Graced Encounter (2)

Graced liturgy need not imply that any particular technique is necessary to engineer God’s presence. This theme is prominently underscored by James Torrance. Torrance argues that a trinitarian understanding of worship changes the spirit in which worship is offered: whereas a unitarian theology of worship, one that relies on human effort, “can engender weariness,” a trinitarian theology “releases joy and ecstasy.” Losing the sense of worship as an event of divine grace, for Torrance, is “to lose the comfort and peace of the gospel.” Any worship leader, Torrance suggests, that feels the need to “whip up” the congregation to an experience of God misses the point that worship is more like a gift than an accomplishment.

—John Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (dissertation), 237

Graced Encounter

Christian liturgy is a graced series of personal, relational acts of encounter between God and the gathered community, acts that are made possible through the mediation of Jesus Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

—John Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (dissertation), 298

Captivated by Grace

One Lutheran theologian has defined sanctification as “the art of getting used to justification.” It is our being grasped by the fact that God alone justifies us by this unconditional promise. In other words, sanctification is the justified life, not something added to justification. The term refers to our being captivated more and more by the fullness and unconditionality of God’s grace.

—Dennis Okholm, Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 172

Worship as Receiving

Worship is not an act of obeisance to appease a distant deity; an act of self-expression to impress a waiting God; a gift calculated to curry divine favor, or to generate, manipulate, or prevent divine activity. Worship is not an accomplishment to achieve, but a gift in which to participate. It is motivated not by fear, guilt, or shame, but by gratitude. Worship, to use an image from the Hebrew Scriptures, is more like Elijah’s reception of fire from heaven on Mount Carmel than the frantic efforts of the opposing prophets to call forth the action of their gods.

—John D. Witvliet, “Prism of Glory: Trinitarian Worship and Liturgical Piety in the Reformed Tradition” in The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer, ed. Bryan D. Spinks, 285

A Divine Irony

Who cannot but marvel at the redemptive genius at work here? Our contribution to our justification, and reconciliation, and to our inclusion in the life of the blessed Trinity was to reject and kill the Father’s eternal Son incarnate. And the Father transformed our treachery into our own death, resurrection and ascension in Christ, using our sin as the way of His forgiving embrace.

—C. Baxter Kruger, “God in the Hands of Angry Sinners,” in Trinity and Transformation, 104

Sanctification through Relationship

“God’s primary purpose for humanity is ‘filial,’ not just ‘judicial,’ where we have been created in the image of God to find our true being-in-communion, in ‘sonship,’ in the mutual personal relations of love.” (James B. Torrance)  In the outworking of sanctification, God’s primary purpose for humanity is not to adhere to external rules and regulations (judicial) but to participate by the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father (filial). As we share by the Spirit in the Son’s filial relationship with the Father, the outworking of sanctification is a natural consequence.

—Alexandra Radcliff, “James B. Torrance and the Doctrine of Sanctification,” in Trinity and Transformation, 89-90