I've been speaking to an evangelical friend who is quite open to learning more about Orthodoxy. However, she feels there is too much emphasis on being "obedient to the Church" as opposed to simply living and practising certain biblical commands to glorify God. She sees these two matters as distinctly different animals.
In other words, trust their own judgment on what the Bible says, rather than the collective experience of the Church that wrote, preserved, canonized, passed down and handed your friend the Bible.
My priest says, if you come up with an explanation of a Biblical verse that no one has thought of before, you might be wrong. It it contradicts what others have said of the verse, it is definitely wrong.
If the Church was really established by Christ, if he really told the Apostles (to whom the bishops are successors), "He who hears you hears me," if he told these same Apotles, "Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven," if the Church is the body of Christ, if the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, then obedience to the Church is obedience to Christ himself.
I think it was St. Basil who said, "This Christ whom we have seen has passed into the Holy Mysteries of the Church," St. Ignatius stating that where the bishop celebrates the Eucharist, there is the Catholic Church and Christ, and was it St. Clement who said "He cannot have God as his Father, who does not have the Church as his Mother."
Thanks for the good verse, Asteriktos. However, isn't there sometimes a downside to all this emphasis on obedience? For instance, I think of the corruption which often takes place in monasteries under the guise of "obedience". I've been horrified to read of terrible immorality when the head of a monastery forces novices to perform abominable acts, which the novices for some reason comply to, due to this strict teaching we have on "obedience". Personally, I have been totally shocked that these young men would consent to these acts, rather than turning, running away and fleeing as did Joseph when he was tempted by Potipher's wife. So there must be a balance. Do we merely blindly obey "those who have rule over us", or do we first and foremost, hide the sacred words of scripture in our hearts, so we do not sin against God?I think here we may need to make a distinction between obedience to the Church and obedience to persons within the Church. Somehow I don't they're the same bird.
These are merely some questions I've been wrestling with.
Yes, as the monothelete bishops, the iconoclast bishops, and those who signed the union of Florence found out when there goose got cooked by the faithful.
I always love the response of St. Maximos, when the emperor pointed out that St. Maximos was against the "whole Church" (meaning the monothelete bishops that the emperor had put in when he exiled the Orthodox ones): "If the whole universe were to commune with you, I alone would not commune with you."
I like Fr. Sergius Bulgakov's thought in this regard. In his book titled "Pravoslavie" ("Orthodoxy"), he writes that a question of the type, "Church, OR truth?" makes no sense, because Church and Truth are synonyms. Whatever is not truthful, actually is outside the Church (even though for a while, it may seem that this untruthful thing is a part of what we perceive as Church).
The book is translated into English as "The Orthodox Chruch." It is almost completely free of the Sophiology heresy of Bulgakov's, and it is still recommended as an introduction to the Church. It was the book that pushed me over the edge and take the plunge into Potomac/Hudson (OCA).http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/english/orthodox_church_s_bulgakov.htm