N. A. BERDYAEV (BERDIAEV)
A CONSIDERATION CONCERNING THEODICY
(1927 - #321)
European Christian mankind has been involved here already for half a millennium in a peculiar process with God. Inside the Christian world there has been scepticism, agnosticism, unbelief, atheism, all core symptoms of an inner justifying process with God. This process is the torment over the problem of theodicy. But if this justifying trial-court process be conducted, then there ought to be that one with whom this process deals with. An absolute, an ontologically reasoned-out atheism is impossible. Atheism is a struggle with God, an opposition to God, an anti-theism, the impossibility to be reconciled with deistic theology. Only at the surface would it seem, that atheism is the outcome of mental efforts, preventing faith in God, that it is the product of either philosophy or science. If however it be viewed at depth, then it mustneeds be acknowledged, that atheism can never be begotten by theoretico-cognitive doubts nor grounded upon logical arguments. Man arrives at atheism practical-vital grounds, and atheism is the manifestation from a spiritual and moral order. The phenomenon of atheism signifies either a debasement of spirituality or a false direction of spirituality. People serious and profound, pondering over the meaning of life and seeking truth, sometimes become atheists; but this is so because they cannot resolve the problem of theodicy, they cannot become reconciled with theism. The crushing fact of the boundless evil and innumerable sufferings of the world -- is a singularly serious objection against faith in God. Against God there have risen up not only people bereft of spirituality, but also people with a delicate conscience have sometimes risen up against God in the name of good, in the name of a thirst for justice.
An Almighty, All-Blessed, All-Knowing God cannot have created such an evil world filled with sufferings. It would be unjust, immoral, and one might venture to say godless, to have created such a world, as ours, and to find man weak, wanting for knowledge, in grief and unwonted suffering. True, they will tell us, that the perfect creation of God, in which everything was “exceedingly good”, was distorted by the freedom of man. But indeed the fatal quality of the freedom of man was given by the Creator, Who distinctly knew, how man would misuse his freedom and to what bitter results it would lead. Hence there was begotten the teaching about predestination in its quite gruesome forms. Calvin was prepared to see a glorification of God in the very thing of a predestination to eternal perdition and the eternal torments of hell. Let us continue this deliberation. One can allow that evil and suffering -- are from freedom, but indeed freedom is from God. God in His fore-thought about the world and man knew all the consequences of the freedom of the creature, all the evil and suffering, right down to the eternal torments of hell. And the hand of the Creator did not tremble, it did not hold back before the completion of its creative deed with the perspective opening up before Him of the temporal and eternal torments of hell, begotten in His fore-thought. In the fore-thought of God about the world-creation, the eternal torments of hell were included within the power of God’s Omniscience. But the average man himself typically would halt before such a creative deed, threatening the eternal torments of hell to even one single being. Such a kind of simplistic, and it would seem, entirely intellectual pondering, bespeaks some sort of strange human distortion of the idea of God. It speaks likewise about the impotence and sterility of rational metaphysics, in dealing with the ultimate mysteries of being. Being is life, life is mystery, and not a metaphysical category.
The man of the XIX and XX Centuries is little original in his protests against the Creator of the world in the name of good, in the name of co-suffering sympathy, on moral motifs. Marcion with great moral pathos and nobility revolted against the concept of the Demiurge, the fashioner of the world, as an evil god. God in the Old Testament, as revealed to Israel, was for him not the Father of Jesus Christ, but rather the evil Demiurge, the creator of evil and woe in the world. Jesus Christ -- is the son of the Unknown God, the Deliverer from the evil of creation. The doubts of Marcion, as connected with the problem of theodicy, enter in also into all the doubtings of people of modern times, but in a majority of instances in more superficial a form. Harnack in his excellent book about Marcion says, that Marcion ought to be especially intimate for Russian religious thought. All the Gnostics, and also the Manichaeans, had deep doubts in the qualitative aspects of the world-creation. The evil world had to have been made by an evil god. This does not lead yet to atheism, but it does lead to a metaphysical dualism. God is good, God is righteous and just, God is love, God is utmost spirituality, He was revealed in Christ the Saviour, but this God is not the creator-fashioner of the world, since the world is full of evil and suffering. The Old Testament, the Biblical aspect of the Divinity, as creative might, was repudiated. Only the New Testament aspect of the Divinity, as love and salvation, seems acceptable. The problem, posited by Marcion, and certain of the Gnostics, is unfathomably deep. The Gnostics did not know how to answer the posited problem and they got entangled, they attempted to see the source of evil in matter. But a fully satisfactory answer to this problem was not given even by the churchly opponents of the Gnostics, despite their inherent correctness. This explains the possibility of so widespread a falling-away from Christianity by European mankind. The human conscience finds unbearable the inhuman, the unspiritual and immoral traits, almost beastly traits, ascribed to God, the Creator of the world. Only an obligatory fear, a transcendent terror, can swallow up the questioning of conscience and consciousness. But the time of religious terror is expiring. In former times it was possible to maintain order in the Church by the frightenings of the eternal torments of hell. This frightening was quite in accord with the pedagogic method of the times, it raised up a barbaric mankind. But now the scaring with the eternal torments of hell hinders people from coming into the Church. Pedagogic teaching methods change, they cannot always remain one and the same. Against some sides of the Christian faith at present there are in revolt qualitative aspects of man, as wrought by Christianity itself, -- the Christian softening of soul, the Christian delicacy of conscience.
My meditation concerning theodicy -- is not theological, but rather philosophical, or religio-philosophic a pondering. It is a desire to bring to the Christian faith the free gift of cognition. The very setting of the problem of theodicy is of a dispute with God. But who art thou, O man, that thou wouldst dispute with God? This was a question Luther loved to put to Erasmus in his dispute with him over freedom and the slavery of the will. Can man indeed arrogate to himself the question about a justification of God in the face of the evil and suffering of the world? My faith in God and in the positive significance of the world presupposes, that this question is inwardly to be resolved. I am a Christian and therefore I believe, that the problem of theodicy is decided by the manifestation of Christ and the deed of redemption and salvation wrought by Him. But I am no slave, I am a free man, a free spirit, I am called to love God and by all my intellection, and in the pondering and cognition I see the sign of my God-likeness. My faith has passed through the crucible of doubt. Man can dispute with God, since that God expects and demands the freedom of man, his free love, his free knowledge. An automaton-robot would have no need nor interest for God. One might initially assert an agnosticism and sway away from any pondering about theodicy, as impermissible on principle and even sinful. Thus also think many of the exclusively tradition and authoritarianly disposed Christians. But then consequently it would be needful to decline all the rational theological teachings, which always include within them aspects of theodicy, and then too it would be necessary to acknowledge as bereft of meaning all the traditional theological theories about the world-creation and about the relationship between the Creator and the creation.
Every profound pondering, every at depth cognition of things Divine ought to lead to mystery. God is inexplicable Mystery. And this is indeed the most profound definition of God. Thus it is that apophatic (negative) theology defines it and its definition is more profound than all the definitions of kataphatic (positive) theology. The great Christian mystics and the most profound of Christian thinkers always thought this to be so -- Dionysios the Areopagite, Eckhardt, Nicolas of Cusa and many others. Plotinos was the source of these thoughts. It is impossible even to call God being, since He is beyond being and He is no thing. But the pathway to the ultimate Divine Mystery lies through knowledge, and not through a primordial agnosticism, not through a forbidding of knowledge. There exists a knowledge about unknowing, the docta ignoranta, as Nicolas of Cusa declared it. The apophatic-negative theology is also a God-knowing, and not an agnosticism. The boundaries of God-knowing take their definition from cognition itself and through the setting of these boundaries it is expanded, rather than a narrowing down of cognition. There is an endless cognitive motion towards the ultimate Mystery. And the recognition of the Mystery, not penetrable by any concept, the reverent esteeming of the Mystery, is a qualitative aspect of cognition itself, of its depth and loftiness. Apophatic-negative theology is more mystical than kataphatic-positive theology, which always includes within itself a strong dose of rationalism. And when the school courses of dogmatics, smothered by the rationalism of kataphatic-positive theologising, investigate the crux of the matter in the resolution of the problem of theodicy, they love to refer to the Mystery and call for obedience to the Mystery. But they do this either too late, having constructed already many a rational theory, or too early, hastily having posited the forbiddance of agnosticism. The fear of Gnosticism has had a more defining significance for kataphatic theology. Reverence before Mystery does not make man a slave and an idol-worshipper, on the contrary, it then but makes man spiritually free. Man is rendered a slave and idol-worshipper by many of the positive doctrines about God, abasing, distorting and diminishing the infinite and mysteried nature of the Divinity. And indeed there is an attitude towards God, which is an ultimate form of idolatry within the world. Not only towards false gods, but also towards the true God is there possible an idolatrous attitude. It is possible to transform for oneself the existing God into an idol and bestow Him worship, such as is appropriate only in regard to idols. About this one can glean much from the Old Testament prophets. Idolatry likewise creates a very great difficulty for the problem of theodicy. A servile worship to God, as absolute power and might, similar to the might of the despots of the ancient East, renders theodicy impossible. Heavenly imperialism and Caesarism present quite insurmountable difficulties towards the resolution of the problem tormenting us. The ultimate eschatological mystery can serve by way of example of the contrary pretensions of theological rationalism. They purport to accept the eternal torments of hell, while yet having yielded before the unconfessable Mystery, out of obedience to the Mystery. But this means, that it is impossible to construct a teaching about the eternal torments of hell, it is impossible to rationalise the Mystery, it is impossible to justify the eternal torments of hell with Divine justice, predestination, etc.
When the problem of theodicy is posited, the problem concerning God and His justification before the face of evil and suffering in the world, then first of all it is proper to ask: does there exist at all some sort of commensurability and similarity between man and God? It would seem, that for the Christian such a question is irrelevant -- Christianity teaches, that man is in the image and likeness of God, that the Son of God was incarnated and became Man. But within the history of Christianity this truth was always stifled by other truths. Together with this posited question is connected a fundamental religious process in the world. The history of religion teaches us, that God’s becoming Man, and having as its obverse side the spiritising of man, is a central phenomenon of the religious revelation. The surmounting of the idea of an inhuman god, having as its obverse side the beast-likeness of man, is a basic advance of religious consciousness and religious developement in the world. The tremendous significance of Greece is not only in the history of culture, but also in the religious history of the world -- such as was lodged within Greek anthropomorphism: the human image was extracted from an image of the beastly world, with which it was confused in the East, and the gods were conceived of as human-like. True, this human-likeness was still insufficiently cleansed and spiritualised, and it included within itself that completely irrational element, which so embarressed subsequent mythology (M. Mueller has attempted to escape the difficulty by a philological theory of the emergence of myth from language). But the anthropomorphism of the gods was a tremendous step forward within the religious consciousness. Greece created the great Aryan myth about Prometheus. It is not Zeus, but rather Prometheus who loves mankind, offering himself in sacrifice for it and undergoing terrible torments in the name of man, he is the founder of human culture. Certain Western teachers of the Church even thought, that the myth about Prometheus was a pagan transforming of the idea of the creation of the world by the true God. The distinction between Zeus and Prometheus can be compared with the distinction in Marcion between the Demiurge -- as the creator of the world, and Christ -- the Saviour of the world. The process of the humanisation and spiritualisation of the idea of God found very strong expression in the mind-set of the prophets.
The process of the humanisation of the idea of God finds completion in the Christian revelation, in the manifestation of the God-Man, in the religion of God-manhood. It is impossible to construct a theodicy, if it starts out from God, just as it is impossible to construct it, if it starts out from man. The meaning of the world is incomprehensible whether from the abstract idea of God, or from the abstract idea of man. If God and man be divided and separated, then everything is plunged into darkness and evokes terror. Only in the union of the Divine nature and the human nature is there revealed the meaning of the world and the light that doth illumine life. And to theologise one mustneeds begin, not from God and not from man, but rather -- from the God-Man, and a theodicy can only be built upon the God-Man. If there were not the God-Man, there would not be manifest the perfect humanisation of God and the perfect deification-theosis of man, and impossible then would be both the justification of God and also the justification of man. Wherein truly it is a matter both of theodicy and anthropodicy -- they are two sides of one and the same thing. Christ as the God-Man is both the sole possible theodicy and the sole possible anthropodicy. The sacrifice of Christ on Golgotha, made by God and by man, is a theodicy not merely intellectual, but rather in life, and in deed. The Lamb is given in ransom from the very foundation of the world. The sacrifice of God primordially has entered into the plane of the world-creation. God Himself shares in the tragedy of the world, in the sufferings of the world, and takes upon Himself the sufferings of mankind. The God of an abstract montheism cannot be justified. This abstract monotheism is moreso Mahometan a trait, than it is Christian, it has entered into Christian theology and distorted it. Abstract monotheism, heavenly monarchic-despotism, has screened over the living Mystery if the Tri-une God, the Holy Trinity, which is Divine Love. Only in an abstract monotheism, in an heavenly monarchic-despotism as a reflection of the earthly kingdom of Caesar, is God immobile and self-sufficient, the God Who by His might demands the fulfilling of His formal will and chastises for its transgression. But the Father, revealing Himself through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, is not the God of an abstract monotheism. Without the Son, the Father remains foreign, far off and terrorsome, and without the Holy Spirit He does not act within us and we in turn remain unable to enter into His life. Atheism is correct in regard to an abstract monotheism, to an heavenly despotic-monarchism. Atheism is refuted only by the revelation of the Holy Trinity, as Divine Love. Static theism, circulating under the idea of a perfectly unstirring and untragic Creator, has no need for the creation and shares not in its fate, and it is the product of Hellenic categories of thought, lodged within the insights of the Eleatics and Aristotelianism. Not such is the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, not such is the God, revealed through the Son in the New Testament. The Holy Scripture reveals to us the tragedy of God, it discloses His inward tragic life. The Crucifixion torment of the Only-Begotten Son of God is a suffering within the bosom of the Holy Trinity. And the acknowledgement of this mystical fact does not unfailingly signify Patripassionism [trans. note: i.e. “Suffering of the Father” -- a Modalist heresy, which in emphasising the Oneness of God, de-emphasises and confuses the Persons of the MostHoly Trinity as mere modalities or transient aspects of the One Godhead, and the interpretation of “Person” is that of “persona-mask” rather than of the Greek “hypostasis”, as “subsistent reality”]. This also is the sole possible path of theodicy, a theodicy which will not be that of a slave. Within the bosom of the Divine Trinity Itself there is suffering from evil and darkness, there is a sharing in the fate of all creation, of the world and of mankind. And this suffering is not an imperfection and impairment of the Divinity, on the contrary, it is a sign of Its perfection. It is impossible to think of God as being like a stone. God unsuffering would be an imperfect and impaired God. He would Himself remain in bliss, and the creation in suffering. Love presupposes sacrifice and suffering. But the Divine Trinity is infinite Love. Only through love is discerned the inner, hidden, esoteric life of the Trinity. Only through love is possible for us not only the non-kataphatic, the apophatic, but also kataphatic theology. Amidst all this kataphatic-positive theology has been built not upon sacrificial love, as the hidden life of the Trinity, but exclusively rather upon might, and glory, justice, judgement, etc., i.e. upon the exoteric revealing of the Divinity to the sinful nature of man. God, as sacrificial love, cannot reveal Himself but through man. He can reveal Himself only through the Son of God, through the God-Man. And for this there had to be a kenosis, an extreme-humility, a diminishing and exhaustion of Divinity.
In the cognition of God and the understanding of God, analogy has always had a fatal significance. This is especially apparent in the system of St. Thomas Aquinas. God is known through analogy with the natural world, with natural objects, and He is as it were the highest natural object, possessing all qualities in the supreme degree. God herein is “super-natural”, but the “super-natural” is demonstrated to be but the utmost degree of the “natural” (and here the “natural” is moreso emphasised, than is the aspect of the “super”). The analogy of God to a power of the natural world is not a Christian analogy. Upon this foundation is created a theological naturalism, which is an inheritance of the pagan theologising. Even the Church is conceived of through analogy with the state, through analogy with the kingdom of Caesar. But God can be known only through analogy with spiritual life, revealed within the depths of man, which on principle is distinct from the objective natural world. God is Spirit, and not nature, He is Life, and not congealed substance, He is Love, and not a power, on the order of the powers of nature. Apophatic theology likewise affirms the impossibility of transferring concepts, worked out in regard to the natural world, to God. To God is inapplicable even the concept of being. Only in the life of spirit is there revealed analogy with the life of God. Therefore a naturalistic understanding of the world-creation is insulting both for the Creator and for the creation, and it evokes a deficient setting for the problem of theodicy. The world-creation and the relationship between the Creator and the creation can be understood only spiritually, and not naturalistically, i.e. in accord with the New Testament and Christian, and not with the Old Testament and pagan. Naturalistic and rationalistic theology has led to an understanding of God, the world-creation and the meaning of the world process, which also has brought about the falling-away from Christianity and processes acting against God.
God absolutely unstirring, having need of nothing, self-sufficient, created the world from out of His will, without need, for self-glorification, and having provided the weak and insignificant creature with freedom, established the law by His will, the transgression of which draws fatal consequences both in time and in eternity. Man has made bad use of his freedom, he transgressed the will of God, he fell and in consequence of his fall there have been torments and sufferings in the life of the world. God, Who in accord with His Omniscience can foresee everything, fiercely punishes the transgression of His will, not only with torments in time, but also torments in eternity. God instigates a process against man who has outraged Him, He demands a recompense. The recompense, quelling the Divine wrath, is the sacrifice, offered by the Son of God. God loves the sufferings of people, they make satisfaction for His sense of justice and ameliorate His righteous wrath. Salvation is a justification and a propitiation. For the guilty within time, in the brief flickering of life from birth to death, there awaits punishment in eternity. The eternal torment of sinners in hell, foreseen by God at the world-creation, and therefore their predestination, affords God blessedness through the triumph of justice. Thomas Aquinas suggests further that the righteous in paradise take delight at the torments of sinners in hell, take delight in the triumph of justice. This is the mind-set conception of naturalistic rationalistic theology, which I lay out in its extreme form, but which in all its particulars is present in the theological systems, especially the Catholic, and it evokes a protest of conscience and reason, not of “enlightened” reason, but of lucidly-clear reason. In reply to this protest they make pretense to bow before the Mystery, before the inscrutable judgements of God. But in this mind-set conception there is no mystery, in it everything is rationalised, everything is exoteric, everything is constructed upon analogy with the natural world, with the kingdom of this world, with the kingdom of Caesar. I am prepared from the very start to bow before the Mystery, before the inscrutable judgements of God, but without the mind-set of rationalising the Mystery and degrading it to the lowest levels of this world. This conceptual mind-set is an outrage insulting to God, in it there is an element of sacrilegious mockery and blaspheming of God. It leads to thought of an evil and inhuman god. Not such is God, as revealed through the Son, the God of Love. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only-Begotten Son, so that all believing on Him might not perish, but rather have life eternal. For God hath not sent His Son into the world, to judge the world, but the rather that the world through Him might be saved” [Jn. 3: 16-17]. It is impossible not to accept the Love, not to accept the salvation. How then could there arise the revolting theological concepts from out of the New Testament revelation? Truly and verily, God without man, without the God-Man, without the Son and without the Holy Spirit -- is not God, but is rather the devil, Satan, the Demiurge of the Gnostics, from which the Saviour came to free the world. Without God man is a mere beast, but without man God is Leviathan. In this is the mystery of God-manhood, the mystery of Christ and Christianity. They do not allow to be attributed to God either suffering, the tragedy or anguish concerning an other, but they are quite content to attribute instead quite ugly human emotions -- wrath, vengefulness, zealotry, readiness to take offense, fierce cruelty, etc. To God they attribute the desire to abase man, created by Him, and to hold him in fear and terror.
Christian theodicy is possible only through the freedom of man, the freedom of the creature. But from whence is freedom and what does freedom mean? If man was created free by nature, if freedom was imposed by a creative act of God, then the difficulty is insurmountable. Then one struggling with God might say, that the question about responsibility is merely shifted. Freedom is bound up with man as regards his creaturely nature. But freedom cannot be bound up with nature, with substance. Everything, that is rooted within nature -- is deterministic, not free. Freedom is rooted in spirit, and not in nature, and it is grounded in the abyss, in the nothing. Freedom is not being, freedom is outside of being and antecedent to being. God created the world not from out of His own nature and not from some primal-matter, as the ancients thought, but from out of nothing. The nothing also is freedom. This means also, that God created the world from out of freedom. Otherwise they express this thus: God in freedom and freely created the world. But the freedom, giving rise to evil, arises from the nothing, which is pure potentiality. We ought to recognise, that this freedom is altogether not the nature, created by God, since in this instance it would be determinised. By God however, nature would be determinised exclusively towards the good. The freedom, capable of begetting evil, is likewise a pure potentiality, lodged within the nothing, within the abyss, to which is inapplicable the categories of being. Outside of God there is not any sort of being, but outside of God there is the nothing, from which the world is created. This also is the freedom, anterior to the world-creation. To think about this mystery can only be done antinomically.
Within the history of religious thought quite acute was the positing of the question, whether God is free, or whether He is bound by the good, that is, whether the good is only that which God desires, or whether God can only desire, that which is the good. Dun Scotus, as is known, made his specialty the defense of the freedom of God and he resolutely affirmed, that the good also is that, what God desires, that God is not bound up nor limited by the good. This was still more radically affirmed by Occam. The point of view of Dun Scotus was opposed to the tradition of Platonism, which asserts, that God is bound up and limited by the good, and that He cannot desire that which is not good. It would seem, that the question was incorrectly posited. It cannot be said, that God is bound up and limited by the good and that the good is more archaically-
definitive a principle than is God, and it cannot be said, that the good is that, which God desires, and that therein God is free to desire the opposite to the good. It is impossible separate God and the good. The good is not more archaically-definitive a principle than God, but God is the Good, just as He is the Truth and Beauty. And after all this, in accord with the method of apophatic-negative theology, it mustneeds be said, that God is the supra-good, is beyond-goodness, and that the concept of the good likewise is inapplicable to God, just as all concepts are. One might say: if one adjudge God from the point of view of the good and then one were to repudiate the God, Which corresponds not to our ideas of the good, then one would set man higher than God. Therein God would have different morals, than man would have, and therefore what from an human point of view would be evil, might from a Divine point of view be good. This judgement is based on a separating apart of the Divine and the human. If in Christ the God-Man it was revealed, that God is Love, then I not only from the human, but also from the Divine point of view, I cannot admit, that God is hatred and malevolence. That God is Love, this was revealed to me by God Himself. The good, by which I adjudge God, has been revealed to me by God. I render judgement not concerning God, but of a false human idea of God [trans. note: Vide Jn. 7: 24]. Our judgement over an evil god is a judgement over the human distortion of the image of God. And theodicy is in essence a justification of God from the slander, which is raised against Him by human imaginings. The idea of an evil god, which tormented Marcion and the Gnostics, in the XIX Century has taken on new forms. The metaphysical pessimism of Schopenhauer and Hartmann is a transposition of that selfsame idea, which earlier was expressed in the assertion, that the Demiurge -- the fashioner of the world, is an evil god. But it was replaced by an unconscious, dark world will, which in a fit of madness created woesome being. And it is impossible to deny, that within pessimism there is its own profundity and even its own partial truth. And yet materialistic metaphysics, despite its light-minded optimistic bustling about, is one of the extreme transformations of the idea of an evil god creating a world, bereft of meaning, absolutely by chance, and indifferent towards good and evil. In a certain sense it would be easier to accept materialism, than to accept God, if He be not Love, Who Himself suffers not, but obliges the creature to suffer, Who is liable to take offense and is capable of vengefulness. Taken to an extreme, if materialism were true, then at least the torments would be only in time, and not eternal.
Essential for Christian theodicy is this, that its obverse side should manifest an anthropodicy. Christian consciousness and mentality dare not separate apart and divide God and man, for it there is already no God without man. To the Christian consciousness is revealed the God, Who desires, that man should be, Who has need of man, as His own other. Amidst all this and at the core of Christian thought and at the summits of Christian mysticism and sanctity it remains unclear, how it should be with man, with the purely human, how ought the human nature to affirm itself? It is impossible to deny, that in the dominant theological doctrines human nature is abased and stifled, -- it is here not the sinfulness of human nature only, but human nature itself. Too often they tend to see in the degradation of the creature the pathos of religious life. There is affirmed the metaphysical insignificance of the creature. But in a more profound and mystical form the insignificant nothingness of the creature is expressed in the understanding of deification, as the grinding down and mortification of the human, in order to give place to God. And it remains inconceivable, why the Creator should have created man, if man ought to quench himself out and there ought to be left God alone? Thereupon the world-creation becomes bereft of all meaning. God is eternally existing, He eternally dwells in fullness and self-sufficiency. Why then the creation, why man, why the tragedy of the world? If the creation of man and the world do not signify any sort of stirring within God, if man and the world are needless to God, if God should desire to remain within Himself and demand from the created world and man, that they should fade out, become as nothing within God, cease to exist, then everything is deprived of all meaning. They will say, that this is inscrutable Mystery and that it is impious to infringe upon this Mystery. Yes, indeed, Mystery it is and one mustneeds be reverent afront the Mystery. But reverence is needful afront the Mystery, and not afront the constructed doctrine, which itself infringes upon the Mystery. I criticise not the Mystery, I criticise the rational doctrine. It is likewise inconceivable, why the creation of a great Creator can be regarded as an insignificant and wretched creation? The picture from a great artist is a great creation, bearing the imprint of his creative genius. All the moreso great then ought to be the creation of the Creator.
But deification (theosis) is not at all the vanishing of man, deification is the perfective transfiguration of man within God, his penultimate birth within God. The world-creation involves God’s sacrifice and in response to God’s sacrifice there ought to be the sacrifice of man and the world. The mystery is translatable only in the language of sacrificial love. The teachings of the great mystics about the surmounting of creatureliness, about the dying away of the human nature, about life in God, about theosis, are not at all subject to rationalisation and are not at all expressible within the categories of theological thought. Many of the mystics taught also about this, how that when man ends, then there ends also God, and man disappears, when God disappears. God is born, when man is born. The one who loves cannot live without the beloved. This has always disquieted the theologians. But the mystics actually do enter into the life of the Mystery, whereas the theologians remain at the periphery, on the surface, outside the Mystery, and they cite it only then, when they run into difficulties. There ought verily to be done a cleansing of our theological and metaphysical ideas about God, a cleansing of our idea of God from the unworthy and degrading things attributed to Him, which lead to thoughts about the existence of an evil god, which created man and the world in order to humiliate them and cause them to suffer, so as to show off his own power and might. The ugly, the evil and unworthy characterisations of God are but the product and reflection of our own sin, our own darkness. The fear before God is fear afront ourselves and afront the devil.
Theodicy is possible only for a theology that is spiritualistic, and not naturalistic, for a theology, which will think about God not in an analogy with the objects of the natural world nor with the traits of the kingdom of Caesar, but in revelations of the spiritual world, of spiritual experience, of the spiritual pathway. In spirit everything is revealed otherwise, than it is within objectivised nature. Within spirit there is revealed the “nothing” with the as yet dark freedom and potentiality lodged within it, there is revealed the evil of the natural world, the sin is exposed, but there is no evil god, there is only the God of love and freedom, the God of grace. In spirit there is revealed the tragedy of God Himself, the sacrifice of God, the suffering of God, the compassion of the Lord, the anguish of God as regards His other, as regards His friend [trans. note: Vide Jn. 15: 15], as regards man and the world, and there is revealed the infinitude of God’s love and sacrifice. Within objectivised nature, within naturalistic theology, God is transformed into an ossified object, into an unstirring substance, and His life is thought of in accord with the forms of life in the kingdom of Caesar. Upon this path also was created the system of an heavenly despotic-monarchism with its terroristic methods of rule. A spiritual theology, rising above the analogies between God and the natural world and the kingdom of Caesar, does not at all signify an optimistic and rosy Christianity. On the contrary, for spiritual theology and for its theodicy, Christianity reveals itself as a religion of tragedy. The religion of love and freedom is a religion of tragedy. Love is sacrifice, freedom is suffering. But the sacrifice and suffering cease to be that by slaves, abased and without meaning. The tragedy carries over into the Divine life itself, into the very primal mystery of life. Religious slavery, which is but a reflection of earthly slavery within the kingdom of Caesar, is not tragedy. Within tragedy the free are active, and not slaves. Tragedy also is begotten of freedom. Slavery already does not know tragedy. Freedom has been quite abused within traditional theology, in trying to resolve the problem of theodicy, just like the bad useage that freedom has been put to in criminal law. Freedom is esteemed as a basis for punishment and chastisement, but in this there is an utilitarianism both heavenly and earthly, there is no genuine worth for freedom of spirit. *)
Christian theodicy is manifest in life and in experience, and it is lodged within the Holy Scripture, it is proven at the heights of Christian mysticism and sanctity. But in cognition, within intellection there was constructed an as yet unsatisfactory Christian theodicy, and it was constructed with much that is insultive both to the dignity of worth of God and to the dignity of worth of man, and there was much in the way of false enroachments upon the Divine Mystery. The Divine Mystery is revealed least of all through analogy with the judgemental acts of this world or with the actions of the physical powers of nature. Only within the depths of spirit, in spiritual life, within the mystery of primal-life, within mystery only can there be a communion, a touching to the Mystery. Only through love, through sacrifice, through freedom, through the experiencing of grace can there be given experience concerning the Mystery. No sort of rational concept is possible here. God is Spirit, is Life, is Love, is Sacrifice, is Freedom, God is the Holy Trinity. Here only is it that the negative theology can pass over into positive theology. God, as dread Power, and Might, King and Judge, the God of positive theology, resting upon analogies with the world both of nature and of Caesar, is an exoteric image, as refracted through human sin and darkness. The Holy Scripture gives both aspects of God, and Holy Scripture speaks not only about the exoteric revelation of God, but also about an eisoteric revelation of God, about the refraction of the image of God within the human darkness. The activity of the human spirit is grasped and brought about by a cleansing, which always is a self-cleansing, a spiritising of one’s nature, a growing within the spiritual world and its mystery. God is likewise Absolute Power, but it is as the power of Meaning, the power of Truth, the power of Spirit, the Might of Spirit, and not of nature, and is Truth and Good, as Power.
God demands submission to Himself. When this is said, then it is said not about God, but rather about the sin and darkness of man, about his unspiritualness, it is said about the natural world. God expects love that is free. When this is said, then it is said about God Himself, it is said about the spiritual world and about that, which transpires within it. The religious, the Christian life is mutually pervasive, and sometimes also there is a mingling together of the two orders, the natural and the spiritual, there is the working of God’s energies within the sinful natural world. In this one must always examine keenly and ponder it spiritually. Then much will be seen in a new light. It is not that the old eternal truths will be abolished, but rather illumined, and visible in a new light. Spiritual theology is a symbolic theology, it is a true theosophy in the old felicitous sense of the word. The judgemental process of man against God will cease only then, when there is surmounted the false and debasing idea of a juridical process of God against man, when it ceases to be juridical a thing and begins to be a matter of living an authentic, a spiritual life. Then only will become evident, what is genuinely contrary to God. The Christian revelation is the evangelic good news about salvation and about the Kingdom of God. And it is folly not to accept this good news on the grounds, that we are perishing and we be tormented, that in us and around us there reigns evil and suffering. A Christian renaissance is possible only as a spiritual renaissance. A cleansed spiritual instinct, freed of false rationalistic and naturalistic ideas, ought to lead to the acceptance of the good news about deliverance and it ought to direct all its powers of spirit to the realisation of the Kingdom of God.
© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos
(1927 - 321 - en)
IZ RAZMYSHLENII O TEODITSEE. Journal Put’, Apr. 1927, No.7, p.50-62.
*) Purely criminal-law and utilitarian arguments in defense of freedom are put forward by Metropolitan Makarii in his “Orthodox Dogmatic Theology”, so typical for the academic doctrinal teaching.
Å-òåêñò ïî-ðóññêèé: ñàéòå Ó. Êðîòîâà.
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