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Author Topic: Reference: Answers to commonly asked Questions...  (Read 13901 times) Average Rating: 5
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #45 on: August 30, 2012, 11:05:49 PM »

Why do the Orthodox call their priests "Father"?

This question usually arises because of the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: "And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven." (Matt. 23:9)

That this verse cannot be taken in a woodenly literal way becomes plain from the rest of the New Testament, where "fathers" is used frequently by Christians to describe relationships with others. Here are four passages from Acts as examples:

"The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus." (Acts 3:13)

"You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David" (Acts 4:25)

"To this he replied: Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran." (Acts 7:2)

"Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense" (Acts 22:1)

I think this passage in Matthew is rather like some other passages in the Gospels, in which Jesus uses hyperbole to make a point. So, for example, he says: "Why do you call me good? Jesus answered. No one is good—except God alone." (Mk. 10:18; Lk. 18:19)   Passages such as this aren't meant to be taken at face value, but rather they are invitations to dig a little deeper into the things of God.

I think what Jesus was getting at in Matthew was that only God is truly our Father in the sense that he is responsible for us, he sustains us, it is because of him that we exist, and it is through him that we can become sons of eternal life. The words of our Lord is a call to remember our place, and to remember the place of other humans: that they are secondary to God our true Father, "who alone loves mankind."

Now, as to why the Orthodox call their priests father, it has to do with the special relationship involved, a spiritual relationship. Thus St. Paul could say:

"I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." (1 Cor. 4:14-17)

Paul thus become a spiritual father "through the gospel," that is, through his preaching and the relationship he formed with the people to whom he was talking. Paul spoke often of such relationships, including numerous times about St. Timothy (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Phil. 2:22) as well as others, such as Titus, who Paul calls "my true son in our common faith" (Tit. 1:4)

The practice of calling a priest "father," then, is not contrary to the Gospel, but in fact an imitation of Saints such as Paul, as well as others (e.g. St. John) who speak of children or being a father in a spiritual sense.
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« Reply #46 on: December 27, 2012, 08:45:16 PM »

- Didn't Emperor Constantine invent the trinity? Where does the Bible talk about Jesus or the Holy Spirit being God?
- What do the Orthodox believe about the fall and original sin?
- Why do you call Mary the mother of God?
- Aren't icons idolatrous?
- If people are awake in the afterlife as you claim, can they repent and go from being damned to being saved?

These are the ones I have left from the list I made a while back. Can anyone think of others? Should I do any on Scripture alone, faith alone, etc., or were those covered by other ones?
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« Reply #47 on: December 29, 2012, 11:06:30 PM »

*bump*
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« Reply #48 on: December 30, 2012, 01:02:41 PM »

*bump*

How about explaining the Communion of saints and why we ask for their intercession of prayer including the Holy Theotokos and why we hold her in such high regard.
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #49 on: December 30, 2012, 07:28:59 PM »

The Theotokos, and the communion of the saints

Quote
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." Heb. 12:1

After speaking of all the Old Testament saints of faith (cf Heb. 11:4-40) the author of Hebrews here mentions a "great cloud of witnesses." He is speaking here of the communion of saints, which is composed not only of the part of the Church living in the world, but also the righteous who have passed on. (for more on those who have passed on, please see the earlier posts made in this thread, specifically #4 and #38). This communion of saints, while sometimes divided into a "Church triumphant" and "Church militant," are nonetheless one body of Christ. All Christians--on earth or in the after life--are living cells in this body, along with Jesus Christ by virtue of his incarnation, making the Church theanthropic (ie. having both divine and human elements; cf 1 Cor. 12:12-13).

This communion of saints provides a link between all Christians, such that we are all interconnected with one another. Or, put in a better way, we could say that we all are intertwining and interpenetrating, retaining our own individuality while at the same time participating mystically in the life of the rest of the body. And "so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Rom. 12:5) This link crosses boundaries such as language, geography, culture, etc., and unites all members of the Church.

The virgin Mary has a special place in this communion of saints. This is so first and foremost because she was the Theotokos, the Mother of God, not simply the mother of Jesus. Through her obedience and service salvation came to man in the form of Jesus the Godman. (Luke 1:39-55) The second reason is that Mary bridges the Old Testament and New Testament, acting as a special link between the past working of God and the present and future. Third, and certainly not least, Mary was the most holy person to ever live, and is therefore not only worthy of a special place, but also worth of our emulation and admiration. Because of her virtue and holiness she is also  a powerful intercessor in prayer for us, for as St. James said: "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (Jam. 5:16)

So now, we still living on earth, go to the saints and the Theotokos in prayer, asking them to help us and intercede for us. This is a normal and natural human tendency, just like asking a friend or family member for the same kind of help. (1 Thes. 5:25; 2 Thes. 3:1; etc.) And because of their sanctity they are especially "powerful and effective" intercessors. What's more, the saints are like mirrors which reflect the light of God, showing us the way and helping us along, so that we are spurred on to learn more about their lives, and to emulate them, and through that process to grow closer to God.
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« Reply #50 on: December 31, 2012, 07:55:24 AM »

The Theotokos, and the communion of the saints

Quote
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." Heb. 12:1

After speaking of all the Old Testament saints of faith (cf Heb. 11:4-40) the author of Hebrews here mentions a "great cloud of witnesses." He is speaking here of the communion of saints, which is composed not only of the part of the Church living in the world, but also the righteous who have passed on. (for more on those who have passed on, please see the earlier posts made in this thread, specifically #4 and #38). This communion of saints, while sometimes divided into a "Church triumphant" and "Church militant," are nonetheless one body of Christ. All Christians--on earth or in the after life--are living cells in this body, along with Jesus Christ by virtue of his incarnation, making the Church theanthropic (ie. having both divine and human elements; cf 1 Cor. 12:12-13).

This communion of saints provides a link between all Christians, such that we are all interconnected with one another. Or, put in a better way, we could say that we all are intertwining and interpenetrating, retaining our own individuality while at the same time participating mystically in the life of the rest of the body. And "so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Rom. 12:5) This link crosses boundaries such as language, geography, culture, etc., and unites all members of the Church.

The virgin Mary has a special place in this communion of saints. This is so first and foremost because she was the Theotokos, the Mother of God, not simply the mother of Jesus. Through her obedience and service salvation came to man in the form of Jesus the Godman. (Luke 1:39-55) The second reason is that Mary bridges the Old Testament and New Testament, acting as a special link between the past working of God and the present and future. Third, and certainly not least, Mary was the most holy person to ever live, and is therefore not only worthy of a special place, but also worth of our emulation and admiration. Because of her virtue and holiness she is also  a powerful intercessor in prayer for us, for as St. James said: "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (Jam. 5:16)

So now, we still living on earth, go to the saints and the Theotokos in prayer, asking them to help us and intercede for us. This is a normal and natural human tendency, just like asking a friend or family member for the same kind of help. (1 Thes. 5:25; 2 Thes. 3:1; etc.) And because of their sanctity they are especially "powerful and effective" intercessors. What's more, the saints are like mirrors which reflect the light of God, showing us the way and helping us along, so that we are spurred on to learn more about their lives, and to emulate them, and through that process to grow closer to God.

Wonderful,  thank you.
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« Reply #51 on: December 31, 2012, 10:00:52 AM »

Thank you Asteriktos.
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« Reply #52 on: January 03, 2013, 11:33:14 PM »

What importance do you place on the death and resurrection of Jesus?

The entire work of Jesus in the flesh is of utmost importance. Earlier in the thread I mentioned many "images of salvation," but no salvation would be possible were it not for what Jesus did: everything from his incarnation to his ascension. Of particular importance for our salvation from the point of view of how it was actualized are the incarnation, death, and resurrection. Of particular importance for our salvation from the point of view of how we live out the life in Christ are the life and ministry of Jesus, and also his sending of the Holy Spirit after his ascension.

With the God-man's incarnation came the salvation of humanity (cf Luke 2:29-32), thus did the angel of God announce: "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:11)  Jesus is a new Adam, "the last Adam," (1 Cor. 15:45; Rom. 5:12-20) but he is also the archetype of humanity and thus the reason for the first Adam. Jesus is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15), thus while humanity is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), it can also be said that we are made in the image of the image of God. This became real and concrete--this became possible--only through the incarnation.

Jesus came to free us from sin, yes, but he also came because, as St. Gregory the Theologian put it: "That which was not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved" (Epistle 101)  Through the incarnation God bridged the gulf between Himself and humanity, making our salvation possible. In one moment Christ overcame the problem of our createdness and materiality, and the wonderous thing is that he did it in lowliness and humility, "taking the very nature of a servant." (Phil. 2:5-11)

It is in this role as a servant that Jesus conducted his ministry, wandering and sacrificing so that others might hear the Gospel and be healed in body, soul, and spirit. As Jesus said of his life: "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Matt. 8:20) He did it all for us, even if he didn't speak directly to us in that particular time and place. All that he did during his life was for our benefit. For example, He allowed Himself to be baptized in humility (Matt. 3:13-17), giving us a worthy example of emulation. And for another example, his Sermon on the Mount challenges even the most holy of us to go further into God's glory.

The suffering and death of Jesus were also for our benefit. He endured great humiliation for us, because of his love. And He voluntarily gave up His life for the salvation of the world, obediently following the path that had been set, doing the will of God (Matt. 26) This work he finished made us free us from sin (Rom. 4:25; 6:1-8; etc.), and thus also from eternal death, and thus we now "preach Christ crucified" (1 Cor. 1:23) even though he is risen, because that moment in salvation-history was so crucial. As is often said, Christ "trampled down death by his death."

It did not end with his death, of course, for "Christ is risen!" He died for us, and then He also rose from death to complete his work on earth, for if he had not risen then our faith would be in vain and Christianity would be for nothing (cf 1 Cor. 15:13-14). After his resurrection he appeared to the disciples and taught them, and convinced them that they had misunderstood, that in his death came victory, not defeat. And then Jesus left us so that the Holy Spirit might come, to guide us and heal us (John 15:26; 16:13-15; etc.) And thus was the work of Jesus finished, the work of our salvation completed, if we will only cooperate with God and do His will.
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« Reply #53 on: January 04, 2013, 07:31:50 AM »

Thank you Asteriktos  Smiley
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« Reply #54 on: January 06, 2013, 07:08:23 PM »

Why do you believe that salvation is a process?

I said earlier that salvation is a process, but why do I think that it is, and why would God want it to be? And how is it accomplished if it's not just about believing or affirming something once and for all time?

Put simply, I believe that it is a process for three reasons: Scripture speaks of it as such, Tradition speaks of it as such, and it seems like the most logical understanding of all the theological data involved. Regarding the Scripture itself, it sometimes speaks of our salvation in the past tense, sometimes in the present tense, and sometime as being something yet to be accomplished in the future. So Paul says:

Quote
"For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." - Tit. 3:3-7

"Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." - Rom. 5:9-11

These passages speak of the work of Christ saving us, making salvation for all a past event. Christ has already done the salvific work--it's just up to us to make that work have transformative meaning for us. This is where it all starts, though, in the past, with God's grace-filled work as God-man for our salvation. But then when we are saved this work also is in our own past--that is, when we first started to take the journey towards salvation. Thus St. Paul said:

Quote
"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)" - Eph. 2:1-5

Paul here speaks of how people were transformed in the past. Also note, though, that he speaks of the present as well, since salvation is an on-going and ever-present process. Thus does St. Paul say elsewhere:

Quote
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." - Phil. 2:12-13

So we see that we have not simply been saved in the past, but even now are told to "work out" our salvation in the present. This is why St. Paul speaks of our cooperating with God, calling us "labourers together with God" (1 Cor. 3:9) and “workers together with Him“ (2 Cor. 6:1). Many Scripture writers compared this process to a metal being purified in a fire, or faith itself being tried by fire:


Quote
"Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation." - Sir. 2:4-5

"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:" - 1 Pet. 1:6-7; cf 1 Pet. 2:20; 3:14; 5:10

"And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God." - Zech. 13:9

Yet if we are being saved in the present, then we can conclude that salvation is yet to be accomplished yet, because we are always looking forward to the future judgment and rewards or punishments, and to being with the Lord. That's why we find passages that speak of continuing the process of salvation:

Quote
"For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." - Rom. 11:21-22

"Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." - 1 John 2:24-25

And this is the reason that St. Paul compares salvation to running a race:

Quote
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." - 1 Cor. 9:24

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Heb. 12:1-2

So Paul sums up what will happen on judgment day: those who went through the process will be saved, and those who turned from it will not:

Quote
"And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;" - Rom. 2:3-9

As for the early Church Fathers, many speak of salvation as a process, such as the following:

Quote
"Day and night you were anxious for the whole brotherhood, (1 Pet. 2:17) that the number of God's elect might be saved with mercy and a good conscience. You were sincere and uncorrupted, and forgetful of injuries between one another. Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight. You mourned over the transgressions of your neighbours: their deficiencies you deemed your own. You never grudged any act of kindness, being 'ready to every good work.' (Tit. 3:1) Adorned by a thoroughly virtuous and religious life, you did all things in the fear of God. The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were written upon the tablets of your hearts." - St. Clement of Rome, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 2

"But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation." - St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 65

"For it appears to me to be far kinder, than basely to flatter the rich and praise them for what is bad, to aid them in working out their salvation in every possible way; asking this of God, who surely and sweetly bestows such things on His own children; and thus by the grace of the Saviour healing their souls, enlightening them and leading them to the attainment of the truth; and whosoever obtains this and distinguishes himself in good works shall gain the prize of everlasting life." - St. Clement of Alexandria, Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?

"Thus by the experience of one it was shown that the Lord withdraws when He is denied; nor does that which is received benefit the undeserving for salvation, since saving grace is changed by the departure of the sanctity into a cinder. How many there are daily who do not repent nor make confession of the consciousness of their crime, who are filled with unclean spirits!" - St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 3: On the Lapsed, 26
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« Reply #55 on: January 06, 2013, 07:27:03 PM »

- Didn't Emperor Constantine invent the trinity? Where does the Bible talk about Jesus or the Holy Spirit being God?
- What do the Orthodox believe about the fall and original sin?
- Why do you call Mary the mother of God?
- Aren't icons idolatrous?
- If people are awake in the afterlife as you claim, can they repent and go from being damned to being saved?

These are the ones I have left from the list I made a while back. Can anyone think of others?
How to reconcile the Incarnation and the divinity of Christ with the immutability of God?
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« Reply #56 on: January 06, 2013, 07:33:01 PM »

- Didn't Emperor Constantine invent the trinity? Where does the Bible talk about Jesus or the Holy Spirit being God?
- What do the Orthodox believe about the fall and original sin?
- Why do you call Mary the mother of God?
- Aren't icons idolatrous?
- If people are awake in the afterlife as you claim, can they repent and go from being damned to being saved?

These are the ones I have left from the list I made a while back. Can anyone think of others?
How to reconcile the Incarnation and the divinity of Christ with the immutability of God?

That's a good one! I'll have to do some research on that one though...
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« Reply #57 on: January 07, 2013, 12:41:35 AM »

Why do the Orthodox teach that we should fear God?

This question is perfectly understandable considering that St. John said: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18)  In spite of this Scriptural passage, the Orthodox do speak of fearing God. In the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, for example, we find words such as these:

Quote
"For this holy house and for those who enter it with faith, reverence, and the fear of God, let us pray to the Lord."

"Let us stand aright! Let us stand with fear! Let us attend, that we may offer the holy oblation in peace."

The verse in 1 John must be understood in the context of the rest of Scripture, especially as articulated by the Fathers, and by doing this such words used by Orthodox will make sense. First it must be said that the Scripture itself speaks negatively about those who have no fear of God (Rom. 3:18), and speaks numerous times in a positive manner about fearing God. So for example we find the following by St. Paul:

Quote
"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." - 2 Cor. 7:1

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." - Phil. 2:12

So what is this fear, and how does it differ from that spoken of by St. John? Is there a contradiction here? St. Maximos the Confessor explains that there are two kinds of fear being spoken of in these passages:

Quote
The fear of the Lord is twofold. The first type is produced in us from threats of punishment, and from it arise in proper order self-control, patience, hope in God, and detachment, from which comes love. The second is coupled with love itself and constantly produces reverence in the soul, let through the familiarity of love it become presumptuous of God. Perfect love casts out the first fear from the soul which by possessing it no longer fears punishment.

-- St. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Chapters on Love, 81-82

In other words, when St. John spoke of there being no fear in love, he was speaking of fear of punishment or fear of the dread judgment that goes beyond simple humility and reverence. But once we experience the love of God in fullness this first fear is cast out, and we are left with a fear that equates to healthy respect and humility. It is such fear that we should have for God, never forgetting the dread judgment or hell, but also letting love cast out the worst of fear, so that only respect and devotion and loving awe-filled contemplation remains.

We can also take this a step further--or rather, Paul took things a step further--and speak of this respect for those whom God has placed in charge on earth to do his will:

Quote
"Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;" - Eph. 6:5; cf 2 Cor. 7:13-15

The same words here, fear and trembling (in both Greek and English), are the same ones used by St. Paul to speak of our relationship with God in Phil. 2:12. But God doesn't want us literally trembling, scared and paralyzed. No, this is a manner of expression to speak of respect and reverence due to someone. And this is how the Orthodox use of the words can be understood: speaking of a fear that is soberness and humility mixed with a all-filling love.
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« Reply #58 on: January 09, 2013, 12:09:34 AM »

Didn't the Church add books to the Bible?

This issue is a good deal more complicated than apologists on either (or any) side of the debate usually make it sound. It is a fact that Christianity has never unanimously agreed on a Bible canon, and these disagreements continue to this day. What's more, the disagreements are not just between Protestants and more tradition Churches, but there are disagreements even among the traditional Churches (Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism). I would go even further and say that Orthodoxy has not been dogmatic on this issue.

It is the deuterocanonical books that are most often in dispute in these discussions, so I'll give a quick run down of the history of canonicity of those in particular. The Church historian Eusebius tells us about the canons of two early sources: St. Melito of Sardis excluding all the deuterocanonical books except Wisdom of Solomon, and Origen excluding the deuterocanonical books, except perhaps First and Second Maccabees. However, in spite of this, Origen does seem to have mixed feelings about some of the books, as mentioned in reply #30 here (this other thread is on the same topic, and complements this thread). This does not comprise all the early information we have on the canon, but it is rather sparse.

Not until the mid-4th century did things really start to pick up. St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Amphilocius of Iconium, and St. Hilary of Poitiers reject all the deuterocanonical books, though St. Hilary mentions that some accept Tobit and Judith. The Council of Laodicea, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and St. Athanasius rejected all the deuterocanonicals except Baruch, though St. Athanasius also excluded Esther from his canon. St. Jerome wanted to exclude the deuterocanonicals from his canon, though he was pressured to include them in his translation of the Scripture. And then we have people or groups who are far more accepting of the deuterocanonicals, including St. Augustine, the Council of Hippo of 393, and the 3rd Council of Carthage of 397, which all accept the seven deuterocanonical books currently in the Roman Catholic canon. In the east, at Trullo (of Ecumenical weight in Orthodoxy), multiple canons were accepted.

By the early 5th century these disagreements had largely died down, and wouldn't start up again until the 16th century, when the Protestant reformation and Catholic counter-reformation took place. Unfortunately Christians in the ancient Church, in the 16th century, and down to our age, have not been able to agree on a canon. However, as strange as this may seem, these disagreements about the canon has never stood in the way of traditional Christians being in communion. Thus while the issue is a big deal in Protestant vs. Catholic discussions, it is a non-existent issue in discussions among the traditional groups.

The Church got by without a specific canon, even a New Testament canon, for generations. The Scripture is the most important writings in the world--but the Church survived, and could continue to survive, without being dogmatic on this issue. The important thing is not which canon is used, but how the canons fit into the context of the Church which is using them. To illustrate: a Church that had only one Gospel, but correctly understood it, would be better than a Church that had all four Gospels, but didn't understand them correctly. The Christian life, and salvation, is found in living out the truths found in the Bible, and not in having a precisely defined collection of books.

Protestants often speak about wanting to do things like they were done in the first century. Well here's the chance to: stop worrying so much about who has the "right" books in their canon, and just accept the truth of the books you know are God-inspired, and live those truths out in your life. Stop thinking that the issue is a big deal. It wasn't a big deal to the Council of apostles (Acts 15), they were more interested in practical matters. So should we be.
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« Reply #59 on: January 09, 2013, 06:25:34 AM »

I always enjoy reading these posts!  Thanks!
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« Reply #60 on: January 09, 2013, 07:18:42 AM »

Thanks for the last post  Smiley

Can we have one on the Orthodox depiction of Hell - afterlife?
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« Reply #61 on: January 09, 2013, 01:59:06 PM »

Thanks for the encouragement! Smiley

Regarding hell/afterlife, I will have to do some research on that one before I can post anything. I've seen lots of quotes and such, but I'm still not sure that I have a firm enough handle on the topic to post in this thread yet.
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« Reply #62 on: January 09, 2013, 06:39:32 PM »

Why do you guys talk about ceaseless prayer? You can't literally pray all the time, can you?

Believe it or not, the Orthodox say that you can indeed pray ceaselessly. Thus when St. Paul said to "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thes. 5:17) the Orthodox take him literally, even while asleep, for "I sleep, but my heart waketh" (Song 5:2)

But what is ceaseless prayer? At it's root it is about keeping God in mind at all times, and giving thanks to God without ceasing (cf 1 Thes. 2:13). It is to follow the advice of St. Gregory the Theologian, who said: "For we ought to think of God even more often than we draw our breath; and if the expression is permissible, we ought to do nothing else." (Oration 27.5)   And regarding thankfulness and remembrance of God, St. Peter of Damascus said:

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"Thus we should all give thanks to Him, as it is said: ‘In everything give thanks’ (1 Thess. 5:18). Closely linked to this phrase is another of St Paul’s injunctions: ‘Pray without ceasing’ (1 Thess. 5:17), that is, be mindful of God at all times, in all places, and in every circumstance. For no matter what you do, you should keep in mind the Creator of all things. When you see the light, do not forget Him who gave it to you; when you see the sky, the earth, the sea and all that is in them, marvel at these things and glorify their Creator; when you put on clothing,  acknowledge whose gift it is and praise Him who in His providence has given you life. In short, if everything you do becomes for you an occasion for glorifying God, you will be praying unceasingly. And in this way your soul will always rejoice, as St Paul commends (cf. 1 Thess. 5:15). For as St Dorotheos explains, remembrance of God rejoices the soul; and he adduces David as witness: ‘I remembered God, and rejoiced’ (cf. Ps. 77:3. LXX)." - St. Peter of Damaskos, A Treasury of Divine Knowledge: God’s Universal and Particular Gifts

But this ceaseless prayer is not just thankfulness and remembrance of God, but as was said, is literally praying without interruption. As one father from the philokalia put it: "Unceasing prayer is prayer that does not leave the soul day or night. It consists not in what is outwardly perceived--outstretched hands, bodily stance, or verbal utterance--but in our inner concentration on the intellect's activity and on mindfulness of God born of unwavering compunction; and it can be perceived noetically by those capable of such perception." (St. Nikitas Stithatos, On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect: One Hundred Texts, 74)

Most people who engage in prayer practices that attempt to attain ceaseless prayer use some variation of the Jesus prayer, something like: "Jesus Christ, have mercy on me," or "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." The Jesus prayer doesn't have to be what is used--this isn't a magical mantra or spell. Nonetheless, variations of the Jesus prayer have been found to be the most conducive to godliness and making progress on the spiritual path.

There are numerous things that can be done to help facilitate the growth in our soul of this prayer. First, we should guard our intellect, not allowing ourselves to be idle, or fantasies to enter into our mind or to let it jump casually from topic to topic. Rather, we should "concentrate solely on the pure, simple, formless remembrance of Jesus." (St. Gregory of Sinai, On Stillness: Fifteen Texts, 10) We should also read and study the divine Scriptures, and cultivate the virtues as best we can.

Another thing we can do is confess our faults each day, and ask forgiveness in humility. By doing this we guard against pride, and keep ourselves properly grounded. When properly grounded you realise that the best course is accepting the trials that come to you, in addition to the blessings. We can also keep death in mind, for this remembrance of our mortality "displaces all cares and vanities, allowing us to guard our intellect and giving us unceasing prayer, detachment from our body and hatred of sin. Indeed, it is a source of  almost every virtue. We should therefore, if possible, use it as we use our own breathing." (St. Hesychios the Priest, On Watchfulness and Holiness: Written for Theodoulos, 148)

But why do this? Why try to pray unceasingly? Not everyone has been given this task, this gift. However, even in limited use of the Jesus Prayer there is much of value. And for those who have been given this spiritual gift, it is truly wonderful. It is first and foremost communion and communication with God. As St. Theognostos says in the Philokalia: "A mystery is accomplished secretly between the soul and God in the higher reaches of perfect purity, love and faith. When a man is completely reconciled to God he is united with Him through unceasing prayer and contemplation." (On the Practice of the Virtues, Contemplation and the Priesthood, 69)

Ceaseless prayer and the Jesus prayer also guards against the devil and demonic influence, and gives us victory over them. Unceasing prayer keeps us spiritually strong and protected, and able to patiently endure in the spiritual life, for "he who through unceasing prayer holds the Lord Jesus within his breast will not tire in following Him" (St. Hesychios the Priest, On Watchfulness and Holiness: Written for Theodoulos, 148)  These practices also help heal the soul of wordliness and the corruption that eats at us, and guides us as we fulfill the commandments. Thus these prayers, said with fear and trembling, will produce much fruit.
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« Reply #63 on: January 11, 2013, 09:51:44 PM »

Why does Orthodoxy speak so highly of asceticism?

Asceticism simply means to deny yourself, or to disipline yourself, or to judge yourself, all for a greater spiritual good. It is not something exotic, and it is not impractical or too advanced for the laity; rather it is simply putting into action the words of Christ to "take up [our] cross daily" (Luke 9:23). This is done so as to find eternal life: "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:24-26)

Doing ascetic endeavors can be compared to the wise virgins, who made sure to have oil for their lamps (Matt. 25:1-13). These activities include prayer, alms-giving, fasting, vigils, reading spiritual literature, silence, and other spiritual practices. They can also include more stringent practices designed to discipline ourselves. But whatever the practices might be, the goal is: "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Tit. 2:11-12). It is in this way that we enter the war of our "struggle against sin" (Heb. 12:4).

These things are done in cooperation with God, and can only be done through God's grace. They are not done to merit salvation, or to justify ourselves, but rather they are tools available to us to heal ourselves. For we are sick ub soul and body (Matt. 2:17; Luke 5:32). These things are each a "work of faith, and labour of love" (1 Thes. 1:2-3; cf 2 Thes. 1:11) It is through these tools that we learn to properly live the life in Christ, and not go about it randomly, flippantly, or based on whim or careless emotion.

However, as I mentioned in reply #27 of the present thread, ascetic endeavors are never supposed to be done to draw attention to ourselves, or to make ourselves appear super-holy (cf Matt. 6:16-18), they are always to be done in a spirit of humility.
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« Reply #64 on: January 14, 2013, 10:30:22 PM »

I should have spent a bit more time searching the Scripture with that last one, because I missed some good verses, such as:

"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." - Rom. 8:12-13

"And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." - 1 Cor. 9:25-27

"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" - 2 Cor. 13:5

"For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." - 1 Cor. 11:31
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« Reply #65 on: January 18, 2013, 05:48:28 AM »

Does humanity have free-will?

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." - James 1:17

What does it mean for "every good gift" to come from God? Are we without the ability to choose good? Are all good thoughts and actions given to us, such that none are our own?
Asteriktos, thanks very much for your labours here they are seasoned with grace to the hearers.  I have enjoyed reading your posts and agree wholeheartedly with their spirit.  If I may comment on some of them so as to bring in an inquiry or perhaps an observation.  In my spiritual journey I have done a good deal of reading both of eastern and western writings.  I've read and continue to be an avid reader of the holy Fathers of East and West, and I have also felt it good to read the medieval scholastics of Rome as well as many of the Reformers including Calvin and his Institutes, for example.  After having done all this I feel more humbled than anything else.  There is indeed a mysterious relationship between nature and grace in the salvation of a human being.  I do have some thoughts or perhaps they are inquiries still not resolved in my thinking [and ones which may never be resolved in this life] regarding the delicate balance between the will of man and grace, and I would appreciate your remarks and those of well-intentioned readers.

Free will is indeed there, as the holy Fathers say it is one aspect of the image of God imprinted upon us and remains a part of our nature although it is wounded.  If we observe this view empirically in the world we find it to be true.  Men ordinarily will have an innate yearning for the divine as we see it expressed in the various religions- Budhists, Muslims, pagans, etc.  A Muslim seeks for God as does a Christian - but the Christian has a great advantage - Grace.  It is this Grace which makes all the difference and which is through the Holy Spirit residing in the Holy Church. Orthodox infants are baptised and united to Christ and his benefits, regenerated and given the Holy Spirit.   This is for me a great difference as it is the initiative of God's Grace first to bring regeneration to the human will for salvation. It is then the will may cooperate with God and is enabled to see the Kingdom of God so as to work out salvation in fear and trembling ever and always assisted by the Grace of God.  'Except an a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God'  John 3:5.  Your thoughts?
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« Reply #66 on: March 04, 2013, 06:13:29 PM »

Could we add topics with questions from Roman Catholics?

...

- The history of Byzantium is one of slow albeit continuous decay, while the history of the West is one of ascension. Even today, most Orthodox countries are poorer and weaker than Western ones. Doesn't that prove that God's favour is with us and therefore our theology is right and yours wrong?

I -- and Catholics in general -- hold Orthodox in considerably higher regard than protestants. Hence, the above question doesn't really make sense.
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« Reply #67 on: August 12, 2013, 05:52:25 AM »

peterchristian

Thank you for posting what you did, and I very much apologize for not responding sooner... I did not realise that so much time had passed since I posted in this thread! I am in agreement with what you said, for whatever that's worth. I also hope you post more in the thread! Smiley
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« Reply #68 on: August 12, 2013, 07:09:02 AM »

Do the Orthodox teach that there are different degrees of sin?

The Orthodox are not as specific in categorizing sins as some other groups, though in principle there exists a recognition that some sins are worse than others. Certainly we see this in the penitential literature and penances given by confessors, for example, though it is often said that these are not fines to be paid or penalties to be served so much as medicine to be taken for reconciliation and healing.

This is not to say that any sin can be treated casually or flippantly. All sins are wrong and harmful, almost by definition, impacting each person individually, causing problems in the relationships between individual people, and also harming the relationship between a person (or people) and God. One possible understanding of the concept of sin is said to be "missing the mark," and so while you can miss the mark to varying degrees, in the end missing it still means you have failed.

And the Scripture makes clear that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," (Rom. 3:23) and that "there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins." (Eccl. 7:20) Thus, besides Jesus Christ (and possibly one other exception), we all have to face our sinfulness and deal with it in a serious manner. Thus, when Orthodox speak of different types of sins, or different degrees, they are not saying this so as to excuse sins, but because different sins need to be dealt with in different ways.

In fact, the Scripture itself says that we will be judged and punished with varying degrees of harshness or mercy. Thus Jesus says: "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city." (Matt. 10:14-15; cf Matt. 11:20-24; Mk. 6:11)

And in another place we find: "The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." (Lk. 12:46-48)

As for actual evidence for degrees of sin, the most clear verse seems to be when Jesus said: "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." (Jn. 19:11)  And in 1 John 5:16-17 we find St. John speaking of a distinction between sins "not leading to death" and those that "lead to death" (see this post for some patristic commentary on that passage). The Church Fathers picked up on this, and so we find passages like the following:

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It is better both to attain the good and to keep the purification. But if it be impossible to do both it is surely better to be a little stained with your public affairs than to fall altogether short of grace; just as I think it better to undergo a slight punishment from father or master than to be put out of doors; and to be a little beamed upon than to be left in total darkness. And it is the part of wise men to choose, as in good things the greater and more perfect, so in evils the lesser and lighter. Wherefore do not overmuch dread the purification. For our success is always judged by comparison with our place in life by our just and merciful Judge; and often one who is in public life and has had small success has had a greater reward than one who in the enjoyment of liberty has not completely succeeded; as I think it more marvellous for a man to advance a little in fetters, than for one to run who is not carrying any weight; or to be only a little spattered in walking through mud, than to be perfectly clean when the road is clean. To give you a proof of what I have said: Rahab the harlot was justified by one thing alone, her hospitality, though she receives no praise for the rest of her conduct; and the Publican was exalted by one thing, his humility, though he received no testimony for anything else; so that you may learn not easily to despair concerning yourself.

-- St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 40, 19

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Some members we can dispense with and yet live: without others life is an impossibility. Some offences are light, some heavy. It is one thing to owe ten thousand talents, another to owe a farthing. We shall have to give account of the idle word no less than of adultery; but it is not the same thing to be put to the blush, and to be put upon the rack, to grow red in the face and to ensure lasting torment. Do you think I am merely expressing my own views? Hear what the Apostle John says: 'He who knows that his brother sinneth a sin not unto death, let him ask, and he shall give him life, even to him that sinneth not unto death. But he that hath sinned unto death, who shall pray for him?' You observe that if we entreat for smaller offences, we obtain pardon: if for greater ones, it is difficult to obtain our request: and that there is a great difference between sins.

-- St. Jerome, Against Jovinianus, 2, 30

But as I said before, these distinctions are not made to excuse sin, or to make light of it. As St. Paul said: "Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are." (1 Cor. 5:6-7; cf Gal. 5:9) Thus sin infects like a sickness, permeating the whole person, and even minor one can spread and wreak havoc if ignored or not treated properly. "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." (Matt. 9:12; Mk. 2:17; Lk. 5:31) So while one sin might have a more significant immediate or overt impact, if left untended the malignancy of any sin can lead to spiritual death.
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« Reply #69 on: August 13, 2013, 10:40:44 AM »

One thing that I know bothers my wife and I find a bit hard to explain:  why do we kiss the priest's hand when asking for a blessing?  Thank you!
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« Reply #70 on: August 13, 2013, 11:59:26 AM »

One thing that I know bothers my wife and I find a bit hard to explain:  why do we kiss the priest's hand when asking for a blessing?  Thank you!

In the New Testament we read about a "holy kiss" (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; etc.) and a "kiss of love" (1 Pet. 5:14), which was done between Christians out of respect, admiration, etc. So far as I have understood it, we kiss the hand as a sign of respect, partly because it is the hand through which the sacraments of God come to us. I remember when a priest was doing prayers at my apartment, and my mother and stepfather were there, and after he blessed us with the cross I kissed his hand and the cross, and my stepfather looked at me like I had two heads, as if to say "you expect me to kiss some dude's hand?"  Grin  It's really just like a handshake almost... well not quite, but the point is that it's a sign of respect, it's a cultural custom indicating that you have a certain relationship and mindset regarding the person. Having said that, at least in some of the parishes I've been in, people did not kiss the hand when, for example, being blessed by a cross after liturgy. Obviously if you are talking one-on-one and ask for a blessing it's perhaps a bit more difficult to discreetly avoid. Anyway, fwiw one reason I didn't have a problem with it is because I just saw it as a cultural expression of something I agreed with (that we should respect the priest, as the Bible implied/said that we should do--Heb. 13:17).
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« Reply #71 on: August 13, 2013, 12:19:28 PM »

Thank you!
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« Reply #72 on: August 14, 2013, 01:52:46 PM »

A nice little FAQ, including an answer to my "kissing the priest's hand" question.  It's from St. Spyridon Orthodox Church (FYI, True Orthodox Church of Greece), so the only question that jumps out is "Who are the Genuine Orthodox?"  The other questions  and answers are pretty good.

http://www.saint-spyridon.com/note_index.htm
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« Reply #73 on: August 14, 2013, 03:59:40 PM »

A nice little FAQ, including an answer to my "kissing the priest's hand" question.  It's from St. Spyridon Orthodox Church (FYI, True Orthodox Church of Greece), so the only question that jumps out is "Who are the Genuine Orthodox?"  The other questions  and answers are pretty good.

http://www.saint-spyridon.com/note_index.htm


Glad you found a resource that's helpful Smiley  That parish is part of an old calendarist group that the owner of this site is a member of. Some consider them schismatic meanies, others the last true bastion of Orthodoxy. Most fall somewhere in the middle... but not too close to the middle.  angel  I did post a bibliography a while back that covers the topic, but obviously those are books. If you're interested in links with arguments from both sides it shouldn't be too much trouble for me (or anyone familiar with it) to dig up. The short answer is: this group believes that ecumenism is a pan-heresy, and that the change of some Orthodox away from the "church" or traditional calendar was a manifestation or fruit of that. I can clarify if more is needed, though another thread might be better.
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« Reply #74 on: August 15, 2013, 02:51:10 PM »

Didn't Constantine invent the trinity?

A lot of the topics covered in this thread would require more than a single post (or even a single thread) to explore fully, and that is especially true of this question. Still, for what it's worth I'll give an overview of what I understand the Orthodox position to be, at least as a start to answering the question.

As one might expect, the Orthodox would answer: "no, St. Constantine did not invent the concept of the trinity."  I would argue that a case can be made for inklings of understanding of trinitarian theology in the Old Testament, an unveiling of such theology in the New Testament, and a firm affirmation of the trinity from the beginning among the Christian Church Fathers.

I will focus mostly on the New Testament and Church Fathers, but it is worth noting that it can be argued--and many Church Fathers did argue--that the trinity can be seen starting in the very first chapter of the Old Testament, where it says: "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness" (Gen. 1:26; some have claimed that Gen. 19:24 and Wis. 7:25-26, among other passages, can also be interpreted in a trinitarian manner).

In the New Testament the theology that had only been alluded to in the Old Testament became more clearly articulated. Thus the Gospel of John begins: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (Jn. 1:1) And St. John continues to make clear who Jesus and the Holy Spirit are throughout the rest of his Gospel; as an example, St. John records the words of Jesus that: "All that belongs to the Father is mine." (Jn. 16:15)

The passages filling out the theology of the deity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit continue throughout the rest of the New Testament. For a few examples, Jesus Christ is said to be the power of God (1 Cor. 1:24), and is the image of God (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3; 2 Cor. 4:4), while the Spirit is the "holy Spirit of God" (Eph. 4:30), eternal, and essential in the salvific act of Christ (Heb. 9:14). When Ananias "lied to the Holy Spirit," this also means that he had "not lied just to human beings but to God" (Acts 5:3-4)

All of this trinitarian theology is very important because only God can save us. It is true that created beings can be used by God to help lead us to salvation, e.g. through preaching or teaching or correction (1 Tim. 4:15-16; James 5:19-20; etc.). Nonetheless, created beings could never impart grace to us, so when St. Paul says: "Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ," (1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; etc.), he is not simply giving a greeting, but also making a specific theological claim. So to with sanctification, as when St. Peter says: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied." (1 Pet. 1:2)

Another time we find the trinitarian idea--in this specific case the deity of Jesus--in Phil. 2:5-11: "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

When St. Thomas says "My Lord and my God!" (Jn. 20:28) in the Gospel, we believe he is speaking not simply ecstatically and out of more emotion than sense, but really expressing with his soul the realization that just took hold of him.

Regarding Church Fathers, we find already by the first decades of the second century Christians interpreting Gen. 1:26 as speaking of Jesus Christ being present (Epistle of Barnabas, 5). Around AD 107, St. Ignatius of Antioch was speaking of Jesus Christ as God (Epistle to the Romans, 1 and 18). St. Justin Martyr also, writing in the mid-second century, repeatedly says that Jesus is God (First Apology, 63; Dialogue with Trypho, 36; etc.), and that Christians worship the Son and Holy Spirit (First Apology, 6). A few decades later St. Ireneaus continued this affirmation of trinitarian theology, for example speaking of how the Son and Holy Spirit are co-eternal and co-existing with the Father (Against Heresies 2.30.9; 4.20.1), among other thoughts. St. Clement of Alexandria, writing at the end of the second century, also speaks of the diety of Jesus, affirming that he was "both God and Man" (Exhortation to the Heathen, 1)

And such quotations could be continued throughout the third century and into the fourth, but those should suffice to show that the idea that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit were God was firmly in place, and not just something hinted at vaguely until Constantine came along and insisted that everyone accept that belief. (As a side note, I am not necessarily saying that all these Fathers quoted above would have said things in the same way that later Christians would, I am speaking here just of the basic truths given by the Apostles and held by the Church, not the manner of explanation, etc.)

The part St. Constantine played at the First Ecumenical Council, in Nicea, was not to introduce a new concept regarding the deity of Christ. In fact, the deity of Christ was not in dispute. What was disputed was whether Jesus Christ was a divine yet created being, as Arius taught, or was co-eternal, co-powerful, etc. with the Father and not a created being. The part St. Constantine played was in suggesting a term (homoousios) that meant something along the lines of "of the same substance/essence/being," as opposed to the preferences of others who said that Jesus was, for example, "of like substance." The striking thing about St. Constantine's suggestion was not the idea itself, but rather that a word which had not previously been used for this purpose, and which had actually been used in a theologically incorrect manner by some, should be adopted.

The word was also not biblical--something that has been criticized by some (then and now). However, the biblical language and passages were disputed, and there was an impasse when using only such terms and verses. Something needed to be introduced that would cut through and make the Christian belief clear.
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Paradosis ≠ Asteriktos ≠ Justin
peterchristian
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« Reply #75 on: December 07, 2013, 08:32:05 AM »

peterchristian

Thank you for posting what you did, and I very much apologize for not responding sooner... I did not realise that so much time had passed since I posted in this thread! I am in agreement with what you said, for whatever that's worth. I also hope you post more in the thread! Smiley
Asterikos, sorry for my delay in replying. I have a follow up inquiry on the subject of free will and perhaps the readers could also help.  I seem to be understanding Orthodox writers, especially the modern theologians, to be saying that mankind in his fallen condition still retains ontologically the ability in some faculty of the will to approach and to worship not simply a conception of god but the true and Triune God before regeneration-christian baptism.  I would like to ask for some clarification on this precise point. 

If indeed this is the case universally, transcending religions, applying to all men from their birth, then could we not say that man is capable of reaching God without baptism or even the christian religion?  The answer is obvious; the point touches upon the degree of our fall, the image of God and the need for grace.  How free is man spiritually speaking in terms of being able to achieve union with God?  As I have seen it, eastern and western approaches are closer than some contemporary Orthodox authors have presented them.
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