I think you are inventing rather than discovering this problem. It doesn't matter whether your impression is based on something?
As far as "I don't see this confidence in Orthodoxy. I see guilt, unworthiness and a burden that crushes people", may I ask what has led you to that conclusion? Is it from a local parish? Books you've been reading? Or from discussions on this board? I think it would help us (me) to know how you arrived at that conclusion.It doesn't matter what's led me to that conclusion, suffice to say that it's what i think.
Do you dispute that people feel that they are not worthy enough to participate in the Eucharist on many occasions and that feeling this way actually prevents them from receiving so much so that they only end up taking it as little as once a year?
Philippians 1:6Perhaps that is because you are looking at Orthodox Christianity from the outside rather than from the inside.
"..being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
I don't see this confidence in Orthodoxy. I see guilt, unworthiness and a burden that crushes people not a liberating freedom which causes people to rejoice in the work of the cross.
That exactly what a woman at work told me concerning Scientology, i wasn't about to open myself up to that without checking it out first either. Good job i didn't listen to her i'd say.
Confidence is indeed appropriate insofar as we are partakers of grace, as Paul says in rest of his sentence: "...even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart inasmuch as both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel ye are partakers of my grace" (Phil. 1: 7). Paul's confidence was not confidence in a vacuum; it is confidence "because..." and "inasmuch as..." There is no doubt that God will finish His work in those who continue to partake of His grace.
Therein lies the reason for our confidence.
If someone is not really made new, then they won't be doing the will of the Father in heaven. Their main concern is not going to be the Father's will, it's going to be socialising at church or fitting in with others maybe. For those whose main concern is wanting to follow Christ and to be made more Christ-like, they will take seriously feeding and clothing the needy, giving generously and treating people with love even when it hurts them to do so - prefering others to yourself.+1 -though I don't see this as something Orthodox don't practice.
That's where the rubber hits the road, when you have to lay your own goals and desires aside for the sake of another.
Neither do i.
Primuspilus, when we are so focused on ourselves and how we're doing, we can easily become self-obsessed. Feeling constantly unworthy causes depression and can also be quite debilitating.Despair, fear, lack of confidence in Christ's ability to complete His work etc. which you describe is unorthodox. This was certainly Luther's experience as a Roman Catholic monk, however Luther was reacting emotionally to the demands of a paradigm of merit which had developed in the medieval period which was not a part of the faith of the first Christian millennium (nor is it a part of Orthodoxy) or even the NT Judaizers who Paul opposed.http://katachriston.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/did-luther-get-it-wrong-most-major-contemporary-pauline-scholars-say-yes/ Luther's solution to his psychological distress of ever-failing to meet the demands of the medieval paradigm of attaining sufficient merit, rather than returning to the therapeutic model which was never fixated on merit, was to transfer it from the merit of works, storehouses of superabundant merit of the saints (these also being medieval developments) to Christ. This was the historical germ of a controversy which would develop within trajectories of Protestantism wrestling with the issue of "legalism vs. license," which is a never ending debate e.g. between Calvinists, Arminians, Lutherans, Dispensationalists etc. (and also re. the medieval Roman Catholic model) with the same characteristic twists; from an Orthodox perspective the whole manner in which the debate is framed in the West has the wrong focus, in part because it is focused on the question of what one can or cannot merit (guilt/merit), whereas the Orthodox therapeutic tradition places focus on our sins in order to heal them rather than to condemn (sickness/healing/transfiguration/theosis; Christ came to heal and transfigure us rather than to condemn).
It's not uncommon to find that the official line is very different from the experience of the average person living it.
Being focused on God however, and doing his will means we let go of that self-consciousness that can, in some people, cause them to feel like they will never be able to overcome their sin. The strength of sin is the law, the bible tells us and whenever we apply rules or "law" to a situation, we are bound (in more ways than one) to repeat the action - hence, strengthening sin.This again is the medieval paradigm of what the problem of the law was/is which was assumed in the argument between the Reformation and the Latin Catholic West, which model has been massively critiqued and abandoned among major contemporary scholars.
Part of our healing involves introspection/self-examination; to simply dispense with self-examination in your sense of "we let go of that self-consciousness" is unbiblical: "Examine yourselves... test yourselves" (2 Cor 13:5). It is not one's confession which is examined, but one's self. We also are conscious of ourselves when we confess our sins to be cleansed of all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9) which cleansing in many Protestant trajectories is viewed as transpiring at one Grand Moment in the past (not to deny that it begins, and has a past dimension, but cleansing of unrighteousness also has a continual dimension in scripture, as does Christ's ministry of intersession continue in the present -because it is something still needful for us).
There is a great difference between being overly conscious of ourselves, our sin and subsequent worth in relation to others and a healthy examination and private petition to God in full repentance.
Self examination has a *therapeutic* purpose in Orthodoxy rather than having a legal function. Orthodox soteriology and praxis is often described, in fact, as the classical/patristic "Therapeutic Model." The purpose of the Orthodox Church and her practices is *not* to condemn us, but to heal us. A praxis of penance under the guidance of one's spiritual father, for example, not to merit anything to balance out one's sin (as if God has some sort of celestial cash register he is checking for the proper balance), but -if/when it is deemed prudent- to suggest a manner of behavior which specifically is the opposite of the sin one may have a serious problem with (else penance might not be prescribed) -as an aid to developing better habits. We will not be as likely to genuinely grow and become transfigured if we refuse to examine ourselves honestly. But the purpose of such a process rightly understood should lead to healing, not despair. A spirit of fear is not from Christ.
Yes, you said as much earlier on.
God's way (as illustrated in the prodigal son account), is to allow a person to sin, to let them go and do what their desire is to do.Sometimes God's way is to say directly "...go, and sin no more" -John 8:11. But you may be tempted to react to such a passage as a counter-prooftext through the lens of Calvinist/Arminian/Dispensationalist style debates about perfectionism and the fear that not stressing the demands of holiness will open the door to license. Patristic theology moved beyond this issue as a problem in the third century when the perfectionism of the Novationists was deemed heretical while at the same time Christ's demands to pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord were also equally stressed. Not either/or, but both/and.
It's interesting that you should respond with John 8:11 and set up the very issue that Orthodoxy has apparently "moved beyond".
if our trust is completely in all that Christ has done..."Yes, but we also trust in what Christ is doing now; he is still interceding for us; he is still cleansing us from unrighteousness in the present tense (1 Jn 1:9). In Orthodoxy it is not just Christ's work in the past that is emphasized. That is why we continue to come before Christ in confession and are introspective about our sin. Not because we despair -to the contrary!- but because we live in the grace of Christ's present and continual work of intercession. Heb 7:25: "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come (προσερχομένους: Gk present/continual action participle) to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."
Yes absolutely. We should be confident in what He has done, is doing and promises to do -- you're quite right.
nothing whatsoever that we have accomplished within ourself through striving to be worthyThis much is absolutely correct insofar as we are saved by God alone. When the Spirit of God accomplishes something this however does not negate the involvement of the self (not as a Savior!), for example the fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Gal 5); our worthiness is wrought in God (Jn 3:19-21).
It doesn't negate our involvement, no.
This returns to my former question, how many of us will repent at all times? "Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect." Isn't that what it takes to be saved? How do you repent and obey 51% (or even 99%) of the time?God saves repentant sinners. He does not parse us mathematically, to ask "how much is repentant and how much is sinner?" It is not the one who fails a mathematical equation that will be lost, but the soul who refuses to repent is in danger of being lost. Not "fails to repent X amount of the time," but refuses to repent.
I'm not entirely sure i understand you here. Repentance isn't about specific sins per se
, i would say it's more about a general heart attitude of repentance that continually desires to follow Christ and demonstrates this desire through obedience and humility.
Heb 12:25: "See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?"
We are made perfect on a relational basis as we abide in the mercy of the Perfector, partake of His flesh and blood, find mercy through the prayers of intercession which are offered continually, and the intercessions offered by the Holy Spirit when we do not know how to pray which are beyond expression in human words:
Rom 8:26: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."
Christ Himself continues to intercede for us also, as we are told in Hebrews. This should make it plain that our forgiveness is not a "done deal" finished in a single Grand Moment of uttering the Sinners Prayer; if all the future sins were expiated a single instant in the past, what on earth would there be left to intercede for?
ORTHODOX PRAYER OF REPENTANCE
"O Lord our God, good and merciful, I acknowledge all my sins which I have committed every day of my life in thought, word and deed; in body and soul alike. I am heartily sorry that I have ever offended thee, and I sincerely repent; with tears I humbly pray the O Lord; of thy mercy forgive me of all my past transgressions and absolve me from them. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy Grace, to amend my way of life and to sin no more; that I may walk in the way of the righteous and offer praise and glory to the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen."
We need absolution "for all things wherein in word, or deed, or thought, and with all... senses, whether voluntary or involuntary; whether through knowledge or ignorance... may all those things which have proceeded from the weakness of mortal nature be consigned to oblivion, and be remitted..." (The Prayer of Absolution).
Hmm...flesh and blood
.... i think i'll leave that for another thread.
Now you might say, how can we admit we sin every day of our lives and resolve to sin no more?
No, not really.
Jaroslav Pelikan has remarked that most major heresies in Christian history emphasize one pole of a dialectical dogma. We are not big enough to look at the call to repent and "pursue ...holiness without which no man will see the Lord" (Heb 12:14) and the reality that there is no man who lives continually and never sins, and conclude we must only preach one side and pitch the other: EITHER human moral perfection as St. Cyril rebuked the heretic Novatus for doing, OR scrap the notion that we should take seriously the call to pursue holiness, or repent continually (repent in the NT is frequently in the Gk. continual present -not a Grand Moment, but a lifestyle of repentance is in view there), die to the self, etc. Like the mystery of the incarnation we Orthodox say yes to all of it -no half Gospel or truncated Gospel for us!- and we pray to live it until our last breath.
I think we might part company on the 'imputed righteousness' issue.
"Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved." —St. John Chrysostom
God saves repentant sinners "in Him" who abide in the Vine. That relational basis is dialectical: we come to Christ praying "Lord have mercy!" and "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" We are not lost because we cannot repent enough seconds of the day, but if we refuse to repent, and thus unto the ages of ages (cf. Heb 10:26ff.).
"What answer then will those make to this, who embrace the new tenets of Novatus, and say of themselves that they are pure? Whose prayer do they praise? That of the Pharisee, who acquitted himself, or that of the Publican, who accused himself? If they say that of the Pharisee, they resist the divine sentence; for he was condemned as being boastful: but if that of the Publican, why do they refuse to acknowledge their own impurity? Certainly God justifies those who know well their transgressions, and are willing to confess them: but these men will have the portion of the Pharisee. We then say, that in many things we "all of us offend," and that no man is pure from uncleanness, even though his life upon earth be but one day. Let us ask then of God mercy; which if we do, Christ will justify us: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen." -Cyril of Alexandria, Homilies on the Gospel of Luke, Sermon 120
"If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." -1 John 1:8
“Imitate the Publican and you will not be condemned with the Pharisee. Choose the meekness of Moses and you will find your heart which is a rock changed into a spring of water." -Sayings of the Desert Fathers
"...anybody who thinks he is something great, even before God, is rightly abandoned by God, as one who thinks that he does not need His help." -St. Gregory Palamas, Discourse on the Publican and the Pharisee
"When the foolish thought of counting up any of your good works enters into your head, immediately correct your fault and rather count up your sins, your continual and innumerable offenses against the All-Merciful and Righteous Master, and you will find that their number is as the sand of the sea, whilst your virtues in comparison with them are as nothing." - St. John of Kronstadt
"The Pharisee went up to the temple with a proud and empty heart; the Publican bowed himself in repentance. They both stood before you, O Master: the one, through boasting, lost his reward, But the other, with tears and sighs, won your blessing: Strengthen me, O Christ our God, as I weep in Your presence, since You are the lover of mankind!" -Lenten Triodion
Thanks for the patristic quotes. I've made note of them so i can look them up and read them in the context they were written