What he is claiming is that the “the broadest picture of redemption” in Christian thinking “is adoption.” I was a bit surprised by that but it made more sense when he explained adoption as “union with God” or as “oneness.” This makes redemption radically relational, and it makes redemption both vertical and horizontal — and it means that redemption is ultimately about the union of love, love of God and love of self and love of others.
What happens, I was asking myself, to evangelism when the focus is on union, or adoption, or on oneness? What happens to “discipleship classes” when the focus is oneness — with God and others? What happens to preaching? to Sunday morning worship? to music? to .. all sorts of dimensions?
Back in the 80s a well-known NT scholar argued that the central image of salvation in the Bible is reconciliation, and not a few griped that the scholar was caving in because the center was justification. The scholar was right, so I think. Reconciliation is a variant on union and adoption and oneness, and that scholar joins hands in some ways with Kyle Strobel and therefore with Jonathan Edwards whom Strobel is sketching. Yes, that Jonathan Edwards, the one everyone connects to that sermon. Edwards saw redemption as the admission of the church “into the society of the blessed Trinity” (Strobel, Formed for the Glory of God, 38).
Life, then, is a pilgrimage. To heaven. But heaven needs some new clothes if we go along with Edwards: heaven is about union with God and others; heaven is about God’s grace work in us; the pilgrimage is a journey, not an anxiety ridden endeavor; it is a journey into the very life of God. And heaven is for Edwards, remember this, a world of love. Christ has already made that journey, that ascent; ours is to enter into his journey by being “in” Christ. The journey is about communing with Christ, about indwelling Christ, about union with Christ. The journey is the journey of learning to love.
Now to glory, one of Edwards’ most famous words. Edwards saw glory in three elements: first, the inner life of love in God. Here again we brush up against the perichoresis of Eastern theology though Strobel does not connect this to the Easterns. Second, when God creates God does so as the fountain of glory and love and creation is the expression of that love and glory. Third, humans participate in these streams of glory flowing from the fountain of God’s love. That is, humans participate in God’s own glory. These streams of glory lead us into the love of God. All in all, God’s glory is life abundant. God’s glory is our happiness.
Now to beauty, another one of his favorite words. In the journey toward the Beautiful One we become beautiful through transforming grace. God is beautiful and defines what Beauty is. Knowing God in love is to be drawn into the glorious beauty of God, and this drawing is a transformative drawing. Fear of God does not transform; the beauty of God does transform. All things good and beautiful in this life are Eikons leading us to the Beautiful One. “True beauty is God and his infinitely perfect life of love” (50).
Beauty, like glory, then is a term of relationality. Where the Spirit is there is Beauty.