Dear Rick, Dear Kirk,
I am put in mind here of this from the Catholic Epistle of St. James:
Quote:1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
1:14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
1:15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
How true that in our desire to escape the consequences of our own actions we will seek to blame God and/or the Devil. St. James guides us aright in what follows:
Quote:1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
1:24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.
1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world
How often do we hear but fail to 'do', or fail to give God the credit when we 'do'; how like us to be quick to blame but slow to give credit.
And yet, in all of this come a question about 'the self'. Often I read in Orthodox sources about the need to annihilate the 'self', to 'crucify' it, to subdue it, to 'break' it. The usual references here are to Matthew 16:24:
Quote:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
and the similar comments at Mark 18:24 and Luke 9:23, or Paul's injunction in Romans 8:13 that
Quote:For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
But is the injunction here to 'break' or 'annihilate' that self, or, with His help, to guide it aright to do His will? I sometimes wonder if there may not be elements of Manichean/Gnostic tendencies in the extreme distaste for the self and the flesh manifested in some Orthodox writings; are we not made in His image and for Him?
At times, in some of the Russian writings with which I am familiar, I fear that the difference between the broken self and cultic brainwashing may not always be discernible. It is the broken and contrite heart which God does not despise, surely?
But maybe I stray too far here?
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)