Tag Archives: predestination

Robert Jenson on the homiletic implications of justification

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The Reformation doctrine of justification is not a new attempted description of a process of grace—and when it has been taken for such, sometimes also by would-be champions, the difference between the Reformation and the standard tradition has always promptly become obscure. The doctrine is rather an hermeneutical instruction to preachers, teachers, and confessors: so speak of Christ and of the life of your community that the justification for that life which your words open is the kind grasped by faith rather than the kind constituted in works. […]

The instruction is not to induce, or manipulate, conversion by our discourse; the hearer’s conversion is to be accomplished as the act of gospel-speaking itself. Conversion is a change in the communication situation within which every person lives; a proper sermon or baptism liturgy or penance liturgy just is that change. Using penance as the simplest paradigm, when the confessor says, “You have confessed cheating and coveting. Now I forgive all your sins, in Jesus’ name,” these words do not seek to stimulate conversion as an event external to their being said. Rather, this utterance is a conversion of the penitent’s life, from a situation in which the word he or she hears and must live by is “You are a cheat and a coveter,” to one in which the word he or she hears and must live by is “You are Jesus’ beloved.” […]

When someone speaks to me the promises made by Christ’s resurrection, that event is the event of God’s choice about me. […]

It is indeed the human Christ’s temporal address to us that is the event of God’s eternal choosing about us, as the Lutherans and Barth have said. But the eternity of this moment must be established not by the prefix “pre-” but the prefix “post-”: it is in that the man Christ will be the agent and center of the final community, that his will for us is the eternal determination of our lives. The Trinitarian dialectics can be the appropriate conceptual scheme of predestination only if the whole scheme—of Father, Son, and Spirit—is used and only if the Spirit’s metaphysical priority is affirmed. The speaking of the gospel is the event of predestination in that the gospel gives what it speaks about, but this eschatological efficacy of the gospel is the Spirit. We must parody Barth: the Holy Spirit is the choosing God.

From Christian Dogmatics, Vol. II., (Fortress, 1984), 130 134, 137, 138.

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A faithful sermon … will not be a sermon about [for example] predestination; it will be a predestining sermon. One may even imagine a pastoral dialogue:

Seeker: Am I among the elect?

Pastor: Yes.

Seeker: How do you know?

Pastor: You are elect because in Jesus’ name I now promise that you are.

Seeker: But it’s plain that I am barren soil!

Pastor: When Christ comes sowing, all things are possible.

Seeker: When will that happen to me?

Pastor: I just told you. This is it.

From Canon and Creed, (WJK, 2010), 61.

 

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Robert Jenson on predestination

“No even distantly Christian thought can avoid a doctrine of predestination. Fear of the doctrine is merely — or profoundly — fear of God. Nor can this fear validly argue, as it regularly does, that it is human freedom that must be defended against the notion of a truly final God. For the absoluteness of God’s will is in no way inconsistent with the reality of our freedom. On the contrary, if we think of God and ourselves as competitors for control of our mutual affairs, so that to whatever extent God determines my destiny I do not, then increased assignment of determination to God must indeed mean lessened freedom for me. But the very point of the doctrine of predestination is to deny any such competition, any such appearance of God and creatures on the same level of decision. Precisely because God is absolute, we are in no competition with God’s freedom to choose — and just so God’s absolute freedom does not diminish our creaturely freedom. Medieval theologians worked this point out with beautiful precision and subtlety. Whatever God wills, they said, must indeed happen, and exactly as God wills it. Thus, if God wills some things to happen as acts of free choice, they will happen, and happen in that way.”

from Christian Dogmatics, Vol II, (Fortress Press, 1984), 135-6.