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Author Topic: What I still can't get my head round  (Read 34808 times) Average Rating: 0
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David Young
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« on: July 24, 2010, 04:31:06 AM »

Despite recent years of reading Orthodox books, including the Study Bible (NT), and discussing all manner of topics with you good people, I have not yet been able to understand your attitude towards our doctrine - and, we believe, experience - of assurance. At present I am reading "The First Day of the New Creation" (Kesich, St Vladimir's Seminary, 1982) and I read: "The resurrection for those who were "baptized into Christ" is a present experience... This baptismal text speaks of the present experience of Christians ... who "have put on Christ" are already risen with him... The Spirit is given and the power of the resurrection has been released and made available... Christ's life is ... the active power that moves and makes one share in his resurrected life. The Spirit is given to bear witness to his victory over death, and to make fully known what is accomplished in his resurrection."

I can't see how this differs from our doctrine (and experience?) of assurance. It might have been written by a fervent Evangelical. Forget the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" ("eternal security"), for the question of whether or not a Christian can lose his salvation is a quite other matter or dogma.

So why is all this important? Because (I think) it lies at the heart of the fact that so many Evangelicals do not accept Orthodox as fellow Christians. It seems to us that Orthodox say they do not and cannot have assurance of present salvation; therefore, many Evangelicals conclude they are not saved people, and therefore that their church does not lead people to salvation.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2010, 04:33:39 AM by David Young » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2010, 06:25:11 AM »

Quote
This baptismal text speaks of the present experience of Christians ... who "have put on Christ" are already risen with him...

I am at a loss to reach the same conclusion as the author of The First Day of the New Creation. If those who receive Orthodox baptism are indeed assured of salvation, then what need would there be for that person's continued participation in the life of the Church, of the need to confess sins, of the need to receive Holy Communion and believe it is the true Body and Blood of Christ (not a mere symbol of remembrance), and, indeed, of partaking of other sacraments of the Church? Of making the effort to live a life pleasing to God? Even the Orthodox funeral service is stuffed full of petitions and entreaties to God to bestow His mercy and compassion that the soul of the departed finds repose "where there is no toil, nor grief, nor sighing, but everlasting life".

At no stage, not even at an Orthodox funeral after the end of a person's earthly life, is it ever assumed or expressed liturgically that that person is saved - we do not presume to know the mind of God. The only way anyone could be assured of salvation is if he led a completely pure and sinless life after baptism.

Here are some pertinent sections of the Orthodox baptismal text:

Excerpt from the Great Litany:

That this water may be sanctified by the power, the operation and descent of the Holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord.

That there may be sent down upon it the grace of redemption, the blessing of the Jordan; let us pray to the Lord.

That there may come upon this water the purifying operation of the super-substantial Trinity; let us pray to the Lord.

That we may be illumined by the light of understanding and piety through the descent of the Holy Spirit; let us pray to the Lord.

That this water may prove effectual for the averting of all the snares of visible and invisible enemies; let us pray to the Lord.

That he who is about to be baptised here may become worthy of the incorruptible Kingdom; let us pray to the Lord.

For him who now comes to holy Illumination, and for his salvation; let us pray to the Lord.

That he may prove to be a child of the light and an inheritor of eternal blessings; let us pray to the Lord.

That he may be a member and partaker of the death and resurrection of Christ our God; let us pray to the Lord.

That he may preserve his baptismal garment and the pledge of the Spirit pure and undefiled until the awesome day of Christ our God; let us pray to the Lord.

That this water may be for him a laver of regeneration for the remission of sins, and a vesture of incorruption; let us pray to the Lord.

That the Lord God will hear the voice of our prayer; let us pray to the Lord.

That He may deliver him and us from all danger, anger and necessity; let us pray to the Lord.


Third prayer of the blessing of the baptismal water:

We pray to You, O Lord, let every ethereal and invisible phantom remove itself from us; may no dark demon conceal itself in this water; and may no evil spirit, bringing obscurity of purpose and rebellious of thought, descend into it with him that is about to be baptised. But may You, O Master of all, make this to be the water of redemption and water of sanctification, the cleansing of flesh and spirit, the loosing of bonds, the forgiveness of sins, the illumination of the soul, the laver of regeneration, the renewal of the spirit, the gift of adoption as a child of God, the garment of incorruption and the fountain of life.

For You have said, O Lord: Wash, and be clean; put away evil from your souls. You have bestowed upon us a new birth from on high by water and the spirit. Manifest Yourself in this water, O Lord, in this water and grant that he that is to be baptised in it may be transformed, to the putting away of the old person which is corrupt according to the desires of the flesh, and to the putting on of the new which is renewed according to the image of Him that created him; that, being buried through baptism as a sign of Your death, he may become a sharer of Your resurrection; and, preserving the gift of Your Holy Spirit and increasing the measure of grace committed to him, he may attain the prize of his high calling and be numbered among the first-born whose names are written in Heaven, in You, our God and Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be all glory and power, together with Your Father, who is without beginning, and Your most holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.


Prayer before Chrismation:

Blessed are You, Lord God Almighty, the fountain of blessings and Sun of Righteousness, who made the light of salvation to shine upon those in darkness through the appearing of Your only-begotten Son and our God, granting us unworthy ones blessed purification in holy water and divine sanctification in life-giving Chrismation; who now has also been pleased to regenerate Your servant, newly illuminated through water and the Spirit, granting forgiveness of his voluntary and involuntary sins: may You, O Sovereign Master, compassionate King of all, bestow upon him also the seal of Your omnipotent and worshipful Holy Spirit, and the communion of the holy body and most precious blood of Your Christ. Keep him in Your sanctification; confirm him in the Orthodox faith; deliver him from the evil one and all his devices; preserve his soul in purity and uprightness through saving fear of You; that in every word and deed, being acceptable before You, he may become a child and heir of Your heavenly Kingdom. For You are our God, the God of mercy and salvation, and we ascribe glory to You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.

Second prayer before the Ablution:

O Master, Lord our God, who through the baptismal font bestows heavenly illumination upon those that are baptised; who has regenerated Your servant, granting forgiveness of his voluntary and involuntary sins; lay Your mighty hand upon him, and guard him by the power of Your goodness. Preserve unassailed his pledge of faith in You. Deem him to be worthy of everlasting life and Your good favour. For You are our sanctification, and we ascribe glory to You; to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.

Prayer at Tonsure:

O Master, Lord our God, who has honoured mankind with Your own image, providing him with a reason-endowed soul and comely body, that the body might serve the reason-endowed soul: You have set his head on high and in it have planted the greater part of the senses, which do not impede one another, covering the head that it might not be harmed by the changes of the weather, and have appropriately joined together all the members so that by all of them he might render thanks to You, the excellent artificer; may You, O Sovereign Master, who through Your chosen vessel Paul the Apostle has commanded us to do all things for Your glory, bless Your servant (N.), who has come now to make the first offering, the hair shorn from his head; and likewise bless his sponsor, granting them in all things to be diligent followers of Your law, and to do all those things that are well-pleasing to You; for You are a merciful God, loving to mankind, and we ascribe glory to You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.

from the final Litany of Supplication:

Again we pray for mercy, life, peace, health, and salvation for the servants of God, the newly illumined (N.), and for (N.) and (N.), the Sponsors.

That he may be preserved in the faith of a pure confession, in all godliness fulfilling of the commandments of Christ all the days of his life.


From the Orthodox funeral service:

“With the spirits of the righteous made perfect, give rest to the soul of Your servant, O Saviour, and preserve it in that life of blessedness which is with You, You who loves mankind.” (Troparion for the Departed)

Give rest, O God, to Your servant, and settle him in Paradise, where the assemblies of the Saints and all the righteous ones shine out like beacons; give rest to Your servant who has fallen asleep, overlooking all his offences.

Give rest, O our Saviour, with the righteous to Your servant; and make him dwell in Your courts, as it is written; overlooking, as You are good, his offences, willing and unwilling, and all of them committed through ignorance or through knowledge, You who loves mankind.
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« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2010, 07:04:24 AM »

So why is all this important? Because (I think) it lies at the heart of the fact that so many Evangelicals do not accept Orthodox as fellow Christians. It seems to us that Orthodox say they do not and cannot have assurance of present salvation; therefore, many Evangelicals conclude they are not saved people, and therefore that their church does not lead people to salvation.
David, what is your definition of "salvation" in this context? For most Evangelicals it means "I've got my ticket to heaven when I die". That, as I'm sure you have learned in your studies is not what we Orthodox mean. So I agree - according to Evangelicals, we aren't "saved". However, our understanding of salvation is so much fuller and as LBK pointed out is truly an experience in our sacramental life. And of course, we understand that there is a sacramental nature to all of life, so these truths are valid in all things.

When I went to a Bible college of Methodist/Wesleyan heritage, we had it drilled into us that there are three important teachings about Methodism: 
  • all men may be saved
  • all men may know that they are saved
  • all men may attain unto Christian perfection
(the non-politically correct language should suggest that I am not a recent graduate  Cheesy)
I know what you're talking about. Setting aside that doctrine of assurance was the hardest part of becoming Orthodox - even more than prayer to the saints, and prayers for the departed. But once I began to experience the Orthodox sacramental life, my assurance of belonging to Christ has deepened beyond anything I knew in my former understanding.
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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2010, 07:13:07 AM »

To put this in another perspective, consider these humble words of Saint Paisius (Velichkovsky) in a letter to the Priest Dimitri in May of 1766:

Concerning myself, I may say that, finding myself by God’s mercies still in this life, even if in bodily infirmity, I have ceaseless grief and pain of soul at the thought of with what face I shall appear before the Terrible Judge at His Terrible Judgment, where there is no respect of persons… I have undoubting hope for my salvation only, after God and the Mother of God, in the prayers of the brethren who live with me, even if I am unworthy. And I do not despair that the unutterable and unattainable mercy of God will be poured out even on my sinful soul; but if not, and if for my evil deeds I shall be rightly condemned by God’s justice to eternal torment, then blessed be God: for I am worthy of this for my negligence of His Divine Commandments…; but still, for the sake of their holy prayers, I the wretched one hope also to be saved: for which I entreat your holiness to entreat God for me, remaining in all humility your true friend, desiring your salvation.

Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky  By Schema-monk Metrophanes
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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2010, 08:03:54 AM »

The understanding of assurance of salvation as found in the Shepherd of Hermas:

Do no wickedness in your life and serve the Lord with a pure heart,
observe His commandments and walk in His ordinances,
and let no evil desire rise up in your heart, but believe in God. 
Then if you shall do these things, and fear Him, and control yourself
from every evil deed, you shall live unto God.


The Shepherd of Hermas, believed to have been written by the Apostle Hermas.  This book was considered canonical Scripture in parts of the early Church and by some of the Church Fathers.

-oOo-

From the Prologue from Okhrid, 31st May
http://www.westsrbdio.org/prolog/my.html?month=May&day=31&Go.x=13&Go.y=13

Hermas was one of the Seventy Apostles. He is mentioned in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. "Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes and the brethren which are with them" (Romans 16:14). Hermas was a Greek by birth but lived in Rome for a long time. He was a bishop in Philippoupolis and ended his life as a martyr. He compiled a very instructive book called "The Shepherd" according to revelations from an angel of God. Hermas was a wealthy man but because of his sins and the sins of his sons, he fell into extreme poverty. Once while in prayer, a man appeared to him in white raiment with a staff in his hand and told him that he is an angel of repentance who was sent to be with him until the end of his life. The angel gave him twelve mandates:

1. Believe in God;

2. To live in simplicity and innocence; do not speak evil and give alms to all who beg;

3. Love truth and avoid falsehood;

4. Preserve chastity in your thoughts;

5. Learn patience and generosity;

6. To know that with every man, there is a good and an evil spirit;

7. To fear God and not to fear the devil;

8. To do every good and to refrain from every evil deed;

9. To pray to God from the depth of the soul with faith that our prayer will be fulfilled;

10. To guard against melancholy as the sister of doubt and anger;

11. To question true and false prophecies;

12. To guard against every evil desire.
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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2010, 08:24:57 AM »

It could be said that an assurance of salvation is taught with the earliest steps a person takes into the Church, in the holy mystery of baptism.  Here is the first prayer in the baptismal service...

In Thy Name, O Lord God of truth, and in the Name of Thine Only-begotten Son, and of Thy Holy Spirit,
I lay my hand upon Thy servant, (name), who has been found worthy to flee unto Thy holy Name,
and to take refuge under the shelter of Thy wings. Remove far from him his former delusion and
fill him with the faith, hope and love which are in Thee; that he may know that Thou art the only
true God with Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and Thy Holy Spirit. Enable him
to walk in all Thy commandments, and to fulfill those things which are well pleasing unto Thee;
for if a man do those things, he shall find life in them.


So while a man is persevering in  "walking in all Thy commandments" he has an assurance of salvation.  It is only when he falls into sin and does not repent that his salvation comes into doubt.
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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2010, 11:06:30 AM »

So why is all this important? Because (I think) it lies at the heart of the fact that so many Evangelicals do not accept Orthodox as fellow Christians. It seems to us that Orthodox say they do not and cannot have assurance of present salvation; therefore, many Evangelicals conclude they are not saved people, and therefore that their church does not lead people to salvation.
David, what is your definition of "salvation" in this context? For most Evangelicals it means "I've got my ticket to heaven when I die". That, as I'm sure you have learned in your studies is not what we Orthodox mean. So I agree - according to Evangelicals, we aren't "saved". However, our understanding of salvation is so much fuller and as LBK pointed out is truly an experience in our sacramental life. And of course, we understand that there is a sacramental nature to all of life, so these truths are valid in all things.

When I went to a Bible college of Methodist/Wesleyan heritage, we had it drilled into us that there are three important teachings about Methodism: 
  • all men may be saved
  • all men may know that they are saved
  • all men may attain unto Christian perfection
(the non-politically correct language should suggest that I am not a recent graduate  Cheesy)
I know what you're talking about. Setting aside that doctrine of assurance was the hardest part of becoming Orthodox - even more than prayer to the saints, and prayers for the departed. But once I began to experience the Orthodox sacramental life, my assurance of belonging to Christ has deepened beyond anything I knew in my former understanding.

Perhaps I should thank God that I was a long-lapsed Baptist and knew full well that I needed repentance to be received again into God's deifying Grace by becoming Orthodox.  If I had been a *good* Baptist when I first went to the little Orthodox house Church, I might have stumbled at the teaching regarding the Orthodox journey of theosis, rather than the *ticket to Heaven* that some (not nearly all) Baptist preachers taught. 
P. A.
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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2010, 11:12:58 AM »

Despite recent years of reading Orthodox books, including the Study Bible (NT), and discussing all manner of topics with you good people, I have not yet been able to understand your attitude towards our doctrine - and, we believe, experience - of assurance. At present I am reading "The First Day of the New Creation" (Kesich, St Vladimir's Seminary, 1982) and I read: "The resurrection for those who were "baptized into Christ" is a present experience... This baptismal text speaks of the present experience of Christians ... who "have put on Christ" are already risen with him... The Spirit is given and the power of the resurrection has been released and made available... Christ's life is ... the active power that moves and makes one share in his resurrected life. The Spirit is given to bear witness to his victory over death, and to make fully known what is accomplished in his resurrection."

I can't see how this differs from our doctrine (and experience?) of assurance. It might have been written by a fervent Evangelical. Forget the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" ("eternal security"), for the question of whether or not a Christian can lose his salvation is a quite other matter or dogma.

So why is all this important? Because (I think) it lies at the heart of the fact that so many Evangelicals do not accept Orthodox as fellow Christians. It seems to us that Orthodox say they do not and cannot have assurance of present salvation; therefore, many Evangelicals conclude they are not saved people, and therefore that their church does not lead people to salvation.

It's the same hope and assurance that Peter had when he got out of the boat. He was fine as long as he kept his focus on Christ. Once he took his focus off of Christ and payed more attention to the wind and the storm, he began to sink and needed to cry out to Christ to lift him back up. Right now we're walking on the water. We have full assurance that everything will be fine as long as we stay focused on Christ. The problem is that we (at least I) lose focus and become distracted quite often and find ourselves (at least myself) sinking and in need of being lifted back up. The uncertainty is not whether or not Christ can or will save us, but on what our reaction will be throughout the course of our life when we lose focus. Will we cry out for help when we need it most? Will we even acknowledge the fact that we are sinking?
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« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2010, 11:53:59 AM »

When I went to a Bible college of Methodist/Wesleyan heritage, we had it drilled into us that there are three important teachings about Methodism: 
  • all men may be saved
  • all men may know that they are saved
  • all men may attain unto Christian perfection
(the non-politically correct language should suggest that I am not a recent graduate  Cheesy)
I know what you're talking about. Setting aside that doctrine of assurance was the hardest part of becoming Orthodox - even more than prayer to the saints, and prayers for the departed. But once I began to experience the Orthodox sacramental life, my assurance of belonging to Christ has deepened beyond anything I knew in my former understanding.

Perhaps I should thank God that I was a long-lapsed Baptist and knew full well that I needed repentance to be received again into God's deifying Grace by becoming Orthodox.  If I had been a *good* Baptist when I first went to the little Orthodox house Church, I might have stumbled at the teaching regarding the Orthodox journey of theosis, rather than the *ticket to Heaven* that some (not nearly all) Baptist preachers taught. 
P. A.
Isn't it interesting how the Holy Spirit uses our past to bring us to Orthodoxy? You and I came from very different Evangelical perspectives. I am thankful for my former church that it brought me to the point it did. When I needed to go further, and that church couldn't take me there, I found the Orthodox Church. For me theosis was one of the hooks that drew me into Orthodoxy as it is the fulness of the doctrine of Christian perfection (entire sanctification).
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« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2010, 01:15:14 PM »

So why is all this important? Because (I think) it lies at the heart of the fact that so many Evangelicals do not accept Orthodox as fellow Christians. It seems to us that Orthodox say they do not and cannot have assurance of present salvation; therefore, many Evangelicals conclude they are not saved people, and therefore that their church does not lead people to salvation.

That's stupid. We are 100% certain that we are all "saved", so "therefore, many Evangelicals conclude they are not saved people, and therefore that their church does not lead people to salvation." Yes and Evangelicals are 100% certain they are saved, so now we really know they are saved and fellow Christians.

i.e. whether you are saved on not depends on whether you believe you are saved. That's not how Jesus talked about Judgment day. See St James- works are necessary.

Christ made promises, but each person can't know 100% for certain that they are saved.

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« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2010, 01:25:07 PM »

I am not at all familiar with this doctrine of assurance. I just have a very generic understanding about it.
I would like to understand it further. Is the wikipedia article precise about it? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assurance_(theology)


If it is, here are my two cents.

It seems that Western theology understands salvation as something that happens. It is an *act* like "I got sick" or better "I got healed". This is probably related to God as "pure act".

But that is not what salvation is. Now, of course, we, as human beings, live in a succession of acts, so a convert, at some point, takes a real decision of letting God come into his life. But salvation is not the change itself, but the "thing" that comes, that is, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as well as the effects of His energies in us.

What changes for good is that we become temples of the Holy Spirit. We may defile this temple that is ourselves and the Holy Spirit than retreats (and He eagers to return!), but what we have become does not change. That is why Christians will be judged more severily in the end. But our freewill is still there. We may choose to be dead temples, a cradle of prophanities instead of a source of light.

I don't how the "assurance" doctrine fits is, but I'd guess that it is the perception of that partial ontological change of the human being into a temple of God, even if, with our acts we may shut Him out and thus our fall will be greater than before - as mentioned about the evil spirits that return.

I just would like to note that this ontological change into temples of the Holy Spirit only occurs in the Orthodox Church. Among Protestants and RC, what happens is as St. Paul said, they will be judged according to the Law that is in their hearts and here lies the reason for the spiritual similarities between heterodoxies and the Church: because they believe in their heart that they are in the Church, they will be judged as if they were, with the attenuation of the wrong doctrines most of them received with honesty and trust. For them all excuses will be made by our good defendants who are Our Lady and our guardian angel. The Orthodox, on the other hand, will have no excuses.

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« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2010, 04:02:45 PM »

this doctrine of assurance... Is the wikipedia article precise about it? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assurance_(theology)

Yes. I cannot comment, of course, on the accuracy of the section on Roman Catholic teaching, but, to my limited knowledge, the sections on Methodism, Lutheranism and Calvinism seem remarkably succinct and accurate.

I hope you all understand that I have not started this thread to be contentious: it really is an aspect of Orthodoxy which I have not yet understood; indeed, much of what you write is quite alien to our way of thinking as Evangelicals, and I shall need to read the posts so far again and (I hope) further ones in order to try to penetrate it. And I say again, I am fairly sure it lies at the heart of much Evangelical rejection of Orthodoxy, much more deeply than such matters as prayers to the saints and even our different understanding of baptism and the Lord's Supper. If I were happy enough to meet one or more of you, perhaps over a retsina in a taverna in the Greek heartland of Orthodoxy, and you said to me some of the things written above, I would be quite at a loss to know how to react or, spiritually, to relate to you. The words would fail to convey to me whether you are saved (in our sense of the word) or not. I emphasise of course that I am entirely aware that it is God's prerogative not mine to know that; but if I am to relate to Orthodox, as I must and indeed wish to in Albania, I need to have some inkling of whether or not we both stand in the same grace of Christ. I suspect it might operate the same the other way round, if you wished to know how to relate to me over the dinner table or wherever. Would you not wonder, "Is this chap really in Christ?" - if only to know how to meet and serve my spiritual needs. After all, it's hard to help someone if you don't know what his real need is.

It would be interesting (though, I venture to say with affection, probably time-consuming) to learn GreekChef's thoughts on this matter.

(And by the way, as an aside and not wishing to get away from the theme of the thread, I would be more than happy to pray most of the baptismal prayers listed above quoted from your liturgy, next time someone is baptised at our church; indeed, should I ever again have the privilege of baptising someone (for I am no longer in pastoral work at present, as you know) to 'borrow' some of them myself.)
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« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2010, 06:54:27 PM »

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 only asking about assurance of present salvation - that is, that your sins are forgiven, you are 'accepted in the Beloved', reconciled to God, born of him, in a state of grace, in Christ - put it how you will. I am not entering into the different question of whether it is possible for a true Christian to fall away later from Christ, be severed from grace, lose his salvation - again, put it how you will. Yes, we do believe that "if I died now, I would go to be with the Lord": we believe that assurance is the birthright of every child of God, every Christian, not for our merit (for we have none) but from God's grace vouchsafed to us in Christ. The belief of those who also hold eternal security (which you call OSAS), namely, that in forty years' time, if I die then, I shall certainly still be in a state of grace, is different and doesn't come into my questions here. You must have believed in assurance of present salvation when you were an Evangelical Christian, as it is a central to our system, else you were not really Evangelical: how do you now consider and evaluate what you then experienced and believed? If you do believe that, but reject OSAS, I can't see how you differ (in this matter) from any Arminian Evangelical - Methodist, Pentecostal or whatever. Are we falling out, and rejecting one another, only over different use of words? Are we quibbling over words? Or are you really saying something radically different from a Methodist Christian about this matter - something which I have not yet managed to understand?
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« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2010, 07:19:33 PM »

This is something I never struggled with at all. Yes, in my former denomination (at least the more modern elements thereof), "assurance of salvation" was something that was believed and taught. Traditionally, though, it had not been, and the acceptance of this doctrine came about thanks to the influence of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, and created no small tension and feelings of superiority in those who had adopted the new doctrine towards those who were reluctant to do so. I see it as a fairly modern addition to christianity, as for centuries most christians believed in a more humble form of christianity, of a "working out of one's salvation with fear and trembling", and St. Paul's famous words, "Not that I had already attained, but I press forward toward the mark...". In short, to me this "assurance of salvation" never rang quite true, and I was so happy to finally be a part of a Church which maintained a humble, sober attitude towards the process of salvation.
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« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2010, 07:25:53 PM »

"On the otherhand, they say that carnal men are instructed in carnal things. Such "carnal men" can be recognized by their works and their simple faith. For they do not have perfect knowledge [gnosis]. The Valentinians say that we who belong to the church are such carnal persons. Therefore, they maintain that good works are necessary for us. Otherwise, it would be impossible for us to be saved. But as to themselves, they hold that they will be entirely saved for a certainty-not by means of their conduct, but because they are spiritual by nature." Irenaeus 180 A.D.


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« Reply #15 on: July 24, 2010, 08:25:48 PM »

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?

It was put in it's proper Biblical and Christian Historic perspective/context. For instance:

1.) What does being born again mean? What does converted/conversion mean? What does union with Christ mean? What did it Historically mean?
2.) What does salvation mean? Salvation from what? Sin and death or something else? What did it Historically mean?

3.) What does the Sacraments/Mysteries of Baptism and Repentance mean? (This really does have everything to do with the topic at hand)



Quote
Did you lose it?

It was put in it's proper context of Baptism and Repentance.


Quote
How do you now understand or explain the experience and belief you then had?

Misguided for I prayed alot of prayers from TV, and Radio evangelists, and went to more than one alter call for "rededicating your life to Christ" as well as to some Pentecostal ones in where they had alter calls for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

And even years before all that when I read a Bible bed time story book at the age of 12 or 13, because a voice told me to "read", and so I did. And at the end of the book there was the sinners prayer, and the same voice said "pray", and so I did (I only heard the voice 3 times in my whole entire life, and no it wasn't my voice). And yes, I felt a heaviness leave me, and I felt at peace. I prayed for God to help me by sending another christian to me, and two or three days later when the first day of 7th grade school started a new white kid was on the bus, and he was Pentecostal, and everyone was picking on him, and making fun of him, and that day I knew that God answered my prayers. I sat next to him, and became his friend, and because of me the other kids stopped picking on him.

But that didn't last for a year later he moved and I got into alot of fights and wasn't living right, and so the peace and assurance I once had was gone. And it's been that way for years. I know of some Baptists that take a more gnostic approach to it, in where you don't really need to repent and live right. All you need is to understand that you are one of the elect/chosen, and the way you know that is either through some type of intellectual understanding of a doctrine or knowledge or feeling/emotion of ones heart......apart from repentance, Baptism, living right......etc.

And so, the whole context has changed.




Quote
I am only asking about assurance of present salvation - that is, that your sins are forgiven, you are 'accepted in the Beloved', reconciled to God, born of him, in a state of grace, in Christ - put it how you will. I am not entering into the different question of whether it is possible for a true Christian to fall away later from Christ, be severed from grace, lose his salvation - again, put it how you will.

Baptism and Repentance





 
Quote
Yes, we do believe that "if I died now, I would go to be with the Lord": we believe that assurance is the birthright of every child of God, every Christian, not for our merit (for we have none) but from God's grace vouchsafed to us in Christ.


"You may have fallen in with some [Gnostics] who are called christians, but who do not admit this. For they venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham....and say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven. Do not imagine that they are Christians." Justin Martyr 160 A.D.


"On the otherhand, they say that carnal men are instructed in carnal things. Such "carnal men" can be recognized by their works and their simple faith. For they do not have perfect knowledge [gnosis]. The Valentinians say that we who belong to the church are such carnal persons. Therefore, they maintain that good works are necessary for us. Otherwise, it would be impossible for us to be saved. But as to themselves, they hold that they will be entirely saved for a certainty-not by means of their conduct, but because they are spiritual by nature." Irenaeus 180 A.D.








 
Quote
The belief of those who also hold eternal security (which you call OSAS), namely, that in forty years' time, if I die then, I shall certainly still be in a state of grace, is different and doesn't come into my questions here. You must have believed in assurance of present salvation when you were an Evangelical Christian, as it is a central to our system, else you were not really Evangelical: how do you now consider and evaluate what you then experienced and believed?

Misguided, no different than the Holiness movement was misguided with their terms of a second blessing and what not. And the Pentecostals being misguided with their terms of a third blessing as well as other things.



 
Quote
If you do believe that, but reject OSAS, I can't see how you differ (in this matter) from any Arminian Evangelical - Methodist, Pentecostal or whatever. Are we falling out, and rejecting one another, only over different use of words? Are we quibbling over words? Or are you really saying something radically different from a Methodist Christian about this matter - something which I have not yet managed to understand?


The context is still different. For what does Salvation mean? What does union with Christ mean? What does Baptism mean? What does Heaven mean? What does Hell mean? ............etc.












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« Reply #16 on: July 24, 2010, 09:29:09 PM »

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"  Cheesy 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.
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« Reply #17 on: July 24, 2010, 09:43:39 PM »

Speaking for myself, an Orthodox mindset is not about whether we are saved, or not saved.  It's about either living in Christ or living outside of Christ.  It's about entering into God. Prayer, the liturgy, the services, and all the other services lead us into Christ.  Sin, the world, selfishness, ego, etc. lead us away from Christ. Accepting Christ is a decision, a moment in time.  But then we must continue the journey to learn what it means to live, to enter into a real, living, breathing communion with God.

When I was a protestant I often said to myself, "I'm saved, now what."  Good preachers can make being "saved" sound almost magical.  Get saved and then "magic".  In my experience, faith isn't magic, it's a journey, a journey into Christ.  After about 5 years or so of being Orthodox, the idea of being "saved" or "not saved" quit being terms that even entered my mind.
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« Reply #18 on: July 24, 2010, 09:45:29 PM »

Despite recent years of reading Orthodox books, including the Study Bible (NT), and discussing all manner of topics with you good people, I have not yet been able to understand your attitude towards our doctrine - and, we believe, experience - of assurance. At present I am reading "The First Day of the New Creation" (Kesich, St Vladimir's Seminary, 1982) and I read: "The resurrection for those who were "baptized into Christ" is a present experience... This baptismal text speaks of the present experience of Christians ... who "have put on Christ" are already risen with him... The Spirit is given and the power of the resurrection has been released and made available... Christ's life is ... the active power that moves and makes one share in his resurrected life. The Spirit is given to bear witness to his victory over death, and to make fully known what is accomplished in his resurrection."

I can't see how this differs from our doctrine (and experience?) of assurance. It might have been written by a fervent Evangelical. Forget the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" ("eternal security"), for the question of whether or not a Christian can lose his salvation is a quite other matter or dogma.

So why is all this important? Because (I think) it lies at the heart of the fact that so many Evangelicals do not accept Orthodox as fellow Christians. It seems to us that Orthodox say they do not and cannot have assurance of present salvation; therefore, many Evangelicals conclude they are not saved people, and therefore that their church does not lead people to salvation.
That's somewhat bassakwards, as they say.  Rather the assurance is that salvation is in the Orthodox Church.  The question is not "Are you saved?" but "Who do you say He is?" and how to you act accordingly?

I'm not sure it can be seperated from OSAS.  If it isn't OSAS, how is it "asurance of present salvation"?
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« Reply #19 on: July 24, 2010, 10:24:46 PM »

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 only asking about assurance of present salvation - that is, that your sins are forgiven, you are 'accepted in the Beloved', reconciled to God, born of him, in a state of grace, in Christ - put it how you will. ... You must have believed in assurance of present salvation when you were an Evangelical Christian, as it is a central to our system, else you were not really Evangelical: how do you now consider and evaluate what you then experienced and believed?
Refer to my earlier post (reply #2 in this thread).
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« Reply #20 on: July 24, 2010, 10:38:37 PM »

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 only asking about assurance of present salvation - that is, that your sins are forgiven, you are 'accepted in the Beloved', reconciled to God, born of him, in a state of grace, in Christ - put it how you will. I am not entering into the different question of whether it is possible for a true Christian to fall away later from Christ, be severed from grace, lose his salvation - again, put it how you will. Yes, we do believe that "if I died now, I would go to be with the Lord": we believe that assurance is the birthright of every child of God, every Christian, not for our merit (for we have none) but from God's grace vouchsafed to us in Christ. The belief of those who also hold eternal security (which you call OSAS), namely, that in forty years' time, if I die then, I shall certainly still be in a state of grace, is different and doesn't come into my questions here. You must have believed in assurance of present salvation when you were an Evangelical Christian, as it is a central to our system, else you were not really Evangelical: how do you now consider and evaluate what you then experienced and believed? If you do believe that, but reject OSAS, I can't see how you differ (in this matter) from any Arminian Evangelical - Methodist, Pentecostal or whatever. Are we falling out, and rejecting one another, only over different use of words? Are we quibbling over words? Or are you really saying something radically different from a Methodist Christian about this matter - something which I have not yet managed to understand?


I see assurance in a different way now, I don't have assurance in myself. I do have an assurance in Him,and a promise that the Lord WILL save me,if 1) I live a life of self-denial,and do not deny the Lord in the end. 2) If I remain faithful to him,and His commandments.
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« Reply #21 on: July 24, 2010, 11:01:13 PM »


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 think you have put it rather well.

The terminology "assurance of salvation" is not known to the Orthodox and so they have to pause and try and sort it out when asked the question.  But in effect they do have an assurance of salvation while they are walking in God's grace.  There is no guarantee though that they might not sin gravely tomorrow and be in danger of hellfire.

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« Reply #22 on: July 24, 2010, 11:42:47 PM »


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 think you have put it rather well.

The terminology "assurance of salvation" is not known to the Orthodox and so they have to pause and try and sort it out when asked the question.  But in effect they do have an assurance of salvation while they are walking in God's grace.  There is no guarantee though that they might not sin gravely tomorrow and be in danger of hellfire.



But how can we be sure?  What if we are in prelest?  That is a serious question.  I find this discussion really interesting.  Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful responses on this thread.
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« Reply #23 on: July 25, 2010, 01:44:12 AM »

Quote
(And by the way, as an aside and not wishing to get away from the theme of the thread, I would be more than happy to pray most of the baptismal prayers listed above quoted from your liturgy, next time someone is baptised at our church; indeed, should I ever again have the privilege of baptising someone (for I am no longer in pastoral work at present, as you know) to 'borrow' some of them myself.)

You state that you wish to gain a greater understanding of Orthodoxy, and many on this forum have, over quite some time, over several threads, attempted to do so, with patience, courtesy and clarity, as is proper. Folks have provided an abundance of material from history, scripture, the writings of the Fathers and saints, and from the Orthodox liturgical deposit. You have chosen not to let this change your beliefs, which is, of course, your prerogative.

The Orthodox believe what we pray, and pray what we believe. You state that you cannot accept Orthodox teaching for yourself, be it on paedobaptism, salvation, or other matters discussed on threads to which you have contributed. Yet, you are happy to "borrow" from Orthodox liturgical tradition for your own use. Would you use these prayers because you honestly and sincerely believe in what they say and teach? If not, then what is your reason for wishing to "borrrow" them?

Returning to this from your opening post:

Quote
At present I am reading "The First Day of the New Creation" (Kesich, St Vladimir's Seminary, 1982) and I read: "The resurrection for those who were "baptized into Christ" is a present experience... This baptismal text speaks of the present experience of Christians ... who "have put on Christ" are already risen with him... The Spirit is given and the power of the resurrection has been released and made available... Christ's life is ... the active power that moves and makes one share in his resurrected life. The Spirit is given to bear witness to his victory over death, and to make fully known what is accomplished in his resurrection."

I can't see how this differs from our doctrine (and experience?) of assurance. It might have been written by a fervent Evangelical.

Are you seeking an imprimatur from an Orthodox writer for your own denomination's doctrine on salvation? Are you truly representing the author's intent by the snippets you provided?



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« Reply #24 on: July 25, 2010, 02:40:33 AM »


But how can we be sure?  What if we are in prelest?  That is a serious question. 


What do you mean by prelest?  Most people would never be in prelest (a state of spiritual deception) at least not to the extent that it is crippling their spirtual life and ensuring their damnation.   Under normal conditions prelest is a gradually developing and long-term sickness of the soul.

Prelest is also often an overestimation of our own spiritual state and achievements.  Prelest can also be the opposite - an underestimation of our spiritual state which leads to despair and inaction, this kind of prelest often shows itself as over-scrupolosity.

And of course prelest in another form manifests as heresy - when a soul has slowly accepted into itself a very wrong theological idea and it then finds it hard to eject it (probably does not even want to eject it.)  It becomes very difficult to return to a healthy and orthodox understanding of theology.

A father confessor should be able to discern these things with questioning and he should suggest remedies.

If you ask your own he will be able to assist you.
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« Reply #25 on: July 25, 2010, 04:10:47 AM »

you wish to gain a greater understanding of Orthodoxy, and many on this forum have, over quite some time, over several threads, attempted to do so, with patience, courtesy and clarity

There is so much in the above threads which I would love to reply to. But just now I need to be a little more brief. Nonetheless, a thank-you to you all thus far, including the other threads which are referred to here.

Quote
You have chosen not to let this change your beliefs

I am not sure the word "chosen" is quite the right word. Can we choose what we believe? Do we not rather have to accept, gladly or reluctantly, what seems to us to be objective, immutable truth? I am not sure I ever "chose" either to become or to remain narrowly a Baptist, or more broadly an Evangelical. Indeed, did any of you "choose" to become Orthodox? Was it not rather that (some with reluctance) you felt compelled to because of a persuasion that this alone is truth?

Quote
you are happy to "borrow" from Orthodox liturgical tradition for your own use. Would you use these prayers because you honestly and sincerely believe in what they say and teach?

Of course - else it were pure hypocrisy.

Quote
what is your reason for wishing to "borrrow" them?

My point was less that I would be happy to borrow them, though I would, than to emphasise my conception that there is enormous overlap in the beliefs we share in common.

Quote
Are you seeking an imprimatur from an Orthodox writer for your own denomination's doctrine on salvation? Are you truly representing the author's intent by the snippets you provided?

No - again, I am emphasising the vast area of shared belief. I have not quite finished the book yet, but I find hardly a word anywhere in it to take exception with, though I am up to page 162.
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« Reply #26 on: July 25, 2010, 01:05:52 PM »

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?
Yes, if they did have a feeling of complete assurance for the future, they would have lost it because it was a false sense of security. Why would Christ warn us from straying if we already had this assurance? OK, you are talking about the present sense. Well, in Orthodoxy, if you are doing your best and fully repentant (of which maybe I;m not doing my best), then maybe you can have a feeling of assurance, but the next moment you aren't then you lose this feeling, because works are needed for faith. So you go up and down in "assurance." this is not the focus in Orthodoxy. Sure, they're assured, but just having a sense of assurance doesn't make it real!

What's important isn't the sense of assurance, but other things. If you focus on it, well, some people are assured that they're going to hell. That's not right.

I do think at moments, eg. communion, baptism, Orthodox have the feeling you're describing. But since other times people can go astray, the feeling itself doesn't make it real.

As in the example you gave earlier about Evangelicals not thinking Orthodox are saved because Orthodox don't have the idea of certainty 200% that each person is saved, the root problem seems to be "I think it, so it makes it so."


OK, Christ promised that if you repent and have faith, for which works are necessary, you have promise of salvation. Orthodox Church will say that.


What is the problem?

It seems to be, with all due respect, that even though you agree to this, you are expecting something more. And since Orthodox Church doesn't accept "once saved always saved," and a feeling of assurance that this is always true, which is what you are used to, you have an unarticulated sense that something is wrong with Orthodoxy and traditional Protestantism. That's my guess.
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« Reply #27 on: July 25, 2010, 01:09:54 PM »

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You have chosen not to let this change your beliefs

I am not sure the word "chosen" is quite the right word. Can we choose what we believe? Do we not rather have to accept, gladly or reluctantly, what seems to us to be objective, immutable truth? I am not sure I ever "chose" either to become or to remain narrowly a Baptist, or more broadly an Evangelical. Indeed, did any of you "choose" to become Orthodox? Was it not rather that (some with reluctance) you felt compelled to because of a persuasion that this alone is truth?

This goes to the question of whether Choice itself is an illusion.

In the evangelical/Calvinist mindset, choice actually doesn't exist, there's only IRRESISTIBLE GRACE. God chooses for you to believe something, and then you cannot resist the choice.

Please see the thread on Orthodoxy and Calvinism
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« Reply #28 on: July 25, 2010, 01:36:13 PM »

this doctrine of assurance... Is the wikipedia article precise about it? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assurance_(theology)

Yes. I cannot comment, of course, on the accuracy of the section on Roman Catholic teaching, but, to my limited knowledge, the sections on Methodism, Lutheranism and Calvinism seem remarkably succinct and accurate.

I hope you all understand that I have not started this thread to be contentious: it really is an aspect of Orthodoxy which I have not yet understood; indeed, much of what you write is quite alien to our way of thinking as Evangelicals, and I shall need to read the posts so far again and (I hope) further ones in order to try to penetrate it. And I say again, I am fairly sure it lies at the heart of much Evangelical rejection of Orthodoxy, much more deeply than such matters as prayers to the saints and even our different understanding of baptism and the Lord's Supper. If I were happy enough to meet one or more of you, perhaps over a retsina in a taverna in the Greek heartland of Orthodoxy, and you said to me some of the things written above, I would be quite at a loss to know how to react or, spiritually, to relate to you.


The words would fail to convey to me whether you are saved (in our sense of the word) or not.
[We believe in Jesus and Trinity. Accepting ideas about Calvinism, or having a sense that no matter what I do from this point I am always saved is not Christianity.]

I emphasise of course that I am entirely aware that it is God's prerogative not mine to know that; but if I am to relate to Orthodox, as I must and indeed wish to in Albania, I need to have some inkling of whether or not we both stand in the same grace of Christ. I suspect it might operate the same the other way round, if you wished to know how to relate to me over the dinner table or wherever. Would you not wonder, "Is this chap really in Christ?" - if only to know how to meet and serve my spiritual needs. After all, it's hard to help someone if you don't know what his real need is.

Quote
I suspect it might operate the same the other way round, if you wished to know how to relate to me over the dinner table or wherever. Would you not wonder, "Is this chap really in Christ?"

We don't believe that the person has faith in Christ so now he is in Christ and therefore going to heaven, because there's enough awful people who thought and did very bad things counter to the gospel was God's will.

Let me say what I perceive- your spiritual relation to the person depends on whether they accepted Christ. If he did, he's in Christ, and almost all's good. Spiritual needs at this point are very secondary.

OK. The problem is that YOU are judging whether or not another person really believes or not, which is something that is in their mind. And for some reason, our failure to follow Calvinist formulas and have a very very intense feeling of self-assurance, so intense you call it born again, which some Orthodox probably have anyway, is the decisionmaker for you.

For us, just believing in Christ is enough, without an intense moment of self-assurance.

There is such a situation in Evangelical church where an "outside" person accepts that Christ is real, but then at some point they REALLY REALLY REALLY believe it, and at that point you decide they are in Christ and you can relate to them.
This intense MENTAL feeling of self-assurance is then mistaken for the real thing (assurance of salvation) and made necessary. It's brainwashing. The person brainwashes themself, thinks they are saved forever, and can start following Old Testament passages about hurting sinners.

That's why an Intense Mental feeling about self-assurance is NOT proof that the person is saved.

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« Reply #29 on: July 25, 2010, 02:26:12 PM »

Something our priest said today made me think that we know we are saved only because we know who our Savior is, or rather, we know Him.

The question, "Are you saved?" reminds me of the falling asleep of St. Sisoes:
Quote
When Abba Sisoes was about to die, and the fathers were sitting with him, they saw that his face was shining like the sun. He said unto them, "Behold, Abba Anthony has come." After a little while he said again, "Behold, the company of prophets has come," and his face shone twice as bright. Suddenly, he became as one speaking with someone else, and the fathers sitting there asked him, "Show us with whom you are speaking, father."

Immediately, Abba Sisoes said to them, "Behold, the angels came to take me away and I asked them to leave me so that I might tarry here a little longer and repent." And the old men said unto him, "You have no need to repent, father." And Abba Sisoes said to the fathers, "I do not know in my soul if I have rightly begun to repent," and they all realized that the old man was perfect.

Then, suddenly, his face beamed like the sun and all who sat there were afraid and he said to them, "Look! Look! Behold, the Lord has come and He says, 'Bring unto Me the chosen vessel which is in the desert,'" and he at once delivered up his spirit and became like lightning and the whole place was filled with a sweet fragrance.


http://livingwaterinanemptydesert.blogspot.com/2009/11/sayings-of-fathers_12.html
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« Reply #30 on: July 25, 2010, 02:38:40 PM »

YOU are judging whether or not another person really believes

Just two brief contributions following the above:

1) I hope I'm not being pernickety over words, but "judge" doesn't quite convey it; it's more a matter of recognising one's brothers and sisters.

2) Again, although what we preach and what you preach is indeed different, I feel it is not as different as is sometimes assumed, for we always teach that a profession of faith which is not followed by a changed life, by growth in grace and Christian character (should I say theosis?) is at best questionable and at worst bogus - always allowing that (to turn a phrase round) only God finally knows who is not saved.

I can't see anything to disagree with in ialmisry's priest's words: the sort of thing we might hear from one of our own pulpits.
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« Reply #31 on: July 25, 2010, 02:42:43 PM »

the falling asleep of St. Sisoes

I like it. It bears striking resemblances to the deaths of the Catholic St Cuthbert and the Primitive Methodist founder Hugh Bourne. May our latter end be like theirs!
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« Reply #32 on: July 25, 2010, 04:09:37 PM »

YOU are judging whether or not another person really believes

Just two brief contributions following the above:

1) I hope I'm not being pernickety over words, but "judge" doesn't quite convey it; it's more a matter of recognising one's brothers and sisters.

With all due respect, it's playing with words. Judging=discernment=recognition.

How to recognize?

Jesus told us!

Matthew 7:16 "Ye shall know them by their fruits."

Quote
2) Again, although what we preach and what you preach is indeed different, I feel it is not as different as is sometimes assumed, for we always teach that a profession of faith which is not followed by a changed life, by growth in grace and Christian character (should I say theosis?) is at best questionable and at worst bogus - always allowing that (to turn a phrase round) only God finally knows who is not saved.

That's Recognition.

Regards.
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« Reply #33 on: July 25, 2010, 04:41:14 PM »

How to recognize?

Jesus told us!

Matthew 7:16 "Ye shall know them by their fruits."
That's Recognition.

Of course. But there are some people - perhaps not very many, but some - like the thief on the cross, who were reconciled to God and accepted as they turned to Christ, yet had no time for theosis, sanctification, growth in character. Someone said that a little faith brings the soul to heaven, but a great faith brings heaven to the soul. There are some - we believe - whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life who never had the chance to live out their faith over a period subsequent to their conversion, but their assurance of their adoption into God's family was not for that reason invalid. Some servants of the Lord have ministered to condemned felons, being granted access to them not many days before their execution, and by God's mercy have brought them to repentance for their wrongdoings before God and man, and to faith that Christ died and rose again for their redemption and salvation. The thief on the cross is not unique; and Christ's acceptance of him was instantaneous. This is what we mean: if we die now, we shall be "with Christ, which is far better"; if we live, we must of course press on to follow him, for faith without works is dead, as it is written.
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« Reply #34 on: July 25, 2010, 04:46:44 PM »

Please see the thread on Orthodoxy and Calvinism

No way! Debate over Calvinism always brings contention. It is instructive and edifying to take part in a discussion forum, as this is entitled, but there are some topics which seem to have an unavoidable inherent tendency to generate divisive and often bitter wrangling.  In my mind (nay, and experience), Calvinism - whether it is true or not, which I am not willing to debate - is among the foremost.
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« Reply #35 on: July 25, 2010, 04:49:20 PM »

I want to take a quick moment to publicly thank Mr. Young for wrestling with these ideas so publicly and sincerely.  It does take an earnest desire to seek the Truth to open ones internal struggles to strangers in an anonymous format that lends itself to overstatement and sureness of oneself.  While not saying Mr. Young is right or wrong in his beliefs, it has helped me to follow everyone's conversation in hashing these issues out.  So to all, please don't get discouraged with one another and continue to strive to speak the truth in love.  It does in fact help those of us who silently follow along.


1) I hope I'm not being pernickety over words, but "judge" doesn't quite convey it; it's more a matter of recognising one's brothers and sisters.

Thanks also for reacquainting me with the word pernickety.  Although I think in the past I'd heard it pronounced 'persnickety'.
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« Reply #36 on: July 25, 2010, 04:59:04 PM »

You have chosen not to let this change your beliefs, which is, of course, your prerogative.

Actually I think you are mistaken. The nub of the matter is whether the Orthodox Church is a Christian denomination, as are Baptists, or is the one true Church. I lean to the former view, but have definitely not been pulled over to the second. But if you go back to 1991 and following, I was probably one of those Evangelicals who assumed that there is hardly a saved soul among you all. Also, in some matters (see other threads) my views have shifted more in an Orthodox direction, at least in this sense: that Protestantism is a broad spectrum, and I have moved along the spectrum (whilst still remaining wholly within Protestantism) to parts which are closer to Orthodoxy than where I started. Some of you would say I am treating your Church like a cafeteria (or buffet): but if you, like us, are a Christian denomination, there is no earthly or heavenly reason why I shouldn't. Be that as it may, it is not true that my beliefs have not at all shifted. Despite your and my best efforts, we have not yet recruited many Evangelicals on to the Forum to join in the discussion. If you succeeded in drawing me and others (like Cleopas) into Orthodoxy, where then would be the Forum? But I do not see its purpose as being to draw people from one church to another (though each of us is of course free to convert if so persuaded), but for people in different churches to discuss - as the title would imply.
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« Reply #37 on: July 25, 2010, 05:06:40 PM »

You have chosen not to let this change your beliefs, which is, of course, your prerogative.

Actually I think you are mistaken. The nub of the matter is whether the Orthodox Church is a Christian denomination, as are Baptists, or is the one true Church. I lean to the former view, but have definitely not been pulled over to the second. But if you go back to 1991 and following, I was probably one of those Evangelicals who assumed that there is hardly a saved soul among you all. Also, in some matters (see other threads) my views have shifted more in an Orthodox direction, at least in this sense: that Protestantism is a broad spectrum, and I have moved along the spectrum (whilst still remaining wholly within Protestantism) to parts which are closer to Orthodoxy than where I started. Some of you would say I am treating your Church like a cafeteria (or buffet): but if you, like us, are a Christian denomination, there is no earthly or heavenly reason why I shouldn't. Be that as it may, it is not true that my beliefs have not at all shifted. Despite your and my best efforts, we have not yet recruited many Evangelicals on to the Forum to join in the discussion. If you succeeded in drawing me and others (like Cleopas) into Orthodoxy, where then would be the Forum? But I do not see its purpose as being to draw people from one church to another (though each of us is of course free to convert if so persuaded), but for people in different churches to discuss - as the title would imply.

You are a good man David.  I really appreciate your honesty and forthrightness.  I was just having the discussion the other day with a friend that was along the lines of, "too many Orthodox seem to want the Church to remain small and isolated."  Almost an elitist mentality. When people have an attitude like this, it's hard to enter into a discussion with them.

That being said, this board is one of the best places I know of where one can have a real discussion with people who care about Orthodoxy.  Sometimes though, the elitist attitude can rear its head.

This journey you've been on since 1991 to me, is what Christianity is about.  A drawing into God.
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« Reply #38 on: July 25, 2010, 06:39:17 PM »

Please see the thread on Orthodoxy and Calvinism

No way! Debate over Calvinism always brings contention. It is instructive and edifying to take part in a discussion forum, as this is entitled, but there are some topics which seem to have an unavoidable inherent tendency to generate divisive and often bitter wrangling.  In my mind (nay, and experience), Calvinism - whether it is true or not, which I am not willing to debate - is among the foremost.

It's the foundation of the evangelical movement and where its ideas come from. You don't have to respond to each post. Consider it educational. Many articles are actually written in dialogue form, where the author makes points and considers other points.
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« Reply #39 on: July 25, 2010, 06:55:42 PM »

How to recognize?

Jesus told us!

Matthew 7:16 "Ye shall know them by their fruits."
That's Recognition.

Of course. But
there are some people - perhaps not very many, but some - like the thief on the cross, who were reconciled to God and accepted as they turned to Christ, yet had no time for theosis, sanctification, growth in character. Someone said that a little faith brings the soul to heaven, but a great faith brings heaven to the soul. There are some - we believe - whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life who never had the chance to live out their faith over a period subsequent to their conversion, but their assurance of their adoption into God's family was not for that reason invalid. Some servants of the Lord have ministered to condemned felons, being granted access to them not many days before their execution, and by God's mercy have brought them to repentance for their wrongdoings before God and man, and to faith that Christ died and rose again for their redemption and salvation. The thief on the cross is not unique; and Christ's acceptance of him was instantaneous. This is what we mean: if we die now, we shall be "with Christ, which is far better"; if we live, we must of course press on to follow him, for faith without works is dead, as it is written.

Sure. None of that is a "but" to what I said. You said if you sat down with us, would you be able to relate to us as Christians? You said you have serious doubts about this because we don't have an Evangelical (Calvinist) formula or haven't had a single moment where we went from just accepting that Christ is real to REALLY REALLY REALLY believing that Christ is real. You say you have a hard time recognizing whether we, who have lacked this mental explosion and self-assurance can be Christian. And Jesus' answer is that you know from their FRUITS. ie. their works, which is downplayed in the Evangelical/Calvinist ideology.

Now, you have accepted that the way to judge people as Christians or not is their works.

And your exception is that some people have accepted Christ before they died, without ability to produce fruit. Of course, you could argue that in professing their faith out loud, they did produce "a work" or fruit.

OK, then all you've done is say you cant tell if theyre Christian or not, because you cant get into their head and doublecheck, and there's no time to wait for works.

For Jesus, it was enough for someone just to say "remember me o lord in your Kingdom," something that we sing in Church every week.

Unfortunately, this isn't good enough for those brought up in Calvinist movements because we lack a point of intense mental explosion, where the Mind screams with assurance, "I said it and REALLY REALLY REALLY believed it, so now I'm saved no matter what!"

I encourage you to learn about the connection between Evangelicalism and Calvinism.

Best Regards, Dave.
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« Reply #40 on: July 25, 2010, 07:08:04 PM »

You have chosen not to let this change your beliefs, which is, of course, your prerogative.

Actually I think you are mistaken. The nub of the matter is whether the Orthodox Church is a Christian denomination, as are Baptists, or is the one true Church. I lean to the former view, but have definitely not been pulled over to the second. But if you go back to 1991 and following, I was probably one of those Evangelicals who assumed that there is hardly a saved soul among you all. Also, in some matters (see other threads) my views have shifted more in an Orthodox direction, at least in this sense: that Protestantism is a broad spectrum, and I have moved along the spectrum (whilst still remaining wholly within Protestantism) to parts which are closer to Orthodoxy than where I started. Some of you would say I am treating your Church like a cafeteria (or buffet): but if you, like us, are a Christian denomination, there is no earthly or heavenly reason why I shouldn't. Be that as it may, it is not true that my beliefs have not at all shifted. Despite your and my best efforts, we have not yet recruited many Evangelicals on to the Forum to join in the discussion. If you succeeded in drawing me and others (like Cleopas) into Orthodoxy, where then would be the Forum? But I do not see its purpose as being to draw people from one church to another (though each of us is of course free to convert if so persuaded), but for people in different churches to discuss - as the title would imply.

I am Orthodox and have dozens and dozens of Orthodox friends.  Very few of them would ever wonder about how they should treat or consider another human being.  The saints among us would even be praying for their torturers, and all of us are required to forgive mistreatment by our enemies and to pray for them. 

As for other decent human beings, we are to love them like brothers, no matter how much their opinions about religion, government, science or any other subject differs from ours. 

If you act like a Christian, then we assume you are one.  In everyone, even most of the death camp prison guards have a tiny light of the Divine Image within them, according to Father Arseny, who learned from personal experience. 

We do not worry our heads.  We accept everyone, princes to beggars, as Images of God.
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« Reply #41 on: July 25, 2010, 08:41:00 PM »

You have chosen not to let this change your beliefs, which is, of course, your prerogative.

Actually I think you are mistaken. The nub of the matter is whether the Orthodox Church is a Christian denomination, as are Baptists, or is the one true Church. I lean to the former view, but have definitely not been pulled over to the second.


Yes this is the nub of the matter. So when did we cease being the One True Church? When did Jesus, the Apostles, and Church Fathers ever advocate Denominationalism for Christians?

If Orthodoxy always saw itself as being the One True Church, then why must She change her mind now?



Quote
But if you go back to 1991 and following, I was probably one of those Evangelicals who assumed that there is hardly a saved soul among you all.

Alot of us were misguided at one point in time. Alot of us had beliefs that were more in line with the ancient gnostics, and we probably didn't even know it. Alot of us probably had a false Christology and didn't even know it. I remember saying things to a Roman Catholic friend in highschool....you know, things about Mary, statues,  infant Baptism, and water Baptism that I still feel bad about now! Why? Because I was dead wrong then, and I probably hurt her feelings, but I was simply stating the common Baptist line to her, and that common Baptist reasoning was wrong, it was misguided. If she saw me today, she would probably be shocked to find out I'm Orthodox......especially with all the things I said back then.

And so alot of us know where you are coming from. Alot of us understand.



Quote
Also, in some matters (see other threads) my views have shifted more in an Orthodox direction, at least in this sense: that Protestantism is a broad spectrum, and I have moved along the spectrum (whilst still remaining wholly within Protestantism) to parts which are closer to Orthodoxy than where I started. Some of you would say I am treating your Church like a cafeteria (or buffet): but if you, like us, are a Christian denomination, there is no earthly or heavenly reason why I shouldn't.

A number of us probably became another kind of protestant before we actually became Orthodox. I officially became Episcopal/Anglican before becoming Orthodox. And so I went from:

1.) Baptist (This is what I was raised as. I'm still cool with some of the deacons there...they are good people)
2.) Episcopal (I joined an Anglo-Catholic parish as well as helped with an Episcopal Charismatic mission that did alot of work with the homeless in Pittsburgh. I met alot of nice people there. The Anglo-Catholics helped eradicate some of my Baptist leftovers. They really helped me out in the area of Icons.)

To be honest, I never really burned my bridges. I still have good relations with most of my protestant friends.

to

3.) Orthodox


Sooner or later you will find out that what you are bringing into your life from other traditions will not always gell with the Baptist faith. It took me 10 years to convert after finding out about Orthodoxy, and so I understand if it takes a long time.




Quote
Be that as it may, it is not true that my beliefs have not at all shifted. Despite your and my best efforts, we have not yet recruited many Evangelicals on to the Forum to join in the discussion.
 If you succeeded in drawing me and others (like Cleopas) into Orthodoxy, where then would be the Forum?

I'm sure more would come, and you and Cleopas will be talking to them just like we are to you.



Quote
But I do not see its purpose as being to draw people from one church to another (though each of us is of course free to convert if so persuaded), but for people in different churches to discuss - as the title would imply.

 It was a discussion some 13 years ago that lead me down this path in the first place. So yeah, there is nothing wrong with discussion.











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« Reply #42 on: July 25, 2010, 08:49:56 PM »

You have chosen not to let this change your beliefs, which is, of course, your prerogative.

Actually I think you are mistaken. The nub of the matter is whether the Orthodox Church is a Christian denomination, as are Baptists, or is the one true Church. I lean to the former view, but have definitely not been pulled over to the second.


Yes this is the nub of the matter. So when did we cease being the One True Church? When did Jesus, the Apostles, and Church Fathers ever advocate Denominationalism for Christians?

I was talking to a friend the other day and this is exactly what I said.  It seems the Church must have been One in the time of the Apostles.  When did that ever change?
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« Reply #43 on: July 25, 2010, 09:26:32 PM »

You have chosen not to let this change your beliefs, which is, of course, your prerogative.

Actually I think you are mistaken. The nub of the matter is whether the Orthodox Church is a Christian denomination, as are Baptists, or is the one true Church. I lean to the former view, but have definitely not been pulled over to the second.


Yes this is the nub of the matter. So when did we cease being the One True Church? When did Jesus, the Apostles, and Church Fathers ever advocate Denominationalism for Christians?

I was talking to a friend the other day and this is exactly what I said.  It seems the Church must have been One in the time of the Apostles.  When did that ever change?

I don't think it ever changed. Now I know that this argument can only be pushed but so far, for we are not the only ones who can trace our leadership back to the 1st century.

But this argument should still at least wipe out hundreds to thousands of other groups.....like the Baptists..... who can't even pass this first test of Apostolic Succession.


Tertullian (in his earlier years arguing against the claims and arguments of the heretics Marcion, Apelles, Philumene, Valentinus, Nigidius, and Hermogenes).) had something good to say about this issue:

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0311.htm (chapters 20 to 42)

Quote
Quote: (from chapter 20)
"they obtained the promised power of the Holy Ghost for the gift of miracles and of utterance; and after first bearing witness to the faith in Jesus Christ throughout Judæa, and founding churches (there), they next went forth into the world and preached the same doctrine of the same faith to the nations. They then in like manner founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches. Every sort of thing must necessarily revert to its original for its classification. Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church, (founded) by the apostles, from which they all (spring). In this way all are primitive, and all are apostolic, while they are all proved to be one, in (unbroken) unity, by their peaceful communion, and title of brotherhood, and bond of hospitality—privileges which no other rule directs than the one tradition of the selfsame mystery."


Quote: (from chapter 21)
"Chapter 21. All Doctrine True Which Comes Through the Church from the Apostles, Who Were Taught by God Through Christ. All Opinion Which Has No Such Divine Origin and Apostolic Tradition to Show, is Ipso Facto False.
From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed; for “no man knows the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” Matthew 11:27 Nor does the Son seem to have revealed Him to any other than the apostles, whom He sent forth to preach— that, of course, which He revealed to them. Now, what that was which they preached— in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them— can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles founded in person, by declaring the gospel to them directly themselves, both vivâ voce, as the phrase is, and subsequently by their epistles. If, then, these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches— those moulds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth."


Quote: (from chapter 26)
"Much less, when churches were advanced in the faith, would they have withdrawn from them anything for the purpose of committing it separately to some few others. Although, even supposing that among intimate friends, so to speak, they did hold certain discussions, yet it is incredible that these could have been such as to bring in some other rule of faith, differing from and contrary to that which they were proclaiming through the Catholic churches, — as if they spoke of one God in the Church, (and) another at home, and described one substance of Christ, publicly, (and) another secretly, and announced one hope of the resurrection before all men, (and) another before the few; although they themselves, in their epistles, besought men that they would all speak one and the same thing, and that there should be no divisions and dissensions in the church, 1 Corinthians 1:10 seeing that they, whether Paul or others, preached the same things. Moreover, they remembered (the words): “Let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than this comes of evil;” Matthew 5:37 so that they were not to handle the gospel in a diversity of treatment."


From Chapters 27 and 29
Quote:
"Chapter 27. Granted that the Apostles Transmitted the Whole Doctrine of Truth, May Not the Churches Have Been Unfaithful in Handing It On? Inconceivable that This Can Have Been the Case.
Since, therefore, it is incredible that the apostles were either ignorant of the whole scope of the message which they had to declare, or failed to make known to all men the entire rule of faith, let us see whether, while the apostles proclaimed it, perhaps, simply and fully, the churches, through their own fault, set it forth otherwise than the apostles had done. All these suggestions of distrust you may find put forward by the heretics. They bear in mind how the churches were rebuked by the apostle: “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” Galatians 3:1 and, “You did run so well; who has hindered you?” Galatians 5:7 and how the epistle actually begins: “I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him, who has called you as His own in grace, to another gospel.” Galatians 1:6 That they likewise (remember), what was written to the Corinthians, that they “were yet carnal,” who “required to be fed with milk,” being as yet “unable to bear strong meat;” who also “thought that they knew somewhat, whereas they knew not yet anything, as they ought to know.” 1 Corinthians 8:2 When they raise the objection that the churches were rebuked, let them suppose that they were also corrected; let them also remember those (churches), concerning whose faith and knowledge and conversation the apostle “rejoices and gives thanks to God,” which nevertheless even at this day, unite with those which were rebuked in the privileges of one and the same institution.

Chapter 28. The One Tradition of the Faith, Which is Substantially Alike in the Churches Everywhere, a Good Proof that the Transmission Has Been True and Honest in the Main.
Grant, then, that all have erred; that the apostle was mistaken in giving his testimony; that the Holy Ghost had no such respect to any one (church) as to lead it into truth, although sent with this view by Christ, John 14:26 and for this asked of the Father that He might be the teacher of truth; John 15:26 grant, also, that He, the Steward of God, the Vicar of Christ, neglected His office, permitting the churches for a time to understand differently, (and) to believe differently, what He Himself was preaching by the apostles—is it likely that so many churches, and they so great, should have gone astray into one and the same faith? No casualty distributed among many men issues in one and the same result. Error of doctrine in the churches must necessarily have produced various issues. When, however, that which is deposited among many is found to be one and the same, it is not the result of error, but of tradition. Can any one, then, be reckless enough to say that they were in error who handed on the tradition?

Chapter 29. The Truth Not Indebted to the Care of the Heretics; It Had Free Course Before They Appeared. Priority of the Church's Doctrine a Mark of Its Truth.
In whatever manner error came, it reigned of course only as long as there was an absence of heresies? Truth had to wait for certain Marcionites and Valentinians to set it free. During the interval the gospel was wrongly preached; men wrongly believed; so many thousands were wrongly baptized; so many works of faith were wrongly wrought; so many miraculous gifts, so many spiritual endowments, were wrongly set in operation; so many priestly functions, so many ministries, were wrongly executed; and, to sum up the whole, so many martyrs wrongly received their crowns! Else, if not wrongly done, and to no purpose, how comes it to pass that the things of God were on their course before it was known to what God they belonged? That there were Christians before Christ was found? That there were heresies before true doctrine? Not so; for in all cases truth precedes its copy, the likeness succeeds the reality. Absurd enough, however, is it, that heresy should be deemed to have preceded its own prior doctrine, even on this account, because it is that (doctrine) itself which foretold that there should be heresies against which men would have to guard! To a church which possessed this doctrine, it was written— yea, the doctrine itself writes to its own church— “Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than that which we have preached, let him be accursed."

Chapter 30. Comparative Lateness of Heresies."










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"loving one's enemies does not mean loving wickedness, ungodliness, adultery, or theft. Rather, it means loving the theif, the ungodly, and the adulterer." Clement of Alexandria 195 A.D.

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« Reply #44 on: July 25, 2010, 09:39:14 PM »

As pertains the OP...

I'm not Orthodox but have been an Orthodox inquirer for a little over a year now, attending an Orthodox Church, talking to an Orthodox priest, trying to live an Orthodox life (and failing), etc.  My background is originally Baptist- my father is still a Baptist minister.  

Ironically, I never experienced much assurance of salvation in my Protestant days.  David, you often mention that U.S. and British evangelicals are different and maybe this is one of those areas.

I was baptized by my father when I was 5, having made a "decision for Christ".  I don't really remember that but very vaguely.  When I got into high school and got into youth group there was a lot of talk about the need to be "sure of your salvation," but ironically all this talk of assurance made me even less sure.  My salvation was something that I had simply taken for granted or perhaps never really reflected on but then when I got into high school there was talk of being not really being saved even though they may think they were.  It was stressed- from the pulpit- that we need to be sure.  Be sure of...

-Was it really the Holy Spirit drawing us at the time we made a decision for Christ?

-Did we truly repent of our sins?

-Was our faith real?

All of that threw me into doubt and confusion.  I remember talking to my youth pastor, my dad, camp counselors, friends.  I remember crying because I just couldn't figure out if my repentance was sincere enough (had I been holding something back?), if I really believed (was it just wishful thinking?), if it was the Holy Spirit and not just my own desire.  All this introspection ironically took my eyes off of Christ as well.

I would ask my spiritual elders, "How do I know if I'm really saved?"  They would tell me things like, "If you really believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, He died for your sins and rose from the dead and you repent of your sins, then you're saved."  So I would ask, "How do I know if I've done that?"  And they would say, "If your life shows signs of a change, if you have the signs of repentance, etc."  But I didn't know how much of a change was necessary.  

I remember an evangelist coming and talking about "Do you know that you know that you know that you know that if you were to die today you'd go to heaven?"  All those "knows" were meant to emphasize the level of assurance necessary.  He told stories about pastors who had lived good lives and then on their deathbeds said they felt the fires of hell.  He said he or someone he knew met a man on his deathbed who had the whole book of James memorized but said he knew that when he died he would go to Hell.  I think this was all to illustrate that you can never be good enough, but it robbed me of any assurance I could have!

It seemed like I was getting the message that-

1) You have to be completely sure of your salvation.

2) You can never be completely sure of your salvation.

I spent 2 years of high school really bothered by this; I had periods of depression at least in part because of it. Finally, when I was 17 I "nailed down my salvation" at a camp and was told I should be baptized again.  So I was baptized again by my father at the age of 17.  I wasn't the only one struggling with this though because many in our church went through the same process- kids and adults- getting "saved" and "baptized" a second time because they weren't sure about it the first time.

Of course in little time I was back to my old doubts again, but this time when I would raise my hand to make a decision for Christ when we would all bow our heads and close our eyes my youth group leaders would quickly pull me aside as to not scandalize the younger kids.  Surely it would only confuse people if I was getting "saved" and "baptized" every few weeks.  So they tried to talk to me and counsel me and convince me that I had in fact been saved and that I need to stop doubting.  

I could go on but that was my experience of the evangelical doctrine of "assurance of salvation".  I was supposed to be sure, but I found that I couldn't be because I doubted myself- the perfection of my faith and repentance.

I'm so glad that the Orthodox Church doesn't expect people to be sure of something that they can't be sure of.  I'm so glad that there isn't a cause for me to fall into gloomy introspection.

I feel a lot like the Saint that Fr. Ambrose quoted- I deserve condemnation but hope for mercy.  I'm aware of my many sins, I'm aware of the fact that I haven't been received into the Orthodox Church and so I'm aware that God would be just to condemn me.  But my hope is not in the perfectness of my faith or the sincerity of my repentance but the mercy of God.  

I remember in my days as an evangelical I was told that if God were to ask me why He should let me into His kingdom I was to say because I believed in Jesus Christ and had repented of my sins.  Now, I feel if God asked me that, all I could do was beg for mercy.
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