Essay / Misc.

Farrer: How It Is Done

Austin Farrer (1904-1968) wrote a little book called Saving Belief: A Discussion of Essentials, which sparkles with his characteristic good sense and good phrasing. Here is an excerpt appropriate to the day, along with my usual warning to eat the meat and spit out the bones. In the chapter on “Sin and Redemption,” Farrer describes redemption as God winning the battle between us and himself, without destroying us. When God’s will “breaks our opposition it secures our reconciliation.” He goes on:

And how is it done? It has become customary with theologians to let themselves off a plain answer. They will say that the reconciliation effected by Christ’s death is an unspeakable mystery, for which a whole series of different parables was offered by scriptural writers and afterwards by the Church; that none of them is adequate, and several of them seem contradictory; we must see what each of them will tell us, and we must leave it at that. I cannot agree. Everything that God does has an abyss of mystery in it, because it has God in it. But in the saving action of the Incarnation God came all lengths to meet us, and dealt humanly with human creatures. If ever he made his ways plain, it was there. The variety of parables express the love that went into the redemption, or the blessings that flow from it. They are not needed to state the thing that was done.

What, then, did God do for his people’s redemption? He came among them, bringing his kingdom, and he let events take their human course. He set the divine life in human neighbourhood. Men discovered it in struggling with it and were captured by it in crucifying it. What could be simpler? And what more divine?

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