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God's love vs. wrath and anger


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#1 Michael Normandin

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 02:33 PM

This is my first post. I am a newer Orthodox Christian. I was previously a Calvinist, which I am still having some issues of letting go of parts. I read scripture (in light of Orthodoxy) and there are just somethings that are not setting well with me. I am a very logical/mechanical person so I know that immediately puts me at a disadvantage. I am open to understand a more mystical/organic explanation as long as it coincides with scripture. I have read the Ft. Hopko thread on "the wrath of God" but I still just don't get it. If God chooses to use terminology in His own scriptures talking about wrath, love, hate, punishment, judgment, law, payment, bought, election, predestination, enemies, etc. why should we choose to try to explain around that? God Himself chooses to use that terminology in His scripture? If He wanted to reveal Himself to us in that manner who are we to choose otherwise? Also, why would I be in error if I explained to someone that you need to repent to escape the wrath to come, isn't that what John the baptist and Jesus did?

I do understand that God chastened His people like a loving father and that is how we should look at it. But, I have never chastened my children by stoning them to death. It is a little hard for them to get the point if they are dead. Nor would it be OK for me to kill the one who deserved it to show the other one the lesson.

I want to understand the Orthodox way it just doesn't seem like it matches up with Scripture. I am always open to be wrong and that is why I am here asking questions.

#2 Paul Cowan

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 03:12 PM

How is your Greek? Mine stinks and this was the hardest thing for me to grasp; the english language doesn't translate well. So if my language does not hold the original meaning of the words from the original text, how do I understand my bible?

Answer: Find someone that speaks and reads Greek, but primarily read the writings of the early church fathers and form a consensus of their explanations of the original text.

Just be willing to accept what they say and not rely on our 21st century American logical/mechanical minds.

Paul

#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 05:18 PM

God did not necessarily choose or inspire each and every word. He inspired the writers who used the words and concepts available to them to try to communicate much that is beyond words in synergy with God, not as automatic writers. Please also try to understand that translation from Hebrew to Greek to English (or in many Orthodox Churches from Greek to Russian or Bulgarian to English), certain nuances of meaning often fall by the wayside.

We are not robots. God did not create, nor do I believe He desires, automatons or mere puppets. He desires our cooperation and willing obedience, but not our total domination. He does not "take over" our bodies. At least that is my understanding of the Orthodox understanding.

God provides the inspiration and thought, but He left it to the authors themselves to express it. Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh

#4 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 04:31 PM

Michael, you raise several important questions about how to properly interpret Holy Scripture. May I suggest an interpretive principle that may help you, as it helped me many years ago: The words of Holy Scripture are rightly interpreted only in light of the divine realities to which they witness. The Bible interprets Christ to us, yet Christ also interprets to us the Bible. In other words, we are not permitted to remain at the surface of the text but must penetrate through and beyond the text to the Truth it intends. In the words of St Athanasius: "Terms do not detract from God's nature; rather does his nature draw those terms to itself and transform them. For terms are not prior to beings but beings are first and terms come second."

This principle does not magically resolve the questions with which you are wrestling, but perhaps it might help you to understand why the Church sometimes finds itself unwilling to settle for a literalistic reading of the Bible. It's not a matter of explaining away the Bible, but rather interpreting it properly through the gospel within the worshipping community of the Church.

Calvinists believe their convictions are firmly grounded on the plain reading of the Bible. But what if everything ain't so plain? For one thing, the Bible is itself a collection of writings composed and edited by numerous individuals over many hundreds of years. These writings have been brought together into one book. But how do we know how to interpret these writings, not just as historical texts, but as Scripture? There are no obvious hermeneutical rules, for the Bible, as Bible, does not belong to any typical literary genre. It is sui generis. This means that the same community that pulled these writings together as Scripture must teach us how to correctly read these writings as Scripture.

All of this brings us to issue with which you are wrestling--the wrath of God. I suggest that the biblical texts that speak of this wrath must be interpreted in light of God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ. What do we learn of God in Christ? Do we not learn that God is absolute love and infinite mercy? Begin with this.

#5 Evan

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 05:52 PM

Also, why would I be in error if I explained to someone that you need to repent to escape the wrath to come, isn't that what John the baptist and Jesus did?


Micheal:

Greetings in Christ,


We know that God will judge the world by a Man Whom He has appointed. This is part and parcel of the apostles' proclamation, made before Jews in Jerusalem and pagans on Mars Hill. We have no right to keep from people the fact that every man's life will be evaluated, as it were, by reference to the standards set by a Palestinian carpenter Who is enthroned in the glory that belongs to the Son of God from all eternity. The summons is universal. The victory was achieved for all who would receive it. But we must do our part. We must repent. We must identify ourselves with His life, being grafted into His Body, the Church, in order to escape eternal death. The apostles believed, and so they spoke.

And yet, we must do so knowing that God hates nothing that He has made. He desires not the death of a sinner, but that He may be converted and live. The eternal loss of any soul is a tragedy, because Christ died for all. Our Lord wept over the material destruction of Jerusalem-- how much more those who thrust themselves into the eternal fire prepared not in the first instance for men, but for the angels who, having fallen, can no longer repent.

I admit that I have not read Calvin and that I know what I know of what he taught entirely second-hand. Insofar as he did argue for (and again, I welcome correction) the proposition that anyone, anywhere, is pre-condemned already to suffer the wrath to come, in some way that would deny them their freedom as rational creatures made in God's image and likeness to receive the Gospel, he could only have done so as a result of seriously neglecting the Church's abiding witness.

The Scriptures belong to the Church. Our Lord has promised that the Spirit that inspired those who authored them will abide with the Church and preserve Her from the assaults of all its enemies until the consummation of the world. If we find them difficult to comprehend, the problem is our fallen reasoning. We should follow the example of the Ethiopian eunuch. Having said this much, then, I would suggest that you speak to your spiritual father about the concerns which you are having. You may rest confident in the assurance that he will have to render account for his instruction, as keeper of your soul. Our Lord Himself has laid hands upon his head.

In Christ,
Evan

#6 Michael Normandin

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 03:19 PM

the proposition that anyone, anywhere, is pre-condemned already to suffer the wrath to come, in some way that would deny them their freedom as rational creatures made in God's image and likeness to receive the Gospel, he could only have done so as a result of seriously neglecting the Church's abiding witness.


To clarify I don't hold this point of Calvinism, but yes most Calvinists believe that God has preordained and fixed against the will of man that they will be punished in hell and be saved. This mainly comes from the verses in, Romans 9:22-23


"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

23And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,"

and Romans 9:18

"So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires."


I have friends that are Calvinists that think since I turned to Orthodoxy I am that vessel of wrath. They have severed all contact with me. Anyways this is a different subject.

I have no problem relying on The Church for doctrine, interpretation, teachings, etc. First I have to make sure it's The Church and the only thing I have to check against is Scripture. Scripture is the only thing that we all can come to the table saying that this accepted across the board as apostolic and the word of God.

I have so many questions that arise that come up when I read scripture for face value. They were raised in Calvinism as well this is why I became Orthodox. I have never approached the Scripture all literally I do understand that they are not all literal.

There are so many churches that claim they have the truth, apostolic succession, true interpretation, and history but they all believe different things. If it is true Apostolic teaching then it will coincide with Scripture not contradict it. Trust me I want to give the responsibility to The Church it is a great burden for one to bear. That being said I believe I am responsible for my actions since I have read the scriptures to make the conscience decision because I fear God. I take this very seriously. Gal 1:8

"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!"

As we can see just because it looks like the church or even heavenly doesn't mean that it is right.

Why does the Orthodox Church want us to read our bibles and mandate scripture readings daily if we can neither understand or have rights interpreting it ourselves?

Why is it that only with God's anger, wrath, justice, and punishment it need to be explained beyond the words but God's love grace, and mercy are all taken at face value. I would think if anything that would be the more difficult of the two to understand.

My questions are not to confront or to slip up anyone I am truly looking for answers. I am in this forum to get a semi-authoritative Orthodox perspective. I am very open to being wrong I just need to have show the evidence I am wrong. I cannot blindly accept just say that I am.

Moreover, thank you very much for the time you all are taking to help me with my questions.

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 20 February 2011 - 08:25 PM.


#7 Evan

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 11:06 PM

To clarify I don't hold this point of Calvinism, but yes most Calvinists believe that God has preordained and fixed against the will of man that they will be punished in hell and be saved. This mainly comes from the verses in, Romans 9:22-23


"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

23And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,"

and Romans 9:18

"So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires."


Micheal,

I'm glad I haven't been unfair to Calvin. I had come across limited atonement before, but I was wary of falling into the trap of identifying the theory as set forth hundreds of years later with the man himself, without actually having read him.

I think there's much that can be said to address the concerns you're having, just by focusing on this interpretation of St. Paul-- even though you've said you don't accept it. I should stress that in nothing I am about to say do I claim to set forth an authoritative Orthodox answer to the questions you've raised. There's an excellent thread on this subject that does I think contain such an answer here, given by Father Irenei (posting as M.C. Steenberg) and Father David Moser. The whole thread is worth reading:

http://www.monachos....urrection/page7

Here goes. Lord, forgive me if I err, and help me to do better. With St. Augustine, of whom I heartell Calvin was fond, I submit my thoughts to the judgment of the Church: "Let those who think that I am in error consider again and again carefully what is here said, lest perchance they themselves may be mistaken. And when, by means of those who read my writings, I become not only wiser, but even more perfect, I acknowledge God's favor to me."


The construction of Scripture set forth above I think serves as an illustration of the problem with using Scripture in isolation as a free-standing metric by which to evaluate what one should or should not believe. You say that you do not hold to this interpretation of St. Paul's words-- neither do I. Even if we take the text at face value, I think it's fairly obvious that, contextually, St. Paul is not speaking of the eternal fate of anyone. He is, rather, upholding Pharoah and Esau as examples of how resistance to grace does not thwart God's providential ordering of history. Why is this important to St. Paul? Because he's seeing it happen right in front of him-- the resistance to the Gospel offered by God's own chosen people has served, quite without their intending it to, as an occasion for grace to the Gentiles. Esau's immoral and irreligious behavior and Pharoah's hardness of heart didn't stop God from delivering Jacob and the Hebrews under the Egyptian yoke. It may be that Esau and Pharoah will end up in hell, but the text simply doesn't address that eventuality. St. Paul is discussing the temporal consequences of the resistance to the call (Esau becomes a wandering nomad and Pharoah gets hit with plague after plague and loses a substantial portion of the population of his kingdom), not the final word when we are all judged according to our deeds.

Now, do I imagine that that will convince someone who sees the text as pointing to the damnation of Esau and Pharoah and all who similarly have been foreknown by God to be committed to the fire when all it said and done? It may, but it may not. The Scriptures are not self-exegeting. The Church presumes, I think, that when we are reading Scripture, we are reading it while integrated into the sacramental, worshipping life of the Church, which is guided and preserved from error by the same Spirit that inspired the Scriptures in the first place, and indeed inspired those who chose the books which make up the canon of Scripture to choose the right books. If someone is NOT reading Scripture in that context, they may well come up with limited atonement. But I think it's safe to say that you're not SUPPOSED to be reading Scripture in that context.

Thus, we know that limited atonement can't be right, not because we by applying our own reasoning don't see it in Scripture (although, as I've said, I think it can be refuted from Scripture, my arguments may be "rationally avoidable" if one begins from different premises) but because the institution that was given the authority to proclaim the Gospel has never accepted it.

As I am writing this, I am aware of a certain circularity problem-- namely, how do we know that the institution got it right? I do not think we can avoid this problem. That's where faith comes in. Our Lord promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. He has identified Himself with His Bride, to the point where persecuting Her is to persecute Him (as St. Paul himself discovered, to life-altering effect). He is one flesh with Her. He gave no such promise to the individual who applies his reasoning faculties to the text of a book (which wasn't widely available until much, much later) and prays for the discernment to tell what's what. To the extent that others depart from Her and teach new doctrines, even if they appeal to what seems obvious from Scripture, they depart from Him to that degree. To the extent that we find things in our readings that don't square with what has been revealed by Him to Her, we do the same. The question is, do we obey God or men?

In Christ,
Evan

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 20 February 2011 - 11:44 PM.
fixed quote tag


#8 Christina M.

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 11:32 PM

As I am writing this, I am aware of a certain circularity problem-- namely, how do we know that the institution got it right? I do not think we can avoid this problem. That's where faith comes in. Our Lord promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. He has identified Himself with His Bride, to the point where persecuting Her is to persecute Him (as St. Paul himself discovered, to life-altering effect). He is one flesh with Her. He gave no such promise to the individual who applies his reasoning faculties to the text of a book (which wasn't widely available until much, much later) and prays for the discernment to tell what's what. To the extent that others depart from Her and teach new doctrines, even if they appeal to what seems obvious from Scripture, they depart from Him to that degree. To the extent that we find things in our readings that don't square with what has been revealed by Him to Her, we do the same. The question is, do we obey God or men?


I think that a good response to "how do we know that the institution got it right?" would be a quote from St. Vincent of the 5th century, who said that Orthodox thinking constitutes "what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all." This solves many problems of "circularity". Also, it indicates the danger of just focusing on one or two saints' writings and ignoring the rest. Many believe that this was a major downfall of Western Christianity, since they relied too much on St. Augustine while ignoring all of the others.

I am very much enjoying reading this thread, and I thank everyone who has contributed.

#9 Sacha

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 02:11 AM

Michael,

I am not Orthodox, so I cannot speak as one. But I have examined calvinist teaching and found it to be very weak. The louder they beat the drum, generally, the weaker their actual hermeneutical position. At least, that as been my experience. Let's take a look at one of the passages you mentioned:

Rom 9: 22-23: What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory”

Note that the expression ‘prepared for’ has to do with God’s ordaining beforehand the putting aside of vessels for destruction or for glory. This is Paul-speak for God’s ordaining. Now, there is nothing in the ‘preparing’ that implies that those being prepared are not cooperating or not refusing to cooperate with God as they approach Judgment Day. Not at all. Note what precedes v 22 in v 21: “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” Pay careful attention to Paul’s language’s here for we see it used as well again in 2 Tim. 2:20,21:

“Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”

Notice especially that the idea is the same between 2 Tim 2:20-21 and Romans 9:22-23. The concept here is a vessel being used to honor or dishonor, which is the same thing as used for noble purposes or common use. And what do you find Paul saying? Paul says that the vessels are involved in that preparation! He teaches that if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor. It is not a case of, you there in the corner, you were made to be a vessel for dishonor (relieving oneself for example), and you there over here, you were made to cook food, irrevocably. Not at all, that is pushing the imagery beyond the thrust of what Paul intended it for.

God definitely ‘prepares’ those who refuse to obey and listen to Him in the sense that He will harden the hearts of those who are stubborn and obstinate and hard of heart already. We saw that happen with Pharaoh. But nowhere in the text do you find the idea that God deliberately sets aside some from birth solely for destruction without giving them opportunities to repent and find salvation. On the contrary, scripture is replete with the opposite teaching:

Ezekiel 18:30-32
"Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”

#10 Sacha

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 02:19 AM

Micheal,

Even if we take the text at face value, I think it's fairly obvious that, contextually, St. Paul is not speaking of the eternal fate of anyone. He is, rather, upholding Pharoah and Esau as examples of how resistance to grace does not thwart God's providential ordering of history. Why is this important to St. Paul? Because he's seeing it happen right in front of him-- the resistance to the Gospel offered by God's own chosen people has served, quite without their intending it to, as an occasion for grace to the Gentiles. Esau's immoral and irreligious behavior and Pharoah's hardness of heart didn't stop God from delivering Jacob and the Hebrews under the Egyptian yoke. It may be that Esau and Pharoah will end up in hell, but the text simply doesn't address that eventuality. St. Paul is discussing the temporal consequences of the resistance to the call (Esau becomes a wandering nomad and Pharoah gets hit with plague after plague and loses a substantial portion of the population of his kingdom), not the final word when we are all judged according to our deeds.


In Christ,
Evan


I wanted to point out that Paul is not referring to Esau, the individual, but rather the nation of the Edomites. Same for Jacob, who represents Israel.

The reformed reading of Romans 9 belies a very shallow understanding of the text. Typically, no consideration is given to the context that Paul was immersing himself in as he labored to get his point across, especially to the Jews in his audience.

Romans 9 wasn’t written with a debate between a reformed and non reformed christians in mind. Paul’s main concern in chapter 9 was certainly not to convey the notion that God hates individuals before they are born and creates them for purely and irrevocably for destruction. ….Far from it, this is indeed blasphemy against God, who is in very essence Love and desires that none perish, but that all should come to repentance. Rather, Paul is laboring to explain to the Jews in his audience (in Rome) that ethnic Israel is not spiritual/true Israel. And further, that God has had great mercy on the nation of Jacob, despite their own repeated failures, which were as grievous to God as the failures of the nation of Esau, namely, the Edomites.

Romans 9:18-24 comes on the heels of questions raised earlier in that same chapter in verses 3-9 where Paul states that he is anguished over his people, the Israelites. Yet he finds solace in the fact that a remnant remains, and that the Promise of God to bless Abraham’s seed has not failed at all. God is still at work to redeem His own, by His Grace and not by him who works to earn that favor.

So now let’s look at the famed v 13 where Paul says “ Just as it is written: Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated”. The first thing one must notice, is that Paul is quoting from Malachi 1:2-3

1 A prophecy: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi
2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD.
“Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”
4 Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD.

Note especially that Malachi has Edom saying “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins” in v 4. Yet, it in v 3, it is Esau being spoken of. There is no difference between the two, Esau is Edom. This is a Jewish tradition, to represent a nation by the name of its founder, just as Israel is named after Jacob who had his name changed to Israel (see Genesis 32)

To understand Malachi, writing circa 430 BC, you have to understand what Edom had done in 586 BC, 700 BC and 875 BC. Read Obadiah and you will understand:

1 The vision of Obadiah.

This is what the Sovereign LORD says about Edom—
We have heard a message from the LORD:
An envoy was sent to the nations to say,
“Rise, let us go against her for battle”— 2 “See, I will make you small among the nations;
you will be utterly despised.
3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rocks
and make your home on the heights,
you who say to yourself,

and Obadiah 1:10

10 Because of the violence against your brother Jacob,
you will be covered with shame;
you will be destroyed forever

In 875 BC, the Edomites allied with Moab and Ammon to attack Judah, as detailed in 2 Chronicles 20:22

"As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated."Then later the Edomites became the vassals of the Assyrians, but attempted revolutions in 711 and 701 BC. And the Edomites allied themselves with Nebuchadnezzar when he destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC.

So, clearly, it is BECAUSE of the wickedness of the nation of EDOM, descended from Esau, that God hated it. God hated it because of what they did to His people, not because he had arbitrarily decided to reprobate them. God did not cause them to attack the Israelites, it was their own wickedness that impelled them to do such a thing. It is in that context, that we understand Malachi’s quote which in turn is used by Paul in Romans 9.

Now what about Jacob? What do we know about him? Well, his very name means deceiver. After all, this is the man who cheated on his brother’s inheritance by wearing a furry outfit so that his father Isaac would not recognize that it wasn’t Esau, his first born. Jacob deliberately deceived his father Isaac into giving him his blessing. Moreover, Jacob was the one of the patriarchs of the nation of the Israel, that would eventually go on to repeatedly grieve the heart of God with their wickedness, idolatry and rebellion. That is what Jacob carried in his loins. And yet, Paul reminds us that it was prophesied in Genesis, hundreds of years before anything would come to pass, that the older would serve the younger.God allowed this to take place, apart from any merit, any deserving, of any kind. Which is good, since neither Jacob nor Esau had any merit. And so Jacob’s salvation along with that of his descendants will be totally a testimony to God’s grace.

God had mercy on Jacob despite the fact that Jacob didn’t deserve any, and He righteously withheld his mercy from Esau because of the latter nation’s violence against the Israelites. This is the meaning of “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and compassion on whom I have compassion”. Jacob could not say that he was ‘better’ than Esau, and hence deserved to be saved. Not a chance. Likewise, no geniune believer in Christ can say he or she deserved to be saved. If a christian does say such a thing, they would be proving that they are not saved in the first place by daring to suggest that they are deserving of God’s compassion and mercy. Far be it from it. No one deserves God’s compassion. In fact, If God were not a God of Love, we would all be reduced to dust immediately, since we are all sinners.


Edited by Sacha, 28 February 2011 - 02:37 AM.


#11 Michael Normandin

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 01:10 AM

Thank you all for your replies you have all been very insightful.

I want to thank you Sacha for using Scripture to explain my question.

#12 Olga

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 02:18 AM

Dear Michael, welcome to the forum.

You wrote:

First I have to make sure it's The Church and the only thing I have to check against is Scripture. Scripture is the only thing that we all can come to the table saying that this accepted across the board as apostolic and the word of God.

You might not realise this, but there is another, reliable, standard by which all Orthodox Christians, irrepective of jurisdiction, geographic location, or nationality, can measure matters of doctrinal and theological importance: the hymnography and iconography of the Church. What is read, chanted and sung represents the distillation of doctrine and theology, drawn from all aspects of Holy Tradition: scripture, the writings of the Fathers, pronouncements of the Ecumenical Councils, etc. Iconography is the visual counterpart to hymnography.

How does what I have said bear on your dilemma? By keeping one's eyes and ears open during church services is a good start; not just by attending the Divine Liturgy, but also Vespers, Matins, and any other services which are available, or which are feasible to attend. From what I have absorbed over many years, I cannot square any notion of a Calvinist "predestination" or unchangeable "wrath of God" in any Orthodox hymnography I can recall.

This is particularly apparent in the hymnody of Holy Week. Surely, God's anger at humanity due to the betrayal, trial, punishment and execution of Christ would be writ large there. Yet, it is not. If anything, there is a fine balance in, on the one hand, condemnation of the Sanhedrin for their malevolent actions, and, on the other, the clear proclamation of the willing and loving sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of humanity.

This sacrifice is also reflected in icons of the Crucifixion. We do not see a ravaged, tortured corpse on the cross, but rather Christ giving His life willingly and with love for mankind, echoing John 3:16.

Hope this helps.

#13 Dennis Justison

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 06:12 AM

Hi Michael,

Here's another way to answer the question:

What is the greatest commandment? And how often do we hear that we are to love others unconditionally, agape love? Jesus tells us many things in the Sermon on the Mount about how we are to love those who mistreat us and persecute us, turn the other cheek and flat out love the enemy. Look at St. Stephen in Acts, the first martyr...he forgives his killers. St. Paul echoes Jesus in his call to feed our enemy and give him to drink, Romans 12:20.

Does it make sense that God, who is divine, commands we humans to love unconditionally, when He is unwilling to do the same?

There is the law, true, but there is always forgiveness. Forgiveness is kind of like God saying, "Well, I know, I made the rule, you shouldn't do that, but you know what, I love you. Did you learn your lesson? Cool, I forgive you. Don't mention it again."

Oh, yes, the Prodigal Son. God, who is the Father, seeks our return every day, every moment, eagerly awaiting to put the ring on our finger, sandals on our feet, etc. His love draws us like a magnet. Well, I know, some of us are a little slower to respond than others, but God is infinite and has infinite patience. He has an infinite ability to love us unconditionally. To me, it just doesn't make sense for God to command us to love unconditionally when He would not do so Himself. And I know all the language, especially in the O.T. about how jealous God is etc., but I think we have to balance that with Jesus and the fact that because of the Church, we have had centuries of wise people that have been able to see what was understood, but have allowed that understanding to grow. We don't have to be afraid. Fear is the opposite of faith. We must not be afraid of our very creator. Yes, we stand in awe, but we also stand in confidence and in His love, for He loved us before we were capable of loving Him. His loving us, makes conversations like this possible.

Peace be with you.

#14 Olga

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 09:09 PM

And I know all the language, especially in the O.T. about how jealous God is etc.,


A small point: The word in the Greek Septuagint in such passages is zelotes, which means full of zeal. It does not have the modern meaning of jealous. Envy cannot ever be part of God's character.

#15 Dennis Justison

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 09:57 PM

Dear Olga,

Thanks for the instruction. I'll have to try to remember that one, because it has been used on me a few times as some kind of Scriptural support against asking for the intercession of the saints. God is somehow jealous of us loving anyone else, of course, we can love people before they die, just not after I guess. Thanks.

Peace.

#16 Paul Cowan

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 12:33 AM

, of course, we can love people before they die, just not after I guess. Thanks.

Peace.


of course we can. We have many many saints to love.

#17 Rdr. Andrew

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 02:35 AM

Forgive me if this post seems slightly off-topic, as this is a rather broad thread, but on the notion of explaining away God's wrath, my spiritual father offered something at bible study last week that might be of use.

It just so happened that we were looking at Genesis through the lens of Romans 9-12 (and Calvinism came up) so, I wanted to offer this bit of wisdom from Father Chris.

If you explore the different instances of God's wrath keeping in mind that God is love (1 John 4:8), one can begin to see how God's wrathful acts are actually acts designed to return an unrepentant person or nation back to Himself. He quoted an unnamed saint who said that death was a mercy that God put in place to keep human's always remembering Him and remembering to pray.

While I don't know this and I am certainly no theologian, I wonder if God were truly wrathful, then perhaps Pharaoh's Egypt doesn't have to put up with so many plagues. Perhaps a wrathful god wipes Egypt off the map in the blink of an eye. Could it be that they endured plague after terrible plague as a way of giving Pharaoh (who was created in the image and likeness of God) every single chance to repent and soften his heart? When Pharaoh continually hardened his heart, God "gave them up to uncleanness" because they "changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." (Romans 1:24, 25)

Glory to Jesus Christ!

#18 Dennis Justison

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 04:18 AM

Hi Paul,

Oh yes, I know we can pray to saints and I do every day. I was being a little sarcastic with my words. Sorry. It is hard to hear the tone of voice on a type written screen.

Peace be with you.

#19 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 01:07 PM

Andrew Shauver wrote:

While I don't know this and I am certainly no theologian, I wonder if God were truly wrathful, then perhaps Pharaoh's Egypt doesn't have to put up with so many plagues. Perhaps a wrathful god wipes Egypt off the map in the blink of an eye. Could it be that they endured plague after terrible plague as a way of giving Pharaoh (who was created in the image and likeness of God) every single chance to repent and soften his heart? When Pharaoh continually hardened his heart, God "gave them up to uncleanness" because they "changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." (Romans 1:24, 25)


I think that St Gregory of Nyssa would like this explanation. In his Life of Moses he offers a detailed explanation of what the 'hardening of Pharaoh's heart' meant. This follows the line of thought that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart is really a result of his free assent to what is evil. His heart hardens as a result of his free assent to what is evil. But then the results are catastrophic and act as 'hands' urging one to return to God. I think that we often see this in our own daily lives.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#20 Michael McIntyre

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 07:45 PM

These references to hardening and softening of hearts, and Pharaoh, remind me of what St. Maximus the Confessor wrote in chapter 12 of the first century of his Chapters on Knowledge (as translated by George C. Berthold):

God is the sun of justice, as it is written, who shines rays of goodness on simply everyone. The soul develops according to its free will into either wax because of its love for God or into mud because of its love of matter. Thus just as by nature the mud is dried out by the sun and the wax is automatically softened, so also every soul which loves matter and the world and has fixed its mind far from God is hardened as mud according to its free will and by itself advances to its perdition, as did Pharaoh. However, every soul which loves God is softened as wax, and receiving divine impressions and characters it becomes "the dwelling place of God in the Spirit."

As Berthold points out in a footnote (Berthold's book, Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings, is worth it for the footnotes alone!), Maximus borrowed this image of wax, mud and Pharaoh's heart from Origen, who got it from Philo.

This passage by Maximus, in turn, causes me to reflect on something totally unrelated and incommensurate, but strangely beautiful and edifying in its own way. One of my hobbies is reading about U. S. space exploration during the 1960's and 70's (the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs). This interest is not accidental, by the way. My father worked for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) for over forty years as an engineer.

Anyway, I recall from my reading that during the design of the lunar rover (which was used for transportation on the moon by the astronauts during the last three Apollo missions) it was realized that an active thermal control system (with pumps and such) for the rover's electronics (to prevent overheating) would weigh too much and put them over their "weight budget." So they designed a passive thermal control system using tanks that contained wax. Here's how it worked:

While the rover was being driven on the moon, the dust-covered wax tanks absorbed the heat given off by the electronics, which liquefied the wax, which kept the electronics at a more-or-less constant and safe temperature. Then, when the traverse was over and the rover was parked, the astronauts simply retracted the dust cover, which exposed thermal radiators on top of the wax tanks, which allowed the wax to release its stored heat and resolidify for reuse during the next traverse (the dust covers then automatically closed when the temperature of the rover's battery dropped to 45 degrees F). It was not only a functional design, it was elegant.

And maybe this little "techy" story can be a metaphor for us to contemplate in our spiritual lives. God shines his rays of goodness on us all. And if we receive those rays like wax (and not mud) then we, as it were, "store up" this goodness within us. But we do not keep the goodness within us, i.e. we do not hoard it for ourselves. Rather, we "release it" to others, in acts of kindness and mercy.

Edited by Michael McIntyre, 09 March 2011 - 08:15 PM.





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