The Light Shining Out of Darkness 

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For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

[Just as aside – I find this verse so intriguing because Paul has God commanding light to shine out of darkness, rather than into it. God needs nothing to create His universe and is even able to shine light from out of the darkness. Of course, this is not meant to be just a literal text describing empirical creation. He is expressing a spiritual truth about the spiritual reality of the universe. Even darkness is created by God and is part of God’s creation and so serves His purposes.]

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Orthodox theologian Olivier Clement uses Paul’s words on God commanding “light to shine out of darkness” to understand the nature of Tradition in Orthodoxy. The “darkness” is all around us – it is that thinking which attempts to understand the cosmos without God. That is all of the scientific, political or philosophical thinking which assumes God doesn’t exist. This thinking is perhaps the height of what human reason alone can discover about the universe. It may all be perfectly true as far as it goes, but by denying God and the spiritual life, it is blind to some of the truth that can be known about the cosmos. Out of this “darkness” God shines His light, His revelation about the divine, moral and spiritual dimensions of the universe. God is not denying the existence of this darkness, nor what it contains, but is showing it to be just part of the entirety of existence. God is not declaring this worldly “darkness” to be totally false or useless, rather God chooses to shine out it, meaning God acknowledges its existence and uses it for His own purposes.  After all it is God who makes even the darkness (Jeremiah 13:16; Amos 4:13; Psalm 104:20).

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Tradition is therefore the unique mode through which revelation is received, as Vladimir Lossky stressed. Tradition is not the substance of revelation; it sheds light on that which has become apparent. ‘For the God who said: “out of the darkness light shall shine,” has made a light in our hearts for the radiance of the knowledge and of the glory of God in the face of Christ’  (2 Corinthians 4:6). ‘See to it that there shall be no one to steal you away by philosophy and by empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the fundamentals of the world, and not according to Christ‘ (Colossians 2:8).  (TRANSFIGURING TIME, p 148)

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Tradition is that which helps us understand what God is revealing to us. It is there to help us see the Light and not just sink into the darkness of a cold, indifferent, random universe. Rather, we come to see God at work in everything. For, as the Psalmist says, God even made the darkness (Psalm 104:20).

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light around me become night,”

even the darkness is not dark to You;

the night is as bright as the day,

for darkness is as light to You.

(Psalm 139:11-12)

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