[The following question-and-answer dialogue of Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Osthathios is republished here from the site: http://www.geevarghesemarosthathios.info/. The views expressed below are exclusively of him. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios Metropolitan passed away on 16th February 2012 at St. Gregorios Hospital, Paruamala, Kerala, India. The death news of Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios has entirely shocked those who loved him. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios was the senior Metropolitan of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios Metropolitan was a globally known theologian, profound writer, orator, and owner of a very versatile personality.].
(Globalization of Divine Love and Personalization of Conviction and Religious Faiths)
1. What are the differences between Divine Love and human faiths?
‘God is Love.’ God is not faith or hope or conviction. Love is the essence of the compassionate God, while faith is a theological virtue, a gift of God. Divine Love has no boundaries, whereas faiths have boundaries. Love is eternal, uncreated, selfless and global, but faith is relative, personal, the capability of the image of God. Love is social but faith is personal. Love is global but faith is religious, eclesial, sectarian.
2. How do we know that God is Love?
“Only through God can God be known.” If God is God, He has to be infinite and no finite person can know God fully. Muslim Religion believes in the Revelation in the Holy Quran and it is its right to hold on to it. Hindus base their faith in Vedas and Upanishads, including the Bhagavad Gita. We must respect their human right also. Christian faith is in the Revelaton, Incarnation in the person and work of Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit, the record of which is in the Holy Bible and the witness of the Church in the worship and tradition. All must respect the sovereignty of Allah that Islam believes. The sanatana claim of Hinduism is its right. The divine love that Jesus Christ revealed in His love manifested in the life, teachings, vicarious death and resurrection must also be respected by others. “God is Love” (9 Jn. 4:8,16) is the same as “Allah the Compassionate” in the prologue of each Surah of the Holy Quran and Bhakti Marg of Bhagavad Gita. Propagating the university of each religion is also part and parcel of one’s human right.
3. Did Jesus Christ respect the faith of gentiles?
He certainly did. Seeing the deep faith of the gentile centurion, Jesus said, “Truly I say unto you, I have not found such even in Isreal” (St. Mt. 8:10). Again, He told the Gentile Canaanite woman, “O Woman, great is your faith! Be it done to you as you desire” and her daughter was healed instantly (St. Mt. 15:28).
4. What is the criterion of God’s Last Judgement?
The one criterion recorded from the mouth of Jesus Christ in St. Mt. 25:31 – 46 is love in action and not membership in the church. Faith, Ministry and Sacraments are necessary for membership in the visible church, but the judgement of God is for all nations and not for members of the church alone.
5. Why do you teach that Jehovah, Allah, Advaithic Brhama are the same as the Triune God of eternal love in eternal action of mutual, perichoretic sharing, blissful, agapaic love?
No religion denies the fact that God is love or compassionate. The Hebrew word used in Dt. 6:4 translated as one Lord or Jehovah is ‘ehad’ which means ‘compound or social unity’ and not ‘Yahed’ which is the Hebrew word for ‘solitary oneness’. Jehovah is a loving God who had compassion to the suffering, slavish Israelites in Egypt ( Ex. 3:7). According to the prologue of each Surah of the Holy Quran “Allah is compassionate and merciful.” In Surah 35 we read “If Allah were to punish men for their wrong deeds, no living being will be left on earth” (Cf. 45). As God is eternally active and unchangeable He must be love and compassionate in His Social Being. The Sanskrit word advaitha does not mean monistic or solitary God, but that Brahman is all-inclusive with no part of parcel or division. The Holy Triune God does not mean that there are three Gods, but one social God of Love transcending dualism of singularity and plurality in His Social Being. God did not grow into active love in creating the angels, matter and spirit or prakrithi and purusha and all things visible and invisible out of nothing (ex-nihilo). The unity and plurality in an ideal nuclear family may give us a faint insight into the mystery of Holy Trinity, though inadequate.
6. Why should we grow from the faith in justification by faith alone (sola fidei) into salvation by grace alone (sola gratia)?
Martin Luther wanted to counter – act justification by work of Roman Catholic Church of the middle ages and so he quoted St. Paul mainly and not the Gospels, without distinguishing that St. Paul himself has confessed that in 1 Cor. 7:6-9, he gives his own personal view and then in verse 10 he writes ”To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from the husband.” A biblical holistic view may be summarised as follows. ”God’s love or grace is the rain, tree is the faith and good works are the fruits. ‘Faith alone’ does not take Epistle of St. James or even St. Paul’s many passages like 1 Cor.13 or Eph. 2:8-11, seriously. Further more, the faith of gentiles, which Christ honoured is ignored.
7. If selfless, kenotic, sacrificial love is the criterion, how can I develop me and my family and nation without developing my neighbours?
The question is very relevent, especially in the present, secular, selfish, capitalistic culture, which is more animalic than human, not to speak of divine. The three instincts of self, sex and herd, we have inherited from animals by evolution are our guiding motivation and so we are more selfish, sexually permissive and communal than loving, capable of sublimating our sex-instinct and communally grouped like the crows, doves, etc. The third millennium will see either the destruction of our planet by our hatred of neighbours, immorality and nuclear war or survive by love. ”Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere.” Selfish development is impossible with unselfish sharing. The call of the General Secretary to the Heads of 150 nations who attended the millennial summit in the U. N. Headquarters that each nation should eradicate its poverty by 2015 is impossible unless USA and other rich countries share their know – how, wealth, etc., to create job for the jobless in every nation. The outcome will be the fall of rich nations as that of Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome and many other civilizations in history.
8. If Capitalism falls a Communism did, what is the alternative?
God is still on the throne. He is the Lord of History. When Feudalism rose and fell in the ninteenth century, the alternative was Capitalism and its alternative was Communism, in the twentieth century. The twentyfirst century will see the fall of Capitalism as the previous century saw the rise and fall of Communism. The alternative is Welfare Economics of Amartya Sen. It teaches that the dictatorship of capitalist owners or of the toiling labouring proletarian class will not eradicate poverty of the world. He found out that poverty is due to lack of purchasing power of the people and not due to the lack of grains in the world. He teaches that money does not belong to the people who create it but to the whole of humanity. He invested the whole amount of Rupees fourty million in the bank, deducting the tax paid, to give education and medicine to the children who are illiterate and unhealthy.
Will Bill Gates give his billions of dollars to write off the debt of the poorest countries of the world? Welfare Economics is the synthesis of capitalistic freedom and communist social justice to create jobs, education, etc., for all.
9. What is the role of the new theology of one Religion of Love for the third millennium?
It recommends the human right to hold on to one’s own faith or to change to another faith, but be united on the basis of sharing love without distinction or religion or caste or creed or colour. It advocates voluntary sharing for the needy to work hard, produce wealth for eradicating poverty of the whole world. We need a World Government taught by Amold J. Toynbee and other great thinkers of the world. Sabbath is for man and man not for the sabbath. Religion is not to fight between various faiths and religions, but it helps all of humanity to live as brothers and sisters under one Heavenly Father. Amartiya Sen also stands for an international economic order.
10. What is your answer to the Christian claim that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of the world (St. Jn. 14:6; Acts. 4:12, etc.) ?
Those who have read my books like THEOLOGY OF A CLASSLESS SOCIETY and SHARING GOD AND A SHARING WORLD (published by CSS, Thiruvalla – 689 101, Kerala) know that my Christology is not low as of modern Protestantism, but is as high as the Biblical, Patristic Christology. I believe the Creedal claim that Jesus Christ is very God of Very God, of the same essence of God. The stress of my theology is that the essence of God is divine love (aqape), as revealed by Jesus Himself. Hence, Christ is pre-existent Logos (Word) or sabda Brahma, without whom there is no salvation. Jesus Christ, God incarnate is the same as Logos Pre Incarnate and Post – Incarnate, without whom there is no other saviour. This is an all inclusive claim and not an exclusive superiority claim. Salvation through the visible Church or the invisible Church known only to God and in all religions and cultures are Christ’s as He is God and Man, at the same time. After all, only God can know who is saved and who is not saved. The tree is known by the fruit of divine love, expressed in life and example. God Triune, is Sat, Chit, Anand (Satchidananda), Compassionate Allah, Eternal Love in eternal sharing.
Of course, such a claim is not to be enforced on anyone, but proclaimed only by those who have this holistic Christology (conviction).