Consent to Reality

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Catholic philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue), has presented perhaps the most cogent account of our modern cultural landscape. It is not an account of how one set of ideas gave way to another set of ideas, but how a once-upon-a-time consensus gave way to our current collection of competing truth-claims and world-views. Indeed, he demonstrates (Whose Justice, Which Rationality) that our present confusion is not primarily represented by competing groups and sub-groups, but within most individuals. A person, in the course of a single argument, will likely cite any number of disparate and mutually-contradicting propositions. This is not simply the plight of the uneducated – it is a pattern that MacIntyre demonstrates occurs even in the most carefully crafted statements, such as a Supreme Court decision. This lack of consensus is perhaps the greatest hallmark of our age.

We disagree. In truth, we not only disagree about conclusions, we disagree about the facts, about how the facts are to be considered, what, indeed, constitutes a fact, what constitutes considering, and so on. We are a fragmented society whose fragmentation is becoming a major spiritual force in the lives of its people.

We do not want to disagree. Despite the fact that we do it so often, even constantly, we find it exhausting and unpleasant. This fact heightens the importance of affinity groups in our culture. We want people around us with whom we share a common vocabulary and enough general agreement that we can find rest from the constant social warfare. Of course, this does not mean that we find groups of people who have abandoned the mutually contradictory inner world of MacIntyre’s description. We rather find people who share an affinity for the same contradictions.

This situation is not normal within the span of human history. Most cultures have shared a broad consensus of the most basic assumptions about the world. A common narrative, common values, common perspective are only to be expected. Our own society is a successor to such a culture of consensus. The sacramental world of the Middle Ages in the West, is the foundation of pretty much all modern thought. It has not disappeared, but as multiple narratives and critiques began to take their place beside it, the consensus has eroded. However, none of the positions we find in our culture can be rightly understood without seeing in them an argument with what came before. Cultures are not created out of whole cloth.

The darker side of our fragmentation can be seen in the many varieties of attempts to assert some form of control. Whether it is political correctness on a college campus (or workplace), or simply trolling and bullying on social media, sheer assertion of the will is substituted for reason, conversation and persuasion. The last form of consensus that remains in a culture is the agreement that gives way to violence. The loudest, meanest, most legal, etc., assert their will over others as a means of silencing them, and in the forced silence, declare victory.

Christianity has, at certain points in time, been a form of consensus within cultures. At the healthiest of those moments, it has been a true consensus (con-sensus, a common mind). St. Paul urges us:

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 15:5-6)

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1Co 1:10)

Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2Co 13:11)

…so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, (Phi 1:27)

…fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (Phi 2:2)

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, (Phi 2:5)

Being of “one mind” (consensus) is clearly considered normative in the life of the Church. To a fairly large extent, it has been historically true as well. The fragmentation of the modern mind (even within itself) is just that – modern. Of course, a new consensus has been suggested: that we all agree that not agreeing is normal. Stanley Hauerwas places this at the very heart of the meaning of modernity:

By modernity, I mean the project to create social orders that would make it possible for each person living in such orders “to have no story except the story they choose when they have no story.” Wilderness Wanderings, 26

 This is proving to be the most destructive aspect of the modern world. “To have a story” requires that someone else consent to the story – we do not live alone (even when we pretend that is our story). The only means of generating a consensus that has no basis other than “the story I choose,” is coercion. The social cohesion of consensus is being replaced by various versions of coerced agreement. We are angry.

This is not a game Christians can win, nor is it a game Christians should want to play. The Christian witness is not to a story we choose. Our witness is to things as they truly are. We truly were created out of nothing. We truly are sustained in our very existence by God Himself. Christ truly is God-made-man. He was truly crucified for our sake and truly rose from the dead. None of this is a story that we have chosen. It is the true story we have received (1 Cor. 15:3).

The fundamental orientation of our spiritual life is towards tradition (that which we have received). It is not towards what we choose. The world is not our own creation – it has been given to us. The reality of creation and God’s action within it is our strong argument. Even in our silence, the eloquence of that reality speaks unhindered by the false stories of our voluntary modernism. More than this, we live among fellow human beings who, regardless of false choices, are created the same as ourselves and share the same reality whether they acknowledge it or not. It is madness of a sort to live in one reality and yet seek to coerce another. God does not coerce – He woos.

The Christian faith is apocalyptic. It reveals that which is hidden. The Church is the revelation of reality (or it is nothing). To live its life is to live as a revelation of that which is. All of creation agrees with that revelation and utters its yearning “Amen.” If the Church were silent, the rocks themselves would speak their agreement.

You cannot create consensus – it is the gift of God. The Christian vocation is to receive the gift and to live in a gifted existence. This restores us to sanity and unites us with the God who is the only ground of reality – the “author of our being and our God.”

 

 

 

 

 

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


Comments

192 responses to “Consent to Reality”

  1. Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Stephen Griswold

    Truthful words Father. This division of competing truth exists even within the faith in today’s world. The outcome of this phenomena is hard to see but the signs are not good.

  2. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, I think you minimize the concerted effort of the societal elite to create the culture. An effort with which Western Christianity has done a great deal to assist while it has placed The Church under agressive persecution or slow strangulation.

  3. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael,
    Perhaps so. The one thing that gives me comfort is the fact that they can only create a make-believe reality. The dystopia that they are currently assembling (which includes an incredible assault on children) will fail. The question for me is how bad will their failure have to become for them to accept it? Also, many people drop out of the false reality all the time…some even becoming Orthodox.

  4. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    They will never accept failure, Father. They are like the demons who believe but ceaselessly fight against the Truth. I know of nothing more depressing, to be honest.

  5. Cliff kirk Avatar
    Cliff kirk

    And yet it was Paul that refused to take Mark on his second missionary journey because Mark didn’t follow a mission plan that Paul felt was sound. Then later, in his letter to the Corinthians, he writes “Apollos planted but I watered. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but it’s God that causes the growth.” I can’t help but think; observing the ministry of Apollos put a monkey wrench in what Paul felt was a sound mission plan. Apollos had no connection to the Apostles or Christ, but had come from Egypt mysteriously teaching the same message. In the homily today I remembered a verse from Psalms. “The mind of man plans his way (And in the case of Paul, planned Marks way.), but the Lord directs his steps.” There are some that believe they can micromanage in others, God’s plan for them without knowing what that plan is. They want to put a bowl over a sown seed, out of insecurity, not realizing without God’s provision (sun & rain) that seed will not grow. Modernity is that seed under a bowl.

  6. Daniel Avatar
    Daniel

    Thank you father. A very enlightening article.

  7. Thomas B Avatar
    Thomas B

    Thank you, Father Stephen.
    I think you are giving us a way to deal with the modern attacks on us all. I wonder also what is the role of the spiritual Father or parish priest in all of this.
    Can he address the millions of current ‘news’ stories, disasters and give people a language and a prayer to deal with them? Or should the Priest and flock just not bother? We are talking about matters that exist in brokenness that cannot be repaired with political or legal violence. We will never have enough words to deal with this messy, demonic world.

    I often wonder if silence is in itself an answer. There is no shortage of words; silence, on the other hand, is as rare as a white leopard. One has to spend ages on a mountain to come close to it.

  8. CARL STAFF Avatar
    CARL STAFF

    Our priest taught us this weekend that the root of the word heresy is “I choose.” This sounds like the modern church in America.

  9. Adam N Avatar
    Adam N

    Byron,

    Who is “they”?

    Forgive me if I am misunderstanding what you are trying to say, but you sound like Jonah refusing to believe that the seed of our witness can be fruitful in certain places. We do not have the authority to speak on the eternal fate of anyone on this earth.

  10. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    Byron,

    I have a lot of hope, but only because there is plenty to be had. For some reason I’m reminded of the story in 2 Kings 6 where Elisha’s servant is distraught by the Syrian army surrounding them, whereupon Elisha prays and asks God to open the servants eyes that could see the heavenly hosts protecting them and greatly outnumbering the enemy. I suggest the whole story has relevance for our “modern” situation.

    If I may, in this situation the host of angels lays not only all around us, but also within us (everyone) and within nature itself (the rocks rising up, etc.). Everything in the universe – including the very roots over our beings – still heeds what has been traditioned from the beginning of time. In our limited vision it’s easy to think all is lost, but in fact the voices clamoring in confusion and dissent have never stood a chance of unsettling the truth God established. All we have to is faithfully live our lives according to that reality, according to what we can discern to be the truth in every situation. The weight of the world is not ours to carry.

  11. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    Adam,

    I piggy-backed on Michael’s comment concerning the “social elite”.

    Drewster,

    I certainly have not lost hope but I find the endless machinations of the world to be quite depressing at times. They will not succeed, of course, but it’s still depressing to see them continuously try and to take so many down that deadly path with them.

  12. Jeff Avatar
    Jeff

    Drewster,
    AMEN, Brother

  13. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Thomas B.
    I like what you say about silence. What more could we possibly say about the world out there that hasn’t been said already. I think those comment sections that follow news articles simply indicate a world where we assume we are free to say anything that comes to mind. We choose a position, align socially in group form, and anyone not in the group is a seen as a threat to be eliminated. Like Father says “The loudest, meanest, most legal, etc., assert their will over others as a means of silencing them.” I heard someone say about their teenage son, that these young people have tee-shirts with the word “anarchy” blazed in front for all to see. It is the next step after the ‘revolution’ we demanded back in the ’60’s. I question too, as Father did, where is this going, what is next, and what is it going to look like.
    I think the parish Priest addresses these issues based on the needs of his congregation. I see my Priest doing this in his homilies, touching on the issues and relating them to our lives as Christians. But for me, I take great consolation when the Deacon steps out in the various parts of the Liturgy and begins to lead us in prayer for the world and ourselves in it….”Let us pray to the Lord….” and we in response…”Lord have mercy/ grand this O Lord”. All the Saints, Martyrs, Fathers, everyone in Christ in Heaven and on earth is praying. Very powerful, I think…..

  14. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    I was with you Father right up until you said “…The Church is the revelation of reality (or it is nothing)…” Taking “The Church” out of the abstract into the local parish, or the local collection of parishes, the ecclesia IS this local body. The character of these folks is exactly as you describe – each individual is internally fragmented and these parishes are collection of “people who share an affinity for the same contradictions” and thus the bodies themselves are are also fragmented. Orthodoxy is no different in this then the other christian bodies or the larger society/culture. One could argue that the *degree* of this fragmentation is different, or that it is (on the whole) being healed, and the like. I would listen to such a point of view . However I have experience that points to the fact that it does not matter much – a deadly would is a deadly wound.

  15. Jeff Avatar
    Jeff

    Thomas and Paula,
    I’ve heard it said (paraphrasing), that silence was “here first.” It seems to me that silence is underrated, not understood and often derided. However, the old adage, ‘Silence is Golden,’ just may be a very deep truth.

  16. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    Byron,

    I very much understand how the world can be extremely depressing, but as Father says, in everything give thanks. The further and harder the world goes down the false path…
    –the closer it is to being set right again
    –the more obvious it becomes to everyone that it is off course
    –the more your neighbor feels this and is therefore open to conversation and relationship
    –the more things get black and white instead of hiding behind nominalism

    The list goes on. There is good in peace and good in war, good in life and good in death. If we cultivate the habit of perceiving everything in our lives as gift, the power of the evil one is greatly diminished, God is there in every situation, and we reach a place where our lives are hidden with Christ and can not be touched. When something bad happens, mourn. But then give it to God and move on. Don’t take the world on your shoulders. It is enough live even one day well, doing justice to whatever God puts in our path, treating it as gift.

  17. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Indeed Jeff! Your comment made me look for words best to explain this. I came across a piece by Fr. John Breck. It is a long article, and he speaks so well on the subject of silence and stillness, halfway through giving examples of the Desert Fathers and personal experiences (these were stated beautifully). Enjoy!
    http://johnrbreck.com/silence-stillness-and-listening-to-god

  18. Jeff Avatar
    Jeff

    Thank you, Paula! I’ll give it a look.

  19. Jeff Avatar
    Jeff

    Paula,
    Thank you for the precious gift you gave to me in the words of Fr. John. They are now on my ‘wash, rinse, repeat’ list.

    “Out of a seemingly impenetrable silence and stillness, she found in the Name of Jesus a strength that sustained her in her struggle from near death to recovery. Her experience is a spiritual metaphor for the struggle each of us is called to assume: to speak out of inner stillness the sacred Name of Jesus, and to find there the only true healing of soul and body.

    But as we speak out of that stillness, we also listen. We listen for ineffable words of love and compassion, of healing and life. These are words God addresses to each of us, without exception. And He does so in the silence of the heart. There He makes known the infinite depths of His love for us, His passionate concern to lead us from brokenness to wholeness and from death to life.

    This is the experience of the saints, and it can be our experience as well. All that is required is that we make our own the confession of the Psalmist: ‘For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.’”

    God waits for us in the silence. Oh, my precious redeemer, have mercy on me. Thank you, thank you, a million times, Jesus.

  20. Mark M. Avatar
    Mark M.

    To Christopher’s comment, I suggest the consideration of apocalypse in Scripture. Our own condition (or other factors) may limit our experience of the revelation. Those with Paul, with Daniel, heard only noise. We can look at our parish and see only noise. But if we are cleansing our own heart, we can look at our parish and see Christ and the saints surrounding us, ahead of us in line for the chalice, serving the prayers, sitting, standing, present and imminent, especially in the sacrament. That is the apocalypse of the kingdom. It is found in the church. Jesus promises to manifest himself to the apostles, and to the world, by means of love. And if we don’t see it around us, the first place to start is by showing it ourselves.

    I am sorry for your experience of a deadly wound. I am also fully aware that I cannot directly speak to your experience. Please take all that is said as an attempt to interact with the idea I thought I understood expressed as “there is no qualitative difference in Othodoxy”. I disagree with that statement, but forgive me if I have misunderstood your meaning. But for healing, I can recommend noplace better than the hospital of the apostolic church. To give up on the church is to despair, and while that may be an important crisis in an individual walk (and I speak to my own experience here), we accept crisis, we don’t seek it out (this gets discussion in the context of the martyrs in other posts).

    God grant us all eyes to see reality, who is Jesus Christ, present uniquely in the Church.

    In Christ,
    Mark

  21. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    You make me smile, Jeff. Felt the same way after reading it!
    Very encouraging how he says all of us, no matter where we find ourselves planted, can acquire this stillness and silence. It may be for a moment…but in the moment is exactly where He is found!

  22. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Mark M @ 2:22 pm. … Oh that was well said!

    Christopher,
    I wondered too, about your statement at the beginning where you said “Taking the Church out of the abstract…”. But “the abstract” is merely a thought! On the other hand, just as Father said “…The Church is the revelation of reality (or it is nothing)…”. Before that he stated factual truths of our faith…that we are truly created, sustained, that Christ is truly the God-Man, crucified and Risen. These things are not abstract…not a thought nor an idea but have real concrete existence! And another reason to see The Church as Mark describes “… to see reality, who is Jesus Christ, present uniquely in the Church.” !

  23. Cyneath Ian Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,
    I am curious how far down the rabbit hole of modernity one has to go to recognize it is just that, a rabbit hole. While there may be aspects of it that reveal in contrast the true gospel, on the personal level are we not being distracted by the dark side? I am reading St. Porphyrios (again) on The Devine eros in Wounded By Love wherein he discuses being so totally consumed in God’s love: “When you are in love, you can live amid the hustle and bustle of the city centre, and not be aware that is where you are. You see neither cars nor people nor anything else. Within you yourself you are the person you love.”
    He goes on to say, “Life without Christ is death; it is hell, not life. That is what hell is — the absence of love. Life is Christ. Love is the life of Christ.”
    Suffice it for me to say, without miraculous intervention I can do nothing to impede the infernal onslaught
    depersonalizing human nature, except to love and succor those within my reach, family, friends, parish.
    May it be blessed.

  24. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Christopher,
    I take the Church to be that eschatological reality that is being made present. That is the true reality towards which we journey, and which is the judgment of what I might mistake for reality at present. It is being revealed, or made known. But everything is wounded and fragmented. Were it not, the eschatological reality would be unnecessary. It’s not for me to judge whether an institution is faithful on the whole, etc. Comparative Christianity is sort of a fool’s game most of the time.

    What I know is what is made known at the altar in our midst. We eat it, partake of it, share it. In the face of it we repent and make ourselves ready to receive (as we can). Looking at the stretch or scope of history is bound to produce little more than depression or sadness. Reality is a gift from God.

  25. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Cyneath,
    Everything apart from the Kingdom of God is a rabbit hole and always has been. Only a glimpse of the Kingdom cures the rabbit.

  26. Ivan Avatar
    Ivan

    There is a rare psychiatric term of art that describes pathological self-contradiction: “ambivalent psychosis.” This medical idea seems to imply that a person needs to have a unified mind to be healthy and know what’s going on and what to do. It’s reassuring that Reality is sometimes, if not usually, endorsed by the therapeutic authorities.

    Unity involves an organized hierarchy, so I immediately think that meek, freely chosen obedience to qualified elders is one way to encounter Reality – insanity and division involve willfulness. Perhaps anarchy can be a lie, as it is in rebellion against holy rulers, or an attempted cure to tyranny. St. Paul’s very simple and civically modest teaching in chapter 13 of Romans is controversial among postmodern political theorists, and also neglected by contemporary believers – this dispute sadly represents our rebellion against each other, our failure to meet our individual and collective needs, and God’s Will.

    Our reality is a social, shared blessing, connecting philosophy and relationships, and Romans Ch. 13 offers a precious, unpopular, and biblical philosophy that I feel could renew our political relationships, so that we wouldn’t expect our frail, beleaguered, and sometimes surprisingly Christian (who bothers to look up or ask them about their religious denominations?) rulers to do our critical thinking and community participation for us. One article written by an Orthodox monk that I read this spring pointed out the irony of how many nominally Christian leaders, even in Orthodox countries, argue and fight so much, but all think they are on the same side as Jesus. We are capable of bearing the same motives and values as our enemies, yet still not getting along – cooperating with Reality is not easy.

    I hope that Jesus Christ’s Most Holy and loving Will anchors each Christian’s mind – in a logical way, if love makes human life meaningful, and life is the experience of Reality, therefore love is the good meaning of Reality. But mysteriously, ‘nepsis’ is a basic way to experience Reality, to truly live – I think this means that Orthodox “watchfulness” is an act of intelligent love for the Creator and His creation. Paying attention correctly is a virtue!

  27. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    Thanks Father!

  28. Thomas B Avatar
    Thomas B

    Paula AZ, all,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am reminded of the “ évlali (well spoken?) silence”, a book by Monk Moses of Mt Athos. It analyses the 7 phrases or words that Jesus said on the Cross.

    A God was being crucified and Jesus didn’t say much. “I’m thirsty”, “Tetéleste” (it is done), “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” and so on.

    I like the notion that silence is the language of prayer. How can you say the Jesus prayer during the services, I used to wonder? On days like these, of national mourning, the people will take sides on either side of the Cross, like good and bad thieves, but God remains silent.

    Glory to God for all things and for the pain that awakens the heart and silences the mouth.

  29. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Thomas,
    “Glory to God for all things and for the pain that awakens the heart and silences the mouth .”
    Wouldn’t that be nice! But first He’d have to take away our blogs! 😉
    But seriously, thank you…I agree!

  30. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    But for me, I take great consolation when the Deacon steps out in the various parts of the Liturgy and begins to lead us in prayer for the world and ourselves in it….”Let us pray to the Lord….” and we in response…”Lord have mercy/ grand this O Lord”. All the Saints, Martyrs, Fathers, everyone in Christ in Heaven and on earth is praying. Very powerful, I think…..

    Paula, YES!

    There is good in peace and good in war, good in life and good in death. If we cultivate the habit of perceiving everything in our lives as gift, the power of the evil one is greatly diminished, God is there in every situation, and we reach a place where our lives are hidden with Christ and can not be touched. When something bad happens, mourn. But then give it to God and move on. Don’t take the world on your shoulders. It is enough live even one day well, doing justice to whatever God puts in our path, treating it as gift.

    Drewster, I wholeheartedly agree.

  31. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    A note to all:
    This import of this article is not to make comment on various Christian groups outside of Orthodoxy (nor am I restricting my observations on Orthodoxy, per se). I cannot make generalized comments on the non-Orthodox because they are not one thing, but many, many things. I’m glad for anyone who calls on Jesus as Lord.

    By reality, I mean the Kingdom of God, which is the only ground of reality. It alone is real and true. It is only by reference to and participation in the Kingdom of God that anything can be truly said to be “real.”

    The reality that is the Kingdom of God is coming into the world. It is largely made known to us in the reality of the sacraments. In Orthodoxy, we understand that it is this reality that we encounter in the assembly of the Church – in the Liturgy. Christ gives Himself – we eat His flesh and drink His blood.

    Christians in our culture believe many things. Many of them are completely secularized and consider the culture itself to be what is “real.”

    The reality of the Kingdom of God is the “judge” of us all. The Kingdom cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). Everything else will be “shaken” and will be taken away. The consent to reality, is the consent to the reality of the Kingdom, grounding ourselves in that alone.

  32. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Thank you for your note, Father.

  33. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    I think it’s interesting that Jesus said “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Of course it is obvious they didn’t know who they were nailing up. But I also don’t think that Jesus meant “Only forgive them for killing the Son. After all these brutes didnt know it was. BUT don’t forgive them for acting so cruel. They should have known better than to act like that and the fact that they were told to do it is no excuse either.” It is my understanding that Jesus’ words embraces the entirety of the soldier’s actions: They don’t know what they are doing. If it is the case that those soldiers acted out of ignorance, if that is what human ignorance looks like, then–from a certain point of view–what sin isn’t done out of ignorance? Here I would suggest that the ignorance is one of ‘ignorance of what is real.’

  34. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    Here I would suggest that the ignorance is one of ‘ignorance of what is real.’

    Absolutely.

  35. Esmée La Fleur Avatar

    Yes, Simon, I would say that all sin is indeed done out of ignorance to one degree or another — because if we truly knew God, we would never ever allow ourselves to do anything that would grieve Him.

  36. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Maybe this is me being naive, but this really challenges how I think about the willfulness of human action. If ignorance of the Real yields sin and sin deepens ignorance, then what do we mean when we say about people “They should have known better”? How would they have known better? Had they known the Real then, yes, they would have known better. But Jesus looks at these brutes, his tormenters and murderers, and he says. “Forgive them. They dont understand what they are doing.” And if that is the prayer of the Son to the Father, then certainly the Father sees their ignorance and the occasion it creates for mercy. Which makes me wonder: Is our insistence on hell for the unrepentant a reflection of our communion with the Real or our ignorance of it?

  37. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    If what you say Simon is true then the possibility of repentance is not even possible. This leaves our Lord’s words as a mere riddle or possibly a cruelty…

  38. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    That isn’t what it means at all. I would have thought that this would have been a reason for comfort. After all, if Jesus is praying that his Father forgive them because they don’t understand what they are doing, isn’t that a reason for hope?

    Wouldn’t your expectation be that God would have mercy on people who either have never had the opportunity to repent or are not capable of it? Mine would be. So, I guess that’s why I don’t see it as cruel at all.

    The Scripture says “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.” The disobedience that many people see as the reason for God’s wrath is presented as the reason for God’s mercy. In Jesus words the ignorance that many see as the reason for God’s wrath becomes the reason for God’s mercy. In another Scripture the futility of creation that some think is an expression of God’s wrath is in revealed to be the reason for hope.

    Repentance is certainly vital to our salvation and a precondition for our growing in communion with God, but I don’t know that repentance is a precondition for God’s mercy.

  39. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    The problem as I see it is the hidden pre supposition in your first post which is for repentance to occur perfect knowledge is necessary. Since perfect knowledge is not possible for a creature, therefore repentance is not required, or even real, or is a kind of relative act that has no eternal consequences because Mercy requires hell to not exist because for it to be Just perfect knowledge is a prior nessecity and condition

    Hell, good and evil, the Eschaton/Kingdom – all these things are revealed and not subject to a moral calculus…

  40. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    The problem as I see it is the hidden presupposition in your first post which is for repentance to occur perfect knowledge is necessary.

    I never said that. I never said that perfect knowledge was a precondition for repentance or that repentance wasn’t real. In fact, I said that repentance was vital to salvation. Did you see that??

    Mercy requires hell to not exist

    Putting people in hell who are spiritually blind makes as much sense as punishing a blind man in jail for losing at yard darts.

  41. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I am for some reason fixated on Father’s statement that it is not possible to create consensus, it must be received as a gift.

    I have come to the conclusion that there are those who serve evil knowingly or not simply because they desire power above everything else. This need not be large power, it can be quite petty, but it is power that is the goal.

    There are also those who serve God in as pure and humble way as possible. The rest of us are caught somewhere in between thus the fragmentation of which Father speaks. We are quite literally at war with ourselves.

    How is consensus possible? Power seeks to impose consensus under pain of death.

    To receive consensus requires a humble vulnerability that seems dangerous but in fact is the only course of safety to life.

    God is merciful.

  42. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    There are those who serve evil knowingly or not simply because they desire power above everything else.

    I used to be so sure about a lot things. I was sure that there were people who chose evil just because it was evil. Now I’m not so sure that people are capable of making that choice. What would you really have to know in order to truly choose evil?

    There are human beings doing things that are absolutely abhorrent. But are you telling me that had those persons been born at different times or at different places or had different upbringings they would not behave any differently? Are you saying that no matter what conditions we might stipulate those persons would have behaved in an abhorrent manner anyway? No matter what? If that is what you’re saying then how did this poor person get to be so…inhuman? How did that happen to them? BUT, let’s say that the place of birth or the time would have made a difference. Then are those people to blame for that?? Is that their fault? If the people who beat Christ with the flagella and spit on him and and hit him and finally crucified him, if those people were to be forgiven because they did not know what they were doing, then how much more so does humanity need a merciful allowance for their ignorance and their lack of understanding? Don’t you think Christ could have thought, “Hey! Even animals don’t treat other animals this way.”? Regardless of whether or not those soldiers knew he was the Christ, shouldn’t they have known better than to treat other human beings that way? Shouldn’t they have known better? And isn’t that the obvious case so to speak? Yet, Jesus says, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

    Not to make this too personal but it occurs to me that had my father been one of those Roman soldiers just beating one more miserable Jew for no good reason other than he liked to then he would have gone home that night all warmed up for a grand finale with ‘the fam.’ And there Jesus would be…hanging from the cross knowing everything that neanderthal of a man was going to do. And what would Jesus say of that man, “Father forgive him he doesn’t know what it is that he does.”

    What I’m saying is that hell makes all the sense in the world to a person who wants vengeance or to someone who thinks that justice means that the bad guys have to pay. Maybe what Jesus was showing us in the last moments of his life–and maybe the only time he could really show it–wasn’t the unconditional mercy of God, but that the darkness is just so much darker than we think.

    But, I could be wrong. Its happened before. I’m kinda getting used to it.

  43. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Simon, there probably are a few folks who consciously serve evil, but most of us do it out of a dizzying mix of passions and circumstance. The societal structure is built for that to happen more easily than it should. Since the middle of the 19th century there has been a philosophical and cultural onslaught that is Nihilist which has broken down our ability and desire to acquire and practice virtue.

    It is more than simple personal sin and temptation.

    Still the antidote is the same, my repentance giving thanksgiving to God for His mercy and provision.

  44. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    “Born at different time or place”

    No one would be the same person if born in a different time or place. Who/What we are is uniquely related to a specific place and time. We are historical creatures and represent a moment in time. We can’t be extracted from that time and not simply be someone else.

    But, the role of ignorance in the doing of evil is certainly real. But, it seems to me, that our actions are always a bit complex. Knowledge, will, and so much else enter into it. This conversation and others like it tend to mix images. Sometimes they speak of good and evil in moral terms (forensic/legal), and sometimes in ontological terms. Mixing the two approaches creates inner conflicts that can’t be resolved.

    I prefer to think in ontological terms. Thus God holding someone responsible is, more or less, not a concept that I would include. The point, ontologically, is “who/what I am.” Someone doing evil is on a trajectory towards non-being. They are diminishing and disintegrating. Can’t that be corrected and healed – of course. How that is displayed is often hidden.

    But thoughts of “paying, etc.” belong to a forensic conversation. Essentially, we can’t have it both ways. Our culture teaches us to think in forensic terms (but it often confuses matters as well). Learning to think things through ontologically requires a certain discipline – and I often have to work it through several times and revisit it later still.

    Just thoughts.

    I’m at a conference this week and am getting to the computer only sporadically.

  45. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    Which makes me wonder: Is our insistence on hell for the unrepentant a reflection of our communion with the Real or our ignorance of it?… Maybe what Jesus was showing us in the last moments of his life–and maybe the only time he could really show it–wasn’t the unconditional mercy of God, but that the darkness is just so much darker than we think.

    Jesus reflects God, not darkness. Approach it from that understanding and the answer, I believe, becomes obvious. Our tendency to see things from where we are and project them onto God, insisting that He conform to them instead of the other way around, is a product of our ignorance. It’s not necessarily that we don’t “see” God; it’s that we refuse to see Him rightly.

    It is much the same with how we (too often) view our fellow man. Our refusal to see the image of God in them is a form of ignorance we embrace and put upon ourselves. Just my thoughts.

  46. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    What I think that I am doing is bolding, underscoring, and italicizing the complete inadequacy of how we talk about good and evil. Because we are creatures of history which implies–at least in my mind–the question: How much credit or blame can we take for anything?

    Ontologically we are icons of God. That is the ontology of every human. My assumption would be that we never lose that ontology. The implication there is that hell is full of the icons of God or alternatively there are icons who will not be able to stand in the presence of God without getting cooked. And at what point does God cease indwelling all things? So these icons of God are forever burned by the light and love of God because of the darkness they bore in greater or lesser degrees of ignorance for a few short years on earth???

    Makes. No. Sense.

  47. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Byron, Thank you so much for your comnents, but I think I understand it just fine.

    I think I know where most everyone is coming from.

    Thanks for the feedback!

    God bless!

  48. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Simon,
    This is still a very mixed way of thinking about it. It’s not as simple as saying we are ontologically icons of God. That is the end towards which we are created and what we are becoming. We are moving towards it. I would not spend a lot of thought on burning as though that were punishment. God has no need to punish us. All that God does is towards drawing us to Himself. There are lots of images that get used in describing that. Credit, blame, have nothing to do with ontology.

    It probably requires a much larger, longer conversation.

  49. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Simon @ July 24, 2018 at 11:57 pm,
    Simon, my brother, I appreciate your comments. I read your words slowly in order to envelop your ‘impressions’. Just when I think ‘no…you can’t say “what if” because you are speaking ‘abstractly’, it is an idea that never existed in reality, and there is an infinite number of ‘what ifs’…you end with saying the “darkness is so much darker than we think.” OK! Now you’re talkin’! Because, and this is the irony, I have heard from those who take up a position in defense a certain reality of hell who claim that those who lean heavy on God’s mercy, hoping for salvation of all creation (including all mankind, of coarse) do not comprehend the depth of evil (darkness) as well! The difference is the former categorically define evil in a certain way and think it is misunderstood by moderns (us). They insist on a certain type of retribution, and insist it is proven in scripture, and certified by certain Fathers and Councils; and the latter insist on pleading for God’s mercy, also based on scriptural accounts and certain Fathers, and Councils, councils who do not outrightly condemn this “hope”.

    I suppose there are those like myself that always had a bend toward the eventual salvation of all mankind, in some way or another. Call it
    presupposition…whatever…when it is presented in the form of an ‘argument’ or debate, a person’s presupposition can easily be discounted as purely theoretical, or worse, illogical, therefore wrong. But can’t presuppositions, if you will, be simply a “knowing” that can not be put into words, yet not ignorance…that sounds foolish and “emotional”, yet the ‘bend’ can not be moved by arguments/apologies (which I actually find a bit coercive) ? People scoff at that…and write books, articles, take a stand and speak loudly. I have made it a point to consider (read about) both sides of the issue. Still, in the end my gut tells me “mercy”. I leave it at that. God will judge rightly and I rest in that. There is much in the specifics we do not know.
    Another thing I noticed…scripture is read both allegorically and literally. It seems to me that those who have a bend toward ‘the literal’ are those who insist on ‘a certain hell’. Because I have noticed here and there, a manner of wording that implies that allegory is too disjointed, not to be depended on (can’t think of the right word here), and creates an inability to come to firm conclusions. To me that is too much picking and choosing. Because I see allegory as a way the Saints plumbed the depths.
    Anyway Simon…I encourage myself, and through myself, you, to not to worry about your ‘bend’. Father says above that we are an angry society and strive for some kind of agreement…hence, with us, endless debates on, for example, hell. If you can endure the debates, more power to you! I leave them alone, because I (God help me) do not have the patience!

  50. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Shoot! The italics were supposed to end after “do not comprehend the depth of evil (darkness) as well! ” ah, no biggie….

  51. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    I understand where youre coming from and I aporeciate it, but I really dont think that there is anything else to say. But sincerely I appreciate it the concern.

  52. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    There are people who are explicitly in support of penal substitution…and then there are just graduated forms of that idea that I have heard people call by different names. One name for those less offensive versions is consequentialist.

    I really understand where everyone is coming from. Ill just say if Im wrong and this is the error that erodes my soul such that I spend eternity burning in the light of God’s love, then that is where I truly belong.

  53. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    “consequentialist”…yes, labels that help explain these versions.
    I understand what you are saying as well…and the part, if any, I don’t ‘get’, doesn’t matter. It is well received.

  54. Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Stephen Griswold

    Simon,
    The issue is how we understand the judgment of God. In the West we were taught the legalistic concept of God holding a trial and assessing guilt and then punishment for that guilt. We beg for mercy meaning clemency and the release from the GUILTY verdict. What is actually written in Scripture is from a totally different concept. Judgment, in Hebrew, does not mean trying us in court and assigning punishment. The Hebrew word for judgment is far removed from the legalistic sense. It means to correct, set right, return to its intend condition, to heal and to release from bondage.

    Until we fully grasp this, we fall back on our legalistic understanding of salvation and cannot understand the overwhelming gift that our Lord brought to us in His incarnation and resurrection. Remember, Satan is about guilt and punishment and is the great accuser. Our Lord tore up the writings against us on the cross and has given us the Acceptable Year of the Lord, the eternal Sabbath of Sabbaths as He declared as fulfilled when He read from Isaiah in the Synagogue. This Sabbath of Sabbaths is a general amnesty, where all debts are cancelled, all slaves freed all property returned and the land and people rested for a whole year.

    The only guilt we bear is our shame and our shame separates us from God. We cannot look at Him Face to Face, be in His presence. He promises healing so that we can be cleansed from this and be in His presence. The only issue is our willingness to be cleansed and that is evidenced by our repentance. Our continuing confusion results from our cultural point of view, not the Truth. Our task is to learn to think differently as we develop out Orthodox mind set or Phronema.

  55. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Stephen,
    I don’t hold a legalistic view of the judgment of God. What in the world did I say that gave you that impression?? I would have imagined that if anyone was reading what I said they would have found it completely in harmony with your comment “[judgment] means to correct, set right, return to its intend condition, to heal and to release from bondage.” How is my original thought contrary to this idea?
    You also say, “Our task is to learn to think differently as we develop out Orthodox mind set or Phronema.” Fine. Then explain to me how what I said is inconsistent with the Orthodox mind set. I’m sincerely asking you to explain that to me.

  56. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Fr. Freeman,
    I’m looking for some suggestions on teaching worldview to teens and/or adults. If you have some suggestions please let me know.

    Matt

  57. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Simon,
    Adding to your comments. Judgment is very much self-inflicted. When we have access to Life and reject it, we remain in death, remain under the wrath of God. When we abide in Life we have forgiveness, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin – and we are prepared for the Life to come. Wrath and judgment become the un-preparedness to experience the Divine Life of God while remaining in death. Without the blood of the Sacrifice and his resurrection there is no way to be clean since we remain death. With the regular application of Christ’s perfect offering of His Life, consumed worthily through ongoing faith and repentance, we can remain clean, remain death-free – and be prepared to see Christ in all of his glory, with the utmost enjoyment of His Life, and the experience will be all joy – but for those who have abided in death, who have never put to death the deeds of the body, who have never acted in faith and repentance towards God – the experience is described as wrath.

  58. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    How is a person supposed to repent from a problem that they have no idea that exists?? How does Gods mercy extend to them…or does it?

  59. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    First, penal substitution is alive and well in Orthodoxy. It always cracks me up when Orthodox folks act like that is something that only those “Prots” believe. No it isn’t. So, please, don’t act like Orthodoxy is above all that…because it’s not. Second, please, think your beliefs through. Saying that ‘judgment is very much self-inflicted’ doesn’t make it fair. Basically you’re saying that God is someone who says ‘Ignorance of the law–the way things work to create consequences–is no excuse.’ I hear you saying to someone ‘You jumped off the cliff and gravity worked its magic and now you’re legs are broken. You did that to yourself!’ And the person says ‘But, I was blind and didn’t know that a cliff was there or that such things as cliffs exist!!’ And you say ‘Doesn’t matter. This is the way it is. You did this to yourself.’ The god of the consequentialists has a “natural” law of causes and effects on our souls such that this direction naturally and unconditionally erode the soul and leads to death AND the other direction naturally nourishes the soul and leads to life. And who made the system to work that way? God did. So, there are some people who in their ignorance and blindness and lunacy will be in a direction of death when they die and then what happens to those poor people? Hell forever after??

  60. Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Stephen Griswold

    Penal substitution may be believed by some but it is an heretical doctrine. Simon you keep speaking of guilt. Guilt is associated with the legalistic view of salvation which is where I get the idea you are speaking from a legalistic view. Penal substitution has its roots in the writings of Anselm of Canterbury in his work Cur Deus Homo. He postulates our sins offending the honor of God to an unforgivable level and that it took Jesus’ death to atone for our sins. It also assumes Original Sin as a true Christian Doctrine. If one is to carefully read Anselm and make note of all the attributes he assigns to God one will notice that these attributes are all pagan assumptions of the divine and are not founded in Revealed Truth by God.

  61. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Heretical? What council declared it to be heretical?

  62. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    I wonder if you didn’t just google it and start talking about it being heretical because the website that you read said it was heretical and that it was started by Anselm. Many (most?) trace it back to Augustine.

  63. Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Stephen Griswold

    It is a Roman Catholic doctrine developed by Protestants to the degree it is today. It is totally against the teachings concerning salvation by the Church Fathers. This doctrine was part of what was anathematized in the Jerusalem Synod in 1672 when the Reformed Doctrines, to include this one, were studied and rejected.

  64. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Simon,
    Also (since I didn’t read the entire thread first), I want to point out some assumptions you’ve given:
    1) Conditioning may or does make man non-culpable because conditioning = ignorance. Conditioning may lower culpability but if it completely erased free will then you will never, as you said, have anything praiseworthy or blameworthy about a person. This amounts to pre-destination of the atheist sort. Once the ball starts rolling there is no stopping it. This assumes the Creation (including all nature and conscience and so on) doesn’t speak – but it certainly does. It also assumes that God doesn’t not work with the knowledge, darkened though it may be, that a person does have. It assumes our intuitions are not oriented towards God. But Acts tells us that the non-covenanted people would “feel their way” towards Him though they had been “dis-inherited” ever since Babel. It was a huge failure of the Jews that instead of reaching these people they instead regarded them as dogs.
    2) You seem to be using the “Father forgive them” as too much of an interpretive lens. Who was that statement directed at? I don’t think there is a definitive answer. To the Jews who had rejected him? Possibly? To the soldiers? Possibly? Because he knew of the coming destruction of Jerusalem? Why even say “Forgive them” unless they were culpable? And what would their forgiveness mean? Total justification? Who is truly culpable, in need of forgiveness, when they are truly ignorant? True ignorance in Scripture does not imply moral guilt – you may still be unclean – but not immoral. There is a real, substantial difference between being unclean and morally compromised. In Leviticus many to most of the sacrifices are for what you unintentionally did- but touching a dead body had a sacrifice that restored you to “clean” whereas if you committed adultery you were given the death penalty. Also, while it is probably genuine, “the Father forgive them” is not in many of the earliest manuscripts of the N.T. Building a theology off of one statement (like many do with Jesus’ words to the penitent thief) seems dangerous to me. But again, why would Jesus ask for forgiveness for people who didn’t really need it. Is Jesus the nice one and the Father the harsher? But Jesus is the Judge in the Judgment. Jesus tells people not to even bury their parents or they cannot follow him – how can He do this unless there is some inherent knowledge in them? How can Israel “not have known the time” unless it was obvious? It seems clear to me in Scripture that people do have an innate external and internal knowledge of God. This knowledge is suppressed as in Romans 1-3, actively held down. There are degrees of culpability and Jesus points this out (a person less culpable received a light beating in the parable). Personally, I’m most at home as an annhilitationist, because the further you move from life (as in my other post) you remain in death and may go out of existence – this would be triggered by meeting Christ in His Glory unprepared. Or, there are some, N.T. Wright comes to mind, who think that people may turn into animals having lost the image of God in the Judgment. Whatever it is, hell is bad, and it is due to those to did not respond to Revelation precisely because the Revelation was self-authenticating. Creation, conscience, etc. is self-authenticating, meaning there is no need to resort to a higher authority to demonstrate credibility – therefore no one is truly ignorant, there is no one with a reason to truly be agnostic about God.
    3) Spiritual blindness = moral ignorance. That is not true. Spiritual blindness blinds you, keeps you from seeing the Glory of God in the face of Jesus. This blindness is accrued through conditioning, but more so through the denail of conscience, and consequentially by slavery to Satan.
    4) Look up the genetic fallacy when you get a chance
    5) The comfort you see in wiping away knowledge of God and removing culpability. If I had to guess, this is the real reason to hold such a view. It would make God more forgiving and me, the uneducated sinner, more like sin-less. This would free the conscience as well. We could blame our parents for everything wrong with us. God’s active presence in the world removes such a comfort. We can trust his love, and trust that he truly knows our hearts, what was volitional and what wasn’t – though we pray that our “voluntary and involuntary” sins both be forgiven. This is the flip-side of being comforted by Total Depravity. Many Reformed and Evangelical Christians find great assurance in knowing they are so bad that God must choose and save them apart from their will. If they have some affection toward God this is a sign of their election and they are comforted though they may be involved in ongoing intentional sin. I know, I was one, and knew many who talked this way. Total Depravity leaves everything to God’s Will (so does Original Sin when you are consistent). You’ve reversed this, but ended up with the same conclusion – no one is intentionally evil because they were conditioned and no one is intentionally good (by intentional I mean by an act of free will) – for the same reason. Everything is still in God’s hands only now He will choose everyone for salvation. Calvinism and Universalism are brothers. They both remove free will’s determinative function from salvation altogether. They both bring great comfort and remove responsibility. They are both internally flawed. I wonder if you could label what you’ve been talking about Pelagian?

    Thanks,

    Matt

  65. Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Stephen Griswold

    Simon, I know it is heretical. Yes, it is based on Augustine’s writings on Original Sin as expanded by the Roman Catholic Church to be developed into their current doctrine on the subject (which is heresy). I did not google on it. I studied it in detail in Seminary both in the Protestant Seminary that I graduated from and the Orthodox Seminary I graduated from.

  66. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Not seeing that in there…where does it say that at??

  67. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Matthew Lyon
    I’ll just have to say thank you for taking the time to comment and reply. It is appreciated. Clearly you still need a god of vengeance and that just doesn’t make any sense to me.

  68. Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Stephen Griswold

    Simon, your statement: Simon says:
    July 25, 2018 at 8:50 am
    What I think that I am doing is bolding, underscoring, and italicizing the complete inadequacy of how we talk about good and evil. Because we are creatures of history which implies–at least in my mind–the question: How much credit or blame can we take for anything?

    Blame implies guilt . Your long statement before that on July 24, 2018 at 11:57 pm, is a discussion of whether or not people are to blame/ have guilt for their “abhorrent” acts. Calling them such implies judgment in a legal way and an assignment of guilt. This is where I get the impression that you are stuck looking at the world in a legalistic way. It is not a criticism of you as a person, we are taught to do this throughout our lives. Resisting this thought pattern is part of why the Fathers teach us to focus solely on our own mistakesand not look at our brother’s. After all, we have a plank in our eye and cannot see to remove the mote from another’s eye.

  69. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Stephen, Thank you so much for your time. But I think I know where everyone stands. It’s all good!

  70. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Matthew Lyon,
    There is a really great YouTube video of Fr. Andrey Tkachev “What is happiness?” (this one has good English subtitles) where he is actually talking to a group of young adults. Fr. Andrey speaks well about how modernity is deceiving and confusing us (similarly to Father Stephen on this blog).
    I especially like his ideas about modernity’s main characteristic being an attack on a biblical version of a human being, paralleling the idea that the Bible is “God’s version of humanity” (and not, as many suppose, humans’ version of God).

  71. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Simon, there is an excellent article in this blogs archieves from 2009 on the official condemnation of Calvinism as heresy in AD 1629.

  72. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    “I am for some reason fixated on Father’s statement that it is not possible to create consensus, it must be received as a gift.”

    I am fixated on the corollary; what does it *mean* to “be of one mind” in the context of this truth? At times St. Paul says it as a prayer “May God…grant you”. Other times it is a exhortation “I plead with you”.

    Holy Scripture does not have a theological (or any other kind) of *argument* for the marriage of a man and a women, rather it *presupposes* it such that our Lord can say “the Kingdom of Heaven is like…a marriage…” and His hearers (presumably) knew what he was saying. The Kingdom is explicated, revealed, made known through something preexistent and given, which everyone already knows and “agrees” about in the same banal way that they *know* the sky is blue.

    Today, right now, *in the Church* we have great learned men at the highest levels of the hierarchical structure who speak of “stable and loving relationship(s)” between homosexualists. Not marriage, but “relationships”. Not “stable and loving” in the context of Holy Scripture and Tradition – a *sacramental* understanding and all that implies – but ‘stable’ and ‘loving’ in the context of the modern psychological (read Cartesian) self and modern consumerist lifestyles.

    An essayist and academic I respect and admire calls this language and the assumptions behind it “ambiguous”, but I think she is wrong. They are not ambiguous at all and everyone here understands perfectly well what these men mean when they say these things. They might as well be saying the sky is blue. How can this be?

    It is so for exact reasons Father Stephen says, we are a people of “multiple narratives” who “choose” among them because we have no unity, no one story, no one Reality. When I say “we” I don’t mean the society and culture in which we are (presumably) sojourning through, but “we” now in the Church. From the highest levels of the clergy to the man or women standing next to you on any given Sunday, we are these fragmented people who have no one story but rather multiple stories that we choose among given the circumstances and predilections of our “self” at any moment. Our any of us *really* married scrementally, or do we rather have “relationships” which are “stable” and “loving” in a modern and Enlightened way?

    Father replied to my first post above by noting how it is Christ Himself, *breaking in* to this fragmentation of our very being and as long as we are turned towards (i.e. repenting) that, we are journeying toward Reality. That is the Faith, but what is the fruit in the here and now, and how are we doing? Since we *understand* of which these men speak I submit that we are not Christian at all – we don’t have one mind, one story, one Faith…

  73. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Michael…Calvinism isn’t penal substitution…but believe what you want.

  74. Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Stephen Griswold

    Simon, I will suggest a book to read. It is a three volume set and the second two are not yet available but that gives you time to read and digest the content. The Book s called “Reclaiming the Atonement” by Father Patrick Henry Reardon and is available through through the Ancient Faith Bookstore. You can buy it in paperback or E Book form. I am certain that it will help you to come to grips with your questions and where the Church stands on Soteriology.

  75. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Listen…I don’t need to read something that basically says that there will be people who lived 30 years total. And between 15 years of age and 30 years of age these people’s behavior was raucous, controlled by passions and out of control. Therefore, because they died unrepentant they are going to experience God as hell–for eternity. If that is the Orthodox teaching…then I don’t want to be Orthodox. I sincerely mean that. It is as unfair and cruel as penal substitution and it isn’t my fault that you can’t see that.

  76. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    “Calvinism and Universalism are brothers. They both remove free will’s determinative function from salvation altogether. They both bring great comfort and remove responsibility. They are both internally flawed.

    Well stated Matthew. Remove the term “determinative” and its even better in my opinion. I agree they both are “internally” flawed in that neither are a perfect sum of the dialectic of their presuppositions, but even more importantly they both are a hermeneutic of the Christian story and as such impose a moral calculus on the narrative *from the outside*

  77. William Avatar
    William

    Simon,
    I’m not an expert on Orthodox theology and can’t weigh in on the official teaching regarding the eternality of hell or penal substitution. But–forgive me–an attitude toward Orthodoxy which says ‘believe X and reject Y or I won’t be a part of you’ is unhelpful for constructively discussing any topic, let alone contentious ones.

  78. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    William, I don’t expect Orthodoxy or anyone Orthodox to change. But, if part of being an Orthodox Christian means believing that God sets up a system of causes and effects that results in people experiencing God himself as HELL…for ETERNITY, then that just isn’t something I will agree to. Neither my conscience nor my reason will allow me to agree to that. It is unconscionable and unreasonable and is against the core of who I understand God to be.

  79. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    “The Church is the revelation of reality (or it is nothing).”

    Exactly, Father, Exactly,

  80. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Whatever it is, hell is bad…there is no need to resort to a higher authority to demonstrate credibility – therefore no one is truly ignorant, there is no one with a reason to truly be agnostic about God.

    This is the most confused thing I have ever read. It is as severe as any Protestant theology has ever been.

  81. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Simon,
    If you can’t see the difference between a sinner being unable to tolerate the Glory of God and a God who needs vengeance and retribution I don’t know what to say. There are other views of hell which do not include an eternal torture chamber. It’s like those who can’t see a difference between Divine Foreknowledge and absolute Predestination. One says both entail a Calvinistic understanding, another sees the difference – whether or not it is easy to form a mental picture.

  82. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Stephen,
    I hope you don’t equate what I’m saying about being culpable with juridical guilt. Although we shouldn’t act as if juridical themes are nowhere present in the N.T.

  83. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    If you can’t see the difference between a sinner being unable to tolerate the Glory of God and a God who needs vengeance and retribution I don’t know what to say. If you can only see what is unconscionable in the latter and not the former…the fault is yours.

  84. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    ” ….if part of being an Orthodox Christian means believing that God sets up a system of causes and effects that results in people experiencing God himself as HELL…for ETERNITY, then that just isn’t something I will agree to…..”

    Neither should you. I will join you as well.

    A suggestion apart from Heaven and Hell, time and eternity, cause and effect. What if Reality is not “a system”? What does THAT look like?

  85. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Simon, in my struggle with similar questions over the years “making sense” of salvation will never happen. In fact IMO it is the concerted effort to reduce the nature of salvation into a package that “makes sense” is a Procrustean Bed.

  86. William Avatar
    William

    Simon,
    My conscience and reason feel the same way about the eternality of hell. If God is good and desires the salvation of all, then it’s hard for me to believe that hell could last for eternity. Can free will hold out against the love of God forever? I don’t know–I hope not. David Bentley Hart and other Orthodox theologians seem convinced that eternal hell is nowhere to be found in scripture and is an affront to true Orthodoxy. But again, I’m no expert and what my conscience and reason tell me does not have any bearing on what actually is. I’m content to know that Almighty God loves and desires the salvation of all things.

  87. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Would someone please honestly answer this question for me: Is part of being an Orthodox Christian believing that God has set up a system of causes and effects that results in people experiencing God himself as eternal hell?

  88. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Simon,
    “This is the most confused thing I have ever read. It is as severe as any Protestant theology has ever been.”

    That’s quite interesting. I thought I was basically coherent.

    Romans 1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

    These verses only make sense if man has come free will left over after all his conditioning.

    I thought the whole “they are without excuse” stuff in Romans was self-explanatory. No one gets to claim absolute ignorance. That’s not Protestant, it’s Romans. You chopped up my quotes. General Revelation is self-authenticating. It gives man no reason for deniability. Since man knows God, in generic form automatically, he acts with some knowledge when sinning and refusing to worship. This makes him liable to judgment, to remaining in death, to the intolerability of God’s presence.

  89. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Would someone please honestly answer this question for me: Is part of being an Orthodox Christian believing that God has set up a system of causes and effects that results in people experiencing God himself as eternal hell??

  90. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Simon,
    Again, like I said, there are other views of hell -while being eternal in nature – that are not eternal torture chambers. I’m not sure why it has to be one or the other, eternal hell or heaven. If man must go through theosis to experience God, and someone never starts this process, or someone starts it and de-rails, why expect them in heaven? As C.S. Lewis said, “Hell is locked from the inside.” Does man merely need to be innocent to experience God?

    Also, you assume Providence is behind all of the cause and effect, much like a Calvinist.

  91. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    “Would someone please honestly answer this question for me: Is part of being an Orthodox Christian believing that God has set up a system of causes and effects that results in people experiencing God himself as eternal hell?”

    No.

    Cause and effect is a product of discursive reasoning. Discursive reasoning is a tool, that is designed (by God) to “work” on certain aspects (i.e. “problems”) in the context of creation. God and thus men (created as we are in his Image) can not be reduced to terms in the dialectic of cause and effect. God is “uncreated”, and thus is not “caused” nor is he “effected” upon. Our life (if it is true life) is not “caused” nor “effected” upon -we are created ex nihilo – not “caused” and thus we can not be an “effect”. God, nor the Christian life, is a “system”.

  92. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    This makes him liable to judgment, to remaining in death, to the intolerability of God’s presence.
    I take this to be a “Yes.”
    And I am DONE with Orthodoxy. If this puts me on the side of sinners…so be it.

  93. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Christopher, the academics and others who are advancing the doublespeak are deeply in thrall to what Fr. Stephen calls “The Modern Project”. That project is throughly Nihilist. For all the fine and flowery wrappings it is only about power, death and destruction. There is no use debating them. They are propagating a lie. It must be seen as that and called what it is. We know who the father of lies is.

    We must resist the temptation to argue as that enables the lie to become a tar baby. The only viable response is to simply say, “That is a lie, forgive me”.

    There is simply nothing anyone can say that would overturn for me so completely what has been revealed through the Church on such things.

  94. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Simon, Calvinism and PSA are not the same but there is an intersection in what is assumed about the nature of God, man and the inter-relationship that is deeply heretical.

    I really do not understand the phrase “Think what you like”. Everybody does that all the time. I guess it is some sort of dismissal that to my mind is a vague ad hominum.
    It makes me laugh though. Thanks for that.

  95. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    “And I am DONE with Orthodoxy. If this puts me on the side of sinners…so be it.”

    I am right there with you brother! IF Christianity (i.e. “Orthodoxy”) is a system, a philosophy, then to paraphrase Flannery O’connor TO HELL WITH IT!

  96. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    “the academics and others who are advancing the doublespeak”

    Michael, the doublespeak rests on something deeper – double mindedness. These great and learned men rather consciously or unconsciously (I see very little evidence that it is conscious – they are all almost to a man poor philosophers) “propagate” nihilism and lies out of schizophrenic and fragmented narratives that they “choose” among variously. We don’t disagree.

  97. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Christopher I didn’t see your comments a t July 25, 2018 at 1:02 pm.
    Also, “A suggestion apart from Heaven and Hell, time and eternity, cause and effect. What if Reality is not “a system”? What does THAT look like?”

    I’ll have to give those things some thought.

  98. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    There’s a lot of things that I’ll flex on, but my conscience isn’t one of them.

  99. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The Orthodox Church is the systematic encounter with the living and Incarnate God. That inexorably means we will also encounter sin in all it’s variations.

    Living in the Church requires a willingness to not be ruled soley by one’s own rational mind, one’s own deep set passions. It is hard, exhausting work often but the transcendent joy and transformation available makes it worth it.

    I know Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Lord-fully God and fully man and that He has Risen from the dead and Ascended into Heaven still fully man and fully God. I did not arrive at that knowledge rationally but I have it more deeply than some mental agreement with a theological proposition.

    I also know that I am unable to articulate how I know other than to say God has revealed those realities to me even though I am lazy and arrogant. I want only one thing though to know the Truth.

    Despite the difficulties, it is far easier than many of the posts in this thread make it out to be. It is simple. Life or death. The details I need will be shown to me as I need them, the rest is an irrelevant distraction. Heresy is everywhere ubiquitous. Thus it has always been. It is certainly in my heart but I am not a heretic. The Providence of our Lord has protected me against that.

    The fruit of heretical belief though is disunity and is always the work of someone’s rational mind riddled with passion and sin. Repentance is the cure. As always we should look to the beam in ourselves first.

    Forgive me if it sounds as if I am berating anyone. I am not. Only reminding myself. As my God loving wife often tells me we just need to say Yeah God! with the heart and trust of an innocent child.

    His mercy prevails.

  100. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    Christopher if you care to elaborate, I’m listening.

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