It's very much a part of Orthodox theology, as y'all know from your extensive past experiences in Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy, that God is not only a God of compassion and mercy towards mankind, but also of justice and wrath.
Yes. I do not think any honest reading of OT scripture can deny the centrality of justice, righteousness, and wrath. The question, as always, has been how to reconcile this view of God with the more compassionate and merciful version without caricaturizing God as either a schizophrenic or as a very powerful pagan-type diety prone to human faults. It is in the gap between this caricature and the claim that "God is One" that doubt grows for many.
These categories however--"compassion and mercy" and "justice and wrath"--are primarily played out in mankind's perception of God's unchanging nature and will, instead of actual, separate "character traits" God objectively puts on at various times ("Great; now He's happy...$#!+; now He's pissed," etc.).
Yes. That sounds closer to my (albeit limited) understanding of Orthodox views on how we are to experience heaven, hell, and final judgement. When standing naked before the awesomeness of the Lord, our perception is colored by our state of spiritual purity. Just to check: Is this understanding correctly Orthodox?
Whether we like it or not in 21st Century western civilization, there is a God out there who is going to bring His will to pass, when all's said and done. The two things I know will be abundantly clear to us on the Last Day are these:
- The will of God is that we would come in line with His way of thinking (ie, repent) and be saved from our destructive selves. This is what He wants us to do, and it is ultimately for our benefit, even though it feels like it really sucks to deny oneself, take up our cross and follow Him. We do that, though, and we come out better for it.
- The ultimate reckoning of His judgement--which will really just be Him revealing what we've already made of ourselves with the time we've been given--will be fair and just, with each person feeling the joy or torment his or her life has yielded upon coming into contact with pure righteousness.
Reality bites! (How very 90's of me, oh my!)
Seriously though, to stand before the Ultimate utterly without recourse or place to hide is the scariest of things to contemplate for anyone. Is it any wonder we run to the shadows at every opportunity? We are perpetually afraid of being caught with our hand in the cookie jar, and our imagination of the Father's wrath makes us blind to His love and forgiveness. What parent would not instantly forgive his or her child if the child came and admitted weakness. "Daddy and Mommy I'm sorry I couldn't resist and I want your help!" And what child would not, upon receiving such forgiveness and being swept into the loving embrace of the parents, be transported instantly to a state of ecstacy?
So what was the fire and brimstone of Sodom? Well, the perception in the OT (and in some of the NT!) was that it was God "getting pissed off" (that's mad, not drunk for my brethren across the ponds) at the insolence of those evil homosexuals et al and destroying them in the cruelest way possible. What do we see that fire as in the light of Christ? God's presence Himself--the same presence that filled Solomon's temple and was received with thanksgiving and glory.
Indeed, if God came down right now I would probably self-combust in shame before such reality and glory. Certainly in the OT in those instances when God did appear, even benevolently, such as the burning bush, people naturally recoil, shield their eyes, etc. However, there may be some problem with this view that I'd like to explore.
Let's take the traditional conception of the person as two natures, mortal body (the natural) and immortal soul (the supernatural). The body is a vessel for the soul, and they conjoin at conception and grow together through life. At death the body dissolves and the soul continues in whatever state it was in at death.
Now if we apply your theory in the case of the inhabitants of Soddom (Lot and company excluded), the people there had souls so darkened by sin that standing bodily before the presence of the Lord resulted in the people willfully discarding their own bodies rather than stand before the Lord God? That seems to be what your are arguing. It might be an answer but I'm trying to understand the mechanics of what you are proposing.
So that's the more supernatural dealings in the OT--what about the flood and the armies of Israel? A bit trickier for me, that's for sure, but the same principle applies. God has a certain way He'd have us be and live; when a people group was not only defying that within themselves but also threatening those who were being obedient (at the time, anyways) and whom God had chosen to bring salvation to the souls of mankind, He executed His will, and those who were contrary to Him were struck down.
See above. The flood is much trickier imho, since it is a case where the Lord actually admitted he was wrong (thus the Rainbow Covenant), making it much harder to say God wasn't actively
punishing humanity for their sins. Are you saying that God just decided to appear before all humanity except those shielded with the ark, and all those sinful souls perceived
God's presence as a flood? Or did the waters actually rise? We seem to be back to actual judgement and wrath it seems.
There is this aspect of God; one day we will stand before Him and He will show us what we are. Insofar as we have allowed Him to change and guide us, we will be Solomon's temple. Insofar as we have rebelled against Him in hatred towards Him and our neighbor, we will be Sodom. Nothing will stop this, as it is the only way that the truth--about who God is, about what we have become in light of the time and the mercy that He has given us, though neither be infinite, temporally speaking--will finally prevail in the cosmos. I do indeed lament that, at least intellectually, y'all can't reconcile yourselves to this. I would actually ask for whatever prayers y'all may still give (I would understand if you don't, given your current stances on things), as well as those of anyone else reading this thread, since, though I may subscribe to this idea of unchanging divine revelation as the purgatory of judgement, my life (of course) does not reflect said attitude put into practice--I'm not prepared, iow. God have mercy, for there is some Sodom yet in me.
Indeed I find this view very appealing, but there are still problems with it when you try to apply it to specific scriptual descriptions of God's acts. I'm prepared to accept an awful lot of mystery about God's true character, but any explanations offered have to try to account for all scriptural references to the Lord's acts so as to transcend apparent schizophrenia.
Hope this has helped...
Yes. It has gotten the discussion back to where it should be, at least for me.