A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies

A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies

A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies

A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies

Synopsis

Few topics in theology are as complex and multifaceted as grace: over the course of centuries, many seemingly arbitrary distinctions and arcane debates have arisen around it. Edward Oakes, however, argues that all of these distinctions and debates are ultimately motivated by one central question: What are God's intentions for the world?In A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies Oakes examines issues relating to grace and points them back to that central question, illuminating and explaining what is really at stake in these debates. Maintaining that controversies clarify issues, especially those as convoluted as that of grace, Oakes works through six central debates on the topic, including sin and justification, evolution and original sin, and free will and predestination.

Excerpt

Fr. Edward Oakes was one of the most sparkling and brilliant people I’ve ever known. I had the privilege of working with him for ten years at Mundelein Seminary—first as a faculty colleague and then as rector. He was one of those scholars who not only made you think about things in a new way but reminded you why you became a student of theology in the first place. After a conversation with Fr. Oakes, you were not just better informed; you felt more intellectually alive. He also had a passion for the notoriously “hard” questions in theology, those areas that most academics prefer to set aside or postpone: the relation between the divine mind and human mind in Jesus, evolution vs. creation, the possibility of universal salvation, and especially the play between nature and grace. the book you are about to read is a series of remarkably illuminating meditations on that uniquely complicated issue. I can testify firsthand that Fr. Oakes composed and polished these essays in the very last months of his life, just after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I will never forget a conversation I had with him during that final summer. After he explicated a dimension of the nature/ grace problem with his customary boyish enthusiasm, he paused and then said, “I’m just so happy with my life right now!” I think it is safe to say that he wrote these reflections on grace at a strangely graced moment of his life.

Ludwig Wittgenstein—a philosopher with whom Fr. Oakes resonated—famously remarked that his own work represented an attempt to let the fly out of the fly bottle. I thought of Wittgenstein’s image frequently as I read through these essays, for time and again, Oakes is showing us a way out of the classical (and frustrating) dilemmas surrounding the nature/grace dynamic. As we butt our heads over and again on the side of the bottle, honoring all that must legitimately be honored, he says, “Perhaps you could think of it this way.”

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