Left Behind: The Mark Review–Part 3
On pages 147-8 we read:
It may be hard to recognize God’s mercy when his wrath is also intensifying. Woe to those who believe the lie that God is only “love.”
Yes, he is love. And his gift of Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin is the greatest evidence of this.
But the Bible also says God is “holy, holy, holy.” He is righteous and a God of justice, and it is not in his nature to allow sin to go unpunished or unpaid for.
But what does Orthodoxy believe about God as love, wrath, justice?
First of all, the reason for the Cross is a bit different. God is seen as impassive: That is, he’s not stirred to strong passions for evil in the same way we humans are, passions which drive us to defend ourselves or our good name at the expense of rational thinking or love or justice.
He does not hate sinners, as demonstrated when Christ spent so much time with sinners. He hates sinful deeds–those are what condemn a soul.
And when the Bible speaks of his wrath, that “wrath” is actually the way sinners experience his love and sense of justice–you know, just as with a parent and child.
A good parent loves the child, protects him, and tells him not to do things because they will hurt him, make things difficult for the parent changing his diaper, or will hurt someone else. But the child does not like being told no, and will act up.
The parent disciplines, but not to upset the child or be a tyrant, though the child thinks so. This is corrective discipline and loving.
The use of the word “wrath” was not meant to be literal, but something that the writers and readers of the Bible could understand. It basically means “consequences.” Redemption redeems us from sin’s consequences; it heals our spiritually diseased condition.
(You’ll find my sources here.)
From The River of Fire by Alexandre Kalomiros:
This paganistic conception of God’s justice which demands infinite sacrifices in order to be appeased clearly makes God our real enemy and the cause of all our misfortunes.
Moreover, it is a justice which is not at all just since it punishes and demands satisfaction from persons which were not at all responsible for the sin of their forefathers.
In other words, what Westerners call justice ought rather to be called resentment and vengeance of the worst kind. Even Christ’s love and sacrifice loses its significance and logic in this schizoid notion of a God who kills God in order to satisfy the so-called justice of God.
…The word DIKAIWSUNH,”justice”, is a translation of the Hebraic word tsedaka. This word means “the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation”.
It is parallel and almost synonymous to the other Hebraic word, hesed which means “mercy”, “compassion”, “love”, and to the word, emeth which means “fidelity”, “truth”.
This, as you see, gives a completely other dimension to what we usually conceive as justice. This is how the Church understood God’s justice. This is what the Fathers of the Church taught of it.
“How can you call God just”, writes Saint Isaac the Syrian, “when you read the passage on the wage given to the workers? ‘Friend, I do thee no wrong; I will give unto this last even as unto thee who worked for me from the first hour. Is thine eye evil, because I am good?'”
“How can a man call God just”, continues Saint Isaac, “when he comes across the passage on the prodigal son, who wasted his wealth in riotous living, and yet only for the contrition which he showed, the father ran and fell upon his neck, and gave him authority over all his wealth?
“None other but His very Son said these things concerning Him lest we doubt it, and thus He bare witness concerning Him. Where, then, is God’s justice, for whilst we were sinners, Christ died for us!”
So we see that God is not just, with the human meaning of this word, but we see that His justice means His goodness and love, which are given in an unjust manner, that is, God always gives without taking anything in return, and He gives to persons like us who are not worthy of receiving.
That is why Saint Isaac teaches us: “Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in the things concerning you. And if David calls Him just and upright, His Son revealed to us that He is good and kind. ‘He is good,’ He says, ‘to the evil and impious.'”
God is good, loving, and kind toward those who disregard, disobey, and ignore Him. He never returns evil for evil, He never takes vengeance.
His punishments are loving means of correction, as long as anything can be corrected and healed in this life. They never extend to eternity.
He created everything good. The wild beasts recognize as their master the Christian who through humility has gained the likeness of God. They draw near to him, not with fear, but with joy, in grateful and loving submission; they wag their heads and lick his hands and serve him with gratitude.
The irrational beasts know that their Master and God is not evil and wicked and vengeful, but rather full of love. (See also St. Isaac of Syria, SWZOMENA ASKHTIKA [Athens, 1871], pp. 95-96.)
He protected and saved us when we fell. The eternally evil has nothing to do with God. It comes rather from the will of His free, logical creatures, and this will He respects.
Lots more good stuff is in that article.
To be continued.