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Salvation and Faith According to the Teachings of the Catholics and Protestants

by New Hieromartyr Mark of Sergiev Posad (Mikhail Alexandrovich Novoselov)

Preface to the 1913 edition1

“We must understand the Western confessions and evaluate them from the point of view of true Christian teaching. By saying that we need to understand them, we partly define the method of research itself. If we only point out the partial deviations of these confessions from the truth, refuting every error in their teachings point by point on the basis of Holy Scripture and Tradition, then we will not understand the Western confessions, and if we do not understand them, we will not convince anyone of their falsity: there will always be the possibility of assuming in our evidence an imperceptible trick, and in the failure of our adversary—only a temporary oversight or inexperience. It is necessary to find the very root of the disease, it is necessary to understand the Western religions in their basic worldview, to find out their understanding of life, which produces all these unhealthy symptoms: then the particular points, perhaps, will not require refutation. Life is such a subject that anyone who has reason and conscience can judge, who has an uncorrupted moral consciousness. Someone may not understand dogmatic reasoning, one may not know historical evidence, but everyone has an understanding of life before their eyes: one has only to compare it with Christ's teaching and the falsity of the heterodox is proved, and the origin of all its particular deviations become clear.”


The essential difference between Western religions and Orthodoxy is not in individual dogmas, but in a general view of Christian life.

Whoever wants to know the true essence of Catholicism, Protestantism, or Orthodoxy must turn not to their theoretical teaching, but to their concept of life, to their teaching, namely, on personal salvation, in which this concept is clearly expressed. He must investigate each of the religions in what it believes is the meaning of a person's life, his highest good. The filioque dogma undoubtedly touches the cornerstone of our Faith—but did this dogma express all of Catholicism, and can we think that with its removal, Western Christianity will become reconciled with us? Only one of the many points of disagreement will be eliminated, only one of the many reasons for wrangling will be lessened, but the division will not weaken in the least. After all, it is not from the filioque that Catholicism stems, but vice versa. The dogma of the papacy, of course, constitutes the main spring and, so to speak, the soul of Catholicism, but again, not from the papacy came the perverted Catholic understanding of life, but from the latter came the papacy. There is no other way to explain why and how the pope found and finds himself in the Western world so many obedient, fanatically devoted servants and so many silent followers. In the same way, not as a result of the rejection of the sacraments and Church tradition and not as a result of an exaggerated concept of the fallen nature of man did the Protestants arrive at their nebulous, fictitious salvation, but on the contrary, distorting the very concept of life, they had to consequently distort the entire Church structure and teaching. Suppose that all mistakes in teaching and organization will be corrected—the distorted concept of life will prove that these corrections are only in words. After a while the Protestants will have to create new distortions, new mistakes in place of the eliminated ones.

In the same way, Orthodoxy is not recognized from its theoretical teaching. Abstract propositions and formulas, by their very abstraction, are equally incomprehensible, inconvenient for a person, whether they are Catholic or Orthodox. A straightforward logical absurdity reveals the inconsistency of a heterodox system, does it not? On the other hand, as an expression of a precisely objectively given truth, Orthodoxy is cognized more and more deeply where it most directly comes into contact with this objective truth, with the realm of real being: in its description of the real life of a person, in its definition of the purpose of life, and lastly the teaching on personal salvation based on this. Only when one has finally assimilated the Orthodox teaching on life can one fully (not only logically) be convinced of the immutable, unconditional truth of Orthodoxy—one can understand, clearly comprehend this truth. After that, all those theoretical propositions, all those dogmas that previously seemed only indifferent metaphysical subtleties, will receive their deep meaning, full of life. All this will be one and the same, one in spirit and idea, a teaching about true life, only this time life is considered not in how a [single] man considers it, but in its objective reality, in itself.

I had to be convinced of these elementary truths in practice when writing my essay. At first, I began to address the question of personal salvation with a purely theoretical interest. I wanted to clarify this question for myself, just as a dark, confusing point of doctrine, difficult to define. How can we best express our doctrine of salvation? It is well known that the Orthodox cannot speak as the Catholics say; and that it is even less possible for him to speak as the Protestants do, that is also beyond any doubt—but how should he speak?

The significance of the patristic writings for understanding the Orthodox doctrine of salvation

To give myself an account of this [doctrine], I began to read the works of the holy fathers of the Church. I read them not only because I accepted, so to speak, their canonical authority, not only as Church tradition obligatory for every Christian. My thought was somewhat different: I was looking in the works of the holy fathers how they were describing and explaining life according to Christ, or the true, proper life. We know that Jesus Christ first and foremost brought us a new life and taught it to the apostles, and that the work of Church tradition is not only to transmit a teaching, but to transmit from generation to generation this very life conceived with Christ, to transmit exactly what is not transmitted by any word or writing but only by direct communication of individuals. Theoretical doctrine only generalizes and systematizes this doctrine of life. Therefore, the apostles chose as their successors and substitutes the people who were the most successful, those who most consciously and firmly assimilated to themselves the life of Christ proclaimed by them. Therefore, the Church fathers are not those of the Church writers who were the most learned, the most well-read in Church literature, but saintly writers are recognized as the fathers of the Church (i.e., those who embodied the life of Christ) to preserve and spread that which the Church received for herself. If so, then one can form a correct concept of Orthodoxy not by analyzing its fundamental, abstract teaching, but by observing this real life according to Christ, which is preserved in the Orthodox Church. And since the recognized carriers, the incarnations of this life, this life-bearing tradition, were the holy fathers, who in their writings interpret this life in detail, it is natural to turn to them for observation. That is exactly what I did.

The more I read the holy fathers, the more it became clear to me that I was moving in a very special world, in a circle of concepts that was far from ours. I began to understand that the difference between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy lies not in some particular omissions and inaccuracies, but it is right at the very root, in the principle, that Orthodoxy and heterodoxy are opposed to each other, just as self-love—life according to the elements of the world, the old man—is opposed to selfless love—life according to Christ, the renewed man. Before me stood two completely different, irreducible worldviews: legal, and moral or Christian. The first I called legal, because the best expression of this worldview is the Western legal system, in which a person and his moral dignity disappear and only separate legal units and relations between them remain. God is understood mainly as the First Cause and the Lord of the world, closed in His absoluteness. His relationship to man is similar to the relationship of a king to a subordinate and is not at all like a moral union. In exactly the same way, a person is represented in his individuality: he lives for himself and comes into contact with the life of the common only by one external side of his being—he only uses this common [life]; even God, from the point of view of man, is only a means to achieving well-being. The beginning of life, therefore, is self-love, and a common feature of being is the mutual alienation of all living things. Meanwhile, according to the thought of the holy fathers, being and life in the proper sense belongs only to God, who is called “He Who is.” All the rest, all created things exist and live exclusively by their participation in this true life of God, this longed-for Beauty, according to St. Basil the Great. God, therefore, is connected with His creation by more than one absolute “let there be.” God in the literal sense serves as the focus of life, without which the creature is just as inconceivable in its present existence as it is inexplicable in its origin. Translating this metaphysical proposition into the language of moral life, we get the rule: no one can and no one should live for himself; the meaning of life of every private being is in God, which practically means: in the fulfillment of His will. "I have not come to do My will, but the will of the Father Who sent Me." Thus, the basic principle of everyone's life is recognized: not selfishness, but "the love of the truth" (2 Thess. 2:10). True to this law, a person in his relationship to God, the world, and to men is no longer guided by a selfish thirst for being (the conclusion from this would be the struggle for existence), but by an unmercenary hunger and thirst for truth as the highest law, to which he sacrifices his being. In the legal understanding of life, they were looking for happiness; here they are looking for truth. There moral goodness, holiness, was considered a means to achieve bliss, here true being is attributed to only one thing, moral good, embodied in God; and the bliss of man, therefore, is considered identical with holiness.

I. Legal understanding of life in Catholicism and Protestantism

Western Christianity, from its very first historical steps, collided with Rome and had to reckon with the Roman spirit and the Roman way or composure of thinking; ancient Rome, in all fairness, was considered the bearer and exponent of justice, law. Justice (jus) was the main element in which all its concepts and ideas revolved: jus was the basis of its personal life, it also determined all his family, social, and state relations. Religion was not an exception—it was also one of the applications of law. Becoming a Christian, the Roman even tried to understand Christianity precisely from this point of view—in it, too, he sought, above all, legal consistency.

At first, this method of external understanding of salvation posed no danger for the Church: all its inaccuracies were more than covered with faith and the fiery zeal of Christians; even more, the opportunity to explain Christianity from the legal point of view was in some respects useful for him: it gave faith, as it were, a scientific form, as if it affirmed it. But that was during the blossoming of Church life. It became different later, when the worldly spirit penetrated into the Church, when many Christians began to think not about how to fulfill the will of God more perfectly but, on the contrary, about how to fulfill this will more conveniently, with less deprivations in this world. Then the possibility of legal formulation of the doctrine of salvation revealed its disastrous consequences.

A legal union arises when one person or family is unable to fight the world around him. To ensure a certain share of well-being, a person enters into an agreement with another person who is in the same position. They make mutual commitments and work for the common good. But this communion is not at all a communion of love, not a moral union; these people serve others only because otherwise they will not get what they want for themselves. Their purpose in life is not society but their own “I.” The legal system, therefore, has as its task to equalize some selfishness so that people do not interfere with each other and that each of them receives the share he deserves. As such, the legal order can only provide benefits to self-love. Its first benefit is that instead of a living union, it offers a cold, external one. For the state or for my fellow citizens, it is not particularly important what my internal disposition is. For them, only my external behavior is important, because only this latter concerns their well-being and expresses my attitude towards them. This, of course, humiliates the personality, turning it into a soulless cog in the social machine, but it also gives a person such freedom or, better to say, such arbitrariness in mental life, which he cannot receive under any other system, especially with a moral one. Moral union requires the conformity of morality. It penetrates with its requirements and instructions into the very sanctuary of the human conscience. The legal system never penetrates there, contenting itself with observing the external agreed framework and leaving a person as a complete master within himself.

This arbitrariness is increased by the consciousness of complete independence or non-obligation to anyone or their well-being. In fact, if others serve a person in something, then he knows that they serve not out of affection for him, but out of necessity or out of the desire for what is good, first of all, for themselves. For this service they would receive the same benefit from either side: relations are equalized; therefore, he does not have to consider anyone as his benefactor. True, this dooms a person to terrible loneliness, but selfishness is essentially loneliness. The consciousness of independence, this vague specter of identity, is more valuable to the sinful “I” as such.

At the same time, all those services, even the most insignificant, which he provides to his allies, receive the highest importance in the eyes of a person. These services are done, in essence, apart from desire, not out of love for an ally, but simply out of a desire to receive equal reward. Therefore, a person demands this reward for himself, demands it for granted, and will consider himself entitled to take revenge if this reward does not follow. Feelings of gratitude in the proper sense cannot be found in the soul of the self-lover.

Therefore, the confidence on which all [those] unions are based does not have the same properties as in a moral union. In the latter, it is a joyful and at the same time humble hope; in the first, it is rather the assurance that the ally cannot deceive, since there is a certain guarantee by virtue of which he is in some way forced to fulfill the obligation. There, confidence rests on the free desire of the individual, and hence there remains constant gratitude to it; here—on some kind of third-party which compels the person, and hence there is no gratitude, but there is only a selfish feeling of security. A person loses “that freedom of a child of God,” which is his highest property, since this freedom is too difficult for selfishness to bear not to exchange it for slavery, so long as it would leave him with his desires.

It is not difficult to see what can happen if a person views his relationship with God from a legal point of view.

The main danger of this point of view is that with it a person may consider himself as if he has the right not to belong to God with all his heart and mind. In a legal union, such closeness is not assumed and is not required; there you need only to observe the external conditions of the union. A person is not obliged to love the good; he may remain all the same a self-lover. He must only fulfill the commandments in order to receive a reward. This, as much as possible, favors that mercenary, slavish disposition which does good only because of a reward, without an inner attraction and respect for it. True, this state of compulsory virtue is necessarily experienced by every ascetic of virtue, and more than once in his earthly life, but this state should never be elevated to a rule. This is only a preliminary stage, while the goal of moral development is in perfect, freely chosen virtue. The legal point of view also misses the mark because it sanctifies this preliminary, preparatory state as complete and perfect. And since the mercenary attitude to the will of God has been sanctioned, the door is opened for all those conclusions that necessarily follow from this attitude.

In a legal union, a person stands before the face of God not at all in the position of a sinner deserving nothing, obliged to do everything; he is inclined to imagine himself more or less independent, he expects to receive the promised reward not by the grace of God but as his due for his labors. The object of hope here, strictly speaking, is not God's mercy but man's own strengths. The guarantor, the third-party that obliges the Ally without making Him at the same time the Benefactor, serves on behalf of man’s personal deeds. Deeds, thus, turn into something valuable in themselves, worthy of a reward—a conclusion that is most suitable for a selfish nature that has lost its original purity, which reluctantly forces itself to fulfill the commandments and therefore values its involuntary good at the highest price. Moreover, the merit of good deeds is attributed not to virtues, or constant dispositions of the soul, but to individual external actions. In turn, the mercenary mood tries to reduce virtues as much as possible and make them mostly formal, according to the natural desire of the mercenary to achieve his pay with the least expenditure of energy. The life of a person, instead of free moral growth, turns into a soulless fulfillment of private prescriptions.

The mechanism that developed in the Western Church did not fail to affect theological science, which, under the influence of the era, completely obeyed it and, in turn, contributed to its further development and, so to speak, its design. Scholasticism, with her worship of Aristotle, cared more about the formal harmony of their systems and dealt little (not to say, not at all) with spiritual experience, with life. It is not surprising if she (scholasticism) adopted a legal point of view. Could the scholastic think about its truth when under each of its points he saw, let us add, excerpts taken outside the context of speech? And in this, so to speak, typographic way of proving [its points], Scholasticism justified all the extreme conclusions of the legal worldview. Under the pen and in the mind of the scholastic, the completely natural doctrine of mutual assistance among members of the Church turned into a completely mechanical reckoning of the actions of one (saintly) person to another. The uncertain position of souls who died in repentance but did not bear fruit worthy of repentance, not confirmed in the good, turned into Purgatory, where a person pays God with his torments for crimes committed on earth for which one has not paid satisfactorily. Pastoral leadership during Confession took the absurd form of payment for sins and indulgences—absolution without moral exertion, without penitential deeds. The sacraments turned into magical actions (opus operatum), in which bodily participation is needed rather than mental labor, and so on. The sinful fear of moral work, hiding under a good pretext, invented many teachings that were necessary for itself and so littered Western Christianity with all things extraneous that it was difficult to recognize Christ's truth in it. No wonder, then, when the German reformers came to the idea that faith alone saves a person, as this is so common in Christianity and the expression was so constantly on the lips of the holy fathers, it seemed so unusual and terrible that some considered it a heresy and the destruction of all morality, while others took it for almost some kind of new revelation and, in the end, perverted its meaning. Such fruits were brought to the West by its legal point of view on salvation. Its main danger is, we repeat, that it enabled a person to confine himself to appearance alone; moral work seemed to be forgotten. Hence, the good Catholic was often a very bad Christian inside, but despite this, he thought that he was being saved, and in this self-deception he perished.

The human soul, in its best part always longing for true life and salvation, can only be content with this described teaching through misunderstanding—it will certainly feel its falsity. This feeling of a living soul was expressed, albeit unsuccessfully, in countless sects, in many attempts to correct Catholicism, which we see throughout the continuation of Western Church history, and, finally, broke out in that terrible upheaval, which is called the Reformation and which still stands before Catholicism as a living denunciation of its untruth.

The protest of Reformation

The Reformation came out with a merciless denunciation of all Catholic deceptions in life and teachingthe soulless formalism that reigned in itand demanded life and truth for man. Protestants both wrote and said that the source of Catholic wisdom is not the Gospel, not the teaching of Christ, but considerations of reason, which stands on its own point of view and judges these things exclusively in a human way.2 Without penetrating into the inner work of those who are being saved, the mind stops on the outer side and bases its conclusions on [this outer side] alone. It is not surprising if in this way he arrives at positions that are absurd from the point of view of spiritual experience and before the judgment of the human conscience;3 and then, feeling the lie and at the same time not seeing any other way than the existing one, he is forced, against his will, to resort to various artificial constructions in order to somehow drown out the painful voice of his conscience. “In this way, people, under the yoke of great danger, invented different deeds, different liturgical rites, in order to somehow calm their troubled conscience.”4 To avoid this sad and terrible fate, it is necessary to break any connection with the philosophical views which were accepted but not reconciled with Christ's truth, to turn to Christ's truth itself, to investigate it, listening to the inner voice of your conscience, trying to catch what is not only speaking to the mind, but also to the whole soul: the word of God and Church tradition,5 and to be concerned not only about fidelity to logic, but about fidelity to truth, in essence living and effective, but not formal.

The time has apparently come for a radical renewal in Western Christianity. Indeed, Protestantism began with fury to refute the main dogma of the legal view—the doctrine of deeds as merit before God. This teaching is already inconsistent in one thing, it fundamentally contradicts the very foundation of the Christian faith—salvation by Jesus Christ alone. "Whoever confesses that he deserved grace by means of works, he neglects the merit of Christ and grace, and is seeking the way to God besides Christ, by human strength."6 Yes, even if this contradiction did not exist, the deeds of a person taken by themselves, by their very essence, cannot be a merit before God: a person does good deeds only with the help of the grace of God,7 nevertheless, what he does himself inevitably bears on itself the seal of sin.8 Therefore, all who are magnified by the merit of their deeds or hope for super-worthy deeds, are magnified by vanity and hope for idolatry, subject to condemnation,9 we read in the Scottish Confession. So decisively and mercilessly were all those conclusions condemned that followed from the Catholic teaching, such as Purgatory, indulgences, etc.

Why Protestantism could not restore the true doctrine of salvation

Protestantism, however, was a child of its time and school. The first reformers learned to speak and think with the same Aristotle and Cicero as their Catholic opponents. Therefore, indignant at the blatant distortion of Christ's truth which they saw in Catholicism, they thought to explain it only by accidental reasons: the malice of the hierarchy, etc., and did not suspect that instead of these conclusions, others would necessarily appear, equally false, because the lie is not in the conclusions, but in the very basis, in the very point of view on the subject. Instead of rejecting this basic lie, Protestants were able to reject only some of its offspring, and thus only replaced some distortions with others.

That is why the reformation, in the sense of the restoration of Christ's truth, ended in complete failure.

Legalism in Protestantism

The Protestants, as we have seen, turned to life itself and tried to test their conclusions with it, but they looked at life from a legal point of view. They wanted to bring peace of conscience with their teaching, but they understood this peace quite legally, in the sense of a feeling of security, impunity for their sins. A person is afraid of punishment, and so the death of Jesus Christ is pointed out to him as such a great, excessive satisfaction with the truth of God that this truth can no longer—it has no right to demand anything more from a person, any other satisfaction. A person, since he believes in the Gospel, must be at peace about himself. If Christ paid for our sins even more than they were worth, why else think that we have to work for this satisfaction ourselves? Human efforts, not to mention their imperfection before God, etc., are downright superfluous and even dangerous: they belittle the significance of the merits of Christ. What then is salvation? It is nothing more than forgiveness of sins or deliverance from punishment for sins, justification, which is already followed by acceptance in the favor of God, etc. Justification is understood "not in the physical sense, but in the external and judicial."10 It means not “to make a wicked man righteous,” but in the judicial sense (sensu forensi) to proclaim righteous,11 to consider righteous, to declare (jus-turn aestimare, declarare),12 and this is on account of the merit of Jesus Christ, i.e. for the sake of an outsider event, with no connection with my inner being. Justification, therefore, is a completely external act, “an act that acts not in a person, but outside and around a person.”13 Therefore, the consequence of this act can only be a change in the relationship between God and man, but man himself does not change. “We are still sinners, but God treats us, due to the merits of Jesus Christ, as if we did not sin, but, on the contrary, fulfilled the law, or as if Christ's merit was ours”14. In other words, instead of the previous Pelagian legal point of view, rejected and condemned, Protestantism put forward the same principle of law, only taking the other side of it: rejecting human merit as insufficient to propitiate an angry God or, more directly, to oblige God to grant me an eternal life. Protestants still looked at eternal life as an agreed payment that God "must" give to man; only the obligatory “third-party” for Protestants is not a person's own merit, but the merit of Christ15. In Catholicism we saw the oblivion of Christ in the work of our salvation; here the deed of the person himself is forgotten, “our righteousness” has been reduced to imputation of the righteousness of others (imputatio alienae justitiae). Such an idea is common to Protestants of all times, and if in the latest dogmatic systems of Protestants we meet attempts to give an external judicial event vitality, reality, to turn dogmatic provisions into psychological phenomena, then these attempts either clearly do not reconcile with the main Protestant principle, according to the consciousness of the Protestants themselves, representing only the inevitable concessions of Protestantism to religious experience, or they only change names without changing the essence of the matter....

Thus, the Protestants, despite their sincere desire to be faithful to experience and to give consolation to the conscience of believing souls, could not do anything while remaining on legal grounds. Avoiding the extremes of Catholicism, they went to the other extreme: they completely crossed out the inner side of justification. True, Protestants of all times constantly say that they demand good deeds,16 that they recognize them as necessary in order for faith to be a living faith, which alone justifies, that the accusation that they preach a doctrine dangerous to morality is based either on or on a malicious distortion of the Protestant doctrine. But all this is only a bursting voice of conscience, only a concession to the requirements of human nature—a concession that is not justified in dogma. Despite all these statements, the need for good deeds remains unjustified, since the motives for it are laid not in salvation, but outside of it: in a sense of duty, gratitude to God, etc. But after all, the mind, if it stands only on a legal point of view, always has the right to ask: if my deeds are decisively irrelevant to God, in the sense of any value, then can they be considered a reward of gratitude to God, and is there any sense in such a performance of an unnecessary duty to anyone? And since there can only be a negative answer to this question, the need for conscious and deliberate good deeds falls by itself. The life of the justified loses its moral character, and the conscience does not receive comfort.

Catholicism after the protest

However unsuccessful the attempt of Protestantism to explain human salvation was, it nevertheless, with obvious certainty, showed the weaknesses of the Catholic doctrine of merit. Catholicism, which, in the person of its best representatives, had seen these sides before, had to be guided by the conclusions of Protestantism, especially since the latter threatened the very existence of the former. That human merit, in its literal sense, is both impossible before God and contradicts salvation by Christ alone, Catholicism could not but agree with this. But on the other hand, it could not sacrifice either the experience or the tradition of all the preceding centuries of universal Church life. Both experience and tradition with one mouth said that good deeds are necessary not only in the sense of a consequence, but also in the sense of a condition of salvation. How can these two apparently conflicting testimonies be reconciled? How does one understand this conditionality of salvation by virtue, if the latter at the same time cannot be a merit before God? This is the question that Catholicism should have solved. This question was directed to the very essence, demanded a discussion of the very basis of the point of view of salvation, which leads Catholicism to false conclusions, a legal point of view. The question was whether we have the right to rebuild Christianity from this point of view. And, no doubt, Catholicism would have come to the right decision (since it did not want to break ties with Church tradition) if it really accepted the challenge and impartially discussed itself. But Catholicism only slipped by the question put before it, without touching it or even trying to answer it: it only took care of somehow reconciling the contradictions of its teaching with religious consciousness and Church tradition, without touching upon this teaching itself. Therefore, the Catholic attempt is as unsuccessful as the Protestant one....

This is the conclusion that Western Christianity is leading with inexorable necessity. Its main lie is the legal understanding of salvation and of all religious life in general.

The legal system knows only external relations and does not care about the internal content hidden behind these relations. Without asking about the inner structure of a thing, it wants to know its price and, having found out, considers its business finished. If, according to Christian teaching, a person is saved only through Jesus Christ and only when he does the deeds commanded by Christ, then for the mind of the scholastics this means that Christ and man present to the truth of God, each from his side, a completely sufficient price for the promised eternal life. But if the work of Christ and the work of man are the essence of the concept of a legal order, then they mutually exclude each other: as the price of human merit increases, so much is the merit of Christ unnecessary. Meanwhile, the word of God and conscience require both, and precisely together, and precisely as indispensable reasons for the salvation of man. This is the basic lie of Western Christianity that leads it to all sorts of tricks: its basic premise requires certain conclusions, but life and the direct teaching of the word of God, with which it does not want to break ties, [demands] others. In their essence, both Catholicism and Protestantism teach and say the same thing: both are sick with the same incurable disease. The only difference is in the coverings with which each of them tries to calm itself. Both these and others admit (Protestants openly, and Catholics between the lines) that, in fact, a person's deeds are not needed, and should not have justifying force. Both these and others, in order not to go directly against the truth and at the same time not to deviate from their thinking, must recognize the deeds of a person as involuntary (Protestant sanctification and Catholic transformation—infusio gratiae). The only difference is that Protestants, without forgetting or hiding their thoughts, think only to somehow make up for their disagreement with life and point to its safety: deeds, they say, must follow, [but] there is nothing, therefore, to worry about in regards to their absence in [the state of] justification. Catholics, on the other hand, try to obscure the very thought and, forgetting their basic premises, they only intensify [their argument], closing their eyes and saying that deeds are nevertheless necessary, that they nevertheless deserve salvation, without being able to explain how these deeds are deserving of merit.

II. The Legal Understanding of Life before the Judgment Seat of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition

The self-lover lives for himself; his “I” supplies the focus of the world, and from the point of view of this “I” he evaluates everything that happens both in his own life and in public worldly life. His goal is his own well-being, the highest good is pleasure, whether in the form of sensual pleasures, or in some kind of nirvana, etc.

Now, sin (whose being is self-love), while giving man pleasure in this life, at the same time brings him immeasurably greater suffering in the afterlife: the world order established by God turns out to be detrimental to self-love and inevitably leads him to punishment. The self-lover, as such, of course does not care about the truth or the untruth of the order of this world; even more, he is ready with all his being to rebel against the latter [order]—with all his being he is ready to protest against this limitation of his “I,” whose desire is the law for him. But he, as a self-lover, cannot but want to avoid the bitter fate to which the unrepentant contradiction of the hostile world order leads. And so the self-lover begins, as he says, to “save himself,” that is, he begins cutting off his favorite wishes still dear to him with extreme regret, he begins to fulfill the law set by God, fulfilling it precisely because lawlessness in its last conclusion turns out to be extremely unfavorable for the self-lover, although it does not cease to be desirable and pleasant for him. The self-lover, in his soul, is an enemy of God (Rom. 8: 7) and wants to listen to his “father, the murderer” (John 8:44): he is ready to bite the Hand that has mercy on him (remember the Jews, “who beat the prophets and stoned those sent to them”; let us remember the crucified Jesus Christ). But he trembles at God because he knows that He is omnipotent, that everything, even the self-lover himself, is in God's hands, that one cannot leave God. Therefore he obeys, but, like a slave, with inner disgust, with murmuring, driven by a whip, or like a mercenary who needs a profit, a reward.

A person who is so inclined, of course, cannot understand that “freedom of the children of God” brought by Jesus Christ, that “reconciliation” with God, which the apostles announced to us: a “material-minded man” cannot serve God “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23), he judges everything according to his reasoning (1 Cor. 2:14). Coming to Christ, he does not so much want to learn from Him how he should live in order to live a true life as much as he wants to know what benefit his study of Christ will bring him. Therefore, hearing about the salvation of Christ, he learns from this good news mainly its external side: deliverance from calamity, from final destruction, and receiving supreme blissand does not notice the other, more essential side of this salvation, does not notice that suffering is not considered a disaster here; the disaster is not torment but sin—that the highest blessing here rests in the very will of God, against which his selfish nature is indignant with such zeal. He thinks only about what he will enjoy, but how he will enjoy it he does not wish to inquire.

But if the whole point is only in bliss, as such, in the benefit of a person, then it is natural to ask: why does a person receive this benefit? Would it not be unjust to endow him with bliss when he did not deserve it in any way? Christ taught that only those who do good are saved. Consequently, the man concludes, good is that payment, that concession to God, for which He grants man eternal life. Why God is pleased by such and not another behavior, the self-lover cannot understand: he himself is fulfilling the desires of his “I” only because it is pleasant to him, desirable; he is inclined to imagine the law of God as the same unreasonable desire of the Master. Of course, a person cannot love such an unreasonable will, as well as the Lord Himself. He only fears the latter, and performs the first only against his will. Hence his labors, performed by him in fulfilling the will of God, cannot have the strength and significance of a selfless sacrifice to God, a loving and thankful sacrifice. For the man, they are a heavy weight, an involuntary yoke. Therefore, he is not able to sacrifice them and requires a reward for himself, like any mercenary. The deeds receive the value of merit in the eyes of man.

Thus, the legal concept of salvation is as clear and convenient as possible for the selfish attitude. But how do the sacred sources of our Faith: Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition relate to this idea?

If we approach these sources with a preconceived idea and if we rip out of them only individual words and sayings, not dealing with their basic thought, then we can perhaps find many grounds for legal concepts in Holy Scripture itself and in Holy Tradition.

The Lord Jesus Christ quite often, convincing His listeners to strive for one or another Christian virtue, for Christian behavior in general, pointed out to them mainly that for such behavior done, and only for it, a reward is given in heaven. “Be taking heed,” He said, “not to do your alms before men, in order to be seen by them; otherwise ye have no reward with your Father Who is in the heavens. Therefore, whenever thou art doing alms, do not begin to sound a trumpet before thee, even as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, in order that they might be glorified by men. Verily I say to you, they have received their reward. But when thou art doing alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand is doing, so that thine alms might be in secret; and thy Father Who seeth in secret Himself shall render what is due to thee openly” (Mt. 6:1-4 and following). Or, for example, the well-known saying about a single cup of cold water given to a prophet or a disciple. “The one who receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and the one who receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, verily I say to you, in no wise shall he lose his reward” (Mt. 10:41-42).

The holy apostles also often use this form of expression in those cases when it is necessary to induce someone to do good works. The award beyond the grave is compared with the award in the stadiums, with the crown of the winners. “Ye know, do ye not,” says, for example, St. Apostle Paul, “that they who run in a stadium all indeed run, but one receiveth the prize? Thus keep on running that ye might obtain. And everyone who contendeth (i.e. fighters) exerciseth self-control in all things; indeed then, those do it that they might receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible” (1 Cor. 9: 24-25; cf. Gal. 5:7; Phil. 3:14; 2 Tim. 4:7–8; 1 Pet. 5:2–4, etc.). Restraining Christians from any vices, they point to the punishment that will befall all sinners from the Lord: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: for you to be abstaining from fornication,...in order not to overstep and defraud his brother in the matter, because the Lord is the avenger concerning all these things, even as we also told you before and bore witness” (1 Thess. 4:3-6). These and similar places are used to justify the legal understanding of moral life. We shall see later how much this is justified.

We find the same in patristic works. The Church fathers, with the same purpose—to substantiate good deeds, to induce them, sometimes resort to such comparisons, which seem to be straightforward—for an external understanding of life. Such is, for example, the analogy of buying and selling. St. Gregory of Nyssa says, “One should, while being reinforced by faith in the expected, acquire future grace in advance by virtuous behavior.”

Not only that: not only virtue, as a general and constant disposition of the soul, but every good action, good deed, in itself, seems to deserve a reward. Such an idea can be given, for example, in the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem: “Only be of good cheer, only work, only strive earnestly; for nothing shall be lost. Every prayer of thine, every psalm thou singest is recorded; every alms-deed, every fast is recorded; whether thy marriage was duly observed is recorded; continence kept for God’s sake is recorded; but the first crowns in the records are those of virginity and purity; and thou shalt shine as an angel.” If you continue to investigate all the works of the holy fathers in the same vein, then you can, perhaps, find in them traces of the Catholic “superabundant merit.” For example, in The Ladder we read: “There are souls who have done more than how much the commandments demand.” Or St. Gregory of Nyssa, praising St. Flacilla, says that with her exploits she surpassed what was prescribed. In general, human life is sometimes presented as some kind of mechanical cohesion of various feats and merits, of which each awaits a reward for itself and is done only for the latter. “The life of everyone is, as it were, weighed,” says St. Cyril of Alexandria. “Retribution will certainly be as if balanced with our goodness.” “Previous good deeds reduce the punishment for sins, because the righteous Judge pronounces the judgment, making the latter commensurate with the first,” says Blessed Theodoret.

All in all, the legal understanding of life can find the most grounds for itself in the works of St. John Chrysostom, who more than all others, perhaps, had to speak against greedy heartlessness towards the poor and, consequently, to prove, first of all, the lack of prudence of such behavior. He could not, in the very essence of the matter, tell the miser and the self-lover about the sweetness of sacrifice for his neighbor; speaking with the mercenary, he had to choose the appropriate language. Hence the desire, noticed in some places in the works of the saint, to calculate, as it were, when, for what, and how much a person would receive. “If you,” says the saint, “do something good and do not receive a reward here for it, do not be embarrassed: the real reward awaits you for this in the future.” “When you see that a righteous person is being punished here, consider him blessed and say: this righteous person either committed a sin, and is punished for it, and leaves that place cleansed, or is punished beyond the measure of his sins, and the excess of righteousness will be imputed to him. There is a calculation, and God says to the righteous one: ‘You owe me so much.’ Suppose He has entrusted him ten obols—and he counts ten obols. If he uses sixty obols for the work, then God says to him: ‘I will charge ten obols for your sin, and I will impute fifty for righteousness.’”17

If we now turn from the Eastern fathers to the Western ones, then it goes without saying that in their works we will find even more traces of the legal understanding of life. These fathers had to deal with Rome directly. They could not, therefore, ignore its way of thinking, especially since the sinfulness of a person seemed to justify such an understanding of life. “Since, then,” says Tertullian, “as evil entered the world and as the goodness of God was insulted, His justice began to govern His goodness. It granted goodness to the worthy, denied it to the unworthy, took it away from the ungrateful, and avenged it on its enemies. It judges, condemns, and punishes: his judgments, his condemnations, and the fear they inspire serve as a bridle for self-will and as an encouragement of virtue.” Hence the assessment of human affairs as “merit,” common to all Western fathers. Cases are considered by them, mainly, as some value that gives the right to a reward. So St. Cyprian writes to the confessors: “Some of you have forestalled others by the performance of your martyrdom and are to accept the reward from the Lord according to their merits; and some are still languishing in prison, in the mines, and in bonds and...by the slowness of suffering they acquire the full right to merits, for which they hope to receive in heavenly treasures as many rewards as they have spent days in torture.”...

Despite, however, all these numerous traces of a legal understanding of life in Holy Scripture and in the works of the fathers of the Church, it is impossible to recognize this understanding of life as a truly patristic or biblical understanding of life. In other words, it is possible only if we use Holy Scripture or Holy Tradition just as a collection of incoherent sayings, and not as the single word of God, not as an expression of a single and integral worldview. All these traces must be compared with long series of thoughts, which were also constantly on the lips of the holy writers and the Church fathers, and which ultimately directly deny the legal understanding of life.

First of all, is a legal relationship between God and man possible? On the basis of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, we say that it is impossible.

Legal union basically has a selfish desire for its own well-being and is expressed in the mutual self-limitation of the self-love of the multitude, so that each of them prosper as much as possible. Does this measure apply to God's relationship to man? To think so is not only wicked but insane. “How can a man,” asks Eliphaz, “be profitable to God? He who is wise is profitable to himself. Is it any pleasure to the Almighty if you are in the right, or is it gain to him if you make your ways blameless?” (Job 22:2-3). “God,” says Augustine, “does not need human righteousness itself, and everything in which the true worship of God is expressed is beneficial to man, and not to God. No one, of course, will say that he was useful to the fount when he drank from it, or to the light when he saw it.” “Man,” says St. Gregory of Nyssa, “this weak and short-lived being, well likened to the grass (Ps. 102:14), existing today, and not tomorrow, believes that he worthily honored the divine nature. It is like lighting a thin thread of tow, thinking that with this spark you increase the brilliance of the sun's rays.” “What are human deeds?” asks St. John Chrysostom. “Ashes and dust, dust in the face of the wind, smoke and shadow, leaf and color carried away by the wind, sleep, dream, and fable, empty vibrations of air, easily excited, a feather plucked out, an unstable current, and everything whatsoever may be more insignificant than this.” Why did the Lord need these illusory human deeds? Why did He not only deign to “bring a person out of non-existence into existence,” but he also “raised up the fallen one and gave him the kingdom to come?” The legal principle will not explain to us this “blessing of the mercy” of God, according to which He “could not suffer the devil to torment the human race.” Where law and satisfaction operate, there is no room for such causeless, unmercenary grace.

Let us take, however, the relationship between God and man as given by experience, without thinking about their origin. Let us assume that there is currently a legal union between God and man: the virtue of man is the price that the Lord demands of him for the promised rewards. But even with this concession, the relationship between God and man will not be consistent from a legal point of view: before thinking about any reward for his deeds, a man owes God for all the benefits he has received and would receive.

Man has everything from God

“If only God,” says St. Macarius of Egypt, “entered into court with us, then nothing would have been found that, in genuine truth, belonged to man; because both possessions and all the imaginary earthly blessings, in which a person can do good, and the earth, and everything on it, and the body itself, and the soul itself, belongs to Him. And man has not only everything else, but even his very being according to mercy. Therefore, what property does he have that he could rightfully boast and justify himself with?” “How impossible it is to get ahead of your shadow, which moves forward just so much as we go forward, and always precedes us at an equal distance; just as it is impossible for the body to grow above the head, which always towers above it,” so writes St. Gregory the Theologian, “and it is impossible for us to surpass God with our gifts. For we do not give anything that does not belong to Him, or that would be outside the circle of His bounties. Think, where does being, breathing, and understanding itself come from? Where does this highest advantage come from that you know God, that you hope for the kingdom of heaven?” “What will we repay the merciful God for all these blessings and gifts,” asks St. Ephraim the Syrian, “because He descended from heaven from the Father, or because for our sake He was incarnated in the womb, or because He was barbed for us? In order to repay for one whipping, then, if we had lived on earth for thousands of years, we could not have rewarded this divine mercy in any way.” “By such a great Essence,” says St. Gregory of Nyssa, “where it is possible neither to see Him, nor hear, nor reach with thought, a man who is esteemed to be nothing among creation, this ash, this hay, this vanity, he is received as a son by the God of all. What can you find worthy of thanksgiving for this thought? Where is such a word, such a thought, even a movement of thought that would glorify such an abundance of mercy? A person leaves the limits of his nature, a mortal becomes immortal, one always rushing to death becomes permanently abiding, in a word, a man becomes god.” “Children,” says St. Tikhon Zadonsky, “in whatsoever respect and pleasure they may grant their father, repay their due to him as their parent, educator and industry, otherwise they would be ungrateful: so Christians, no matter how hard they try to please the heavenly Father, they repay what is due and cannot deserve anything; but what they receive from God, they receive as a gift. We cannot repay God for His good deeds shown to us in any way, but we always remain debtors before Him.” For our good deeds, therefore, even if we recognize a certain value behind them, nevertheless, a person cannot deserve a reward, which would go, so to speak, towards paying a debt, so that “if we do not do what is commanded to us, then we have no right to be called even unprofitable slaves” (St. Ephraim the Syrian). “Ye show no mercy (to God by striving for good),” says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, “because ye yourself received it already: on the contrary, ye repay the mercy, returning the debt to the One crucified for you on Calvary.”

A man deserves only punishment for his sins

But this is not enough. If we measure the relationship between God and man with a legal yardstick and consistently adhere to it to the end, then we must admit that every good work gives a person at least a specter of a right to a reward; likewise, on the other hand, every sin, every violation of the covenant with God necessarily demands satisfaction, so to speak, as payment for itself (as the Catholics indeed teach), and consequently, they take away the least specter of the right to some kind of reward from God. “The perishable human race is worthy of a thousand deaths, because it abideth in sins,” says St. Basil the Great. Sin is not only the possession of the imperfect but is a universal phenomenon, and everyone can say about himself without any hesitation: “How can a person be justified before God? Behold, He does not trust His servants, and sees defects in His angels: all the more so in those who dwell in temples made of clay, whose foundation is dust, which are destroyed quicker than the moth” (Job 9:2, 4:18–19). “In the courage of even the elect it is possible,” according to St. Cyril of Alexandria, “to find something worthy of just censure, which is seen by the knowledge of the Legislator, although it escapes our gaze.” “Even if someone,” says St. John Chrysostom, “was righteous, even a thousand times righteous and reached the very pinnacle, so that he renounced sins, he cannot be clean from filth; even if he was a thousand times righteous, he is still a man.” Where is the opportunity to demand from God some kind of reward, some kind of satisfaction, when on our part there is only a violation of the covenant with God, only a multiplication in an already great debt? “Know,” says St. Tikhon Zadonsky, “that we did not deserve any good from God, but on the contrary, we are worthy of all punishment, and no matter what the punishment, our sins are still worthy of more.” “If this state (that is, the state in hell after the general judgment) was the lot for everyone, then in this case no one would have the right to reproach the justice of God, the Avenger,” as Augustine says quite rightly, from a strictly legal point of view.

Inconsistency between human labor and God's reward

But even if we forget all this, forget both the insignificance and sinfulness of man, then, from the point of view of law, we cannot explain the salvation of man: the basic principle of the legal union—the equality of sacrifice and reward, labor and recompense—is not maintained. What is earthly life in comparison with the afterlife bliss? An insignificant drop compared to the whole ocean. If, therefore, a person's deeds have any value, then at least not for receiving eternal bliss. “If Abraham,” says the holy apostle Paul, “was justified by works, then he has praise, But not before God” (Rom. 4:2). From our earthly point of view and for earthly purposes, the righteousness of man has some value and may deserve some kind of reward in the eyes of men, but before the judgment of God, where the judgment on the last fate of man is pronounced, this righteousness has no value and does not correspond to the greatness of the reward. First of all, this is because “the time of repentance is short, but the kingdom of heaven has no end.” “The labor of asceticism, like a dream, is fleeting, and the reward of rest for it is endless and indescribable.” “Our short-term suffering produces eternal glory in immeasurable abundance” (2 Cor. 4:17). “Thousands of years of this age in comparison with the eternal and incorruptible world is as if someone took one grain of sand from the whole multitude of sea sands” (St. Ephraim). But time and eternity are opposed to each other not only in their duration, quantitatively; they are much more incomparable with each other in their content, in their qualitative difference. Whatever works a person undertakes, whatever suffering he has endured, all this is nothing in comparison with the bliss that he receives for it. “Behold,” says St. John Chrysostom, “how great is the glory that those who perform good deeds receive: it is above all deeds, no matter what one has performed; let him reach the very pinnacle, but even then it will be even lower than it. Indeed, what can a person do to fully deserve the Master's bounty?” “If it were the case,” says St. Macarius of Egypt, “that every person from the time of the creation of Adam and until the end of the world waged war with Satan and endured sorrows, then he would not have done anything great in comparison with the glory that he inherits, because he will reign with Christ for endless ages.”

God, not needing man, always helps him

The inability to understand salvation from the point of view of law is revealed, further, from that inadmissible and inconceivable phenomenon in a legal union that one of the members of the union (God) not only does not need the other members and does not seek to use their labors and forces for His own benefit, but He becomes their constant and necessary assistant in everything. “Your virtues,” says St. John Chrysostom, “are not from you, but from the grace of God. Whether you point to faith, it comes from a vocation; whether you point to the forgiveness of sins, to gifts, to the ability to teach, to virtue—you received everything from there. Tell me, what do you have that you did not receive, but achieved by yourself? You cannot point to anything.” “How can we deserve by our obedience an eternal life, when true obedience is not our own but God's work of grace, but we are simply ascribed that we do not resist the grace of God and cooperate with the One working in us?” What can be said about merit on the part of a person when he cannot take a single step in moral development without the help of God? “If Thy mercy had not covered me,” says St. Ephraim the Syrian, “I would have perished already—and would now be like dust before the face of the wind, as one who has never appeared in this life.” “Without God,” according to St. Gregory the Theologian, “we are all mortal playgrounds of vanity, the living dead, stinking of sins.” How can we understand after this the union of God with man, if we stand strictly on the legal point of view? I enter into an alliance not at all out of a desire to serve or help my neighbor, but, on the contrary, out of a desire to use the forces of my neighbor for my own well-being. At the same time, my goal, of course, is to get as much as possible and give as little as possible. Will I, therefore, undertake any obligations if I do not hope to receive more or, at least, equal remuneration? Meanwhile, the Lord not only enters into a union with man and assumes obligations on Himself, He Himself definitely needing neither this union nor man in general, not only gives man a reward that infinitely exceeds the work of the latter, and forgets all his wrongs, without demanding payments for them, but He Himself also produces good in man, so that He Himself may be obliged to man for this good. “God, Who,” according to St. Irenaeus of Lyons, “does not need anything, accepts our good deeds with the aim of giving us a reward with His blessings, as our Lord says: ‘Come, ye who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I hungered and ye gave Me to eat;...insofar as ye did it to one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it to Me’ [Mt. 25:34-40]. He does not need it, but He wants us to do it for our own benefit, so that we might not be without fruit.” From a legal point of view, this phenomenon is incomprehensible, even downright meaningless.18

Mercy as the basic law of God's relationship to man

In view of such incongruities of the legal understanding of life, the Church fathers admitted it only in the form of metaphor; they have always realized that the grace of God is at work in our salvation, always ready to give more than is required, and it is not a dry calculation that only thinks about not paying too much so as not to cause damage to itself. Therefore, recognizing works for salvation as necessary, namely as the cause [of salvation], the Church fathers nevertheless ascribed salvation not to works, not to merit, but exclusively to the mercy of God. We work, we do good, but we are not saved because of labors; "we are rewarded from Christ the Lord in the next age according to His mercy alone, and not according to merit" (St. Tikhon Zadonsky). “Eternal rest,” says St. Basil the Great, “will await those who have practiced asceticism legally in this life, (but) eternal rest is not given by merit of deeds, but by the grace of the great-gifted God, bestowed on those who trusted in Him.” Interpreting Romans 6:23, St. John Chrysostom says: “The apostle did not say that it (eternal life) is a reward for your merits, but ‘the gift of God,’ letting them know that we did not free ourselves and received not a due, not a reward, not a recompense for our labors; on the contrary, all this is a work of grace. And from this we can see the advantage of grace: it not only freed us and improved our lot but even did all this without our efforts and labors.” “Everything good and salvific God has done for men is accomplished by grace and goodness, and we have not given any reason to be shown kindness" (St. Gregory of Nyssa). Our personal participation in our salvation seems to vanish before the greatness of what the Lord is doing for us and in us, so that St. Athanasius of Alexandria quite fully explains the Orthodox dogma of the salvation of man, saying that “all our salvation should be attributed to the mercy of God.”

Only such a teaching is reconciled with the concept of God, which God Himself revealed to us; only with such an idea of salvation will we understand that God is the God of love. He is, indeed, our heavenly Father, Who is equally ready to pardon everyone if only they would turn for this mercy. “Keep on asking,” says the Lord, “and it shall be given to you; keep on seeking, and ye shall find; keep on knocking, and it shall be opened to you.... If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father, the One in the heavens, give good things to those who ask Him” (Mt. 7:7-11). “Ye heard that it was said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy’ (this is the basic provision of a juridical, legal understanding of life: to repay what each one owes). But I say to you, keep on loving your enemies, blessing those who curse you,...and keep on praying for those who despitefully use you and are persecuting you (the mood is directly opposed to being legalistic; but why is it necessary?), so that ye might become sons of your Father Who is in the heavens; for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt. 5:43-45), without asking how much they deserved these favors, and not being afraid to reward the unworthy. Does this concept of God correspond to the legal concept of Him? Is it possible to say that the Lord “is kind to the unthankful and to the evil” (Lk. 6:35) if He gives back only in like kind, if He has mercy only on the worthy. How does such retribution differ from ordinary human justice? “If ye,” says the Lord, “love those who love you, what reward are ye having? Even the tax collectors are doing the same, are they not?And if ye greet your brethren only, what extraordinary thing are ye doing? Even the heathen are so doing, are they not?” (Mt. 5:46-47). The same can be said about the legal concept of God. If He has mercy only on the worthy, then is this love? Would not each of us, imbued with self-love, have done the same? What then is the superiority of divine mercy over ours? We confess to God in our daily evening prayers, “If Thou wouldest save the righteous, it would be nothing great; and if Thou hast mercy on the pure, it is nothing marvelous; they are deserving of Thy mercy.” Love is not in “that we loved God, but that He Himself loved us” (1 Jn. 4:10); but “God commendeth His own love to us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). “But on me,” we pray, “a sinner, show the wonder of Thy mercy: in this show Thy love for mankind, and let not my evil overcome Thine inexpressible goodness and mercy” (Evening Prayers). If the Lord taught us to forgive our neighbor for his sins against us, it is because He Himself has first forgiven us our sins; if He forbade us to demand any satisfaction for the wrongs done to us, although the law of truth not only permits this but also requires it, then He forbade this because He Himself does not demand satisfaction from us, that He Himself forgives us without payment. The Lord presented the law as the guardian of righteousness; but with the coming of Christ, the law, recognized as imperfect (Rom. 3:21, etc.), ceased to exist, and we saw our heavenly Father as His only-begotten Son revealed Him to us.

The failure of the idea of insulting God and His anger at sinners

According to the Protestant teaching, God was always angry with man, He was always unable forgive him for the insult that a man inflicted on Him by sin. Then suddenly, seeing a person's faith in Jesus Christ, God is reconciled with a person and does not consider him his enemy anymore, although a person can still sin after that, but with impunity. Here, the basic principle that the legal understanding of life lives on is clearly revealed: everything is built on an offended self-love; once self-love is pacified, then sin, previously condemned and cursed, loses its sinfulness. This is not what the Orthodox Church teaches .

Is it possible to imagine that God was at enmity against man for his sin, so that God could not be reconciled with man, even if this latter yearned for God with all his soul and prayed for communion with Him? Remaining faithful to the word of God and the teaching of the fathers, we can only say: no. To be convinced of this, let us open the Bible and right there, in the first pages, we find a refutation of this Protestant view, although Protestants boast that they believe only what the Bible teaches.

If God were at enmity against man for the insult of sin, how will Protestants explain to us the primitive history of mankind? Having denounced Adam, why does the Lord not leave him to his doom but instead arranges his life and immediately gives him the most joyful promise that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent? Why does the Lord, seeing how close sin was to Cain, appear to him and warn him? Why, in general, was there a lack of peace, that is, reconciliation with God, only for people who “neglected the Spirit of God” (Gen. 6:3), only for the wicked, who did not want to be converted (Is. 57:20-21), “but in every nation, the one who feareth God and worketh righteousness is acceptable to Him” (Acts 10:35).

Obviously, all this is because, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, “It is not God Who is at enmity with us, but we are at enmity with Him. God is never at enmity.” God always strives for man, always attracts him to Himself, but the fact is that man does not always obey the calling of God. In this case, the person perishes, but the reason is not God's anger, not God's unwillingness to forgive a person, but the person himself choosing the bad; God cannot leave this bad person to live, cannot bestow on evil the truth that belongs only to good; God cannot do this just as He cannot die or lie, because that would be a denial of the divine Being. But not reconciling with sin, the love of God is always ready to convert and save man. Sin removes man from God, not God from man.

The Prophet Isaiah expresses this idea remarkably clearly. For example: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place and also with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth: otherwise the spirit should fail before Me, and every breath which I have made” (Is. 57:15-16). God, as the Creator of everything, could, of course, be only a punishing truth, but then man would perish. Therefore, the love of God does not place sin as an unconditional obstacle to the rapprochement of God with man; wherever there is one humble and contrite in heart, where there is a noticeable desire to give up sin and be with God, the love of God does not leave that one without help. “For the sin of his greed, I was angry and smote him, I hid My face and was indignant (in order to correct him); but he, having turned away, followed the path of his heart (My removal only brought the person closer to death. Then I decided to act differently). I saw his ways (but now, however, I am ready to help him), and I will heal him and I will lead him and comfort him and those who mourn him. I will fulfill the word: ‘Peace, peace to the one who is far and near,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will heal him’” (Is. 57:17-19). But an indispensable condition for this mercy must be a contrite heart, otherwise mercy will not touch a person. “‘I am merciful,’ says the Lord, ‘I will not be indignant forever: only admit thine iniquity’” (Jer. 3:12-13). “‘And the wicked are like an agitated sea that cannot calm down, and which waters throw mire and mud. There is no peace for the wicked,’ says my God” (Is. 57:20-21). Why is this? Because they did not accept the mercy of God and did not want to be reconciled with Him. “Every day I stretched out My hands to a rebellious people who walked in an unkind way, according to their own thoughts” (this is the attitude of the Lord towards the sinner, despite his sin). However, “This is what is written before my face: ‘I will not keep silent, but I will repay, I will requite into their bosom your iniquitous heart,’ saith the Lord.... ‘Ye, who have forsaken the Lord, have forgotten My holy mountain, ye prepare a meal for Gad and dissolve a full cup for Meni (Gad and Meni are the names of deities of the sun and the moon). I doom you to the sword, and ye all shall bow down to the slaughter, because I called—and ye did not answer, I spoke—and you did not listen, but did evil in Mine eyes and chose what was not pleasing unto Me. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God: behold, My servants (that is, those who have turned to God) will eat, but you will starve’” (Is. 65:2,6-7,11-13). “Who would turn the wrath of God to mercy, or justice to mercy,” says St. Ephraim the Syrian, “but he who pleads with the Judge, although the man has bound the burden of sins to himself and the same man binds, loosens, and lightens the burden when he wants? For we increase the burdens when we sin grievously, and we also lighten them when we bitterly repent; and it depends on us to loose and bind. God's work is to forgive those who fall before Him; for, indeed, we have a philanthropic Master, Who by repentance loosens the burdens of slaves.” The reason for the punishment, therefore, is not the need to somehow satisfy the righteousness of God (after all, there is no such satisfaction even after repentance), but the fact that the sinner does not repent, continues to be in sin and thus alienates himself from the life of God. The enmity, therefore, is not in God, but in man.

“While I was hostile towards Thee, Thou didst love me exceedingly,” our Church sings.19 For the sake of this love of His, God, not desiring to impute to men this enmity towards Him, sent His Son to reconcile people with Him. If after this, for some, the grace of God is “in vain,” it is because they themselves do not want to heed God's admonition, do not want to be reconciled with God. Who, then, is reconciled in Baptism? Obviously not God, because He calls a person to Baptism, He awakens his faith, and so on. Consequently, a person is reconciled with God, that is, a person who until then loved only himself and sin, now responds to the call of God and, for his part, decides not to serve sin anymore and not to have enmity against God, and decides, instead of having enmity, to be in communion with God.

“The love of God,” says St. Ephraim the Syrian, “does not hesitate to listen to those who truly come to God. And He does not reproach the wicked person who comes again: ‘Why did you serve the enemy for so long and voluntarily despise Me, the Lord?’ He does not look for how much time has elapsed, but the Lord only looks at the humility, tears, and sighs of the one falling before Him, because He is the One Who foresees, as our God and Creator, instantly forgives all sins and mistakes in thoughts and deeds, and says, ‘Bring him (the one falling before Him) his former robe and put also a ring on his right hand,’ and commands all the angels to rejoice at the acquisition of this sinner's soul.” Of course, the perfect remains perfect, but a person cannot forget his former sins (remember the tears of the Apostle Peter). But if a person begins to regard his sins as an impenetrable wall between him and God, then it will be a mortal sin, despair. Awareness of past sins only teaches a person to understand the mercy and all-forgiving love of God, and does not excite in him horror before the wrath of God,

By presenting the relationship of God to man in the wrong light, the legal understanding of life distorts the moral life of man.

The essence of the Christian life lies in love, which is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:10). “And Jesus said to him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Mt. 22:37-40). “If anyone is willing to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and keep on following Me” (Mt. 16:24). Does a legal understanding of life meet these requirements? Can we say that a person loves God most of all, can we say that he completely rejected himself when a person fulfills the will of God only in the hope to receive the highest reward? After all, the goal that sanctifies good deeds for a person, in this case, is nothing more than well-being—the focus of a person's life continues to be his own self and not God. Making a certain concession in favor of the law of God, a person in his soul remains all the same a self-lover, desiring only his own benefit. True, the saying about bearing the cross refers to the sorrows of this life. But is it fair to limit the power of the Savior's words by these sorrows? We must not forget that the Lord never taught us external good practices as the ultimate goal, but had in mind a spiritual mood. If, for example, He commanded to beware of an oath, to turn the other cheek to the one who strikes us, and so on, this does not mean at all that these actions are prescribed for a Christian (sectarians have no right to thus limit the meaning of these words). For a Christian, specifically, the disposition is obligatory which, under certain conditions, can be expressed in the indicated actions; these latter serve only, so to speak, as a clear example of the teaching, and not its content. The same should be said about the bearing of the cross. The Lord, of course, does not need our suffering, but requires the attitude that makes us not only indifferent to suffering but also joyful to suffer for Christ—this kind of self-hatred is needed which is a direct consequence and expression of love for God. “My son, give me thy heart,” says the wise Solomon (Prov. 23:26). Meanwhile, laboring because of a reward does not give one’s heart, as the heart still belongs to the man and not to God. “If ye should do good to those who do good to you, what kind of thanks is there to you? For even the sinners do the same. And if ye should lend to those from whom ye hope to receive, what kind of thanks is there to you? For also the sinners lend to sinners, in order that they might receive the same” (Lk. 6:33,34). Again, the Lord does not care about our debtors, but wants to teach us by this example self-denial for the sake of our heavenly Father. “And your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Highest; for He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil” (Lk. 6:35). If we love Christ and follow Him only because we “ate of the loaves and were filled” (Jn. 6:26), if we do good only because we expect a greater reward from God, then how is our good deed different from the good work of the pagan? After all, even the pagans, in expectation of a reward, can do good deeds—do they not even perform such feats before which one cannot help but stop in amazement? Such are, for example, fakirs, Buddhist devotees, dervishes, etc. All of them, each in their own way, expect a reward or benefit for themselves beyond the grave—and for the sake of it they subjugate their body, endure grievances, refuse the comforts and honors of worldly life, etc. All the difference between our good deeds and the pagan's would consist in the fact that we expect our rewards from the true God, while Buddhists, fakirs, and so on chase ghosts; but in our essence, from the point of view of our spiritual disposition, we would not differ in the least from them; we would be the same as they are, lovers of ourselves.20 No, a true follower of Christ “doeth no sin,” not because of the fear of punishment and not out of the desire for reward, “but because His seed abideth in him” (1 Jn. 3:9). His good deeds, therefore, must find root within the soul, must flow not out of self-pity, which is by its very essence hostile to Christ's teaching, but from love for goodness (philokalia) and God.

The denunciation of mercenary activity by the fathers and teachers of the Church

That is why the fathers and teachers of the Church with all decisiveness denounce virtue for the sake of a reward or because of fear, that “innuendo,” in the expression of St. Gregory the Theologian. “In my opinion,” as Clement of Alexandria says, “we should come to the Savior, the Logos, not out of fear of punishment, not because of the promise of a reward, but because of the superiority of good in itself: such will stand at the right hand of the sanctuary; those who imagine, through the distribution of corruptible property, to acquire incorruptible ones in the parable of the two brothers are called mercenaries” (Lk.15:11-12). “If we could imagine,” he says, “that someone suggested to the Christian whether he wants to choose the knowledge of God or eternal life, and if these two things, which are completely identical, were separated, then the Christian would not hesitate and would choose the knowledge of God, recognizing that the possession of faith, which from love ascends to knowledge, is desirable in itself,” regardless of whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, beneficial or not for the person. “If you are a slave,” says St. Gregory the Theologian, “be afraid of beatings. If you are a mercenary, keep one thing in mind: acquire more. If you stand above a slave and a mercenary, even as a son, then be ashamed before God as the Father; do good because it is good to obey the Father. At least so that you do not hope to receive anything—to please the Father is in itself a reward.” “Perfection,” according to St. Gregory of Nyssa, “is to move away from a depraved life to do good not slavishly, not out of fear of punishment and not out of the hope of rewards, with some kind of conditions and contracts, doing business with one’s virtuous life but losing sight of everything, even that hope which is kept according to the promise; only one thing should one imagine as terrible—to lose God's friendship, and only one thing to recognize as precious and desired—to become God's friend. This, in my opinion, is perfection in life.”

But the most important, so to speak, irreconcilable denouncer of mercenary virtue finds itself in the person of St. John Chrysostom, who can sometimes be pointed out as its exponent. He directly reveals the real source of such good deeds in self-love: they are done in the absence of love for God and Christ. “What are you saying, O cowardly, pitiful man?” exclaims the saint. “You have to do something pleasing to God, and you stand in thought about the reward? If it were the case that if you were to do this deed, you were to go into Gehenna, would you then put it away? On the contrary, would it not be that you would undertake such a good deed with greater zeal? You do what is pleasing to God—and are you looking for another reward? Truly you do not know what a great good it is to please God; because if you knew this, then no other reward would equal (this boon). Do you not know that your reward will be greater when you begin to do what is due, not hoping for a reward?” “We,” says the saint in his other work, “are in such a pitiful frame of mind that if there were no fear of Gehenna, perhaps we would not have thought to do anything good. Therefore, we are worthy of Gehenna, if not for other guilt, then precisely because we fear it more than Christ. Completely opposite were the feelings of the blessed Paul. We are therefore condemned to Gehenna because our dispositions are different. If we loved Christ as we ought to love, we would know that to offend a loved one is harder than Gehenna. But we do not love; therefore we do not know the greatness of this punishment.... Although we always live in sins and vices, but as soon as we do a little good, as soon as it is worth some reward, following the example of malevolent slaves, we calculate it to the last little bit and we weigh out what we should be paid for that. But you will get a great reward if you do not do it in the hope of a reward. Talking about rewards and calculating them in advance signifies more a mercenary than a faithful servant. Everything must be done for Christ, not for a reward. For this, He threatens with hell, for this, He promises the kingdom, so that we love Him. So let us love Christ as much as we ought to love: here is the lofty reward, here is the kingdom and pleasure.”

Some try, contrary to the voice of the Church fathers, to justify virtue for reward on the grounds that, although it may not be entirely moral, it is useful. It is necessary, they say, to look at what reward is available in this case; Christians have in mind a recompense that surpasses everything, moreover, the expectation of this bribe makes Christians cling to God, be moral, etc.21 But this consideration can only prove the rationality and prudence of such a good deed, but not the purity of one’s motives. In addition, the quality of such a virtue, its depth and strength are highly questionable. “Concerning the horse,” says St. John Chrysostom, “one should be especially surprised when it can walk straight without a bridle; if he walks straight because he is held back by the cords and the bridle, then this is not surprising: then this harmony should not be attributed to the nobility of the animal, but to the strength of the bridle. The same should be said about the soul: is it surprising if it behaves modestly when oppressed by its fear? No, but show me your spiritual wisdom and perfect goodness when temptations have passed and the bridle of fear is removed.” And this is quite understandable. If a person does good only because of a reward or fear of punishment, then his entire moral development can be very strongly questioned. Suppose he is now doing good; but, after all, his soul does not participate in this good and does not value it; after all, the meaning of life for him is self-gratification. One has only to assume that as soon as the circumstances change, that when it has become more profitable for a person to do evil and not good, then all his virtue, like a plant without a root, would disappear instantly. Then it would turn out that a person's heart is not at all with God, although he had honored Him.

This compulsory virtue is beautifully described by St. Tikhon Zadonsky. “Many Christians,” he says, “having come to their senses about their sins with which they angered the majesty of God, were regretful and lamented for no other reason but because they would receive the torment prepared for sinners. This sorrow comes from pride, as everyone can see; for they regret their next death, and not angering and offending God by their sins. Those are they who, whenever they had no expectation for subsequent punishment of sins, and if it were possible to live in the world forever and always sin, they would never cease to sin. For they cease from sins not for the sake of God, but for the fear of their own destruction. And so the wrongness of the heart, its pride and craftiness is recognized. For God's sake, we all work—we must evade the evil and do the good. As God does everything in our favor, so we all must work for His glory. This is the righteousness of the heart.... True pity and sorrow according to God consists in the fact that a Christian should lament and mourn not on account of deprivation of the eternal life and inheriting punishments in hell, but on account of the fact that towards the God, Creator, Redeemer, and Provider of man, Who is worthy most of all to be worshipped, loved, and heeded, he did not worship Him, did not love Him, and did not listen to Him.... This is the true sorrow according to God. A Christian should grieve about this because he did not give God His due. He who has such grief, even if there were no eternal life or hell, would grieve, weep, and be ashamed, and resent himself.... Such sorrow comes from love, and it is a true, Christian, righteous sorrow according to God.”

Thus, the very essence of Christianity turns out to be distorted with a legal understanding of life: the sublimity and spirituality of the idea of God is lost, while a person is left with his former, pre-Christian, selfish disposition.

But if it is the case that this life-understanding is in its very essence opposite to the Christian one, and if it was unanimously rejected by the word of God and the Church fathers, then how can we understand those sayings in which this concept of life seems to be expressed? First of all, in very many cases, the word of God and the Church fathers, pointing out to man the eternal bliss of the righteous and the eternal torment of sinners, want to express only the thought that holiness is truth, and sin is a lie, and therefore the former has in itself the guarantee of triumph, that it is eternal, and the second must necessarily lead to destruction, to shame. “No one will strengthen his life by his iniquity” (Ezek. 7:13). In other words, this is the conviction that our holy God is the one true God, and His law is the one true dispensation of life, is the one true law of being. If the same fate awaits the righteous and sinners behind the grave, then good and evil are the same in dignity, both are equally relative and temporary. Good has no advantage over sin; it is even weaker than sin, because sin often triumphs in life. But this already leads to the idea that God, commanding to do good and being the holy One Himself, is not really the Lord of everything; His teaching, therefore, is not an unconditional truth, and so on.

In this sense should we understand the many passages in Holy Scripture where the righteous are perplexed that “the way of the wicked prospereth,” or that the righteous are humiliated, that the law of God is outraged. We will be very far from the spirit of the word of God if we understand all such perplexities in the sense of selfish discontent, grumbling against God, in the sense of demanding payment for ourselves for fulfilling the law. These perplexities arose from the fact that the humiliation of the righteous and of the true Faith, of piety in general, seemed to be in disagreement with the truth of God. If evil triumphs and there is no end in sight to its triumph, then it could not possibly be the true law of being, could it? Is it not God Who rules the world; it cannot really be no more than a delusion to follow the law of God, can it? The occasions for thinking this way (not for them, but for those who do not know God) tormented the consciences of the Old Testament righteous: the triumph of evil gave the enemies a reason to mock the law of God. “It is not for Thy pure eyes to behold evil doings, and to look upon grievous afflictions Thou art not able: wherefore dost thou look upon despisers? wilt thou be silent when the ungodly swallows up the ones more righteous than he?” (Hab. 1:13). Their own personal sufferings are not at all of chief importance here: the incorrectness, unnaturalness of the order of things torments the righteous. Therefore, if the matter only touches upon external suffering, if the righteous man has been convinced that his God is the true God and will certainly rule over evil, then the righteous man is able to take no account of his sufferings and may not be troubled about his personal fate: let it be that he suffers and even if he would suffer for eternity, he still knows that he believes in the truth and that the truth will prevail.

Job's story

This idea is very clearly revealed in the Book of Job. Job patiently endures his misfortunes and does not apostatize from God, not because he is thinking about a reward, but simply because he believes in God. Therefore, in response to the tempting suggestion of his wife, Job does not even mention a future reward, but simply once again confesses his faith in God: “If we received good from Him, what of it if we now receive the evil”—whatever happens to us, whether it would be useful for us to fulfill the law of God or it be useless, nothing changes from this, the truth remains the truth, God, as before, is God. Listening to the arguments not entirely sincerely delivered by his friends, Job suffered and grumbled but, again, because knowing his innocence, he could not regard his misfortunes as punishment; if they are not punishment, then where is their meaning, and could the Lord be just? The arguments of the friends, thus, lead a person either to hypocrisy (in his heart, feeling that this suffering was undeserved while all the same saying that it was deserved, to defend the truth of God with hypocrisy, for which Job denounces his friends), or they could make him doubt God. That is why Job asks that it be given him to see the Lord, that it be given him to appear before the judgment of God. When the Lord appears and reveals His greatness to Job and his friends, Job throws himself down in dust and ashes but is completely reassured. Now his eyes have seen the Lord, about Whom he heard only with the hearing of the ear; his faith found itself irrefutable proof, and the truth triumphs. He does not even mention deliverance from suffering: his God, in fact, is God; He is the truth—this is the main thing for him.

Thus, the triumph of good is necessarily assumed by its truth: the eternal bliss of the righteous is evidence of the truth of Christ's teaching.

If often in the Holy Scriptures and the works of the Church fathers a person is encouraged to do good by the promise of a reward, then these are inevitable concessions to the ordinary human disposition.

Could the self-lover understand that it is grave and shameful to anger God when all his concern is directed only to his own welfare? It was necessary, therefore, to point out to him first of all that it is pernicious for his well-being to be in sins, that to anger God is not only regrettable and shameful but also frightening. “When,” we read in St. Gregory of Nyssa, “some, as the apostle says, ‘having become insensible, gave themselves up’ (Eph. 4:19) to a sinful life, they became in truth some kind of dead and inactive persons in regards to the virtuous life, and they do not feel at all what they are doing. If, however, some healing word touches them, as it were, with hot and scorching materials, and by this I mean the severe threats of future judgment, then the fear of what is expected would penetrate the heart to the depths, and in it, having been numb from the passions of voluptuousness, as if being rubbed and warmed with some kind of hot and pointed object—the fear of Gehenna, the unquenchable fire, the undying worm, the gnashing of teeth, the incessant weeping, the pitch darkness and everything similar, would make one become sensible of the life that he is living: it would make him worthy of blessedness, producing a painful feeling in his soul.”

On the other hand, it is impossible to explain to a selfish person the delights of a virtuous life as long as he is selfish; it is necessary first to show him that virtue leads to bliss, that the labors in this life would be rewarded a hundredfold in eternal life. This is the origin of the striving to attract people to good deeds by indicating its usefulness—the striving that we meet in Holy Scripture and Tradition. “Virtue is harsh,” says St. John Chrysostom, answering directly to our question, “but let us imagine her clothed in the greatness of future promises. People with an exalted soul find it beautiful even without that, by itself, and therefore strive for it—they live virtuously not because of rewards but to please God, and they highly value chastity, not in order to avoid punishment, but because God commanded it. If anyone is more weak, let him imagine rewards as well.”

Thus, only for the weak and the imperfect should there be reminders of the reward for virtue, while the perfect know the value of virtue—and therefore will be virtuous even without rewards. Taking the indicated point of view of the weak, the Church fathers never forgot its imperfections, and, allowing it, they never sanctioned it, never forgot to point out to their flock that this is only a preparatory step, and only in this sense is it permissible in Christianity. “Towards the first step,” says Clement of Alexandria, “elevating us above the fleshly man, the commandment, combined with fear, raises us; fear keeps us from all kinds of falsehoods. The second step is hope, which directs us to the supreme good. Leading us towards the perfect, naturally, as it were, is love, which completes the work of our upbringing on the path of knowledge.” “This is the second degree of a commendable life—to do something for reward and recompense; and third, to avoid evil for the fear of punishment” (St. Gregory the Theologian). Therefore, even in their appeals to the very beginners of virtuous feats, and moreover in ascetical exercises, which are especially harsh for themand, consequently, according to Chrysostom, who most need to be reinforced with promiseseven in these cases, the ascetic fathers reminded them of the truth about disinterested virtue. “If it is possible for you,” says St. Isaac the Syrian, with such a restrictive expression pointing out the difficulty of having a lofty attitude, “do good not for the sake of future reward.”

Consequently, attempts to substantiate virtue on motives alien to pure morality, on profit or benefit, have only a circumstantial presence in Holy Scripture and Tradition: they are determined by the degree of development of people, and not at all by the essence of the teaching that is preached. Incidental as such, they cannot shake our conclusion about the legal understanding of life: this latter understanding, we repeat, irreconcilably contradicts the Christian understanding of life, as expressed in Holy Scripture and the works of the Church fathers.

  1. Borrowed, with some abbreviations, which do not change the meaning, from the work of Archbishop Sergius of Finland: "The Orthodox Doctrine of Salvation." SPb., 1910 (pp. 6-10, 15-32, 34, 45, 49-52, 55-71, 73-76, 155-160, 76-89).

  2. Apologia Conf. Aug. III (166). We use Hasë's Libri symbolici ecclesiae evangelicae in our quotations from Lutheran symbolic books. Lipsiae. 1846. p. 119. Cf. Zwinglii Artic. V. Ed. Niemeyer: "Collectio Confessionum in ecclesiis reformatis publicatarum." Lipsiae. 1840. p. 5. We use this edition for all the symbolic books of the Reformed Church.

  3. Apol. III (144). Hase 113.

  4. Apol. III (167). Hase 120.

  5. The first reformers are known to have listened with great attention to the voice of some Frs. of the Church, especially Augustine, whose words are often quoted in the most symbolic books of Protestants. For example, Zwing. Expositio fidei XI, 103. Niem. 58.

  6. Conf. Aug. I, 20. Hase 16.

  7. Form. Cone. I, 2. Hase 579.

  8. Conf. Belg. XXIV. Niem S76.

  9. Conf. Scot. I. Art. 15. Niem. 348.

  10. Hollaz at Bretschneider. Systematische Entwickelung aller in d. Dogmatik vorkommenden Begriffe ". Leipzig. 1819, S. 624.

  11. Apol. III (131). Hase 109.

  12. Hollaz. Ibid.

  13. Quenstedt by Bretschneider. Op.cit. 624.

  14. Ibid. 625. Cf. Art. Smalcald. III. Art. XIII (I) Hase, 336: "Although sin has not yet been completely destroyed in the flesh and is not yet dead, yet God does not want us either to impute it or to remember it."

  15. Apol. III (241). Hase 136.

  16. Apol. III (80), Hase 97: "We praise and demand good works and give many reasons why they should be done." Wed Conf. Helv. XVI. Niem. 498.

  17. From St. John Chrysostom’s 6th Homily on Lazarus

  18. That is why the Church Fathers, who used the analogy of labor and reward, feat and crown, never forgot and did not hide from their listeners that this is only an analogy, only an approximate comparison, that the essence of our salvation is by no means being expressed [in this analogy]. [They affirm] that salvation is not accomplished according to the external law of equal remuneration.

  19. Matins Canon, Sunday, 8th Tone, Ode 4

  20. That is why, with a legal understanding of life, it is impossible to understand why the word of God and all patristic literature insist with such force that a person is saved only by faith in Christ and only in the Church. If, together with the Protestants, we say that outside of Christianity a person cannot be virtuous, then in response, others will point to numerous examples of virtuous life in paganism (although, of course, there is no completely integral example in paganism); in any case, the life of an ordinary Christian is not so drastically different from that of a decent pagan so as to make it obvious why the former is more deserving of salvation than the latter. Why does the Lord accept the first but not the second? The publican was more sinful than the Pharisee; the thief, perhaps, did many deeds which the Scribes would have recoiled from with horror. Why are the first two pleasing to God, but not the Pharisees and the Scribes? There remains only one difference: believers recognize God as their Master, and non-believers do not recognize Him. For a legalist, this reason is quite sufficient: the most important crime in the legal union is the insult to the Majesty. But our moral sense is uneasy when we apply the same thing to God: from Him we expect the highest justice, which values a person's actions in their very essence, and not according to some kind of contract with the Judge.

  21. The Rock of Faith

Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
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