Honest Questions asked of me on Facebook
One of my Facebook friends with whom I have chatted off and on for several years has posed a few questions and asked me to respond (and invites others as well to respond).
Laurie Reeves asks: Steven – I wonder if you would let me hijack this or some other post of yours. I have questions about Christianity, and 1. I trust your opinion over any other “religious” persons I know, as I believe you will be as honest as you can be, and 2. I welcome responses of some of your friends who are not my friends, so I didn’t want to private message you or use my status.
Steven – I’ll start one issue at a time 🙂 But first, so that I have the best way possible of asking my questions, can I ask you a few?
Do you believe the bible is man-made or God made?
Do you believe Christianity (Christ, perfect, cross, salvation) is the only means of getting to heaven?
Do you believe in one god or multiple god’s (Muslim, hindu, etc). And by god’s, I mean religious god’s as they are commonly understood. Not Greek god’s or the one some random guy made up in his basement.
Laurie, you ask some good questions. Let me give it a shot.
First Question: the Bible was written by man, inspired by God. They wrote in human terms about things that in many ways are beyond language. Scripture cannot be understood outside a relationship with God (since that is what they are about) and attempting to take them in a literal only way is to invite sickness (passions).
The Scriptures are a book OF the Church and are properly understood from that perspective. In a sense the Scriptures represent a synergy between God and man.
When we look at how people have used scripture in the last two centuries we see a different approach employed both by the “conservative” and “liberal” ends of the spectrum. They use a mostly literal approach to either prove or disprove the scriptures. An approach that seeks to “prove” things using scripture inevitably ends up creating God in our image (rather than the reverse). The Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. The scriptures are one of the many ways the Church communicates that truth. Other ways are through the Hymns of the Church, the Icons, the Councils, The Tradition, the lives of the saints.
Second Question, Christianity: There is One Body, One Bride of Christ. Those who find themselves in heaven will do so because they participated (Communed) in that One Body. Heaven is a relationship with God in which we see His Light as Love (not so much a place). Jesus saves us collectively, not individually. We are either participants in Him or we are not.
Thus it is possible to say where the Church IS (Even though there are many who are part of it’s communion who have yet to be born). The Church is the proclaimer and invoker of the Kingdom of God. That said, it is NOT possible to say where the Church IS NOT. An individual muslim, hindu, pagan, atheist, may be part of the body. It is not my call to say where the Church IS NOT. God saves (restores, heals) those who participate and work with Him. Salvation is not just about a ticket to heaven; it is about the healing of our disease, the removal of our Character Defects, and a communion with all who follow Him. It is a transformation and renewal of our mind (NOUS) into a restored likeness of God. It requires our participation and cooperation. God does not save us without our cooperation. The Cross saves us (but not in the Anselm sense of substitutionary atonement) through Christ taking on our disease and being wounded by it and raising our humanity to what God had intended. Christ makes a path for us to walk to the Father, a path of glory, sobriety, humility, and love. If a hindu takes up his cross and follows Christ he is further along than many Christians.
I believe that God holds us accountable for the revelation of Him that we have. Thus I expect fewer Orthodox Christians to make it than “others”, for we have the fulness of the revelation of God, and thus no excuse for not following it.
Third question, God: I believe in One God: Father Son and Holy Spirit, One Essence in three persons. This means that God is a communion of Love unto Himself in ways we cannot know. It means that we, created in His Image, are called to a communion of Love with ourselves, with Him, and with others. Christianity does not divide God into functions. All of God was involved in creating, inspiring, saving, empowering. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and points to the Son. The Son is begotten of the Father before all ages and lives perfect obedience to the Father out of love and points to the Father.
The Glories of God (His energies) are shared by all persons of the Trinity. We have only seen the Word become flesh for our sakes. But His Glory is the Father’s Glory. And His energies are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fatefulness, gentleness, self mastery. These are the fruit of the Spirit that we are called to bear.
We cannot know God as He knows Himself. God is a mystery. This is my big disagreement with self-help groups which speak of “God, as we understood Him.” Western Christianity seems to think that it has to figure God out. The problem is that the God we have figured out says a lot more about us and our disease then it says about God. The god who can be understood is not God. Or, as St. Evagrius of Pontus said: “God cannot be grasped by the mind. If He could be grasped, He would not be God.” We can (and must) have a relationship with God without understanding Him, allowing Him to be Who He IS.
God is Love, and if we say we faith Him, we must love too, otherwise we are just fooling ourselves. So, the question of whether we truly Faith (believe in) God shows up in how we treat others. How we minister to the “least of these” is how we treat God in Whose Image they are all created.