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Author Topic: What I still can't get my head round  (Read 35255 times) Average Rating: 0
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GregoryLA
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« Reply #45 on: July 25, 2010, 09:44:24 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.

I'm in total agreement.  My question of "when did this change?" was rhetorical. Wink
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« Reply #46 on: July 25, 2010, 10:13:29 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.


What happened to you is pretty common. I remember reading this tract as a Baptist back in middle school (early 1990's)
http://www.radiomissions.org/sermons/bapprch.html (How and When God Saved a Baptist Preacher)

It wasn't until years later that I saw the gnosticism in all this. As well as how it went against 2nd Peter chapter 1:

2nd Peter 1
"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,  by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Fruitful Growth in the Faith
   
"But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."











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« Reply #47 on: July 26, 2010, 01:14:05 AM »

The word "assurance" is used 5 times in the New Testament, but the word "faith" is used almost 200 times. As Orthodox believers, we have faith in Christ which is demonstrated by our:

+Faith in the Church, (against which the gates of hell cannot and will not prevail [St. Matthew 16:18]

+Faith in the Sacraments (which demonstrates true repentance and true belief in Christ; for true repentance means embracing the waters of baptism, and true faith means receiving Christ in the Mystery of the Eucharist throughout our lives- not merely receiving Him via a "one time profession of faith." And faith is not using mortal rationale to reduce Holy Mysteries to mere spiritual symbols; rather, it is prostrating our entire selves before ineffable divinity and accepting the Teachings and Traditions of the apostolic Faith which have been instituted by Our Lord Himself.)

+Faith in the Scriptures (not faith in our own individual interpretations of Scripture, but faith in in the divinely guided interpretations of the Church.)

Now with faith in these things - which involves active, consistent, and corporate participation on our part - we have a confidence, hope, and a peace that permeates our lives. We do not live in fear of a wrathful God Whose justice and honor must be forensically appeased; we live instead for our loving and merciful God to Whom we wish to draw ever nearer through the graces He has provided us.

We do not speak of "assurance of salvation" because we do not want to be guilty of presumption and pride. Rather we speak of divine mercy and grace, in which we not only have faith, but which actually is our Faith. And we know that authentic faith dispels fear, pride, presumption, and despair. We trust not in our own fickle faith, but in the Faith which has been instituted by Christ, established by the apostles, and preserved by the Fathers throughout the centuries. When our own faith wavers, the Church remains "rock" solid. When our own theological and biblical understanding fails, the Mysteries of the Faith remain certain and salvific.





Selam
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« Reply #48 on: July 26, 2010, 01:14:37 AM »

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« Reply #49 on: July 26, 2010, 11:27:23 AM »

The word "assurance" is used 5 times in the New Testament, but the word "faith" is used almost 200 times. As Orthodox believers, we have faith in Christ which is demonstrated by our:

+Faith in the Church, (against which the gates of hell cannot and will not prevail [St. Matthew 16:18]

+Faith in the Sacraments (which demonstrates true repentance and true belief in Christ; for true repentance means embracing the waters of baptism, and true faith means receiving Christ in the Mystery of the Eucharist throughout our lives- not merely receiving Him via a "one time profession of faith." And faith is not using mortal rationale to reduce Holy Mysteries to mere spiritual symbols; rather, it is prostrating our entire selves before ineffable divinity and accepting the Teachings and Traditions of the apostolic Faith which have been instituted by Our Lord Himself.)

+Faith in the Scriptures (not faith in our own individual interpretations of Scripture, but faith in in the divinely guided interpretations of the Church.)

Now with faith in these things - which involves active, consistent, and corporate participation on our part - we have a confidence, hope, and a peace that permeates our lives. We do not live in fear of a wrathful God Whose justice and honor must be forensically appeased; we live instead for our loving and merciful God to Whom we wish to draw ever nearer through the graces He has provided us.

We do not speak of "assurance of salvation" because we do not want to be guilty of presumption and pride. Rather we speak of divine mercy and grace, in which we not only have faith, but which actually is our Faith. And we know that authentic faith dispels fear, pride, presumption, and despair. We trust not in our own fickle faith, but in the Faith which has been instituted by Christ, established by the apostles, and preserved by the Fathers throughout the centuries. When our own faith wavers, the Church remains "rock" solid. When our own theological and biblical understanding fails, the Mysteries of the Faith remain certain and salvific.





Selam

I would like to second what Gebre has written. Just yesterday, the Epistle and Gospel readings touched upon this subject of assurance. First, in the Reading from Mathew 14:22-34, we witness Jesus walking out to the boat, which had some of his apostles in it, during a raging storm. "But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying "Take heart, it is I; have no fear." And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?" So, Peter, relied on the assurance of the Lord to help him walk on water in the middle of raging storm for Jesus said "Come." We also know that this same Saint Peter had many such episodes when he did something because of the assurance of the Lord that he could/should do so. We also know that Saint Peter often lost this assurance because of his "little faith." Now, it goes without saying that Peter's faith was indeed very big but it fell short of complete faith until much later in his life when his faith was big enough for him to request being hung on his cross upside down. My point is that Saint Peter was in a process of growing in his faith, growing in the Lord, and in short in the path to theosis. And, this is the important point, he was a new man, a man assured of salvation as long as he continued to believe and follow the Lord. He just did not rest on his laurels at any time but drove himself relentlessly in his service to the Body of Christ.

In the epistle reading of Saint Paul, 1 Corinthians 3:9-17, we hear Apostle Paul talking about what sort of judgment Christians should expect at the Last Judgment:
"12    Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
13    each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.
14    If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
15    If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."

So, all Christians are indeed assured of salvation, albeit one's works will determine one's reward. But, just as we saw in the Gospel reading, Saint Paul cautions us that it is not a done deal, an automatic ticket. so to speak. He continues:

"16     Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
17    If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are."

Thus, we see the wisdom of Gebre's words, words that are echoed throughout Eastern Christianity: "We do not speak of "assurance of salvation" because we do not want to be guilty of presumption and pride. Rather we speak of divine mercy and grace, in which we not only have faith, but which actually is our Faith. And we know that authentic faith dispels fear, pride, presumption, and despair."

So, it may be that we have differing vocabularies, different understandings of the Word of God, and different approaches to Him. Nonetheless, when the smoke clears it is quite obvious that our differences don't mean much of anything. Actually, most Trinitarian Christians' understanding of faith and salvation, to include assurance of faith, are essentially the same, if you can burn off the non-essentials. The question then becomes "why should I belong to one denomination or the other?" I chose Orthodoxy, even though I am cradle Orthodox, because it is the one Church that is the most faithful to the Bible and the Apostolic Church; the one that worships truly, sincerely, and touching me in all of my God-created senses; the one that does not sway back and forth to the whims of the ages; and the one that is not dependent on the opinions of a few but on the assent of the Laos. I think that this is what Orthodox folks mean by "fullness of faith." So, I would invite David and our other heterodox brethren to come and experience our faith, which will complement and enrich their core Christian beliefs, leading them perhaps to build their edifice with "gold, silver, precious gems.."
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« Reply #50 on: July 26, 2010, 12:21:49 PM »

I never experienced much assurance of salvation in my Protestant days.  ... U.S. and British evangelicals are different and maybe this is one of those areas.

I don't think so. I've had a lot to do with American Evangelicals, in the Balkans and with those who come over to evangelise us Brits, and this doesn't seem to be an area where any difference of outlook can be discerned. Rather, it's more on more cultural matters: American Evangelicals tend not to drink ale or wine (let alone whisky (or whiskey, which is a different drink of course)); they use the King James Authorised Bible; are often more dogmatic and intransigent on their denominal distinctives (including OSAS where they believe it). They also seem a good deal better than we are at arranging the healthy, helpful social life of a church. They tend to take the initiative in seeking and grasping opportunities for service, whereas we are more likely to wait watchfully for God to indicate an open door. If posts on the forum from Americans give a true impression, there seem to be wider or more conspicuous extremes over there, not least representing the wackier spin-offs from Evangelicalism, which make us shudder as much as they do you. But I have never sensed a hair's breadth of difference on the matter of assurance.

But wow! I've never heard a story quite like yours, and it does sound horrific. I've never heard of anyone being baptised young as 5; I've never heard of anyone being baptised a second time; and it's no wonder the stories that were used to terrorise you nearly drove you to despair. I see your jurisdiction is Western Japan: does that mean you live in, and grew up in, Japan?
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« Reply #51 on: July 26, 2010, 06:47:58 PM »

But wow! I've never heard a story quite like yours, and it does sound horrific. I've never heard of anyone being baptised young as 5; I've never heard of anyone being baptised a second time; and it's no wonder the stories that were used to terrorise you nearly drove you to despair. I see your jurisdiction is Western Japan: does that mean you live in, and grew up in, Japan?

Yeah, I was very young.  My sister was older when she was baptised- 12.  My parents tell me that I wanted to get baptised even younger but that they made me wait cause they wanted to be sure I knew what I was doing.  They did have me go through "Survival Kit" which was sort of an intro. to Christianity sort of thing like a catechumenate. 

As for those "scare tactics" they don't seem unusual to me at all.   If I were to be cynical, I would say they do that to get people to "walk the alter"; that they do it to get results and get their baptismal numbers up.  A more generous point of view would be that they sincerely want people to be absolutely sure of their salvation and don't realize the damage their doing.

Do you not have "Hell Houses" in the UK?  I remember going to those as well.

I'm actually surprised you've never heard of people being baptised twice.  It was pretty common where I was from. 

I didn't grow up in Japan but in the southern United States.  Since my dad is a minister I moved around a bit- Kentucky, South Carolina and Georgia.  I've lived in Japan for 4 years now teaching English since I graduated university.

 
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« Reply #52 on: July 26, 2010, 11:01:32 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.

I think it's entirely possible that our very understandings of what salvation is are divergent, and if that is the case trying to compare our answers as to whether it could consequentially be a vain exercise. So, what exactly do you mean by "salvation"?
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« Reply #53 on: July 27, 2010, 12:06:56 AM »

But wow! I've never heard a story quite like yours, and it does sound horrific. I've never heard of anyone being baptised young as 5; I've never heard of anyone being baptised a second time; and it's no wonder the stories that were used to terrorise you nearly drove you to despair. I see your jurisdiction is Western Japan: does that mean you live in, and grew up in, Japan?

Yeah, I was very young.  My sister was older when she was baptised- 12.  My parents tell me that I wanted to get baptised even younger but that they made me wait cause they wanted to be sure I knew what I was doing.  They did have me go through "Survival Kit" which was sort of an intro. to Christianity sort of thing like a catechumenate. 

As for those "scare tactics" they don't seem unusual to me at all.   If I were to be cynical, I would say they do that to get people to "walk the alter"; that they do it to get results and get their baptismal numbers up.  A more generous point of view would be that they sincerely want people to be absolutely sure of their salvation and don't realize the damage their doing.

Do you not have "Hell Houses" in the UK?  I remember going to those as well.

I'm actually surprised you've never heard of people being baptised twice.  It was pretty common where I was from. 

I didn't grow up in Japan but in the southern United States.  Since my dad is a minister I moved around a bit- Kentucky, South Carolina and Georgia.  I've lived in Japan for 4 years now teaching English since I graduated university.

Yes,
I am aware of non-traditional Calvinists (ie. not Presbyterians) like Evangelicals doing rebaptism because traditional Christianity wasnt good ejnough I guess. For them, you are supposed to go from believing in Christ as a "mainstream" Christian to having the mind explosion of "I REALLY REALLY REALLY believe 100%" and then get rebaptized.

I don't mean to completely point the finger at them for the rebaptism part- the Greek Orthodox Church and some ROCOR churches also rebaptize, which I personally disagree with.

What are the Hell Houses?

All the best, Dave and Greg!

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« Reply #54 on: July 27, 2010, 03:57:22 AM »

What are the Hell Houses?

Quote from: wikipedia
Hell houses are haunted attractions typically run by American, fundamentalist Christian churches or parachurch groups. These depict sin, the torments of the damned in Hell, and usually conclude with a depiction of heaven. They are most typically operated in the days preceding Halloween.

A hell house, like a conventional haunted-house attraction, is a space set aside in which actors attempt to frighten patrons with gruesome exhibits and scenes. The format is that the various scenes are presented as a series of short vignettes with a narrated guide. Unlike haunted houses, hell houses focus on occasions and effects of sin or the fate of unrepentant sinners in the afterlife. They are scheduled during the month of October to capitalize on the similarities between hell houses and haunted attractions.

The exhibits at a hell house often have a controversial tone and focus on sins that are also issues of concern to evangelicals in the United States. Hell houses frequently feature exhibits that depict sin and its consequences. Common examples include abortion, suicide,[1] use of alcoholic beverage and other recreational drugs, adultery and pre-marital sex, occultism, homosexuality, and Satanic ritual abuse. Hell houses typically emphasize the belief that anyone who does not accept Christ as their personal savior is condemned to Hell.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell_house
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« Reply #55 on: July 27, 2010, 04:11:53 AM »

What are the Hell Houses?

Quote from: wikipedia

Thanks for all that. I had never heard of them.
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« Reply #56 on: July 27, 2010, 04:14:24 AM »

I have a question for you, David. 

I know this thread is probably a lot for you to handle with your busy schedule, but like I said, I'm actually surprised as a Baptist that you have never heard of second baptisms.  So I have some questions...

-Do you rebaptize those who were baptized as infants?

-What would you do if someone came to you saying they had been baptized once as an adult, or teenager, but had since realized that the weren't sincere in their conversion then and, being sincere now, desired a second baptism?
« Last Edit: July 27, 2010, 04:15:59 AM by GregoryLA » Logged
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« Reply #57 on: July 27, 2010, 04:25:33 AM »

I think it's entirely possible that our very understandings of what salvation is are divergent,

I think there's a lot in what you write here. It may not be our concept of final salvation in eternity, following the resurrection, that is different, so much as our use of the word "saved" referring to the here and now. It is true to say that the NT speaks of salvation as a past event, a present process, and a future completed consummation. In that third sense, none of us has yet been saved. In the second sense, all who have turned to Christ are currently being saved. (Do you call that theosis and we sancitifcation?) I think you tend not to use the first sense very often, but we tend to use the word 'saved' mainly to refer to the first sense: that moment in the past when a person was justified, born again, accepted in the Beloved, adopted into God's family, reconciled to God - call it what you will, the scriptures use all these phrases and doubtless more besides - was when he 'was saved'. From that moment, a person is a child of God, united to Christ by the Spirit, in a state of grace, in possession of eternal life 'like a spring of water welling up within him' as our Lord once said. Such a person, we say, is a saved person. That does not touch on OSAS, i.e. whether or not he can later on be severed from Christ and fall away from grace (or 'lose his salvation', as they say). But whatever doctrine you hold in re future possibilities, at present, he 'has been saved', or 'is saved', and by grace he has the birthright of the inner witness of the Spirit testifying to his spirit that he is indeed a child of God - assurance, as we say. There are differences of usage here: what I am trying to penetrate on this thread is whether there are also differences of real belief and experience, and if so, what they are.
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« Reply #58 on: July 27, 2010, 04:26:51 AM »

I have a question for you, David. 

I have a pupil arriving shortly for an Albanian lesson, and then must depart to the Mission's office. I'll certainly reply later. They are good questions.
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« Reply #59 on: July 27, 2010, 06:27:18 AM »

I think it's entirely possible that our very understandings of what salvation is are divergent,

I think there's a lot in what you write here. It may not be our concept of final salvation in eternity, following the resurrection, that is different, so much as our use of the word "saved" referring to the here and now. It is true to say that the NT speaks of salvation as a past event, a present process, and a future completed consummation. In that third sense, none of us has yet been saved. In the second sense, all who have turned to Christ are currently being saved. (Do you call that theosis and we sancitifcation?) I think you tend not to use the first sense very often, but we tend to use the word 'saved' mainly to refer to the first sense: that moment in the past when a person was justified, born again, accepted in the Beloved, adopted into God's family, reconciled to God - call it what you will, the scriptures use all these phrases and doubtless more besides - was when he 'was saved'. From that moment, a person is a child of God, united to Christ by the Spirit, in a state of grace, in possession of eternal life 'like a spring of water welling up within him' as our Lord once said. Such a person, we say, is a saved person. That does not touch on OSAS, i.e. whether or not he can later on be severed from Christ and fall away from grace (or 'lose his salvation', as they say). But whatever doctrine you hold in re future possibilities, at present, he 'has been saved', or 'is saved', and by grace he has the birthright of the inner witness of the Spirit testifying to his spirit that he is indeed a child of God - assurance, as we say. There are differences of usage here: what I am trying to penetrate on this thread is whether there are also differences of real belief and experience, and if so, what they are.


What you believe in is called "Faith Regeneration". That is what it is known as. Calvinists are not suppose to believe in such a thing. What they believe in is called "the Regeneration that precedes Faith".

We as Orthodox Christians believe in what is called "Baptismal Regeneration". Now I don't know if you understand what all this means or not......for you only respond to a few things........ But it would be good to research what I highlighted in red. It would go a long way in understanding the point you are trying to get across. Also, the way you understand "Saved", "Salvation......etc. is minimalistic.

We understand what you mean by Saved, being Saved, and will be saved. You keep saying this over and over again. We know you believe in O.S.A.S., and we know that you are trying to separate your view of O.S.A.S. with "present salvation" (being saved).

We know that you are trying to understand us within the framework of a number of protestants and Roman Catholics who are suppose to believe in what is known as (in some protestant circles) "conditional eternal security"


You believe in O.S.A.S., and so, you probably adhere to what is known as (in some protestant circles) "unconditional eternal security" And so a number of us really do understand what you are saying......or at least trying to say.



Quote
(Do you call that theosis and we sancitifcation?)

It's the whole process. In protestantism You start with either Regeneration or Justification.....depending on what kind of protestant you are.

If you are a Calvinist then it's like this:
1.) Regeneration
2.) Justification
3.) Sanctification
4.) Glorification



If you are a Calminian Baptist Evangelical then it's like this:
1.) Justification
2.) Regeneration
3.) Sanctification
4.) Glorification

I don't think we make a sharp distinction between the first three terms.


Quote
I think you tend not to use the first sense very often, but we tend to use the word 'saved' mainly to refer to the first sense: that moment in the past when a person was justified, born again, accepted in the Beloved, adopted into God's family, reconciled to God - call it what you will, the scriptures use all these phrases and doubtless more besides - was when he 'was saved'. From that moment, a person is a child of God, united to Christ by the Spirit, in a state of grace, in possession of eternal life 'like a spring of water welling up within him' as our Lord once said. Such a person, we say, is a saved person.

Alot of OSAS and POTS protestants in America use it for all three senses. They don't view Salvation as being Dynamic. Instead to them it is static. And so that onetime event covers the present as well as the future.

For us, that past event is Water Baptism and Chrismation/Confirmation or Baptismal Regeneration.



Quote
That does not touch on OSAS, i.e. whether or not he can later on be severed from Christ and fall away from grace (or 'lose his salvation', as they say).

It does if you see it as conditional vs unconditional, as well as not really needing to repent after initial salvation.


Quote
But whatever doctrine you hold in re future possibilities, at present, he 'has been saved', or 'is saved', and by grace he has the birthright of the inner witness of the Spirit testifying to his spirit that he is indeed a child of God - assurance, as we say.


No, at present he/she is being saved / working out their salvation with fear and trembling. And with continual / ongoing repentance there is a sense of assurance that relates to our Baptism. This is why Repentance is seen as "a second Baptism" in a sense.


Quote
There are differences of usage here: what I am trying to penetrate on this thread is whether there are also differences of real belief and experience, and if so, what they are.

Is this what you are trying to get at?
http://www.radiomissions.org/sermons/bapprch.html (How and When God Saved a Baptist Preacher)










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« Reply #60 on: July 27, 2010, 11:23:05 AM »

-Do you rebaptize those who were baptized as infants?

-What would you do if someone ... had been baptized once as an adult, or teenager, but had since realized that they weren't sincere in their conversion then and, being sincere now, desired a second baptism?

Question 1 is easy: yes, we don't regard infant baptism (or 'christening') as baptism, so when we baptise someone who was christened as an infant, we see it as the first time that person is baptised. I myself was christened in the Church of England as a babe in arms, but baptised by immersion on profession of faith when aged 19 (not in the C of E). But I believe I have only been baptised once.

Q2 is a little harder, as it might depend on what you mean by 'sincere'. It is obvious from Romans 6 that the Christians there had been baptised, but had not fully understood what their baptism meant - otherwise there'd be no point in Paul explaining it at great length. I reckon this is true of most of us. For example in my own case, I was persuaded that a believer should express his faith and commitment in baptism by immersion, as a step of obedience. The deeper symbolism (or Orthodox would perhaps say, efficacy) of that rite or sacrament only began to dawn on me years later. But I do not believe that God withheld all the blessing or grace of baptism from me, just because my mind had not fully grasped it (and perhaps still hasn't, of course). Certainly aged 19 I was sincere. There are of course people who are certainly not sincere when they are baptised - such as perhaps children of Baptist/Pentecostal/Brethren parents, who allow themselves to be dipped to please their parents from love, or to please them from fear of their displeasure - or even to please a believing girlfriend! - but their heart is in no way turned towards Christ in going through the ritual. I have never counselled such a person, and it is difficult to know I would do in such a case. Ask others for advice I guess! I can certainly see a case for baptising such a person, who now does sincerely wish to confess Christ as Saviour and Lord.

It would be lovely if the 63-year-old David Young could be baptised again, because he understands more about baptism than the 19-year-old David did, but it would be quite wrong. Of the two sacraments, baptism is done to a believer once only; then he takes the Lord's Supper for the rest of his life. After all, what if the 75-year-old David one day understands more than the present 63-year-old? Does he have a third baptism? No! I believe God imparts all the spiritual grace of baptism on the one occasion, and as we walk with him over the years, we grow in understanding of what he has done for us, both then and of course in so many other ways and times.
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« Reply #61 on: July 27, 2010, 11:52:21 AM »

Quote
Orthodox Christians believe in what is called "Baptismal Regeneration". Now I don't know if you understand what all this means

Probably; but in case not, you're very welcome to explain it in your customary succinct yet full style, and I shall thank you. It does seem rather central to the discussion.

Quote
you only respond to a few things

True  Sad. It would take hours of both thought and writing to address every point in every post - but that does not mean I neither read nor appreciate them.

Quote
Is this what you are trying to get at?
http://www.radiomissions.org/sermons/bapprch.html (How and When God Saved a Baptist Preacher)

I am aware that our Lord said that the gate is strait and the way narrow which leads to life, and few there be that find it. But if we all have to replicate this brother's profound experiences, who shall be saved? I am wary of commending such an introspective approach, whilst in no way questioning the writer's experience or genuineness. But such writing does seem to turn our thoughts to the assessment of our personal experience, rather than to Christ's person and work. Or so it seems to me: but I have never had the struggles this man went through.
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« Reply #62 on: July 27, 2010, 02:23:52 PM »

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It would be lovely if the 63-year-old David Young could be baptised again, because he understands more about baptism than the 19-year-old David did, but it would be quite wrong. Of the two sacraments, baptism is done to a believer once only;...After all, what if the 75-year-old David one day understands more than the present 63-year-old? Does he have a third baptism? No! I believe God imparts all the spiritual grace of baptism on the one occasion, and as we walk with him over the years, we grow in understanding of what he has done for us, both then and of course in so many other ways and times.

Which is what we believe about infant baptism, oddly enough.
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« Reply #63 on: September 20, 2010, 12:47:00 AM »

I never experienced much assurance of salvation in my Protestant days.  ... U.S. and British evangelicals are different and maybe this is one of those areas.

I don't think so. I've had a lot to do with American Evangelicals, in the Balkans and with those who come over to evangelise us Brits, and this doesn't seem to be an area where any difference of outlook can be discerned. Rather, it's more on more cultural matters: American Evangelicals tend not to drink ale or wine (let alone whisky (or whiskey, which is a different drink of course)); they use the King James Authorised Bible; are often more dogmatic and intransigent on their denominal distinctives (including OSAS where they believe it). They also seem a good deal better than we are at arranging the healthy, helpful social life of a church. They tend to take the initiative in seeking and grasping opportunities for service, whereas we are more likely to wait watchfully for God to indicate an open door. If posts on the forum from Americans give a true impression, there seem to be wider or more conspicuous extremes over there, not least representing the wackier spin-offs from Evangelicalism, which make us shudder as much as they do you. But I have never sensed a hair's breadth of difference on the matter of assurance.

But wow! I've never heard a story quite like yours, and it does sound horrific. I've never heard of anyone being baptised young as 5; I've never heard of anyone being baptised a second time; and it's no wonder the stories that were used to terrorise you nearly drove you to despair. I see your jurisdiction is Western Japan: does that mean you live in, and grew up in, Japan?

The bolded isn't entirely true.  Smiley  I've been a Christian for 23 years and I've never been to a church that's been a KJV-only. As for beer and wine? Left to personal conviction. Personally, I have bottles of red and white in my house; no beer, though. Yuck.  Tongue

I realize many American churches DO profess that the KJV is the ONLY correct version of the Bible. But, I don't think that it's necessarily a characteristic of American Evangelical churches.

But then again, my church seems to be vastly different from mainstream protestant churches in the US, so maybe my perspective is off.

Sorry if I've created a bunny-trail. I'll go back to my lurking/reading mode. Smiley

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« Reply #64 on: September 20, 2010, 01:22:17 PM »

no beer, though. Yuck.  Tongue

Quite! I've never been to the USA, but I believe the beer there is indeed yucky. But fairly recently (I have read) a few micro-breweries in America have at last begun brewing real ale, which is a quite different drink, made with a different kind of yeast by a different method. (Mind you, a good number of American servicemen in Britain during the War disliked it. Odd!)

But in case someone complains we've got off the point (even though I started the thread myself!) let me say, more relevantly, that for a variety of reasons I have been looking back over the years, via photos taken by me, my late father and others, and was wondering when it was I was converted - when I came to faith. I've concluded that it was between Easter and summer, 1963. Now if someone asked me, "When were you saved?" even thouigh that's not the way I usually express it, I would be quite happy with the question, and quite happy to answer it with that date, without quibbling about the wording. Seeing Orthodox don't talk (as we do) about when they "were saved" (I understand you use the word to include the final culmination, in which sense none of us is yet saved), how do Orthodox express the concept which I express by phrases like "was converted", "came to faith", and many express simply with "was saved"? You must have some way of saying it, which would help us outside to understand you better.
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« Reply #65 on: September 20, 2010, 02:32:53 PM »

for a variety of reasons I have been looking back over the years, via photos taken by me, my late father and others, and was wondering when it was I was converted - when I came to faith. I've concluded that it was between Easter and summer, 1963. Now if someone asked me, "When were you saved?" even thouigh that's not the way I usually express it, I would be quite happy with the question, and quite happy to answer it with that date, without quibbling about the wording. Seeing Orthodox don't talk (as we do) about when they "were saved" (I understand you use the word to include the final culmination, in which sense none of us is yet saved), how do Orthodox express the concept which I express by phrases like "was converted", "came to faith", and many express simply with "was saved"? You must have some way of saying it, which would help us outside to understand you better.


First of all, it is mostly Evangelicals and others like them (primarily decision theology) who generally ask the question. Orthodox would not even ask (nor would Lutherans, RCs, Anglicans - most of 'em anyway.)

But I do like Fr. Ernesto Obregon's answer:
“Salvation is past tense in that, through the death and Resurrection of Christ, we have been saved. It is present tense, for we are “being saved” by our active participation through faith in our union with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is also future, for we must yet be saved at His glorious Second Coming.”

So, am I saved? Yes, I was saved through the death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ when I was baptized as an infant. So, am I saved? I am in the process of being renewed day by day, of growing from glory to glory, by the power of the Holy Spirit, but the process of salvation is not yet finished. So, I must use the present perfect tense. I am being saved. So, am I saved? Not yet, I await the day when our Lord will gloriously reveal His salvation and I shall truly be saved, and God shall be all and in all."

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« Reply #66 on: September 20, 2010, 02:57:08 PM »


But in case someone complains we've got off the point (even though I started the thread myself!) let me say, more relevantly, that for a variety of reasons I have been looking back over the years, via photos taken by me, my late father and others, and was wondering when it was I was converted - when I came to faith. I've concluded that it was between Easter and summer, 1963. Now if someone asked me, "When were you saved?" even thouigh that's not the way I usually express it, I would be quite happy with the question, and quite happy to answer it with that date, without quibbling about the wording. Seeing Orthodox don't talk (as we do) about when they "were saved" (I understand you use the word to include the final culmination, in which sense none of us is yet saved), how do Orthodox express the concept which I express by phrases like "was converted", "came to faith", and many express simply with "was saved"? You must have some way of saying it, which would help us outside to understand you better.


Sorry it's taken me so long........

I think this really words it best!  KoD is right, Orthodox wouldn't even ask.  It's not important to us when someone was converted.  The only thing we might ask is when a convert was baptized/chrismated.  And even then it would have to be in some specific context, I imagine.  Otherwise we would assume they were baptized as infants, like good Orthodox Christians.    Wink

Now, I know that doesn't altogether answer your question because I know that you make a distinction that you feel is far more important, considering that you don't believe in infant baptism (and I just want to point out KoD's insightful post above where she points out what we believe about infant baptism as being the same as what you believe about your own).  That distinction is a conversion, hearing a call from God and heeding it.  As we Orthodox would say, "each person must suffer the faith for themselves," meaning we must individually hear God's call and heed it.

That being said, back to the question... would we ask when a person "suffered the faith," so to speak?  No. definitely not.  Why?  Because it doesn't matter to us when that happened.  That is, for us, just one step of many on our journey of salvation (there's that word!).  And it is a step which is repeated for us over and over-- we re-commit ourselves to Christ constantly.  I guess there is a moment in time when we first heed God's call, but why is that any different from every time we repent of our sins through confession, renew our baptismal garment, and re-commit ourselves to Christ?  It is continual.  It happens over and over.  It's a process. 

As for the whole topic of assurance, I must admit that, not being of a protestant background, a lot of the nuances of the Evangelical beliefs are lost on me.  I'm going to have to go back and re-read some of your posts a third (or even fourth!) time before I can really comment, I think.  For now, it seems to me like jnorm hit the nail on the head.

Hope you are well, my friend!
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« Reply #67 on: September 20, 2010, 05:42:52 PM »

As we Orthodox would say, "each person must suffer the faith for themselves," meaning we must individually hear God's call and heed it.

...would we ask when a person "suffered the faith," so to speak?  No. definitely not.  Why?  Because it doesn't matter to us when that happened. ...

Hope you are well, my friend!

Thank you - very well, as far as I am aware.

Like you, we also believe that "it doesn't matter to us when that happened": that is true, the when is not important, whether one is 7 or 70, or whatever age. I guess the difference is that we believe that regeneration attaches to that moment, whilst you believe it attaches to the moment of (infant) baptism. It is, of course, a matter of increasing knowledge and friendship of one another, when we ask about our friend's life and experience - where they were born, where they went to school,  what job they do, when they met their spouse, when they came to faith, and so on. It is a significant dimension of a person's life, and we always take an interest in the life and experience of people we know and spend time with. Hence, we do often ask, and delight to tell, about the time and manner of our conversion. But of course, we believe that conversion (coming to faith, believing, whatever one calls it) is when the process of salvation begins.

We do of course teach, as a previous post says, that we have been, are currently being, and will one day finally be fully saved; but in rather inaccurate common parlance, the word "saved" is usually assigned to the first of the three by us, and to the last by you (if I understand you aright).

As I have written before, I surmise that from this different use of the term a lot of misunderstanding between you and us arises. Also, like Deeper Faith, I have often been frustrated by the fact that our assurance of salvation (the first and second stages, anyway - the third too if one is calvinistic) is in any way proud or arrogant, for we see it as all of grace to deeply, nay entirely, unworthy sinners - lost, undone, and deserving only condemnation.
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« Reply #68 on: September 20, 2010, 07:02:07 PM »

no beer, though. Yuck.  Tongue

Quite! I've never been to the USA, but I believe the beer there is indeed yucky. But fairly recently (I have read) a few micro-breweries in America have at last begun brewing real ale, which is a quite different drink, made with a different kind of yeast by a different method. (Mind you, a good number of American servicemen in Britain during the War disliked it. Odd!)

But in case someone complains we've got off the point (even though I started the thread myself!) let me say, more relevantly, that for a variety of reasons I have been looking back over the years, via photos taken by me, my late father and others, and was wondering when it was I was converted - when I came to faith. I've concluded that it was between Easter and summer, 1963. Now if someone asked me, "When were you saved?" even thouigh that's not the way I usually express it, I would be quite happy with the question, and quite happy to answer it with that date, without quibbling about the wording. Seeing Orthodox don't talk (as we do) about when they "were saved" (I understand you use the word to include the final culmination, in which sense none of us is yet saved), how do Orthodox express the concept which I express by phrases like "was converted", "came to faith", and many express simply with "was saved"? You must have some way of saying it, which would help us outside to understand you better.

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« Reply #69 on: September 21, 2010, 10:36:40 AM »


Thank you - very well, as far as I am aware.

Like you, we also believe that "it doesn't matter to us when that happened": that is true, the when is not important, whether one is 7 or 70, or whatever age. I guess the difference is that we believe that regeneration attaches to that moment, whilst you believe it attaches to the moment of (infant) baptism.
But we're talking about two different things here.  As jnorm pointed out, you are speaking of FAITH regeneration, which I pointed out is constant for us.  It's once for you (or at least NOTABLY once), but happens over and over for us, and is sacramental when accompanied by confession.  What you are speaking of with infant baptism is BAPTISMAL regeneration.  So we're back to the original discussion regarding baptism-- must it be accompanied by faith regeneration?  For you, yes.  For us, no.  For us, baptismal regeneration happens once, renewal of our faith and commitment to Christ over and over.  For you, they happen once and together.

Here's a question I'd love to know your thoughts on-- as you believe that baptism must be accompanied by a faith regeneration-- what makes the faith regeneration which accompanies your baptism different from that which we experience over and over every time we re-commit ourselves to Christ?  For us, they are the same.  Any time we sin we are separating ourselves from Christ.  Thus we experience a renewal of our faith and a sacramental (though not baptismal) renewal (so to speak) by going to confession.  Why the significance of the initial for you?  What makes it so much more important than every other time?  Or do you all not experience the constant re-commitment to Christ the way we do? 
Okay maybe it's several questions...   Cheesy

Quote
It is, of course, a matter of increasing knowledge and friendship of one another, when we ask about our friend's life and experience - where they were born, where they went to school,  what job they do, when they met their spouse, when they came to faith, and so on. It is a significant dimension of a person's life, and we always take an interest in the life and experience of people we know and spend time with. Hence, we do often ask, and delight to tell, about the time and manner of our conversion.
I totally agree with this.  That is what I was referring to when I said that if we did ask, it would be within a specific context. 


Quote
But of course, we believe that conversion (coming to faith, believing, whatever one calls it) is when the process of salvation begins.
Maybe this answers my question(s) above.  Is this why you place such importance on that initial conversion?  Why is it so important to you all when the process of salvation begins?  For us, I don't think I would say that's terribly important.  Of course it is marked by baptism.  But baptism is just one of the sacraments that the Church gives us in our journey.  It is one moment.  Granted, it is the only sacrament we are told is required for salvation and thus holds the most significance along with the Eucharist, but it is, again, one sacrament, one moment.  For us it is much more about the big picture, much more about the entirety of our journey.   

Quote
We do of course teach, as a previous post says, that we have been, are currently being, and will one day finally be fully saved; but in rather inaccurate common parlance, the word "saved" is usually assigned to the first of the three by us, and to the last by you (if I understand you aright).
Again, I have to admit that the nuances of Evangelical vocabulary are so often lost on me (as is probably apparent even in this very post).  And as you said, even though we may use the same words, we mean totally different things.  Is this the usage of "salvation" that you are speaking of when you question our "assurance of salvation?"  To put it another way, what exactly is it that you are "assured" of, which you think we are not (or which we think we are not)?

Quote
As I have written before, I surmise that from this different use of the term a lot of misunderstanding between you and us arises. Also, like Deeper Faith, I have often been frustrated by the fact that our assurance of salvation (the first and second stages, anyway - the third too if one is calvinistic) is in any way proud or arrogant, for we see it as all of grace to deeply, nay entirely, unworthy sinners - lost, undone, and deserving only condemnation.
See above.

Thanks for your response!  I think I might be beginning to understand your PoV a little better!
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« Reply #70 on: September 21, 2010, 11:08:24 AM »

"Took it serious?"

The ale? or the getting off the point?

Ale certainly. Getting off the point? Well, I wouldn't want to derail someone else's thread, though I don't mind the occasional brief excursus.
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« Reply #71 on: September 21, 2010, 11:25:53 AM »

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But we're talking about two different things ...

Wow! Lots of searching questions! I'll have to mull over them, and respond in due season. Thanks for making me think it all through - it's good to examine our own beliefs, and it is somewhere written that as iron sharpens iron, so one man [or woman] sharpens another. Trouble is, you're probably making me a better Baptist, and (if it were possible) I'm probably making you a better Orthodox.  Wink
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« Reply #72 on: September 21, 2010, 11:29:04 AM »

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAlCze3ZFjA&feature=player_embedded (Are you saved? - an Orthodox Christian answer)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjHGtCHyBrU&feature=player_embedded (Are You Saved?)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7SlmQYo07s&feature=channel (R U Saved)

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« Reply #73 on: September 23, 2010, 10:44:18 AM »

Here is an attempt to reply to posts from GreekChef on two threads.

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Whether you believe your Protestant tradition to be divine or not, you still abide by it (and yet object to us abiding by our tradition)
No, I don’t object to your abiding by it: I just think it’s mistaken! But we have discussed why at enormous length elsewhere.

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Why would you want to draw on an authority and sculpt your beliefs around it if it is not divine?  And if it is not divine, does that not make it a tradition "of men"
God indwells his church by his Spirit, and it would be folly to be at variance with the entire church. In one sense it probably is a “tradition of men”, but not in the pejorative sense with which that phrase was used of the Pharisees. It has been built up by men, indwelt by the Spirit and seeking to walk humbly with their God, but not endowed with infallibility.
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there are those who "create God in their own image" even though they don't want to or intend to do exactly the opposite, simply because they are left to their own devices, picking and choosing which "tradition" they will follow.

God has not given us liberty to pick and choose: we agree on that. He has called us to submit to the truth he has revealed.

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I see lots of places in Scripture where we are shown that the Church is authoritative in acting.

Yes - but we’ll be at risk of wandering far from the point if we start discussing how and when a church acts authoritatively, for example in appointing officers or disciplining errant members. Let us not go down that line here, or it might be a tangent from a tangent.

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nowhere do I see authority given to the Scriptures apart from the Church

Is that different from what I am saying? It is the nature of the church’s tradition of teaching that we are discussing, not the rightness of there being a body of doctrine held in common.

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To me it makes perfect sense that God's authority is communicated through the Scriptures and enacted by the Church.  
I’m not sure what you mean by “enact”, but I suspect I would agree with you if I did know.

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So the real question becomes... Who do I trust to interpret and teach ... Do I trust myself ... sitting alone ... Or do I trust the entire body of the saints and the Church
I agree that is indeed the real question, but your either/or is false, for there is a third. (In fact your either/or is impossible, unless one regards one denomination (sorry!) as “the entire body of the saints and the Church”). I do not of course trust myself; but the entire Church is not in agreement. Whilst not in any way excluding other denominations from the sphere of God’s grace and working, I must - nay, we all must - place our trust in only a part of God’s entire church.

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you are speaking of FAITH regeneration, which I pointed out is constant for us.  It's once for you (or at least NOTABLY once), but happens over and over for us, and is sacramental when accompanied by confession.  What you are speaking of with infant baptism is BAPTISMAL regeneration.  ... baptismal regeneration happens once, renewal of our faith and commitment to Christ over and over.

Our Lord used the analogy of being born (again - i.e. a second birth after our physical one). He didn’t say, “Ye must be born again... and again... and again...” Yes - we believe it happens once, as does the physical birth on which the analogy draws.

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what makes the faith regeneration which accompanies your baptism different from that which we experience over and over every time we re-commit ourselves to Christ?  For us, they are the same.  Any time we sin we are separating ourselves from Christ.  ... Why the significance of the initial for you?  ... Or do you all not experience the constant re-commitment to Christ the way we do?  

Let us look at it from the angle of a different biblical analogy, being a child of God. When I am born again (say, between Easter and summer, 1963, in my case) I become a child of God. When my son Matthew was born (in 1977) he became my son. Happily we remain on good terms, but let us assume for a moment that he and I fall out: he offends me in some serious way, and relations break down. He is still my son. That cannot be undone. Now, when I sin (alas, all too often, wretch that I am) I displease God, or as scripture also has it, grieve his Spirit: relations may break down - not that God stops loving me, but the felt, conscious contact between us is dimmer or interrupted. But I do not cease to be his child. When I repent and confess my sins, I am cleansed and forgiven, and the consciously enjoyed relationship is restored. But I am not born again again (that is not a misprint). So presumably what you experience, or describe, as being born again again, (and again), we might call being forgiven, restored. The hymn comes to mind: “Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven: / Who like me his praise should sing?”

Now let us not press analogies too far: I have steadfastly refused on the forum to get drawn in to a discussion as to whether there is any possibility of a true Christian losing his or her salvation. Please do not take my paragraphs as containing any comment on the much-debated question whether final, irreversible apostasy is possible. Also, I am not saying there is never a “dark night of the soul” for those who walk with God. These are different questions.

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Maybe this answers my question... why you place such importance on that initial conversion?
Because without being born again, one is not a child of God. I am sure you agree with that, though not about when and how it happens.

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Why is it so important to you all when the process of salvation begins?  
It isn’t - or at least, in some sense it isn’t. It must begin, obviously, or it wouldn’t exist. This is true also of your baptismal regeneration. But allow me a further analogy: imagine two couples. The first meet in their late teens, fall madly in love, and marry. Later I meet them and, out of friendly interest, ask, “When did you first know you loved each other?” They could probably give a pretty precise answer.

The other couple grew up next door to each other, were childhood playmates, and simply always assumed and knew that this was for life. In time, they marry each other. When did they know they loved each other? Impossible to say - it was a love with no conscious beginning.

The important question is not, “When did you start to love one another?” but “Do you love one another now?”
Most couples can give a time; probably not all. Most Evangelicals can say when they were born again; not all. What matters is not when, but that it has happened.

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To put it another way, what exactly is it that you are "assured" of
That we are God’s children, by faith, through sheer unmerited grace. He has adopted us into his eternal family.

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a conversion, hearing a call from God and heeding it.  As we Orthodox would say, "each person must suffer the faith for themselves," meaning we must individually hear God's call and heed it....  I guess there is a moment in time when we first heed God's call
This at least seems very much like saying the same sort of thing as I am saying, but in different terms. I suspect if this message were coming loud and clear from Orthodox churches (say, in Albania - and I hope indeed that it will) many of us Vangies would feel a good deal less inner compulsion to evangelise there.

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« Reply #74 on: September 23, 2010, 11:13:37 AM »

God indwells his church by his Spirit, and it would be folly to be at variance with the entire church.
Which is what we have been trying to tell you.  Cheesy

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God has not given us liberty to pick and choose: we agree on that.
Yet the ability to pick and choose is the foundation of Protestantism, and you alluded to that earlier, I believe, when you said that you agree with others on essentials but not on everything (paraphrase). I'm sorry, but what is that but picking and choosing?

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He has called us to submit to the truth he has revealed.
Something else we have been trying to tell you.  Cheesy

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I do not of course trust myself; but the entire Church is not in agreement Whilst not in any way excluding other denominations from the sphere of God’s grace and working, I must - nay, we all must - place our trust in only a part of God’s entire church.
Oh, dear. Of course you are trusting yourself primarily. You are judging the Church, and where you disagree with the Church, you place your trust in yourself, that part of the Church that agrees with what you believe.

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« Reply #75 on: September 23, 2010, 11:17:28 AM »

Quote
But allow me a further analogy: imagine two couples. The first meet in their late teens, fall madly in love, and marry. Later I meet them and, out of friendly interest, ask, “When did you first know you loved each other?” They could probably give a pretty precise answer.

The other couple grew up next door to each other, were childhood playmates, and simply always assumed and knew that this was for life. In time, they marry each other. When did they know they loved each other? Impossible to say - it was a love with no conscious beginning.

The important question is not, “When did you start to love one another?” but “Do you love one another now?”

Careful, David. This is sounding awfully (O)rthodox!

In your own terms, the Orthodox hear Evangelicals asking the first question, where Orthodox would probably ask (if they asked at all) the second.
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« Reply #76 on: September 23, 2010, 12:01:03 PM »

No, I don't object to your abiding by it: I just think it's mistaken! But we have discussed why at enormous length elsewhere.
I'm so confused now.  Why is it okay for you to abide by your tradition but mistaken for us to abide by ours?

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It has been built up by men, indwelt by the Spirit...
How do you know it is "indwelt by the Spirit?"  Is it because you see good in the people you follow (like Wesley, for example)?  Doesn't that make YOU the arbiter of what is good, and not God?  I know you'll say it is obvious when you can see good fruits from a person.  I would challenge that.  We have a famous preacher here in Atlanta who has been praised and called good, written books that people follow, built up his church from 250 to 25,000.  By all accounts an incredible man, preacher, and truly humble Christian.  Well, he's now tangled up in a sex scandal, having pressured 3 young men for sexual favors.  Who are we to say who is good and who isn't?  It's for the Body of Christ, the Church, to say.

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God has not given us liberty to pick and choose: we agree on that. He has called us to submit to the truth he has revealed.
Yes but your "truth" and ours are quite different.  How can you rationalize that God has revealed a different truth to different people?  Is it not more likely that some simply misunderstood what he revealed because they were not correctly guided (is that not EXACTLY what St. Peter tells us in the verses I quoted in my last post)?  Your rationalization of this fact takes A LOT more effort and a lot more explaining than accepting the simple truth, which is exactly what St. Peter told us, and is that God ordained His Church as the body able to teach and to act with His authority, which it has done and is still doing 2000 years later in the Orthodox Church.   Smiley

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Yes - but we'll be at risk of wandering far from the point if we start discussing how and when a church acts authoritatively, for example in appointing officers or disciplining errant members. Let us not go down that line here, or it might be a tangent from a tangent.
I'd really like to explore this further, if on another thread.  I'd like to know your thoughts about it.  I'm interested to know how "Vangies" (I like that term!) believe that the Church acts when the church among Protestants is scattered, with no final authority.  I have an inkling at what you'll say-- that the local parish is the authority.  But we see in Scripture that local parishes do err (look at the Corinthians), and that the Church as a whole must often act (as in the Council of Jerusalem in Acts), which is impossible within the Protestant circle.  So, can we start another thread (or pull one up)?  I'd really like to hear what you think!

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Is that different from what I am saying? It is the nature of the church’s tradition of teaching that we are discussing, not the rightness of there being a body of doctrine held in common.
I thought so... You made a distinct difference, saying that you submit to the authority of the Scriptures, and that you are not bound by anything the Church teaches.  Did I misunderstand?
How can you learn from a church which teaches as many different things as there are different groups within it?  How do you know which teaching to believe?

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I’m not sure what you mean by “enact”, but I suspect I would agree with you if I did know.
I was trying not to say "enforced," it sounds so... forceful.  Smiley 

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I do not of course trust myself; but the entire Church is not in agreement. Whilst not in any way excluding other denominations from the sphere of God’s grace and working, I must - nay, we all must - place our trust in only a part of God’s entire church.
Hmmmm... Again, if the entire Church is not in agreement, then this makes one "truth" different from another.  I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that God is one thing to one person and another thing to another person.  He is One Truth.  He revealed it once.  He revealed it one way.  It's incumbent upon us to learn the proper understanding and abide by it.  So my question still stands.  Who do I trust to interpret and teach it? 
And how can one put one's trust in only a part of God's church?  Doesn't that go directly against what Christ specifically wanted, which was that we be one?

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Our Lord used the analogy of being born (again - i.e. a second birth after our physical one). He didn’t say, “Ye must be born again... and again... and again...” Yes - we believe it happens once, as does the physical birth on which the analogy draws.
Okay, I'm understanding more where you are coming from now.  Yes, the "born again" happens at baptism and only happens once.  For adults being baptized, it is accompanied by the faith conversion.  For infants being baptized, that understanding comes later, though as I said, they too must suffer the faith at some point in their lives.

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Because without being born again, one is not a child of God. I am sure you agree with that, though not about when and how it happens.
We are in absolute agreement here.

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The important question is not, “When did you start to love one another?” but “Do you love one another now?”
Most couples can give a time; probably not all. Most Evangelicals can say when they were born again; not all. What matters is not when, but that it has happened.
This is really tough to answer because we are still talking about two different things.  We can say when we were born again-- at baptism.  It happened once and will not happen again.
But the question "do you love one another now" or "are you 'born again'" (in the sense that YOU mean, not we, which is the faith regeneration) is a far more complicated question for us.  This is what happens constantly for us.  We regenerate our faith every time we sin and repent.

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To put it another way, what exactly is it that you are "assured" of
That we are God’s children, by faith, through sheer unmerited grace. He has adopted us into his eternal family.
Okay... why do you think we are NOT assured of this?

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This at least seems very much like saying the same sort of thing as I am saying, but in different terms. I suspect if this message were coming loud and clear from Orthodox churches (say, in Albania - and I hope indeed that it will) many of us Vangies would feel a good deal less inner compulsion to evangelise there.
I'm sure the terms are different.  I think, in the 2 or so years we have been discussing on this forum (which I have thoroughly enjoyed, btw.  I have learned so much!), the first thing I probably learned is that, though we use the same words, we mean different things.  And when we use different words, we often mean the same things.  That's not to say we are united in faith or believe the same things, because I think it's obvious that we don't.  But just a comment on our vocabulary...

With all do respect, David, it is not the responsibility of the Orthodox Church to preach what Evangelicals want to hear in order to soothe your consciences or satisfy what it is that YOU think we should be preaching.  The Church has been preaching this message for 2000 years, long before Evangelicals were invented.   Wink

And for that matter, how do you know it is not being preached?  Are you sitting in the pews of the Orthodox Churches every Sunday?   

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« Reply #77 on: September 23, 2010, 01:06:57 PM »

Not to be too technical, but the Orthodox Church is the only one I've ever been in where the Gospel is read twice every Sunday-- once at Orthros (Matins), and once during the Divine Liturgy.

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« Reply #78 on: September 23, 2010, 02:17:30 PM »

Quote from: David Young
"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."

Orthodoxy teaches that:
 
1. We were saved. (Through baptism and Chrismation into His one true Church.)

2. We are being saved. (Through the Sacramental life of communion in the Eucharist with Him in His Church.)

3. We will be saved. (By the mercy and grace of God, with the prayers of the saints; through our faith in Christ and by our obedience to Him... at the last judgement; at the resurrection.)

I'm sure many former Baptist turned Orthodox here will tell you that once they became Orthodox... they realized that their previous beliefs regarding 'assurance' were - in actuality fallacious.

Only at the end of one's life can the Church begin to assess a person's holiness.

Baptists do not recognize Saints... right? Yet you give the teachings of men (who were not even in the Church founded by the apostles) nearly equal footing with the apostles who walked with Christ, and who bestowed the true faith unto the historical (and still existing) Church.



I had no reason to get into this conversation (I do not come from an Evangelical background)... but something I read raised a question for me, so if I may...

Quote from: genesisone on July 24th @ 8:53 AM
"Isn't it interesting how the Holy Spirit uses our past to bring us to Orthodoxy?"

Orthodoxy teaches that the Holy Spirit is received through (baptism &) Chrismation into His Church.

You (as Evangelicals) fully believed (if I'm not mistaken) that you were "indwelt" by the Holy Spirit at the moment you "believed" (if somewhat erroneously) in Jesus Christ.

So now that you have become Orthodox... do you acknowledge that before your Chrismation - you were essentially void of the Holy Spirit?

Did you (former Evangelicals, etc) discern a difference following your Chrismations... or not?

Shouldn't the message here to David (in love) be:

"Your 'baptism' was not really a baptism."?

The most important part of a baptism - IMO - is (properly, as it is in Orthodoxy) the accompanying Chrismation.

... And this Chrismation is (as far as I am concerned) found only in the Orthodox Church.

Am I wrong?

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« Reply #79 on: September 23, 2010, 02:44:09 PM »

Quote
I suspect if this message were coming loud and clear from Orthodox churches (say, in Albania - and I hope indeed that it will) many of us Vangies would feel a good deal less inner compulsion to evangelise there.

Perhaps I'm splitting hairs, but since Christianity in Albania was established in 100 A.D. or thereabouts, wouldn't the Vangies be engaging in proselytizing (i.e inducing someone to convert to one's own religious faith) rather than evangelizing (bringing the Good News to those who have not heard it). Or are you referring to evangelizing the Muslims, who are apparently a great majority?
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« Reply #80 on: September 24, 2010, 07:04:25 AM »

I'm sorry, but what is that but picking and choosing?

"Pick" and "choose" are synonyms, and the phrase is pejorative. I doubt that anyone chooses what he believes, for surely the very nature of belief requires that the thing believed must have objective, independent existence, regardless of who knows it or not, or who believes it or not? There is a scripture which says, "Agree with God, and be at peace." Belief is not saying, "I reckon this is what I'd like to think, so I will"; it's finding that which would be true whether I believed it or not - indeed, whether or not I even lived - and agreeing with that.
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« Reply #81 on: September 24, 2010, 07:08:29 AM »

Orthodox hear Evangelicals asking the first question, where Orthodox would probably ask (if they asked at all) the second.

I think we talk about when we first believed simply because the vast majority of people know the answer, and (if they go on to follow the Lord) it is one of the most important determining moments in their lives, worthy therefore to be recalled and described. It sets the direction for all the following years and decades. But that doesn't mean we doubt the salvation of someone who cannot pinpoint a time - like the kiddies growing up next door to each other as playmates, and finding their friendship and love come eventually to maturity and marriage (or should that be the other way round? - marriage and maturity?  Wink)
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« Reply #82 on: September 24, 2010, 07:30:02 AM »

How do you know it is "indwelt by the Spirit?"  Is it because you see good in the people you follow (like Wesley, for example)?  

This is something on which I have needed to dwell at no small length, because back in 1990 my wife and I were attending a church about two minutes walk from our house, run (as we discovered) by an intransigent tyrant not unlike Diotrephes, whose harsh, intolerant leadership blew the church apart: some left and began an Evangelical church in a village which had none; some stayed and now (I am told) there is a rump congregation of maybe half a dozen; the rest ceased attending any church and mostly lost their faith altogether. I was thus forced unwillingly into the need to examine the Evangelical faith and to ask whether its very nature is twisted so that it produces bullies like that 'Diotrephes', or whether he was yet another example of a religious leader gone wrong (of whom the pages of scripture and church history are full). So the question you ask is, for me, no mere academic, abstract or intellectual one - and may perhaps in some ways resonate with DeeperFaith's situation in the other thread.

I came to the conclusion that all religious movements decline in character: Methodism; the Moravians; Puritanism; the Reformation churches; Franciscans; Cistercians; the Celtic churches (compare my hero Aidan with the Welsh bishops of the 7th century); and so on. To find 'where God is', we must (if we are to be fair) look at any movement at its best, not at its deviants.

So I asked: does it seem that God is present in Evangelical religion at ites best? Do the people love God, and indeed love the Persons of the Trinity? Do they show love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness and so on in their lives? Do they pursue purity and holiness? Do they show concern for their n eighbours' spiritual and worldly good? Do they rejoice in the Lord and in his saving work for them? I came to conclusion that the answer is Yes. This helped me believe that God is indeed among us of a truth.

I also looked at the Lord's promises that true Christians would be hated and persecuted by the world, by those who hate God and hate Jesus Christ. This too I found to be fulfilled.

This has been the experience or belief of millions of people over the centuries, in many different places and races. So when I looked into my own soul, so to speak, and thought I found joy and peace, especially a 'subterranean' joy which persists "when all around my soul gives way" (to borrow John Wesley's telling phrase), I came to an assurance that my joy and my sense of God being with me was not, and is not, a delusion.

I am not thereby asserting that you have not encountered the same Lord in your Church. If we both have, then the question becomes for each of us, in regard to the other, "Has this person found the Lord despite the defects of his/her church?" It seems to me in both our cases that the answer is Yes. Am I not thereby saying much the same as has often been posted by Orthodox on these threads, that I know God is here, but I am not asserting that he is not also with you?

Time has defeated me and I must away, but I shall attempt to reply to other questions and comments later.
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« Reply #83 on: September 24, 2010, 10:12:41 AM »

I think we talk about when we first believed simply because the vast majority of people know the answer, and (if they go on to follow the Lord) it is one of the most important determining moments in their lives, worthy therefore to be recalled and described.
For the vast majority of Evangelicals or others who have a decision theology. but the vaster majority of Orthodox, RCs, Lutherans, Episcopalians do not know the answer, and indeed would not even ask it.
This is a question that a particular subset of Christians asks and thinks is important. It may be (indeed seems to be) normative for them. It is not normative for the rest of us.

Quote
But that doesn't mean we doubt the salvation of someone who cannot pinpoint a time -
Actually, based on my experience growing up in the Deep South of the US, where Evangelicalism (at least the American version) is the norm, it means exactly that. Because I could not pinpoint a time, and believed in infant baptism, my salvation has been doubted and called into question all my life. (beginning, IIRC, with a third grade classmate who informed me that if I were baptized as an infant, "it didn't count" and I was going to spend eternity in the Other Place, not in Heaven with all the good Baptists.)
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« Reply #84 on: September 24, 2010, 11:05:29 AM »

Time has defeated me and I must away, but I shall attempt to reply to other questions and comments later.

To continue, two final points (at least for now):

1) There is also the matter of providence. In seeking to discern whether my supposed experience of God in life was real or a delusion, I noticed many many events over the decades which are more plausibly explained as the kindly intervention of an Unseen Hand (i.e. God's providence) than by any other interpretation.

2) Having said all that (i.e. this and the truncated post), I am of course aware that there must also be a leap of faith. Even atheism requires that - and in my view a far wider leap than theism. But taking into account my own experience from 1963 onwards, comparing it with the similar experience of millions of others, seeing much of it as a fulfilment of what scripture says should and would happen to real Christians, I came to the conclusion that the strongest probability is that the experience is genuine. In the final analysis there must be this leap of faith, for if true religion were irrefutably proven by logic or science, there would be no place for faith, and for reasons of his own God has deemed it best to require faith, and "without faith it is impossible to please him," as it is testified in Hebrews.
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« Reply #85 on: September 24, 2010, 11:13:24 AM »

  How can you rationalize that God has revealed a different truth to different people?  Is it not more likely that some simply misunderstood what he revealed
you submit to the authority of the Scriptures, and that you are not bound by anything the Church teaches.  Did I misunderstand?
I refuse to believe that God is one thing to one person and another thing to another person.  He is One Truth.  He revealed it once.  He revealed it one way.  It's incumbent upon us to learn the proper understanding and abide by it. 
why do you think we are NOT assured of this?

By all means start a thread on church discipline, but I'll leave that aside here. Now of course God has revealed only one body of truth, but we don't think anyone has grasped it in its entirety. There is a consensus on essentials, but a variety of opinion on many matters.

The only reason we think you are not assured of your status as children of God is that it is what you seem to be saying.
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« Reply #86 on: September 24, 2010, 11:20:29 AM »

wouldn't the Vangies be engaging in proselytizing ... rather than evangelizing (bringing the Good News to those who have not heard it). Or are you referring to evangelizing the Muslims?

Albania is nominally 70% Moslem, 20% Orthodox and 10% Catholic, and perhaps 0.25% Protestant. However, the vast majority of people evince no personal religion, and never attend worship of any sort. I am told the Bektashis (certainly in Këlcyrë, but I've no reason to suppose it is not true elsewhere) Perhaps ialmisry could enlioghten us more on this? Even one of the Orthodox priests I have spoken with (as reported earlier on a different thread - I did not reveal where this was) could only go as far as to say he hopes Jesus Christ is the image of God's character for us. No - I think mainly we are evangelising those who, whatever their nominality, live and die without God.
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« Reply #87 on: September 24, 2010, 11:26:01 AM »

Quote
But that doesn't mean we doubt the salvation of someone who cannot pinpoint a time -
Actually, based on my experience growing up in the Deep South of the US... it means exactly that. Because I could not pinpoint a time, and believed in infant baptism, my salvation has been doubted and called into question all my life... if I were baptized as an infant, "it didn't count" and I was going to spend eternity in the Other Place

If you think about it, these Baptist friends of yours were not consistent in their theology. Now of course we would all say that your infant baptism "didn't count" as true Christian baptism, for obviously we believe baptism should follow one's confession of faith - just as you might say that ours "doesn't count" because not performed by a priest in connection with the Orthodox Church. But we do not teach that salvation depends on baptism: that is regarded as a heresy, held by some small spin-off groups which have a different name in America from here. (Campbellites? I'm not sure.) Baptism follows the new birth, so if your friends said you would be damned because you were not baptised, they were not uttering real Baptist theology.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2010, 11:27:16 AM by David Young » Logged

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« Reply #88 on: September 24, 2010, 11:41:30 AM »

Quote
But that doesn't mean we doubt the salvation of someone who cannot pinpoint a time -
Actually, based on my experience growing up in the Deep South of the US... it means exactly that. Because I could not pinpoint a time, and believed in infant baptism, my salvation has been doubted and called into question all my life... if I were baptized as an infant, "it didn't count" and I was going to spend eternity in the Other Place

If you think about it, these Baptist friends of yours were not consistent in their theology. Now of course we would all say that your infant baptism "didn't count" as true Christian baptism, for obviously we believe baptism should follow one's confession of faith - just as you might say that ours "doesn't count" because not performed by a priest in connection with the Orthodox Church. But we do not teach that salvation depends on baptism: that is regarded as a heresy, held by some small spin-off groups which have a different name in America from here. (Campbellites? I'm not sure.) Baptism follows the new birth, so if your friends said you would be damned because you were not baptised, they were not uttering real Baptist theology.
Who, and what authority, determines what is "real Baptist theology"?
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« Reply #89 on: September 24, 2010, 11:45:31 AM »

How do you know it is "indwelt by the Spirit?"  Is it because you see good in the people you follow (like Wesley, for example)?  

This is something on which I have needed to dwell at no small length, because back in 1990 my wife and I were attending a church about two minutes walk from our house, run (as we discovered) by an intransigent tyrant not unlike Diotrephes, whose harsh, intolerant leadership blew the church apart: some left and began an Evangelical church in a village which had none; some stayed and now (I am told) there is a rump congregation of maybe half a dozen; the rest ceased attending any church and mostly lost their faith altogether. I was thus forced unwillingly into the need to examine the Evangelical faith and to ask whether its very nature is twisted so that it produces bullies like that 'Diotrephes', or whether he was yet another example of a religious leader gone wrong (of whom the pages of scripture and church history are full). So the question you ask is, for me, no mere academic, abstract or intellectual one - and may perhaps in some ways resonate with DeeperFaith's situation in the other thread.

I came to the conclusion that all religious movements decline in character: Methodism; the Moravians; Puritanism; the Reformation churches; Franciscans; Cistercians; the Celtic churches (compare my hero Aidan with the Welsh bishops of the 7th century); and so on. To find 'where God is', we must (if we are to be fair) look at any movement at its best, not at its deviants.

So I asked: does it seem that God is present in Evangelical religion at ites best? Do the people love God, and indeed love the Persons of the Trinity? Do they show love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness and so on in their lives? Do they pursue purity and holiness? Do they show concern for their n eighbours' spiritual and worldly good? Do they rejoice in the Lord and in his saving work for them? I came to conclusion that the answer is Yes. This helped me believe that God is indeed among us of a truth.

I also looked at the Lord's promises that true Christians would be hated and persecuted by the world, by those who hate God and hate Jesus Christ. This too I found to be fulfilled.

This has been the experience or belief of millions of people over the centuries, in many different places and races. So when I looked into my own soul, so to speak, and thought I found joy and peace, especially a 'subterranean' joy which persists "when all around my soul gives way" (to borrow John Wesley's telling phrase), I came to an assurance that my joy and my sense of God being with me was not, and is not, a delusion.

I am not thereby asserting that you have not encountered the same Lord in your Church. If we both have, then the question becomes for each of us, in regard to the other, "Has this person found the Lord despite the defects of his/her church?" It seems to me in both our cases that the answer is Yes. Am I not thereby saying much the same as has often been posted by Orthodox on these threads, that I know God is here, but I am not asserting that he is not also with you?

Time has defeated me and I must away, but I shall attempt to reply to other questions and comments later.

Thank you for stating this so beautifully.  I think "Diotrephes" can be found in any and every faith, I must say.

If I may challenge a bit, though...
Do you see that to us this appears to be completely subjective?  You set the criteria (the questions you gave above in example), you made the decision (or conclusion, as you put it) regarding where the good is.  This is what I was talking about.  For us, we don't set the criteria-- the Church does.  We don't conclude anything about the goodness of one person or a group of people-- the Church does.  And by "the Church," of course, I mean the entire body of people, among whom the Holy Spirit acts as a group to canonize a saint or declare doctrine and dogma.  No one person tackles any question alone.  No one person sets any criteria.  No one person concludes anything.  It's all done as a group, since that is how Christ specifically told us that He would be among us ("where two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst of them").  This is the entire basis and purpose of the Church acting as a whole-- so that God may work among us as He said and lead the entire body of us into the SAME TRUTH.

Which reminds me... I would still like to hear your thoughts on how you rationalize God revealing different truths about Himself to different people.  According to your thinking (as opposed to ours), He MUST have revealed different truths, since people who love Christ in different "denominations" believe different things about Him.  How do you understand this problem?  What is your solution to it?  (Am I making sense at all?)

The other thing I would like to say about your assessment of the goodness and truth of the Evangelical movement... What is to stop a Muslim or a Mormon or those of any other faith, where in good people and good experiences can be found, to claim the same thing as you?  Aside from the specific question of loving the Trinity (which they would not see as important), could Mormons, Muslims, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, or anyone else who calls their diety "God" not answer the same to your questions?  Do you see why we then view the criteria and conclusions you have drawn as subjective?  As decision theology? 

I'm really enjoying being back and hearing your thoughts, by the way!
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