Dr. Sergey Zagraevsky
NEW CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY
original was published in Russian: ALEV-V Publishing House,
So, we have understood that the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures” have no basis in the Holy Scripture and are completely unacceptable for contemporary people.
We have also become convinced that we are “one in being” with Christ. If he is a god, then we are gods. If we are created, then he is created.
In righteousness, we and Christ primordially are also in absolutely same conditions.
So, we have done a considerable step forward: all that we know about Jesus of Nazareth is applicable to each of us. I accentuate – to each, exclusively by the right of the birth.
And we know much enough about Christ, and this will help us to understand the main thing: who we are, where we are from and where we are going.
Let us repeat once more: if Jesus is a god, then we are gods. If he is a human, then we are human.
There are two variants. Which one to choose?
But, may be, it is possible to think out something uniting?
Such attempts were done many times, and “Godmanhood” of Vladimir Solovyov is remembered firstly.
But I must say: I can agree neither with Vladimir Solovyov nor with somebody else, when the Orthodox term “Godman” (furthermore “Godmanhood”) is used in any other context than the dogma of the Chalcedon Council of 451 (two natures, without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated). There are intellectual property rights and elementary scientific honesty.
That is why, speaking about “Godmanhood”, we have to acknowledge two different persons in every human, and that, as we saw, is absurd.
Of course, it is possible to avoid this problem, having thought out something like “Mangodhood”, but that are only the words. The question is, who we are, where we are from and where we are going. And how to call our nature – that is not so important.
Firstly, let us remember the key quotes of the Holy Scripture about that:
“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Gen. 3:22).
“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes” (Ps. 82:6-7).
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
“Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you” (2 Cor. 4:14).
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4).
“Wherefore, holy brethern, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Hebr. 3:1).
The question, who we are, where we are from and where we are going, has three parts, and I propose to begin from the third (the most complicated, because it concerns future), – where we are going.
In view of that, it is necessary to remember firstly the words of Apostle John: “Gave he power to become the sons of God” (John 1:13).
Let us note that the literal interpretation of these words is tightly connected with the well-known theologian school of the 8th century – Adoptionism. Its main postulate was that Christ was the Son of God only “by adoption”.
Adoptionism actually repeated the teaching of deposed Patriarch Nestorius that Christ was born as a common human and then was “adopted” by God. And after Jesus, as Adoptians considered, each of us has the possibility to be “adopted” by God.
However paradoxically, Seraphim Rose (1934–1982), the well-known celibate priest of the American Orthodox Diocese, was an Adoptionist. For example, he wrote in his book “Orthodoxy and the religion of future”: “For us, Christians, He (God – S.Z.) is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ by adoption (Eph. 1:5)”.
In actual fact, it is said in Eph. 1:5 about no adoption of Jesus Christ, but about the adoption of people by Jesus Christ, and the detailed characteristics of that adoption is given in next verses of the Epistle of Ephesians. The main idea of Apostle Paul’s concept of adoption is that thanks to Christ we become the spiritual inheritors of God (Eph. 1:11).
I propose not to deepen into the history of theological disputes again, since we have already become sure that we and Christ are “one in being”, and it is not important for us if the dogmatic “God the Son” was born or adopted.
It is important if we are adopted by God. Undoubtedly yes, since Apostles Paul and John (“Gave he power to become the sons of God”) said about that.
But what does it mean in practice?
The Russian historical-theological tradition, speaking about practical aspects of the adoption of people by God, usually uses the term “godifying”. Do you remember how we quoted Karsavin? “From this the necessity to understand a human specially results, exactly – to understand him as a created impersonal substance, similar to God in its indeterminability and inconceivability, and quite self-movable. The sense of a human and created being will open then as his “personalisation” or “godifying” (theosis).”
Even Origen said about possible “godifying” of people, and his teaching was adopted by Athanasius of Alexandria and Basil of Caesaria. As we remember, the latter said: “God became a man for a man became a god”.
Unfortunately, Athanasius and Basil did not make the most logical conclusion of the possibility of “godifying” – that Jesus Christ became the first human who “godified”. In compliance with the dogma of the “Trinity”, they cited the “one in being of the Holy hypostases” as the example of “godifying”.
In other words, they tried to cite abstract concepts as a practical example, and ignored that actual example, which was given to people by Christ (“He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you” – 2 Cor. 4:14).
It is no wonder that soon after Athanasius’ and Basil’s death (already in the times of Augustine), the ideas of “theosis” were left by the Church and replaced by the stereotyped concept of heaven, which is somewhere infinitely far and where a human can come only owing to incognizable God’s grace.
The only exclusion was done for the “theosis” of the “saints”, otherwise their worship and building of temples in honor of them took the frank character of idolatry. For example, John of Damascus wrote: “It is necessary to honor the saints as the frieds of Christ, as the children and inheritors of God... How can we give no worship to the animated temples, animated houses of God?”
Only one and half thousand years later, the official theologians of the Church, and after them the philosophers of the “Russian religious Renaissance”, returned to the possibility of “theosis” of people and used that concept in parallel with the concept of heaven. As in the 4th century, the “Trinity” was cited as an example of the relations of the “godified” people with God. That example as doubtfully solved the problem that many billions of gods turned out, as the “Trinity” itself solved the problem to Polytheism.
The position of Vladimir Lossky, the Russian theologian of the 20th century, is showy: he considered the “Trinity” as “the primordial fact of absolute reality”. By Lossky, a human unites with God, but does not dissolve in the Absolute, preserves his person in a changed form and becomes “a god by the grace”.
But if a human unites with God and at that does not loose his person, then he is in the same relations with God as any hypostase of the “Trinity”!
In this case, the reservation that the new “godified hypostase” is a god by the grace, not by the birth, does not solve the problem of Polytheism. It turns out as a result, that God consists of billions of persons, and that is analogous to the same quantity of separate gods. And if persons unite, the principle of the preservation of the human person at “theosis” is broken.
This contradiction is insoluble.
We are in a narrow sense in a simpler situation: we have shown the groundlessness of the dogma of the “Trinity” and can head not for it. Let us look if “godifying” is acceptable from the point of view of our methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar”.
Of course, formally it is unacceptable – there is one God, and there can be no “godifying” (either after the death or in the life). But there is one practical aspect, which does not let us give up on “theosis” and begin to look for alternatives immediately.
The attempts to bring methods of “mystical contemplation” in the Orthodoxy are known since the early Christian monasticism. It is called “Hesychasm” (Greek “hesychia” – quiteness, silence) and is practiced in some cloisters and church parishes.
The essence of Hesychasm is the following: if one concentrates in a special way, repeats the “Jesus’ prayer” (“Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy upon me, the sinner”) thousands times, fasts and fulfills a number of other instructions, he is capable sooner or later come to the mystical perception of God, Christ, the devil, the “Heaven host” and all other Christian concepts. It is possible to get to know the date of the death, the eternal life, the creation of the world etc. It is possible to heal, to exorcise, to “take the evil eye away”, to conjure demons...
And the main aim of Hesychasm is, as we have already said, the “godifying” of a human in the life, in the flesh, and this is the difference between Hesychasm and medieval Western mysticism, which limits itself only by the tasks of acknowledge of God.
Every hesychast goes to “theosis” by his own way, and there is no common opinion, what happens to a human at that. But it is doubtless that it is an absolutely new level of understanding of the essence of things, and fundamentally new possibilities – spiritual, mental and physical.
Gregory Palamas, the bishop of Thessalonica, “legalized” Hesychasm in 1340s as a practical method of the Orthodox Church. Moreover, even in the first millennium, the practical instructions appeared, how to reach the condition of the mystic acknowledge: how many times to pray, how to breathe, where to look, in which pose to sit... Many of these instructions were included into “Philokalia” (“Love of good”), which was composed by the Greek monks of the 18th century.
There are a number of reasons, why, in spite of the formal inadmissibility of Hesychasm as of actual Polytheism, I can not refuse of this method completely.
Firstly, that is a morally irreproachable method, and our methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar” has to exarticulate just the moral aspect of any problem.
Secondly, there is a theologian basis for Hesychasm – the Transfiguration. As it is well known, Jesus with his disciples raised on the mountain Favor, shined by a miraculous light (Matt. 17:2) and by that gave people the potential possibility to see the Divine light.
Thirdly, the author of this book practiced Hesychastic methods not once, and they, really, give tremendous results. However, I have no right to call myself a Hesychast – the Orthodox Church has all author’s rights for this term, and it is not applicable without the “bishop’s blessing”. But it is impossible to prohibit anyone to live and work in compliance with the recommendations of “Philokalia”.
Fourthly, Hesychasm gives the capability to stand all hardships and sufferings whether it was possible to “godify” or not. For example, Archibishop Antonius Golynsky-Mikhailovsky (1889–1976) survived in Stalin’s camps only thanks to the fact that he was a Hesychast.
Fifthly, even rare and short Hesycastic practice influences health and mind positively. And it would be very good, if people (especially young) read “Jesus’ prayer” instead of knocking about the courses of “magic and healing”.
The problem is another. A religion must be widely available, and Hesychasm is even more elitist than philosophy, and lies also beyond the perception of the overwhelming majority of people.
We have already said that in the contemporary world,
which is far from perfection, any humanist, any Christian (consequently, any
Hesychast) turns out to be surrounded by aggressive “
In due time, this dismal conclusion made us change from the moral imperative to religion, and from philosophy – to theology.
That is why there must be no “1st class tickets” by the way to God. There is one moral imperative, and there is one way to God.
And concerning the Transfiguration, the question arises: didn’t Jesus show the Divine light in a number of other ways? The Word (as the teaching)? The resurrection? And, at last, the Holy Spirit (not as the third god, but as Christian spirituality)? As against Hesychasm, those are really scaled and mass manifestations of the Divine light.
It is natural that the “professional contemplators” –
elder monks from Afon,
There is one more problem: in any mystic contemplation, it is very difficult to separate reality from hallucinations, and truth – from invention. To relieve of this problem, the Church has to base Hesychastic perception on canonical dogmas like the “Trinity” and “two natures”, and to consider everything that does not conform to them as the “devilish delusion”.
So it turns out that Hesychasts see individually very much, but the Church does not let them impart that to other Christians.
And there is no wonder – since the aim of the major Churches is the most effective ruling by the “rank” monks and believers, Hesychasm is more harmful than useful. Any Hesychast gets rid of the “complex of a sinful creature” and goes to “godifying” independently, and how is then possible to rule him?
However, the Church may be patient in this case. Hesychasm is very arduous and accessible for a few people. May be, the capability of people for “godifying” will develop together with the mankind’s development and turning to the moral imperative, but in the meantime this is only a conjecture.
That is why it is possible to say about “godifying”: I would have been “pro”, if it had not led to Polytheism in theory and had not been accessible for a few people in practice.
So where are we going?
Let the phrase, which I am in to tell, sound not gloomily and not hopelessly: we are going to the death of our physical body. In our life this is the only occurrence, which takes place inevitably, and the humanity knows no alternative for it today.
The physical death waits for sinners, and for righteous people, and for criminals, and for Hesychasts.
But the physical body and the person are not the same. And is our person going to the death – that is another question, and Christianity answers it unambiguously, – no. We all are going to “the life of the world to come”.
This position is well known, but far not generally recognized. That is why let us cite the following question: is it possible to prove earnestly the possibility (or even the inevitability) of “the life of the world to come”?
If we had undertaken that proof in the beginning of this book, that would have been very difficult. But we have already understood much, and we are able to cite not one proof, but two. The first proof is theological, the second is philosophic.
The personal example, which was given us by Christ, is the first (theological) proof.
And since we are speaking about the personal example, it is necessary to speak about the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
Analyzing the “main paradox of Christianity”, we have already faced the quite incorrect stereotype of the perception of the person of Christ as of some fanatic dervish, who promised to punish murderers, thieves and corrupt officials in “the life of the world to come” by throwing them into the hellfire, and later to come to the Earth for the second time to punish all alive ones.
We have understood that hell for sinners and heaven for righteous people are interpreted only as spiritual uncompromising. Now let us look if Jesus of Nazareth resembled a fanatic dervish with the unhealthy shine in eyes, who rushed like mad to die on the cross. Then his example, really, had not have any sense.
But Christ was no dervish and no fanatic, but a “very important person” even by contemporary criterions.
Jesus, being even twelve years old, talked in the Jerusalem Temple with wise men, and “all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47).
May be, Jesus’ eyes during his appearances before crowds of people really shined with oratorical fire, otherwise he would not have been able to become a well-known preacher in a short time (one-two years). But the oratorical fire and unhealthy shine are not the same.
And he became so well known preacher, that no minor regional authorities, but Sanhedrim itself occupied with his “case”.
“Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high-priest... And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Matt. 26:3-5).
It is characteristic that Sanhedrim occupied itself even two years before his crucifixion (John 7:32). Could this “honor” be done to a ragged dervish? It is unlikely.
By the way, the “raggedness” of Jesus is one more unfounded stereotype.
Even such minor detail as Jesus’ coat, which was “without seam, woven from the top throughout” (John 19:23), can tell us much. Only well-off people could permit themselves such clothes – it is very difficult to manufacture on a loom a coat, i.e. a long garment of a complicated form, with sleeves.
And Jesus’ garments were neither cheap nor old – do you remember how Roman soldiers after the crucifixion parted them, casting lots? (Matt. 27:35). Then there were garments to be parted, moreover for Romans, who got a good salary.
And the word “dervish” is not applicable to Christ – he was a man with outstanding organizational abilities. He managed to create the serried group of followers, who did not scatter after Jesus’ death and continued his work. The traitor Judah is not counted – such people may be in any organization.
It is often considered that the latter betrayed to Christ for some small coins, and it is also incorrect.
Firstly, thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:15) meant
30 shekels of silver (Ex. 21:32). One shekel weighed
Secondly, the sum could be another – how could Evangelists know the details of a secret deal? Thirty pieces of silver probably appeared in the Gospels as a symbolic fulfillment of the Old Testament’s prophecy (Zech. 11:12-13). But in this case that was also a considerable sum, because in Moses’ times it was paid if an ox had killed a slave (Ex. 21:32), and since Ancient Judaea did not wage scaled offensive wars, slaves cost much.
In each case, Jesus was a serious opponent of Sanhedrim, and “the price of blood” was considerable.
Even the wife of King Herod’s steward “ministered of their substance” to the community headed by Jesus (Luke 8:3) – it is doubtless that the matter concerned considerable finances.
That community had the support also in a number of
cities. For three years if his activity, Jesus traveled over practically the
A great organizational work! In some editions of the
Bible, even the maps of Jesus’ travels by
At that, however paradoxically, Jesus rested upon... publicans. Yes, upon the collectors of taxes – a serious force, which today is called the tax inspection. To all appearance, the Apostle and Publican Matthew was responsible for the relations with that organization.
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Matt. 11:19).
“As Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples” (Matt. 9:10).
Let us think: Jesus “went into the
The social-economical relations did not change globally since that time, and we can say in the firm belief that minor merchants were afraid to resist to “the friend of publicans”, with whom, moreover, was the publican Matthew.
In this case, the unwillingness of Pontius Pilate to
execute Jesus (Matt. 17:24; Mark 15:10; Luke 23:4; John 18:34) is quite
explicable, because the publicans served
A number of disputes are held around the “Shroud of
Turin”, and its authenticity can scarcely be concerned as proved. But if it is
nevertheless authentic, then Jesus’ height was
We have enumerated a number of components of the image of Jesus of Nazareth to understand: if an attractive and well-educated man, a talented and well-known in the country organizer, a brilliant orator died on the cross voluntarily, then it means very much.
Firstly, it is doubtless that Christ understood that his death on a cross, which fulfilled the Old Testament’s prophecy (Is. 53:5), would become a strong motive power of his teaching. Jesus died for his life-work knowingly.
And secondly (and that is the main thing): since Jesus Christ, who is one in being with each of us, resurrected, that is a convincing example for all people and a theological proof for the existence of “the life of the world to come”.
“If there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ not risen” (1 Cor. 15:13).
“Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall rise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you” (2 Cor. 4:14).
That was our first proof, but we are in to understand that it is insufficient.
The point is that all quoted words of Apostle Paul concern only the Christians. And by the example of Christ, we have shown the existence of the resurrection, but not its accessibility to all.
But does every way of life lead to the resurrection? Does resurrection wait also for murderers, thieves and maniacs? It is doubtless that the resurrection of Christ is an example for the true Christians, – but what to do with the Islamic Fundamentalists? Or with the tormentors of “Karamazov’s” child, who, possibly, called themselves the “Orthodox Christians”, but only nominally?
If we had worked in the course of theology of the major Churches, we would have answered this question stereotyped: the latter ones are awaited by the resurrection that God forbid. In other words, by hell.
But we have not paid in due time so much attention to the “main paradox of Christianity” in vain. We have understood that the concept of hell for sinners realizes the Old Testament’s principle of the retribution by evil for evil (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, hell for sins).
Moreover, if we had based on the theological positions of the major Churches, then we would not have been able to speak about Christ’s example at all. “The second hypostase of the Trinity”, “Almighty God the Son” is naturally immortal, and the resurrection of an immortal god can not be an example for people independently upon the extent of their righteousness.
There is one more problem: the resurrection and “the life of the world to come” do not yet mean immortality. May be, “the life of the world to come” will turn out to be even more short than this life, and may be, the real death will come then?
All these problems are very acute, and it is necessary to go out of the limits of theology to solve them. That is why our second proof of the existence, accessibility to all and eternity of “the life of the world to come” is philosophic.
As we have said not once, we accept God as the source of the moral imperative, which is the “tuning fork” of good.
And now let us ask the question: does the moral imperative extend to... God himself?
The medieval stereotypes, which perceive God as a
ruthless punishing dictator, say that it does not extent. Each of us has in
subconsciousness a number of popular expressions like “God has punished”, “God
has sent these disasters to punish us for our sins”, “God, punish
But is such “double-entry” admissible in respect of God and us?
Since the moment, when people received the moral imperative, it is inadmissible. If God has one moral imperative, and we have another, then it contradicts to the Monotheistic postulate that there is only one moral imperative.
It turns out that one of two “moral imperatives” actually is not the moral imperative. Either God is evil or we do not have a moral imperative, and all that contradict to our well-founded basic positions.
Thus, the moral imperative, which was given us by God, extends to God himself completely, which was to be proved.
And since we stand on the Monotheistic position and know that “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12:25), we can not suppose any evil in God. Perfect God, as against the imperfect contemporary society, follows the moral imperative completely.
We have already also said that no murder has relation to good and can not have such relation.
Consequently, we can not consider that in the end of our life God kills all of us.
I think that it is necessary to add to the well-known Descartes’ phrase “God is no deceiver” the phrase “God is no murderer”. Otherwise, the sense of the moral imperative, which was given us by God, disappears.
That is why there may be no death, and there is no death. We all are awaited by the resurrection, “the life of the world to come” and immortality.
“Neither can they die any more: for they are equal to unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36-38).
Thus, God is no murderer. And Jesus Christ showed by his own example that we are awaited by the eternal life.
But what will be in that life?
To understand it at least approximately, it is necessary to remember the words of the Book of Genesis: “The Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken” (Gen. 3:22-23).
I think that it is unnecessary to discuss minutely what is understood as the tilling of the ground, i.e. of the planet called the Earth. That is the growing of potatoes, and the forging of the metal, and the construction, and the publishing of books, and the creation of computer programs, and the upbringing of children, and so on. I consider that the opening up of the space also concerns that, since it takes place firstly in the interests of the earthly civilization.
Let us note that Adam was in
And we face one more paradoxical stereotype of the major Churches: to make a human work honestly, it is customary to attract him by heaven, where after the death he will have an eternal rest under the conditions of an unimaginable bliss.
But if a human worked honestly during his earthly life and got moral and material satisfaction of his labour, will it be pleasant for him to have an eternal rest?
It is unlikely. In the “stereotyped” heaven either the human psychology changes radically (at that to the worse), or people go mad of boredom and idleness there. However, a going mad also means a change of psychology...
In actual fact, we have spoken much how the medieval state Church ruled disfranchised people by means of single-minded interpretations of the Christian teaching. And here we see one more similar situation.
How to make a slave work good, and a soldier fight good, paying them no salary and making for them no normal life conditions? Of course, to promise them the reward after the death in the form of eternal rest and prosperity. Intelligibly, conveniently and, above all, cheaply.
But in our time, when labour, thank God, becomes less and less slavish, we can and must perceive “the life of the world to come” as no eternal idleness, but as a full-fledged and complicated activities in some other world.
All this is well-taken theologically. Adam was made
for the tilling of
So, “there” will be labour, difficulties and problems – and what life can be without them? That is not a life, even if it is “of the world to come”.
Where “the life of the world to come” will be, in the meantime we can only guess.
Possibly, in other dimensions – not in our 4-dimensional “space-time”, but somewhere, for example, between the 7th, 48-th and 110th datum lines.
Or on some planets in other star systems.
Or in the “inaccessible for observation part of the Universe” (as it is well-known, it is inaccessible not because of the weakness of our telescopes, but because of the characteristics of space itself).
Or, possibly, on the Earth – in future. Christ said: “The maid is not dead, but sleepeth” (Matt. 9:24). So, may be, the dead are sleeping now, and in the day of the “Second Coming” (or thank to the science of future) they will wake up?
If a human sleeps, it is not important how long his sleep lasts. The awakening is important.
Jesus also resurrected not immediately, but “in the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures”. The medieval legend says that during the time between the physical death and resurrection he descended into hell and saved the Old Testament’s righteous people, among them Adam and Eve. But it is possible to think out everything, and by the earthly comprehension, Jesus slept at that time.
Who we shall be in “the life of the world to come”, we can also speak only in the form of hypothesis.
Possibly, in accordance with “Apostles’” Creed and the teaching of Nikolaj Fyodorov, we are awaited by the resurrection of flesh – of course, in transformed form, not burdened by illnesses and old age.
Possibly, some non-rationalizable “I” (psyche, character, temperament and other components of our person) will resurrect.
Possibly, Husserl’s “solitary consciousness, which is excluded from the communication”.
Possibly, Descartes’ “thinking substance”.
Possibly, a stereotyped “soul” or even “wish, will,
energy and operations” (the definition of a person according to the 6th
There are very many variants, but if we take the example of Jesus Christ as a basis, then the first one is preferable – the resurrection of flesh.
This resurrection may seem to us incredible today (N.F.Fyodorov was often criticized since, according to his teaching, the dead people would stand up from their graves), but Christ managed to do that! So why will it be impossible for us? Our bodies will have time to decay or will be cremated? But there were no traces of decay at resurrected Jesus. And if his body had been burned, wouldn’t he resurrect?
But in the meantime, these are only suppositions. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12).
In the end of this book, we shall speak if these suppositions will some time become scientific facts. Now we are not yet ready to give prove to our position concerning the cognizability of “the life of the world to come” in principle.
Now we are in to try to answer the following question: shall we turn out in “the life of the world to come” in equal or unequal conditions? Will the quantity and the extent of heaviness of our sins have an influence on that?
We managed to solve the “mail paradox of Christianity”, having refused of hell as of the retribution by evil for evil and interpreting it exclusively symbolically – as the impossibility of spiritual compromises with evil. But there is another important dogma of the major Churches: so called “degrees of bliss of righteous people”.
Actually, why can’t God render for good by good, and for evil – also by good, but in less amount? Good for everyone, but different for different people?
The “Last Judgement” has knocked again into the system of our conclusions, though now it has been “modernized” and has taken the form of the “distribution of prizes for good”. So we have to try to understand if some “degrees of bliss”, which depend upon our earthly life, are possible in “the life of the world to come”.
If even we do not use the term “the degrees of bliss”, are righteous people awaited by more favorable conditions than sinners?
No, they are not awaited by that, because the following paradoxical situation appears in that case: the more sinful a human was on the Earth, the worse his conditions in “the life of the world to come” will be, and, consequently, the more envious he will be of that people, who have better conditions.
It is not difficult to foresee that it will lead to the escalation of “social” evil in much more sharp form than in earthly life.
Let us remember Jesus’ parable that the Kingdom of heaven is like a householder, who paid all his laborers equally, independently upon the quantity of working hours (Matt. 20:1-16).
There is one more modern version of the major Churches of the rendering for good and evil: heaven (or any other form of eternal life) for good and non-existence for evil.
But in that case, the border between good and evil demands absolutely clear drawing, since here the choice is needed: either heavenly life or actual death. But it is impossible to draw a clear border between good and evil, furthermore during the whole human life. Moreover, we have already understood that God is no murderer.
With the object of scientific honesty, let us remember the viewpoint of a number of philosophers-Gnostics. This viewpoint is associated with the Eastern theories of the “transmigration of souls” and the “working karma off”. It may be briefly described so: the earthly world is the kingdom of evil, and our being in it is a trial. If one passes the trial, he passes on to the next level. If one does not pass, his soul after his death transmigrates into a new-born child (or even into a dog or a tree), and the trial begins anew.
This position, of course, has a grain of logic. But no grain of truth. And this well-shaped logical building is destroyed by a quote of the novel of Dostoyevsky “The Brothers Karamazov”, at that from the same story, which was told by Ivan. Then a girl of five was cited as an example, and now – a boy of eight, who had occasionally injured the leg of a dog, which belonged to a general-landlord.
“Make him run, – commands the general, “run, run!” – shout the dog-boys, the boy runs... “At him!” – yells the general, and he sets the whole pack of hounds on the child. The hounds catch him, and tear him to pieces before his mother’s eyes!”
So, has the murdered child passed the “trial”?
According to every eastern “canon”, he did not – he had no time to learn anything, to know anything, and the dogs teared him to pieces.
Then let us ask the question: why did he not pass the “trial”? Did he sin? No, in the age of eight he could not sin more or less seriously.
So, the only answer remains: that child... ran slower than the dogs, and because of that they caught him and teared him to pieces. So, we have reached the absurdity.
The “working karma off” by this poor boy in his future life will turn out no less absurd – will the dogs have to tear him more and more, while he does not learn to run faster or to bite stronger? This conforms to no understanding of the moral imperative at all.
No, it is impossible to understand our world as some kind of a cage with wolves, where God throws our souls and looks indifferently if we shall survive or not. This contradicts to our postulate “God is no murderer”, and in the nearest future, we shall speak much about that.
And if God tried to help the poor child, but could not, then it is Dualism (the devil turned out stronger than God), and this position is inadmissible from the moral considerations. We have spoken much about that not long ago.
We have also said that God can not render for evil by evil. Otherwise (of course, if we bring the situation to the absurdity) in “the life of the world to come”, the primed boy was to be in the general’s place and set the dogs to the general.
So what does remain?
The forgiveness! The unlimited Christian forgiveness, firstly by God!
And the symbolical “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together” (Is. 65:25) means firstly that in “the life of the world to come” everyone will be in equal conditions.
But one can say that Stalin died in his bed, being surrounded by loving children and careful doctors, and many murderers and maniacs remain unpunished and also die peacefully in their beds, and “Karamazov’s” general was only “taken under wardship”, i.e. incapacitated somewhat... So, the forgiveness also for them?
Yes, the forgiveness. Absolute and unconditional.
Jesus went to the cross only for that, and the words that his suffering
expiated our sins (
But then the following question arises: we have understood a long ago that there is no need to wait that God sends a lightning to burn the torturers of small children. We have just understood that these torturers will be forgiven in “the life of the world to come”.
So what to do, how to struggle against evil?
And it is necessary to struggle – otherwise, in spite of the forgiveness in “the life of the world to come” and of the eternal life, we shall have to remember about the earthly life with bitterness.
But in actual fact, we have already spoken also about this, when we were analyzing the possibility of the building of the Kingdom of God on the Earth: the aim of Christianity is not utopian (to make the mankind or one, separately taken, country lucky), but quite real and vitally important: to make the life of every human and of people around him better.
If a human has accepted the Christian teaching properly, he will scarcely wish to shut his child of five years for all night in the cold and frost in a privy. Or to set dogs on a child.
The extermination of evil means the ousting of its spiritual basis (love to power, violence, money) by Christianity, and the doubtless consequence of that will be the improvement of society and the decreasing of the total amount of evil in the world. Exactly in this order, not in inverse one. Not from “above”, but from “below”. And not by means of frightening of sinners by hellish tortures or by criminal code, but by means of the missionary work.
And the understanding of the true essence of the Christian worldview is necessary for that firstly.
The famous missionary Ulfilas, who preached for barbarians in the 4th century not “patristic” Christianity but much more simple Arianism, was quite right. And since the quantity of “barbarians” increased many times (both in direct and figurative senses) since the 4th century, even Arianism with its degraded concept of “the Son, similar in being with the Father” is unacceptable for us.
The return to the sources of Christianity – to the teaching of Christ and Apostles – is necessary. It is necessary to ask every time the questions: for what did Jesus of Nazareth struggle? For what was he crucified? For what must we, Christians, struggle?
And since God is no murderer, no spiteful avenger and is “kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35), then in “the life of the world to come” both “good” and “evil” people will be in equal conditions again. So, as we were in the beginning of our earthly life.
The latter statement may seem disputable: some of us are born in palaces, and some – in hovels, i.e. we are in quite different conditions primordially.
But in actual fact, we all are people, and we all are
equal in the face of God. As it is well known, crown princes sometimes become
drug addicts, and children of workers sometimes become professors. Jesus of
Nazareth was also born neither as a prince, nor as a priest, even nor as a
Roman citizen. And he could have descended not of King David and could have
been born not in
Let us not replace the primary probability theory by acts of God. As it is well known, we do not choose parents. Moreover, we spoke about the causes of social inequality and understood that God is not a culprit of “social” evil.
I take myself at my word: we spoke about causes of “social” evil, but not about its first causes.
When we were analyzing the solution of the problem of the Theodicy in Chapter 4, we have understood: freedom of will of people excludes the quilt of God in our misfortunes, crimes and sins. We have also examined the concept of “social” evil and a number of local questions, which were connected with the conformity of some social concepts to the moral imperative.
But we have not yet spoken about “natural” evil – earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, accidents and diseases.
Moreover, when we analyze “social” evil, we have to reach its “natural” roots sooner or later, since both a wolf pack and the human society are created by God. So as the devil and all mystical “evil forces”, no importance what they are.
And why God, having given the moral imperative to the civilized humanity, did not want to extirpate our “wolfish” nature but let them co-exist, not quite peacefully at that?
So, we did not solve the problem of the Theodicy finally. If the creation of the world, as of the physical and moral whole, primordially assumed the presence of evil in it, then wouldn’t it have been better for God not to create the world at all?
Of course, this question is as non-constructive as, for example, “why did my mother give me the birth?”. God created the world, and it is an indisputable fact. But though we showed that our sufferings are caused neither by the fault of God or of nature, we did not manage to solve the main question – why God created both nature and society as potential sources of evil.
And without the solution of this question all our efforts turn out fruitless – doubt is cast on our understanding of both the moral imperative and “the life of the world to come”.
But now, having “tuned” Christian theology to the solving of theoretical questions, we are ready to pass on to the understanding of the structure of the Universe and of ourselves in the Universe.
Sergey Zagraevsky © 2004