Archives For Costly Grace

Inhaling Grace

July 1, 2016 — 7 Comments

dysfunctional family surivivorNo matter how much forgiveness helps us to resolve conflict, if people thrive on the conflict, then conflict will inevitably remain. Sometimes you’ll find yourself stuck between a rock and hard place. Where no matter what approach you embark on, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Learning to move on from this graciously, responsibly and wisely, will require us to make an effort. In the New Testament Jesus tells us to breathe in grace and exhale dust.

To do so seeks to reshape our circumstances, redefine relationships, and in revolt against the chaos, breathe in the hope of rescue and restoration.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Our “hell” is countered by the God who rolls stones and raises the dead (John 11/2 Cor.1:9).

This intercession is the reality of the cross where our brokenness is consumed and replaced by a resurrected life.

Although scars remain, restoration is a real possibility.

This is because the stone has been rolled away by choice. We can then breathe, receive and put on, a new nature (Colossians), through a newness of life (Ephesians) because Jesus Christ stepped into the darkness and pierced it with light.

This is what the new instrumental below expresses. As for the creative process. I just prayed, sat down and in six hours had this gem pulled together. If I had the time to improve on it, I’d seek to make the song more tighter. Especially with the lead in to the first chorus and work a roll through the tom-toms into it. (For the best quality, good speakers or headphones are recommended).

‘Dust is an emblem of a state of condemnation’ [Genesis 3: 14; Micah 7: 17.]
(Albert Barnes, Commentary on Numbers)

Happy Friday, folks. 🙂



Image: Pinterest

Video and image featured is my own.

Related post:Exhaling Dust, Inhaling Grace

Freedom and Responsibility_BarthAs promised. So delivered.

This makes up part one of three, five point summaries. Each highlighting quotes from my recent reading of Barth’s closing chapters in Church Dogmatics I.II

A few things to note before I begin.

Firstly, I have edited this more than a few times in order to maintain the integrity of Barth’s meaning.

Secondly, I’m really only posting these as a resource for my own future reference.

However, having said that, if you, the reader, find them interesting, I’d welcome your thoughts and comments about anything that should stand out to you as relevant.

Barth’s C.D.I.II is largely a call to read the Word of God ‘as it stands’[i]. This call moves Christians beyond the inerrancy debate because the bible does not have to be one hundred precent empirically correct in order for it to be true.

1. The Bible is ‘movement fulfilled in obedience, it exists as witness to revelation’[ii]. He adds, that ‘verbal inspiration does not mean the infallibility of the Biblical Word in its linguistic, historical and theological character as a human word’.

  • It means that the fallible and faulty human word is used by God and has to be received in spite of its human fallibility[iii]…the work of God is done through this text. The miracle of God takes place in the text formed of human words[iv]
  • ‘It is a matter of the event/s of the actual presence of the Word of God…the free presence of God, defining our recollection as thankfulness and our expectation as hope[v]
  • ‘Certainly it is not our faith which makes the Bible the Word of God…although it does demand our faith, underlie our faith, and that it is the substance and life of our faith…We have to understand the inspiration of the Bible as a divine decision continually made in the life of the Church and in the life of its members[vi]

2. According to Barth

  • ‘We, (the Church) share in the movement in which scripture was born and in virtue of which even today Scripture is not mere writing but in its written character is Spirit and Life[vii]
  • We ‘live in light of the Word of God’s decision about us[viii]
  • Consequently, ‘the Church for its part must allow itself to be set in movement through Scripture.[ix]
  • We stand in Church history, therefore Church history is lived’[x]

3. Having anchored his defence, Barth embarks on an offense, directing our attention to the freedom and authority of God which gives life to the freedom and responsibility of both man and woman[xi].  For Barth

  • What is at stake, or so it seems, is God’s authority and freedom.  This leads into a discussion about the ‘infinite qualitative distinction (Kierkegaard)’ which holds that God is heaven and man on earth, that God rules and men and women must obey, that the Word of God makes a total claim upon humanity.[xii]
  • We have had to learn anew to accustom ourselves again to these simple truths, in contradiction to a theological liberalism which would have nothing to do with them…[xiii]

4.They (theological liberals) can attempt to jettison authority in a fight for freedom, but ‘neither the origin nor the essence of the Church is to be found in the blind alley where man would like to be his own lord and law.[xiv]

5. At this point Barth brings up the issue of the Church and the Freedom of the Word of God.

  • ‘The Christian is not a stone that is pushed, or a ball that is made to roll. The Christian is a person who through the Word and love of God has been made alive, the real man or the real woman, able to love God in return standing erect just because they have been humbled, humbling themselves because they have been raised up[xv]
  • Barth asserts that when we are ‘confronted by grace…. our pride annihilated and our sin covered. We are, therefore, addressed by the name we received in our baptism and not by the title which might be given to us by others as an indication of who we are as individuals (personality) [xvi]

With all due respect to lists on blogs, this is definitely not an average one. It is a culmination of important statements made by Barth in or just before 1938. Inside the details, or rather woven into them, is a firm grasp on the reality of the socio-political context of Europe and in particular the Church, as its people gazed upwards towards the darkening sky trying to find light in the vicious ideological storm, that was to rapidly move across Europe a year later.

Behind Barth’s words rests the knowledge that

‘the struggle against the authority of the Bible is really the struggle against the freedom of grace.[xvii]

Along with an awareness of the fact that:

‘Where there is no genuine authority, so there is no genuine freedom. There is only action and reaction between a despotic arrogance and an equally despotic despair.[xviii]


[i] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics 1.2: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Scripture as the Word of God Hendrickson Publishers, p.533

[ii] Ibid, p.671‘Freedom in the Church/The Freedom of the Word’

[iii] Ibid, p.533 (cont.)

[iv] Ibid, p.532 ‘Holy Scripture is also, in fact a human historical record’ (p.541); ‘God’s word comes to man and woman as a human word’ (p.699)

[v] Ibid, p.533

[vi] Ibid, pp.534-535

[vii] Ibid p.671 (cont.)

[viii] Ibid, p.704

[ix] Ibid, p.672

[x]  Ibid, p.595

[xi] This is not an ‘arbitrary freedom’, but a costly and decisive freedom ‘conferred by the Holy Spirit’ (p.667) and ‘worked out in obedience’ (p.661-662). Therefore the ‘Bible confronts us with the realisation our freedom’ (p.652)

[xii] Ibid, p.633 ‘Authority in the Church/Authority under the Word’

[xiii] Ibid, p.663 (cont.)

[xiv]  Ibid, p.668

[xv]  Ibid, p.662

[xvi] Ibid, p.704

[xvii] Ibid, p.559

[xviii]  Ibid, p.668 ‘The great defeats of the Church have been and are when it has wanted to honour its confession in theory but not in practice, when the living form becomes a mummy, and the mummy unnecessary lumber, and the gift of God is frustrated…the great danger in the inevitable conflicts against a confession of the Church is that it may be taken away from t if it yields to temptation and surrenders.’ (p.646)



Active Remembrance

December 9, 2013 — 2 Comments

Advent, days 8 & 9: Grace


Advent could rightly be viewed as a discipline of active remembrance.

Advent participation moves us into confrontation with our world. This happens through a developing grasp of how costly grace contradicts the instant gratification on sale everywhere at this time of year (primarily in Western communities, for the Christian and the Atheist).  Although buying and selling is not in and of itself a bad thing.Profit and loss terminology can drive our understanding of the personal and communal cost and benefit embedded within the Gospels.

Flooding our considerations with more intensity than at any other time of year, the concepts of cost and benefit can help us to identify with the participants of the retelling.

Throughout the Christmas season parents, among others, realise the significance of cost.

Cost dictates whether or not it we will feel the benefits of Christmas. These may include:  a few days off work, financial bonuses from corporate gifts or overtime, loss of work due to local or global economic shifts etc.  Traditionally, Christmas is a time to be proud of those well-earned special gifts – thoughtfully purchased at a cost –  through hard-work, sacrifice, and love. Generally we are taught that it is a time to bathe in the ”joy of our giving” . The result is that grace can become separated from any consideration about the cost of God’s giving; saying to ourselves that those considerations are for Easter, not Christmas.

In short, the cost of our giving can dictate our entire experience of the event. Cost and benefit becomes the measure of our joy. These economic terms usually focus more on the human efforts to summon happiness [not joy] on Christmas day, rather than on the special cause and purpose of our remembrance. Along with the subsequent celebrations, and the preparations for it, money can end up determining the momentum of our joy, our remembrance, and our willingness to give.

However, the terms cost and benefit, are correlated to the advent endeavour. This is because strange story of advent is not about a stranger[i]. It is about the God who gave advance knowledge of His coming as-one-of-us. The New Testament leans on the language of cost and benefit. It makes the point that because of Jesus; grace: ‘you were bought at a great price’ (1 Cor.6:20, ESV)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

‘That which has cost God much cannot be cheap for us…Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves’[ii]

Why, is it easy to reduce grace to a low-cost-at -no-cost-to-us framework?

The grand Advent discipline of self-examination[iii], reflection, and gratitude, summons us to remember that we are participants with God and yet, ‘we cannot bestow His grace upon ourselves’ (Bonhoeffer 1937:4 paraphrased).

I agree with James K. Smith when he suggests that:

 ‘the Christian observation of Advent marks a different orientation to time, particularly when it is recognised that Advent is a season for repentance’ (2009: 156)[iv]

What has cost God much cannot be cheap for us is no random thought.

Behind this lies a broken awareness about the reality of Jesus the Christ. Bonhoeffer’s message warns against the act of cheapening grace.

In order to map this out further, we could debate the definition of cheap comments in terms of messages communicated via the internet.  For example: comments are valuable and people are free to comment. Yet, being free to comment does not mean we are free to comment cheaply.

Cheap comments are passive aggressive “words-on-target”. Cheap comments are essentially ‘’cheap shots’’ at disqualifying the message through generalisation and personal attacks on the messenger. These can be viewed in the pseudo-application[v] of debating tools such as ad hominem; tu quoque: an attempt to label the messenger as hypocritical; or dismissing the message by reducing the argument to the absurd, such as reductio ad absurdum.

Likewise, cheap grace, for Christians and for the world, falls into these categories and can be labelled as logical and informal fallacies.

Bonhoeffer’s argument against the abuse of grace is summed up as:

                  • Costly Grace requests (if not requires) a response to God’s action on our behalf
                  • Cheap grace denies humanity the opportunity to respond.
                  • Because grace is ‘costly and it calls us to follow Jesus Christ’[vi]

Advent could rightly be viewed as a discipline of active remembrance. This means to reflect and respond to the fact that that ‘which has cost God much cannot be cheap for us’

The cognitive curiosity and obedience of the shepherds and wise men lead them to an outhouse shelter for animals.

…‘The people who walked in darkness   have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,   on them has light shined’ (Isaiah 9:2, ESV).

Their response to grace meets that of Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and the New Testament writers who in their own understanding did not apply a concept of God to Jesus, but learnt that through His birth, life, death and resurrection[vii]. God had indeed made Himself known.

‘…they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)’ (Mt.1:23, ESV)

They were participants in having God bestow grace them. They did not bestow grace upon themselves.

The justification of the sinner comes with the ‘obligation of discipleship’[viii].


[i] Barth, K. 1938 The Doctrine of the Word of God, CD.1:2:17, Hendrickson Publishers
[ii] Bonhoeffer, D.1937 The Cost of Discipleship SCM Classics, p.5
[iii] Smith, J.K.A, 2009 Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural formation, Baker Academic
[iv] Ibid, p.156
[v] The colloquial term is ‘’trolling’’.
[vi] Bonhoeffer, D.1937 The Cost of Discipleship SCM Classics, p.5
[vii] Barth, K. 1938 The Doctrine of the Word of God, CD.1:2:17, Hendrickson Publishers
[viii] Bonhoeffer, D.1937 The Cost of Discipleship SCM Classics, p.9