The next chapter in Douglas Jacobsen and Rodney Sawatsky’s small study in theology, Gracious Christianity, turns next to “Human Nature.” The chp deals with Image of God (something dear to my heart), and then with a few topics around the idea of the human condition — both very good sections. I think you can learn alot about a person when you figure out how that person thinks about humans. Have you noticed this? How do you think of humans?
On Image of God the authors explore rationality and freedom, especially the latter. Humand do not possess unfettered freedom (limited as they are by their nature and by their conditions — location, education, finances, etc), but they are responsible for their choices. However, as they say it: “the natural terrain of the world is now tilted against our ability to choose the good” (42).
This chp has one theme, not always mentioned, but it is palpably presence to me: human nature, created by God, is only fulfilled when humans extend the grace of God to themselves and to others.
Human freedom and responsibility lead humans into conflict with one another and drive humans to choices about justice and compassion. Perhaps what drives this section in his book is that humans are essentially “relational” beings. In Embracing Grace I call this hyper-relationality, and these authors have good insights on this topic. Graciousness drives their concerns here.
Finally, they turn to sin. Very good definition, shaped as it is by a theology intent on keeping things within the boundaries of a gracious Christianity: “Sin is anything that willfully diminishes the life that we and the rest of creation are meant to enjoy. Sin is living against the grain of God’s universe” (47). This sound like Plantinga’s idea that sin is culpable shalom-breaking (see his Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be).
Because humans sin, and because they go against one another, the world can only work right if folks repent, tell the truth, and forgive one another. And here’s a stunning comment I love: “The only alternative is to live with a shrunken spirit and a diminished sense of what it means to be human” (49). That is, humans can be gracious.
So, what to do? “Being a Christian does not lift us above the human condition. Rather, it calls us to participate in life in a new way — in the way of Jesus, following the way of life” (49).