Grace discussion, continued…

1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an “adopted son” he can henceforth call God “Father,” in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

The next section in the Catholic Catechism’s discussion of Grace is more problematic, especially for Unitarians.  There are lots of problematic areas here:  What does it mean to say that Grace is a participation in the life of God?  If you are an atheist, or someone who does not believe in a personal deity, does this have any meaning?  Does it invalidate the idea of Grace?  Well, I think that we might consider Grace as that which puts us in tune with the Interdependent Web of which we are a part.  It might be thought of as some sort of alignment, or atonement, or awareness of that Web.  If we accept the idea that the world is connected, and, as part of the world, we are agents of change, and figures who are affected by change, that connection is never lost, but we are not aware of that at all times.  When we forget and act in reckless ways, we are out of alignment and our actions can be harmful or detrimental, but when we are aware of that, our actions can be more considered and helpful.

The next part about “introducing us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life” has largely got to be scrapped.  If you don’t accept the trinity, I see no way to use this.  The trinity is a problem anyways, at least for Unitarians.  Starting with William Ellery Channing in his sermon, “Unitarian Christianity,” a Unitarian reading of the New Testament does not result in a belief in the trinity.  Looking at Jesus’ statements on God the Father suggest that Jesus sees himself as something distinct from the Father and not equal to him.  The Holy Spirit is not addressed in the gospels.  And, if you are an atheist, all of this is out the window.  And the rest of this chapter follows from this idea of the trinity.

Is there any of it that can be salvaged for me as a Unitarian, and one not believing in a transcendent and personal deity?  I think so.  I find the metaphor of being children of God, and of the idea of the “brotherhood” of Jesus as still having power beyond the specifics of belief.  For me, it signals a sense of a person’s personal value — the inherent worth and dignity.  For surely, being a child of God implies that each person is more than simply animal instincts and behaviorist programming.  In that sense, as a kid growing up Catholic, it was the Holy Spirit, something which suggested a spirit we all shared, or that was a way of connecting us to God that had the most impact on my emotional connection to the Catholic Church.  And though I prefer to consider the world as not dependent on a deity beyond, I still find the idea of some sort of Holy Spirit, something we each can tap into, and which somehow signals that we are more than biological entities — that retains some appeal.

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