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Author Topic: Can you doubt a teaching and still be Orthodox?  (Read 2085 times) Average Rating: 0
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believer74
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« on: June 24, 2009, 10:33:04 PM »

Hello, I think my tag basically says my question.
It seems like people don't talk about this, but I really need to as it's been a question turning over in mind and causing me no small distress for a while.

If the word Orthodoxy means "right belief", and "right worship," as I was taught, then if you come to doubt any teaching that was put forth by a church council or church father, is it correct to conclude you cannot be considered Orthodox? Are you out?  I became Orthodox about two years ago.  I remember that my promise at chrismation was that I accepted all the teachings and traditions, and, at the time, I really thought I did.

But for about a year now I find myself questioning certain teachings, just as I did in my former religion, which was Roman Catholic.  For example, I question the literal nature of Eucharist, as well as some of the devotion to Mary which I believe goes too far.  I only pray to God and this has been my approach for years. I think no saint including Mary can ever do anything if He did not will it, so the direct line is how I work, as it's the only way that feels right to me.  This is divergent point, but I also disagree with some of the teachings of the church fathers (e.g. the "evil" Jews and others).  Perhaps I didn't read enough (again, I thought I knew what I needed to when I decided to convert), but that was then. 
Any thoughts? I will greatly appreciate any feedback.  If anyone else had any doubt that they are comfortable to talk about, that might help me feel less weird, too. Shocked


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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2009, 10:50:30 PM »

Sure... we all have doubts from time to time. That simply means that we're not dispassionate saints yet but are still very earth-bound and struggling with sin (and logismoi... see: The Mountain of Silence). What to do? Talk with your priest about it. Pray and ask for strength to resist these thoughts. Ignore them if you can for as I mentioned, we all go through these times of doubt. Go more frequently to confession and holy communion. Reach outward to others in need instead of going inwards to your own sinful condition. If you think about others and their needs, you'll have less time to brood about your own spiritual short-comings.
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« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2009, 11:13:38 PM »

Hello, I think my tag basically says my question.
It seems like people don't talk about this, but I really need to as it's been a question turning over in mind and causing me no small distress for a while.

If the word Orthodoxy means "right belief", and "right worship," as I was taught, then if you come to doubt any teaching that was put forth by a church council or church father, is it correct to conclude you cannot be considered Orthodox? Are you out?  I became Orthodox about two years ago.  I remember that my promise at chrismation was that I accepted all the teachings and traditions, and, at the time, I really thought I did.

But for about a year now I find myself questioning certain teachings, just as I did in my former religion, which was Roman Catholic.  For example, I question the literal nature of Eucharist, as well as some of the devotion to Mary which I believe goes too far.  I only pray to God and this has been my approach for years. I think no saint including Mary can ever do anything if He did not will it, so the direct line is how I work, as it's the only way that feels right to me.  This is divergent point, but I also disagree with some of the teachings of the church fathers (e.g. the "evil" Jews and others).  Perhaps I didn't read enough (again, I thought I knew what I needed to when I decided to convert), but that was then. 
Any thoughts? I will greatly appreciate any feedback.  If anyone else had any doubt that they are comfortable to talk about, that might help me feel less weird, too. Shocked


You are not weird my friend, you seem to be carrying some baggage from your past. I am not criticizing you because the western way of thinking is different than the eastern, with the western being more inclined to demand black or white or cause and effect explanations. The eastern way of thinking is more modest, not so demanding, and is satisfied with not getting complete answers for some questions.

You say that you have a hard time believing that the Body and Blood of our Lord is truly the Body and Blood. If you think that this means blood and flesh in accordance with your senses, you would be wrong. Not even the Catholic Doctrine of Transubstantiation teaches that these days (according to some wonderful RC posters on this site). The problem is that you are trying to figure out what is happening to you, instead of just letting go and, admitting that this is a mystery, take communion with a child-like faith, in awe and wonder, and gratitude and love, all emotions befitting a child of God getting closer to God, a member of His body realizing that he/she is a part...

Similarly with praying to the saints to intercede for us. You don't have to personally do that, although you know that the Lord himself commanded us to pray for another, and to intercede for each other: why should we do that only with the living saints? On the other hand, do try to pray along during public worship, even if your intellect says no. The experience of worshiping together  is in itself a type of communing with God.

Frankly, I think that you intellectualize too much. Don't stand apart and analyze, throw yourself 100 percent into the Liturgy, from the beginning to the end. Be a lead member of the cast and not a cameo role. You will be amazed at how differently everything will look.
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« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2009, 01:17:33 AM »

It's my understanding that belief that the Holy Eucharist is the "essence" of the very Body and Blood of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ is a basic must; "Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here presented; and make this Bread the Precious Body of Thy Christ and that which is in this Cup, the Precious Blood of Thy Christ, changing them by Thy Holy Spirit."  The "change," in Greek is called a "metasiosis" (sp), a change in essence, but not of substance.

All doctrine set forth by the Ecumenical Synods (Councils) must be believed in order to attain salvation.  "Theologoumena" (pious teachings), aides intended to assist our spiritual journey and growth, need not necessarily be believed, as long as they are not condemned.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2009, 01:20:52 AM by Basil 320 » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2009, 03:19:52 AM »

For example, I question the literal nature of Eucharist, as well as some of the devotion to Mary which I believe goes too far. 

Doubts come and go.  They are a part of our walk in the faith. They can be fearsome and they can be longlasting and they can torment people for years.  To doubt the faith as it is found in the Gospels and as it is expressed by the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils is a more serious matter but provided we do not acquiesce in the doubts and allow them to crystallise into an "I do not believe" then we are still within the fold of the Church.

Here is something from one of my favourite women, a convert nun, Mother Maria of Normanby, Yorkshire. She has something interesting to say about doubt. She has a whole lot more to say in one of her books but I am too lazy to type it in...

"To prove God, to prove the Gospel, to prove the Resurrection, to prove the Saints, all this lies totally outside our power, even if the attempt is made by the process of negation.

"The mystery can never yield to becoming a discovery. There can be no question of proof, or half-proof, positive or negative, equally there can be no fear or scorn of doubt. We need not attempt to ride triumphantly over doubt. pretending it is not there or exulting that we have pushed it away into some obscure corner.

"The shame and the hatred of doubt rest entirely on pre-conceived premise of absolute and certain human knowledge. Doubt and a sense of failure go together and lay the foundation for atheism or pious sham or years of spiritual work which possibly could have been used more fruitfully, although no suffering can be wasted.

"If we did not doubt in our finite minds, who would God be. where could we find Him? What a hell it would be of separation from God if there were not the room for doubt! The presence of the doubt is the one constant clue which we have to the presence of the Mystery. as it were the one shadow of the transcendent in immanent life.

"When God comes to us, how He comes to us. and how He lives in us. is the Mystery shining within the doubt. It is the beloved secret and no man can know it. and it is the key to every expression of our faith. Not one aspect of our worship is free from this blessing of doubt.

"All the forms in which our daily faith is expressed and practised can only be understood in the light of the Mystery shrouded in doubt: Jesus answered and said unto him, if man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him. and we will come unto him, make our abode with him ( Jn 14,23).
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« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2009, 07:43:10 AM »

I, too, have many doubts, pretty much all the time. As I wrote before, particularly in my exchange to JNorm about Bill Maher, I was raised that way, raised in the wonderful intellectual, secular-humanist culture that nourished the "Intelligentsia" of the old Soviet Union. My parents were scientists, my grandma was a librarian, my great-grandfather was a teacher of Latin and Greek in the old Zarist "Gimnazija," etc. In my family, there has always been a cult of books, knowledge, intellectual honesty, scrutiny, and doubt. Every cell and molecule of yours truly is sharply against any blind belief, any indoctrination, any brainwashing. That was a life-saving thing in the old Soviet totalitarian regime, and I keep it now. My wife and daughter are that way, too, and all of our friends (at least old, trusted lifelong friends) are that way, too.

But, like others have already said above, all my doubts, as far as the Orthodox faith is concerned, become very secondary, indeed, when I go to a Divine Liturgy - or, perhaps broader, when I participate in the liturgical LIFE of the Church. I can think critically about writings of some Father all week (or even month) long. But early in the morning, when I am standing in front of my icons and say, "Lord Jesus Christ, by the prayers of Your Most Pure Mother, and of our Holy and God-Bearing Fathers, and of all the Saints, have mercy on us!" - I have a rather peculiar, irrational, un-explainable feeling. It is a feeling that it all is really so: that right now, in "heaven" (even though we don't know what it is) there exist all these Fathers (no matter what I think of their particular writings), and all these saints, all these holy, worthy people who lived, struggled (harder than me!), and are now seeing Christ, literally sitting at His banquet table. This same feeling, greatly aughmented by the liturgical tunes, colors of the icons and of the priestly vestments, candllelight, and incense, comes to me during the Divine Liturgy in my tiny mission parish in the middle of the rural Mississippi nowhere, or downtown Kyiv, when I visit home.

To me, it is that irrationality, that mystery of the Church that keeps drawing me to God and away from my own little caprices and lusts. 

« Last Edit: June 25, 2009, 07:44:02 AM by Heorhij » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2009, 07:48:35 AM »

In conclusion we could say that:
1) We *must* believe what has been defined by the Ecumenical Councils and formalized in the Liturgical Life of the Church
2) We *should* believe and understand what is a common thought expressed by the Church Fathers (but we must verify that a teaching is compatible with the Ecumenical Councils)
3) We *can* personally embrace or reject - but never condemn - everything the Church Fathers individually taught when it is compatible with point 1) and 2).

For example, the Trinity, the Natures in Christ, the use of Icons and the honouring of the Mother of God have been defined and have to be believed; prayers for the dead, the Eucharistic presence etc. are a part of the witness of the Church Fathers *and* of the Liturgy so they are to be believed and examined until we get rid of all doubts; ideas of the Church Fathers such as creation in 5500 BC, or the birth of Chist in 3-1 BC etc were common beliefs never sanctioned by the Church, never introduced in the Liturgy but yet supported for a certain time by the hierarchs, so we can believe them or reject them in freedom.

On the Eucharistic presence, we should note how the 'change' is named "metabolé" in Greek. This word is of the same root as metabolism, indicating an assimilation and transformation: I like to think of Christ's spirit "adopting" the bread and wine as body and blood, and changing their 'essence' so that under the veil of the matter of bread and wine we have the essence of Christ's life (of course this implies a spiritual change in the spiritual properties the bread and wine acquire after the consecration, which are exactly the same as the true body and blood of Christ). On the matter, Orthodoxy is truly open but the Real Presence is a doubtless part of our Church Tradition, omnipresent in the liturgical texts....
On Mariology, we should distinguish between the infallible definitions of Mary according to the teachings of the Church and the personal attitudes of many Orthodox towards her. Many exceed in reserving to Mary such a honour that it seems idolatry (or mariolatry), but that's not the teaching of the Church... that's a personal mistake of the believers (even of priests, sometimes). Yet the title of "Mother of God", and her ever-virginity and purity are a basic doctrine of our Church, handed down by the apostles through the witness of the Church Fathers, of the Ecumenical Councils and of the Liturgy... we just can't doubt them!
That's why we tend to find unreasonable the RC attempts to dogmatize everything...

In Christ,   Alex
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« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2009, 09:17:31 AM »

Just a quick post. The Eucharist, focus on the thanksgiving & recall the reaction to our Lord as He instituted it as accounted in the Gospel of John, "...This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" (John 6:60, KJV). Comparing the suffering of the motherly saint in 2 Maccabbees 7 who saw her seven sons executed by the pagans can give much inspiration to venerating the Theotokos (alongside Revelation 12). Agreed on the uneasiness of some expressions towards the Jews at various times but I also remember the RCC had anti Semites & Martin Luther was one too (but the great 20th c Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer fought anti Semitism).
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« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2009, 10:26:07 AM »

I only pray to God and this has been my approach for years.
No problem. Not-praying to a Saint won't make you less of an Orthodox. I rarely pray to anyone besides God too.

Quote
I think no saint including Mary can ever do anything if He did not will it
Hey, hey...hold it, right there. police
Quote
John 2:4
"Dear woman, why do you involve me?", Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come."
Notice that Jesus' time hadn't come yet, but He did perform a miracle because Mother Mary asked. Wink
Plus, praying to a Saint is just like asking a friend to pray for you. But Saints have more faith, this is why we choose them.

Quote
This is divergent point, but I also disagree with some of the teachings of the church fathers (e.g. the "evil" Jews and others). Perhaps I didn't read enough (again, I thought I knew what I needed to when I decided to convert), but that was then.
I too disagree with Saint Basil's comments on Genesis, he doesn't mention the dinosaurs! Angry
Just kidding...
Well, we never said that they can't make any mistakes. We even venerate Augustine of Hippo, but we barely follow his beliefs (no free will, filioque, Papacy etc.).

Quote
If anyone else had any doubt that they are comfortable to talk about, that might help me feel less weird, too. Shocked
I did have doubts. I do have doubts. I will have doubts.

I think that besides some dogmas -like God's nature (Trinity, incarnation etc.), fundamental doctrines (Salvation, prayer and such)- you are free to interpret a large part on your own.
The part which we -as Orthodox- are not to deny, is in the Ecumenical Councils, as far as I know.

I once heard about a saying in the US, "Orthodoxy isn't an organized religion."... Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2009, 11:25:08 PM »

Thank you all. I appreciate the time you took to reply and for sharing your own experiences. I think this road isn't going to be easy for me, and I may eventually come to some difficult decision-making. But I will stick around the boards and keep up with what's going on. God Bless.
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2009, 12:10:33 AM »

Hello, I think my tag basically says my question.
It seems like people don't talk about this, but I really need to as it's been a question turning over in mind and causing me no small distress for a while.

If the word Orthodoxy means "right belief", and "right worship," as I was taught, then if you come to doubt any teaching that was put forth by a church council or church father, is it correct to conclude you cannot be considered Orthodox? Are you out?  I became Orthodox about two years ago.  I remember that my promise at chrismation was that I accepted all the teachings and traditions, and, at the time, I really thought I did.

But for about a year now I find myself questioning certain teachings, just as I did in my former religion, which was Roman Catholic.  For example, I question the literal nature of Eucharist, as well as some of the devotion to Mary which I believe goes too far.  I only pray to God and this has been my approach for years. I think no saint including Mary can ever do anything if He did not will it, so the direct line is how I work, as it's the only way that feels right to me.  This is divergent point, but I also disagree with some of the teachings of the church fathers (e.g. the "evil" Jews and others).  Perhaps I didn't read enough (again, I thought I knew what I needed to when I decided to convert), but that was then. 
Any thoughts? I will greatly appreciate any feedback.  If anyone else had any doubt that they are comfortable to talk about, that might help me feel less weird, too. Shocked




I don't think we are called upon to review all the Church teaches and then pass judgment. Faith in the West means something like that . You add and subtract and draw a conclusion. It's a head thing. That is only a part of Faith. Faith also means submitting yourself and showing up. Faith in action or actually ..is action. We go through the process of Theosis and add our efforts to Gods invitation to us. We labor spiritually. It requires consent more than agreement.

   
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« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2009, 04:57:24 PM »

When you refer to the purity of Mary, does that mean that she was sinless? For me this lies in direct contradiction with the scriptures (Rom. 3:23), as well as what several of the early church fathers believed. I can perhaps accept that her sinful nature was somehow changed during the infusion of the Holy Spirit, but not before.


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« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2009, 06:12:08 PM »

When you refer to the purity of Mary, does that mean that she was sinless? For me this lies in direct contradiction with the scriptures (Rom. 3:23), as well as what several of the early church fathers believed. I can perhaps accept that her sinful nature was somehow changed during the infusion of the Holy Spirit, but not before.

I believe the Orthodox answer is that she had the fallen, sinful human nature like each and every one of us. But she was specially chosen and preserved, kept from committing actual sin. From her early eyars, she actually lived in the temple, in the atmosphere of total holiness and devotion to God. That lasted up until she was betrothed to St. Joseph. And then, of course, after the Annunciation, the Holy Spirit came down on her and made her even more holy and pure.
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« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2009, 09:08:59 PM »

Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief! Smiley

It might pay you to get a copy of The Orthodox Way, by Bishop Kallistos (Ware).

Because faith is not a logical certainty, but a personal relationship, and because this personal relationship is very much incomplete in each of us and needs continually to develop further, it is by no means impossible for faith to coexist with doubt. The two are not mutually exclusive. http://books.google.com.au/books?id=HG8c-lUZIDEC&pg=PA16&lpg=PA16&dq=%22doubt%22+%2B+%22kallistos%22&source=bl&ots=ppuMm-H20V&sig=02qYjwYLTctshn2PZR96pelzlFI&hl=en&ei=FORXSv7vOIOEsgPnmYSeCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2
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