I could turn the title of this thread round and confess to not understanding the Orthodox mindset, despite many months on the forum. I think I have come to a much clearer understanding of your doctrines – why you believe yours is the true church, Holy Tradition, the perpetual virginity of Mary, prayer to the saints, apostolic succession, infant baptism, the nature of the Eucharist, and probably other beliefs. But I do not feel I have penetrated your piety, spirituality, experience - not your Faith, but your faith.
What I cannot grasp is your concept of salvation being other than “by grace alone” – one of the three solas to be repudiated, according to a recent post on the Evangelical Christmas thread. I am probably not grasping what you are saying.
Whether or not it is relevant here I cannot say, but not all that long ago I tried to explore the teaching on merit with a Catholic nun, but she only replied that this is one of the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, but was unable to explain it.
I seem to have read somewhere that Catholics teach that there is no merit in any of our works, but that God in grace had decided to regard them as if they did in fact carry merit. That at least made some sense, but it may be far from your teachings. I do not know.
You see, occasionally I manage to do something good for no other reason (that I am aware of) than that God requires it: a purely religious motive, out of sheer obedience to God. But most of the time, if I assess my life, it seems shabby and almost unrelievedly substandard. But because as an Evangelical I see myself as a wretched and guilty sinner saved only by grace, only through faith, my lack of satisfactory performance as a Christian does not disturb my sense of security in God’s love, or awareness of my status as a saved man.
But I get the impression (maybe mistakenly) that you believe that your good works have a contribution to make towards your salvation, and that is what I have so far been unable to understand. It is an idea that is entirely dark to me, closed, curtained off. I suppose if it were explained clearly I might be able to grasp the doctrine, but I cannot imagine the inner spirituality which goes with it.
Put it like this: on the all-too-rare occasions when I manage to do something genuinely out of sheer obedience, maybe even love, to God, if I thought it played some contributory role towards my salvation, I might start feeling quite smug. On the other hand, by looking at my usual standard, I should be driven to despair: good-bye peace with God and the joy of salvation. To use a colloquial phrase, I can’t work out “how you tick”; that is, I do not understand the Orthodox mindset.
I should be pleased to be enlightened.