Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Nature of Gifts

A gift more often than not means that the receiver will in fact have to give something back in return for acceptance of the gift. This is pretty obvious, even in our culture, but it was perhaps even more obvious in the first century world of patron and clients. So what then is the difference between a loan and a gift? The difference is not that obligations are absent, but rather, that with a gift, obligations are not specified in advance. There is however what Volf calls a "pure" gift, a gift that is given without any expectations whatsoever.

So what kind of gifts does God give? Is there an expectation to God's gifts in which we must repay them in some way? Or more to the point are we even able to give gifts to God?

Volf opens up some very interesting questions on the nature of Gifts, and while I know Derrida has some interesting stuff on gifts, I will restrain myself and stick with Volf. (Loud applause heard throughout cyberspace)

Volf argues that we are incapable of giving anything that obliges God to give us something in return. In order to oblige God to reciprocate we would have to give God something before he gives to us. But since everything we have is from God this is impossible. Our gifts don't oblige God in anyway, but do God's gifts oblige us in some way?

We also cannot return gifts to God because God already has everything. So if we cannot return anything to God does this mean God cannot receive anything from us? Volf states:

"But rather than receiving something God needs but doesn't have, what God receives is delight - the lover's delight at the sight of the beloved whose very existence is that lover's gift. What God also receives is pain - the lover's pain when love has been betrayed."

This lead us to the logic of Romans 12.1 is, "You have received; therefore you should present a sacrifice." But what sort of sacrifice…

- Pgs 39-42

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