Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reading Group, 3

Since this week's reading is relatively brief and does not contain any sub-chapters, I've decided to cover it all in one post. Comments on previous chapters remain open.

The Moral Idea of the Dogma of the Holy Spirit.

a. The Christian teaching about the Holy Spirit is not presented in a manner sufficiently clear for everyone to grasp its moral content. The properties of the Holy Spirit’s grace-filled gifts is an uncertain manner. Moreover, it remains completely unclear what significance there is in the Holy Spirit being “another Comforter.”

b. This obscurity gives cause to Tolstoy to insist that the Orthodox faith should not use the name “Christian,” but rather “Holy Spiritist.”

c. The teaching about the Holy Spirit was revealed in our Lord’s farewell conversation with His disciples. The Holy Spirit is called Comforter because He will comfort the followers of the Lord in their struggle with the world and the hatred of the world toward them. The Comforter will instill in the apostles the source of moral satisfaction that will teach them to celebrate amidst persecution.

d. It was better with this Comforter for the apostles in their preaching than with Jesus Christ Himself.

e. Even in worldly life, it is often necessary to encounter comforters to uplift us.

f. The high, holy significance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is in bestowing upon the confessors of Christ’s truth a supernatural joy in the face of sorrows and an inner spiritual victory over the untruth of this world, crowning the struggles of the saints.

g. Christ called the Holy Spirit a Comforter in the sense of a source of moral satisfaction and self-assuredness of sufferers.

h. In the use of the Old Testament the word “comforter” (Greek, Paraclete; Hebrew, Menakhem) it designates a reconciliation with sufferings, an inner satisfaction, an appeasing of the good or the accusation of the evil.

i. It is the Comforter that will restrain the righteous from falling into sin and despondency if the fate of the righteous and of sinners is one and the same. Throughout the NT, the words “comfort” and “to be comforted” designate this inner satisfaction, and above all in the sense of comfort in sorrow and grief endured for the sake of God’s work in the struggle with the world and with one’s self.

j. Sin against the Holy Spirit is that conscious opposition to the testimony of the conscience, which thus cannot censure man as long as he remains in such voluntary obduracy. The Holy Spirit assures us that Christ abides in us and that we are God’s children, bestowing patience, hope, and love.

k. The divine services preserves this elevated teaching about the activity of the Holy Spirit.

l. The unsteady teaching teaching about grace inherent among sectarians compels them to depart from the Church and to hate it, as darkness hates light.

m. If one grants Tolstoy his error, that he has Christ’s faith, but without the Holy Spirit, then the difference between our faith and his would be precisely that which distinguishes the intelligent and self-denying faith of the apostles after Pentecost, from the faint-hearted faith they had during Christ’s lifetime.

n. The holiness of the Orthodox faith is realized in the manner in which Orthodox people never lose the the consciousness that God requires from them first of all in sanctity, that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are gifts of an inner sanctification. The striving toward spiritual purity, this constant contrition for one’s spiritual impurity, is not only the fundamental mood of our faith, but also of believers, who always understands piety as a self-denying and even a suffering struggle for Christ’s truth, that struggle in which the Holy Spirit confirms Christians.
  1. How can Metropolitan Anthony claim that the teaching of the Holy Spirit has not been presented in a manner sufficient to grasp its moral content?
  2. What does Metropolitan Anthony mean by the phrase “moral satisfaction” in regard to the Holy Spirit?
  3. In what way was it better for the apostles to have “another Comforter” than with Christ Himself?
  4. What is in fact the moral idea of the main dogma of the faith? How does Metropolitan Anthony argue towards his conclusion? How convincing is his argument?


David.R said...

I will try to add my two cents to the discussion.
To those more learned than I, I ask please forgive me.

1.How can Metropolitan Anthony claim that the teaching of the Holy Spirit has not been presented in a manner sufficient to grasp its moral content?
Perhaps he is referring to the inherent limitations of language to describe the indescribable. The dogma of the Holy Spirit
( in the pronouncements of the Ecumenical Councils) seems somewhat encrypted or obscured to the natural mind.
Besides our inner sanctification is required to grasp this moral content.

2. What does Metropolitan Anthony mean by the phrase “moral satisfaction” in regard to the Holy Spirit?
I feel he means 'moral satisfaction' in the same sense that Hebrews 12:2 reads "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." The Holy Spirit communicates to the believer the value of the cross and the reward that awaits those who endure it. It is for this joy that the martyrs went singing to their torment.

3. In what way was it better for the apostles to have “another Comforter” than with Christ Himself? He will instill in the Apostles (and all Christians) a supernatural joy in the face of affliction.

4.What is in fact the moral idea of the main dogma of the faith? How does Metropolitan Anthony argue towards his conclusion? How convincing is his argument?
Our inner holiness is required to be able to experience the life and power of the Holy Spirit. Only with the help of this supernatural gift can we carry our cross. Metropolitan Anthony points to the spiritual state of the Apostles before and after Pentecost. The endurance of the saints is witness to the power of the Holy Spirit. This is very good evidence.

Forgive my audacity in pointing this out, but I feel that a major weakness in the argument is the lack of stress on the fact the saints experience the Holy Spirit as a Person, Other than the Father and or the Son, but One in Divinity. They have a hard time describing this;
"No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendour of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Them than I am carried back to the One. When I think of any One of the Three I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of That One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the Rest. When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the Undivided Light". St Gregory the Theologian.

I find no better description of this 'moral idea of the main dogma of the Faith' than in the description that Fr Sophrony gives us of St Silouan's experience, in the foreword to the 2nd part of his book, p.265 "In the Lord's mystic apparition he (St Silouan) understood
that God is infinite love. He stresses that this love is invariably poured out on enemies also, and that it is known only through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit revealed Christ to him..
.. What he grasped at the time of the apparition..he considered to be the condition and as it were the indication of communion with God!..."
Notice that St Silouan's experience of the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal or vague inner strengthening but a personal encounter with the Living God in the Person of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit communicates Christ to him.
But this personal encounter is only possible when there is humility in the soul, "The Lord reveals His mysteries to the humble soul" St Silouan p.277
It is in precisely this way that it is better for the Apostles to have another Comforter.

Becoming said...

I agree with David’s thorough answers and would add the following from my own reading:

1. Metropolitan Anthony says that the teaching of the Holy Spirit has not been presented in a manner sufficient to grasp its moral content in the context of the relationship between the “grace-filled gifts” that are given to Christians and what the Holy Spirit’s role is in this. He then adds to this first comment the question as to the significance of the grace involved in these “grace-filled gifts” as being dispensed from the Holy Spirit and not from Christ and why this is significant. What follows is an explanation of Tolstoy’s misunderstanding of the role of the Holy Spirit and the role of Christ which Metropolitan Antony uses to make the point that the teaching on the Holy Spirit has been obscure and therefore so hasn’t the moral application that derives from this dogma. He describes Tolstoy’s accusations of “Holy Spiritist” Orthodoxy as impersonal and seemingly theurgical. Therefore his following paragraphs begin by describing how the Holy Spirit is personal.

Specifically, Metropolitan Antony does not say how the dogma of the Holy Spirit is obscure but only gives the example of Leo Tolstoy’s misunderstanding of the dogma to say that this is so.

2. Metropolitan Antony uses the term “moral satisfaction” as an antonym to fear and grief. This fear and grief is the response of a person who is opposed by the rest of the world even to being killed for Christ. This term conjures up that which allows one to persevere in such circumstances and not to be crushed by fear of torture or the loss of one’s life. This term refers to a certain disposition that is the result of having the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, living and abiding within oneself Who teaches one to celebrate in the midst of persecutions and to endure abuse, dishonor and imprisonment.

“Moral satisfaction” is something that teaches (104). It is a means of understanding the suffering that follows in the wake of living for Christ. It is assurance (106), a supernatural joy in the face of sorrows and an inner spiritual victory over the untruth of this world (106).

To be cont’d…


Becoming said...

3. It was better for the apostles to have “another Comforter” than Christ Himself because, Metropolitan Antony says, when the Apostles were with Christ they did not understand His words. The Metropolitan says that the disciples would reckon Christ as a self-deceived man, therefore the Holy Spirit was sent to help the Apostles i) recall what Christ said; ii) clarify the meaning of what He said; and iii) allow them not to fear the Cross (104 and repeated on 105).

4. a) I would understand the question to be asking what the moral idea of the dogma of the Holy Spirit is. To this I would reply simply with Metropolitan Antony’s term, as translated here, “moral satisfaction”. The moral idea is that it is the Holy Spirit in oneself Who helps one to recall and clearly interpret the teachings of Christ and to be so convinced of the truthfulness of His teachings that they would lay down their life joyously understanding the suffering that comes in following the Suffering Servant.

i) Metropolitan Antony builds this argument by first describing the Holy Spirit not as an impersonal force but as a “living Person”(103).
ii) This living Person imparts “moral satisfaction” to the believer which aids in the believer being able to overcome life’s anguish and even to face persecution for Christ’s sake (104-105). He cites two examples of why this is a reasonable belief that we need such satisfaction.
iii) He then gives the evidence for the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament uses the example of where those who followed Christ were comforted or satisfied (107-108). He then follows with the same evidence found in the New Testament (108-110).
iv) The next brick to build this fortress of a dogma are the multitudinous examples found throughout the services of the Church.
v) The Metropolitan concludes his case by citing the “striving towards spiritual purity” and “constant contrition for one’s spiritual impurity” in the Church that is apparent through this dogma as contrasted to Protestants and Catholics (111-112).

c) How convincing is his argument? Metropolitan Antony adds more of a defense in this chapter by citing from both Testaments and from the substance of the Divine Services. The more examples and “proofs” the better (for me). As an observation, I do notice that he cites very little from the Fathers, ancient or modern, but relies heavily on the interpretation of the Scriptures (although adding the Divine Services in the chapter).

For an essay, I think he produces enough evidence for a convincing argument.


I understand what you are saying here. For me, I see that the Metropolitan does dwell on the personal nature of the Holy Spirit and makes sure to note that He is a “living Person” and then goes on to describe what it is that He does as a person and not as some impersonal force as Tolstoy would imply (102). I would say that the example that you find in St. Silouan would be the same here in the Metropolitan’s work. The Metropolitan gives example after example of how it is that the Holy Spirit works within the believer and not in any impersonal way:
- If we are given understanding about Gospel teaching it is because the Holy Spirit teaches us (John 16:12-13, p. 105);
- spiritual perfections in man (ie. the gifts of wisdom, faith, healing and prophecy) are given by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:8-11, p. 109);
- He cleans men’s conscience (109);
- the Holy Spirit assures us that Christ is in us (110); and
- love towards everyone is a result of the Holy Spirit living in us (110).

The quotes from the Father’s that you cite are a personal Revelation to the truth of the dogma. I do not know if Metropolitan Anthony had a similar experience but I see him as basing his argument on evidence that is verifiable by the reader. The reader can look to these verses in the Scriptures themselves and read the Divine Services, if not attend them, to see that they bare the same teaching as what he is saying.