Friday, February 19, 2010

Feeling Abandoned


Jesus’ apparent abandonment by God was essential to His learning of obedience. We find in Jesus’ death, just as in the testing Job and Joseph, that it is only when God apparently abandons us that He actually saves us. This abandonment made Job a pillar of courage, and made of Joseph a pillar of self-restraint. (The Philokalia, 2: 112, Maximos the Confessor, CA 650)


The contemporary western church has in too many instances reduced of the doctrine of “salvation” to the concept of going to heaven when we die. This is tragic indeed; in fact, it is much more Platonic than Christian. This Platonic thinking that has so deeply affected the west; that we have been taught to think that salvation has little to do with the present, & all to do with our eternal spiritual existence.

Maximos the Confessor tells us that salvation is what God accomplishes in us here and now, as well as, what He accomplish for us in for eternity. In Job’s case, what God did in the here and now was to make himself apparently absent from him, in order to produce a pillar of courage in Job. In Joseph’s case, what God did in the here and now was to make himself apparently absent from him so to produce a pillar of self-restraint in him. It is in the producing of the likeness of God that saved them from present evil and eternal death. The very transformation that is salvation, according to Maximos begins here and now.

Of course, this salvation cannot happen apart from faith in Christ, or apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in us. However, the point is that salvation according to the philokalia is much larger than in our way of thinking today. In the mind of the confessor, salvation begins by the learning of obedience.

There are also other benefits to this grander understanding of salvation. For example, since salvation works its way in us by obedience, we can then see why it is that life seems so painful to us in the here and now, in spite of our faith. It is for us, and for our salvation (that is our learning of obedience) that God sometimes stands quietly by us, giving the appearance of abandonment. If God seems absent, it may be that he is forming you into a pillar; it may be that he is saving you here and now.

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