A genuine generous orthodoxy is conversational in style and in relationships. Conversation transcends everything we are and do. If we define “conversation” properly, it moves beyond “chatting” to become central to who we are and what we are aboutl.
The first element of the conversational style is that Orthodoxy recognizes that the Triune God is essentially “conversational” in essence. That is, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit interrelate and interpenetrate one another in love and beauty and, in so doing, establish that the fundamental ground of all reality is relational or conversational. (Again, this is called the perichoresis, and it is rooted in John 10:38 and worked out in the Cappadocian theologians like Gregory of Nyssa.)
The second element is that God has chosen to converse with the created world by manifesting himself in that creation and by revealing himself and speaking to that creation — both in acts of history (Exodus, Exile, Cross, Resurrection, etc) and in Scriptural witness.
The third element of conversation is the Spirit of God who speaks to everyone, everywhere and always has and will. God desires for humans to “converse back” with him.
A generosity of such an orthodoxy means first of all that we, as humans, need to learn to listen to God’s conversation with us in creation. There is more so-called natural theology in the Bible than most recognize: but Psalms 8, 19, 104, as well as Romans 8 and Revelation 21-22.
Second, it means we need to see that before it all and beyond it all is conversation. God’s own eternity past is one of ceaseless inter-conversation and God’s eternity future is one of eternal conversation with the perfected created order (including humans).
Third, Scripture is God’s special form of conversation with humans: here God spoke, here God still speaks. We need to read, not to master but to be mastered; we need to listen, not so we can known but so we can be known. And we need to do this together, as a community, because as God’s conversation is interpersonal so ours is as well.
Fourth, we suggest that God’s redemptive work is to re-establish the conversation between God and us, between us and us, and between us and the world. We call this “reconciliation,” but if we follow the thread of this post, then I see no reason why we can’t see it as a conversation. This is the work of the Holy Spirit and we need to be open to the Spirit’s conversational impulses and urges.
Finally, because God has engaged us in conversation, we need to engage one another in conversation and see it as the center of the Church’s Kingdom mission — knowing that being known is as important as knowing, and loving one another is as important as being loved. All of this implies, of course, that we are on a journey, we don’t yet know as will know (and shouldn’t pretend to), we need to converse with every human being — whether in our community of faith or not, whether our gender or not, whether educated or not, whether anything we prefer or not.
Tomorrow, the last post on a Generous (evangelical) Orthodoxy.