I didn’t have time to listen to the whole thing, nor will I have the time to give a completely comprehensive evaluation, but I will make a few comments based on what I did hear. I do think Mr. White has a very clear and appealing manner of communication, and I certainly see how a person with Protestant convictions would think highly of him. That being said, I wanted to comment first on his remarks on the “seal of the Holy Spirit” and our salvation being a “guarantee”. As Mr. White quotes from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Eph 1:13,14).
Regarding this verse, Mr. White claims that the seal of the Holy Spirit is received through the act of “believing”, whereas “you were sealed with the Holy Spirit” actually refers to the fact that the Ephesians were baptized and received the laying on of hands by the Apostles (St. Paul specifically) or those to whom the Apostles appointed to perform this action. Initially, the “seal of the Holy Spirit” was given to a person through baptism and the laying on of the hands of the Apostles (Acts 8:17), the Apostles consecrated bishops through the laying on of hands to perform baptisms in their absence, and as successors to the Apostles, to lay hands on the newly baptized that they might receive the seal of the Holy Spirit. As the Church grew, and bishops could not practically be present at every baptism, bishops of local churches began to come together to consecrate holy chrism to be used by priests to anoint the newly baptized and thereby bestow the seal of the Holy Spirit. In the Orthodox Church today, it is the mystery (sacrament) of chrismation that bestows upon a person the seal of the Holy Spirit, and this mystery can only be performed by priests with the blessing of their bishop who is a successor of the Apostles. Without his bishop’s blessing, a priest cannot perform baptisms or chrismations. In the Orthodox baptismal service, the priest prays the following words after baptizing a person and before anointing them with holy chrism: Blessed are You, Lord God Almighty, Fountain of Blessings, Sun of Righteousness, Who made to shine forth for those in darkness a light of salvation through the manifestation of Your Only-Begotten Son and our God, granting unto us, though we are unworthy, blessed cleansing in Holy Water, and divine sanctification in the Life; effecting Anointing; Who now also has been well-pleased to regenerate this Your servant newly illuminated through Water and Spirit, giving him (her) forgiveness of his (her) voluntary and involuntary sins: do You Yourself, Sovereign Master, Compassionate King of All, bestow upon him (her) also the Seal of Your omnipotent and adorable Holy Spirit, and the Communion of the Holy Body and Most Precious Blood of Your Christ; keep him (her) in Your sanctification; confirm him (her) in the Orthodox Faith; deliver him (her) from the Evil One and all his devices; preserve his (her) soul, through Your saving fear, in purity and righteousness, that in every work and word, being acceptable before You, he (she) may become a child and heir of Your heavenly Kingdom.
For You are our God, the God of Mercy and Salvation, and to You do we send up Glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages.
And after the Prayer of Confirmation, the Priest chrismates the baptized and he makes on the person the Sign of the Cross with the Holy Chrism (Holy Myron), on the forehead, the eyes, the nostrils, the mouth, the ears, the breast, the hands, and the feet. At each anointing and sealing, he says:
THE SEAL OF THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AMEN.
You can read the entire service at:http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/baptism
You may also be interested in the following words about chrismation from St. Cyril of Jerusalem (4th century): http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.ii.xxv.html
(As a Protestant, you might be interested in St. Cyril's other lectures too, which show the continuity between the liturgy and sacraments in the 4th century and how they are celebrated by the Orthodox Church today, for instance http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.ii.xxvii.html
Mr. White is correct to say that we never lose this seal of the Holy Spirit, he is just wrong to say that it is received only by “believing” without reference to baptism and chrismation, and that the seal of the Holy Spirit is a “guarantee”. That the Orthodox Church agrees that the seal of the Holy Spirit can never be lost can be known from the fact that it is absolutely forbidden for a person to receive an Orthodox baptism more than once. In the Symbol of Faith (Nicene Creed) we “confess one baptism for the remission of sins.” The Greek word that is translated as “guarantee” in the Protestant translations (King James is perhaps a bit more accurate in referring to receiving the “earnest of the Spirit”) does refer to a deposit or down payment, as I think Mr. White acknowledges. A deposit, however, is not a “guarantee” of eternal salvation, but rather a promise that is dependent upon our subsequent faithfulness to Christ, as the Lord said “he who endures to the end will be saved (Matt 10:22).” If salvation was a guarantee, why would St. Paul say, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27).” From a Protestant perspective, is St. Paul saying that he can “lose his salvation”? In the Orthodox Church we do not talk about “losing our salvation” because we cannot lose that which has not been completed, and as long as we have breath we should be “working out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Christ through his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and the sending down of the Holy Spirit has granted salvation freely to the entire world, but we must individually receive His salvation through baptism and a life of repentance and faithfulness. For, we are indeed “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him
, that we may also be glorified together (Romans 8:17).” The promise of our salvation given to us through the seal of the Holy Spirit is therefore conditional and dependent upon our response, which is why the Scriptures say we will be judged according to our deeds (see my previous post).
As an aside, I was once at my in-laws’ home and they turned on a sermon by the noted Protestant televangelist Charles Stanley. I was very interested to see him read the verse which says, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:15)” only to immediately follow this by saying, “this isn’t about our salvation.” I was amazed. So, according to Mr. Stanley, you can be “saved” even though God will not forgive you? One cannot believe in eternal security without rejecting or severely twisting the Scriptures.
Again, regarding this audio from Mr. White, while I was not able to listen to all of it, but I did notice that in typical fashion he seemed to equate “works of the law” with human effort in general. When the New Testament refers to “the law”, something very specific is obviously being referred to. It is simply not the case that there is nothing we can do to save our souls. Such a concept is completely unscriptural and false (see verses from my previous post), though it is true that our human effort alone; without the help and grace of God, and without the suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and sending down by Christ of the Holy Spirit; also cannot save us.
Regarding your previous comment:
But in the end, we can never fully become perfect and there will always be things which keep us from entering Heaven. We can strive, but is that really enough? Can we really enter the Kindgom of God by just striving? I was always taught that one must be perfect to enter the Kingdom, and since no man is righteous or perfect, we depend on Christ's work on the cross as our entry into the kingdom.
We will not be judged for any sins committed prior to our Orthodox baptism, as our sins are completely washed away in baptism thanks to Christ’s suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and the sending down of His Holy Spirit. Regarding sins committed after baptism, in the Orthodox Church we have the mystery (Sacrament) of confession which we refer to as a renewal of our baptism and which also grants remission for the sins we confess and repent of. As the Lord said to the Apostles, “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18).” Through the laying on of hands, the Apostles gave this authority first to bishops, and bishops to priests. This authority to “bind and loose” is exercised primarily through the mystery of confession to “loose” a person who comes sincerely confessing their sins with a resolve to repent, or to “bind” a person who is unrepentant. This binding is usually exercised by prohibiting a person from receiving communion for a period of time, or requiring a person to spend some time in fasting and prayer to demonstrate that they are sincere in their desire to repent before being “loosed” through the prayer of absolution. If a person regularly, sincerely, and thoroughly confesses their sins, they may end their lives in such a state that there will be nothing to be held accountable for on the Day of Judgment. However, if a person goes to confession in a superficial way, without the resolve and subsequent effort to actually repent and turn from their sins, then it will be much more difficult for them on that Day. Our salvation is dependent not so much on achieving “perfection” (who can say they are perfect and sinless?), but on continuously striving to live blamelessly before God while constantly confessing, repenting, and weeping for our sins when we fail. Tears are a particularly important sign of repentance, and about those who mourn for their sins the Lord says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matt 5:4).” We never cease hoping in the mercy of God, while constantly striving with the help of God and with humility to be made worthy of the heavenly kingdom. If a person dies in a state of repentance but still has some unconfessed sins they are guilty of, they may be further purified through the suffering they experience in the body prior to the soul’s separation from the body at the time of death, and the soul may be further purified after its separation from the body and prior to the Great Judgment through the prayers that the Church offers on behalf of the reposed, by commemoration of the reposed in the Divine Liturgies, and through the suffering the soul may experience on account of pangs of conscience. I realize these last points regarding the soul after death is a separate and very large topic, and also is a teaching which is in great contrast to Protestant thought on the subject, but I wanted to mention this here because it is relevant.
If I have time to finish listening to Mr. White’s presentation, I may comment further at another time.