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The understanding of heaven and “punishment” [hell] in historic Christianity is inextricably linked to the biblical concept of the Uncreated Light of God. The Uncreated Energies (or “Light” the purest form of energy) are understood by the Orthodox to be the Energies of God. This Energy is the “consuming fire”, the Shekhinah glory, the fire that burns silver to purify it, as it says in Malachi. It is the fire that burns the weeds left in the field, the fire that burns the pruned branches, it is the lake of divine fire, and the thirst and burning that torments the Rich Man is this same Uncreated Energy. Yet, the same fire that torments the impure gives warmth and comfort to the pure of heart.
In fact the Greek word “energeia”, and its various forms, appears over 30 times in the new Testament, yet it is not translated as “energy” even once in most popular English translations. It is variously rendered as operation, strong, do, in-working, effectual, be mighty in, shew forth self, and even simply dropped out of the sentence; everything except what it means. Yet, this word was well established in the Greek language in the first century. It was first used by Aristotle, some three centuries before Christ, as a noun, as “energy” in the metaphysical sense— which was borrowed in recent years in English as an engineering term. But even in a modern metaphysical sense, it is exactly as the ancient Greeks use the word, because it is the same word. Yet the translators insisted on ignoring how this word is actually used by Greek speakers and distorted it into a number of verbs and adjectives (or simply drop it from the verse), which leaves only confusion and misunderstanding for English readers.
When we are energized by the Divine Energies, we will radiate the pure Light of God. Translating directly from the Greek,
“For it is God who is energizing in you, according to His will and to energize for the sake of His being well-pleased.”
In verse 3:21 he further writes
“[Christ] who will change the appearance of our humble bodies to take on the form of the body of His glory, through the energization of his Power…”
And to the Ephesians in verse 1:19
“and what exceeding greatness of his power, in us who believe, through the energization of His mighty strength, energized in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him in the right hand of Him in the heavens.”
So this energy “in us” changes our bodies to glory, and was the same energy that raised Christ from the dead. This energy is in fact, the Grace of God, in Eph 3:7
“That I was made an attendant through the gift of the Grace of God, granted to me by the energization of his Power”.
This same Energy also has the power to heal, as St. James writes [5:16]
“Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed, prayers given energy by a righteous one are very powerful”.
This same energy comes from the “one” that restrains evil, in II Thess. 2:7
“For already the mysterious lawless one is only restrained now by the Energies, until he comes out of the midst of it”
Receiving this Divine Energy is the results of faith in the true God, as
“… [you received] …the true Logos of God, which also energizes in you believers”.
Moreover, to the Galatians he asks a rhetorical question with an obvious answer [3:5]
“Indeed, would it not be in vain, if the One providing you the Spirit and the powerful Energies in you, were by works of the law, or rather by hearing in faith?”
There are many stories in the historic tradition, both ancient and relatively modern, that tell of the saints radiating light when they pray (for example St. Mary of
This is the Transforming Light that “makes all things new”. Salvation is in fact this Energy assimilating us to God, “divinizing” the believers, making us “Christ-like”, through the Energization of the Power of God. When we are in perfect harmony with God, the Holy Spirit energizes within us, and we too radiate this Uncreated Light. All of the saints radiate this Light of Christ. Interestingly, in properly rendered icons none of the Apostles have halos until after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out into the Church. This event, the Pentecost, is when the Apostles were “assimilated” into divination, transforming them [literally in the Greek “metamorphoses”] into Holy beings, into “non-earthy ones” (lit. in the Greek), and when, according to Tradition, the Holy Church had begun.
The Energy is Uncreated because it existed before creation, it is the Light and Truth and the Love and the Life that IS God. When we have that Truth, Love and Life of God, than we too will radiate this Divine Light.
The ancients understood that light was the purest form of energy. This is why there are so many biblical allusions to the sun for God. The sun was the source of “pure” light, life and heat, and this created light was likened to the Uncreated Light of God, the source of Everlasting “Zoe” and “Zesty”, spiritual “life” and “heat” or more properly “vitality”. This is why the term “illuminated” is used to describe the saints who saw these “divinizing” Visions in Heaven. In fact, it is impossible to properly understand the role of Light in theology if you do not understand it from the Light-Energy perspective.
“for when we were in the flesh, passionate for sins according to the law, the Energy in our members brings fourth the fruit of death”.
And likewise he warns the Corinthians [2 Cor. 4:12] “For this reason it energizes death in us, though it is Life in you”. And in Hebrews 4:12 another sober warning
“For the living Logos of God, and [the living] Energies, also sharper than a two edged sword, passing through, dividing both soul and spirit, joints from marrows, judging the thought and intents of the heart”.
Note in this last verse in English bibles, the word “Energies” is just dropped from the text, yet the clear implication in the Greek is that the “logos” is one edge, and the “energy” is the other edge of the sword. Implying quite literally, without this Energy, one is not fully armed.
When we come face to face with this powerful Uncreated Light in an impure and sinful condition, we cower in fear and pain, for our impurities are revealed and “burned” by this illuminating Energy. Yet those who love God and want nothing but to be in constant communion with God, will strive towards purity and will bask in glory in this same Light. The same Energy that causes eternal death in the sinful, purifies and strengthens the faithful.
This is at the root of difference between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Christianity, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, this biblical concept of the Uncreated Energies of God. In the west, the mystery of the Divine Energies was abandoned because it could not be understood outside of the metaphysical perspective, and therefore juridical socialistic rationalism was adopted. The west continues to flounder in darkness and is unarmed against the influence of the enemies of God, and therefore continues to innovate false theologies.
Tragically, in the west a few centuries after the Great Schism (1054 AD) an innovation (i.e. heresy) developed as a result of an attempt to rationalize God’s purifying fires. Latin theologians surmised that God created a place called purgatory with purging fires to “purify” those that die with imperfect atonement, and they further rationalized that paying indulgences could buy your loved ones out of these painful purging fires faster. This rationalization also helped keep the church prosperous and coffers full.
The western ideas had its roots in Augustinian theology (who was influenced by the Greek pagan philosophers). Unfortunately Augustine could not read Greek and had to devise his own theology from imperfect Latin translations. Late in his life he recanted much of his earlier writings, an act which was ignored in the West. Both Luther and Calvin developed their own theologies from Augustine’s erroneous writings, and ignoring Augustine’s later retraction. This is how the pagan notion of a God that both punishes and rewards made its way into western Christian theologies. Another major influence was the 13th century fantasy novelist Dante, whose political satire known as the Inferno borrowed heavily from pagan mythology and bears little resemblance to Biblical eschatology.
Some Orthodox would contend that the western God, who both claims to love us, but also would condemn us to eternal punishment, is a schizophrenic God. It is reminiscent of the abusive groom who claims to love his bride but can not stop punishing her.
Calvin further rationalized if God is all knowing, then He knows who will be saved and who will not even before they are born, so therefore He must have created some people just so He can torment them in Hell for eternity. This is the infamous “predestination” of Calvin, which makes God the author of evil. This is not Biblical and certainly not Christian. Ultimately this doctrine denies free will, the choice that all humans have to either pursue righteousness, or selfishness. The key error is that Calvin presumed that because God knew who would be saved and who would not, that he caused them to be saved or judged.
Therefore the difference in the understanding of the Uncreated Energies is not just a difference between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, it is a difference between almost all of the heterodox and the Orthodox.