotomy between the sphere of Nature and the sphere of Grace. God has created some people white and some black and the distinctions and differences between these races are discernible by the light of natural reasons as having been ordained by God as part of the ordo naturalis. The judgements of the state grounded in these natural differences and distinctions can therefore be interpreted as reflecting the eternal purposes of God for these different orders of his creation - purposes to which nature itself testifies accordingly.
Consequently, in the theology of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa the relevance of who Christ is, his person and work, and also therefore the doctrines of grace, forgiveness and reconciliation, are conditioned and restricted by the prior concept of the oroers of nature and of creation and has no place in informing its understanding of the state and its function. Its anthropology is governed not by the second Adam, the true man in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, black nor white, but by the nature-grace model which restricts the relevance of Christ merely to the spiritual realm of the redemption of the elect. The result is that free reign is given to man in his establishing, by appeal to his enlightened capacity for reason, some very "private Weltanschauung as a kind of papacy" (Barth) in determining what are and are not God's purposes in nature. Such a person's own individual, esoteric apperception becomes his or her authoritative hermeneutical key to theology, with the result that Christ who alone is the "second Adam", the eternal Logos and the one in whom the fullness of God with his purposes for Creation dwells bodily, is sacrificed on the altar of an anthropology grounded in a particular and unenlightened perception of nature. The result is that white Christians dehumanise themselves in their dehumanising of Christ and of their black brothers and sisters.

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