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Author Topic: A Challenge to you Orthodox (from an English Baptist)  (Read 21638 times) Average Rating: 0
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David Young
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« on: October 31, 2008, 08:03:45 AM »

I have given talks at the Baptist church where I am in membership on the title or theme of “Learning from other Christians”. I have spoken a number of times about the Anglo-Saxon church (personalities and themes); also about mediæval Catholics and English mystics;  German Pietism; early Methodism. I have given only one talk on Learning from the Orthodox Church.

Now here is my challenge to you: give me themes for further talks. But be irenic (as Christians should) and realistic. There would be no point suggesting I tell them that the Orthodox Church is the only true one and they should join up; or that they need episcopally ordained priests, should pray to the saints, or pray for the dead. But there are themes to do with prayer, union with God, Christ’s victory, apophatic theology, the Incarnation, and doubtless others, where I believe we can indeed learn from you.

Give me your ideas in the spirit of the words, “Freely you have received, freely give” or “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.” My mind is open to you; my congregation will listen if I speak: now bless us in Christ.
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« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2008, 08:34:02 AM »

...
Give me your ideas in the spirit of the words, “Freely you have received, freely give” or “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.” ...


I'd suggest exploring the stance of Orthodoxy towards man's ability of knowledge.

Good starting point is St. Maximos' "On Knowledge".

The key issues are about what man is able to learn and know by his own reason, and about what man can learn and know only by God's grace through experience.

Once the subject has been absolved, you could examine the effect of the conclusions to the Orthodox approach to salvation through combating sin.
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« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2008, 12:45:50 PM »


I'd suggest exploring the stance of Orthodoxy towards man's ability of knowledge.

Good starting point is St. Maximos' approach to salvation through combating sin.

Thank you. I look forward to doing so as soon as I find a translation.
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« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2008, 02:25:41 PM »

Following from your remark here:

What features of Orthodoxy should Protestants benefit from
what features of Protestantism might Orthodox benefit from

You might develop a talk based on this article:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/october/36.66.html

Although I would take issue with the author when he says:

While evangelicals can learn from the Orthodox, it is fair to note that Orthodox believers can learn from us, too. The Eastern presentation of salvation can smudge the distinct steps of salvation. Justification and sanctification often get folded into the broader concept of theosis, and they become so blurred that Orthodox believers often don't know what to make of the terms. They would be well served by an explanation of how the steps of salvation as presented in apostolic teaching fit into the larger package of divinization.

I think the Eastern presentation "smudges" the "steps of salvation" only from the perspective of systematic theology.  One has only to read the Orthodox rites of baptism and chrismation to see that the "phases in the reception of salvation: conversion, justification, sanctification, and glorification" are fully addressed.  Moreover, they are addressed within the context of the mysteries/sacraments, any discussion of which is entirely absent from the article.  However, I do agree with the author that Orthodox would benefit from learning the steps of salvation as evangelicals understand them, in a systematic form, but primarily for the purpose of engaging in discussion with evangelicals.
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« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2008, 04:15:41 PM »

...
Thank you. I look forward to doing so as soon as I find a translation.

You are welcome. There is the link to English translation in my first post above.
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« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2008, 04:42:48 PM »

I must admit that I am confused.  You admit that you are a Baptist but you are giving talks on different confessions of Christianity but for what purpose.  Your theme of "learning from other Christians" is much different than "learning about other Christians" which I surmise is not what you want to do with such talks.  Let me ask this, then?  Do you find Baptist theology insufficient or lacking and thus you want these other confessional viewpoints so individual members can pick and choose what they want with regards to their praxis and belief?

Forgive me, I'm not trying to be difficult, but I am just curious as to what point this serves if not to give your fellow church members choices to supplement or even supplant Baptist teaching.
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« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2008, 05:26:05 PM »

you are giving talks on different confessions of Christianity but for what purpose.  … Do you find Baptist theology insufficient or lacking and thus you want these other confessional viewpoints so individual members can pick and choose what they want with regards to their praxis and belief?

Thank you. These are very good, and indeed searching, questions. I shall give thought to them and get back to you. It is good to be pressed to examine one's own motives!

You might develop a talk based on this article:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/october/36.66.html


I shall read it with real interest.  Smiley
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« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2008, 06:01:46 PM »

There would be no point suggesting I tell them that the Orthodox Church is the only true one and they should join up; or that they need episcopally ordained priests, should pray to the saints, or pray for the dead.
Emphasis mine

This may be a topic for another thread (mod's feel free to move this post if it is, please- I'm not trying to derail the discussion):

Forgive my ignorance, but do Baptists (in your experience) not pray for the dead?  If not, may I ask why?  I may have misunderstood here, but that's what it sounds like.

I will think about your OP.  I think it's a great question/challenge.  I'll have to think, though, about how to respond to it.  In the meantime, my first response would be to examine the Jesus Prayer and it's usage("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner").  The contemporary Athonite Fathers talk a lot about it.  I'm sure others here could recommend specific books better than I...
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« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2008, 06:04:32 AM »

do Baptists (in your experience) not pray for the dead?  If not, may I ask why? 

No. For two reasons:

1. The usual 'sola scriptura' principle: it isn't found in the scriptures (except, of course, the deuterocanonical books, which we do not treat as authoritative).

2. On the basis that it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgement: the dead are either with Christ (in which case they do not need our prayers), or are in hell awaiting the final judgement (in which case our prayers cannot avail them).

I post this only (and willingly) to reply to your question, not to make it in any way a 'bone of contention' between us.
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« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2008, 09:12:34 AM »

I would suggest recommending the hagiography. After all the baptist themselves have a kind of hagiography i.e. biographies of missionaries, preachers etc. While they might include themes that the baptist dislike I think one could also find that kind of books which are acceptable also for the baptist. At least my pentecostal father got quite enthusiastic when he read one book of mine which was about the martyrs of the first centuries of Christianity. Perhaps the martyrology would be beneficial also for the baptist.
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« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2008, 03:07:03 PM »

you are a Baptist but you are giving talks on different confessions of Christianity but for what purpose. 

Do you find Baptist theology insufficient or lacking

The "for what purpose" question is easy to answer: I want the people who hear to be enriched in their experience of God, their daily walk with him.

The second question – whether I think Baptist theology is insufficient or lacking – is a good deal harder. A tentative answer must be Yes; but it needs qualifying. For one thing there isn’t really a ‘Baptist theology’, for as your own writers have said on other threads, there are a variety of Baptists, though of course with agreement on the four principal characteristic Evangelical emphases, plus the belief that baptism should follow coming to faith and the concept of self-governing local churches.

I myself feel that no church or denomination knows all there is to know, emphasises it with proper balance, and experiences it comprehensively in personal and shared spirituality and devotion. So I expect the theology and experience of any church, whether Orthodox or Protestant, to lack some aspects or insights which others have grasped. I don’t think that Baptists (or anyone else) know all there is to learn about God and his ways, or walk in the good of all truth, even if it can by searching be found written in some little-known corner of their literature.

I forget when I started reading seriously about Orthodoxy, but it may have been two or three years ago. In that time, I have found at least three aspects of your life and faith which we lack (not matters taken from your Holy Tradition, but ones which can easily be seen in the Old and New Testaments). These I have incorporated into my teaching and preaching, only once specifically saying that it was an Orthodox emphasis, and people respond warmly and appreciatively. I am not at present saying what those features of Orthodoxy are, otherwise you won’t tell me about them yourselves, and I may have more to learn in those areas as well as others I have not yet even suspected. Beyond those three areas, I suspect there are more.

If we could trust each other as fellow true believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, I believe we could all learn from each other: not join each other (I am not expecting you to become Baptists, or my hearers to join the Orthodox communion), but gladly give and receive benefit among each other. In that spirit I want to learn from you. (You may therefore wonder about my rather sinister “warned” status on this forum. It arose when I put a posting in the “other languages” section without an English translation, genuinely not knowing that this was required.)
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« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2008, 05:10:31 PM »

do Baptists (in your experience) not pray for the dead?  If not, may I ask why? 

No. For two reasons:

1. The usual 'sola scriptura' principle: it isn't found in the scriptures (except, of course, the deuterocanonical books, which we do not treat as authoritative).

2. On the basis that it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgement: the dead are either with Christ (in which case they do not need our prayers), or are in hell awaiting the final judgement (in which case our prayers cannot avail them).

I post this only (and willingly) to reply to your question, not to make it in any way a 'bone of contention' between us.

No bone of contention at all, friend.  I just didn't know... Thank you for your kind answer.  I would love to discuss this at some point in another thread, as your reason #2 intrigues me.

God bless!
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« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2008, 05:51:45 PM »

DEFECTIVE THEOLOGY – and LEARNING FROM OTHERS

Put it like this: you don't have to agree with everything in a person’s MIND before (if he is a Christian) you can learn from his HEART, from his love for the Lord and his walk with Him. For example:

-   I don’t agree with many things in Roman Catholicism, but when I read Bernard of Clairvaux, Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, Thérèse of Lisieux, I know I should learn to love God as they did.
-   I don’t agree with the chiliasm, (or premillennialism, as we call it) of the Brethren, but I should live like they do in the light of the Lord’s Second Coming.
-   I don’t agree with the unregulated public speaking in tongues and unweighed “prophecies” of the Pentecostals, but I need their zeal for bringing lost souls to Christ.
-   I do not hold the full systematic Augustinian teachings of the Calvinists, but I permanently and cordially need their quiet trust in a sovereign God who rules over all our affairs and who ensures all things work together for our good.
-   I do not agree with the second-blessing teaching on sanctification of the Methodists, but I need their passion for holiness.

Similarly, I know from reading Orthodox writings that you have insights and emphases which are good and which we lack. They do not feature in our week-by-week religious life. Share them with us! I have begun to benefit; I want more, and I want to impart it also to others.

I have not replied to every reply on the thread, but I have noted them all, thank each posting person, and anticipate more.
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« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2008, 05:51:59 PM »

or are in hell awaiting the final judgement (in which case our prayers cannot avail them).
Why not? Is there something which is impossible for the Almighty? Is there a place where He is not?
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« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2008, 06:45:43 PM »

... Is there a place where He is not?

Hell?

I myself feel that no church or denomination knows all there is to know, ...

I feel I suggested above the right topic to you. I just wonder if you will pay the attention to it, understand it and present it properly to your audience, because Orthodox theology presents knowledge about everything that can be known.

...emphasises it with proper balance, and experiences it comprehensively in personal and shared spirituality and devotion.

Yes, there are nobody else but sinners among us, Orthodox. We fail, we fail, but we keep trying.
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« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2008, 07:02:22 PM »

It was my understanding that hell had not been created yet (Rev. 20:11-15), but that only hades existed as a sort of holding place until the last judgment?
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« Reply #16 on: November 01, 2008, 07:49:40 PM »

It was my understanding that hell had not been created yet (Rev. 20:11-15), but that only hades existed as a sort of holding place until the last judgment?

You are right and I never meant anything else, but I'm limited by language, too. There are no two words in Serbian, unlike Hebrew and Greek (and apparently English), just one, where at present there are no bodies - while there will be bodies upon the Judgment, too.

Anyway, this might be a nice example of what can be known by man and what can't.
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« Reply #17 on: November 01, 2008, 10:29:44 PM »

There are no two words in Serbian, unlike Hebrew and Greek (and apparently English),

Sorry, there are.

I'm degrading.
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« Reply #18 on: November 02, 2008, 05:55:09 AM »

I feel I suggested above the right topic to you. I just wonder if you will pay the attention to it, understand it and present it properly to your audience, because Orthodox theology presents knowledge about everything that can be known.


Yes. I have found Maximos the author on the Internet, including "On Knowledge". The only reason I didn't go to him direct from your posting was that I am not very familiar with computer methods, and assumed wrongly that it was blue for emphasis, not realising it was a link. I can read it on screen, or print it off and read in comfort. I have access to a library with shelves and shelves of patristic writing in the original and in various translations, and the other reason for my slowness is that I can simply borrow the material in book form next time I'm there. (I'm old-fashioned enough to like sitting in an armchair with the feel of a real book in my hands.)

I cannot of course promise that I shall understand what I read; but I shall read, and that with prayer.

When you say Orthodox theology presents knowledge about everything that can be known, you are approaching a difference between us and you, one where I find your approach more attractive than ours. Evangelicals, particularly of the "Reformed" (Calvinist) variety, love to have every question answered, no biblical passages not fitting in neatly with every other, a hermetically sealed comprehensive, tidy system to which nothing need be added, and nothing taken away. It is, I suspect, the legacy of mediæval scholasticism. Your Church (if I understand aright) allows space for mystery, and that is attractive and (I believe) more proper. You say you present knowledge about "everything that can be known", but you seem to have a healthier attitude to that which cannot. I believe it is an aspect of apophatic theology.
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« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2008, 06:01:27 AM »

I'll throw my 2 cents in here regarding the OP...

Quote
Now here is my challenge to you: give me themes for further talks.

I don't know what your full views are regarding salvation, but you could possibly preach on the Orthodox concept of salvation as a synergetic relationship between God and man. Such a sermon could be based on passages such as the following:

"For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." - 1 Cor. 3:9

"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." - 2 Pet. 1:4
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« Reply #20 on: November 02, 2008, 06:03:44 AM »

hell had not been created yet (Rev. 20:11-15), but that only hades existed as a sort of holding place until the last judgment?

It is a matter of translation of Greek words. We believe the same as you. The "lake of fire" is not yet in operation, but the souls of the lost are in hell / Hades awaiting the Judgement.

From Resident Peacenik: Is there something which is impossible for the Almighty? Or, Is anything too hard for the Lord? Yes: his character is such that he doesn't contradict himself. We believe that physical death ends the sinner's chance to repent and find Christ as Saviour. That is why I say it is too late for our prayers to be of help to the departed, and why we do not pray for the dead.
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« Reply #21 on: November 02, 2008, 08:04:34 AM »

We probably need to start a new thread about this tangent.
We believe the same as you. The "lake of fire" is not yet in operation, but the souls of the lost are in hell / Hades awaiting the Judgement.
If you believe that the Lake of Fire is the same Divine Energies which the Saints experience as Uncreated Light, then you believe the same as us. Wink

From Resident Peacenik: Is there something which is impossible for the Almighty? Or, Is anything too hard for the Lord? Yes: his character is such that he doesn't contradict himself.
Agreed.

We believe that physical death ends the sinner's chance to repent
Agreed.

and find Christ as Saviour.
That's not enough to save us. As He himself says: many who call Him "Lord Lord" will be rejected on the Day of Judgement.

That is why I say it is too late for our prayers to be of help to the departed, and why we do not pray for the dead.
You do not pray for them because they cannot repent? Is forgiveness dependant of repentance? How then does St. Paul say:
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 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. "
Our Forgiveness depends solely on God's mercy, and not anything we merit. Even the Jews who rejected Christ and His Resurrection pray the Yizkor for the dead and trust in God's mercy to forgive the dead.
If your dog fell into a mud pit and couldn't get itself out, would you abandon it?
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« Reply #22 on: November 02, 2008, 12:21:03 PM »

Quote
You do not pray for them because they cannot repent? Is forgiveness dependant of repentance? How then does St. Paul say:
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 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. "
Our Forgiveness depends solely on God's mercy, and not anything we merit. Even the Jews who rejected Christ and His Resurrection pray the Yizkor for the dead and trust in God's mercy to forgive the dead.
If your dog fell into a mud pit and couldn't get itself out, would you abandon it?

Very well said, brother.....and I don't know about our Baptist friend here but I, as someone who loves dogs with all my heart, couldn't stand to even see an estranged dog fall and die in a mudpit, much less my own...this is also coming from someone who was almost mangled by a dog to death when he was a little child...if we humans who place so much love and affection for these little creatures, think how much more love and affection our great God has to those who are called to be His very image?...in the words of the Holy Apostle Paul, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or nakedness or danger or sword?...I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35 - 39)....God's love extends beyond the grave and since both us and the Baptists can agree that God's grace is a powerful reality of his Love towards us, and if the Holy Apostle said that this form of Godly love in Christ extends beyond the grave, what is wrong in praying for those who have fallen asleep in Christ (so that they can find solace and comfort in the bosom of God) and those who have fallen asleep away from Christ (so that through God's love that extends beyond the grave, our prayers for those people can indeed play a part in God's judgment on their souls)?

In Christ

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« Reply #23 on: November 02, 2008, 05:58:43 PM »

concept of salvation as a synergetic relationship between God and man.

You are taking me into deep waters, to the edge of holy mysteries. This is what I want. Men have debated the balance, or relationship, between God's sovereign work in salvation and man's responsibility in salvation, from long before the church split, either in 1054 or at the Reformation - going back at least to Augustine , then on via Gottschalk to Calvin, through Arminius and the Remonstrants and of course Wesley, and to the resurgence of Calvinism in England from the mid-20th century.

I found most helpful a comment attributed to Charles Simeon (1759-1836), an Anglican minister, fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and minister at Holy Trinity Church in the same city. He said that the truth does not lie part-way between the two extremes, but in both extremes. That our salvation is all of God seems plainly taught in scripture; and that man is responsible for his own response and hence for his final destiny, seems also plainly taught. I shall read on the theme you suggest with interest and with hope for intellectual and spiritual food.

One problem is that Orthodoxy is so sparsely represented here in Britain that nearly all books are imported from America. Unlike in America, books here are already expensive items; imported ones even more so. Any suggestions?
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« Reply #24 on: November 02, 2008, 06:09:29 PM »

I'm afraid that I can't think of a book that examines this subject exhaustively, though fwiw I've found the following two books helpful when it comes to understanding salvation in the Orthodox context: How Are We Saved?: The Understanding of Salvation in the Orthodox Tradition, by Met. Kallistos (Ware); and Life in Christ, by Nicholas Cabasilas.
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« Reply #25 on: November 03, 2008, 11:35:58 AM »

2. On the basis that it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgement: the dead are either with Christ (in which case they do not need our prayers), ...

Uhh, are you intending to say that the English Baptist believe the living are not "with Christ" and therefore they alone are in need of our prayers?  Also, are you saying that English Baptist do not believe in a Last Judgment or that they believe that Last Judgment takes place immediately (within the relativity of time and space) upon ones death?

How then would you understand these words: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."

If our judgment is final upon the moment of the death of the body, how then can we be judged for the fruit of our Life's works, of which for some are not yet manifested or come to full fruition sometimes for many generations, i.e., the works of Origen.  Or consider that many contemporary Orthodox Christians often quote St. Seraphim of Sarov's words about 'Save yourself and you will save a thousand around you.'  St. Seraphim's life and works are still producing fruit by the bushel full to this day by having himself becoming a grain of wheat for the salvation of souls.  And did not our Lord compare the Kingdom of Heaven to a field in which is sown wheat and tares each producing its own fruit which will not be judged or separated until the time of harvest is fully come.

I cannot concede to the oft argued position that prayers for those who have died in Christ is not Scriptural or 'not found in the Scriptures'.  As often is the case, some matters are only known when one begins asking the correct questions or begininning with the right beginning.  St. Peter the Apostle said some men's works go before them and some after them.

By praying for those who have reposed we are asking that the Lord of the Harvest would grant that their lives bear fruit, each according to its kind and that that fruit would be for some ten fold, fifty fold or hundred fold.  By praying for those who have reposed we are beseeching the Lord of the Harvest as co-labours in His field and for His Storehouses to be full of every kind of good grain both (both winter and spring in which there are also many kinds of wheat and there are some kinds which are no longer available to our generation since they have gone into extinction). 

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« Reply #26 on: November 03, 2008, 12:24:56 PM »

2. On the basis that it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgement: the dead are either with Christ (in which case they do not need our prayers), ...

Uhh, are you intending to say that the English Baptist believe the living are not "with Christ" and therefore they alone are in need of our prayers?  Also, are you saying that English Baptist do not believe in a Last Judgment or that they believe that Last Judgment takes place immediately (within the relativity of time and space) upon ones death?

How then would you understand these words: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."

If our judgment is final upon the moment of the death of the body, how then can we be judged for the fruit of our Life's works, of which for some are not yet manifested or come to full fruition sometimes for many generations, i.e., the works of Origen.  Or consider that many contemporary Orthodox Christians often quote St. Seraphim of Sarov's words about 'Save yourself and you will save a thousand around you.'  St. Seraphim's life and works are still producing fruit by the bushel full to this day by having himself becoming a grain of wheat for the salvation of souls.  And did not our Lord compare the Kingdom of Heaven to a field in which is sown wheat and tares each producing its own fruit which will not be judged or separated until the time of harvest is fully come.

I cannot concede to the oft argued position that prayers for those who have died in Christ is not Scriptural or 'not found in the Scriptures'.  As often is the case, some matters are only known when one begins asking the correct questions or begininning with the right beginning.  St. Peter the Apostle said some men's works go before them and some after them.

By praying for those who have reposed we are asking that the Lord of the Harvest would grant that their lives bear fruit, each according to its kind and that that fruit would be for some ten fold, fifty fold or hundred fold.  By praying for those who have reposed we are beseeching the Lord of the Harvest as co-labours in His field and for His Storehouses to be full of every kind of good grain both (both winter and spring in which there are also many kinds of wheat and there are some kinds which are no longer available to our generation since they have gone into extinction). 



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« Reply #27 on: November 03, 2008, 12:43:50 PM »

Seconded.
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« Reply #28 on: November 03, 2008, 03:31:34 PM »

David,

May I suggest some kind of analysis of Galatians 2:16-20? I think that's where not only Protestantism, but the Western Christianity in general departs from the traditional Orthodox theology. The West looks at this fragment of Scripture as the "Pauline theology of justification by faith." The East (Orthodoxy), on the other hand, posits that it is just a sad result of an inadequate translation of the Greek word δικαιουται into the Latin "iustificavit" ("justified," while the actual Greek word δικαιουται means "made better, made more righteous" etc. - i.e. improved). In other words, the Eastern Fathers did not even presume that man needs any "justification" - instead, they thought about δικαιουται as a lifelong process of change, "theosis." The West, based on the entirely different meaning conveyed by the term "iustificavit" and "iustificatio," developed the theology of man being killed by the original sin and in need of some sort of instant "forensic" justification the moment he declares that he "accepted Christ as Lord and Savior."

I don't know how interesting this would be to a Baptist; maybe a Calvinist (Presbyterian) would find this more at odds with his deep theological concept. Still, I thought I'd just mention and let you be the judge of how interesting that would be to you.

Best wishes,

George 
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« Reply #29 on: November 03, 2008, 05:50:26 PM »

are you intending to say that the English Baptist believe the living are not "with Christ" and therefore they alone are in need of our prayers?  Also, are you saying that English Baptist do not believe in a Last Judgment or that they believe that Last Judgment takes place immediately (within the relativity of time and space) upon ones death?


No - none of this. I meant "with Christ" in the sense that the Apostle yearned to depart and be "with Christ, which is far better", i.e. following his physical death.

In this world certainly we stand in much need of the prayers of others. Not once we are "with Christ" in that sense - in heaven, awaiting the glorious resurrection.

Yes, we believe in the Last Judgement as part of the eschaton, the last events connected with the return of Christ in glory at the end of the age as Judge of the living and the dead. Upon physical death the soul departs to be with Christ, the body lies in the ground (or wherever) awaiting the resurrection. The souls of the lost likewise depart to Hades (or Hell - however one translates it) there to await their resurrection and their judgement in the body for the deeds done in the body in this life.

As to prayers for the dead, there is a thread on this, and maybe correspondence about it ought to be transferred to that thread? This is not to cut it off if people want it, only to put it in its allotted thread. I shall keep an eye on that thread for new postings.
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« Reply #30 on: November 04, 2008, 06:16:11 AM »

"Pauline theology of justification by faith." The East (Orthodoxy)...thought about δικαιουται as a lifelong process of change, "theosis." The West...of instant "forensic" justification the moment he declares that he "accepted Christ as Lord and Savior."

I have to make a confession here. I have never quite accepted the traditional Protestant teaching on justification. That justification is instantaneous and is by faith alone (by God’s grace) I do of course believe, otherwise I would be a fraud to pose as a Protestant on this forum. But traditionally Protestantism sees justification as the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner; which the Orthodox see as God creating a fiction, God ‘pretending’ a sinner is a saint, so to speak. It seems to me that the Bible’s teaching centres on the fact that Abraham “believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness”. I see this as God accepting his (and our) faith, not as God imputing Christ’s works to us.

Put it like this: it is horrible to be doubted when you know you are honest; but if someone believes you when appearances are against it, then it moves and wins your heart. It MEANS something to God that we believe his gospel: he counts that trust as righteousness.  This happens the moment a sinner truly repents and believes.

I have comfort from some words of Leon Morris in his "The apostolic Preaching of the Cross" – a respected Evangelical theologian. On page 282 he writes: "Paul... never says in so many words that the righteousness of Christ was imputed to believers, and it may be fairly doubted whether he had this in mind in his treatment of justification." So at least I am not alone in my deviation from the traditional view.

But what is justification? We see it not as a change of character or nature, but as a change of status or standing: the believer is no longer counted guilty, he is no longer condemned, his sins are forgotten, removed as far as the east is from the west (as the psalmist puts it). That change of status takes place instantaneously, upon true belief. He is granted a right standing before God.

Now, none of this strange doctrine you Americans have regrettably come across so often, that it does not matter thereafter how a person lives: that his prayer or one-off profession of faith saves him. You never hear that in England. If that faith is true Christian faith, energised within him by the Holy Spirit (as all true faith is), then his life will change, and he will be sanctified, God changing him day by day, and decade by decade, to become more Christlike.

I believe it was not till the Reformation that justification was understood as being COUNTED righteousness; before that I believe it was, as you indeed say, interpreted as being MADE righteous. But we are not so far from you: we teach that if a man's faith is real he will have both justification (instantaneous) and sanctification (gradual, life-long), but we distinguish between them. If I understand you aright, you say that say if a man’s Christianity is real, he will have both a right standing with God and theosis (gradual, lifelong). We both require both: but I think Protestants are correct in differentiating between them theologically. They are different things, but one always accompanies the other.



 

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« Reply #31 on: November 04, 2008, 08:29:27 AM »


When you say Orthodox theology presents knowledge about everything that can be known, you are approaching a difference between us and you, one where I find your approach more attractive than ours. Evangelicals, particularly of the "Reformed" (Calvinist) variety, love to have every question answered, no biblical passages not fitting in neatly with every other, a hermetically sealed comprehensive, tidy system to which nothing need be added, and nothing taken away. It is, I suspect, the legacy of mediæval scholasticism. Your Church (if I understand aright) allows space for mystery, and that is attractive and (I believe) more proper. You say you present knowledge about "everything that can be known", but you seem to have a healthier attitude to that which cannot. I believe it is an aspect of apophatic theology.


Perhaps you might like to make reference to how the Orthodox Church understands the two different genealogies given for Christ in the Gospels.

From St John of Damascus' "Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith"
BOOK IV CHAPTER XIV

Quote
One ought also to observe this, that the law was that when a man died without seed, this man's brother should take to wife the wife of the dead man and raise up seed to his brother. The offspring, therefore, belonged by nature to the second, that is, to him that begat it, but by law to the dead.

Born then of the line of Nathan, the son of David, Levi begat Melchi and Panther: Panther begat Barpanther, so called. This Barpanther begat Joachim: Joachim begat the holy Mother of God. And of the line of Solomon, the son of David, Mathan had a wife of whom he begat Jacob. Now on the death of Mathan, Melchi, of the tribe of Nathan, the son of Levi and brother of Panther, married the wife of Mathan, Jacob's mother, of whom he begat Heli. Therefore Jacob and Hell became brothers on the mother's side, Jacob being of the tribe of Solomon and Heli of the tribe of Nathan. Then Heli of the tribe of Nathan died childless, and Jacob his brother, of the tribe of Solomon, took his wife and raised up seed to his brother and begat Joseph. Joseph, therefore, is by nature the son of Jacob, of the line of Solomon, but by law he is the son of Hell of the line of Nathan.

Note how this also allows Joseph, a descendant of David through Solomon and Jeconiah, to avoid the curse laid on Jeconiah in Jeremiah 22:24-30

       30 Thus says the LORD:

      ‘ Write this man down as childless,
      A man who shall not prosper in his days;
      For none of his descendants shall prosper,
      Sitting on the throne of David,
      And ruling anymore in Judah.’”

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« Reply #32 on: November 04, 2008, 08:37:43 AM »

I have comfort from some words of Leon Morris in his "The apostolic Preaching of the Cross" – a respected Evangelical theologian. On page 282 he writes: "Paul... never says in so many words that the righteousness of Christ was imputed to believers, and it may be fairly doubted whether he had this in mind in his treatment of justification." So at least I am not alone in my deviation from the traditional view.

You are certainly not alone. Actually, correct me if I am wrong, but this whole "imputation" theology was not quite developed until Calvin.

But what is justification? We see it not as a change of character or nature, but as a change of status or standing: the believer is no longer counted guilty, he is no longer condemned, his sins are forgotten, removed as far as the east is from the west (as the psalmist puts it). That change of status takes place instantaneously, upon true belief. He is granted a right standing before God.

That's exactly, as far as I understand, where the West differs from the East (from us). The West follows St. (Bl.) Augustine, viewing all humans as guilty in the original sin, no matter what these humans do or not do. Something must be done to change this status of being guilty into a status of not being guilty - otherwise, because God is "just," the guilty is condemned to eternal fires of hell. There is no such concept in the Orthodox theology, AFAIK. A human being, when he/she is conceived and grows as an embrio and then as a born and maturing individual, somehow inherits the DAMAGE done to the human nature by the sin of Adam and Eve. However, he/she is not "guilty" in the sin that he/she did not commit. Hence, there is no need in any "change of status." We aren't condemned simply for being born into this world. We are still the image and liking of God, and His beloved children, whom He never "condemned."

Also, according to our theology, AFAIK, nothing is "granted instantaneously." Once we are born, we, having this damage in our nature, inevitably sin. Each and every committed sin separates us from God, making the gap between us and Him wider and wider. Unless *WE work extremely hard on changing of our way of living, work on that every single day and hour and minute, no "instantaneous change of status" happens and we do not enter the Kingdom of God - not because He doesn't want us to enter, but because we make ourselves unable to enter. Hence, theosis, the gradual, continuous work of a human being on the change of his/her entire life, is our first and most important belief and priority.





 


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« Reply #33 on: November 04, 2008, 09:28:46 AM »

FROM PRODROMOS: you might like to make reference to how the Orthodox Church understands the two different genealogies given for Christ in the Gospels.

I shall - but it looks incredibly complicated! I shall reduce it to a chart and see how the lines diverge and converge. It is something I have never read of before, but I have often puzzled over the two genealogies, though without close study. Thank you.
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« Reply #34 on: November 04, 2008, 09:48:08 AM »

as far as I understand, where the West differs from the East (from us). The West follows St. (Bl.) Augustine, viewing all humans as guilty in the original sin, no matter what these humans do or not do. Something must be done to change this status of being guilty into a status of not being guilty - otherwise, because God is "just," the guilty is condemned to eternal fires of hell.

Yes, you are right. It is because Augustine used an Old Latin version of the New Testament, not the original Greek. In the Old Latin, Romans 5.12 says "in quo omnes peccaverunt" (in whom all men sinned), and it led to this strange doctrine that we all sinned in Adam and are born with the guilt of that sin. I do not read New Testament Greek, but modern translations, including Demotic Greek, have nothing like this, but have "because all men sinned". So technically, in the theological tomes, Augustine's view holds: but one never hears it preached except on rare occasions by the strictest Augustinians, and I very much doubt then if anyone understands them or believes them if they do.

What is REALLY believed is that we inherit Adam's NATURE, and we sin ourselves, thereby becoming guilty before God. "All have sinned," it says elsewhere in Romans, and in many places. So what is preached and believed in practice is that the change of status (standing) - i.e. instantaneous justification by faith - is required for our own personally committed sin. Adam doesn't come into the picture, except as the origin of our fallen nature.

Charles Wesley (and it is often written in books that Wesleyan theology is closer to Orthodox than most Protestants'), the poet, had stern words in his long poem on "The horrible Decree" (which begins "Ah! gentle, gracious Dove"). Referring to those who teach that newborn infants are consigned to the fires of hell, he wrote:

They think with shrieks and cries
To please the Lord of Hosts,
And offer thee in sacrifice
Millions of slaughtered ghosts:
With new-born babes they fill
The dire infernal Shade,
"For such," they say, "was they Great Will
Before the world was made."

Strong stuff! I was converted through reading Charles Wesley.
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« Reply #35 on: November 04, 2008, 10:50:28 AM »

^It's good to know that you aren't a Calvinist/Augustinian in your position on justification. Before I re-discovered Orthodoxy and was chrismated in 2007, I was for a short time affiliated to a Presbyterian congregation, so I did some studies of the Calvinist take on soteriology and was even impressed, for a time, by Calvin's logic and power of persuasion. However, then I found out that there is really no patristic support of Calvin, except Augustine, and even Augustine's support of what later became the Calvinist theology was based on an inadequate Latin translation. Also, it struck me that the members of my own allegedly Presbyterian congregation, including even elders, did not really know what the teaching of Calvin was, and when they heard about it from me - a total novice, newcomer who just sincerely read some books! - their unanimous reaction was, "O my God, that's not even Christian." Smiley  One woman-elder (PC-USA ordains women) said, "you know, the more I learn about Calvin, the more I think that I am actually a Methodist."  Grin

I thought, however, that Baptist theology is closer to Calvin's than to Wesley's - am I wrong?
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« Reply #36 on: November 04, 2008, 11:29:34 AM »


I thought, however, that Baptist theology is closer to Calvin's than to Wesley's - am I wrong?

English Baptists began in two places and at slightly different dates. The first were English exiles in the Netherlands who believed the teaching of Arminius that Christ died for all men generally, and so were called General Baptists. About twenty years laters (1630s) a second grouping arose actually in England, who believed the teaching of Calvin, that Christ died only for the elect in particular, and were called Particular Baptists. Both streams developed separately, the Particular Baptists being much stronger numerically, till about the 1770s when most General Baptists slid away from Christianity altogether and apostatised into Unitarianism, denying the Trinity. Some remained though. By about the 1880s theological differences had softened, and most joined up to form what is today's "Baptist Union", to which (I believe) about three-quarters of English Baptist churches belong. Some outside the Union retain the title Particular Baptist, but its meaning is now understood only by people who know about history, though they still hold particular redemption.

So there's a rather long and rambling half-answer to your question. General Baptists and Methodists both hold the teaching of Arminius on the extent of the Atonement, that Christ died for all. I have heard that most American Baptist are Arminian (general redemption).

If I may say so, your previous post (on justification) is so good that it ought to go on to the "Why do Protestants reject Orthodoxy?" thread as well as staying on this one, because it goes right to the innermost heart of the matter. It is said there was once a little girl who learned her twelve-times tables, and proudly recited them to her grandfather, from 1x1=1 all the way to 12x12=144. Granddad paused and then asked, "What is 13x13?" After a few moments puzzled reflection, the girl replied, "Don't be silly, Grandad. There's no such thing!" The idea of a multiplication beyond the ones she had learned was incomprehensibly outside her world. Likewise, the idea of a personal faith which does not begin with an instantaneous new birth, or conversion, is beyond anything we can conceive - though we know that a minority of real Christians cannot pinpoint the moment of their conversion: they know they believe, but they cannot remember a time when they didn't. Faith came as a gradually dawning consciousness of belief. But nonetheless, there was a moment, known only to God, when that sipiritual new birth quietly took place:

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given,
When God imparts to human hearts
The wonders of his heaven!
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek  souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

Maybe to cradle Orthodox, our belief in (and, in the main, experience of) a moment of conversion - which, I emphasise, must be followed by a life of growth in Christ - is as odd and inconceivable as theirs is to us. To us, yours SOUNDS like working for your own salvation, to earn it, but I know from many posts on this forum that you do not see it like that at all. It is probably true that we disagree; but it is probably more true that we don't even begin to understand the other's concepts enough to really even disagree with them. What do you think?
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« Reply #37 on: November 04, 2008, 12:47:07 PM »

Maybe to cradle Orthodox, our belief in (and, in the main, experience of) a moment of conversion - which, I emphasise, must be followed by a life of growth in Christ - is as odd and inconceivable as theirs is to us. To us, yours SOUNDS like working for your own salvation, to earn it, but I know from many posts on this forum that you do not see it like that at all. It is probably true that we disagree; but it is probably more true that we don't even begin to understand the other's concepts enough to really even disagree with them. What do you think?

David, yes, perhaps you are right, we might be in the position of that little girl you mentioned, the one who criticized her dad for asking "silly" question, what's 13x13. And I, for one, actually CAN identify something that Protestants would perhaps call the moment of conversion, the "aha!" experience. It was in the end of March 1996, when my father committed suicide shortly after seeing me for the last time, and listening to me passionately argue with my mother about some stupid political issues, which were not at all worth arguing about. Before that moment, I kind of "flirted" with Christianity, thinking that Christ was certainly a great moral teacher, but all this nonsense about being a "sinner" - oh no, that does not apply to me. My dad's sudden tragic death was a turning point - I very sharply realized that I was, actually, sinning greatly and not even noticing it. I understood that I was guilty in saddening my dad so that it pushed him to his fatal decision; and, more generally, I understood that I was, and am, sinning all the time, and need repentance and salvation. So, there really WAS a particular moment in my life that separates the "before" and the "after," the life of unbelief and the life of a (still rather weak) belief.

As for "works," I know that very many, perhaps most, Protestants shudder when they hear that the Orthodox view their salvation as depending on how regularly they pray and fast and bow and prostrate and kiss icons, etc. I think it's a misunderstanding. Some prominent modern Orthodox theologians were very sarcastic about this, particularly Fr. Alexander Schmemann ridiculed what he called a "numerical theology." We most definitely do not earn "points" from God for doing certain things. Our "works" are not the price that we pay to God so that He would save us in exchange for them. Rather, we "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" because these works change us and make us better in the "cooperation" with God's grace, in the "synergy" between us and Him. As for the salvation per se, I think we do not differ from you Protestants in that we, too, understand that salvation of the humankind and of the whole Universe by Christ is God's free gift, the expression of His very nature, His love.
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« Reply #38 on: November 05, 2008, 06:05:49 AM »



If our judgment is final upon the moment of the death of the body, how then can we be judged for the fruit of our Life's works, of which for some are not yet manifested or come to full fruition sometimes for many generations, i.e., the works of Origen. 
By praying for those who have reposed we are asking that the Lord of the Harvest would grant that their lives bear fruit, each according to its kind and that that fruit would be for some ten fold, fifty fold or hundred fold. 


I've put a few comments on these observations on the thread about prayers for the dead, whither (I suggest) any further discussion of the theme should be transferred.
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David Young
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« Reply #39 on: November 05, 2008, 12:37:59 PM »

I SHALL BE IN ALBANIA AND NOT POSTING FOR A WHILE, but please keep your ideas flowing for after my return.

So far (if I understand aright) you have pointed me in these directions:

-   knowledge and apophasis, especially Maximos “On Knowledge”
-   justification, sanctification, theosis, glorification, with an article from “Christianity Today”
-   synergy: God and man in salvation
-   early Christian saints and martyrs
-   the two genealogies of Christ.

Many thanks, and I hope for your posts when I return.

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"But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another." Galatians 5.15
David Young
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« Reply #40 on: November 17, 2008, 09:02:11 AM »

ICON QUESTION

I have an icon on my wall. (Tell it not in Gath!) It was bought in Chania, Crete, and is certificated as “hand-made in the old traditional manner of Byzantine art… painted with egg, tempera and gold on canvas and old wood”. It shows o deipnos o mystikos, the Last Supper, and hangs on the wall in the room where I pray and read scripture each morning.

I chose it because it reminds me of warm times of fellowship with other believers at the Lord’s Supper, and of our anticipated fellowship with Christ and each other at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. But I do not understand all of it, for one day I suddenly noticed that it does not show only our Lord and the Twelve around the table, but Jesus, 12 disciples, two little servers bringing food, and an extra bearded man standing at the door as if he is just entering.

Can anyone tell me who this 13th man is? I asked two Orthodox priests, and neither knew. One suggested Judas (which cannot be right, surely, as he was one of the twelve at table), the other suggested the landlord who owned the house where the room was. But I am not aware of any spiritual significance attaching to the landlord. A friend suggested Matthias; I wondered whether it might be the Apostle Paul. The last two guesses, of course, require that the man be symbolic – which I understand to be entirely consonant with iconography.

Can anyone solve the mystery?
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"But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another." Galatians 5.15
FrChris
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Holy Father Patrick, thank you for your help!


« Reply #41 on: November 17, 2008, 11:09:27 AM »

Can you post a photo, or a link to a similar icon?

I have some theories, but I'd like to see the icon.

Thanks!
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"As the sparrow flees from a hawk, so the man seeking humility flees from an argument". St John Climacus
David Young
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« Reply #42 on: November 17, 2008, 11:23:01 AM »

Not sure if this will work, but here goes...

There is some distortion (a keystone effect) because if I point the camera directly at the surface, the flash reflects too strongly.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2008, 11:24:49 AM by David Young » Logged

"But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another." Galatians 5.15
ytterbiumanalyst
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« Reply #43 on: November 17, 2008, 07:34:40 PM »

It's hard to tell from that angle. It's possible that it's either St. Paul:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mirmiru/2391544837/

or St. Matthias:

http://www.stmatthias-dallas.org/objects/Home_Icon.jpg

The theology of the icon would allow for them to be depicted as such.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2008, 07:35:18 PM by ytterbiumanalyst » Logged

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« Reply #44 on: November 17, 2008, 10:06:55 PM »

I sent it to an iconographer friend of mine (former choir director).  She says:

1) It is NOT old Byzantine - there are many romantic elements in the icon.  Furthermore, the first link googling "crete iconography" brings up this, which confirms what she says:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretan_School
I have to say though, with what little I know of iconography, due to having an icon/music snob of a priest (and master composer) with a world-class iconographer Matushka, I didn't think the icon shown looked all that "old Byzantine" either....but I can't really describe why.  I don't know much about art and am not artistic (possibly somewhat in a musical sense, but that is it).

2) She says either Matthias or the master of the house, but she wasn't sure and to maybe just look up scripture.  Looking at Matthew and Mark, they both mention Christ sending out two disciples to prepare the passover, and finding a master of house with the passover prepared with a large upper room.  I think it was Mark that mentioned him holding a pitcher of water, but I can't tell if he is holding anything.  ISTM that it is the master of the house and his two kids in the foreground.
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