Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Eureka (kind of)

Regarding the faith/works issue, I just read this, from a book called Surprised by Christ (written by A. James Bernstein):

We are told that on Judgment Day, as we stand naked before God, the penetrating light of His presence will open the "books" of our hearts. His light will reveal what these books contain. They will show whether our hearts are drawn to God or repulsed by Him, either foretasting heaven or foretasting hell. St. Symeon the New Theologian says that it is not so much what we believe or what we do, but what we are that will determine our future state. We have either a similitude with God or a dissimilitude with Him: In the future life the Christian is not examined if he has renounced the whole world for Christ's love, or if he has distributed his riches to the poor or if he fasted or kept vigil or prayed, or if he wept and lamented for his sins, or if he has done any other good in this life, but is examined attentively if he has any similitude with Christ, as a son does with his father.

Of course, this only raises further questions, but it does speak to the issue of how the following two basic truths fit together--the truth that the handwriting against us regarding our sins has been cancelled out, and the truth that the books will be opened on the day of judgment to make manifest what is recorded there.

If the books are actually our hearts, rather than some series of forensic documents containing either propositional faith statements on which we've signed off OR a list of works with check marks beside them (or not!), then the two truths aren't contradicting each other, but rather, working together to describe the same process.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

There you are!

Our hearts are that by which we are judged. Our works are only the supporting evidence. But even then, only if done in love working by faith. Otherwise, our works are just like those who were classed among the "goats" who had even done miracles in Jesus' Name.

Roland said...

Our hearts are indeed that which is to be judged on Judgment Day. But what our hearts will have become is not independent of our beliefs or our works - especially our works. Wrong beliefs, if taken seriously, can turn the heart in the wrong direction. And works will leave marks on the soul. Works can be both a means by which God's grace comes to us and a result of that grace.

While God will not, ultimately, judge us for our works, it is not unreasonable for us to judge ourselves by our works, as a sort of interim progress report. That is one way to think about confession.