In analyzing different religious thought within and without the Bible, we encounter marked contrasts in modes of divine operation, human motivation, transformative methods, and agency. I would note that these differences define the basic issues which Bible students and the religiously minded in general face. The list below shows how I would represent the differences to which I refer:
Modes: Grace versus Law
Motivation: Love versus Fear
Methods: Instruction versus Coercive Pressure
Agent: God versus Man
Within Orthodox Christianity and its institutional church there is a doctrinal attempt to combine these two contrasting operations, making the Gospel somehow amenable to grace and law, love and fear, instruction and coercion, and finally to a salvation process which is part God and part man.
This mixing of largely OT, Judaic theology with the declared newness of the NT message has shaded the resulting religion of Orthodox Christianity strongly toward the legalistic approach of Moses with much less attention to the transformative innovation of Christ. In doing so the church simply ignores both Jesus and Paul. Jesus denounced the idea that political forces and the associated coercion was the proper way to advance his kingdom. He promoted and exemplified a non-aggressive nature which the church has never embraced. Paul was adamant about law or grace and God’s will versus man’s. He rejected law in favor of grace, fear in favor of love. He repeated that what God willed, God never failed to accomplish. God was the only agent that counted, so He could not be thwarted by man’s will or willfulness.
We therefore ask these questions- Can these disparate things actually be combined in a divine plan? Can we enjoy grace under the pressure of law? Can we be driven by love and fear simultaneously, by reasoned benevolence and fearful irrationality? Can the transformation of the human heart and mind be accomplished by divine instruction in combination with divine threat? Can the divine will be subject to the whims of the human? These are the eternal religious questions, the ones the church glosses over in its rigid, dogmatic theology.