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Author Topic: Is my doctrine correct. Can I join an Orthodox church? How do I do it?  (Read 21258 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Reply #90 on: February 07, 2010, 08:39:49 PM »

Hey Acts420,

I am similar to you in that I have a viewpoint on various pastoral and 'ethical' matters which are not particularly common throughout Orthodoxy. For example, I don't believe that sex before marriage is necessarily a sin, and I don't think homosexuality is a sin (in fact I think homosexuals should be allowed to pursue their love sacramentally, through marriage). I'm also a Universalist. Such views are shared by some in Orthodoxy, and have been throughout history, but not by the majority. However, Orthodoxy is well-known for being united in a common core apostolic faith, which is outlined in the creed and the ecumenical councils, but aside from those matters of doctrine being a bit of a free-for-all. For example, Orthodoxy contains both creationists and evolutionists, people who are for the ordination of women and those who are against, those who support monarchy and those who support democracy, people who support gay marriage and those who do not, etc. We have unity in diversity.

Thank you so much Feanor.  I really needed to hear that.  I suspected that to be the case, but I was not sure yet.  God bless you.  Thank you for sharing this with me.

love, joy, peace,
jason
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« Reply #91 on: February 07, 2010, 09:08:34 PM »

I said it seems that the Spirit has led me, through Scripture, to what I believe.  I have also said I am open to correction.  We all make mistakes, don't we Father?  James 3.  I am admitting I could be mistaking something else for the guidance of the Spirit.  However, as it stands, I believe I am in the right here.

Yes, we all make mistakes, but I think it is very, very, very bad to say in one breath that you believe you are communicating with God, then say that you might not be!

If you are going to invoke the name of God, you had better be darned serious about it!  There is something in the Scriptures about not taking the Lord's Name in vain.  It's called a Commandment.

You cannot say that God is guiding you unless you can prove it.  Otherwise, you are taking His Name and His Spirit as a trifle.

Frankly, as sinful as I am, I would be too scared to say such a thing as you have said!  And to say it repeatedly is even more frightening.

Look you can believe you are brilliant, spectacularly so, but that's much different from stating that you believe you are directly communicating with God.  This is so serious that the Old Testament says:

Quote
Deuteronomy 18:20 - But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my Name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

You have presumed to come forward and speak as a prophet, since you are holding forth a teaching that you say comes from the Holy Spirit.

Are you a prophet?  Has God sent you here in invoke His Name?

When you come and say you have a teaching from the Lord, and you teach as from the Lord, then you are speaking as a prophet.  However, a prophet must be sent (see above).  Have you been sent?

I know you feel strongly about what you believe, but don't confuse your strong feelings with God.

This is serious business, my friend.  You are proposing to speak for God, and I would like to see your credentials, if not for your sake than for my own.


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« Reply #92 on: February 07, 2010, 09:32:06 PM »

According to Old Testament law, if two non-married persons were discovered to have had sex, they had to be married immediately. The idea of sexual "courtship" prior to marriage was not countenanced.

Part of Orthodoxy is sacrificing one's pride and putting aside convictions that seem very reasonable to us but which are contrary to the teachings of the Church. We need to lay down our brilliant ideas and "insights" and humble ourselves. We separate ourselves from the Church by defying her teachings. Believing oneself to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, even before being joined to the Church or familiarizing oneself with the teachings of the Holy Fathers, is an extremely perilous attitude.

The notion that the Church is a "free-for-all" outside of the Creed and the Ecumenical Councils (as Feanor erroneously says)  is simply an extension of Protestant sola scriptura to include some extra texts. Many standard beliefs and practices of the Church are not explicitly addressed in these sources. There are some issues about which there is diversity of opinion among the Fathers; premarital sex and homosexuality are not among them.

I welcome you into the Church, Jason, but one does not come to the Church with a set of pre-conceived doctrines and say, "Let's see how the Church matches up with my beliefs." Rather, you should try to conform yourself to the mind of the Church which was founded by Christ. If you don't believe we are that Church, if you believe that some special revelation has been given to you that surpasses the truth of Orthodoxy, then there are many Protestant sects that will indulge such notions. Just remember that it is not the Holy Spirit that indulges our pride, but some other kind of spirit. 
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« Reply #93 on: February 07, 2010, 10:55:27 PM »

ALL of the fathers also believed in young-earth creationism, too. I can say with certainty that none of the early church fathers ever believed that humans had formed over millions of years of evolution from simpler organisms in an extensive evolutionary chain extending as far back as the first single-cell organisms swimming around the primordial ocean. None of them. However, we now know they were wrong, and the majority of educated bishops (and priests and monastics) believe in evolution. Doctrine can, and does, change as we learn more about the world, science and the human condition.
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« Reply #94 on: February 07, 2010, 11:15:30 PM »

ALL of the fathers also believed in young-earth creationism, too. I can say with certainty that none of the early church fathers ever believed that humans had formed over millions of years of evolution from simpler organisms in an extensive evolutionary chain extending as far back as the first single-cell organisms swimming around the primordial ocean. None of them.

Well, your wrong there. Origen had some interesting ideas, St. Augustine had some accommodation with the natural philosophers, and St. Basil explored the possibilties of interpretation of Genesis.  Btw the seminal principles of SS Hilary, Gregory Nazianzus and Augustine have been compared to evolution, if that's an issue for you.

The idea that "science" is something new that the Church didn't confront/accommodate/take into account.... until the 19th century is an image born of ignorance.

Quote
However, we now know they were wrong,

Actually, no, we don't.

Quote
and the majority of educated bishops (and priests and monastics) believe in evolution.

I don't know the number.  I do know that there are educated bishops (and priests and monstics-and regular laity) who do not.

Quote
Doctrine can, and does,

I think you mean dogma, and no, it doesn't.

Quote
change as we learn more about the world, science and the human condition.

Thomas Kuhn points out the interesting fact that in many ways Einstein's physics are closer to Aristotle's than to Newton's.
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« Reply #95 on: February 08, 2010, 01:58:32 AM »

According to Old Testament law, if two non-married persons were discovered to have had sex, they had to be married immediately. The idea of sexual "courtship" prior to marriage was not countenanced.

Part of Orthodoxy is sacrificing one's pride and putting aside convictions that seem very reasonable to us but which are contrary to the teachings of the Church. We need to lay down our brilliant ideas and "insights" and humble ourselves. We separate ourselves from the Church by defying her teachings. Believing oneself to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, even before being joined to the Church or familiarizing oneself with the teachings of the Holy Fathers, is an extremely perilous attitude.

The notion that the Church is a "free-for-all" outside of the Creed and the Ecumenical Councils (as Feanor erroneously says)  is simply an extension of Protestant sola scriptura to include some extra texts. Many standard beliefs and practices of the Church are not explicitly addressed in these sources. There are some issues about which there is diversity of opinion among the Fathers; premarital sex and homosexuality are not among them.

I welcome you into the Church, Jason, but one does not come to the Church with a set of pre-conceived doctrines and say, "Let's see how the Church matches up with my beliefs." Rather, you should try to conform yourself to the mind of the Church which was founded by Christ. If you don't believe we are that Church, if you believe that some special revelation has been given to you that surpasses the truth of Orthodoxy, then there are many Protestant sects that will indulge such notions. Just remember that it is not the Holy Spirit that indulges our pride, but some other kind of spirit. 

Very well said.

I do think there's a bit of self-validation going on.  I don't think he's here necessarily to get correction, which accounts for his appeal to his 'prophetic' insight.

One of my favorite memories was receiving a very late scholarship application at the Protestant seminary I once worked at.  On the back of the application, the student wrote: "God told me that I am supposed to come here and that the seminary would give me a scholarship."  The intended reply was, "God told us we are out of money... and we are."

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« Reply #96 on: February 08, 2010, 08:23:13 AM »

ALL of the fathers also believed in young-earth creationism, too. I can say with certainty that none of the early church fathers ever believed that humans had formed over millions of years of evolution from simpler organisms in an extensive evolutionary chain extending as far back as the first single-cell organisms swimming around the primordial ocean. None of them.

And none of this is important or meaningful in explaining the majesty of the creation or man's place within it.

The Fathers had an exalted understanding of the creation, informed by the Holy Spirit and their personal experience, which looked at the visible world as interpenetrated with the invisible world. This allowed them to understand the Creation in a far more complete and accurate way than modern science. Modern science is based on dualism or materialism, and looks at the visible world as something independent of the spiritual realm, thereby creating an utterly distorted picture. Darwinian evolution is consistent with this distorted, mutilated worldview; the ancient understanding of the creation is consistent with the complete worldview God has imparted to us. The "young-earth creationism" of the Fathers had nothing to do with modern fundamentalism, which is also indebted to dualism. I think everyone everyone interested in the relationship of the Christian worldview to modern natural philosophy should read Philip Sherrard's Human Image: World Image.

The point about evolution though is really a non-sequitur. You seem keen on revising the divine revelation according to the dictates not only of modern natural philosophy, but of modern politics. There is no modern science claiming to prove that pre-marital sex or homosexuality are not sinful- such things would in fact be impossible to prove or disprove from the materialist perspective.

If you think that modern ideology and science are a superior source of theological and moral teaching to the Fathers, then, as I said to Jason, there are many Protestant sects that will indulge you.
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« Reply #97 on: February 08, 2010, 08:27:10 AM »

Father, May God richly bless you.  You may have misunderstood me.  When I say the Spirit seems to be leading me in this direction, I am referring to the guidance of God I am receiving from the Scripture.  The Spirit is also our teacher, and while he does not speak to me audibly (so I can't say "God said to me that I am right"), he does guide us and comfort us.  It is not dangerous for me to say "he seems to be guiding me," nor for me to say, "he seems to be comforting me."  This is especially true given that I am open to correction.  Scripture commands us to, "test the spirits," (1 John 4:1) and we are all to help one another along those lines.

I thank you for your help, and I thank you for your sincere concern for me.  But for me to say God's Word (and His Spirit) "seems to be leading" me in this direction is a perfectly holy and reasonable thing for any Christian to say, especially as he seeks help from his family in testing his beliefs against those of the Church Fathers and of Scripture.  

It is no different than if I were to say, "God seems to be opening a door for me in San Francisco," because I sent out 500 applications nationwide, had a burden in my conscience to serve people in San Francisco, prayed that San Francisco would be the only job offer I got so I woud not have to make the difficult choice of moving away from my family, and then the only job offer I got was in San Francisco.  If I say that it seems to me God has opened a door in San Francisco, that is not "taking God's name in vain," I'm sorry.  That is just speaking truthfully about the situation from my perspective while also making it clear that I am not saying God has necessarily spoken anything directly to me.  I could be wrong, perhaps Satan has led me to San Francisco, or perhaps I've led myself there and the job offer was just just a coincidence.   But from my perspective, it seems like God has led me there.

I don't know where you get your definition of "take the Lord's name in vain" from, but it is fairly obvious that you and I go by different definitions of that phrase.

love, joy, peace
Jason



I said it seems that the Spirit has led me, through Scripture, to what I believe.  I have also said I am open to correction.  We all make mistakes, don't we Father?  James 3.  I am admitting I could be mistaking something else for the guidance of the Spirit.  However, as it stands, I believe I am in the right here.

Yes, we all make mistakes, but I think it is very, very, very bad to say in one breath that you believe you are communicating with God, then say that you might not be!

If you are going to invoke the name of God, you had better be darned serious about it!  There is something in the Scriptures about not taking the Lord's Name in vain.  It's called a Commandment.

You cannot say that God is guiding you unless you can prove it.  Otherwise, you are taking His Name and His Spirit as a trifle.

Frankly, as sinful as I am, I would be too scared to say such a thing as you have said!  And to say it repeatedly is even more frightening.

Look you can believe you are brilliant, spectacularly so, but that's much different from stating that you believe you are directly communicating with God.  This is so serious that the Old Testament says:

Quote
Deuteronomy 18:20 - But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my Name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

You have presumed to come forward and speak as a prophet, since you are holding forth a teaching that you say comes from the Holy Spirit.

Are you a prophet?  Has God sent you here in invoke His Name?

When you come and say you have a teaching from the Lord, and you teach as from the Lord, then you are speaking as a prophet.  However, a prophet must be sent (see above).  Have you been sent?

I know you feel strongly about what you believe, but don't confuse your strong feelings with God.

This is serious business, my friend.  You are proposing to speak for God, and I would like to see your credentials, if not for your sake than for my own.



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« Reply #98 on: February 08, 2010, 08:35:47 AM »

Thank you for the wisdom you have shared with me, Iconodule.  May God richly bless you.

I disagree with you about the Old Testament law.  It did not say a couple who was discovered having sex had to be married immediately.  Why do you say it says that?

Take Exodus ch. 22 for instance. For sex with a virgin a payment of the regular "bride price" (since dad owned her virginity) was required to be paid to dad. This payment system is all throughout the Old Law, and it was common for things that were not sinful. In this case, this payment was the same exact payment as was made for a marriage. But the couple did not have to marry, and there was no punishment for her (or for him). If she wasn't a virgin, there is no payment and nothing is done at all to either of them.

I once discussed with (or 'debated') with my former pastor J.D. Greear (Ph.D, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) on this topic. He is a very generous and loving man. However, he is totally wrong here. To defend his traditional belief that pre-wedding sex is a sin, he actually argued that the payment of the bride price for a virgin helps to show what they did was "sexual immorality." However, the same Old Testament lists all sorts of payments to be made for restitution, and JD would not call any of those situations "sinful." For instance, the Old Testament orders the payment of the price of an animal to your neighbor if you borrowed his animal and the animal died (for whatever reason) in your care. That was not a "sin", but it was just restitution.

Indeed, even marriage resulted in the same exact payment as was made for pre-marriage sex! So the end result of J.D. Greear's logic is that marriage is a sin too, since there is a "payment" required if someone married! J.D. Greear and those who follow his traditions have virtually no support in Scripture alone. They twist and reach for anything in the Bible that justifies their tradition. By doing so they show their own error. I personally think God would have said pre-wedding sexual intimacy was a sin clearly in Scripture if it always was. His Word is abundantly clear with regards to all the other common sexual sins Scripture has condemned at one point or the other. In fact, you would expect him to have called it sin even *more* clearly then all the others, because it is by far the most common.

But Scripture alone seems to encourage sexual intimacy as a means of courtship (and sexual intercourse as eventual union, pre-ceremony).  Song of Solomon.  Scripture alone seems to forbid sexual promiscuity (Romans 13:13).  I can find nothing in scripture alone that ever calls pre-wedding sex (if done with the right intent, if used for the purpose God intends it for... the formation of marriage) a "sin."

I say "Scripture alone", because the man I debated (JD Greear) held to "Sola Scriptura."  And of course I have held to that belief until recently also.  I no longer hold to Sola Scriptura per se, but am now trying to seek guidance from the Church Fathers (and my orthodox brothers and sisters) as well.  "Sola Scriptura" led me to orthodox doctrines concerning salvation and many other things.  So I am sincerely seeking the truth here.  

On the other hand, I know that ungodly traditions can infect even orthodox churches and regions.  Right?  I'm asking you this seriously.  I want your answer because I don't know for sure.  Is it true for me to say that ungodly traditions can infect even orthodox churches and regions?

I have been severely burned, harmed severely in my soul, by following the traditions of my pastors.  Granted I grew up in a false church, but you have to try to look at this from my perspective.   I believed in Christ, but then I believed distortions of Scripture for 15 years because I placed more faith in the word of my "parents", the pastors before me, than I placed in the words of Scripture. I placed more faith in the word of my "family", the people of God, than I placed in the Word of my heavenly Father, Scripture itself.

What does Christ say about this? "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26-27). Christ is not saying we must hate them personally, with anger. For He also taught us to take care of the people around us to get eternal life. (Luke 10:25-37) In fact, when Christ said to hate our "family", he wasn't even talking about hating them as physical persons, he was talking about hating their spiritual reality. The disciples misunderstood Christ often, thinking he was talking about this physical world. Christ came to teach us about the spiritual world. He made this clear in John 6:63 when the disciples took him to be talking about the physical world when he said, "eat my flesh." He corrected them, saying, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."

Here, Christ is saying we must hate them spiritually, by not following their word when it goes against Christ's. "Hate your father, follow me." He then says we are to hate even your own self. Even our own words are prone to error, for James says we all "stumble in many ways" (James 3). Our father's and forefather's word is just as prone to error as our own. Our heavenly Father's Word is Truth. His Word is all that matters; no one's word matters but except His alone.  That being said, we have to give special consideration to those things the Church as a whole, those early Fathers spread over a wide area, believed in these matters.  I am starting to believe we must not go against their understandings if they also have support from Scripture, for they were much closer in time to the Christ and the Apostles than we.

Now, finally, by God's grace, I believe there is Truth in orthodox Christian Tradition, and I am seeking spiritual help from Orthodox Christianity in refining my beliefs.  That is why I am asking especially for help finding out how the Church Fathers defined marriage.  As far as I can tell, any orthodox christian knows a local priest can be wrong, and even knows that many local priests can be wrong.  God help me to never be mislead by a local pastor ever again as long as I live.

Christ plainly told us, and then showed us by example (Mark 7) that we must not wholly rely on the traditions of our forefathers to to judge right from wrong, or clean from dirty.  Distortions of Scripture, of God's Word, have been used to deceive the people of God ever since Eve. Distortions of Scripture have been passed down to people through the family they love since the very beginning, even since Adam first loved his wife's opinion more than God's Word.  God have mercy on us all.  

I respect the Fathers, especially the consensus of early Fathers, more and more as I read Scripture apart from my Protestant tradition and realize the Fathers were in the Truth.  So I am learning that it is very critical, if not essential, to know what they believed and did.  That is why I am here.  But unless someone can show me they clearly defined marriage formation in the opposite order of God's Song on marriage, I am going to have to believe the Song instead of local priests.  That is where I stand right now, and I am very young in the orthodox faith.  I am open to correction.

love, joy, peace,
Jason

According to Old Testament law, if two non-married persons were discovered to have had sex, they had to be married immediately. The idea of sexual "courtship" prior to marriage was not countenanced.

Part of Orthodoxy is sacrificing one's pride and putting aside convictions that seem very reasonable to us but which are contrary to the teachings of the Church. We need to lay down our brilliant ideas and "insights" and humble ourselves. We separate ourselves from the Church by defying her teachings. Believing oneself to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, even before being joined to the Church or familiarizing oneself with the teachings of the Holy Fathers, is an extremely perilous attitude.

The notion that the Church is a "free-for-all" outside of the Creed and the Ecumenical Councils (as Feanor erroneously says)  is simply an extension of Protestant sola scriptura to include some extra texts. Many standard beliefs and practices of the Church are not explicitly addressed in these sources. There are some issues about which there is diversity of opinion among the Fathers; premarital sex and homosexuality are not among them.

I welcome you into the Church, Jason, but one does not come to the Church with a set of pre-conceived doctrines and say, "Let's see how the Church matches up with my beliefs." Rather, you should try to conform yourself to the mind of the Church which was founded by Christ. If you don't believe we are that Church, if you believe that some special revelation has been given to you that surpasses the truth of Orthodoxy, then there are many Protestant sects that will indulge such notions. Just remember that it is not the Holy Spirit that indulges our pride, but some other kind of spirit.  
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« Reply #99 on: February 08, 2010, 08:45:47 AM »

I do think there's a bit of self-validation going on.  I don't think he's here necessarily to get correction, which accounts for his appeal to his 'prophetic' insight.
I think that is a bit unfair. This may be your personal opinion of the poster, but is there really a need to share it with others? acts420 has stated clearly that he is open to hearing others opinions, but badgering someone and attempting to take on the role of their "online Spiritual Father" and then denigrating them when they disagree with you is not offering an opinion.

Arguing according to one's conscience is kind of like making decisions using a coin (i.e. it has a probability of answering correctly when consulted on a two-way proposition, but only by a factor of half).  You really can't use your conscience as a stand-alone authority.
Nonsense. A person should never grieve their own conscience unless they want to be a hypocrite. Of course, a conscience needs to be matured and formed in Christ through His Church, but it still has to be the person's own conscience.

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« Reply #100 on: February 08, 2010, 09:30:48 AM »

Now, finally, by God's grace, I believe there is Truth in orthodox Christian Tradition
Glory to God!

One thing in your posts leapt out at me, and that is the frequent use of the term "pre-marital sex". Here is my opinion. Personally, I believe that in one way, there is no such animal from a Christian perspective, and that the act of sex creates a union, as Scripture says: "Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” (1 Corinthians 6:16) What St. Paul seems to be saying is that if two people have sex, this act in itself makes them united in the eyes of God and in their own eyes as in marriage "the two shall become one flesh". God knows human nature better than we know it ourselves, and I think He's on to something here.  Let me explain. When two people give themselves completely to one another in the act of mutually consensual sex, this intimacy creates a union between them. They have made themselves as vulnerable to each other as any human being can possibly make themselves.  For one of them to then unite with a different person is adultery, that is, a betrayal of that first union. If the act of sex is a unitive act as the Apostle says, then really, we should only have sex with that person with whom we will be united for the rest of our lives, and for this reason, Our Lord blessed Marriage by His Presence at the Wedding at Cana. Marriage is a public declaration that this is the person you wish to be sexually united with. Couples who intend to marry therefore would do well to abstain from the sexual act, until they have declared publicly that that is what they intend to do. Its not about sex being "dirty", in fact, it is the exact opposite. It is because sex is such a holy and precious thing -a Sacramental thing- that it needs to be treated respectfully. But the Church understands that people make mistakes, and sex with the person you will not spend your life with is one of them. The passion of "sexual urge" is one of the most powerful passions we have to deal with, and what's more, it has nature on its side. This is why the Orthodox Church offers healing in the Sacrament of Confession to those who have been hurt by it, and seeks to help us to control our passions rather than let them control us.
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« Reply #101 on: February 08, 2010, 09:33:46 AM »

Jason, the passage I referred to was Deuteronomy 22: 28-29:

Quote
If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days

Emphasis mine. He is required to marry her, not simply pay a bride price. Note that "he hath humbled her"- losing virginity before marriage is a disgraceful thing.

Go back a little and look at Deuteronomy 22: 13-21. If a married woman is shown not to have been a virgin, before her husband lay with her, she is stoned to death. The parents had to prove her virginity with "tokens", that is, with a sheet on which the couple lay on their wedding night- it would not be possible to have such a token if there were premarital sex.

Wrong ideas can enter into the Church, sure. But the understanding that sexuality is only appropriate within marriage isn't one of them.

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« Reply #102 on: February 08, 2010, 09:48:09 AM »

Iconodule, May God bless you.

The Hebrews I know tell me that passage you cite (if he lays hold of her... he must marry her) is referring to when a man rapes a woman ("lay hold of her").  That translation makes more sense to me given that Ex. 22 says a couple who has premarital sex does not have to marry.  As horrible as it seems for her to have to marry a rapist, I trust God he had a good reason for giving that law.  Women were treated very differently then, and it may have ended up being best for her in the long run.  He had to take care of her for the rest of her life, something many women back then did not have.

I agree that losing virginity is a disgraceful thing in Scripture.  So is being barren.  Neither are ever called a "sin" in Scripture.

As far as the girl who "was discovered" to not be a virgin on her wedding night, they killed her for lying about her virginity to get a man to marry her.  Ask any Hebrew and you will find they did not kill all non-virgins.  In fact, Ex 22 (which I discussed in my post to you above) shows that to be the case.  The parents proved virginity with tokens if she was accused of lying about her virginity.

I am not trying to say everyone was having premarital sex.  It seems to me that the picture of wisdom and righteousness God gives us in the Song is the reservation of sexual intercourse, through patient exploration in dating, for the person you marry.  Then you celebrate later with a ceremony.  That is God's Song to us, His story given to us to equip us, about marriage.

love, joy, peace,
Jason

Jason, the passage I referred to was Deuteronomy 22: 28-29:

Quote
If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days

Emphasis mine. He is required to marry her, not simply pay a bride price. Note that "he hath humbled her"- losing virginity before marriage is a disgraceful thing.

Go back a little and look at Deuteronomy 22: 13-21. If a married woman is shown not to have been a virgin, before her husband lay with her, she is stoned to death. The parents had to prove her virginity with "tokens", that is, with a sheet on which the couple lay on their wedding night- it would not be possible to have such a token if there were premarital sex.

Wrong ideas can enter into the Church, sure. But the understanding that sexuality is only appropriate within marriage isn't one of them.


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« Reply #103 on: February 08, 2010, 09:52:38 AM »

A question for acts420: if your fiancee were to have high standards of chastity and desired to preserve herself as completely as possible for after the wedding, would you respect her desires, or would you reject her for someone who was willing to "explore" sexually before the marriage?
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« Reply #104 on: February 08, 2010, 10:12:07 AM »

Thank you ozgeorge; may God richly bless you.

What you are saying does make a lot of sense to me.  At this point, I would not say that the "one flesh" creates any sort of a marital union in and of itself.  I do think it creates a union, a very important and dangerous one, and one that God seems to only celebrate in the context of marriage (Song of Solomon).   But I don't think Paul's point in saying we become "one flesh" with a prostitute is that we are married to her.  There is a unification that occurs before "one flesh", and that I think is what forms the marriage.  "A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 

Paul could be simply saying we are taking what is meant for marriage and degrading it.  Or he could be saying we are taking what is meant for procreation (one flesh, one child from the two) in the context of marriage and risking out-of-wedlock birth.  In fact, he is probably saying all of those things, but I don't think he is saying that "one flesh" (alone) with a prostitute would "marry" us.

"Laying together", as I see it done in the Song, is to be done at the right time, with the right intent, with pure love and (most likely) the desire and intent to form a marital bond.  It is celebrated, in Scripture, after patient, careful, slowly progressive sexual and personal exploration (ch. 1-2) and after a commitment to one another made at the right time and the right person to unite with.  See 2:6 (laying together) followed by 2:7 (imploring us all to wait for the proper time and the proper person).  Then the ceremony is at the end of ch. 3.

I understand this belief of mine is very much uncommon amongst orthodox Christians today.  That being said, I'm not sure that necessarily means it was uncommon amongst orthodox Christians in the first generations of Orthodox Christianity.  That is what I need to figure out. 

I don't take this lightly, and I'm not trying to justify anything that I am doing in my life right now.  But I'm 30 years old, single, and moving to San Francisco soon to start my career.  I will most likely encounter opportunities to date and, God willing, eventually marry.  I know that marriage is supposed to be the picture, the icon (if I can say that), of Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:32).  I take my testimony to God extremely seriously.  God knows I want to do marriage right, if I'm going to get married, so that my children will see Christ and the Church every day they see their mother and I.I

It is going to take some time for me to sort through the wealth of new information Orthodox Christianity is going to hand me.  By God's grace, He will lead me to the Truth as I continue to seek Him.  Thank you for your kind words and your generous help.

love, joy, peace


Now, finally, by God's grace, I believe there is Truth in orthodox Christian Tradition
Glory to God!

One thing in your posts leapt out at me, and that is the frequent use of the term "pre-marital sex". Here is my opinion. Personally, I believe that in one way, there is no such animal from a Christian perspective, and that the act of sex creates a union, as Scripture says: "Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” (1 Corinthians 6:16) What St. Paul seems to be saying is that if two people have sex, this act in itself makes them united in the eyes of God and in their own eyes as in marriage "the two shall become one flesh". God knows human nature better than we know it ourselves, and I think He's on to something here.  Let me explain. When two people give themselves completely to one another in the act of mutually consensual sex, this intimacy creates a union between them. They have made themselves as vulnerable to each other as any human being can possibly make themselves.  For one of them to then unite with a different person is adultery, that is, a betrayal of that first union. If the act of sex is a unitive act as the Apostle says, then really, we should only have sex with that person with whom we will be united for the rest of our lives, and for this reason, Our Lord blessed Marriage by His Presence at the Wedding at Cana. Marriage is a public declaration that this is the person you wish to be sexually united with. Couples who intend to marry therefore would do well to abstain from the sexual act, until they have declared publicly that that is what they intend to do. Its not about sex being "dirty", in fact, it is the exact opposite. It is because sex is such a holy and precious thing -a Sacramental thing- that it needs to be treated respectfully. But the Church understands that people make mistakes, and sex with the person you will not spend your life with is one of them. The passion of "sexual urge" is one of the most powerful passions we have to deal with, and what's more, it has nature on its side. This is why the Orthodox Church offers healing in the Sacrament of Confession to those who have been hurt by it, and seeks to help us to control our passions rather than let them control us.
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« Reply #105 on: February 08, 2010, 10:17:32 AM »

Jason-

Let's suppose they're right that the Deuteronomy passage is about rape. The Exodus passage you refer to pretty much says the same thing, except it more explicitly involves seduction and consensual sex.

Quote
And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

This means that he must marry her, unless the father "utterly refuse" to give her unto him.
To say that this means that he didn't have to marry her is a gross distortion. The only case in which he does not marry her is if the father refuse to give her unto him. It's not the young man's choice (or the maid's).

Quote from: acts420
As far as the girl who "was discovered" to not be a virgin on her wedding night, they killed her for lying about her virginity to get a man to marry her.  Ask any Hebrew and you will find they did not kill all non-virgins.  In fact, Ex 22 (which I discussed in my post to you above) shows that to be the case.  The parents proved virginity with tokens if she was accused of lying about her virginity.

She was killed because she lay with a man other than the one whom she married. There is nothing in the passage to suggest that lying about virginity is the chief issue. Instead, it says, "because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house." (Deut. 22: 21)

The Song of Solomon is interpreted by the Fathers as chiefly a spiritual allegory. What passage in particular do you believe explicitly approves premarital sex?

To say that something must be explicitly categorized as "sin" in the scriptures to, in fact, be a sin, is to take a rather legalistic view of sin and to ignore the rather all-embracing and insidious nature of sin itself. Come to think of it, I don't think you will find gluttony or avarice labeled sins in the Bible either.
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« Reply #106 on: February 08, 2010, 10:25:07 AM »

"Laying together", as I see it done in the Song, is to be done at the right time, with the right intent, with pure love and (most likely) the desire and intent to form a marital bond. 
I actually agree with this, The only difference between what I said and this sentence of yours are that I would not include the words in parentheses. I would write it thus:
"Laying together", as I see it done in the Song, is to be done at the right time, with the right intent, with pure love and the desire and intent to form a marital bond.
If the act of sex should be done only with the intent to form a marital bond, then wouldn't it make more sense to wait until that marital bond is formed? Otherwise, how can either partner be sure that this is what the sexual act they undertake is leading towards?
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« Reply #107 on: February 08, 2010, 10:42:39 AM »

A question for acts420: if your fiancee were to have high standards of chastity and desired to preserve herself as completely as possible for after the wedding, would you respect her desires, or would you reject her for someone who was willing to "explore" sexually before the marriage?

A good question Rosehip, thank you, and may God richly bless you.

At this point, my own conscience would condemn me if I formed my marriage in any way other than the way it is formed in the Song about marriage God has handed to us in Scripture, Song of Solomon.  So if by "preserve herself completely" until after the wedding you mean "not have any type of intimacy beyond what we would share with a brother or sister" (ie nothing more than holding hands, quick side hugs, and that sort of thing), then I would have to reject her as a marriage partner.  That probably sounds cold or cruel, so please allow me to explain why before you judge me.

Ephesians 5:32 says marriages are created to mysteriously illustrate to us, and to the world, the relationship between Christ and the Church. People are to come together as do Christ and the Church in order to show us Christ and the Church. Christ and the church were predestined to be together (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:11), to be "perfectly matched", to be one as Christ is one with the Father (John 17:21). I believe people are to marry who likewise are "matched" personally, emotionally, and sexually, as the couple in the Song of Solomon is. That is not a "perverted" or "sex-fixated" thing to say. That is just what marriage is supposed to be, according to both common sense and Scripture.

This is because they are supposed to represent to their children, their church, and to the entire world the "match made in heaven", the predestined, "chosen-before-the-world-began" match between Christ and the church. That is part of the "mystery of marriage and the church."  I believe there is a reason the wedding in the Song occurs after patient, careful, slowly progressive sexual and personal exploration (ch. 1-2) and after a commitment to one another made at the right time and the right person to unite with.  See 2:6 (laying together) followed by 2:7 (imploring us all to wait for the proper time and the proper person).  Then the ceremony is at the end of ch. 3.  I think the reason for this is because married couples are to be matched up well both emotionally, personally *and*sexually.  Patient, careful exploration in all of those areas leads to good matches.

Some people hear me say this and immediately say, "I have experienced the pain that 'fooling around' brings," and "the Spirit was convicting me not to do it and I did it anyway, and it hurt me badly."  I tell them that I know the pain and heartache that comes from getting too intimate too early in courtship, and with the wrong person. But we must never toss the baby out with the bathwater! "Fooling around", at the right time, with a pure conscience, seems to be holy and celebrated by God in Scripture. In fact, it is one of the things that God's Song seems to say forms, develops, and leads to true marriage!  I believe those who say such things to me should realize their mistake was not following the Spirit's conviction.  I believe 2:7 in the Song means that God will help us to know when it is (and when it is not) the right time to progress further toward marriage in our courtships. 

I myself have experienced conviction to not be intimate with girls I dated, and I have been greatly helped when I have followed them.  I have also been convicted to be more intimate with others, to move toward the next level of courting (personally, emotionally, or intimately) at the right time, and I think that was helpful also.  That is just me speaking, I have no authority to speak for anyone else.  And also, as I have said, right now I believe in reserving intercourse for after the commitment of marriage.

But God help me if I lie to my children about how God forms marriage just because I have been hurt! That would be like telling them, "Driving X mph is always a sin," because I was once in a car accident. The truth is, regardless of speed limit, our conscience will sometimes demand us to drive slower (kids by the road) or faster (driving someone to hospital).  We need to tell our children that even though we feel better just giving them an absolute rule.  They are better off if we tell them the truth, give them wisdom, and trust them to God.

In the Song, the *conscience* plays a huge part in the timing of the advancement of their sexual intimacy. After more intimacy, they implore us to "wait for the right time" (as in SoS 2:7). There is no formula for that. It is conscience. As much as you want to give your children a "formula" of "rules" to protect them, you have to trust this process of marriage formation is by God's design for a good reason.

I know the reasons you want me to teach your rules about pre-wedding sex are good; I know your intent is good. ,But, right now, I have to trust God here.  I have to trust that He has an extremely good reason for not putting the rule in Scripture that you want me to teach.

I know a couple that were both hurt terribly, in large part by the lies about courtship that I think have infected modern Christianity across all denominations and across many local churches. They did marriage by the "conservative Christian Church's" word instead of by God's Word and then suffered through years of a very confusing, very mis-matched "marriage" as a result. They believed their pastor's word instead of trusting God's pattern in the Song. So, unlike the many hypocrites who teach that premarital sex is a sin and then fill their dating life with the lust for it, they actually *did* treat it like it was a sin.  They did nothing with one another besides hold hands.

Because of that, after their wedding, they merely had a "chance" to become lovers. Until after their wedding, they had not even begun one important process that God's story of marriage says is supposed to lead to marriage. It is common sense that not everyone enjoys spending tons of time together, nor does everyone enjoy sexually intimate things with one another. That's why God's story of marriage has the couple begin exploring all of those things early on, slowly and deliberately, to discover if they wanted to marry.

Of course there are typical male/female differences, but besides that, if you take any two people, a man and a woman, they may enjoy 90% of the same things sexually. On the other hand, they may enjoy only 5% of the same things sexually. Again, that is not a "perverted" or "sex-fixated" thing to say. I'm talking about things like intimate kissing, or methods of touching and massage, etc.  Everyone has their preferences just like everyone was born with preferences in styles of communication and everything else.  We are to marry people we match with, that we enjoy being around.  That is just what marriage is supposed to be, according to both common sense and Scripture.

Sexual exploration in dating, at the right time, is no different than personality exploration in my view. God's story to us of marriage formation is driven by both personal and sexual exploration at the right time, constrained by patience and the conscience. The Song's way would never result in a marriage where 95% of what turns one partner on turns the other partner off, and visa versa, either personally, emotionally, or sexually.

In the case of that couple, the flip of the dice didn't turn out well at all. While they were good friends, they each hated what turned the other on, and they never enjoyed sex with one another. This went on for years. They wondered why 'God' had done this to them, but the truth is, they had done it to themselves by believing their local church's word instead of God's Word. Counselors, therapists, the whole 9-yards... all of it did nothing to fix their situation. That is because their situation was just the natural result of when you arrange marriages. While they grew to love one another as friends, their erotic love never developed in the way God's story about marriage describes.

The cold hard truth is that they never would have "married" one another if they had known that would be the case.  If they would have simply tried to kiss a few times, erotically, they would have realized the mis-match immediately and seriously re-considered the continuation of their courtship.  They both admit this.  And if they had followed God's pattern of marriage, they would have known very early in their relationship that they were not a good match in that respect.

I think that is why God's story about marriage in Scripture is in the exact opposite order of the traditional order. God has *never* promised to take two random people and give them joy from being united personally, emotionally, or sexually, and I think traditional-bound Christians who teach that careful, pre-wedding sexual exploration is a sin are actually damaging marriages and the picture of Christ and the church that marriage is supposed to be.

God's story about marriage is written in its order for a reason. God's children are supposed to marry someone they thoroughly enjoy being with one another on every level: personal, emotional, and sexual.  Dating couples sometimes break-up for a variety of reasons, whether personal incompatibility, emotional incompatibility, or sexual incompatibility. I believe the man-made rule that God does not allow "fooling around", the enjoyment of sexual lusts patiently and with self-control, in courtship forces couples who may not enjoy sexual types of intimacy together to get "married" anyway.

I believe that wreaks havoc on a very important aspect of one of the things that God loves most: marriage, that symbol to us of Christ on the church.   My conscience, as it stands, will not allow me to form a courtship with someone who would not allow herself to explore intimacy with me.  I want my children to see a couple that is matched up in every way, as the couple in the Song is.  I think that will give me the best chance to have a successful marriage and to raise children who, God willing, understand Christ's love for the church.

love, joy, peace,
Jason

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« Reply #108 on: February 08, 2010, 10:55:42 AM »

Iconodule,
She was not killed "because she lay with a man other than the one whom she married."  Again, Ex. 22 shows that women who lay with men other than the one's they married were *not* killed.  It is not a gross distortion to say they didn't have to marry.  The fact is, they didn't have to marry.  She was free to ask her father to keep her, and the father was free to do so.  The fact that it was up to the father (and I'm assuming it was, the passage does not make that 100% clear) does not make what I said untrue.  In the Duet. case of the girl who was "discovered" to not be a virgin, she was not killed "because she lay with a man other than the one whom she married."  Again, Ex. 22 shows that women who consensually lay with men other than the one's they married were not killed.  And, in fact, they did not even necessarily *have* to marry the one they lay with.

Also to be considered is that women were property back then.  They no longer are (if you ask me)... I don't know what most orthodox believe as to that matter though.

I agree that Ex 22 is the same thing, except it is consensual sex.  I think one reason the rapist had to marry her was because he *took* her virginity, and he *took* from her a liklihood of ever find a husband to provide for her.  Therefore, he had to provide for her.  No marriage was required in Ex. 22 because she willingly gave her virginity away, and so she had to face whatever consequences would come to her.

As far as the Song, I think 2:6 and 2:7 shows them laying with one another at the right time, with the right intent and conscience.  On top of that, I see nothing in Scripture that ever calls pre-wedding sex a sin.  Rather, sexual promiscuity is a sin (Romans 13:13).

Jason-

Let's suppose they're right that the Deuteronomy passage is about rape. The Exodus passage you refer to pretty much says the same thing, except it more explicitly involves seduction and consensual sex.

Quote
And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

This means that he must marry her, unless the father "utterly refuse" to give her unto him.
To say that this means that he didn't have to marry her is a gross distortion. The only case in which he does not marry her is if the father refuse to give her unto him. It's not the young man's choice (or the maid's).

Quote from: acts420
As far as the girl who "was discovered" to not be a virgin on her wedding night, they killed her for lying about her virginity to get a man to marry her.  Ask any Hebrew and you will find they did not kill all non-virgins.  In fact, Ex 22 (which I discussed in my post to you above) shows that to be the case.  The parents proved virginity with tokens if she was accused of lying about her virginity.

She was killed because she lay with a man other than the one whom she married. There is nothing in the passage to suggest that lying about virginity is the chief issue. Instead, it says, "because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house." (Deut. 22: 21)

The Song of Solomon is interpreted by the Fathers as chiefly a spiritual allegory. What passage in particular do you believe explicitly approves premarital sex?

To say that something must be explicitly categorized as "sin" in the scriptures to, in fact, be a sin, is to take a rather legalistic view of sin and to ignore the rather all-embracing and insidious nature of sin itself. Come to think of it, I don't think you will find gluttony or avarice labeled sins in the Bible either.
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« Reply #109 on: February 08, 2010, 10:57:11 AM »

"Laying together", as I see it done in the Song, is to be done at the right time, with the right intent, with pure love and (most likely) the desire and intent to form a marital bond. 
I actually agree with this, The only difference between what I said and this sentence of yours are that I would not include the words in parentheses. I would write it thus:
"Laying together", as I see it done in the Song, is to be done at the right time, with the right intent, with pure love and the desire and intent to form a marital bond.
If the act of sex should be done only with the intent to form a marital bond, then wouldn't it make more sense to wait until that marital bond is formed? Otherwise, how can either partner be sure that this is what the sexual act they undertake is leading towards?

It would make sense to wait until after the ceremony, but I don't think the ceremony is what creates the bond.  I think marriage is created by the couple before God.  I believe a couple on a deserted island with no church to speak of and no ability to have a ceremony could still unite in a holy and proper marriage.
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« Reply #110 on: February 08, 2010, 10:58:01 AM »

Quote
This is because they are supposed to represent to their children, their church, and to the entire world the "match made in heaven",


I have to admit, I don't think I've ever heard the "match made in heaven" theory taught in Orthodoxy. What I have heard is that marriage is hard work, sacrifice, martyrdom, and working out one's salvation together with one's spouse. Please, if this is not correct, I ask any of my Orthodox brothers or sisters to correct me.

So, if this pre-marital sexual exploration-as-test-to-determine-compatibility is so important (on one hand I can see your point), why were almost all the marriages of those couples I observed who practised this ending in divorce? It wasn't just I who saw this, many others often commented on the phenomenon.

Why did a spirit of pride always seem to accompany these acts of defrauding (stirring up lust before, in the eyes of the Church, the marriage had been blessed). Indeed, St. Barsanuphius of Optina said, "Behind pride, and literally in its steps, the sin of fornication always follows."

To me, a chaste avoidance of trying to explictly stir up lust in one's betrothed is a form of respecting him/her, and a form of discipline, modesty and maturity.



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« Reply #111 on: February 08, 2010, 11:10:31 AM »

As far as I know, even Orthodox Jews do not use the Song of Songs as a reason to engage in pre-marital sex. Traditionally, both male and female are virgins before the marriage ceremony.
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« Reply #112 on: February 08, 2010, 11:18:49 AM »

It would make sense to wait until after the ceremony, but I don't think the ceremony is what creates the bond.
And I agree. Firstly I agree that it makes more sense to wait until after the ceremony, and secondly, as I said, a wedding (the ceremony) is the public declaration of the couple of their intent to be united and the blessing of that union which must, of course, be "consummated".  But that union is not a temporary arrangement, it is a union for life- and beyond. In the Orthodox Church, if you are widowed and want to remarry, the Church permits this out of Compassion for human weakness and sin, but encourages fidelity to the spouse who has died but is still alive in Christ, thus, the second marriage rite is a penitential rite.
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« Reply #113 on: February 08, 2010, 11:28:27 AM »

Thank you for the wisdom you have shared with me, Iconodule.  May God richly bless you.

I disagree with you about the Old Testament law.  It did not say a couple who was discovered having sex had to be married immediately.  Why do you say it says that?

Take Exodus ch. 22 for instance. For sex with a virgin a payment of the regular "bride price" (since dad owned her virginity) was required to be paid to dad. This payment system is all throughout the Old Law, and it was common for things that were not sinful. In this case, this payment was the same exact payment as was made for a marriage. But the couple did not have to marry, and there was no punishment for her (or for him). If she wasn't a virgin, there is no payment and nothing is done at all to either of them.

The refusal to let them marry was the punishment: the text says that the money is paid if he refuses to let them marry.  This was to plug up any loop hole.  You don't explain how your "understanding" works with the verses in Deuteronomy (which are also Scripture).



Quote
I once discussed with (or 'debated') with my former pastor J.D. Greear (Ph.D, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) on this topic. He is a very generous and loving man. However, he is totally wrong here. To defend his traditional belief that pre-wedding sex is a sin, he actually argued that the payment of the bride price for a virgin helps to show what they did was "sexual immorality." However, the same Old Testament lists all sorts of payments to be made for restitution, and JD would not call any of those situations "sinful." For instance, the Old Testament orders the payment of the price of an animal to your neighbor if you borrowed his animal and the animal died (for whatever reason) in your care. That was not a "sin", but it was just restitution.

Again, the presumption is you did something.  Again, to protect the owner from "accidents" happening not on his watch.

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Indeed, even marriage resulted in the same exact payment as was made for pre-marriage sex!


No, in the marriage, you get to keep the bride.

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So the end result of J.D. Greear's logic is that marriage is a sin too, since there is a "payment" required if someone married! J.D. Greear and those who follow his traditions have virtually no support in Scripture alone. They twist and reach for anything in the Bible that justifies their tradition. By doing so they show their own error. I personally think God would have said pre-wedding sexual intimacy was a sin clearly in Scripture if it always was. His Word is abundantly clear with regards to all the other common sexual sins Scripture has condemned at one point or the other. In fact, you would expect him to have called it sin even *more* clearly then all the others, because it is by far the most common.


I saw the film on Ted Bundy recently. Very disturbing.  Now, besides the women he killed, Bundy also had two girlfriends and a number of things he was doing to them (like reinacting his necrophelia: btw, does Scripture ban that?) I would think morally objectionable, although I can't specifically put my finger on "Thou shall not force thy girlfriend to act like a corpse as you relive your murders..."

You also seem to think that the Bible came in a vacuum, a typical Protestant misconception.  Doing it before you said "I do" was a no no was a given that didn't need to be specified. So it didn't happen often, but when it did, the consequences were clearly spelled out, e.g. Judah and Thamar.

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But Scripture alone seems to encourage sexual intimacy as a means of courtship (and sexual intercourse as eventual union, pre-ceremony).  Song of Solomon.  


Interesting how you are trying to turn an allegory and poetic into a law code on marriage.  You're going to run into difficulty:e.g. 4:12 when he says "My sister Shocked my bride is an enclosed garden."

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Scripture alone seems to forbid sexual promiscuity (Romans 13:13).  I can find nothing in scripture alone that ever calls pre-wedding sex (if done with the right intent, if used for the purpose God intends it for... the formation of marriage) a "sin."

How many had decided to consumate a marraige when they got ingaged, and then the marriage never took place.

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I say "Scripture alone", because the man I debated (JD Greear) held to "Sola Scriptura."  And of course I have held to that belief until recently also.  I no longer hold to Sola Scriptura per se, but am now trying to seek guidance from the Church Fathers (and my orthodox brothers and sisters) as well.  "Sola Scriptura" led me to orthodox doctrines concerning salvation and many other things.  So I am sincerely seeking the truth here.
 

I think Fr. Girguis has dealt with that.

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On the other hand, I know that ungodly traditions can infect even orthodox churches and regions.  Right?  I'm asking you this seriously.  I want your answer because I don't know for sure.  Is it true for me to say that ungodly traditions can infect even orthodox churches and regions?

They can inflect, but the Church cannot succumb, because she alone has the antibodies to prevent that, i.e. the Holy Spirit and His mouthpieces, the Fathers (and Mothers, btw).

This I have to say is a new one. I've never heard chastity referred to as "ungodly."  Scripture certainly has a different view.

I have been severely burned, harmed severely in my soul, by following the traditions of my pastors.  Granted I grew up in a false church, but you have to try to look at this from my perspective.   I believed in Christ, but then I believed distortions of Scripture for 15 years because I placed more faith in the word of my "parents", the pastors before me, than I placed in the words of Scripture. I placed more faith in the word of my "family", the people of God, than I placed in the Word of my heavenly Father, Scripture itself.

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What does Christ say about this? "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26-27). Christ is not saying we must hate them personally, with anger. For He also taught us to take care of the people around us to get eternal life. (Luke 10:25-37) In fact, when Christ said to hate our "family", he wasn't even talking about hating them as physical persons, he was talking about hating their spiritual reality. The disciples misunderstood Christ often, thinking he was talking about this physical world. Christ came to teach us about the spiritual world. He made this clear in John 6:63 when the disciples took him to be talking about the physical world when he said, "eat my flesh." He corrected them, saying, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."

Yes, the original Protestants, you didn't like what was being taught. John 6:66.

Btw, you believe in the Real Presence?

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Here, Christ is saying we must hate them spiritually, by not following their word when it goes against Christ's. "Hate your father, follow me." He then says we are to hate even your own self. Even our own words are prone to error, for James says we all "stumble in many ways" (James 3). Our father's and forefather's word is just as prone to error as our own. Our heavenly Father's Word is Truth. His Word is all that matters; no one's word matters but except His alone.  That being said, we have to give special consideration to those things the Church as a whole, those early Fathers spread over a wide area, believed in these matters.  I am starting to believe we must not go against their understandings if they also have support from Scripture, for they were much closer in time to the Christ and the Apostles than we.

Now, finally, by God's grace, I believe there is Truth in orthodox Christian Tradition, and I am seeking spiritual help from Orthodox Christianity in refining my beliefs.  That is why I am asking especially for help finding out how the Church Fathers defined marriage.  As far as I can tell, any orthodox christian knows a local priest can be wrong, and even knows that many local priests can be wrong.  God help me to never be mislead by a local pastor ever again as long as I live.

Christ plainly told us, and then showed us by example (Mark 7) that we must not wholly rely on the traditions of our forefathers to to judge right from wrong, or clean from dirty.


Uh, no.  The issue is who you are following, not the question of following.  Even the Pharisees sit in Moses' sit, even Christ said that.

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Distortions of Scripture, of God's Word, have been used to deceive the people of God ever since Eve. Distortions of Scripture have been passed down to people through the family they love since the very beginning, even since Adam first loved his wife's opinion more than God's Word.  God have mercy on us all.  

I respect the Fathers, especially the consensus of early Fathers, more and more as I read Scripture apart from my Protestant tradition and realize the Fathers were in the Truth.  So I am learning that it is very critical, if not essential, to know what they believed and did.  That is why I am here.  But unless someone can show me they clearly defined marriage formation in the opposite order of God's Song on marriage, I am going to have to believe the Song instead of local priests.  That is where I stand right now, and I am very young in the orthodox faith.  I am open to correction.

Fr. Girguis has dealt with that too.  Again, treating a love song (i.e. fantasy: you know how the future "shall" is used throughout) as a moral code....Dangerous.

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« Reply #114 on: February 08, 2010, 11:34:39 AM »

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This is because they are supposed to represent to their children, their church, and to the entire world the "match made in heaven",


I have to admit, I don't think I've ever heard the "match made in heaven" theory taught in Orthodoxy. What I have heard is that marriage is hard work, sacrifice, martyrdom, and working out one's salvation together with one's spouse. Please, if this is not correct, I ask any of my Orthodox brothers or sisters to correct me.

No, you are correct.  If you listen to all the talk about marriage "self-fulfillment" etc. bandied about in the popular culture, no wonder (as the researchers admit) the high divorce rate.

Dating is about worrying about what you want. Marriage is about worrying about someone else.  Few nowadays want to admit the difference.

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So, if this pre-marital sexual exploration-as-test-to-determine-compatibility is so important (on one hand I can see your point), why were almost all the marriages of those couples I observed who practised this ending in divorce? It wasn't just I who saw this, many others often commented on the phenomenon.


Yes, living together before marriage at least doubles (and I've see studies saying it triples) your chance of divorce.

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Why did a spirit of pride always seem to accompany these acts of defrauding (stirring up lust before, in the eyes of the Church, the marriage had been blessed). Indeed, St. Barsanuphius of Optina said, "Behind pride, and literally in its steps, the sin of fornication always follows."

To me, a chaste avoidance of trying to explictly stir up lust in one's betrothed is a form of respecting him/her, and a form of discipline, modesty and maturity.

Only in the context of a commitment (and going steady is not a commitment) does it make sense.
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« Reply #115 on: February 08, 2010, 12:35:49 PM »

I do think there's a bit of self-validation going on.  I don't think he's here necessarily to get correction, which accounts for his appeal to his 'prophetic' insight.
I think that is a bit unfair. This may be your personal opinion of the poster, but is there really a need to share it with others? acts420 has stated clearly that he is open to hearing others opinions, but badgering someone and attempting to take on the role of their "online Spiritual Father" and then denigrating them when they disagree with you is not offering an opinion.

He has offered his opinion here as not just his opinion, but as a teaching from God.  Sure, he can have an opinion, but when it is presented as a prophetic revelation it's very different.  Frankly, I'm not really interested in convincing him one way or another about his opinion, since he seems really set in it, but I think NO ONE of us has the anointing to invoke personal Divine Revelation.

I am not acting as an "Online Spiritual Father" any more than anyone else may take on a topic here.  I have not called him to obedience as a priest, though I have asked him as a normal person to prove he is a prophet.  I would also like you to rest assured that no one here ought to think that I am willing to take on 'Spiritual Children' through the internet.  Not interested.  I have enough problems already, and such an arrangement is totally inpractical.

There is a difference between thinking that God may be leading one to take certain personal actions, like taking a trip or making a phone call, and teaching His doctrines.  St. Paul makes this very clear when he talks about teachers.  If I teach something and say, 'This is where I read it,' then I hold the book and its author as an authority.  When I say, 'God is telling me that this is true,' then I am teaching according to Divine Revelation.

If you notice, Oz, I have not taken on his opinion as much as his statements regarding his Divine Revelation.  If he had simply said, 'I believe this very strongly,' that would have been sufficient.  But, he continues to appeal to Divine Revelation, which is generally taught in the Orthodox Church as being a sign of either the highest level of sainthood or spiritual delusion.

Arguing according to one's conscience is kind of like making decisions using a coin (i.e. it has a probability of answering correctly when consulted on a two-way proposition, but only by a factor of half).  You really can't use your conscience as a stand-alone authority.
Nonsense. A person should never grieve their own conscience unless they want to be a hypocrite. Of course, a conscience needs to be matured and formed in Christ through His Church, but it still has to be the person's own conscience.


I have known very few people who have lived purely according to their own consciences.  I have had to violate mine numerous times for the sake of obedience.  When I was in the Navy, the only argument I could make against an order was the UCMJ rather than my conscience.  One of my most powerful memories was having to deal with a life-or-death matter haunted me for years, one in which my conscience and my orders were very much at odds.

The conscience is tricky, Oz, because it is not always accurate.  Sure, we need to listen to it, but we also need to violate it when it is not working properly.  So, sometimes being a hypocrite is the most beneficial thing we can do for ourselves and others.  After all, what would the world look like if everyone acted strictly according to their own thoughts?

Anyway, I appreciate the fact you are standing up for those who speak their minds, but just as you have taken me to task, I am taking him to task.  Simply put, I think it is dangerous for anyone to teach doctrine (i.e. he is teaching his doctrine regarding pre-marital pre-coital activity) using Divine Revelation as an authority (i.e. 'God is telling me this is what He wants publicly taught... in His Name').

He could believe the same things and talk about them without invoking God as the origin of his interpretation and probably would not have responded at all.

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« Reply #116 on: February 08, 2010, 01:13:58 PM »

Father, May God richly bless you.  You may have misunderstood me.  When I say the Spirit seems to be leading me in this direction, I am referring to the guidance of God I am receiving from the Scripture.  The Spirit is also our teacher, and while he does not speak to me audibly (so I can't say "God said to me that I am right"), he does guide us and comfort us.  It is not dangerous for me to say "he seems to be guiding me," nor for me to say, "he seems to be comforting me."  This is especially true given that I am open to correction.  Scripture commands us to, "test the spirits," (1 John 4:1) and we are all to help one another along those lines.

I thank you for your help, and I thank you for your sincere concern for me.  But for me to say God's Word (and His Spirit) "seems to be leading" me in this direction is a perfectly holy and reasonable thing for any Christian to say, especially as he seeks help from his family in testing his beliefs against those of the Church Fathers and of Scripture.  

It is no different than if I were to say, "God seems to be opening a door for me in San Francisco," because I sent out 500 applications nationwide, had a burden in my conscience to serve people in San Francisco, prayed that San Francisco would be the only job offer I got so I woud not have to make the difficult choice of moving away from my family, and then the only job offer I got was in San Francisco.  If I say that it seems to me God has opened a door in San Francisco, that is not "taking God's name in vain," I'm sorry.  That is just speaking truthfully about the situation from my perspective while also making it clear that I am not saying God has necessarily spoken anything directly to me.  I could be wrong, perhaps Satan has led me to San Francisco, or perhaps I've led myself there and the job offer was just just a coincidence.   But from my perspective, it seems like God has led me there.

I don't know where you get your definition of "take the Lord's name in vain" from, but it is fairly obvious that you and I go by different definitions of that phrase.

love, joy, peace
Jason


Dear Jason,

I hope you will read the post above that I gave to Ozgeorge.  I hope this will clarify the matter further.  I'm going to be very busy this week, and so I doubt I will have the time to respond after this point.  Especially with Great Lent a week a way.

At any rate, here's the rub: believing God is leading you to make a personal decision is one thing, but believing God has called you to publicly teach a doctrine as from Him is another.  Sure, I think many of us can share your experience of being led to go somewhere or do something through guidance of the Holy Spirit.  The truth is that it is a specific act that only effects the actor (generally speaking).

But, if you teach a doctrine as a matter of Divine Revelation, and another person believes it because they believe you have heard fom God, and it turns out you are wrong, who does God hold accountable for the harm done?  There are desperate people out there, and we must be mindful of them.  St. Paul calls them the 'weak,' but he does not denigrate them.  Rather, he admonishes us to be cautious.

I can very easily dismiss your opinions as delusional, whether you think you are hearing from God or not, but there is a critical difference when you public teach something that you think is Divine Revelation.

What is worst, to say '__d d__n it' or to say 'I have a word from the Lord' that is not in fact the truth?  Which person takes His Name in vain?

In conclusion, I would be more careful about saying that God is teaching you directly until you have all the confirmation you need.  If you have suspicions that God is leading you to this or that, I recommend you keep it to yourself lest, if you are wrong, that you do not drag others down with you.

If you have an opinion, it is perectly OK to express it, but do not pull God into the matter until you are 100% sure you know it is Him through LOTS of confirmation.

Anyway, God have mercy on us both, and I wish you a profitable Great Lent (if you do Lent, that is Wink ).

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« Reply #117 on: February 08, 2010, 05:02:00 PM »

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She was not killed "because she lay with a man other than the one whom she married."  Again, Ex. 22 shows that women who lay with men other than the one's they married were *not* killed. 

No, it shows that some of these women, under certain circumstances, are not killed when their promiscuity has been revealed and they have not been married to anyone else. Once again, the passage in Deuteronomy says she is killed "because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house." Lying, of course, compounds the problem, but lying is not given as the reason. If it were so, it would say "to play the liar."

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It is not a gross distortion to say they didn't have to marry.  The fact is, they didn't have to marry.  

Yes they did, so long as the father willed it. To say that they didn't have to marry is to take the exception and make it into the rule. It is a gross distortion of scripture. The maiden's opinion on the matter would matter very little. If the father did not will it, that would be a reproach to the young man. Again, premarital sex was considered shameful and the default response to it in Israeli society was to require the couple to marry. 

And what man would want her after that? This is a society where women were expected to be virgins until marriage- that much is made obvious by the big fuss made in Deuteronomy about women who are revealed not to be virgins upon marriage. If premarital sex were a normal aspect of courtship, no one would bother with the tokens of virginity or be terribly surprised if his wife were not a virgin. Virginity before marriage was considered the norm. This is an obvious fact you seem to be dodging in favor of some odd logical contortions.

If premarital sex were a normal part of courtship, then it needn't be kept secret and the male would not be expected to pay a dowry upon discovery. Why should he pay a dowry if he's just testing the waters, and that's what couples are supposed to do? That would make finding the right mate a rather expensive process, don't you think? How many marriage dowries would you want to pay for this promiscuity before giving up and settling down?

The Orthodox Church considers sex to be for the purpose of procreation. Sensual pleasure is a secondary aspect; indulging sex purely for this latter purpose, even within marriage, is frowned upon. Birth control, even "natural family planning", is discouraged or forbidden, and these methods were not available in Old Testament times, at least not in any way comparable to today.   

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As far as the Song, I think 2:6 and 2:7 shows them laying with one another at the right time, with the right intent and conscience.  On top of that, I see nothing in Scripture that ever calls pre-wedding sex a sin.  Rather, sexual promiscuity is a sin (Romans 13:13).

The passage reads "His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me. I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please."

The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate a couple of things before this passage prove your point. First, that the Song of Solomon is meant to be a literal guide to the marriage process, and that we are supposed to pattern our marriages on this poem. The Fathers saw it primarily as a spiritual allegory. Secondly, that this love poem follows a completely linear narrative from courtship until marriage, and that the passage refers not to the future and is not a phantasy. Thirdly, you have to show that the above passage is to be taken literally and referring necessarily to sexual intimacy before marriage, and that Christians are thereby exhorted to follow this pattern before marriage. You've got your work cut out for you.

Meanwhile, if you were to approach an Orthodox priest and tell him about your views, he would likely explain to you what the Church teaches. You, as an honest person, would have to respond that you believe differently, and that you base your view on one brief, ambiguous passage in a richly symbolic love poem that the Church has traditionally treated as an allegory. An impasse would be reached.
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« Reply #118 on: February 08, 2010, 05:12:17 PM »

I have to admit, I don't think I've ever heard the "match made in heaven" theory taught in Orthodoxy. What I have heard is that marriage is hard work, sacrifice, martyrdom, and working out one's salvation together with one's spouse. Please, if this is not correct, I ask any of my Orthodox brothers or sisters to correct me.

I agree marriage is hard work, sacrifice, and all of that.  However, I believe the purpose of the compatibility testing in the Song (personal, emotional, and sexual) as a part of courtship is to make marriage easier.  The rules mankind has imposed on couples (outside of God's authority, I believe) telling them to only hold hands (or whatever rule they give) make marriage *harder* with regards to one important aspect of compatibility.  That makes temptation more likely, and I don't believe that is God's will.

So, if this pre-marital sexual exploration-as-test-to-determine-compatibility is so important (on one hand I can see your point), why were almost all the marriages of those couples I observed who practised this ending in divorce? It wasn't just I who saw this, many others often commented on the phenomenon.

What did the couples that you observe practice?   Just erotic kissing, or just... you see the point.  I don't think we can observe exactly what couples did (what lines they crossed) and make judgments from that because only they know that information.  Besides, even if the couples had sex, I don't think the phenomenon you observed in your experience is reality in the world.  If a couple has sex before their wedding (but just with one another, not with anyone else, in other words, the Song's courtship as I understand it... culminating in intercourse only with the eventual spouse) then they have no higher rate of divorce.  See a study by Jay Teachman (2003), Premarital Sex, Premarital Cohabitation, and the Risk of Subsequent Marital Dissolution Among Women, Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (2), 444–455.  The study showed "women who are committed to one relationship, who have both premarital sex and cohabit only with the man they eventually marry, have no higher incidence of divorce than women who abstain from premarital sex and cohabitation. For women in this category, premarital sex and cohabitation with their eventual husband are just two more steps in developing a committed, long-term relationship."  That makes sense from my perspective.   Indeed, I wouldn't be suprised if couples that did no "fooling around" at all (no sexual compatibility testing) have higher divorce rates than couples who do.  But studies are always flawed anyway.  I have to follow the Word of God and my conscience as best as I know how to.

As far as I know, even Orthodox Jews do not use the Song of Songs as a reason to engage in pre-marital sex. Traditionally, both male and female are virgins before the marriage ceremony.

I'm not sure they are both virgins before the ceremony.  If they are according to tradition, remember, not all Jewish traditions are correct.  Jesus condemned many traditions in Mark 7, and indeed he never praised a single Jewish tradition that I know of.  He seemed to always rely on Scripture as his authority, and rightly so.  The Fathers can help us understand it, and that is why I'm seeking for help from them, but it is our highest authority, I believe.  I don't know if that is orthodox, but that is where I'm at right now.

As far as what Scripture in the Old Testament says, it simply never required virginity at the ceremony. For instance, Jewish researcher Ariel Scheib says, "The Bible never explicitly states a woman and man may not have sexual intercourse prior to marriage; therefore, no sanction was imposed for premarital sex, but it was considered a violation of custom (tradition)..." He cites as his sources Eisenberg, Ronald L. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions. PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2004; Kolatch, Alfred J. The Jewish Book of Why/The Second Jewish Book of Why. NY: Jonathan David Publishers, 1989; Wigoder, Geoffrey , Ed. The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia. NY: Facts on File, 1992.

Many others, including the Orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach, agree. Boteach is the author of The Kosher Sutra, HarperOne Press, 2009 and Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy. New York: Broadway Books/Random House, 1999. He says, "Many people are surprised to learn that the Torah does not prohibit premarital sex. I challenge you to find any passage in the Jewish scriptures that forbids a man from having consensual sexual relations with any woman he could legally marry. It's just not there! (..) This is not to suggest that Judaism approves of pre-marital sex or promiscuity. (..) Jewish law prohibits an unmarried, unrelated man and woman from (even) being alone long enough to have sexual relations. But these laws come from the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch (custom, tradition), not from the Torah."

Scripture seems to be on my side in this matter, and if God wanted us to do marriage in the opposite order of the Song, I think he would have made it clear in Scripture.  He certainly was able to make all the other sexual sins (prostitution, homosexuality[old testament at least], adultery, etc.) clear in Scripture.  He chose not to make this one clear.   I think he did so for a reason, the reason the Song gives us.

love, joy, peace,
Jason
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« Reply #119 on: February 08, 2010, 05:42:42 PM »

I see. Well, one thing of which your words convince me  is that St. Barsanuphius of Optina was one wise man... Wink. Guess he, being at one time a young man with, er, similar fixations, understood human psychology very well indeed...
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« Reply #120 on: February 08, 2010, 05:43:22 PM »

Quote
The summary of it is that the Song of Solomon is a story about marriage, and the couple plainly and obviously explores sexuality with one another during courtship (chapter 1).  They don't have sex immediately.  However, they eventually do lie with one another before their wedding ceremony, immediately warning us to wait until the right time for this (2:6 and 2:7, wedding ceremony is end of chapter 3).  Therefore, I believe their unification (their 'one flesh', their 'marriage') occurred in private, before they announced it to the world.  I am not saying that sexual promiscuity is okay.  I am saying what Scripture says:  the process of becoming "one flesh" _is_ the formation of marriage.  

The process of becoming married is a process that runs its course over time, constrained by patience and the conscience, and it includes both personal, emotional, and sexual exploration before the ceremony.  At the right time, with a pure conscience, the couple unites with actual intercourse (laying with one another always indicates intercourse in Scripture).  They celebrate and announce this later with nuptial ceremony and celebration.  That is God's story about marriage, given to us in the Song, and my conscience leads me to believe this Scripture if the Church Fathers don't disagree with me.

I don't need to present you the teachings of the Church Fathers. Suffice it to show you that Scripture says it all. LOOK at the true model for marriage in the Bible for the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches: it's in the Book of Tobias, chapters 7 and 8.
In chapter 7, verses 13-17, Tobit is married to Sarah by the hands of her father Raguel. Only after that they were allowed to have sex - and to tell the truth, Tobit and Sarah didn't do this until the third day (due to reasons relating the plot of the book, and not to be applied to all cases). As you can see, sex before marriage was at least UNUSUAL if you like - and the model of pious marriage involves chastity before wedding.

In case you don't know, both RCism and EOxy include Tobias as an inspired Book... but maybe your Protestant way to look at Scriptures will make you deny the validity and authority of this book, in that case how can you aspire to be Orthodox?

In Christ,

Alex
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« Reply #121 on: February 08, 2010, 06:02:47 PM »

In case you don't know, both RCism and EOxy include Tobias as an inspired Book... but maybe your Protestant way to look at Scriptures will make you deny the validity and authority of this book, in that case how can you aspire to be Orthodox?

Tobit is my favorite Old Testament book. Nonetheless, many eastern Church Fathers rejected it from their canon, including later fathers such as St. John of Damascus. Well, you can take that up with them in heaven I suppose. Wink
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« Reply #122 on: February 08, 2010, 06:19:19 PM »

In case you don't know, both RCism and EOxy include Tobias as an inspired Book... but maybe your Protestant way to look at Scriptures will make you deny the validity and authority of this book, in that case how can you aspire to be Orthodox?

Tobit is my favorite Old Testament book. Nonetheless, many eastern Church Fathers rejected it from their canon, including later fathers such as St. John of Damascus. Well, you can take that up with them in heaven I suppose. Wink

What matters are the Canons, and not the special views of some Church Father. The Council of Carthage says it clearly that Tobit is a book of Scripture; and it was ratified (for the Orthodox) in the list of valid Synods in the Trullan Council, so it is a part of your Canon of inspired books. As a Catholic, of course, I am bound to it by the Council of Trent - the Orthodox have an important voice in the 1666-1667 Council of Jerusalem listing it among the Scriptures. Also, the quotes from that book include Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Origen, Cyprian, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Rufinus of Aquileia, Leo the Great and Gregory the Great. I think the list might even be longer, but don't have the time to check it LOL
Nobody of the Fathers rejecting it as inspired will go to hell: to tell the truth, they just doubted inspiration but not authority (Athanasius quoted it as authoritative though rejecting his canonicity... evidently the concept of Canon was different then than it is now!)

In Christ,

Alex
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« Reply #123 on: February 08, 2010, 06:27:06 PM »

Unfortunately, you'll need to do a little more research and a little less apologetics. Smiley For example (to cover one point you raised), the Trullan Council (Canon 2) accepts multiple Biblical canons. Oops! That's some more people you can complain to once you get to heaven.

EDIT--regarding quotes, you could start here  angel
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« Reply #124 on: February 08, 2010, 06:47:25 PM »

On the contrary, I perfectly know that even if, to tell the truth, I'm not affected by it. The Trullan Council isn't even held as authoritative in the Roman Catholic Church, whom I belong... Anyway, the LXX is the norm in Orthodoxy, and the LXX contains Tobit... I don't know of any Orthodox on this site defending against Tobit as a canonical book, so... we can just assume they held it as Canonical, afterall.
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« Reply #125 on: February 08, 2010, 08:31:54 PM »

Irrespective of its canonical status, the book is considered authoritative, just like many other writings which, while perhaps not considered scripture, have a binding authority for us.
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« Reply #126 on: February 09, 2010, 02:30:46 PM »

Irrespective of its canonical status, the book is considered authoritative, just like many other writings which, while perhaps not considered scripture, have a binding authority for us.
Which is precisely the reason why I decided to quote it in favour of Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #127 on: April 12, 2011, 12:44:03 AM »

As a courtesy to this section's moderator, I have split off the latest debate on premarital sex and moved it to Orthodox-Other Christian Discussion.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=35214.0
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« Reply #128 on: April 12, 2011, 01:33:14 AM »

thanks
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