Salvation: A Cup Half-Empty? Half-Full? Or?


Hopefully most will recognize the allusion to the rhetorical question “Is the glass half-empty or half-full?” in this article’s title. How one answers this question largely depends on one’s personality & worldview. The optimistic person will tend to answer that the glass is half-full while for the pessimistic the glass is half-empty. While both answers are technically, logically & verifiably correct, each displays a predetermined mindset that is the polar opposite of the other.Most people tend to have either one of two possible polar opposite mindsets towards God upon which our philosophical framework is built. Views regarding mankind closely correlate with those towards God & also follow along the glass half-full or half-empty extremes. I would go so far as to say they are integrated. I also posit that these two extremes are merely two sides of the same coin & in the end differ from each other very little.

In the glass half-empty purview the existence of God-god-gods is denied pending the presentation of scientific, logical & philosophical proofs to the contrary. Also denied is the ideal that man is any different in stature or status than the animal world.  In glass half-empty terms man is viewed as a biological animal that is nothing more than the sum of his parts. There is no spiritual component to man; there is no higher calling; there is no higher being. Man is born, man lives, man dies…the end. “Proof” is provided by an emphasis on mankind’s daily as well as historic cruelty towards his fellow man as well as the latest scientific data. Ironically, glass half-empty adherents ignore the very real proofs daily before them of man’s transcendent nature.

One would naturally think that the glass half-full would be beliefs that are the opposite to those of the glass half-empty sort. In glass half-full terms mankind is created in the image of God & the emphasis is once again based on mankind’s achievements found through those same daily & historic lives. To refute the glass half-empty arguments from science, logic & reason, glass half-full types invariably end up using the same very same proofs, rationalizations & methods. For this reason the negative glass half-empty attitude towards God & man is not to be found exclusively among skeptics, atheists & unbelievers. Many Christians also hold this belief, most unintentionally & unknowingly, while proclaiming to be optimistic glass half-full sorts, but it is still held none the less.

It is easily gleaned from their theological framework & their relationships with others.  God is primarily understood as being the impersonal Creator & only secondarily is He understood as the personification of Love. The Fall of man is viewed as a change in legal status, from law-abiding citizen to convicted criminal. The Crucifixion of Christ thus becomes nothing more than a reversal of said legal status. Add to this a few logical & rational arguments, God rapidly becomes less than divine, devolving into a cruel, vindictive & angry god to be chosen from among many other gods; i.e. ultimately God ceases to exist. In this instance, the glass half-full option is ultimately no different that its glass half-empty counterpart which denies the existence of God-god-gods outright & altogether. In essence, we are still stuck where we began with a glass that is still correctly described as both half-full & half-empty based on one’s preferred perspective.

The reason for this is that, regardless of the preferred label, these frameworks are in essence missing something—fullness. From the Orthodox perspective none of these views is correct because in reality they each depict a glass that is truly empty.

Any philosophical or theological framework is the result of its start. The reason for the lack of fullness in the secular half-empty glass & the heterodox half-full glass is that they invariably & inevitably begin their framework with “what” God is. Thus both empty their respective half-whatever glasses. In contrast the fullness in the Orthodox framework begins with “who” God is. From this respective “what” vs. “who” regarding God, the “what” vs. “who” of man is derived & understood. In turn from this “what” vs. “who” regarding man, salvation is then derived & understood.

For the secular there is no need for salvation since there is no God & since man is just another animal. For most heterodox salvation means accepting Christ as personal Lord & Savior, thus changing one’s legal status & eternal destiny. For the Orthodox salvation is union with God, or stated more properly in its fullness, union with God the Father through God the Son by God the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Trinity is eternal, thus we become eternal through this union. In the words of St. Paul we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) as we “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The difference between the theological framework of Orthodoxy versus that of heterodox groups quickly becomes glaring.

When it comes to God, “Thou God of my salvation” [Psalms 50(51):14], the word “fullness” might rightly be considered an understatement if we limit the infinite fullness of God to our finite, & frequently empty, human understanding. The cup of salvation [Psalms 115:4 (116:13)] is not a cup half-empty, nor a cup half-full, nor even a cup that is full.

It is a cup that overflows [Psalms 22(23):5]!

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