The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware
SNIPPETS ON THE TRINITY
"'That there is a God is clear; but what He is by essence and nature, this is altogether beyond our comprehension and knowledge.'" -- John of Damascus
So obviously John wasn't even debating the fact of God's existence instead stating rather forthrightly that God's existence is clear. What and who God is... that's another story.
"Truly our God is a God who hides Himself, yet He is also a God who acts -- the God of History, intervening directly in concrete situations."
I read this just a day after reading Sarah's comment about God being "the ultimate introvert" and had to smile at the visual I had of God hiding. I do recall God hiding Himself in the sense that He only allowed Moses to see His back parts (whatever that symbolized!...Oh, here is a bit of commentary on that if you are interested.) But I also see clearly in the Bible that God does act, and, therefore, does not hide in the sense of an uninvolved person who just sits back and watches with bemused interest to see what those earthlings He created will do next.
"God is not simply a single person confined within His own being, but a Trinity of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of whom 'dwells' in the other two by virtue of a perpetual movement of love. God is not only a unity but a union." (pg. 209)
I had to stop and think about this statement. (Thus why some books I read so slowly!)
"Humans were made for fellowship with God."
"But humans, made for fellowship with God, everywhere repudiate that fellowship."
Enter story of Adam (representing humankind as a whole) falling and his "original sin" affecting all humanity. (pg.218)
Does this give us our reason for existence? Our meaning for life? Fellowship with the Almighty?
"Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness...'" ~ Genesis 1:26
Image "indicates rationality and freedom" -- bestowed upon us from our beginning
Likeness is "assimilation to God through virtue." -- a goal only acquired by degrees
"However sinful we may be, we never lose the image; but the likeness depends upon our moral choice, upon our 'virtue,' and so it is destroyed by sin."
"Orthodox religious thought lays the utmost emphasis on the image of God in the human person."
"Because she or he is an icon of God, each member of the human race, even the most sinful, is infinitely precious in God's sight." (pg. 221)
I rather liked this explanation of image and likeness and the facts of how we obtain each!
GRACE AND FREE WILL
"The Orthodox Church rejects any doctrine of grace which might seem to infringe upon human freedom."
While recognizing that "what God does is of immeasurably greater importance than what we do," Orthodox believe achieving full fellowship with God depends on us doing our part as well. "God's gifts are always free gifts, and we humans can never have any claims upon our Maker. But while we cannot 'merit' salvation, we must certainly work for it, since 'faith without works is dead.'"
I understand this a bit differently and have argued often here that we work because of our faith/our salvation not to earn it. It's like a light plugged into the power source is going to shine simply because the electricity is flowing to it. It's not that the bulb tries its hardest to shine so that the electricity will see its effort and decide to give it the power to shine. We work because we are connected to the Source, not in an effort to earn the Source's power. Alas, I see that I differ from the Orthodox in this measure. I could point to statements of Jesus and Paul to back up what I believe. I understand this verse from James as important as well, but understand it as I've described and not that we must work for our salvation.
The Orthodox view of salvation is this: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in." "God knocks, but waits for us to open the door -- He doesn't break it down. The grace of God invites all but compels none." (pg. 222)
As a non-Calvinist, this is basically how I've always believed. I simply do not believe God chose to eternally damn some for hell. Maybe I am completely wrong, but I can't wrap my mind around a God like that especially in light of verses such as "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
You'll notice from his description that "the Orthodox picture of fallen humanity is far less somber than the Augustinian or Calvinist view." They don't believe that a person in a "fallen and unredeemed state" can do nothing pleasing to God. (pg. 224)
They do believe, however, that "human sin ...set up between humanity and God a barrier which blocked the path to union with God. Since we could not come to God, He came to us." (pg. 225)
And this sets the stage for God coming to earth. Next up, Jesus.