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October 05, 2005

Threshhold of the Future

I read Mike Riddell's Threshold of the Future a couple of years back, and had another look at it recently. It is an insightful book, retaining its value with the passing of years. Two aspects are worth noting here:

His view of holiness as relational rather than related to separation raises some interesting questions. Holiness is not a function of what we do or do not do, but of our relationship with God – it is based in identity, not behaviour. It is Christ within who makes us holy. Jesus’ presence in many places traditionally considered unholy is explained by the fact that his holiness is not diminished by his contact with the unholy. Holiness is tied to the presence of God, not places, or events.

The second aspect comes from a couple of conversations and reflections, as much as from the book. It is the reality of incarnation, and its implications. To incarnate faith and spirituality in language and body (perhaps that is the wrong order) means to take on the form and culture of the community in which one incarnates. Thus to incarnate is to risk losing one’s identity. To be seen as risking one’s life is of the essence of Christ, not the absence.

One note in Riddell’s book jumped at me - he talks of ‘the more blasphemous suggestion that God causes or at least willingly permits such ravages” (horrendous suffering). While I understand the emotion of this comment, for me it lacks integrity with the biblical data, and the theological implications. If God has not the power to halt or limit suffering, then how can he redeem it? If he is powerless to act in the face of it, how does he find power to act in the wake of it? To acknowledge the sovereignty of God in the face of suffering means also to acknowledge his sovereignty in every part of it. That sovereignty therefore places some responsibility at his feet for its occurrence – a feature of the psalms, which place the responsibility squarely at God’s feet, and surrenders afresh to God and His purposes. This is not to say that God has caused the suffering, only that he has failed to restrain it. Either way he is complicit in it, but not without the ability to redeem it. God is either sovereign or he is not. To reach the latter conclusion has far-reaching implications, beyond the apparent horror of implicating God in tragedy. Did not Jesus indicate that the power was his to stop his own crucifixion? Yet he did not. Why? Through that suffering would come a greater good. Admittedly, we have done much to downplay that suffering in the light of its redemptive symbolism, yet one cannot exist without the other.

Food for thought...

Posted by gary at October 5, 2005 03:27 PM

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