Owen, I think you are right in saying that the same underlying issues of a wrong idea of God's judgement are present. But I don't see much in the ascetical literature about "objectifying" rather what I see is that we are called to observe without judgment - neither condemning nor excusing others but rather keeping our mind on our own sin. Its a matter of recognizing that we have to train ourselves to see things and respond mentally and emotionally to things differently.
I have been reading Dostoyevsky lately. The internal state leading to murder, or suicide, or other sin(sensuality and greed also) is one of the themes he explores. He has a wonderful way of portraying the damage that sinners are doing to themselves in terms of how buying into damaging thoughts and yielding to various passions has such serious consequences in terms of the captivity it creates and the damage it does to the ability of the person to live a stable, rational, and happy life. .... And yet he does this with such sympathy for the sinner. None of his characters is completely lacking in some place where a little virtue can be seen in the midst of the general smog. There is always someone who is loving this sinner, and usually suffering because of their love.
And yet sympathy never turns into sentimental excuses that ignore sin's evilness. The sinner is being punished by the dissolute and weakened state his yielding to sin has led him to - and yet it is precisely then - when people are actively sinning, often knowing exactly what they are doing, even willingly doing wrong, and yet at the same time unable to stop themselves and often tormented by their own conscience and a warped sense of their own unworthiness, and the knowledge of their own weakened condition of mind and will, that we find Dostoyevsky's heroes having the most sympathy.
In this Dostoyevsky never makes the sinner a victim of sin, but rather portrays the personal responsibility each person has for the state they are in. It is a different kind of sympathy then the "poor so and so" sympathy that wants to take away all suffering or make excuses that the person isn't really guilty. It entirely lacks the mindset of wanting the sinner to get off scott free as what it means for God to forgive. Rather it recognizes that "without punishment forgiveness maybe be impossible."
The quote above is from "Everyday Saints" by Arch Tikhon from a story that Fr John Krestiankin shared from his childhood. Fr John was about 12 and his archbishop, who was a kind and loving man and was eventually martyred for his faith once, on Forgiveness Sun drove out of his monastery two of its inhabitants. "He did this publicly and with great authority, firmly keeping all others from any temptations of even associating with them. Immediately afterwards he pronounced the words of forgiveness for the Sun of Forgiveness and asked forgiveness from all and for all....My still youthful conscience was totally shocked by what I had just seen, because of the utter contrast; on the one hand, and act of driving out from the monastery, in other words the absence of any forgiveness, and yet on the other hand, his meek plea for forgiveness for himself and others from all and to all. At the time I only understood one thing; that sometimes punishment can be the beginning of forgiveness, and that without punishment forgiveness may be impossible. ..."
Fr John Krestiankin grew up to become a well known elder in Russia, the image of Elder Paisios in Greece. And as I read this story I reflected on how rather then allowing his shocked conscience to lead him into condemning his archbishop for hypocrisy, he kept faith in the grace of the priesthood, and the man he knew, and therefore he was open to learn this lesson.
But I also think that what sometimes happens is we impute to God our own mean spirit and see his punishments as harsh rather then as appropriate to our person. Society teaches us that punishment is meeted out according to the deed, while God meets out punishment according to His perfect knowledge of one's soul.
Edited by Anna Stickles, 31 May 2013 - 02:04 PM.