The prolific Eastern Orthodox priest and blogger again has posted some thought-provoking material, this time decrying the notion of any progress in the Christian life (see “You;re Not Doing Better” and the follow-up post, “Why Sin is Not a Moral Problem” to read his pieces and the interesting conversations that follow).
It seems that there is almost a notion of original – and not just “ancestral” – sin in what Father Freeman talks about. Also, what about this common view that the Eastern Orthodox believe that certain saints do, in fact, attain perfection in this life?
But I digress. Let me get to the things that I want to talk about.
Among other things, Father Freeman said:
“My reward is not my “not doing x.” My reward is Christ.”
Here is the question I asked:
“Father – on the one hand I like the way you put this. Mary over Martha! That said, with Christ as our reward is it not our joy to not only hurt our neighbors less, but to genuinely love* them more – is this not the kind of love that Paul urges us to strive for? Is that not true morality and progress?”
That truly spiritual notion of progress (“How am I doing?” you ask? Maybe you can identify with the transformation failure I often feel**) can be contrasted with a more worldly notion of progress.
With the worldly notion of progress, it is all about discovering “what works” in the world and putting it into practice. And as the Lutheran layperson Beverly Yanke put it, life is all about “what I do for myself by myself to enrich myself”. Not just so that we can pleasure and serve myself of course (though some persons ultimately do end up doing this), but so that I can work towards a “common good” that I imagine and construct with other like-minded “souls”, as opposed to the good being something we somehow discover is real. This, it seems to me, is more the notion of progress that Father Freeman is attacking – and of course some promoting this notion have tried desperately to leave the divine out of the picture (even as this is inevitably impossible)
For more thoughts about this highly secularized form of worldliness (where secular means leaving a personal God out of the picture, not just “pertaining to the world”), you can see my post, The “upside” of being a gadget, or, we are all acting like atheists now.
*There is a “first article” (of the Apostle’s Creed, which can be broken up into three articles) kind of love in all human beings – i.e. love that is a residue or continual fallout from creation itself, by the Creator who is love. This kind of love for neighbor, although something you certainly would like to have in a neighbor (as opposed to the alternatives!), is severely deficient because a) it is not bolstered and informed by an underlying love for the Triune God, and hence its ultimate hope and expression is not the salvation of the whole world – i.e. people’s rescue and growth in eternal life, that is, knowing God through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3), and b) a lack of purity or holiness in fulfilling this love – which of course is supposed to flow through us unhindered from God and for our neighbor.
The believer in Christ, on the other hand, lacks the love they should have in the sense of b) above (not a) But they know God as He reveals Himself to us in Christ, that is, as the friend of sinners who do not love as they ought.
**Yes, there are times in my life when I do feel – against my better judgment – that what one Lutheran Pastor recently tweeted is the only thing that can be said about God’s law: “When the Law is held up to us like a mirror, it doesn’t compel us to do more better. It simply says, ‘Shut up. You’ve done enough damage.'”
Picture of Robot hand and human hand created taken from the cover of this book: http://www.amazon.com/Robot-Builder-Beginners-Building-Robots/dp/0789751496/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418218259&sr=1-1&keywords=Robot+builder