More speculating this week on how tightly a proper understanding of grace is or ought to be tied to a theistic conception of God.
1. It is commonplace to associate our need for grace with the problem of desire. This, I think, is entirely correct. We won't properly understand the one without the other.
2. However, it is also commonplace to frame our need for grace in terms of a tension between the frustration of our desires and the fulfillment of our desires. Here, the problem is understood to be the ways in which the fulfillment of our desires is perpetually frustrated. Often, we're unable to get what we want. And - even worse! - we discover that when we're lucky enough to get exactly what we want, it still didn't lead to the satisfaction of desire. Not only is not getting what we want frustrating, getting what we want is also deeply frustrating!
3. When the human problem is understood to be the frustration of desire, then grace is understood as an answer to the problem of desire because it offers us access to the one object that can in fact permanently and completely fulfill our desires: God.
4. God, as ontological Alpha and Omega, as theistic exception to the way in which everything else exists, can permanently and completely satisfy desire. God's grace solves the problem of desire by ending it. What role do the classically theistic characteristics of God (omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, etc.) play in this version of the drama? They play the crucial role of guaranteeing that something can permanently and completely satisfy desire.
5. The typical grace/works debate unfolds within this framework. To be saved, desire must be fulfilled. The only question, then, is how to acquire the fulfillment of that desire. Is satisfaction given as a free gift (i.e., as a grace) or must we work our fingers to the bone to acquire it? When framed in relation to the issue of fulfillment, the grace/works debate is a deadend.
6. I would submit that this version of the problem and solution may not be very good gospel.
7. Rather, I would propose that our need for grace is related to the problem of desire in an entirely different way. Grace has neither to do with the fulfillment of desire nor the frustration of desire. Grace has to do with our wrongly relating to desire in terms of its fulfillment/frustration.
8. Sin: wrongly relating to desire in terms of its fulfillment/frustration.
9. In these terms, grace should be understood as working orthogonally in relation to the fulfillment/frustration of desire.
10. How does grace save us in relation to the problem of desire? Rather than giving us access to an object of uber-satisfaction, grace is what gives us desire itself. To be saved is to receive the perpetuation of desire itself as being the grace that saves us from the problem of frustration/fulfillment.
11. Rather than refusing the grace of desire, salvation unfolds when we accept the perpetuation of desire and the work that this perpetuation entails.
12. What is the grace that saves? Receiving the gift of endless work that the perpetuation of desire bestows. Here, grace/works produce no aporia.
13. But shouldn't I try to eat, protect my family, succeed in my business, etc.? Yes, but not as a way of permanently and completely satisfying your desires! Rather, pursue those desires as a way of receiving and sanctifying them as such!