Friday, September 4, 2009

Maybe the Problem is, it Just Sounds Too Good to be True

As often as I’ve said it before, it bears repeating now and then: Orthodox Christianity is the only religion in the whole world that truly preaches a God of pure Love. This I say quite soberly, not trying either to boast or to exaggerate. But if you think this is an exaggeration, show me any other religion that has a god of pure love. I shall be thrilled to be proven wrong, thrilled.

Hinduism? It has many gods, none of them particularly loving, as we understand the term.

Buddhism?  It has no god.

Islam? Allah is frequently termed “the all-compassionate, the all-merciful,” but Allah will send you to hell in a literal heartbeat (your last heartbeat) if you don’t do what he wants. And look what he has his followers do, at the point of the sword. Some love.

Judaism? It teaches that God loves Israel, but how much He loves the other nations is debatable, since (a) they are not the Chosen People and (b) they are all going to serve Israel someday if they don’t already. Jews do not believe God loves us enough to have come among us in person, or to have died and risen for us and thereby have destroyed/transfigured death for us.

Liberal Protestantism or liberal Catholicism?  They don’t believe these things, either. In fact, if you believe the Jesus Seminar, you have to believe Jesus spent His whole life saying just about nothing! Or at least, nothing noteworthy, nothing much worth handing down to posterity or putting into writing.  I once said this in a liberal Catholic forum, and the people there were furious.  One of them said he was a personal friend of one of the J.S. scholars, and he would write this scholar to get his reply to my dreadful, slanderous remark.  The Jesus Seminar scholar wrote back with a heh-heh, well, yes, what I had said was pretty much the case.  Admirable young fellow, Jesus, in many ways, but not much given to words.

Traditional Catholicism? Conservative/Evangelical Protestantism? They both tell us they certainly believe God is loving, even that God is love, but then they turn right around and ascribe the most atrocious, unloving behaviors to Him, like sending people to hell, or arbitrarily not electing some people to salvation and the non-elect never even have a genuine chance.  Or they tell you God required His own Son, the only good and innocent man who ever lived, to be tortured and killed to pay Him off so He would/could let the rest of us off the hook. In other words, outright, gratuitous forgiveness doesn’t exist. In fact, some people think it would be immoral; sins must be avenged or paid for. 

In Catholicism, your eternal punishment is remitted when you repent and confess, but you still have “temporal punishment” to undergo in Purgatory, unless the Pope grants you a plenary indulgence. Again, true forgiveness doesn’t exist.  Pay up, buddy!   Or get the Pope to take your payment out of his "Treasury of Merits."

Or else, if you're Protestant, count on Jesus to have paid up for you. 

Lutherans talk about “The Terrors of Conscience,” which terrors couldn’t exist if they understood God’s love; it would be sorrow instead of terror.  One Lutheran pastor even has a blog post about how God hates sinners.  (It overlooks Luke 6:35: "He [God] is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.") 

In summary, what all these various denominations say is yes, God is loving, but love is not His only attribute, not the whole story.  There's also this "flip side" of God.   

Only Orthodoxy affirms that love is no mere “attribute” of God at all, existing alongside other attributes.  Rather, “God IS love” (I John 4:8,16) and there’s nothing alongside that love, balancing it or acting as a brake on it or a counterweight to it or tempering it or making it conditional. There is no conflict in God, as in, "Yes, He loves us BUT..."  There's no "but".  There’s no flip side, no dark side, nothing opposing or limiting His love, nothing about Him that needs appeasing or placating or buying off.  His love is eternal, infinite (!) and unconditional.

Really, truly, no exaggeration:  In all the world, the one and only champion of pure,True Love is Orthodox Christianity.  Holy Orthodoxy alone, while still believing in justice, judgment, and hell, understands these in such a way as to be able, truly and consistently, to teach that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”  (I John 1:5)


Emily H. said...

I think the problem is that so many Protestant religions agree that God is angry with us, that those from the Protestant culture can't imagine anyone believing the way Orthodoxy does. I remember when I was still investigating Orthodoxy and was told that the Orthodox have a different belief about why Christ died on the cross. I was shocked at first!!

It was very difficult to really understand the Orthodox position because the whole premise of God's anger was missing. God's absolute love was a foreign concept.

DaCentaur said...

So the heaven & hell duality is a concept that Orthodoxy (BTW, Greek, Russian, or Syrian?) subscribes to - in common with the other Christian sects.

Ergo, even according to Orthodoxy, God WILL send you to hell if you're a sinner.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

No, this emphatically is not anything to which Orthodoxy subscribes.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Oh, BTW: Greek, Russian, Syrian, etc.? It's all the same faith. I was baptized, chrismated, and married in a Russian church. Currently attend a Greek one. Main difference? The language used.