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« on: October 17, 2008, 09:10:02 PM »

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.

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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2008, 09:15:03 PM »

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.
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2008, 09:27:17 PM »

Thank you, Papist. It seems so much depends on one's understand of what the Church is. Until there is a common understanding, there will always be these misunderstandings, unfortunately.
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2008, 09:38:24 PM »

Also, Scripture itself speaks of obedience as a good thing:

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." - Heb. 13:17
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2008, 09:50:47 PM »

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?

These are merely some questions I've been wrestling with.
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2008, 09:59:57 PM »

I agree with you that there must be some type of middle ground, or "a balance". I would not want someone to have blind obedience, which could lead into sin/harm. I'm sorry that I don't have much else to say.
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2008, 01:54:38 AM »

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?

These are merely some questions I've been wrestling with.
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.
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2008, 02:22:12 AM »

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.



Sister she would definitely see them as two different animals if she doesn't see the Church as the body of Christ as we do. So really it is obedience to Christ.
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2008, 07:58:51 AM »

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).
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2008, 09:17:34 AM »

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?

These are merely some questions I've been wrestling with.
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.

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
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2008, 09:34:05 AM »

There is a huge responsibility on the clergy for their leadership in teaching:  "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment." (James 3:1).  And if they stumble in word, they bring everyone down with him who hears him, especially those in ignorance.  St. James includes himself, knowing he's one of those teachers.  They know people obey according to the teachings of the Church, so they better represent the Church well, and usually, thank God, they do.

If one wants to be careful with discernment on who's teaching them or who's giving them orders, they seek knowledge, knowledge to know what is Orthodox, what is right and wrong, sin or not sin.  In other words, as Peter mentioned, what the Church teaches  Wink.  This way, they know when to obey and when it's shady to obey.  Knowledge is power, and it can also be a source of agonizing pride, especially on the virtue of obedience.

God bless.
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2008, 10:40:19 AM »

too much emphasis on being "obedient to the Church"

I sometimes feel that there is too much emphasis on obedience.  This virtue is given disproportionate press as a result of the monastic adventures of Mother Church.  Any emphasis on (as opposed to the tolerance of) the institutional nature of the church makes me very nervous.  In my experience, priests who talk up obedience tend to be control-freaks.
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« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2008, 10:50:22 AM »

too much emphasis on being "obedient to the Church"

I sometimes feel that there is too much emphasis on obedience.  This virtue is given disproportionate press as a result of the monastic adventures of Mother Church.  Any emphasis on (as opposed to the tolerance of) the institutional nature of the church makes me very nervous.  In my experience, priests who talk up obedience tend to be control-freaks.
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You've articulated my own thoughts and fears very well, Dan.
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« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2008, 12:19:10 PM »

1.  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.
2.  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.

1.  We are all doomed to trust our own judgment.  If nothing else, by picking a staretz to obey one has trusted one's own judgment to pick the right one, just as a monk must pick the right monastery, I must pick the right church etc.  I prefer to emphasize the polycentric nature of our faith:  to the degree that I am an individual in the church, my individual faith experience is affected by the fathers, the saints, the monks, the learned, the peasant, the architecture, the icons etc. etc.  It is imperative to avoid the sucker's choice of institutionalism/individualism.
2.  An argumentum ad veredundiam (appeal to authority).  Appears to exercise the tireless charm of infallibility, here not bestowed upon one man (the pope) but upon many points (the fathers as a lot).  The appeal to authority is dangerous because it is the preferred glove of the Pharisaic hand.  Also, like institutionalism, this appeal tends to dull our sensitivity to substantive arguments. 
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« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2008, 01:37:41 PM »

It is almost completely free of the Sophiology heresy of Bulgakov's...

I'm not aware of this.  Can you explain?  Thanks.
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« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2008, 02:08:43 PM »

It is almost completely free of the Sophiology heresy of Bulgakov's...

I'm not aware of this.  Can you explain?  Thanks.

From what I understand.  Fr. Sergius believed that the essence of the divinity in which the Three Persons of the Trinity shares in is in essence "Sophia," and he personifies her (keep in mind he assigns the feminine pronoun for the reason of its role as submissive) as the essence that completely gives herself up totally (complete Love) to the Three Persons of the Trinity, which is why we speak of her as mere essence without hypostasis or person.

It's a shady belief from Fr. Sergius, and it makes it seem as if there's a "fourth hypostasis" in the Trinity.  So it depends on interpretation.  I personally find it as crossing line into speculation, thinking more into theology than what is necessary.

I'm sure there are other threads that speak about his Sophiology here in oc.net.

God bless.
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« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2008, 03:33:21 PM »

While I realise that it doesn't always play out this way in reality, the ideal mode of obedience in the Church is not one of slavish obeisance to one's master, but the obedience that a son has for his father. The obedience practiced in the Church should be one that is done out of love: whatever is given as obedience should be done because the bishop or spiritual father or whomever loves his spiritual child and is giving the obedience out of love and concern for his salvation.  The spiritual child obeys because he loves his father, and not only trusts him but wants to do what he has been told to do.  Obedience in the Church should not give rise to feelings of being constrained and crushed by someone else's will, but rather obedience should result in a feeling of total freedom, as true obedience will liberate us from the chains of our egos.  If you feel forced or compelled, something is wrong.  Obedience is about breaking down the walls that we ourselves have created, encapsulating ourselves in the loneliness of our selfishness and separating us from the communion of brotherly love that we should have with all the world. 

So to summarise, godly obedience in the Church is marked by freedom and liberation, not by enslavement or fear.  Obedience is not coersion, though sadly many people today confuse it with that.
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« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2008, 03:53:31 PM »

I would just like to reiterate what others hate hinted at.  Persons within the Church are not the Church alone.  The Church is the collective consciousness of the Body of Christ throughout the ages.  She is so much more than simply a bishop or a priest and their "orders" as Protestants often interpret her to be.
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« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2008, 04:29:27 PM »

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.

Yet she is also obedient to her church.  Whenever she follows to the best of her ability the norms sanctioned by her leaders, she is obedient, whether or not she perfectly achieves them.  She is not aware of being obedient; she imagines that the fact that she follows those norms is incidental to glorifying God. 
By the same token, the fact that we fulfill as well as we can Orthodox norms constitutes our obedience, too.  You and I do not see it that way, since we regard the norms as being truly good for us and not legalistically satisfying.  In this sense, obedience is simply the only alternative to inventing one's own church.
Another point that concerns me is the sense of "church."  In English, the word originally meant a place; in Greek, ekklesia meant assembly.  Being obedient to an assembly is an interesting concept, but not what we think of when we say "obedient to the Church."  One conforms to the standards of an assembly, then joins, I would think.  I think the emphasis on authority within the church probably has more to do with the effects of Roman despotism--e.g., honorifics such as "Your Holiness"--than anything else. 
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« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2008, 04:36:38 PM »

I think the emphasis on authority within the church probably has more to do with the effects of Roman despotism--e.g., honorifics such as "Your Holiness"--than anything else.

The terms come from the Greek, not Rome.

A Roman Catholic Cardinal / Orthodox Metropolitan is still referred as Your Emimence while a Bishop is referred as Your Grace.  Your Holiness applies to the Pope of Rome while Your Beatitude applies to pretty much many of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches including the OCA.   Wink Your All Holiness is the Ecumenical Patriarch.
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« Reply #20 on: October 18, 2008, 06:56:57 PM »

Sister,

I've been speaking to an evangelical friend who is quite open to learning more about Orthodoxy.
Glory to God! Smiley

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.

 I don't see the two as being necessarily opposed per se; if we live what the Bible commands, we'll be obedient to our Priests and Bishops.  She has a point though, if she's meaning blindly being obedient.  To be sure, there are "bad" priests out there.  This is one reason it's important to fast and pray diligently before choosing a spiritual father (or mother).  The Mystical Theology of our Church does not demand that reason take a back seat.  Scripture, in fact, implores us to be "Gentle as doves, yet wise as serpents."  As your friend begins to attend the holy services of our church, pray that the Holy Spirit will begin to work with her fears.  I hope I've helped at least a little.

 In Christ,
Gabriel
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« Reply #21 on: October 18, 2008, 10:41:10 PM »

Thank you, Gabriel, and everyone else, for the very helpful posts. They've made things more clear to me, certainly.
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« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2008, 11:43:33 PM »

While I realise that it doesn't always play out this way in reality, the ideal mode of obedience in the Church is not one of slavish obeisance to one's master, but the obedience that a son has for his father. The obedience practiced in the Church should be one that is done out of love: whatever is given as obedience should be done because the bishop or spiritual father or whomever loves his spiritual child and is giving the obedience out of love and concern for his salvation.  The spiritual child obeys because he loves his father, and not only trusts him but wants to do what he has been told to do.  Obedience in the Church should not give rise to feelings of being constrained and crushed by someone else's will, but rather obedience should result in a feeling of total freedom, as true obedience will liberate us from the chains of our egos.  If you feel forced or compelled, something is wrong.  Obedience is about breaking down the walls that we ourselves have created, encapsulating ourselves in the loneliness of our selfishness and separating us from the communion of brotherly love that we should have with all the world. 

So to summarise, godly obedience in the Church is marked by freedom and liberation, not by enslavement or fear.  Obedience is not coersion, though sadly many people today confuse it with that.

Exactly! What a perfect explanation, Zebu.

Metropolitan Anthony (Blum) of blessed memory was talking about (3) kinds of attitudes of a person to God.
- That one of a slave. Panic and fear.
- That one of a hired servant. Just to get something done for a benefit or a profit
- That one of a son. Out of love as it has been described by Zebu.
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« Reply #23 on: October 19, 2008, 01:18:33 AM »

... and was it St. Clement who said "He  cannot have God as his Father, who does not have the Church as his Mother."
I think it was actually Bishop St. Cyprian of Carthage who said this.
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« Reply #24 on: October 19, 2008, 07:41:31 AM »

1.  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.
2.  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.

1.  We are all doomed to trust our own judgment.  If nothing else, by picking a staretz to obey one has trusted one's own judgment to pick the right one, just as a monk must pick the right monastery, I must pick the right church etc.  I prefer to emphasize the polycentric nature of our faith:  to the degree that I am an individual in the church, my individual faith experience is affected by the fathers, the saints, the monks, the learned, the peasant, the architecture, the icons etc. etc.  It is imperative to avoid the sucker's choice of institutionalism/individualism.
2.  An argumentum ad veredundiam (appeal to authority).  Appears to exercise the tireless charm of infallibility, here not bestowed upon one man (the pope) but upon many points (the fathers as a lot).  The appeal to authority is dangerous because it is the preferred glove of the Pharisaic hand.  Also, like institutionalism, this appeal tends to dull our sensitivity to substantive arguments. 
DanM
1. Yes, I'm an existentialist too.  But choosing Orthodoxy means choosing an institution.
2. Of course it's an appeal to authority, because the Orthodox Church has it. It gives us the sense to reject substantive arguments for heresy, like the Jesus seminar and anything by Bishop Spong.
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« Reply #25 on: October 19, 2008, 07:45:07 AM »

While I realise that it doesn't always play out this way in reality, the ideal mode of obedience in the Church is not one of slavish obeisance to one's master, but the obedience that a son has for his father. The obedience practiced in the Church should be one that is done out of love: whatever is given as obedience should be done because the bishop or spiritual father or whomever loves his spiritual child and is giving the obedience out of love and concern for his salvation.  The spiritual child obeys because he loves his father, and not only trusts him but wants to do what he has been told to do.  Obedience in the Church should not give rise to feelings of being constrained and crushed by someone else's will, but rather obedience should result in a feeling of total freedom, as true obedience will liberate us from the chains of our egos.  If you feel forced or compelled, something is wrong.  Obedience is about breaking down the walls that we ourselves have created, encapsulating ourselves in the loneliness of our selfishness and separating us from the communion of brotherly love that we should have with all the world. 

So to summarise, godly obedience in the Church is marked by freedom and liberation, not by enslavement or fear.  Obedience is not coersion, though sadly many people today confuse it with that.

Yes, it is like the train obeying the track that it is on.  Is it freeer to go off the track?

On a related note, that is why we do not refer to the Major Feasts as "days of obligation."  If you come just out of duty, who needs that?  God loves the cheerful giver.
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If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth
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« Reply #26 on: October 19, 2008, 10:46:44 AM »

On a related note, that is why we do not refer to the Major Feasts as "days of obligation."  If you come just out of duty, who needs that?  God loves the cheerful giver.

... and that was today's Epistle reading (in the Greek tradition).
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ialmisry
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« Reply #27 on: October 19, 2008, 03:34:51 PM »

On a related note, that is why we do not refer to the Major Feasts as "days of obligation."  If you come just out of duty, who needs that?  God loves the cheerful giver.

... and that was today's Epistle reading (in the Greek tradition).

Yes, our priest commented on it: the cheerful is a necessary part. God won't take what He can get, because He doesn't need the gift.
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Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth
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« Reply #28 on: October 19, 2008, 09:06:57 PM »

1. But choosing Orthodoxy means choosing an institution.
2. Of course it's an appeal to authority, because the Orthodox Church has it. It gives us the sense to reject substantive arguments for heresy, like the Jesus seminar and anything by Bishop Spong.

I think that the institutional side of Orthodoxy is unavoidable, but proper, as opposed to essential or accidental, in the sense that the church was founded to continue the evangelical mission, not to perpetuate itself. 
I don't mind the appeal to authority when it is the only recourse--we can only have the doctrine of the Holy Trinity on authority.  However, when it is a question of living out the faith, it is important not to rely on fallacies.  I see fallacies as a misuse of the reason given by God to help us steer through each day.  E.g., if I honestly believe that the argumentum ad verecundiam is acceptable as a test of seemingly new teaching, I will be had by the first clergy or monk who tells me that he got this from God, from such-and-such an elder or from St.
So-and-so in a vision.
DanM



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