|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||About God|
The meaning of “Love” has become obscure. Why?
Article by V.Malcev in the
Orthodox Newspaper "Orthodox Saint Petersburg"
in the Orthodox Newspaper "Orthodox Saint Petersburg"
Towards the end of the 19th century, the profound philosopher theologian Konstantin Leontiev noticed the emergence of a so-called 'pink' Christianity, which he described as the pre-Revolution position of the then intellectuals, the intelligentsia, which posed the question: “Fear of God? What fear? Why? Isn’t God supposed to be LOVE AND ONLY LOVE?” In fact, there are even representatives of the priesthood who have thoughtlessly regarded and characterized the “fear of God” as an indicator of semi-literacy. But the Lord has judged otherwise. Thus, the blessed Hieromonks of the Optina cave gave their blessing to K. Leontiev to continue with his study of “rose-coloured Christianity”, which promotes only love.
During the era of K. Leontiev “rose-coloured” Christianity had appeared mainly in the exo-ecclesiastic circles of the intelligentsia. In our days however, it has begun to appear in ecclesiastic circles also. The spiritual trend that expresses itself with the phrase “God is only love and never a judge” has unfortunately achieved a victorious course in the earthly world. “Rose-coloured” Christianity wants us to have a pompous love inside us, without self-sacrifice towards God, without controlling our passions, without our self-denial or our “fear” (awe and respect) of God. Such an easy, sentimental, humanistic love is being offered, NOT with the participation of the Holy Spirit, but with the participation of the... opposing spirit. This trend towards a “rose-coloured” Christianity can be regarded as a state attributed to man’s Fall, from which springs our desire for a religion that gives us ONLY love, happiness and joy - today - and ONLY here, in our earthly life.
Saint Paisios of Svetogorec gave the following interpretation for this “rose-coloured Christianity”: “People want to be able to sin continuously, but at the same time have a “kind little God”, Who will constantly forgive them, while they continue sinning. That is, they can continuously do whatever they want, and because of His infinite love, God will always forgive them, thus they can continue to live with their ego, their injustices, sinfully and with no guilty conscience, without trying to change, without any true repentance - as the word of God asks of us - and without asking for His grace with prayers and with self-awareness.” '
Thus, very slowly, another kind of Christianity has been born, in which the bases of the Orthodox faith are silently smothered, while the overall spirit is being defiled and distorted to the point of rendering unrecognizable the true meaning of the word ‘love’.
The contemporary “rose-coloured Christian” has the following characteristic symptoms-indicators:
1) A willing defence of love, but an absolute silence regarding the judgment of God and the Second Coming
2) Vagueness regarding Dogmatics – instead, a pluralism of dogmas
3) Loss of the absolute, Revelatory truth, from within the position that this, that, and the other are all truths. The truth is perceived only as a pluralistic synthesis of various relative and individual literal formulations.
4) Lack of understanding – or the absence of knowledge - of spiritual living.
5) Exchanging a personal ascetic life with an intense, daily, extrovert way of life.
6) Denial of any ascetical ecclesiastic experience and living, which gradually bring man to Divine Grace and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.
The result of all the above is that genuine sanctity – the kind that is attained only through ecclesiastic, Christian worship - is degraded (and in fact mockingly), descending to the degree of a humanistic “morality”, and to the degree of “nice” human sentiments, which do not require the fear of God, nor humility or obedience.
Many Orthodox faithful fervently support the position that “God is only benevolent and is NOT a judge; He is only love and nothing more”. They ignore the word of God, the word of the Gospels, and the word of the Holy Fathers.
Today, more than ever before, people are provoked into accepting this position of “rose-coloured Christianity”. Deep down, this position is agreeable to many, thus, when we go to church, it is not for the forgiveness of our sins, nor for a prudent, pious way of life for the sake of our Christ, His teachings and His commandments, but only to expect His love and His tolerance – which of course do exist – except that this shows we are inclined to demand His Love the way we want it or the way we think it should be.
On another note, regarding the idea that “God is only love and He punishes no-one”, it would be very interesting if we could discuss this suggestion with the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah! But I wonder where they are and what happened to them?
From the very creation of the world, up until the terrible Day of Judgment, God is - and will always be - not only Love, but also a Judge. That is why His Judgment is not unfairly called “terrible”. Besides, wasn’t God’s first act of judgment the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden?
According to our logic, a person who loves will accept his/her beloved the way he/she is, and will not demand him/her to change. A person similarly assumes that God will not judge his/her sins and therefore there is no need to feel the need to obey His teaching, solely out of fear. With a single prayer addressed to Him, God will supposedly become Love and will receive me in His Heavenly Kingdom.
Some people think that everything can be solved through logic. There are even certain preacher theologians, who are of the opinion that everything is permissible, and who in fact stress that without defending love, while altogether suppressing the terrible day of God's Judgment, their mission (the initiation into Christianity) could not be achieved (!!). Such a cosmopolitan style of Christianity - a pseudo-Christianity without a clear doctrine, but with only the preaching of love, and without the preaching of respect towards God and obedience to His commandments with awe - can only escalate the eradication of the faith.
A Christianity such as this is guilty before Christ; because then, it would be meaningless for one to want to pray to God, since “rose-coloured Christianity” recognizes only the one aspect of the gospel teaching of Christ - that of Love – while omitting the aspect of confession, repentance, forgiveness, obedience, the struggle to stamp out passions and the acknowledgement of man’s sinfulness.
Konstantin Zaytsev wrote: “When our secular history comes to an end and only God remains, and with Him will remain those who will remain in the bosom of God, at God’s mercy, only then will love remain, because everything else will have been abolished. In fact, even our loftiest Christian virtues of Faith and Hope will also be abolished**, for they will no longer have any purpose in relation to the “agreement” between God and man for the realization of the Kingdom of God. The true and genuine Christian love and not the sentimentally “rose-coloured” humanistic one will be the perfect ladder of spiritual ascent (the rise) towards theosis, our ultimate goal.”
Father George Belandurov from the city of Dvir notes: 'There is no doubt that God loves man, since He sent his only-begotten Son for our salvation.” But then, how should we interpret the well-known word of God that “Whom I love, I also educate” – which also displays divine love towards man? Well, isn’t God's providence a form of Judgment, inasmuch as it "warns" us every day, by sending us successes, hopes and joys, but also sorrows, illnesses, distresses and deaths?
Even so, His charities are so bounteous, that we ought to thank Him and glorify Him; and yet, most of the time we neglect to give thanks and praises to Him.
If we do not live Christianically, spiritually, we will be unable to perceive God’s Providence.
That is why we have no doubt that every single person will undergo His supreme Judgment, since He Himself has said so; but even so, is it ever possible for God’s judgment to take place without His love? Impossible!
So… will everyone enter the Heavenly Kingdom? Both the good and the wicked? The benefactors, the merciful and the generous, together with the greedy, the ungenerous, and the gluttons? The exploiters, the hard-hearted, the criminals and all the unrepented? Of course not! It is not possible, there, in the Kingdom of Heaven, for justice and love NOT to exist! The Lord Himself had made this clear.
May the name of the Lord be forever glorified.
Translation : A.N.
Article published in English on: 30-07-2018.
Last update: 30-07-2018.