Look at it another way. Some of you were Evangelical and have moved on to Orthodoxy. I have a question. My question won't apply to you if you were converted (to Christ, that is) only after turning to Orthodoxy, and not whilst you were among Evangelicals. But if you were converted (to Christ, that is) whilst you were Evangelical, and later moved on to Orthodoxy, you must have experienced, when you were an Evangelical, an assurance of your salvation. What happened to that assurance when you turned to Orthodoxy? Did you lose it? How do you now understand or explain the experience and belief you then had?
I am honestly surprised how difficult a time I am having remembering what it felt like. My conversion (to Christ, as you put it) in the Southern Baptist setting happened I think about 13 years ago, but I was raised both Roman Catholic and partly Southern Baptist, but I honestly don't think any of the concepts on either side made much sense to me until I was a teenager (I was 15 at the time of my first
personal decision to follow Christ).
I remember the immense feelings of true joy at making a commitment to Christ. But as far as "assurance" is concerned, I think I always had a lot of issues with it in my heart. I remember being ridden with guilt for my habitual sins, and despite asking forgiveness never really getting any peace in my heart until there was some distance between me and my sins. My pastors would always "reassure"
me, telling me that my concern over sin was evidence enough that I was "Saved", because if I wasn't then I wouldn't care. Well that was al fine and great, but over the years I was not being transformed
, yet I was supposed to feel content knowing that I existed in a state of justification before God. Honestly, I never felt as at ease as I think I was expected to by those in authority around me.
So I guess in retrospect, I see the main difference as the emphasized urgency of repentance in Orthodoxy. What is different now is that I realize that if I fail to turn from sins and remain obstinately consistent in my denial of Christ through my actions, then I endanger myself and my eternal state. Since encountering Orthodoxy, I feel like I understand the fear of God in the proper sense for the first time in my life.
Now the counterpoint to this is that our salvation is not only a process but also a free gift, and not of the works of the law. So there is an inherent paradox which cannot be reconciled, which I am fine with. I must fear God and keep his commandments, being made holy and just through repentance and the Mysteries (which are the free gifts), while at the same time realizing that God gives forgiveness freely, but that sometimes forgiveness is conditional. For example, forgiveness of our debts is contingent upon forgiveness of our debtors...
So I have assurance that as long as I am moving forward into God and his sanctifying holiness, I am indeed experiencing salvation. But if I turn away at any time, taking my hand off of the plow and looking back, then I am not worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Salvation is divinization. If I am being made divine by grace, then I am participating in God's salvation with my own free will. So I feel "assured" and confident when I am walking in holiness and repentance, but I feel "condemned" when I am continually willfully rejecting God and His commandments.
I suppose this is a difference too, that perhaps a good Baptist will have their "assurance" so long as they are regularly attending church and praying and reading their Bibles on a regular basis. They would perhaps see "losing" salvation (where did it go?) as topping attending church and becoming more than lax in their prayer life. Orthodoxy is similar with excommunication, in that if we stop attending services for a prolonged time we are automatically excommunicated, because it reflects our own distance from and lack of concern for God. In other words, we are not tending the vineyard. But where we differ is that if we are perpetually stagnant, it is not only undesirable, but actually a rejection of salvation, because salvation is
theosis. Simply "loving God" in our heart of hearts isn't enough, because love requires action; it is not a mere feeling.
David, I hope my unfocused ramblings have been helpful. Please ask for any other points of clarification if you need them.