Oden on Grace (3)
I've been reading Thomas C. Oden's The Transforming Power of Grace and now and then posting excerpts here. I am not attempting to recapitulate all of Oden's book here, but to sample his text, choosing those expressions that seem to me to mine the depths of the meaning of Biblical grace.
Part I is called "Grace in Spiritual Formation." Oden speaks of "illuminating grace." This is God acting to illuminate the darkness in which every sinner exists. [Eph 4:18-19] Oden writes:
Neurotic anxiety, self-deception, overdependency, and compulsive behaviors require the grace that first uncovers the depths of the bondage of the will, before one can pray for wholeness. Lacking God's own costly outreaching love for fallen persons, humanity would have remained blinded and trapped in decaying syndromes of the history of sin.... The grace of illumination seeks out and addresses fallen humanity precisely amid its utter inability to behold, discern, or respond to God. [p39]A little later, Oden describes the way grace works upon three "discrete faculties of human consciousness." It illuminates the intellect, strengthens the will, and guides the senses. [p42]
Grace Illuminates the Intellect
By illumination the Spirit challenges the prejudices, disarms our resistances, reveals our egocentricity for what it is, and enables us to hear the Word. By these means the Spirit cultivates a frame of mind and readiness to hear of which the corrupted will is incapable. In this way the Spirit not only "rids of ignorance," but "invest with knowledge." [p42]Grace Strengthens the Will
The work of grace encourages the will to desire (and so to do) that truth one is coming to know. The greater good we once thought we ought to do we now want to do. A transformation is taking place in the will. [p43]Grace Guides the Senses
Love is the key affection that gives contour to all other affections. If what one loves becomes radically redirected toward the love of God, then one's mind, will, emotions, and behavior will be consequently converted and redirected. Among emotions met and influenced by grace are joy and sorrow, desire and aversion, hope and despair. Grace is in the business of refashioning what sinners love. Grace works not only to bring us to "believe what ought to be loved,: wrote Augustine, but also to "love what we have believed." [p44]