What we were asking you to prove was that the ritualism itself is what carries the elevated risk of causing this. ...Where did this come from? ... Ritualism is just one way that we can remain unsaved... you just think it's MORE risky... again without any kind of proof,
1) Where did it come from?
Everyone says it: that is, everyone on my side of the fence. That is the starting point of where the impression comes from. I am answering the question, not justifying the answer.
Well... that is an answer... You realize that this answer displays a surprisingly shocking lack of thinking for oneself on your side of the fence? Maybe someone should give some thought and research to it before continuing to spew it to others (I don't mean you, I mean those who don't bother to look into it and just repeat it).
2) Ritualism is just one way that we can remain unsaved
Then we agree that the risk is there.
Oh for heaven's sake...
I'm not agreeing to this in the way you want me to agree. As I said, of course there is a risk, but no more so than there is in Evangelicalism. In fact, I'd say less risk than in Evangelicalism. In the Evangelical Churches, you don't really have to do anything in Church. You come, listen, sing, raise your hands maybe (yes, pray, obviously--- I'm not saying any of this to be demeaning, I'm trying to make a point). Orthodox worship involves ALL FIVE senses in an extremely intense way--- we hear the music and the liturgy (and sing along), we smell the incense, we touch the icons (venerating them and the priest's hand-- the living icon), we receive Holy Communion (touch and taste), we see the icons, Church, Liturgy, etc. You get the idea. This is specifically so that we DON'T just go through the motions. It is difficult to be confronted, so to speak, in all sensory areas of our physical being, and NOT participate. We worship Christ with our bodies, not just our souls. We use the matter that He created and sanctified TO HIS GLORY, as He intended. We HAVE to participate. The Liturgy (litourgia) is the "work of the people." If we don't participate, it doesn't happen. It's not dependent on one person doing everything (the preacher in your case, or the choir) with everyone else just paying attention and singing along. No. Liturgy is WORK. It's HARD WORK. Most of us spend our Sunday afternoons taking our PLN (post liturgical nap-- an extremely common term here in the US, because it is well known that we are all tired after Liturgy from doing battle), in fact, because it IS such hard work!!! How hard do you work in your worship, as a layperson? I find it far more risky to fall away in a worship service where I don't have to do anything.
Entire books have been written about how to participate in an Orthodox Liturgy. My favorite is "Living the Liturgy" by Father Stanley Harakas. You should read it. You might find it quite enlightening and enriching, to see what depth of worship there is in the Liturgy, unmatched in any other worship service in any faith in all the world.
3) any kind of proof
I doubt it is susceptible to proof in the sense of objective statistics. I think it could be argued that - if Christ is to be obscured - on balance Orthodoxy carries a greater risk of this happening by means of ritualism than Evangelicalism does.
I'm not asking for statistics, David. You gave what you felt were two anecdotal answers to the question (from Albania). I presume you thought these two stories would answer the question. In fact, they did not. All they were were uneducated, biased descriptions of that ritualism. But they did not actually answer the question. What Handmaiden and I are saying is HOW do those services portray the risk? The mere presence of ritual is not a risk!!!! You'll have to show me how
those particular rituals that you gave as examples are risky. Up to now you have not done this.
4) So why do we Evangelicals think ritualism is a risk which is greater in Orthodoxy than it is in Evangelicalism?
You are, I think, leading us more deeply in theology than I have penetrated, and I shan't really believe my own answers. They are ideas for us to mull over. The question of why people are not saved is one I cannot answer. Some say it is simply because they are not among the elect. Even if you put them under the hebdomadal preaching of Billy Graham, John Wesley, John Chrysostom and the Apostle Paul in rotation, they would not respond. I am not saying I believe that, but it is an answer which many give.
I think the only answer you have been able to give to this question is, "because there is MORE ritualism in Orthodoxy, thus more risk." But as I said, the mere presence of ritualism is not a risk. You have to prove how OUR ritualism, as opposed to YOURS (which I'm sure you will admit that you have-- the refusal of ritualism in itself IS a ritual) is OBSCURING CHRIST. This is what you asserted, this is what you must prove. Not why some are saved and others aren't. HOW DO OUR RITUALS OBSCURE CHRIST? This is not a quantity question (who, or how many), this is a quality question (HOW do OUR rituals...). Am I maybe being clearer than I was before?
But certainly your question penetrates to the matter of the effect of original sin. Has man's free will in regard to salvation been totally obliterated (the doctrine of 'total depravity') or does man retain the ability in his human nature to respond to the Gospel? I know the Orthodox answer, and I know the Augustinian answer.
To be honest, I'm a little lost with this line of thinking. I don't see how original sin relates to ritualism obscuring Christ, so I will ask you to, for the moment, put it aside and stick to the current question. Maybe another thread would be the place for discussion of original sin.
I am not rambling off the point, or "side-stepping" as you sometimes feel I do.
LOL, it does kind of feel like that's what's happening here!
The question of why any person in a Baptist or Orthodox church remains unconverted draws its answer at least partly from one's view of the effect of the Fall.
Again, I think we can leave this question to another thread for the moment so that we may answer what we have been discussing and move on to this later...
But if, for the sake of argument, we concede the Orthodox / Arminian position, that man does retain the ability to respond to the Gospel, we are faced with a different set of questions: Why do some people desire to find God and others don't? And what aspects of the different forms of Christianity hinder that finding in those various forms? (Allowing, please, for a moment that there are different forms.) And to what extent does the attractiveness and clarity of the church's presentation of Christ play a part in that person's desiring to find Him, and actually finding Him?
Okay, this question is a tad closer. See below.
Our Lord's parable tells us that there are things which spring up and choke the progress of the Word in our lives. Can religious ritual be one of them? If person A sees person B praying to the saints, kissing icons, using a dead or generally unknown language in ritual, being united with Christ by eating his body and drinking his blood, can person A be deflected from Christ into observing only these outer practices? I say that he can: I do not say that you have - indeed, your writings make me more assured of your salvation than you are yourself! But I am saying (a) that that risk does exist; and (b) that it is a stronger presence in your sumptuous liturgies than it is in our plain, minimalist churches.
But we do NOT make the Gospel relevant... I say this because that is exactly what the Divine Liturgy is... It is the GOSPEL IN ACTION (in both the literal and spiritual sense). WE do not make the GOSPEL relevant. The Gospel is inherently relevant. It is ALWAYS relevant, in all times and all places. If it is preached earnestly, reverently, with zeal of faith and with love, then indeed, it will be welcomed into the hearts of the people. This is where the sermon comes in, as far as our worship services. That is why the Liturgy is structured the way that it is. The first half is the instructive part-- with the Epistle, Gospel, and Sermon. This goes a little bit to discussion of the purpose of the ritual, the purpose of the Liturgy. Instruction is only ONE part. And if the person who walked in off the street comes in to see communion and doesn't understand what's happening, then, frankly, they should have arrived earlier, at the beginning of the Liturgy. We're not going to rewind, or stop and explain, because the person was late. They should have gotten there on time (and this goes for Orthodox, too, as we all know punctuality is not something that is stressed in many Orthodox cultures).
Our responsibility is really to DEMONSTRATE the Gospel, which is EXACTLY what we do in the Divine Liturgy and in our daily lives-- and in a myriad of ways. Our worship is only part of how we do it. You cannot judge Orthodoxy based on one little thing taken out of context. You must look at the whole. The whole of the Liturgy, the whole of the lifestyle, the whole of belief. A person walking in off the streets into an Evangelical service can be just as confused as you say one walking into an Orthodox service can. The key is, what do they do about it? THIS is the question we cannot answer. That is up to each individual, which is why I will say:
Our responsibility is NOT to spoon-feed it to the people. They must, have you have stressed so many times before, grab hold of it and believe themselves.
That is partly why so many Evangelicals begin by assuming (and continue to assume) that probably virtually no Orthodox are saved at all!
You know what happens when we assume...
They have not joined this Net; they have not read your writers. But the ritual they see, and their lack of contact with believing Orthodox, plays a large part in sustaining their impressions.
There's nothing we can do about that. We are not going to change our worship because some people out there may get the wrong impression. This is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Now I did write on one thread that the fault does not lie all on our side for our misconceptions, for it can be extremely difficult to get Orthodox people to respond to approaches from us, and so we do not get the opportunity we need to revise our perceptions. I listed some of the rebuffs I have had - but you only need to read Peter Gillquist to believe me. The Orthodox habit of saying that we are not Christians does drive us to the idea that Orthodox do not understand what a Christian is. What happens on this Net needs to happen much more widely, and in many other ways, especially in personal face to face contact. But I have also written that before.
Yes, you have, and this is a discussion for a different thread entirely. All that I will write here is that it goes both ways. Did it ever occur to you that we don't go seeking out others to talk about our faith because, nine times out of ten it is met with nothing more than "you're going to hell!" Why would we want to enter into dialogue that is, not, in fact, diologue, but rather a monologue of us saying what we believe and others, out of lack of knowledge and pure stubbornness and pride, refusing to hear it!?! And, in our experience, nine out of ten approaches from your side of the fence have been for the purposes of judging and converting us! Why would we want to expose ourselves to that? We're happy where we are. And we do the most important thing-- more important than approaching Protestants (which I still think is a completely ludicrous idea, no offense)-- we PRAY FOR THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH. This is the single, most important, most powerful thing we can do. Do YOU all pray for unity of the church on your side? Probably not, since you seem to have the (albeit mistaken) idea that the Church is unified. Again, a topic for another thread. Oh, wait, that is this thread, isn't it?
I actually forgot, we've gone so far from the original post.
I want to say one other thing. If a person falls into ritualism, where they are going through the motions and not worshipping with their heart, this is a personal problem unique to them. The misuse or abuse of the Liturgy by an individual believer does not mean that the Liturgy itself is inherently bad. This is what you have asserted, however. That the ritual itself of the Liturgy is bad. This is what you must prove. To throw out the Liturgy (the thought of which makes me devastatingly sad) would be a PERFECT example of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, which many Orthodox will tell you is exactly what Protestantism did. It was a knee-jerk reaction to the problems in the Catholic Church (which were ABUSES), and became more extreme and more extreme and more extreme as time went (I think Luther would be appalled at some Protestant practices and beliefs-- like the refusal to accept the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which he himself believed). It totally threw out the baby with the bathwater.