Rebirth to Life (part 4)

Sanctification for our day, in facing the abuses and issues of our present, has four elements. Sanctification means rediscovering the sanctity of life and the divine mystery of creation (171). In being enlivened we become aware of and develop an appreciation for the work of life in all ways. We are not separated from this world, but rather we become participants with it and for it, becoming integrated into “the web of life” (172). Second, this means actively defending the cause of life from the forces of destruction, including human aggression and exploitation. Here we see Moltmann’s strong, long standing, interest in social participation in life-affirming causes. He asserts our sanctification is not about some religious stance within an ecclesial setting, but involves reflection on and reaction to realities of our daily life, including our consumerism and our whole life-style as it relates to others (172). Third, sanctification means renouncing violence towards life.

Rather than responding to life’s frustrations and injuries with violence we let our life grow by responding with an attitude of life within the face of death. We cannot segregate our spirituality into specific spiritual disciplines, but have to respond holistically, freely, to life’s reality with a spontaneity of faith that provides us confidence in life because it is founded in a confidence in God (173). Fourth, we actively search for harmony and accord in life. We work against the restrictions which others endure. In our freedom, we become freedom fighters, no longer able to abide life that exists at the expense of others, seeking life together with others, for others.

This life of holistic embrace of life is itself a life of holiness. This is a participation with life not to earn some favor from God, but because God himself is holy, and his holiness is expressed in his actions. God is holy, and he calls his people to be holy. What God loves, then, is made holy, what belongs to God is holy. With this in mind, we see that “sanctification as a gift leads to sanctification as charge.” Or as Wesley put it, “”First, God works; therefore you can work; secondly, God works, therefore you must work.” Believers, then, are not “merely the passive objects of divine sanctification.” Instead they “increasingly already live according to the law of God’s kingdom…” (175).

We come to life in God’s Spirit and increasingly reflect the life that the Spirit revealed in Christ, this is a goodness that springs from life with God, and reflects an increasing harmony with God. The root of this holiness is the Spirit of God, who engenders a reverence and harmony with all of life. We are, we might say, drawn out of ourselves to become truly at peace with ourselves as we participate in exocentric openness with God and others. We might say this latter sentence especially if we are mindful with Pannenberg’s anthropology, which has a great deal of affinity with Moltmann here in their holistic, participatory understanding of holiness in God and in us.

This understanding of exocentric relationality has for both Moltmann and Pannenberg a strong understanding that God is not holy as wholly other, but he is holy in that he is the true source of being, the root of true identity, who fills the world and provides identity and life for all others. Being holy is being open to participation with this source of being and identity. “Life in God’s Spirit is a life entrusted to the guidance and drive of the Spirit, a life that lets the Spirit come” (176). Our participation in a life with the Holy Spirit, involves an active, renewing exocentric participation in God’s own valued priorities and creation.

We, in Pannenberg’s phrasing, end our egocentric obsession and become people in whom life and love flow openly and freely. Pannenberg, of course, prioritizes our individual realities in intersection with other individuals, while Moltmann tends to emphasize our responsibility to societal and structural dysfunction, though he does strongly emphasize individual realities in his next chapter on 186ff, which seems very similar to Pannenberg’s more broadly conceived anthropology. Together both suggest a holy holistic perspective towards life that leads us to an embrace of life with others. We “see life and love it as God sees and loves it: as good, just and lovely” (177).

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