Grace and Exchange Theory

O.K. this is going to be a little out
there so bear with me.  I’ve got some thoughts rattling around in
my head and for some reason I think better when I write (I’m sure there
is medication for that, but I’m sticking with it for now.). 

Why is grace such a hard thing for us to understand?  We seem to
have this idea (not sure if it’s new to Western civilization or an old
one) that our relationship with God is somewhat equivilant to our
relationship with the checker at Wal-Mart or with a friend or
spouse.  We want something…we give something…we get
something.  It’s the social exchange theory of God!  I have a
hard time equating that with the concept of grace.

Let me see if I can illustrate.  Someone comes down the isle on
Sunday morning ready to respond to the invitation of God.  What is
the question that we ask?  “Are you ready to make Jesus the Lord
of your life?”  How much power does that steal from Jesus? 
He’s already Lord…whether you say so or not!  When Jesus came
announcing the Kingdom he was announcing a new order.  When we
accept the invitation we aren’t entering into a transaction we are
acknowledging a present reality!

So when we get caught up in this faith vs. works debate we tend to look
at it from a wrong vantage point.  We look at it as a
transaction.  “If I do this…then God does this…then I’ll do
this…then….”  It’s like a game of cosmic chess!  How
tiring!  So the alternative is to see faith and works not as
opposites but as one growing out of another.  When we accept our
place in the “new order” of things our lives (works/deeds/whatever)
should acknowledge that we are living under that new rule and reign, a
new controlling Story.

Once we take our place in that Story grace is the thing that keeps us
going.  Keeping us safe within the boundaries of the Story. 
It changes our understanding of confession, forgiveness, works,
etc.  Robert Capon (as quoted by the Internet Monk) says this,
“What this says to you and me who have to live with the business of
trying to confess our sins is that confession is not a pre-condition of
forgiveness.  It’s something that you do after you know you’ve
been forgiven.  Confession is not something you can do in order to
get forgiveness. It’s something you do in order to celebrate the
forgiveness you got for nothing.  Nobody [nobody] can earn
forgiveness.”  That’s what grace is all about.  It upsets the
applecart of exchange theory, but then again…it was supposed to.

Enjoy the journey!

To hear a “real theologian” discuss these ideas go to the Internet Monk .  He’s got some good thoughts!


~ by Chris Green on September 21, 2004.

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