by Dr. Alexander Kalomiros
Chapter 8: [Pagan Greek philosophy] was mixed with the Christian teaching by the various heresies…They began to distinguish not between God and Creation, but between spirit and matter.They began to think of the soul of Man as something eternal in itself, and began to consider the condition of Man after death, NOT as a sleep in the hands of God, but as the real life of Man, to which the resurrection of the dead had nothing to add – and even the need of the resurrection was doubtful. The feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, which is the culmination of all feasts in Orthodoxy, began to fall into second place, because its need was as incomprehensible to the Western Christians as it was to the Athenians who heard the sermon of the Apostle Paul.
But what is more important for our subject, they began to feel that God was subject to Necessity, to this rationalistic Necessity which was nothing else but human logic. They declared Him incapable of coming into contact with inferior beings like men, because their rationalistic, philosophical conceptions did not permit it; it was this belief which was the foundation of the hesychast disputes [St Gregory Palamas’ disputes with the western monk, Barlaam, in which Gregory proclaimed that God could be experienced here on earth within our hearts purified from sin]…It had already begun with Augustine [5th century] who taught that it was not God Who spoke to Moses, but an Angel, instead
It is in this context of Necessity, which even gods obey, that we must understand the Western juridical conception of God’s justice: it was necessary for God to punish Man’s disobedience; it was impossible for Him to pardon; a superior Necessity demanded vengeance. Even of God was, in reality, Good and loving, He was not able to act lovingly. He was obliged to act contrary to His love; the only thing He could do, in order to save humanity, was to punish His Son in the place of men, and by this means was Necessity satisfied.
[Chapter 10] Origen, and all rationalists who are like him, was not able to understand that the acceptance or the rejection of God’s grace depends entirely on the rational creatures; because God, like the sun, never stops shining on good or wicked alike; that rational creatures are, however, entirely free to accept or reject this grace and love; and that God in His genuine love does not force His creatures to accept Him, but respects absolutely their free decision. He does not withdraw His grace and love, but the attitude of the logical creatures toward [His] unceasing grace and love is the difference between Paradise and Hell. Those who love God are happy with Him, those who hate Him are extremely miserable by being obliged to live in His presence, and there is no place where one can escape the loving omnipresence of God. Paradise or Hell depends on how we will accept God’s love. Will we return Love for [His] Love or will we respond to His love with Hate? This is the critical difference. And this difference depends entirely on us, on our freedom, on our innermost free choice, on a perfectly free attitude which is not influenced by external conditions…because it is not an external act but an interior attitude coming from the [depths] of our heart, as it is clearly seen in the case of the publican and the Pharisee…
“The River of Fire” was the keynote address delivered at the Orthodox Youth Conference sponsored by the parish of St. Nectarios American Orthodox Church at Seattle, Washington during July 22-25, 1980.
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