Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Basis for Union with God: Love not Intellect

Some Protestant theologians see the Word as the only means of divine revelation. They say it was intended for our intellect. But this is a sign of a person distinct from us rather than one in union with us.  This view explains their emphasis on Bible study and their denigration of the sacraments and all that is considered mystical. It is a denial of Orthodox spirituality. This view implies the Word does not have a spiritual task. But we all sense there is more than an intellectual understanding of God. We sense that there is something beyond an intellectual understanding. We seek and yet cannot completely know. The reality is that the Word of God impacts us in a dynamic way. It was intended for the soul and not just the intellect. The Word awakens faith in us. This demonstrates that there is a direct relationship involved between us and the Word. Our Church Fathers do not limit us to only an intellectual dimension of the mind but speak of the "feeling of the mind and our relationship with God."


Fr. Dimitru tells us,
"The Fathers of the Church when they speak of the "feeling of the mind," assert a direct contact of the mind with the spiritual reality of God, not a simple knowledge of Him from a distance. Its something like the "understanding" of a person with whom you are in contact.
In seeking this spiritual union we do not imply that we will ever assume the divine substance of God. We are His creation, creatures.


Fr. Dimitru also says,
On the other hand, our creatureliness implies the sovereignty of God.  It makes our transformation into a divine substance impossible, no matter how close we get to Him.  Our approach to God, our uplifting to an understanding of Him, can only be realized if God Himself clothes us with the things proper to Him; but even if we are penetrated by His power, we can't shed our created nature.  Our nature can't become uncreated: We become gods by grace, not by nature.
We can conclude from this that our link to Him must be established on the basis of a personal relationship. This begins with a spiritual encounter with Him. He must reveal His nature to us.


We can use the analogy of knowing our neighbor.  We cannot know the inner nature our neighbor by our own initiative.  For us to truly know them, they must reveal themselves to us on their own initiative.  Normally this is revealed in inverse proportion to the aggressive acts we take to know them. The more we demand they tell us, the less likely they will reveal their inner personhood to us.  We must first show our own vulnerability and humility for a relationship to develop. This is how it is with God. We can't know Him unless He reveals himself to us. We should not have any fears about losing our identity in this process. Just like in our developing a relationship with our neighbor as we develop a relation sip with God and find union with Him, we do not lose our own identity. It is with humility and love that we allow Him to reveal Himself to us.


Fr. Dimitru says,
The spiritual Christian adopts this affirmation of supreme humility, but likewise of supreme daring:"I am man, but I live as God, by what God has givine me; I am man, but I an on God's level by the grace with which He has been pleased to cloth me..." This reflects the expression of Apostle Paul: "I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20).
As in a relationship between two people, it is love that is central to our union with God. We must not make the mistake of only trying to know God intellectually.  We must cultivate a loving relationship.


Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp 30 - 39.

3 comments:

  1. Hi,

    these opening comments jar with my spirit -
    "Many Protestant theologians see the Word as the only means of divine revelation. They say it was intended for our intellect. But this is a sign of a person distinct from us rather than one in union with us. This view explains their emphasis on Bible study and their denigration of the sacraments and all that is considered mystical."
    - they seem harsh and divisive, maybe you could expand or reference them as to the source?

    ps I don't see myself on either side.

    blessings George

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  2. Maybe the word 'Some" would be better than "many." The rejection of some is of any union of God because it implies in their view a total identification with God and therefore pantheisitic. But the Orthodox teaching is a middle ground that rejects both identification and absolute separation. Orthodox teach that we can be united with His energies but not partake of His essence.
    Dimitru Staniloae says,
    "The word God used to create the world, as a manifestation of His will, was in some way an expression of power. God did not mix His power with the nature of the world. Nevertheless without the descent of His power in the nothingness from which He took it, it couldn't have bee produced and without the presence of His power around it and even in the immediate intimacy of everything in it, the world wouldn't be able to sustain itself and develop. Without the power of God, in the final and analysis, the world would be reduced to the nothingness which has no power,whatsoever to sustain it.... Thus everything in the world has ultimately within it the immediate presence of a working God.
    By this working power each of us from the beginning find ourselves in a immediate "union" with Him; due to it we exist and we develop.
    The attainment of this union, Christian spirituality teaches, is only by gradual growth and an understanding of it by the consciousness. Does man have this capability? The holy Fathers say yes: It requires the cleansing of the soul and the mind from worldly preoccupation."

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  3. I think what I enjoy in Orthodox teaching is the sense that my relationship with God can be at a 'heart' level. The intellectual approach often leaves me with a sense of guilt which I don't need as I am well aware of my failings day to day as it is.

    Thanks for your blog.

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