WELCOME and THANKS
- Our purpose = to be aware of – and better understand – what Grace Communion International believes and teaches.
- Open forum … We are all learning … All are invited to share … Feel free to participate
- Tolerance … Openness to all ideas, even if we don’t agree … If moderator/facilitator has a view that is different from GCI’s stated POV, then he/she should make it clear that it’s a personal view.
- Mutual Respect … No condemnation
Excerpts from Our Journey of Theological Renewal … by Dr. Joseph Tkach … which served as an introduction to Dr. Deddo’s essay on CLARIFYING OUR THEOLOGICAL VISION.
As a denomination, our renewal began in the early 1990s with the transformation of our doctrines. That doctrinal renewal began with a new understanding of the nature of the covenant of grace that God, in Christ, has with all humanity, and how that covenant relates to the provisional Law of Moses and to what Scripture refers to as an “old covenant” and a “new covenant.” Recognizing that Jesus fulfilled the covenant on our behalf (as grace and truth personified), gave us a clearer focus both doctrinally and theologically, with the result being the transformation of our Christology (doctrine of Jesus Christ). By God’s grace we came to understand that Jesus is the center and heartbeat of God’s plan for humankind. In our minds and hearts, we became Christ-centered.
This renewal of our Christology led to asking and answering the vital question: Who is the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ? The answer led us to embrace a theological vision that we now refer to as incarnational Trinitarian theology. That theology (with “theology” meaning “knowledge of God”) is incarnational in that it is Christ-centered, and Trinitarian in that the God who Jesus reveals to us is a Trinity (one God in three Persons): Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We came to understand that in the fullness of time, God the Father sent his eternal Son into time and space to become human, thus assuming our human nature as the man Jesus Christ. And when Jesus ascended, he raised human nature with him in glory and, with the Father, sent the Holy Spirit to be with us in a new and deeper way. The self-revealing, sending God thus sent us both his Living Word and his Breath.
Part 1: Clarifying Two Key Terms: “All Are Included” and “Union With Christ”
As noted by Dr. Tkach in the Introduction, the goal of this essay is to clarify some of the key terms we use in communicating the wonderful truths of our incarnational Trinitarian faith. As he also notes, though we’re not making significant changes, we are providing some clarifications to help us in our ongoing journey of theological renewal.
All are included
A key understanding of our theology has to do with what God has accomplished for all humanity in and through his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. For many years, we’ve summarized that understanding (of our theology) with the phrase, all are included. By all we mean believers and non-believers, and by included we mean being counted among those who God, in and through Jesus, has reconciled to himself. We thus mean to say that God has reconciled all people to himself.
This theological declaration is based on the biblical revelation that Christ died for all and that God has loved and reconciled the world to himself.
- John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
- John 3:17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him.
- Romans 5:18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
- 2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.
- 2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
- Hebrews 2:9 but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
- John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
- 1 Timothy 2:4 This is right and acceptable before God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.”
- 1 Timothy 2:5-6 For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, 6 who gave himself a ransom for all — this was attested at the right time.
- 1 Timothy 4:10 For to this end we toil and suffer reproach, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Because this reconciliation is accomplished, and thus a present reality, God’s desire, which is fulfilled by the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit, is for all people everywhere to come to repentance and faith so they may personally experience (receive and live into) this reconciliation and so not perish (2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23,32). Thus when we declare that all are included we are affirming several important truths:
- Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of all humanity
- He died to redeem all
- He has atoned for the sin of all
- Through what he did, God reconciled all people to himself
- Jesus is the mediator between God and all humanity
- He has made all his own by virtue of his redeeming work
- He is for all and against none
- He is judge of all, so that none might experience condemnation
- His saving work is done on behalf of all, and that work includes his holy and righteous responses to the Father, in the Spirit — responses characterized by repentance, faith, hope, love, praise, prayer, worship and obedience
- Jesus, in himself, is everyone’s justification and sanctification
- He is everyone’s substitute and representative
- He is everyone’s hope
- He is everyone’s life, including life eternal
- He is everyone’s Prophet, Priest and King
In all these ways, all people in all places and times have been included in God’s love and life in and through Jesus and by his Spirit. In that we rejoice, and on that basis we make our gospel declarations.
It’s about relationship, which means participation
To avoid making unfounded inferences, it is important to note that when the Bible speaks about reconciliation (inclusion), what it is referring to is a relationship that God, by grace, has established in the God-man Jesus Christ between himself and all people. That relationship is personal in that it is established by the person of the eternal Son of God, and it involves human persons who have agency, minds, wills and bodies. This reconciliation involves all that human beings are — their whole persons. Thus this personal relationship calls for, invites, and even demands, from those who have been included, the response of participation. Personal relationship is ultimately about interaction between two persons (subjects, agents), in this case between God and his creatures.
By definition, personal relationships are interactive — they involve response, communication, giving and receiving. In and through Jesus, God has included all people everywhere in a particular relationship with himself for just these purposes so that what has been fulfilled for us objectively in Jesus by the Spirit, will then be fulfilled in us personally (subjectively) by the Spirit via our deliberate, purposeful participation (response) as subjects who are moral, spiritual agents. What Christ did for us, he did so that the Holy Spirit could work a response out in us.
When we understand that the person and work of Christ establishes or reestablishes a living, vital, personal relationship with all humanity, then the biblical teachings concerning inviting, admonishing, encouraging, directing, commanding and warning in regard to setting forth the fitting or appropriate response make sense. But if the gift of reconciliation (inclusion) is understood as merely a fixed principle, an abstract universal truth (like the sky is blue, or 2+2=4), or as an automatic and impersonal effect brought about through a causal chain of events imposed on all, then the myriad directives in the New Testament concerning our response (participation) make no sense.