Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: the fall

3 Shades of Grace: Introduction

Three Shades of Grace“We know no gospel without salvation from sin.” -John Wesley

Charles Schultz’ Charlie Brown says to his friend Linus, “Life is just too much for me. I’ve been confused right from the day I was born. I think the whole trouble is that we’re thrown into life too fast. We’re not really prepared.”

Linus replies, “What did you want . . . a chance to warm up first?”

It could be said that “the whole trouble” of humanity is original sin. Original sin is the corruption of the nature of every human being. In the beginning, God created, and it was good. God created humanity in the image of God, and it was good. John Wesley referred to this original righteousness as “original perfection.” But, when the first humans ate the fruit of the tree, sin entered the world. The Fall, as the Genesis 3 narrative is commonly referred to, left humanity fallen from perfection.

Sin is the “whole trouble” with humanity. It has left the image of God within humanity disfigured and diseased. As Paul says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Wesley understood that what we inherited from Adam and Eve was not so much guilt, but corruption and disease.

There is no escape from sin.

This is why humanity is in need of divine grace. Grace is the undeserved, unmerited, loving action of God. It is grace that renews and restores the fallen image of God within humanity. Grace is the answer to the problem. Grace is the medicine for the disease of sin. Grace transforms us from a sinful state to a righteous state. As United Methodists, we affirm that salvation comes through this loving action of God we call grace.

John Wesley understood grace in three shades, or three movements. Prevenient grace is God’s love at work in our lives from the beginning, even before we realize our sin-filled reality. While justifying grace pardons us through Christ, sanctifying grace empowers us to participate with God in healing our sin sick selves. But only if we choose to cooperate. This has been called Wesley’s “Way of Salvation.” It is the story of how grace restores us to original righteousness.

The next few posts will explore these three shades of grace.

 

Bible’s Major Players: Eve

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. Eve is one from the Old Testament.

Eve. The first woman. The first wife. The first mother. The first sinner?

We are familiar with the story of Eve found in Genesis 2 and 3. But, if you’re looking for a unique retelling, I recommend the Slappy Squirrel animated version. God decides that it is not good for Adam to be alone, so God puts Adam in a deep sleep. While Adam is under, God uses one of his ribs to create Eve. And there they are, one happy, newlywed family.

That is, until the serpent enters the drama. The serpent engages Eve in a conversation not with God, but about God. The serpent and Eve have a little God-talk time.  Theologian and scholar Walter Brueggemann writes, “The serpent is the first in the Bible to seem knowing and critical about God and to practice theology in the place of obedience.” Doing theology is not limited to the Ivory Towers. From the beginning, theology – God-talk – has been accessible.

apple_10632cTheir conversation ultimately leads to the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The Bible does not name the fruit. Tradition has taught us that it was an apple. However, apples were not Mesopotamian fruits. Most likely, the fruit was a pomegranate, apricot, or fig. But the identity of the truth, at the end of the day, is that important.

What is important is that the serpent talks about what will happen if Eve does eat the fruit of the tree, and the serpent proves to be convincing. “And she took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6). And everything changed! She tasted the fruit and then ate it. Cue the John Williams score, the fall of humanity just got real.

We were taught in Sunday school that Eve ate of the fruit first, and then took it to Adam and he ate without thinking.  The plural use of “you” in the Hebrew suggests that Adam is most likely with her during this conversation. That is to say that we need to stop giving Eve a bad rap. Eve made have eaten first, but she did not act solely alone. She may have been the spokeswoman for the couple, but that does not mean that she and all women after her must submit to their husbands. It does, however, reinforce the idea that this thing we call faith is a communal act. We are in this together.

There is a three fold action in this story. Eve takes the fruit, she eats the fruit, and she gives the fruit. Compare this to the four fold action Jesus and others use in the New Testament when celebrating the Lord’s Supper. They take the bread, bless the bread, break the bread, and give the bread. The connection is striking. Jesus redeems the basic disobedience of humanity through the action of giving his body and blood for us. When we respond to this taking, blessing, breaking, and giving of bread, we are affirming our active participation in the salvation story.

In a sense, Eve set in motion the fall of humanity, but also the salvation story that would redeem all of humanity.

In what ways are you participating in the salvation story?

Resources: Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. John Knox Press, 1982.

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