Sorry for the lackluster title of the thread but I couldn't think of how to sum up what I'm about to ask in any other way.
Over the past couple of years I've been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting on many different aspects of Christianity in general, Church history, the concept of faith, and what it is, all ending up within the context of Orthodoxy. I've also had a hard time dealing with the state of the Church (corruption and what not) and have wavered in my faith and belief in God from time to time. (or at least faith in "The Church") I know in these days in Orthodoxy I'm not entirely alone in this, and I've talked to friends at Church, as well corresponded with a few Orthodox people online, and one thing we all have in common (at least from my small sampling of fellow travelers) is no matter how bad things get in the Church, or in our lives, or how much anti-Westernism infiltrates some convert communities (I admit this is a big reason I struggle) we all say one thing albeit it different words, and that is When I'm in the Liturgy none of this stuff matters. Or perhaps another phrase like, "in the end it's about worshipping God/it's all about the Eucharist"...or any other number of various ways many of us might express the same feeling.
this happened just recently for me, a bad week in the faith department, but at Liturgy, all that went away for me. I've seen many people on here post over the years about this problem, or that problem they have in their lives, and almost always at least one person (maybe a number of people) will reply "just focus on God in the Liturgy" or something along that thought process. Then there is the famous line we use when talking to non-Orthodox, "come and see!" as if when that person comes to Liturgy the scales will fall from their eyes and they will see the truth. And indeed, this does happen. I can say, in some ways it happened for me. But as I reflect back on that "scale falling moment" or whatever else that fits into the context I've begun to wonder how much of this is pure emotionalism?
I realize Orthodox theology claims to be "unemotional" and some Orthodox theologians, and laymen will kind of turn their noses up at Evangelical Protestant worship as being "purely emotional" or "with no depth"..."not like an Eastern Liturgy", but in the end isn't how we feel about our worship simply emotionalism as well? Maybe a more exotic form of emotionalism than rock bands etc, but isn't it emotionalism just the same?
The Catholic Church uses many of the same arguments FOR Liturgy that we do, but knowing a number of pretty devout Catholics like I do, i see the emotionalism in their experience as well. Particularly with Eucharistic Adoration. "i just want to be with the blessed Sacrament"...or "ah, the music is so beautiful"...I know Orthodox apologists will try and claim our music isn't "beautiful" in order to focus on God not our emotions, but all is in the eye of the beholder is it not? I personally think Byzantine chant is beautiful and soothing. But isn't this also emotionalism?
How can we claim our faith is free (or mostly free) from this aspect when it seems to be so clearly a big part of it? Are we just like everyone else just basing our faith on our emotions?
And if we are just basing our faith on our emotions how do we know we're not diluting ourselves into falsehood? How can we be sure our emotional experiences are the right ones? Yes the Liturgy "feels right" and all of the Church politics seem to slip away during the Liturgy, but is this a real "experience"? What is experience but an emotional reaction? One reason I cannot imagine ever NOT being Orthodox is Holy Week. I cannot imagine going through an Orthodox Holy Week....but in the end, if I'm truly honest with myself and tear down all the pseudo-mystical arguments, it really does simply feel like an emotional reaction.
I once listened to a lecture from a Jewish scholar who converted to Protestant Christianity when he was a teenager, then later in life returned to his Jewish faith. In this lecture he told his conversion story and the interviewer asked him something along the lines of "that seems like a very emotional reaction you had when you were born again, rather than any concept of thinking things out, studying, reading, learning the faith, etc..." And this scholar replied, "yes it was purely an emotional experience not based in any sort of rational thinking at all".....Now this is not a one to one comparison, but how are our ideas of our faith experience truly any different than say a young Jew "getting saved" because the family he went to Church with took him in when he had nothing? How is our dealing with Church politics, historical questions, doubts about theology, issues with Church history by simply brushing it aside because we "felt good in Church today" any less emotional than say someone getting caught up in the moment in a Pentecostal revival meeting and getting saved?
Is there an Orthodox (or Catholic) answer to these questions? Did the fathers of the Church ever write on such a topic or is it a phenomena of the modern world?
One last example . . . what if someone has doubts about Christianity in general, (or any religion for that matter) but decided to stay Christian because "well I can't imagine not celebrating Christmas". Sometimes Western Christians will use a similar argument for not becoming Orthodox because they can't imagine giving up some Western Church practice or devotion or style of worship, (say rock bands) and the Orthodox reply that they are simply being too "emotional". Yet what if the shoe were on the other foot? what if an Orthodox said they'd like to join say the Mormon Church but can't imagine not celebrating Oxi day. (yes I'm being a bit silly here, but only to make the point) Wouldn't we then applaud their "emotionalism" in that case? And if it all boils down to emotional experiences how can we tell what is true and what is not? particularly when Orthodoxy claims to be less emotional than everyone else.
This is not an attempt to start an argument, but I'm really in need of an answer. Maybe I'm just approaching it from too rational a point of view, but then if so, doesn't that validate my point? That our faith is no more rational than any other Church?
This is a sincere question that I've been pondering for a long time and I just can't seem to find an answer...but of course Orthodox writings are so extensive I might not know where to look.