Alan E. Lewis on the Priority of Divine Action

Lent is a good time for pulling down favourite volumes, not least as these relate to the central episodes of the redemptive drama. Pride of place for me usually goes to Alan Lewis' profound, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday.  Here are two quotations from the opening section, really a meditation on theological method, that demonstrate the power of Lewis' writing:

"What frightens and frees us simultaneously about this new and alien kingdom of God which Jesus preached and told of is the simple fact that it is God's and not our own. That is a dark menace to the complacency and contentment of those who flourish under the kingdoms of this world; a shining vision of release and new beginnings to the victims of the present order; and perhaps also a mocking rebuke to the programs, projects, and pride of those who hope to create a new order by themselves. It is tragic, therefore, that a gospel which promises justice, love and peace only by insisting that these are God's own gifts, which remain alien, foolish, and impossible except for grace alone, has continually been misconstrued and misappropriated as the goal and burden of human and Christian aspiration. Piously. or politically, we cripple ourselves with the need to bring about God's righteousness on earth, failing to hear what Jesus so vividly declares: that we need not shoulder that burden because the goal itself does not need to be accomplished. The goal is a fact, God's fact, the fact of grace and promise. No gap divides what God says from what God does; and the stories of the coming kingdom do not offer dreams and possibilities of what the Lord might or could do, but speak indicatively, and in the present tense, of what is happening, and of what the future is becoming. The kingdom needed not – and cannot – be worked for; it may only be accepted and awaited." (23-24).

"To be quite blunt about a matter we must soon think through to its extremity, that story [the story told of Jesus] unites the Lord God with a human corpse – with a man who has in some eyes been murdered by criminals and in others executed as a criminal . The impossible foolishness of this – that after such a fate a man should be raised to life with God, and into such a human fate God's very self, the Lord of glory should have fallen – is the supreme test of our willingness not to conform story to what we already understand, but to reconform our understanding to the story that we hear." (25-26).