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« on: March 10, 2011, 03:35:49 AM »

I would love to hear experiences from former or current converts on this topic, because I think it might benefit myself and perhaps others.

Anyone have any stories/experiences on when you found Orthodoxy to be the truth and you wanted to share that with other people, but it ended up doing more damage or it was mostly fueled by pride. What exactly distinguishes pride and humility between sharing Orthodoxy with say close family members of Protestantism for example. There has to be a line drawn somewhere on what is truth and what is false, but how does one share that without delving into pride?

I have a big tendency to share Orthodoxy with my family and to challenge their Protestant beliefs. I have a terrible knack of wanting to get into heated arguments over it, but I also refrain because first of all I don't know enough and secondly I may present it so terribly that they will never understand why it is the truth. Ever since finding Orthodoxy I have had this desire to be alot more evangelistic about my faith, it's sort of hard to contain that excitement in my opinion, you just want to share it. As a catechumen I abstain from it but its strange because I might be confronted by a Protestant and sometimes my answer on certain issues is "I don't know" which leads into them speculating that I cannot be trusted or what I believe can't be trusted.

Anyway just wanted to hear some thoughts on this.
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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2011, 09:19:42 AM »

My husband and I are still inquirers, although we've been reading about the church for months. I think that recent converts might be able to provide more experienced answers, but I'll try anyway...

Literally, when we discovered Orthodoxy, we felt like we hit the jackpot. The screaming and jumping up and down and telling everyone at the casino - "I WON!!!" That's us. That's been us for the past few months. We can't even believe that it was there for our entire lives and we hadn't studied the faith seriously at any point.

His parents are Pentecostal, hardcore Pentecostal. When we first told his mother that we were looking into the Church, she said, "...but, the icons. They just worship icons."

His father, who is completely devoted to sola scriptura, told us that he was concerned that Orthodox services don't use the Bible. (Because a second you don't use the Bible gives the devil enough time to creep into your life)

(My RCC parents are currently praising God's name that I'm 'getting closer' to Catholicism. Well, for the moment.)

If you are not sure about the answers yet, you could just try to recommend books your family.

Or make a list of what you DO know (mentally or on paper) and what you are sure of.
1) Sola scriptura IS wrong.
2) Worshiping and venerating icons are two completely different things.
3) If you ask your friends to pray for you, why can't you ask the saints?

Etc. And pray about when you should share these things with your family. Think about it -- how long were you a Protestant? I was a charismatic evangelical for about 3 years before I began to understand what my misgivings were about. It takes time. Plant a seed in their hearts and pray for them.

And sometimes you just can't argue about everything. I have friends that buy into the word-faith doctrine and I bite my fist ALL THE TIME (not literally) when they talk about repeating a verse over and over again and having it come true, or imagining the house they want and assuming that God will give it to them.

I'll say something like, "Well, God will give you what He decides to give in His own time. He gives us enough for our needs, and that may not be what we think we need at the time."

And sometimes I'll just nod and listen and say, "I'll pray that God provides you what you need" or "I'll pray for His will to be done." If I argued with them every time they brought up a word-faith story, we would be arguing every second we are together.

Some of my friends have caught onto this and said, "Well, can't you pray for us to get that specific HOUSE?" and the argument starts. Once I had a friend request that I pray for her several times a day, and I said, "God hears my prayer for you at night,"* as tactfully as I could, and she was almost in tears, asking why I didn't support her.

Like you said, make sure it's not based and pride. The fact that you're questioning your own pride is always good. Although it sounds like you are sincere about your love for Orthodoxy.

Not every second has to be an evangelizing moment, although you can make clear that you don't believe the same thing. Pray that God is working on their hearts and leave it in His hands.

*Wow, I must have sounded like a jerk in that moment! Let me make clear that she made that request because she thought that the more times I prayed to God, the more likely her prayer would come true. I wanted to tell her that it doesn't work that way while reassuring her that I do pray for her.
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« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2011, 10:26:58 AM »

I think I definitely argued too much early on, and in some cases still do.  Early on, I almost had to because I needed to be challenged by my Lutheran friends who gave strong defenses of the Lutheran tradition and tried to explain why Orthodoxy is wrong.  I needed that, but I've done it, and now it's past.  Now, it's hard primarily because you're learning all this new stuff and you want to share it, but you're not competent at all to do so.  But if you tell people the truth -- "come and see, you can't read about Orthodoxy, you have to live it," then it's easy for them to accuse you of falling pray to some sort of experiential mysticism with no real meat and no real teeth.  On the other hand, if you engage them on the doctrinal issues, it's VERY easy for pride to get in the way.  I'm convinced based on our experiences that the devil attacks us as we convert.  Not in a Hollywood exorcism movie sense, but in the sense that we become very prone to argue, get defensive, fail to put the best construction on things, etc.  So one thing I've learned is not to invite criticism by starting the discussion.  I did that once recently and I handled it badly.  It's just not a good idea.  I am trying more to speak only when spoken to, and even then not to be defensive or argumentative.  I do blog, but even there I try not to be polemical. 

I think the hardest thing to deal with is criticism of Orthodoxy, especially when that criticism is false and not in keeping with what the Church looks like.  As I said, we are former Lutherans, and there are no small number of Lutheran converts to Orthodoxy, especially lately.  So a lot of Lutherans are defensive about it.  You read things accusing us of worshiping icons, worshiping the Theotokos, believing in works righteousness, being Pelagian, etc., and it's hard NOT to respond because it's just so wrong headed.  Lutheran critiques of Orthodoxy are rarely, in my experience, accurate as far as their description of what we believe.  I read recently someone saying we "worship wood and paint."  That's just such a ridiculous caricature of what we believe that it almost demands a response, right?  Maybe, but it doesn't have to be by me.  I'm not the bright line defending Orthodoxy from Protestantism.  I don't have to be the first guy out to defend the Church, particularly when I'm the least fit to do it.

My approach of late is to try to temper my responses when I give them and not give them as much as I can.  That may change over time, but I honestly don't need the hassle of arguing incessantly over polemics with Protestants who are not going to change their minds.  There is a place for that, but I'm not the right person to field that battle.  Not yet (and maybe not ever).  Where I do respond, I try to keep it simple and to the point.  That's difficult, because once people believe something, it's hard to shake them loose from that belief.  And Orthodoxy as a worldview is just so different from most of Western Christianity that it's easy to view us through a Western lens and say "you're saying this" when in fact we aren't saying that at all.  I know the accusation of works righteousness is a good example of this -- most Protestants and Roman Catholics view salvation as predominately the receipt by the sinner of unmerited favor from God.  We don't.  So when we say obedience is required for salvation, they hear "oh, you think you can earn heaven by your good works."  But that's not what we mean.  Our view of good works is not that they justify us before God, but that they are what we are created to do (see Ephesians 2:10), and therefore they are what salvation looks like.  We do good works so we can be united to Christ, for that is what Christ would have us do.  But we don't believe they are the basis for our salvation, nor that they earn us anything, nor that God looks at our good works and deems us worthy of salvation.  We also don't believe that we are capable of doing good works perfectly or consistently -- we have nothing to brag about in doing them at all.  Even if we do them perfectly we are unworthy servants.

But that's not what your typical Protestant hears, so it takes a lot of explanation to get there.  And I've probably erred somewhere above in laying it out here, so I'm the least fit to try to explain it to someone else.  I have plenty of Orthodox friends who can articulate it accurately and are willing to do so.  I'm just not the best person to get into it where I can avoid it.
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2011, 10:29:19 AM »

His father, who is completely devoted to sola scriptura, told us that he was concerned that Orthodox services don't use the Bible. (Because a second you don't use the Bible gives the devil enough time to creep into your life)

I actually would respond to this.  I'd tell him "we do use the Bible.  Most of our liturgy is straight from Scripture, and we have appointed readings from the Psalms, the Epistles and the Gospels every day of the year."

I wouldn't go much further than that (it can get pretty deep pretty quick with discussions of the so-called apocrypha, etc.), but it's just such an untrue statement it would be easy enough to deal with.
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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2011, 11:03:07 AM »

I too have a dreadful tendency to be argumentative, and it is so counter-productive. In my experience, no one was ever argued into faith in Christ, though YMMV, of course.

One thing that helps is to ask questions, rather than make statements or give lectures. For example, if someone makes a statement that we worship wood and paint, you can say, "Oh my goodness, where did you hear that?" If someone says that we don't use the Bible, same thing, and say "I can give you a text of the Divine Liturgy with all the Biblical references, if you'd like." If someone talks about salvation, you can always say something along the lines of "Can you explain a little? I want to be sure what you mean by 'salvation.' Because we sometimes use the same words but with different meanings."
I usually try to interject somewhere "I can give you a book that explains better than I can if you're interested."
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2011, 11:12:34 AM »

Certainly an issue for me.

In my case, when I started to be convinced of Orthodoxy, I met with my priest. We talked and he told me that he would accept me as a catechumen if I so requested (I had only been there a few months, but it was intense. I didn't miss services...even the 7am Matins services. I was devouring reading material, establishing a prayer rule, always asking him questions about faith, beginning to see him also as a spiritual father rather than just a knowledgable "pastor", etc.) but he warned me. He told me to not make the decision to request enrollment into the catechumenate unless I was absolutely sure that I wanted to convert, live an Orthodox life, raise any children I have as Orthodox and to die Orthodox. It was VERY sobering. It gave me pause.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the Church and desired to unite with it. But I had to make sure I wasn't jumping into things. Having an evangelical girlfriend at the time held me back practically (I wanted to bring her with me), and during that long period of inquiry I spent a lot of time reading, attending services...and asking my Protestant friends to play Devil's Advocate for me. If I told them something about the Church, argue it with me. If I don't have an answer, I'll find one. It was an "iron-sharpens-iron" idea. I knew I was being zealous, and I needed them to keep questioning my faith for me.

Now, this caused quite a bit of tension. It was good for me...it really was refining, and I think I learned a lot about the faith I might not have otherwise looked into because of the objections they raised. However, these were not always civil conversations. I had many friends get frustrated with me, and I with them, during the process. I nearly lost a close friend for good, because he truly doesn't approve of the theology of the Church, and really bucked at some of it (especially the idea that it is the Church, and not just a church). We didn't talk for quite some time. We've moved past that, but we still do not talk about religion together. We know where the other stands and that we won't budge. We're compatible friends otherwise, we just can't touch that subject anymore.

My point is, a lot of that become triumphalism for me. "I've found the Church guys, you should join with me! We've been taught wrong all our lives, and you need this!" While I still believe that to be true...I believe it to be a teaching of the Church herself, the way it was presented was in pride and vainglory (especially when started get involved in asceticisms, like having a prayer rule, fasting, etc.)

Ultimately, I think it was a good thing because it's taught me to control my tongue. I studied myself into a very traditional, Reformed faith...and I was very proud of the knowledge I found there. It was surely far superior to this shallow evangelical faith (so I told myself) and so I had to confront the "heresies" when I ran into them and debate everyone. Of course, this was very unhealthy. Given the experiences above, I can hear a conversation on faith, and just keep walking. I don't have to engage. I have signs that point to my faith. An icon corner in my home, a small shrine that sits on my desk at work, etc. People will know I'm a man of faith and I welcome question and discussion, but I will not initiate anything. It's given me a lot of peace, but it came only through a lot of heartache and frustration.
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2011, 11:16:25 AM »

One thing that helps is to ask questions, rather than make statements or give lectures. For example, if someone makes a statement that we worship wood and paint, you can say, "Oh my goodness, where did you hear that?" If someone says that we don't use the Bible, same thing, and say "I can give you a text of the Divine Liturgy with all the Biblical references, if you'd like." If someone talks about salvation, you can always say something along the lines of "Can you explain a little? I want to be sure what you mean by 'salvation.' Because we sometimes use the same words but with different meanings."

I usually try to interject somewhere "I can give you a book that explains better than I can if you're interested."

Absolutely. This is wonderful. I have attempted this with very adament people. Doesn't happen too often with me because most of the friends I see regularly are all Orthodox. My family isn't religious, and neither is anyone at work. And all of my close friends have been there with me since the beginning of my inquiry and have worked through most of it with me, some favorably, some not.

Still, the few times I've taken this passive, instructive approach...it's worked well.
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« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2011, 06:30:27 AM »

I was very much this way when I became Roman Catholic years ago, and I recognize the pride that was wrapped up in it. I think that in some ways, the whole image of it got to me; I came from a very liberal, secular background, and I was very rebellious as a youth, to the point that I made my liberal secular family seem like conservatives, so when I did a 180, I think some of the contrarian in me, as I was stilwhether young, did a lot of talking.

As a result, I'm wary of such things this time around, though when my RC friends have questions, I give them answers.

In Christ,
Jim
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