When we started our Post of the Month
award in 2008 (well, technically in 2007, but we never publicly announced the winner), the mods also tossed around the idea of selecting one of the Posts of the Month as Post of the Year. Well, on Orthodox time (3+ years later), we've decided to create this award, and to have it be voted on by you, the users. So in the next day or so we'll be parading out polls for Post of the Year
for the years 2008, 2009, and 2010. Go ahead and vote for your favorite; there will be 1 vote per user, no changing, and the results will not be visible until the Poll closes 15 days from now.
The nominees for Post of the Year 2008 are:1
Ben, your questions are serious. Many on these boards must be so much stronger in faith than I am, to be able to laugh at the contents of this site, but I found it deplorably slanderous, which is a sin placed among the great sins of the Holy Scriptures. I might be too new to Orthodoxy to do the best job of answering your question, but being that I have been a minister of the Gospel for many years within the nondenominational baptists and charismatic parts of the Church in America, maybe I can offer some minor guidance to you to help a bit on your journey.2
I did notice the site administrator also took swipes at 50,000 baptists and also Billy Graham (http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Wolves/billy_graham_exposed.htm ), so it does seem the author is intent on attacking many who are called Christians besides those of the ancient apostolic Orthodox Church of Antioch, Corinth, Phillipi, and all members of the One body of Christ in Heaven and on earth. I hope the website author repents before death, or He will find shock of Christian reality on the other side of death, when He sees believers reverentially honoring those whom Christ honored, such as the one that "for all generations will be called blessed", the one who in Luke 1:41-44 is called The Mother of God, by a holy woman filled with the Holy Spirit, even while Jesus was still in her womb, the Theotokos, The God Bearer. She called on Jesus as God her Savior, so according to the Orthodox Faith, the Theotokos is the humble woman of God who has been exalted to be The Holy Temple of the Living God as well as holds a special place in the Eternal Plan of God that no other human ever has. So, Orthodox Christians are called to honor The Theotokos, Mary, the Mother of God, in one sense that she is the God bearer and the Holy Temple of the Living God, who humbly received God Her Savior into her life and womb (as no other human ever has). It is not because an Orthodox ever follows a blasphemous quadrinity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit and (God-forbid) Mary, as the site tries to slanderously accuse the humble believers following Christ our God. There is no room within Orthodox and original Christian faith of the early church for anyone to make Mary or any other saint an idol equal to God, in any shape or form, and what I remember of reading the wonderful writings from the 7th ecumenical council, by St. John of Damascus, he clearly states how important it is that Christians flee from idolatry, while embracing the reality of Hebrews 11 and 12 through holy represenations (icons), so we never forget that we have a great cloud of witnesses before God and those holy ones who have gone before us, those who are now in the presence of God, worshipping Him, and enjoying the wonderful eternal blessings of His Love, Light and Truth. Godly believers in the Eternal Presence of God, where Perfection reigns, are remembered through holy representations, the icons, and help the faithful to keep the faith as they have, as well as ask Godly believers to intercede on their behalf while in God's Presence. This can only be done because of the One Mediator between God and man who gave His life as a ransom for many. There is no other Mediator like Jesus, cause no one else delivered us from death by His Resurrection and No one else is God The Son. In an evangelical mind, the word mediator and intercessor should be understood interchangeably when they apply, but never is the One Mediator's Perfect work of God through Christ our LORD "replaced" by an interecessory prayer request to any of His Saints, who have also been made perfect by Christ's Perfect Mediation as their Savior.
Ben, I have been preaching what I thought was a Bible-based message for almost 23 years of my Christian walk, in various nondenominational, southern baptist, reformed and charismatic churches. Without knowing it, I had been heavily exposed and influenced often by the writings of Lewis Sperry Chafer, Matthew Henry, Kenneth Wuest, Moody Bible Institute, Dallas Theological Seminary, Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, Charles Spurgeon, G Campbell Morgan, Michael Horton, JI Packer, Francis Schaeffer, and many other popular Christian teachers and authors influencing the way American nonOrthodox often interpret the Bible. In my 3 years studying within a nondenominational seminary, mostly influenced by Lewis Sperry Chafer and 100s of other modern evangelical leaders of the last 200 years, I had never been told that the apostles had personally trained pastors to take charge of protecting the Church against the evil one, and avoiding "private interpretation" of the Bible, by passing along correct understanding of the faith through Oral Paradosis (2 Thess 2:15 "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter".)
I can now better understand Franky Schaeffer's argument that it makes more sense that when there is a major disagreement between the writings of a pastor personally trained by the apostles or his delegated man, versus a writer who tries to privately interpret the Bible 1800+ years removed from the apostles, we should give higher credence and respect to the Christian Bible-based or Christian-Church taught interpretation of the ones who were taught by the apostolically trusted leaders of Christ's One Body. It is not enough to read the scriptures as mormons, and Jehovahs witnesses do, and privately interpret God's Word according to one's modern "tradition", even when we try to cover up our "tradition" that goes against Christ's earlier teachings to the faithful Church. One must understand and follow God's Word according to its Author's intent and The Holy Spirit gave us faithful men, gifted and entrusted by Him, to guide the Bride of Christ, along that Holy path.
My shock in reading the early church writings was that although I was often right on target with early Christians about many theological issues (Christ's eternal deity, The Holy Trinity, Trust in the canon of Scriptures, ...), I have also often been wrong about some of the basic understanding of the Christian faith that the apostles (and those they personally trained and trusted to lead the Church) taught the Church of God.
I was baptized Roman catholic, but even after returning from my time under islamic governance, I could not return to it mainly because priests were unable to address many important doctrines Biblically, like the belief in "intercession of saints", papal infallibility, Mary calling God Her Savior, etc.. I have since had experiential knowledge of the charismatics in several Assemblies of God, Calvary Chapel as well as other nondenominational churches.
The pictures on the site you found present a woman kissing the Cross of Christ as if it is evil idolatry. I can kinda understand why someone with a zealous and fervent desire to avoid all idolatry, might misinterpret that act, but as one who has now "kissed the Christian Cross", I can tell you for certain that there is not even a smallest hint of idolatry in my heart and mind when I kiss the Cross. I do it out of reverence for Christ's Holy Sacrifice and the power of the Cross and the Resurrection that overcame the devil and death to open the door of salvation for all of us. I do it because I humbly bow to the Love of Christ our God, who shed his blood for me that I might be free from the bondages of my sin and am forever thankful for His wondrous and great sacrifice. If I kiss the hand of the priest who is the minister of God, I do it out of respect for His Office, being the humble representative of Christ to us. In the Orthodox faith, my understanding is that the priest is in no way less of a "sinner" than we are, but rather a recipient of God's Grace to represent Christ to the Church during the divine Liturgy and one who can also choose to follow God as His Lord or make the wrong choice like the sons of Eli did. Priests and Bishops are accountable to the Holy Spirit who is the protector of Christ's Church and has at times led His People, the Christian Faithful, to stand up to unfaithful powerful and influential bishops like Bishop Arius. My understanding of all the Christian historical writings so far, is that no Bishop is infallible, whether Roman or Constantinople or Protestant. All of us are accountable to God the Holy Spirit to keep the Orthodox faith, while praying and supporting ministers of Christ, who are faithfully serving God's body so humbly and graciously.
We have only one High Priest, Christ our God, and one Salvation Mediator between man and God, our LORD Jesus, who died for us and was risen from the dead to bring the Hope of Eternal Life to mankind. In 1 Timothy 2:1-8, one sees the context of the passage as very important to reading the scriptures according to the apostolic understanding. In verse 1, The Holy Spirit inspired writer of the letter to Pastor/Bishop Timothy, calls all believers to intercede (lower mediation form :-) ) for one another, pray for one another, and lift up holy hands and pray everywhere.
1I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
In Revelations 5:8, Christians in the presence of God are offering prayers to God and represented by incense in the Holy Temple of God, just as it was in the vision the Prophet Moses received over 1000 years before the one John received.
To pray and intercede for one another is a High and Holy Calling that does not lower Christ's Perfect Mediation Service on our behalf, but rather exalts God's Perfect Sacrifice, since it is by God's gift that Christians with God the Holy Spirit can offer prayers to God in Heaven and on earth, although those in Heaven have a great advantage of beholding God with no worldly distractions.
While this teaching may seem elementary and very basic to those who understood it for much longer than I have, I hope it will provide a small light along your path. As a humble servant of God, who has not officially been baptized and Chrismated into The Orthodox Faith yet, although I have been accepted to become Orthodox soon, I might have made some mistakes in my presentation, but I am providing you with the light I have at the moment with hopes that you would find God's path to His Presence in Christ's Church.
One great resource for me has been the presentations by Bradley Nassif, on http://www.ancientfaithradio.com/podcasts/nassif and Matthew Gallatin's series on impartation and sanctification modes of interpreting the Bible vs. the way the Christian Orthodox Church has always seen the walk of Christian Faithful in his online audio messages entitled virtual righteousness found at http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/pilgrims/P32/ . Many other great Orthodox messages on that site, especially for those of us needing special help in understanding our similarity and differences between Orthodox original Christian way of life and a modern "westernized" version.
Questions like these tend to pull the heathens, heretics and sinners out...so I guess it's my turn to weigh in. More often than not I probably just make things worse, but I have a tendency to get in over my head and delve beyond my competence; so here it goes. 3
I cannot tell you that you are doing the right thing, that this path is some how the correct one, that this struggle of yours is worth it. I do not know with any certainty whether you are pursuing the true faith or simply making a fool out of yourself. These things are for you to decide. It may very well be that your wife and daughter have gotten things right and rightfully thing that you are out of your mind, but if that is the case at least you can be confident that you are not alone...it's collective insantiy.
But I do know at least this much. Christianity is more than the opinions of the fathers, it's more than the decrees of the Oecumenical Synods, it's more than the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition; it transcends all of these things. Christianity is manifested in the Divine Person of Christ who is more than a Man, who is more than the Incarnation, who is more than what he is revealed to be in the Gospels. Christ is the Divine Logos; He is the Word, He is the Reason of the One, the Reason of He that is before the Universe was, the Reason of the Source of all things...a Reason that by neessity and without choice flows forth from these things.
That there is this reason to the Universe, that there is this reason to all things seems to be manifested in the Universe itself. Why does 1 and 1 always seem to make 2? Why do positive EM forces always attract negative EM forces? Why does gravity always seem to always seem to be an attractive and never a repulsive force? Why are chemical bonds so predictable? There is no reason that can be derived from pure logic for these consistencies, yet these consistencies exist. There is a consistency to the universe...there is a logic, a Reason, to the universe. This Consistency is, in and of itself, the essence of Divinity, it allowed for the development of the planets, for the evolution of life, for the development of the human brain, for the advancement of human knowledge from a single spark, from the big bang. From this singular event this Reason allowed the development of everything we can see around us. This Divine Reason seems to me to be even more obvious than the One itself, than the very originator and source of the universe.
Is this Reason worthy of recognition? I certainly believe so, all our understanding of the world would not exist without it. Do our rituals and customs do it justice? Probably not. But though we can never do it justice at least it is recognized in the Christian faith, the Moslems and the Jews only give worship to the One and subjugate the Divine Reason to it, but of what use is the existence of the Universe without the Reason, without the Consistency, behind it? Without this we could never have evolved, without this we would not exist.
Now as to how this consistency, as to how this Divine Reason, relates to the human person of Christ (for those still reading, no, I am not implying Nestorianism, I am simply discussing the human life and aspect of the Divine Person of Christ), I am in no position to argue, I truly do not know. I will confess that there are times when I am unable to pray to Christ...though one blessing I enjoy is that I can always seem to be able to pray to the Theotokos, to the Mother of God, even when I can not bring myself to pray to God himself (I guess that brings a whole new meaning to the prayer 'Most Holy Theotokos, save us'). But the one Faith that recognizes and honours this Divine Reason gives homage to Him as the human manifestation of the same.
Because of this I would argue that you do have a connection with those who have this faith (though perhaps not with those who 'claim' to have it). Every time you speak of a chemical bond you share this faith, every time you speak of a genetic mutaton you share this faith, every time you have a common understanding of a scientific principle with another person you share this faith; for you both believe in consistency, you both believe in the Divine Reason, in the Divine Logos, though some are unwilling or unable to articulate it as such...but they are not to blame for this, I'm sure we can both appreciate why the foreign customs and ancient rituals can do as much to diminish as proclaim this truth. Do now withdraw yourself from these people, try to appreciate their reasoning and logic for what it is, their Science is an exploration of consistency, of the Divine -- their existence in an intelligent form which evolved over the ages is a manifestation of the Divine.
Now if only I could follow my own advice.
(As for Seraphim Rose, I wouldn't bother myself with him if I were you, not only has he never even been glorified by the Church, he died in a state of Schism against her. Most (all?) of the fathers were wrong on at least a few things, Seraphim Rose probably on more than most. His personal opinions were just that, nothing more, they have not been adopted by synods, they have not been proclaimed to be dogma of the Church. Let him be and spend your time on more productive things.)
I'm just going to echo what some others have said here...
My own belief about the commandment to honor one's father and mother, I take NOT to mean "obey" (obeying does not always honor them), and I take not to mean "allow them to walk all over you and psychologically damage your family and allow their spouses to do something terrible to your children." I take the commandment to mean honor them by your actions. In other words, do them honor by being the best child of God that you can, by loving them (but not being their victim), and by praying for them.
I'm reminded of a story that Kyriacos C. Markides tells in his book The Mountain of Silence (a fabulous read, by the way). I'm going to attempt to paraphrase, as the book itself is packed away in a box somewhere. Please, anyone feel free to correct me if I am telling the story incorrectly.
There was a monk whose spiritual father was terribly abusive of him, though he was a pious man, righteous, humble, who loved God (substitute your mil and step-fil here for spiritual father). The spiritual father was verbally, emotionally abusive of the monk for years. Once, when a fellow monk asked him how things were going with his spiritual father, the monk implied that the spiritual father was abusive and difficult. At that very moment, as a consequence of speaking ill of his spiritual father, he felt the grace of God leave him. Then, when the spiritual father passed away, the monk had dreams in which he had visions of his spiritual father suffering greatly as a result of his actions. The monk felt terrible, not wanting his spiritual father to be condemned, for even though his spiritual father was difficult and abusive, he loved him enough to not want him to suffer in hell. So he began to pray for his soul. He prayed for years, and in his dreams, the more he prayed, the more his visions changed and he saw his spiritual father moving closer and closer to heaven. Finally, he prayed so fervently for the soul of his spiritual father that he did see him reach paradise.
I tell you this story to illustrate a couple of points. First, I tell you NOT to illustrate that you should just take their abuse no matter what. Turning the other cheek is one thing, subjecting your children to harm is another. It would be different if the children were not part of the equation. Then maybe you could try to reach out to her and help her. But your FIRST obligation is as a mother, not a daughter (IMHO-- although most psychologists would agree with me, I think), and as a mother you MUST protect your children. There's no question in my mind that you cannot subject your children to her abuse, and you certainly cannot subject them to her husband (the sexual predator).
Rather, I tell you this story to illustrate that the way to honor them (again, IMHO), is to love them (but not necessarily like them), and to pray for them. I do believe that we have an obligation to love and pray for those who abuse and revile us. Christ Himself tells us that. And I do believe that we have to strive, no matter how bad the abuse, to not compound our own sin by hating the abuser, and by not praying for them. That is our sin, and is on our shoulders. The story illustrates the power of prayer, which seems to be what she needs most. Feel sorry for her, for the situation she has put herself in, her seeming inability to cope with reality, and her refusal to change her situation. Just feel sorry and love her and pray for her. But don't subject your children to her.
I am a fervent fan of professional counseling, as well as pastoral counseling from one's spiritual father. I would say it doesn't seem that she is willing or ready to participate in something like that, but maybe by God's grace, through your prayers, she will be eventually. In the meantime, I would DEFINITELY limit contact with her, if you allow any at all.
My belief is this: You honor your parents by protecting your children. You honor them by showing love and praying for those who curse you and abuse you. Personally, I would say that you would NOT honor them by allowing them to continue to abuse you, as it is an unhealthy situation that does nothing but perpetuate sin and hurt on the part of all parties involved.
I pray that what I have said helps you, and that you will forgive me if I have compounded your hurt with my words. Please know that I am not judging you at all, just trying to help, and know that you and your family are in my prayers. I have a friend who is special needs, and I have been her only consistent friend since we were in first grade, the others have abandoned her. I know how difficult it can be as a friend, I can't imagine how difficult it must be as a parent, and I'm sure it has compounded the situation for both you and your husband exponentially. Again, you are all in my prayers.
Pray for me a sinner,
Something that helped me in converting to Orthodoxy from Catholicism was to apply my reasoning as a Roman Catholic regarding the oneness of the Holy Eucharist to the oneness of the local Churches. Just as it is possible for there to be one Eucharist fully present and received in many different churches and yet remain one, it is possible for there to be one Church fully present and operative in many local Churches and yet remain one. And just as it would be heretical in either Orthodoxy or Catholicism to affirm that there is one Eucharist that is ontologically greater than other Eucharists, it is heretical in Orthodoxy for one local Church/Bishop to be ontologically greater than the others. In short, just apply your present understanding of the Holy Eucharist's unity-in-multiplicity to the Church and you've got Orthodox ecclesiology. I hope this helps you. 5
It seems like you are seeking an easy way out of your difficulty, and that's naturally to be expected. Most of us have that mentality when we find ourselves bearing the harsh heat of one difficulty or another. Just remember, however, as was the case with the three young youth, that it was in the very midst of the flames that the Son of God was to be found. He was their balm, their comfort, their hope and their strength. I bet if we did an interview with the three youth today and asked them whether in hindsight they would've preferred to have been saved from the furnace by some miraculous intervention or whether they would've gone through the furnace again to meet the Son of God, that they would opt for the latter.
Who or what are you seeking, Unique? Are you seeking the Physician, or are you just seeking the cure? Are you seeking the Worker of miracles, or are you just seeking the miracle? Maybe God does not will for you to be released from the flames because He wants you to seek Him amidst them, for it is there that He is to be found.
Yes, the Church is blessed with many living saints who are by all means capable, by virtue of their favour before God, of healing you. You mentioned Abouna Fanous in another thread, and it cannot be denied that he has done some amazing things with many people. You mention the late Pope Kyrillos VI in this thread, and again it cannot be denied that even after his departure his intercessions work wonders. I would in no way discourage you from seeking the Saints and their assistance in this matter, but if your heart and mind are in such a condition that your concern is really just for a quick and easy fix to your problem, you may be setting yourself up to be disappointed. The Saints are not magicians, they are servants of God; they work wonders to bring salvation to others and glory to His Holy Name. It may very well be that your condition, spiritual and otherwise, is such that such a result would not be effected by some quick healing at the touch of a Saint's hand.
Ultimately, the will of God prevails. It is no accident that you suffer; there is, as i'm sure you've heard a number of times, a reason for it; have you ever stopped to discern what that reason may be? Have you ever focused on making an effort to fulfill the purpose for which it may be that you are suffering? These are questions that should be the priority of your considerations at the moment, and they're questions that should be raised and answered within the context of a long and sincere discussion with your spiritual adviser. Also consider that we are in the midst of the Great Lent; don't spare this opportunity to make the most of your situation. Cling to the Church, especially in this season, and I promise your spirit will be refreshed, your focus re-aligned, and you will acquire a new and divine perspective on all that you are going through.
From tonight's Vespers reading:
Psalms 27:14, 13
14 Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!.
13 I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Alleluia.
22 Then He said to His disciples, Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. 23 Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? 25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? 29 And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
Glory is due to our God unto the age of all ages. Amen
I make take some slack for saying this, but my impression of Metropolitan Kallistos is that he places too much emphasis on the distinction between dogma and theologoumena. In other writings, he has hinted that the only things we are strictly obligated to accept are the dogmatic definitions. While this may sit well in ecumenism, I don't believe it is a fully accurate presentation of the Orthodox Faith. While non-dogmatic teachings are in the realm of theologoumena, all theologoumena aren't equal. Those theological opinions that we are taught in an ordinary fashion that have been affirmed at all times and all places by the faithful, are as much of an obligation for us to believe as are dogmatic definitions. In fact, dogmas come from this body of universally accepted theologoumena and are meant to be defenses of them. 7
The Immaculate Conception of the Theotokos fails to be a teaching held by the faithful of all times and all places, as it began in the West in the 12th century and enjoyed a long period of divided loyalty in the West and even gained some adherents in Orthodoxy. However, that doesn't change the fact that this teaching is new and innovative and is not and cannot become an Orthodox belief. At best, it is a speculative, theological opinion, which has much to disprove it and little to support it. While you cannot be called a heretic for holding to it as an opinion, you may become a heretic once you try to defend it, as it isn't based on sound Orthodox principles.
Just because evangelicals, whether Orthodox converts or still protestant come equipped with a ready made vocabulary of personal faith and piety doesn't mean they really are.8
What I noticed right away when I began the journey to Orthdoxy is that Orthdodox people don't have the vocabulary of personal faith that evangelicals do. By this I mean the evangelical talk of a "personal" relationship with Jesus; "quiet time," "God told me" (aside: when I hear this I usually want to run for the nearest door) "the Lord led me" "commitment" "giving one's life to Christ" "sharing" "God spoke to me through scripture" (the apex of sola scriptura).
Anyway, evangelicals carry this vocabulary of personalized religion into Orthodoxy; they quickly learn the new lingo and can answer all the protestant objections to Orthodoxy. The really smart ones might remember alot of quotes from the Fathers or what the various canons say. And every one thinks they are pious and better Orthodox Christians.
Life-long Orthdox will be more reticent. They may talk of a rule of prayer, but won't easily volunteer (so as not to brag) about their own rule of prayer; they will talk more of the liturgy; if they brag, it won't be about themselves but about an uncle or their mother or the priest they grew up under. But you can bet, they absorbed alot from them and likely practice it themselves. Like some Roman Catholics, they might not have scruples about saying a few cuss words or having a drink.
So evangelical converts wrongly conclude they are not pious or are ignorant. Meanwhile. the elderly of these "ignorant" people, with great pain and effort, make their aching prostrations during lent. In fact it might take them the whole sequence of every one else's three prostrations just to get their old arthritic bodies to do one. Just getting up the stairs into the church is their greatest prostration that they do (at least I beleive
God sees it as such).
Then again there are humble and sincere converts as well as cradles that take it all for granted and for whom Orthodoxy is more of a nationality thing.
Fortunately, I don't know people that are like the latter description. As someone already said, it is really an individual thing. person by person.
But it is better not to judge at all and remember the Lenten prayer we say about not judging my brother's sin.
Because really, we don't know the other person's starting point. Someone else's sporadic attendance at liturgy but involvement in all the ethnic food activities may be much further along in his/her journey than I am. In the end, each of us can only judge oneself. And pray.
By virture of our human reasoning, considering the information we have available to us and how we intrepret it, we certainly are not at fault in believing that we have found the one, actual true Church; because what we believe about Christian history leads us to accept that; even though others with read the same or similar literature and come to a different conclusion. And no, I don't believe we can know for sure, no matter what Church we convert to. But that's faith, isn't it? It's not about "knowing", but coming to a place where we rely on something that is far beyond the workings of our intellect. Once we have accepted our own decisions as reasonable and honest, the Orthodox Church (or whatever church we convert to) is the means we have at our disposal to have a relationship with God. But to "know" is for God, we flaw beings simply do the best we can with the information we have. 9
Well, that might be your decision, it certainly wouldn't be mine. I would not stop searching for the Truth, simply because I thought I might never find it. And I had many reasons to convert from my previous religion position. My quest led me to the point where I had to make a choice between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Others, I know, chose Catholicism and their reasons weren't any less intelligent (or spiritual) than my own for choosing Orthodoxy. I certainly don't think "the devil made them do it".
But I'm happy to accept that what I believe is part of my quest for the Truth; if it's not the total Truth, it certainly will suffice for this life. But what I believe about Truth is irrelevant in regard to my tolerance of others who are just as convinced as I am that they have found Truth, too.
Back to our question (which is one of most disputable anyway), I obviously wasn't dealing with entire (and enormous) range of Protestant movements. I was thinking just of the risks concerning the idea of Sola Scriptura. I know there are many Protestant churches who regard the Church Fathers if not as "authoritative", at least like a model of how the first Christians understood faith and read the Bible. But we can't deny that fundamentalists (or "bible believers", as they sometimes call themselves) have risen introducing many errors in their doctrines as they read the Bible as the only one necessary for truth and even stated that the entire Church apostatized after the Apostolic Age. It's not a case, I think, that many sects like Jehowah's Witnesses and Unitarians formed within the protestant wing of Christianity (although it's an act of injustice and blasphemy to consider them as Protestants or Christians, anyway). I repeat, there are many Protestant movements which I hold in high esteem (here in Bergamo - Italy, the Valdese-Methodist Church can serve as a clear example). But when we define ourselves as Orthodox we recognize that both Bible and Church Fathers (including the Ecumenical Councils) belong to the same Holy Tradition - and this Tradition is our only source of faith. While Roman Catholics feel that Bible and Tradition are two different "sources", and Protestants either reject Tradition at all (fundamentalists) or use it to see how someone read the Bible (the position of many other movements, maybe the majority). But I think the way is to mediate between the two positions. Anglicans, for example, try to reconcile Bible and Tradition by the use of Reason. Often that's not enough, though, but that's10
of course a better solution.
As I think my words have been often misunderstood on this Forum (maybe 'cause I'm Italian and my English isn't perfect... I use the words I know to express my opinions as I can), I'll try to clarify my ideas. I don't want to be accused for my beliefs!
The Orthodox Church should not define nor condemn ANY creationist or evolutionist position. The Orthodox Church should take no official position with regard to those things whose nature we'll discover only on Judgment Day. On that occasion, if I were wrong, then you could say "We were right" and I'll accept my error. What's really important is not to reject the CORE of our faith... and this core says we are all God's creatures in his Image; that we're not just animals; that we live in a decaying world; that we all need personally and collectively that one God who became our Saviour and died for our sake and for our salvation 2000 years ago on the altar of the Cross.
The Orthodox Church has survived for two millennia with no necessity to solve this question. Many positions have been taken by individuals and movements within Orthodoxy but the Church is still One, because this questions are to be left unsolved. Yet I still believe in a historical truth of those characters Genesis refers to, and their lives. Most Orthodox did the same for 2000 years, but now it seems that being "creationist" or "traditionalist" has become a heresy... Freedom of thought on this specific questions implies that you should be left the right to doubt and establish by your own but not to impose the belief of the "majority". That's not what Orthodoxy was afraid of in the past... Compromise with the "world" was not the way the Church tried to form her beliefs.
I want to be free to profess my belief as I want you to be free, too. This same conversation is the proof that we're all Orthodox but still personal opinions are allowed.
The law was complete we just weren't mature enough to understand it. I'll give you an analogy. When you were a young child if you did something wrong or that could cause you harm your parents would correct you. When you asked them why almost invariably what was the answer? "Because I told you so." They would say that because you weren't mature enough to understand the reasons, all that was important was that they kept you from harm.11
The Old Covenant was very similar. All of the law was in place for one reason, to lead us to love and communion with God. But as we humans weren't mature enough to fully understand the purpose of the law there were penalties in place to discourage us from breaking the law. They were there to protect us and for the most part the explanation was simply because God told us so.
With the Incarnation God became one of us so He could talk to us on our level, face to face. He did this so He could explain in terms we could understand the reason for the law. With the New Covenant the law wasn't abolished but rather it was fulfilled because now in Christ we know the purpose of the law.
I think the intellectual input and stimulation, as well as the realization that they're actually DOING something with their faith outside of church services provides a thrill that they weren't getting with just "spectator sport" Orthodoxy/Catholicism, where the priest/choir/chanters sang the Divine Liturgy/said Mass and they went through the motions without any purposeful explanation and education of what was going on.12
When you take the stated doctrine of having all your sins completely and permanently wiped out, forever, of never having to deal with any kind of ascetic effort in order to arrive at purification and sanctification, and are "free" to rejoice in a perceived spiritual perfection that God has granted you apart from any obedience you may or may not have actually walked in -- well, as virtual and artificial as it may sound when I put it that way, it does make for a VERY grateful reaction on the part of the believer. "He who has been forgiven much, loves much," and all that. The Evangelical perceives that his sins have been declared null and void through the legal transaction of the blood of Christ before the Father, and so they are free simply to rejoice in an already finished righteousness, an already guaranteed place in heaven. Couple this grateful state with AGRESSIVE memorization of proof-texts that seem to bolster this teaching, and you have the added rush of thinking that God's biblical stamp of approval supports the idea, adding confidence to enthusiastic gratitude.
It is difficult, then, to put Orthodoxy next to that and say, "Christ has died and risen again; through baptism we are brought into His Kingdom so that we would have the POTENTIAL of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, making every effort to enter into the rest He prepared for us through His Passion and Resurrection. The enemy, however, still prowls around as the wolf of souls, seeking to make us his prey, so we must be ever mindful of sinful habits that remain in our lives, as they could be occasion for the enemy to gain a foothold. Our life in Christ consists of constant vigilance, constant repentance, constant participation in the sacramental life of the Church, and constant sorrow and (should God grant) true tears of repentance over our state as 'chief of sinners' so that we might gain times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord which is the comfort for those who have mourned."
Evangelicals will say that this gospel has been tried and found wanting, pointing to the Orthodox hierarchs' and clergy's moral failure, as well as the laity's laxity and lack of fervor in studying about and participating in their faith outside of services. I would say that the faith is not so much tried and found wanting as it has been found difficult and left untried. This is not so much an excuse as it is an explanation. What is needed? A culture shift, I think. Increased emphasis on personal sin and the need for repentance, forgiveness and grace. Priorities on parish education regarding biblical, patristic support for Orthodox positions. Clear opportunities to LIVE the gospel (service projects like the ones above, for example). Fellowship and increased accountability among the faithful, pushing each other on to greater piety and holiness of life, seeking out ways to rid ourselves of sin and live to Christ. I say that, if these things are considered solely Evangelical territory, we as Orthodox have sold our birthright, so to speak, and Evangelicals' coming in and gaining the souls the Church has neglected should come as no surprise.
Here is what I think is the problem with this.13
The argument for a Chinese Theotokos Icon is cultural and has a whiff of political correctness to it. No big deal. However, the objection is Theological and rather serious.
There are two types of religion and since the Buddha was mentioned I will use some Buddhist terms to explain this. One type of religion is "Ji " or "Ji-Kempon" (Sorry, I have to use Japanese Buddhist terms since that is what I was trained in) It means.. ACTUAL.. or Actual Manifestation. Orthodoxy is a Ji type of religion. The Eucharist is ACTUALLY the blood and body of the Christ. We are to be actually (Really) raised in our own bodies at the end of time. Our pratice it Theosis, we are literally transformed to a closer likeness of Christ. Jesus himself is God, not a fine Rabbi or just a some sort of half measure. He is fully God......ect. ect. Got it?
The other type of religion is "Ri" or Ri-Kemon, Manifestation ...IN PRINCIPLE... The way forward in this type of religion is you shoot for a bundle of admirable Principles. Each person, on the inside, is like God and by following these Principles (Christian Principles in this case) you reveal and bring out this inner way of being. All people have this internal seed or divine spark and only need to practice these Principles to make spiritual progress.
So why not have a Chinese Theotokos or a Black Jesus? It is the Principle which all people can access, that is what is operative. But this is not Orthodox Christianity. In Orthodoxy, the Truth of the Theotokos is not representative. It is her in actuality, the factual Jewish Woman who really carried God in her womb. The Truth is Jesus himself and his teachings (His "Dharma") are inseparable from his actual being and his actual life. It is not symbolic and cant be honestly transferred into a misrepresentation.
Furthermore, the Dao is not the Christ any more than the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni is the Christ just by another name. Those things are LIKE the Christ in many interesting ways. It proves that spiritually minded people of past ages with no knowledge of Christ or Judaism could discern some things that are correct about the Universe and how it operates. That is a fine thing but does not mean the Dao or the Eternal Buddha is in actuality Jesus Christ who really lived, really died and was really reserected in a really existing place and time.
I am ready to admitt that I may have been wrong about the essence energies distinction. I am willing to admitt that it is patristcally supported and can be an orthodox expression of the faith when properly understood. 14
If you notice, yesterday I started a thread asking questions about the EED. I meditated on the matter all day yesterday. I now believe that the doctrine of Divine simplicity and EED are compatible and express the same truth.
I appologize for being so vitriolic in my opposition to the dogma and beg your forgiveness in this matter. I realize that I can be exteremely intellectually prideful and often set in my ways.
I think that both the theological expression, EED and Divine simplicity have their limitations, but I think that they also provide a good balance in our understanding of God.
with a repentant heart,
Why is it hard to believe in these beings for you?
I'm not sure how to explain it exactly. I've never really had spiritual experiences. Religion has largely been an intellectual pursuit for me, with bodily discipline (fasting, etc.) thrown in because I know it is beneficial. But actual experiences I am short on. I think I've had one in my life, and that wasn't anything lofty or great, it was just the feeling that there was something other around. Even my belief in God is largely intellectual, which is one reason that I was probably prone to fall into disbelief. I'm not sure what to say beyond that. I just have a hard time believing in these invisible beings flying around, planting thoughts in my head or trying to get me react a certain way. I mean, I believe on a purely intellectual level that there is such a being as the devil, but in practice in my daily life I have a hard time accepting all the extra doctrines and practices having to do with the demons.
I know how you feel. I admit, I'm the same way, which is why I have a tendency to attack whatever contemporary miracles people talk about, some that are so far-fetched. I remember Steve Harvey making a joke about people's "testimonies:"
"Lord, I bought something from a store...and Lord, I didn't like the dress, and Lord Jesus, thank you, I had the receipt, and Lord, Jesus I was able to return the dress with full refund, praise the Lord, Alleluia!"
To which Steve answered, "That ain't no miracle; that's a store policy!"
That's how I feel when I here some of the bizarre testimonies of fellow Christians on what they experienced, from things that are coincidences to bizarre Narnia-like experiences.
To answer your question though, I notice a difference between when I pray a lot to times when I don't pray. I get a sense of peace and comfort in prayer, and I am able to combat my weaknesses better. Truly, experience does help in my belief, that faith is something to be experienced. I've never met an angel or a demon, not even a saint (except maybe my grandfather in my dreams), but I feel weaker spiritually without prayer. I try to think that I'm consubstantial with them, since we are two natures in one, angelic and animalistic, which helps a little, i.e. that part of me is what I see around me and part of me is the intellectual self-awareness, something that cannot be seen, which what angels and demons are.
But I don't believe that everything that I am tempted with come from demons. Could be a tendency of my own, a thorn in my flesh that I must battle, like the tendency to intellectualize things. But I'm sure God Who understands your and my weaknesses in this issue would be more than happy if you and I continue to pray and live a life of repentance even when having trouble believing in the angels that help us and the demons that cause strife, dare I say the former (prayer and repentance) more important than the latter (belief in angels and demons).
I think Cleopas answered this at great length and in admirable detail earlier in the thread.
It is some while since I read the epistles of Ignatius, but I recall the feeling that with him, and with Clement of Rome, I was breathing a different atmosphere from the pages of the New Testament.
I don't know how widespread was the belief of Ignatius concerning the 'medicine of immortality', as so few writings have been preserved from those early days. Maybe he was unusual, maybe he was representative. So I can't go so far as to say that "from Christ himself onward the Eucharist has been known to be His literal body and blood." Let us rather agree that from Ignatius onward at least some believed this to be the case. Beyond that I don't think we can actually know: it becomes a matter of faith, or if you like of interpretation, of thinking about what Jesus and Paul actually meant when they spoke and wrote: even, one might say, of Tradition.
I have written a little book on the Lord's Supper. I dare say that if you read it, you would agree with all it says; only, if you also wrote a book about it, you would want to add more.
Thank you for your kind reply. It has opened my eyes to something I'm not sure that I saw before, though now that I think about it, I remember Cleopas posting with sort of the same sentiment.
I see in your posts (and Cleopas') a doubt about the beliefs of the early church. There seems to be some doubt in your mind (and his) as to what the early church believed, and whether the fathers (whose teachings we obviously hold to) were in fact correct in their writing. Having been raised in Orthodoxy and been schooled at Hellenic College Holy Cross (the Greek Orthodox seminary in Massachusetts), there has been little doubt in my mind as to the beliefs of the early church and the continuity thereof via the teachings of the saints, the ecumenical councils, the apostolic succession of the Orthodox church, etc. All of these things, which we hold to, are proof for me, that the teachings are correct and, more importantly, that they are imperative to our salvation. And every time I have a question or a doubt, there has ALWAYS been an answer from someone far more learned and Godly than me--- a saint. I am blessed to be married to someone who always knows where to direct me in my search for answers. But it has always been extremely vital to my faith that my faith is not based in my conscience, that I do not make doctrinal decisions based on what I think sounds correct, or what feels right, or where I think my prayers will lead me-- as I think it can be agreed upon that the evil one listens and responds to our prayers too and can lead us disguised as an angel of light. Rather, I turn to the continuity of the faith, the continuity of teachings, where I know the Holy Spirit has preserved the faith and will guide me to the answer.
My point is that where I find answers in the teachings of the fathers and accept them (even though I don't understand them), it seems that you (and Cleopas) doubt whether the very people who were there at the beginning even got it right! Yet you cite Wesley all the time, someone who lived hundreds of years after the apostles and the students of the apostles and the students of the students of the apostles... Other Protestants cite Calvin as Gospel truth, or Zwingli, or Luther, etc. Why rely on these people rather than those closest to the source? Why rely on the ones who (and maybe we disagree here, but it is hard for me to understand where the disagreement is, when you yourself said that the first writings doubting real presence were in the 10th century) obviously CHANGED what was known to be believed? Is it simply because that is what your conscience tells you? And what makes your conscience (or mine, or anyone living today) better and more knowledgeable than Ignatius (to name one) who himself was a disciple of John (and possibly Peter)?
Forgive the crude analogy, but I was a criminal science major for a short time and am a criminal law junkie... I think of it as hearsay. In a court of law in the U.S., Ignatius could be put on the witness stand to say, "I am a disciple of the Apostle John. He told me that the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ." But if Wesley, Calvin, etc. were to attempt to testify to their understandings of what John said, the court would not allow it, because they did not hear it directly. Like the court, I am far more inclined to trust a credible primary source (as opposed to not credible-- like the Gnostic gospels), rather than one so far removed. This is my (albeit poor) attempt at an analogy for the importance of primary sources, and keeping those sources in their context. Although context itself can be an entirely different discussion, as "context" in the Orthodox church is kept through "Tradition."
I don't mean to turn this into a conversation about Tradition, but I do think it is part of the discussion (you hit the nail on the head when you said that). I guess I'm giving my reasons for putting my trust in the primary sources, and questioning (sincerely, again, not aggressively or judgmentally) why you put your trust in sources so far removed. So for me, even if we agree that it is "from Ignatius onward" (although I don't agree, I think there is just too much biblical evidence that agrees with the real presence), "from Ignatius onward" is far more trustworthy than "from the 10th century."
I would also argue that Ignatius' writings ARE representative of the common belief. Irenaeus of Lyons also writes of the Eucharist being the very body and blood of Christ in his Against Heresies. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna. Polycarp of Smyrna was a disciple of the Apostle John. Considering that John was young during Christ's ministry, I would say that the jump from John to Irenaeus is also NOT a long one. Is it a coincidence that these two writers were both disciples of John and both learned of the Eucharist as being Christ's body and blood? I don't think so, personally. Is it a coincidence that not one, but two (and I'm sure there are more, but I'm focusing just on these two for tonight) writers from the VERY early church had the SAME belief about the Eucharist and THAT belief was the one that prevailed? If this were not the representative belief, surely the church, in her conciliar nature (which is seen from Acts onward) would have struck it down? But would the church have struck down the very teaching of John and Peter? I would say no. And if that is what John taught, then whether I understand it or not, it's good enough for me--in fact, who am I to doubt what John taught? Further, considering that the Gospels were originally transmitted as oral gospels, is it not likely that Ignatius, being one of John's disciples, was one of the transmitters of John's gospel? Why, then, would we separate John's gospel from one of the transmitters who led to its being written down, who led to Wesley and Calvin and us reading it? Why would we TRUST that Ignatius and the other Christians who transmitted it orally got it correct, but DOUBT that those same people got THE MEANING OF THE GOSPEL correct? Wouldn't that call into question the very trustworthiness of the Bible itself? Pair these things with the (IMHO) overwhelming Biblical evidence (the words of both Christ and the Apostle), and I'm certainly convinced.
I would also say that the assertion that the only difference in our belief is in the "mechanism" is incorrect. I'm going to definitely have to do some research on this, and I'm hoping in the meantime someone more learned in Orthodoxy than myself will fill in the gaps. For now I would say that this is a misunderstanding of Orthodox belief. It is MUCH more than just the "mechanism" that we disagree on. The very nature of the Eucharist itself is in question, not just how God gives us a blessing. For now, I'd like to post what St. John of Damascus said in An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. It is a lengthy quote, so please forgive me for that. But I just couldn't bear to cut his words. He says so beautifully what Ozgeorge, ialmisry, and I have been saying. While he may not directly answer the question of "what really hangs on it," he certainly demonstrates how we regard the Eucharist. Could such seriousness, gravity, sacredness, etc. as he demonstrates REALLY be attached to the Eucharist if it is NOT in fact the body and blood of Christ? I would say no, personally. And to the question of "what really hangs on it," my immediate response would be "I may not know the answer to that, but I'm 100% sure that God DOES know. Maybe He doesn't feel the need to share that with me, and maybe I'm not capable of understanding. But I'm okay with that. I trust Him." I will be searching for a more in depth answer from those more enlightened than I (the saints) tomorrow. But even without it, I've gotta say, I'm satisfied with not knowing and just having faith that, for some reason God thinks it's important enough to have been preserved and passed down as He originally instituted it. I'm gonna trust that. I'll post the quote from St. John of Damascus below.
Before I do, though, I'll say one last thing. Please don't think that we are somehow putting you down in saying that you would not be allowed to receive the Eucharist in the Orthodox church. For us, the chalice is not a symbol of communion with our brothers. Rather, communion is IN the chalice, and there can be no communion without common belief. Beyond that, though, please understand that it is as ozgeorge said, that it is precisely out of love that those who are not in communion with the church are not allowed to commune. It's not about who belongs to the club. St. John speaks pretty harshly in the quote that follows, but he speaks the truth in love. I don't believe that he is equating the nonOrthodox with dogs and swine. He is trying to emphasize the gravity receiving the sacrament unknowingly and undeservedly.
I look forward to more discussion, as I feel we are just beginning to scratch the surface!
Forgive me a sinner,
If then the Word of God is quick and energising(6), and the Lord did all that He willed(7); if He said, Let there be light and there was light, let there be a firmament and there was a firmament( 8 ); if the heavens were established by the Word of the Lord and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth(9); if the heaven and the earth, water and fire and air and the whole glory of these, and, in sooth, this most noble creature, man, were perfected by the Word of the Lord; if God the Word of His own will became man and the pure and undefiled blood of the holy and ever-virginal One made His flesh without the aid of seed(1), can He not then make the bread His body and the wine and water His blood? He said in the beginning, Let the earth bring forth grass(2), and even until this present day, when the rain comes it brings forth its proper fruits, urged on and strengthened by the divine command. God said, This is My body, and This is My blood, and this do ye in remembrance of Me. And so it is at His omnipotent command until He come: for it was in this sense that He said until He come: and the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit becomes through the invocation the rain to this new tillage(3). For just as God made all that He made by the energy of the Holy Spirit, so also now the energy of the Spirit performs those things that are supernatural and which it is not possible to comprehend unless by faith alone. How shall this be, said the holy Virgin, seeing I know not a man? And the archangel Gabriel answered her: The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee(4). And now you ask, how the bread became Christ's body and the wine and water Christ's blood. And I say unto thee, "The Holy Spirit is present and does those things which surpass reason and thought."
Further, bread and wine s are employed: for God knoweth man's infirmity: for in general man turns away discontentedly from what is not well-worn by custom: and so with His usual indulgence H e performs His supernatural works through familiar objects: and just as, in the case of baptism, since it is man's custom to wash himself with water and