Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

An Answering Heart: Reflections on Saving Participation

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

An Answering Heart: Reflections on Saving Participation

Article excerpt

God's gift of salvation is freely offered, and it is to be freely received. Grace completes but does not annihilate nature. "Force is not of God," and we are never compelled to accept God's grace.1 God never strips us of our free will, and never reduces us to robots or puppets. The process of salvation is more than a ride on a divine conveyor belt! Salvation is by God's call, inviting us to cooperate freely in the gift of life that saves us. Our cooperation in this saving process involves our participation in the life, love, and activity of God in the world.

We are saved by sharing a relationship of love with God, whose love for us is visible throughout Jesus' life and especially in the cross. Love requires freedom to choose and freedom to share. A person with power over me (for example, a drill sergeant, or a robber) can compel my obedience, but that person cannot compel my love. Our freedom to choose-even to choose against relationship with God-is part of God's gift to us. Humanity was created in God's image with freedom to make choices.2 God respects the integrity of our creation, and our freedom to choose or reject the divine love that saves us. By grace through faith, we can choose life. We can choose to share and participate in the love of God that is freely offered to us.

Individually, and as members of the church as the Body of Christ in the world, we may participate in the unfolding of salvation history and the completing of the Kingdom of God. Our participation in this saving process involves us ever more deeply in the life and love of Christ, and transforms us ever more nearly into the union with God that is our completion and proper destiny.3 Our participation in the saving process involves the sacraments of the church along with other expressions of the life of the church community, and other expressions of Christian faith and ministry that may not seem outwardly or publicly Christian in nature. In this essay, I will consider the theology of participation in light of the work of several Anglican theologians, including Richard Hooker, William Porcher DuBose, and Michael Ramsey.

Richard Hooker

The concept of participation is a cornerstone for the theology of Richard Hooker (c. 1554-1600). John Booty considers that Chapter 56 of Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, titled "The union or mutuall participation which is betweene Christ and the Church of Christ in this present worlde," is the "theological heart" and "central chapter" of Book V, and "an epitome of Hooker's theology."4 In another publication, Booty states that Hooker's use of the term "participation" provides a key to Hooker's meaning in Book V in terms of "the mutual participation of deity and humanity in Christ enabling that mutual participation of Christ in us and we in Christ, which constitutes Christ's body, the church." Booty notes that Hooker "seems to interpret participation by referring to koinonia or fellowship."5

In Chapter 56 of Book V of the Laws, Hooker identifies different degrees of participation in Christ. All creation, humanity included, participates in Christ as creator. Hooker states that "all thinges which God hath made are in that respect the ofspringe of God, they are in him as effectes in theire highest cause, he likewise actuallie is in them, thassistance and influence of his deitie is theire life."6 But our participation in Christ is to exceed the general participation of all creation in the creator. Hooker urges that we may become "sonnes of God" by participation in the life of the church, by which we become living members of the Body of Christ in the world. The participation of Christ in the faithful and the faithful in Christ means that "by venue of this mysticall conjunction wee are of him and in him even as though our erie flesh and bones should be made continuate with his..." (p. 237).

For Hooker, participation in Christ may take place in different ways, but it is always dependent on the gift of Christ's presence. …

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