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Author Topic: Orthodoxy (Eastern or Oriental) and the Intellectual aspect of faith...  (Read 2576 times) Average Rating: 0
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OrthodoxPilgrim
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Till All are One !! - Optimus Prime


« on: August 15, 2008, 08:59:47 AM »

Greetings to all in the name of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ

I am new to the forum and am not too well versed with the rules of this place so if I stray on a few of them, please be reassured that it was not intentional.

I grew up in an extremely devout "Reformed Orthodox" Mar Thomite family (the Marthoma Syrian Church is a church that split from the historical Indian Orthodox church in the 1900's I believe...due to doctrinal and theological differences of opinion) and have recently been attending an Anglican church since they were the closest to my doctrinal and theological ideas at the time....Now with the crisis in the Anglican Church, I have started to deeply question the very roots and foundations of the Anglican Church only to have lost faith and trust in the Anglican Communion as a whole. It is in this setting that I have been on a "pilgrimage" so to speak (which has now lasted about 1-2 years), of learning and understanding the historic Orthodox Christian faith and its doctrines and theology, and am now finding myself more and more closer to embracing Orthodoxy (thorugh the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church).

Since this was happening in my life, I stayed away from the Anglican church I used to frequently congregate. This influenced the pastoral assistant's husband to call me and talk to me about my little "crisis". When I explained to him a few of my reasons as to why I am seriously considering Orthodoxy , he raised a few oppositions to it, to which I responded to quite well. However, one statement he made, made me feel quite uneasy because I am not sure how Orthodoxy would fare in this regard and it has to do with theological scholarship. I am known for being the "skeptic" and am known to ask questions about anything and everything and have been known to discover new ways and methods of understanding the Faith. He (who is a Protestant) mentioned that the Orthodox Church may not be the best place for a person like me who (from his perception) has a gift of elucidating and teaching issues pertaining to thelogy and history and sees me as having a bright future in the scholastic world and bleieves that Orthodoxy is "too insular" in their teaching on doctrines and Church history....when I asked him to expand on this he gave a few examples 1) How many Orthodox biblical scholars have really looked at the book of Revelation and sincerely conducted any strong Biblical exegesis on it?...very few whereas Protestant/Anglican scholars are not afraid to see the Scriptures, theology and church history and discover new ways of understanding our own faith and 2) if they do, they mostly rely on the knowledge of "Saint this of that" or "Father so and so"....He claims that Orthodox scholars are thoroughly insular and lack the capability to look outside of the Patristic box they have made for themselves and for people like me who has a gift of being an academic (not to mention that I have been feeling the calling into the Ordained ministry) will never be fully utilized in such an insular setting.....

As someone who has a knack of questioning everything under the sun...I pose this question to the board and wonder if anyone (who preferrably is a devout Orthodox and a staunch academic) can address this accusation.

Again, please do not take offense in anything I have posted. I come as a pilgrim of sorts, on a journey of wanting to learn more about the Faith and am indeed planning on joining it soon. So please bear with me if I have posted anything inappropriate.

Pray for me a sinner..

In Christ

+ the Pilgrim

« Last Edit: August 15, 2008, 09:10:15 AM by OrthodoxPilgrim » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2008, 09:42:02 AM »

Welcome to the forum! 

I am a fairly recent convert (two years tomorrow, actually) and I understand how it seems like Orthodox writers rely heavily on the Fathers and Saints.  It's also confusing to read one monastic say something which seems to contradict another's writing.  We have to consider the context in which all things are written; for a monastic, yes, something like, say, marriage would be harmful to them since they've dedicated themselves to celibacy in service of God.  For the average Orthodoxy Christian, though, marriage is a blessing.

There is also a tendency in Orthodoxy to think if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  If the wisdom of Fathers and Saints continues to aid in salvation then it will continue to aid in salvation.  Sure, there are different ways to look at issues, but human nature doesn't change much over the centuries.  We still trip over the same roadblocks in life.  I don't think it's that we don't question the Patristic writings, it's just that they've proven to us to be more helpful than having to reinvent our approach to God every few decades.  (Which is something that I struggled with coming from a Baptist background where there wasn't much tradition past last year.)

In regard to your curious nature:  Good!  If Orthodoxy can't stand up to serious intellectual scrutiny, then what good is it?  Of course, there are limitations to how much the human mind can understand of God but there's no limit to what we can attempt to understand.  I'd like to see more critical scholarship, actually.  (Not critical as in dismissing everything until proven correct, but critical as in not being afraid to ask tough questions and dig deeper.)  Who knows, maybe you could really take the Revelation of John to task and decipher it.  I think that's the reason we don't really refer to that book too often... it's very hard to interpret and people tend to get focused on future speculation rather than their own salvation and helping those around them now.

In any case, welcome to the forum and may you find your path.  Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2008, 10:44:50 AM »

God Bless you brother and may our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ guide you.
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OrthodoxPilgrim
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« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2008, 01:23:46 PM »


There is also a tendency in Orthodoxy to think if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  If the wisdom of Fathers and Saints continues to aid in salvation then it will continue to aid in salvation.  Sure, there are different ways to look at issues, but human nature doesn't change much over the centuries.  We still trip over the same roadblocks in life.  I don't think it's that we don't question the Patristic writings, it's just that they've proven to us to be more helpful than having to reinvent our approach to God every few decades.  (Which is something that I struggled with coming from a Baptist background where there wasn't much tradition past last year.)


lol re: the innovation of tradition....I fully agree with you on all points. I guess its not the innovation of the tenets, the style of worship and the doctrines of the faith per se that I am concerned of. I'd prefer that they stay right where they are.....Rather it is HOW we study and the different forms of methodology that we can employ to better understand what the Scriptures tell us. For example, the usage of sociology by using Bruce Malina's "honor, kinship and patronage" model prevalent in many Eastern societies even to this day, to better explain the background of many Christian principles such as Christian love, the Christian concept of faith, the concept of Christian humility and even a better understanding of the atonement of our Lord...or the study of Greek "bios" and the conclusions of many Protestant scholars such as Ben Witherington III that the Gospels can be fit into the genre of ancient biographies and not simply just an exposition of Church Kerygma as many Orthodox faithful espouse.....Now a lot of these methodological approaches have never been employed by the Church Fathers....well..becasue those facilities were simlpy never accessible to them at that point in history.......but by us analyzing the Gospels using new findings in literature and sociology we are may come into conflicts with certain somethings of what a particular Father here or there might have to say on the matter.....so what do we as Orthodox faithul do then? Do we go ahead and say that the particular Father in question was meaning well and that all that matters are that the overarching principles and motivations that are being employed by us to find out what the Scriptures mean was the same as the Fathers?....


Who knows, maybe you could really take the Revelation of John to task and decipher it.  I think that's the reason we don't really refer to that book too often... it's very hard to interpret and people tend to get focused on future speculation rather than their own salvation and helping those around them now.


I am more into the history and theological developments of the early Church (1st - 8th centuries)....Biblical studies isn't my forte sadly... Sad  BUT I hope someone else could pick up the mantle on this one...

I fully am in line with Orthodoxy shying away from talking about the Book of Revelation....From watching Fundy preachers maul and pillage the book to death, I now understand why Orthodox faithful don't wish to touch upon it...But, we must still study it....While I fully support the Orthodox notion that the intellect itself has its limits, one must never forsake the intellectual pursuit of defending, elucidating and correcting misunderstandings (both purposeful and unintentional) of the historic Orthodox faith. I just wish and pray to our Lord that Orthodox scholars and theologians will wake up and try to work on these issues soon.

Pray for me

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OrthodoxPilgrim
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« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2008, 01:28:00 PM »

God Bless you brother and may our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ guide you.

Thank you for your kind and warm wishes bro.

In Him,

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« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2008, 05:42:45 PM »

Quote
....when I asked him to expand on this he gave a few examples 1) How many Orthodox biblical scholars have really looked at the book of Revelation and sincerely conducted any strong Biblical exegesis on it?...very few whereas Protestant/Anglican scholars are not afraid to see the Scriptures, theology and church history and discover new ways of understanding our own faith and 2) if they do, they mostly rely on the knowledge of "Saint this of that" or "Father so and so"....He claims that Orthodox scholars are thoroughly insular and lack the capability to look outside of the Patristic box they have made for themselves and for people like me who has a gift of being an academic (not to mention that I have been feeling the calling into the Ordained ministry) will never be fully utilized in such an insular setting.....
Well, OrthodoxPilgrim, your interlocutor seems to be of the Sola Scriptura brand of Protestant who has lost the bearings of Apostolic Christianity. Bereft of an apostolic episcopate (the 'guardians') they seem to deny that Christ delivered the Truth intact and complete to His apostles. The use of terms such as "biblical scholars" by which they replace the Deposit of Faith with their myriad interpretation, made without Holy Apostolic Tradition as a guide, are indicative of their lack of understanding of the New Testament Church created at Pentecost and continuing today in Orthodoxy.
The Church fathers did not 'develop' new ways of understanding, by which I take it your questioner mean re-interpret the Way, but expressed pious teachings to which we may refer. We and they do/did not engage in scholastic debate. We have no need to add or subtract anything.
I respect our Fools for Christ far more than all the Protestants who want Jesus for a "friend".  Wink Indeed, if these folks properly interpreted Scripture Alone - in the preserved apostolic understanding of the Church- they would BE Orthodox!
If being 'insular' means inoculated against heretical deviations from the Way, it is a label I will readily accept.
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« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2008, 08:42:13 PM »

Just for background, the thread below discusses the Mar Thomite Church:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,296.0.html
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OrthodoxPilgrim
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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2008, 01:31:46 AM »

Well, OrthodoxPilgrim, your interlocutor seems to be of the Sola Scriptura brand of Protestant who has lost the bearings of Apostolic Christianity. Bereft of an apostolic episcopate (the 'guardians') they seem to deny that Christ delivered the Truth intact and complete to His apostles.


First off, thank you for taking the time to respond to my query...I really appreciate whatever input I can get from around here.

I do not know what he thinks and I am not going to try to guess what his opinions are...I am not going to turn this thread into a bashing fest of a person whom I ardently disagree with but nonetheles respect. Having said that, it is probably good to know that his wife is pursuing ordination within the ANglican Church.....and since there are no parallels to such a practise in Scripture, he feels that these sorts of innovations are perfectly fine......again, I don't know what his opinions are but considering that since this is what his life situation is, I feel that he MAY be speaking from where he is in life and his rendering of what the Apostolic faith is because of those life experiences.


The use of terms such as "biblical scholars" by which they replace the Deposit of Faith with their myriad interpretation, made without Holy Apostolic Tradition as a guide, are indicative of their lack of understanding of the New Testament Church created at Pentecost and continuing today in Orthodoxy.


Uhh....the term "Bibilical scholar" is a term that refers to a person who studies Biblical literature and issues realated to the Bible such as the formation of the canon, studies of comparative literature, theology and Patristics...there are Orthodox Biblical scholarsm (eg. Very Rev. Paul Nadim Tarazi and Dr. John Barnet of St. Vladimir's Seminary) and Protestant Biblical Scholars (like Ben Witherington III or Rev. N.T. Wright) .....so I don't see where you're going with this.


The Church fathers did not 'develop' new ways of understanding, by which I take it your questioner mean re-interpret the Way, but expressed pious teachings to which we may refer.

Well....my understanding of Church history is that the Fathers did indeed break new grounds in elucidating and clarifying the Apostolic, Orthodox Faith...this "new ground" does not necessarily mean a strange "re-interpretation" of the one true Faith...but rather a re-packaging of sorts and in turn, developed a more stronger mode of elucidating and explaining the same, ageless and timeless faith that our Lord taught the Holy Apostles.....we see this very clearly as we read through the centuries of Patristic literature....there is indeed a form of "development" but not in the same context as the Protestants understand it.

This is exactly what I feel we as Orthodox faithful must continue. As Orthodoxy expands into America and feels a strong resurgence within NOrth America, Orthodox theologians and scholars must "be ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you ." (1 Peter 3:15)......this does not mean that we must re-develop the ageless Apostoic faith of the Orthodox Church..rather, we must be able to use our God given intellectual faculties to use new forms of methodology and further defend the Orthodox faith......And for those like me who are indeed called into the Orthodox faith, we are definitely in good company with the likes of Justing MArtyr and the Apostle Paul himself who even at times employed Pagan philosophies to articulate Biblical truths (cf. Acs 17:28 when he quotes the Greek Stoic poet Aratus when he says, ""As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'"")...we dare not say that the Holy Apostle and and Justing Martyr were carelessly innovating the faith...rather, they used methodology that was present in their day to articulate and emphasize timeless Biblical truths....this is what many feel is lacking in the Orthoox Church to this day.....Orthodox faithful it seems, feel that since all the work has been done in the first eight centuries of the church, there is really no need for doing much other than regurgitating what the Holy Fathers say with some added commentaries here and there......and I feel we must do WAY more than that, especially during a time when Orthodoxy is growing and is catching the atention of many Protestant professors who perceive the Orthodox Church to be a threat of sorts.....


We and they do/did not engage in scholastic debate.


And I feel that it is time that we do engage with our Protestant brothers and sisters if we need to see any sort of improvement in our understandings of each other....


 We have no need to add or subtract anything.

I know...and that (among many reasons) is exactly why I am close to embracing Orthodoxy  Smiley


I respect our Fools for Christ far more than all the Protestants who want Jesus for a "friend".  Wink Indeed, if these folks properly interpreted Scripture Alone - in the preserved apostolic understanding of the Church- they would BE Orthodox!
If being 'insular' means inoculated against heretical deviations from the Way, it is a label I will readily accept.

Amen to that.....That was exactly what I was thinking when he mentioned that to me as well......

In conclusion, I guess what I am saying still is: Many within and out of the Church feel that we as Orthodox have not yet contributed much to theological and Biblical scholarship and one of the reasons why many feel this is so is because of our extremely "insular" approach to our own faith.....as someone who isn't even yet an Orthodox and someone who has studied the faith can say with utter confidence: We do not need to be so insular, we can be brave and be intellectual in approaching matters pertaining to the faith and one can be confident that Orthodoxy can indeed stand on its own two feet and defend itself well.......it is just that, even now with your reply, it seems that the Orthodox Church (or atleast some quarters of it) prefer to remain insular...and I do not understand why......and I do get the whole "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach, but being "open" intellectually does not necessarily automatically mean a defunct or a broken faith system.......and I feel that many Church Fathers and Holy Apostles who with the help of the Holy Spirit used their minds and mouths to defend the True Faith would agree with me on this.

O Holy Saints, O Mother of God, pray for us in helping us to Love our God with all our mind, heart and strength.

In Christ,

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OrthodoxPilgrim
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« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2008, 04:56:08 PM »

............wow...........so much for this discussion.....lol
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« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2008, 06:44:07 PM »

............wow...........so much for this discussion.....lol

I think the thread might be in the wrong place to stimulate discussion.
The Converts forum tends to be where converts and inquirers ask questions about the Orthodox Faith or the experience of Conversion. Not being an adult convert myself, but rather "cradle Orthodox" I rarely give my opinions in this forum although I enjoy reading it and learning about the experience of conversion in adulthood. Basically, I have viewed it as a place where potential adult converts can speak to other adult converts about the experience of conversion, so I tend not to contribute much. Perhaps you can speak to the moderator of the Convert Forum (Thomas) about moving this thread to a different forum and one which allows for debate?
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OrthodoxPilgrim
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« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2008, 11:37:52 PM »

I think the thread might be in the wrong place to stimulate discussion.
The Converts forum tends to be where converts and inquirers ask questions about the Orthodox Faith or the experience of Conversion. Not being an adult convert myself, but rather "cradle Orthodox" I rarely give my opinions in this forum although I enjoy reading it and learning about the experience of conversion in adulthood. Basically, I have viewed it as a place where potential adult converts can speak to other adult converts about the experience of conversion, so I tend not to contribute much. Perhaps you can speak to the moderator of the Convert Forum (Thomas) about moving this thread to a different forum and one which allows for debate?


Gotcha......so I am assuming that I message the moderator of the forum?....and where would I recommend him to place this thread?....I have been observing this forum for a while and the best place I feel this thread ought to be is in the "Orthodox-Protestant" set of threads....would you agree?

In Him,

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