I am, and was born, Orthodox. My girlfriend/fiancee was not. She was and is currently protestant (probably associates with Pentecostal). During my years at university I have sadly become more lax in faith and have not been focused upon it. Now I am graduating and we wanted to get married, I would like to show her why Orthodoxy is the true faith (and strengthen my own faith through knowledge and practice).
Hey Nick. First of all I recommend asking yourself very carefully how important it really is that your girlfriend is Orthodox. There are other ways to salvation outside the Orthodox Church. I have been told by Orthodox monastics and clergy alike that God judges people by their behaviour and their souls rather than what church they prey in. If the difference in faith is really going to be a difficulty in your marriage then perhaps you really do need to attempt to convert her, but if it isn't that big an issue it might be better to focus on being a better Orthodox Christian yourself (your good example might bring her towards Orthodoxy anyway).
A few of our issues:
- She is concerned with the point that salvation is attained. She views the Orthodox standpoint as we do not know that we have been "saved" until repose. Whereas I believe the protestant tradition is that you attain salvation upon dedication of your life to Christ.
You could try to explain to her that Orthodoxy views salvation as an ongoing process which continues long after death and well into the next life. Whereas Protestantism teaches that in order to be saved all one needs to do is put their hand up and 'accept Jesus,' kind of like saying 'I'm in,' Orthodoxy teaches that in order to be saved one needs to spend a very long time perfecting their heart, mind and soul through prayer, righteous and Christ-like actions and behaviour, love for all humanity, love for God, etc. We look to the Beatitudes for guidelines on how to live and what our souls should be like - the process of this 'internal perfection' requires discipline and effort. Simply believing in doctrines in not enough - one needs to live, breathe, pray, love and act in Christ. Protestants accept that the only way to enter the Kingdom of God is through Christ. Perhaps it would be a good idea to talk to your girlfriend about what it really means to live 'through Christ.' Does it just mean to believe that Christ is God and died for our sake? If a person sincerely believes in Christian doctrine - eg, that God exists, Christ is God, Christ died for our sins, etc - but acts in a totally contrary way (for example, are intolerant, judgemental, jealous, hipocritical, etc) are they really living through Christ?
- She doesn't believe in Saints and says that there is no justification for them. Not that they are bad 'people' but shouldn't all good Christians just pray straight to Jesus? I have tried to respond that we do not pray to saints rather we seek their intersessions. Her counter is 'how is that more powerful that prayer straight to Jesus?'
Tell her that we absolutely do believe that prayer to God/Jesus is the greatest and most effective form of prayer - the ONLY form of prayer which we can utilise to improve ourselves and come to greater closeness to God in soul and actions. Tell her that everyone in heaven, who has achieved salvation, is a saint. The saints which we recognise in the Church are people who were so holy in their lifetimes that we are absolutely confident are indeed in heaven. We don't pray to the saints - we ask/beseech them to pray for us, just as we can ask our friends to pray for us. It is fitting to ask holy people who have already achieved theosis
and attained salvation to help us in that same quest by praying for our souls. Make sure she understands this and doesn't think that we are 'worshipping' saints instead of Jesus.
- I am also working against her "dream" of what a wedding looks like.
Perhaps the two of you could agree on some sort of compromise, a mid-way point between the both traditions. The ceremony could be Orthodox in the technical sense, but with the presence of her Pentecostal family and friends it could also somehow incorporate aspects of their religious tradition.
- I try and explain the position that we view the bible in highest regard but also view the writings of the Holy fathers in regard as well. Some of the writings, stories, and lives of the saints I can't even reference because they are not in her experience/lexicon. I tried to ask where in scripture does it say "scripture alone." I am not sure how well that will be received.
The sola scriptura
attitude of Protestantism might be very difficult to overcome. I had a conversation with a Pentecostal recently about this. I said to him that the Bible is mankind's record of spiritual truths which were revealed to men and women over a long period of time. Revelation
- that is, the process by which men came to understand these spiritual truths, whether it was in the darkness atop Mt Sinai (as it was for Moses), attending the sermons and speeches of Jesus (as it was for Matthew), by the banks of the river Chebar (as it was for Ezekiel) or on the road to Damascus (as it was for St Paul) - is the act of God. Writing down and recording these spiritual truths in human language is an act of man. The spiritual truths contained within the Bible are indeed true, but to consider each word of the Bible to be literally divine truth and 'our sole authority in faith and religious practice' (as Protestants view it) is Bibliolatry. Personally I believe quite strongly that God is not
like Agent Smith from The Matrix
, that is, he doesn't possess people and take over their free will - which would be necessarily if God is indeed the sole author of every word of the Bible (rather than men such as Solomon, Moses, John, Paul, Isaiah, etc...).