Sunday, July 27, 2008

quote for the week: Cornelius Plantinga on sin

The gifts of God - vitality, love, forgiveness, courage against evil, joy at our depths, and everything else that flows from the terrible work of Christ - may be found only in the company of God. And we keep company with God only by adopting God's purposes for us and following through on them even when it is difficult or initially painful to do so. To place ourselves in range of God's choicest gifts, we have to walk with God, lean on God, cling to God, come to have the sense and feel of God, refer all things to God. Contrary to our self-interested impulses, we have to worship God with a disciplined spirit and an expectant heart.

But just here lies our main evasion, the one we have all practiced a thousand times: like the Israelites indicted by Jeremiah, we "forget God" (Jer. 2:32; 13:25; 18:15). For weeks at a time we go through the motions, never seriously attending to God, never focusing on God, never - with all the weight of mind and heart - turning ourselves to God. The thought that by such negligence we keep on wounding the only being who loves us with a perfect and expensive love, the thought that we are deeply entangled not only in our sin but also in the bloody remedy for it - these thoughts become bearable and then routine. At last we put them away and sink into functional godlessness. When we are in that state, God does not seem very real to us. So we do not pray. The less we pray, the less real God seems to us. And the less God seems real to us, the duller our sense of responsibility becomes, and thus the duller our sense of ignoring God becomes....

We could describe our situation like this: we must trust and obey in order to rise to the full stature of sons and daughters, to mature into the image of God, to grow into adult roles in the drama of redeeming the world. God has in mind not just what we should be but also what, one day, we could be. God wants not slaves but intelligent children. God wants from us not numb obedience but devoted freedom, creativity and energy. That's what the grace of God is for - not simply to balance a ledger but to stimulate the spurts of growth in zeal, in enthusiasm of shalom, in good hard work, in sheer delicious gratitude for the gift of life in all its pain and all its wonder.

In short, we are to become responsible beings: people to whom God can entrust deep and worthy assignments, expecting us to make something significant of them - expecting us to make something significant of our lives....

...shalom is God's design for creation and re-creation and...sin is a blamable vandalism of shalom... let's expand that image: by the sins of attack we vandalize shalom; by the sins of flight we abandon it. When we flee responsibility, we turn our backs on God's presence and blessing, we walk out on the one work project that will outlast every recession, and we begin the slow process of converting ourselves into derelicts. We "hate the light and do not come to the light" (John 3:20). Instead, we gather all we have and make our way toward a far country, toward the outer darkness, toward a place of self-deprivation, a place of our own making.

Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, 195-197

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