Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Entirely Loveable God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ

So maybe I'm on a rant or a rampage or something, but now that I've finally grasped the Augustinian error of supposing God to be, above all else, a God of perfect order, especially moral order, it seems I'm seeing it crop up everywhere. Here is another instructive example of where you end up if you go by that assumption, and then I promise to quit already. Or at least I plan to; I'd better not promise.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. An umbrella of grace and forgiveness covers you; you are clothed with Christ, shielded from the law, sin and its stain cannot harm you as you are in Christ.

Did you catch that? God’s Law is something from which you need to be shielded! In other words, God's Law becomes the enemy, indirectly making God, as the Giver and Enforcer of the Law, into the Ultimate Enemy.

In fact, the Law of God is not our enemy, but our friend. As St. Paul says, it was our nanny, keeping us for God until Christ should come. (Galatians 3:24-25) The Law showed us how to approximate love until Love Himself should appear to teach us the more excellent way. The Law prepared us to recognize Love when He appeared.

Sin is our enemy. The Law is purely benevolent, beneficial to us; it is only our own sin, without any aid from God, that not only does harm us but can indeed still kill us, if we persist in it, rejecting Love until the end. (See Romans 7:7-13)

In the flesh of Christ, the demands of God’s law are met. The sinner deserves to die. Christ became the Sinner and died our death, fulfilling ever aspect of the Law, every little mark and tick of the commandment. Not only is there no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus, but the just requirements of the Law, the perfect obedience that the Law demands are fulfilled in Christ and given to you as His gift so that also in you, a sinner from birth, the just demands of the Law are met. No longer do we live according to the flesh, that is, our sinful nature inherited from Adam, but now we live according to the Spirit, that is, our new nature given to us by Christ.

And here we have God, demanding from Christ, in our stead, both perfection and punishment, which duel demand is in fact not lawful (only blessings are decreed for those who keep the Law). Let alone is it moral, just, or loving. But the assumption that God is above all else the God of perfect moral order can’t do without the punishment. Punishment is thought to restore that moral order. Suffering is thought to balance out sin. (In fact, only faithful obedience remedies disobedience.) But then, after the punishment is exacted, we're only back to zero, neutral. What we need is positive righteousness. Hence the requirement in this thinking for BOTH punishment and perfection.

And now we come to the invariable, inescapable, tragic result of this kind of teaching. The blog I quoted yesterday went on to say, "We live in the uncomfortable juxtaposition of loving, delighting, and doing; while at the same time despising, abhorring, and rebelling against the law of God." And the blog I'm looking at today says a similar thing.

The mind held captive by the flesh is hostile to God. Have you ever met someone who was hostile to God? I don’t mean simply irked at Christians, which is often justifiable. I don’t even mean upset with the Church, which is often just as justifiable. I’m talking about outright hostility to toward God. Hatred toward the holy. Hostility toward what is pure and just and true.

Well and truly said! The mind held captive by the flesh wants to go its own way, seek its own well-being, comfort, and pleasure and too bad about everybody else. But the converted mind, in Orthodoxy anyway, doesn't experience this ambivalence toward God we so often hear described by others. If you do, maybe you weren't taught that God's Law is a function of His perfect, selfless, unfailing, unbounded Love. We quite naturally rebel against any Law not defined by Love. As well we should; truly, it isn't holy or true or pure or just.

If you want an inkling of what God is like, call to your mind whoever or whatever is most beautiful to you, so tenderly, achingly, wondrously beautiful the very thought moves you to tears. God is the Author of that! Meaning He is infinitely more beautiful, wonderful, loveable, than that. He is more beautiful, wonderful, loveable than anybody can even imagine. There is no "dark side" to God, nothing about Him whatsoever that is not thoroughly, utterly delightful, precious, appealing, and dear. "In Him is no darkness at all."



Tony said...

I often wonder if the people who make such statements read the Church Fathers, who agree, as you said, that a mind of the flesh is working against God, yet does not come to the conclusion we are rebels against God who deserve to be punished. They always said there was hope for us, and that is why we struggle to overcome our flesh the way Christ and the saints taught us.

JTKlopcic said...

Well put, as always. It is ironic that we humans, in condemning our own sin, seek to make God in our own image.

I think I understood God so much more when He gifted me with my own children. My love for them, in its many forms, seeks only for them to grow to healthy maturity. Would not our Heavenly Father want this for us?

123 said...

I'm guessing that the kitten background is meant to underline the 'entirely loveable God' of the Orthodox... :)

123 said...

Any interesting parallel post by The Ochlophobist:

"Our unearthy Pentecostal is a moralist of the first order. If you err in this or that way, there will be a consequence. That seems fine at the surface, until it becomes more and more apparent that the unearthy Pentecostal loves the consequences meted out to those who err more than she loves those who err. Indeed, by all appearances, the rules are loved more than the God who gives them, or the persons who struggle to obey them. What is most important is that we submit to the divine order. That is what we know. That is what is real. With the language of “loving God” this person, so it seems, actually means “loving God’s simplistic cause and effect economy of punishment and reward.” The divine Person, for this Pentecostal, is not really a Person but rather an abstract mechanism of just order. The human person is simply an machine made to respond to that order – either through right action which results in health, wealth, and blessing, or wrong action which results in sickness (of various sorts), poverty (again of various sorts), and impending doom...

The above is a rather extreme example of American religious moralism, but it is not an uncommon one, and this sort of moralism can be found across the religious spectrum – both conservatives and liberals from all sorts of confessions. One can trade the key moral issues, but still arrive at an economy of grace or “grace” that is no more than cause and effect rote determinism."

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

:-) Kitten is loveable, too; how much more, her Creator!

But I just added kitty because I thought it was kind of cool to have the text float over a picture. I'm probably going to delete it after a while, in case kitty creeps people out, staring at them like that. (Or makes cat haters, of whom there are many, avoid my blog!)

Thanks, Christopher, for the article from the Ochlophobist. Yes, very interesting parallel.

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