Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On Necessity and Love

"Is it necessary?"

As a former Protestant in the process of converting to Orthodoxy who still has a circle of friends that are predominantly Protestant, this question comes up a lot especially with regard to the 'peculiars' of Orthodoxy that are foreign to the evangelical Protestant world. At catechism this past Sunday it seemed that my fellow catechumens often encounter this same sort of question regarding Orthodox doctrine and praxis.

The more generous and ecumenical-minded evangelical is prone to look on things like veneration of icons, high Mariology, and prayer to the Saints as possibly "OK", but as superfluous and perhaps detracting from the "more important stuff." And certainly not as "necessary". So why bother?

But is the question of "necessity" the right question to be asking? Do we serve a God of necessity? Is creation necessary? Is humanity necessary? Did He create because some force outside of himself was compelling Him to do so? Was a higher-up breathing down his neck, pressuring him to turn in His Creation science project on time?

By no means! The Triune God of love is self-sufficient and in need of nothing (Acts 17:24-25). The act of Creation is a gracious self-outpouring of God's love, through his Word, and in no way "necessary". As beings created in His image, our salvation lies in recovering this self-outpouring love within us, through the redemptive, restorative ministry of Jesus Christ and His life-giving Cross.

Not to mention that if we did serve a God of necessity, His first order of business would be to destroy me for my innumerable transgressions. Thank God for His unnecessary mercy.

A better set of questions might be whether something is profitable, honorable, praiseworthy, or good. Even on these grounds, most evangelical Protestants would still take issue with some of these elements of Orthodoxy, but at least they would be asking the right questions!

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