Thursday, January 03, 2008

I’m continuing to focus on God’s role in bringing about my spiritual development, as opposed to my own effort. I used to say “God has done his part, so I need to do mine.” I don’t think this was exactly wrong, but I think it may have caused me to miss how much it’s really about God’s actions primarily.

Here’s a portion of Psalm 119 that really emphasizes God as the effecient cause of our spiritual advancement:

33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law
And keep it with all my heart.
35Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
36Incline my heart to Your testimonies
And not to dishonest gain.
37Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,
And revive me in Your ways.
38Establish Your word to Your servant,
As that which produces reverence for You.
39Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your ordinances are good.
40Behold, I long for Your precepts;
Revive me through Your righteousness.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

“God has done his part, so I need to do mine.” — This is correct from the Orthodox point of view and exemplifies what is meant by συνεργια. As C.S. Lewis puts into the mouth of Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, "You would not have called out to me, if I had not been calling to you." So the act of God always initiates, invites and incites. His grant to us of free will adds consent, and so we "work out our salvation in fear and trembling." This idea is, however, strongly opposed by the monergists, of whom until a couple of years ago I was unaware.

I was invited to fellowship at a coffeehouse by a business associate of mine. He knew I was Greek Orthodox. He was some brand of evangelical. I was surprised that my fellowship date showed up with two others, a 19 year old brother, and another in his thirty-somethings.

We sat down at table after getting our drinks, and as the brother who invited me asked me (as they always do) about the "Orthodox Church's teaching on…" and as I gave my best answer, prefacing all with the statement that "the Orthodox Church has no teachings; it receives the teaching of Christ and the Apostles," the thirty-something brother (I noticed) was feverishly looking things up in his bible and making notes to himself, without ever once looking me in the eye.

After my "host" slowed down his questions, it was the other's turn. (The young brother watched in silence.) Immediately I was challenged in a verbal frontal attack, armed with chapter and verse numbers, to support all the erroneous "teachings" that I had admitted to. One of them was the concept of the partnership between God and man in the process of salvation. Even though, from the Orthodox viewpoint, the divine synergia is definitely NOT defined as a 50-50 thing, rather an infinite-finite thing, the brother accused me of being something he called an Arminian (I think that's what it was), and said that there can be no partnership between God and man in the process of salvation. It's monergy or nothing. Everything we can do is dead works. We cannot even respond positively to God's invitation unless God has decided to give us the grace to do it.

Now, I wasn't then and am not now exactly sure if we weren't really saying the same thing, just using different semantic categories. I mean, infinite on God's side, finite on ours, is a mystery, something like saying 100% and 0%, and yet there is still a call and a response, because that 100% is just this side of infinity and this 0% is just that side of nothing. Come on! But the "pit bull of God" (I coined that expression at that incident and used it often since) was 100% right about monergy, and I along with the whole Orthodox Eastern Church were 100% wrong about synergy. Duh…

Back to your excellent post, I like your phrase "God as the efficient cause of our spiritual advancement." Does that makes us the co-efficient? ;-)

The psalms, because they are "worship in writing" can teach us the Truth while transcending language itself. That's because worship is the only context in which dogma (or doctrine) can be correctly apprehended. Hence, the raison d'etre of Orthodox Christianity.

I am not planning to blog publicly anymore, but I still visit your blog and will comment from time to time. I like the things you express, and I want to encourage you always. Keep it up, brother, and go with God.

Kenny said...


Thanks for your story, and sorry for your being ambushed by the monergists!

I love the equation you set up: infinite/finite -- I think that really gets at the mystery of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, and so biblically paradoxical.

Your story of the Monergists reminds me of the saying about "where angels fear to tread..." The sad state of man in his arrogance.