English blog

When grace becomes trade

04-09-2017 - Posted by Andre Piet

In the Dutch daily newspaper ‘Trouw’ of the 15th of august I read a column of Jean-Jacques Suurmond who discusses a book of John Caputo, an American philosopher. Caputo had a firm roman catholic youth and once wanted to enter a monastic order. But he turned himself away from it and in his book he pushes against the religion of his youth. Especially against the ‘economical thinking’ which hides behind religion. Being continuously conscious of guilt the human is taught to be pleasing God. In Caputo’s case by going to the mess, praying until the knees are calloused and abstaining from touching nice girls. Suurmond:

It’s all so predictable, it is too much about ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’: about my prayers being answered, salvation of my sins, deliverance out of my grave – in exchange for good works and a coin in the collection.

Caputo wants to save the church from this trade. He states that to a true gift there are no conditions attached. God doesn’t expect anything back, it is grace: ‘Here is your life, take it and enjoy!’

What an accusation against a church which is called to proclaim grace, but doesn’t seem to have any idea of what grace actually is. And has hereby alienated countless people from God. And no, not just the roman catholic church. The other churches in all their diversity as well, despite the fact that the reformation meant a rediscovery of grace. Grace means ‘gratuitous joy’ and by definition does not tolerate any conditions. “…else the grace is coming to be no longer grace”, according to Paul in Romans 11:6. Or as he declares in Romans 3:

For ALL sinned and are wanting of the glory of God. Being justified GRATUITOUSLY in His grace, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus…

All people are sinners. All people fall short of God’s glory. But also: all people are justified gratuitously, in His grace. That  is the message. And that is what I have been given to believe! And indeed: even my thanksgiving is a gift.