Sunday, July 24, 2005

Musings of a Soteriological Nature...

Have been thinking about the following passage from 1 Corinthians 3 (starting in verse 10) as it relates (or maybe doesn't?) to our salvation on the final Day. First the passage, then my thoughts, then--if y'all please--your thoughts...

St. Paul:
"According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. 14If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
So we're baptized and chrismated, commune with the Body and Blood of our Lord and confess Him throughout our lives, then die. We are justified by this--since these things will be the foundation our body uses at the Resurrection to "put on immortality" like St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 15--yet as we will (most likely) not be completely sanctified (i.e., freed from the passions) and will still have some "wood, hay and straw," there will be a final purification we all go through, and it is for this reason that we pray for the departed: that God will comfort them in their purification, and that they will swiftly go through the final repentance pains necessary to truly enjoy our Lord forever.

Thoughts?

12 comments:

Philippa said...

I dunno Bryan. Wouldn't the foundation be the deposit of faith that is passed down from the Apostles? Does that include the sacraments? I'm such a newbie, I don't know.

I still struggle with the Orthodox thought that there is still a chance for redemption after physical death.

Ian said...

I'm not even Orthodox so feel free to ignore, but I'm sure I've read something similar [I'm thinking it was in one of +Kallistos' books] about the purification.

It was made clear that if you have rejected Christ you don't get a second chance after death, but it was stated that there are some Orthodox who believe in something akin to purgatory (in that we require purification to become deified). Hope I'm getting my terms right, and I pray I am not leading anyone astray with erroneous thoughts. These are my mere recollections.

David Bryan said...

Philippa,

We would say that the deposit of faith does indeed include the sacraments of the Eucharist, baptism, confession, holy orders, etc; all these are not only outlined in Scripture, but attested to by the earliest of the Church Fathers.

The "chance for redeption" isn't so much a chance for a truly lost person to find salvation, but rather an opportunity for a person who is not sanctified completely to be thus sanctified and therefore completely saved. I should say, too, that all speculation on who is saved and who is irredeemably lost is just that: speculation. We therefore assume that God will be ultimately merciful, so we err on the side of praying for the second situation. God knows, but commands that we pray for all men; whether our prayers will achieve what we ask is ultimately out of our hands, however.

Welcome to the family, btw!

Ian --

I remember that part in Bp. KALLISTOS' TOC; hence my original question. It is a thought in Orthodox theologumenon (theological opinion), so I just thought I'd throw it out, see what I got.

From elsewhere: the following link to a homily of St. John Chrysostom on the passage I quoted states that the hay, wood, and stubble are our actions, which, if they are wicked, will not shield us from the judgement.

The "saved, yet as through fire" part, St. John says, refers to a preservation of the actual person's soul--we are not annihilated in hell--but that the soul is "saved"--that is, preserved--"from annihilation in hell, yet still tormented by the fire."

Any other thoughts?

David Bryan said...

Thanks to "Paradosis" on OC.net for the link, btw...

Paradosis said...

In principle I agree with what you're saying. I have the works of the Church Fathers downloaded from CCEL, so one time I tried to go through them and find all the references to passages that Catholics use to defend purgatory. My intention was to prove that the early Fathers didn't speak of a purgation or fiery test. Much to my suprise, many Fathers--both East and West--speak of such a thing. It ended my lame and misguided attempt to prove the Catholics wrong, but it did provide some insight into why St. Mark of Ephesus spoke the way he did at Florence. I've only read what is in the appendix of Fr. Seraphim's "The Soul After Death," but that was enough for me to see that there must be some type of testing or purging of bad stuff (for lack of a better term) in the afterlife.

Paradosis said...

"...that souls are delivered thanks to a certain purgatorial suffering and temporal fire which possesses such (a purgatorial) power and has the character of a help--this we do not find either in the Scriptures or in the prayers and hymns for the dead, or in the words of Teachers. But we have received that even the souls which are held in hell and are already given over to eternal torments, whether in actual fact and experence or in hopeless expectation of such, can be aided and given a certain small help, although not in the sense of completely loosing them from torment or giving hope for a final deliverance...

But if the souls have departed this life in faith and love, while nevertheless carrying away with themselves certain faults, whetehr small ones over which they have not repented at all, or great ones for which--even though they have repented over them--they did not undertake to show fruits of repentance: such souls, we believe, must be cleansed from this kind of sins, but not by means of some purgatorial fire or a definite punishment in some place... But some must be cleansed in the very departure from the body, thanks only to fear, as St. Gregory the Diagolist literally shows; while others must be cleansed after the departure from the body, either while remaining in the same earthly place, before they come to worship God and are honored with the lot of the blessed, or--if their sins were more serious and bind them for a longer duration, they are kept in hell, but not in order to remain forever in fire and torment, but as it were in prison and confinement under guard.

All such ones, we affirm, are helped by the prayers and Liturgies performed for them, with the cooperation of the Divine goodness and love for mankind... we see no necessity whatever for any other punishment or for a cleansing fire; for some are cleansed by fear, while others are devoured by the gnawings of conscience with more torment than any fire, and still others are cleansed only by the very terror before the Divine Glory and the uncertainty as to what the future will be." - St. Mark of Ephesus, Refutation of the Latin Chapters Concerning Purgatorial Fire [at the Council of Ferrara-Florence), First Homily, 1

Ian said...

Thank you Brian for the link to the homily of St. John Chrysostom and to Paradosis for St Mark's refutation: I look forward to reading them after work.

owen white said...

Many of the Greek Fathers deny a static view of the afterlife and instead adhere to a more dynamic view. Thus, for instance, Maximus the Confessor believes that we will continue to grow in grace, to actually grow into our salvation for eternity. He believes that the initial stages of this growth may be painful, which would correspond to a period of purgation. Orthodoxy is quite open to the idea of the purgation of souls, though we of course reject such gimmicks as indulgences, and we would scoff at the idea that certain acts done on earth for certain persons in purgatory will reduce their purgatory "sentence" by a specific amount of time. That said, the Roman Catholics are right that purgation in the afterlife will only occur for those whom God will ultimately save. Thus the Roman Catholic Catechism refers to Purgatory as a place only for the unsanctified elect. I would tend to agree with St. Maximus and view any period of purgation as part of one's experience in heaven. Pain can sometimes actually be pleasurable when you are certain that it will bring about a good result. An encounter with Jesus may be painful and wonderful at the same time. Salvation hurts.

Another point that is important for Orthodox is the order of things in Bryan's comments. He mentions Resurrection first, and then purification. Whatever purification our souls go through after death, we are not really and fully purified until after the Resurrection of the dead. We must have a unified body and soul in order to be a restored and healed human being. I think that we Orthodox would hold that there is a continued possibility of the further purification of the Christian's soul after death, but ultimately what we pray for is that the departed person be "remembered in God's kingdom," and by that we literally mean re-membered -- that God would fully restore this human being we pray for to his intended state, that of a unified and healed body and soul. Even the saints, in all of their glory, have yet to undergo a final restoration and, so to speak, purification at the Resurrection. It is only at the Resurrection that we will know the final state of each person, and thus the "wood, hay and straw" will be made evident. I think it important to remember that with the Resurrection we are talking about (obviously) a physical event for each of us. It could be that the re-taking of our bodies will be quite painful, all the more so the more sin disturbs the unity of soul and body. That is of course, pure speculation. Who knows how it will be? God is faithful - that is enough.

Rhology said...

So are you saying that we suffer for our sins after we die, at least in part? Is it our punishment?

olympiada said...

Okay my question is, what is the fire? My statement is, I think I am being purified right now. In fact I am sure I am being purified right now through this divorce. Lord have mercy. Mercy is oil. Kyrie Elison. Olive Oil. Lord pour out Thy abundant mercy on us all!

David Bryan said...

Rhoblogy,

As far as we Orthodox know--this is what I've gathered from priests, my archbishop, reading some of the Fathers on the subject (though by no means many), that the elect who are not completely sanctified at death will suffer a final purification after death, but we are adamant in saying that this is not the punishment of God--done for His satisfaction for sins already forgiven and whatnot--but rather for our final purification. God takes no benefit from our suffering. Like any good father, I'd say He hates to see it, but knows we must go through it in order to experience Him completely unimpeded.

Olympiada,

The fire is God Himself, who is a consuming fire, as we read in Hebrews. Those who are unrighteous, like clay, will experience the fire of God's presence as torment, and will be hardened. The rightous, like wax, will melt and be pliable before their God. It depends on what you've let yourself become in this life that determines how you'll react to the fire of God on that Day.

If you are being purified through this, the cross of your divorce, rejoice! You will thus be (more) pliable in the hands of our Lord and naturally receptive to His grace and mercy. Christians who truly endure to the end will be purified either in this life or the next. Hurts both ways.

owen white said...

Amen to what Bryan has said. It is not punishment but healing, and healing sometimes (perhaps oftentimes) hurts. I am confident that any pain we as Christians experience whilst being purified will also be accompanied by the still small voice of God comforting us all the way. Thus we will know that the suffering is not in vain. Perhaps the difference between a soul that ultimately loves God and a soul that does not is that the soul that loves God has an inner hope and faith that God will make every crooked path straight while the soul that lacks faith sees nothing but desolation and futility.
Rhoblogy,
Orthodox do not believe in a God who is concerned with keeping score, but instead in a God who will do surgery as needed,
Olypiada,
As Bryan suggests, the question is rather who is the fire? Mercy has small footsteps. Find Him in whatever quiet you can afford. May the Name of the God of Jacob protect thee.