Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why God Allows Wicked Bishops

"This coming Saturday, with God's permission, the thirteenth of November, is the feast of St. John Chrysostom .

He was a good shepherd who was sent by the Good Shepherd. The Lord God provides us with special shepherds so that we may be comforted and strengthened, and so that we may learn. But not always. However, the true shepherd here in any case remains the Lord Jesus Christ. The one who said he will be with us every day until the end of the ages, He is the same one who is and was and will remain the Shepherd of His flock. Regardless of the identities of the shepherds who guide the flock of Christ, Jesus remains personally the eternal Shepherd who cares for all His flock individually, both through His shepherds and apart from them. There are shepherds from above who when they watch us, we see the Good Shepherd who is above and here at once. There are also shepherds who are not from above and are not headed upwards, who are chosen by people's passions and behave according to their own passions. Those also guide Christ's flock in His name by His permission, even if they are closer to being hired servants or wolves than shepherds. They obstruct the work of Jesus for a time, but they are unable to derail it. Whatever bad things they do against the work of God, the Good Shepherd will cause them to be for the good of those who seek the face of their Lord, whatever it may be, through ways that we know and through other ways that we do not know. But the question remains: why does the Lord God permit people such as these to govern his sheep and his flock?! Here is precisely where is hidden the mystery of evil harnessed in the service of the mystery of salvation."

From Fr. Touma's "The Mystery of Sin in the Mystery of Salvation." translated by Samn! Read the whole article here.

A very timely and timeless message, for indeed evil remains with us for a time; for now it remains a mystery of sorts attempting to pull all of creation towards its non-being. Christ makes it clear in the parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matt 13:24-30; 36-43) that for now evil is among us, even side by side His elect, until the very end of time. St. Paul reminds us of one possible reason for this: "there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you" (1 Corinthians 11:19). We see here a process at work, a process of manifestation and of revelation. St. John the Theologian explains, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us." (1 John 2:19). This is not at all easy and not at all clear nor always self-evident to us; however, we do know it is - or rather it can be if we so choose - for our salvation, the Mystery of Salvation, thanks be to our Good Shepherd who Himself visited and has plundered Hades for our sakes.


Anonymous said...

It flummoxes me how anyone can be content with a theology that allows for the idea that there are those who are "chosen" while the remainder will burn in Hell.

As for the topic at hand, how can there be any "Good Shepherds" who are in fact human beings? By the Christian viewpoint, Humans are innately bad and need to be "saved" after which time they are more or less better people but still essentially defective.

The entire concept of a good leader cannot work in such a theology unless one grades on a curve.

Apophatically Speaking said...

You rightly put your finger on some very problematic but important issues. Very perceptive.

The Orthodox perspective is a needed (but alas for the most part overlooked and misunderstood) corrective to these and other distortions found in much of the western Christian tradition.

Apart from the issue of what constitutes hell, the larger question is that of free will. Any qualification of human free will puts one on the slippery slope of determinism.

The second issue you raise relates to the question of the nature of salvation as well as to the nature of grace. A preoccupation with substitutionary atonement has led to an impoverished understanding of salvation. This often then leads to an empty moralism or else relegates any hope for true change to the eschaton. What has been lost in the west is the ancient Christian understanding of salvation: Christ accomplished and made possible our salvation in His person. It is believed the one divine Person, Christ, assumed our human nature and the two natures were joined perfectly in Him, unmingled and without confusion.

And so it is that grace is understood as a true participation of divinity with humanity (and vice versa), the Uncreated with the created. But such participation is not possible if our will is not truly free - these issues are closely related.

Anonymous said...

Good article. The question of why God allows bad Bishops is like asking why God allows children to get cancer. God has nothing to do with it. If a Bishop chooses to fall away he is exercising his free-will. Any of us at anytime can fall away if we so choose.

In this fallen world death, disease, injustice exist. We must not blame any of that on God.


Apophatically Speaking said...

Hi Peter,

Yes it is definitely not God's choice or plan, and indeed we should not blame God for these evils, but the difficulty is in understanding why He allows evil nonetheless. Ultimately I believe the answer lies in our being created in His image, the true freedom with which we have been endowed.

It is a mysterious paradox, God's and our free will. Neither should reduced or resolved.

Lvka said...

Sea of Sin

...and you're swimming in it! ;)

(Sorry, couldn't help...) :p

Apophatically Speaking said...

Lvka, you are a funny guy even though you are a foreigner. But I won't hold that against you! Just Kidding!!