Noting that the NT word translated “Grace” is simply “Gift,” Barclay goes on to enumerate how a gift might be perfected. Hugely important stuff.

…Barclay is working out the Pauline notion of grace under the rubric of anthropological treatments of the gift, and he argues that the notion of “grace” can be perfected in regard to the giver, the gift, or the reception of the gift. He enumerates six “perfections” of grace: superabundance; singularity, the notion that benevolence is the giver’s exclusive attribute; priority, in which the gift of grace is seen as always prior to the initiative of the recipient; incongruity, the notion that a gift is given “without regard to the work of the recipient”; efficacy, which highlights the fact that the gift “fully achieves what it was designed to do”; and non-circularity, the notion that the gift does not demand a response (70-75).

Barclay emphasizes that these perfections do not entail one another: “To perfect one facet of gift-giving does not imply the perfection of any or all of the others” (75). It would, for example, be possible to perfect the priority of grace without perfecting its incongruity; not only possible, but actual, since this is pretty much late medieval soteriology in a nutshell. Yet this non-entailment is often forgotten, and discussions of grace slip from one perfection to another, or assume that perfecting grace in one dimension implies perfection elsewhere. A lack of clarity about these varieties of perfection produces confusion. For those who define grace in terms of one perfection (say, incongruity), a congruent grace is no grace at all. Lack of clarity also means that different conceptions of grace are viewed as differences in emphasis on grace.

This sixfold typology provides Barclay with a powerful tool to examine conceptions of grace in Christian theology, in contemporary Pauline studies, and in Judaism….

Read more here: Perfecting Grace

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