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What Does Grace Mean, If Anything, To A Progressive Christian?


mcarans
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I am trying to find if grace has any significance in Progressive Christianity and if so, what does it mean to a Progressive Christian?



On the PC website, I found this: http://progressivechristianity.org/resources/progressive-christian-ideologies-on-grace-or-faith/ For the author of that answer, grace plays no part in PC. Is that the general consensus or does anyone here find it relevant to PC?


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Religious language, like all languages, changes over time, Mcarans. Therefore, it is often helpful to define our terms and the context of how they are being used. Fred Plumer's article shows how "grace", in traditional Christianity, is usually set within the context of the sin/redemption paradigm. In short, this paradigm says that we are born into this world "not okay with God" (the doctrine of Original Sin) and that we need to find a way to get into God's good graces. This doctrine, taken to the extreme, says that we come into this world as enemies of God and that we need to be reconciled to God. Usually, according to traditional Christianity, this is done through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

 

But we have to be clear here. When I was growing up, grace was said to be "God's unmerited favor." But the same religion that told me that grace was God's unearned favor also said that I had to "earn" grace by believing correctly, centered in believing that Jesus died for my sins. So within this paradigm, grace was, in fact, a reward for correct belief in Jesus' sacrificial death. We were okay with God only because of 1) what Jesus did and 2) our belief in what Jesus did which made his death personally efficacious for us. In other words, grace came from God through Christ alone based upon our faith in Christ's death. This is not grace. True grace cannot be merited or earned. It doesn't depend on us.

 

I don't believe we come into this world as God's enemies or needing a human sacrifice to make us okay with God. Grace, to me, is the gift of life, the gift of love, the gift of being that each one of us has. It is not earned. Believing in it may enable us to enjoy it, but it doesn't activate it. Grace doesn't depend on me. God is gracious simply because God is a gracious God.

 

In this sense, faith is not some kind of lever or mechanism that I use to get something from God. In other words, I don't believe in order to be saved. I have faith that I am always in God's good graces because of God's goodness. Jesus didn't buy that for me. Rather, to me, he showed us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. That, to me, is grace.

 

Of course, others may see this differently. We tend to be free-thinkers around here. :)

Edited by BillM
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Thank you, Paul.

 

I do think that many of Jesus' teachings have conditions to them. But I tend to think these fall into whether or not a person can be an active and productive member of the community he called "the kingdom of God" which is, IMO, not heaven, not an afterlife. My paraphrase: "If you seek to be with other people who are following this Way, then certain behavior will be expected of you." You simply can't treat people any way you want and think the community is going to be okay with it.

 

This community here at TCPC is similar. How we treat one another is key. If we can't treat one another with dignity and respect, especially when we might disagree on certain beliefs, then it is not healthy for the community. And I suspect that this comes out of our shared value of the worth of every person and the notion that we are all God's children, no matter which path we may be on. I can say that another's path does make sense to me or isn't for me. But to spit upon their path is ungracious and crosses the line of respect.

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I agree with what Bill posted and stated so elegantly.

 

When a person finds God in their own way they don’t have to talk because it is broadcast loud and clear through their being, but this Divine relationship is sacred, confidential and the mystery should be respected in oneself and others. Words do not do the state of grace justice, but it is observable through the consistency and unity of the body, mind and spirit because people are searching for this truth and they can see it if it is lived on a regular basis. We can be tricked by words telling us what we want to hear, but truth appears inside when we are silent and it cannot be proclaimed because it can’t be described with words. When we declare spiritual truth, it is really is to convince ourselves to sit and align with the soul where we listen and receive infinity from our own being. We can point and show people where they might encounter the experience, but we can’t tell them what they will see or feel.

 

To withdraw and turn off the mind is difficult, but when we find the interior silence the journey begins with the soul raising our consciousness to a place where we can be approached to receive truth from the source. God turns herself inside out so everything turns out to be a part of a Unity Consciousness in energy, light and awareness. For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.” (Psalm 62:1) This presence of God is not a practice or ritual to carry out, but a dynamic letting go and receiving of grace. Christ does not have to be defended, explained, publicized or broadcast to the masses; he just needs to be experienced by taking on the mind or consciousness of His most sacred Heart. It is sad that Christians switch God for religion and The Infinite Reality for dogma when the Divinity within is calling, but the line turns out to be busy.

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I thought the following might be relevant, just a cut and paste from a post I made on another forum............

 

 

More often than not Grace would be associated purely with a Theistic context, as an attitude of mercy given by a Supreme Being to Humankind. "Saved by Grace". As that which is "on offer" and will be bestowed to any who "ask" and "believe."

Yet Grace figures deeply in Pure Land Buddhism and Buddhism is considered by many - rightly - to be non-theistic.

There is a wide spectrum of understanding within Pure Land Buddhism. From those who understand Amida as Him/Her up there (or out West) who bestows "salvation" upon all who call upon Him/Her, and the Pure Land as a place we go to after death; to those who see Amida as a personification/representation of Reality-as-is and the Pure land as THIS world, NOW, when seen and lived in by an enlightened being. And all points in between.

Mentioning the "all points in between", I can bring in some ideas of Thomas Merton, the Catholoic Trappist monk, who spoke of the movement between an "I-Thou" relationship with the Divine to an experience of oneness, where the sense of "self" is lost, a movement from acting in conjunction with grace, to acting spontaneously from grace. Which in the "Eastern" way of speaking, is the way of wu wei, effortless working purely as the good. Or as is said In Pure Land Buddhism, being made to become so of itself.

Again in the eastern way, this time from Ch'an (Zen) the story of the choosing of the Sixth Patriach is relevant. A contest was held of all the wannabees. One wrote a verse that said in effect that the mind was a mirror, and one must continually wipe it clean. A second wrote a verse that spoke of there being in fact no mirror, so what was there to wipe? The second guy claimed the prize!

For he recognised that "enlightenment" was in fact not a product of any progress, of seeking to clean the mind, but of a realisation that Reality is a given, always ever present. That acts of "merit", any works (to use a Christian phrase) are more like switching the deck chairs around on the Titanic - yes, such can make the day and the way more comfortable and scenic, yet ultimately of no purpose.

So it can be seen that even in a non-theistic context, what can be known as Grace is present. Present in as much as the enlightened state is to be realised/acknowledged/seen...........not achieved/attained/earned.

Such can explain such lovable verses in the Bible as "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" and that even the very best of them will "stink in God's nostrils". Yes, indeed they do, if Enlightenment/Grace is the bottom line!

Obviously it can be asked just how we go about "realising" this, and it is a good question. One can only say "walk on", recognising the paradox that we can only at first seek to achieve/attain/earn yet seeking at all times to open our hearts to the working of Reality-as-is, which is Infinite Compassion, seeking the good of all eternally.

In the "eastern" context, much of this comes under the orbit of "non-duality", which often sets the alarm bells going for theists.......yet often theists who very often seem unaware of the teachings of Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhart and St John of the Cross, both of whom are seen as "dharma brothers" by various zennists.

Just to forestall those who might argue for the "simplicity of the gospel" as opposed to all such attempts like this to bridge the gulf between theFaiths........as Ken Wilber had said....."The fact that life and death are not two is extremely difficult to grasp, not because it is so complex, but because it is so simple." Indeed, so simple that a "little child shall lead them" and the wise are led empty away.

My apologies for going on about this, but in Grace we find the thought, the word, the reality that has the potential to unite all people of Faith, though perhaps not people of all beliefs.

Edited by tariki
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I am trying to find if grace has any significance in Progressive Christianity and if so, what does it mean to a Progressive Christian?

On the PC website, I found this: http://progressivechristianity.org/resources/progressive-christian-ideologies-on-grace-or-faith/ For the author of that answer, grace plays no part in PC. Is that the general consensus or does anyone here find it relevant to PC?

 

 

I believe Marcus Borg to be representative in many ways of PC. He has something interesting to say about grace her.

 

“Jesus died for our sins” has been understood. Among some Christians, it is seen as an essential doctrinal element in the Christian belief system. Seen this way, it becomes a doctrinal requirement: we are made right with God by believing that Jesus is the sacrifice. The system of requirements remains, and believing in Jesus is the new requirement. Seeing it as a metaphorical proclamation of the radical grace of God leads to a very different understanding. “Jesus died for our sins” means the abolition of the system of requirements, not the establishment of a new system of requirements.”

 

Marcus J. Borg, The Meaning of Jesus

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As i understand it, Grace is that in which we live and move and have our being. This is known or not, recongnised or not. It is a "given", to open to. It is the causal basis of "salvation". If the causal basis is deemed to be our "choice to believe" there then comes the potential for division, conflict, judgement and "works".

 

The Catholic monk Thomas Merton has spoken well on this.........

The reification of faith. Real meaning of the phrase we are saved by faith = we are saved by Christ, whom we encounter in faith. But constant disputation about faith has made Christians become obsessed with faith almost as an object, at least as an experience, a "thing" and in concentrating upon it they lose sight of Christ. Whereas faith without the encounter with Christ and without His presence is less than nothing. It is the deadest of dead works, an act elicited in a moral and existential void. To seek to believe that one believes, and arbitrarily to decree that one believes, and then to conclude that this gymnastic has been blessed by Christ - this is pathological Christianity. And a Christianity of works. One has this mental gymnastic in which to trust. One is safe, one possesses the psychic key to salvation......

It would seem to me, if one recognises the Word of God as that which lights ALL who come into the world, as that through Whom ALL things are made (as said in St John's Gospel) then the "presence of Christ" spreads far wider than mere allegiance to, and acknowledgement, of the Biblical word and any "requirement" claimed to be found therein.

The message of Grace can be found in all faiths, at all times, in all places.......for those with ears to hear and eyes to see. And such is a gift, pure and simple....

Faith does not arise within oneself
The entrusting heart is given by the Other Power


......as said by the Pure Land "saint" Rennyo.

So one must look for the subtle "works" of ones own heart, which issues in any claim of "faith", when such "faith" divides us from others in implied judgement and condemnation.

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It would seem to me, if one recognises the Word of God as that which lights ALL who come into the world, as that through Whom ALL things are made (as said in St John's Gospel) then the "presence of Christ" spreads far wider than mere allegiance to, and acknowledgement, of the Biblical word and any "requirement" claimed to be found therein.

Tariki nicely said,

In the grace and comfort of unity, a spiritual experience encounters a new heaven and a new earth where everything is united. The confusions on the physical plane, the duality of the sins and miseries of the mind are not remembered or renewed in a state of grace. In the present moment harmony we see the balance and unity of opposites because a center of heaven on earth has glory even in our sorrows because when we are at our lowest point we are also the most open to change to a new life. As our thoughts and their manifested objects dissolve in the state of grace, our consciousness becomes acquainted again with infinity and its limitlessness without thinking, as we transcend time and space.

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