Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

A look into the mind of one of the most random, crazy people in all the land.

My Photo
Name:
Location: East Peoria, Illinois, United States

A Lutheran seminarian eagerly awaiting the return of Our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sola Fide.........Right?



Funny Links of the Day:

Light Sabre Fight of the Year!

Halo 300

High Mullet

Cat on a Keyboard vs. Howard Dean Fighters

Let's thank Jesus that He didn't allow this game to be made.

Final Mullet

Ah Dilbert, how true to life you are.

Holy Scripture of the Day: Old Testament - Job 34:10-33

New Testament - Gospel According to St. John 11:17-37

Psalm - Morning: 119:73-80

Evening: 121:6

Icon of the Day: Adam naming the Animals

Justification, what's the big deal?: Many might wonder what the big deal is....in fact many might wonder what justification even is. The fact remains that we are saved from eternal death and hell (separation from God, the source of life and light) by being justified (we are made "right in the eyes of God") by faith alone. What other options are there? The only way mankind can be saved is to obey the law, and since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, no one can keep the law perfectly because of Adam's Original Sin (Romans 3:22-24, 5:12-13). The good news though, in fact, the Gospel itself, is that the second person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son, came down and became man in the form of Jesus Christ (or in the Hebrew Yeshua Messiah), born of the most blessed Virgin Mary, lived a perfect life, suffered through beatings, mockery, betrayal, and eventual crucifixion. But after he was laid in a tomb, God the Father rose Jesus from the dead.

Because of Christ's sinless life, sacrificial death, and resurrection, forgiveness of all of our sins is made available for ALL mankind. However, it is not applied to all mankind without faith. Now some would argue that faith alone is not what saved us, but works inspired by faith and the grace of God are what saves us (i.e. Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics). While this view is incorrect, it is not nearly as horrific as those who feel they have to do good works to earn God's favor and forgiveness, for even the best Roman Catholics will argue that even the good works we do are totally by the grace of God and they would not agree (at least today) with sola gratia. A common Scripture cited is in James where the people who do not do good works are admonished that faith which does not lead to works does not justify them. But in the context of other letters focusing on faith alone as justifying (i.e. Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, etc.) the author is pointing to the lack of fruit as being indicative of dead faith. True saving faith will lead to works, all by the grace of God. Remember, grace is "getting what you don't deserve" (conversely, mercy is defined as "NOT getting what you deserve"), and we deserve nothing more than to understand that because of sin, we are separated from the most Holy God and justly deserve nothing but eternal damnation for our unholiness. However, because of God's love, He took the punishment for us on the cross.....punishment for ALL of our sins. Now, we only have to deal with the consequence on earth, that is death, but we die to go into eternity in paradise with our Heavenly Father!

In closing, I chose the icon above of the Passover meal to illustrate what two church fathers wrote about salvation (many thanks to what Father Weedon left here, which contains many church father quotes defending the Lutheran solas). St. Basil the Great wrote, "Indeed, this is the perfect and complete glorification of God, when one does not exult in his own righteousness, but recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness to be justified by faith alone in Christ" (Homily on Humility). St. John Chrysostom wrote, "For you believe the faith; why then do you add other things, as if faith were not sufficient to justify? You make yourselves captive, and you subject yourself to the law" (Epistle to Titus).

In the Passover, the houses that did not have blood on the doorpost lost their firstborn, but when the angel saw the doorposts with blood on it, he passed over them. The blood is the blood of the sinless lamb, which we have an analogue for in Holy Baptism when the blood is covering us (Galatians 3:26-28, 1 Peter 1:18-19). Because of this gift, death does not have victory over us, and we partake of the glorious Holy Eucharist as a victory meal for the Lamb who was slain (Revelation 5:12, 1 Corinthians 11:26)!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son +, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now, and will be forever. Amen.

8 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

I think you might be a little miseducated on the orthodox view of justification. Remember that the fathers that you quote are the church fathers of the orthodox church. It seems to me that you are contradicting yourself in trying to avoid agreeing with the orthodox view while still espousing the orthodox view as your own. I'm confused.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

To be justified in any sense is to be declared righteous before God, or made righteous by God.....either view still means that we are made or declared righteous, and what St. Chrysostom is saying here is that it is faith that does this by the grace of God, not what we do on top of it. We do not EARN our righteousness, God gives His righteousness to us because of grace for Christ's sake.

Also, the orthodox fathers are the fathers of the entire church. This would be similar to the Jews accepting only the writings of St. Paul and the Gentiles accepting only the writings of St. Luke. Perhaps you seem to be saying that I am using an orthodox father to show evidence of a "western" view of sin and salvation (as is the allegory to our bondage to sin and eventual death with a full pardon granted by the emperor I shared with you on the phone). If this distresses you I would suggest asking your priests their take on several of the comments made by not only the fathers, but God through St. Paul himself who very explicitly in Romans explains that faith is what justifies us apart from the law and frees us from the bondage of sin.

We as Lutheran Christians greatly treasure the fathers as humans who could err, but who, if ellucidating the Scriptures were indeed divinely blessed by God....much more than I myself am. But we treat all theology from the East and West as beneficial as long as it does not contradict the Holy Scriptures. We look for the honey in the teachings of others to paraphrase St. Basil the Great.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Chris-- it's been a long time! This is a rather poor way for me to catch up, but first a hello-- Hello!-- and then a few thoughts that I feel necessary regarding your post.

I believe the Orthodox viewpoint is being grossly misrepresented in this discussion. The Orthodox Church is not unfamiliar with St. Paul's writings on grace as a total gift, nor with St. John Chrysostom's, nor St. Basil's, nor any of the other countless witnesses to this day who maintain the very same teaching that the Church has always held, that our salvation is a pure gift of God which cannot be earned in any way by anything we do. I would once again like to direct you to St. Mark the Ascetic, whose writings may be found in the Philokalia, and his essay "On Those Who Think They Are Made Righteous by Works." The teaching of the Orthodox Church is emphatically NOT that our works merit grace, supplement it, precede it, or increase it. But rather, that they flow from it, participate in it, and reveal it to the glory of God. If you have a bone to pick with Pelagius, you have no business sparring with the Orthodox.

If, however, you disagree with our teaching that we DO cooperate in our salvation by the "YES!" of our free will, which IS the act of faith, you find yourself no longer in the company of the esteemed fathers whom you have so effectively quoted. Many are scandalized by a teaching often referred to as synergy. Synergy is nothing more than free will, which in itself is nothing more than God's grace, bestowed in our very nature, to accept the gift he offers us (which is Himself, his love, his communion as Trinity)-- or not. Free will is the gift of accepting gifts. If we didn't have it, there would be no possibility of gifts-- all would be cold and necessary determinism, fate. Synergy is not some kind of proportion or fraction that calculates the work of salvation as 90% God and 10% man, or some such thing. The work of salvation belongs entirely to God, as his free gift which we could never possibly merit. In fact, the gift of his Spirit in deification is something so great that even unfallen man could not have attained it by any work or effort. It is pure gift. Our "contribution" in this synergy is simply to make a return of God's gifts to him-- a very eucharistic idea. As we say in the liturgy-- "thine own of thine own we offer you, on behalf of all and for all." Our return is this: we render to God the "yes" of our free will to his plan. This is faith. This is a return because it was already a gift: God has made us able to receive his grace, by already creating us with the gift to receive all his gifts: free will. We offer him back our fiat, our yes, our assent to his will. What is faith if not that? Is this not what Abraham did when God told him his plans to lead him to a new country and bless all nations through him? Is this not what our most holy Theotokos the virgin Mary did when God presented her with a proposal to make a marriage vow through her son to all the human race? The scriptures point out that this world begins and ends in a wedding, a marriage: first, the marriage of Adam and Eve, and ultimately, the marriage of Christ and his Church. Synergy is the Church saying "I do." Everything after that, every work to fulfill that promise, is granted by grace.

Of course it will seem like we have to work after we say I do. And indeed we do. Any married person knows that the vows he made once for all are in fact reiterated every instant of his life, and that in fact his "I do" must be chosen and affirmed again and again and over again, because every opportunity is presented to "undo" those vows by betraying the wedding and reversing "yes" to "no" not in words but actions. So synergy is this: to say "I do" with the speech of our whole life, in words and actions, and to recommit to that first "I do" every time we may break the vows. God grants us the strength to accomplish whatever works must be lived out to fulfill our vow. It is ours to make the vow; it is God's to make us worthy of it. Yet we must not be lazy or indolent, and must make use of the grace that is given to us. It is all too possible to take back our vows, to break them with an unrepentant heart. This is the unpardonable sin-- to refuse the grace of God (the gift of Himself) and his desire to give us an abundant life.

Works are a part of this because work is necessary for us to give faith flesh and bone. God's love became incarnate and so must ours. We will be judged not based on our "faith" but based on our love-- for God and for others. St. John the Theologian is very clear about this in his Gospel and especially in his epistles. If we have had faith in God, then he has granted us the grace necessary to love Him and to love our brothers. If we have not served Him and them by our works, we have no love, and we have no part in God. He must dwell in us, and where God dwells, love flows, and in a broken world, love means work and self-sacrifice. It is possible to have faith in God and say yes to him at first, but to fail to say yes when he gives us the grace necessary to love our brothers-- which rescinds our yes without need. We must exercise our bodies, and our mind, and our will, therefore, which FEELS to the human like a great deal of work, because God has granted us the GRACE to sacrificially and painfully live out his love through taking up our cross and serving others. After all, Christ told us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, all of our mind, and all of our STRENGTH, and our neighbor as ourself. Do we expect to escape condemnation if we have refused to heed this commandment? Or do we believe that he will fulfill this commandment for us without any exertion if the very commandment compels us to make use of our strength? Faith in God is also faith in his plan to renew us and sanctify us, and if we willfully obstruct this process by our laziness and hardness of heart, then we have rejected him and our faith is in vain, being but the faith of demons.

We NEED the exercise of works to heal our souls and our wills, just as someone recovering from a debilitating illness needs the work of physical therapy to exercise and rebuild the atrophied muscles. God provides us both our medicine to drive off the illness as well as our prescription to a regimen of therapeutic exercises to restore our strength. We cannot make ourselves well from our incurable disease, but being cured of it, we CAN humbly obey the doctor's orders and endure the struggle as he nurtures us back to strength. We can choose not to get well at this point by refusing our prescription because we are lazy and don't like the way it feels. This is the wide road that leads to destruction. We know which road Christ prescribes for us to strengthen our legs on: the one that leads to Golgotha. Our prescription is the cross and death to ourself. We must take up our cross. Do not say that this is not work; yet we bear our crosses lightly, as the martyrs did, because of God's grace which completely provides the necessary strength-- Christ also promised that his yoke is easy and his burden would be light, after all-- but let us not make any mistake about it: that burden is the burden of martyrdom. Death to our old selves for the life of Christ. In this sense, "work" is necessary for salvation. But it is not a work that we do ourselves, but one the Holy Spirit makes us capable of and does in us, through us-- how else could the martyrs sing while they burned, as if untouched by the flames? Not by any strength of their own. But neither did they simply arrive suddenly at the point of total martyrdom without having first experienced an increasing daily martyrdom within and having said "yes" to each cup that God asked them to drink, draining it by his strength. We do not get well unless we take our medicine.

Much more could be said, and enough has been written. I would be happy to talk more about all this, but I think a phone would be in order rather than a keyboard.

If I may direct you once more, please see St. Mark the Ascetic for a fuller discussion of all this. I also recommend highly Bishop Kallistos Ware's very concise but thorough treatment of Orthodox soteriology called "How are we Saved?"

Glory to Jesus Christ!

~McG

12:22 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

p.s.-- the text of St. Mark the Ascetic can be found in a very nice pdf file here:

http://jbburnett.com/resources/mark_ascetic-righteousness.pdf

It is not arranged as a continuous argument, but a potluck of small reflections, so to get a sense of the teaching, you have to read the whole thing

12:46 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Oops... sorry. bad link. here's the correct one:

http://jbburnett.com/resources/mark_ascetic-righteousness.pdf

12:50 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

bah! it keeps cutting off the end of the filename.

the end of the name should read:

righteousness.pdf

so if you tack on "ness.pdf" to the end of what I pasted, you'll get it.

12:54 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

McG,

Thanks again for the comments. I think we might be talking past one another. My use of St. Chrysostom was to show that faith is what makes us right in God's eyes, but the understanding is that this faith will lead to good works of charity and love in our lives. This is the very message of the Epistle of St. James which Luther himself at first had trouble with. It wasn't until he realized that St. James was talking to the regenerate who were "lazy" as you put it, who were content to ignore doing good works of charity. The Lutheran view of this is simply that justifying faith is a free gift given by God, and that the justifying faith which saves us is and allows us to enter paradise. HOWEVER, that change and conversion, while not truly ours will produce good fruit if throughout our sanctification we are constantly brought back to repentence by the Word and Sacraments which then give us God's grace and allow us to do good works. However, we realize that we can only do good works through Christ and in Him (which isn't much different from what you are saying I believe).

My major problems with the Orthodox Church, and why I do not join it are very few but very important:
1. The limited view of sin-Sin is indeed a disease of the spirit, but it actually leads to the destruction of the image of God in us....we are "spiritually DEAD" as St. Paul said to the Romans, not spiritually sick. The Great Physician is one who can bring those who have died back to life and overcome death! As a result, it leads to the next point.
2. Free Will - We have no free will because of our spiritual death and the state of the world, we are in the clutches of Satan. In Holy Baptism the church itself takes the unregenerate into the ark of salvation (the church). As it has been pointed out to me, Christ tells us to be born again....what part did you have to play in your first birth? What part did Adam have in being created in the first place? We receive new life passively in Christ, but through the hardening of our hearts, we can reject this grace and indeed, as you correctly pointed out, this is the unforgivable sin.
3. Fillioque - This was one of the biggest disagreements with Patriarch Jeremiah II and the Lutheran scholars, and yet I find no reason nor problem in Eucharistic worship from our point of view in not including the Epiclesis, because there was no Scriptural warrant for it, nor was it in the Didache....just as re-offering the Son to the Father (even though it is interpreted as the same offering) is not in either documents. We receive the sacrifice of Christ solely as what He did for us and gave to the Father....we give back after our reception of grace prayer and praises....what Hebrews says is that we are called to sacrifice with prayer and praise, not blood as the Levitical priesthood had to continually offer up and sacrifice.
4. Fathers - We use the fathers to bolster our understanding of Holy Scripture where they agree. Where Scripture is silent we may agree with the opinions of the fathers. Where Scripture condemns and the fathers accept, the fathers are wrong. As St. Cyprian said, "tradition without truth is merely the antiquity of error." I may not find myself in the company of the fathers with respect to free will (well, maybe St. Augustine, but the Orthodox don't really care for him), but with regard to our understanding of salvation and works, and even salvation in a judicial manner, I do. We greatly revere the fathers and have Scriptural warrant to study them and heed their words, but they are not infallible....especially since at times they are self-contradictory as far as we can tell. Perhaps my point is this....we can criticize the Holy fathers if we believe them to be in error....the Orthodox in reality cannot.

To end, yes we need a phone conversation. I will try to make it to Chicago for Tagge's Chrismation (I thought it already happened :-D). We have much to catch up on! Here are two other blog posts that in reality address the same thing (salvation as judicial and imparted and also as transformative, and what our role as humans in each is).

http://pleroma.typepad.com/pleroma/2005/11/forensic_justif.html

http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/2007/01/sanctification__1.html

Pax Christi,

Chris

10:37 AM  
Anonymous McG said...

Chris,

thanks for your gracious response (ah, puns) and for further clarifying your ideas to me. I'm anxious to respond to the new things you've mentioned in writing, because my thoughts are more collected that way, though I still want to have a more extensive conversation in person or by phone.
Anyway, I do not think that we are so much talking past one another, as actually reaching a point of agreement, and this foundation is an excellent beginning for speaking of our respective differences. I wanted it to be absolutely clear that Orthodoxy does believe in salvation purely by grace, and I think that we have a large area of mutual agreement there now about the way grace saves us and that all our works, though necessary to salvation (or saving faith) are accomplished by that grace "through Christ and in him" as you put it very well.

I'm interested in addressing the nuances that continue to separate our confession of faith, as you listed them out.

1. The limited view of sin. I believe you have failed to distinguish here between the Orthodox conception of the effects of the fall, which may be said to be more limited than in the Augustinian model, and the Orthodox conception of sins. Both conceptions are grave, and the latter is very grave indeed. If you have read St. Athanasius' account (from On The Incarnation of Christ) of the cumulative effects of sin over time which led the human race to a point baser than the animals, you will agree with this. St. Paul says that all have sinned and are dead because of their sins. The Orthodox agree that we are spiritually dead in sin, and not merely "sick," or else Christ would not have had to die in order to transform death to life in himself. St. Paul nowhere says, however, that God has withdrawn his image from us or that we no longer have the ability to do any good. He says rather that even those without the law can glorify God by their nature when they choose the good. (Rom 2:13-15) This can only be accomplished because God has not withdrawn his image from us. Yet we are still subject to death, despite choosing some good, by our choice of some evil (that is, some separation from God... which is by nature death). God did not totally withdraw his grace from us after we fell, but we retain natural longings for him and sometimes do what his law has graven into our heart. I challenge you to find one single passage that speaks of the complete loss of God's image. We speak of the marring of this image, or the loss of the likeness, but not of the image, or we would no longer be able to be redeemed, but would simply have to be annihilated, and different, entirely new persons created. But I am not well versed or articulate on these points. Bishop Ware is much better in fleshing these ideas out in the book I recommended yesterday. I only sense that your understanding of the Orthodox view of sin and its effects is somewhat overly reductive, and I am willing to guess that the reduction originated with a too-brief treatment of the subject in a book you read, perhaps even one of Ware's other works. Perhaps a metaphor has been pressed too far (disease), and another omitted. Sin is most deeply a loss of communion with God, which also means a loss of life because he is Life. This is a very grave situation from which man was unable to escape in any way. The result is inevitable death, spiritual, physical, moral, and in every other regard. I do not believe we have a true disagreement here. We are in agreement that man is dead in sin. The central and only question that significantly separates us is that of free will-- Orthodox maintain that dying man still is given enough of the gift of God's grace (freedom) to know and embrace the restoration of life when it is offered to him.

Be careful that you are not overly dismissive of the physician/healing metaphor of soteriology, nor that you press it further than it is intended to go. It is every bit as biblical and necessary a perspective as the juridical. Also be careful not to mix the metaphors, referring them all exclusively to the judicial/punitive/death. Not all of the Bible's passages speak of sin only as death, but also as blindness, deafness, adultery, darkness and a host of others. In these realms it is safe to speak of sin as a disease without referencing death and yet without any diminution of its gravity. It is important for me to reiterate that the Orthodox Church fully embraces the judicial metaphor of salvation, but that it does this while holding in harmony all the other legitimate metaphors the scriptures use. It seems to us that the Western disposition towards the juridical paradigm tends to entirely overshadow the others to the point of exclusion, and that this single metaphor is pressed beyond the breaking point, beyond the limits of human capacity to grasp at the mystery of salvation, with the result of a reduction from metaphor to mere impersonal recitative formula or equation.

2. Free will. Back to the real heart of our differences. I believe once again that this matter receives very lucid treatment in Ware's "How are We Saved?" There simply is no conflict in our salvation between total grace and total free will, or God's sovereignty and our free will, because all take place within the overarching dynamic of God's goodness and love. Love is a freeing thing, and freedom is assured, rather than overcome, by God's grace. It is unfortunate that this mystery was problematized in the West into an either/or dichotomy. Our salvation is totally and entirely an act of God's grace. And yet within and because of that grace, we remain totally and entirely free. God woos us to love him. It is true that our faith is a gift of God. It is also true that God does not grant this gift to us unless we permit him and beg him to. The Lutheran opinion on this matter may be intellectually consistent, but it is not an image of a loving God, for love does not compel. Luther cannot ultimately present a picture of a just or loving God, because he cannot explain why some should be saved and others damned without all of it being God's fault. Human free will is the only answer to this question that safeguards a loving God from appearing as a capricious tyrant. Further, none of God's continual appeal and admonition to the sinner through his prophets and his own Son makes any sense unless people actually have the ability to respond to this, which relegates the greater portion of the scripture to senseless babble. Why does God stand at the door knocking if we are unable to get up and open it? Why doesn't he just come in? But this is how he is. He stands and knocks, he appeals, he pleads, he reasons, he even disciplines, but he does not do anything without our permission. If faith is only a gift, why hasn't God granted it to all his beloved children? What kind of sick parent is he to will some to live and some to die? Certainly worse than human parents, and if such a God exists, he is unworthy of our praise, as we can conceive of greater love and justice than he. It is simply impossible for God to desire that all should be saved, as the scriptures state, and for many to be lost, unless there is another free will at work which God does not tamper with. I leave you with a quote from St. Augustine himself, which directly addresses your remark that we play no part in our first birth, and so cannot play a part in our rebirth. I might add that the Orthodox Church has a very high esteem for Augustine indeed, having glorified him with the title of saint.

"Without your own free will the righteousness of God will not exist within you... He then who made you without you, does not justify you without you. Thus he made you without your knowledge, but he justifies you with your voluntary consent."

-sermon xcix, 13

I'm afraid that on the matter of free will, you are not in the company of any of the Fathers, including St Augustine.

3. "filioque" You have not addressed anything related to the "and the son" of the creed. I assume you meant "epiclesis." This cannot truly be a large objection of yours to our worship, but rather reads as a justification of why you shouldn't have to change. I ask you whether you really consider it objectionable to invoke the Holy Spirit as the gifts are consecrated. It is the Holy Spirit's eternal business to make manifest the Word to us, and I think you must agree that there is little to criticize in asking God to do specifically in the Eucharist what he always does anyway. The Orthodox may have a problem with the omission of this invocation, but I cannot truly believe that your heart is troubled by its inclusion or that you find any theological objection to it. I simply see defense of your status quo here in typical Protestant fashion-- 'this is good enough and we don't need any more than the barebones.' I believe these are quibbles. I might add that the Divine Liturgy itself refers to this offering as "a reasonable and bloodless sacrifice," something very different from the levitical practice you cite. Nor would we say that we are repeating the sacrifice, I think, but simply continuing to participate in its eternal reality.

4. Fathers. I believe you overextend the authority of the Fathers in Orthodoxy. It is not true that they are accepted uncritically, and St Augustine is a good example. Yet it is patently untrue that we do not care for St. Augustine, or we would not call him a saint and name our children after him. We embrace the majority of his writing, which is a brilliant and eloquent testament to the love and providence of God. We reject a few of his conclusions that depart from the greater concensus of the fathers and their already-established tradition, because we believe them to be conclusions in discord with scripture and truth. (another example would be his permissiveness towards early-term abortion). In any case, no Orthodox Christian holds the Fathers to be infallible-- only the Catholics purport to have an infallible Holy Father. It is important to distinguish between conciliar truths and theologoumena. The first are necessary to believe for salvation, because they are the judgments of the Church, the "pillar and ground of truth" as guided by the Holy Spirit. The second are expressions of personal opinion informed by a devotional life in the Spirit. They are not binding. Often there is a clear and large realm of agreement between our greatest saints, and there is little reason to doubt these things if there is a concensus; but in other matters there is legitimate room for a spectrum of speculations.

My one great caution to you in this matter is that it is very very dangerous to assert yourself as occupying any kind of position of readily or easily being able to discern the correct interpretation of the scriptures or especially to judge the Fathers to be errant in their interpretation. "No prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation." You and I are sinful in the extreme and sanctified in the minimum. We have sinned and our foolish hearts are darkened. We read with our reason but our spirit is in a blind state of separation from God. We are dead to the Spirit in many ways, our hearts are hard, and we have neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. We should always have the attitude of the Ethiopian, when asked if we understand: How can I, unless someone explain? Only the pure in heart see God, and he has hidden his pearls within the scripture so that they will not be trampled upon by those unworthy. Even the Apostles' eyes had to be opened by another-- remember the road to Emmaus. The Holy Spirit alone opens our eyes to these things, not our reason. And if the Holy Spirit is operating in us, then our lives will be bearing visible fruit, not only limited to a deeper understanding of the scriptures. The Orthodox Church has a great deal of confidence in the teachings of the Fathers because the fruit of the Holy Spirit is fully apparent in them, in their purity, their freedom from sin and passions, their miraculous works and their incorrupt relics. By your fruits you will know them. (I ask here for anyone to produce for me the relics of any one of the reformers and evaluate the consistency and aroma.) If a great majority of men who are clearly a great deal holier than you and I are all saying pretty much the same thing, we had better pay attention. There is a very great chance that if they seem to be wrong by our judgment or look like they are contradicting themselves, it is in fact OUR OWN unregenerate vision that has skewed the picture, and that we are seeing double where they see in stereo as a healthy pair of eyes should. We should not be quick to raise ourselves above their stature, because every last one of them attained while on earth a sanctification that we have not yet dreamt of with the faintest glimmer. They are living temples of the Holy Spirit and their bones attest to God's presence to this day, emitting a divine fragrance. (I have smelled the bones of St John Chrysostom myself, and I can tell you that they emanate a heavenly fragrance.) God does not permit us into the holy of holies until we are first purified, and so we would do well to listen to those who have been inside. We are the people encamped around the mountain who would die if we touched it, and the Fathers are like Moses, who has seen God, and whose face is made radiant with his glory. You can criticize the fathers if you believe them to be in error, but if you criticize with a tarnished heart, guess who is in error. Perhaps Orthodox like me are not free to criticize the Holy Fathers, but we are free from having to judge the scriptures as if we were Holy Fathers ourselves, because we really do have Holy Fathers, who really are holy, and our opinions do not rest simply on the idle words and opinions of contentious men.

Which is a good place for me to conclude, having very accurately just described myself :)

Sorry... these reflections of mine grow like cancer. I think I must not be doing enough writing these days, because the few times I do write, out comes a gargantuan.

Forgive me for any way I have offended you-- like I said, I'm idle and contentious.

Peace in Christ,

McG

10:46 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home