Friday, July 18, 2008

God as Law vs. God as Love

Here is a perfect example of the error I've been pondering and writing about for several days now, in which the most fundamental characterization of God is thought to be Law, when in reality, the Law proceeds from, and is a function of, Love. Love is the most basic truth about God.

Here is an excerpt from the opening paragraph of the blog post I've just found:

In the beginning, when all was formless and void, God created all things giving it substance and form, establishing order out of chaos. He did so through the Law. By the Law is meant the eternal, unchangeable Law of God, which is the revelation of His will, the standard of perfection, and the mold and fashion out of which all creatures were formed and conformed, so as they would be happy. God is holy, and His Law is holy. His Law is the image of Himself; it is the word of Life and Truth declaring that of which He is the perfect pattern. ‘Be ye holy,’ He says, ‘for I am holy.’ ‘Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’

Can you see how unbiblical this actually is? What does the Scripture say? That God created everything not through the Law, but by His Word. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and without Him was nothing made that was made." And that Word was Christ, Who took flesh and came among us.

In what image were we made? The image of the Law? No, the image of the Holy Trinity, the God who is Love. He Himself, not His Law, is "the mold and fashion out of which all creatures were formed and conformed."

Is the Law our standard of perfection? No, for Christians that Standard is a Person, Jesus Christ.

Christ is also the perfect "image of Himself"; Christ "is the word of Life and Truth declaring that of which He is the perfect pattern." He is the revelation of God.

And so forth. Read the whole blog entry to see further implications of this error.

It makes all the difference in the world.


Tony said...

I actually read a really good article recently called "The River of Fire," which can be found online especially through Orthodox Christian Information Center. It perfectly summed up the difference between eastern and western Christianity in regards to Adam's fall, God's love, and our status as sinners. I think in discussing the conflict between Law and Love.

In western Christianity there is the notion of Original Sin and the concept that we are vile, despicable creatures God loathes and can't even stand to look at. Jews in Old Testament times would be shocked (and today are still shocked) to hear this. The idea is Adam sinned - he broke the Law - and so he was punished, as were his followers. We angered God, we broke the Law, so we have to atone.

In eastern Christianity, on the other hand, we are taught that it was not our rejection of God's Law that caused us to sin, but our rejection of God's love. God loves every one, and wishes repentance more than punishment. When Adam fell we inherited a sinful nature, tricked by the devil to blaspheme and remain separated from God for what could have been all eternity. Instead, God, the Good Shepherd, came to earth to save His one lost sheep. In humbling Himself in the flesh, He allowed us to conquer sin and conquer our own flesh, and defeated death to give us eternal life.

So you are very right to say that the Law proceeds from Love. God did not give humanity Law - be they the commandments handed down by Moses or those handed down by Jesus - to rule mankind like a dictator, punishing those who disobey any. Rather, He gave us the Law because of His Love for us, so that He could assist us in our suffering and keep in that mystical union with the Lord.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

"For the law was given by Moses, [but] grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)

JTKlopcic said...

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.

I think that once I really began to understand that God's Law is just an expression of His Love (can we call it His essence?), then I was on the road to Orthodoxy.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I think that once I really began to understand that God's Law is just an expression of His Love ... then I was on the road to Orthodoxy.

Me, too. I saw all in a flash that Orthodoxy was the only tradition I had ever encountered that had truly preserved, maintained, and passed on the apostolic teaching that God is Love and the only tradition that could teach me to love. (

It still is. And I become almost daily more aware of that fact. It causes me alternating bouts of grief and outrage.

William Weedon said...

But when we remember that the Law is only the will of God, and that that will is always and only love, in all things, at all times, for all creation, and that we see this perfection of love literally enfleshed in Jesus Christ? "Love is the fulfilling of the law."

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

That's right.

It's the failure to see this point that creates the problems; it's defining righteousness as perfect order instead of as perfect Love. It's supposing that righteousness, holiness or justice is something other than Love.

In the kingdom of Love, punishment (except for correction) is unnecessary and all wrong.
Authentic, pure forgiveness, "bare amnesty," is possible after all, and not only possible but called for as right and good. Where God is known as pure Love, we do not suppose He seeks His own honor at all, much less first and formost. In the realm of Love, making things right again doesn't mean God getting even with sinners. It means the very opposite: giving Himself entirely to our salvation.

Anonymous said...

The blessed Sirach argues in the middle of his book about the identity of the Torah (Law) with Sophia (Wisdom).

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

As long as we remember that the ultimate wisdom is God the Son, incarnate in Jesus Christ. And that He is the embodiment of Love, and that the Torah flows from that, rather than being the ultimate value in and of itself.

123 said...

For all of the talk regarding authentic, pure forgiveness, "bare amnesty,", the God of Order preachd and taught be so many did not forgive - he still got his money, so to speak. The debtor didn't have to pay, but someone did, the taxman got his due. The debt was not forgiven it was paid, and it is that need for payment that has kept the God of Order around.

While the Law is for our correction and guidance, the fact that transgression against it required punishment and payment, well, that shows its purpose as being far more than love - at least in a certain telling of that story.