Intrinsic Value versus Nihilism

Today, I listened to a podcast called “What Christ Accomplished For Us” on Ancient Faith Today.  (Find Podcast Here)  It was a wonderful podcast exploring the differences and similarities between the Orthodox and Protestant take on salvation and atonement, slightly focusing more on contrasting with the Baptist view in particular.  The person being interviewed was Dr. Clark Carlton, who was actually the first podcaster my husband exposed me to almost five years ago now.   He is one of my favorite people to listen to on Ancient Faith radio.

While I was listening to this podcast today, I remembered that one of the issues I struggled with as a Protestant is that I felt that I had no intrinsic value.  It was just a feeling, I’m not sure if that is theologically correct in the Protestant sense.  Because of the view of salvation I held, as I mentioned before, everything seemed trivial to me, even myself.  I have since learned that there is something about postmodern Protestant Christian doctrine that can be a bit nihilistic which could explain my existential angst.  (Here is the wikipedia link on Nihilism: ).  I also found a site that has an accessible explanation of Postmodern Nihilism:  I cannot vouch for anything else on the site or if they are Orthodox, but in reviewing the page, it looks like an appropriate explanation.

When being exposed to Orthodoxy, I loved learning and hearing that what God creates is good (including us), that we are born as babies as good though with a fallen human nature into a fallen and sinful world, that we are made in the image of God, that God loves mankind, that God is a good God, etc, etc.  So much of this (maybe some) is not necessarily contrary to Protestant doctrine, it is just not the focus.   Then that got my mind thinking about a sermon I heard recently at my church.  Our Priest mentioned yoga and then talked about how in the West people view religion as what you believe and less on what you do.   While in the East, people more view religion more as what you do and less on what you believe.  In other words, yoga might be your religion even if you don’t know it! (a half-joke).

It got me thinking because I realized that in the Protestant church in my experience there were just certain things I didn’t hear very often.  I never or rarely thought about human beings being made in the image of God and I rarely thought this about myself.  I rarely thought about that God considers me a good creation, made to be in communion with Him.  Part of that is just that the life of the Church is so hear some praise songs, you hear a “relevant sermon” (one of the last ones I heard was geared towards busy soccer moms on how to be less busy).   In the practice of the Orthodox church, we have a prayer rule, hymnography, vespers, where we hear our theology again and again, everything being reinforced.  This is what we do.  We hear these things.  We practice them.  We recite them.  We experience them. We commit to reciting our prayers even when we are not in the mood or tired.  Isn’t this how children learn things?

Now that I have a child I am thinking about how I will teach him and train him.  With boundaries and constant reminders and repetitions.  I will say “We don’t touch the fireplace” ten times a day if I have to.  This is how he learns as a child.  On a happier note, this is also how he will learn the colors and shapes until they are ingrained in his mind.  This is what we will do.   The Bible talks about the importance of humility and being like a child and I think that the Orthodox Christian way of life is helping us to put ourselves in the place of the child.  Its saying, “I need more than head knowledge, of hearing a handful of times that I and others are made in the image of God,”  I need to hear it, sing it, pray it, read it, again and again (with structure, boundaries, and spiritual disciplines added in) and then maybe someday my heart will being to grasp this wonderful truth.


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