Grace, cost and economics

What follows is a stream of consciousness I quickly scribbled down last night. I doubt it will make a lot of sense, and I haven’t checked my sources for precise quotes. But I hope it is at least thought-provoking:

While I was on the train yesterday evening, I was reading through Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. At one point, he brought up a basic point of economics: that resources are worth fighting over if they are scarce. In our capitalist society, the idea of value is intimately tied to that of scarcity.

Harking back a little to my discussion on why, as a christian, I am subsequently left-wing, I ended up thinking about grace. Most christians, I think (correct me if I’m wrong, as ever), place an immense amount of value on grace.

Yet it is freely given, available to all. There is no scarcity of it all. But then I was prompted to think of the early part of the book of Romans, where Paul goes into a deep discussion about the purpose of sin and how it elicites grace, but then goes on to say that we shouldn’t seek to sin in order to make grace abound all the more. Could this be some hint of the idea of abundance devaluing grace?

But as soon as I start thinking about grace and the idea of cost, I cannot but help think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his writing on “costly grace” in The Cost of Discipleship – one of my favourite books of christian apologetics. Just because grace is freely available, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be simultaneously costly. The death of jesus was the costly act upon which human history turned. And for the recipient of the grace, there is nonetheless the idea that accepting is costly. It is the bitter pill of christianity which evangelists like to hide and sceptics love to (rightfully) point out.

But on the subject of grace, I can’t pass by without thinking of the case of Dwain Chambers who this week was selected for the British Olympic team. Is this not an example of grace being given to a repentant sinner? How much has the grace cost to give, yet how freely (or reluctantly) has it been given?

I’m not proposing answers here. There is much to mull over. Your thoughts are appreciated.

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