Not a Formula, but a Path: An Answer to Yesterday's Question
It has been noted by some of my non-commenting evangelical reader friends that I seem to depend too much on a "formula" both in ecclesiastical and more general spiritual practices. In harsher words, they think that Orthodoxy is just a set of rules, rituals, dead works, and "agitprop."
This is a hard charge to defend against. It is also a common one. Perhaps therein lies the difficulty during dialogue. The most difficult part is trying to explain that, right off the bat, the accusation itself betrays how different the Orthodox way of life and Orthodox weltanschauung is compared to the typical western Christian perspective.
"All Protestants are Crypto-Papists," wrote the Russian Orthodox theologian, Alexis Khomiakov. For the western Christian there are two paradigms: A+ and A-...in other words, most things come down to one of two polar opposite positions, which share a common set of presuppositions, histories, and outcomes. The "Either/Or" principle, rather than the "Both/And" or "None of the Above" principles of Orthodoxy....
Here a few examples:
Papal Infallibility vs. Sola Scriptura
"Self-Mortification" style of asceticism vs. no asceticism
Law vs. Grace
Liturgy vs. Spontaneity
Works vs. Faith
Modernism vs. Postmodernism
When I talk about things like needing to have liturgy, or a rule of prayer , or a rule of fasting, or adherence to Tradition, most postmodern evangelicals view those statements through the lens of A+, A-. Whether it is "Romaphobia" or just plain American individualism, the idea that Christianity is not something one gets to invent as they go along, strikes many as dependence on "formulas." They sadly think we are stuck in a modernistic system of rules, regulations, etc....
Of course, in many respects the opposite is true: My uncle recently remarked that Protestants are (and he used this word intentionally) *condemned* to create their own theologies, liturgies, and spiritual practices. For each new generation of Protestants this is becoming more and more true. As hard as it is to believe for some, there is nothing *less* free than being unconnected to the Holy Tradition of the Church.
(See my post on 11/29/02 entitled "Freedom Within Structure: Becoming Communal Selves" for more on this particular issue).
The quote I posted yesterday highlights this point in a striking manner. When I said "think outside the box" what I meant was this: the quote did not come from a Christian! In fact, it did not come from any particular religious publication at all. The quote was part of the instructions for a new medication I am trying! In other words, the same kind of adherence to a tried and true path, the same kind of admonition not to do things one's own way, the same kind of anti-positivist advice was given, not by an Orthodox, and not even by another Christian, but from the medical community!
Here is my question: Why is it that when we read statements (like yesterday's quote) from the Orthodox we immediate put up defensive justifications, but when we read the same philosophical and practical advice from doctors, suddenly it makes perfect sense! Nobody would think they could make up their own medications, decide the dosage levels, operate on themselves and think that was good medicine. If the Church is the Hospital of the Soul (as the saints have born witness throughout the centuries), wouldn't it make sense that 2000 years of God-inspired "medicine" would have corresponding "methods," "rules," and "guidelines?"
And of course, nobody would say that the methods in and of themselves are the things that primarily "save" you....(Although, in certain sense they do: see my post on 2/18/03 for more on this) but the methods and guidelines are part of an *organic* and *holistic* healing experience.
It is not just the medicine that saves, but the way in which you take the medicine.
It is not just the surgery that repairs you, but the method of the surgery.
It is not just by eating good food that one is made healthy, but the portions and discipline of the eating itself.
It is not only exercise that strengthens the body, but the careful and methodical life of training.
The beauty of Orthodoxy is that the life of the Church is, both individually tailored for each yet maintains a strict adherence to the general principles and methods that have *proven* to heal the whole human person. Everyone fasts, but to different degrees. Everyone prays, but each has their own rule. Everyone comes to confession, but it is their own unique sins and sinfulness that they come to be absolved from. Everyone participates in the common liturgy of the Church, yet each experiences it personally...Etc...
The beaten path of Holy Tradition....it's a beautiful gift.
"Through marketing techniques and general philosophies, we have been taught or conditioned to believe that .... we should feel the difference in a short amount of time--and if not, we draw the conclusion: "that didn't work" or "that doesn't work for me.
Thousands have taken the path successfully. Do not attempt to cut a new and different path thought the woods. Follow the beaten path. Its direction will guide you around the pitfalls and obstacles."
I'll let you know the author tomorrow, as well as some musings in regards to this piece and why I found it interesting, considering the context within which it was written....maybe I'll even award a prize to anyone other than my wife or my cousin who can figure it out!
Paradoxically, more exhausted and more rejuvenated than ever! Holy Week was amazing, as it is every year. This year, the wife and I attended every single service. I can't tell you what a difference that makes! There is a flow, a continuity, a tearing down and simultaneously rebuilding of the soul and body that happens during Holy Week that is beyond words to fully describe.
*Today* Christ is crucified...
*Today* Christ is mocked....
*Today* Christ dies....
*Today* Christ is Risen!
Every year I marvel at the sheer wisdom and insight the Church has in its liturgical services, and the timelessness of them. Within each service, within each sacramental act, the wholeness of Orthodoxy shines forth....and nothing allows us to participate in that better than Holy Week.
I chanted the Paschal Gospel (John 1:1-17) in Latin during the midnight service on Sunday morning....this was my second year of doing that and it makes me nervous every time....There is something about chanting the Holy Gospel in the Church that makes me tremble...before God, the angels, the saints, and the congregation, I am lending my voice to the ever-resounding cries of the Cherubim and Seraphim....
Father John Schoredel, a former parishioner and now Orthodox priest, was here for almost all of Holy Week helping Fr. George with services. It was great to chat with him again....
My 22 year old sister-in-law was Chrismated on Holy Saturday at St. John the Baptist, culminating a 7+ year journey to Orthodoxy for my wife's family. That was a true joy to witness! Now all of my immediate in-laws are Orthodox, which is an amazing thing. As my mother-in-law said to me later on Sunday, "If someone 10 years ago would have told me that all 6 of us would have been Orthodox, I would have laughed in their face!"
We had one scary moment at the 5am Sunday banquet: One of our older widows collapsed and the paramedics had to be called. She was ok, just fainted. Due to medication she takes she should never drink alcohol and we think she had a few sips. She is in our prayers...
My 26 year old cousin moved in with us last week also, which has been very nice. I now have someone to play chess with on a regular basis (my wife, for the most part, refuses to play chess with me anymore...I'm too mean, and all!) With Holy Week obligations we haven't had much of an opportunity to really get him moved in properly yet. When we were home last week we were all too tired to really do much of anything except sleep!
He brought his DSL connection with him which is very dangerous, for now I have nothing to stop me from being online at all times of the night.....The three of us will need to have some accountability measures instituted I think! :) But that is the whole point of community. More about community soon....
I have much to post about later this week in regards to women's ordination, free will, "the cult of the nice", an interesting analogy in regards to eccesiology, thoughts on Scripture, and more....stay tuned....
"Several philosophers once visited one of the holy elders, and after he had offered a prayer he remained silent, praying, and paying no attention to them. They besought him, saying, "Say something to us, father," but he held his peace. They said to him, "This is what we came for, to hear you say something and to benefit from it." The old man said to them, "You spend your money to learn how to speak. I left the world to learn how to keep silent." They were filled with amazement on hearing this and went their way edified."
Fr. Thomas Hopko once told a seminary class "if you can't ever keep silent, then you should never speak--for you will never have anything to say."
Theophilus of holy memory, bishop of Alexandria, journeyed to Scetis and the brethren coming together said to abba Pambo, "Say a word or two to the bishop, that his soul may be edified in this place." The old man replied, "If he is not edified by my silence, there is no hope that he will be edified by my words."
With Holy Week fast approaching, I have decided to take a short break from blogging. I will not be posting new entries from (western) Good Friday 4/18 through Bright Monday 4/28.
I will be back on Tuesday 4/29 in regular posting mode. There are several issues I have in the wings that I wish to bring up for discussion and I am sure that the events of Holy Week will give me much to write about as well.
I will leave myself the small loophole that if something monumental comes up or if there is something that can't wait, I'll put it up on the blog. I also will continue to follow the 50 or so blogs I read on a daily basis. (Hey, not posting on mine for 11 days is hard enough of an askesis at this point!)
May all of my Catholic and Protestant readers have a blessed Good Friday tomorrow and Easter Sunday. For my Orthodox friends and readers, may you have a fruitful and glorious Holy Week and Pascha!
This quote sums up the purpose of the Lenten struggle well. It is from St. Gregory Palamas, 14th century bishop of Thessalonica and defender of the hesychiast method of prayer:
"When through self-control we have purified our body, and when through divine love we have made our incensive power and our desire incentives for virtue, and when we offer to God our intellect cleansed by prayer, then we
will possess and see within ourselves the grace promised to the pure in heart (cf. Matt. 5:8)."
St Gregory's statement here is not just a reminder about piety when we think about God, though it is certainly that. Rather it's the tip of a massive iceberg! "Holy Tradition" is a shorthand phrase that represents all the spiritual prerequisites and resources the Church gives us if we are going to enter fully into the life of the Triune God.
Maybe an even better image is that of an epistemological Cartesian demon haunting us. What a good solid purgative (and certainly not to forget illuminative) dose of Eastern Orthodox theology can do for us is, not to answer the questions which that demon attacks us with, but to *exorcise* that demon.
A friend of mine was telling his Protestant pastor about Orthodox theology and the pastor's somewhat flippant reply was, "Well, it sounds like they have a question for every answer!"
So true!...Yet, paradoxically, the Church also provides us the tools to then find the "answers," not in the pursuit of intellectual knowledge nor emotional "experiences," but in the mystery of God himself as He is found in the rigors, trials, and true joys of the spiritual life.
Back on January 10th, I wrote a small blurb about the postmodern movement's influence on the Evangelical church here in the US and how Orthodoxy has many of the answers they are looking for.
An article I linked to talked about the new slogan, E.P.I.C being used to describe the "pomo" worship paradigm-- Experiential, Participitory, Images, and Community.
My wife recently had a discussion about this EPIC phenomenon over email with a evangelical friend of hers and here is his response. At some point, I will return to what he says in his last sentence. It is an issue that is dear to my heart....More to come later....
"One of the greatest gaps in the established evangelical church is that between
head knowledge and actual experience. Younger Christians are much more demanding when it comes to 'experiencing' their relationship with the Lord. The church is very good at pumping people's head full of theology and doctrine, rules and programs, but atrocious at leading people to a place where they not only know intellectually about the spiritual world, but experience it and live in it as we were created to do. The already
vast and growing number of young students who are dabbling into occult proves that they have a hunger for spiritual authority and experience, and that since they are not finding it at church...because it is not experienced, only taught......they are looking elsewhere.
This same concept would apply to the participatory factor as well, they want to experience, they want to participate...to be involved. As our culture becomes more and more media centered, the younger generations tend to be attracted to visual, audio presentation of religious metaphor. The message needs not change, just the metaphors for allowing people to connect with the truth behind it.
You wouldn't expect to have a person who speaks another language than you to understand, or be interested in what you were saying if he could not understand you would you? It is the responsibility of the church to learn the "language" of new generations....we cannot say "they must learn our religious evangelical talk before we can communicate truth to them". Just as missionaries learn how to adjust culturally, so must the church..
The church is starved of community. "Christian community" is almost an oxymoron. We are in the most individualistic culture in the world, and that reflects in the values of our churches. Christians rated the importance of having a prestigious job and a big home as more important to happiness than did non-christians polled. Our church lives in fear of
exposing the pain and mess that everyone is really in, but never allowed to show. Divorce, depression, pornography are some of the issues that are rampant in church, but seldom addressed, and have yet to be addressed effectively en mass. The church struggles to deal with the causes for these and you rarely ever see the effects of them on Sunday morning....just smiling happy people."
Sometimes we Orthodox bloggers spend a little bit too much time pointing out the theological deficiencies of our fellow western Christians. Ok, sometimes *I* spend a little too much time.....*wink*
So, to be fair, I�ve come up with a list of a few things I have noticed we Orthodox could improve upon that western Christian groups seem to do a better job of. These are, of course, gross generalities--there are many counter examples on both sides.
This list is also just in regards to the North American scene:
1. Tithing (at least true sacrificial giving). Thankfully, this is slowly changing for the better.
2. A balanced notion of headship of the father in the family. From what I've noticed, this is very evident in traditional reformed confessions yet harder find among the Orthodox, especially in families where only one spouse is Orthodox.
3. The fervent reading of the Scriptures and their study in the life of the faithful. Obviously, this is truly an Orthodox practice as evidenced by the lives of the saints, but sadly not taught very well in many Orthodox parishes. There are many western Christians who read the Bible far more than most Orthodox. However, this almost universally does not apply to former Protestant converts to Orthodoxy.
4. Serving our pastors. I've found many Orthodox priests are poorly served by their congregations, both financially and, more importantly IMHO, emotionally and spiritually. In many respects, they have a much harder job than your typical evangelical pastor. Which makes this even more problematic and scandelous for the Orthodox. Our spiritual fathers deserve better.
5. Preaching. Very Orthodox, underdeveloped and underemployed in our
day. Where are today's John Chrysostom's?
6. A zeal for missions and evangelism. Hands down, this one they have us beat. Now, there are many complicated historical, geo-political reasons for why the Orthodox have not been very good about this. It has nothing to do with our theology of missions. I�ll sum up the problem in two words: Islam and Communism.
There are many other things one could add to the list of course�feel free to add your observations in the comments.
In many respects this is why I care so much about the continuing discussion between Orthodox and other Christian groups. The non-Orthodox Christian has a lot to offer the Orthodox Church today. And what they bring to the table will be perfected and fulfilled in Orthodoxy. I�ve always found it providential that the one thing my former evangelical background gave me was a zeal for spreading the gospel. It is interesting that so many evangelicals are coming to Orthodoxy at a time when the Islamic and Communist yokes have been lifted from so many Orthodox areas and world wide missions and rebuilding of Orthodox churches and monastaries is now possible.
Bottom line: I'd rather spend time with a Protestant or Catholic who is re-evaluating his roots, than an Orthodox who is busy forgetting his.
Incarnational Theology, Flannery O'Conner, and Cartesian Dualism
I've been turning over in my head lately notions about dualism, especially Cartesian Dualism and its subsequent philosophic downfall after the rise of phrenology and eventually the modern explanations of human thought in terms of locality of function (i.e. that different parts of the brain handle different parts of thought).
Now, I reject Cartesian Dualism, not just because it's been shown to be lacking in terms of theoretical explanatory power, but because I reject the underlying principles on which it is based.
While I was looking into Orthodoxy, it seemed that much Protestant theology seems to be predicated (to varying degrees) on the underlying assumptions behind Cartesian Dualism. In fact, it many ways, it seems to be dualistic at its core. The dualism of most of Protestantism is evidenced, among other things, by its iconoclasm, low or absent sacramentality, and a nearly complete absence of ascetic discipline. It struck me as quite Gnostic in its dismissal of the physical aspect of man, and more importantly, of the Incarnation. (Now, Jeff and my other Anglican/Catholic readers, before you start to comment...wait a minute!)
Now, I know that not all sectors of Protestantism are this way, but from my own experience in the Quaker and Foursquare churches, there were no sacraments, no ascesis, no iconography -- the only attention paid the body was in a moralistic "you shouldn't do THIS with your body" sense. The Incarnation, in the evangelical thought I was exposed to, was only important in so far as it provided a way for Jesus to "pay the penalty for our sins." In other words, Incarnational theology was totally subservient to a gross from of penal-substitutionary atonement soteriology. Feasts such as the Transfiguration and the Ascension meant next to nothing in the evangelical context.
The Anglican and Catholic teachings and practices do not substantiate this argument in quite the same ways. In fact, it was my experience in the Anglican Liturgy, the reading of the BCP, and my contact with a local Catholic monastery that helped me tremendously in my journey to Orthodoxy.
But I still wondered why is it that such anti-materialism is rampant in the evangelical Protestant doctrinal ethos? Why is it that the body of man and the Body of Christ are separated?
It has been said before, but one could say that all heresies are ultimately heresies against the Incarnation -- the final scandal of God's communion with man. This, I believe, is why so many Protestants are scandalized by icons, sacrament, veneration of the Theotokos and the other saints, and ascetical discipline. All these things are essential witnesses to the Incarnation and are the means by which we participate in its life-giving reality, the means by which we become, as St. Peter says, "partakers of the divine nature." How do we, people who are a union of body and soul, partake of the divine nature if we do not do it with both body and soul?
This disembodied approach to communion with Christ is similar to a return to the old religions of the pagan world -- a fundamentally unreachable God Who is fundamentally so unlike us as to make Him untouchable. Recently, Fr. Daniel Byantoro, a convert to Orthodoxy from Islam, came to speak at a Lenten retreat here in Portland. Fr. Daniel made the point that much of contemporary evangelical Protestantism has more in common with Islam than with historic orthodoxy christianity by virtue of the fact that they are lacking a holistic anthropology and soteriology of the body, as well as a shared heavy emphasis on "textualism" as opposed to "sacramentalism."
I am reminded of the Southern Baptist woman in the Flannery O'Connor story "Parker's Back." When Parker wants to show her the tattoo of the Byzantine Christ he has on his back, saying that the woman should see what God looks like, she replies, "God don't *look*." Well, I believe that God *does* "look"; He can also be touched. Thus, sacrament. Thus, icons. Thus, ascesis. Thus, veneration of the saints, etc�
Without that which the historic, undivided Church has given us, how do we *know* that the Incarnation has become real?
Mark Byron has ventured a stab into the discussion concerning Sola Scriptura, the Church and interpretation that I started on his blog. His comments can be found in his 4/7/03 post.
He makes several interesting remarks. Here is one:
"However, the Protestant in me insists on making the Bible the Constitution; we can only have doctrine that passes Biblical muster."
John D. Craton, in a marvelous essay entitled "A Journey of Fear and Joy" has this to say in regards to this issue: "There is today a great debate going on within our nation�s judicial system about how to interpret the Constitution of the United States. Some are claiming that the courts are reading into the Constitution many �rights� that the original architects of our country never intended or envisioned. Some are saying we are drifting far from the original intents of our Founding Fathers in many areas of our nation�s life.
A reasonable way to try to decide the answer to this contention would be to go back to the writings of those who drafted the Constitution, to look at their lives, and to examine the way the Constitution was understood by the first few generations of our national leaders who succeeded the Founders of our country. Instead of continuing to read the Constitution only through 21st-century eyeglasses that are colored by the thinking and conventions of our own age, we might reasonably suggest going back to see how the early American Fathers interpreted its meaning.
Is it not just as reasonable to take a similar approach in trying to understand the meaning of Scripture?"
Later on Mark writes, "Individuals tend to be more heterodox in their theologies than churches, who have a longer track record of hacking theology." That is true. Would that be an argument for those churches who have been around the longest, perhaps? The "oldest is the best" argument is a techincally a philosophical fallacy, but it still provides an interesting way of looking at this issue.
Mark concludes with this point: "When a church isn't guarding the truth, believers may have to walk away from it, but that should be a last resort when a church has become clearly heterodox."
This sure seems to be a question-beggar and here is why: How does one know when a particular church, practice, or teaching is "heterodox?" By what set of principles or guidelines does one reach this conclusion? Why those and not another? Who defines "heterodoxy"? How can an "invisible church" (as Mark puts it, "the collection of all believers") point me away from heterodoxy and towards orthodoxy?
John Craton writes later in his essay, "One of the cardinal precepts of most fundamentalist churches is �No creed but the Bible.� [This, of course, is a creed!] Christians are encouraged to accept the Bible and the Bible alone. But we have seen above that no one truly accepts the Bible alone.....We must always accept the Bible plus our understanding of it; we all have our own way of interpreting the Bible. As a result, we have groups as divergent as the Church of Christ, Jehovah�s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostals, ad infinitum, all who claim to accept nothing but the Bible. But in fact we all � every last one of us � accept the Bible plus our own understanding."
We can't escape having our own biases come into our interpretation when we read Scripture. So the question becomes, not how do I get rid of my biases, but what context can I place them so as to make sure I am not being led by them alone?
Craton answers this: "If we claim to accept the Bible alone, then we do not, in fact, accept all the Bible, because the Bible does not ask to be accepted alone and does in actuality affirm that the real source of all truth will be found in the Body of Christ on earth � His Church, �the pillar and foundation of the truth.� (1 Tim. 3:15). Here and here alone will we find the true interpretation of Scripture, when we find the One to whom Christ�s Spirit has been given � the One Holy Church."
So maybe the questions we should find ourselves moving toward are less about why we should need the Church, but *where* can this church be found?
Over at Mark Byron's blog, I've found myself in a frustrating but intriguing discussion regarding the Bible, the Church and interpretation. Mark had posted some of his reflections on 1 Peter 1:14-16 focusing his attention on the last part of verse 16: "you shall be holy, for I am holy."
His posted ended with the resolution that "we're all going to screw up on an hourly basis, but our goal is to strive to be holy."
Someone then commented on that, saying, "What I find difficult about the Bible is that it tells you to do all kinds of things like this but it doesn't tell you how nor even exactly what it means."
Now, for me, this sentiment is *exactly* the problem I had when I was a Protestant. There was so much of the Bible that was either never talked about, or else nobody had any idea *how* to actually practice what it said to do. Not that we should be looking for "spiritual techniques" or a quick and easy way to circumvent the process of theosis, but I at least wanted a blueprint, a way of life that had existed since the Bible had been written. And I wanted to see examples of what it meant to be a Christian that actually produced real repentance, humility, miracles, and love for God and the whole cosmos.
The common answer to this problem is one I keep hearing (and it was posted by someone in the comments section as well). It was the "if you just read your Bible on your own and pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance, everything will work itself out" answer.
I have many problems with this answer, and I've posted about them before, but the foundational issue was summed up nicely by someone during a discussion at the Evangelical-Orthodox Group. This person said, "If someone expresses an interest in the Christian faith, the answer is invariably "read the Bible". Which, in my humble opinion, is like trying to teach people to sing by giving them a sheet of music."
I love that!
Analogy: If you want to learn out to play music well, you've got to join the orchestra. (And the best orchestra at that). But very rarely can you just sit at home, with a bunch of notes and books and become a world class musician. It could happen. But it would be the exception, and a huge one at that. It would not be the rule to follow. To become the best musician possible, one would need intense dedication, ascetic labors (like forgoing other activities and practicing for hours a day), as well as deep mentoring by someone who has already achieved some level of musical success etc....
That recipe sounds like the Orthodox way of life to me! Common liturgy, ascetical labors, sacraments, spiritual discipleship....*AND*, of course, the Bible. But it is a package deal.
There is a editorial in the most recent issue of Touchstone written by Leon Podles that should fill the editor's mailboxes with a lot of mail. They've actually posted the article on the front page of the website (not in Mere Comments). Click HERE to read it in full.
Here is one of the more provacative quotes:
"A vote for a Democrat today is almost always a vote for abortion and a vote to violate the consciences of those of us who oppose abortion....[Democrats] have favored abortion at every stage and at every opportunity; they see no problem with forcing Christians to pay for abortion through taxes and compulsory insurance coverage; they will force Christian institutions to accept abortion; they will silence those who protest abortion."
Take a deep breath and then read this next quote.
"Is it a sin to vote Democratic? Usually yes, because a vote for a Democrat is a vote for a supporter of abortion or a vote that strengthens a party whose only sacred tenet is the right to unrestricted abortion."
After reading the article in full, what are your thoughts? (Also, for a good analysis of this issue with a broader perspective, check out Clifton's most recent entry).
"Whatever question is on your mind, someone smarter than you has already seen it clearer, thought about it longer, and expressed it better. Why reinvent the wheel? Also falling under this heading: There are no new heresies�only old ones in new clothes. And again, they've all been answered with more wisdom and erudition than we'll ever be able to muster."
A while back on the Evangelical-Orthodox discussion group, the following was posted by one of the Orthodox participants. I thought it was an interesting set of thoughts on the Law of the OT. In many ways, the way the OT is understood, especially the Law itself, is very differently from the Orthodox POV as compared with the run of the mill American evangelical.
"It's that relationship, walking and talking together in the cool of the
evening, that was lost in Eden, when our First Parents not only
disobeyed, but then hid from God; not only failed to repent, but sought
to cast the blame elsewhere, even upon God Himself: �The woman **You
gave me**, she gave me of the tree...�
After Eden, mankind began going downhill fast. Fewer and fewer people
were able to walk with God, to have personal, loving relationships with
Him. And even those relationships were always flawed. Even our
physical lifespans were getting shorter and shorter. (After Noah, each
generation lived a couple of centuries less than he had.)
Enter the Law. I was thinking I�d say 3 or 4 things concerning it, but
unfortunately, when I listed them, they turned into 7. These are not conclusive in any sense, but here they are:
1.) The Law served as a curb or brake on sin and its lethal effects.
There were built in incentives to obey (promise of blessings) and
disincentives to disobey (curses). Man's downward spiral was slowed.
2.) The Law stepped in to fill the vacuum left by the broken personal
relationship (the restoration of which was the true goal, but that had
to wait until Mankind had been prepared). For those who no longer had
any bond at all to God, the Law served as a preliminary, temporary, and
provisional one. It gave a framework in which some relationship was
3.) The Law was an icon of true righteousness. While it is impossible
to codify every single facet of a personal relationship, nevertheless,
the Law gave a good overall image of what such a relationship would look
like. By following the Law, you could simulate true righteousness. In
this way, it tutored people.
4.) The Law could never provide true righteousness itself, only a
simulation thereof. Under the law, there were indeed some righteous,
like King David, but their righteousness, like Noah's or Abraham's, was
due to their loving faith in God, because they walked with Him. (In the
course of that love, they also tried hard to obey the Law, but that's
secondary to, and an effect of, their love and trust in Him.) The Law
was an icon of righteousness, but ineffectual in providing it. The
sacrifices were likewise icons, patterns and shadows of the real, which
was yet to come, but in themselves, ineffectual, unable to restore the
heart (Heb. 9:9) and so unable to please God (Heb. 10:1-10) As St. Paul
observes, it is not possible for the blood of goats and bulls to cure
sin (re-establish a walk with God). That blood wasn't magic. Rather,
the sacrifices were established so that when Christ came and died,
people would recognize what was happening: mercy was being shown to the
world. (Much more on this later.) In this sense, too, the Law was our
tutor to bring us to Christ.
5.) The Law convicts of sin (Rom. 3:19-20) In this sense again it is
our schoolmaster, pointing us to Christ, Who alone is capable of
6.) The Law is perfect (Psalm 19:7). Of course. God doesn't do
anything imperfectly! The Law being perfect, there can be no
improvements upon it. Improvements to our relationship with God were
certainly not only possible, but necessary. But improvements upon God's
already perfect Law were never possible. There can be no new and better
legal system. The Law of Moses takes a legal relationship with God as
far is it can go. That's as good as it gets. Its the last word--and
it's ineffectual. An improved relationship will have to be something
7.) The Law, though it stands forever as icon and tutor, comes to an end
as the basis of our relationship with God, that a different kind of
relationship may be inaugurated. (See all of Romans 7 and 8, but
especially 7:1-6) Christ, by His perfect obedience, fulfills the Law,
puts �Paid� to the account, closes the books on it, ushers in an
entirely New Covenant in which the relationship lost in Eden is
recovered. It was not the Law lost or broken in Eden! It was people.
It was their relationship with God. Now Man can once again walk with God
in innocence, righteousness, and immortality."