I was re-reading Dave Andrews in Christi-anarchy today on the train and it was reminding me of one of understandings of God/Christ that are foundational to how I (try to) live life and do "the mission" in general. First one of the quotes that kick-started the thought:
...The English word "heresy" comes from the Greek word hairesis which means "choice"...
Hmmm. Yeah. I tend to be of the opinion that "heresy" is just a word the powerful like to use to abuse those who are of a different opinion but are lesser in number. I mean, to a great degree, "truth" in such affairs is democratic. I mean what would happen if orthodox Christianity was living out heresy? It wouldn't matter much would it. As long as you have the numbers or the money or the power in general, you are "orthodox"; it is pretty easy to ignore or condemn the protests of the few.
...Pelagius, an Irish monk of "high character" turned up in the city of Rome at the beginning of the fifth century, and took exception to the establishment over this issue of "choice". He asserted that the concept of "choice" was essential to any meaningful notion of virtue or liberty. And he argued that, if there was no place for choice, there was no place for virtue or liberty either. According to Pelagius, "to be able to do good is the vestibule of virtue, and to able to evil is the evidence of liberty".
Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, promptly denounced the ideas of the noble Pelagius as a danger to law and order. He declared that "free will" could very well undermine the foundation on which the Empire was built. He contended that the "use of force" was necessary "to compel" all those people , involved "in heresies and schisms," outside the fold of the "true" faith, "to come in". And he concluded, adding insult to injury, by saying, "let them [that are compelled] not find fault with being compelled!". Those who persisted in finding fault with "being compelled", like Pelagius, were excommunicated at Augustine's behest.
From the on all public debate on religious subjects was banned. And over 270,000 ancient documents, collected by Ptolemy Philadelphius, and 700,000 classical scrolls , kept in the Library of Alexandria as they were considered questionable, were burned (Christi-anarchy, p. 27).
I think freedom to choose is the absolute foundation of God's relationship with us humans, the beginning of the gospel. Love itself stands on a foundation of freedom - in creation we see God creating beings with a capacity to either embrace him, or reject him, which was the only way that true Love can exist. There can't be any coercion in love, or it just ain't love anymore. Any kind of force or manipulation that enters in to a relationship - whether human or divine - taints the purity of the unconditional and just basically free nature of what the God kind of love is.
And that same principle is the entire difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Paul talks about God giving the Law to show us just how un-workable trying to get to God in that direction is. God's ways apparently don't get written on our hearts when we are trying to obey a list of rules with the threat of punishment hanging over our heads. History (and my own personal experience) would say that that way only makes us dig in our heels and rebel, I guess because at the core of who we are, we hate to be forced to do something, because at the core of who we are, we were created to be free to choose.
But the law is, in so many ways, easier. It is easier to follow some rules and based on that think you are righteous rather than knowing that we have the responsibility to learn to be loving and compassionate, which is infinitely harder. And freedom is scary, because by its very nature it gives up control. And you are bound to see as a result the very depths of evil, because some people will take their freedom and reject God (or reject Love, I think the two are interchangeable... God is Love). But you also get the very heights of true Love, as it seems nothing is more pleasing to God than when a person who is totally free to reject him, decides to enter into Love, and to learn to be compassionate, and to become like him.
And it seems from scripture that God has no interest is the lukewarm middle ground that the "rigid ancient law" (as Dostoevsky puts it in the Grand Inquisitor) seems to give rise to. By the very fact that he made us free to choose it would seem that God accepts the great evil that human freedom creates, as only through the gift of this freedom can humans create love. And somehow that creation of love by us humans seems to be what it is all about, what God made us for. Because if God is in essence, love, then creating beings that would commune with him must have been about creating beings that would be all about love....
Ok, this is what I mean about stream of consciousness writing. I am tired and repeating myself and a little confused. And I haven't even gotten to what that means for my "mission" yet. I will...