The Confession of the Son, by Douglas Knight, published in Stephen Holmes & Murray Rae eds. The Person of Christ, London: T&T Clark, 2004
For a summary of this paper, see The Confession of the Son – at a glance
We are preceded by a conversation, the conversation of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Like any other piece of theology this essay attempts to set out some of the logic of that conversation. It is going to give a narrative theology that set out an account of the gospel in passages of narrative, and in axioms that I state but don’t argue for. The narrative and the axioms serve one another and require one another. But as well as narrative this essay is also an attempt to demonstrate the advantages of a theology of the Word, which means broadly that God speaks and himself makes himself known to us. It does so by trying to show that a theology of the Word is also a theological logic of that word and that narrative. The logic – that is ‘philosophy’ – does not precede the Word – that is, the gospel – but it corresponds to it: word and logic are constituted together, so the theology and justification for this account of it must be kept together. This will allow me to say that the word is really word not when it is spoken, but when it is finally heard and an event is created by its hearing.
The three persons of God have distinct works, yet they make one single work. Relations within the Trinity are not just about origins – sending and proceeding – but also about the reception of and response to these actions. That is to say that everything demands an audience, and nothing is what it is until it has been confirmed by the right audience. The constitutive audience is the Father, but at one point in the account we must be the proper audience of the Son too. The Son does not act alone, but is accompanied and driven in all he does by the Spirit. The Spirit distinguishes the Son and the Father from one another: he not only holds them together but he makes them free by in some measure holding them apart. But the Father, not the Spirit, is finally the perfector and consummator: the Spirit is this subordinately. This theology of the Word comes with a Spirit Christology.
1. The divine speech
God comes to us. God is articulate and vocal, and he is generous and forthcoming. His speech is not a front for something beyond speech. He is his speech. The Father speaks. The Son is what the Father says; he is the speech of the Father. This is the first part-statement we must make about God. It needs three further moments of theo-logic. The next is that the Son hears the Father. The speech of Father does not disappear into emptiness, but finds its hearer. The Son receives the speech of the Father, so it comes to its proper place, and is vindicated. In the Son the Father’s word finds its proper audience and home. He is the event of the Father’s word’s arrival and reception. The third is that the Son does what the Father says; the Son carries out the instruction of the Father. The Son answers the Father – with his act. The Son is the act of obedience that hears and does the Father’s word, so that it is not just word but act, word-act. The fourth moment is that the Father receives the Son; his is the voice the Father wants to hear and the answer the Father is looking for. Everything the Son says is acceptable to the Father.
The Father sends and the Son receives. The Son sends and the Father receives back. They do this in themselves; it is their joint act of conversation and communion. By one free act within this conversation they bring into creation into being. The Father gives the Son the world, and the Son receives it and gives thanks for it. He takes the world and cares for it, and having brought it to completion, he brings the world to the Father. The Father approves the Son’s custodial and parental work, and receives the world back from him. In this return act of conversation, creation is perfected, which means that it is initiated as a living conversational being. Their act of conversation makes this act of institution, reception and finally of presentation to the Father again. The world is the product of these various actions, and the single vindicated act of creation is one item of the conversation of the Son with the Father.
We can also put this other way around. The Father gives the Son to the world. God presents the world with this gift, of himself, in the person of the Son. Then, when many ages have passed, the perfected world presents the Son to the Father, by the Spirit. The Son will present the world, in the form of us, to the Father to receive his inspection and approval. But the Son also continually presents the first instalments of the future world, the perfected creation, to the Father. The future world is entirely present to the Father in the Son: it is created by that conversation and continuously opened by the Spirit who sustains their conversation. The future and completed world is continually given to the present world by the Spirit in the Church, which is the body of the Son for the world. The Spirit stands in for the future act of the world. Where the world is going to be, one day established in its own free and joyful activity, there the Spirit is now, representing and preparing it for this future. The one-day competent world will accompany the Spirit; it will take the action the Spirit gives it and, in the company of the Spirit, it will take what is the Spirit’s and return it via the Son, to the Father, and in that act, the joint-act of Spirit and world, the world will become living, active and free.
The Father tells the world about his Son. He tells that particular form of the world chosen for this purpose, the Church, about his Son. It is in telling the world about his Son that the Church is brought into being. The Church is brought into being by the Father’s joy in his Son and the Son’s joy in the world that he brings to the Father. The Son is telling those he wants to present to the Father about his Father. God is telling us about himself in the third person. This narration of God is not something outside God, but is itself a third person. The story and speech of God is himself the person of God, the Holy Spirit. We are told the story by being drawn into the story, and becoming characters in it. God draws and assembles us into his narration, so the story of God’s action is both the story of our being brought into being within his action, and the event of our being brought into being within his action. The action of God in telling, hearing and receiving constitutes the whole economy in which we receive our being. The call and response of Father and Son creates a conversation, and this conversation is a work they share between them. It is a work of public service, a liturgy.
2. The divine service
The work of the Son is the work of God. The work of the Son is to make us holy. We are made holy by that act in which the Son states publicly before all powers and authorities what belongs to God, and gives thanks. The Son returns for all these powers and authorities, and also for us, thanks to God. This returning thanks-giving is the labour of the Son.
The Son gives to the Father the credit for the Father’s speech and acts. By doing so the Son prevents any other power or authority from taking credit for these words and acts themselves. The Son forestalls their act of self-aggrandisement. He provides for them the speech act that they must make to the Father, but which they first did not yet know how to make, and which they have refused to make, thereby falling into rebellion. The Son speaks to the Father the surrender and apology for this delayed and refused response that all powers and authorities must make for themselves. In the Son we return to the Father all the credit for his speech-acts. Only by this act of the Son, are we prevented from being tempted to think that these acts of God are our acts. He prevents us from making fools of ourselves. The Son pre-empts our impulse to say something else, to hold on to and attribute to ourselves what we have received and must return.
The court of God is in session. God’s people stand around and before him. He hears and examines those who come before him. Those around him are struck by the expertise and insight of God’s decisions, and they are relieved because they can see that things are going to go well. His assembly praises God for the generosity and virtuosity with which he assesses and supplies what is required to assemble this people and sustain them in being. The assembly lives from participation in this conversation of Father and Son, and from the work of creation and rule that freely derives from their conversation. This assembly that lives from God is expansive: the speech and life of God extends this heavenly assembly outwards to create an assembly on earth.
The speech of heaven creates a speech on earth. The words that go out from the Father, the Spirit gathers up from all corners of creation, makes fit, and returns to the Father, as the thankful speech of the creation integrated into the thankful speech of the Son. It is the speech of the Father to the Son that is heard on earth in the reading of Scripture, and it is the speech of the Son to the Father that is heard in the responses sung by the earthly congregation. What we take to be the words of the Church, and so our words, is first the speech of God, and then the speech of the whole company made glad by God. God elects, transforms and integrates this conversation on earth into his own speech and labour.
The speech of God is the act of God. God’s Word leaves nothing the same; it transforms, perfects and opens everything. It is sacramental. This speech is the sacrament. It is the irruption of the holiness of God into the world, that makes all things holy. Word and sacrament are not two ministries. There is rather one word of God, which sacramentalises us, that is, it makes us holy, compatible with God. This word comes to us and is received by God back from us again, bringing us into being, making us holy, by participation in that speech fitting us for participation in that speech. This speech-act of God is the liturgy (leitourgia) of God. The liturgy is that whole speech and work of the Son and the Spirit that is directed to the Father. Their conversation and its act scoops us up into the speaking and acting of God. We are the product of that antiphony, maintained and held in life by regular re-inclusion within it. Their divine service holds in being the Church, the earth-bound overflow of the heavenly assembly. The Christian community exists when the connection and conversation between heaven and earth is live. In this call and response earth is picked up and connected into the speech and response of the Father and the Son, and becomes part of the reply the Son makes to the Father. The Son and Father not only speak, but their speaking is also a labour, and for that reason we may call it a form of service or liturgy.
The company of heaven accompany the Son. They are the procession that follows him. He regards this crowd as inseparable from himself, his own body, his glory, vindication and reward. The company of heaven is the one real and actual communion, the actualisation of communion and plurality where before there was none. This communion actualises itself on earth, for us, as the Church. The company of heaven is the speech act of God, and the Church is the speech-act of this company, and therefore of God. The Church is nothing apart from God: the body is not the body apart from the head, nor the word the living Word apart from the speaking voice. The Church is the speaking of the Son to the world, and it is the hearing and reception by the Spirit of the Son’s word to the world. The liturgy is the speech of two parties, the Son and the Father, and the Church is the product of that conversation. Everything that is, is because it is derived from this conversation, that creates first an assembly and communion, the Church, and then brings into being a world that sustains and is sustained by, that communion. There is nothing more basic or irreducible than words, specifically the words spoken by the Son and the Father, whose words are acts. We are becoming part of the conversation of the Son and Father. We will become the words they use. We have no being outside their conversation: when they cease to employ us as the words with which they respond to one another, we are gone.
3. Speaking humanity
The Father and the Son speak the Spirit. The Spirit is the language they speak. But the Spirit can speak and be many languages, without being the less the language of the Son and Father. The Spirit extends their speech to create a new language, humanity, which the Father and the Son are content to speak. They speak humanity, and humanity is one of the modes in which they speak divinity to each other. Humanity does not give divinity something that it did not have before: it is not a reduction of or addition to their divinity. The Son is the first speaker and the native speaker. He speaks humanity perfectly and is at home in the flesh, and in the flesh of humanity is perfectly at home with the Father. He is not impeded by or disguised by the flesh, for it is brought into existence by the speaking of the Son and the Father. The human entity and mode of being is spoken by that enfleshing word and utterance. Having spoken us into being they also speak through us: the Son replies to the Father in the flesh. They make us speakers. Then they speak to us and so make hearers of us. They speak to us with the intention that we hear and receive one another. They speak to us one another, giving us in this speech one another as words and gifts from God. We are to learn to speak to one another and receive one another from them, with thanksgiving.
This humanity the Son receives from the Father, by the Spirit. The Spirit takes from the materiality of the Father and gives it to us, making himself material to us (incarnation) and us to him (creation). The fleshly materiality of Jesus of Nazareth derives from, and is supplied by, the consummated materiality of the Spirit. As yet we speak humanity very badly: it is a language and a life we are scarcely acquainted with, so like any foreigner we mangle this language, not because we are native speakers of some other language, but just because we are autistic, scarcely able to speak. But our bad performance of flesh does not make flesh problematic for God. The Father and Son speak the language of flesh perfectly, this language is sustained by their use of it, and they will enable us to be at home in it to them.
This account of humanity and materiality has avoided a simple contrast between material and spiritual. The Spirit extends to us some of the materiality of the relation of the Son to the Father. More spiritual means more real, more solid, more material, more lasting. Under such theological definition, spiritual and material are two terms for the single continuum of the complex act of God. The Spirit intends to coax us up from the bottom of the gradient to the top, from no materiality or reality, through the very sketchy and provisional reality we have now, on to a full creaturely participation in the being of the Son, who is Reality. We must not decide therefore that Christ has either a spiritual body or a physical body, or attribute some actions to a divine nature and others to a human nature. We must say that Christ is fully present to the Father – fully embodied to him – by the Spirit. The Spirit makes the Son embodied and present to us, so the Son always has a spiritual body and is dressed, escorted and presented by the Spirit.
But we are not formatted to receive such a direct embodiment. Since we have as yet so little reality, we have nothing to receive the Son’s reality with. Because we are not spiritual – not yet proficient at the life of the Son – this spiritual body in which the Son meets us must have the specific form that we do share. It must be a body in the partial and serial sense in which we are embodied and present to one another. He must dress down for us, and be much more diffidently present, under-embodied, or serially embodied. The Son is dressed by the Spirit in a body constituted by all the presences (bodies) of the people of Israel who have looked forward to him. He is present to us as all the faithful of Israel, the body of witnesses that constitute the Old Testament. The Old Testament is the Son dressed down in the form of many bodies, for us.
Yet even that is too much for us. This host is too overwhelming for us to receive. So he is present as this host embodied in a single body of the man from Nazareth. He is present in this way only to a single generation of Israel by the one physical-and-spiritual body of Jesus Christ. Now because this many saw the Son, and because we have believed their reports, we may also start to receive him. We receive him first in the form of all the physical bodies of those saints who presently surround us in this generation, and through them in the form of his officers, the apostles, and through the apostolic witness of the scriptures, and all this through baptism in the Spirit. All these witnesses are held together by the Spirit to serve us as the single body of the Son to us. The Spirit wraps them up to make them the whole Christ (totus Christus) to us.
A truly theological pneumatology prevents us from setting spiritual and material in opposition. Spirit does not less material but more material, more real: when the Spirit integrates us into the whole body, the resurrection body, we will be real at last. But if we do not continually take steps against it, these two concepts do always settle back to become opposites, for the reigning metaphysic of our society reverts all such theological statement to what it regards as the norm, its default setting. At stake is the job of distinguishing theology from the dualism often attributed to Augustine but which in fact dogs the whole tradition. This may help us to follow the discussion of Robert Jenson and Colin Gunton. Gunton insists that at bottom there are two natures, that of God and that of everything else, so duality is most basic, and that any other account would be monophysite or even monist. Jenson replies that at bottom there is one nature, that of God who is all in all: there must be a pneumatological unity because unity is eschatological, the work of God. But of course both accounts must given, for it part of the Church’s job to say both ‘now’ and ‘not yet’. That means that we must not only put unity and duality as co-fundamental, first equal at top of our list of categories, but with them we must also put manyness, because for us in the economia of God there is the possibility and actuality of manyness, and therefore life and freedom and surprise.
It is not the case that the Son is available to us in terms of dualism, in just one of these two modes, either spiritual or physical. We must move the discussion out of our naturalistic default ontology and find an alternative ontological paradigm. I have used language as alternative paradigm because language is simultaneously one and many, discrete and open; it is both one language and very many utterances. So now we can say that Son is available to us in the many modes and many dosages that he decides is required for us to learn to receive him. He can give himself to us faster, or more slowly and gently, adjusting himself to our pace. He wears the body that we can catch hold of. He is present to us in the slower and more considered way that one of us would to use in talking to a young child, with those pauses for checking, reinforcement and reassurance. He involves us in this gentle, recursive mode. He can supply us with, and build us up into, that real materiality that he intends for us, which is his and which he intends to share with us. Talk about speech and language, itself disciplined by a Word Christology, helps keep pneumatology theological.
4. The assembly
The Son is fully present to the Father – fully embodied to him – by the Spirit. The Spirit assembles us around and within the Son. The assembly is both in the Son and with the Son. These two statements with their distinct prepositions may not be further compressed. The Son is their whole definition, and he is also distinctly present to them, as not-them, but as their head. Jesus is accompanied by the Spirit just as any commander is accompanied by a detachment of his troops. He is not always accompanied by his whole army at once. When he arrives, he sends some of these troops out again to bring his guests to him. Not only is he never alone, never without his company, but he does not leave the saints without a detachment for their support and protection. He does not leave his servants without his Spirit – and yet they must ask for reinforcements. His servants introduce and accompany us into being; they bring us into the public assembly. Our presence is our being surrounded and escorted by these sponsors and supporters sent by the Son, who are his company and his Spirit. Sometimes, for the benefit of those around us, his company is visible as the saints in the congregation who encourage us, while at other times we have no visible accompaniment. Then for all the world it looks as though we have been left alone. But it merely looks that way to them. The Son leads the saints. Led by him they represent us in heaven, and sustain for us there what being we have. Led by him they pray us into being. They ask God that we be made complete and be given to them. They ask for us, and their asking for us, and the Father’s approval of their request, is all the being we have. They not only pray us into existence, but pray us into being social and vocal. All the life we are given is the life they receive from the Son, and that life consists in looking forward to, and asking for, what is still lacking. They will make us as adept at seeking from the Son as they are.
Unless the Son and the Father utter us, there is no us. They utter us as speakers who the Spirit will animate so we utter one another. You must speak me into being. I have no other existence than as something you say in reply to the Son, and in gratitude to the Son. You are brought into being as under-labourers of the Son. You, along with all the rest of company of heaven and communion of saints, are the medium made and employed by the Spirit. You bring me into being by bringing me into the assembly with you. My integration into this assembly is the event in which I am assembled and brought into being.
The Son calls together and assembles of all the scattered elements of the cosmos. Assembly (ecclesia) means coming together (synaxis). The resulting action of this gathering is thanksgiving (eucharist). The command of God brings this assembly into being, integrates it and gives it its duration and identity. The Son not only calls, but he remembers (anamnesis). Other masters use their people until they are all used up, then abandon them, letting their bodies disappear back into the earth where no one can remember them or recover them. But the Son has not forgotten them, but has come to find them and bring them up from where they have been hidden in death. The Son re-members his people, member to member. He assembles his congregation before him, and leads us out through a wilderness, he the head of the line, we the procession. He is far ahead so we do not see him, but we are led by his fire and are covered by his cloud. We follow him and imitate him, so what he does, we do; his every action ripples through us back down the column.
He is leading us to the great king. Christ our spokesman has already gained admittance to the temple and palace of the great king. Our representative has gone in and now sits in conversation with the king. The whole delegation stretches back to the door of the palace and outside, where you and I are, in the queue. For our leader, this procession is one with him, even part of him. No interloper can snatch anyone away from his procession, for they are made impregnable by the protection he extends, his Spirit, who holds together and makes visible and co-present the whole train behind the Son.
5. The Son makes the good confession
The Spirit does not allow the communion of the Son with his whole people to be interrupted. The Spirit cuts short every alternative self-aggrandisement. He dethrones every master, taking away their reputation and power, in order to establish the better reputation and more effective and ordered power of the Son. The liturgy of Spirit and Son takes back from us the praise we ascribe to ourselves, and returns it to the Father who is its proper source and giver. They take it back from us: they make us return praise to God. They take away our misdirected speech-acts, and readdress them so that they properly serve to call God to us. The Spirit co-opts the sounds we make in order to put Son’s praise of the Father in our mouths, even before we know the Son’s name. He speaks for us and through us, though we may be the last to know. The praise and recognition that we grasp at is wrested away from us, in order that we be properly established as the creatures who receive their praise, with their being, from God.
The Son confessed the Father. The Son refused to worship or confess any other authority. He could not be made to enter any other plea or utter any other name. He withheld what every other man had conceded. He did not defer either to Nature, or Necessity, or Fate, or to any other foundation, preliminary or set of axioms. He gave no concession, showed no civility, made no deference. He raised all hackles and united all enemies against him by the insolence of his refusal. He withdrew authority from every authority in rebellion. His word to all the authorities of the world was No. The Son is the No of the Father spoken against every disobedient creaturely self-assessment.
The Son drives out the interlopers
The Son’s confession of the Father is simultaneously his confession against all interlopers and rivals. The liturgy is the sentence of God against all who promote, defer to, and so deify, any created force. That sentence is ‘Go far from me’, ‘I never knew you.’ It is the command of God who expels and sends into oblivion the boastful and dissonant voices that make up this world. The voice of God interrogates them then silences them. It loosens the grip of the parasites on us and drives them off. He ejects those hard masters and foreign spirits, who impose a vicious authority but themselves acknowledge no discipline. He has driven them out from the top of the cosmos to the bottom. The liturgy is the naming and driving out of those who exercise an influence on us that is undue, unaccountable and thus demonic. His liturgy the Son extends to us, so may we participate in his confession and are prevented from making iniquitous and unsustainable claims that assault his prerogative. The community caught up into his confession need no longer pray to the many gods and vainly beg to them for the justice it wants. The liturgy is God’s word of exorcism and act of expulsion. At the weekly gathering of his assembly the people of the Son tell all masters that they are no gods.
The Father confesses his Son. He hears and accepts and vindicates his speech and act. He raises his Son from the dead and sits him at his right hand, far above all others. He has set him over all rulers, pretenders, authorities and principles. The Son confesses that he is not the Father, and he does not allow anyone else to make such a claim to divine power either. Our life is the Son’s act of distinguishing us from himself, and in his act God mercifully and generously supplies to us a not-God-ness.
6. The Son prays
The Son speaks first. He speaks with the Father. He leads our speech, while we stand behind him and follow him, picking up his words and repeating them. We live on his words. Our speech is his speech first. He speaks, and we breathe in what he has spoken. We breathe in and out in the breath of the Son, his utterances creating the atmosphere we live in. We are the species that can exist only in the biosphere of his expiration. The breath and words of other lords cannot support us; the environments and forms of life derived from other sources we call ‘death’. We are the creature of one Creator only, and having been brought into existence on his generosity we are engineered to it alone and cannot substitute the breath of our Creator with any thinner fuel.
The Father tells the Son what is still to do, and the Son tells the Father what is required on earth to do it. He asks the Father for whatever is missing. He requests and requisitions, and he teaches us how to do the same. He speaks first, and we speak after him. He teaches us to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves, to see what is missing, and to intervene and provide what is required.
The Spirit speaks for the earth. What the Church does not yet know how to utter, the Spirit makes the inert things of the earth utter for it. The Spirit coaches the earth in its proper response and speaks the earth into the shape and person of the one obedient man, the Son. The fleshly materiality of Jesus is given into our hands by the Spirit via the whole people of Israel, in order that we raise him to the Father with thanksgiving. He is the creation replying to God with its own voice, which is the voice it has from him. Jesus Christ is the coming into speech of the earth, and the thankful creaturely word God wants to hear from it.
The Son leads the assembly in prayer
I have said that the liturgy is the conversation of the Son with the Father, and that there is a circulation and traffic of requests (prayers) and receipts (thanksgiving) upward, and of provisions and interventions downward. The liturgy is the intercession, lament and thanksgiving of the Son. The psalms are the pleas and complaints the Son makes for the men who have no voice. Those who already have their recognition, their praise from men, are not desperate, so no inarticulate sound calls to God from within them. The would-be autonomous man does not intend to be held to account or to remain under authority, but confesses no one but himself or whatever name will abet him. He corrects others, but he cannot take correction, and so is no true son. The psalms express the misery of the son who is crushed and abandoned, and they express the joy of the son whom God has heard and publicly vindicated. They are songs for two voices in antiphony, or call and response. First they are songs of misery. Those who have received nothing ask how long they must wait before God will rescue them from us. It is the failure of anyone on earth to hear and answer these cries and to intercede for these who cannot speak for themselves, that requires that the Son take action. He hears their prayers and comes to take them out of our power. Those who have received nothing cry to God because, by making ourselves anonymous, we have left them no means of recourse, and their complaint cannot reach us. They call on God to free them from us who by our unconcern hold them there. The psalms are their charge against us. They are made for them by the Son: he sings them until the poor men can them sing for themselves. He sings them to us – against us – until we hear and react. We must sing these songs too, for by singing them we will be transformed from the proud and autonomous man, too far away to hear, too busy to reply, into the poor man of the psalms’ description. We are to sing this role, until it takes us over, and we are the men of the Son who endure that misery, with him held in complete disregard by the world.
The saints warn the people of the world not to give themselves away to the passions and masters who manipulate them and prey on them. Each generation of the saints must appeal to their contemporaries to be no longer passive, but to throw off their old lords. We stand in the court of appeal, and lodge petitions for those who are not yet articulate on their own account, who cannot or do not pray. It is our job is to bear them to the Father for inspection and approval, just as we are ourselves borne. We bear this future people into being by presently bearing their needs to God and being their voices in his court, standing in for them until they are there with us. We speak and pray for them; they are the confession we make. We are to be demanding on their account, and to request from God what he is waiting to give them, and to give us to give them. It is the priestly life. The world is the act of the Son to us. It is his act of hospitality. Their job is to pass the Son on to us, and in this way make us ready to receive him. All the people who make up the world represent the Son to us. We have to take him from them. But they must give us the Son, and not withhold him from us. He must be their confession and ours.
The Spirit is making us participants in the speaking and answering of the Son. The Spirit erects Christ’s world around him, and raises us to be part of his body, his very person, in that world. The Spirit is giving us a work, the work of presenting people, and this work will make us articulate and alive. God presents people to us, and expects us to present them back to him, so we made under-labourers in God’s own work of making them present to himself, so they receive their life and being. We are inducted into the Son’s work of confessing and presenting the world to the Father.
Christ is the whole, and he is a part of the whole. We are in him, and we are with him, so though we are part of him, he is distinct from us, and we are distinct from him and from one another. We are made distinct from him by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit empowers us to distinguish ourselves willingly and obediently from the Son and one from another, so we are not only receivers of an inert gift but active agents who joyfully confess that we are not the head, not the Lord. Then I can concede that you are more than I can make you, and that I may no longer inhibit your growth into the full stature of Christ. This being distinct is not a state of affairs with which we have nothing to do, but it is the act of the Holy Spirit in us by which we at last enabled to say we are not him, and you are different from me. Our being distinct from him is our very own action, Spirit-enabled. By it we for the first time freely and really act, and we act freely and willingly precisely as we are able to say he is Lord. We are not the Lord, and so we can thank God.