Orthodox -- Unification Dialogue -- Constantine N. Tsirpanlis Editor 1981


Dr. Tsirpanlis: Now I am sure all of you will share in our panel discussion, so write down provocative questions and Professor Cavarnos or Dr. Matczak will answer them.

Dr. Cavarnos: Well, we will try to.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: You will try to. (Laughter)

Dr. Cavarnos: I have with me a few slides of icons, about twenty. They show icons of this tradition of iconography. I would like to show them later in order to illustrate what I have said.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: Thank you very much, Professor Cavarnos. Now it is time, I think, to submit questions and discuss things.

Richard Panzer: Dr. Cavarnos, could you say something about the mystic practices of the holy men, and could you elaborate more on the relationship between their piety and iconography?

Dr. Cavarnos: One thing that occurs to me is the fact that Saint Symeon the New Theologian, who lived in the eleventh century, is regarded as perhaps the greatest mystic of the Eastern Church, and yet he was very strong in his defense of icons. He clearly did not regard icons as an obstacle to the interior life, in which one strives to go beyond concepts, beyond sensations, beyond all form. He did not regard the use of icons as at all an obstacle to the cultivation of the mystical approach to God but rather as an aid. That, I think, is very important. This view has been held by others of the mystical tradition, such as Saint Gregory Palamas, who lived in the fourteenth century. He, too, was very strong in his defense of icons, and repeats some of the things that Saint John Damascene said. Palamas, who is perhaps more than anyone else associated in people's minds with the mysticism of the Eastern Church, was emphatic on the value of the use of icons in one's spiritual development. He had also received the idea of a ladder of Divine ascent. An icon is a ladder. A ladder leads you to something beyond itself. An icon is a ladder by means of which you rise from the physical to the spiritual realm. You dispense with the icon when you enter the mystical state of direct experience of God. When you achieve what you are striving to attain through the icon, then you no longer need it. So there's no opposition at all in the Eastern Church between mysticism and iconography, but rather, a complete harmony.

Richard Panzer: Is that still the situation today?

Dr. Cavarnos: Absolutely! There's no change in that position. One might say that there's a kind of renaissance of the true tradition in iconography among the Orthodox. You see it among the Russians of the diaspora, you see it in Greece, you see it in Rumania, in Yugoslavia, in America. You might say there's a kind of treasuring of these icons, even in the Soviet Union, cleaning them, preserving them, knowing that somehow these are valuable things, to be preserved even in museums, because somehow they contain important values for man's higher self. So whether consciously or subconsciously, people have come to a realization of the traditional type of iconography as a great treasure for man's culture and man's spiritual development. Today there's a great need for using traditional icons, instead of the naturalistic religious paintings which more and more replaced them since the Renaissance. The Italian Renaissance, in using actual human beings as models and trying to depict the body in all its anatomical details, showing the veins, the muscles, the joints, and so forth, is not iconography. Anatomy is one thing and iconography another. Surely Byzantine icon painters saw how men looked, surely they saw that the eyes do not have this rather than that size and shape, but they deliberately distorted things in some ways, enlarged or diminished them for the purpose that I've pointed out. And now, people are becoming much more conscious of why these things are so, why the icon painters did not use a kind of photographic presentation. They employed a different kind of painting to serve spiritual purposes.

Dr. Bilaniuk: Dr. Matczak, I would like to make a few comments on one thing that was recurring in your paper, namely, original sin. It is a very touchy problem and a very important one. First of all, I do not believe that adultery was the original sin, or bestiality, because it is metaphysically impossible. What preceded any act that was either bestiality or adultery or God knows what, was precisely titanism, that is, a situation in which the human being, which is a rational, thinking, reflecting being, with a free will, established himself or herself as a norm of morality against the norm of morality established by God. This is presented to us in the Bible as an apple, not as bestiality, or intercourse with a serpent. But it is irrelevant whether it was an apple or something else. It is precisely the titanism of the human being who takes upon himself or herself the task of establishing a new morality which is in opposition to the morality that was established by the Creator. Furthermore, original sin, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing else but the special genre which is historically called aetiology. That is from the Greek word "aeteon" or cause. When the ancient Hebrews were sitting around the campfires in Egypt before they made the Exodus, or after the Exodus, when they were in the wilderness, or during the persecution from alien nations, they asked the Prophets and the leaders, "Why is it that we are being persecuted? Why is there evil in the world?" The Prophets, ideologists, and religious leaders were looking for the historical "aeteon" in the past in order to explain the present situation. And that is precisely the concept of historical aetiology because original sin, ladies and gentlemen, is a trans-historical occurrence. It is, in fact, a condition of any created being. I disagree that man was God-oriented and became Satan-oriented. There is something more basic to it. God is the fullness of being and fullness of existence and manifests Himself to us as truth, goodness, and beauty, and so forth. Therefore, there is a tendency of the human being toward non-being, toward non-existence that is as strong as the tendency of the human being toward being, or fullness of existence. And precisely on this metaphysical position we have to reflect that original sin is trans-temporal. Furthermore, ladies and gentlemen, we have to realize that surely Satan plays a very important role in dragging us towards nonbeing, towards self-destruction, towards sin, towards breaking off our relationship with God. But there is a condition which remedies that. namely, God will ultimately cancel and invalidate our self-destructiveness because God by His omnipotence and by His immense love can convert anything and anybody toward the definitive and final end which He envisaged from all eternity. I could go on and I have some other difficulties with what you said, but I will stop on this point.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: Thank you, Professor Bilaniuk. Thank you for your valuable commentary and good contributions to the discussion. Who is next? I lost the line in the metaphysical happiness!

Gunnard Johnston: Dr. Cavarnos, my understanding is that in the eighth century there was a rise of iconoclastic controversy within the Eastern Church. Was this just within the Eastern Church? Also, what was the relationship of the Eastern Church to the Muslim faith? Muslims dislike the use of icons. Also the Jewish tradition is almost completely devoid of their use. I was wondering if you might be able to elaborate a little bit, too, as to what the difference might be in the use of icons in the Orthodox church from the use of icons or statues or whatever in the Western Church. Has iconoclasm affected this difference?

Dr. Cavarnos: Do you want me to explain how iconoclasm originated? I mean, whether it was due to Jewish influences or Mohammedan influences? Well, I think there were some elements coming from the non-Hellenic parts of the Byzantine Empire that exerted influences on the Emperor and others, and occasioned it, yes. And, it was particularly the monastics of the Eastern Church that most strongly opposed iconoclasm. They thought it was enormously important for the Church to preserve the icons. The people who originated iconoclasm lacked a grasp of the true theological presuppositions of icons and of the important purposes icons can serve. I have explained some of these things in my book Orthodox Iconography, which was published recently and which Dr. Tsirpanlis has. There is a chapter in it on the functions of the icons. The icons were said, by their defenders, to be an educational thing, a "book" for the illiterate. Many people could not read the Scriptures, could not read about the Crucifixion of Christ, the Incarnation of Christ, the Baptism, the Resurrection and so forth, and these things could be presented very easily with icons. It was as if someone were saying, "You see, this is what it means," and you could understand immediately. I think even educated people can somehow see things much more vividly when aided by icons. I don't know to what extent my showing of certain slides added any value to what I said. If it did, this shows the point I am trying to make. Did it give you more content to what I was saying? [Yes.] Well, there you are. That is precisely the point: that some things can be presented more effectively, more strikingly, and really register on your mind permanently when you see them visually. And the Orthodox did not want to sacrifice this educational value.

There is also a psychological value in icons. Those who have some acquaintance with psychology know that if you see something, and you hear something, you remember it more permanently. What is impressed on your mind has more vivacity, more durability. There is also the idea that these icons not only teach you, but they remind you of certain things. We tend to fall asleep spiritually, we always tend to get immersed in, identified with, our surroundings and forget about God. We go out and hardly think about God, and our relation to Him. The icon immediately brings Christ to your mind -- His teaching. His Saints. That's a value, the reminding. So there are other values that icons have besides being a springboard from the visible to the invisible.

Icons were regarded as tremendously important by the Orthodox and not to be given up. The people who defended the icons included first-rate philosophers like Saint John Damascene. Damascene was well-educated, knew philosophy, and was a great theologian. He was also a great poet -- the greatest poet of the Eastern Church. The numerous hymns which he composed are beautiful and sublime, and yet full of theology. So the men who defended the icons were far from being crude people like the iconoclasts. People of very highly developed aesthetic sensibility, insight, and so forth, could see the spiritual basis and value of icons. Iconoclasm, I think, sprang largely from misunderstanding, sheer ignorance. The iconoclasts saw icons as idols which are condemned in the Old Testament.

Gunnard Johnston: You're talking about the movement in the eighth and ninth centuries?

Dr. Cavarnos: Yes. There's a commandment in the Old Testament that you should not worship idols. The Orthodox never worship idols. They venerate icons the way you respect a photograph, let's say, of your mother or of some person dear to you. You honor a person by having his photograph. Also, people owe a certain veneration toward icons as reminders of holy personages. You never worship an icon. For that matter, you never worship a Saint -- you venerate him. You worship only God. All these distinctions were too fine for the iconoclasts to see. They simply did not have enough inner cultivation to see the fine points.

Dr. Bilaniuk: I would like to put in a footnote -- something that sometimes even Orthodox people don't know. You kiss the face of a Saint in an icon because he is your brother or sister. You kiss, because of "hyperdulia," that is, hyper-veneration, the hand of the Mother of God. But you kiss the feet of the crucified Lord or the Lord because He, as God, is given true adoration. This three-fold fine distinction is very crucial. Unfortunately, these things are not very well-known today. But it tells you precisely what the priorities are, what the scale is.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: I would like to add that there is a basic theological rationale or justification for the use of icons by the Byzantines. It is used to reject the Jewish and Muslim concept. What is this basic theological rationale? Well, the Christians argue that since Christ as God became man, He was Incarnate. The Incarnate Logos or wisdom of God is the Son of God. This is the basic theological rationale: that since Christ is visible, God is not only the invisible God, He became the visible human being, perfected. Now, what is the relation between Divinity and humanity? I agree completely with Dr. Matczak's philosophical restlessness and speculation that there is no precise determination of the relationship between Divinity and humanity in Jesus Christ. Even the Christological definition of the fourth ecumenical council is not perfect. The famous Christological definition of the ecumenical council of 451 which is considered the best is defective, is not perfect. Why? Because its terminology is apophatic (negative) Christology, namely, that Christ's two natures were united without division, without separation, without change, without confusion. Where is the positive element then? What is the relationship between humanity and Divinity? Number two: Where is the kenosis: There is no kenotic theology at all. No kenosis. The basic element in Christian theology, which is Christ's absolute humility and sacrifice, is lacking in the famous Christological definition of the fourth ecumenical council, or the Council of Chalcedon! Therefore, I think that Dr. Matczak's point is extremely valuable and at the same time, provocative and quite realistic, and expressive of great truth. The relationship between Divinity and humanity is an open question! However, the basic rationale was: since Jesus, the Son of God, became man, therefore we have the right to depict Jesus. A clear distinction must be made, though, between worship or latreia and proskyneisis or veneration.

There is the famous mandelion of Jesus and the story of the Arabian or Syrian King of Edessa, Abgar. It is a pious tradition, of course, perhaps debatable, Dr. Cavarnos, but instructive, I think, of what was the original face of Jesus as a human being. But still, no one knows how Jesus looked, what was the real appearance of Jesus. We don't have a genuine description. Pliny the Younger, Tacitus and Josephus are the pagan sources of our knowledge that Jesus was an historical person and not mythological. We have the letters of Pliny the Younger (96 and 97, Book X) and Tacitus' Annals (Book XV). But we do not have any physical description of Jesus' features. Therefore, the depiction of Jesus can be of any inspiration. What do you think, Mr. Mavadones?

Mr. Mavadones: I agree with your idea. Christ was born in human form and that not only justifies us in depicting Christ in human form, but also to question the use of such icons is to bring into question the very nature of Christ's Incarnation. To depict Him in an icon is an affirmation of this historical event.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: That's good.

Mr. Mavadones: So the icons are completely justified and right theologically. That extends also to the Saints. They were friends of Christ and so forth so you should not depict Christ alone, you know, without His friends and the people who lived according to His teaching. You can depict what happened. Another aspect of what Dr. Cavarnos said about icons is that you will find that many of the people of Eastern Christian heritage have an icon in their homes. They are probably more literate in respect to art generally than most people today. They perhaps would appreciate Raphael's paintings and other types of paintings. But you look at their icons and say that they don't quite look as you might expect an excellent painting to look.

They might not be of the same quality as some fine icons that Dr. Cavarnos showed us, yet there is another aspect to the icon that is important. It is like some of the ideas that you are presenting here at the Unification Seminary where you are uniting with others in prayer and dialogue. An icon is not just obtained. You could obtain it from a certain place, purchase it, receive it as a gift, but that's an exception. Ideally an icon is a result of a religious experience. The person who prepares an icon involves himself in prayer. He prepares himself by meditating and studying the text that he is going to illustrate. He consecrates the implements he is going to use. He uses the best possible materials that he has. Finally, he proceeds to create something. From the earliest days of Christianity, it would be very rare to find someone placing his name on an icon because actually he sought to create, sought to present something that was an external type of eternal truth. He didn't seek to present something that he had painted or he had done. After the icon has been created, someone receives it as a gift in most cases. It is very seldom purchased. That is not the end of it. The icon, even if it is "brought home," as my mother would say, hasn't been taken to church. Because the icon, in the way that Christ was presented to the Temple after forty days, should go to the church. As Christ stayed forty days in the wilderness, so the icon "goes to church." I remember when I was a young child helping at the altar, the icon would be placed inside under the altar, and would remain there for forty days. Having symbolically presented itself as present in some form while services and prayers were taken part in by the whole community, then afterwards the icon would be brought home.

Thus, when you have an icon as a visual reminder, it is not only a visual reminder of what it shows, but it brings to mind the person who created it in a religious atmosphere and that it existed amongst the rest of the community that prayed together and worshipped together and then it comes back to you. My brother-in-law came back from Europe and brought one icon back with him. He said he bought it, and his mother looked at him and asked, "You bought that!" Even though they were glad to have it, there was still that other aspect missing.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: The commercial aspect of icons (selling them) was perhaps the most important cause of iconoclasm. Because the monks by 726 A.D. had become very powerful painters of icons, their monasteries were very rich and therefore a threat to the security of the Emperor. They had more economic and spiritual influence than even the Emperor himself. So Leo the Isaurian was influenced by this commercial use of icon painting, and this is a very important aspect of iconoclasm. The whole question of its causes still remains an open one. Iconoclasm was caused by a combination, however, of economic, political and socio-theological factors related to Muslims and Jews. In view of the direct threat from the Muslims, for example, Emperor Leo may have tried to Christianize the Muslims by abolishing the icons. There was some combination of causes. Also involved were the abuses of the monks who became very rich by selling very dearly priced icons.

Dr. Bilaniuk: Several of you have touched on the subject of deification or divinization and last year we had one conference here with Protestant theologians. Of course, Unification theology has the idea that the ideal of man is ultimately to return to God, and to achieve his deification, his union with God. When that came up in the conference last year, we were strongly attacked and condemned by a certain Calvinist theologian who said we were guilty of pantheism. Would someone on the panel care to comment on that issue in Orthodoxy?

Dr. Cavarnos: I think this objection could not be raised with regard to the Eastern Orthodox teaching, because it is strongly anti-pantheistic. It makes a distinction between the grace of God and the essence of God, and this takes us back to Saint Gregory Palamas and others. The essence of God is unparticipated. What we participate in are the Divine energies of God and Divine grace, and these are eternal attributes. We participate in them, like the Saint, becoming, say, radiant in his own lifetime. This is by way of participation. God alone is God by nature. The Saint becomes God by adoption, by participation in Divine grace, in the Divine energies or attributes of God, in this life and in the life to come. So, there can be no question here of pantheism, because there's a denial, a strong denial, in the mystical theology of the Eastern Church that the essence of God can be participated in. If one asserts the possibility of merging with the Divine Essence, then he is certainly destroying the basic distinction between man created and God uncreated.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: I would like to add that theology, in Eastern Orthodox thought, means something deeper than speculative exercises. It means the soul's experience (pneumatic or esoteric vioma) of Divine grace and bliss which derives from a complete union with God. Yet the question remains: What is the nature of this henosis (union) with God? Eastern Orthodox theology makes a basic distinction between God's essence or nature and His will. Thus generation -- yennesis is according to essence -- kataphysin, but creation is an energy of the will -- vouleseos ergon (St. Athanasius). These two dimensions, that of being and that of acting, are different. Of course, this distinction in no way compromises the "Divine simplicity." Yet, this is a real distinction, and not just a logical device. If one did not accept this basic distinction between the "nature" or "essence" and the "will" of God, Gregory Palamas argued, then it would be impossible to discern clearly between the "generation" of the son and the "creation" of the world and this would lead to utter confusion of the Trinitarian doctrine.

The union to which we are called, therefore, is neither hypostatic -- as in the case of the human nature of Christ -- nor substantial, as in that of the three Divine Persons: It is union with God in His energies, or union by grace making us participate in the Divine nature, without our essence becoming thereby the essence of God. In divinization we are by grace (that is to say, in the divine energies), all that God is by nature, save only identity of nature (horis tes kat' ousian tautotetos), according to St. Maximus. We remain creatures while becoming God by grace, as Christ remained God in becoming man by the Incarnation.

To summarize Palamas' theology, let me emphasize that, knowledge of God is an experience given not only to clergy, but to all Christians, through Baptism and through their continuous participation in the life of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. It requires the involvement of the whole man in prayer and service, through love for God and neighbor. In prayer, in the sacraments, in the entire life of the Church, man is called to participation in Divine life: this participation is also the true knowledge of God. God is totally inaccessible, however, in His essence, both in this life and in the future; for only the three divine hypostases are "God by essence." Man, in "deification" can, then, become God only "by grace" or "by energy," by restoration of his original humanity and his lost communion with God.

Dr. Bilaniuk: May I add something? As a matter of fact, because of the goodness of your librarian, John Maniatis, the book which I mentioned earlier, Studies in Eastern Christianity, is right here in the library, and there you will find an article on the mystery of theosis, or divinization. This article of mine gives practically a complete bibliography up to 1973. If you read it you will have a rough idea of what the subject is all about. However, what I am driving at is precisely the fact that the poor theologian, the Calvinist theologian, whose name I didn't mention, doesn't know his own tradition. One student of mine is working now on the concept of divinization in the works of John Calvin. (Laughter)

Unidentified speaker: My interest is economics, and it seems that economics cares about filling our stomachs, especially nowadays. Then we can philosophize. (Laughter) What I would like to discuss is that there is a tendency all over the world towards some form of convergence, or maybe we can call that reconciliation of economic systems. I wanted to know how this relates to the Unificationist point of view, if it does, and how it relates to the other topics of this seminar because I see that most of it is on religious life, and my interest seems foreign to that for the time being.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: Still, we need to think about economic wisdom, especially because of the abuses of the monks in respect to the icons.

Unidentified speaker: Well, it isn't because economics corrupts...

Dr. Bilaniuk: Speaking of economics and politics, actually after Leo the Isaurian became Emperor, four months later, the Arabs were besieging the new Rome. They were besieging it for a year and a half, and they were starving outside the walls so that they had to withdraw after a year and a half. They had nothing left, no food, no provisions, whereas the people in the city had enough food and they survived. But it was such a dramatic experience that they started to reflect on their predicament. Plenty of metaphysical fear was generated, especially among the army leaders. There was a tendency to find some sort of appeasement with the Arabs in order to avert a recurrence of this type of warfare that could end in disaster for Constantinople. I think we are in an analogous situation, ladies and gentlemen, because the United States today is capitulating slowly to the Soviet Union, trying to appease them at any cost. It is an analogous situation.

Furthermore, in that particular period of time the monasteries possessed one fifth of the arable land of the whole Byzantine Empire -- one fifth, which means that the monasteries were dictating economic policies during that period. Surely funds from icon sales contributed greatly to the purchase of that land, but money also came from donations and wills. Given the spirit of appeasement, what emerged in the situation was monachotomy: persecution of monks and nuns, liquidation of monasteries and so on. In fact, if we realize what was happening, iconoclasm was only an aftermath, or a theological outgrowth, of the sociological condition of fighting against the monks. So it was a very complex situation, extremely complicated. Dr. Matczak has pointed out that Unification thinking is directed towards all problems, not just theology and philosophy. I'm wondering if economic policies in Eastern Europe or Russia today dictate or control theological developments.

Dr. Matczak: I think they do, since Eastern theologians and philosophers must take into account in their studies the reality of Marxist economic theories. Unification also addresses the economic and political practices of Marxism. We find the Unification reaction to them in the book Communism: Critique and Counterproposal1 and in various journal pieces.2 Consequently economic aspects have some bearing on philosophy and theology in Unificationism.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: What about the persecution of the Orthodox Church in Eastern countries?

Dr. Bilaniuk: Well, there is a very beautiful journal which deals with this problem: Glauben des Veitenzeld. Unfortunately, it's in German. It gives you each month everything that happens in the communist lands as far as persecution of religion is concerned, confiscation of property, jailing of people, forcing them to convert to dialectical materialism, etc., etc., fully documented. Horror stories! Absolutely incredible stories! The only thing we do is to protest through the United Nations, through our government, through the Canadian government, but these governments sleep on you. They do nothing. And they could do a great deal.

Dr. Matczak: That the Soviets control the churches and limit religious freedom, I think, is evident in any Eastern country. They control it in clandestine ways, so that officially it seems that religious activities are allowed, but in fact this is not so. Marxists have their own spies, they follow people, they know who goes to church, they know who is a practicing believer, and then when the questions of position, rank and labor arise, they distribute things according to their secret information. A very important result occurs when the children try to get a position or to be accepted at the university; the officials select them in their proper way according to their secret, or not so secret, information which they have about the prospective student. It is pitiful that the West does not know enough about Marxist practices, or else it does not take them enough into account.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: Perhaps someone has something to say now on this Marxist question.

Unidentified speaker: I think my point of view might be somehow different. From an economic point of view there are advantages and disadvantages to both the socialist or communist approaches to economics. The so-called convergence theory suggests that eventually the systems will try to move toward the middle way, taking the advantages of each one and dropping the disadvantages. Is that workable? That's a question, and again the future would probably seem to prove that.

Dr. Matczak: I don't think the communists have a workable economic system. Their approach leads to a general neglect of things. They only pretend there is common ownership. This is an old problem. You could take it back to Plato and Aristotle, when Aristotle criticized Plato and his communistic ideal. It results in neglect, and therefore there is common neglect; there is no incentive for production. Actually they have no real basis for working together.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: It is interesting that the Eastern Orthodox universities and colleges, even Brookline, did not have any sociology course when I was there. They completely ignored social problems.

Dr. Cavarnos: They do have a course now.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: We also have a course here on social problems and the Church, and the students become totally involved in it.

Dr. Cavarnos: Dr. Matczak expressed certain reservations to what I said in my lecture concerning hell, everlasting hell, saying that there will be universal restoration of all human beings, and the fallen angels will also ultimately be restored by God. I think there are different views among us on the question of everlasting hell. Now let me say that the idea of the apocatastasis is included in the teaching of the Eastern Church, and by that I do not mean Origen's universal apocatastasis. The idea of restoring the Divine image in man to a likeness of God is one of the basic teachings of the Eastern Church, but it does not mean universal restoration. At this point, of course, we come to the question of the freedom of the will. We did not bring up that point. God, according to the Eastern Orthodox teaching, has endowed human beings and angelic natures with the power of free choice, of free will. And that is an important doctrine in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is a negation of predestination. God Himself does not want to violate man's freedom of choice. The idea of irresistible grace is implied in the idea of universal restoration. Irresistible grace means a rejection of personal freedom. If a person denies everlasting hell, he's denying that human beings have this ultimate God-given power of free choice. Man has real options, he may choose either Heaven or hell, uncoerced. God himself leaves him free. God Himself has placed so much value on this power of free choice that He does not drive human beings to Heaven against their will. It's a free choice. Salvation itself has to be initiated by the human being. However, man cannot save himself merely with his free choice and repentance; he needs the power of God, God's help. Divine grace. So, in other words salvation is a cooperative thing between man and God. Man must make the initial move of seeking his salvation and find the Divine help which will strengthen his choice, strengthen his power of opposing what is wrong with him -- evil, passions, and so on. The doctrine, in other words, of irresistible grace implied either in Calvinism or in an ultimate universal salvation is not found in the Eastern Church. To repeat, I am saying that universal restoration of human beings and demons would imply an ultimate negation of the power of free choice. I think this has to be kept in mind when we want to dismiss the idea of everlasting hell. We should remember the complete respect of God Himself for the power of human freedom, of free choice in rational creatures. God Himself does not want anyone to end up in hell, but it is not in His nature to force men. The avoidance of hell presupposes human choice and striving to attain theosis, divinization. I think that's a point to be kept in mind in these discussions -- the centrality of the doctrine of the free will. This power is called in the Eastern tradition, autexousion, which means the power of free choice and of self-control.

Dr. Matczak: I would like to say that I presented in my lecture the position of Unificationism, not my own view. I presented just the position of Unificationism and its relation to Christianity in general as I understand it. It is not my own view.

Dr. Bilaniuk: I have five points on the apocatastasis which will further explain my position. First point: the eternal punishment of a temporal, created being for temporal and finite transgressions is unjust and not Divine. Therefore, it must be rejected. Point two: I think that people are talking about hell as a place and hell is not a place. Hell does exist, but it is a condition, it is a state. It is the interpersonal relationship that is defective, that places a human being, or other rational beings, in a situation of alienation from God -- alienation from God as a friend, and from God the Father, as an Oikonomos, as I was saying before. Point three: there is an interplay involved between two world views both of which have concepts of Christ. The first one is Hebrew, hell forever; and the other one is Greek, cyclical time which is endless, and this creates a problem. A difficulty lies, for example, in the translation of the Hebrew words: "for ages and ages," into English as "forever and ever." They then jump from the cyclical concept of time to a linear concept of time which is Hebrew. Now, the cyclical conception is Greek. The Christian concept of time is anti-Hebrew in fact. It implies that there is a beginning, and there is an end at the same point of departure. That's why Christ is portrayed as holding an open book in His hand where there is written an Alpha and an Omega. And this Omega means precisely the definitive restoration of everything of this condition as it begins at Alpha. Point four: because of grace and free choice, Saints in Heaven are in a state, or in a condition, of interpersonal relationship. They are absolutely free and yet they can't sin anymore, but that does not mean that they are not free anymore. It means that they are in a state in which they can choose only between different types of good, and they are concerned with that in their freedom, in their perfect freedom. Point five: the only true victory for a Christian is when he converts his worst enemy into his friend and the same thing is valid for the source of everything, that is, for God. The only true victory for Him is when Satan, all the demons, all the people and human beings, etc., are conquered. Victoriously. That is, they become His friends. Thank you. (Applause)

Dr. Tsirpanlis: Thank you very much, Professor Bilaniuk. I would like to add something, very short, in a schedio-grammatic line of Saint Maximos: God, Fall. God. Saint Maximos the Confessor recapitulates and embodies the entire Orthodox theological doctrine. He starts from God, but then there is the fall, and then there is the end which is restoration. The final restoration day is God, like the Alpha and Omega. We come from God. There is the original sin of the fall, but again we are destined to God. And this is the idea of apocatastasis, which had been terribly misunderstood by even Orthodox theologians. Origen agrees with the Stoic idea of successive repetition of identical worlds without any progress and end, which goes back to the Hebraic idea. Contrary to Origen, however, Saint Maximos the Confessor emphasizes that salvation history is progressive revelation until the fulfillment of time when there will be perfected humanity, or divinized humanity.

Dr. Matczak: As to apocatastasis, I think that the problem lies with the Bible. The Bible does mention "eternal punishment" when it describes the Last Judgment (Matt. 25:41-46).

Dr. Cavarnos: I discussed in my lecture on icons the Second Coming, hell, the fiery river, and so forth. We tend to take these things rather literally. Actually, what hell means is that certain beings by virtue of their wrong or incomplete development are incapable of having a relationship with God. They don't have the faculties and inner senses necessary for such a relationship. They cannot apprehend the Divine light, and they live in darkness. I can agree here that you must not take these things (i.e. the fiery river, etc.) "geographically." These are states of individual beings. I think the sinners basically separated themselves from God willfully, and are cut off from God's blessedness, God's light, God's perfection. That negative state we term "punishment." Now, as to inevitable ultimate salvation for all, I still don't see how one does preserve, ultimately, the faculty of free choice in human beings, and rational beings in general. If one looks at such salvation as effected by God's exercising power in a despotic fashion, he annuls the human will. God, according to my tradition, does not want to violate human freedom. We, as finite beings, cannot say a priori that every single rational being will ultimately choose God. That is an a priori position which cannot be demonstrated by any means, whereas the doctrine of the power of free choice is, I think, basic in Christian thought. Otherwise you have predestinationism, you have the model of the machine for the human being, a God-manipulated machine in place of a responsible creature, or a rational being.

Ulrich Tuente: I think that the Unification position agrees with the view that man has a free choice. Generally God is a God of goodness and, in the viewpoint of Unification, man has within himself an original nature that is naturally striving for what he considers good. Men have some kind of original mind which is striving toward finding a better idea of society. God did not create man blank, just with free choice, just choosing what he wants to choose for himself. God is of goodness and because man is created in the image of God, man desires to realize goodness. But through the fall, man developed an unclear view of what is truly good.

Dr. Cavarnos: I agree. I am not, by the way, explaining my own view. I am trying to pass on my understanding of the Eastern Orthodox Church position. I don't have any personal views other than those of the Church to express here. The view of the Eastern Church is certainly that human beings were created in the image and likeness of God. And the things that have been said here by the professors about creativity and goodness and all those kinds of traits, we would certainly not deny at all. Freedom is itself one of those attributes.

Ulrich Tuente: Always there is the desire to find goodness.

Dr. Cavarnos: Well, the freedom is here to choose the good and freedom to choose and cleave to the opposite. And we see that kind of thing in action -- you cannot force people to become good. I think there is an ultimate resistance within a human being to the suppression of his own creative core of freedom or creativity. This is a Divine quality of man -- that he has this freedom.

Dr. Matczak: Man is free to choose, but the question is, what happens when man chooses evil and is punished for that? Can he be punished eternally as some theologians contend? The real problem rests with the Bible. The Bible speaks about eternal fire. What does "eternal" mean? Does God's perfect sanction require eternal punishment?

Dr. Bilaniuk: There are two misconceptions that we are laboring under. One is the concept in Christian tradition that after death, man stays static in the condition in which he dies. In my opinion, this is an extremely dangerous and extremely un-Christian conception, because for a Christian, a believing Christian, death is a dynamic moment. It is the beginning of new life. It is a moment of truth. There is a new evolution of the human being possible after the moment of death, spiritual evolution. You can deduce yourself the implication for apocatastasis. Then, there is the question of Genesis. It is stated in Genesis: "Let us create man in our image and likeness." Why "image and likeness"? Because any being is the image of God. Any being has precisely this ontological goodness and ontological substratum because it is a creature of God and exists in the image of God. But likeness is something else. It is a rational being that can know, love, perceive beauty, and be graced by God, can rationally and lovingly be accepted into God's friendship and develop a particular friendship. So again you can deduce for yourself the corollaries apropos apocatastasis.

Andrew Wilson: I'd like to agree with Dr. Bilaniuk's point. I believe that we Unificationists believe that after death there is the possibility of spiritual evolution. Indeed after death we know much more clearly where we are and where we have to go. Also I feel I have to disagree with the idea of eternal punishment. The ultimate aspect of God's truth is, I believe, heart and love. And this goes back to the idea that the family is central, that God is truly a Father who loves mankind as children. Love is freedom. Freedom, as a matter of fact, exists so that love is possible. Without freedom there would be no love. The principle is to create one's family, and in one's family then, the freedom of man would be expressed in that loving relationship which Unification views as ongoing and eternal, at the level of perfection.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: There is a strong love between truth, beauty, and freedom.

Richard Panzer: I see an intersection between the Orthodox tradition and the Unification tradition in the idea of sacrifice and suffering. Divine Principle reveals, to contrast with your point. Dr. Bilaniuk, that God's power is manifested not through force but through His path of suffering. Therefore, man will come back to God by understanding how much God has suffered for man's sake. Therefore, man will be subjugated by superior love and superior sacrifice and not by force.

Dr. Cavarnos: I would say we cannot know if universal restoration will occur. We cannot impose our own wishes upon others and force them to join our company. We are free to love and we are free not to love. So love itself is a creative thing -- spiritual love I mean. Spiritual love is a creative thing and springs out of man's own freedom. To love spiritually, one must choose to love. Spiritual love, the spiritual love of God, the spiritual love of fellow beings, is an act of free choice, you see, and I think we must leave it that way and not try to decree what there will be. We must allow for that possibility to ultimate resistance on the part of some angelic beings and some human beings.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: I believe that only human beings have freedom of will. Angels do not have that kind of freedom.

Dr. Cavarnos: No?

Dr. Tsirpanlis: Do they?

Dr. Cavarnos: Yes! But let's not speak about that now. I am going to speak about the angelic realm in my next talk.

Dr. Bilaniuk: I think that one passage from Luke which is called, unfortunately, the parable of the prodigal son, was totally misunderstood in Christianity up until this moment. (Laughter) Even an idiot knows that there are prodigal sons and daughters in the world. But not everybody knows that there is a merciful Father. Not everybody knows, and this is precisely the point: God is the central figure in the parable. He is the one who attracts, who waits eternally if you wish, for conversion of the prodigal son. There is also the jealous brother who judges absolutely everybody according to strict justice at the end of the aeon. But there is above him and behind him the merciful Father who is ready to forgive! Do I make myself clear? And this is the cosmic drama, ladies and gentlemen, that goes on from aeon to aeon. There is absolute, strict justice on the one hand and there is also the loving and forgiving Father who has the last word in the cosmic drama.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: Thank you. Professors, my dear friends, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to thank Professor Bilaniuk, Professor Cavarnos, Professor Matczak, Mr. Mavadones, and all of you for your excellent participation.


1 Communism: A Critique and Counterproposal, Washington, DC: The Freedom Leadership Foundation, Inc., 1973.

2. For example, see "A Dialectical Concept of the Trinity and its Implications," Peter M. Borgo, Journal of the Society for Common Insights, NY, N.Y., 1976, pp. 73-103; "Christianity as a Constructive Revolutionary Ideology, the Scientific and Social Aspects," Kurt Johnson, Proceedings of the First National Conference on the Church and Social Problems, NY, NY, 1977, Vol. 2, pp. 69-90; "Restored Christianity as a Counterproposal to Expanding Marxism," David S.C. Kim, ibid., pp. 91-111. 

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