Friday, November 30, 2012

Growth in Holiness

The pursuit of holiness inherently involves self-forgetfulness. You cannot pursue holiness by mere introspection, as it is basically the process of becoming like Christ. We can only grow in this way by Christospection, otherwise we are running the race blindfolded. Certainly, it is not only by Christospection, we ought to consider our fellows as well, but that is because they ought to be reflecting Christ, and so it is still a form of Christospection. What about looking at ourselves? We are to put sinful acts away, and not do those things anymore. Does that entail some form of introspection? Not necessarily. If one were to really know, deep down, what Christ is like, then one would see with a sort of immediacy when their own actions did not fit with that picture. It would be like identifying tastes, no one needs to meditate upon whether the food is bitter, we can just tell. Now, no one has that perfect a knowledge of Christ, but the point stands: we are conscious of what we consciously think, so, to the extent that we are also united to Christ by the Spirit of God that we think in Christ, we will automatically know when we act contrary to the way we ought to live as children of God.

Introspection, however, is not necessarily harmful. We do not have a perfect grasp of Christ, he has a perfect grasp of us. Thus it makes sense to go looking for ways in which we might grow into he who is our head. We cannot put to death what we do not know about, and we have been told that we ought to "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5) Our introspection, however, ought to still be Christospective. It is a comparing of our own state with what it will be, i.e., perfect imagers of God, in light of, because of, by virtue of, God's grace. A depressing introspection ignores that what will be will, in fact, actually come to be, in Christ it is already--we have the righteous of Christ--and in heaven we shall experience the righteousness of Christ in us fully. A self-righteous introspection ignores that it is by virtue of our union with Christ, i.e., the power of Christ in us, that we grow in holiness. Growth in holiness and repentance of sin are hardly more than synonyms, and, at the least, Growth in holiness necessarily involves repentance. Therefore it, by its very nature, involves a constant reminder that God is God and we are not, that we are not yet perfectly holy, and thus points us to the day when all shall be made new, even our human natures, such that we shall be able to image God to fullest that we were made to, as Adam did in the garden, and even more than that in light of how God has worked to redeem us and our world.

In all this there is a working that we do, which is good acting, thus entailing praise. In light of my previous post, it seems that an explanation of how we can be called to do this sort of thing, that is, how we can be called to do good and all the entailed praise, which, if we are entirely the ones acting, ought to go to us, going to God. First, I have no problem with praise going to people, what I have a problem with is praise not going to God. Growth in holiness, and our acceptance of salvation, occurs totally by virtue of God's immanent acting, and thus all praise for it must go to him. It does, however, occur by human action, thus, it is not wrong for praise to go to humans for doing what is right. That praise must, however, go through the human actor to God himself. The praising of a human ought to be the praising of the Holy Spirit's work in that human. It is not as though God working means that we are not, nor does God's doing all good things mean that we do no good thing, it merely means that all that good which we do is also done by God. Our doing of it is done by God, and yet we still are the ones doing it. Thus, the entailed praise goes through the human actor and all goes to God. Just as all power and authority is God's, and yet others still have some power. From him, and to him, and through him are all things, our growth in holiness and the praise due our good works. Indeed, God entails more praise than we do in our good works, for his motives are pure, whereas ours are often mixed, and it is rare that we do an act purely for the love of God, though perhaps repentance might, on occasion, count.

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