Prof. Dr. S.V. Zagraevsky
Published in Russian: Ñåðãåé Çàãðàåâñêèé. Èèñóñ èç Íàçàðåòà. Æèçíü è ó÷åíèå. Ì., 2000. ISBN 5-94025-004-1
ANNOTATION TO THE BOOK
A new book by a well-known artist and theologian Sergey Zagraevsky is written in a popular and accessible form. The theme of the book is relevant and certainly interesting for any reader. That is the view on Jesus Christ and Christianity from the standpoint of common sense of a modern human.
decades the researches in
Thus, the independent Russian theology at the turn of the millennium faced a vacuum, which the book of Sergey Zagraevsky is intended to fill.
Much attention is paid to the person of Jesus and the church dogmas of the Trinity and the God-man. Contemporary evidence of the existence the existence of God is proposed in a form, close and understandable for anyone, even for the most unprepared reader.
The problems of everyone’s concern - morality and sin, Christianity and sexuality, good and evil, heaven and hell, the end of the world and eternal life are also reviewed.
My previous theological book was named “About one great human”. It was mainly devoted to the teaching of Christ, as whose followers we, Christians, consider ourselves.
I received a number of readers’ comments for that book. It was the most gratifying for me that many readers began to perceive Jesus Christ in a new way – not as an infinitely far and terrible judge, but as a human, who was crucified for his teaching of good and love. If that is the case, I can consider the purpose of that book as achieved.
Time has passed. The passions for the beginning of the third millennium and the increased interest of people to the person and the teaching of Christ were over – so to speak, the subject “went out of the fashion”. Neither the “Last Judgement”, nor the “Second Coming” took place, and people engaged in their ordinary business.
I also faced a certain “vacuum”: during that time neither new facts of Jesus’ life, nor new interpretations of his teaching appeared, disputes on the “Shroud of Turin” will be held for some more decades (possibly centuries), and it seemed to be nothing new to write about. That is why I engaged in the memoir book “My 20th century” and deviated from christological researches.
However, not for long. The point is that the words “we, Christians” do not suppose an answer to the question: why are we Christians? Only since many of us were baptized in childhood or were taken to a church by a grandmother?
For contemporary people, who are highly experienced and not inclined to overestimate traditions, normally, it is not enough. People need their own understanding that the actuality of Christianity does not decrease (furthermore, increases) under the conditions of the rapid scientific-technical progress, the genetic engineering, the computerization of all areas of knowledge etc.
Exclusively theological methods of analysis of Christ’s life and teaching turned out to be insufficient for that. It became necessary to form an integral philosophic worldview and to show that the nowadays’ humanity does not know any spiritual alternative for Christianity.
In this book, I have engaged in this subject.
My friends and opponents often call my system as “Metaphysical”. Well, since there is a tradition to name integral worldviews like this (moreover worldviews which include relations with God), then I am a metaphysician. And I am not afraid of this “label” – aren’t we tired of the absence of modern integral worldview systems, which include relations with God, in the philosophy of the 20th century?
I must note that here, as in all my previous books, I completely refuse of the usage of the specific philosophic language. Any human with any educational level, who is interested in the subject of this book, must have the possibility to read it. Even if he does not agree with something, even if he does not understand something at once – there will be an occasion for the reflection and for the forming of an own worldview. We are in for a research of questions of morality (as the basis of intersubjectivity), and it is possible in no circumstances to place for the overwhelming majority of readers an insuperable obstacle of strictly specialized terms.
Of course, it is possible to write even about Russian poet and bard Vladimir Vysotsky: “The human existence is simulated by Vysotsky not simply in border situations, but in bifurcational ones, setting simultaneously the ontological uncertainty of the perspective of the resolution of the opposition “Life-Death” and the opened horizon of the moral choice between the real existence and transformed forms of subsistence” (M.A.Mozheiko).
However, it is possible to write about Kant, and about Descartes, and about Augustine, and about Jesus Christ in a normal language, which is comprehensible to everyone, and loses neither analyticity nor philosophic depth at that.
The main question of this book may be formulated so: who are we, where did we come from and where are we going?
To answer this question, it is necessary to form on the Christian basis a system of philosophic views, applicable both in theory and in practice. And the concept of practice includes questions, which may seem estranged from the real life – such as the existence of God, the creation of the world, the origin of the humanity, the predestination of people and eternal life.
These questions are even not century-old, but millennium-old. All philosophers, all theologians of all times and peoples tried to give answers, and many of them fairly succeeded.
However, we live in the epoch, which is unique in its contradictions and pluralism of opinions on any question, furthermore on so serious one. That is why we can not do without a moral “tuning fork” – and in European civilization that is Christianity.
Christian theology is a greatly complicated and many-sided science, and it has the history of two thousand years. But today we can look at it in an unprejudiced way and stop trying to undo an unimaginable number of “Gordian knots”, which were tied up even by the medieval “Fathers of the Church”. Such knots can be undone neither by us nor by somebody else. They can only be cut.
We may say the same about a great number of stereotypes, which are embodied in our consciousness in connection with Christianity, furthermore with the faith in God.
It is not necessary to look long for examples – they are met all around. When everything is going well, we say: “Thank God”. But when something is going wrong, we say, – “Goddamn”, name the situation “God-awful” and do not think, how radically we change the context of the name of our Lord because of some minor everyday problems…
So, let us cut “Gordian knots” together.
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Before the engaging in philosophy, it is necessary to determine initial positions. I accentuate – before the engaging in philosophy, and the determination of “before-philosophic” positions is situated not in the philosophic, but in the personal area.
And since our research is destined for the widest circle of readers, we have to outline personal initial positions very widely.
Philosophy is not only a form of cognition of the world, and not only “the science of sciences”. First of all, philosophy is a worldview, and every human comes to it by his own ways, having lived in the world for a long time, knowing, understanding and feeling many things. Let us name that a “before-philosophic worldview”.
It is reasonable that the spectrum of before-philosophic worldviews of the humanity is extremely wide. Generally speaking, so many people, so many world views. And even more opinions on every question.
Nevertheless, all these minor opinions form some kind of common sense of an epoch, so as billions of people form the humanity. Some “community standards” are drawn up, some “public opinion vectors” exist, and even if it is impossible to divide them into constituent parts, it is necessary to analyze and examine them. Political scientists, and sociologists, and historians, and philosophers are engaged in that.
Furthermore, every human has his own habitual “life world” (Husserl determined it as “the sphere of fundamental evidences of the ordinary consciousness, which are rooted in practical activity and are an unavoidable premise of scientific knowledge”). And we can go far in philosophic research, but each of us has a passport, some certificates of some education, clothes, footwear, some assortment of private belongings… It is possible to enumerate infinitely everything that practically every civilized human has. And we live in some historical epoch, and almost each of us has relatives and friends…
But all things, which we can enumerate from the spheres of our life, health, education, civil rights, duties etc., are constituents of our “before-philosophic” worldview.
This worldview may be named briefly “people among people”.
But to the next question – if God is present in our “life world”, and if yes, what his relations with “people among people” are, – thousands of contradictory answers will be given, and we have to turn from the “before-philosophic” initial positions to philosophy.
The overwhelming majority of European philosophers accepted the existence of God. Many of them named him “the Absolute” – in fact, that is the same. It is impossible to suspect that it was only a “curtsey” towards all-seeing eyes of the Catholic Church, – God-Absolute was an integral part of philosophic systems of Plato, and Aristotle, and Descartes, and Fichte, and Hegel, and Schelling, and Solovyev, and Husserl…
But it is important for us to note that for philosophers, who created their systems on the basis of research of an individual consciousness (for Descartes, Fichte, Husserl), the idea of God was not so necessary, because, in the logical result, every separate individual consciousness acknowledges only itself and is inclined to consider all the rest things as unprovable by rational methods.
And from that point it seems to be only one step to the postulate that in the world nothing exists but the subject himself, and the world is understood as a product of our consciousness – the only thing, which is given undoubtedly. Such point of view is called “Solipsism” (from Latin “solus ipse” – “only myself”). Speaking in the contemporary language, the world is considered as “virtual”.
Nevertheless, the history of philosophy does not know “pure” Solipsism – the complete non-acceptance of the objective existence of the world. If we look attentively at the teachings of all philosophers, who were more or less inclined to “Subjective Idealism”, we shall see that nobody of them carried an abstract idea of the existence of the world only in feelings of a subject to complete Solipsism.
For example, Descartes did not follow the path of Solipsism, though his radical exclusion of every inauthentic thing from our “I” (in the result this exclusion breaks all our connections with the world), became a methodological base for many following generations of philosophers. Actually, Descartes’ “I” builds the doubtless world experience, basing only on the self-perception, but Descartes supposed that “any sane human never doubted about the reality of the existence of the world and the body”.
Even Husserl did not follow the path of Solipsism, though in his Phenomenology he declared the “pure logic” to be the basis of scientific knowledge, and he took out of the context even the instruments of reasoning and traditional philosophic problems. It might seem that the research of the solitary consciousness, which is excluded from the communication, was to lead to Solipsism, but, according to Husserl, the act of supposing of an object is connected with the object itself. And in the last works, Husserl engaged in the research of the spheres of sociality, of a common consciousness, of the “life world” and of the intersubjectivity, having actually come to Heidegger’s postulate of the “unavoidable world”.
In spite of a well-known stereotype, even
Perhaps, only some philosophizing characters of the books of Marquis de Sade are more or less consistent Solipsists, but it is difficult to say how much they express the point of view of the author, who was more inclined to eclectic Materialism.
It is no doubt that philosophers were stopped on the way to Solipsism by an insoluble contradiction with “before-philosophic” initial positions, which we have called as “people among people”. And the great quantity of physical perceptions made the “Solypsist” world view abstract, or even absurd.
But since the outward world is accepted as objectively existing, there are questions about its origin, substance, ways of development, – and, in general, why is everything arranged exactly in this way? Is there harmony in the world, and are there universal laws? And if such laws exist, where are they from?
In other words, does God exist?
This question agitated everyone, and a number of philosophers tried to prove the existence of God. Even in the conversation of the characters of Michail Bulgakov’s book “The Master and Margarita” – writer Berlioz and Satan Voland – five arguments for the existence of God were mentioned… So, what were that arguments?
The tradition of the Orthodox Church completely rejects arguments for the existing of God, considering them as harmful for faith. But the Western philosophic thought worked much in this direction, and it is necessary to talk about that.
Bulgakov’s Voland, probably, had in view five arguments mentioned by Thomas Aquinas. But, in fact, such arguments were proposed by many philosophers, and the number of arguments was much more than five.
It is considered that the first argument was elaborated by Aurelius Augustine. His position was the following: a human likes only welfare, and he likes all things only so far there is welfare in them. We like all things differently, therefore it is necessary that our consciousness knows some standard of welfare, and this standard may be only God – as the absolute and unchangeable welfare.
Truth to say, it is strange that Augustine did not carry his idea to an absurdity and did not propose a unit of welfare. Why not, if there is the standard?
However, Thomas Aquinas did not notice the potential absurdity and made of Augustine’s argument a basis of his theological system, having summarized it in such a way: we constantly compare things with each other and use the concepts “more” and “less”, and this method of comparison presumes the existence of the maximum – “absolute” God.
It is incomprehensible though, why Thomas’ comparison presumes the existence of the maximum – “absolute” God. What is then the minimum? The “absolute” devil? And if a poor man has one dollar, and a rich man – a million, then the latter man is closer to God? Absurd.
So called “ontological” argument (based on our ideas of existence) was proposed by Anselm of Canterbury and completed by Rene Descartes. Its essence is the following: I am an imperfect being, but I have an idea of the perfect being and must think that this idea is suggested to me by the being who has all the perfections – by God.
I can not keep from an immediate comment: I am afraid that an average-statistical businessman’s idea of a perfect being is vastly different from the Descartes’ one…
Let us not overload this book with the cosmological, the physic-teleological and many other arguments. In the work “Critique of Pure Reason”, Kant completely smashed up all the existing arguments because the necessity of objective reality is not evident from our subjective thought. According to Kant, there is the insoluble contradiction between our bounded experience and the infinite conclusion.
It is necessary to note that the tradition of Kant’s priority in this item is stronger than facts: actually, even William of Ockham considered that the understanding of God as an infinite being can not be proved by means of reason. Moreover, Ockham also understood the impossibility to prove rigorously the existence of anything in the world, except oneself. The famous “Ockham’s razor” – “Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity”, in theory, leads to Solipsism, because only the existence of a subject himself is necessary to the limit.
However, Ockham did not come to Solipsism, because he made the following conclusion of the possible illusiveness of the world and unprovability of the existence of God: the information about the outward world and God we must take, first of all, from faith. This conclusion sounded quite in the style of Thomas Aquinas, and possibly because of that Ockham, in spite of his opposition to the papal authority, was awarded to the title “Invincible Doctor”.
But if we do not go to extremes (neither to Solipsism, nor to Thomism), “Ockham’s razor” actually lies in some minimal (not the utmost) necessary totality of admissions, which are accepted as axioms.
But an axiom is not a proof. And since there are no rigorous proofs of the existence of the outward world and God, every human, who supposes the objective existence of both, has to examine everything aforesaid from his subjective point of view, basing exclusively on his “before-philosophic” initial positions.
In fact, there is nothing terrible in the
“subjectivity” of the latter postulate. Even Kant, carrying on polemics in
Presently the term “the scandal in philosophy” is used quite often and means the absence of any significant totality of universal philosophic postulates accepted by every professional in this area of knowledge.
However, Karl Jaspers considered the permanent “scandal in philosophy” to be a normal situation, substantiating it in the following way: “An indisputable knowledge, which is accepted by everyone, is not philosophy any more, but becomes a scientific knowledge and belongs to a specific area of science.”
It is difficult to disagree with this, but, unfortunately, this is only an elegant going away from the problem of initial positions.
We can also see the similar going away from the determination of initial positions and from the problem of the existence of God in the works of the majority of modern Western philosophers. But the problem of the existence of the outward world and of God remains extremely actual for us, and we shall understand very soon that we can not go away from it, – not only because we have named this chapter “The existence of God”.
By the way of the solution of this
problem, let us remember that it was interpreted by the Marxian science in the
The soviet ideological system liked to divide people into “friends” and “enemies”. Philosophers did not survive the ordeal. Nowadays the “fundamental question of philosophy” is already taken as an archaism, but all pupils and students of the Soviet Union learnt by heart something like the following: “The fundamental question of philosophy is the question of the priority of being or consciousness. That one, who considers being as prior, is a Materialist. That one, who considers consciousness as prior, is an Idealist.”
Strictly speaking, such division was made for the first time by Hegel, who considered that philosophy, solving the contradiction between being and thought, “splits into two main forms: realistic and idealistic”. And though Rationalism and Materialism are not the same, the “copyright” for the formula of the “fundamental question of philosophy” should be owned as Hegel’s.
But, strange though, exactly the Marxian ultramaterialistic position will help us go on with the research of the problem of the existence of God.
The fact is that the acknowledge of the priority of consciousness meant in the history of philosophy the acknowledge of the existence of God, and that was not convenient for “historical Materialists”. They could be Soviet, Western or Eastern, but all of them applied the principle of jurisprudence (if something is not proved, it does not exist) to “the fundamental question of philosophy”. And they said something like the following: “The existence of matter – the objective reality of the world – is proved by the totality of our physical feelings, and the existence of God – prove it, and we shall teach religion in Soviet schools! And while it is not proved, we shall teach historical Materialism!”
In fact, this position is nothing more than a speculation on the common sense, because the totality of our physical perceptions is not a rigorous proof of the existence of matter. Each of us knows a number of situations, when physical perceptions (given by five organs of sense) are deceptive – deliriums, hallucinations, mistakes of perception…
We have already spoken about Solipsism. In this way, if we approach to the proof of the objective being of the outward world from the same positions as Marxian materialists approached to the existence of God, we shall come to the “Solipsistic” conclusion: it is impossible to prove rigorously that the totality of physical feelings exists in reality, not only in the perception of a subject. In other words, there is a theoretical probability that the surrounding world does not exist, and it is presented only in our consciousness. Together with our body, family, house, neighbours, the Earth, the Sun…
And this is Solipsism, i.e. a violation of our “before-philosophic” initial positions (which we have named “people among people”) and an attempt to avoid the “unavoidable world”.
The circle has enclosed. Either we are trying to prove rigorously all the manifestations of the objective reality and inevitably come to Solipsism, or we accept something as axioms. In other words, get on faith. For some reason it is often considered that an axiom is a phenomenon of science, and faith – exclusively of religion, but as a matter of fact in both cases we speak only about some starting points.
And if we have the faith in the objectivity of the existence of matter, why shouldn’t we make a next step and have the faith in God as in the source of matter’s structural expediency and harmony? After all, matter really has the structure – atoms, electrons, organic and inorganic materials, cells, blood corpuscles etc., and all that is more or less adequately described by mathematical formulas and the periodic table of Mendeleyev…
Consequently, if we get on faith millions of different manifestations of the outward world, the step to the faith in God turns out to be insignificantly small, and it makes no importance from the logical point of view – if we have made 1000000 admissions, why shouldn’t we make the 1000001st?
Philosophic thought of the mankind was going to this conclusion, which seems to be simple, for a long time and in a difficult way, sometimes approaching to it, sometimes moving away. The point is that not only material questions appear (how many atoms of oxygen and hydrogen the molecule of water consists of, is there a “black hole” in the center of Galaxy etc.), but also many “spiritual” questions, which are much more difficult. For example, what is a human? What is the humanity? How do we perceive the world? What are our spirituality and soul? What is our civilization and what is its place in the Universe? Do we, people, fit in more or less expedient structure of the world, which is described by natural philosophy? At last, the main question of this book – who are we, where did we come from and where are we going?
And in this case harmony and expedience are called in question. Is the influence of human civilization upon nature positive or negative? And the influence of nature upon the humanity? And upon each of us? In what degree are natural mechanisms of self-regulation and self-reproduction applicable to the humanity? What is the fundamental difference between a human and other natural organisms?
And so on. It is impossible and unnecessary to enumerate all arising questions. Let us try to reduce them to one: falling neither into Solipsism, nor into vulgar Materialism, we suppose the certain structure and expediency in nature. Is it possible to suppose such expediency in a human and the humanity? At least, potential?
Speaking in the context of our book: is it possible to admit the existence of God as the source of structure and expediency not only in nature and the Universe, but also in a human and the humanity?
Of course, it is possible to try to “purify” philosophy from all admittances and subjective positions. But in this case, as we have shown, even Marxism with its faith in the exclusive objectivity of matter does not have the right to existence, and Solipsism remains the only destiny of any “purified” philosophic thought.
Thus, the existence of God-Absolute is not more unprovable than the existence of the outward world. And the laws of logic permit to formulate the words “not more unprovable” in the other way: “no less provable”.
Consequently, the supposing of the existence of God is absolutely justified.
But one more question arises. Our “before-philosophic” initial positions demand to admit the objective existence of matter. But is the next admittance – the existing of God – necessary for us? May be, let us “leave” the material world without God?
To answer this question, let us remember what we have said in connection with the “scandal in philosophy”: the shank of any philosophy is the human and his subjective, personal confidence in either problem. And morality – a significant attribute of a human person – will help us find an answer to the question: is the admittance of the existence of God as necessary for us as the admittance of the existence of matter?
It is impossible to deny the presence of morality in a human. This concept may be interpreted in different ways, but in our book, we shall use the widest interpretation of morality – as the totality of the spiritual positions of a human being.
However, the words “spiritual positions” are too indistinct, and let us carry out a more detailed analysis of that which we call by morality.
We often use the word “immoral” in everyday life, but it is only a metaphor, which is similar to the more vulgar expressions – like “brainless” or “armless”. It is clear that the latter “terms” usually state the inability to think logically or to repair the household goods, but not the absence of the appropriate organ…
Let us accept as the terminology: if there is a human, there is his morality, and it is as inalienable from him as his thought or his mind.
As the base of our analysis of morality, we shall use Kant’s philosophy. In the one hand, Kant considered morality as absolute, universal, generally valid, having the character of general “goodwill law”. In the other hand, he supposed that the principle of our “goodwill” is the wish to turn our maxim (the personal law) into a common law. “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time wish that it should become a universal law”. Uniting these two points of view, Kant elaborated the basic concept of his “moral metaphysics” – the categorical imperative, which was actually identified with “goodwill”.
As regards “goodwill”, it is impossible to disagree with Kant. But, unfortunately, a great number of people not only commit evil quite sincerely, but so much sincerely (at the level of subconsciousness) wish that their “maxim” should become a universal law.
The same counter-arguments may be brought against the well-known Kant’s postulate that the practical expressions of the categorical imperative can be reduced to the call of duty to the humanity.
It is possible to cite as an example: when children cry because Gray Wolf has eaten Little Red Riding Hood, it is unlikely that their crying is aroused by any call of duty. Nevertheless, that is an exclusively moral phenomenon, which is caused by the categorical imperative.
And there is a reverse example: executioners are usually dutiful, but this profession is scarcely of high moral standards.
Consequently, the call of duty is not the necessary and sufficient practical expression of that spiritual basis of the humanity, which Kant called as the categorical imperative. That is why I propose to use instead of Kant’s categorical imperative the concept of the moral imperative and to understand it as the totality of moral positions in the interpretation of Kant (absolute, universal, generally valid, having the form of general law and “goodwill”).
And for the description of the practical expressions of the categorical imperative we shall use a more contemporary term – humanism, which postulates the highest, self-sufficient and self-realizing dignity of a human, the priority of his person.
First of all, let us look, what moral positions may be called as humanistic.
A quite full (but still not comprehensive) enumeration of modern constituents of common understanding of humanism was given in the article of A.Pinsky “Mainstream. To the spiritual basis of future education and culture”. These constituents may be called as practical expressions of the moral imperative, and they are named “Mainstream” (main stream) in that article. I quote:
“Mainstream completely sets a number of understandable and basic norms, values, relationships, not always formalized or codified.
It includes 10 following components:
– The value of individual freedom;
– The value of interhuman and intergroup tolerance;
– The inadmissible or, even in forced situations, at the minimum, unsympathetic attitude to violence and aggression;
– The value of property and material prosperity;
– The estimation of the labour;
– The estimation of the life;
– The inadmissibility of any discrimination, the idea of principal lawful equality of people (adjoined with the sense of “equality” – which, of course, does not mean “identity” – of different ethnic and cultural traditions);
– The estimation of real altruism and self-sacrificing;
– The value of natural (“spontaneous”) diversity and, consequently, the feeling of the ambiguity of artificial unifications;
– The comprehension of the merit and value of nature, the “ecological idea”.
Mainstream carries the stable allergy to all ideas of spiritual, cultural, racial, ethnic and other exclusiveness…”
The end of the quotation. But we shall understand with the help of a simple biblical example that we can stop neither at “Mainstream”, nor at the “abstract” humanism.
According to our determination of
morality, the people of
“But the men of
“And the Lord said, Because the cry of
“But before they law down, the man of the
city, even the men of
The paradox is that aggressive “moral
positions” of the people of
It is a very serious problem. Even the
fact that Kant in his moral philosophy took into consideration only “reasonable
beings” will not help us. If we call “
First of all, let us try to solve this problem in the philosophic area.
Once upon a time at a philosophic seminar, I heard the words: “I trample the categorical imperative under foot”. At first sight, the situation seemed insoluble: if a professional philosopher because of some fundamental considerations “tramples the categorical imperative under foot”, how to make him change his mind?
In actual fact, the question is, as in the case of acceptance on non-acceptance of the existing of matter and God, exclusively in initial positions. Let us examine one more example for clearness.
We can see the most sharp and driven to the logical absurdity form of the antihumanistic positions at some characters of Marquis de Sade’s books. Their “philosophy” may be approximately reduced to the following:
“Let us look at morality – there are no rigorous proofs of the necessity to love people. Let us look at nature – all living beings are gobbling each other up. Let us look at society – it is criminal, corrupt and greedy. Then why must I take care of my neighbour and do any good to anyone? There is no less evil than good in the world, and that is why I’ll kill, rob, rape – I like it more. And if someone likes to help his neighbour – it is his private affair. But God forbid him to stand on my way…”
Don’t we actually see in this position the application of the same principles of humanism, but concerning only the alone, “central” person?
And this means that the main argument against the position of gentlemen like Marquis de Sade and his characters is that one day a potential victim will not agree to be killed, robbed or raped, and will do (at least, try to do) the same with the maniac-philosopher.
The result is that antihumanism comes to the contradiction with itself – the building of the value of one person on the non-recognition of the value of other persons means that sooner or later the value of this “central” person will be called in question by others, usually as the self-defense. Consequently, an inevitable “eternal war” begins and essentially raises the probability of the suffering and death of the antihumanist himself.
So, we see the contradiction with the “before-philosophic” initial positions which we have named “people among people”. And there is the only way for the antihumanist to solve this problem – to declare antihumanism with respect also to himself.
And this is the same logical absurdity as Solipsism, but it lies not in the theoretical, but in the practical area and because of that has much more wide spectrum of “life’s” negative consequences – from more or less inoffensive masochism to a mental hospital or even to the suicide.
That is why both the philosophic logic and the elementary understanding of “neighbourhood peace” dictate us contemporary humanism as the practical expression of the moral imperative. And anti-humanism, which we have reduced to the logical absurdity, ranks with Solipsism – these phenomenons are of one order and one, quite unenviable, historical destiny.
The arguments against the philosophers, who try to “trample the categorical imperative under the foot”, are the same.
Furthermore, these arguments permit us to speak about humanistic morality as the base of one of most important concepts of modern philosophy – Intersubjectivity.
We could have stopped at that and, as the majority of
“post-modern” philosophers, could have started to examine various aspects of Intersubjectivity.
But, unfortunately, “life philosophy” of the “
It is impossible to disregard this practical reality,
and that is why we must go on with the examination of the existence of God. And
we shall have to speak in our book about the sources and the historical
perspectives of “
And now we must return to theoretical questions and examine, what (to put it more precisely, who) is the source of the moral imperative.
Let us remember the words of Bulgakov’s Voland about the “sixth argument” for the existence of God, – the argument, which was elaborated by Kant. Most likely, Voland mentioned the following “moral argument”: even if it is impossible to prove the existence of God, it is possible and necessary to accept it. A human aspires to the perfection and happiness, which are unachievable in this world, and that is why the moral considerations demand to acknowledge that the harmony of the perfection and happiness may be achieved only under the conditions of the immortality of soul and the existence of God.
In actual fact, this Kant’s argument has not gone far away from Descartes’ ontological one, and that is why the first counter-argument is the same: “Sodom people’s” understanding of the perfection and happiness may be vastly different from Kant’s and Descartes’ one.
And the second counter-argument is that the harmony (even in the interpretation of Kant and Descartes) may never be achieved because the future life, which is provided by God, may be found much worse than this one...
It is unlikely that Kant needs a defense. Nevertheless, I would like to mention that in this book we are going to show the groundlessness of these two counter-arguments. But meanwhile we have not brought it out clearly, we have no right to use Kant’s “moral argument”.
But we can remember one more “moral argument” for the existence of God, – the argument, which was proposed by Blaise Pascal a hundred years prior to Kant. The tradition of Kant’s priority is again stronger than facts…
Pascal’s “moral argument” is much more simple and frank: because of the limits of our consciousness we can not know, if God exists or not, but we can choose one of two versions. We have something like a lot: “guess right – guess wrong”. What to choose? Undoubtedly, the existence of good, almighty and just God, because in the case of “winning” we obtain eternal harmony of perfection and happiness, and in the case of “losing” we actually lose nothing.
Of course, the moral aspect is not the rigorous logic. But, having spoken about the “fundamental question of philosophy”, we have seen that, in the determination of the basic positions, the rigorous logic is found powerless, and we can expect nothing but the permanent “scandal”.
Then we have to follow Pascal and take one of two sides.
Reasoning from everything said about humanism and anti-humanism, we must accept the existence of God as necessary.
Thus, we have trusted to the moral considerations and have accepted as an unavoidable axiom that God is the creator of the Universe, the source of the world harmony and expediency, and that the acceptance of the existence of God is as necessary as the acceptance of the existence of the outward world.
And since we have determined the moral imperative as the totality of moral positions in the interpretation of Kant (absolute, universal, generally valid, having the form of general law and “goodwill”), let us accept as one more axiom: God is the source of the moral imperative.
There are no internal contradictions in this postulate. That is why for the present let us trust the “humanistic intuition”. In this book we shall constantly “trust but check”, and if any logical contradiction with our initial positions appears, we shall notice that at once.
So, together with the faith in the material world we have the faith in God – the creator of the Universe, the source of the world harmony and the source of the moral imperative.
As we have determined, the moral imperative postulates the highest, self-sufficient and self-realizing dignity of a human, the priority of his person. And a human and his personal confidence in either problem are the shank (at the minimum, the initial positions) of philosophy.
Consequently, we can make the following conclusion: the moral imperative, directly or indirectly, is the shank of any philosophic system (except Solipsism). In the case of vulgar Materialism (Marx, Feuerbach), matter itself plays the role of God, and the role of the moral imperative is played by the socio-economic relations and the cultural and historical tradition. But we have already determined that the admission of the existence of God is as necessary for us as the admission of the existence of matter, thus vulgar Materialism is as unacceptable for us as Solipsism.
Now we can turn again from theory to the practical expressions of the moral imperative.
First of all, we must formulate the postulate, which is the most important for us: today there is no equal alternative for religion as a practical expression of the moral imperative, and the research of philosophic problems in the moral aspect sooner or later leads to theology.
Generally speaking, the concept of the moral imperative is wider than any religion, even of the scale of Christianity, Islam or Buddhism. In theory, the moral imperative does not need religious features at all. But if we want to turn from theory to practice, we can not do without religious aspect.
Let us explain, why.
The most universal determination of religion is the acknowledgement of the human connection with God. This connection is acknowledged in a great number of aspects, but at this moment, the moral aspect is the most important for us.
Kant considered religion to be the cognition of our duties in the form of divine prescriptions, not as arbitrary, occasional orders of some outside force, but as the essential law of free will. Let us aid to all said about religion one more thing – “the worldview”, and we shall understand that we can speak about religion as about the moral basis of person.
The same we have determined for the moral imperative. It is possible to say, having done an elementary substitution: in theory, the turning from the general-philosophic context to the religious one in the limit of moral aspect is possible and appropriate.
And in practice, having turned to the religious aspect, we obtain the convincingness and common-accessibility.
The last statement may draw on me accusations of “populism”, and we have to examine the question of the necessity of the bringing our research to the common-accessibility.
The point is that against “abstract”
humanism there is a serious argument, which was expressed by Boris Rezhabek in
his review of my book “Jesus from
There were the words in that book: “The 20th century was unable to discredit the ideals of humanism by all genocides. Let us avoid mixing up humanism and democracy: the “value of democracy” for the time present shows its efficiency far not everywhere. The main achievement of humanism may be expressed as the following: the life and the person of every human is sacred, and everyone has the right to his own opinion.”
Boris commented this in the following way: “This formula is the source of all pathologies of “humanism”. An attempt to protect otherwise-minded, alien and weak, but creative members of society, which is noble by the declared intention, automatically spreads the concept of a “human being” also to those, who knowingly, or submitting to the natural attractions, exclude themselves of the humanity and choose the way of the eternal perdition. And liberal opinion gives them a pat on the back, until they do not bite off a finger or something else to this liberal.”
have already faced the same problem in this book, having understood that,
according to the laws of humanism, the aggressive “moral positions” of the “
That is why in Boris’ position there is no
anti-humanism. There is the realization of the fact that in the contemporary
world, which is far from the perfection, every humanist finds himself
surrounded by “
This “life opposition” is insoluble at
either historical stage because “
So, there is only one way for the humanists in the historical trends – to put their teachings in common-accessible forms, to make it able to penetrate into hearts of millions – if not of the inhabitants of legendary Sodom or contemporary “Sodom people”, then of their descendants.
It is, at the minimum, an historical chance. How real it is, we shall examine in this book. But for thousands years of civilization the mankind has not thought out a more convincible and common-accessible expression of the moral imperative than the religious expression, and it is unlikely that something more convincible and common-accessible will be thought out in the foreseeable future.
That is why in this book (as in the others), I refused of the usage of “scientific” language.
That is why I do not use in principle special philosophic terms, which can be adequately replaced with commonly used expressions.
That is why we turn our research from the moral imperative to religion, i.e. from philosophy to theology.
The religious worldview of the people, who belong to the European civilization (of course, that means also Americans, Russians, Australians etc.), is inseparably connected with Christianity within last two thousand years. The East has its analogues, but we shall start the examination of the practical expressions of the moral imperative from Christianity – it will be more vivid and effective.
It is possible to select a quote from the New Testament even to almost each condition of “Mainstream” (about which we have spoken in the previous chapter), and by that, we turn the system of concepts from the “abstract” humanism (or from the general-philosophic moral imperative) to the Christian spirituality, which is deeply implanted into the human consciousness.
Of course, repeatedly there were attempts to “replace” Christianity with something “new”. Let us remember the French Revolution’s slogan “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” or the Communist’s: “To work by the capabilities and to consume by the needs”. In actual fact, all that proved to be an usual speculation.
Christ’s teaching was and remains that basic system, on which the overwhelming majority of European philosophers created their doctrines. The breakup with Christianity started to be declared by many of them (Voltaire, Feuerbach, Marx and Schopenhauer are most well-known in this respect) only since the second half of the 18th century, i.e. in comparison with two thousand years of Christianity – quite recently.
We know to what that led. The Marxist
social utopia in
The moral imperative, “purified” from Christianity, for the time being proves to be a fertile field for political speculations. Anarchists and military juntas also use ideas of good and justice in their goals.
In this respect, the historical destiny of the teachings of philosophers of so called “Russian religious Renaissance” is indicative. They managed to turn the catatonic using of the Christian understanding of the moral imperative by the European philosophers into the deliberated and structured forms. That is the great significance of the philosophy of N.Fyodorov, V.Solovyov, S.Frank, N.Lossky, N.Berdyaev, L.Karsavin...
But their teachings, which were tightly connected with Russian Orthodoxy, faced the tragic destiny – these philosophers were the contemporaries and actual opponents of Lenin and Plekhanov.
The philosophers of the “Russian religious Renaissance” did not organize parties and did not propagate the victory of socialism in any country, but they based their doctrines on much more longstanding and implanted traditions – on the teaching of Jesus Christ. And the bitter nonsense occurred: when in the beginning of the 20th century the teaching of Christ came into the collision with the teaching of a secondary German philosopher, Christianity lost, and that led to a number of “lost generations” not only in Russia.
It may seem strange. Christianity and Marxism are the teachings, which are commensurable neither by the significance, nor by the scale. But, nevertheless, in 1917 the overwhelming majority of “Orthodox” Russian people followed Marxists and started to raid churches with enthusiasm.
The fact that there was a speculative substitution of Christianity by another subconsciousness expression of the moral imperative – by the ideas of social justice – is understandable, but that is not an irrefragable explanation. Doesn’t Christianity contain the same ideas?
What did then happen in the beginning of the 20th century?
We have to work at this terrible
historical lesson repeatedly. Now, after many decades of the prohibition of
such researches in
And not only Russians. In the beginning of
And the present day situation poses the moral problem with an unexampled actuality. The point is that the humanity never in history could be destroyed (at least in theory) by one successful nuclear terrorist.
Yes, atomic weapons have a great number of
protection systems. Yes, it is not simple to provoke a nuclear war. But,
nevertheless, let us remember the accident at the
There was neither a catastrophic explosion
nor a complete blowout of the nuclear fuel in
It is impossible to underestimate the potential danger of the nuclear self-destruction, which threats the mankind since 1960s. I suppose that it is time to recover from the “illness of geocentrism” (of the consideration of the mankind as the single and immortal civilization) of a number of philosophers, who allowed themselves to disregard or even deny the Christian moral positions.
Unfortunately, the death of the population of the Earth will be scarcely seen by the population of other planets of the Universe.
All ideas of the ascension of the humanity to either scientific-technical achievement must be constantly checked by a moral “tuning fork”, otherwise at any time the self-destruction of our civilization may take place. And this will happen with such “existential commonness” as in the novel “The Plague” by Albert Camus.
Vulgar Materialism, seeming to be a funny literature toy in the hands of Marquis de Sade, became an ideological bomb, which brought to dictatorships a half of the world, in the hands of Lenin. The extremes of “Islamite fundamentalism” lead to explosions not only of ideological bombs, but also of real ones. And with what philosophic system will a potential nuclear terrorist be equipped?
That is why let us not “play with fire” and let us not try to replace Christianity with something “new”. Alienating ourselves from the extremely dangerous doctrine of the “nuclear containment”, let us say: there is a time-approved instrument of the “moral containment”, and in this book, we shall work only with it.
Of course, let us not fall into such extremes of the “Russian religious Renaissance” as the following: “Philosophy must be a servant of theology, but not its slave” (L.Karsavin). It is absolutely incorrect to use the concepts “a servant” and “a slave”, which differ only in the form of payment, for the definition of the interrelations of philosophy and theology.
Let us say in another way: Christian religion is the shank of European philosophy, its moral (ultimately, personal) basis, and theology is a science, which researches that basis.
In the light of this point of view, the question, which science – philosophy or theology – is more important, is as abstract as the question, which color is more important – white or red. On the one hand, red color in respect to physics is a component of the white, but on the other hand, nominally there is no white color in nature, because this color consists of seven colors of the rainbow…
So, we shall not go deep into a dispute, what is more important – philosophy or theology. Let us declare the equal existence of both disciplines and address ourselves to their objects – the moral imperative and religion.
First of all, we must analyze the right of European philosophy to base on the Christian understanding of the moral imperative.
Bluntly speaking, is all, that we know about Christ, the truth? Are the Gospels – the historical evidences about him – authentic? Is the New Testament authentic as a whole?
May be, it is even necessary to thank the Marxists, because, having declared Christ a legend, they corrected the ancient mistake of mankind?
However, the Marxists’ palm in this “achievement” is doubtful: even Voltaire did not accept the historicity of Jesus, and in the beginning of 19th century these ideas were developed by Arthur Drevs and David Strauss. But this does not change the essence.
And with a view to show the validity of Christianity as the spiritual base of the European understanding of the moral imperative, we shall have to analyze the authenticity of the New Testament and the information, which contains in it.
Let us start from the historical-biographic review – there we shall highlight key-points at a number of fundamental things which we shall need both for the determination of the New Testament authenticity and for the following theological research.
At first, let us briefly remember the 1st century’s chronology, which is connected with Christianity.
It is officially considered that Jesus Christ was born between the end of 1 BCE and the beginning of 1 CE. Anyway, the calendar is hold in such a way, and on December 25, 2000 (in Russian Orthodox calendar – January 6, 2001), we were to celebrate two thousand years of Jesus’ birthday.
But let us remember the well-known fact: Jesus was born in the time of the Judaic king Herod the Great, who, having heard from the “wise men” about Christ’s’ birthday and having considered it as a threat for his power, ostensibly ordered to kill all children in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1-16).
Herod the Great died in the spring of 750 AUC
(from Latin “ab urbe condita” – “from the foundation of the city”, i.e. of
Converting to Dionysius’ calendar, which we use until now, Herod the Great died in 4 BCE (let me remind the rules of converting: 1CE – 754 AUC, 1 BCE – 753 AUC, 2 BCE – 752 AUC etc). Consequently, Christ was born in the spring of 4 BCE at the latest.
A calendar paradox turns out: the two thousand years’ jubilee of Christ took place before 2000. And let us mention how absurdly sounds the phrase: “Christ was born minimum four years before Christ”.
Let us try to understand what it is all about. Dionysius, the compiler of the first collection of 401 ecclesiastical canons, actually one of the creators of “Canon law”, could not make such a simple mistake in the year of Christ’s birth.
Let us start from the determination of the date when Christ was crucified, because about his execution we know much more than about his birth.
All the Evangelists agreed that Christ was crucified on Friday (Matt. 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:14). But on what Friday particularly?
That Friday was one of the days of Jewish Passover. The first Passover’s day is 14th of “Nisan” (the first month in the Jewish calendar), – “in the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover” (Lev. 23:5).
All the Evangelists, except John, were evidence of that the Last Supper was in the first day of Passover: “Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover (Paschal lamb, – S.Z.) must be killed” (Luke 22:7). Matthew and Mark said the same (Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:12). Consequently, the Last Supper took place on Nisan, 14, and Christ was crucified on the next day, i.e. on Nisan, 15.
The words of John about the day of the crucifixion, – “It was the preparation of the passover” (John 19:14), – contradict to a number of other Evangelists’ evidences about the Paschal character of the Last Supper. That is why it is most likely that here some philological inaccuracy took place – John could speak about the preparation as about one of the Paschal days.
Of course, it would have been possible to dispute on that (the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are still doing that), but even in the middle of 2nd century John’s disciple Polycarp of Smyrna noticed that inaccuracy in the fourth Gospel and disputed on this item against Anicetus, the bishop of Rome. Let us notice that Polycarp did not defend the point of view of his teacher John and accepted the dating of Matthew, Mark and Luke, whom he did not know personally. This fact confirms Polycarp’s objectivity to a great extent.
As a result, thanks to Polycarp of Smyrna we can accept the dating of the Last Supper on 14th, and of the crucifixion on 15th.
It remains to compare the Jewish calendar
with the Roman one and look in what year Nisan, 15 was Friday. Dionysius did
that, having set as a limitation the well-known fact that Christ was crucified
in the time of Pontius Pilate (even Tacitus and Josephus Flavius confirmed
that), and Pilate was the prefect of
In that years there were only two Fridays
on Nisan, 15: 30 and
So, 30 or 34 CE?
In the early Christian times, there was a
legend that Pilate was called to
But we know the character of Emperor Tiberius and, of course, he would not have ever deposed the prefect for any execution, especially of some preacher. Moreover, Roman emperors had no respect for new religions and worships.
Nevertheless, in the Middle Ages it was customary to conceive bloody rulers to be “rough but just”, and it is no wonder that Dionysius had an intention to choose the date of crucifixion closer to the discharging of the “evil” prefect by the “good” emperor.
And further Dionysius probably used the well-known tradition of “Christ’s age”.
Let us notice an important evidence of
Luke: “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Ti-be’ri-us Caesar, Pontius
Pilate being governor of
Then John the Baptist began to baptize people. In some time (what exactly, Luke did not specify), Jesus was baptized and that meant the beginning of his ministry.
Then Luke said: “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age...” (Luke, 3:23). Consequently, Jesus was about 30 years old not earlier than in the 15th year of Emperor Tiberius’ ruling.
The previous emperor, August, died in 14 CE, so it turns out that Jesus was about 30 not earlier than in 28 CE.
Christ’s ministry was most minutely described by John the Evangelist. Jesus began his ministry some days before the Jewish Passover (John 2:12), and later three more Passovers were mentioned (John 5:1; 6:4; 11:55). So, 3 years passed since the first Passover until the last (tragic) one. The famous concept of “Christ’s age” originated from that: thirty years before baptism (by the Gospel according to Luke) plus three years after (by the Gospel according to John). Thirty three years.
So, Dionysius (and we also) faced the problem: if we choose 30 CE as the year of crucifixion, then Christ’s ministry did not keep within 3 years, even if he would have been baptized in 28 CE, when John the Baptist started his activity.
But if we choose 34 CE, there is even the large “reserve”, because Jesus could have been baptized later than 28 CE. For example, John began to baptize in 28, and Jesus was baptized in 31. Why not?
And Dionysius chose 34 CE. According to his calculations, everything was quite normal – if Jesus had been born between 1 BCE and 1 CE, in 34 CE he would have been full thirty-three years old.
And concerning the fact of Jesus’ birth in the time of Herod the Great, – Dionysius could forget about it. May be, he did not know the date of Herod’s death. May be (and that is most likely) he preferred to direct his attention to the evidence of the 15th year of the Tiberius’ ruling and to the date of the discharging of Pilate.
But we must not forget anything, and our research must go on.
As we know, Jesus was born in the time of Herod the Great, i.e. in 4 BCE at the latest. Are we able to determine the “lower limit” of his date of birth?
There is a little, very little Gospel information about Christ’s birthday. Some researchers even tried to base on the evidence of the “Bethehem star” (Matt. 2:2), using the contradictory information about comets, star showers and “planet parades”. But such astronomic events take place almost every year. Can something else help us?
There is one more important evidence of
Luke: “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from
Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first
made when Cy-re’ni-us was governor of
The taxation censuses in the
So, the evidence of Augustus’ decree on taxation can not help us: the dispersion is too wide – plus-minus five years.
We know that there was no “Cyrenius,
And the year of the crucifixion?
Accepting 34 CE, we do not keep within “Christ’s age”: if Jesus had been born in 4 BCE, in 34 CE he would have been 37 years old (for anyone who would like to check these calculations, I remind that there was no “zero” year; 1 CE follows 1 BCE, and if we “cross” the beginning of “Christian era”, we must decrease the calculations by 1 year).
It seems to be necessary to accept 30 CE as the year of the crucifixion. But what shall we do with Luke’s evidence of the beginning of Christ’s ministry in 28 CE, the 15th year of the ruling of Tiberius (Luke, 2:1-2)?
Christ’s ministry does not keep within 2 years. Moreover, then “Christ’s age” will turn out to be thirty-two, and if in 28 CE he was thirty, then he was to be born in 3 BCE (haven’t you forgotten to decrease the age by “zero” year?) But we have found out that he could not be born later than 4 BCE. What to do?
Nothing but to read once more “The Life of
Twelve Caesars” by Svetonius. Tiberius became the co-ruler of August not in 14,
but in 13 CE! Moreover, he was responsible exactly for provinces, i.e. for
So, we have “found” the insufficient year. Let us calculate:
In 27 CE, Jesus was about thirty. We accept without “about” – thirty.
He was crucified in three years, i.e. in 30 CE, so at the day of the crucifixion he was 33 – in “Christ’s age”.
We subtract 33 years of 30 CE, take into consideration “zero” year and come to 4 BCE, to the birthday in the time of Herod the Great. That is the result, and we can say with confidence: Christ’s birthday – 4 BCE, his crucifixion – 30 CE.
In actual fact, it is possible to say more precisely. Even in the beginning of the 19th century, it was calculated by the astronomical tables that Nisan 15, 30 CE corresponded with April 7.
Then Jesus could be born both in the second half of 5 BCE and in the beginning of 4 BCE. In each case the death, as it is written in obituary notices, “followed at the 34th year of life”, though the words “death” and “obituary notice” are scarcely applicable to Christ. So, we can even obey the tradition and conditionally accept the common date of Christmas: Catholic – December, 25; Orthodox – January, 6.
Thus, the most exact and compromise both in historical and in theological aspects are the following dates of Jesus’ life: December 25, 5 BCE (January 6, 4 BCE)–April 7, 30 CE.
The exact date of crucifixion, April 7, 30, may be considered as a completely proved historical fact.
Let us count the years once more: if Jesus was born in the end of 5–beginning of 4 BCE, then he was 1 year old between 4 and 3 BCE, 2 – between 3 and 2 BCE, 3 – between 2 and 1, 4 – between 1 BCE and 1 CE, 5 – between 1 and 2 CE etc. As we can see, it is necessary to add 3 years to calculate his age in any year of our era. Between 29 and 30 CE he was thirty-three, and between 1996 and 1997 he was 2000.
However, the majority of people still consider as something taken to mean that Christ was born some years before Christ, and that his jubilee was to be celebrated between 2000 and 2001. The strength of traditions is really great...
To understand, on what traditions of the Old Testament Christ based in his activity, let us remember that the basis of Judaism was the faith in God’s help not to a separate human, but to the Jewish people as a whole.
But within many centuries the generations
of Jews lived in the grip of conquerors and died, having received from God no
help in the struggle against occupants. In 6th century BCE,
In the time of Christ, the enduring
sequence of the rebellions against the Roman grip began (it is considered that
Barabbas, who was freed by Pilate instead of Jesus, was one of rebel’s
leaders). In 70 CE, after one of rebellions, the Roman commander Titus
It is no wonder that the decay and downfall of the state made in the Jews’ consciousness a certain spiritual vacuum, which could be filled only with the hope for the future saving of the endless slavery. It led to a very specific result – to the expectation of the Messiah (from Hebrew “mashiah” – “anointed”, in the context of the Old Testament – the Savior, and the latter word is translated into Greek as “Christ”).
The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
Daniel and “Twelve Minor Prophets”, which are most probably written in the 8th–6th
centuries BCE, are partly devoted to the coming of the Savior. Let us note that
prophetical traditions in
The prophecies about the coming of Messiah were quite specific, even approximate terms were mentioned. The latter ones left open space for disputes, but the Messiah, doubtlessly, was to:
– be a Hebrew (Gen. 22:18; Num. 24:17);
– be named Jesus (Zech. 3:1);
– descent from King David (Is. 11:1; Zech. 13:1);
– be the Son of God, conceived by a virgin from God (Ps. 2:7; Is. 7:14);
– be named the Son of man (Dan. 7:13-14);
– be born in
– become an object of the worship of wise men (Is. 60:3);
– be in
– be related to
– commit wonders and cure people (Is. 29:18; 61:1-2);
– ride into
– be tortured and executed (Is. 53:5; Jer. 11:19; Dan. 9:26; Ps. 21:17-19);
– resurrect and rule the world (Ps. 2:8);
– bring the New Testament to the world (Jer. 31:31-33);
– judge the peoples (Is. 42:1-4);
– save the people of
We see the ready scheme, to which the Messiah was to conform. And if Jesus had not conformed to at least one of the “demands”, which were cited above, his identity with the Messiah would have been called into question.
And we, calling Jesus by the name of Christ, thereby acknowledge him as the Messiah, acknowledging all the Old Testament’s prophecies at that.
Jesus followed his “earthy” father’s
profession, and until the beginning of the ministry worked as a builder (Mark
6:3; according to the majority of translations of the New Testament – as a
carpenter). In spite of such a “proletarian” profession, he was descended from
King David. That was a quite often case in
Jesus was born it
There were no last names in the Eastern
part of the
Having passed to another region, people
usually obtained a name of the native town in addition to the first name. The
name, which was written on the table put on the cross – “Jesus of Nazareth”
(John 19:19), is from here. Let us note that there was the consonance “
Christ mostly often called himself, according to the Old Testament’s tradition, as “the Son of man” (Matt. 10:23; 16:28; Luke 9:56; 19:10 etc.)
It is understandable why Jesus began his ministry relatively lately, being thirty years old. In that time the thorough study of the Old Testament took much more time than in our days, – comments were mostly verbal and tangled. And it was not enough for Jesus to know only Mosaic Law. He needed exact references to a number of prophets and prophecies, since he declared himself the Messiah – the Savior of the Jewish people.
The bitter historical paradox: his people never acknowledged that. In spite of the Old Testament’s prophecies, that the Messiah would be executed at first (Is. 53:5; Jer. 11:19) and only then would resurrect and rule the world, the overwhelming majority of Jews in the beginning of our era had the stereotype of the Messiah as of some kind of Archangel, who would lay hated Roman occupants waste with fire and sword.
But Jesus of Nazareth was “only” the son of a carpenter, and he died the shameful death. I would like to accentuate that the crucifixion was much more shameful for the Jews than for the Romans, because “he that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23).
when Jesus was crucified on April 7, 30 CE, his cause had a little chance for
the historical triumph. Therefore there is no bewilderment in his prayer to God
Jesus really had reasons to doubt in future. He had few disciples, and neither of them had the organizing talent or “charisma”.
Peter, the first disciple, besides his little education (he was a professional fisherman) had the weak character. Do you remember how he denied Jesus thrice? (Matt. 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:56-61; John 18:15-27).
John, the Son of Zebedee (John the Evangelist), scarcely had the organizing talent though later became an outstanding writer.
James, the brother of Jesus, probably had neither Jesus’ “charisma” nor his knowledge. He is often confused with Apostle James, the elder son of Zebedee, but in fact he joined the “movement” only after the crucifixion of his brother and held the high place in the Christian community merely as the “Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19; Acts 12:17).
Nevertheless, Peter and James became the
successors of Jesus. Actually, the Christian Church became a Judaic sect, one
of a number of that existed in
Moreover, just at that time the strict
Judaic canon was being formed – it was necessary to unite the Hebrew people in
confrontation with the mortal danger, not less than in
But James and Peter considered firmly that
it was necessary to preach only in
But in the beginning of 30s, Apostle Paul appeared on the historical scene.
Paul was not one of Twelve Apostles, did not know Jesus personally and even took part in the stoning of Stephen (Acts, 7:58). But some time later he accepted the Christian ideas, devoted himself to Christ and declared himself an Apostle.
Exactly Paul managed to create the
powerful Christian organization and to spread Christianity to almost all the
territory of the
In spite of the declarative denial of the rigorous obeying to Mosaic Law, Christ’s image in the theology of Apostle Paul does not essentially differ from the Old Testament’s Messiah (Rom. 14:26; 15:8-12; 1 Cor. 16:22; Heb. chapter 1; 8:8-9). The only serious difference is that Jesus Christ, according to Paul, was to save not only the Jews, but also the humanity as a whole (Rom. 3:29; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:14).
Paul was an idealist but a practical man (as we see, that were quite compatible concepts even at that time), and he understood that any complication of Jesus’ image would be harmful for the Church. It was quite convenient for him to interpret Christ as the Savior, the Messiah, anointed by God and holding in the heavenly hierarchy the place higher than the highest Archangels, on the right hand of God (Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3).
According to the teaching of Paul, the
first coming of Jesus confirmed that the Old Testament was fulfilled. Jesus
expiated our sins by his suffering (Rom. 3:24; 5:9; Heb. 1:3), and our
spiritual world is now ruled not by Mosaic Law, but by the faith in Jesus
Christ (Rom. chapters 5-7), i.e. by the faith in the fact that Jesus is our
Savior (Rom. 6:8; 10:9; 2 Cor. 3:14-16). And it is necessary to carry out,
first of all, Christ’s Testament – to love each other and to commit good (
By the way, having referred to that, Paul declared Judaic circumcision as non-obligatory for Christians (1 Cor. 15:1; Gal. 5:2). The practical Apostle understood that for baptizing Gentiles that was too burdensome, and, what is more, this procedure was too painful in the adult age...
Further, as Paul taught in the full accordance with the Gospels, Christ, having ascended into heaven, gave us some time to obtain the faith in him and begin to live by his covenants (2 Thess. 2:2-11), and then he would come for the second time and begin to rule the world (1 Cor. 15:24-25).
Let us note that Paul managed to convince Christians that the “Second Coming” may take place not today and not tomorrow, and possibly not during the life of this generation or the next one (1 Thess. 5:1-3; 2 Thess. 2:2-11).
But in view of that Paul had to overpass the resistance not only of Roman and Judaic authorities, but also of his “very chiefest” (2 Cor. 11:5) colleagues in the Church, primarily of Peter and James. None of them accepted Paul’s idea that the Christian teaching of love and good together with the Judaic concept of single and invisible God would have the widest resonance just in the spiritually decayed the Gentile world. It is most probable that they even did not acknowledge Paul’s right to be named an Apostle.
Paul told the following:
“But when Peter was come to
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:11-16).
As we see, Paul’s position was stated
simply and logically in this short episode. His conflict with Peter was more
ideological than political or material, and after the debates, Paul went away
to preach in
Moreover, there is a Churches’ legend that
Paul convinced Peter of his right, and the latter became the head of the Church
According to another legend, Apostle Paul
during Emperor Nero’s persecution of Jews (64-65 CE) was decapitated. That
looks like truth, since Romans had no right to crucify him – he was a Roman
citizen, though a Jew. The city of
It is important to remember that Apostle
John the Evangelist (in the Western tradition – John the Divine, in the Eastern
one – John the Theologian) more or less safely went through the persecution of
the 60s and escaped with an exile to
Disputes about the order of the Gospels and on their authorship do not stop even nowadays.
The Gospel according to Matthew was the most “unlucky”. In the 19th-20th centuries, it was often considered that it was scarcely not a fruit of a collective creative work of the beginning of the 2nd century. A number of references to the Old Testament, which proved the identity of Jesus and the Messiah, were the main ground for that. If some Matthew was even acknowledged as an author, he was considered as not Apostle Matthew.
In view of that, it is often claimed that the first Gospel was the shortest one – the Gospel according to Mark, and later the professional historians-theologians Luke and Matthew wrote on its base their Gospels, which were “colored” by details and references to the Old Testament.
In actual fact, everything is much more simple. I consider that many contemporary historians quite unjustly acknowledge Matthew’s incapability for the fundamental analysis of the Old Testament. As we know, Matthew was a publican (Matt. 9:9-10), and publicans were highly educated, since they were given an employment not by Judaic authorities, but by the Roman. And the latter were good experts in the personnel. The caste of publicans was closed and privileged, brought up in the spirit of the devotion to the Roman emperor and law. Matthew was the most educated disciple of Christ, and only he was able to write down his Gospel “close in the tracks”.
It is likely that it is the reason of a certain “economic deviation” of Jesus’ parables in Matthew’s interpretation, and of a certain “anti-Semite” orientation of the first Gospel – for example, of the concerted cry of the crowd in Jerusalem: “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matt. 27:25). However, these words may be interpreted in different ways, and it is doubtful that a crowd cried such a complicated and articulate phrase.
But in each case, publicans did not love people, and people did not love publicans. The similar situation takes place today with the majority of tax inspectors. Let us note that Matthew quickly disappeared from the historical scene after Jesus’ crucifixion.
There is one more argument against Matthew’s authorship. Jesus called him (Matt. 9:9) after the Sermon on the Mount (Matt., chapters 5-7). So, how could he write the famous sermon in so many details? But there is also a counter-argument: Matthew most probably heard that sermon, when he was among the crowd, otherwise it is too doubtful that a publican in the line of duty threw up his work and followed an unknown preacher...
Everything is more or less understandable with the authorship of Mark (most probably a disciple of Apostle Peter – 2 Pet. 5:13) and Luke (undoubtedly a disciple of Apostle Paul – Acts, chapter 27). It is the middle of the 1st century. Reasoning from the fact that “The Acts of the Apostles”, the continuation of the Gospel according to Luke, was written in Rome shortly before Nero’s persecution (64 CE), these Gospels may be dated not later that the beginning of the 60s.
Consequently, the Gospel according to Matthew, to which both Mark and Luke refer, could be written at any time since 30 until 60 CE.
The Revelation, the most often read and interpreted book of the Bible, was written after Nero’s persecution, in the middle of the 60s. Few researchers dispute on this, since in this book there are references to the church communities acting at that time.
But in return, it is often said that the Revelation was the first book of the New Testament. We have seen that three first Gospels were written before. But many generations so violently wanted exactly the Revelation to be the first Biblical book (on its basis possible “Doomsday” dates are still calculated) that the wishful replaced the real.
The Gospel according to John belongs to
other epoch – the end of the 1st century. Apostle John, the favorite disciple
of Christ (John 19:26), was a son of a fisherman and had an insufficient basic
education, but later he probably had a possibility to get in touch with the
Greek philosophy in the 60s in the Patmos exile and then in
Conjectures that the fourth Gospel and the Revelation have different authors, both Johns, are nothing more than conjectures. The Revelation, as we have said, was written in the middle of the 60s, and the Gospel was written at least twenty-thirty years later. Enough time for the evolution of the style and worldview.
I think that we can finish our brief historical-theological review of the times of the New Testament creation and try to prove the authenticity of the New Testament. It is a necessary and enough condition of the recognition that Christ was a historic person.
So, we are about to try to prove the authenticity of the New Testament. It is a complicated task, since neither the Gospels, nor any other book of the New Testament reached us in original. The earliest manuscripts, which are known to contemporary science, date from the 3rd–4th centuries.
But as the first and the most simple proof of the authenticity of the Gospels it is possible, however paradoxically, to cite a number of contradictions in them (we have already examined some of them).
The Gospels were written by the different people many years after Christ’s crucifixion, and the presence of contradictions means the honesty of Evangelists. Of course, in the conditions of incomplete information. But if they had openly fabricated the Gospels, everything would have been quite fluent, and every contradiction would have had some arguments.
And it is scarcely probable that during some decades of the 1st century there appeared so many artistic writers of the Evangelists – the geniuses, who, hand in hand, thought out such a complicated character, as Jesus of Nazareth, agreed upon key theological problems, but at that, each of them described Christ in his own way, with many chronological and theological contradictions.
“Now that you mention it, let’s see. Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John are a bunch of practical jokers who meet somewhere and
decide to have a contest. They invent a character, agree on few basic facts,
and then each one’s free to take it and run with it. At the end, they’ll see
who’s done the best job. The four stories are picked up by some friends who act
as critics: Matthew is fairly realistic, but insists on that Messiah business
too much; Mark isn’t bad, just a little sloppy; Luke is elegant, no denying
that; and John takes the philosophy a little too far. Actually, though, the
books have an appeal, they circulate, and when the four realize what’s
happening, it’s too late. Paul has already met Jesus on the road to
That was the quote of the novel “Foucault’s pendulum” by Umberto Eco (translated by William Weaver).
It is unlikely that the position of the main character of the novel, who drew the foregoing conclusions, has a support of the author himself. It is most probably that here took place Descartes’ “radical doubt”.
According to Descartes’ methodology, let us also “doubt” and suppose that Jesus Christ was fabricated. But a question arises: if he was fabricated, then by whom?
There are not so many variants, and I propose to examine each of them.
Let us assume that about the middle of the 1st century Jesus Christ was thought out by a man, who had no bearing on the Christian Church and was not mentioned in the New Testament.
But, firstly, a hypothetic fabricator was
to have so wide connections in
Secondly, nobody doubts about the historicity of Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyon (abt.130–202), the analyst of the Holy Scripture and the compiler of the New Testament. As it is well known, Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna (abt.80–abt.169), and the latter was a disciple of Apostle John the Evangelist. We have the line of witnesses from Irenaeus to Jesus.
Consequently, nobody “outside of the Church” could think Christ out.
Then let us assume that Christ, together with the whole “line of witnesses”, was thought out by Irenaeus.
But Irenaeus was not the first bishop of
Consequently, the bishop of
Because of the same reason, Christ could not be thought out by Polycarp of Smyrna – the Church already existed and lions were already set on Christians in the 2nd century.
Christ could not be fabricated also in 80–90s
CE by John the Evangelist. In 111 CE Emperor Trajanus already answered the
inquiry of the writer Pliny the Younger, the governor of
It is also doubtful that John in his hypothetic fabrication gave so important role to Apostle Paul. If John had organized the Church himself on the basis of his fiction, then, undoubtedly, he would have taken a leading role in the whole New Testament, including the Acts and the Epistles. Or, at the minimum, he would have shown himself as the mediator between Jesus and Paul. Otherwise, it turns out that if John had thought out Christ and founded the Church, he would have undermined his own authority.
Consequently, Christ was thought out neither by John the Evangelist nor in the second half of the 1st century.
Then let us assume that Jesus Christ and the whole New Testament were thought out in 30–40s CE by Apostle Paul, who later founded the Christian Church and theology on the basis of his fabrication.
Another variant is possible: somebody of Paul’s friends thought Christ out and invited Paul to take part in the falsification, and later Paul “moved” his friend aside and represented himself in the New Testament as playing the leading role.
But Paul wrote that he communicated with
people who new Jesus personally (Peter, James and other Apostles). He also
described Christ’s apparition by his way to
So, if there had been a falsification then the “Apostle of Gentiles” knew everything and took an active part in it. And there is no importance if someone helped him or not. We can even assume that John the Evangelist knew about the fabrication, was satisfied with the role, which Paul gave him, and went on with the “game” after Paul’s death.
The chronology of Paul’s hypothetic falsification practically coincides with his missionary activity, and it is difficult to object to this item. There are stronger arguments that Paul could not think Christ out and write four Gospels on behalf of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Firstly, if to think out a founder of the teaching, it makes sense to put his life to remote ages, otherwise the probability of the disclosing of the falsification increases greatly – is it possible that people of Galilee and Jerusalem would not have been outraged, knowing that there had been no Jesus of Nazareth ten years before? Paul could have better used Prophet Isaiah for his purposes. Basic ideas of Isaiah are similar to Christianity in many aspects, there was even a legend about his martyr death.
Secondly, it is unlikely that Paul thought out the story about the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58), having presented himself in a very dubious light. The same concerns his conflict with Peter and other Apostles.
Thirdly, if Paul had thought out Jesus of
Nazareth as his contemporary, he would have declared the personal acquaintance
with Jesus and would not have told an unconvincing mystic story about Christ’s
apparition to him by his way to
Consequently, Apostle Paul could not fabricate Christ.
Then the hypothesis of the character of Umberto Eco’s novel remains: the fabricators were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And later Paul believed them and actively joined in the “movement”.
But, firstly, we are prevented by Apostle Peter from the accepting of this hypothesis. It is impossible to cast doubt on Peter’s historicity, because we can read about him in the Epistles of Paul, whose honesty we have already proved.
Peter is shown in the Gospels as the first disciple of Christ, i.e. if Matthew and the other Evangelists had thought Jesus out, Peter was to be their accessory.
But if Peter knew about the falsification or even was its organizer, is it possible that he let represent himself in such an unfavorable light? I mean the story with three denies (Matt. 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:56-61; John 18:15-27).
Secondly, as we remember, the “doubting” Eco’s character said that four Evangelists briefly discussed the plot and wrote the Gospels individually. Indeed, this explains more or less the common subject (the life of Jesus Christ) and the contradictions in the Gospels. But there are not only the contradictions, there is a great number of practically parallel places. So, the Evangelists were to edit the «fabricated» Gospels together. But then they could not leave so many contradictions.
Consequently, nobody could fabricate the New Testament as a whole.
Within two thousand years of Christianity, some minor additions, substitutions and interpreters’ inaccuracies in the New Testament took place time and again, and we shall face such facts even in our research. But as a whole, the New Testament is authentic, i.e. Jesus of Nazareth is a historic person.
Consequently, we can base our philosophic system on Christianity by right.
GOOD AND THE “FUNDAMENTAL PARADOX OF CHRISTIANITY”
We have already spoken about the illegitimacy of the philosophic application of the juridical principle: if not proved, does not exist. But, unfortunately, many contemporary philosophers (especially followers of Existentialism and Postmodernism) use the similar principle, trying to convince us that, from the scientific point of view, the concepts “good” and “evil” are as relative as “right” and “left”. If we develop this idea in the strict logical direction, it turns out inevitably that there is neither good nor evil.
A great number of examples may be cited. Is the atomic energy good or evil? It can either bring electric energy or destroy the mankind...
Even if we are guided by the simplest determination of good as a creative principle and evil as a destructive one, anyway many objects and substances may not be referred to either. For example, fire: it is possible to prepare food on it, but it also can burn a house.
It is possible to say that the matter is not an object itself, but its usage is the object, and good or evil depend, first of all, upon people.
Such is the case, but even having turned from “good” or “evil” objects to “good” or “evil” acts, we shall not be able to determine anything unambiguously.
A simple example. An old man suddenly fell amidst of a street. People rushed to his help, lifted, carried to a bench in order not to let him lie on the asphalt, called the ambulance, but doctors arrived and verified the death of heart seizure: as it is well-known, a man with the heart seizure may not be carried, it is better not to touch him at all. If he had been left to lie on the asphalt until the doctors arrived, most probably he would have remained alive. Let us ask: good or evil was done by the people?
Jaroslav Hasek in his novel “The Good Soldier Schweik” cited such a tragic example (used in a comic context though): a man found a freezing dog in a winter street, felt sorry for the dog and brought it home. And the dog had been rabid, and when it warmed up, it bit everyone in the house, dragged a baby out of his cradle and nagged. Let us ask: is good worth committing? May be, that one is right, who lives by the saying: “Don’t commit good, and you won’t get evil”?
One more example: somewhere in
It is possible to cite endlessly such “life” examples, confirming the relativity and ambiguity of good and evil. From the social point of view, we commit rather evil than good, even giving a charity to a pauper (all the more to a child-beggar).
But, nevertheless, we give the charity, and help people who have fallen in a street, and save freezing dogs... It is most important that we do that, first of all, intuitively, not thinking about the philosophic questions.
So, what is going on? Why does our intuition disagree with contemporary achievements of philosophy, the “science of sciences”, which tell us about the relativity and the ambiguity of good and evil?
And the point is that we have come again to the shank of philosophy – the moral imperative. Any speculative conclusions may be done around it, but at the subconscious, intuitive level it says, – Help your neighbor! Save the drowning man, not thinking if he is a good or evil person!
Sometimes it really happens that the moral imperative plays a role, which is rather negative than positive: all over the world, visitors of Zoo (not only the children) try to feed animals, knowing at the same time that animals get enough food and may feel badly or even die because of the overeating...
But, nevertheless, something makes people feed polar bears with rolls, and I can not lift my hand to cast a stone at that people. Today they feed animals in Zoo, and tomorrow they will possibly save a hungry mongrel...
A temptation arises to call the theory of probability for help and to say that, for example, if we lift a man who has fallen in a street, good will be committed with 99% probability, and evil – with only 1%. But in actual fact, of course, it is impossible to calculate these percents, so the subconscious expression of the moral imperative remains in any case the only instrument of the understanding of good and evil.
But we have already seen that philosophy is the worldview of specific people, so let us not go away from these positions.
So let us state: good is determined by people’s thoughts and acts, which conform to the moral imperative. Accordingly, evil is determined by thoughts and the acts, which do not conform to it.
The shank is to be somewhere inside an object. The degree of the approaching to the shank of person – the moral imperative – may be different, and therefore there are no unambiguously good or evil thoughts and acts, like there is no absolutely white or absolutely black color. But it does not mean that we have no right to use the concepts “white” and “black”, although with some approximation, which is conditioned by the certain situation. It is possible to say the same about good and evil.
In that case, if we speak about the moral imperative as about the source of good, we must try to answer the question: does Christianity conform to it? Is it an adequate expression of the moral imperative?
Bluntly speaking, did Jesus Christ teach the world good, only good and nothing except good?
In the beginning of the third millennium, the essence of Jesus’ teaching is intuitively understandable almost for everyone. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5); “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9); “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44); “Thou shalt love thy neighbour like thyself” (Matt. 21:39)... Seemingly, the evident things.
But those things became evident for the majority of people not long ago – only after the Reformation. Before that, the key points in the teaching of Christ were highlighted in quite another way. Let us remember the fires of the Inquisition, the Society of Jesus, the claims of Churches for state government and other similar facts of the medieval (and not only medieval) life. Unfortunately, all that facts also were based on cunningly selected quotations of the Bible.
A typical example is Jesus’ phrase, on which the Inquisition’s activity was based: “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6). An evident parable is present, but because of literal and, moreover, unfair interpretations of these words thousands of people were faggoted.
And Muhammad, having created Koran, quite logically based it on some books of the Bible, but the religion turned to be absolutely another...
So, it is necessary to understand the teaching of Christ as correctly as possible, and it is not as simple as it can seem at first sight.
Therefore, our methodological point of view must issue from the task, which demands a solution, i.e. from the necessity of understanding of Jesus’ teaching. I accentuate – exactly of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, but neither teachings of the “Fathers of the Church” (Augustine, John Chrysostom, John of Damascus and many others), nor teachings even of the Evangelists or Apostle Paul.
It may seem that the latter statement makes the task insoluble: on what can we base in the understanding of Jesus’ teaching, if not on the evidences of the Apostles, who listened to Christ’s words directly?
But in actual fact, there is no principal insolubility: to listen does not necessarily mean to understand correctly. The correct understanding usually is not required of the witnesses, they have the duty to impart, what they heard, and the interpretation is quite another task.
In principle, a witness and an interpreter may be the same person (as in the case of John the Evangelist), but our methodology must be here also the same: the separate examination of evidences and interpretations. If we use the concept “evidence”, then we must not exceed the limits of jurisprudence, which say that honest evidences are facts, and interpretations may be conditioned by momentary causes, personal features of an interpreter, a lack or surplus of information and a great number of other factors.
We have already shown that we have no basis for doubting in the honesty of the Evangelists. Therefore, we must firstly examine the evidences, and then any interpretations. That will be our methodology of working with the Holy Scripture, and with its help, we shall try to solve the most acute problem, which may be named the “fundamental paradox of Christianity”.
The point is that in the Gospels there are a number of Jesus’ phrases, which at first sight cast doubt on good and love – the moral basis of Christianity.
Let us give some examples.
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword, for I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:34-37).
“I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened to be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father...” (Luke 12:49-53).
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26);
“For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me” (Luke 19:26-27).
“And another of his disciples saith unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead” (Matt. 8:21-22).
“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:29-30).
These are only some of many Christ’s phrases, which in no way accord with the idea of his teaching as of the most adequate expression of the moral imperative – good, only good and nothing except good.
However, these phrases relate to common, “earthly” life. It would have been possible either not to notice them or to interpret somehow and to stop at that. But the situation is much more complicated, because even the key Christian concepts of the retribution in the “life of the world to come” (the “life after life”), – paradise for good, hell for evil, – contradict to the moral imperative.
Let us quote Jesus’ story about the beggar Lazarus as an illustration, which is tremendous in its uncompromising stand and even with some kind of “black humour”.
“There was a certain rich man... And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate full of sores...
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:19-31).
At last, let us remember some more Jesus’ “kind” words:
“Ye serpents, ye generations of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt. 23, 33).
“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).
We see a frank, paradoxical discrepancy between quoted Christ’s words and his teaching of love and good!
Actually, if sinners are waited by God’s punishment in the form of hell, there takes place the Old Testament’s principle of the retribution of evil for evil: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, hell for sins.
But didn’t Christ himself say: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also...” (Matt. 5:38-39)? Didn’t he also say that it is necessary to forgive neighbors infinitely (Matt. 18:22; Luke 17:3-4)?
And it turns out that righteous people will eternally enjoy peace and cloudless happiness in heaven, and sinners will eternally suffer in hell without any hope for salvation.
The “fundamental paradox of Christianity” brought also to the theological absurdity. Indeed, if sinners eternally suffer unimaginable tortures, then the expiatory meaning of the crucifixion of Christ comes to naught. The intuitive understanding of justice does not accept that the Savior for all innumerable sins of humanity suffered on the cross during some hours, and some picker for his minor law-breaking is eternally tormented in the hellfire...
Of course, in the view of the modern theoretical philosophy one minute and a thousand years of suffering are almost the same, the cross and a red-hot furnace are also almost the same, sins of one picker and of the whole mankind are also almost the same. But as long as we are examining Christianity in respect to the moral imperative, we have to take into consideration the intuitive understanding of justice – it is also based on the moral imperative.
At the same time, a fundamentally incorrect stereotype of the perception of Christ as a person is created. Even many of historians present Jesus of Nazareth as a bearer of either the Old Testament’s or the Persian-Arabic prophetical tradition. Some kind of dervish-sorcerer shapes, who threatens to punish killers, thieves and corrupt officials by throwing them into red-hot furnaces in hell.
Let us sum up everything aforesaid: the “fundamental paradox of Christianity” brought to the fact that few contemporary educated people seriously believe in blazing inferno and paradise in heaven.
Nature abhors vacuum: teachings of Buddhists, Hinduists, Mexican maguses etc. are immediately offered to us instead of Christianity. A “higher level of perception”, an “Astral vision”, “Karma”, “Chakres”, a “world energy”, the “meditation”, the “reincarnation”... Contemporary people, having an access to any information, do not know where to look first because of the plenty of alternatives. All bookstores are filled up with books about “Astrals” and “Chakres”, and newspapers are dazzled with advertisements, which welcome to courses of magic, of extrasensory or even of shamanism. And we see promises of “other worlds” everywhere.
It turns out that “they” have everything in a logical and actual way, and “we” must still tremble in the face of hell.
The concept of the catastrophic “Doomsday” is also tightly connected with the concepts of heaven and hell, and here the “fundamental paradox of Christianity” yields not only theoretical results, but also much more sorrowful practical ones.
In the first three Gospels, the considerable attention is given to the predictions of the catastrophic “Second Coming” (Matt., chapter 24; Mark, chapter 13; Luke, chapter 17; chapter 21), and it is difficult to argue against them. The Revelation was also written on their basis. Therefore, it seems to turn out that after the death, according to the New Testament, we are awaited by hell tortures with a large probability. And then the “Doomsday” (“Armageddon”) will come, and people will have no place to hide from the hellfire, even if they will not have yet died...
And here are speculations on this fear: I think that everyone remembers at least two-three “loud” predictions of the “Doomsday” and another ten “local” predictions during the last decade. How fruitful this ground is for sectarianism!
For example, you have a chance to be one of 144000 elite righteous people (Rev. 14:1), so enter in a sect like “The White Church of Christ”, give all your property to it and tremble, waiting for the “Last Judgement” and hoping that you will not turn to be 144001st member of this sect and will be in time for heaven. However, there are usually much less members in sects, although there are seemingly about three millions of “Jehova’s witnesses”, and each of them also waits for the “Doomsday”...
Nowadays, sectarianism has somewhat calmed down, rank members are usually only exploited for the welfare of the beloved sect and its leaders, but previously even self-burnings sometimes took place – isn’t it better to torture for some minutes in an earthly fire than eternally – in hell? But hitherto, sometimes we can see on television something similar – either somebody has burnt himself or somebody has self-exploded...
So, the suffering of that unhappy people is an oblique fault of Jesus Christ?
If we do not solve the “fundamental paradox of Christianity”, it will turn out that it is.
Modern attempts of the major world Churches to justify hell tortures sound at best as casuistic, at worst as fondly.
First of all, there is such a “trifle”, as the discrepancy between the “particular” judgement immediately after one’s death with the “Last Judgement” for everyone. Is our Lord unable to reach a correct decision at once?
Theologians of the major Churches traditionally consider that there is a “processual” difference between these judgements.
For example, concerning the “particular” judgement, Basil the New (the 10th century), and after him Pavel Florensky, wrote that angels are standing at one side, the devil at another side of a bed of a departed human, and they are “measuring” good and evil acts of that human. After that, the human soul must pass twenty “toils” (something like the Hellish Circles), where different sins are “presented” to the soul, and it “pays off” by good deeds. If good deeds are sufficient then the soul reach paradise, if not, the soul remains in the circle, where good ceased...
Regarding the “Last Judgement” there is a more “progressive” stereotype of perception, however deriving even from Ephraem Syrus (the 4th century): the judge (Jesus Christ) is sitting on the throne, the “advocate” (an angel) tells him about good acts of a man, the “prosecutor” (the devil) – about sins. And then a final and non-appealable sentence is pronounced.
Hellfire was understood differently by different theologians. Augustine and John Chrysostom interpreted it literally – as unimaginable physical tortures. Basil of Caesarea and John of Damascus were inclined to its symbolic interpretation – as tortures, which are mainly spiritual, but not becoming less painful because of that.
However, for somebody tortures may be less painful, and for somebody – more painful: practically all theologians of the major Churches said that the degree of hell tortures is different for different degrees of depravity. That fully coordinates with the stereotype of the “judgement”.
Any understanding of any “judgement’ and the following hell tortures does not coordinate only with Christian forgiveness (Matt. 5:38-39; 18:22), and any attempt to unite these incompatible concepts leads to the absurdity as a result.
For example, in the 19th century Macarius,
metropolitan (archbishop) of
“We say, God is good: how to make eternal tortures of sinners agree with his endless goodness? God is really endlessly good; but goodness is not his only virtue, – he is also endlessly truthful, endlessly holy, endlessly just, and all these perfections, as all the other ones, proportion each other in his acts in respect of creatures... Is it unnatural, if after this manifestation of endless goodness of God in respect of the sinners, at last, the manifestation of his endless truth follows? He does not cease to be good when sinners torture in hell; but in respect of them he does not act according to his goodness, which has already, so to speak, completely poured out on them before and has not called anything worth in them. God acts in respect of sinners according to the absolute truth”.
In other words, the classic of theology of the Orthodox Church considered that in God there is some kind of “balance” of contradictory forces, i.e. God “plays the double game” concerning goodness and truth.
As a matter of fact, that is usually called no goodness, but dishonorableness, and that is inadmissible even in relations between God and “creatures”.
Descartes’ statement “God is no deceiver” is well known. Indeed, any “double-dealing’ and other cunning of God is inappropriate. Goodness of God is truth itself, and it is quite wrongfully to separate them – in that case, it turns out that God’s goodness is not truth, i.e. that God is evil.
Christ said: “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God” (Mark 10:18).
Shall we after these words follow Archbishop Macarius and imagine “good” God, indifferently (possibly even with satisfaction) committing sinners to terrible tortures, and then indifferently (possibly even with satisfaction) looking at them?
I do not want to say that Christ was not right, threatening sinners with hell and the catastrophic “Doomsday”.
But I want to say that we understood him incorrectly. I shall try to explain this.
Let us think: Christianity exists during two thousand years. Is it much or little?
The first thought is that it is little. Really, our planet exists during some billions years. Dinosaurs lived approximately hundred million years ago, Neanderthal men – some tens thousand, and Christ – “only” two thousand...
But in fact, on the scale of human civilization it is much. Very much. Since the Great Egyptian Pyramids until Christ, no much more time passed then since Christ till our days. And since Moses until Christ, much less – about one thousand three hundred years.
No less than one third, even almost a half of the “conscious life”, the mankind has lived with Christianity.
And up to now there was neither the “Doomsday”, nor the “Second Coming”, though Christ said: “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matt. 24:34), and John the Evangelist, in the Revelation, described all horrors as coming quite soon.
Of course, it is possible to interpret thousand years of Christ’s Kingdom (Rev. 20:3) as having begun either with Jesus’ birth or with his resurrection (what was done in the Middle Ages). It turned out that the “Last Judgement” was to fall on 1000–1030. The panic was unbelievable in the beginning of the second millennium, but nothing happened.
In the 14th century, the “calculations” were conducted from 313, the “Edict of Milan” of Constantine the Great, and the “Doomsday” was foretold to occur in 1313, but nothing happened again.
In the end of the 20th century
dodgers-casuists found hints to
So, shall we wait longer? Until 2030? Or one thousand years more?
Or, possibly, it is time to understand what Christ meant really?
Yes, without the strict opposition “paradise for good – hell for evil”, it would have been hard for Christ to “knock” at the hearts of millions of little educated people in the beginning of our era.
Furthermore, Jesus of Nazareth could not do without the prophecy of the forthcoming “Doomsday” – didn’t he preach as the Christ-Messiah, in the context of the Old Testament canonical tradition? And in Jesus’ time the religion of Jewish people was built on the basis of the expectation of the Messiah, who was to come to the Earth with fulmination, save righteous people and sit on the right hand of God. Even the fact that Jesus named paradise “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) refers to the Old Testament tradition.
But under the pretext of the Old Testament’s Messiah, the world obtained no triumph of one nation, but the Christian teaching of good and love.
We understood for a long time ago that Christ gave his teaching not only to Jews, but also to other people.
We understood for a long time ago that hell is not a big brazier in the center of Earth, and paradise is not situated on clouds and is not inhabited by angels with wings.
We understood for a long time ago that if the “Doomsday” even comes, then it will come not in the least necessarily during the life of our generation or in the next millennium.
We understood much during these two thousand years, but through the habit we are still going on perceiving the Christian teaching of heaven, hell and the “Doomsday” as it was “in order” in the Middle Ages.
So let us understand at last that the Old Testament’s principle of the retribution of evil for evil (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, hell for sins), which is supposedly supported by the hard-edged words of Jesus, has a relation neither to his teaching nor to his person.
And the proof turns out to be quite simple here.
Christ said: “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20). In other words, it is possible to judge people only according to the results of their acts.
“Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake” (John 14:11).
Let us examine the following example: many contemporary people are “confused” by Jesus’ wonders – numerous healings (Matt. 4:24; 8:2; 9:2; Mark 5:41; Luke 17:14 etc.), five loaves of bread and two fishes for five thousand men (Mark 6:33-44), the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44) and others.
I would like to reassure the most categorical skeptics: let us not forget that Jesus, as the Messiah, “was to” work wonders necessarily. Prophets foretold that (Is. 29:18; 61:1-2), and if Jesus even had not worked wonders, this would have been thought out by his followers and worshippers.
Wonders were worked also by the Old Testament’s prophets (1 Kin. 17:21; 2 Kin. 4:41; Dan. 6:16 etc.), and by Apostles (Acts 3:6; 8:6; 19:11 etc.), and by early Christian martyrs. Historiographers of that time usually “decked” acts of all “good” preachers in that way.
Nevertheless, towards the end of this book we shall understand that there was nothing “mystic”, particularly “antiscientific” in Jesus’ wonders.
But now the following is of the fundamental importance for us: if Christ worked wonders or not, in each case the wonders underlie to the context of his teaching of good and love, and that is enough. Moreover, the Gospels’ descriptions of Jesus’ wonders are one of the main proofs of the fact that Christ brought a system of value of good and love to the mankind.
And if to speak about “practical results” of Christ’s earthly activity, there were a number of healings, the raising of Lazarus and no instance of causing evil to people.
Let us cite an example: Jesus was not received in some Samaritan village, “and when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as E-li’as did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:52-56).
For comparison, let us notice that the Old Testament’s prophet Elias killed a hundred warriors only because they asked him to go to the king with them (2 Kin. 1:10-12).
And there is even a more typical episode of the life of Prophet Elisha, who also became famous for a number of wonders and had a considerable political authority.
“And as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said into him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned backed, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them” (2 Kin. 2:23-24).
Is there a difference between the life’s position of Jesus and of the greatest Old Testament’s prophets? I should say: the fundamental.
It was not so simple to conceive the teaching of Christ as the system of value exclusively of good and love, and even the Apostles were not able to do it at once. We have just remembered that they proposed to Christ to destroy the Samaritan village (Luke 9:54).
Let us remember one more instance when, soon after Jesus’ ascension, Apostle Peter practically murdered Ananias and Sapphira, who had concealed from the Church a part of money, which was gained for the sold possession (Acts 5:1-11). But this sorrowful episode was the first and last in the New Testament.
Sometimes one more episode is mentioned – when Apostle Paul blinded the sorcerer, but that blinding had the form of a “lesson” and was temporary (Acts 13:11). Apostle Paul was also temporary blinded in his time (Acts 9:8).
But Apostle John the Evangelist, having written in the middle of the 60s the ominous Revelation, in twenty–thirty years came to the fourth Gospel, where nothing is said about either the catastrophic “Last Judgement” or the hellfire!
“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).
“And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29).
“Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust” (John 5:45).
“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39).
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11).
“And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, has one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:47-48).
And nothing more.
Apostle Paul in his Epistles also said
nothing about the hellfire, considering the death as the worst punishment for
sins (Rom. 6:23), moreover, interpreting the death symbolically (
And now let us explain why John, Paul and other Christ’s contemporaries not at once, but understood the parable sense of the words about hell for sinners.
Firstly, the mostly comprehensive concept of hell in the Gospels (Mark 9:43-46) is used in the direct context of the famous final words of Isaiah: “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh” (Is. 66:24). So, Jesus’ concept of hell turns out to be the symbolical fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy.
Secondly, in the Authorized (King James) version of Bible’s translation the traditional word for the world of dead – “hell” (from Old Norse “Hel”) – is used instead of two Greek words: “Hades” (Luke 10:15; 16:23) and “Gehenna” (Matt 5:29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:33; Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5).
The word “Hades” sends us directly to the Greek mythology, i.e. has an undoubtedly symbolical character.
And “Gehenna” is only the valley Ge Hennom
under the walls of
Thirdly, the ominous “Armageddon” (Rev.
16:16) is in fact the small valley
Summing up the contextually connected
concepts of “Gehenna”, “furnace” and “Armageddon”, let us pose a question: how
should we perceive today the words that sinners will be thrown into the garbage
heap of history? Allegorically. And the words that sinners are waited by the
destiny of Napoleon at
So if already in a half of a century after Christ’s crucifixion, his favorite disciple John the Evangelist did not mention all frightening words about hellfire, then two thousand years later it is all the more possible to interpret Christ’s words about paradise and hell exclusively in the symbolical context of the spiritual uncompromising stand.
Yes, we live in the imperfect earthly world, where the victory of good and love is still very far, and in Christ’s time it was even farther. Yes, the life makes us compromise, and Jesus said: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21).
But there must be no spiritual, no moral compromise with evil! “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he would hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
In this book, we shall have possibility to discuss once more how to understand the “Second Coming”, but now we can say with confidence that it will not bring a hellish catastrophe to anyone. And Jesus’ words about the hellfire mean, firstly, the passionate and convincing appeal for the complete spiritual uncompromising, and secondly, that good leads to good and evil – to evil.
Let us note that all major Churches are gradually coming to similar positions, though with reservations that paradise and hell are however some specific conditions of people after the death, i.e. it will be very good for good people and very bad for bad ones.
But in reality, paradise is the whole spectrum of positive consequences of good both for a man himself and for the outward world. Hell is, accordingly, the whole spectrum of negative consequences of evil.
These spectrums are extremely wide in
practice, and we shall touch them on in different aspects, speaking about good
and evil, the
But that conclusion permits to solve the “fundamental paradox of Christianity” and to show that the moral imperative is consistently expressed by the Christian spiritual system.
It remains to estimate the importance of the exactly Christian expression of the moral imperative in comparison with other expressions – abstract duty, abstract conscience, abstract goodwill, abstract humanism...
It is possible to enumerate many constituents, but they are only constituents. Christianity absorbs them completely by means of the only one word – spirituality.
In last decades, this word has become common, and few people think about its origin, though using it in tens of different contexts – if not in hundreds. Sometimes this word is identified with religiosity, sometimes with intelligence, sometimes with education, sometimes with art, sometimes with culture...
In each case, it is the characterization of a person, which means the belonging to the highest positive system of value. If we say in our terms, it is the following to the moral imperative.
And now I propose to think about the origin of the word “spirituality”.
An analogy with the word “soul” is inappropriate – the concept “soul” includes character, temperament, knowledge, thoughts and many other things – even that which Descartes named the “Goddamned psyche”.
In short, all people have the soul, but far not everyone may be called as a spiritual human. Some biologists and psychologists consider that animals also have souls (anyhow, its resemblance), but to give a soul to a tiger or a dog – thank God, nobody hit upon this idea.
The words of Ecclesiastes – “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth” (Eccles. 3:21) – are an example of mixed concepts of spirit and soul, and this is exclusively on the conscience of the translators. However, the word “soul” in the Greek philosophy is also often translated as “spirit”.
The word “spirit” has also other meanings, including a mystical shade being. Therefore, let us determine that we speak about the concept “spirit” exclusively in the meaning of “spirituality”.
So where is this concept from? The concept of spirituality, which is endlessly capacious and includes practically all possible aspects of the moral imperative?
Let us get the answer from... the Apostles.
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the
Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” (
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16).
“But the natural man receiveth not the not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
“And they did eat the same spiritual meat; and they did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:3-4).
“And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32).
“Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Gal. 5:22).
“How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 18-19).
As we can see, these quotes contain the practically complete conceptual system, which is connected with all that, which we nowadays, consciously or unconsciously, name spirituality. Apostles Paul and Jude used it, basing on the substantially blurred, but intuitively clear concept of the Holy Spirit.
And in the Gospels, sometimes God the Father is named so (or by its Old English synonym, Holy Ghost – Matt. 1:18), sometimes the Holy Spirit is God’s envoy (Matt. 4:1), even in the form of dove (Luke 3:22). But in the overwhelming majority of cases, the Holy Spirit is exactly that we name spirituality (Luke 4:1; 11:13; John 3:34; 15:26; 16:13 etc.). And we have already quoted the words of Epistles.
Thus, the consideration, which is based on the “copyright”, demands to acknowledge that the word “spirituality” has descended from the Holy Spirit, i.e. belongs exclusively to Christianity. The words “spirituality” and “Spirit” are cognate also in the majority of the European languages.
This confirms the position of Christianity as of the universal system of spiritual value, mostly fully and adequately expressing the moral imperative.
We have examined a considerable material, but all that was only the preparatory stage, – the determination of initial philosophic positions for the further research.
Thus, our initial positions are the following:
Firstly, we accept the existence of God as the source of harmony, expediency and the moral imperative. It is no less provable than the existence of the material world, and from the moral point of view, it is wrongfully to consider the world without God.
Secondly, we have clarified: there is no equivalent alternative to Christianity as of the expression of the moral imperative, and the research of philosophy from the moral point of view inevitably leads to theology.
It follows from all the foresaid that to understand, who we are, where we came from and where we are going, it is necessary to engage in the Christian theology.
Let us, first of all, formulate the “fundamental question of theology”.
It may seem that the fundamental question of theology is the existence of God. But that is not so – the concept of “theology” itself means its acceptance.
As a matter of fact, this question sounds in another way: the existence of what God do we accept? Good or evil? Sole, dual, triple or multiple? Cognizable or incognizable? Active or inactive?..
In parallel with these fundamental problems, we shall examine also “local” ones, which are connected with the Christian doctrines. But the solution of these problems is also necessary, because we, having spoken about Christianity, have not yet determined what it includes.
Moreover, we have not yet answered the question,
raised it the beginning of our book: why did Christianity in the beginning of
the 20th century in
All that we could understand to this moment: there were no objective prerequisites for that losing. Christianity was and remains the most adequate expression of the moral imperative, and speculative ideas of the social justice, put forward by Marx, could not make themselves a serious spiritual competition for the teaching of Christ.
Consequently, some other set of factors came into action, and we shall have to work with them in the nearest future.
EVIL AND THE THEODICY
The majority of philosophers considered the problem, which we are going to discuss, as collateral and not so fundamental in comparison with the problems of correlation between being and consciousness, of the cognoscibility of the world etc. But in actual fact, without its solving a doubt is cast on the existence of God, and together with it, on all that we have already discussed – the existence of the moral imperative, Christianity, humanism...
The name to this problem was given by the work of Leibniz – “Theodicy”. This word is translated from Latin as “the justification of God”, and its essence is the following:
The moral imperative dictates us the faith in God as in the good, wise and almighty power, which created the world. But how to explain that on the Earth together with good there is evil, at that hardly at the less degree? Why does God permit the existence of evil? Or of the devil, or of the Satan – it can be called in any way.
Knowingly – then God is not good, furthermore, he is the source of evil?
Or God can not overcome evil – then he is not almighty, and the devil is as strong as God?
And 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?
There were a great number of opinions on that. Let us start from the most “materialistic” ones: Spinoza, Schopenhauer and Spenser with either variations considered God as a morally indifferent power, and it seemed to be a successful solution in the formal way, which we have already discussed: for God (and, ultimately, for us) there is neither good nor evil.
The problem seems to be closed (together with the moral imperative), but that is not so.
Let us cite a simple example. Walking along a meadow, we do not think that at every step we break the grass and crush insects. And in the case of the Theodicy of Spinoza and Schopenhauer, we, people, turn out to be in the role of these insects. We, victims of ruthless nature, terrible catastrophes and other large-scale manifestations of the “Divine Indifference”.
Consequently, the moral indifference of God becomes evil, and this comes into a conflict with the initial prerequisite of Theodicy – we believe in God as in a good power.
So let us consider the wrongfulness of such a method as one more confirmation of the accuracy of our understanding of the moral imperative, and let us turn to the second variant of the solution of the problem of the Theodocy – Dualism.
We shall have to examine it more comprehensively.
Some Early Christian religious and philosophic schools and a number of contemporary to them Eastern religions (Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrinism) solved the problem of the Theodicy in the following way: good and evil, God and the devil are two quite equivalent origins of the world.
This point of view seems effective and logical – it turns out that God is not a culprit of evil, and that God is fighting for good with all his might, though hitherto can not win. Two independent, non-interconnected and even hostile gods appear – the first is good, the second is evil. That is Dualism.
And we shall try to prove the wrongfulness of the Dualistic point of view by the “rule of contraries”.
The fact is that two practically equivalent powers turn out to be – God and the devil. Consequently, every human may have the temptation to come to an agreement with the devil.
For example, that was done by Faust in Goethe’s book.
The plot of “Faust” is well known. The treaty about the alliance with the devil, the second youth of Faust, his tragic love to Gretchen (“organized” by Mephistopheles), wandering to the Walpurgis-nights and witches’ sabbaths, helping to the emperor, the attempt to build an “ideal” city, Faust’s death and his entering into heaven, though he had “sullied” himself by the treaty with the devil.
All this is the outward side of the book. But there is a background, important for us, and we must talk about it more attentively.
In each case Mephistopheles’ aim was to lead Faust astray of knowledge and development, to make him “exalt the single moment”. Faust understood that, but took the risk for the sake of prolongation of the active life, moreover having the mighty assistant – the devil. And it seemed that he was victorious – thanks to Mephistopheles, he prolonged his life, learnt many new things, and entered into heaven in the end.
But let us remember, how serious and worthy of respect Faust is in the beginning of the book, when during the walk he meets peasants and they thank him for the selflessness in the time of an epidemics. And not only in that episode – in the behavior of Faust and in all his words we see an outstanding person with the independent thought and great strength of spirit.
And who did he become after the treaty with Mephistopheles?
Already in the first part of the book, it seems that Faust does not know, what to do with the second life, which he had suddenly got. Mephistopheles “gives” him the unlucky virgin Gretchen to make him “exalt the single moment”. Love did not make Faust turn aside the way of knowledge, but led to the tragedy: he became the involuntary murderer of Gretchen, her child, mother and brother Valentine.
In the first part of the book, Faust was at least capable to an emotional experience apropos of all that happened, but in the second part, we see already a quite heartless and faceless person.
Thanks to Mephistopheles, he has great practical resources, but how does he use them? The sample is his “love affair” with the ghost of Helen. The ghost soon disappears, but Faust feels no emotions over that.
The city on the drained region of the sea, which Faust decided to build, is absolutely ephemeral and necessary for nobody. Old blind Faust walks along a seashore and thinks that a beautiful city is being raised around him, but there, in fact, little demons are digging the grave for him.
Let us note that Goethe intuitively solved in his book the “fundamental paradox of Christianity” – God took Faust’s soul into heaven, having forgiven him both the treaty with Mephistopheles and many deaths through his fault.
But nevertheless let us establish the fact: after the treaty with the devil, neither activities nor knowledge of Faust had any aims or results. To put it more precisely, there were results, but they did not bring anything except evil to people.
The devil is evil by definition, consequently, all his acts may be only evil for a human and for the humanity.
And in the pragmatic 20th century, the treaty between Faust and Mephistopheles got one more aspect, not so harmless as flights to witches’ sabbaths. I mean people, who choose the ways of the struggle for the things, which they consider as good, by the means of evil, – I mean international terrorists. Today they capture planes and direct them to skyscrapers, tomorrow they will capture nuclear bombs.
And it is quite reasonable to ask: do we, who live in the beginning of the third millennium, have a right to sign the treaty with the devil, if it may lead to the death of the population of the Earth?
Dualism says that we have that right. The point is that if the devil is actually equivalent to God, a logical conclusion arises: why is he worse than God is? Accordingly, why is evil worse than good?
And that inevitably leads to the following: evil is no evil, but it is some special form of good. Not to kill – that is good, and to kill – that is also good. This is the moral imperative, and that is the moral imperative.
But if there are two imperatives (or even more, as in the case of Polytheism), there is no moral imperative, but there is a continuous moral choice between equally valid and, as a rule, conflicting variants.
And that situation is evil by itself. There is the single moral imperative and single God.
The latter conclusion may seem disputable. It turns out that Monotheism, as against Dualism, limits free will and replaces it by the moral imperative – i.e. by something like a command to think in some way and act in some way.
Possibly, the idea of the limiting of free will by the moral imperative could be formed in readers’ mind even before, and it is necessary to speak separately about that.
It is often considered (especially amidst humanitarian intellectuals) that the presence of a strict moral basis (i.e. non-freedom of our will from the moral imperative) guarantees the unlimited, “true” freedom of will in all other aspects, including social and physiological ones.
Then a question appears: what to do with the prohibition to cross a street at the red light. It is answered that such prohibitions do not limit our “true freedom”, because within the limits of road laws we have some other kind of freedom – especially for roads. Prisoners also have their “freedom”, which is limited by the walls of their prison. But all these “local” contexts of freedom do not touch upon the “global” one, which is limited only by the moral imperative.
A number of examples are cited, and, possibly, the most striking one – Boethius, who, being in the prison and waiting for the execution, wrote his epochal work “Consolation of Philosophy”. It turns out that Boethius was free as a philosopher, but not free as a citizen.
In principle, that point of view is quite logical and consistent. But I am rather bothered by this “double-dealing” of the freedom of will. Then an irresistible barrier is built between the “special sphere” – morality – and other spheres of life, and the moral imperative obtains a transcendent character and ceases to be understandable to all.
And in this case in the contemporary world, which is far from perfection, as we have already cleared up, every humanist turns out to be surrounded by “Sodom people”, free from demands of the moral imperative.
Let us note that Boethius was executed as a result, and that is a tragedy regardless the fact that the philosopher had a “true” free will at the moment when the executioner’s sword touched his neck. And that tragedy does not become less even if we say that the executioner’s free will was not “true”.
time ago, such a situation induced us to turn from the moral imperative to
religion, i.e. from philosophy to theology. And now because of the same reasons
we have the right to postulate: there must be no “double-dealing” of freedom –
one freedom for Boethius, another for “
But then what is this – freedom?
Philosophic manuals, guides and encyclopedias mostly often determine freedom as the activities and behavior in conditions of the absence of an external target designation.
It is in theory, but there are no conditions of the absence of an external target designation in practice. Every activity, every behavior is conditioned by a number of external factors (from innate to accidental ones), which are the target designation in fact.
For example, King Solomon decided (i.e. made the choice) to build the House of the Lord (1 Kin. 6:1), also basing on many factors. It is doubtless that he took into consideration the economical and political situation, and this is the typical external target designation. But at that, it is difficult to deny that Solomon was free in his choice and, having analyzed all factors, knowingly decided to spend money to the Temple and not to put up those sums to the construction of new walls of Ierusalem.
This sample and many other possible ones
reduce the demand of the absence of an external target designation to the logical
absurdity: only the random choice is freedom. It turns out that if Solomon had
not thought about building the
But we are speaking about the freedom of will, and in the foresaid case, there is no volitional act. In the logical limit, only some abstract freedom can be reduced to the random choice, and the freedom of will presumes the realized choice.
The elements of the random choice, of
course, can not be excluded. Firstly, King Solomon could have thrown lots to
decide if to build the
There is another extreme: the Determinists, including Marx, understood freedom as a realized necessity. But in actual fact, that position replaced the choice of an act (of a conclusion, of an intention) by the act itself. It is a typically speculative point of view, because the necessity of the realized (i.e. irrevocably accepted) act does not mean the necessity of the act itself. It may be chosen, and may be not chosen.
And if freedom is not a random choice and is not a realized necessity, then the “intermediate” variant remains: freedom is a possibility of a realized choice, which takes into consideration both necessity and chance.
The freedom is fulfilled just in the realized choice, in accordance with the essence and level of the chosen (rejected) variants. The possibility of the realization of such choice on the level of human will means the freedom of will.
We have done the reservation “in accordance with the essence and the level” not accidentally. Without it, we shall not be able to solve the following paradox: a man is in a prison, consequently, he is not free. But he has a possibility to choose a solitary or common cell, consequently, he is free. He can not go out of the prison, consequently, he is not free. But he can walk to any side of his cell, consequently, he is free. And so on.
The similar sample we have already examined, speaking about Boethius. And it is impossible to take away the freedom of thought and imagination from any prisoner.
Thus, every situation has a number of different aspects and “sub-situations”, and that fragmentation is infinite. Let us call that as situational levels and say: the freedom of will as a realized choice of variants may be fulfilled (or not fulfilled) simultaneously at different situational levels.
A “life” sample: a choice of a suit is conditioned on the material prosperity and plans for the day, and a choice of a cravat – by the choice of the suit. At both levels, different (and differently free) acts of choice are done, but both of them realize the freedom of will.
Our determination of freedom as a realized choice is right even for acts, which concern only our consciousness, such as thought and imagination. We, thinking and imagining, also choose of a number of variants, at that consciously by definition, since it belongs exclusively to the sphere of our consciousness. But the possibilities of our thought and even of our imagination are not infinite (they are limited by age, education, life experience and a number of other factors), that is why it is possible to consider them as the situational levels, where there are more variants of choice in comparison with the ordinary life.
And then everything takes place as in our sample with the suit and the cravat: a choice at the situational level “Imagination” conditions (but does not dictate) a choice at the situational level “Thought”, further this line may be prolonged through the level “Decision” to the level “Action”, at that, each level has the infinite number of “sublevels”.
Basing on all said about freedom, we have no reason to consider that at the highest situational level – the moral – a human is deprived of the freedom of will as of the possibility of a realized choice.
The moral imperative is a demand, but not a compulsion. In nowadays’ society there is a great number of factors, both objective and subjective, owing to which even people of the highest morality sometimes act contrary to the moral imperative.
This is the freedom of the realized moral choice – between good and evil. This freedom may not be called more or less limited than its most strict understanding at other situational levels.
Now we can return to Dualism, which practically equalizes good and evil (i.e. evil and the moral imperative). As a result, it does not lead to the choice between good and evil, but it leads to the choice between two “goods”, which contradict to each other.
To show the groundlessness of the Dualistic point of view, let us remember once more our determination of the freedom of will, which is valid for all situational levels, even to the extent, what road to choose, walking along a park: the true freedom of will is the possibility of a realized choice, which is conditioned by a situation and by its level.
If we speak about the highest, moral level, the true freedom is the freedom to choose good and evil consciously, appreciating positive and negative sequences of the choice to the extent of personal abilities.
And Dualism leads to the false freedom – to a choice between two contradictory “goods”. The false freedom means the deprivation of the possibility to choose the true good freely and consciously, practically replacing the freedom of the realized choice by a coincidence.
However, not only a coincidence, but also a self-deception or a “split personality” is possible, at that, the latter, in its extreme expression, is in the competence of psychiatrists. A person must not split, and this is a pledge of our psychological comfort and normal feeling.
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12:25).
As usually, there are a number of intermediate variants – as there are a number of gradations of black and white color. But so, as at the determination of some gradation of gray color it is necessary to understand what black and white colors are, it is necessary to be consciously orientated to good at any moral choice and not to be occupied with a self-deception.
So, for a specific person the unity is good, and the split is evil. The true freedom, which is given by the moral imperative, does not violate the unity of person. The false (Dualistic) one violates.
Now, discussing the problem what the freedom of a specific person may bring to people, we may postulate its important humanistic aspect: in principle, a human may choose not only good, but also evil. But in the conditions of the action of the moral imperative, the probability of evil as of a realized choice is reduced.
In other words, if a criminal knows that he commits a crime, there is a chance that at some moment the moral imperative keeps him from that crime. But if a criminal, murdering and robbing, considers that he commits good (and that takes place in the case of accepting Dualism), – there is no such chance, and the probability of committing a crime rises many times.
That is why the Dualistic point of view incompatibly contradicts to the moral imperative, and we have to refuse of it.
Everything said about Dualism completely concerns Polytheism: then in the moral aspect it turns out that it does not matter to whom to serve – to Apollo, or to Ares, or to Athena, or to Aphrodite, or to Dionysus, or to Hermes. All of them are equal children of morally indifferent Zeus.
Thus, only Monotheism remains. Strict Christian Monotheism. But then we have to go on with the solution of the problem of the Theodicy.
Let us examine the author of the term
“Theodicy” Leibniz’s position, which is supported by the modern theology of
Leibniz considered quite reasonably that God was free to create or not to create our world. But God, by definition, always does the best, consequently, he created our world as the best of all the possible worlds.
And why there are evil and suffering in the world, Leibniz also tried to explain: nothing in the world may be equal in perfection to God, thus, a quite admissible non-perfection of the world leads to the suffering of individuals. But since everything in the world is submitted to an aim, for which it was created, then our suffering is also necessary for some great general aim, which is known only for God.
A similar position is taken by the official Orthodox theology. In the “Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs about faith” it is said: “We believe that all the existing, visible and invisible, is led by the Divine Providence; however, evil, as evil, God only foresees and is tolerant to it, but does not provide it, because he did not create it. And evil, which has already happened, is directed to something useful by Holy goodness, which does not commit evil itself, but directs it to good as it is possible”.
We see that concept of the “Divine Providence” of the major Churches has the exact parallel with Leibniz’s “submission of the world to some great general aim, which known only for God”, and Churches’ “foreseen evil to which God is tolerant” – with Leibniz’s “admissible non-perfection of the world”.
All that seems to be logical, and this position seems to be grounded philosophically and theologically. It was possible to reveal its groundlessness intuitively not for a philosopher or a theologian, but for the writer – Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In the novel “The Brothers Karamazov” (translated by Constance Garnett) one of the brothers Karamazov, Ivan, tells his brother Alyosha:
“This poor child of five was subjected to every possible torture by those cultivated parents. They beat her, thrashed her, kicked her for no reason till her body was one bruise. Then, they went to greater refinements of cruelty – shut her up all night in the cold and frost in a privy, and because she didn’t ask to be taken up at night (as though a child of five sleeping its angelic, sound sleep could be trained to wake and ask), they smeared her face and filled her mouth with excrement, and it was her mother, her mother did this. And that mother could sleep, hearing the poor child’s groans! Can you understand why a little creature, who can’t even understand what’s done to her, should beat her little aching heart with her tiny fist in the dark and the cold, and weep her meek unresentful tears to dear, kind God to protect her? Do you understand that, friend and brother, you pious and humble novice? Do you understand why this infamy must be and is permitted? Without it, I am told, man could not have existed on earth, for he could not have known good and evil. Why should he know that diabolical good and evil when it costs so much? Why, the whole world of knowledge is not worth that child’s prayer to “dear, kind God”! I say nothing to the sufferings of grown-up people, they have eaten the apple, damn them, and the devil take them all! But these little ones!..”
Further Ivan says: “...I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It’s not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with his little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to “dear, kind God”! It’s not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering.”
And then Ivan applies to Alyosha: “Tell me yourself, I challenge you – answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature – that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance – and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?..”
As we see, in emotional aspect Ivan was quite able to bring God to a trial and put him in a dock together with the parents-sadists. And even without any emotions, it turns out that on every dock God is sitting near every murderer, robber and violator. God, who does not only allow, but even provides all the crimes.
And does that “
To understand, where this contradiction is from, let us ask ourselves the question: how did Ivan Karamazov perceive God?
We shall see in the nearest future that by the efforts of the medieval Churches the concepts of God, Christ and a King mixed into one thing. And now let us simply think: if we often perceive even Jesus, our Savior who expiated our sins, as a pitiless retributive sovereign, then what to say about God?
God turned into the absolute dictator of our thoughts and acts, and the theologians of the major Churches (as well as Leibniz) tried to solve the problem of the Theodicy, basing on the “Divine Providence”.
And since God “only foresees evil and is tolerant to it, but does not provide it”, the solution was internally contradictory: either God is not absolutely almighty, or he is tolerant to evil consciously, being its direct or indirect culprit.
Nevertheless, Ivan Karamazov also formulated his angry rebuff, basing on the same prerequisite of the absolute dictatorship of God, and he did it really logically: a dictator does not only dictate to citizens how to act, but also has a certain responsibility to them. However, as every absolute ruler.
Let us draw an analogy: while Stalin and Hitler were alive, they were considered as the inspirers and organizers of all the victories, and when they died, they turned out to be the culprits of everything. Even of that, which culprits they were not.
Of course, it is inadmissible to compare God with bloody dictators, but, in accordance with the logic of the theologians of the major Churches, that is so. There is some hypothetic bright future, only the all-knowing and all-seeing leader knows the way to it, and for the sake of this bright future, it is necessary to make some human (or even children’s) sacrifices.
And in fact, the question of the Theodicy is replaced by the question: to what limits is it possible to use the “human material” of the building of this enigmatic future?
Stalin and Hitler murdered millions of people and exceeded limits. God was tolerant to the persecutions of the little children and exceeded limits. And if to murder no millions, but “only” hundreds thousand people, and to be tolerant only to the suffering of children of no less than seven years old – is it the exceeding of limits? Or, may be, not?
Let us approach from another side. Ivan
Karamazov asked his brother the question, if he would have accepted the “
Alyosha said, – “No”, and was absolutely right.
Bit in our time, many pragmatically minded people would have a wish to say, – “Yes”. Really, only one child will be tortured, and the whole humanity, billions of people, will be happy!
Unfortunately, then a following reasonable question arises: if it is necessary to torture to death two children? Is it also possible? Yes?
Then let us ask the analogous questions further. If it is necessary to torture three children? Is it also possible? And four? And twenty? And fifty? And five hundred? And one thousand? And one million? And a hundred millions, at that not only the children?
Where are that limits, do they exist and is it possible to calculate them?
Someone will understand at the second question, for someone five or ten “approaches” will be necessary to understand: no and once more no. People are not a material and not a mechanism, and we are not calculating the maximum of the permissible load of automobile shock-absorbers.
The main achievement of Christianity (as of the contemporary humanism) is that the life of any human is sacred and inviolable. Otherwise, we shall hold the arithmetic disputes, and maniacs will go on murdering children, because we have one arithmetic, and maniacs – another one.
That were our initial positions, and we have obtained an additional confirmation for them.
So, is God an almighty dictator?
Let us formulate this question more comprehensively. Though we have spoken about the freedom of will as about the possibility of a realized choice, we have not touched upon an important question: do we have a possibility of any choice at all? Doesn’t the almighty dictator – God – make the choices for us at the innumerable situational levels?
No, God does not make the choices, and it is possible to prove it by the “rule of contraries”.
Let us imagine that a human does not have the freedom of will, our freedom is false and God, directly or indirectly, acts instead of us.
Then a human inevitably becomes the “human material” of some higher mechanism – God, the history, the society or others. And a material can not be sacred, and any politician (and any maniac) would have been able to murder any number of people.
We have come to the contradiction with the moral imperative, which demands the inviolability of the human life. Consequently, a human has the true freedom of will, which was to be proved.
So, every human has the freedom of will, which is limited at a number of situational levels by the moral imperative, by “local” morals of different social groups, by state laws, by material prosperity and an infinite quantity of other factors.
And that excludes God’s culpability of sins, crimes and improper acts, which are committed by people freely – when the choice between good and evil is made in favor of evil.
Let us call that freely chosen evil by “social” – evil, which depends exclusively on people.
For justice let us note that both the
But we have managed to solve that question without contradiction, though for the sake of that we had to refuse of the perception of God as of an almighty dictator. Practically, of the Churches’ concept of the “Divine Providence”.
Nevertheless, we should not cast doubt on the omnipotence of God. It is possible to rule the world without either a direct interference or a small-minded regulation, but by means of laws of nature and laws of morality. We shall have a possibility to discuss it in the last chapter of our book.
But we have succeeded in the solution of the problem of the Theodicy. However, for the time being only partially – in the sphere of social relations. A number of situations remain, when a human suffers directly of nature:
– Firstly, hurricanes, tsunami and floods – the irresistible forces of nature, i.e. “force majeur” (often even named “acts of God”);
– Secondly, internal diseases, which are non-conditioned socially (cancer, infarct and many others);
– Thirdly, accidents (to get frozen, to get burned, to stumble and fall, to get lost etc.)
Let us name that evil “natural” and say that we are not yet ready to analyze it, and shall be ready not soon. We have not yet understood the essence and the reasons of “social” evil, and without that, it is impossible to approach to a much more complicated understanding of “natural” evil.
And “social” evil is committed to a variable degree by each of us. “As it is written, There is no righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). That is why it is necessary to understand where “social” evil is from and how to struggle against it.
Theologians, who work for major Churches, refer to so called “original sin”. The disobeying of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:6) is raised to the rank of the “falling away from God”, and our freedom of will (realized in that act of disobeying) is declared to lead exclusively to evil. However, righteous people have a chance to reunite with God, and sinners, of course, do not have.
Well, let us look from the classic theological positions at the freedom of will, which appeared for the first time at our ancestors Adam and Eve, and ask the question: is it possible that just the free will led to evil in their innumerable posterity?
Of course, if the alternative “to obey – to disobey” appeared, then there was the freedom of will, i.e. the freedom of a realized choice. They could obey, they could disobey...
Yes, they disobeyed, but the disobeying is not yet evil in itself. Possibly, it is a sin, but there are different sins.
We shall have another possibility to discuss, what to consider as sin and what not to consider, and for the time being let us establish that Adam’s disobeying did not bring any evil to anybody – of course, if we base only on Biblical texts and invent nothing.
For example, there was no direct connection between the disobeying of Adam and the first indisputable sin, Cain’s crime (Gen. 4:8). Cain committed evil of his own free will, and the reason of his crime was exclusively the envy at Abel (Gen. 4:4-7).
And even an indirect connection – so to speak, if Adam and Eve had not been sent from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:23), they would not have given birth to Cain who committed evil – also does not stand criticism. The point is that if Adam and Eve had not given birth to someone, there would not have been the humanity as a whole. And the explication that Cain was probably badly brought up by his parents is nothing more than a fantasy.
Consequently, the disobeying of Adam and Eve may not be a convincing cause of considering our freedom as the “falling away from God”, the putting of us on a par with the Satan (“the fallen Angel”), and the understanding of a human as a “loathsome vessel of sin”.
Moreover, God allowed that disobeying, possibly even “provoked” it.
We shall not refer to the well-known joke: God could have forbidden to Adam and Eva more severely, and, knowing their curious nature, could have somehow enclosed the tree of good and evil...
Without any joke, the “original sin” was knowingly allowed by God. Let us prove that.
God forbid to eat fruits of the tree of good and evil on pain of death (Gen. 2:17), but after the disobeying, he punished so terribly neither Adam nor Eva. Moreover, he even did not curse them personally, but quite peacefully sent them “forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken” (Gen. 3:23). It is significant that the book of the generations of Adam begins not from a damnation but from the blessing (Gen. 5:2).
Taking into consideration the fact that God, according to the Old Testament, very soon arranged the Flood for humanity and spared only righteous Noah (Gen. 6:7), such a “gentleness” with respect to Adam and Eve means that their disobeying was forethought and knowingly allowed by God.
Furthermore, I am inclined to consider that there was something like a “trial by freedom” for Adam and Eve, and our ancestors, having managed to disobey, stood that trial. And they became ready to inhabit the Earth only after that.
It is necessary to note that it is most probable that Christ did not acknowledge the “original sin”. Let us remember:
“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1-3).
Speaking about the “original sin”, the theologians of the major Churches usually refer to the words of Apostle Paul: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
And though Paul cited that only as an example, not aiming at a serious analysis of Adam’s sin (by the way, at that having forgotten about Eve), nevertheless, let us try to understand, what the Apostle had in view, saying that “death passed upon all men”.
The most modern version of theology of the major Churches says that God threatened Adam with a spiritual death (not a physical one), and Adam after his disobeying died in spirit.
But in actual fact, it is most probable that Adam after his disobeying obtained divinity (“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” – Gen. 3:22). It is possible to interpret God’s words “Is become as one of us” in different ways, and we shall have possibility to give a consideration to them. But the matter does not concern a spiritual death, which is incompatible with divinity, independently of a way of its interpretation.
Another “stereotype” opinion, which was hold by Aurelius Augustine and John Chrysostom: Adam was immortal physically before the “original sin”, and after that ceased to be immortal.
But, firstly, God grant everyone to live as long as Adam (930 years – Gen. 5:5), and the main thing is that Adam was not physically immortal also before his disobeying – otherwise God would not have bewared of that “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (Gen. 3:22).
But if Adam’s disobeying led neither to a spiritual death, nor to a physical one, then what did Paul have in view?
For that it is necessary to understand, what life, as against Adam, Christ brought to us. Let us read the Epistle to Romans further: “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21).
From this quotation and the context of Paul’s teaching it follows that there was considered no physical or spiritual death, but the death without a hope for resurrection and future happiness. We shall speak in a special chapter about these basic concepts of Christianity – they are greatly important for each of us.
And as regards the “original sin”, we have understood that we must thank Adam and Eve, and must not curse them. They took upon themselves the great burden of the knowledge of good and evil (actually became the first bearers of the moral imperative) and made the way for us.
And if we consider that the disobeying of Adam and Eve brought the humanity to evil, then God, having allowed that disobeying knowingly, allowed evil also knowingly, and that contradicts to our solution of the problem of the Theodicy.
Consequently, humanity was brought to evil by no “original sin”.
The humanity came to evil (I remind that we are speaking about “social” evil, which, freely or not freely, is committed by each of us) in quite another way, and to understand it we have to remember one more well-known episode of the Bible – one of temptations of Christ.
It is the third temptation in Matthew’s Gospel, the second one in Luke’s.
“The devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:8-9).
“And the devil said unto him, “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Luke 4:6-7).
It was really tempting – to take, to rule, to spread good, to struggle against evil and build the Kingdom of God in every country, city and village. But Christ refused reasonably, – “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10).
However, if there even had not been no temptation, Jesus did not speak about any way of taking of a state power and of a forced bringing of people to good and love. There was nothing like that in the Gospels, and could not be.
There were a number of the Old Testament’s prophecies about the coming of Messiah, but Jesus mostly followed to Isaiah’s one:
“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comiless; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he has wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the inquidity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afficted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgement: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Is. 53:1-10).
And if Jesus followed the way, which was foretold by Isaiah, and did not take a state power and punish evil with a help of the police and army – why are we waiting together with Ivan Karamazov that a lightning comes from the sky and burns to ashes the torturers of the little child?
In all probability, Christ understood (and
let us also understand) that while torturers still wish to be torturers,
it is impossible to frighten them either by lightnings and hell or by prisons
and executions. That was earnestly shown by the burning of
And to understand why evil is committed around us, and moreover, why each of us has some temptation to commit it, let us ask a counter-question, which relates to the examined temptation of Christ:
-What right did the devil have to offer all the earthly kingdoms to Jesus?
Of course, in theory an attempt of deception was possible from the direction of the devil.
But firstly, Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God, so it is too unlikely that the devil offered something to him, having no real right to do it.
And secondly (and that is most important), in that case the temptation would not have been a temptation. The point is that the devil had the full authority to offer all the earthly kingdoms to Jesus, but Christ managed to refuse of them. If there had been a deception, there would have been nothing to refuse of.
Then who is the devil?
It turns out that he is somebody like the supreme ruler of the earthly kingdoms (we shall use the contemporary term – the states). Christ called him as the “prince of this world” (John 14:30).
And to avoid the idea of the devil as of a Mephistopheles-like gentleman, who commits evil by hands of presidents, ministers, oligarchs, generals and other “great ones of this world”, let us turn to the understanding of the fundamental nature of the devil: that are the states themselves.
At first sight, it seems to be paradoxical, but there are no other adequate variants of the interpretation of the devil’s words about the kingdoms, which are delivered to him (Luke 4:6). And it seems paradoxical only at first sight.
Let us remember “visiting cards” of any state – social injustice, oppression, money, political intrigues, armies, police, corruption, bureaucracy, wars...
And what can the tears of one innocent child mean for states, if millions of people die for the moving of state borders for some kilometers! The deaths of soldiers, at least, remain in military reports and headquarters’ calculations, but nobody counts the deaths of thousands of children. And even if these deaths are counted, then only since a child will sooner or later grow up, take a gun and go to kill...
Does all that serve for God?
Of course, it does not, even if that is a crusade or a “jihad”! Those are cases, when for some “noble” aim it is necessary to murder a number of innocent people and to build on their blood something ephemeral. As we know, empires do not live long. At any case, none of them managed to live for two thousand years – as many as Christianity has already lived and, thank God, is not going to die.
And money – a mighty instrument of the state power? How much blood is shed for them? What aren’t people ready to give up for it? Whom aren’t they ready to betray?
Let us not condemn once more the imperfection of earthly states. Each of us felt it on his own back many times.
The question is as follows: is that imperfection objective, and can it become a perfection somewhere and some time, not losing the contemporary economical and political features of a state at that? Is an absolutely fair, just, decent and humane state possible? At least theoretically?
Someone may say that it is possible. Let us remember Thomas More’s “Utopia”, the theory of Marx and Engels, its remaking by Lenin and Stalin, the “Theocracy” of Vladimir Solovyov...
And to show that, in actual fact, such a state is impossible, we have to approach on the other hand. As in the case with Ivan Karamazov, literature will help us. Particularly, one episode of Jack London’s “White Fang”.
As we remember, in the beginning of the “adult” edition of that book a wolf pack pursues two travelers. One of those travelers is soon eaten up, and the second one struggles desperately. And when he can hardly bear to fight and the wolves come quite closely, he notices, much to his surprise, that there is neither rage nor bared teeth on their muzzles. They looked like children, who gathered near the table and were waiting only for the permission to start eating with delight.
It could have been a quite idyllic picture – of course, if not to take into consideration that the wolves were going to satisfy their hunger by him, as he had usually satisfied his hunger by the meat of elks and hares.
Such “interrelations”. Who can say that there is no honesty, decency, justice, naturalness and even “humanity” in them? If the wolves do not eat the traveler, won’t they die of hunger? Or won’t their cubs die? What is more “humanely” from the wolf’s point of view – to nag the traveler (a stranger) or to let a cub (the own) die? Where is evil here?
There is evil here, furthermore a very serious one, though it is not seen at first glance. The point is that the problem of good and evil is solved in a wolf pack by its complete exclusion of examination – a wolf pack knows nothing about good and evil, and that is why it behaves quite naturally and even attractively in its own way.
Two natural “basic instincts” are brilliantly simple – a species’ preservation and continuation. Sometimes the third is mentioned – interrelations with similar ones, but in actual fact, it is a consequence of the first two instincts. It is easier to hunt in a pack, it is easier to defend in a herd, and a partner is also necessary for the species’ continuation.
Every wolf instinctively knows since his birth: bite and tear everyone whom you see out of the pack (desirably more weak ones), and in the pack – obey the hierarchy and don’t fight against higher ones without the full confidence in your victory, otherwise you will be bit and teared yourself. And don’t forget that you need strength and health to “reproduce” one fine day.
All that seems to be good, but the projecting of the wolf pack model to habitual forms of the human social organization (a kin, a tribe, national and state structures), things do not turn out to be not so smooth.
If we use samples from literature so widely (exclusively owing to their obviousness), let us remember Rudyard Kipling’s tales of “The Jungle Books” – the typical case of giving a “human face” to the honesty and decency of animals.
There is a characteristic paradox in that tales. Do you remember how the “lovely” predators wished a “lucky hunting” to each other? We read that tales in the childhood and did not think, for whom that hunting was. And now let us think – isn’t it for us? At the minimum, for deers or hares – but in Kipling’s tales they are also animated, we also feel pity for them...
Have you noticed that the moral imperative has “switched on”, and it has turned out that not everything is so remarkable in a wolf pack? And not only in the relations with other animals, but also inside the pack. Do you remember the sacral phrase “Akela has missed”? And, actually, from wolves’ point of view that is an enough cause to nag the leader and put on his place a new one...
So we see that a wolf pack is a useful and even necessary community, which provides the preservation and continuation of the species according to the “natural selection”, but no peace and happiness of each wolf, and moreover of other animals – the potential victims.
“If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15). It is most likely that Paul did not use the words “bite” and “devour” accidentally.
So why did Christ refuse to rule over the earthly states? Didn’t he understand that every state, which is based on the tears of the innocent children, is at best a modified model of a wolf pack?
Yes, that is indeed the case, and that is confirmed by the fact that Christ considered the ruling over states as serving not to God, but to the devil (Matt. 4:10; John 14:30).
That is why I propose to speak about good and evil in the human society only in the context of the relationship of the moral imperative (humanistic, Christian spiritual principles) with the “basic natural instincts”. Now we have come to it by the theological way, but we shall have a possibility to examine this problem also in philosophic aspect in the last chapter.
For the time being let us remember Jesus’ words: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63).
And the words of Apostle Paul:
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so ye cannot do the things that ye would...
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, unclearness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Gal. 5:16-22).
Thus, by the New Testament, our spirit lives according to one law, and our flesh – by another.
Because of limited scientific knowledge of Paul’s time, the Apostle could not say in one phrase, according to which specific law our flesh lives, and enumerated: adultery, fornication, unclearness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft...
But we, having provided ourselves with modern scientific achievements, may specify: our flesh lives in accordance with the “basic instincts”, which we have “inherited” of our biological ancestors, i.e. of apes. And if to speak in the social context, then rather of wolves, because apes in natural conditions of jungle do not occupy the highest stage (many predators hunt for them).
And the identifying of any king or president (even the most clever and talented) with a guide to “Divine good” is the same mistake as the giving to the predator Akela the same features by Kipling. Moreover, “remarkable” Akela will sooner or later miss, and who will then replace him? God knows.
Thus, any statement of a possibility of either a “good” wolf pack or an “ideal” state is only an attempt of giving a wishful out for the real.
Nowadays’ states have to “flirt” with citizens, to organize election campaigns, to advertise politicians etc. But even now in the most democratic state, a human is a screw in a huge mechanism. Absolutely calmly and easily these screws are oiled when it is necessary, or thrown away when it is necessary.
The development of civilization softens extremes like “no murder – no meal”, but there are wars and executions...
That is the objective essence of a state – the subordination of human interests to society interests. The person’s priority above society is declared in the constitutions of the majority of developed countries, but it is rather propaganda than reflection of the real situation.
Every state lives according to the laws of a wolf pack and, consequently, is not good, but evil.
CAESAR’S – TO CAESAR
So, thoughts and acts, which are dictated by the moral imperative, are good. Thoughts and acts, which are dictated by the “basic natural instincts”, are evil.
Reality, of course, is somewhere in the middle. Moreover, there are a number of situations when the moral imperative does not contradict to the “basic instincts” – for example, the protection of the humanity from nuclear terrorists or a creation of a family. But we have already spoken that for the understanding of either tint of gray color it is necessary to know what is the black and what is the white.
That is why let us establish that, unfortunately, evil nowadays prevails in the social structure (we have called this evil as “social”). Both economy and politics base on it in the overwhelming majority of states.
Christ told his brothers (not the spiritual, but the own, who had not yet accepted his teaching): “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (John 7:7).
So the methodology of our further research will be the following: the division (of course, to the extent of possibility) of moral and social elements, the orientation toward first ones and taking second ones out of context. Let us call this methodology, by analogy with Matt. 22:21, by the following: “Unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”. For short, by “Caesar’s – to Caesar”.
I may be accused of anti-sociality. But, starting to work according to the methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar”, I would like to ask a methodological question: in which aspect do we examine anti-sociality – in the moral or social?
In the moral aspect, I, really, do not love contemporary (especially medieval or ancient) society – firstly since in the world, where it rules, prophets are condemned on crucifixion, and “Karamazov’s” children – on suffering.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16).
Many philosophers and theologians of the 19th–20th centuries, who were to some degree touched by Communist ideas, tried to “flirt” with contemporary society in an effort to determine some bright social perspectives of the humanity.
But now we may say frankly: society in its today’s form, moreover two thousand years ago, is evil. And let us not create illusions for ourselves. While money and state power are the determinants of social relations (in actual fact, that are the convolutions of an infinite spiral: more money – more power – more money etc.), society will be evil.
An inverse situation often takes place – society “flirts” with spirituality for the purpose of the placement of the moral imperative at states’ service.
But we have accepted strict Monotheism – there is single God and the single moral imperative. Consequently, the usage of the name of God (or the usage of the moral imperative) beyond moral purposes is a substitution of concepts, which is called by lie in everyday life. The Commandment “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Ex. 20:7) did not appear in the Decalogue accidentally near the murder and the false evidence.
But the uncompromising moral position – “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24) – does not mean an uncompromising social position.
The point is that the taking out of context does not mean a taking out of examination. Quite the contrary. Having picked out social elements in every problem of a human and the humanity, we facilitate the task of its understanding and, in the end, of the adaptation to it.
And it is necessary to adapt (at least to some extent). The “wolfish” essence of contemporary society may be overcome only by the widest spread of spirituality, and while that has not taken place – unfortunately, it is impossible to avoid it.
Moreover, while the “animal” nature lives
in people, the state system is necessary for supporting of some order in the
world, otherwise Christ would not have had compromises with the authorities
(Matt. 22:21). But it is very interesting that the phrase “Caesar’s – to
Caesar” (and its folklore analogue “When in
That is why let us formulate our position concerning the correlation between “social” evil and the moral imperative as follows: evil nowadays rules over the world, but sprouts of good are taking roots and developing actively. And it is possible to say confidently that the day will come when evil ceases ruling over the world.
This position completely conforms to the teaching of Christ, who refused to rule over the earthly kingdoms, but did not refuse of solving of global social tasks and declared the possibility of the building of the Kingdom of God on the Earth (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:31; 17:20; John 3:3). And that was no void declaration.
If not God but the devil offered the
earthly kingdoms to Jesus then no earthly kingdom (empire, republic etc.) is
capable to build the
On the other hand, we have understood that it is useless to wait (together with Ivan Karamazov) that Jesus or God the Father will send a lightning to burn the torturers of the little child. While criminals wish to be criminals, it is impossible to frighten them by either prisons or hell. The time of medieval theatrical performances with God’s intervention in the final (“Deus ex machine”) passed.
Then, analyzing the possibility of
building of the
And the victory over evil is not a condition of society, when everyone, as at hypothetical Communism, was to “work by capabilities and consume by needs”. And no condition of society at all. Simply no one will wish to commit evil.
What condition of society will then be, it
is possible only to guess. But it is clear that if people go on murdering,
robbing and deceiving each other, and a state has to provide that only
“necessary” people were killed, robbed and deceived – what
For the present, it is early and useless to speak about the unconditional withering away of states. Like the overwhelming majority of contemporary people, I can not imagine a state structure without legislative, executive and judicial powers, money, police and even army. Actually, if even all the earthly states make it up and open the borders, – what if some extraterrestrials attack the Earth? Though I am a Christian, but if the “war of worlds” begins, shan’t I take arms and defend our civilization?
And money – if not it, then what will regulate economical relations? Love? And how otherwise – according to ration cards, like in the Communist distributing system? Or everyone will have everything equally? And if somebody has a little bit more, won’t somebody be envious of him and try to take the “excess” away?..
Let us be realists: basic Christian concepts in the meantime do not coordinate with the severe commonness of economy and politics. But, as we have shown, that depends only upon ourselves, and if in some generations that coordinates – let us hope so.
“And when he was demanded of the
Pharisees, when the
That is why the task of Christianity is not utopian (to make the humanity or one separate country happy), but quite real – to make the life of a human and the humanity better. Little by little, step by step. And the size of that step is the acceptance of Christianity by one human.
And if that human accepts Christianity truly (and we speak only about the true acceptance), it is unlikely that someone will wish to shut his five-year-old daughter in a cold lavatory and to smear her face with excrement, as in the story, which was told by Ivan Karamazov.
Thus, the extirpating of evil means the supplanting of its instinctive basis (love to power, money, violence) by Christianity, and an unavoidable consequence of that is the improvement of society and the reduction of the total amount of evil and suffering in the world. Only in that order – not from “above”, but from “below”.
That is why we can debate as long as we like, if there is God’s fault of tears of the tortured children, but that does not exempt us from the duty to struggle for the abatement of these tears.
Jesus of Nazareth struggled and was crucified for that.
And since “Karamazov’s” five-year-old child, who is not well-informed in theology, will scarcely feel better because two thousand years ago Christ suffered for him, our task is to make this child feel better thanks to people, who call themselves Christians.
Consequently, it is necessary to struggle for good, only by the method of Christ at that – by good and with an own example, since evil (which is from the devil) has another moral essence than good (which is from God) in principle. Consequently, evil is not able to cause good.
A state has its own methods of struggle for good (to put it more precisely, for that, which it considers as good), and Christianity has its own methods. Borders, as usually, are indistinct. For the present it is impossible to do without a Criminal Code, and army with police are also unavoidable. Moreover, soon we shall have to understand that even a forced resistance to evil sometimes may not be called a sin from the Christian point of view.
But a forced resistance may solve only a momentary, “tactical” task, but the global, “strategic” guiding line for each of us may be only the “unlimited” Christian understanding of good and love, which mostly fully expresses the moral imperative, which was given to the humanity by God.
I propose to examine, from the point of view of the methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar”, some important practical problems concerning both society and the moral imperative. Exclusively as an example of the universal adaptability of our methodology.
For example, we can immediately ascertain the absurdity of such concepts as “a humane state” or “a kind ruler”.
And that is not the point that the “kindness” of any ruler (who personally murdered nobody and is an exemplary family man) has no connection with the ruling. The concepts like the mentioned above are absurd in their formulating – a state and humanism, a ruler and good are incompatible by definition.
Any state and any ruler, if they wish to hold out, have to be cruel and pragmatic – so the pitiless contemporary society dictates. A detail of a system (in this case, any state institution) depends first and foremost upon the system, and the deviation may be only in the limits of tolerance, which are determined by the system. If the deviation exceeds the allowable, the society tries to replace that detail by another one, which is more convenient. This is the law of any known society.
Since we have begun to talk about deviations, let us try to analyze causes of criminality.
The genetic and anthropological criminal disposition (the theory of Lombroso) is a particular factor, which is applicable far not always. Solving that question according to the methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar”, we draw a more general conclusion: any human is inclined to crimes only to the extent that his “basic instincts” prevail over the moral imperative.
It may seem possible to suppose that it depends on the will of God, but then we disavow our solution of the problem of the Theodicy – God turns out to be an indirect culprit of crimes. There is one more simple reason – a child of “a bad stock” is usually brought up in the same way, and all his life dictates positions, which do not correlate with Christianity and humanism. From here the “reproduction” of crime is.
We can remember the position of the theologians of the major Churches, who derive the criminality of an ultimate effect of the original sin, and can note that our explanation has turned out to be much more simple and satisfying, not touching upon the basis of the Christian faith at that. Quite the contrary, this position “purifies” our faith of an endless reproduction of sins and crimes by God.
And if so, let us leave the analysis of specific reasons of criminality (also of poverty and social oppression) to Karl Marx – really, if he had not engaged in the elaboration of spiritual utopias, he would have remained in history as an outstanding specialist of the social-economical analysis. But, unfortunately, he did not manage to separate “Caesar’s” and “God’s”. Or did not want to.
One more question arises – about the scientific-technical progress. Does the replacement of horses and coaches by cars and aircrafts bring good or evil to people?
This question seems to be not of the context of our research. But in fact, our methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar” may be applied even here, and we must start of a more “human” question: would the professional activity be considered as good or as evil? And labour in general?
We could have said that “labour” questions concern society, which today is organized by the type of a wolf pack, and, consequently, is evil.
But there are different kinds of labour. Not because there is also a “spiritual” labour (for example, arts), but because labour itself is not important in principle, but its result is important. We have already quoted Christ’s words: “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20).
Consequently, we have to analyze labour not as a process, but as a result. Let us cite an example: it is impossible to refuse the creative search to the creators of the atomic bomb, but the result of their labour objectively brought rather evil than good to the mankind. The usage of their scientific achievements in peaceful purposes illustrates the ambiguity of good and evil, but if we want to single out moral constituents of either of them, then our methodology says: the atomic bomb is evil in spite of any attempt of its justification by a “peaceful atom”.
Now we are risking to deepen into the theme of “good” and “evil” things and to stick there, because it is possible to kick painfully even by Dostoyevski’s book, not morally, but quite physically at that. Let us remember: already in the beginning of Chapter 3, we have turned from “good” or “evil” things to good or evil acts, exclusively in the context of the moral imperative at that.
And purposes of labour in the moral context are not less important for us than its results. That is why labour, purposes of which are dictated by the moral imperative, is good. And when labour pursues aims of enrichment, violence or the state power, it is evil.
Let us note that professionalism is usually determined as the ability of the obtaining of a result according to selected aims. That is why professional labour with aims, which conform to the moral imperative, is good. And non-professionalism may lead to the well-known Russian saying: “We wanted as better, but did as usually”.
It turns out that two workers of the same qualification on same machines may work for the same payment with absolutely different aims (the first aim – to earn money and drink it away, and the second – so as his products could serve good to people), and their labour would have different moral estimations. And a percent of waste in the second case will be less.
However paradoxically, we have no contradiction even to the theory of Marx – he interpreted exactly the monotonous work on machines as a reason of proletariat’s hatred against these machines and against owners of the means of production, who appropriate the results of proletariat’s labour. According to Marx, peasantry is less “revolutionary”, because peasants’ hatred against the land, which feeds them, is rather an exclusion than a rule.
But if Marx’s theory led to the conclusion that for the committing of evil (of a violent revolution) unskilled and hated labour of people, who are separated of the means of production, is useful, then on the basis of the same thesis we do a contrary conclusion: skilled labour of owners, who are interested in its results, is useful for committing good.
That is in theory. And practice shows that any idea of social equality breaks at the reality of unskilled labour, which even in an ideal society (for example, at hypothetical Communism) must be done by someone.
Really, such professions as a plumber or a nightman are not going to disappear. Moreover, a declaration of the spiritual (but not civil) equality of a philosopher and a yard-keeper, in the contemporary world, makes the yard-keeper cease to sweep the street cleanly. From here, it is not far to Lenin’s thesis: “Any cook can rule over the state”, and that thesis, as we know, lead to nothing good.
We have already spoken that the purposes of Christianity are not utopian, but quite real. Consequently, we must understand that while unskilled labour exists, any talk about the true social equality is utopian, and guarantees of equal rights will never turn from the civil context to the spiritual one.
Consequently, we must acknowledge the positive role of scientific-technical progress, which leads to the increasing of the part of skilled labour and to the changing of proletarians and peasants into educated engineers. The creative work in the sphere of production, by the highest standards, is not less spiritual and less worthy of respect, than in so called “nonproductive sphere”.
It may be said against that: unskilled labour is a “refuge” for that creative people, who have no possibility to earn their living by their creative work. An example is the whole generation of the Soviet “underground” of 1960–1980s.
But we should say without penetrating into aspects of the art-market: woe is that society, which makes its intellectuals earn their living by the work in boiler-houses. And the sooner such an abnormal phenomenons disappear, the better.
There is “social” evil where unskilled labour is. There is unskilled labour where “social” evil is. The circle has enclosed.
Consequently, mechanization, automation, robotization and computerization are good. And the fact, that there are computers both in libraries and in centers of mission control, is one more example of the minority of results of labour and the scientific-technical progress in comparison with purposes of using of that results. A human and his system of value is the “starting point” again.
That is why it is as absurd to refuse of scientific-technical progress because of the danger of the nuclear war, as to confiscate axes, kitchen knives and other similar things from citizens with the view of reducing of crime.
While people wish to murder each other, they would find how to do that.
The global violation of ecology on our planet is usually called a negative consequence of scientific-technical progress. But let us look: is it a fault of scientific-technical progress?
We can come to the understanding of that only from the direction of a specific human, his life and health.
Life and health are tightly connected, and concepts of humanism spread to both of them. Protection of health is a form of help to a human. The moral imperative dictates that, and that is confirmed in Christianity by a number of sick people, who were healed by Christ and the Apostles.
Saying objectively, any state is interested by these problems only to some degree, since disabled people and invalids in a “pure” model of a state – a wolf pack – are doomed to the death. And the fact that contemporary states to a greater or lesser extent hinder from their death is a doubtless progress and an example of the deep striking root of the moral imperative.
Health protection by a state, provision of pensions in an old age – these are also positive samples. The abolition of tortures and of death penalty, which has occurred practically everywhere (at any case, in civilized society), is also a positive tendency. Even a political institution – democracy – may be considered as a great achievement of the moral imperative, because it is conductive to the increasing of the role of a person in social “mechanisms”.
Human society yields to the influence of the moral imperative, which puts in the forefront the person, freedom, life and health of a human. Yields slowly, with periodical “recoils” to fascist dictatorships, but still yields.
If it is possible to apply the word “progress” to the development of humanity, then it is exactly the progress.
That is why environment protection, which is tightly connected with health of people, is the most important task of society, a state and a human. And the negative influence of the man-caused factor on global ecology is an example of insufficient attention to this task and of the unwillingness of businessmen (or of officials) to spend money to the introduction of scientific researches in that area.
We have come again to the conclusion that any achievement of scientific-technical progress may lead to a catastrophe in unfair hands.
However, history knows a number of unfair usages of the spiritual values, to the extent of Christian religion. We have already remembered the Inquisition and the Society of Jesus.
Let us try to solve the “national problem” from the point of view of our methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar”.
It may seem that the feeling of nationality relates to the moral imperative, because the belonging of a human to either nation usually is not determined at the level of consciousness. Some subconscious “we” takes place, and that “we” is used not only in the “life” context – “today we’ve won in football”, – but also in a quite spiritual one – “our culture”, “our art”, even “our faith”.
But, unfortunately, we have to ascertain that we are dealing not with the moral imperative, but with the strongest social stereotype, which embodied in our subconsciousness.
Let us adduce a proof.
All history of humanity confirms that a nationality is closely connected with a state system, and vice versa, a state system is connected with a nationality. The self-feeling of a human, who belongs to either nation, gradually interflows with the self-feeling as a citizen of either state. Its confirmation the mass liberation of countries of the “third world” and the collapse of colonial empires in the 20th century are.
It seems to be good. For example, a justly elected president of a “state forming” nation usually knows needs of citizens better than a “sent” governor-general (though it is not an axiom). It seems to be not so bad in the context of culture – the encouragement of cultural-economical traditions and the studying of a national language (though that are also not axioms). In each case, basing on democratic presuppositions, the self-determination of nations is a positive process most likely.
But does this positive process relate to the moral imperative? Let us formulate the question more specifically: will peace and rest be established on the Earth in the hypothetical case of the full self-determination of all nations?
But this hypothesis in incorrect: all nations without exception can not self-determine, because national minorities will always remain, for which national majorities do not acknowledge the right to self-determination. Finally, even inhabitants of one region, or one city, or one village may declare themselves a nation, and a confirmation may be found for that in either ethnic or cultural or language traditions...
Nations may split up arbitrarily, and there is no logical limit for that.
And if this is the case, the world will not do without “hot spots” on the national basis. Let us remember the childhood and the cry: “We’re beaten”! “We” is used here in another context, but that is also a subconscious community! And if tomorrow such cry sounds in the all-national scale, won’t the same subconscious force stir up millions of people and lead them to murder each other?
It is possible to say against it: in each country, there are many Nazi, fascists and extremists, and such appeals are heard very often. But people do not take arms and go to murder.
Someone does not go, but someone does. It is firstly. And secondly, what does prevent the majority of people to respond to any similar cry? The role of “brake” is played by the moral imperative. And it is the “brake” of not only pogroms and wars on the national basis. It stands against any destructive tendency, to the extent of robberies and murders.
It turns out that the contradiction of the moral imperative with the national self-feeling is as well-founded, as the contradiction of the moral imperative with any subconscious manifestation of evil.
Consequently, the national self-feeling does not relate to the moral imperative, moreover, contradicts to it.
Our methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar” interprets this situation as the following: the national self-feeling is a potential source of no good, but of evil for a human. Someone will be kept from evil by the moral imperative, but, unfortunately, someone will not be kept.
The questions arise: what about national culture? And national art? Are they also evil?
Of course, no. But here we deal with quite another situation, when the concept “national” appears not as a self-feeling, but as a material. A language, a tradition, geographic traits... If a Russian works at the studio of Tatar folk art, that does not mean that he necessarily perceives himself as a Tatar. And though Boris Pasternak and Osip Mandelshtam are the great Russian poets, they perceived themselves as belonging to the Jewish nation.
And if some time the national self-feeling of people sinks into oblivion together with other manifestations of “social” evil, national cultural traditions will hardly disappear, though they will change.
There is nothing terrible in the rejection
of the national self-feeling. History of the humanity says that nations come
and leave, but their culture remains. There are many examples – Ancient Egypt,
Assyria, Ancient Greece, Ancient
There is one more sorrowful example, which contains in the name of Fenimore Cooper’s book “The Last of the Mohicans”. Really, a number of nations disappear, and even the “museum’ culture does not remain of them. But whose fault is it? Isn’t it the fault of that “national majorities”, which took up or even physically annihilated minorities, having not let them develop? We have come to “social” evil again...
As an additional confirmation of our position and as a consolation for all unknowingly disappeared nations, let us remember the words of Apostle Paul: “And have put in a new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scyth’i-an, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:10-11).
I may be asked: the subconscious “we” does not take only national forms. For example: “we, Europeans”, “we, men”, “we, Catholics”, “we, Christians”, “we, people of the Earth” and even “we, inhabitants of the Universe”. Does even this not relate to the moral imperative?
Yes, even this does not relate to the moral imperative, for which only one “we” exists – “we, united by the moral imperative”. And all other “we” are different subconscious stereotypes. Either positive or neutral or negative ones.
Thus, we have examined both the concept of “social” evil and a number of the “local” problems, which are connected with the conformity of either social problem to the moral imperative.
Having spent much time to the solution of the problem of the Theodicy, we have also understood: the freedom of will of people excludes the guilt of God in their sins and crimes.
But we have not yet spoken about “natural” evil – hurricanes, tornados, accidents, illnesses and even mental diseases, which deprive a human of the capability for realizing of his criminal acts, and here we see the close interlacing of “social” and “natural” evil.
Moreover, analyzing “social” evil, we shall sooner or later reach its “natural” roots – aren’t a wolf pack and human society also created by God?
And why God, having given the moral imperative to the civilized humanity, did not want to extirpate our “bestial” instincts but let them coexist, not quite peacefully at that?
Consequently, we have not solved the problem of the Theodicy finally. If the creation of the world as of the physical and moral whole primordially supposed the presence of evil in it, then wouldn’t it have been better for God not to create it at all?
And though we have shown that our suffering is no guilt of God, but the guilt of society or the laws of nature, we have not yet managed to answer the main question – why God created both nature and society as potential sources of evil. We have been at the level of a “microcosm” – of a human, but the question, which has just been cited, relates to the “macrocosm”, and we are not yet ready to its solution.
Let us explain, why.
In our research of reasons and forms of “social” evil, Christianity was the basic “tuning fork” of the moral imperative. And we have examined Christianity in the subconscious forms, in which it took roots in people who belong to the European civilization.
Few people get deeper into problems of theology. Something is understood by reason, something is felt intuitively, and, as a rule, that is enough. Hitherto, we could manage in this book without theologian niceties.
But now we are in for the change from practical philosophy (Metaphysics of Moral) to theoretical philosophy (understanding of the structure of the world and of ourselves in this world). And since Christianity remains the main instrument of this understanding, it is necessary to “tune it up” to the solution of theoretical problems before to work with it.
It may seem strange: why must we “tune up” the Christian theology?
Because its theoretical (conceptual) part essentially differs from the practical one, which has taken roots in subconsciousness of a number of generations, and this situation is a source of a great number of abuses and speculations. And while we do not determine how to understand the words “Christianity” and “Christian religion”, we shall not be able to go on in our research.
As you remember, the similar “tuning” we had to carry out, when we were analyzing the “fundamental paradox of Christianity”, which casts doubt on the right of Christianity to be called the mostly full and adequate manifestation of the moral imperative. Then we have faced a number of depositions of medieval stereotypes (for example, of hell as a red-hot furnace and paradise as angels on a cloud), and the changing to clear concepts, which express Christianity as the teaching of exclusively good and love, took rather much time.
Nevertheless, we have not lost that time in vain – having not solved that question, we would not have elaborated the methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar”. And since we have managed to do that, let us try to apply this methodology to Christianity itself.
Let us ask the question: does Christianity – the shank of any European philosophy – completely conform to the moral imperative?
Analyzing the “fundamental paradox of Christianity”, we have engaged in the separation of the moral imperative from the Old Testament’s principles of the retribution of evil for evil (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, hell for sins). Actually we have applied the methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar”, which had not yet been elaborated at that time.
That “tuning” we have successfully done, and now we can say surely: Christianity, which is understood as the teaching of Christ and is based on the Holy Scripture, completely conforms to the moral imperative.
But since the times of writing of the New Testament almost two thousand years passed, and within these years multiple schisms of the Church and the forming of so called “Canon law” took place.
And though Christianity – the teaching of Christ – exists as an objective reality since the moment when Christ gave it to us, Christian religion – the worldview of people – in many respects depends upon subjective positions of people themselves. Consequently, Christian religion (I emphasize – not Christianity but a religious world view formed on its basis) depends upon society, the historical epoch, economy and politics to the same extent.
And in this case, the answer to the question if Christian religion completely conforms to the moral imperative, will be negative.
And this unfavorable conclusion follows from an additional question: what Christian religion are we speaking about? About the Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant one? About Luther’s or Calvin’s teachings? May be, about Socinianity or Adventism? If hundreds of different variants exist, then which of them expresses the moral imperative with the whole (or at least the highest) fullness and adequacy?
Trying to answer this question directly, enumerating all possible interpretations of Christianity and analyzing them, we shall have to examine many thousands of volumes and will scarcely succeed in that.
The approach, conforming to our methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar”, must be another in principle: we must determine Christian religious concepts, which are formed exclusively on the basis of the moral imperative, and take all the other concepts out of context, considering those concepts as depositions of “social” evil, which prevents from the integration, mutual understanding and often even from the peaceful co-existence of Orthodox believers and Catholics, Catholics and Protestants, Protestants and Baptists, Baptists and “Jehova’s witnesses”, “Jehova’s witnesses” and “Seventh-day Adventists”...
We shall start the “tuning” of the Christian theology from a question, to which any Church – the Orthodox, the Catholic, the Protestant – is ready to give the most comprehensive answer at any moment. And the question is the following:
The “Trinity” (three divine persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) is the base of Churches’ dogmatics. They are distinct from each other but equal in their eternity and power, and each of them has its own “duties”. However, the latter are not divided definitely, and all the hypostases take part in every act, to a variable extent though.
But does this approach coordinate with strict Monotheism, without which, as we have already seen, any religion inevitably becomes a morally degraded system? And the First Commandment of the Decalogue sounds unambiguously – God is single (Ex. 20:1).
Churches say confidently that it is coordinated. Let us read the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed – that is the mostly condensed form of the dogmatics of the major Churches, and this Creed is accepted by both the Catholic and the Orthodox Church (excluding the addition about “filioque” – the proceeding of the Holy Spirit not only from the Father, but also from the Son).
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all the things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: he was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated on the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son – the addition of the Catholic Church). With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
The words about “God the Son”, – “Eternally begotten of the Father... Begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father”, – are the key formula, making an appearance of the solution of the problem of Polytheism. So, “God the Son” was begotten (in the Greek original it sounds unambiguously – was born), and that is natural since he is the Son. But since he is God, he is not made. And since he is one in being with the Father, together they are single God.
Really, if we examine all three these statements (“begotten”, “not made” and “one in being”) separately, then the problem of Polytheism seems to be solved. But it only seems so, because as soon as we begin to examine these statements together, a number of contradictions appear.
If “God the Son” was born, then he is made. How is it possible to give birth without making?
It is possible to apply the Nicene-Constantinopolitan formula not to “God the Son”, but to common people, who are born by women. All mothers bring forth and give birth to the children, make people physically, but not all of them – spiritually. In principle, it is possible to contest also the physical making of a son by the mother and to ascribe it to the competence of God or, at the least, of genetics. But if “God the Son” was born of “God the Father”, moreover “eternally”, i.e. without either women or genes, then he may be made by nobody except God.
And what about “one in being with the Father”?
When, according to the Old Testament, God created the human in his image, it is more or less understandable. But if to interpret “one in being” literally, there was no Christ, God took Jesus’ image himself, came to the Earth, prayed to himself and talked with himself (in the beginning of the 3rd century Sabellius, one of the founders of “Modalistic Monarchianism”, taught so).
If that is not so, then “one in being” must not be understood literally. Consequently, Christ was an independent person. The major Churches do not contest that. But if Jesus of Nazareth is also a god, then we have two gods (with the Holy Spirit – three), and we turn out to be Polytheists (bluntly speaking, pagans).
Only one variant of the concept of “one in being” remains: Christ is the image of God. We, as it is well known, also are such (Gen. 1:26). Consequently, Jesus may be “one in being” only with us, people, and we shall have the possibility to make sure of that many times.
And what about the “Third hypostase of the Trinity”?
In spite of the fact that the Holy Spirit is considered to be in the same relations with God as “God the Son” (the only difference is that he is not “born”, but “proceeds”), in the “Creed” there are no formulas like “not made” and “one in being”. The Holy Spirit is simply declared as the third god (the giver of life, who is worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son), without any reservation. A sort of that it means by itself that the third hypostase of the “Trinity” is same as the second one.
But it is possible to mean everything, but for the time present, we see in the official Creed nothing but Polytheism. With respect to “God the Son” – the concealed Polytheism, with respect to the Holy Spirit – the open.
There are some other contradictory moments in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. For example, Christ was born of the “Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary”, and in some words we read about the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from God. The Holy Spirit turns out to be something like a mediator in the birth of “God the Son”.
In principle, it is understandable, where this strange formula is from. The concept of the Holy Spirit in the Gospels, as we remember, is of very many meanings, and, according to Matthew, Mary became pregnant just of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18). We shall have another possibility to make sure that Apostle Matthew did not know the concept of “Trinity”, and his formula was simply brought to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed from the Apostles’ one.
So called “Apostles’” Creed was formed in the end of the 2nd century, i.e. did not concern the Apostles. Nevertheless, let us quote it entirely – it is short and, as against the Niceno-Constantinopolitan, relatively simple and logical:
“I believe in God, the Almighty; and in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, the Lord, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried, who the third day rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God, from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead; and in the Holy Spirit, in the holy church, in the forgiveness of sins, in the resurrection of the flesh”.
We shall remember the last words of this Creed when we speak about the “life of the world to come”. And now let us only note that neither in the “Apostles’” nor in the Nicene Creeds it was said anything about the proceeding of the Holy Spirit, but in 381 CE in Constantinople according to the dogma of “Trinity” it was added that the Holy Spirit proceeds from God, and Christ turned out to be both “God the Son” and the “grandson” (the son of the independent Holy Spirit).
Probably, it would have been possible to speak about the great strength of traditions, because of which the Churches did not correct that “editorial” mistakes within one thousand six hundred years. But the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed is not a simple prayer. Every word in it has a great significance. And if we have found so many contradictions in this Creed, which is adjusted and grinded to the limit, then in many volumes of the “Canon law” the quantity of contradictions increases greatly.
To understand, if these contradictions are accidental, or they are unfair stratifications of “social” evil, it is necessary to apply to the origins of Christian religion.
We have already spoken that, in spite of the declarative denying of strict observance of Mosaic Law, Apostle Paul’s theology makes practically no difference between Jesus Christ and the Old Testament’s Messiah. Theologians of the major Churches do not argue with this and consider that a fundamentally new interpretation of Christ’s’ nature was given by John the Evangelist in the end of the 1st century.
We shall have to quote almost completely the introduction to the Gospel according to John, which initiated all following interpretations of the nature of Jesus Christ by the major Churches. I only remind that this Gospel was written in twenty–thirty years after the death of Apostle Paul, when the Church already was a large and branchy organization. So, let us read:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning was God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was the life; and the life was the light of men.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not the Light, but sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world... “ (John 1:1-9).
“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.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory...” (John 1:12-14).
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18).
Exactly these fragments became the main theological base for the view at Christ as at “God the Son”. I accentuate – not yet for the dogma of “Trinity”, but only for the change from the Gospel’s concept of “the Son of God” to dogmatic “God the Son”.
And to understand how this change took place and how well founded it is, we shall need a relatively detailed historical review.
The beginning of persecutions of the Christians in the epoch of Emperor Trajanus (the beginning of the 2nd century) is the evidence that just at that time Christianity exceeded the bounds of a Judaic sect by the influence and the number of followers. The fact, that emperors noticed and began to struggle, is rather significant. Nero during his Judaic persecution in 64–65 CE had not yet distinguished Christians from Jews and murdered one after another.
And in the end of the 1st–the beginning of the 2nd century, Christianity grew into a religion of all-empire scale and faced a problem: how to explain to the masses of pagans, to whom the Christians worship? To God – yes, but to what God? To the same as Jews worship, or not?
This question was not idle for every christianizing pagan, – If I have to pray not to Zeus or Apollo, then to whom? To Judaic Jehova? And what is then the difference between Christianity and Judaism?
understand an explanation about the Messiah, it was necessary to know the Old
Testament. Not everyone knew it even in
That is why in the 2nd century the Christians needed “own” God, to differ from Judaism. At that time, Christ began to be called a god along with God the Father.
In the beginning of the 2nd century, people did not yet ask questions, why there were two gods in Monotheism. Christianity was, first of all, “a religion for poor men”, and among poor men at that time there were few educated people. But, nevertheless, a theological basis for the divine nature of Christ, sooner or later, was to become necessary.
So, it was necessary to declare Christ a god and not to incur accusations of Polytheism. The task was not only greatly complicated, but also theoretically insoluble.
Nobody could “abolish” God the Father and replace him with Christ – that would have contradicted with the Gospels too much. But, as it is well known, if it is necessary to think something out, it will be thought out in each case.
Justin Philosopher (abt.100–165) thought out the following: having referred to fragments of the Gospel according to John, which are known to us – “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) and “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14), he interpreted that fragments literally and declared Christ as “God’s Word”, which was made flesh and came to the Earth.
The oddity of this approach at that time was not striking, because Justin, basing on Greek philosophy, identified the phrase “The Word was with God” with the term “Logos”, which was often used by Greeks.
As a matter of fact, “logos” is translated as “word”, but Socrates meant the “true word” (logic, source and criterion of objective knowledge) by it, Heracleitus meant the rational basis of nature, the Stoics – organizing origin which was independent of God, Plato – reason, providence, discourse, proof and speech, and Aristotle – the true nature of every thing.
Contrary to the widespread stereotype that Philo Judaeus made a serious influence to Christian dogmatics, his interpretation of “Logos” was rather different from Justin’s one. “Logos”, according to Philo, did not exist separately from God, but was the idea of the conceivable world, the “idea of ideas”. In fact, “Logos” turned out to be one of manifestations of God.
And by Justin, “Logos” meant the divine reason, which was made flesh and came to the Earth in the person of Christ. So this synthesis of Christian theology and Greek philosophy – the identification of Christ and “Logos” – originated. And since “Logos” was considered by all Greek philosophers as something like supreme reason, this identification in the conditions of Christianity meant the acknowledgement of Christ as a god in fact. To put it more precisely, “God the Son”.
“God the Son” and “the Son of God” seem to sound almost equally, but actually the difference turned out to be fundamental and became the basis of the dogma of “Trinity”, which appeared in two hundred years after Justin’s death.
So, referring to the words “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) and “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14), Justin declared Christ to be “God the Son” – the “Logos”.
We have understood that in the 2nd century that conformed to political purposes of the Church, which needed its “own” god. But is the identification of Christ with the “Logos” in respect to theology, which, in principle, must base on the Holy Scripture and solve no political problems, rightful?
Let us remember the beginning of the book of Genesis: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Gen. 1:3). We see that God created the world by the word, and his first words were: “Let there be light”.
And now let us look at the quoted beginning of the Gospel according to John.
Nobody saw God (John 1:18), and the beginning of the world was in God’s word (John 1:3). In this case, the “Word” means also the acts of God for the creation of the world (Gen. 1:3). This meaning of the “Word” is confirmed by a reference to the Book of Psalms: ‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made... For he spake, and it was done” (Ps. 33:6-9).
The Word is inseparable from God, and there is no other way of cognizing God – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Word of God was brought to us by the Son of God – Christ, in Christ it became flesh (John 1:14), i.e. the specific expression. Jesus was the light for people (John 1:7-9).
John called Jesus the “Word” marginally and once (John 1:14), and the “Light” – directly and many times (John 1:7-9; 3:19; 12:46).
Moreover, John used the concept of “Word” also in contexts, which completely exclude the identity of Christ and the “Word”:
“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).
John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the
kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called
So why did Justin identify Christ with the “Word”, and, for example, not with the Divine Light?
We have already understood the political motivation of Justin. And to understand his theological motivation, we shall have to remember the philosophic school, which is called Gnosticism.
Many professional philosophers of the 2nd and 3rd century, having come enthusiastic about Christianity as a “fashionable” idea, could not avoid attempts to create some kind of a “full-scale” philosophic system on its base.
In that purposes, a number of doctrines were “put” into Christianity. Concepts from Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Manicheism and many other philosophic and religious systems were used, but Greek philosophy was the highest on the list of “popularity”.
Gnosticism is the general name for all these “synthetic” philosophic systems.
Christ’s contemporary Philo of Alexandria was the direct precursor of Gnosticism, with his synthesis of Judaism and Greek philosophy. And in the 2nd century different philosophers, who used the Holy Scripture, were called Gnostics.
Gnostics thought out a number of “fresh” concepts. “Demiurge”, “Archon”, “365 Astral Angels”, “Panspermia”, “Sophia with her husband, The Desired” and “Pleroma” – all this eclectics took place in their doctrines. And according to “conjuncture” considerations, Jesus Christ became the central figure of those teachings.
Jesus was declared either the “fragrance of the Holy Spirit” or the “New Eon” or a phantom... Gnostics considered the world either as an illusion, or as a trial, or as a punishment, consisting either of three levels, or of 365 spheres, or of 30 “eons”...
In short, Gnostics supposed that Christianity was too simple and axiomatic, and if it had not been “colored” by specific philosophic terms, and if all concepts had not obtained “loud” and spectacular names, then serious people would not have accepted it.
This point of view turned out to be extremely enduring. “Logos” (“God’s Word”) and Sophia (“God’s Wisdom”) are the most well known Gnostic concepts, which penetrated Churches’ dogmatics and implanted in it. The first became the predecessor of the “Trinity”, and the second became the “banner” of the “Russian religious Renaissance”.
“Logos” and “Sophia” are connected tightly, and their “spheres of competence” are almost identical – Gnostics made the Greek word “Sophia” a proper name and gave it a very wide spectrum of power.
It was spoken many times in the Holy Scripture about God’s wisdom (Prov. 8:22; Luke 11:49; 1 Cor. 1:24; the Apocryphic Book “The Wisdom of Solomon”), but that wisdom had a personal character only in metaphorical sense. But the Greek pagan’s tradition of deification of all natural phenomenons (Eos – a dawn, Thanatos – a death, Hypnos – a sleep, Ares – a war etc.) yielded its fruits. The same happened to “Logos”, but it was identified with Christ.
However, for a long time “Sophia” was identified not only with God’s wisdom, but also with the Mother of God – Gnostics needed a “female basis” of the world.
“Sophia” was also often mentioned in connection with the creation of the world, because, of course, it was difficult to deny Creator’s wisdom. It turned out that “Sophia” was something like a “matrix” of the creation of the world, and “Logos” was the specific filling of that “matrix”.
the first millennium CE, “Sophia” was also used as an analogue of the Holy
Spirit, and as a symbol of the Christian Church, and as a personification of
state systems and all medieval ideas of the “order” on the Earth. It is no
wonder that the greatest Byzantine and Russian cathedrals – “Sophias” of
the worship of “Sophia” did not exist in
Now the overwhelming majority of people consider that “Sophia” is a common female name, which originates from the legendary martyr Sophia. The destiny of Gnostic “Logos” was more fortunate: it remained in the Church dogmatics thanks to the dogma of “Trinity”.
But “Sophia” was not completely forgotten. The majority of philosophers of the “Russian religious Renaissance” took a great interest in Gnosticism as in a synthesis of Christianity and “genuine” philosophy. For example, Vladimir Solovyov included into his teaching some Gnostic concepts (first of all, “Sophia”) together with Christian ones. Pavel Florensky, Serguey Bulgakov and the brothers Trubetskoj followed his footsteps.
And even now, “Sophiology” is a very popular school in Russian philosophy. And, reading the contemporary philosophic works where the concepts of God, Christ, “Trinity”, “Absolute”, “Logos”, “Sophia”, “Shambala”, “nirvana”, “karma”, “magic” etc. are mixed, I remember Gnostics, who underestimated a great capability of Christianity to satisfy all spiritual needs of the most serious people (even of professional philosophers).
Now, when we have understood the fundamental difference between Christianity and Gnosticism, it is necessary to state: Churches’ theology of the 2nd–3rd centuries proceeded along the path of Gnosticism. The same path was chosen by Patristics (teachings of so called “Fathers of the Church”) – from Athanasius of Alexandria to John of Damascus. As we shall see soon, all attempts of at least partial return to the teaching of Christ and the Apostles were declared heresies and pursued grimly.
Unfortunately, it is quite logical that Churches consider Justin Philosopher, who declared Christ to be “Logos”, as the founder and the first representative of Patristics.
a matter of fact, Philo was a contemporary of Jesus, lived in
And by all philosophical and theologian criterions, Philo’s teaching had no connection with Christianity. Philo Judaeus was the predecessor not of Christianity, but of Gnosticism, which became a path for Patristics.
For example, “Logos” was the central dogma of the system of Tertullian, who considered that, before the coming to the Earth, Jesus existed in some form, but in unity with God the Father, as the “Internal Word”. After the birth, Christ became the “Said Word”.
The Holy Spirit was present in Tertullian’s book, and that gave some theologians of the major Churches a cause to declare him the founder of the dogma of “Trinity”. But in fact, his teaching had no relation to the “Trinity”, and this dogma appeared in more than a hundred years after his death.
Tertullian really wrote about the Holy Spirit, but only about the divine power, which “replaced” Christ on the Earth after his crucifixion. That was written also in the New Testament (John 20:22), so Tertullian only stated the well-known fact.
It is necessary to stop especially at the teaching of Origen. The point is that, independently of our treating to the Gnostic “Logos”, the divine essence of Christ has a number of confirmations in the Gospels and in the Epistles.
As an example, we can cite Jesus’ phrase: “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). It is impossible to doubt in its authenticity, because it became the result of the long theological discussion of Christ with orthodox Jews. So, how to interpret that words? Is Christ a god? But then we have two gods, and how to coordinate that with Monotheism?
Origen tried to do this – not unsuccessfully. He, as against Justin and Tertullian, did not speak about the identity of Christ and “Logos” and used the terms of “potential” and “actual” energies. Christ before his birth was “potential energy” of God, so he existed eternally. And then he came into the world and became “actual energy”.
It is often considered that Origen grounded the dogma of “Trinity”, when he called the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit by the divine hypostases. But in actual fact, he analyzed firstly the relations of God and Christ, having admitted only the Father as “absolute” God. The Holy Spirit, for his turn, proceeds from “God the Son” and relates to it approximately so, as “God the Son” to God, not being a god at that.
If we summarize all the said, Origen’s logic is quite understandable: Christ, having been born of God, created and left for us the Christian teaching – the Holy Spirit.
But a “slippery” question remained – how two gods can exist in Monotheism. And Origen called all people also as gods, to avoid accusations in Polytheism. By Origen, Jesus’ soul and the souls of all other people existed eternally, before the creation of the world (teaching about so called “preexistence of souls”). Let us remember the Psalm: “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Ps. 82:6).
Thus, Origen started from the acknowledgement of Jesus as god, and finished at the acknowledgement of all us as gods.
In actual fact, it was still possible to accuse Origen in Polytheism, though there turned out to be many billions of gods – not two. We shall have the possibility to come back to this problem, speaking about possible “godifying” (theosis) of people.
But, nevertheless, the position “Christ is a god, but all people also are gods” has a serious basis in the Holy Scripture. But before the beginning of its detailed research, let us go on with our historical review. Our task is the understanding of the essence of the dogma of “Trinity”, and when we examine the way of its forming and understand its essence in respect to our methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar”, we shall remember Origen’s position as one of alternatives.
In the 3rd century, the Church’s dogmatics did not exceed the limits of the analysis of the Holy Scripture, and the latter was the main argument in theological disputes.
there was one exception – the deification of Jesus. We have examined the view
on this item of three philosophers – Justin, Tertullian and Origen. But there
was the fourth one – the view of Irenaeus, the bishop of
This position found a considerable echo among “rank” priests, who were occupied with missionary activities and did not obtain deeply insight into theological cobwebs.
But there was also a number of priests, who did not agree with Irenaeus and put forward a motto, which is difficult for translation, – something like “It is necessary to stick to monarchy”. In other words, they understood that the Church would sooner or later face accusations of paganism and that is why absolute and incontestable Monotheism was necessary.
There were two ways of “sticking to monarchy”.
So called “Monarchians-modalists” (from “modus” – a method of manifestation) saw in Jesus God himself, who took the human appearance, came to the Earth and was crucified.
That was advocated by Sabellius, who lived in the beginning of the 3rd century. We know almost nothing about him, but the Church still uses the “echoes” of his teaching – exactly Sabellius (not Tertullian and not Origen) was the first to introduce into relations of God and “God the Son” the third “hypostase”, the Holy Spirit. Exactly Sabellius declared all of them “one in being”.
But that did not save him, and he was declared a heretic at the Church Councils of 261 and 262 CE, because “one in being”, in Sabellius’ understanding, meant the full unity, i.e. one divine person in different manifestations. Consequently, according to Sabellius, it turned out that Christ, praying to God, was praying to himself, and speaking with God, was speaking to himself. That was too strange.
Furthermore, the teaching of “modalists” resembled Docetism (from Greek “to seem”) – a teaching of the 2nd century. In due time we have not paid attention to it, because it had no clear position, no pronounced leader and consisted of a number of trends (many of them became parts of Gnosticism later). The essence of Docetism may be briefly expressed as the negation of the corporal existence of Christ. According to Docets, some ghost came to us, hanged on a cross and flew away into heaven. No Christ, but a hallucination of Matthew, John, Peter and others.
Such “mass hypnosis” was unbelievable even in the 2nd century, and very few people apprehended Docetism seriously.
But let us return to Monarchianism. So called “Monarchians-Dynamists” considered that Christ was an earthly human, in whom the divine force acted. The name “Dynamists” originated from this – “dynamo” is translated from Greek as “force”.
is reputed that the first “Monarchians-Dynamists” were half-legendary Theodotus
the Tanner and Theodotus the Money-changer, who lived at the turn of the 2nd
and 3rd centuries. And in the middle of the 3rd century, this christological
school was leaded by Paul of Samosata, the bishop of
it was difficult to deny Paul’s soberness of mind. But the Church needed “God
the Son”, and the teaching of Paul of Samosata was declared a heresy in 269 CE,
at the Church Council in
Since we have started to examine the most well-known early-Christian heresies, let us note that in the 2nd–3rd centuries nobody was faggoted for them. Christianity faced persecutions now and again, and the role of Inquisition was played by Roman emperors, who killed all Christians, in spite of an extent of their orthodoxy. Theological disputes were often held in famous catacombs, were quiet and polite, and heretics-bishops were degraded seldom – it was difficult to find a new candidature for such a dangerous post.
Paul of Samosata was defrocked and turned out of the bishop’s house by force
after the condemnation at the Council of 269, because persecutions ceased at that
time, rulers of
So, by the beginning of the 4th century, Monarchianism actually disappeared, and the Church came to the bloom in the time of Constantine the Great with the ambiguous, but relatively simple definition of Christ as “God the Son”, i.e. as the second god. Both “official” points of view – of Irenaeus and Justin – had practically equal rights.
The place of Monarchianism was in a half of a century taken by the most mass heresy of all times and peoples – Arianism. The epoch had already fundamentally changed – Constantine the Great was the emperor.
In 318, against the background of total euphoria over the victory of Christianity, the Alexandrian presbyter Arius began a dispute with his bishop Alexander. Soon not only the Church but the majority of population of the Empire joined to that dispute.
Arius based on “Dynamic Monarchianism” of Paul of Samosata, but with a fundamental difference, which concerned the identity of Christ and the “Word”.
Paul of Samosata completely denied Gnostic ideas of Justin Philosopher and radically considered that the identification of Christ and “Logos” was absurd. According to Paul, Christ was a man, and “Logos” – the divine nature, which had been given to him by God.
Arius did not go so far and hold to the line of Justin, with the only difference: he asserted that “God the Son” was not eternal and had no beginning, since he was a son. And even if he was born, as it was supposed to “Logos”, he had not existed before his birth.
Arius’ opponent, Bishop Alexander, supported one of Origen’s ideas, which, strange though, became an official position of the Church: “God the Son”, being “eternally born”, is eternal and had no beginning at least because there is no beginning of eternity.
From the point of view of the modern understanding of eternity, this dispute had no sense, because the birth of “God the Son” is infinitely far, eternity is also infinite, but the opponents are trying to define which infinity is longer. Which of two infinite numbers is greater? In our time, it is not necessary to be a mathematician to understand that this question is incorrect.
But if not to speak about theological-mathematical eccentricities, Arians intuitively understood that since the matter concerns the relation “Father-Son”, “God the Son” appeared later than “God the Father”, and, according to Arius, “there was time when he did not exist”.
It is possible that Arius’ opponents intuitively understood the same, but further development of this idea led to quite undesirable conclusions about the divine essence of Christ. Under the acknowledgement of Arius’ position, two different divine persons in each case turned out to be: God, who is eternal and has no beginning, and “God the Son”, who is “less” eternal and has a beginning. Consequently, no casuistry could cover the fact that there were two different gods, and to avoid accusations in paganism, it was necessary to take the viewpoint of Paul of Samosata, which was condemned in 269, and to acknowledge that Christ was a man.
Aruis did not make bold to go so far and thought out the term “the Son, who is similar in being with the Father” – something average between the divine and human natures of Christ. However, masses of people and “rank” priests interpreted Arius’ teaching in the way that Jesus was the same human as we are.
Alexander’s successor at the post of the bishop of
Let us note that during all previous and following times only one more theologian was honored in the title of the “Great” – Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas’ teacher (above all, because Albertus “had luck” with the disciple). There were only two “great” popes – Leo I and Gregory I, and no “great” patriarchs. Some especially ascetic monks were called “Great”, and that is all.
It turns out that three of four “great” theologians obtained their titles in the struggle against Arianism, and this confirms the scale of the latter.
It is interesting that in the polemics of Athanasius and Arius, the viewpoint of Origen triumphed last time and inclined the public opinion, however paradoxically, to Athanasius’ position. As we remember, Origen said that Christ is a god, but we all are also gods. That worked splendidly against Arius, because he, denying the eternality of Christ, also denied the teaching of Origen. The latter acknowledged the preexistence of souls of all people, including Christ, and people always wanted to be somewhat gods. Basil of Caesaria said very showy and, above all, in proper time: “God became a man for a man became a god”.
As regards people, the position of the Church changed soon: when it was necessary to appeal to broad masses, Athanasius and Basil named everyone a god, but when Arianism was defeated, the divine essence of people was quickly forgotten, and people in about fifty years, in the times of Aurelius Augustine, turned out to be “loathsome receptacles of sin”.
But let us digress the terminology of the official Church (though it is quite indicative) and establish that even now we, doing our best, will not be able to clear up who was right – Arius or Athanasius. The point is that their polemics quickly became a completely scholastic dispute, and that bereaved Arius of the only chance for victory – of the appeal to common sense. Finally, as we have seen, they both were not right, trying to compare two concepts of eternity.
It is no wonder that disputes on Arianism – a heresy or a canon to be – lasted for minimum three centuries. Against the background of fundamentally insoluble theological problem, a number of political problems appeared.
And in the political aspect, everything looked like the following.
As it is well known, Arius’ opponents won at the Council, and Arius together with some bishops was condemned and exiled. The Nicene Creed was accepted, and the words about “the Son begotten of the Father” – “eternally”, “not made”, “one in being” appeared in it. Consequently, Christ was officially acknowledged as “God the Son”.
The winners were called “Homoousians” (from Greek “homoous” – “one in being”). It is interesting that Arius’ followers were called “Homoiousians” (from Greek “similar in being”). How many human destinies were broken because of one letter...
But the Homoousians, who had won at Nicene Council, were waited by many more ordeals. Their main postulate “the Son is one in being with the Father” did not stand up to any criticism: it had been proposed even in 269 CE at the Council, which condemned Paul of Samosata. But that postulate had been rejected for the evident discrepancy – how may two different persons, God and “God the Son”, be “one in being” so far to be single God?
Moreover, the term “one in being” was used by the “Modalist” Sabellius, and in his understanding, “one in being” of the Son and the Father, as we remember, meant one person. That was no less absurdity – it turned out that Christ, praying to God, prayed to himself...
is no wonder that in three years Arians succeeded to win
of Alexandria died in 336. After
Not to tire the readers by the plots of intrigues, which were weaved around Emperors by both sides, let us only note that Athanasius was demoted in 355 again, Emperor Julian the Apostate gave him the episcopacy back in 361, but in a year took it away. By the middle of 360s, Arianism won almost everywhere.
Athanasius of Alexandria died in 373, but his work was continued by Basil of Caesaria and Gregory of Nazianzus, who was called Gregory the Theologian later.
The Homoousians (adherents of “one in being”) tried to turn the attention from the person of Christ, which was emphasized by the Arians, to scholastic “God the Son”. We have seen that it was not simple, a “fresh idea” was needed, and Athanasius put it forward in the end of 330s, and Basil and Gregory developed it in 360–370s.
That idea – the declaration of the Holy Spirit as a god – became a “trump card” in the political game of two homoousian church groups in 340–350s.
One of them was headed by Macedonius I, the Patriarch of Constantinople. The second group included the Patriarch of Constantinople Paul I, Pope Julius I, as well as the bishops-theologians Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil of Caesaria and Gregory of Nazianzus.
Macedonius and Paul were active opponents of Arianism, but that did not make their interrelation better. Paul was the Patriarch in 337-339, then in 341-342, then in 346-351, and Macedonius was the Patriarch in 342-346, then in 351-356. One more Patriarch of Constantinople, Arianin Eusebius, “wedged” between them in 339-341, and in 360, Arian Eudoxius became the Patriarch for long.
Can you imagine the heat of the political struggle in the Church?
The politician Paul needed a theologian basis for the struggle against the politician Macedonius. The theologian Athanasius elaborated it, and that was the Holy Spirit, which was made the “third hypostase of the Trinity”.
Macedonius considered that the making the Holy Spirit the third god was unnecessary and excessive – the Church’s dogmatics had already been too complicated. Athanasius, Basil and Gregory used that Macedonius’ position and led the disputes to pure scholastics, in which they, as professional theologians, were stronger.
Only one of these Homoousian leaders, Gregory of Nazianzus, lived up to the beginning of 380s. Having become the Patriarch of Constantinople in 379, he managed to incline Emperor Theodosius I to his side and to pass the dogma of “Trinity” in 381 at the 2nd Ecumenical Council.
It is characteristic that nothing was said about the origin of the Holy Spirit in the Nicene Creed of 325, and the words: “The Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son), with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified, he has spoken through the Prophets”, were the addition of the 2nd Ecumenical Council. That addition was not made detailed. Gregory of Nazianzus, being the chairman of the Council, avoided superfluous conflicts with followers of the former Patriarch, Macedonius, and did not accentuate vexed questions.
What a frank Polytheism turned out as a result, we have already seen, when we were analyzing the Nicene-Constantinople Creed.
Nevertheless, the “Trinity” was convenient for the Emperor and for the majority of bishops: at that moment (I accentuate – only at that moment) it was a stabilizing dogmatic compromise and was working for the political image of the Church.
Firstly, Athanasius, Basil and Gregory, having elaborated and defended the dogma of “Trinity”, created the cult of the Holy Spirit, which symbolized Christian religion (headed by the Church), equally with the cult of Christ,
Secondly, they brought Christian religion to a very showy “triple” form.
Thus, the dogma of “Trinity” became a strong psychological factor. When the Holy Spirit turned out to be “one in being” with the Father, together with “God the Son”, the Church’s theology came to a complete, showy, alienated from any reality and self-sufficient system.
The third god, the Holy Spirit, proved to be very convenient for claims of the Church for state power and property, since the Church declared itself as its “keeper”, and that became a decisive political factor.
The fact that the “Trinity” was based on the teaching of the “Modalist” Sabellius, did not agitate the winners.
And what can we say about the “Trinity” in theological aspect?
We have already said, and shall say more than once about Jesus: the declaration of Christ as of the “second hypostase of the Trinity” has no serious basis in the Holy Scripture.
And concerning the Holy Spirit, we see the considerable spread of positions of the Evangelists, to the extent that it was left by Christ’s blow (John 20:22). But it is important for us that the Holy Spirit appears nowhere as a self-dependent god. Somewhere God the Father is called so (Matt. 1:18), somewhere the Holy Spirit appears as God’s envoy (Matt. 4:1), somewhere in the form of a dove (Luke 3:22). But in the overwhelming majority of instances, it is spirituality or the Christian teaching (Luke 4:1; 11:13; John 3:34; 15:26; 16:13 etc.)
The great significance was given to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, to the extent that Jesus said: “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him the blasphement against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven” (Luke 12:10). It is possible to do a number of far going conclusions. For example, it turns out that Christ was ready to forgive the non-acceptance of his teaching – of Christianity, if people lived in concordance with Christian spiritual covenants...
But, besides, all aforesaid has no bearing on the dogma of the “Trinity”. On the contrary, Christ showed the principal difference between the Son of Man and the Holy Spirit, i.e. it is impossible to speak about their dogmatic “one in being”.
A frequently quoted phrase of Jesus “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19) says nothing about the nature and relations of the “hypostases” and is useless for our research. Defenders of the “Trinity” refer to it absolutely in vain – there is nothing but an ordinary enumeration of well-known concepts.
Opponents of the “Trinity” call that phrase a forgery, and that is another extreme. It is quite normal to baptize in the name of God, Christ and Christianity. The dogma of the “Trinity” includes much more concepts than the enumeration of the names of God, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit, and here we see neither “one in being” nor “not made”.
Usually a quote of the First Epistle of John is cited in defense of the dogma of the “Trinity”. But we are going to show that there is a forgery in this Epistle. It is impossible to identify the “author” of this forgery, but the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament, which reached us, are dated by the 4th century. And that was the height of the struggle against Arianism.
It is not astonishing that somebody of “interested” copyists or interpreters inserted the following phrase into the First Epistle of John: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7). It is the dogma of the “Trinity” almost literally. All three “hypostases” and their “one in being” are mentioned.
The authenticity of 1 John 5:7 was called in question by some Protestants even in the 19th century, but there were cited only arguments concerning the absence of the words about the “Trinity” in some manuscripts and their isolation from the context of the surrounding phrases. Nevertheless, those words are absent in the contemporary official German translation of the Bible, which was made by Catholics and Protestants together.
An unknown forger inserted the phrase “For there are three... The Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost”, but he forgot to explain, what the “Word” meant! In the beginning of the Epistle, there is the “Word of life” (1 John 1:1), but it is impossible to understand unambiguously if it is about Christ or not.
And in the Gospel according to John, as we have seen, Christ is not interpreted directly as the “Word”. Moreover, the First Epistle of John is dated by the end of the 60s, and the Fourth Gospel was written no less than twenty years later.
All that was not taken into consideration by the “author” of the forgery, for whom, after the hot disputes of the 4th century, the identity of Christ and “Logos” seemed to be a natural and well-known fact – even Arius did not dare to deny that.
And Apostle John the Evangelist, not knowing, to what forgery his Epistle will be exposed, wrote in it: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?” (1 John 2:22). Thus, as a matter of fact, John considered Jesus to be the Messiah according to the Old Testament and did not say anything about the “Trinity”.
Let us look if Apostle Paul wrote something on the subject of the “Trinity”.
The Orthodox and Catholic traditions consider a phrase of the Epistle to Romans, where it is said about God: “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things” (Rom. 11:36), to be “trinitary”.
But where is here the dogma of the “Trinity”? We see nothing but the thrice-repeated glorification of God. We have already spoken about that psychological factor of the thrice-repeating.
Let us only note that an unfair tendency to the interpretation of any thrice-repeating in the Bible (like “Holy, holy, holy” – Rev. 4:8) as confirmations of the dogma of the “Trinity” is seen in many Churches’ books”. But in actual fact, thrice-repeating and trinitarism are quite different things, and let us not mix up a cause and an effect. A triangle would have remained the most stable and harmonious geometric figure independently upon the elaboration of any dogma.
The Old Testament’s “Trinity” is beneath criticism, in spite of the masterpieces of icon painting, which were devoted to it.
Usually the following quote is cited in its defense: “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us” (Gen. 3:22). Basing on the words “one of us”, the theologians of the main Churches suppose that the world was created not by God, but by the “Trinity”, and it seems to be logical that in this episode God says about himself in plural.
But it is logical until the moment when Adam became “one of us”. Then not three but four gods appear (possibly many billions if to consider Adam’s posterity).
In actual fact, it is mostly possible that the usage of plural “us” with respect to God is a nicety of the solemn style of ancient Hebrew language. The same relates to the words of God “Let us make...” (Gen. 1:26).
is also possible that if God stood a Cherub to guard
Without any more serious references, the apparition of God and two Angels in the house of Abraham (Gen. 18:2) is considered as an apparition of the “Trinity”.
Actually, at first Abraham saw “three men”. On this basis, the whole dogmatic of the Old Testament’s “Trinity” is built, and these “three men” are shown on icons as enjoying a meal under a tree (Gen. 18:8).
But then God went away, having left two Angels (Gen. 18:33; 19:1). Just the Angels, neither “God the Son” nor the Holy Spirit, and henceforth that was accentuated repeatedly.
that Angels were later nearly raped in
And let us finally remember that the word “Trinity” is mentioned nowhere in the Holy Scripture.
We have seen that the dogma of “Trinity” has no convincing basis in the Holy Scripture.
Having examined its forming on the public historical material, we have understood that it was elaborated only as an instrument of the political struggle of the 4th century.
And though at that time the “Trinity” was a compromise, which was convenient for the Emperor and the majority of bishops, we have to conclude in accordance with our methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar” that the dogma of “Trinity” is a deposition on the teaching of Christ, and that deposition belongs not to the moral imperative, but to “social” evil.
Let us look if our conclusion is confirmed by historical facts. Did that dogma bring good or evil to the Christians?
It is not necessary to go far away from Early Christianity to answer this question. The fact is that the creators of the dogma of the “Trinity”, having contented themselves with the divine nature of Christ and his descent from God, forgot that Jesus of Nazareth, nevertheless, was born of the earthly woman, ate, drank, slept, got tired and suffered (John 4:6; 19:28; 11:33; Luke 22:44; Matt. 14:4; Mark 3:5 etc.) There were disputes on that, but they were only an addition to much more scaled disputes on the “Trinity”.
And in the beginning of the 5th century, the Church’s theologians had to elaborate one more dogma to answer the question, how the divine nature (which had been “legalized” by the dogma of the “Trinity”) and the human nature (which could not be “repealed”) correlated in Christ.
In the end of 420s, that question became a weapon in another peak of the struggle for the power in the Church.
that time, there were four main centers of the Church:
419, Nestorius, the head of
Nestorius considered that Virgin Mary as a human could give birth only to a human, so she must be called not “Theotokos” (Greek “God-bearer”) but Christotokos (Christ-bearer) and Jesus got his divine nature from God immediately after his birth.
Cyril insisted that the divine force came to Christ even in the womb of Mary, and he accused Nestorius of the following to the teaching of Paul of Samosata: if Christ had been born as a human, than he remained a human independently upon the moment of the getting of the divine force.
we remember, exactly Paul of Samosata was the predecessor of Arianism, and
really, it turned out that the teaching of Nestorius was understandable and
acceptable for Barbarians-Arians – the overwhelming majority of the garrison of
Nestorius managed to take advantage of that and to become in 428 the Patriarch of Constantinople. But he was the Patriarch not long – until 431, when Cyril of Alexandria, having won over to his side the major part of monks, started a rebel against Nestorius in the capital. Emperor Theodosius II, the adherent of Nestorius, could not help, and at the 3rd Ecumenical Council in Ephesus Nestorius was deposed.
Let us not examine the terms “the divinity of child” (the canon) and “the childhood of god” (the heresy). Nestorius affirmed the first term, Cyril accused him of saying the second one. The Council in Ephesus was hold extremely scandalously, to the accompaniment of the terrible noise of the crowds of people, which were led by the monks – the followers of Cyril, and it could not examine complicated theological problems.
Theodosius II “sold” Nestorius after all. The latter was sent to a cloister,
and then to the exile in
But we must note that Nestorius’ cause did not die: Arianism in its time got a great echo in the West, among the Barbarians, and Nestorianism spread along the continent to the East. Asian peoples mostly often adopted Christianity in the interpretation of the former Patriarch.
And in 431, Cyril’s protege Maximian became the Patriarch of Constantinople. Alexandria became the strongest Church center of the Empire, and Cyril, having forgotten about caution, ceased attempts to find a “balanced” correlation of the divine and human natures in Christ and in the end of the life, started to give his view more frankly in his epistles: “We do not profess two natures (the first – worshipped, the second – not worshipped) in one Son, but one incarnated nature of the Word”.
And though Cyril specified that both natures united in Christ into something average and unique, it turned out that this unity had the divine nature – the dogma of “Trinity” had won half a century before, so what other single nature could Christ have, if not the divine one?
It turned out that Cyril, not knowing that, became the founder of Monophysitism – the teaching which asserted that Christ, though we was born of two natures – the divine and the human – had only the first one, and the human nature became an accessory of his divinity.
Immediately after Cyril’s death in 444, those ideas were developed by the Constantinopolitan abbot Eutyches, and the new Alexandrian patriarch Dioscorus. Exactly they formed Monophysitism “organizationally”, and Eutyches won over to his side a number of monks. Apropos, Monophysitism sometimes is called Eutychianism because of that.
Pope Leo I immediately opposed Monophysitism and, having united with the Constantinopolitan patriarch Flavian, achieved the condemnation of the Monophysites at the Council of Constantinople. The opponents of Monophysitism had quite serious arguments: Jesus ate, slept, prayed, doubted...
nobody already was interested in common sense, so Eutyches with Dioscorus
managed to win the Emperor, idem Theodosius II, over their side. In 449 so
called “predatory” Council was gathered in
Pope Leo I and Alexandrian Patriarch Dioscorus pronounced an anathema against each other immediately after the Council and made the precedent for the process of the Schism, which lasted for many centuries.
the death of Pheodosius II, the matter took another turn. Empress Pulcheria and
her co-ruler Marcian turned out to be the opponents of Monophysitism and called
the 4th Ecumenical Council in
The Council of Chalcedon was held, as usually, quite roughly, but on the basis of the epistle of the Pope, it elaborated the dogma of “two natures”, which is still used by the major Churches.
was displaced, and that led to the local schism: the decisions of the 4th
Concil were never accepted in
We have come to the second key dogma, which concerns the nature of Jesus of Nazareth.
4th Ecumenical (
The “self-justifying” tone of the decision (“is by no means done away...”) confirms that the dogma was accepted in a serious struggle.
And a number of negative features (“without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated”) arouse the suspicion that the theologians answered all questions at the 4th Council, according to the old principle “to each is own”.
let us look at every key problem from
Is Christ a god or a man? Both, since the natures are not mixed and their identities are presented.
Is Christ the single person at that? Single, since the natures are not divided and separated.
Well, let us think: what is the nature? The origin?
If it had been only the origin! It is will, wish, energy and operation.
latter assertion is not my own surmise. That was “clarified” at the 6th
And four foresaid concepts are practically exhaustive description of a person.
A tangled and casuistic determination of the 6th Council concerning the moment, when the divine will in Christ became a human wish and the correlation of divine and human operations, is not important for us. It is important that the presence of two non-mixed “wishes, wills, energies and operations” in Christ means the presence of two persons.
As a result, the same happened to the dogma of ‘two natures” as to the “Trinity” seventy years before: each part of the problem was solved separately.
The main goal was to connect the new dogma with the “Trinity”: if there is a self-dependent divine nature, then it is “God the Son”, “not made, one in Being with the Father”, “having no beginning”. And the human essence also was present in Christ, but it was not related to the divine one.
In short, separately – a god and a man (that is why the Orthodox tradition calls Christ as the “Godman”).
And as a whole, a number of paradoxes took place – like that the divine person of Christ existed eternally and knew everything, but could not “whisper” to the human person that it is no necessity to doubt about the future, to be upset and to pray in Gethsemane, and that it is necessary to preach in Asia Minor, not in Jerusalem...
As a matter of fact, in our time this is called as a split personality. At best, this means constant mental tortures, at worst – a mental disease, and depending upon its weight, an ambulatory or hospital treatment is settled.
And we read in the Gospel: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation” (Matt. 12:25).
But in the 5th century during the open struggle for power in the Church, nobody was disturbed by theological paradoxes.
returned from Halcedon, monophysitic priests started the rebellion in
Emperor Zeno in 482 issued a pro-Monophysitic reconciliatory decree – so called “Henoticon” (“Union formula”), which only aggravated the situation, because the anti-monophysitic Roman Church stopped relations with the East for 35 years. It is no wonder – the domains of the Pope of Rome were surrounded by Barbarians-Arians, and it was necessary to take them into consideration. Monophysitism (the priority of the divine nature of Christ) was the full antipode for Arianism (the priority of the human nature), and the dogma of “two natures”, as we have seen, was some kind of compromise, and the legates of Pope Leo I did not insist on it in vain.
Zeno’s successor, Anastasius I, tried to continue the reconciliatory police,
but ceased his ruling in 518 quite infamously: Monophysites started the
After a greatly complicated mass of political
intrigues, in which the ruler of the major part of
Simultaneously the Patriarch of Constantinople was replaced. Candidatures of Arians and Monophysites were proposed, but John II, the adherent of Halcedon’s compromise, became the new Patriarch with a view to calm raging disputes.
time the compromise triumphed relatively firmly – for about one hundred years.
Monophysites yielded their positions in Constantinople, but Roman Empire, at
that time more often named Bysantine, actually lost
see that the discussions on the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures”
turned out to be catalysts of the split of Bysantine Empire and of the actual
downfall of patriarchates of
In the 6th century thanks to Justinian, a period of relative peace came, and the 5th Ecumenical (Constantinopolitan) Council became its top. Monophysites were condemned once more at that Council, heels of Nestorianism were beaten completely, and it was decided to be possible to read an anathema against heretics posthumously (particularly, Origen was anathematized).
But in the 7th century, disputes started again. Emperors, trying to restore the unity of the empire in the face of the unsuccessful war against Persians, looked for a compromise with Monophysites.
Sergius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, under the agreement with the emperor in 619, declared that Christ, having two natures, had only one will. The new theological trend – Monothelitism – began at that.
Let us note that it was a step to common sense, but violent discussions started again. A “tree of variants” of correlation of natures, wills, energies and operations in Christ was growing and growing. Actually, every diocese in an answer to Sergius’ appeal put forward its own view on the problem, and attempts to find a new compromise took many years.
In 638 it seemed that all was done, and even Pope Honorius inclined to Monothelitism, but in this year, unfortunately, both Pope Honorius and Patriarch Sergius died.
The new Pope, John IV, declared the resolute non-acceptance of Monothelitism and the adherence to the Council of Halcedon. His successor Martin I continued that way, and therefore in 653 by the order of the emperor he was arrested, and in 655 condemned and exiled.
Philosopher Maximis the Confessor, the leader of Monothelitism’s opponents, tried to prove with typical scholasticism that since Christ had two natures, he was to have two wills. Common sense could not overcome Maximus’ speculative logic, and he preferred the martyrdom: he was condemned together with Pope Martin, lost his tongue and right hand, and was exiled in 655.
Methods of struggle took more and more radical forms. It seemed that emperors managed to achieve the triumph of Monothelitism.
That Council, on the basis of Pope’s bull, took the compromise of Halcedon to the full and complete absurd, having declared the presence of two wishes, two wills, two wills, two energies and two operations in Christ.
All major world Churches live with this dogma until now.
Contemporary Churches use for the substantiation of the dogma of “two natures” the following psychological method: the divine and human natures of Christ are substantiated separately, each with a number of references to the Holy Scripture. It seems to be evident that anyone, who is primordially inclined in favor of the dogma of “two natures”, would draw the conclusion that these natures are present in Christ “without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated”, according to the Halcedon Council’s resolution.
In actual fact, nothing is said in the Holy Scripture about such relationship of the divine and human natures of Christ.
It is said many times that Christ is a god. “Doubting Thomas” called him so (John 20:28), Jesus told much about his divine nature himself (John 8:58; 10:30; 16:28), Apostle Paul confirmed that (Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:1-3; Eph. 3:9; Rom. 8:3; 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:16 etc.)
But, so to speak, gods differ.
The task of the major Churches was to declare as gods not all people, but only Christ (of course, not “canceling” God the Father), and as a result, Jesus of Nazareth became the “second hypostase of the Trinity” and the unique being of “two natures”, and he was absolutely teared away from us by that.
But actually, as we shall see many times more, Jesus is the same god as each of us is. Consequently, the same human as each of us is. There is no fundamental and insuperable difference between the divine nature of Jesus and other people.
Adherents of the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures” assert: if Christ was a human then he, speaking about his divine nature, deceived himself or us.
But the question is how to understand the word “human”.
If people, in accordance with the orthodox and catholic theology, are “fallen sinful creatures”, then Christ, possibly, actually deceived.
But if we put into the word “human” the humanistic understanding, which is dictated to us by the moral imperative, then Christ was a human. And he was an absolutely honest human, because all words about his divine nature he applied to all other people.
Let us read the Fourth Gospel once more.
“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).
“At that day ye shall know that I am in my father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:20).
“Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (John 17:11).
There is even a more self-evident confirmation of the said.
“The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (John 10:34-36).
It turns out that Jesus Christ himself appealed to the divine nature of other people, referring to the Book of Psalms – “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Ps. 82:6) – to confirm his own divine nature.
And the words of Jesus – “For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” – have a symbolical nature, which is confirmed by the further dialog between him and the Jews. It was said there: “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (John 6:55-56).
This outline goes on also in Jesus’ prayer: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). The latter phrase may be interpreted only as the predestination of Christ’s mission before the creation of the world. Nothing else may be here, because in the same chapter it is said quite clearly: “...Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
Christ taught us one more fundamental subject. “Our father” is the main and, by the highest standards, the only Christian prayer. Christ considered as heathenism all other prayers (Matt. 6:7). But that is not a point. Let us pronounce only its first two words and think over: we address ourselves to our Father! This means that every human is the son of God (or the daughter).
Having remembered the prayer “Our Father”, we have turned to the first three Gospels. Exactly the human nature of Christ is accentuated there.
When Christ healed the sick man, “the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (Matt. 9:8);
Jesus said: “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God”.
Let us remember also Jesus’ phrase in the “Sermon on the Mount”: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 7:9).
To understand once and for all, that Jesus is such a god as we are, and we are such gods as he, let us note that Luke originated Jesus from God not immediately, but through Joseph, David, Abraham, Heber and Adam (Luke 3:23-38). And we all are descendants of Adam. Consequently, we are same as Christ.
Apostle Peter said: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you” (Acts 2:22).
And Peter in his Epistle by only one phrase gave up for lost all future conjectures about the “preexistence” of Jesus: he considered Christ as “foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God” (1 Pet. 1:20-21). It is difficult to disagree that foreordainment and “preexistence” are not the same.
In the teaching of Apostle Paul, the nature of Christ is interpreted quite indistinctly, so as the Old Testament’s Prophets interpreted the nature of the Messiah. But the word “Messiah”, as we know, means “Anointed by God”, i.e. it is a human, who is provided with some divine capabilities.
Nevertheless, it is unlikely that Paul was concerned by the problem of accurate definition of the nature of Christ – it was enough for him to emphasize Jesus’ messianic role.
Let us cite an illustration in point. It is considered that Paul wrote the solemn hymn: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:16).
And this means that God himself came to us in flesh. As we remember, the “Monarchian-Modalist” Sabellius expressed this point of view. But it is impossible to wait for the theologian depth in a solemn hymn, moreover the hymn of the quite doubtful authenticity (the words “Without controversy” are not the sort of Paul’s). And let Paul call Christ sometimes a god, sometimes a man – the Apostle never spoke about two natures “without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated”.
And the overwhelming majority of Paul’s phrases about our and Christ’s nature mean that Christ is such as we are. Let us quote:
“Because he (God – S.Z.) hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31);
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16);
if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine
heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (
“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen” (1 Cor. 15:13).
“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).
“Wherefore, holy brethern, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3:1). Apropos, the address “Holy” is used by Paul in all the Epistles to the Christians.
“So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee” (Heb. 5:5);
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). There is the short and clear answer to all questions in this phrase.
And let us pay attention to the words: “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7).
Soon we shall have a possibility to speak about contemporary attempts to “modernize” and “actualize” the dogma of “two natures”, and meanwhile let us state: two natures of Christ “without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated” have no basis in the Holy Scripture. The declaration of Jesus of Nazareth as the “second hypostase of the Trinity” also has no basis there.
There is no difference between the divine nature of Christ and other people.
But how could this position prevail in the Middle Ages, if the understanding of people as gods became an obstacle for the Church’s claims on political supremacy?
There is an interesting analogy. Let us ask the question: why soldiers in armies of the majority of countries are firstly humbled?
And “informal relations” have nothing to do with it – the army system itself includes humbling. First of all, as it is well-known, soldiers are taken out to a drill square, where for a long time they are taught different formations, commands like “Attention!”, “Eyes right!”, and other things, which seem to be useless in respect to common sense and military art.
Really, a soldier’s work seems to be shooting, running with fool kit, digging trenches, firing grenades etc. But why must soldiers march? To train coordination? They could creep, it is much more useful in a battle. The traditions of times, when soldiers were led to attacks in lines and formed up in squares? More than one hundred years have passed since that times, but the drill is still the same. It may be understandable for “parade” troops, but everyone in an army has to start from the drill.
And the point is that the cruel drill has the ancient basis – to make a soldier feel that he is a pawn, whose life does not belong to him and costs a little. If the command “Eyes right!” is followed by “Quick march to the better world!”, its execution must be automatic.
As it is known, state principles of ruling in the Middle Ages were similar to the army’s and were based on the cruel hierarchic compulsion.
And from that point of view, it is absolutely mistakenly to remind soldiers at a drill square that they are gods. It is much more effective to cultivate the complex of “sinful creatures” in them.
So it came out that when the Church accepted the complicated and contradictory dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures”, no place for the divine nature of people in the Church’s theology remained.
CHRISTIANITY AND THE PRESENT
The author of this book may be asked a quite appropriate question:
– “Why do you refuse of the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures” so uncompromisingly? In our time, not so much people speak seriously about God’s or the Holy Spirit’s bidding of either dogma. It is clear that in the early Middle Ages a sharp political struggle took place, and these dogmas were forming during that struggle.
And the Church acknowledges the presence of that struggle – it is examined minutely in all Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant theological books, both in scientific and in popular ones.
But, in essence, if there is one God or three “one in being”, what is the difference? The “Trinity” has already completely accreted with traditions of the major Churches, and this dogma is perceived by the majority of people as an organic and integral part of these traditions.
For example, if we speak about the “Russian religious Renaissance”: not only priest Pavel Florensky but also quite temporal philosophers – Vladimir Solovyov, Vasily Rozanov, Nikolay Berdyayev – unconditionally accepted the dogma of the “Trinity”, and Lev Karsavin created his view of human personality fully on the basis of this dogma. And as regards “one in being” of Christ and us, Vladimir Solovyov in the end of the 19th century elaborated the teaching of “Godmanhood”, conveying the potential ability of people to become of the same nature with Christ.
Philosophers of the “Russian religious Renaissance” expanded the concept of “theosis” (“godifying”), which was used in the Middle Ages only concerning canonized people. So, in principle, each of us can become almost such as any “hypostase of the Trinity”.
So why should we break lances in the struggle against the “Trinity”? Thank God, the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Churches are held in high respect in the world now, so let them be such as they are...”
This question is quite serious, and we shall need an entire chapter to answer it.
But first of all, I would like to notice that I am going to “break lances in the struggle” neither against the “Trinity” nor against the Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant Church nor anything else. Moreover, I am an Ecumenist – an adherent of the integration of all Christian (and in further perspective – not only of Christian) Churches.
And now I am in to explain, why I have shown that the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures” are antiquated and need a radical reconsideration.
Let us cite a very extensive and very showy quote of the book of Lev Karsavin “About a person” (all italics belong to Karsavin):
“A hypostase is a true person (but not a personage!). But an hypostase is God’s person; and if we call patiently God’s Hypostases by God’s Persons and even God’s Faces, we feel uneasy, when someone begins to call a human or created person by an hypostase. – That is blasphemously and incorrectly. And, undoubtedly, it is connected with that in the Godman (Christ – S.Z.) there are two natures and two ousies (and that is why – two energies, two will, two “souls”), but only one person – the Hypostase of Logos, which, of course, is not something third between God and a human and does not differ from God, but it is God himself.
Then, the Godman in His humanity is a person only because He is in God’s hypostase (enypostasis), is connected with God’s Hypostase and God, possesses God’s Hypostase and God as himself. But since the Godman is a perfect human, it is impossible to assume that there is nothing peculiar to a human in Him, and there is anything besides peculiar to the Godman in a human. Consequently, in the strict sense, there is no human or created hypostase or Person, and can not be any; but if we speak about a human person, then only in terms of God’s Hypostase or Person, which is possessed by a man and is connected with a man. And what else may be, if God’s Hypostase is a true person, and two persons can not be true both?
So in God, we find unity, which is higher then an individual person, since He is three-hypostased, and that unity must be called personal, since hypostase’s being is not outside His ousia and is not opposed to it, being a form of its existence, and He himself is personal God. By that the acknowledgement of an individual person as the only specific-personal being is eliminated as a deceiving, i.e. any nominalism is denied, and, on the contrary, the reality of symphonical-personal being is affirmed. And by that, the structure of an individual person itself is affirmed as multi-unity. But, acknowledging God as the only true person, we must understand a human and generally created person as God’s Hypostase or as God’s name, which belongs to a human. From this, the necessity to understand a human specially results, exactly – to understand him as a created impersonal substance, which is similar to God in its indeterminability and inconceivability, and is quite self-movable. The sense of a human and created being will open then as his “personalization” or “godifying” (theosis).”
The end of the quote.
Let us note that there is an attempt in the quoted fragment to make the dogma of “two natures” more logical by acknowledging only one “true person” – the divine – in Christ.
What heresy does it resemble? Of course, Monophysitism.
One important thing more. By Karsavin, a human is a “created impersonal substance, which is similar to God in its indeterminability and inconceivability”, and the sense of his being is the “personalisation” or “godifying”.
Doesn’t it look like the teaching of Origen about the “preexistence of souls” and the divine nature of people, which was declared a heresy at the 5th Ecumenical Council?
It looks like that.
As a result, however hard you try to “live in peace” with official positions of the major Churches, any attempt to coordinate medieval dogmas with contemporary common sense will lead to the situation that “everything new is forgotten antique”. To put it more precisely, forgotten antique heresies. And Churches’ officials will not thank you, will not accept your point of view and will not elaborate a new dogma on its base.
And by this way you will never reach common sense – even Christ said: “Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish” (Matt. 9:17).
Unimaginable intellectual stratifications turn out in the upshot at that approach, and the quoted philosophic text of Lev Karsavin is not the most complicated and unreadable among all texts, which were written on this subject.
Consequently, we must look for a spiritual base exclusively in the sources of the Christian teaching, when there were neither Orthodoxy nor Catholicism nor heresies, but only Jesus Christ, Apostles and the New Testament.
And since, as we have shown, there were no dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures”, we shall have to do without them. They can help us by nothing, but can impede us greatly. We have just seen in what a tight corner Lev Karsavin found himself because of them, so let us better learn by somebody other’s mistakes. As it is often said, we shall have time to make our own mistakes.
Nobody did without mistakes, but Christ also made them! Let us remember only his main mistake that it was necessary to preach only in Israel! (Matt. 10:5-6). We have already spoken that if there had been no Apostle Paul, the work of Christ could be lost.
And Jesus’ doubts (Matt. 26, 37-39)? How is it possible to connect then with the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “Son’s one in being with the Father”? Was it possible that the “second hypostase” in the night before the arrest prayed for the “first hypostase” to “let this cup pass”? Very strange relations, unworthy of the divine all-knowing persons... And it is interesting, what was the “third hypostase” doing at that time?
But let us not laugh at medieval deceivings. It is only a pity that they still dominate in all the major Christian Churches. Who and when will dare to refuse of the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures” – Orthodoxy, Catholicism or Protestantism?
And the “Trinity” can remain the same exclusively philosophic category and historical fact, as, for example, “Sophia – God’s Wisdom”. The latter, as we have seen, also had no convincing basis in the Holy Scripture, and the Churches refused of the cult of “Sophia” even in the beginning of the second millennium. Nothing terrible happened at that, and Christianity did not perish.
us note that in the 20th century not only philosophers of the “Russian
religious Renaissance” remembered about “Sophia”. We all remember about it –
the Cathedrals of Sophia in Constantinople,
But dogmas, which have no convincing base in the Holy Scripture, may not be a base of Christian religion.
If the absence of a convincing base in the Bible had been the only argument against the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures”, it would have been possible to accuse me of dogmatic conservatism. But the non-acceptance of these dogmas has other aspects, beside the theologian.
We have already examined the historical aspect and have seen how these dogmas were formed in the early Middle Ages and to what bloodsheds these dogmas led. However, this is no wonder – the absence of the orientation toward the moral imperative inevitably leads to the escalation of “social” evil.
So let us examine the social aspect of the problem.
All the major Christian Churches consider that if Christ “is the Lord both of the dead and living” (Rom. 14:9), has the power of judgement (Rom. 14:10), is the “addressee” of calls (1 Cor. 1:2), the source of grace (Rom. 1:7), the source of salvation (Rom. 10:9) and the founder of the Church (1 Cor. 5:4) then all that is the appearance of his divine nature.
But, firstly, a cause and an effect are transposed again – Jesus obtained all said, having ascended into heaven and sit on the right hand of God, but that says nothing about his origin and nature.
Secondly, Apostle Paul referred all that to the messianic role of Christ, and the Messiah, as we know, means “Anointed by God”, i.e. that is a human, who was endowed by God with some special power, rights and abilities.
We have already examined all that. Another thing is interesting.
The medieval Churches, having transposed a cause and an effect, in accordance with the dogma of the “Trinity” gave the primordial divine nature, which was different from the divine nature of all people, to the Anointed One, and that was quite convenient for earthly kings of all times, who were also “anointed by God”. It was insufficient for kings, tsars and emperors to imagine themselves equal to the Messiah, they wanted to be equal to God.
An analogy with Caligula suggests itself. This emperor, as it is well known, ordered to set his head (together with nimbus) to all statues of pagan gods. It is not a joke about the nimbus: it moved to Christian images from statues of Roman emperors, and statues needed it (in the form of sharp-ended rays) to avoid the sitting of pigeons and other birds on august heads.
Well, almighty emperors could establish any cult and order any statues. All that would have been half the trouble, but the “feedback” began – Christ was interpreted in the Middle Ages not as our defender, but as a punishing dictator.
After all, the cult of the “Blessed Virgin” became so popular among people not accidentally – she was to defend us in the face of Christ! Someone was to be “kind” in the mind of people, hence there is a great number of icons devoted to “Virgin Mary”, magnificent celebrations of her life events, prayers addressed to her etc.
I am sorry but it is not serious – a “kind mother” brings an “evil son”, who aspires to send us into hell, to reason...
And these paradoxical people traditions are not a fault of Jesus’ teaching. These traditions follow quite logically from the aspiration of the medieval Churches to unite the concepts of God, Christ and king.
Of course, in the 21st century it is wrongfully to accuse Catholicism and Orthodoxy of that in the Middle Ages any almighty emperor was admitted as a god. Another thing is strange: of whom are the Churches afraid today?
the simple and accessible teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, the major
A very depressing and, I hope, unjust conclusion arises: the Churches are waiting for new dictators to declare them gods and to leave citizens at the rank of “sinful creatures”. This conclusion, which arises through a fault of medieval dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures”, is harmful both for Christian religion and for any Church.
But, unfortunately, for the time being we see the accuracy of this conclusion, with an example of the relations of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian authorities. Closing of a Church and a state leads to fruitless attempts of “sanctifying” of people who does not deserve that. It may have no form of “anointing”, but the essence does not change.
But it is impossible to serve both God and a president. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
The non-acceptance of the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures” has also a cosmological aspect.
Both the Orthodox and Catholic dogmatics were forming in the times of Ptolemy’s geocentric system, which affirmed the oneness of the earthly civilization in the Universe. But today, disposing of an incomparably greater extent of knowledge about the Universe, we have to assume that rational and spiritual forms of life exist somewhere else. Moreover, that not all forms of life are humanoid (anatomically analogous to a human).
Speaking about the moral imperative, which comes from God, we can assume, in a quite firm belief, its action in any rational form of life. But the Church dogma of “God the Son’s becoming a man” looks very strange under the conditions of extraterrestrial civilizations.
Of course, it is possible to assume that “God the Son”, choosing his physical form and the way of execution, took into consideration the specificity of either civilization, and he “became a man” in each by turn. But this sounds funnily and leads to a theological absurd. According to the most orthodox theological concepts, exactly the torments of Jesus became expiatory for the humanity. And if these torments became one of episodes of a long “tour” by different civilizations, then both the oneness and meaning of Christ are lost.
The following supposition looks much more logical and convincing: on other planets, some local preachers teach good and love, and every civilization goes to the understanding of God and to the triumph of the moral imperative by its own way.
This conclusion is very important for us, because on the Earth we see some major (so called “World”) religions, which look for their own ways to the triumph of good and love.
If we want to call ourselves Christians, we have no right to consider Buddha or Muhammad lower or higher than Christ. Buddhists have their own spiritual way, Islamists – their own, Christians – their own, but the goal (under the conditions of conscientious interpretation of these teachings) is the same – making the life on Earth better and the triumph of the moral imperative.
All the said also concerns different Christian confessions.
The building of the Kingdom of God is our common task, and there is no place for religious enmity among people, who are united by the moral imperative.
In view of the foresaid, let us note one more aspect of the contradiction between the dogma of “Trinity” and torments of Christ – the moral.
The point is that Christ as the “second hypostase of the Trinity” is not understandable intuitively for a modern human and, therefore, is perceived separately of the moral basis, which is usually situated in human subconsciousness.
But the strength of Christianity, as we have shown, is that it is the most full and adequate expression of the moral imperative. Moreover, millions of little-educated people have no moral alternatives for Christianity, and the separation of Christianity from morality means for them the loss of all spiritual “reference points” and leads to the escalation of “social” evil.
The death of Christ is interpreted theologically as the expiations of our sins, but Jesus as a man died for his teaching and gave us the example, how strong the thirst for good and love may be, if it is possible to accept a painful death for it.
And if Christ is not a man, but “God the Son” or the “Godman”, then what is the example?
The opinion of the theologians of the major Churches, that “God the Son’s” tortures were to be much stronger than tortures of an “ordinary” human, completely corresponds with the traditional humiliation of people by the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. But in fact, the suffering of any person, who is committed to a torment death, is unlimited and inconceivable. Of course, God forbid each of us to feel it...
And it turns out that the overwhelming majority of modern people may think (and think) the following: “Christ is God the Son, so let him preach good and love and die on a cross for that. There are no problems for God to hang some time on a cross and resurrect, and what must we, more mortals, do? Let us better do somehow without good and love...”
And a man comes to a church, listens to an unintelligible set of motets – and that is all. What can reach his ears?
But if Christ’s image could be made understandable for everyone! If preaches of good and love could sound more often, firstly in many hours of broadcasting, which are placed at Churches’ disposal by TV companies! If, for example, the Pope and the Patriarch could periodically address themselves to believers with appeals to extirpate the drug addiction, alcoholism, corruption and other social vices, and to governments – to stop some new “local war” and hasten the process of disarmament!
May be, then something would have improved in our life? What a great strength Christian spirituality is, and what a pity is to see how it is dissipated for medieval ceremonies...
So, no complication, but the highest possible simplification of the Christian dogmatics is necessary.
And the limits of this simplification are dictated by the Holy Scripture – by the document, which today (however, as during previous two thousand years) expresses the moral imperative most completely.
The usage of any other dogmatical scheme amplifies considerably the possibility of “social” evil.
Having examined the theological, historical, social, cosmological and moral aspects of the non-acceptance of the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures”, we can turn to Ecumenism.
The point is that the refusal of these dogmas may become the basis for integration of all confessions and for the creation of “one holy catholic and apostolic Church”.
Let us show the objective necessity of Ecumenism.
First of all, it is necessary to understand, why the presence of the word “Church” in a name of a religious organization (for example, “Roman Catholic” or “Russian Orthodox”) is by no means a synonym of the corresponding with the teaching of Jesus Christ.
For that, let us remember the devil’s temptations once more, this time all three.
“And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple. And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up...
Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt you serve” (Matt. 4:3-10).
The official Church disliked deeply to remember these temptations, and the theologians of the nowadays’ major Churches try to disregard them. Why?
Not because this episode is a serious argument against the dogma of the “Trinity”: why did the devil try to tempt “the all-knowing and almighty Logos, God the Son, not made, eternally begotten”?
The major Churches do not like to remember these temptations because of their deep symbolical meaning. Let us look:
In the first temptation (to make stones bread), Jesus Christ refused of earthly welfare.
In the second (to jump off with the temple roof), – of “tinsel show”;
In the third (to rule earthly kingdoms), – of state power.
And a very unpleasant precedent for the majority of priests took place. Of course, they were to follow Jesus’ example and refuse of material welfare, “showy” devotions and earthly power, but they wished so much to live richly, to wear golden clothes, to rule states...
What were they to do? To rewrite two Gospels, having cut huge fragments about the temptations? That was unreal.
And the “salutary idea” for the major Churches was found even in the 4th century, and that was the “third hypostase of the Trinity”: if the Holy Spirit is such god as “God the Son” then he does everything what he wants.
For example, where is it said in the Gospels that the Holy Spirit must refuse of earthly welfare, kingdoms and other “useful” things?
And the “Canon law”? How much the Church wished that resolutions of Councils, Popes and Patriarchs were “rated” equally with the Bible! Naturally, even in the 5th century a “spiritual” interpretation of the “Trinity” appeared: the Old Testament (God the Father), the New Testament (“God the Son”) and the “Canon law” (the Holy Spirit). Wasn’t it “convenient”?
However, fruitless attempts to persuade the Church to follow the “inconvenient” way of Christ were undertaken time and again, and in view of that it will be useful to remember Donatism.
It was called in name of Donatus, the bishop of Carthago, was dated from Diocletian’s persecutions of the beginning of the 4th century, and its essence was that for any priest the personal infallibility is necessary, otherwise “holy acts”, which are committed by him, become invalid.
Naturally, that was not convenient for the overwhelming majority of priests. The Church hated Donatists, and Augustine managed to declare Donatism a heresy at the Carthago council of 411. The Council resolved that God’s grace acts independently of the sanctity of priests.
Of course, if it had not been done by Augustine, it would have been done by someone else, but it turns out that Aurelius Augustine was a culprit of a great number of priests’ abuses – since the Middle Ages until our time. Veiled debauches, financial machinations, political intrigues and many other things, to the extent of the Orthodox Church’s “duty free” trade with spirits and tobacco goods in contemporary Russia.
The following “poetical” argument is usually cited against Donatism: a pipe may be rusty, but the water, which flows in it, may be clean. But we can say about this “poetical pragmatics”: it is unnecessary to be a plumber to know that in a rusty tube only rusty water flows.
But let us look aside poetry. Of course, it is impossible to make a human saint by any dogma. We perceive the world realistically and understand this very well. But if the Donatist idea of necessary personal sanctity of every priest had “hanged” over the Church hierarchs, it would have kept them from many improper deeds. Lay-men, even more so, businessmen live by their rules, but the Church is to live by other rules and give people, as far as possible, the same example as Christ gave: the disinterested devotion to the Christian life-work and the readiness to sacrifice everything to it. Even the life.
But all that is in theory. In practice, everything went by another way.
As we know, the Church obtained the status of a state organization in the 4th century. In the Middle Ages, the West followed the way of so called “Popecaesarism”, and the East – by the way of “Caesarpopism”. In the first case, priests tried to obtain state power, in the second – states tried to override priests.
Let us not conduct a historical review again – the situation with Roman Popes and East Patriarchs is well known. Let us just say that both “Popecaesarism” and “Caesaropopism” are not only the typical manifestations of “social” evil, but are disastrous for the Church. It is possible to prove that.
Our methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar” says: the concept of a “state Church” is as absurd in essence, as the concept of a “good ruler”. The Church, at least ideally, serves God, and any state, as we know, belongs to the devil and serves him.
“Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
And for that readers, who still consider our methodology to be abstract and alienated from life reality, let us explain the fatality of the concept of a “state Church” on our main “social” example – a wolf pack.
We have spoken about “lucky hunting”, which is the base of “social” evil. But let us look: are the relations inside a pack so unclouded? Isn’t the situation “Akela has missed” reproduced on each hierarchic level of society, where neighbors do nothing but look how to tear each other and take a higher place in the hierarchy?
So even the being in a wolf pack, with rights of its equitable member, guarantees neither happiness nor peace nor life. Moreover, it reduces the probability of the presence of the first and of the second and of the third.
The point is that, for example, a deer – a potential victim – can understand that it is unnecessary to come to places where a wolf pack roves, and that it is better to graze in difficult accessible bogs and to bring up young there.
But a wolf in a wolf pack may only dream about peace. And the probability of the death of that wolf is not less, may be even more, than of the said deer. Biologists would confirm this – predators have no enemies in nature, then, if they had not died in interspecific struggle then they would have multiplied innumerably.
Let us return to the humanity. It is understandable that the contemporary society does not love preachers and tries to crucify them quite evenly. But any Church, which refuses to serve God and “plays” according the state rules, sooner or later faces problems, which are no less serious: having meddled in hierarchic relations, the Church becomes an object of intrigues of “societymates”.
And there is a dismal situation, when, in the context of the struggle of “social” evil against the moral imperative, at first the Church together with a state crucifies preachers, and then the state, according to laws of “interspecific” struggle, “crucifies” the Church.
In the latter case, riches (in the form of money, property etc.) naturally become the main object of the envy of “neighbors”, and banal lawsuits begin. For “Patrimony of St.Peter”, for gains, for temples, for chapter-lands... For what the Church within two thousand years of its existence did not have lawsuits! What it did not obtain, what was not taken from it!
Those were social problems of the Orthodox and Catholics Churches during centuries of their existence, the Protestant Church also faced many similar situations. But in Chapter 2, we have cited a question why in Russia in the beginning of the 20th century Christianity lost to Marxism, and it is the time to speak about that.
As it is well known, Communists took everything from the Church in Russia after 1917. Temples, money, property and... believers. The overwhelming majority of parishioners at best calmly looked how commissars trampled chasubles with foots, and at worst – took active part in the “expropriation of expropriators”. There is no wonder – in their opinion, the Church was the same “parasite on working-people” as landowners, bourgeoisie and the tsar.
It is unlikely that “expropriated” icons, chasubles, censers and chalices worth a great pity – thousands of priests, who were killed or died in concentration camps, deserve of much more compassion. But it is characteristic that Patriarch Tikhon was arrested by Communists in 1922 not for an ideological struggle against Marxism-Leninism, but for the resistance to the mass pillage of churches.
That is why let us remember Martyr Tikhon, but let us feel sorry firstly about the fact that the policy of the Russian Orthodox Church during the whole time of is existence lied in the “fairway” of the state. Peter I, having abolished the Patriarchate in Russia and having established the “Holy Synod” under the chairmanship of a lay-man, brought that process to the logical absurd. And Communists only used the “fruits” of the centuries-old policy of confluence of the state and the Church.
So we establish the fact: in the beginning of the 20th century, there was no spiritual victory of Marxism over Christianity. There was a political victory of Bolshevik Party over other political parties and over the young Russian democracy. And the Russian Orthodox Church, having accreted with the state, shared the fare of the losers.
Bolsheviks in 1920s did not only separate the Church and the state, but actually smashed the Church up. In 1939, only about one hundred opened churches remained on the territory of the USSR, and only four bishops remained free.
But Stalin in 1943, having understood the necessity of a uniting national idea, permitted to open temples and seminaries, restored the Patriarchate, under the control of security services though. And the process of the interlocking of the Church and the state began again.
That process took hypertrophied forms after the falling of the Soviet Union. The Marxist ideology kept Communists from a close cooperation with the Church, and when that ideology became a thing of the past, the government of the Russian Federation took notice of Christian religion as of an ideological basis of the state again.
Of course, let a state at least outwardly base on Christianity than on Marxism or any other social utopia.
But on what Christianity? With the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures”, which are absolutely unintelligible for the majority of believers? With hopelessly antiquated stereotype concepts of hell and heaven, which cast doubt on the right of Christianity to express the moral imperative? With a number of medieval ceremonies? With the tough hierarchic structure?
Burning exposures are inappropriate in philosophic books, that is why let us just quote the interview of the Orthodox Archipriest Alexandre Men. He gave that interview to Serguey Bychkov in 1983. Men watched the situation in the Russian Orthodox Church “inside”, so it was more visible to him.
Question: “What are the main disadvantages of young priests?”
Answer: “First Christians called themselves disciples. Young priests are trying to become teachers as soon as possible. They do not aspire to the spiritual and intellectual growth. They stop in the complacency or the workmanship. The common life tightens soon, and the vicar conscience is suppressed by the complacency. They are deaf for problems of common people, especially of non-church ones. They look at everything from the narrow-bounded point of view. Our general accent on worship (which has become a “work” and takes a mass of efforts and time) is conductive to that. Even those who would like to serve “in Spirit and truth” often do not have time for anything other. A priest must have interests, which are connected to the “profession”, and the “profession” alone may bring to a dreadful routine”.
Question: “What is, briefly, in your opinion, the main tragedy of today’s Russian Orthodox Church?”
Answer: “In the nowadays’ situation two facts come into a tragic collision. Alive latent interest of people for spiritual problems, a plenty of spiritual demands, searches of truth and a great creative potential of Russia – but all that does not receive a necessary “food” from us, clergymen. It is a fault of the existing type of our Ecclesiastism, which is noted for:
a) The faith in ceremonies;
b) Obscurantism (the non-receipt of cultural achievements – S.Z.);
d) The incapacity to answer the demands of people;
e) The complacency of a closed caste, which looks at everything “secular” with contempt;
f) Nostalgism – i.e. the belief that “everything was better earlier”. From this, the heading for the archaic forms of devotion is;
g) The separation from the Gospels and from the Holy Scripture in general.
This tragic collision leads to:
a) The spiritual decadence of people, who enter the Church;
b) The address of people to substitutes of faith (occultism, yoga, parapsychology etc.)
All this is aggravated by the pseudo-ascetic ideology of lazy-minded people, who, shaking by “Philokalia”, live much more abundantly than any non-religious intellectual.”
The end of the quote.
I would like to add: in ten–fifteen years after this interview, the Russian Orthodox Church became one of the biggest suppliers of Russia with spirits and tobacco goods...
A lot is said in the Holy Scripture about the Church. But about what Church?
Apostle Paul wrote to “the saints which are in Ephesus” that Christ was given “to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).
Thus, the Church is the global community of people, who believe in Christ. So, in a symbolical way, Paul’s words about “Christ’s body” are interpreted, and neither the Orthodox nor Catholic nor Protestant Churches dispute against it.
And all other fragments of the Holy Scripture, which are devoted to the Church (Matt. 16:18-19; 18:17; Rom. 8:14-17; Acts 2:47 etc.), say about the global community of people, i.e. about that “one holy catholic and apostolic Church”, which is mentioned also in Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.
Nothing is said in the Bible about any other Church. “Seven churches”, which were mentioned by John the Evangelist, are only dioceses in Asia Minor, and they pretended neither to Orthodoxy (the only correct following to the teaching of Christ) nor to Catholicism (a world-wide status), and all the more they did not unite followers of Luther, Calvin or Socin.
The same concerns communities, which were called as “churches” by Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2 etc.)
It is not said in the Holy Scripture also that any bishop is a “representative” of Christ – this dogma was elaborated in the beginning of the 2nd century, and for the first time it is found in the works of Ignatius of Antioch, who was an adherent of a firm hierarchy and a “monarchic” episcopate. And God forbid any bishop to be Jesus’ “representative” on Golgotha...
A phrase of Christ, which he said to Apostle Peter, is well known: “And I say also unto thee, Than thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church... And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound on heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:18-19).
It is most likely that the matter concerns the approval by Christ of all acts of Apostle Peter (probably, also of his successors). The Churches, naturally, do not dispute against this.
But a question arises: about what Church are we speaking (and Christ spoke)? About the Orthodox or the Catholic? And, may be, about the Protestant? Or about the Socinian? Or about “Jehova’s witnesses”? Or about the Adventists? And so on – it is possible to enumerate pretenders for Peter’s succession endlessly.
Moreover, what to understand as a “succession”? Peter was the first Apostle (Matt. 4:18), and it is quite probable that the building of the Church on “Peter-rock” meant the ascertainment of the fact that Peter was the first Christian. And then, doesn’t it mean that every Christian has the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” and the right to “bound and loose”?
On the other hand, it is possible to say that while there is no “one holy catholic and apostolic Church”, i.e. no global community of Christians, there will be no Church, about which the Holy Scripture says. And for the time being, nobody has the right to “bound and loose”.
But in each case, there is no matter in Matt. 16:18-19, which concerns either the Orthodox or the Catholic or any other Church.
And it is a pity that the said Churches (so as a number of sects) remember seldom the following words of Christ, which were said to his disciples: “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 23:8-11).
Let the ideas of Ecumenism – the integration of all Churches – nowadays look utopian. But in the historical perspective, they will triumph together with the moral imperative – as it is said, that is the will of God.
And that are not mere words. Without the integration of the Churches (the Christian ones at the first point, and then the others), it is impossible to avoid fits of international discord, and the matter can not concern the Kingdom of God.
Many people consider that in the Kingdom of God the Orthodox believers will live separately, the Catholics – separately, the Englishmen – separately, the Germans – separately, the Russians – separately, and an entrance there for the Muslims and Buddhists, of course, is closed. But let us look at things realistically: this “kingdom” will not be of God. Evil may not be considered as defeated, while there is an at least potential danger of it.
We have said that a basis of the integration of all confessions and the creation of “one holy catholic and apostolic Church” could be the refusal of medieval dogmas and ceremonies. Now we can say more: the dogmatics of any religion must ideally keep within one line, which must be understandable for everyone and be the most full expression of the moral imperative.
Of course, religion is not only an expression of the moral imperative and not only the faith in God. Religion is a worldview of a human. But almost all aspects of any religion (nature of God, the creation of the world, the person and the teaching of Christ, the resurrection etc.) are described by either sciences, from philosophy and theology to history and physics.
And for an expression of the moral imperative and for its implantation in the mass consciousness, by the highest standards, one line is enough.
It is difficult to foresee, what line that will be. I am personally an adherent of Christ’s phrase “You should love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39), and in the following chapters, we shall have a possibility to talk about a colossal strength of these words.
But whatever that line will be, however this “super-Ecumenical” religion will be called – Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or somehow else, – its essence must be the same: the most full and understandable to everyone expression of the moral imperative.
And if people love each other and do not commit evil to each other without any religious dogmas (even that dogmas, which are kept within one line) – God grant.
And the sooner the major world Churches clear of medieval stratifications, which are an obstacle for the perceiving of the moral imperative, the better. That is why I am, in particular, oppose the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures” and by that, undoubtedly, incur anger of the majority of organizations, which have the word “Church” in their names and use the teaching of Christ in their aims.
For those organizations, Ecumenism is not only harmful for ambitions, but it is also an administratively abrupt form of integration (something like a compulsory confluence of corporations), and that says once more about the “social” orientation of these organizations. And the word “organization” itself is a product of the contemporary society, with all following consequences in the form of “social” evil.
We know what happened to the Archipriest Aleksander Men, a staunch supporter of ecumenism and a valiant critic of the official Orthodoxy. He was murdered. Unfortunately, he is not the first, he is not the last.
We have understood that the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures”, which alienate Christ of people, are evenly not good, but evil. Apostle John, Apostle Paul and Jesus himself repeatedly accentuated that the Savior is one in being with us, and each of us has a possibility to become same as Christ.
But the theoretical possibility is not yet practical. One important thing is an obstacle for us to certain of one in being of people with Christ: as the Orthodox and Catholic Churches teach, Jesus was “conceived immaculately”, and we were conceived in sin, were born in sin, and live in sin.
It is impossible to disregard these arguments, though we see here one more contradiction of the position of the major Churches and the Holy Scripture.
The Churches do not cast doubt on the righteousness of saint people, furthermore of holy creatures, aren’t they? And let us remember Apostle Paul’s words: “Wherefore, holy brethern, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Hebr. 3:1). And that form of the address is used by Paul in all his epistles. So, Apostle Paul considered all true Christians as holy, but the major Churches do not agree with him...
About the “Immaculate Conception” we shall speak in the next chapter, and for the time being, let us look: can each of us be equal to Christ not only by the origin, but also by righteousness? What is righteousness and what does it mean for a human? So, what is a sin? Was Paul mistaken, calling all Christians as holy, or not?
Let us note that it is a very important question of the practical aspect of the moral imperative, and we shall not loose time if we examine it quite minutely.
The semblance of contradictions in the Old and New Testaments always was one of the main problems of mutual understanding of Judaism and Christianity. In the beginning of our era, the orthodox Jews accused Christians of the denying of Mosaic Law. In the Middle Ages, the victorious Church’s officials made anti-Semitism a state policy because of that contradictions...
Globally, in the theological aspect, Jesus of Nazareth fully based his activity on the Old Testament’s concept of Messiah, so there could be no fundamental contradictions. As regards minor contradictions, there are many of them even in the Gospels and the Epistles (as we have seen in Chapter 2).
But in the moral aspect, actually, it may seem that Christianity and Mosaic Law, firstly Decalogue (Ex. 20:2-17), are absolutely incompatible teachings.
Let us look: icons and the Second Commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is heaven above, or what is in the earth beneath...” (Ex. 20:4). The fact, that the Christian Church used the great power of art in its aims, is not a reason to close eyes at the egregious contradiction between icons and the prohibition of the Second Commandment to picture anything.
The Fourth Commandment: “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). Orthodoxes in contemporary Israel “keep it holy” to the extent that even the command to switch the light or an oven on is given by a computer, since it is a sin even to turn a switch. But in the Christian world, thank God, there are no such absurdities, and the beginning of that was put by Christ, who said to Pharisees: “The Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matt. 12:8).
Let us not be carried away by an enumeration of apparent contradictions. The main “strangeness” is that Christ, postulating that he had come not to break, but to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17; Luke 16:17 etc.), actually did not accept many demands of Mosaic Law. He set his disciples free of fasts (Matt. 9:14), did not make them wash their hands (Matt. 15:2), did not esteem the mother very much (Matt. 12:47) etc.
And in the Sermon on the Mount, he revised many moral demands of the Law (Matt., chapters 5-7).
It is doubtless that Jesus, as the Messiah, had the right for the abolition or changing of any Commandment (“All things are delivered unto me of my Father” – Matt. 11:27). And, by Apostle Paul, Jesus’ sorrows on the cross expiated our “Old Testament’s” sins.
And, nevertheless, it is not understandable in a quite “common” aspect, why Jesus in his earthly life clashed with Pharisees on such “trifles” as obeying of the Sabbath. May be, because of an “unsociable” character? It does not look like that. According to Mosaic Law, the execution was proper for doing something on the Sabbath, so it was not a trifle, and nobody would have broken it for no particular reason.
The situation is much more deep, and it lies in the moral, not in psychological aspect.
Let us note one more “discrepancy”. Christ was the connoisseur of the Old Testament and quoted almost literally Psalms and Prophets. But when he was asked about “the great commandment in the law”, he interpreted the Decalogue quite freely:
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40).
Actually the First Commandment sounds as: “I am the Lord thy God... Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:2-3), and the second (as a matter of fact, it is the tenth and the last): “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (Ex. 20:17).
Quoting by Lev. 19:18 is not quite correct, because it is said there: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”, and the words about “thy people” considerably constrict the context. That is why in Matt. 22:37-40 we see an inexact quotation of the Old Testament. How to explain it?
Very simply: this “inexact quotation” is no quotation, but a well thought-out and deep interpretation of the Old Testament by Jesus Christ.
What is “to love your neighbour as yourself”? Here the essence of the Christian teaching is expressed briefly: do not do to another one that you do not wish for yourself. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12).
And the interpretation of the First Commandment – to love God – means not only to believe in him, but also to fulfill his testaments not nominally, but sincerely.
Christ was to understand that a number of threats, which God, from lips of Moses and prophets, casts on people of Israel for insubordination, is as ineffective as, for example, in our time – the criminal code with all possible “special services”.
Meanwhile, of course, it is impossible without the latter ones, but it is well known that the main reason for a crime is a wish to commit it, and the fear of a punishment keeps from a crime far not always. For example, criminals in the Middle Ages were broken on wheels or boiled, but there were no less crimes than in our relatively humanistic time...
And if you love God really and understand that you have broken God’s testament – that is, actually, a punishment, which may be much more terrible than a penalty or a prison.
It is unserious to frighten a contemporary man with remorse – too many different people speculate on it, up to parents, who reprimand a child for eaten bonbons. The main and, as we shall understand soon, the only real punishment is the deprivation of piece and of the hope for happiness.
The non-acceptance of the Christian system of value and the braking of God’s and Christ’s testaments bring to that. And if some people are satisfied by nervous and impatient life without any hope for happiness in future, that is because they have no alternative since their childhood.
And this relates to the question of the striking of roots by Christianity in minds and hearts of people. Not as a set of dogmas, but as a moral system, which is clear for everyone.
And other Mosaic Commandments?
Some commandments directly follow from two enumerated in Matt. 22:37-40 (for example, “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal”, and some... Are some commandments necessary, Christ considered, since they are out of common sense and are only an obstacle for the perception of God and of the predestination of the humanity?
For example, the Sabbath. Christ “repealed” it, appealing to common sense.
“And they asked him, saying, Is it a lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (Matt. 12:10-12).
And if that is so, then the homage of icons – the violation of the Second commandment – is not a sin, because it harms nobody and, to the contrary, is useful for many people. If a human at the primary stage of the understanding of Christianity needs looking at images firstly – there is nothing terrible in it. Each of us preferred books with pictures in childhood, and many people “read” exclusively fashion magazines...
In each case, a contemporary human understands that God is not an old man with a white beard, who sits on a cloud, and Jesus Christ is not an emaciated brunet. But the “art conventionality” has the right for existence, including the painting as an integral part of art.
Now, when we have understood much in the moral part of the teaching of Christ, let us speak on a very actual theme: what is a sin?
This word is used by everyone, in place and not in olace – so what is this?
It is understandable and logical, that in the Old Testament sin is understood as a violation of Mosaic Law, and not only of one of ten Holy Commandments, but also of some hundreds of obligatory regulations.
But the problem was that the Law because of the excessive detailed elaboration became antiquated even in the epoch of Christ. Thus, multiple announcements of Jesus that he came to fulfill the Law, not to break it (Matt. 5:17; Luke 16:17 etc.), meant the simplification and “modernization” of the Law in accordance with common sense. At that the “modernization” turned out to be so successful that the Law in the interpretation of Christ has existed by nowadays much longer than the Old Testament’s law – since Moses by the beginning of the Christian era.
We have already understood, what the moral law of Jesus Christ was. And sin is a transgression of the Law (1 John, 3:4). Accordingly, Jesus understood a sin exclusively as the absence of love to God “with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and the absence of love to “thy neighbour as thyself”.
And that is all. Brief and to the point.
“For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:9-10).
So Apostle Paul said about that. Also brief and to the point.
Thus, every complication of the concept of sin is an attempt to return to the antiquated Old Testament’s law and to the understanding of God not as an object of love, but as of a revengeful despot.
But, unfortunately, the medieval Church followed exactly that way, and something like a new Law began to form, but it was elaborated not by Christ or Moses, but by many generations of “Fathers of the Church”. And the dogma of the “Trinity” gave to the Church – the “keeper” of the Holy Spirit – the right to determine itself, what is a sin, and to forgive it not at all free of charge.
So, it turned out that in the Middle Ages the complication and flexibility of the concept of sin became a mighty instrument of the church-state power.
And in our time all major Churches interpret sin extremely widely and ambiguously, in spite of that they (moreover not they but the Ecumenical Church) have the right to forgive sins (Matt. 18:17; John 20:23), but not to determine what is sin.
Let look at least at the “official” list of sins. There are “seven deadly sins”, “venial sins”, “material sins”, “formal sins”...
That is only a general classification, and the concrete definition takes many pages. For example, Bishop Ignatius (Brjanchaninov), among hundreds of possible sins, named “the switching back and forth to avoid burdens and hardships”, “the darkening and plumping of the mind and the heart”, “the eating in secret”, “the non-keeping of senses, firstly of sense of touch, that is an impudence, which destroys many virtues”, “the wishing to receive presents”, “the looking for the labourless salvation”, “the slowing in thoughts of anger and vengeance”, “the cutting of the hope for God”...
Someone except specialists can scarcely understand all that. But that is “good” for the purposes of the obtaining of power! The major Churches know even since the Middle Ages that it is necessary to keep believers in constant fear: “But what if I forgot to pray this morning?.. If I’ve confused the words of the Psalm 115?.. Can I eat eggs in the Lent?.. And drink the milk?.. And today I looked at the photo of a model and felt tempting thoughts, what will be with me now?..”. And so on.
Is it a normal life? And all that happens because we try to understand medieval scholastic (even unfair) formations instead of the clear and common-understandable concept of sin by Jesus Christ.
Let us look at “seven deadly sins” as an example. According to the teaching of the “Fathers of Church”, those are vainglory (or pride), covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth.
A question arises immediately: where is it said about deceptions, thefts and murders? In Decalogue? So, are “seven deadly sins” and Ten Commandments separate? That is a very strange and unjustified situation.
Let us go on. Christ said: “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39). And if I did not turn to him the other cheek and hit him back, how is this sin called? There is nothing about that in Decalogue, so it is one of “seven deadly sins”, for example, anger? And if I was not angry with him, only applied the results of many years of karate training? Is it a sin or I can wipe my feet by a prostrate enemy and go away with the sense of fulfilled duty?
And what to consider as lust? And as covetousness? And as gluttony? And as pride? And as envy? And is fair competition included into the latter concept or not?
According to Christ, each of those concepts is ambiguous and may be called a sin only since it makes problems, pain, inconveniences etc. for neighbors. And all other words (including “seven deadly sins”) are nothing more than fine words.
But, as it is well-known, the less people understand, the more easy it is to control them for the major Churches (and for a great number of sects), especially by establishing of the “complex of a sinful creature” in people.
Actually, to some extent we all are vainglorious, envious, covetous, lustful, gluttonous, angry... I wanted to go on and say, – slothful, – began to think over the possibility of the parallel presence of anger and sloth in one human, but understood in time that I should fall into the trap, which was created for us by the medieval scholastics.
In actual fact, everything is much more simple. To love God and people and to act in compliance with this love – that is the righteousness, and the opposite is a sin. Christ taught so, and the concept of sin may be understandable for us only from this point of view. And the understanding of sin is the first step on the way of refusing of it.
I may be asked a “provocative” question: what to do with self-defense? Of course, it is possible to declare after Christ: “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also”, but if the things head so, will the esteemed author turn the other cheek or will nevertheless hit back?
This question is actually complicated and much more general than a specific behavior in a specific situation. It may be formulated so: what to do if “the life forces to commit a sin”? And these cases take place at every step.
Let us remember an episode in point from the Gospel according to Luke.
When a certain ruler asked Christ, what to do to “inherit eternal life”, Jesus reminded him of the necessity of obeying of the Law, and as an additional condition cited the following:
“Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he (the ruler – S.Z.) heard this, he was very sorrowful: he was very rich.
And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God...
And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?
And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:22-27).
In the same way this episode is described in Matt. 19:16-26.
It is understandable that it is necessary to interpret all said about the richness firstly in the spiritual aspect. If you elevate money to worship, then you nolens-volens begin to serve “social” evil with all inevitable consequences.
Christ did not say in vain:
“Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought of your life, what ye shall eat, and or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body as a raiment?..
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:24-33).
But let us not forget that now we are investigating the question of practical, not theoretical, aspects of the moral imperative.
And the earthly life dictates its laws, which are cruel and homely enough. Firstly, each of us has to think of meal and clothes. Secondly, the nowadays’ reality let neither give beggars all that we have, nor turn the other cheek when we are beaten.
Of course, it is possible to do that in theory, but it may become the last act in the life in practice. And Christ certainly did not want our death of hunger or beating – that would have been no less contradiction with his teaching.
But then who can be saved, i.e. can live absolutely righteously? Nobody? Does it mean that Apostle Paul, calling all Christians as holy, was mistaken?
The major Churches propose a “next-world” variant of solving of this problem: if you have committed a sin, expiate that sin by good acts, and after your death (and then at the “Last Judgement”) your sins and good acts will be counted and it will become clear, who is righteous and who is not.
We have already understood that the “Last Judgement” does not correlate with the teaching of Christ about the infinite expiation of our sins (the “main paradox of Christianity”) and solved that problem on the basis of the interpretation of heaven and hell symbolically – as the whole set of consequences of good and evil, firstly in this life.
But even if we look aside of the concepts of heaven and hell, then we see that by the expiation of sins in this life the major Churches stand on the similar position: if you’ve sinned “on a trifle”, pray for a week, If you’ve sinned more seriously, pray for a month. If you’ve sinned very seriously, make a pilgrimage...
All that seems to be logical. Moreover, this approach may be useful in the case that a human sincerely considers his act to be a sin and does his best to expiate it and to commit it nevermore.
I accentuate – sincerely. But then the reading of prayers (as every other “penance”) will have firstly a symbolical character.
But for someone symbols are important, and for someone are not. And if a practical and experienced contemporary human would like to compare his good acts with sins and to decide self-dependently if he can consider himself as righteous or sinful?
Then it turns out that the canonical approach of the major Churches to the expiation of sins is more harmful than useful. Let us explain, why.
At this approach, a contemporary human would certainly like to imagine something like a “scale of good and evil acts”. The help to neighbors, the upbringing of children, the donations to a temple, the charity etc. will be the “plus”. And the intrigues, the false denunciations, the crimes will be the “minus”...
And let us try to think together with this man, who is “armed” with such a scale and who tries to reach a “positive balance”:
– “Yesterday I shouted at my wife undeservedly (beat my child, was drunk etc.). But today I’ve helped my neighbor to repair his car (gave a charity to a beggar etc.), so it seems that I’ve expiated the yesterday’s sins”...
Is it normal? But the next step of reasoning may be openly absurd:
– Today I’ve helped my neighbor to repair his car. So haven’t I deserved the right to shout at my wife tomorrow? Or at the same neighbour? The day after tomorrow we shall make it up with him, I shall help him to repair his car, and everything will be normal...”
Unfortunately, many people not only reason (at least subconsciously) but live in this way.
It turns out that the life of such a “respectable” human becomes hell without any “Last Judgement”. And the “average statistical balance by the scale of good and evil acts” says that everything is all right.
We have spoken only about “common” situations. The “scale of good and evil acts” may have much more terrible consequences.
“I’d murder that accursed hag and rob her, with no qualms of conscience, I can assure you... But just look here: on the one hand there’s a stupid, senseless, evil and sickly old woman of no use to anybody, quite the reverse in fact: she doesn’t know what she lives for and may die tomorrow. On the other hand, we have young and fresh forces stunted for lack of support; they run into thousands, and they’re on all sides! A hundred, a thousand good deeds and enterprises could be initiated and advanced on the money to be wasted in a monastery! Hundreds and perhaps thousands of existences could be directed along the right road, dozens of families could be saved from poverty, decay, ruin, vice, and lock hospitals – and all that on her money! Murder her and take her money away; so as to devote yourself with its help to serving all mankind and common weal. Don’t you think a petty and insignificant crime can be erased by thousands of good works, or that one life can be made up for by thousands rescued from corruption and decay? A single live in exchange for a hundred – it’s simple arithmetic!”
Raskolnikov heard that conversation in a tavern and came to the final decision to kill the stupid old woman-usurer. We know that it resulted nothing good – the whole novel “Crime and punishment” (we have quoted it in the translation by Julius Katzer) is devoted to that. And the conclusion of Fyodor Dostoyevsky has the single meaning: no arithmetic can expiate a murder.
So let us not speak about the capability of people to compare good and evil acts – we shall come to an absurd in each case.
But even if we, after the major Churches, consider that God or Christ are capable to compare millions of different sins and good acts, this position will nevertheless lead to catastrophic consequences.
The point is that the primitive way of expiation of sins by good acts (so called “continuous penance”) may be apprehended as a permission to sin as much as one likes. Just do not forget to visit a church, to confess, to pray, to give charity to beggars, and everything will be all right.
But then it is possible to kill two old women-usurers, or three, or a hundred, and not only old women...
Unfortunately, the major Churches by their canonical understanding of the expiation (“you’ve sinned – read “Our Father” five times”) themselves bring a contemporary human to the wish to engage in such “arithmetic”.
But we have to say: the orientation firstly on the expiation of sins by good acts gives people the moral right to commit sins.
It is not the main thing – to expiate a sin. The main thing is a sincere wish to commit it never again. Then, having even committed a sin forcedly, a human will not repeat it voluntarily.
That is why the teaching of Christ is aimed at the absence of the wish to commit sins. The accent on the love to people and God is from here. And how many good acts must be committed to “surpass” sins – that is, actually, arithmetic, not love.
And concerning the canonical position of the major Churches...
Yes, it is more simple for a priest to say to a human: “You’ve sinned – read “Our Father” five times”, than to strive for his sincere penance.
Yes, not every priest is capable for the deep psychological opening of the Christian worldview.
Yes, there are few priests and many repentants.
But to make an illusion of the expiation of sins by a formal reading of some prays by a human – that is, really, incorrect and harmful. If a priest does not have enough time for a deep and thoughtful talk with every repentant, it is better to delay the confession and to replace it by a public sermon.
This is still not customary in the major Churches.
It turns out that only the sincere penance may give the real expiation of sins (in actual fact, the sincere penance if equal to the acceptance of the Christian system of value). Christ said that he “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to rependance” (Matt. 9:13).
But that is very, very difficult. Of course, that is possible in theory. The Churches’ canons also allow that. It is often met in films and books. But in the life...
I was always interested in people like Churchill, Khrushchev, Marshal Zhukov, General Eisenhower and others. Is such a man able near the end of the earthly life, on a pension, repent of at least some of his sins, which he had to commit many times in his large-scale state career? For example, to write the completely truthful memoirs? If even not about himself, then with an objective analysis of his life among contemporaries?
I am more and more sure that he is not able, and not since that was prohibited to him. Reading memoirs like General Sudoplatov’s, who was the chief wrecker of Stalin’s-Beria’s State security, we can understand: if people like Sudoplatov had considered some of their numerous crimes as sins, they would have become mad of horror even before they were retired.
The successful social career disaccustoms people to tell truth and to repent of their sins, and we must not wait it from them also in the age of pension. They forgot long ago, how it is done, and the problems of the Kingdom of God do not disturb them both in youth and in old age.
The same is with their opinions of friends and colleagues – the corporative solidarity turns out to be stronger than truth even in the face of death. Of course, there are exclusions, but a few. The sincere penance can not be the destiny of insincere people.
Generally in that cases the moral imperative is powerless in the face of evil, to which a human served all his life.
But, fortunately, General Sudoplatov, on whose conscience there are hundreds, or even thousands lives, is a rare instance. The overwhelming majority of people have another problem. They would be glad to repent sincerely, but even can not remember what to repent of – their sins come to home scandals and minor intrigues in business.
What can they do? Remember all trifles? It is possible to come to absurdity, like the phrase at a confession: “Today my chief made a reproof for me thrice, and I looked at him with the irritation and did not feel the Christian love to him”.
But this is, however an absurdity from the point of view of common sense, actually a sin from the point of view of Christianity!
And if a human, God forbid, perished tragically and suddenly, having no time to be confessed even by himself! Does it turn out that he has no chance for the salvation?
Let us not be carried away by a great number of situations, which are created by cruel and unpredictable life. When a woman, who was caught in adultery and was to be stoned, was brought to Jesus, he said: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). As it is well known, there were no sinless people.
“We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:9-10).
So, who can save, i.e. can consider himself as that true Christian, to whom Apostle Paul addressed as to “holy brothers”? Nobody? We have just seen that the Apostle said: “There is none righteous”.
Is there an insoluble contradiction?
We shall have to repeat the last words of the quoted talk of Christ with a ruler:
“And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).
Let us try to understand what Christ had in view, when he said that phrase, which caused in the Middle Ages a number of theologian disputes about the “grace of God”.
This concept is usually understood as the possibility of the forgiving of our sins by God, though the concept of grace has many meanings in the Bible – that is the force, which acts in a human (1 Cor. 15:10), and the Gospel’s sermon (John 1:16), and the gift of God to people (Rom. 3:24), and many other different contexts and meanings.
It is no wonder that just the universal concept of the grace of God, to which it was possible to draw a number of references to the Holy Scripture, was chosen by Augustine in the beginning of the 5th century to make a basis for his position that nothing depended upon the internal will of a human, since the latter was inclined to sin since the birth. According to Augustine, since the grace of God has condescended to a human, then it is no importance how sinful he was: in each case, he will be saved and will enter heaven. God decided so, and we are not to try to understand the motivation of his acts.
Let me remind how Augustine had a dispute on this with Pelagius. The latter acknowledged free will of people and considered that a human is righteous at the moment of his birth. Augustine defended his teaching about the “original sin”, after which a human can not be righteous and can hope only for the grace of God.
Augustine’s teaching about the grace is tightly connected with his teaching about the absolute predestination. The point is that the question arises inevitably: if a human is given the grace, then why has faith and is saved not everyone? Augustine’s answer was the following: God predestinated some people to good, and some – to evil.
Speaking in our terms, Augustine denied the freedom of will at the moral level.
Thus, the grace and freedom of will turned out to be connected tightly in theology, and all following philosophers were inclined to Augustine’s or to Pelagius’ point of view. For example, the first one was adhered by Thomas Aquinas, the second – by Duns Scotus.
Lutheranism and Calvinism, however strange, look at the correlation of the grace and freedom of will quite according to Augustine. Calvin completely denied freedom of will and related it exclusively to the unknown “Divine Providence”. Luther approached to that more “gently” and considered that only sincere faith gives the possibility to obtain the grace.
However, even in the times of the Reformation, faith had so many meanings, that the teachings of Luther and Calvin were interpreted by some of their contemporaries as the permission to sin as much as they wished.
For example, so called “Libertins-Spirituals” considered: “Since God saves or condemns by his caprice, so it is unnecessary to pay any attention to him. It is better to try to arrange the most pleasant life in this absurd world with the same freedom as God permits for himself”, – Calvin himself wrote about their position.
However, Calvin did not only write, but he also acted. It was scarcely ethic that he committed the leader of “Libertins” Quentin Tierie to the French Catholic court – actually, Calvin had provoked the appearance of that sect himself by his teaching on the grace. But, however that may be, Quentin Tierie was faggoted. As it is well known, the execution of the scientist and anti-Trinitarian Michel Servetus is also on Calvin’s conscience.
Not everything was as “progressive” in the Reformation as it may seem, and it is no wonder why neither Luther nor Calvin refused of the main medieval dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures”: the society was not yet ready for that in the 16th century.
But now we are speaking about the grace of God. For the time being we could make a quite absurd conclusion of the teachings of Augustine and Calvin: we can sin or not sin, repent or not repent, confess or not confess, there is the hope only for the unpredictable forgiveness of our sins by God.
But the absence of the freedom of will in people directly follows from that. Solving the question of the Theodicy, we have already examined this situation and seen: at this approach, God becomes the direct culprit of evil, which is committed in the world, and a human inevitably becomes a cheap “human material” of some highest mechanism.
In connection with that, of course, we can not accept the point of view of Augustine.
The Russian Orthodox Church marked out two kinds of the grace of God: “forestalling” (general and unpredictable, according to Augustine) and “special” (justifying a specific human by his deeds). “The grace acts in the freedom and the freedom acts in the grace: they are mutually related” (Bishop Feofan Prokopovich).
So, the Orthodox Church considers that we have some kind of choice (to sin or not to sin). Consequently, we have a potential ability to get the “special” grace, i.e. to understand that we have sinned, and to expiate the sin by the penance, good acts etc. But the “forestalling” grace also has an influence upon us, i.e. if there is no such kind of the grace, we can be saved by no penance or good acts.
Thus, we see only a little bit “softened” form of Augustine’s predestination.
Let us try to determine the possibility of the forgiveness of our sins by God more evenly than the official Orthodoxy does that.
I propose not to deepen into logical schemes, but to give a determination of the grace of God according to the moral imperative and the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.
However paradoxically, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, the Catholic and Orthodox theologians, having been carried away by the general problems of the correlation between freedom of will and the grace of God, forgot about Christ’s teaching, which is understandable to all.
And will a human, who accepted that teaching sincerely, commit sins?
If he even will, then only forcedly and, as the saying goes, if the worst comes to worst. It is impossible to predict all that cases – a Christian lives among people, and not each of them shares his views.
And if a young and strong man is walking in a street and sees, for example, a gang of teenagers, who are outraging a woman, – is it possible that he, being “armed” by the Christian teaching, will pass and will not protect that woman? And if bandits attack the man himself – must he sit on his hands and submit to his destiny? I doubt whether.
Thus, while there is “social” evil, there are sins, which even a Christian can not avoid committing. That “forced” sins do not contradict to the moral imperative and can not be considered as sins.
So, the grace of God may be determined as the moral imperative, which was given to us by God, and our righteousness – as the sincere devotion to the moral imperative and acting in conformity with it in all situations.
Turning from theory to practice, we can say: the Christian system of value of good and love, which expresses the moral imperative mostly full and understandable to all, must be accepted unconditionally in the spiritual aspect, but in practice it may be applied by every Christian not as a firm standard, but in conformity with the specific situation.
That is why we can formulate the practical aspect of the Christian moral system in the following way: if there is the least possibility to commit good and avoid evil, it is necessary to use it.
And as deep Christianity strikes root in every human, as wider that human perceives the limits of this possibility.
Thus, give beggars all that you can give at the current moment, but know a reasonable limit, which is based on your financial scope, otherwise tomorrow you will have nothing to give them. And if tomorrow you have more money, give them more.
And if you are beaten on one cheek, turn the other, while you do not understand that there is no more possibility to do that (and, accordingly, to “disarm” morally the enemy by that).
I would like to remember a phrase of Lev Tolstoy. Once, when he flapped a mosquito on his forehead, some interlocutor blamed him that he propagated the non-resistance against evil by force, but killed a mosquito... Tolstoy answered: “It is impossible to live in such small details”...
In the light of all said, it is possible to answer the “provocative” question if I should turn the other cheek (i.e. if I should keep the position of the non-resistance against evil by force at any “force” conflict).
If there is the least possibility, I shall do everything to avoid a “force” conflict. Moreover, if there is a chance to keep the life and human dignity, I shall turn the other cheek, i.e. shall not commit anything in return.
But if there is no such chance, I shall have to beat in return. And even if I know that it is a sin, there are situations when not to beat is a worse sin. To protect a woman or a child: is that a sin? And so on, it is impossible to enumerate all possible cases, and here we can follow only common sense.
The main thing is that the probability of violence and “social” evil descends appreciably in general. To avoid it completely and to live without any conflict – neither Apostle Paul nor Jesus Christ nor anybody else managed to do that.
But the more people accept the Christian teaching, the lower this probability will be.
And the time of the coming of the Kingdom of God depends directly upon the answer to the question if it ever reaches zero. We have already spoken about this, that is why let us only remember Christ’s words once more: “The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
THE “IMMACULATE CONCEPTION”
We have understood what is sin. We have understood what is righteousness. But there is one more argument of the officials of the major Churches that Christ had some “special” righteousness – that is the dogma of his “immaculate conception”.
This dogma, which declares any physiological conception as sinful even by its formulating, leads to the situation that so called sin of adultery (the 7th Commandment of Decalogue) holds a record by the number of interpretations and conjectures.
For the beginning, let us think: what is “to commit adultery”? To make any sex? Or without the aim of the continuation of a kin? Or beyond a marriage? Or homosexually? Or...
However, it is enough to open any Church’s instruction on the “sacrament of penance” – everything is written there in details.
For example, according to “Thoughts of a repentant sinner” (by the Orthodox Archimandrite Vladimir) there are following violations of the 7th Commandment: “Lecher, adultery, effeminacy, voluptuousness in all its kinds – passionate kisses with the other sex, the maculate touch, the feasting of eyes on beautiful faces with craving, ribaldry, love songs, shameless movements of the body, coquetry, pandering, sweetening by maculate dreams, arbitrary lustful kindling, excessory attachment... The satiety in eating and drinking, the reading of novels, looking at tempting pictures, the unrestricted treatment and games with the other sex, the excessive foppishness...”
Unfortunately, I can not remember, where it is written in the Bible about the sin of the reading of novels, and I even do not know what is “arbitrary lustful kindling”. And, to be frank, I do not want to know that: popular manuals (and the quoted book is also popular) must be written understandably to all, and the usage of such terms is tied with the aspiration of the major Churches to govern believers with the help of the degraded and ambiguous concept of sin.
So let us examine the “sin of adultery” from the point of view of Jesus Christ.
Firstly, let us look what is written about that in the Old Testament. The 7th Commandment says about adultery for the first time, and all the Commandments are concretized in the Torah quite minutely – Moses preferred clear formulas and left a small place for false rumors.
The death penalty was usually due for the violation of any Commandment, and the following people were to be executed:
“That committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife”; “that lieth with his father’s wife”; “with his daughter in law”; “with mankind, as he lieth with a woman”; “take a wife and her mother”; “lie with a beast”; “take his sister”; “lie with a woman having her sickness” (Lev. 20:10-18).
Moses said more mildly about that one, who “uncovers the nakedness of his mother’s sister” and who will “lie with his brother’s wife” (Lev. 20:19-20) – no death penalty was due for that, but that was considered as sins (violations of the law).
Let us not go into details of the life of Ancient Jews, who were led out of Egypt. If Moses considered all enumerated prohibitions to be necessary for the normal life of his people, we should not cast doubt on his opinion.
For example, was it necessary to forbid adultery in marriage to preserve piece and order in a small tribe? Of course, yes. Was it necessary to forbid kindred marriages to avoid the degeneration of the tribe? Of course, yes. Was it necessary to forbid homosexuality to strengthen families? Of course, yes. Was it necessary to forbid sexual relations during a menstruation in anti-sanitary life in a desert? Of course, yes. And so on.
Thus, Moses formulated the concept of adultery exactly, clearly and soundly.
Naturally, a woman had a subordinate role in the tribal order of Ancient Israel, but we see in Mosaic Law neither purposeful humiliation of women no prohibitions of sexual relations and no exaggerating attention to “intimate” questions.
Let us note that Moses insisted on the virginity of brides (Deut. 22:6), but permitted divorces under the following conditions: “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and if it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house” (Deut. 24:1).
But the situation changed radically in early Christian times. As it is known, it is more simply to rule humbled people, and the medieval Church, creating the complex of a “sinful creature” in people, could not miss so splendid cause as adultery.
Of course, for a “good Christian” of the beginning of our era it was unpleasant to look at morals and manners of Ancient Rome – “Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots” (Rev. 17:4-5). But centuries passed, morals and manners changed, but the relation of the major Churches to a woman and to sexuality did not change. And it is completely on the conscience of the officials of the major Churches that Jesus of Nazareth is still perceived by the majority of people as a woman-hater with the inferiority complex.
The “first fiddle” here belongs to Aurelius Augustine. For justice let us note that he took much from his teacher, Ambrosius of Milan, and that one, in his turn, from Origen and Philo of Alexandria, but this does not change the essence.
Let us look what Augustine wrote in his “Theological treatises”: “Being driven out of Eden after a sin, a human tied his kin, which was infected by a sin in the root, by the punishment of death and condemnation, so all the posterity of him and his wife, who was condemned together with him, was born of the lust of flesh”.
And then, as it is well known, the “original sin” infected the whole mankind. So, according to Augustine, we have no divine nature and are “loathsome vessels of sin”. Moreover, since that times any sex is a sin, because it is disagreeable to God. Adam was driven out of Eden because of his sexual relations with Eve, and all the troubles of the humanity were also caused by that.
But all this is a pure fiction! In reality, it is enough to open the first pages of the Bible and to read them attentively. It will be useful for us also henceforth.
In the first chapter of the Bible, it is written about the creation of the world, and together with the world – of a human. Let us note – not of Adam, but of a human in general.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over... all the earth... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it...” (Gen. 1:26-29).
And further, already in the second chapter:
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Gen. 2:7-8).
“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:15-17).
“And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall Man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:22-25).
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Gen. 3:4-7).
So the first sin (as we have already spoken, it may be called a sin only conditionally) took place – people disobeyed of God.
I accentuate – the first sin, not the “original”. The word “original” means that we have the origin in this sin, i.e. that we are born in it. An indirect allusion to sex turns out again. And actually there is no such allusion.
The fact that Adam and Eve began to feel shy by their nakedness, is also by some reason associated with their sexual relations, though these relations usually lead to the opposite – people cease to be shy with each other...
Further God, having known about the violation of his prohibition, damned the serpent (it is usually considered that the devil was in the form of the serpent, but it is also a fiction). God told Eve that he will “greatly multiply her sorrow and her conception” (Gen. 3:16), and Adam was to “eat bread in the sweat of his face”, because “for dust he was, and for dust would return” (Gen. 3:19).
If somebody is still waiting for a description of the sexual relations of Adam and Eve, I have to disappoint: “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived, and bare Cain” (Gen. 4:1) much later, and that was normal and natural – God did not say “Be fruitful and multiply” in vain.
So, we have read the beginning of the book of Genesis attentively and have understood that only God knows, how passages like the following appeared in the imagination of Augustine:
“And the eyes of both of them opened. To what? To nothing else as to the mutual lust – to this, born by death, punishment of the flesh for a sin... That is why they, having internally lost the grace, which was offended by them by the haughty and proud love to their own power and left them immediately after the breaking of the commandment, stopped their looks at their members and felt the lust which they had never felt before”.
And then Augustine’s well-known logic follows: if the “original sin” was the “lust” between Adam and Eve, then we obtain it by the “passionate sexuality” of our parents. We were conceived in sin, we were born in sin and we live in sin. And now we can hope only for the incognizable grace of God.
The bends of the Western “dogmatic development” moved Catholicism a little bit away from Augustine’s concept of the “original sin” as of “lust”, and now the point of view of Anselm of Canterbury prevails, which says that a human lost the “grace of primeval righteousness” after the “original sin”.
However, “righteousness” in the interpretation of the major Churches, as we have already seen, includes so many contradictory concepts, that it is possible to remember about Augustine with nostalgie – he at least formulated his thoughts clearly.
The same problem is with the Orthodox concept of the “original sin” – it is as degraded as the concept of sin on the whole.
But the Reformation left the concept of the “original sin” inviolable. There are some sects (for example, Socinians) who deny the dogma of the “original sin” at all, but that are only sects.
In each case, dogmas are one matter, and stereotypes are another matter. And there was no theologian, who may be compared with Augustine in the creation of stereotypes. So, it turned out that the “original sin” in the mass consciousness is still understood as the sexual relations of Adam and Eve, and each of us is a “sinful creature” by the right of the birth.
Let us value the consistency of the theological base of the “official” hatred of the major Churches to sexuality. The words of Christ are usually quoted:
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of your members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matt. 5:27-29).
And then Christ added:
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving her for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matt. 5:31-32).
And there is an even more “radical” (and not less well-known) phrase of Jesus: “And there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (Matt. 19:12).
We shall start our examination of the quoted Jesus’ phrases from this one, because we see immediately the taking of “necessary” quotes out of context. And the context is following:
“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife... What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
They said unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication (Italic is mine – S.Z.), and shall marry another, committeth adultery.
His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
But he said unto them, All men cannot cannot receive that saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Matt. 19:3-12).
All said in this episode of the Gospel means that the conversation was only about the norms of Mosaic Law, and we already know what Moses understood as adultery. Jesus gave no new interpretation of this term.
It may seem that Christ toughened Mosaic Law in respect of this – prohibited unjustified divorces and left the only ground – fornication, i.e. adultery in the understanding of Moses: conjugal infidelity, homosexuality etc.
But in actual fact, we see here no toughening of the Law, because Moses declared the death penalty for adultery, and the problem of divorce was no longer relevant after that.
But there is a more important aspect in this episode.
It seems natural that if Christ said to his disciples: “All men cannot cannot receive that saying, save they to whom it is given”, it meant that the disciples were to “receive that saying” first of all. So, it seems that he told his disciples not to marry, or even to be eunuchs. Thus, it is also desirable for all the followers of Christ, and the major Churches do not demand our obligatory celibacy or emasculation only since they indulge our sinful nature.
At any rate, the interpretation of the medieval Church was exactly that, and hence the humiliation of women, cloisters, prohibitions of sexual relations, a number of eunuch sects are... The Church only forgot to put a veil on women – possibly forgot only by chance.
But actually everything is quite the contrary – “that saying”, which it was desirable to “receive”, related not to the words about eunuchs, but to the teaching about the prohibition of divorces!
Thus, the phrase of his disciples – “It is not good to marry”, – Jesus considered as impossibility (or as unwillingness) to accept his teaching about the imperishability of family. And he did not like the position of his disciples, because he answered them: “All men cannot receive that saying, save they to whom it is given”.
But he permitted his disciples not to accept his teaching at that, having told the parable about eunuchs. There are such eunuchs, there are other eunuchs... Eunuchs just happened to come up, and Jesus cited them as an example. When he told parables about winegrowers (Matt. 21:28-46; Mark 12:1-9), it did not mean that he sent the listeners to gather the grape.
So, Jesus of Nazareth did not insist on the obligatory and indissoluble marriage, and furthermore on the sexual continence or the emasculation. He said nothing also about specific theses of Mosaic Law on adultery (except the divorce), and it is not our deal to guess about that.
The similar position on the creation of family was taken by Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 7:1-17). And it would have been not bad for the officials of the major Churches to pay attention to his words about that: “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches” (1 Cor. 7:17).
And now let us return to the phrase of Christ: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee...” (Matt. 5:27-29).
It turns out that everything is normal and logical – if you are married (i.e. if you come under the action of Mosaic concept of adultery), do not look at other women “to lust” and pain your wife, because it would contradict to the main Christian commandment – to love each other.
Thus, there is neither humiliation of women nor undesirability of sexual relations in the teaching of Christ. The Christian concept of adultery differs from the Old Testament’s one only in the prohibition of divorces, and even this prohibition is also conditional – if a husband or a wife have committed adultery (at least “in the heart”), then it is possible to divorce.
And who is, according to the teaching of Augustine and the major Churches, righteous by the right of the birth, i.e. who is free of “original sin”?
Only Jesus Christ, since he is “God the Son”. And if that is so, he could not be conceived and born in sin, hence the dogma of his “immaculate conception” was originated.
And “sinless Virgin” Mary, accordingly, also could not make sex – not only before the marriage with Joseph, but also after it, so she remained virgin for the whole life. However, it is not clear, how she managed to preserve the virginity at the childbirth. Well, a childbirth is not sex, it seems to be “admissible”, but the Cathars in the 13th century still considered that Jesus entered the world through an ear of her mother.
Catholicism went even further. In 1854 (and by theologian criterions it is quite recently), Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of “immaculate conception of Virgin Mary” to make Jesus “immaculate” in the second generation so that “original sin” could not reach Christ unambiguously.
The theologians of the major Churches tried to bind everything foresaid with common sense, having thought out a legend, which is still the official position of both Catholic and Orthodox Churches. For example, Archimandrite Raphael (Karelin) wrote the following:
“Mary gave God the promise of chastity in the Temple of Jerusalem. When she was 13, she was affianced with Joseph, an old man of the age of 80, Mary’s collateral relative, who became the keeper of her virginity, actually the second father... The dwelling of Joseph consisted of two rooms, which were made in a rock, one above the other. Virgin Mary lived in the upper room. In a small yard, there was the workshop of righteous Joseph, where he was occupied with work of a joiner... The Mother of God came out of her house only to a spring, which was not far from her dwelling...”
It is no wonder that any woman, who worked honestly for the whole life, who brought up many children, who loves her husband and never committed adultery, looks nearly a whore against the background of that image of Virgin Mary.
The theologians of the major Churches in chase of “immaculacy” even declare that Mary was of a kin of King David, because Jesus is called in the Gospels as “the Son of David”, and, God forbid, believers will think that Joseph of the kin of David (Matt. 1:6-16), nevertheless, had a connection to the birth of Christ...
We have already seen that the sin of Adam and Eve had no relation to sex, so let us look what is said in the Gospel according to Matthew about the matrimonial life of Joseph and Mary and the “immaculate conception” of Christ.
Why the Gospel according to Matthew exactly – because nothing is said in any other Gospel about the “immaculate conception”. Only Matthew and Luke among Evangelists told about the birth of Jesus. Luke tactfully ignored the “physiology” of the conception (Luke 1:31-34), moreover, told about Joseph and Mary as about the parents of Jesus (Luke 2:27; 2:48).
And according to Matthew:
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise; when as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost...
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emman’u-el, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus” (Matt. 1:18-25).
And that is all said in the New Testament about the “immaculate conception”.
I consider that we have no right to think out, how the conception took place, how old Joseph and Mary were and what intimate relations they had. And if Augustine or Archimandrite Raphael or Alexandr Pushkin (in his poem “Gavriiliada”) made bold to think out, that are their own fantasies.
For me the following proofs, that Mary was a normal woman, lived with her husband Joseph in common family relations and had many children, seem convincing:
“While he (Jesus – S.Z.) yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethern stood without, desiring to speak with him” (Matt. 12:47).
“And when we was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethern, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?” (Matt. 13:54-56).
“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3).
We see that Joseph was a carpenter (Matt. 13:55), in the Greek original it sounds like a “tecton” – “builder”. But Archimandrite Raphael told about him as about an old joiner.
Seemingly, here is no serious difference. But in actual fact, we see an “ordinary” example of falsification of the invaluable information of the Gospels for the needs of the theology of the major Churches.
As it is well known, a builder (furthermore a carpenter) has to climb on walls and roofs, put frames and do other hard physical work. It was scarcely possible for Joseph if he was about 80 (according to the version of the major Churches). And a joiner can sit in his workshop and make wooden goods (by the quoted legend about Joseph – yokes for bulls and scales) even until he is 100 years old.
So in defiance of the texts of the Gospels, the medieval Church made the carpenter Joseph an aged joiner.
Of course, the official theologians of the major Churches may think out something else. For example, that Joseph was a carpenter in his youth and people remembered him exactly so, and in his old age he retrained to a joiner. That is why Jesus was, “through habit”, called “the son of the carpenter”, though Joseph worked as a joiner for some last decades of his life. So to speak, people did not forget the carpenter’s art of Joseph for forty years.
But this fantasy looks so improbable that the major Churches simply prefer to substitute the profession of carpenter by the profession of joiner.
But this “jugglery” by professions is clear enough. The interpretation of places in the Bible, where it is said about brothers and sisters of Jesus, is more complicated.
The major Churches propose two variants to us.
Let us begin from the most ancient interpretation, which was proposed even by Ambrosius of Milan and now is an official position of Russian Orthodox Church.
Its essence is that it is said in Matt. 13:54-56 and Mark 6:3 about stepbrothers and stepsisters of Jesus – sons and daughters of aged Joseph and his first wife. Even the name of that first Joseph’s wife is “found” – Mary, the wife of Cleophas (John 19:25), the woman who stood near the cross together with Jesus’ mother and others (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40; Luke 24:10; John 19:25).
All this seems to be logical. Moreover, since in Mark 15:47 it is said about Mary, the mother of Joses, official theologians consider that it is also said about Mary, the wife of some Cleophas.
Let us assume that it is so. But then Joseph before his marriage with Mary, who became the mother of Jesus later, was to divorce with Mary, the mother of his four sons and some daughters. It turns out that Joseph’s “righteousness” is quite doubtful – to turn out the mother of many his children for the sake of a young girl?
And if we suppose that Joseph’s first wife passed from him to Cleophas herself, having left many children, then it is worthy not of the Holy Scripture, but of an adventure story. What then the peripetias of that woman’s life were to be, if she, as a result, followed Jesus, the son of her first husband and his second wife, when he was preaching in Galilee (Mark 15:41), it is possible only to guess.
In Mark 16:1 it is said about some Mary, the mother of James, and the major Churches consider that it is the same Mary, the wife of Cleophas, the mother of all Jesus’ stepbrothers, first of whom James and Joses were named (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). And in Mark 15:40, Mary, the mother of James “the less” and of Joses, is mentioned, and she if identified with the same wife of Cleophas.
But then toward whom is James “the less”?
If we speak not about stepbrothers, but about brothers of Jesus, let us look of what age James, the eldest, was.
Joseph and his first wife, after the birth of James, were to give birth to some more children, then there was to be a “break” for the divorce with the first wife, then his betrothal with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and only then Christ was born. Thus, James “the less” was to be about 15–20 years elder than Jesus. And if we take into consideration the “official” age of Joseph (more than 80 when he married the mother of Jesus), then the difference between the ages of his eldest son and Jesus was to be about 40–50 years.
Who then “the elder” James could be, we can only guess. One of Zebedee’s sons? But since James, the son of Zebedee, was elder than 60 (or even 80) at the moment of Jesus’ crucifixion, then his younger brother John (the Evangelist) turns out 40–60 years younger. It is more than doubtful. And how old was their father Zebedee (Matt. 4:21) and their mother (Matt. 20:20)?
It is also doubtful that the elder brothers of Jesus asked decently and did not demand that their younger brother spoke with them (Matt. 12:46). And the fact, that Jesus’ brother James called himself “the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ” in his Epistle (James 1:1), is very strange for an elder brother in that historical epoch.
It follows from all foresaid that the brothers of Jesus were younger, i.e. that they could not be the sons of a first wife of Joseph.
And the second variant (non-canonical, but “permitted” by the major Churches) consists in the following: the matter concerns cousins of Jesus, children of the same Mary, the wife of Cleophas, the sister of Joseph or Mary.
But since it follows from the Gospels that brothers and sisters lived together with Joseph, Mary and Jesus as one family (Matt. 12:46; Mark 6:2-3; John 2:12), then it turns out that the carpenter Joseph (by the version of the major Churches – aged, poor and living in a cave) opened almost a children’s home. And why did Cleophas and his wife Mary have to give their children to Joseph?
One more argument is sometimes cited against that Jesus had younger brothers and sisters: Jesus told John from the cross: “Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:27), – couldn’t the own children take care of Mary?
But we can say: since Jesus’ brothers were younger, and Joseph had evidently died by that time, it is no wonder that Mary was sheltered by the family of well-provided Zebedee. The circle of Jesus already lived by laws of Christian community.
And Mary, the wife of Cleophas, could be anybody – many faithful women followed Christ (Luke 8:2-3). James “the less” could be, for example, James, the son of Alpaeus, and the matter concerns his mother. And, generally speaking, why are we so sure that the wife of Cleophas, the mother of James and the mother of Joses are the same woman? A number of women followed Jesus and were standing near the cross (Luke 23:27).
I have to state with regret: having done the detailed analysis of the position of the major Churches, which concerns the younger children of Mary, the mother of Jesus, we have spent time almost in vain.
It was enough to quote the following to show the inanity of all fantasies about details of intimate relations between Joseph and Mary: “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus” (Matt. 1:24-25).
And the point is even not that Matthew called Jesus as the “firstborn” son of Mary, i.e. the first, but not the only child. And the point is in the word “till”. Joseph did not know Mary till she gave birth to Jesus.
Thus, Mary, the wife of Joseph, was a common woman, had normal intimate relations with her husband and gave birth to many children.
But since the theologians of the medieval Church wished to convince people that Joseph was incapable of any sexual relations with his legal wife Mary, they were ready to do all possible substitutions to consider sex as sin.
And it becomes understandable why it was necessary for the medieval Church to convince people of that, if we draw a parallel with quite recent times – of Stalin and Hitler.
Do you remember how in the USSR and in Germany at that time sculptures of cold muscular men and of women in working coveralls were cultivated, and sexuality was forced out by the cult of sport and mass processions with mottos and torches?
Let us not go deep into Freud’s “ousting” and “sublimation of libido”. Let us say more simply: if a man has normal family life (and normal sex in also included into this concept), it is very difficult to get that man out of his family and to send him to conquer the world.
And if a man is capable only of a defective resemblance of sex and feels the “complex of a sinful creature” constantly, he will be scarcely happy (or at least satisfied) of his family life. And it is “good” – it is simpler to send that man to a front to die for the dictator’s ambitions.
And in the Middle Ages, it was necessary to raise people to crusades, to the struggle against heresies, to endless wars with neighbor states – what sex could be there?
It was impossible to prohibit sex completely – children, i.e. future soldiers and soldiers’ mothers, were not born without it. But the major Churches and states quite succeeded in the replacement of sex by its defective resemblance. It is possible to laugh as much as one wants at sanctimony and secret debauch of the medieval clergy, but the constant reminding to people about the “sin of passionate sexuality” yielded its fruits.
But, may be, that is enough? Life cancelled unfounded prohibitions on sex a long time ago, and isn’t it time for the major Churches to cancel these prohibitions, too, and to cease the considering normal intimate life as sin?
As we have seen, there were prohibitions of sex neither in the Old nor in the New Testament. Moses and Christ and Apostle Paul wished people well and did not want to make callous robots of them.
We can not cease our conversation about righteousness without touching on the main Christian ceremony – Baptism, i.e. the “ablution” or “immersion”.
The ceremony of the ablution was practiced by a number of Judaic sects even before Christ, and John the Baptist made the ablution a preparation to the Messiah’s coming. We can only guess if John and Jesus were connected “organizationally”, but the fact that they were relatives (Luke 1:36) is a case for that.
After the crucifixion of Jesus, his disciples made the ablution-Baptism a solemn procedure of the admission of a human into the Christian Church. Soon after Christianity became the state religion, everyone, including new-born children, was to be baptized. We see the same situation today.
In the Niceno-Constantinople Creed, it is said: “We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins”.
In actual fact, these words are somewhat doubtful from the point of view of the major Churches. They baptize the majority of people in early childhood and purify only of “original sin”, and that sin, in principle, was forgiven to each of us by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
But we can understand where in the Niceno-Constantinople Creed this formula is from – in early Christian times, people were usually baptized in a “conscious” age, and no serious meaning was given to “original sin”.
As usually, for two thousand years in all Churches and sects there was a number of discussions whether to baptize in the name of God or of “God the Son” or of the Holy Spirit or all the “hypostases of the Trinity”, whether to pour with water or to immerse into water, to do it once or thrice, in “white clothes” or without clothes...
In our time, we can consider Baptism as the symbolic ablution of sins or as the solemn procedure of the admission into the Christian Church. Of course, this procedure in “thoughtless” age is more than doubtful, but let us not raise the colossal layer of theological disputes.
In each case, the ceremony of Baptism is firstly symbolical, so as all “sacraments”. I personally have nothing against symbols and estimate them – it is a part of the spiritual system of the humanity. Of course, there is the Christian cross and there is the Fascist swastika, but it is not worth to break a lance over symbolical ceremonies in this book.
There is one more important question, which concerns the baptizing of Jesus of Nazareth.
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him” (Matt. 3:13-15).
So the question is the following: why did Jesus insist on his baptizing, moreover, accentuated the necessity to “fulfill all righteousness”?
The dogmatists of the major Churches, who are usually inclined to look for symbolic sense in every trifle, in this case betray to their principle and answer that for Jesus – for “God the Son” – it was doubtless unnecessary to be baptized, but he wanted to set an example for people.
In principle, I am not against such pragmatic simplifications, but in this case it is absolutely unjustified, because there was no sense in that example – John had already baptized masses of people (Matt. 3:5). On the contrary, the “equalizing” of Christ-Messiah and other people could cause undesirable rumors at that time.
That is why there may be the only answer to that question. Since the Christian Church had not yet existed and Baptism had exclusively the form of ablution of sins, Christ, beginning his preaching at the age of 30 (Luke 3:23), considered the ablution of his sins to be necessary.
Thus, Jesus of Nazareth was not without sins, so as all people. And since that is so, the dogma of his “immaculate conception” turns out to be unnecessary and becomes a symbolical fulfillment of the Old Testament’s prophecy: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emman’u-el, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt. 1:22).
After that, we can only repeat the said in previous chapters: Jesus Christ is the same human as we are.
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 “Sodom people”. And if we do not bring the practical expression of the moral imperative to a form, which is available to all, there will be no way out of this situation.
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, Pskov or Troitse-Sergiev – elaborated their practical methods, including Hesychastic ones. But those methods remained local. A few people know that Hesychasm was practiced by Sergius of Radonezh, Nilus of Sor, Seraphim of Sarov, Paul Florensky and Alexander Men – the Orthodox Church keep silence about that to avoid the “confusion” of believers. It is showy that among many thousands of “white” priests there are few ones who are “blessed” for Hesychasm.
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.
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 whole of Israel and contiguous regions. He was in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 15:21-28), and in Magdala (Matt. 15:39), and in Nain (Luke 7:11), and in Decapolis (Mark 7:31), and in Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27), and in Samaria (John 4:4), and on the eastern bank of Jordan (Matt. 8:28; Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26). We do not mention his native Galilea and Jerusalem.
A great organizational work! In some editions of the Bible, even the maps of Jesus’ travels by Israel and contiguous countries are printed.
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 temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves” (Matt. 21:12), and no merchant dared to resist him at that?
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 Rome and, undoubtedly, the prefect listened to their opinion.
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 Germany (England, Russia etc.), “The country damned by God” and so on.
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 Eden with the same aim (Gen. 2:15), thus the tilling of the Earth (labour, activity – we can call it in any way) is in no circumstances the punishment for sins, but the natural predestination of a human.
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 Eden (Gen. 2:15). Then he was driven out of there to till the ground (Gen. 3:23). What will he do, having deserved the returning to Eden? It is the most probable that he will go on tilling it.
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 Ecumenical (Constantinople) Council of 680.
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 (Rom. 5:9) are not an empty phrase only because of that.
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 Bethlehem – and what, we would not have had Jesus Christ then?
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.
For the beginning, let us describe once more the circle of our views on the role of God in our world.
Let me remind: the moral considerations dictate the necessity of the accepting of God as the source of world harmony, expedience and, finally, of that what we called the moral imperative. The acceptance of the objectivity of the existence of God is as necessary as the acceptance of the objectivity of the existence of the material world.
Thus, together with the faith of the material world we have the faith of God – the creator of the Universe, the organizer of harmony and expediency in the world, the source of the moral imperative.
All kinds of teachings, which say that matter itself is the source of all this, are unacceptable for us. And by no ideological considerations, but because “not created, eternal and endless” matter in actual fact plays the role of God, and all evil in the world turns out to originate of characteristics of matter itself. In other words, of God. And this contradicts to our wish for the solving of the problem of the Theodicy.
Pantheism (every element of the world contains God) is unacceptable for us by the same reasons. And, in general, Pantheism is a concealed part of Materialism: God and matter turn out to be quite identical.
Deism (God created the world and left it to the mercy of fate) is absolutely incompatible with Christianity. Again, by no ideological or dogmatic considerations.
Firstly, “Deistic” God is impersonal and infinitely far.
Secondly, Deism means the absence of God in our world, and that brings all our conclusions about “the life of the world to come” to naught. Really, may the moral imperative extend to God himself, if God is actually absent in the world? Of course, it is possible to say that when God created the world, he “programmed” that in some billions years, people will “think out” the moral imperative and consequently obtain “the life of the world to come”, but that is only a guess, which contradicts to our well-founded initial positions.
Thirdly, the consideration, that God in some time after the creation of the world gave people the moral imperative, is for us the confirmation of the fact that God, having created the world, did not leave it to the mercy of fate.
By these three reasons, Deism is also unacceptable for us.
Theism remains. It affirms that God is constantly present in our world and has an influence on everything that takes place.
But how can we tie up the presence of God in the world with evil, which takes place everywhere on the Earth?
The freedom of will of people answers this question – the question of the Theodicy – only partially, in the sphere, which is limited by social relations. But a number of situations, which we named “natural” evil, remain.
Firstly, those are insuperable forces of nature (earthquakes, tornadoes, floods etc.).
Secondly, socially unconditioned internal diseases (cancer, genetic mutations, congenital heart diseases etc.).
Thirdly, many harmful or even deathful accidents (to get frozen, to get burned, to stumble and fall, to get lost etc.).
In short, we are speaking about those disasters, which are traditionally considered as coming from God. And people, who face them, almost inevitably ask the question: for what do I (my wife, my husband, my mother, my father, me friend) have all this?
The theologians of the major Churches answer briefly: for sins.
For justice let us remember that the major Churches acknowledge free will of people. But, unfortunately, only declaratively and, so to say, of necessity – really, without this acknowledgement it would have been impossible to solve the problem of the Theodicy even in the sphere of “social” evil, even for appearance.
Moreover, our freedom is considered by these theologians as the “falling away” from God, and a human is ranked with the devil, “the fallen angel”, by that. It is violently and incorrectly, but the appearance of the solution of the contradiction between the “Divine Providence” and the freedom of will is made by that. And this leads to the appearance of the solution of the problem of the Theodicy also in the sphere of “social” evil.
The theologians of the major Churches say that God provided that world as harmonious, and a human as righteous. But firstly, one of angels – the devil – “fell away” from God, and then Adam and Eve, having listened to the serpent-devil, committed the “original sin”, which “infected” the mankind. Consequently, a human has a chance to return to God, and while it has not happened, all disasters are sent to him for his sins. For his own and his ancestor’s ones.
May be, it is possible even to try to “modernize” this point of view and to think in the following direction: the teaching about “the fallen angel” correlates with our understanding of “social” evil, i.e. not only the devil but society as a whole “fell away” from God. And since “social” evil is capable to self-reproduce in next generations (relations in a family, education, influence of surrounding people etc.), it may seem that our approach does not differ seriously from the approach of the major Churches.
But in actual fact, the latter approach causes a number of contradictions, which are soluble neither within the limits of the dogmatics, nor out of that limits.
The first. If the world is provided by God as harmonious, then why did God let the “falling” of the devil and of Adam? Speaking in our terms: why did the nature of society make it the source of evil?
The second. God, sending the punishments for sins in the form of tornadoes and cancerous growths, turns out to be not good, but evil. The principle of the Old Testament “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is fulfilled in this case. And we showed that Christianity does not follow this principle.
The third. God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). And not only the rain. Unfortunately, also the tornado.
Let us say directly and frankly: in the limits of classical Theism (God is not only present in the world all the time but has a constant influence on all events in it), the problem of the Theodicy concerning “natural” evil is insoluble both in theory and in practice.
That is why we shall try neither to “tune” nor to “modernize” this part of theology of the major Churches, it will be the loss of time. Any attempt to consider earthquakes and cancerous growths as proceeding directly from God makes him the enemy of the humanity and the culprit of the death of thousands of people. And far not each of them deserves such fate.
And any casuistry like “God hurried to call righteous people” is powerless here. Sometimes it happens that because of the crash of a submarine tens of boys of twenty, who are culprits of nothing, choke for many days on the bottom in waterproof compartments, and God does not “hurry to call” them, in spite of the absence of any hope for rescue.
And the torturous death of cancer does not need comments at all.
I sharpen the problem of “social” evil knowingly. The point is that each of us lost his relatives and friends not once, each of us every day learns from the papers and TV about many terrible catastrophes, and each of us, at least once in his life, thought: why does God, at the minimum, allow all this and, at the maximum, send all this? May be, he brings people no good, but evil? But why then do we need righteousness, good and everything else that we are taught by Christianity? The Church says that each of us will meet his deserts in the heaven or in the hell?
But it is impossible to frighten a contemporary human by hell, and he comes to the negation of moral values with great likelihood. With all following consequences.
Speaking in our habitual terms: if great number of sufferings of guiltless people proceed from God together with the moral imperative, it turns out that God causes not only good, but also evil. In this case, the idea of the moral imperative is to be disavowed, because “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12:25).
The situation is extremely complicated and, as we have said, insoluble in the limits of classical Theism.
So we have to turn to “the sources of sources” – to the origin of the world and of the civilization – and try to understand, why God created the world in just this way and what role he plays in it.