I’m reading up this Lent on Robert Grossesteste, Bishop-scientist of Lincoln, born in Suffolk in 1170 – and pondering Julian of Norwich again, who wrote rather later. That probably sounds a bit obscure, and this post is going to get worse in those terms before it gets better, but stay with me – I think it’s quite uptodate and interesting in the end…
Grosseteste like Julian saw all things coming from and returning to God, in a restored unity. She saw this as a work of love (and had a universalist outlook). He (who was a fierce scourge of sinners and sadly a persecutor of Jews too) saw it in more schematic terms (he loved a good diagram): the return of all (saved) creation to God in Christ completed the circle as it were.
If Julian’s approach led her to the edge of universalist heresy (as it would have been seen then), Grosseteste’s led him into speculative territory too. If the return of creation to God through Christ is good, and if it is possible for God, then it must necessarily have happened. Even if there had been no Fall to remedy. Perhaps God’s plan was always out-and-back-again. Other theologians like Hugh of St Victor would speak of God’s work of creation and God’s work of redemption, but be reticent about being hypothetical about the incarnation. Remember too that we sing about the “happy fault” (felix culpa) and necessary sin of Adam in the great Easter Eve song of the Exsultet.
So what do you think? I rather like the idea, though I find I need to tread the path to the edge of universalism with Julian. To introduce her logic of love into Grosseteste’s argument, if God has made all things in love, and desires that that all that he has made in love comes to dwell in his love (I can’t swallow predestination to damnation), then in love God will of his nature be present to us in love and working to maintain and restore that love to the extent that it is possible (we can always push him away).
Or to drop the careful theological tone, perhaps God wanted to visit the kids at Christmas as much as we do, keep the family together and spread the love.