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« Reply #45 on: May 25, 2005, 10:42:26 PM »

Excuse me folks, let's back up.

I hear all this talk that assumes our "soul" floats up to heaven when we die.

The Toll House teaching depends on this aspect. That is, it depends on the "popular religion" view of the soul...that is, our soul is a separate entity. This is a view held in common by almost all non-Christian religion, aside from Judaism. As far as I know, Judaism was not only the one religion that believed in a single God of all, but also focussed on our bodily existence as the only existence we have. In fact, belief in some type of disembodied soul would have been nonsensical to them. Rewards for "good behavior" was NOT salvation from hell, but rather a longer life. Death was something inescapable. But why should death be feared if we have immortal whispy things that can float around and see anywhere and exist forever. Really, what makes the Gospel the "Good News"?

Perhaps later on, and due to their constant exposure to other religions, some began to believe in some type of separate soul. I wouldn't be surprised if later Jewish writings reflect this. Afterall, all sorts of other things were becoming more and more screwed up in the Jewish people. That's when Christ came.

That was why the resurrection was such a huge deal. I mean, why would it be a big deal if you had a disembodied soul that would already float off? It was such a big deal b/c as one Greek priest put in his Christmas homily, "Death was so final to the Jews." Because it really was final.

I'm reminded of an essay written by Fr. John Breck written for Again magazine on the topic of Embryonic Stem-Cell research. During part of it, he writes:


So that's problem one. Problem two is this concept of demons pulling people down to Hell right away. I wouldn't be surprised if they pull us down with them after the final judgement. Hell is NOT some type of fortress of demons where they hang out and torture poor disembodied souls. Scripture is entirely clear that Hell is where the DEMONS will be punished at the end of time. So as Fr. Thomas Hopko put it:

So besides the obviously "scary" aspect of Toll Houses (not so much that there are demons out there who may drag us down [as we know that they try to drag us down in this life!], but that somehow the Gospel of Grace is lost), two other issues I have with TH's is the perpetuation of, and total dependence on, two fundamentally incorrect beliefs: about the nature of us as humans (i.e., in disembodied souls that float around), and the dante's inferno understanding of the nature of hell.

The End.
Actually the Jews clearly believed that a person still exists separate from their body after death though not eternally separate from it. How else could King Saul have had the prophet Samuel raised? The argument that the Jews had no word for soul does not mean that they did not believe you still existed as the same person you were in life.

Quote
I hear all this talk that assumes our "soul" floats up to heaven when we die.

The aerial ascent of the soul is universal throughout Patristic literature about the afterlife.

The belief that you can still exist separated from your body does not bother me one bit. Why should it? This does not take away from my belief that you are only wholly yourself when in the body you were born with.

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and the dante's inferno understanding of the nature of hell.
Don't blame Dante Alighieri, the greatest Medieval writer, for this idea of Hell being a place where sinners burn and are tormented by demons. This belief is evidenced in St.Gregory the Dialogist Dialogues.
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« Reply #46 on: May 26, 2005, 03:44:36 AM »



Well, maybe. But what you are telling me is entirely taken from the one article from John Maximovitch, which you repeat over and over. All the other Greek sources I find, up to and including the archdiocesan website, do not wholeheartedly endorse this article.

And what I'm seeing is that the older the passage, the less clearly it "teaches" this theory. The Ephesians passage does not appear to teach it at all; it makes much more sense, read in context, to refer to the present conflict, and that the "evil day" means any day on which one's faith is put to the test. I would note also that in other passages where the context would indicate that the teaching should appear, it does not. It is not mentioned when Paul says that we will meet our savior in the air; nor is it mentioned when Paul explains why we should no longer sin.

It is pointless to continue to lecture me on the interpretive authority of the fathers. The problem here is on the one hand, your authority as an interpreter of the fathers, and on the other, Fr. Rose and Bp. Maximovitch's authority to do the same. What you provide instead is your sole reliance on them and yourself as interpretive authorities.

It is strange that you say that



...because following Paul, they should not. You are commanded not to sin; that should be enough. Backing that command up with the threat of the toll-houses is committing exactly the fault which atheists accuse us of: failing to find a reason in this life not to sin, we must resort to threats of the next.

What I'm getting, instead, is that belief in the toll-houses is what is important. According to the theory, one who is baptized and is sufficiently pure need not fear the demons who staff these toll-houses, after all.



Why I do not believe it? Because I am a graceless heretic, of course! No, actually I don't believe it because it is against the plain sense of scripture.


Ok, to begin - you are absolutely right - I offer John Maximovitch and Fr. Seraphim Rose as interpreters of the Holy Fathers.

You are also correct in that there is a problem with me interpreting the Fathers - because, in my fallen state of grace, I lack that capability. However, while I offer my interpretation, the only response that i'm seeing is yours. So, catch 22 situation - we're both lacking interpretative Grace. But i'm also offering the interpretations of at least one Saint,possibly two, who did have that Grace. When you say 'plain sense of scripture', do we not mean your plain sense of scripture. So,if i can't interpret, you can't interpret either: we can't interpret. My question then is: are you also saying that St. John Maximovitch cannot interpret?

Secondly, you say that one who is baptized and suffuciently pure need not fear the toll houses. Are you sufficiently pure? The Mother of God did not feel that she was sufficiently pure enough to escape the Toll Houses. She asked Christ to receive her soul Himself, so that she could escape these very Toll Houses (that aren't scriptural). The Church, in Her Wisdom, calls Mary the Most Pure and Immaculate Lady and Queen of Heaven. Of course, we're much purer than her. We don't have to fear at all. Roll Eyes

Finally, you're right, the Atheists accuse us of searching for reasons not to sin. Again, I bow to your correctness - our reason not to sin should be out of love for Christ, not out of fear. But Christ can take a selfish fear (one to escape the torments of Hell) and turn it into Love for Him. What he requires is an open heart, which was what I was trying to say in my last post. It doesn't matter how we come to Christ, the importance is that we do. When we fully surrender to our nothingness, Christ can come in, and transform that fear into Love, because we will have tasted.

HOWEVER, the interpretation that the Toll Houses are threats to back up the command not to sin is my interpretation, and therefore probably wrong. I offer it as a possibility, speaking from the impact the Toll Houses have had me (not that that's worth anything). Actually, I think that generally, the Toll Houses are merely telling us the consquences of our actions. It is not a threat, it is a consequence. Do not touch the stove, you'll get burnt. Technically, our reason for not touching the stove should be because we were told not to touch it. But the burning is a consequence of the action if we take it. It's not a threat, it's a statement of fact.

(I realize 'fact' may not be the politically correct word to use here, but I believe it to be fact)

The defense rests...
« Last Edit: May 26, 2005, 03:53:29 AM by jayson » Logged
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« Reply #47 on: May 26, 2005, 09:08:36 AM »

How interesting that this controversy should come up right now. zcurrently at the Euphrosynos Cafe, our members have voted fro Father Seraphim's book of the aerial toll-houses, THE SOUL AFTER DEATH to be the next book we read and review together.

I would invite all of you, whether you are currently a believer in the toll-houses or not, whether a traditional Orthodox Christian or not, to join us in the group book review. Information about when we start and the cheapest place to get the book can be found at http://euphrosynoscafe.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=26393#26393

In reading this book, it will help people better understand the theory that they are arguing for or against and to hear the observations of other Orthodox Christians.
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« Reply #48 on: May 26, 2005, 09:47:21 AM »

You are also correct in that there is a problem with me interpreting the Fathers - because, in my fallen state of grace, I lack that capability. However, while I offer my interpretation, the only response that i'm seeing is yours. So, catch 22 situation - we're both lacking interpretative Grace.

That is irrelevant. Orthodoxy does offer an objective standard: that doctrine be believed in all times and in all places. What I see is that this standard does not appear to be met, and indeed seems to be violated. I deny the need for any "interpretive grace" to make this judgement, because it is not a matter of interpretation, but rather of whether the proper protocol is followed. There is no Christian tradition in which John Maximovitch is properly the kind of authority you are making him out to be.

As far as the "plain sense of scripture" is concerned, I mean that someone would not read (for instance) the passage from Ephesians as teaching about toll-houses unless they already believed the toll-house theory. Without that presupposition, the passage teaches something different-- and I would expect that the overwhelming majority of Orthodox interpreters would agree with my reading of it, because the passage is not difficult.

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Secondly, you say that one who is baptized and suffuciently pure need not fear the toll houses. Are you sufficiently pure?

It is sufficient for me to fear the judgement of Christ, the judgement to which scripture does testify. Isn't that enough?
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« Reply #49 on: May 26, 2005, 09:53:37 AM »

CyberSponge,

I've enjoyed your input on the subject; it's prompted some thoughts of my own:

Wow, I already disagree. All essential teachings of the Church must be at least referred to in scripture. We don't call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John "the Gospel" for nuttin'.

My guess? Where Satan is called the "prince of the power of the air" (Eph 2:2). And Eph. 6:12, though it is specifically in the context of this life, does in fact say that there are powers in THIS world, AND that there are spiritual powers "in the heavenly realms." So we know they're at least THERE; what they do once we leave the body is not mentioned. But the idea of demons in the air IS supported within this epistle twice.

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Yes, of course. But why was it written down? Ironically, the "evidence" of toll houses used above is from written sources. Just not scripture. Every other essential and life-giving teaching of the Church I've ever heard of at least has strong referrences to it in Scripture. Maybe not the exact details (as the Holy Spirit allows us to work with what we got and deal with problems as they happen).


Well, MAYBE the Ephesians references are a start. And yeah, oral tradition ultimately all wound up getting written down EVENTUALLY, just not by the Apostles.

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But all I hear in scripture is "Resurrection, Resurrection, Resurrection!", not "disembodied soul cast into hell by demon judges" or "Sorry bub, you're on your own. Hope you did a bunch of good deeds cuz Christ's death meant squat."

Hmm. Well, the hell thing has been addressed; the toll house thing seems to be the "particular judgement" we experience when we leave the body--which, by the way, is an unnatural state for man and which will be corrected by the resurrection of the body, when souls are reunited WITH their bodies for the general judgement--and seems to refer not so much to "good deeds" per se, but rather to "condition or attributes of the soul" that come about (or don't) by responding in active faith to all that Christ has done. He took on our flesh, He lived, He died, He rose again, He ascended to heaven, He sat at the right hand of God the Father--He did all this...so that we could respond to His grace and be saved from all the death and sin in our hearts. If we don't respond to that, to the extent that there is still unrepented-of gluttony, lust, sloth, etc.--which could have been uprooted through God's grace and our openness to that grace--then we're not really Christ's. What else could He do that would not override our free will? "Yes, God, I know I didn't submit my lying tongue or my lazy, procrastinating ways to You, but get me out of it anyways! I still 'love' You"...but do we really? And if God takes us at our word and starts to rip things out we're not really ready to give to Him, is it not painful? Just some thoughts concerning the preoccupation with (supposed) "grace of Christ's death" versus "our good deeds."

But why should death be feared if we have immortal whispy things that can float around and see anywhere and exist forever. Really, what makes the Gospel the "Good News"?

Again, I hear ya, but the "immortal whispy things" won't necessarily be enjoying their time outside the body. And this is because, like I said, death is unnatural--it's not like we're saying that having an immortal part of us (a quality which will eventually be put on by the corporal body as well--1 Cor 15) necessarily makes the afterlife "neat" and "cool." Which is why what you quoted from Fr. John (cool, btw), actually does mesh with the departure (and journey, of some sort) of the soul when it unnaturally is separated from the body it was never meant to be apart from.

Quote
So that's problem one. Problem two is this concept of demons pulling people down to Hell right away. I wouldn't be surprised if they pull us down with them after the final judgement. Hell is NOT some type of fortress of demons where they hang out and torture poor disembodied souls. Scripture is entirely clear that Hell is where the DEMONS will be punished at the end of time.

Right, 'cause now they're going around the earth and sky tempting and tormenting us (and, presumeably, those who've departed this life and await reunion with their bodies at the Judgement). I believe (if I read it right) that being "stopped" at a "toll house" means you can't progress; it doesn't mean you get pulled down.

Quote
So besides the obviously "scary" aspect of Toll Houses (not so much that there are demons out there who may drag us down [as we know that they try to drag us down in this life!], but that somehow the Gospel of Grace is lost)...

I know I've said something about this above, and that both of these quotes are addressed at the same time (and that I MAY--though probably didn't--sufficiently address the qualms about "grace vs. works" there), but how do you think this appeal to the true characterisitics of our soul in terms of "response to God's holiness" goes against the grace of God? I'm a bit confused, I have to say; on the one hand, without Christ's Coming, we are completely lost in sin and death, incapable of leaving. But because He came, we can now (and absolutely must ourselves) go home. The ladder's dropped down for us to climb, without which we'd be lost, and He even helps us climb, but he will not do anything for us which we are not ourselves absolutely willing (and, yes, able!) to do.
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« Reply #50 on: May 26, 2005, 06:10:11 PM »


It is sufficient for me to fear the judgement of Christ, the judgement to which scripture does testify. Isn't that enough?


All right, fine, let's say that we just fear Christ's Judgement. Christ tells us that at His Judgement, he will separate the sheep from the goats; and that His Judgement is based on 6 beatitudes: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, give drink to those that thirst, take in the stranger, and go to those in prison. Basically, it is a Judgement of our mercy, shown by our works.

But then, the question I then ask is, are we going to be held accountable for all the other stuff? Where are all the sexual lusts and thieving and murder? Or is it permissable to do all this, just so long as you perform acts of Mercy?

Here's my take: as Christ comes twice, so man is judged twice. The first is the Particular Judgement, where we are hold accountable for all our actions, and then the Final Judgement. The Toll Houses are a teaching of the Particular Judgement. And no, it is not enough to fear just the Last Judgement. I repeat what I said earlier: the PANAGIA feared the Toll Gates. And I'll ask again, are you purer than her?
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« Reply #51 on: May 26, 2005, 06:16:47 PM »

the PANAGIA feared the Toll Gates. And I'll ask again, are you purer than her?

Could we have a citation on that, please?  Is there a quote from St. Mary the Virgin on this point? What is your source, please?

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« Reply #52 on: May 26, 2005, 11:33:08 PM »



All right, fine, let's say that we just fear Christ's Judgement. Christ tells us that at His Judgement, he will separate the sheep from the goats; and that His Judgement is based on 6 beatitudes: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, give drink to those that thirst, take in the stranger, and go to those in prison. Basically, it is a Judgement of our mercy, shown by our works.

But then, the question I then ask is, are we going to be held accountable for all the other stuff? Where are all the sexual lusts and thieving and murder? Or is it permissable to do all this, just so long as you perform acts of Mercy?

This is theology done like that of Edgar Whisenant, whose interpretation of Matt. 24:36 allowed him to say, "However, this does not preclude or prevent the faithful from knowing the year, the month, and the week of the Lord's return." I reject your theory that Jesus intends to judge us only on what was listed in that passage.

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« Reply #53 on: May 26, 2005, 11:56:51 PM »

In the life of Saint Anthony the Great he saw demons that would fight for the soul of the recently reposed, and such refrences are common in the ascetical fathers (i.e the Evergetinos, Philokalia, Desert Fathers and Mothers, etc.).  Of course no highly structured system is found, but the basic concept of as the soul ascends after death demons will accuse it of sins and attempt to drag the soul to hell with them.  On the converse angels are there to speak of the virtues of the soul and lead it to heaven. 

I don't understand what so many people find objectionable in that. 
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« Reply #54 on: May 27, 2005, 12:10:38 AM »

The Panagia (may she pray for us) had no reason to fear the toll-houses as she was sinless.
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« Reply #55 on: May 27, 2005, 12:23:37 AM »

The Panagia (may she pray for us) had no reason to fear the toll-houses as she was sinless.

The more perfect we become the more aware of our unworthiness we become.  Since she was Most Holy she was Most Humble.
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« Reply #56 on: May 27, 2005, 12:39:35 AM »

Since the Orthodox do not believe in the legalistic system of "redemption" that is often found in Western confessions, sinless or not anyone created is in need of the creater, the redemptor.  Even the most pure of creation trembles in awe and fear in front of our God. 
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« Reply #57 on: May 27, 2005, 08:37:46 AM »



This is theology done like that of Edgar Whisenant, whose interpretation of Matt. 24:36 allowed him to say, "However, this does not preclude or prevent the faithful from knowing the year, the month, and the week of the Lord's return." I reject your theory that Jesus intends to judge us only on what was listed in that passage.



Fine, I resign. You're right, of course. I have offered testimony from many of the greatest church fathers. I have offered the interpretations of two of the great Modern Church fathers. You don't respond, you 'deny the need' to respond. You insist on scriptural proof, and then you deny scriptural proof. You list your religion as 'other'. Clearly, there is no point to this argument. Your arrogance and willfulness against seeing my point preclude it.

I turn it over to those far more blessed and able than I: http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/tollhouse_pomaz.aspx

Refer especially to the interpretation of Hebrews 9:27 : "In accordance with simple logic and as also confirmed by the Word of God the soul immediately after its separation from the body enters into a sphere where its further fate is defined. It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, we read in the Apostle Paul (Heb. 9:27). This is the Particular Judgement, which is independent of the universal Last Judgement."

Also, the final footnote: "However, Metropolitan Macarius does speak quite in detail on the subject of the tollhouses, devoting ten pages of his second volume to it (pp.528-538), and giving extensive quotes from Saints Cyril of Alexandria, Ephraim the Syrian, Athanasius the Great, Macarius the Great, John Chrysostom, Maximus the Confessor,and a number of other sources, including many texts from the Divine service books, and concluding that "such an uninterrupted, constant, and universal usage in the Church on the teaching of the toll-houses, especially among the teachers of the fourth century, indisputably testifies that it was handed down to them from the teachers of the preceding centuries and is founded on apostolic tradition" (p.535)."

When you can offer conclusive support for your argument, rather than just rejecting mine; when you can find a Church Father who actually, properly, denies that there are two judgements (the Particular and the Final), and denies the Toll Houses, come back to me.
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« Reply #58 on: May 27, 2005, 09:05:28 AM »

Keble,

I'm on your side of things. Orthodoxy has never claimed to know what/how happens after death, and this ornately constructed theory, imo, places an unhealthy focus on demons and takes the power and focus away from Christ. There are those who are convinced by the writings of a very recent saint and a very holy man, as if we were so quick to declare "Church Fathers" of them.  Generally, we take a few centuries to develop such claims, and even then, even our Church Fathers taught things that we reject. No one made them infalliable.  So everyone gets to spend their time thinking about Toll Houses and calculating precisely their ratio of good deeds to sins in order to find out how they'll fair in the afterlife they believe in, and meanwhile, the conscious focus on good deeds and the reason for doing them renders them ineffectual to making our souls closer to what God intends for them to be and Satan gets a double hit; our sin, and our focus on our deeds.
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« Reply #59 on: May 27, 2005, 09:23:57 AM »

So everyone gets to spend their time thinking about Toll Houses and calculating precisely their ratio of good deeds to sins in order to find out how they'll fair in the afterlife they believe in, and meanwhile, the conscious focus on good deeds and the reason for doing them renders them ineffectual to making our souls closer to what God intends for them to be and Satan gets a double hit; our sin, and our focus on our deeds.

Good call, CF.  While we (obviously) have the aspect of works playing a part in our salvation (cf. St. James' epistle), a preoccupation with works in and of themselves (instead of as a means to the end of a purified heart which longs for God) wherein God becomes a celestial tax-collector who weighs our deeds to determine our eternal destiny is unhealthy and--I'd say--unchristian.  That is, though, a temptation we have to fight against, an extreme that it IS possible to go to.

A question for Ebor and Keble: is there any teaching in Anglicanism about a particular judgement before the universal one?  'Cause, to me, whether or not we want to go full-scale literal with this "toll-house" idea (man, I want cookies right now! Wink), it DOES, in its most general (i.e. earliest) form seem to mesh with what Scripture says about "demons in the heavens" and a judgement of some sort directly after death.  Thoughts from you would be appreciated...
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« Reply #60 on: May 27, 2005, 10:13:56 AM »

Quote
Of course no highly structured system is found, but the basic concept of as the soul ascends after death demons will accuse it of sins and attempt to drag the soul to hell with them.  On the converse angels are there to speak of the virtues of the soul and lead it to heaven. 

I don't understand what so many people find objectionable in that.   

I think what people find objectionable is the highly structured system that has arisen from the concept itself. 

It reminds me much of what Roman Catholicism believes re: the concept of purgatory.  What began as an acknowledgement of a third state after death where the soul is purified degenerated into an exceptionally juridical system of indulgences that was inevitably abused.

I'm much more concerned with my actions now, when I am physically capable of choosing to do God's will on earth as we are charged with doing, than with what happens to my soul after death.  For as much as Fr. Seraphim of blessed memory decried the West's scholasticism and rationalism, his writings on the toll houses have done nothing but create Orthodoxy's own scholasticism.  The details about the toll houses might as well be found in Aquinas.
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« Reply #61 on: May 27, 2005, 10:18:43 AM »

Um I have a simple-stupid question, if we go to confession regularly, why would we even have to worry about this? I'm sorry but this whole "toll-house" thing kinda muddies the water for me.
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« Reply #62 on: May 27, 2005, 11:39:01 AM »

A question for Ebor and Keble: is there any teaching in Anglicanism about a particular judgement before the universal one?

 Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy :dunno:

You're looking for a teaching from an Anglican?

Seriously, this is what the catechism in the 1979 BCP says:

Quote
Q What do we mean by the last judgment?

A We believe that Christ will come in glory and judge the living and
the dead.

That's it. We simply don't have much use for dogmatic speculation about the life of the world to come. Lewis speculates about it in The Great Divorce, but he obviously doesn't mean it as an authoritative teaching.

In general, though, I'm guessing that any specific Anglican would say that there is one Judgement, and that Christ does it. And in general, we're sort of OK with the idea of Purgatory, but as a place of spiritual repair/preparation, not as a place of limited punishment. (That is, after all, what the word really means.) And we generally reject the notion of indulgences, especially when people start talking about the number of years one gets off for them.

And I don't think, from a metaphorical perspective, we would necessarily have any disagreement with a contest between angels and demons over the "souls" of the believers. What we have a problem with is the literalism and the systematization. I don't agree with the assumption that scripture is trying to give us a complete, systematic picture, because what we have in scripture is a lot of bits and pieces taken from many places that have to be assembled to get a full picture. Much of it is obviously intended mystically. I wouldn't presume to say, for instance, that the picture of Lazarus and the rich man is supposed to be taken as a literal description; the important part is the punch line about Moses and the prophets and one returned from the dead.

And I double that caveat about visions. The vision of Theodora is compelling and instructive, in its way, but "Ethiopians"? What she describes is in correspondence to what Dante writes in Il Purgatorio.
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« Reply #63 on: May 27, 2005, 12:36:09 PM »

Schultz,

Quote
I'm much more concerned with my actions now, when I am physically capable of choosing to do God's will on earth as we are charged with doing, than with what happens to my soul after death. For as much as Fr. Seraphim of blessed memory decried the West's scholasticism and rationalism, his writings on the toll houses have done nothing but create Orthodoxy's own scholasticism. The details about the toll houses might as well be found in Aquinas.

You see, that's just the thing - it's pretty clear (to me at least) that all Fr.Seraphim did was put together a book detailing what the Holy Fathers (both ancient and new) had come to know of the soul's journey after death. The conceptualization of this as involving "toll houses" is a part of that, but it's not even the whole story! It's a part of it, in so much as we can speak of such things. Yet for whatever reason, certain people make it seem as if Fr.Seraphim was giving us a new dogma, or an "Orthodox Purgatory". Yet, all he was in fact doing was giving details from traditions that originated with those holy ones who claimed some awareness of such things.

Some who object to all of this do so on the grounds that they find the concrete imagery involved (in particular, "toll houses") to be offensive. Yet, somehow the same people get around the book of the Apocalypse (or perhaps they don't?).

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« Reply #64 on: May 27, 2005, 12:51:18 PM »

Fr. Seraphim ends up being a scape goat it seems to me for whatever reason. What he wrote in "The Soul After Death" wasn't his own doctrine; what he wrote was handed down to him from Saint John Maximovitch, who in turn recieved that as part of the Russian spiritual inheritance (i.e Look at Saint Theophan the Reclulse and others who wrote no differently on the matter). And the highly "refined" version of the toll houses came from a vision of Saint Basil the New (reposed 944) to Saint Theodora (who was a contemporary of his, but I don't remember the exact date off hand), so it isn't that new either. For me at least reading the account of Saint Theodora serves as a good reminder of death and judgement - that if I continue on the sinful path I trod my inheritance is with the demons, not the saints.

I haven't ever seen the highly refined form of toll houses forced on people (from a synod of bishops, or legitimate teaching authority) only the general concept found in the desert fathers. I think what is most troubling though is the great lengths that anti-tollhouse crowd is willing to go. The term "gnostic heresy" is thrown around very loosely. I find it very sad that 'faithful' Orthodox would apply such a term to a belief held by a large number of saints. I think with Father Seraphim the issue wasn't toll-houses so much as the approach these people took towards evaluating them. They had the mindset that they were the only true Orthodox people left on earth and somehow better than their predacessors. Both the zealot/schismatics such as the current ROAC group or HOCNA and the Father Alexander Schmemman group within the Church were violently opposed to them - the former leaving the Church entirely because of their arrogance and the latter claiming the Church Abroad to not be part of the Church! If anything I do think the fierce opposition to toll houses does perhaps signal deeper problems below the surface.
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« Reply #65 on: May 27, 2005, 01:24:58 PM »

It's not necessary that we should look at our "tolls" as works in and of themselves.  Sure, whether or not we pass through a certain gate may depend on the amount of good works we performed, but it is looked at in such a way that the good works are natural consequences or indications of how much inner repentance our heart went under.

So there really is no need to look at the toll-house theory in a juridical/legalistic light.

I know this might serve as a bad example (I can't think of a better one for the time being), but it's kinda like some elitist/secret-society dinner function.  The price is $3000 per place-at-a-table, but the point isn't whether or not you have $3000 to pay the front-man.....the point is that anyone who pays $3000 to sit at this dinner has got to be someone important and "in the know".....same with toll-houses...the point isn't whether or not "this good deed" out-weighs "that bad deed", but about what all these things indicate about the state of your heart.

Does that make sense?
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« Reply #66 on: May 27, 2005, 01:30:51 PM »

I think what is most troubling though is the great lengths that anti-tollhouse crowd is willing to go. The term "gnostic heresy" is thrown around very loosely.

The problem, unfortunately, is that it isn't being thrown around that loosely. The notion of weighing the soul on the basis of good and evil deeds goes right back into ancient Egypt and can be traced directly through gnostic teachings.
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« Reply #67 on: May 27, 2005, 01:46:22 PM »

Both the zealot/schismatics such as the current ROAC group

While former-bishop Gregory, before he was retired and excommunicated did espouse an anti-tollhouse rhetoric and did claim it to be the teaching of the ROAC when he was a part of her, this in fact is not true and the ROAC would agree with the historical Russian Church on their metaphorical existance as Father Seraphim has drawen out in the Introduction to THE SOUL AFTER DEATH. You are correct that the deposed former-ROCOR Deacon Lazar Puhalo (Now in the OCA as a retired Archbishop with universal rights to serve and preach) and HOCNA are violently anti-toll houses, I did want to clarify the position of the ROAC.
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« Reply #68 on: May 27, 2005, 01:58:31 PM »

Quote
The problem, unfortunately, is that it isn't being thrown around that loosely. The notion of weighing the soul on the basis of good and evil deeds goes right back into ancient Egypt and can be traced directly through gnostic teachings.

If you honestly think the Desert Fathers and the vast majority of Saints (actually I know of no anti-toll house saints) were gnostic heretics, then so be it.  Then you are the only true criterion of Truth - the same delusion that all past heretics and schismatics have held. 
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« Reply #69 on: May 27, 2005, 02:29:37 PM »

Uh guys, I am still confused. If we make a good confession regularly, does the toll-house belief even come into play?
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« Reply #70 on: May 27, 2005, 02:33:16 PM »

Well if even saints saw need to be fearful of the dread judgement....
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« Reply #71 on: May 27, 2005, 02:39:38 PM »

If you honestly think the Desert Fathers and the vast majority of Saints (actually I know of no anti-toll house saints) were gnostic heretics, then so be it. Then you are the only true criterion of Truth - the same delusion that all past heretics and schismatics have held.

My question to you is how you know that they do endorse the toll-house theory as expounded by the Russian-Americans cited here. I don't actually wish to accuse anyone of gnosticism per se. My point is rather that this "balancing" is a folk/pagan tradition found all over, except in scripture. Indeed, it seems to me that scripture teaches that, in such a weighing, everyone would fail, save Jesus. This is one of the reasons we require salvation. Scripture doesn't teach that you have to do enough good deeds to outweigh the bad that you do (or confess enough of them, which simply makes confession a special form of good deed).
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« Reply #72 on: May 27, 2005, 02:47:36 PM »

Quote
I think what is most troubling though is the great lengths that anti-tollhouse crowd is willing to go.

Nektarios,

While I agree with you for the most part in most everything you've said regarding this subject, the thing I find the most troubling is the great lengths BOTH sides go to in order to get their points across. As you said, you "haven't ever seen the highly refined form of toll houses forced on people (from a synod of bishops, or legitimate teaching authority) only the general concept found in the desert fathers." Yet many people who advocate the toll-house concept go beyond the basic idea and try to force the imagery of the concept down the throats of those who are only skeptical, much like I've never seen an anti-toll house advocate do anything but try to shove their ideas down the throat of the believer. It really just ends up with both sides entrenched in their own ideas and the skeptic or the inquirer is left looking at two very un-Christian acting groups and moving on. Both sides end up practically issuing anathemas at one another and looking like petulant little children of Satan rather than loving children of God.

There are far more important things we should be getting riled up about than what happens to the soul after death. We'll all find out soon enough and be judged accordingly. Hypothetically speaking, if they are there, those who denied them will be tormented just like those who affirm them, each dealing with his or her own special torments. If they are not there, those who affirmed them will be bewildered but I'm sure glad while those who denied them will, hopefully, not be smug.

In the end, no matter what faces us after death, it is the mercy of God Himself that decides how we will spend eternity.

I also agree with you regarding the scape goating of Fr. Seraphim. Ironically, the only person who I've ever seen be charitable in discussing this subject has been Fr. Seraphim himself!

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« Reply #73 on: May 27, 2005, 02:52:39 PM »

Well if even saints saw need to be fearful of the dread judgement....
Then what's the point of confession at all if we are going to be judged for everything anyway?
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« Reply #74 on: May 27, 2005, 04:43:46 PM »

Quote
My question to you is how you know that they do endorse the toll-house theory as expounded by the Russian-Americans cited here.

As for the saints before the 944 date previously cited, I agree you could make that argument.  But I do not know of any (and I would assume the anti-tollhouse groups would cite them heavily if they did exist) saints to speak out against them after that date.  But I also think it is important to look how they were spoken of.  Saint Theophan spoke of the refined "Russian style" toll-houses in a letter to a young women preparing for confession - thus making them an examination of conscience.  And even to Father Seraphim I think this was primarily a pastoral issue.

Here is from the glossary of the book "Counsels from the Holy Mountain" by Elder Ephraim that I think speaks very clearly on the matter:

Toll Houses (-ä+¦++-ë+++¦+¦): According to the Holy Fathers*, when a person dies, his soul ascends to the throne of God to be judged, and the demons as "tax-collectors" try to prevent his ascent at various "toll-houses" where they examine if the soul has sins that have not been confessed, and they even accuse the soul of sins not committed.  If so, they cast the soul into hell at once before it even reaches the throne of God. Of course, the toll-houses are not material entities, but spiritual realities which the Holy Fathers chose to describe with material imagery.

 * Although some modern theologians doubt the existence of the toll-houses, toll-houses are mentioned either explicitly or implicitly by countless saints, including St. Paul, St. Makarios of Egypt, St. Basil the Great, St. Ephraim the Syrian, Abba Isaiah, St. Hesychius the Presbyter, St. Diadochos of Photiki, St. Theognostos, St. Athanasios the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. John of the Ladder, St. John of Damascus, St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, St. Theophan the Recluse, St. John of Krondstadt, and St. John Maximovitch.


Now maybe this is just another case of the Greeks getting it right (with simplicity) while the Russians get carried away...


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« Reply #75 on: May 27, 2005, 04:49:07 PM »

Quote
Now maybe this is just another case of the Greeks getting it right (with simplicity) while the Russians get carried away...

From reading Elder Ephraim's words, I think you may be right, particularly because of the final sentence.
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« Reply #76 on: May 28, 2005, 02:28:03 AM »

My opinion only, and God forgive me if I am mistaken;

However, in my heart, I feel that Jesus Our Lord, "Through His Wounds WE are Healed...."

So I find it hard to see us being "abused" on the way to Heaven since Jesus Our Lord is the "Key" to Heaven in faith, love, prayers and fastings we should not have fear, but only devotion to Jesus Christ with love.

Thus, in my view, with the best living in Christ we could do our layman best, that we are Saved through Jesus Christ Our Savior.

Thanks for hearing me out.

In Christ,
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« Reply #77 on: May 28, 2005, 07:35:26 AM »

ahlan, ya Hadel 7aalek?..........you are right, but we must appropriate that healing.  Those who do not appropriate that healing adequately will have to suffer the consequences....i.e. the demons will have a legal (although that word, "legal", has juridical connotations that I don't care for) right to make grabs at our souls on our ascent.
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« Reply #78 on: May 28, 2005, 08:44:09 AM »

ahlan, ya Hadel 7aalek?..........you are right, but we must appropriate that healing. Those who do not appropriate that healing adequately will have to suffer the consequences....i.e. the demons will have a legal (although that word, "legal", has juridical connotations that I don't care for) right to make grabs at our souls on our ascent.

Yes, I understand what you are saying "Idontlikenames" so I am saying with a good heart and good intensions with Christ....following the words of Christ, and strong belief...the demons might try in temptations, but your love and faith will prevail....God knows, so I leave my love and faith in God.


Thus, My heart and faith tells me and i deeply pray by God's will, to see heaven with my family.

Ma Sal'lam!

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« Reply #79 on: March 12, 2009, 02:44:34 PM »

So.  Does anyone want to talk about toll houses?  They've been on my mind lately.  While the idea is repugnant to me, and seems to be pretty merciless, I unfortunately think that they might be real.  In which case, because I'm an inveterate sinner and very forgetful and inexperienced in confession- I'm pretty much screwed. 

What can we do besides try our best to repent in this life?  I'm weak, my flesh is weak, my mind is weak...if I honestly forget to confess a sin, is God not going to have mercy on me even though I am truly struggling?  Will He really let the demons throw me in hell for this? 

I have been Orthodox for about a year now.  I know I have found the true faith, but sometimes it seems awfully harsh and lonely, and ideas like the toll houses make me despair because I know I'll never be totally pure when I die.   Sad
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« Reply #80 on: March 12, 2009, 03:12:51 PM »

Dear si2008,
even if I'm maybe unworthy to help you in this, I feel you need some comfortation, so I'm here.
Saint Paul teaches without any doubt that there are sins which are worse then others and exclude from the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a truth we can't deny. Nevertheless, God is love. Give a look at 1 John 1:5-8. That assures us that our sins are purged in Christ's blood when we show true repentance, and also that ALL people - even the saints - are sinners. Don't be afraid of the mysteries concerning the toll-houses. I believe the toll-houses are nothing but visions who convey spiritual truths, more or less like the prophecies of John in the Apocalypse (don't expect to see a real seven-headed beast...) or account of creation in Genesis 1. Nobody has ever experienced how God created the universe, nor has yet observed what the world will pass through in the End of Times, so God reveals it through an imagery which conveys true spiritual teachings but this ain't to be taken literally.
The same we can say of the toll-houses... The depiction of the afterworld as a series of judgments and payments, the risk of being thrown to hell, the menaces and innuendo of the devils... these are all ideas which try to convey the idea of a balance between God's judgment and our free will to accept his love... our inner fight between good and evil during our lifetime. The timing of 40 days is a spiritual symbol for a purification (as Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, or the Jews 40 years before entering Canaan) which prepares for the bliss of paradise.
I repeat: don't be afraid. None of us is perfect in this life, yet it is God's will that we might be offered salvation under continuous repentance and struggle against temptation. All you can do is continuing your progress in the Faith, and humility is always the key for salvation, since pride is the first of all sins...
Maybe you should read more texts on the toll-houses imagery. If you look closely you'll understand how God intervenes to stop the devils in their accusations... I read one of them some time ago of a girl being rescued by a saint during the process... this is a way to show our link to the other brothers in the Christian faith who have now access to God in a fuller manner.

I hope this helps... and keep this in mind: Christians should not fear hell, they should hope in paradise, since hope is a virtue together with faith and charity.

God bless you, dear si2008!

In Christ, your brother Alex
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« Reply #81 on: March 12, 2009, 03:20:57 PM »

This is so weird, I just finished reading Blessed Seraphim's book about an hour ago!  I am a total novice when it comes to Orthodox matters, but I will say that I found his treatment on the Aerial Toll-Houses to be excellent, and quite convincing.  Right off the bat, I'd say I'm pretty sold on it.  It seems to make sense, but as Blessed Seraphim states several times, these images are meant to convey spiritual truths, so they should not be taken in a totally literal sense.
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« Reply #82 on: March 12, 2009, 03:38:15 PM »

Quote
It seems to make sense, but as Blessed Seraphim states several times, these images are meant to convey spiritual truths, so they should not be taken in a totally literal sense.
PRECISELY.
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« Reply #83 on: March 12, 2009, 04:31:48 PM »

This is so weird, I just finished reading Blessed Seraphim's book about an hour ago!  I am a total novice when it comes to Orthodox matters, but I will say that I found his treatment on the Aerial Toll-Houses to be excellent, and quite convincing.
How so?

Right off the bat, I'd say I'm pretty sold on it.
Why do you choose to believe what Fr. Seraphim has to say?  Have you read other Orthodox perspectives on the teaching of the toll houses?

I'm not questioning Fr. Seraphim on this, since such would be the proper focus of a separate query; I'm just questioning the thoroughness of your own investigation into the matter of the toll house doctrine.
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« Reply #84 on: March 13, 2009, 02:26:02 AM »

For those not yet reduced to a state of narcolepsy by this debate, here is something from Dr Jurretta Heckscher, an intelligent reaction when she encountered the tollhouse theory.
 
Fr Ambrose

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Toll Houses: dogma, a logic of damnation, and taking the implications seriously

May, 2003

 
To judge by this and other discussions on other Orthodox lists I've
been involved in, the topic of the toll-houses is a perennial source of
agitation.

In fairness, I must say frankly that I remain deeply skeptical of the
toll-house belief, at least as I understand to be its fully developed
form: (a) that after death each person enters into a series of
terrifying accusatory encounters with demons, who in each of many
successive "toll houses" or trials (b) test him to find whether he has
been guilty of a specific type of sin, and ( c ) if they find him guilty
(i.e., not having repented and been absolved) of any one of those sins,
take him to Hell to await the Last Judgment; in addition, I understand
that (d) the demons also try to tempt him to surrender to sin even in
death so that they may take him to Hell even if his earthly life alone
has not altogether warranted it. (My comments below however pertain to
the belief whether or not part (d) is considered to be part of it.)
Nevertheless, despite my skepticism, I really do remain open to
persuasion on the subject, and am posting this message in that spirit.

Fr. Ambrose and Steve Marin have strikingly raised the possibility that
the toll-house belief, though acknowledgedly not dogma or doctrine,
seems to be developing into such in some parts of the Orthodox Church.
With that insight in mind, I pose the following interrelated questions
to Father John and others who accept the belief in the toll houses. I
do so respectfully and in a sincere spirit of inquiry, not wishing to
score "points" but truly to understand the beliefs of others, and their
full implications, as I struggle with this concept myself. My basic
contention--of which I am happy to be disabused--is that the toll-house
belief cannot be optional, cannot be theologoumenon: if it has any
validity, it must be recognized as dogma, because it presents a logic
that significantly modifies certain essential elements of Orthodox
understanding.

1. The question of dogma, or doctrine. If the toll-houses are real,
how can they not be dogma? For any one of us as individuals, the
difference between (1) knowing that we will live and die as sinners but
must nevertheless struggle in all our imperfection to repent and trust
joyfully in God's mercy, looking forward eagerly to meeting Him "face to
face" after death, and (2), alternatively, knowing that despite God's
will for us, any sin that remains on our souls at death is sufficient to
doom us to Hell in the company of our demonic adjudicators, is more
than a matter of life and death; it is a matter of eternal life and
eternal death. It is the difference between dying in realistic sorrow
for one's sins yet realistic joyful trust in God and dying in realistic
terror of the decisive demonic trials that are to come. It is the
difference, in other words, between having ultimate hope in spite of all
that we have done and having ultimate terror in spite of all that Christ
has done. So I ask: how can a belief with such all-important
consequences not be regarded as dogma? Why has there not been more of
an effort to have this belief recognized as such? (By contrast, one
must at least do the Roman Church the justice to acknowledge that once
Catholics came to believe in Purgatory, they were right to recognize its
momentous importance and enshrine it as dogma.) Perhaps the
"development of dogma/doctrine" problem that Fr. Ambrose and Steve Marin
identify in relation to the toll houses is in fact not a problem but a
welcome step necessary to complete the Orthodox understanding of
salvation and damnation, much as St. Gregory Palamas's defense of
Hesychasm completed the Orthodox understanding of the nature of
theosis.

2. The question of our sinful nature. As Orthodox, we
know--intellectually at first, perhaps, but also eventually in our
hearts, as we continue to struggle spiritually--that our sinfulness is
more than a matter of specific sins; it is a matter of a condition of
sinfulness, a constant state of blindness and self-centeredness that
keeps us from loving God and others as we are called to do, and that
guarantees that even a few seconds after receiving absolution, we will
almost certainly have sinned again, if only by not being fully aware of
the beauty and lovableness of the first person we meet as we walk out of
church after confession. We sin, yes, but in some ways the deeper
problem is that we sin because we are sinful. (Those better than I at
memorizing Scripture can here supply the appropriate Pauline texts.)
How does the belief in the toll houses, with its affirmation of specific
trials for specific areas of sin, address this understanding that the
real problem is in some sense not "sins" but sinfulness; not so much
(except in obvious dire cases, such as murder) any particular act
committed or omitted, but our very condition; not the parts, but the
whole that is more--or, perhaps, less--than the sum of the parts?

3. The question of the nature of God's justice in contrast with human
and demonic justice (and here I do not mean primarily the very
problematic "fact" that in the toll houses it is the demons who judge
us, the demons who execute Divine justice). God's justice, as St. Isaac
the Syrian says, has almost nothing to do with human justice; what is
"just" about His sacrificial love for us? What is "just" about the
halting and reluctant steps of the Prodigal being met by the outpouring
of forgiveness and generosity from his father? (One thinks also of the
profound Russian folktale Dostoevsky recounts in The Brothers Karamazov,
about the woman in Hell who was almost released from it because she had
once shared an onion with a beggar--but at the last minute she claimed
the onion as hers exclusively, and so slipped back into Hell.) Such an
understanding turns the toll-house belief on its head: the toll houses
tell us that one unrepented sin is enough to damn us; the Gospels, St.
Isaac (among many others), and the theological wisdom of traditional
Russian culture tell us that God seeks endlessly to find some way to
save us, and suggest that one spontaneous act of love or repentance can
give Him the lever He longs to find to release us into His mercy. How
can these two beliefs be reconcile.
 
to be continued...

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« Reply #85 on: March 13, 2009, 09:46:42 AM »

This article raises a potentially serious problem since most of us are probably not even aware of this toll house doctrine. Personally I do not believe it (yes I know some do & that is their allowance) and do not have to believe it. A concept not in any form of catechism could be foisted as doctrine? Would disbelief of it be considered a heresy if this toll house teaching becomes doctrine? I do not care to discuss toll houses but rather its implications as a potential article of faith.
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« Reply #86 on: March 13, 2009, 10:08:22 AM »


Toll Houses: dogma, a logic of damnation, and taking the implications seriously

Part ii

4. The question of the nature of Hell. In accordance with our bedrock
belief in God's absolute love, at the heart of Orthodox Tradition
concerning Hell is the radical insight of St. Isaac and others
(including St. Paul, as in the great passage in Romans 8 about how
nothing can separate us from the love of Christ) that Hell is the
condition of being so opposed to God in one's inward being that the fire
of His love is experienced as torment. (See the justly famous article
by Dr. Alexandre Kalomiros, "The River of Fire," for a modern exposition
of this understanding.) This belief does indeed seem to recognize that
the problem is not so much any individual sin, determinative though such
can be, as the sum of sinfulness or unsinfulness that shapes the
ultimate condition of the person for eternity: in the end, in my inmost
heart, am I fundamentally turned toward God, however incompletely and
despite my sinfulness and failings, or am I fundamentally opposed to
Him, despite whatever superficial gestures I may have made in the
direction of righteousness? That is the difference between salvation
and damnation, between knowing Love as torment and knowing Love as joy.
As an Orthodox, I have always found this belief stunningly clear and
compelling. But how then can one reconcile such a belief with the
toll-house belief and its teaching that whatever the fundamental
orientation of the person, he (or she) may indeed be sentenced to Hell
if the demons find him guilty in any specific area of sin?

5. The question of the nature of sin. By the same token, doesn't the
toll-house belief teach us to see sin not as "missing the mark" (the
literal translation of the Greek hamartia)--that is, as a misdirection
of energies against Love, as the Fathers taught--but as a series of
legal infractions for which we will be legally accountable? (See
Christos Yannaras's brilliant work The Freedom of Morality for an
exposition of the Orthodoxy of the former understanding and the
heterodoxy of the latter.) And is it not just such juridical legalism
for which Orthodox take Roman Catholics so heavily to task? Yet the
whole problematic realm of Catholic teaching on this subject--merits,
indulgences, expiatory suffering in Purgatory, and so forth--at least
expounds a logic of salvation, however imperfectly conceived; the toll
houses, by contrast, expound a logic of damnation.

6. The question of the meaning of the Resurrection. In the shadow of
the toll houses, what is the meaning of the Resurrection for any one of
us? The demons of the toll houses will try us for sin after sin, and
if we are found guilty in any one of the "houses" of trial, we are
damned. I would venture to say that this makes it very likely that most
of us will be damned, and almost certain if we die in any state other
than that of immediate and complete repentance, confession, and
absolution. (We might wish to argue that prayers for the dead can
release them from Hell up until the Last Judgement, but to make that the
usual means of salvation would be to replace Christ's saving sacrifice
with the Church's saving prayer as the decisive soteriological element
in the destiny of most human beings.) Most of humanity, even most
Orthodox, will therefore go to the demons; Hell will be teeming, and
Heaven the abode of the rare few, the righteous remnant. (Even should I
have any reason to suppose that I myself may be able to elude the
demons, I can at death look with sober confidence on all whom I love in
this world in the safe assumption that I am parting from them forever,
that nearly all human love will founder in oblivion on the rock of
Divine and demonic justice as the vast sinning majority of mankind is
consigned to eternal fire: such is the logic of the toll houses.) Of
course, it is not necessary to believe in the toll houses to believe
that most people will be damned--most American Protestants, for example,
have historically believed this--but the toll-house belief does seem to
present the problem to Orthodox Christians in the starkest terms.

What then is the nature of our confidence in Christ's Resurrection? Is
it not simply the affirmation of a metaphysical possibility that we know
full well is unlikely to be realized in our own lives or those of nearly
all others? Perhaps so; perhaps that is the final meaning of Christ's
pronouncement that "many are called, but few are chosen."

But if this be true, what in the world do we do with our Paschal
proclamations, with St. Paul's confident joy, with the joyful assurance
of salvation that permeated the early Church, with the historical fact
that it was belief in the momentous significance of the Resurrection
that ignited the spread of Christianity from its earliest days? Why did
St. Serafim of Sarov typically greet visitors with the words "my joy,
Christ is Risen!," if the unspoken corollary was, "--but in truth, you
are probably damned anyway"? Why did St. Silouan of Mt. Athos declare
that "Love could not bear" to see anyone in Hell? As Fr. Ambrose
reminded us, St. John Chrysostom's Paschal Homily proclaims, "let none
fear death, for the death of the Savior has set us free"--but, however
much we may struggle with our weakness, if we do so honestly we will
know our perennial failure to avoid sin, and if we believe in the toll
houses we must therefore face death, if it is not simultaneous with
complete confession and absolution, in a state of abject terror. ( Let
us hope therefore to die in an Orthodox home or an Orthodox hospital so
that our appropriate terror may not discourage unbelievers from joining
the Church.)

So I ask again: Why does the Resurrection seem to mean so much to us
Orthodox if its effect on the eternal state of any one of us is likely
to be nil?
 
to be continued...
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« Reply #87 on: March 13, 2009, 11:09:05 AM »

Thank you for the article Fr. Ambrose.  The author poses all of my questions, except with more optimism and confidence.  When I read the Gospel and Epistles, I am filled with hope despite my sinfulness.  When I read Fr. Seraphim and others who subscribe to the reality of toll-houses, I am filled with fear and despair.  Sometimes I get the impression from the latter that we are not to trust any feelings of joy or hope, and we should only trust the feeling that we'll be damned.  If this is what saves, I can't see myself aquiring the Spirit of Peace, much less leading others to the true faith.

Sorry if I opened a topic others are bored of; thank you for the responses.   
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« Reply #88 on: March 13, 2009, 11:29:17 AM »

Thank you for the article Fr. Ambrose.  The author poses all of my questions, except with more optimism and confidence.  When I read the Gospel and Epistles, I am filled with hope despite my sinfulness.  When I read Fr. Seraphim and others who subscribe to the reality of toll-houses, I am filled with fear and despair.  Sometimes I get the impression from the latter that we are not to trust any feelings of joy or hope, and we should only trust the feeling that we'll be damned.  If this is what saves, I can't see myself aquiring the Spirit of Peace, much less leading others to the true faith.

Sorry if I opened a topic others are bored of; thank you for the responses.   

You have echoed my own feelings and beliefs beautifully. I never bought the toll house analogy. It just doesn't square with what I read in the scriptures.
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« Reply #89 on: March 13, 2009, 01:19:32 PM »

I would like to add that there are opinions that the toll house doctrine is a heresy and that does not seem healthy either. Since this is a belief held within communion those who adhere to it cannot be judged within such criteria. It is one of those agree to disagree situations (I would personally think).
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