Here, Dana Horton gives us another nugget to think about concerning his ruminations about grace and nontheistic spirituality.
Grace is a tough one. It’s a bit like “faith” – very difficult to get religious people to thoroughly nail down a useful coherent definition. Grace can also be affected by other ideas, such as free will. As the Encyclopedia Britannica states:
Grace, in Christian theology, the spontaneous, unmerited gift of the divine favour in the salvation of sinners, and the divine influence operating in man for his regeneration and sanctification. The English term is the usual translation for the Greek charis, which occurs in the New Testament about 150 times (two-thirds of these in writings attributed to Paul). Although the word must sometimes be translated in other ways, the fundamental meaning in the New Testament and in subsequent theological usage is that contained in the Letter of Paul to Titus: “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men” (2:11). From the time of the early church, Christian theologians have developed and clarified the biblical concept of grace.
The word grace is the central subject of three great theological controversies: (1) that of the nature of human depravity and regeneration (seePelagianism), (2) that of the relation between grace and free will (q.v.; see alsopredestination; Arminianism), and (3) that of the “means of grace” between Catholics and Protestants, i.e., whether the efficacy of the sacraments as channels of the divine grace is dependent on good works performed or dependent on the faith of the recipient.
But let’s not get bogged down with that. Over to Dana. Can a concept of grace be useful to nontheistic spiritualists?
Let’s Unpack Grace
(3 minute read)
Last week we mentioned that we would take up the term “Grace” some time in the future. No time like the present.
Let’s have a short definition first. Wikipedia defines Grace as Divine influence. That’s with a capital “D.”
What does Divine influence mean? It’s complicated. In many religious traditions, Grace means that God gets actively involved in our lives.
- Receive an intuitive hit — Grace.
- A chance meeting leads to a new job — Grace.
- Something that looked to be terrible turns out to be the best thing ever — Grace.
It’s akin to “knowing” someone in high places that can fix your parking ticket.
Sounds great. How do people get more of that? It depends. The Catholics ramp up Grace (capital “G”) through sacraments such as communion, baptism, and even marriage (although that last one was a late-comer, and included a long set of instructions). Most other Christian denominations rely more on prayer than sacraments to cultivate Divine Grace.
But what if you don’t think God is ‘out there’ someplace and hence does not need sacraments or prayer? That’s fair. Certain Eastern and New Thought philosophies have a concept that Grace (and God) is omnipresent both around and through each of us. These philosophies use a term called Consciousness (which is sometimes usually adds to the confusion) when they talk about Grace. In this way of thinking, Grace is always present, like oxygen. Or like water that keeps us afloat.
The nice thing about the New Thought approach is that you don’t have to earn it or do a lot of rituals. Although meditation helps. Sometimes.
What about Grace and Karma? Karma throws us into endless cycles of cause and effect experiences in our lives, until we learn whatever it is we are supposed to learn. We are on our own. No Divine help. That’s tough. But if Grace gets incorporated, the cycles spiral a little higher each time around.
This sounds New-Agey. It is. And we want to be cautious here and not ‘check our brain at the door’ when we enter into these contemplations.
No one is forcing an either-or choice here. We’ll be content to merely have a leaning on how we see Grace right this minute. That lean could shift as we have new experiences that may give more credence one way or another. The only thing we really need to understand in discussing Grace is that, whatever Grace is, it does not involve blessing from an old man in the sky.
Dana Horton is from Ohio, United States and is currently (though not for much longer) working full time as Director of Energy Markets a large utility company. In August 2019, he earned his ministerial license through an organization called Centers for Spiritual Living based in Denver, Colorado. This is a New Thought organization following the principles of Ernest Holmes. He acted as interim minister at the Columbus Center for Spiritual Living and, after eight months, he decided to leave and has no interest in returning to a formal religious organization. But he enjoys investigating spiritual principles, how they originated, and how they might be applicable to everyday living. I also enjoy discovering the history of both the Old and New Testaments, and how it differs (greatly) from the traditional Christian interpretations.
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