I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Book

Well, my dear blogging friends, Tamie and I are in the process of a six week road trip. We are primarily camping and visiting friends in the pacific northwest. (You can get trip updates at her blog.)

We very much enjoyed our stay in Minneapolis/St. Paul with a few of Tamie's good friends, Dave and Kacey. The Twin Cities are a wonderful metro area. Of special interest to myself is how much the natural environment is integrated into the city. There are many lakes within the city, the Mississippi River, many trees, and an extensive system of biking/walking trails for alternative commuting. The Twin Cities are definitely an urban area that I could see myself inhabiting.

But to the main point of this blog post, which is to leak a bit of information: I have been working on the beginning phase of thinking through a book. This is my first shot at writing a book, and as such I am excited about the venture. The topic is grace, and the book will be an attempt to weave together many threats: theological writings on grace, philosophical issues, a New Testament exegesis of the Apostle Paul's thoughts on grace, and the implications that grace has for spiritual and psychological transformation.

Much of my personal pilgrimage in recent years has continually come back to the issue of grace. Everything in the lives we live in this world seems to contain conditions, everything has a catch. In philosophical and theological terms, everything is involved in an economy of reciprocity. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

My point is not necessarily to say that this situation (this economy of reciprocity) is wrong. Even Paul (see Romans 4) does not say that the economy of exchange is wrong: the one who works for his wages gets what he works for, nothing more, nothing less. But grace seems to move beyond reciprocity, which creates a problem because we have no reference for a non-reciprocal reception of anything! Normal experience teaches us that there is no gift given that has no strings attached. This is the world we inhabit, this is the perspective that colors the way we view others (and the relationships we cultivate). There is no free lunch.

Protestant Christianity of all stripes carries this idea into their idea of grace, albeit in a way that I consider to be somewhat disingenuous: God gives you the "free" gift of salvation.....therefore....you should should be grateful and do __________. Where many Christians differ is in the way they fill in the blank. But there always seems to be a blank. The result of this is that most Christians carry forward some brand of guilt--guilt for not being good enough or making enough "spiritual progress," moral failings, etc.

But Christianity is not going to be my sole focus. I hope to write a book whose relevance reaches non-Christians and the non-religious. Paul's gospel of grace, after all, was originally aimed at the "uncircumcision," the non-chosen ones. (See Galatians 2 for Paul's own description of his mission.) In its pure form, Paul's gospel of grace seems to have been a quite radical form of non-reciprocity. My hope, then, is to understand how this radical notion of grace might open up dialog between faiths and between those of faith and those without faith.

I want to reimagine what grace might be if we stripped it down bare. What if grace truly became the centrality of theology, doctrine, practice, and spirituality? What if there never were strings attached? Can we even begin to thing this way?

More and more I am realizing that this project is about using language to describe what is beyond and deeper than language. As such, one of the main focuses of this book will be to write what we might call creative theology; that is, using writing ot inspire the imagination, to open up possibilities and new beginnings, not just to close off the topic by presenting the conclusive word on the subject. Grace is to big for that, too deep. I hope that the writing will not merely be the transfer of theoretical information (as important as that is) but rather the kind of language that generates the spiritual and psychological creativity of the reader, leading the reader to both go deeper into herself and at the same time farther beyond herself than she could have envisioned.

Therefore, I look froward in the future to post questions and comments about grace. I am interested in your thoughts and questions on this project.

What about grace is of interest to you? How does grace relate to your experiences?

I think it would be fantastic to generate discussion prior to the writing of a book, so that the book possibly might be something that grows out of conversation and dialog.

You can leave comments here, or email me at erdman31@gmail.com.


Bev said...

You MUST read Cry, the Beloved Country before you write about grace. :-) It's prob. the most Christian book I've ever read (i.e., "grace" and "love" and "loving your enemies" in action).

amy said...

I'd totally read it.

Ken said...

Hi Jon,

Sounds like a very exciting project. I actually was in process of writing on a very related topic at my blog and even this post created some thoughts for me to mull over. Thanks.

(I have posted the entry, feel free to drop by if it provokes any more thinking - I'd be honored)