Rescuing Holiness

Catching up on my social media the other day, and I came across a post from my good buddy from Texas, Stephen Crosby. I recognize and appreciate Steve’s brilliance and his no-nonsense way of communicating. This post is no exception.

I have been working on a project that centres around divine love and ideas of Essential Kenosis (the idea that God’s nature is Love. God cannot help but love.) God is most certainly whole in God’s love nature and is also very much becoming in relational experience with creation. 

I am thinking about how a God who is love impacts our faith stories. An example is the idea of wholeness and holiness. What does holiness look like through a God who is love?

Is it holiness to not “drink or chew or go with girls that do” in an effort to appease an almighty smiter? Or is it about the journey of becoming love in Christ - a journey with a whole-making God towards wholeness? Spoiler: I think it’s the latter, all about becoming love.

So many folks I get to share life with have been tormented by bad ideas about (God and) what it means to be holy. My friend, Steve, offers a healing glass of water.

Steve writes:

For the average Evangelical, God's holiness is associated with justice (read punishment), and frankly, it is just cosmic-level vindictiveness. 

We are supposed to love our enemies and forgive 70 times 7 in a day, but in the end, God does not have to do so because his holiness allegedly gives him a "pass" from His own requirements for us. 

Supposedly, according to some atonement theories, God's holiness "requires"  payment, satisfaction, and other variations on that theme which at the end of life means facing God's raging violence for those who don't cut the salvation deal with God.

"Who are we to question his holiness?" Is the standard line. 

The association of holiness and violence is as old as the scriptures themselves.

Holiness Rescued (Definition)

When God says be ye holy as I am holy (1 Pe. 1:16), the definition is critical.

Holy, or holiness means to be "fully integrated in being".  Lacking nothing, no pieces missing, everything in proper order, balance, functioning for wellness, lacking nothing, etc. God is fully integrated in God’s being. He is holy. (God is whole)  

It is the opposite of "disintegration" (dis-integrated).  Holiness is to be integrated in completeness and wellness. The etymology of the English word holy captures it well. It comes from the old English word "halig" which means: whole (thanks to Paul Kingsnorth for that nugget.)

That is spot on.

That is the holiness to which the new creation species is to be moving toward. Not the holiness sold in Protestant Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. 

The other aspect of "be ye holy as I am holy" is "otherness."

Abba is not like us. We are fractured, broken, in need of healing and restoration. He is not. He is "other" than we are. So, his "holiness" is often unfortunately portrayed as something mysterious, and dreadful, with horrible outcomes for those who dare cross it. We can't even fathom the kind of wholeness and wellness that exists in God.

In all honesty, we really don't want it--because someone has to pay for hurting me. That damaged (disintegrated) space in my being hurts, and somebody's going to pay for it! (We have different ways of making people pay: from passive-aggressive withdrawal to war and everything in between). So we project our fractured brokenness onto God to justify our vindictiveness and gloss it over with the word "holy." God is just like us, only bigger and badder. Mmmmmmm… he is so holy. 

Be ye holy as I am holy is not an invitation to stand at the bench of cosmic justice and hope you get forensically acquitted of your sin by paying off a raging Father with the blood of His innocent son. 

Rather, it is an invitation to enter into THE GIFT OF THE LIFE OF GOD IN JESUS CHRIST: full integration of being according to the divine plan for humanity from the beginning, sharing in the inter-trinitarian life of God, defined in quality by what we see demonstrated at Calvary which Brad Jersak has so succinctly summarized: radically forgiving, self-giving, co-suffering love.

We are supposed to be "holy" like that. Not like a vindictive medieval potentate whose honour has been offended and requires payment to soothe his fractured ego.“

Dr. Stephen Crosby - visit his website.

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