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Author Topic: After conversion "issues"...  (Read 2734 times) Average Rating: 5
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Linnapaw
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« on: June 04, 2009, 03:22:21 PM »

I converted to Orthodoxy back in 2002, from a somewhat Lutheran/Calvinist/Non-Denominationally Protestant background.  Although by becoming Orthodox, I acknowledge that I believe that Orthodoxy represents the fullness of the faith, six-and-a-half years on, I still feel that many - especially "cradle" Orthodox - have very little understanding of that background and cannot imagine that there is any validity to any sort of Christian belief outside of Orthodoxy.  Growing up, we weren't an especially church-going family, but the idea that God exists and rules over the heavens and earth, and that He loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us was something as natural to me as the air I breathed.  Even as a 5-year-old kindergartner, I was fascinated with reading the Bible and such... 

I know that church politics have changed a good deal even since then, and that even amongst "mainline" churches, there are huge heresies which some of them have followed.  However, when I experience people within Orthodoxy who seem to brush this off as "nothing" (especially when they seem to consider the Church more of a social organisation more than anything else) not only does it really hurt, but it discounts the fact that it was through this "simple" faith that I came to the Church.... 

Anyway, since this is the "Convert Issues" forum, I was wondering if there was anybody else out there who has had similar experiences.
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« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2009, 04:27:55 PM »

Linnapaw,

Welcome to the forum!  A very honest post. 

It's interesting; I've thought about this recently.  I think there's a hierarchy to building faith, and faith rightly believed.  If you've got an iPod (or about an hour to spend in front of PC speakers), you can see this hierarchy played out HERE and HERE in the life of a former Muslim who left Islam after reading the Passion passages in the Gospel, belonged to several different Protestant groups, and finally landed in Orthodoxy (iirc, he's been Orthodox for a while now).

This "hierarchy" I speak of can be accomplished within Orthodoxy itself -- and often is -- though sometimes it is not, and other times folks begin the "hierarchy" outside the Church (as you and I did), only to find its goal within Her.

The hierarchy I speak of isn't a "silver bullet" for spiritual growth, nor is it a hard and fast rule, but it goes roughly like this:

  • A person comes to a conscious, deliberate, chosen belief in Jesus Christ as his/her Savior, realizing the severity of his/her fallenness and the need to be redeemed from death.  This can be a "watershed moment" and very dramatic, or it can be something that someone realizes they've always believed, but has now matured enough to where they could confess and live it.  Regardless, I think that if someone does not have some sort of sense that s/he is grateful for the "great mercy" we sing so often about in church on Sundays, it will not matter what confession one belongs to, as one will not be "in church" for the right reason: giving thanks to the One Who saves.
  • A person needs to grow in knowledge of this Savior through familiarity with and regular reading of the Bible.  I'm not saying they need to earn a theology degree, just...basic Bible vocab / characters / lingo / events.  A "Who's Who and What's What," in other words.  I did this as a Protestant kid in AWANA (a Scripture memory program); Orthodox kids can read children's Bibles with their parents, or (even better), the parents/priests/church school leaders can go over the short, lectionary readings with them when they're older.  Parents are vital here, though, and need to lead by example.
  • A person needs to determine -- out of a desire to know Christ in the fullest way possible -- which of the many different confessions is the one Church Christ established and in which one can encounter and dwell in His divine Life.  For Orthodox, they're already there.  For those of us outside, we have to weigh the issues and enter later.

I've seen people come to Orthodoxy for wrong reasons (they love Russian music/art, they want to be right about everything, they're looking to be [insert former confession], just more "conservative"), so perhaps this contributes to some Orthodox people's not taking some converts very seriously.  I've seen people who've grown up Orthodox who have (right in front of me) told me that what they're there for is fellowship among [a certain language]-speaking people, since that's what they are, and people who come because Mama makes them, and are therefore completely bored and hostile towards a faith they know nothing about, much less care about anything spiritual.  Again, these are my experiences, and those vary, but it seems to me that if a certain "path of conversion" is followed -- roughly, that is -- it makes for a more natural, stable church life.

Forgive the long post.  Again, good to see you here.
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« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2009, 05:10:35 PM »


As a cradle Orthodox, I'd like to put my two cents in.

What you say is very true. 

I will be the first to admit that "converts" often know more about Orthodoxy than those born into the Faith. 
As such, I give immense credit to each and every convert.  Not only did they take the step of "searching" out the Faith, they have for the most part, studied and understand the Faith, way more than most cradles.

As to the "social club" aspect of Orthodox churches, unfortunately, this holds true quite often...but, not always.  Many cradle believers are strong in their faith.

The issue at hand is that many cradle Orthodox feel they already "know" it and have nothing else to learn.  They came to church with their grandparents and parents.  These individuals taught them all they knew, and now they feel well informed.  This level of Faith education seems to suffice.  They have little need to read deeper into the Faith. 

The sad part is that often times we, cradle Orthodox, really don't know the expanse and beauty and fullness of our own Faith. 

Therefore, it is the duty of the pastor, and those who do realize the special nature of Orthodoxy, to spread the Word within our own, well established congregations.  These people are not to be judged, they simply don't "know", and it is everyone's duty to open their eyes, so that they appreciate what they have.

How often do we nag about our parents.  We are angry at them because they made us do our homework, shut off the TV, go to bed, etc.  We don't appreciate them.  We don't notice all the good things they provide us, because we focus on their limitations (in our eyes).  However, when a friend comes over to play, and our mother gives them cookies, etc.  Then she asks how school was, and so on and so on.... things that we get every day....this new child appreciates it way more than we do.  Only when this outsider comments on how nice our parents are and how much they do for us, do we actually step back and take a look.  Only then do we realize just how lucky we are to be in this family.

Same holds true for Orthodoxy.  Most people just take the Faith for granted.  Just hold your light high and help them to see.


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« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2009, 12:24:26 AM »

I have a rather complicated feelings about this topic.

Yes, of course, of course I appreciate the converts' education, awareness, knowledge of the Christian theology, Orthodox and Heterodox, their largely good orientation in what the Church believes as it is written in the Bible and patristic sources.

On the other hand, I still, in spite of years of thinking about it and wrestling over the "issues" of faith as an active participant of one Ukrainian religious forum (and, more recently, this forum), tend to believe that there isn't much (or even, there isn't anything) worth "knowing" (as far as our faith is concerned), beyong the Niceo-Constantinople Creed. Everything "knowable" is there. What is beyond it or, rather, what is complementing it and filling it with life and vibrancy - is not "knowable" through reading or meditating or devotions, but "experienceable."

Fathers... oh well. They wrote a lot. They argued with each other and there is something in their writings that seems to completely contradict the writings of their fellow Fathers. What is there in their writings I can and should and must learn, beyond the Creed and beyond what I irrationally, "sense-ably" experience during the Divine Liturgy? I don't know...

Their teaching about the Fall - no. I can't learn it from them as long as they talk - and they seem to do talk, unanimously - about the passing of something (maybe not "sin" but the susceptibility to sin, or "sinfulness") - down the generations. I don't believe in this. I can't. Just like I can't make myself believe that there ever existed this "first human couple" - it is nonsense from the point of view of the rational human knowledge as it exists now.

Their eschatology? Perhaps, but I never got it yet even in the first approximation, because it is so murky and irrational. Essence and energies, oh yeah. Smiley

Their ethics? No. Their view on marriage and human sexuality (as expressed even in marriage) is alien and unacceptable to me. Other aspects of ethics? The Sermon on the Mount covers it, quite exhaustively...

So... I am not sure I WANT to "study" "our faith." I mean, I will do it, I actually like it (I am a bookish person), and I admire converts with good pious upbringing who are used to these studies. But I am not sure that this is the ultimate goal or even a plus. Again, I believe in what I experience  when I stand and listen to my parish priest chant, when I see the icons, when I smell the incense, when I, shaking and trembling all over, go to that Chalice and receive the King of All. I don't care how this or that Father expressed "our holy Orthodox Faith" in those parts of it that are about the fall of the human race and salvation - I just know by experience that I sinned and continue to sin (while maybe all other human beings are perfect for all I know!), and that I am lost in my sin without, well... this, all this. I am lost without this chanting, without these icons, without this incense, without this priest, without this mystical Body and Blood of Christ, Who is God and man, fully God like God and fully man like myself (except sin). It is only through this chanting, this incense, these icons, this priest's kind, simple words, and through this Chalice that I come to realization that every single next day and hour of my life I have to try living in such a way that no dirt, no mud, no filth mars this "icon of the living God" in me. 

That's all I "know" and will know, and nothing of this I got through my home upbringing or Bible classes or devotions or systematic studies of patristics, and I somehow doubt that I will get a lot more if I add the classes and the devotions and the studies of patristics to what I already have and to what I get, keep getting, every single time I attend the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.

I am sorry for this long and incoherent rant, but I just felt like I had to say what I said. 

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« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2009, 12:41:53 AM »

What a wonderful response. Thank you so much for expressing yourself with such clarity. You reminded me of Fr Maximos in The Mountain of Silence. Have you read this book? If not, I highly recommend it.
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« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2009, 09:25:02 AM »

Linnapa, Welcome to the Convert Issues Forum!  This is exactly where you should post a topic like this. 

As a convert, I believe I bring to my entrance into the Orthodox Church some 21 years ago a great deal of experience gained through my previous Heterodox background.  Things like  church education models, lay ministries, and such are frequently gifts that we have been given that we can share through the Church.  The Orthodox Church itself has adapted some Heterodox programs and "corrected" them to be used in the Orthodox Church----things like Sunday School, women's relief groups, special support groups ---the Archons, Fellowship of St John, the Order of St Ignatios, OCF, youth groups, etc came from the example of lay ministry found in both Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches.

Converts have much to bring to the Church, but likewise the Cradle Orthodox brings with them identity, stability, tradition, and focus that are often missing in the convert's experience.  Without their example, openness, perseverance, and welcome to the faith many of us could never have come into Orthodoxy for there would be no local church for us to find and go to start our conversion process.

Thomas

 
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« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2009, 11:24:11 AM »

I am sorry for this long and incoherent rant, but I just felt like I had to say what I said. 

Incoherent?  Hardly.  A good example of someone who has come to a conscious internalization of the Faith within Her tradition (and without reading Evdokimov or someone like that).

I nominate Heorhij's post for post of the month.
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« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2009, 11:36:24 AM »


I second the nomination!

Heorhij, you are a blessing to us all!

 Smiley

Sometimes the best Orthodox believers are those who come to God with a pure and simple love. 
There is no need to know of all the Councils, the Church Fathers, etc.

This is so true.

My parish is filled with many deeply faithful, religious and pious individuals who are cradle Orthodox, both old and young.  The depth of their faith and worship, puts me to shame.

However, as a cradle Orthodox, I am always overjoyed when I pick up a piece of knowledge that only brings me closer to Orthodoxy.

I can only speak for myself and my "cradle" experience.  My mother always made sure we attended Liturgy every Sunday, all through our lives.  Therefore, I "knew" the Liturgy, yet, I took most of it for granted.  I didn't "get" all the nuances, the symbolism, etc.

I never looked closely at the icons, never appreciated the richness and depth of Orthodoxy.

Only with "study" were my eyes opened, only then did I realize what a gift I was truly given, by being born into an Orthodox family and being baptized Orthodox.  I am truly excited about the Faith.

Just a few weeks ago, I was explaining to my nieces/nephews the symbolism in our icons.  The church was empty and I took them on a "tour" of each icon.  I explained that the individual/event being depicted is focused on them, the viewer.  The individuals are never turned away from the viewer.  Even in the Annunciation, the Virgin is sitting "facing" outwards, as is Gabriel who is addressing her.  Thus, they include the viewer in the event.  After all, it all occurred for our salvation.

I mentioned that the icon of the Mystical Supper has a spot, up front, reserved just for them.  I told them that the letters in Christ's halo state "I AM", which was revealed to us through the burning bush.

The kids were amazed.  They had not realized the depth of each icon until that moment, just as I had not, growing up.  They were simply icons, that told a story.  Now the story is so much deeper and personal.

So, true faith, does not come from studying alone.  An individual may know "everything" about Orthodoxy, and yet lack faith.  That knowledge is useless.  It will not lead to salvation.  Not alone. 

However, true faith, that does lead to salvation, is all the more colorful and rewarding when it is laced with some greater understanding.  The "actions" have a deeper meaning and significance, when you know "why" you do the things you do.

However, that is simply my own observation, of me, a sinner...who is always starving for knowledge!

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« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2009, 12:07:15 PM »

Another wonderful post (and an amazing tour that you gave your nieces and nephews... and me). Thanks. Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2009, 09:29:35 PM »

I have a rather complicated feelings about this topic.

Yes, of course, of course I appreciate the converts' education, awareness, knowledge of the Christian theology, Orthodox and Heterodox, their largely good orientation in what the Church believes as it is written in the Bible and patristic sources.

On the other hand, I still, in spite of years of thinking about it and wrestling over the "issues" of faith as an active participant of one Ukrainian religious forum (and, more recently, this forum), tend to believe that there isn't much (or even, there isn't anything) worth "knowing" (as far as our faith is concerned), beyong the Niceo-Constantinople Creed. Everything "knowable" is there. What is beyond it or, rather, what is complementing it and filling it with life and vibrancy - is not "knowable" through reading or meditating or devotions, but "experienceable."

Fathers... oh well. They wrote a lot. They argued with each other and there is something in their writings that seems to completely contradict the writings of their fellow Fathers. What is there in their writings I can and should and must learn, beyond the Creed and beyond what I irrationally, "sense-ably" experience during the Divine Liturgy? I don't know...

Their teaching about the Fall - no. I can't learn it from them as long as they talk - and they seem to do talk, unanimously - about the passing of something (maybe not "sin" but the susceptibility to sin, or "sinfulness") - down the generations. I don't believe in this. I can't. Just like I can't make myself believe that there ever existed this "first human couple" - it is nonsense from the point of view of the rational human knowledge as it exists now.

Their eschatology? Perhaps, but I never got it yet even in the first approximation, because it is so murky and irrational. Essence and energies, oh yeah. Smiley

Their ethics? No. Their view on marriage and human sexuality (as expressed even in marriage) is alien and unacceptable to me. Other aspects of ethics? The Sermon on the Mount covers it, quite exhaustively...

So... I am not sure I WANT to "study" "our faith." I mean, I will do it, I actually like it (I am a bookish person), and I admire converts with good pious upbringing who are used to these studies. But I am not sure that this is the ultimate goal or even a plus. Again, I believe in what I experience  when I stand and listen to my parish priest chant, when I see the icons, when I smell the incense, when I, shaking and trembling all over, go to that Chalice and receive the King of All. I don't care how this or that Father expressed "our holy Orthodox Faith" in those parts of it that are about the fall of the human race and salvation - I just know by experience that I sinned and continue to sin (while maybe all other human beings are perfect for all I know!), and that I am lost in my sin without, well... this, all this. I am lost without this chanting, without these icons, without this incense, without this priest, without this mystical Body and Blood of Christ, Who is God and man, fully God like God and fully man like myself (except sin). It is only through this chanting, this incense, these icons, this priest's kind, simple words, and through this Chalice that I come to realization that every single next day and hour of my life I have to try living in such a way that no dirt, no mud, no filth mars this "icon of the living God" in me. 

That's all I "know" and will know, and nothing of this I got through my home upbringing or Bible classes or devotions or systematic studies of patristics, and I somehow doubt that I will get a lot more if I add the classes and the devotions and the studies of patristics to what I already have and to what I get, keep getting, every single time I attend the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.

I am sorry for this long and incoherent rant, but I just felt like I had to say what I said. 



I'm not saying that the end-all be-all is in studying, etc., and I'm glad that there's plenty in the Orthodox Church to experience.  However, what I find frustrating, that there are plenty of people - especially amongst the cradle Orthodox - who are extremely quick to jump in and say that the "Calvinists" or the "Puritans" or the "Protestants" or whomever are the dregs of the earth for their "strange beliefs".  Even on this board, there are places where such terms are used in a derogatory sense, and nobody seems to think anything of it (especially true in the Politics forum).  I find this personally insulting, because I, for one, come from a Protestant background, which was heavily influenced by Northern European Lutherans, but I also have relatives who came over from England before the US was even a country, and for all that can be said about the Protestant theology being lacking, there's plenty about it that has been good and profitable to its adherents as well as the society that they helped build in this country. 

In my own experience, going to a "non-denominational" Protestant school, we had Bible study as a regular subject which we were graded on all the way from 1st grade through finishing in 8th grade.  And while much of this included memorisation, particularly in the earlier grades, in the later grades, we seriously had to read and consider and write about what we were learning regarding the Bible.  As a result, I had a grounding on what was actually in the Bible, and what was written about actually being a Christian, which eventually helped me grow into the Orthodox faith.  There is plenty there in the Liturgy to be experienced, but when your typical Orthodox Christian in the US only attends Sunday services, and add to that the culture club atmosphere of some parishes, it seems quite preposterous to me that what I grew up with is considered by many to be completely worthless.
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« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2009, 10:10:05 PM »

Hi Linnapaw,

I feel the same way as you about smug parishioners who are there for the wrong reasons. You are right that cradles more often than converts tend to be ethnic club types--but not all. You are right that cradles more often than converts tend not to appreciate the Holy Scriptures--but  not all. On the other hand, in my experience, converts more often than cradles tend to overzealous and doctrinaire--but not all. Where I am going is that we have wonderful Christians in Orthodoxy who are intermixed with the not so wonderful. BTW, I am cradle.

The important things have been said by others on this thread: wonderful observations and advice from Lisa Symonenko, Douglas, David Bryant, and Heorhij. I would just add two more things, both practical: Romans 8:28 and Philippians 2:12, in the context of the Lord being your Savior.
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« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2009, 10:46:23 PM »

I'm not saying that the end-all be-all is in studying, etc., and I'm glad that there's plenty in the Orthodox Church to experience.  However, what I find frustrating, that there are plenty of people - especially amongst the cradle Orthodox - who are extremely quick to jump in and say that the "Calvinists" or the "Puritans" or the "Protestants" or whomever are the dregs of the earth for their "strange beliefs".  Even on this board, there are places where such terms are used in a derogatory sense, and nobody seems to think anything of it (especially true in the Politics forum).  I find this personally insulting, because I, for one, come from a Protestant background, which was heavily influenced by Northern European Lutherans, but I also have relatives who came over from England before the US was even a country, and for all that can be said about the Protestant theology being lacking, there's plenty about it that has been good and profitable to its adherents as well as the society that they helped build in this country.

I had an experience similar to what you're talking about at my last church.

The church had graciously asked me to speak at the Greek festival, and the topic I chose was "Common Misconceptions on Orthodoxy." Some hours before my speech I was helping out at the bookstore when a young man walked in and started looking through one of our "How to Speak Koine Greek" books. He asked if it was modern or Erasmian pronunciation, the latter of which I was aware of, and quickly affirmed it was indeed Erasmian. We then got in a small discussion, where after some time he found out that I knew of and had read the works of John MacArthur, John Piper, and James White. He seemed shocked, and asked if I was OK with reading the works of Protestants, to which I said jokingly, "Sure, so long as they don't preach Jesus was a rodeo clown or something."

Then came my speech in the chapel, a speech I had specifically oriented for both Orthodox and non-Orthodox. When it came time for the Q & A section, who should stand up but that same young man I met in the book store. His question was what the belief of Orthodoxy and the Reformed teaching of sola scriptura was. The first thing I did was explain what sola scriptura was not, or rather how many Orthodox and Roman Catholics incorrectly perceive it as (which is the bible and nothing else), and went on to explain that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and many other Reformers knew Greek and studied lexicons, and didn't follow the distorted form we know today as "solo scriptura."

Well, as it happened he approached me at the book store again later and said he was happy because I was the first person he had met at the church who knew about the Reformers and what they taught. I was very flattered, and thanked God for guiding me to such studies, as well as preparing me to have a balanced and unbiased mind. I gave the gentleman my name and contact info, although unfortunately I haven't spoken to him since. Still, I was very happy that my speech had come across not as condescending but as balanced and fair to all view points, because that was how I intended it.

Now granted, an old woman from Cyprus probably won't know any more about Ulrich Zwingli than an old woman from Mississippi is going to know who Saint John Chrysostom is, but nevertheless I have noticed a kind of apathetic view of non-Orthodox church history by some Orthodox. Some pander to the stereotypes, others just don't know any better. All one can do is educate with grace and patience, and remember that we were all at one time deeply ignorant. Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2009, 08:43:07 PM »

Linnapaw,

Welcome to the forum!  A very honest post. 

It's interesting; I've thought about this recently.  I think there's a hierarchy to building faith, and faith rightly believed.  If you've got an iPod (or about an hour to spend in front of PC speakers), you can see this hierarchy played out HERE and HERE in the life of a former Muslim who left Islam after reading the Passion passages in the Gospel, belonged to several different Protestant groups, and finally landed in Orthodoxy (iirc, he's been Orthodox for a while now).


I listened to to these today and found it absolutely fascinating. I would love to hear more of these types of conversion stories. It actually quite enlightened me on Islam as well. So much of what he talked about with being part of the various other denominations resonated with me. Thank you for this.
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« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2009, 08:29:17 AM »

I'm not saying that the end-all be-all is in studying, etc., and I'm glad that there's plenty in the Orthodox Church to experience.  However, what I find frustrating, that there are plenty of people - especially amongst the cradle Orthodox - who are extremely quick to jump in and say that the "Calvinists" or the "Puritans" or the "Protestants" or whomever are the dregs of the earth for their "strange beliefs".  Even on this board, there are places where such terms are used in a derogatory sense, and nobody seems to think anything of it (especially true in the Politics forum).  I find this personally insulting, because I, for one, come from a Protestant background, which was heavily influenced by Northern European Lutherans, but I also have relatives who came over from England before the US was even a country, and for all that can be said about the Protestant theology being lacking, there's plenty about it that has been good and profitable to its adherents as well as the society that they helped build in this country. 

I am sorry that you feel insulted, and ask you to forgive me if I did something on this board to add to these insults.

Personally, I am not a xenophobe in the least, and I actually do have a lot of respect for many Protestants who know Scripture inside out and live by it every single day of their lives. When I was a young postdoc in Seattle in the 1990-s, my wife and I had an older friend, a Ukrainian by his origin like ourseves, who was a very devout Methodist and a professor of New Testament at a small private Evangelical university. We admired his erudition and also his extremely humble, kind, helpfult to others and self-denying personality.

On the other hand, I know that many cradle Orthodox profoundly dislike it when bands of young guitar-playing, hand-waving Evangelical or Chrismatic missionaries come to their countries and preach, delivering the message that only what they say is the "true Christian teaching." These missionaries seem to be willingly anti-historical, denying the mere fact that the Orthodox Church exists and has something to say. Living here in Mississippi, I heard, more than once, sentences like, "we gotta go to Albania, because if we don't do it, the Greeks will come first and preach THEIR faith to the Albanians, instead of OUR CHRISTIAN faith."

Also, I have lived through a phase when I was crazy about "studying the Bible" (~1998-2006), mostly due to personal circumstances (my wife and I were temporarily, for ~2 years, separated because we had our jobs in different cities, and I found myself in a small Mississippi town with no Orthodox church and plenty of Bible preachers of all sorts). During these years, I grew weary of what I call the "left brain theology," because, after talking with different Bible preachers, it began to seem to me that the Protestant theology generally is whatever a certain "camp" wants to make out of it. I remember being shocked, for example, when I heard from a Calvinist preacher that there are many servants of Satan and mortal enemies of true Christianity, like Mohammedans or Buddhists or Pagans, but the WORST enemies are Arminians. And then, when I joined a very modernist liberal Protestant (PC(USA)) congregation, I was, again, stunned that over there, people generally know nothing about any theology and do not care to know anything beyond the "my best buddy Jesus," because they were all busy doing charity projects.

Now when I am "back home," chrismated Orthodox and a member of a GOA parish, I remain - I hope! - respectful and welcoming to good, godly, erudite Protestants... but I, honestly, have a certain fear that the "left brain theology" or the "best buddy Jesus helps us do charity projects" trends will take over the essence of the Church, which is, AFAIK, not "build a good society in this (or any) country," but the mystery of the Eucharist, the orientation to what's beyond this fallen and intrinsically corrupt world.


In my own experience, going to a "non-denominational" Protestant school, we had Bible study as a regular subject which we were graded on all the way from 1st grade through finishing in 8th grade.  And while much of this included memorisation, particularly in the earlier grades, in the later grades, we seriously had to read and consider and write about what we were learning regarding the Bible.  As a result, I had a grounding on what was actually in the Bible, and what was written about actually being a Christian, which eventually helped me grow into the Orthodox faith.  There is plenty there in the Liturgy to be experienced, but when your typical Orthodox Christian in the US only attends Sunday services, and add to that the culture club atmosphere of some parishes, it seems quite preposterous to me that what I grew up with is considered by many to be completely worthless.

I'll pray that you leave these issues behind, dear Linnapaw, and that your stay in the Church will be for the mutual enrichment - of you by the Church and of the Church by you. I guess that's the most important thing.
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« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2009, 10:11:34 AM »

I am a cradle Orthodox Christian from a"mixed" marriage.My mother married an episcopalian but I was brought up Orthodox in what became the OCA.
I find converts to be the backbone of many parishes and I envy their zeal and joy in finding the True faith but I also find it intersting when they become more "Orthodox than the Orthodox". We have one fellow here and I am sure this is a reaction formation.I am a psychologist, but he has grown a beard and is becoming very judgemental of those who aren't as "holy as he is". I guess this can best be handled by the priest in each parish as we all know this happens. I guess it is the catachumanate process which is critical.
I have a deep love for the episcopal church. I went to episcopalian day school and boarding school but it is hardly recognizable as a Church anymore.
We need to reach out to converts and know the joy they feel.
Interestingly enough,my greatgrandmother lived in Paris ,which was a center of Russian Orthodoxy after the Russian Revolution.My grandmother traveled there from Philadelphia,Pa {she had married an American while she attended Radcliffe College} when the germans invaded to rescue her mother but was trapped and spent WWII in Paris. They were Righteous Gentiles; they hid Jews from the germans and are remembered at the Yad Vashem in Israel.
My grandmother told me before she died that she never felt more "Christian" than when she was hiding these poor helpless people from being murdered.My grandmother was very devout. She attended Divine Liturgy as often as possible so I find that statement very interesting but maybe there is an important lesson for all of us,,cradle and convert.
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« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2009, 09:47:14 PM »

Raised in the Latin Catholic Church before becoming Orthodox, I notice a difference in "issues" between me and my former Protestant friends at church.  Just today, one of my friends lamented how the Orthodox churches in a certain country are unfortunately mostly ethnic, and that there is no missionary outreach to the majority non-Orthodox of the country.  That reaction wasn't even on my radar.  Instead, I was thinking that it must be difficult for the Greeks and Russians to hold onto their traditions in a foreign country.  Can't disagree with my friend; we just came at it differently. 
   
I have after conversion "issues," but for whatever reason, ethnic versus convert is not a major one.  Right now, the majority of the "issues" concern making sense of my heritage in the light of Orthodoxy.  I have many Catholic friends who pray the rosary and strive towards living a devout life.  They venerate the saints, Mary and attend Mass frequently.  I know of post-schism Catholic saints who fasted to the point of partaking only of the Eucharist, who prayed all day, performed healing and other miracles, who sacrificed themselves for others.  The TLM I still find spiritually beautiful and moving. 

I watch something like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CWv9YToL3c and wonder, Are they really all heretics/schismatics without grace?  That's the "issue" I struggle with at times.   


 

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« Reply #16 on: June 22, 2009, 12:12:19 PM »

I'm not saying that the end-all be-all is in studying, etc., and I'm glad that there's plenty in the Orthodox Church to experience.  However, what I find frustrating, that there are plenty of people - especially amongst the cradle Orthodox - who are extremely quick to jump in and say that the "Calvinists" or the "Puritans" or the "Protestants" or whomever are the dregs of the earth for their "strange beliefs".  Even on this board, there are places where such terms are used in a derogatory sense, and nobody seems to think anything of it (especially true in the Politics forum).  I find this personally insulting, because I, for one, come from a Protestant background, which was heavily influenced by Northern European Lutherans, but I also have relatives who came over from England before the US was even a country, and for all that can be said about the Protestant theology being lacking, there's plenty about it that has been good and profitable to its adherents as well as the society that they helped build in this country. 

I am sorry that you feel insulted, and ask you to forgive me if I did something on this board to add to these insults.

Personally, I am not a xenophobe in the least, and I actually do have a lot of respect for many Protestants who know Scripture inside out and live by it every single day of their lives. When I was a young postdoc in Seattle in the 1990-s, my wife and I had an older friend, a Ukrainian by his origin like ourseves, who was a very devout Methodist and a professor of New Testament at a small private Evangelical university. We admired his erudition and also his extremely humble, kind, helpfult to others and self-denying personality.

On the other hand, I know that many cradle Orthodox profoundly dislike it when bands of young guitar-playing, hand-waving Evangelical or Chrismatic missionaries come to their countries and preach, delivering the message that only what they say is the "true Christian teaching." These missionaries seem to be willingly anti-historical, denying the mere fact that the Orthodox Church exists and has something to say. Living here in Mississippi, I heard, more than once, sentences like, "we gotta go to Albania, because if we don't do it, the Greeks will come first and preach THEIR faith to the Albanians, instead of OUR CHRISTIAN faith."

Also, I have lived through a phase when I was crazy about "studying the Bible" (~1998-2006), mostly due to personal circumstances (my wife and I were temporarily, for ~2 years, separated because we had our jobs in different cities, and I found myself in a small Mississippi town with no Orthodox church and plenty of Bible preachers of all sorts). During these years, I grew weary of what I call the "left brain theology," because, after talking with different Bible preachers, it began to seem to me that the Protestant theology generally is whatever a certain "camp" wants to make out of it. I remember being shocked, for example, when I heard from a Calvinist preacher that there are many servants of Satan and mortal enemies of true Christianity, like Mohammedans or Buddhists or Pagans, but the WORST enemies are Arminians. And then, when I joined a very modernist liberal Protestant (PC(USA)) congregation, I was, again, stunned that over there, people generally know nothing about any theology and do not care to know anything beyond the "my best buddy Jesus," because they were all busy doing charity projects.

Now when I am "back home," chrismated Orthodox and a member of a GOA parish, I remain - I hope! - respectful and welcoming to good, godly, erudite Protestants... but I, honestly, have a certain fear that the "left brain theology" or the "best buddy Jesus helps us do charity projects" trends will take over the essence of the Church, which is, AFAIK, not "build a good society in this (or any) country," but the mystery of the Eucharist, the orientation to what's beyond this fallen and intrinsically corrupt world.


In my own experience, going to a "non-denominational" Protestant school, we had Bible study as a regular subject which we were graded on all the way from 1st grade through finishing in 8th grade.  And while much of this included memorisation, particularly in the earlier grades, in the later grades, we seriously had to read and consider and write about what we were learning regarding the Bible.  As a result, I had a grounding on what was actually in the Bible, and what was written about actually being a Christian, which eventually helped me grow into the Orthodox faith.  There is plenty there in the Liturgy to be experienced, but when your typical Orthodox Christian in the US only attends Sunday services, and add to that the culture club atmosphere of some parishes, it seems quite preposterous to me that what I grew up with is considered by many to be completely worthless.

I'll pray that you leave these issues behind, dear Linnapaw, and that your stay in the Church will be for the mutual enrichment - of you by the Church and of the Church by you. I guess that's the most important thing.

Yes, I know that there are a lot of strange Protestant groups around, and a lot of that comes from having no leadership.  I come from a family where a good number of my relatives are/have been Lutheran pastors (in the sense that they were before they died), and in my experience - although many would probably be quick to classify this as "the religious right" (after all, for example, my grandmother - who lived downstairs from us - once she went blind, she listened to Moody radio 24/7) there is still a lot that these sort of people have done *right*.  You complain here about Protestants who want to "evangalise" in places such as Albania, Russia, etc.  I'm not thrilled with the premise; on the other hand, what are we - as Orthodox in the United States - really doing to strengthen the churches there?  The church I go to now is the only Orthodox church that I know of that has actively sent missionaries out (mainly to Albania), but I know of Protestant churches that are much smaller who have also sent missionaries out all over the world, because it has become that much more important to them, mainly by the "Protestant" culture.  And the thing is, going out is something that is strange doctrine, but it is a charge to us, as Christians, from the earliest days of the Church. 

As a convert, I am acutely aware of many people who don't want there to be any outward sign of their Orthodox belief anywhere where others can see it outside of a church setting, whether it be praying in restaurants, or putting an icon on one's desk at work.  In the US, at least, I understand that there are other issues which have helped precipitate this, especially concerning the Cold War, but this, in many cases, has become the only "acceptable" mode for many congregations, and when it does happen to be people who join who don't want to follow in this method of behaviour (usually converts) then you get all sorts of criticism of them for being "too Protestant".  For example, that was one of the big criticisms that I heard about the Orthodox Study Bible when it came out - well, it's good enough, but it's "too Protestant".  I'm sorry, but the people who put it together have to be commended for even attempting this project.  Before this, the only Bible I had that had all the books acknowledged by the Orthodox was my NRSV, which is grating in its attempt for inclusive language.  (In Paul's letters, for example, seeing "Brothers and sisters" used all the time.)  The only other that I have which comes close is a German (non-Luther) translation.  However, I've heard a lot of people say, "Well, just read it in Greek".  Well, I don't read Greek, so I'm out of luck.  I've had some Russian, but the most available Russian Bible that I've been able to find (and I've looked - even in Russia!) is the *American Bible Association's* translation, which only includes the Protestant canon.  (Then again, my Slavonic Bible probably has the correct Canon, but I can't read Slavonic either.) 

I appreciate that you've gone through periods where you have been interested in study of the Bible and of the Church Fathers and such, and I commend that.  However, from what I took from your previous posts, especially in regard to the Church Fathers, it seems like you're saying that since not all of them agreed with each other, it's not worth studying at all.  Thinking about that comment this weekend, I thought about science (crazy former-Protestant that I am!) and how anybody who was interested in science, when they looked into the research, would see that even experts in the same discipline disagree, and seeing that wouldn't just say "well, it's not worth looking into because not everybody agrees".  On the contrary, many of these disagreements have spurred on further research, which adds to the core of knowledge of a particular subject. 

And yes, there are overzealous converts, and that's more of an individual issue to be worked out with the individual priests.  However, having attended at least one "dying" church, it's apparent that a lot of what has caused its downfall is that the members there seem to have been pretty lazy about even sharing their faith with their immediate family - the core of parishioners is now in their 80s, and almost none of their children have anything to do with the Orthodox Church anymore because it's not what they were taught at home, and they weren't participatory in church as children, being left at home for the sake of the "peacefulness" that is "supposed" to be in Church.  In my experience, of the few whose children are still around, they are the most vocal against things like having children in church, the first to complain about the length of services, and the first to point fingers at converts who don't agree with them.   

In the first posting in this thread, I mentioned how the attitude of many (mostly cradle) Orthodox is that there is nothing useful or good in the ideas or practices of Protestant churches (especially the type that helped build the US).  Being a convert myself, I can't say that I agree with the holes in theology that there are, and it pains me to see more and more denominations - even those once considered to be quite mainstream - to wander further and further away from the Truth.  However, even on this board, there seems to be no wrath like that which is reserved for "conservative" Protestants, whether by labeling them "the religious right", fear-mongering that the Protestant converts to Orthodoxy will "take over" the Church, or the automatic assumption that any Protestant who comes into the Church must either assimilate with sometimes dead congregations, or otherwise be forever known as a "zealot".
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« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2009, 10:14:27 AM »

Thank you for all your posts, may God bless you, people!
I've been going through some very hard time lately. It's like I wanted to know every single thing about God and theology just for the sake of knowing it (and debating about it later). What a Pharisee...

Thank you for helping me realize that Orthodoxy does not lie in knowing what the Holy Trinity is or if sin can be inherited or not; Orthodoxy is about a relationship between the Church (fellow Christian brethrens) and God.

Thanks a lot for not letting me perish... Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2009, 10:52:56 AM »

Quote
because I, for one, come from a Protestant background, which was heavily influenced by Northern European Lutherans, but I also have relatives who came over from England before the US was even a country, and for all that can be said about the Protestant theology being lacking, there's plenty about it that has been good and profitable to its adherents as well as the society that they helped build in this country. 


This is first post, But I've read many threads on this forum and first, thanks to all who provide this place and support it. 

The statement above caught my attention particularly since I am a convert, but not from a protestant background.  There is a book, the title escapes me now, I'll follow up when I get home from the office; but it's concerning the colonization of the US from the time of Columbus through the puritans and so on.  It is true, that the building of this nation into what it is, was in large part due to those of "protestant faith".  However, times change, protestants churches are nothing like they were 400 + years ago.  They started splintering off from each other as early as the first successful colonies in Mass.   I'm of the opinion that the reason is lack of traditional roots.  There are so many "sects" to Protestantism even within the same base of faith.   So in essence, over a span of 400 years, what they brought here has been so diluted it's unrecognizable.  Over a span of nearly 2000 years, Orthodoxy hasn't really changed.  I think what keeps Orthodoxy steady on its path is we are able to trace the faith from June 2009 back to the beginning, the first Ecumenical councils, the very early church fathers, and the traditions. 

Another thing to consider is that the east wasn't interested in discovering new lands or colonizing far away places, nor could they afford to. 

A good Father I know from another forum once said, Orthodoxy has been the best kept secret in America.  It's so true.  On other multi-denominational forums and discussions, protestants bash protestants, and those two bash western catholics, but little or no reference is made to Eastern Orthodox because most have never heard of it. If they have they have no idea what it entails.  More and more protestants I think are moving away from their churches and certainly not going towards the Western Catholic church, but remaining faithful and lacking fellowship with others; more and more appear to be finding out about Eastern Orthodoxy and moving toward it.

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« Reply #19 on: June 24, 2009, 11:23:58 AM »

I'm not saying that the end-all be-all is in studying, etc., and I'm glad that there's plenty in the Orthodox Church to experience.  However, what I find frustrating, that there are plenty of people - especially amongst the cradle Orthodox - who are extremely quick to jump in and say that the "Calvinists" or the "Puritans" or the "Protestants" or whomever are the dregs of the earth for their "strange beliefs".  Even on this board, there are places where such terms are used in a derogatory sense, and nobody seems to think anything of it (especially true in the Politics forum).  I find this personally insulting, because I, for one, come from a Protestant background, which was heavily influenced by Northern European Lutherans, but I also have relatives who came over from England before the US was even a country, and for all that can be said about the Protestant theology being lacking, there's plenty about it that has been good and profitable to its adherents as well as the society that they helped build in this country.

I had an experience similar to what you're talking about at my last church.

The church had graciously asked me to speak at the Greek festival, and the topic I chose was "Common Misconceptions on Orthodoxy." Some hours before my speech I was helping out at the bookstore when a young man walked in and started looking through one of our "How to Speak Koine Greek" books. He asked if it was modern or Erasmian pronunciation, the latter of which I was aware of, and quickly affirmed it was indeed Erasmian. We then got in a small discussion, where after some time he found out that I knew of and had read the works of John MacArthur, John Piper, and James White. He seemed shocked, and asked if I was OK with reading the works of Protestants, to which I said jokingly, "Sure, so long as they don't preach Jesus was a rodeo clown or something."

Then came my speech in the chapel, a speech I had specifically oriented for both Orthodox and non-Orthodox. When it came time for the Q & A section, who should stand up but that same young man I met in the book store. His question was what the belief of Orthodoxy and the Reformed teaching of sola scriptura was. The first thing I did was explain what sola scriptura was not, or rather how many Orthodox and Roman Catholics incorrectly perceive it as (which is the bible and nothing else), and went on to explain that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and many other Reformers knew Greek and studied lexicons, and didn't follow the distorted form we know today as "solo scriptura."

Well, as it happened he approached me at the book store again later and said he was happy because I was the first person he had met at the church who knew about the Reformers and what they taught. I was very flattered, and thanked God for guiding me to such studies, as well as preparing me to have a balanced and unbiased mind. I gave the gentleman my name and contact info, although unfortunately I haven't spoken to him since. Still, I was very happy that my speech had come across not as condescending but as balanced and fair to all view points, because that was how I intended it.

Now granted, an old woman from Cyprus probably won't know any more about Ulrich Zwingli than an old woman from Mississippi is going to know who Saint John Chrysostom is, but nevertheless I have noticed a kind of apathetic view of non-Orthodox church history by some Orthodox. Some pander to the stereotypes, others just don't know any better. All one can do is educate with grace and patience, and remember that we were all at one time deeply ignorant. Smiley

I totally and 100%ly agree. Grace and patience are key for we are all ignorant about something or were ignorant about something, and this is true for not only the cradle Orthodox about the nonOrthodox but also for the nonOrthodox about Orthodoxy.


Last month at an Orthodox conference, I was speaking with an African American Baptist woman who knew alot about the error of modalism, and another African American woman Orthodox convert jumped into the conversation......she totally interrupted me and started defending modalism.....she started calling it a mystery and such and such.......and I just sat there and said to myself "you don't have a clue of what we were talking about", and she wouldn't leave us alone to talk about what we were talking about. We tried nicely to inform her what we were talking about, but she wouldn't hear it.......she got a little upset, and so the conversation ended.


So it's not just some cradle Orthodox that are like that......there are some converts that are like that as well. But it takes grace and alot of patience......alot of patience to handle yourself in the right way and to control your inner feelings and thoughts.......for boy.......I was angry inside and I just wanted that woman to go away.......but I had to control myself.....and my feelings. In order to have peace in that room, we had to kill that conversation, so we started to talk about other stuff that the interruptor wanted to talk about and knew much about.....like hair, rastafarians and stuff like that.


But I agree, it is a must that we are accurate about what we talk about......it is an absolute must that we are as accurate as possible........being honest about both the good and the bad......of whatever group we are talking about.







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« Reply #20 on: June 25, 2009, 08:22:06 AM »

When I was in graduate school I almost left the Orthodox Church. I was the only Orthodox Christian in my group, to be honest the only Christian. I also was attending a University which prided itself on it academic status {University of Chicago} and the Church really did not make sense to be in an intellectual way.
I spoke to a priest in a local Church who was a very simple kind man.His parish was not doing well as the members were leaving the "changing" neighborhood. I told him my problem and he took my hand put it on my heart and said in a soft tender voice words that struck my soul and I will remember every day of my life. I have yet to hear words from any man or woman,clergy or laity who spoke to my soul like his words.He said " My dear son. Orthodoxy cannot be studied,,Orthodoxy must be lived...go feed the hungry,,help the poor..attend the Holy Services and you will find the Holy".
My brothers and sisters..he was right.
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« Reply #21 on: July 08, 2009, 12:00:49 AM »

I have to take issue with something DavidBryan wrote:

"I've seen people come to Orthodoxy for wrong reasons (they love Russian music/art,"

What's wrong with loving Russian music and art? Can't beauty lead to truth?

In my case, I was from a liberal Protestant background who fell in love with Greek culture - the food, music, art, language, people, etc.

After I cultivated that interest, then I started reading Orthodox theology, and from that learned that the liberal Protestant faith I was raised in was insufficient and lacking when compared with ancient Patristic Christian teaching.

So in my case, I fell in love with beauty, and then found truth. So don't be so quick to condemn people coming to Orthodoxy "for the wrong reasons" DavidBryan!  Angry
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« Reply #22 on: July 08, 2009, 12:42:21 AM »

I converted to Orthodoxy in my heart almost immediately upon discovering it early in 2003; I was chrismated in spring 2004.

After these passing years, one of the great reliefs and blessings for me is a Church bigger than me and my efforts at Christian piety. The older I get, perhaps like Heorhij, I just cannot muster the energy to work so hard at reading, Bible study, etc. But I am thankful for the Divine Liturgy and other services that draw me int0 heaven and out of myself.

Don't get me wrong, I studied intensively for the first 4 years, and read the daily readings for five years. But lately I have just backed way off.

There is a certain kind of protestant piety which is VERY self-oriented. I am releived to be drawn away from MY self, MY efforts, MY study, MY prayers, MY etc etc etc. I am now part of a Church bigger than me and my crappy efforts and pathetic, self-centered spiritual naval-gazing. (this is not to say converting is easy; I have spoken to the difficulties in another thread).

I think regular attendance at services and some rudimentary rule of prayer is more than enough for most of us - most of our ancestors for most of human history were illiterate, don't forget. The Church provided those rudiments for us. I'm happy to be the beneficiary and leave alot of the protestant works righteousness (all the while we proclaimed salvation by faith alone - interesting contadiction) behind me.

I appreciate the frustration and concern of the original poster. This post is not a rebuttal. But maybe cradles have experienced all their lives what I have just discovered.

I am not excusing ignorance or complacency. At some point everyone should have a little sweat equity in their faith via reading, extra study, asking questions and dialog. But after a point, how much knowledge does one need? The problem more often than not, at least I think so, is not in the head but in the heart, and maybe not even in the heart so much as in the will.
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« Reply #23 on: July 08, 2009, 07:24:18 AM »

What's wrong with loving Russian music and art?

Not a thing.

Can't beauty lead to truth?

Dostoevsky said that "beauty will save the world," so yes, it can and does.

In my case, I was from a liberal Protestant background who fell in love with Greek culture - the food, music, art, language, people, etc.

After I cultivated that interest, then I started reading Orthodox theology etc

But, you see, that's my point...you became Orthodox ultimately not because of the food/music/art/language, but because of the faith proclaimed.  Before that you'd been attracted to a culture -- nothing wrong with that in and of itself -- but that's not the same as being attracted to the faith.  Plenty of Russians are VERY into their cultural traditions but don't know a thing about their faith.  For that matter, so are a lot of Baptists...

So don't be so quick to condemn people coming to Orthodoxy "for the wrong reasons" DavidBryan!  Angry

I apologize for angering you.  My point was simply that, while people get "hooked" for all kinds of reasons, ultimately choosing one's faith out of anything other than "We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly spirit, we have found the true faith" -- which I'm convinced you ultimately did -- is not going to last.

I'm glad you made the transition.
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Priest in the Orthodox Church in America - ordained on March 18, 2012

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« Reply #24 on: July 08, 2009, 08:23:47 PM »

I have a rather complicated feelings about this topic.

Yes, of course, of course I appreciate the converts' education, awareness, knowledge of the Christian theology, Orthodox and Heterodox, their largely good orientation in what the Church believes as it is written in the Bible and patristic sources.

On the other hand, I still, in spite of years of thinking about it and wrestling over the "issues" of faith as an active participant of one Ukrainian religious forum (and, more recently, this forum), tend to believe that there isn't much (or even, there isn't anything) worth "knowing" (as far as our faith is concerned), beyong the Niceo-Constantinople Creed. Everything "knowable" is there. What is beyond it or, rather, what is complementing it and filling it with life and vibrancy - is not "knowable" through reading or meditating or devotions, but "experienceable."

Fathers... oh well. They wrote a lot. They argued with each other and there is something in their writings that seems to completely contradict the writings of their fellow Fathers. What is there in their writings I can and should and must learn, beyond the Creed and beyond what I irrationally, "sense-ably" experience during the Divine Liturgy? I don't know...

Their teaching about the Fall - no. I can't learn it from them as long as they talk - and they seem to do talk, unanimously - about the passing of something (maybe not "sin" but the susceptibility to sin, or "sinfulness") - down the generations. I don't believe in this. I can't. Just like I can't make myself believe that there ever existed this "first human couple" - it is nonsense from the point of view of the rational human knowledge as it exists now.

Their eschatology? Perhaps, but I never got it yet even in the first approximation, because it is so murky and irrational. Essence and energies, oh yeah. Smiley

Their ethics? No. Their view on marriage and human sexuality (as expressed even in marriage) is alien and unacceptable to me. Other aspects of ethics? The Sermon on the Mount covers it, quite exhaustively...

So... I am not sure I WANT to "study" "our faith." I mean, I will do it, I actually like it (I am a bookish person), and I admire converts with good pious upbringing who are used to these studies. But I am not sure that this is the ultimate goal or even a plus. Again, I believe in what I experience  when I stand and listen to my parish priest chant, when I see the icons, when I smell the incense, when I, shaking and trembling all over, go to that Chalice and receive the King of All. I don't care how this or that Father expressed "our holy Orthodox Faith" in those parts of it that are about the fall of the human race and salvation - I just know by experience that I sinned and continue to sin (while maybe all other human beings are perfect for all I know!), and that I am lost in my sin without, well... this, all this. I am lost without this chanting, without these icons, without this incense, without this priest, without this mystical Body and Blood of Christ, Who is God and man, fully God like God and fully man like myself (except sin). It is only through this chanting, this incense, these icons, this priest's kind, simple words, and through this Chalice that I come to realization that every single next day and hour of my life I have to try living in such a way that no dirt, no mud, no filth mars this "icon of the living God" in me. 

That's all I "know" and will know, and nothing of this I got through my home upbringing or Bible classes or devotions or systematic studies of patristics, and I somehow doubt that I will get a lot more if I add the classes and the devotions and the studies of patristics to what I already have and to what I get, keep getting, every single time I attend the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.

I am sorry for this long and incoherent rant, but I just felt like I had to say what I said. 



What a wonderful rant!!! Thanks so much, Heorhig for this "post of the year"!
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I believe in One God, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.
Theodosius Dobzhansky, Russian Orthodox Christian (1900-1975)
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