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TristanCross
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« on: September 04, 2010, 03:17:54 AM »

Hi, I'm Rob. I have a couple questions concerning Orthodox Christianity. I'm considering Orthodox a lot more now since I've seen some faults in Catholicism (I was considering Catholicism after two years of being a radically anti-Catholic Lutheran, and was once a Calvinist), especially since it's obviously through history that their doctrines have evolved and changed, as well as the damages done from the second Vatican council.

1) Do the Orthodox have a similar position as Catholics do on sin (venial, mortal, etc). Do you also believe, like Catholics, that the only way for sins to be forgiven is through confession and you can't get forgiveness by praying?

2) Do Orthodox Christians believe Protestants and/or Catholics will go to hell simply because they aren't Orthodox, or do they believe that these groups are imperfectly in the Church (note: imperfectly)? (Catholics state in their catechism that they believe these groups are in their church "albeit imperfectly" by baptism)

3) What about Orthodox Christians who leave the Church for Protestantism or Catholicism? What shall we say of them? Will they be accepted by God as true Christians? Or will they be denied since they left the Church to try to follow Jesus elsewhere?

4) What do the Orthodox believe happens after death? I understand Orthodox Christians deny purgatory, so what exactly happens?

5) I hear the Orthodox Church is really split up (Greek, Russian, etc). Are these all separate churches? Can these groups take each others communion?

Thank you for your time. God bless
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« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2010, 05:16:11 AM »

Hi, welcome to the forum.

1. As I understand all sins disallow you from God in some way. Those bigger ones and smaller ones. There is no distinction between them. A sin is a sin. There are three ways to be forgiven: confession, baptism and taking monastic vows.

2. There is no official opinion on them. I think we know that we are the Church, and let God to care for others and decide about them.

3. It is an act of apostasy as the Orthodox Church is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Maybe God will forgive them, who knows? It certainly is not a wise thing to do.

4. "And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end. (...) We look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the Life of the world to come." - these are we can be sure.

5. These groups are governed separately and have different ethnic customs. On the other hand they generally are "in communion" with each other what means that they share faith and are one Church. There are also Churches that use the word "Orthodox" but they are not ones and they should be avoided. All parishes listed here are perfectly OK.
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2010, 01:48:29 PM »

Hello TristanCross -

Welcome to the forum!

1. Venial sin is a Roman Catholic term. What I have found, in my experience (8 yrs. +) of being Orthodox, is that if I commit a sin, I need to ask for forgiveness to God. Some of my more carnal sins excommunicate me from the church for a time ( a week or two ) and to partake of Christ's flesh and blood again, I must not only confess, but under the instruction of my spiritual father, I must make penance (prostrations, fasting, more prayer) to gain back the grace which the Lord wants to give me.
2. The "church" for us is the fulness of faith. All else is fallen short of that fulness in some way. But we can not say where God is not, only where we know Him to be (in the Orthodox Church).
3. We await the final judgement (mike said the rest perfectly). Also, we know the saints can hear our prayers...so  I think it is safe to say that we are still conscious.
4. The majority of us are in communion but there are a few exceptions. Ethnic groups such as Russian, Greek or the OCA...I heard it put like this once, Orthodoxy is Orthodoxy is Orthodoxy!
These and many more of your questions are right here in the forum. Just type in a key word and you'll find longwinded threads on any number of subjects.
P.S. History of the church is what lead me to Orthodoxy as well. But the Caveat is, we are responsible for the knowledge we attain in this life. Let it not go in vain.
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« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2010, 01:56:00 PM »

Hello Rob!  Welcome to the forum!

1.  In the Russian Church, I have heard the term "mortal sin" more than a few times.  However, I have never heard of the term "venial sin" used.  I'm not sure what the Roman church teaches regarding the distinctions between the two, but I gather this is the Orthodox position on the matter: "If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal."  -1 John 5:16-17 (RSV)

2. The Orthodox Church does not subscribe to the Baptismal theology of the Roman church.  I don't think we would say that Protestants or Roman Catholics are united to us, even in an imperfect way.  That being said, the Orthodox Church does not make any judgments on those outside of herself.  We know that our God is a man-loving God and wishes to grant salvation to sinners.

3.  Those who leave Orthodoxy are apostates.  The Church does not speak to kindly of apostates.  However, I'm not sure we would say with any certainty that any specific person who apostatizes is in hell or if alive, guaranteed hell.  The Orthodox are not too comfortable damning people and rightfully so.  It isn't our job.

4.  From my understanding (there is a multitude of opinions on this one) when we die we either go up to Heaven or we await the Second Coming and General Resurrection.  At the Last Judgment, those who were in Hades awaiting the general resurrection are either sent to Heaven or are sent to Hell.

5.  Yes, we can and do commune in each other's churches. 

 






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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2010, 04:33:47 PM »

Hello Rob, and Welcome to the forum!

You have probably already read that I am converting from the Roman Church to the Orthodox Church.  Having said that, I don't have much to add to the previous posters to your thread since I would simply be repeating them.

Welcome, and I hope you find your answers here; and hopefully, when you speak to your local parish priest.

-Jeff
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« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2010, 05:34:02 PM »

Hi Rob, welcome to the forum.

Hi, I'm Rob. I have a couple questions concerning Orthodox Christianity. I'm considering Orthodox a lot more now since I've seen some faults in Catholicism (I was considering Catholicism after two years of being a radically anti-Catholic Lutheran, and was once a Calvinist), especially since it's obviously through history that their doctrines have evolved and changed, as well as the damages done from the second Vatican council.

1) Do the Orthodox have a similar position as Catholics do on sin (venial, mortal, etc). Do you also believe, like Catholics, that the only way for sins to be forgiven is through confession and you can't get forgiveness by praying?

This is the hardest question to answer. Fundamentally, we see forgiveness in different ways. In Orthodox theology, sin is an illness, and prayer, confession, the Sacraments, and everything else the Church does is Christ’s medicine for those ilnesses. Confession is part of that healing process. It is certainly not the case that we will go to hell/purgatory/you-name-it for every sin we failed to confess in the presence of a priest.

Something that strikes me about Western theology—please correct me if I’m off the mark—is that it seems to be about finding a way to not get punished for your sins. If you’re Roman Catholic, you have a number of ways to be forgiven (at least in traditional Roman Catholicism); for Protestants, personal commitment to Christ is sufficient to be forgiven. We see it differently: forgiveness and salvation are the healing of sin and elevation of the fallen human nature to the level of divine nature.

Quote
2) Do Orthodox Christians believe Protestants and/or Catholics will go to hell simply because they aren't Orthodox, or do they believe that these groups are imperfectly in the Church (note: imperfectly)? (Catholics state in their catechism that they believe these groups are in their church "albeit imperfectly" by baptism)

3) What about Orthodox Christians who leave the Church for Protestantism or Catholicism? What shall we say of them? Will they be accepted by God as true Christians? Or will they be denied since they left the Church to try to follow Jesus elsewhere?

We make no blanket generalizations about who will be saved and who will not. It is all up to God. The Lord is all-good and all-merciful, and we can trust Him to be fair. Neither is being a member of the Orthodox Church a guarantee of salvation. Salvation is a result of a heart transformed by Divine Grace (which, at least normatively, happens within the Church).

Quote
4) What do the Orthodox believe happens after death? I understand Orthodox Christians deny purgatory, so what exactly happens?

This is a little tricky to answer, because no one knows exactly what happens between death and the final resurrection. Orthodox teaching is basically that the departed are in a state of unnatural separation between soul and body, and the saints are in a blessed state in the presence of God, while sinners are in a state of torment. This is sometimes called the “partial judgment.” What distinguishes Orthodox teaching from Roman Catholic teaching on the matter is that those in the intermediate state are *not* partaking of the actual reward/torment of the Final Judgment—they have simply received a “foretaste” of their eternal fate. The actual reward/torment does not happen until the Second Coming.

Quote
5) I hear the Orthodox Church is really split up (Greek, Russian, etc). Are these all separate churches? Can these groups take each others communion?
 

As the previous posters said, all of these regional Orthodox churches add up to make the One Catholic Church. With a few exceptions, we are all in communion with each other, and we all share the same Faith.

God Bless,
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« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2010, 10:35:52 PM »

1) Do the Orthodox have a similar position as Catholics do on sin (venial, mortal, etc).

I would have to say that technically every sin is a mortal sin, as any one of them eventually could prevent us from inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven.

Do you also believe, like Catholics, that the only way for sins to be forgiven is through confession and you can't get forgiveness by praying?

Ah... I doubt that's what they themselves believe. The significance of Absolution by a Priest is that it is a tangible sign and therefore assurance of remission of sins. When one is praying by one's self for forgiveness, there is no such tangible sign, and thus no such assurance of absolution. Yes, God certainly could do it. But we don't know whether He would or not.

2) Do Orthodox Christians believe Protestants and/or Catholics will go to hell simply because they aren't Orthodox,

Technically everyone in Heaven will have somehow become an Orthodox Christian. That doesn't mean that those who were Protestants or Romanists in their lifetimes will necessarily be damned. But it does mean that being such puts one's salvation in jeopardy.

or do they believe that these groups are imperfectly in the Church (note: imperfectly)? (Catholics state in their catechism that they believe these groups are in their church "albeit imperfectly" by baptism)

No. We do not have this pseudo-ecclesiology of Rome. You're either in the Church or you're not.

3) What about Orthodox Christians who leave the Church for Protestantism or Catholicism? What shall we say of them? Will they be accepted by God as true Christians? Or will they be denied since they left the Church to try to follow Jesus elsewhere?

They will only be accepted if they recant of their apostasy. The idea that there could be people in Heaven who do not accept the fundamental truths about God is just nonsensical.

4) What do the Orthodox believe happens after death? I understand Orthodox Christians deny purgatory, so what exactly happens?

People, on the basis of the judgment of their lifetimes, experience either a foretaste of bliss or a foretaste of torment. While we do not believe in Purgatory, we do believe that those in the afterlife may be aided by the prayers of the Church. It has even been said a few times that "even the most grievous of sins may be remitted", something that the Romanists would deny.

5) I hear the Orthodox Church is really split up (Greek, Russian, etc). Are these all separate churches? Can these groups take each others communion?

The main Church of Greece and Church of Russia are not "separate churches", though they are separate jurisdictions. They are in communion with each other. And they are also in communion with about 13 other separate jurisdictions.

There are some jurisdictions which have resisted the introduction of the New Calendar. They are called "Old Calendarists". They are not in communion with the above, but they are often in communion with each other.

There are some jurisdictions which rejected the Council of Chalcedon more than 1500 years ago called the Oriental Orthodox Churches. They include the Copts, Syrians, Armenians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Indians. They are in communion with each other, but not with the other two. None of these three main groups are in communion with any of the other groups.
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« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2010, 10:35:52 PM »

and taking monastic vows.

Interesting. I wasn't aware that monastic vows instilled remission of sins in a particular way like Baptism and Confession.
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« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2010, 06:57:05 AM »

and taking monastic vows.

Interesting. I wasn't aware that monastic vows instilled remission of sins in a particular way like Baptism and Confession.

I was told that monastic tonsure has the same effect as baptism - it leaves the newly ordained Monastic with all sins forgiven.
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« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2010, 07:22:59 PM »

The answers to 2 and 3 are disappointing.  Sad
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« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2010, 08:46:15 PM »

The answers to 2 and 3 are disappointing.  Sad
As Fr. Alexander told me today,
"I am a Parish Priest. I don't make Orthodoxy like Disney World. it is hard work."
(something along those lines)

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« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2010, 11:33:53 PM »

and taking monastic vows.

Interesting. I wasn't aware that monastic vows instilled remission of sins in a particular way like Baptism and Confession.

I was told that monastic tonsure has the same effect as baptism - it leaves the newly ordained Monastic with all sins forgiven.

Maybe I'm just being overcautious, but any talk of the Holy Mysteries automatically wiping away one's sins always makes me nervous. As  understand it, all the Mysteries are synergistic. The Mystery of monastic tonsure, as well as baptism, will not wipe away a single one of my sins if I undergo them without repentence. It's just that we have a visitor who has inquired into Roman Catholicism, which has a reputation (perhaps unfairly) of having a legalistic view of the Sacraments. I would rather not have it look like we share in that view. Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2010, 06:28:27 AM »

I've only quoted the opinion of Polish Orthodox Seminary rector Fr. Jerzy Tofiluk. I have no idea where did he get it from.
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« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2010, 06:31:30 AM »

The answers to 2 and 3 are disappointing.  Sad

It isn't uncommon for Orthodox doctrine to be grating to the mentalities of modern Western minds.
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« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2010, 07:43:59 AM »

Something from Saint Nikodemos of Mount Athos

Concerning Mortal Sins, Pardonable Sins, and Sins of Omission
Part I, Chapter 3 from the Exomologetarion (A Manual of Confession)

1. Concerning Mortal Sins

According to Gennadios Scholarios, George Koressios, the Orthodox Confession, and Chrysanthos of Jerusalem, mortal sins are those voluntary sins which either corrupt the love for God alone, or the love for neighbor and for God, and which render again the one committing them an enemy of God and liable to the eternal death of hell.  Generally speaking, they are: pride, love of money, sexual immorality, envy, gluttony, anger, and despondency, or indifference.

2. Concerning Pardonable Sins

Pardonable sins are those voluntary sins which do not corrupt the love for God or the love for neighbor, nor do they render the person an enemy of God and liable to eternal death, to which transgressions even the Saints are susceptible, according to the words of the Brother of God: For in many things we all sin (Jas. 3:2), and of John: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves (l Jn. 1:8.), and according to Canons 125, 126, and 127 of Carthage. These sins, according to Koressios and Chrysanthos, are: idle talk, the initial inclination and agitation of anger, the initial inclination of lust, the initial inclination of hate, a white lie, passing envy, or that which is commonly called jealousy, which is slight grief over the good fortunes of ones neighbor, and the like.

More at

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/exo_sintypes.aspx


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« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2010, 08:05:15 AM »

As soon as any Christian has sinned against God, he needs to stop and recognise what he has done and out of the sorrow of his heart, because he has offended God and often men as well, he needs to ask God for forgiveness.   When a fellow worker sits down next to us at coffee break and wants to ask our help and advice about a difficult situation in his life and we cannot be bothered, that is something sinful and we need to beg God's forgiveness as soon as we realise what we have done.  And God, because He knows our hearts and our sincerity will forgive us.

At the end of every day in the prayers which a Christian must say every night, there are several prayers asking God's loving forgiveness...

".....have compassion and mercy on Thy sinful servant and pardon my unworthiness, and forgive me all the sins that I humanly committed today..."

"O Lord, our God, in Thy goodness and love for men forgive me all the sins I have committed today in word, deed or thought."

For this Prayerbook please see
http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/prayerbook/main.htm

The Psalm which is used most frequently in Orthodox worship and in home prayers is Psalm 50 (51) and it has the plea for God's forgiveness:

"Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin."

God hears all these prayers of ours with compassion and forgives us if we are repenting.


And then of course there is the practice of confessing our sins to a priest and obtaining from him God's absolution, but that should be left for another message.

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« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2010, 08:21:17 AM »



2) Do Orthodox Christians believe Protestants and/or Catholics will go to hell simply because they aren't Orthodox,


Here are the words of the holy Metropolitan Philaret of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.  He was a very conservative theologian.


"It is self evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman
Catholics, or Lutherans, or members, of other non-Orthodox
confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e. those who
knowingly pervert the truth... They have been born and raised and are
living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do
the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not
been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The
Lord, "Who will have all men to be saved" (I Tim. 2:4) and "Who
enlightens every man born into the world" (Jn. 1.43), undoubtedly is
leading them also towards salvation In His own way."


N.B:  "The Lord...undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation
In His own way."
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« Reply #17 on: September 06, 2010, 11:10:09 AM »

Thank you for that, Fr. Ambrose!  I am very surprised that Metropolitan Philaret said such a thing.  I've always read his writings with a bit of discomfort.  I am pleasantly surprised! Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: September 06, 2010, 11:51:28 AM »

That was beautiful!
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« Reply #19 on: September 06, 2010, 04:56:12 PM »



2) Do Orthodox Christians believe Protestants and/or Catholics will go to hell simply because they aren't Orthodox,


Here are the words of the holy Metropolitan Philaret of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.  He was a very conservative theologian.


"It is self evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman
Catholics, or Lutherans, or members, of other non-Orthodox
confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e. those who
knowingly pervert the truth... They have been born and raised and are
living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do
the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not
been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The
Lord, "Who will have all men to be saved" (I Tim. 2:4) and "Who
enlightens every man born into the world" (Jn. 1.43), undoubtedly is
leading them also towards salvation In His own way."


N.B:  "The Lord...undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation
In His own way."


Awesome! Of course those who know the Orthodox Church is true and deny it are not doing any good. Those people are heretics. I was talking about the ignorant ones, which this theologian also speaks of. Thank you very much.
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« Reply #20 on: September 07, 2010, 09:48:31 AM »

Thank you for that, Fr. Ambrose!  I am very surprised that Metropolitan Philaret said such a thing.  I've always read his writings with a bit of discomfort.  I am pleasantly surprised! Smiley

Some people see Metropolitan Philaret as an Orthodox fundamentalist because they know of his three Epistles against ecumenism.   But the type of ecumenism which he knew, in the 1960/70s (as well as myself since I am kind of ancient) was excessive.  For example, there was the awful incident when Archbishop Iakovos removed all mention of the Mother of God from a televised Liturgy so as not to offend the Protestants.  And the WCC was very much a hotbed of socialist movements, to an extent that younger people these days can barely imagine.  

These days ecumenism is much much milder and the Orthodox who participate in it do not have to face the horrors of the 1960s and 1970s.

What some people do not know about Metropolitan Philaret was that he approved of a moderate ecumenism.

The delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad to Vatican II was sent by Metropolitan Philaret.

Metropolitan Philaret wrote to Patriarch Athenagoras in 1965:

"Of course, we are not against amicable relations with the
representatives of other faiths, since this does not betray the truth
of Orthodoxy. For this reason our Church at one time accepted the
friendly invitation to send an observer to the Second Vatican Council,
just as it had sent an observer to the Protestant conference of the
World Council of Churches. . . ."


The letter, in the original Russian, can be found here:

http://www.romanitas.ru/content/filaret-vozn/epistles/athenag1.htm

Metropolitan Philaret said he was not against "amicable relations with the representatives of other faiths, since this not betray the truth of Orthodoxy" and explained that this was the reason the ROCOR sent observers to Vatican II just as it had sent observers to the Protestant Conferences of the WCC.


Actually, there were more than one official observer representing the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia at the Second Vatican Council. There was a full delegation, led by Archbishop Anthony of Geneva, and including Archimandrite Amvrossy (Pogodin), Archpriest Alexander Troubnikoff and Archpriest Igor Trojanoff.

All of them participated in the ceremonial Procession into St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome, together with the official delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate, headed by Archbishop Nikodim (Rotov), and representatives of seventeen Orthodox and Oriental churches, to pay their respects to the Pope and the Council.
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