Sunday, December 13, 2015

At His great mercy

I was surprised to find my original post At His great mercy republished at Aunt Melanie's blog Desert Dimension [no longer available online], and very thankful for her insightful ‘notes’ which I want to share…

At His great mercy

I have said that doctrines don't matter at all when it comes right down to the salvation of the human race, giving some the impression that I have given up all notion of correct belief. This is not the case, otherwise I would not be an Orthodox Christian.

Of course, it is better to be correct than incorrect, and yes, the correct answers are to be found in scripture, but that is exactly where sectarians and makers of religions go to bolster their mistaken ideologies. If we are of the ancient faith, for us the orthodoxy of the historic Christian Church will keep us from wandering into lands from which there may be no return. I am not suggesting that doctrine doesn't matter, in spite of my use of rather strong language and what appear to be categorical imperatives. No, I am not speaking out of both corners of my mouth either. It's just that doctrinal belief or misbelief can in fact affect our relationship to God and our ultimate destiny with Him or without Him, and yet, His mercy can cover all offenses and in fact does, even taking to Himself those whose ideas about Him are either non-existent or very mistaken.

Our God is greater than anything we can say about Him, even greater than anything the Bible says about Him, and how can He not be? He is the author of all, and having written the only story that there is, He can direct its course, and ours, beyond anything we can do. Yes, we can be damned and separated from Him for ever, but only from our side. From His side, we are never out of His sight.

This is a very strange story He has written, our God, and we see neither the beginning nor the ending as we now are, mere characters on a page. But when the Lamb's book of life is finally open, we will find out whose names were written there from before the foundation of the world, and we will have cause to wonder at His great mercy, both to the saved, and to the lost.

Aunt Melanie's Notes

If God is greater than anything we can say about Him, then what would be the opposite of that inability or impossibility? I think it would be fundamentalism in the worst sense of the word: meaning emphasis on just one or very few doctrinal points, and strictness regarding congregational inclusion based on those points. Not only does this affect one’s relationship with God, but with those who are different or who are yet unsaved. It means to reduce the Church to an elitist cult, and to damn those who are different and to regard with suspicion those who come seeking and knocking at the door. And if those doctrinal points are not entirely correct, if the cultural and devotional practices take the place of doctrine, then what should serve as enrichment decays into contamination of truth. Not only can such people not say or know everything there is to say and know about God, but even what is known is not said accurately or is cast with the unknowable or is denied access.

Why is truth so threatening to some people? Perhaps, because this is indeed the only story—and not their reductions or embellishments of it which would put them in the place of supreme author. Perhaps, they prefer to separate themselves if not from God, then from other people who would require them to teach and love, to forgive and uplift, and to include as equal to or better than themselves. If they can limit, confine, restrict, and control content and access, then they do not need to be at God’s great mercy. They have a system and it will support them. They are the authorities of their own system, and they rule.

What does that do to the rest of us? To those of us who inquire, who knock on the door and want in, or perhaps who want out? What happens to those of us who are forced out? Perhaps like Nicodemus, we must go to Christ in the night and ask our questions. Perhaps like St. John the Baptist, we must tell the truth and face the consequences. Perhaps like the Virgin Mary, we must keep all these things in our heart. With God’s great mercy, there are probably different ways of management—at different times and places and according to each individual’s capacity and situation.

To be at God’s great mercy is not a bad place to be—although it may not be how we imagined religion to be, or even the way it should be. Perhaps mercy is the only way it should be, within and without the walls of any church. To arrive at a total recognition of the need for that mercy—well, maybe we should thank the elitists who banished us to this great God.

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