Catacomb Resident Blog

What Faith Means

27 February 2022

One of the most abominable flaws of Western Civilization is the legalistic punitive outlook. It's a thread in Roman traditions that happened to find an echo in the Germanic tribal traditions, so that what eventually became Western Civilization is still deeply stained by it. I'll give you a hint: It was also fundamental to the Talmudic outlook of Judaism. Not in the full flower that we see in the West, but this ugly thing sprouted in the legalism of rabbinical scholars who first embraced Hellenistic intellectual traditions.

So, the whole of Western Christian religion, both Catholic and Protestant, is shot through with punitive juridical assumptions. The fundamental question of salvation in the West is a matter of paying for your sins. Even though it's covered by the Blood on the Cross, this lingering false orientation of legalism is what makes Western Christianity so schizophrenic about sin. The frame of reference itself poisons genuine faith by adding false assumptions.

For the Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity, it's more about sickness than transgression of law. The Fall is viewed as a medical case, and salvation is a matter of healing. This is better, but still misses the point. And they get the necessity of the mystical union with God, but it's buried in the very dire need of orthodoxy -- conforming to the traditions of the church.

The problem is that neither East nor West is attuned to the Hebrew outlook, even as both claim to carry it forward. The Hebrew outlook on sin is that of a child disappointing the father. Both East and West will claim those words, but they do not understand it as the fundamental nature of human spiritual need. Both fail to understand the Ancient Near Eastern feudal nature of things, that the Father happens to be a feudal tribal nomad sheikh.

So the West throttles genuine faith under the depersonalizing setting of the court of law, while the East throttles genuine faith under the burden of institutional obedience. The West destroys the natural kinship of father and child. The East has this massive burden of institutionality.

The reason the New Testament uses the term "justification" so much is because of the massive influence of Rome on people's thinking. It's a term they would recognize, and hopefully they would move beyond that kind of thinking. How do you state a Hebrew concept in Greek to a Romanized audience? Lawyers ruin everything, and it's the heavy influence of men trained in law in Church History who messed up Western faith.

A primary flaw in the history of Eastern Orthodoxy is the drive to regulate and force uniformity over mysticism. Granted, mysticism by itself breeds chaos, but it didn't have to turn out like it did in Eastern Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is loaded with a sickening mass of Greek terminology that they already know nobody will ever understand. It almost seems as if they were plotting from the start to create an elitist hierarchy that would accept in its membership only those who could juggle the impossible vocabulary.

Don't get me wrong: I don't care where God calls you to serve Him. If you really need the structure of some organized church setting, then find the one that serves your needs best. Seek a setting that blesses you. I will affirm that the Orthodox folks are a lot quicker to understand the kind of commitment in faith that will carry you through Hell itself. What they don't seem to understand is the necessity of following your own convictions, and that reverence for icons and institutions is idolatry. If you feel you belong in a Western religious setting, there's not much I can do to help you.

I will continue to promote a radical individualized faith through listening to your own convictions. Until we tear ourselves away from the various human traditions, it is impossible to talk about a unity in faith itself. For me, the fatal flaw is the presumption that God sponsors civilization. He does not. The Old Testament Nation of Israel was not a civilization at all, and moving into a civilized setting touched off a long decline away from the faith of those who had nothing except their God. Once they had built homes, they need cities and walls. Once they had cities and walls, they needed a king with a massive government infrastructure. And so it went, as they slipped farther and farther from the ideal of someone who wasn't unduly wed to the things of this world.

Faith means a healthy distrust of the things of this world, and what man can do of himself. It means a radical reliance and trust in God.

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