As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Brief Theology of a Poor Brother

1. The Person(s) of God

God is One, yet God is also Three. That God is a Trinity is important because it shows that He, in His perfection, is not alone, but is a Community living in perfect love and unity.

God is like a Fire. In this sense He, by His very nature, obliterates that which is not of Himself. He is all Good and nothing that is not good can survive his Presence. Thus, what seems like wrath or judgment is only that which hates God, that which is not-good, being exposed to His Presence.

2. The Creation

All that is created is of God but is not God. That which is created has a sacramental quality. That is, all the stuff of which creation is was given by God. It has become as much like God as possible of its own accord (evolution) and then has given itself to Him to do what it cannot do for itself.

God uses creation not only as a medium to reveal Himself to creation, but also as a veil of sorts that that which is created might have the opportunity to reject Him.

3. Man

Man is that which the created could not do for itself. Man is creation given the Imago Dei. In the same way that He is specially present in the Eucharist, He is/was specially present in Man.

4. The Fall

Man, in order to be like God, was given the ability to choose. The choice is ever between obedience/love/life (represented by the Tree of Life) and disobedience/hate(apathy)/death (represented by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). The choice is not always between that which is good and bad, but between that which is commanded and that which is prohibited. That is, the Knowledge is not bad, but disobedience always is. It took both man AND woman to complete the first sin. The eyes of Adam and Eve were not opened until Adam ate of the forbidden fruit.

5. Original Sin

Original sin is not a cosmic strike on the blackboard of heaven which we have at birth and, thus, are condemned to hell. We are not guilty of the first sin, but we do suffer the consequences. The consequence is death. Death is like a disease which we do inherit. Thus, we suffer the effects of sin, but are not guilty of any sin but our own. It is like the child born of a crack addicted mother. The child will be addicted to crack as well, through no fault of his/her own.

6. The Work of Christ

One of the chief works of Christ was accomplished in the Incarnation. He did not do this merely to have an unblemished, human sacrifice, but possibly planned to do it in any case that the stuff of Earth, apart from just being "good", might be divinized through the union with God. We are all called to the Mount of Transfiguration, that we might be glorified as Christ was. This was always the purpose of God.

The second work of Christ was His Crucifixion. Through His death He, being the deathless God, killed death. Through His death we are freed from the curse. We also experience cleansing and healing from
Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!
The chief lesson that we learn is that this goal was achieved through the obedience of Christ. He followed the very difficult path set before Him by His Father. Likewise, though we may not understand the path, we must obey. Disobedience, as always, leads to death.

7. The Nature of God in Relation to Sin

God is like a fire, albeit one with a Personality. The Love of God and the Wrath of God are all the same. Light obliterates darkness by its very nature. Hydrogen Peroxide obliterates infection by its very nature. Heat obliterates cold by its very nature. God obliterates all that is not-good by His very nature. It is partially for this reason that He made the world. Creation not only reveals God, but also hides God so that, if we wish, we may doubt His existence. In this way, He gives us freedom to choose or reject Him. However, those who hate God, when they find themselves fully in his presence, will experience a love they can neither escape nor accept. Hell, then, is either the full Presence of God or full Separation of God. One is all Love and the other is all Mercy.

8. The Law

Christ summarized the entirety of the Law as follows:
Love the Lord your Godwith all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
God is Love and His Law is Love.

9. The Church

Christ established the Apostles as the head of the Church. They have passed this authority, and the keys, to their successors (bishops) through the ages. Nevertheless, wherever "two or more are gathered" in the name of Christ, He is there and there is the Church.

Authority rests not in the Holy Scriptures (never "the Word" for only Christ is the Word), nor only in the Bishops (including the Pope), nor in the Councils; but the people of God. This is how God works. All is a joint work between Him and us, fallible though we are. In the same way that Adam and Eve had to sin together and in the same way that the New Adam and the New Eve worked together to reverse the curse; so the Groom and the Bride work together. All authority rests with the Groom, with Christ, but He has given it to His Bride and chooses to work through Her.

10. Faith, Works, Love and Obedience

It has been said we are justified through Faith and sanctified through Works. This denotes a focus on Justification/Salvation. There is no Faith without Works. Both are subsets of Love. If we Love God, we will have Faith. If we love God, we will show it with our Works. Peter loved Jesus and thus stepped out of the boat confident that he would walk on water. Christ says, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." Obedience is the sign of Love, Faith and Works. The Son loved the Father and obeyed Him. If we love Christ, we will obey Him regardless of whether we are justified or sanctified. Salvation is a by-product of Love and Obedience.

11. Sin

Sin is disobedience. Sin is lack of love. Sin is anything less than perfection. Sin is missing the mark. Sin is us moving away from God. Sin is death. Sin is breaking relationships.

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