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Eccentric Existence 6 (our ultimate context)

According to Kelsey, if we’re going to understand what it means to be humans, we need to understand our context as created beings. As we saw in the last post, Kelsey thinks that the wisdom literature provides the best perspective on a biblical view of creation. So, Kelsey builds his understanding of our creation context primarily through the lens of those books (esp. Proverbs and Job).

Kelsey makes a helpful distinction between our “ultimate” and “proximate” contexts as created beings. Our ultimate context is that we are creatures fundamentally dependent on our Creator, our proximate context is our relationship to the rest of creation. Both are important for understanding what it means to be human.

Our ultimate context is defined by the Creator/creature relationship. And, for Kelsey this is primarily characterized by “hospitable generosity, free delight, and self-determining commitment” (163). “In this delighted freedom and free delighting, God is hospitably generous, giving reality other than God time and space to be itself, genuinely other than God” (165). This means at leats three things.

  1. The Wisdom literature presents a God who relates freely to creation. He is not under any constraint to create, but he is comletely free in his sovereign self-determination. At the same time, he chooses to relate to his creation through the “rhetoric of ‘address'” (166). So, he he expresses his freedom as a freedom to be in relation to the “other” that he has created.
  2. This “other” that he has created is not simply an extension of himself or another expression of himself. Rather, God chooses to create time and space within which creation can be truly “other” to God. This necessarily involves a kind of divine self-limitation, the kind necessary for creation to have real being, capable of signifianct freedom, and able to enter into meaningful relationships.
  3. Because of the Trinity, we understand that the idea of relating-to-another is intrinsic to Godself. “The triune God’s own reality as a life constituted by the dynamic of a self-giving that is productive of the genuinely-other-in-communion is itself the condition of the possibility of God’s relating creatively to reality that is at once other than God (in a different mode of otherness) and in intimate communion” (168).

Kelsey builds a lot of this off of his analysis of Wisdom as “a creature paradigmatic of the triune God’s way of relating to all creatures” (170). The relationship between the triune God and the paradigmatic creature Wisdom, thus, exemplifies God in his free self-giving to creation. And, he also sees in the emphasis on Wisdom and declaration that God relates creatively to the world in an orderly way that renders creation “sufficiently orderly to be a reliable context in which living creatures can adapt themselves to it, sustain themselves in it, and make their way toward enhanced well-being” (172). And, this leads to the second context, which we’ll discuss in the next post.