Sunday, December 26, 2010
I'm still reading Tolstoys "The Kingdom of God is Within You," and finding that I really identify with his political views as much as with his take on the Christian life. I've had people say to me, "You mean you think Tolstoy was a Christian?" Ha...a lot of people maybe think that because he was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church he wasn't a follower of Christ. I heard someone say that he invented his own religion. In a nutshell...his "religion" consisted of rejecting institutional creeds and following the teaching of Christ. The five commands of Christ which we see in His sermon on the mount (Matthew chapter 5) are:
1. NO KILLING
2. NO ADULTERY
3. NO OATHS
4. NO RESISTANCE OF EVIL
There is much talk about legalism vs. "hyper-grace" these days. Legalism is the idea that we can be righteous by simply following the letter of the law (as concerns say...the ten commandments.) "Hyper-grace" (perhaps I made up that term....) is the concept that since we are not able to save ourselves by our works...there is nothing we can do...it is all grace. This is the concept that Paul was speaking to when he said, (Romans 6:1) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
If it was all about the Bar Code style of Christianity...then the legalists and the gracies might have a reason to slug it out to find out who's out and who's in.... But since it is not about getting a ticket to heaven but rather becoming a person who can breath the air of heaven; who will thrive in that atmosphere; who has become fit for service; Jesus is telling us that we have got to go deeper than the letter of the law. Not only should we not kill...we must also give up our murderous hatred. Not only should we not commit adultry...we must abandon lust. We shouldn't have to swear an oath to be believed...we must simply always tell the truth. We must not resist evil men with violence, but rather be mistreated than mistreat. Not only should we love our friends...but our enemies too. It's all about the kind of person we are becoming not about whether we could prove our innocence in a court of law.
On the other side. For those who claim that they can do as they wish because they are relying on grace...one may ask...what are they becoming. Are we really relying on Christ if we are not even attempting to live His life?
I found an interesting footnote in my Bible to Habakkuk 1:4 "There is a curious passage in the Talmud (the body of Jewish civil and religious law) which says that Moses gave six hundred injunctions to the Israelites. As these commands might prove too numerous to commit to memory, David brought them down to eleven in Psalm 15. Isaiah reduced these eleven to six in Isaiah 33:15. Micah (6:8) further reduced them to three; and Isaiah (56:1) once more brought them down to two. These two Amos (5:4) reduced to one. However, lest it might be supposed from this that God could be found only in the fulfillment of the law, Habakkuk (2:4 KJV)said, 'The just shall live by his faith.'"
Tolstoy couldn't stand the brand of Christianity that he saw. The religious dogma; the smoke and icons and holy artifacts and other nonsense of the Orthodox church. Armies marching to war (in direct opposition to Christ's teaching on non-resistance) carrying the images of the saints (idolatry); He had no choice to get himself kicked out. And I have been wondering this week (reading another book from that period of Russian history) what would have happened in Russia if the Russian church had paid more attention to Tolstoy and listened to his views on the teaching of Christ,rather than excommunicating him; whether Russia could have had a peaceful transition rather than a bloody revolution led by violent athiestic forces.
He wanted the children to be taught to actually follow Christ's teaching, not just learn a faulty catechism by rote. But the institutional church, is an earthly institution after all, and the function of an institution is self-preservation and expansion. Keep things simple for the simple masses and keep them believing that the elite ecclesiastic hiearchy knows best.
"We may think God wants actions of a certain kind, but God wants people of a certain sort"-C.S. Lewis