Dwelling in the Father’s love
Brandon and Dwell, I have finally had time to sit down and read your discussion. I am thrilled for both of you. Brandon, your 3-D illustration is a gem, as is your point about the chair, and I love your heart. Dwell, you are obviously a careful and sensitive thinker, and know your way around the larger gospel discussion. So my hat is off to both of you. It seems to me that what you are wrestling with is the reality of relationship, not simply a position, or a title, or a fact, but a relationship. I hope all without exception come to know Abba and experience his love in Jesus to the uttermost. Like George MacDonald and Thomas Erskine, two of my heroes, it makes no sense to think that the Father’s love will not win every heart. Unlike those two giants, I cannot make a doctrine out of our hope. To be a universalist (doctrinally speaking) would be, for me, to deny the reality of our distinction within Christ’s relationship with us, and that would be to deny the authenticity of our personhood, which is one of my beefs with the Calvinists.
In the last 2 chapters of my book, The Great Dance, I do the best that I can to sort through Christ’s union with us and our real distinction. Come to think of it, towards the end of most of what I write I come around to this issue, except in Across All Worlds—the whole book is about Christ relating to us in our darkness.
Dwell, you said, “But with the official Perichoresis message it seems to me that although it is better on the surface – ie We are all justified, and sit at the right hand of the Father in Jesus etc…..The bottom line is that WE still have the burden of deciding our destiny.”
The statement, “the burden of deciding our destiny” strikes me as odd in the context of the stunning news that we have been included in Jesus’ own relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit. I cannot imagine hearing my wife say “I love you” and hearing that as a burden. “I love you” is a declaration that I am a real person and I am in a relationship where I am called to love and to be loved. It is an invitation to love and relationship. The gospel declares to us that we are included in the love of the Father, Son and Spirit, and as such calls us be loved, to let the Father love us, as my friend Bruce Wauchope so beautifully puts it. What is burdensome about letting the Father love us? Jesus declares the Father’s love to us and summons us to believe in his Father’s love. The object of faith is the fact of the Father’s love and acceptance, which means that we are real persons to the Father, that we are in a relationship with him, and are called to respond.
In the story of the prodigal and his brother, the Father’s love for both boys was endless, and because of his endless love, they were both called to respond.
Several points need to be isolated here. (1) The Father loves us. What we do or do not do cannot change, validate or nullify his love. We are loved—forever. (2) If we doubt, and we all do, we are to look to Jesus whose very existence reveals the Father’s endless love to us. The object of faith, and the ground of assurance, is the reality of the Father’s love and acceptance in Jesus—the fact that we are included. (3) The Father’s love calls us to let him love us. To deny the need to respond to the Father is to reduce us to non-persons and to pretend that this is not a relationship.
The gospel is the stunning declaration that we are included in the relationship that Jesus has with his Father and the Holy Spirit, and as such it is a declaration that rocks our illusions and doubts, and summons us to let the Father love us, as Bruce says, or to learn to live loved, as Paul Young says. Or perhaps we should say that the gospel summons us to dwell in the Father’s love.
Bless you all
For more of my thoughts on the way of trinitarian love, see my essay, “Bearing our Scorn: Jesus and the Way of Trinitarian Love.”