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Author Topic: Is there grace outside the Orthodox Church?  (Read 3268 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: April 19, 2009, 04:34:02 PM »

Dear Friends

There are some people (especially among the recent converts) in Latin America who have stated that there is no grace at all outside the Orthodox Church and that the other Churches, even those that preserved apparent mysteries are heretical, without grace and houses of damnation (to them there is no difference between a Copt or a Latin Christian and a Jehovah's Witness). They believe this to be infalible.

I sustain that this is the official position of the Old Calendarists but it is not the official position of the Orthodox Churches and that it's not their business to criticize and attack the official hierarchies because of this reason.

It's my understanding that in fact the Church does not have any "infalible" pronnouncement regarding the existance of grace in the mysteries of other Churches and that there are opinions in favour and other opinion against this idea, and that they cannot condemn others because of holding one opinion or another.

I always feel sad when I think of so many holy people who were raised in the Latin Church (that of the past) or the Coptic Church and when I attend their liturgies and see their beauty and devotion. I find hard to believe that the Lord would allow these people to remain without grace and be eternally damned.

I know that some theologians might agree with this, and teach that because of God's mercy, grace might exist in the mysteries of these Churches even though they separated and deviated from the faith because of their pride.

Is there bibliography about this? Or documents issued by official Churches about the mysteries of other Churches and the presence or lack of grace in them?

Thanks



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« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2009, 06:53:54 PM »

While your basic question is legitimate and certainly an interesting topic, I object to the way you have written your question, and don't believe you will get a good answer based on the way you asked it. Specifically:

1) The assumption that because one believes that there is no sacramental grace outside the visible Church, that they mean there is no distinction between all other peoples (Jehovah's Witnesses and Copts being on the same level in your example).

2) Creating a false dichotomy between "The Old Calendarists" and "The Orthodox" on this issue; do you imagine that the Old Calendarists made this position up since 1924? And that this view does not exist outside of Old Calendarist circles?

3) The assumption that people without sacramental grace are automatically damned in the strict position (i.e. not allowing for charismatic grace)

4) The lack of interest in what the Fathers wrote on the subject (such as St. Cyprian of Carthage).

5) The idea that there can be opinions and that one cannot say that one's opinion is right and another opinion is wrong in the "official" Church.

I believe that many of your questions are examined well by Patrick Barnes in his book "The Non-Orthodox" which received positive reviews by people in the so-called "Official" Church

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/non-orthodox.pdf

Keeping those points in mind, I think you might get a better response.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2009, 07:24:18 PM by Fr. Anastasios » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2009, 07:34:42 PM »

In a way I can concur with the Mexican's post. I have a feeling that as an EO I should subscribe to the notion that the heterodox are without grace but I'm feeling quite uncomfortable with it. I realise that some hold more ecumenistic views but as an overly zealous convert ( Roll Eyes ) I find more stricter views also more convincing. In a way I've built a dogmatic cage which even I find uncomfortable. Tongue
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« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2009, 08:00:37 PM »

My understanding of the issue is this. God saves; ONLY God saves, so no one particular human being and no one particular body of humans can claim the power to save. So, whatever concerns those outside of us (the Church), is God's discretion and we (the Church) cannot tell Him what to do. Yet, whatever is within us - the Church - we KNOW; we know that the Church is what is being saved, and as long as I stay with the Church, I am being saved (which does not automatically mean that I will stay with the Church - that requires my own work, effort, will, struggle, training, "askesis," etc.).

That's prolly about it. Best wishes to you and all yours on this Pascha Sunday,

--George
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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2009, 08:36:34 PM »

God extends His grace to whomever He wishes.  I think it's rather arrogant of us to dictate to whom God should be allowed to extend His grace. 
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« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2009, 10:16:01 PM »

I think Fr. Anastasios is making a distinction between sacramental grace and charismatic grace.  Sacramental grace is contained within the true Church, and of course we have different ideas as to what the true Church is.   Smiley  Charismatic grace, I think, is what you are talking about.  I seem to recall Fr. Anastasios explaining this before, but I can't remember where.  I'll try to look for it.
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« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2009, 10:19:23 PM »

Christ is Risen!

The Church does not say that there is no grace outside of herself.  Obviously there is or the world would stop spinning.  But she is, at best, dubious that the grace of the *Sacraments* exists outside herself.     

If you would like a patristic view of the loss of sacramental grace (Baptism and Ordination) in schismatic and heretical communities then please look at the words of Saint Basil the Great.  What he says is the typical Orthodox teaching given voice in the Councils and the Fathers.

Validity of Sacraments in the RC Tradition
Message #6
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,19186.msg292946.html#msg292946


There is also a very illuminating essage written by Irish Melkite - also well worth a look.

Why don't (Latin rite?) Catholics have a valid priesthood?
Message #20.
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13357.msg185268.html#msg185268



« Last Edit: April 19, 2009, 10:27:39 PM by Irish Hermit » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2009, 10:35:58 PM »

The original question doesn't really have an Orthodox answer because it's phrasing basically presupposes a Western view of Grace as an 'object', a thing which can exist or not exist under given circumstances. But Orthodox understand Grace to be the Divine Energies, the activity of God. There is *no* place that God's Energies do not exist (as Irish Hermit points out, created existence itself is contingent upon this Divine Omnipresence--to quote one of our most common prayers: "O Heavely King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, who are everywhere present and fillest all things...").

So, to answer part of what the OP seems to be trying to get at, God's Grace is everywhere at all times seeking the salvation of all (for God is not willing that any should perish). However, the ways in which this Grace works is not something given to us. It's not even really our business. Our business is to do what we can based on what has been revealed to us in the Church, to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling and to leave issues of Judgment to God.

OTOH, we can say that the Mysteries, which are specific vehicles of Grace, are limited to the Church. The Mysteries are given by God in and of the Church and exist only therein. What God chooses to do outside the Church (the classic example being the Good Thief) is His choice.
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« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2009, 11:42:13 PM »

^ Just to clarify, Catholics also believe that grace is God as well, not just an object. When the discussion concnering uncreated vs. created grace comes up, we use the terms differently in the East and in the West so that we often end up talking past eachother. If anyone would like to start a thread on this topic, I would be up for the conversation.
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« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2009, 12:45:23 AM »



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« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2009, 01:29:02 AM »

Tangent on whether Catholics really believe grace is created split off and moved to this thread in Orthodox-Catholic Discussion:  http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,20818.0.html

Irish Hermit, if someone invites you to start a new thread to discuss an off-topic subject, then do so if you want to discuss the subject.  Don't insist on derailing the existing thread as you just did.  This is not up for discussion here, so don't reply to this warning on this thread.
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« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2009, 01:41:04 AM »

OTOH, we can say that the Mysteries, which are specific vehicles of Grace, are limited to the Church.

Crist Aras!

You are spot on, dear Witega, yet we can understand why our position seems hurtful to Catholics, since the Catholic Church recognises the Churchness of the Orthodox, but again, dear Mexican, understand where the Orthodox are coming from. They are only sure by faith that Orthodoxy is the Church; giving sacraments to somebody outside that visible Church is unthinkable to them, and equally unthinkable is receiving them from someone outside the visible Church.
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« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2009, 11:38:20 AM »

Dear Fr. Anastasios

I understand that my question wasn't correctly posted and that I did not elaborate it correctly because of my inability to write correctly in English, as I've been learning other languages and my knowledge of English is no longer as good as it was.  Wink

I certainly know that the Old Calendar Churches are Orthodox Churches and that they hold the true Orthodox faith. However I am also aware that they appear to be more conservative in their understanding of these issues than other Churches.

I was also aware of the differences between the Augustinian approach of the Roman Church and the Cyprianic teaching as held by Orthodoxy.

However I have also investigated and learnt that the Roman Church in practice does not believe the consecrations and sacraments of "Independent Churches" and "episcopi vagantes" to be "valid". The RC would never receive an independent "Orthodox" or Duarte-Costaite, Thucist priest as a valid priest, they only recognize sacraments performed in recognized religious communities.

It isn't myself who says that those without "sacramental grace" (using western term) are damned but the people about whom I was talking about, and some have indeed said that the RC and the Armenians are as bad as the JW's. And what I criticize about them is their claim that they're more Orthodox than the Patriarchs and that all the others who do not share their views are "not truly Orthodox".
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« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2009, 11:46:49 AM »

OTOH, we can say that the Mysteries, which are specific vehicles of Grace, are limited to the Church.

Crist Aras!

You are spot on, dear Witega, yet we can understand why our position seems hurtful to Catholics, since the Catholic Church recognises the Churchness of the Orthodox, but again, dear Mexican, understand where the Orthodox are coming from. They are only sure by faith that Orthodoxy is the Church; giving sacraments to somebody outside that visible Church is unthinkable to them, and equally unthinkable is receiving them from someone outside the visible Church.

Its not hurtful to me at all. Its your theology and not mine so I have no reason to cry over what other Churches believe about mine. I am sure of what I believe and don't need the approval of other religions. I am sure you feel the same way about your faith.
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« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2009, 12:54:35 PM »

Crist Aras!

You are spot on, dear Witega, yet we can understand why our position seems hurtful to Catholics, since the Catholic Church recognises the Churchness of the Orthodox, but again, dear Mexican, understand where the Orthodox are coming from. They are only sure by faith that Orthodoxy is the Church; giving sacraments to somebody outside that visible Church is unthinkable to them, and equally unthinkable is receiving them from someone outside the visible Church.

Sothlice aras.

Actually, I understand that some Roman Catholics find it hurtful, but (as per Papist's post), I don't really understand why this is so. As an Orthodox Christian, believing the Orthodox Church has the fullness of Truth, I have no interest in participating in the sacraments/mysteries/practices of another community; and while I certainly wish that all individuals would come to recognize the Orthodox Church as I do myself, I'm not terribly concerned with what those who do not recognize that fullness think about specific portions of the Church (that is, if someone doesn't recognize the Orthodox Church as *the* Church, it seems they are already missing the main point, so I'm not concerned how they feel about more specific questions like what they think of Orthodox baptism or Orthodox orders, etc).

Therefore, presuming, as I do, that Roman Catholics (and Protestants and those further afield) believe the same thing about their own church, I don't know why they should care what the Orthodox position and practice on the Mysteries is.
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« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2009, 03:06:03 PM »

Dear Mexican,

I'm sorry if I sounded harsh; the written medium is not always capable of nuance.  I know that English is not your first language--however, don't let yourself be fooled in to thinking you are not proficient in it as you write English better than most people I know who are Spanish speaking natively (including ones I know here in the USA).

My only concern was that your main point would get ignored as people picked apart the question based on the way it was phrased.

In Christ,

Fr Anastasios
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« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2009, 03:31:39 PM »



Therefore, presuming, as I do, that Roman Catholics (and Protestants and those further afield) believe the same thing about their own church, I don't know why they should care what the Orthodox position and practice on the Mysteries is.
Well, I care in the sense that I care about truth. But (and I do not mean this as an insult at all) I don't need EO validation of some thing I already know to be true. Just as EO's don't need validation from me or my Church.
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« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2009, 04:10:28 PM »

Therefore, presuming, as I do, that Roman Catholics (and Protestants and those further afield) believe the same thing about their own church, I don't know why they should care what the Orthodox position and practice on the Mysteries is.

Nonetheless, that having been said, does it simply boil down then to a matter of "to each his own", in which all confessions and practices of Christian Faith are to be considered equally valid according to personal perspective, personal preference and personal belief?

Given the current presence of several hundred different church denominations within the ranks of Western Christianity, if seems to me that such a view only encourages individual interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and the original tenets of Christianity, totally independent of any real connection to that which was defined by the unified Church of the first millennium through the Seven Ecumenical Councils. In the absence of such a connection to the Early Church, such interpretations generally amount to little more than a continuing expansion of a Lone Ranger style theology fostered by a "church of me" mentality.

How can such varieties of 'faith' received from mere men ever be equated with the Apostolic transmission of Faith received from Christ Himself, the true Head of the Church, "both now and always, unto the ages of ages"?



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« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2009, 04:12:01 PM »

^ Very well stated.
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« Reply #19 on: April 20, 2009, 04:42:39 PM »

Nonetheless, that having been said, does it simply boil down then to a matter of "to each his own", in which all confessions and practices of Christian Faith are to be considered equally valid according to personal perspective, personal preference and personal belief?

You (and Papist) are misreading my caveats. My point is that there is a primary issue (which Church is the true Church). And to the extent that Orthodox and Roman Catholics (or any other group) disagree on that primary issue, subsidiary disagreements like how the sacraments are administered are not particularly important (or, more to the point, useful)

To take an extreme example, if I am speaking with an atheist, I believe God exists and he does not. Our positions are not equally valid--they are in fact diametrically opposed. If one us is right, then the other is wrong. Given that we disagree on that fundamental point, there is little, if any, point to our attempting to have a meaninful dialogue about whether the Eucharist should use leavened or unleavened bread. The atheist could agree with me that that is the historical practice of the Church or he could disagree with me, but either way it would not matter.

In the same way, Papist and I clearly disagree about which whether Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism are *the* Church, about which side went into schism from the Apostolic Tradition and Faith in 1054. As such, his opinion of how my Church administers its sacraments doesn't realy matter--and vice versa. Because if I convinced Papist on the underlying, more fundamental point, then he would convert to Orthdoxy and recieve our sacraments--and if I fail to convince him of that more fundamental point, then what we are doing in the Orthodox Church has no actual impact on him as he believes that he is receiving what he needs in his Church. I think he's wrong--but I give him the respect of acknowledging that he believes what he says he believes.

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« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2009, 05:04:35 PM »

Nonetheless, that having been said, does it simply boil down then to a matter of "to each his own", in which all confessions and practices of Christian Faith are to be considered equally valid according to personal perspective, personal preference and personal belief?

"You....are misreading my caveats. My point is that there is a primary issue (which Church is the true Church). And to the extent that Orthodox and Roman Catholics (or any other group) disagree on that primary issue, subsidiary disagreements like how the sacraments are administered are not particularly important..."

"....whether Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism is *the* Church....which side went into schism from the Apostolic Tradition and Faith in 1054."

Hello witega:

I am not misreading your caveats. I merely made a general comment addressed to all, not specifically to you.  Smiley

As to the issue of the Great Schism, history records that four of the five original Apostolic Churches of a unified Christianity retained their mutual unity of belief and practice thereafter. The Roman Church alone did not retain this original unity of faith with the others.

As such, by way of a similar example, if a team composed of five members loses one team member, who best represents the team? The four who remain together as a team, or the one member who alone leaves the team? You do the math?  Wink



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« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2009, 05:08:08 PM »

As such, by way of a similar example, if a team composed of five members loses one team member, who best represents the team? The four who remain together as a team, or the one member who alone leaves the team? You do the math?  Wink

But if one of the five team members did half the work, and two of the other four only did half the amount of work they used to do, it isn't quite that simple.
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« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2009, 07:32:07 PM »

AMM,

The subject of how we define the "Orthodox Church", IMO, is totally distinct from and unrelated to the subject of how we are to relate to those outside the Orthodox Church, the REAL topic of this thread, so I decided to split your specific question off and make it the OP of its own thread:  Define "the Orthodox Church".  Please don't try again to hijack this thread by insisting on asking your pet question here.  If you have a problem with this, take it up with me in a PM.

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