Nothing Created by God is Evil

maximus_the_confessorby St. Maximus the Confessor

Nothing created by God is evil. It is not food that is evil but gluttony, not the begetting of children but unchastity, not material things but avarice, not esteem but self-esteem. It is only the misuse of things that is evil, not the things themselves.

 

 

What is the Worst Sin in the Bible?

chalkboard by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

If you answer this question like most modern Christians, you’re probably wrong.

Because the Old Testament records the historical pedagogy by which God prepared His People for the arrival of the Savior, it is hardly surprising that it says a great deal about what human beings were to be saved from—that is, sin. The Hebrew Bible conveys quite a bit about God’s attitude toward sin. This was a necessary part of the divine tutelage revealed in Salvation History.

It may be a particular point of a modern reader’s discomfort with the Old Testament that it contains so much bloodshed, violence, and, even, genocide. Many sincere Christians, it appears, deplore that aspect of the Hebrew Bible. Alas, sometimes the resistance of Christians to the Old Testament borders on Marcionism. The books of Joshua and Judges come in for special criticism in this respect.

For this reason it is important to reflect that the God of history gradually revealed the truth to the human race. He did it in stages, according to man’s historically conditioned ability to receive the revelation. God began by teaching the basics—the grammar of the historical process. Chief among the elements of Old Testament pedagogy is the grammar of sin.

Among the first things mankind had to learn was God’s enmity toward sin and His inveterate disposition to show a harsh side of Himself when confronted with it. God, if He truly loved man, could not permit man to remain in doubt on the point. So He rained fire and brimstone on the Cities of the Plain because of their sins. He commanded Israel to slaughter the nations of Canaan in order to teach the human race about the seriousness of idolatry. If death entered into the world through sin, God was obliged, so to speak, to demonstrate, in unmistakable ways, that sin ends in destruction. He commanded this slaughter of the Canaanites for the same reason He destroyed the Egyptian firstborn and Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea: God is very angry at sin.

baal worshipThis truth is essential to the ABC’s of revelation. God hates evil. He hates it so much that He commands evil-doers to be destroyed. That is the lesson on many pages of Joshua and Judges, nor could Mankind afford to skip school on the days that lesson was taught.

One cannot understand the first thing about the mercy of God until he has come to grips with the anger of God. God’s yes makes no sense until we have heard God’s no. One should not imagine he understands the Gospel of John until he has understood the Book of Joshua.

Let me venture a word of caution here: I fear that these questioning Christians, those bothered by the books of Joshua and Judges, do not hate evil. They need to question themselves on the point. Perhaps they do not believe that sin leads to destruction/ Why else should they complain when, on some of the more gruesome pages of Holy Scripture, evil is punished?

The Israelites were not less intelligent than other ancient peoples, so it is no slur on them to observe that they appear to have been slow learners. The biblical prophets, along with the Psalmist, mention this fact from time to time, uniformly to deplore it. After what befell Sodom, after the way Egypt was plagued, after the manner in which God visited the sins of the Amorites and the transgressions of the Philistines, one might think, surely, that Israel would get the message. But no, even after the fall and deportation of the Samaritans, the children of Judah continued in their sins and abandoned the responsibilities of the Covenant. Finally, with immense reluctance, according to Jeremiah, God condemned them to exile in Babylon.

And we, have we yet taken to heart the biblical grammar of sin? Is it not a fact that the New Testament itself warns,

“it is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God”?

paganAnyway, it is distressing to hear Christians deplore the punishment allotted to the Canaanites but not deplore the idolatry of the Canaanites.

Do we really imagine genocide is more serious than idolatry?

This punishment of sin, of which God made ancient Israel the instrument, was essential to the historical process displayed in the Bible, and that punishment was appropriate to the time.

There is an ongoing historical and pedagogical process involved in Salvation History. At certain crucial times, ancient Israel was obliged to learn—for the benefit of all of us—some difficult but necessary lessons, lessons appropriate to their age and place in history. To lament that there is bloodshed, violence, and genocide in the Old Testament is something on the order of complaining that infants soil their diapers.

 

On the Evils of Technology

computing

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Many complain against technology. Many accuse modern technology for all the woes in the world.

Is technology really to blame, or those who create technology and use it?

Is a wooden cross to blame if somebody crucifies someone on it?

Is a hammer to blame if a neighbor breaks his neighbors skull?

Technology does not feel good or evil.

The same pipes can be used for drinking water or the sewer.

Evil does not come from unfeeling, dead technology, but from the dead hearts of people.

Source: From the Complete Works of Bishop Nikolai

 

PRIDE: The Source of All Evil

by Fr. George Morelli

There is no doubt that most readers have heard the aphorism:

money is the root of all evils.

This apothegm is actually a popularization of St. Paul’s instruction to St. Timothy (1Tim 6: 10):

“For the love of money is a root of all of evils. . . .”

Of course, there is much wisdom in this teaching. However, we must consider that there is a vice that precedes and nourishes this ‘root’ of money, and all the other vices as well.

St. Hesychios the Priest writes:

“. . . the crown of all these, pride.” (Philokalia I).

St. John Cassian (Philokalia I) suggests the reason. He says

“. . . it acts like some harsh tyrant who has gained control of a great city . . . . as a result regard[s] himself as equal to God.” Such people, says the prophet Isaiah (14: 14), say to themselves “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.”

There is agreement among world religions on the deleterious nature of pride. The Hindu scripture states: “Those who know truly are free from pride and deceit (Bhagavad-Gita 13:7).” In the Koran it is written (Surah 96: 6-8):

“Nay, but man doth transgress all bounds, In that he looketh upon himself as self-sufficient. Verily, to thy Lord is the return (of all).”

In the Buddhist tradition we read:

“Free from . . . overbearing pride, principled, trained, a ‘last-body’: he’s what I call a Brahmin [the elite]. (Dhammapada, 26).”

We must be careful not to confuse pride, a spiritual illness, with healthy self-esteem, a psychological strength. Spiritually, pride is self-aggrandizement, self-glory, self-worship, self-love and vanity (vainglory) at the expense of attributing our talents and successes to God. As King Solomon informs us:

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Prov 16: 18).”

As our Eastern Church Father St. Mark the Ascetic tells us:

“. . . it is because of them that wrath, anger, war, murder and all other evils have such power over mankind (Philokalia I).”

Psychologically, pride is akin to narcissism. The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, IV-TR of the American Psychiatric Association (2000) describes narcissistic self-esteem as

“a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. . . .”

On the other hand, as a psychological strength, developmental psychologists define self-esteem

“as being true to [the] real self (Cole and Cole 1996, The Development of Children).”

Psychologically, healthy self-esteem leaves room for God.

In terms of content, there in no inherent contradiction between the psychological definitions cited above and the spiritual reality. Narcissism – what the Church Fathers are really talking about – is clearly a lack of spiritual balance, and is thus a spiritual illness, “Healthy self-esteem” is reality-based as a simple acknowledgment of our strengths and weaknesses as humans. By understanding this we can place self-esteem in a divine perspective.

“Yet not I, but the grace of God which was in me (1 Cor.15:10).”

V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist, Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, (http://www.antiochian.org/counseling-ministries) and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion. Fr. George is Assistant Pastor of St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.

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Flee From Evil Like Fire

By St. John of Kronstadt

Our righteous father John of Kronstadt was an archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church. Born in 1829, from 1855, he served as a priest in St. Andrew’s cathedral in Kronstadt. Here, he greatly committed himself to charity, especially for those who were remote from the church, and traveled extensively throughout the Russian empire. He was already greatly venerated at the time he died. His feast days are commemorated on December 20 and October 19.

Fear evil like fire. Don’t let it touch your heart even if it seems just or righteous. No matter what the circumstances, don’t let it come into you. Evil is always evil. Sometimes evil presents itself as an endeavor to God’s glory, or as something with good intentions towards your neighbor. Even in these cases, don’t trust this feeling. It’s a wrong labor and is not filled with wisdom. Instead, work on chasing evil from yourself. Continue reading Flee From Evil Like Fire