Dear Kirk, Dear John,
Maybe you guys say this over there as well, but as we say over here, this thread is "pretty cool." We are able to effortlessly move from topic to topic under the umbrella of a Generous Orthodoxy, and as we consider the love of God, the judgment of God--the mercy of God, and now the eschaton there is a very good dynamic present, one that I appreciate very much.
I fully agree with your suggestion, Kirk, that to the degree that we judge ourselves God judges us. I don't have time to dig it out and develop it now; but, there is a passage in Romans 1 that demonstrates this (especially when looked at in the Greek). To the degree that we turn to God or turn away from Him, to this degree, God turns to us. But, to be fair, there are just as many verses in the Holy Writ that suggest a predetermination or an election, as there are verses that suggest that salvation is conditional and based on our belief or unbelief. So what are you going to do? What is one to do with this? When I was in seminary, I used to argue more on the side of free-will. I attended a hyper Calvinistic school. After some classes were over for the day, in the halls, I can remember on more than one occasion the upperclassmen coming up to me and saying, "Man, what are you doing in this school?" But, back then, I was happy to present my verses and argue the traditional Weslyan type of soteriology as if I was right and all who disagreed with me were wrong. During these days, the Calvinist's were happy to break out there verses and parrot things from there 'side' as well. Usually, in the end, there was nothing but the end. I would be branded/labeled and Arminian, a Pelagian, or a semi-Pelagian, and I would return the favor to 'them.' But, at the end of the day, it was all just a big charade, a play that had been acted out many many times before there and elsewhere, one that would be acted out again and again. In fact, it was at that school that St. John Cassian was held up as a heretic of the semi-Pelagian order, and used as the wrong view as contrasted to St. Augustine. And, it was there that I learned to love Cassian and saw that he held to the same view that I did, which was one of a middle way, a Royal Path.
I wonder if any here are familiar with the Royal Path as presented in Orthodoxy? Possibly, this would be a good avenue for us to explore and research and learn more of. From my limited exposure to the Royal Path as expounded by various Orthodox writers the Royal Path is perfectly parallel to a Generous Orthodoxy--if not the very same path! Discretion is a huge element here.
But, like soteriology, eschatology can be viewed from different places and planes. But, in the end, at the end of the day, what can we be dogmatic about? Well, one response to this question is, 'we can be dogmatic about exactly the same things that the Church and the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church is dogmatic about!!! Yes sir I heard that, you tell em Bobby Ray! I heard that--that ain't no lie!
Umm . . . okay. Or, we could take the view as quoted from Bishop Ware's book "The Inner Kingdom" in the last chapter titled "Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All?" where another is quoted as saying (as I remember it): "The one who does not believe in a universalism through Christ is as a dumb ox; however, the one who teaches it is as a dumb [censored]."
Or, we could take one or the other views on each side of the isle.
As, for me, I have a leaning towards the above quote. But, the Church does not teach a universalism through Christ, as John has said, so neither would I presume to do such a thing in any fashion. However, there is a theology of hope, that says none of us know for sure what is meant when God says in the End, all things will be created new. Just as I do not know of any who presume to understand fully the process of Salvation, there is a common way of knowing involved here that again, I think, takes us back in our journey to the Royal Path. I do know some folks who can be very dogmatic and very loud about their own personal beliefs as it relates to the doctrine of salvation the doctrine of the end times, and chances are so do you! Especially, when these folks are gathered together with other like minded folks, things can really get fired up (viz. I heard that, that ain't no lie, if it ain't broke don't fix it!). But, all that mob mentality aside, that epistemology and state of being aside . . . who would presume to know the ways of God, the depths and the riches, the wisdom or the knowledge of God as it relates to such things as the love of God, the judgment of God, and the mercy of God! Who is this one?
I would like to suggest that this is the same one who does not walk the way of the Royal Path. This is the same one who thinks 'he has known the mind of the Lord and has become His counselor as if he has first given to the Lord that it might be paid back to him again.' And, it appears I am ending on a negative note today, but that's okay. Sometimes the "happy--clappy" really does just miss the mark in such discussions, and indeed is not an aid to the transforming and renewing of the mind, but a seductive sedative that renders one incapable of 'proving what is good and acceptable and perfect.' I am a big fan of the Greek word dokimaso or the infinitive dokimazien. In the former this translates, "I prove, I examine, I try, I test" in the latter "to prove, to examine, to test, etc." This word is all over the New Testament. We are commanded to dokimazien. You are commanded to prove what the will of God is and I am commanded to prove what the will of God is, and this is by means of a transformed mind, a renewing of your mind through a personal relationship with Christ--the path of Christ. Whereby we know that from Him and through Him and to Him are all things--He is the All in All. And, knowing there is a mood that starts to come into view that is anti-Christian, it is anti-Christ. And, this is something that we are commanded to recognize by testing the spirit of what is said. (I John 4:1). We are to dokimazein for ourselves, we are to be sober and alert--vigilant. We are not to succumb to the spirit of this world regardless of the clothing it presents itself to us in. Regardless of the building or the decor, we are not to be conformed to this world. So there is a balance to be sure, one I think can be spoken of in terms of the Royal Path of Orthodoxy or as we are now, a Generous Orthodoxy.
And, we are still dancing around the edges of a more clear view of what we are talking about as it relates to the previously mentioned eros and agape discussion which God willing we will move towards in the near future.
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;