In the first chp in their primer on theology from the angle of grace, Jacobsen and Sawatsky look at God and Creation. They look at God as Creator, as One and as Trinity. God, so they say, did not create because God had to; nor did God create and then get stuck with what God had made. Instead — and this is a claim that brings great joy — God acted out of love and God made a delightful world!
The sheer variety, beauty, goodness and magnificence of the world cannot blunt the force of another important observation: God’s act of creation was an act of sharing himself with others. I first read this in Jonathan Edward years ago, but the point still boggles: creation is in some sense an extension of God’s perichoretic love into others (both humans and others). It is a burst of God’s love that generates creation.
There is only One God, and Jacobsen and Sawatsky remind us that we ought to be more cirucmspect and reverential in what we say about God. They delve into “apophatic” theological reasoning: speaking of God is so inarticulate, so incapable of strikinghome, and so finite for describing the Infinite, that theology sometimes says what it doesn’t know. Sometimes “silence about God may often be more appropriate than overly eager speech” (31).
But they do not back down: some things can be said. Each of these things should be said, but each should be contextualized by the others: God is King, God is Savior, God is just, etc.. Each helps define the other. But what both believe is the final statement is that God is love. And, though they do not quote Augustine here, they could have: “views about God that encourage us to love others are more likely on target than those that cause us to hate others or to hold them in disdain” (32).
On the Trinity, they explore the various ways, many of them unsuccessful, Christians have attempted to come to terms with the claim that God is Trinity. They find the most useful one to that of Augustine: that God is a lover (Father), the beloved (the Son), and the love (Spirit). [I’d like to have seen an exploration of the perichoresis alongside Augustine’s well-known and useful analogy.]
The authors of Gracious Christianity then suggest that the Trinity has profound implications for life — and they detail two: (1) it shapes ethics as an interpersonal ethic and a self-giving ethic, and (2) a holistic epistemology. This latter idea is quite profound I think: if the Father and Son and Spirit mutually interpenetrate one another, then all of existence finds a foundation for being holistic and integrative. Well, that is how I read them on this point.
Nice chp: easy to ready; good ideas; suggestive for groups to think through.