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Author Topic: Orthodoxy, Ecumenism and Arrogance - a subjective query  (Read 4364 times) Average Rating: 0
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Hrugnir
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« on: April 11, 2012, 10:20:09 PM »

Hey everyone!
I am a lurker here for about a year now, although with a few posts behind me...

Something has been bothering me for a while, and it hasn't quite come up in the topics I've read or the Ancient Faith Radio podcasts I've read. I do admit to not having read too many Orthodox books on this subject, but then again, I'm looking for a discussion and a multitude of living voices, not an "official stance", since I know Orthodoxy doesn't have one on most issues like this.

I'm a Christian, outside the visible Orthodox Church, but with strong sympathies for Orthodoxy, and a strong longing for an undivided Church. I currently find myself within the Lutheran tradition (Church of Sweden), although in a part of it influenced by both the Charismatic and Evangelical traditions. Just to give you an idea of my background. My own journey has involved both reassessing certain Protestant doctrines (Atonement, Salvation, Eschatology, etc...), and finding out that the first 1500 years of Church History were neither unimportant, impious, nor boring, as some would have it.

And there are many in my generation who are feeling the same restlessness in the rapidly changing world we live in. Modernist religion is dying, and Protestantism with it. Many are looking to the liturgical churches, and are coming to a deeper appreciation and love for the ancient churches.

However, when actually coming into contact with the Orthodox, many of the rosey-eyed illusions one might get from reading the best of the Church Fathers and theorizing about the ancient church, get crushed by angry Protestant converts who seem all too eager to throw away everything they knew and re-learn the Christian faith in a new culture, tone and language. In other words, Orthodox LARPers.

Alright, I tell myself. This does not necessarily represent Orthodoxy. After all, it's a big church, and converts do not represent the church best. But, when I continue looking around, converts seem to be the very people who are actually making contact with us Protestants, in many cases. Of course, this is a very subjective experience, but that's what this post is intended to be.

My point is this: The main issue that many of us from Protestant backgrounds find with the Orthodox faith is not the faith itself at all, but rather what we feel are arrogant attitudes towards other Christians.

I know that you have this doctrine that the Orthodox Church is "the One, True, Apostolic Church" that we've been confessing in the Creed all this time, and that you see yourselves as having the "fullness". I've seen it explained many times. What I am here asking for is not a simplistic answer explaining how the faith was "once delivered to the saints", but rather how you as Orthodox reconcile such exclusivistic claims with the realities and complexities that surround us.

For example, Charismatic Protestant churches are growing like wildfires in previously non-Christian territories such as China and Africa. Muslims in Africa and the Middle-East are to various degrees finding faith in Christ thanks to Protestant minitries, in countries with ancient Orthodox Christian populations.

The reason I am giving these examples is NOT to accuse Orthodoxy of thus being inferior or incorrect in doctrine. What I am asking is what you do with these facts. Do you see it as God using the broken state of Christianity as it exists now? Or do you see it as a mass delusion, leading people into a state where "it would have been better for [the people affected] not to have been born? Or a combination?

The answer I am expecting to get from this is: "Only God knows that, it is not our task to know", but I find that to be a cop-out. Everyone has a worldview, and whether or not you try to avoid formulating a clear stance on other Christians, your actions will reflect your view of the world around you, whether or not they are informed and conscious, or not.

So to sum this long and somewhat confusing post up a bit, I guess what I am looking for are some subjective answers from you all, to understand to what extent, and how, you view yourselves in light of Christianity as a whole.

And finally two more concrete questions:
1.How do you view world mission work carried out by other traditions of Christianity?
2. Do you see anything the Orthodox Churches worldwide and you individually could do better in terms of attitude and practice, that would help Christian unity?
3. Do you have any personal hope for future positive changes and reconciliation with Orthodoxy?

I hope I made some sense, and that it won't be seen as offensive or too crude. Feel free to only respond to one or two of the above things, or make a freer interpretation of what I was asking. It's not quite clear in my head, even Smiley

In love,
Peter
« Last Edit: April 11, 2012, 10:20:59 PM by Hrugnir » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2012, 08:43:26 AM »

Former Lutheran here (and my priest often wonders just how former).  We are told by the Lord that in the end times, it will be rare to find anyone with the correct Faith.  Early Church Fathers have said that in the end, those that simply confess Christ will be considered greater than all of them with their acetics and miracles.  So, given this, churches growing like wildfire do not impress me in the least.  The path to salvation is a narrow and hard path.  By its very nature there will be few people on it.  And, that means that there will not be many Orthodox on it either.  Your experiences with converts is not unique.  However, I also believe that there is less emphasis on instruction of converts than there was in the ancient days.  One once had to be a Catechumen for at least three years.  Now, it seems that we cannot wait to get their money in the plate fast enough.  So, to directly answer your questions:

1.  Preserve the True Faith as handed down by the Apostles.  We are always here if the Spirit moves someone to inquire.

2.  LIVE the Faith that we have been handed down.  You will know them by their fruits!  From what I have seen, if most Orthodox were put on trial for their faith, there would not be enough evidence to convict them.  So we first need to save ourselves before we try to save the rest of the world.  St. Seraphim of Sarov made a good point of this.

3.  No.  The only reconciliation that I see is that more and more Orhtodox (as with other Churches) will join with Antichrist.
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« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2012, 09:05:17 AM »

Yet another Scandinavian. Välkommen! Smiley

how you as Orthodox reconcile such exclusivistic claims with the realities and complexities that surround us.

God is "everywhere and fills all things". Non-Orthodox might be outside of the visible Church but that doesn't mean they can't have the grace of God or that God doesn't have mercy of them.

Quote
1.How do you view world mission work carried out by other traditions of Christianity?

What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
Phil 1:18

Quote
2. Do you see anything the Orthodox Churches worldwide and you individually could do better in terms of attitude and practice, that would help Christian unity?

Pray, Ecumenism and Missionary work. All the usual activies. As for myself, I'm trying to have polite discussion with non-Orthodox without explicit intent to convert anyone just in order to increase understanding between different faiths. Since I believe that Orthodoxy is the most reasonable and the best option of all faiths I don't have any actual need to pontificate about it. I hope that truth will prevail on it's own without me.

Quote
3. Do you have any personal hope for future positive changes and reconciliation with Orthodoxy?

Outside of OOs not anything on large scale.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 09:10:22 AM by Alpo » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2012, 09:43:48 AM »

Former Lutheran here (and my priest often wonders just how former).  We are told by the Lord that in the end times, it will be rare to find anyone with the correct Faith.  Early Church Fathers have said that in the end, those that simply confess Christ will be considered greater than all of them with their acetics and miracles.  So, given this, churches growing like wildfire do not impress me in the least.  The path to salvation is a narrow and hard path.  By its very nature there will be few people on it.  And, that means that there will not be many Orthodox on it either.  Your experiences with converts is not unique.  However, I also believe that there is less emphasis on instruction of converts than there was in the ancient days.  One once had to be a Catechumen for at least three years.  Now, it seems that we cannot wait to get their money in the plate fast enough.  So, to directly answer your questions:

1.  Preserve the True Faith as handed down by the Apostles.  We are always here if the Spirit moves someone to inquire.

2.  LIVE the Faith that we have been handed down.  You will know them by their fruits!  From what I have seen, if most Orthodox were put on trial for their faith, there would not be enough evidence to convict them.  So we first need to save ourselves before we try to save the rest of the world.  St. Seraphim of Sarov made a good point of this.

3.  No.  The only reconciliation that I see is that more and more Orhtodox (as with other Churches) will join with Antichrist.
Of course, in your hold back none-of-your-username style, I see that you would rather continue your tradition of condemning most of the Orthodox around you then actually give a good answer to the question posed to you. Roll Eyes So how do you measure up to your lofty standards? If you were put on trial for your faith, would there be enough evidence to convict you? (No need to give me an answer to this question)
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« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2012, 12:14:38 PM »

I have a somewhat unique perspective on your first question, as I was a protestant missionary who was specifically trained to convert Orthodox to Protestantism (Baptist to be specific). Ironically, I am getting Chrismated this Saturday evening (praise be to God!).

Quote
1.How do you view world mission work carried out by other traditions of Christianity?
Preaching Christ to the world is the mission of the Church, the Body of Christ. Namely, the Orthodox Church. We should praise God that Christ is being spread, but be ashamed and embarrassed that Orthodoxy is so outstripped by these folks as the Orthodox Church carries the fullness of the faith.

If Orthodoxy complains about Protestans converting folks in say, Zambia, but the Church's missionary efforts there are almost non-existant, can the Church really complain and have any legitimacy to its argument?

The problem is, many of these folks are from the United States, and evangelical protestants in many circles are taught that Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and others are NOT christians. Therefore, they view the Orthodox the same as they view Muslims or pagans in not exactly, but similar lights. They dont view it as prosetelyzing as these folks ( as I did at one time) as people deceived into a Jesus-themed paganism by the devil.

You're not going to convince these folks, outside of divine intervention, that we are not only Christians, but the original Church. It just wont happen.

Quote
2. Do you see anything the Orthodox Churches worldwide and you individually could do better in terms of attitude and practice, that would help Christian unity?
IMHO, we have some house-keeping to tend to. We have to heal some rifts within ourselves I think. Such as the OO/EO split, and doing away with this stupid spat between Istanbul and Moscow.

By dropping the egos and fixign these issues, the Church can really show a great example to the world, that not only do Christians beg for unity, but are able to put it into practice.

I'm not the biggest ecumenist in the world, but I think that we can work with others without comprimising beliefs the Church has held to. Now, how to do that in practice? heh, good question. I have no idea Smiley

Quote
3. Do you have any personal hope for future positive changes and reconciliation with Orthodoxy?
Reuniting with our Oriental bretheren, and getting rid of this stupid argument about the calendar (anyone got a can opener? Wink )


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« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2012, 01:46:44 PM »

1.Not sure... Deceiving?There are many "pagans" that have "Christ" , the light of Christ I mean .. The knowledge of God and the sentiment of "Christ".. True values and true morality .. The majority of the protestant world have a distorted Christ and a harming morality.. So I think that this sort of "evangelism" can cause these people more harm than good... Present a distorted Christ to those who may already "know" Christ at a mystical level.

2.Christian unity?Hmmm... Don`t know.. I have mixed feelings and am confused about Ecumenism.. And why reduce it just to Christian unity? ...

3.Yes a more "Judaizing" after the Torah, Orthodoxy.


What you might be perceiving as Orthodox arrogance towards Protestants might just be us being offended by them.. Because they are wolfs in sheep-cloathing.. Though I am not very fond on calling Protestants names or looking at them as hell bound.. After all we are all people, they are people aswell... I am also against discussing and fellowshipping with fundamental Protestants because what fellowship did righteousness have with unrighteousness and Christ with Belial.
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« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2012, 01:52:06 PM »

Completation to three.. Include borrow , etc , theologies from all the major Old Traditions , customs , etc , even besides Judaism... From the Indian religions also even buddhism... From these not as much as theologies but customs whom i find very pious...
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« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2012, 02:56:13 PM »

What I am here asking for is not a simplistic answer explaining how the faith was "once delivered to the saints", but rather how you as Orthodox reconcile such exclusivistic claims with the realities and complexities that surround us.

Speaking of complexities
He that is not with me is against me (Matt 12:30)
For he who is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:40)

Quote
The answer I am expecting to get from this is: "Only God knows that, it is not our task to know", but I find that to be a cop-out. Everyone has a worldview, and whether or not you try to avoid formulating a clear stance on other Christians, your actions will reflect your view of the world around you, whether or not they are informed and conscious, or not.

You'll probably see this as a 'cop-out' like the above, but while I basically agree with much of what Punch said in his response, I think there is a very real wisdom in answering 'not my business.' St. Seraphim said "attain the spirit of salvation and thousands around you will be saved." St. Paul said, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" and again, "who are you to judge the servant of another? to his own master he stands or falls".

My task is to understand the Faith and implement it in my life and in my interactions with others as best as I am able. If someone asks a question or expresses an incorrect belief, I should do my best to correct them in love. But it's not my job to judge others or form opinions about what strangers are doing half-way around the world. You are absolutely correct that very few of us actually fulfill that idea--I'm sure it wouldn't take long looking through this board to find posts of my own which fail on this count. But it an ideal that the Church holds out to us and many of us strive for.
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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2012, 03:09:50 PM »

Former Lutheran here (and my priest often wonders just how former).  We are told by the Lord that in the end times, it will be rare to find anyone with the correct Faith.  Early Church Fathers have said that in the end, those that simply confess Christ will be considered greater than all of them with their acetics and miracles.  So, given this, churches growing like wildfire do not impress me in the least.  The path to salvation is a narrow and hard path.  By its very nature there will be few people on it.  And, that means that there will not be many Orthodox on it either.  Your experiences with converts is not unique.  However, I also believe that there is less emphasis on instruction of converts than there was in the ancient days.  One once had to be a Catechumen for at least three years.  Now, it seems that we cannot wait to get their money in the plate fast enough.  So, to directly answer your questions:

1.  Preserve the True Faith as handed down by the Apostles.  We are always here if the Spirit moves someone to inquire.

2.  LIVE the Faith that we have been handed down.  You will know them by their fruits!  From what I have seen, if most Orthodox were put on trial for their faith, there would not be enough evidence to convict them.  So we first need to save ourselves before we try to save the rest of the world.  St. Seraphim of Sarov made a good point of this.

3.  No.  The only reconciliation that I see is that more and more Orthodox (as with other Churches) will join with Antichrist.
Of course, in your hold back none-of-your-username style, I see that you would rather continue your tradition of condemning most of the Orthodox around you then actually give a good answer to the question posed to you. Roll Eyes So how do you measure up to your lofty standards? If you were put on trial for your faith, would there be enough evidence to convict you? (No need to give me an answer to this question)

Why not give an answer.  It is clearly NO.  If it were otherwise, I would not be on this board but in a monastery spending all of my free time praying and worshiping God.  It is interesting that even Archbishop Anthony, of blessed memory, cried when he was asked if he was happy that so many people in his seemingly Holy parish were saved.  He told those asking that very few of them would be saved.  A ROCOR priest told me that as an Orthodox Christian, who supposedly has access to the fullness of the Faith, I would be judged far more harshly on the last day than those of other churches that do not have the fullness of the Faith, yet live to the fullest what they do have.  Perhaps you see something different than I do, but I do not apologize for calling it as I see it.
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2012, 05:19:09 PM »

Thanks for all your responses, and keep them coming!

I have a somewhat unique perspective on your first question, as I was a protestant missionary who was specifically trained to convert Orthodox to Protestantism (Baptist to be specific). Ironically, I am getting Chrismated this Saturday evening (praise be to God!).
Quote
The problem is, many of these folks are from the United States, and evangelical protestants in many circles are taught that Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and others are NOT christians. Therefore, they view the Orthodox the same as they view Muslims or pagans in not exactly, but similar lights. They dont view it as prosetelyzing as these folks ( as I did at one time) as people deceived into a Jesus-themed paganism by the devil.

You're not going to convince these folks, outside of divine intervention, that we are not only Christians, but the original Church. It just wont happen.

Interesting viewpoint! And yes, I am aware of those people. Many evangelicals certainly lean towards the view that their theology is superior to Orthodoxy. And I suppose in one sense, that attitude is more honest than the wishy-washy relativist ecumenism of many mainline Protestant WCC churches.

There is an "international prayer guide" called "Operation World" by the Evangelical missions organization "Operation Mission" that I recently read. That book suggested a slightly more live-and-let-live attitude towards non-Evangelicals, namely praying and working towards "revitalizing" Christians in the already existing churches, rather than seeing them as evangelism targets. Assuming you can admit to there being problems with nominal Christianity in Old-world Orthodox countries, what is your take on that attitude? Offensive still?

Quote
2. Do you see anything the Orthodox Churches worldwide and you individually could do better in terms of attitude and practice, that would help Christian unity?
IMHO, we have some house-keeping to tend to. We have to heal some rifts within ourselves I think. Such as the OO/EO split, and doing away with this stupid spat between Istanbul and Moscow.

By dropping the egos and fixign these issues, the Church can really show a great example to the world, that not only do Christians beg for unity, but are able to put it into practice.

I'm not the biggest ecumenist in the world, but I think that we can work with others without comprimising beliefs the Church has held to. Now, how to do that in practice? heh, good question. I have no idea Smiley

Amen!

Quote
3. Do you have any personal hope for future positive changes and reconciliation with Orthodoxy?
Reuniting with our Oriental bretheren, and getting rid of this stupid argument about the calendar (anyone got a can opener? Wink )

If this happened, I also believe many, many more people would consider Orthodoxy...!
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 05:20:32 PM by Hrugnir » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2012, 05:22:31 PM »

1.Not sure... Deceiving?There are many "pagans" that have "Christ" , the light of Christ I mean .. The knowledge of God and the sentiment of "Christ".. True values and true morality .. The majority of the protestant world have a distorted Christ and a harming morality.. So I think that this sort of "evangelism" can cause these people more harm than good... Present a distorted Christ to those who may already "know" Christ at a mystical level.

2.Christian unity?Hmmm... Don`t know.. I have mixed feelings and am confused about Ecumenism.. And why reduce it just to Christian unity? ...

3.Yes a more "Judaizing" after the Torah, Orthodoxy.


What you might be perceiving as Orthodox arrogance towards Protestants might just be us being offended by them.. Because they are wolfs in sheep-cloathing.. Though I am not very fond on calling Protestants names or looking at them as hell bound.. After all we are all people, they are people aswell... I am also against discussing and fellowshipping with fundamental Protestants because what fellowship did righteousness have with unrighteousness and Christ with Belial.

... I must say I find this reply a bit ironical. You start and end by making fun of ecumenism, and jokingly refer to how Ecumenism might as well extend towards inter-faith ecumenism. And then you respond to my third question by saying that you hope for more "Judaizing" in the Orthodox Church.

Would you care to explain that for me?
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« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2012, 08:02:03 PM »

The problem is, many of these folks are from the United States, and evangelical protestants in many circles are taught that Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and others are NOT christians. Therefore, they view the Orthodox the same as they view Muslims or pagans in not exactly, but similar lights. They dont view it as prosetelyzing as these folks ( as I did at one time) as people deceived into a Jesus-themed paganism by the devil.

Good point. But it would be helpful if you guys would make it clear that you consider us "heterodox" (Catholics and Protestants) to be Christians.
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« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2012, 08:10:51 PM »

Istanbul

Constantinople.
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« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2012, 08:16:46 PM »


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« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2012, 08:18:41 PM »


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New York

New Amsterdam.

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Mexico City

Tenochtitlan.
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« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2012, 08:39:37 PM »

You forgot New New York.
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« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2012, 09:46:11 PM »

The problem is, many of these folks are from the United States, and evangelical protestants in many circles are taught that Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and others are NOT christians. Therefore, they view the Orthodox the same as they view Muslims or pagans in not exactly, but similar lights. They dont view it as prosetelyzing as these folks ( as I did at one time) as people deceived into a Jesus-themed paganism by the devil.

Good point. But it would be helpful if you guys would make it clear that you consider us "heterodox" (Catholics and Protestants) to be Christians.

Define "Christian".

(Though, tbh, I think the Christian=Orthodox Christian meme is fundamentally ridiculous. The very fact that the Fathers and the Church talk about "Orthodox" or "Catholic" Christians implies there must be 'non-Orthodox/non-Catholic' Christians. Otherwise they wouldn't be using an adjective in the first place. I think its basically a childish response to the Protestant view--'you don't think we're Christians? well then we don't think you're Christians either", except that since it is childish the response gets exaggerated, "we're the Christians and you're not *times infinity*).
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« Reply #17 on: April 15, 2012, 05:39:17 AM »

1.Not sure... Deceiving?There are many "pagans" that have "Christ" , the light of Christ I mean .. The knowledge of God and the sentiment of "Christ".. True values and true morality .. The majority of the protestant world have a distorted Christ and a harming morality.. So I think that this sort of "evangelism" can cause these people more harm than good... Present a distorted Christ to those who may already "know" Christ at a mystical level.

2.Christian unity?Hmmm... Don`t know.. I have mixed feelings and am confused about Ecumenism.. And why reduce it just to Christian unity? ...

3.Yes a more "Judaizing" after the Torah, Orthodoxy.


What you might be perceiving as Orthodox arrogance towards Protestants might just be us being offended by them.. Because they are wolfs in sheep-cloathing.. Though I am not very fond on calling Protestants names or looking at them as hell bound.. After all we are all people, they are people aswell... I am also against discussing and fellowshipping with fundamental Protestants because what fellowship did righteousness have with unrighteousness and Christ with Belial.

... I must say I find this reply a bit ironical. You start and end by making fun of ecumenism, and jokingly refer to how Ecumenism might as well extend towards inter-faith ecumenism. And then you respond to my third question by saying that you hope for more "Judaizing" in the Orthodox Church.

Would you care to explain that for me?

I was not joking.In regards to the third I was refering to a more Torah minded Church , in respect to the Old Law.
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« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2012, 06:34:47 AM »

Then let me try to get this straight: You think the vast majority of Christian missionaries are doing more harm than good when telling pagans about Jesus Christ?

And you also think the Orthodox Church should become more Judaizing? What kind of things would that entail?
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« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2012, 06:38:02 AM »


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« Reply #20 on: April 15, 2012, 07:14:51 AM »

i have been orthodox for 3 years.
i certainly experienced God before i was orthodox (i was a protestant Christian for over 20 years), however my experience is much deeper now.

i also have personal experience of many people from a nominally 'orthodox Christian' background knowing nothing about forgiveness of sins and nothing about how to live a Christian life (cheating, stealing, abortion, adultery etc.)
so if these people meet a protestant Christian who teaches them the basics (that their parents / church failed to teach them because of the corruption of the church by materialism, communism etc.), then they are better off than when they were 'orthodox' but never attended church or read the Bible.

but it is far better for these people if they meet with orthodox Christians who can bring them to the fullness of their faith and tradition and also a real and living relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (these two can exist together! i did not realise this when i was protestant!)

where are those orthodox Christians who will answer this call to shine their light and be the salt of the world?
i hope and pray that all those reading this post would give their lives to this work, to which God has called us all.

i have also seen that true orthodox Christians (those who actually believe in God rather than just attending church once at the age of a few months to be baptised) who are attracted to protestant teaching, tend to follow a minimalistic approach to faith ('what is the least i have to do to be 'saved' as opposed to 'how can i serve God fully for the rest of my life'. this is dangerous, and i understand why the orthodox Christians want to make sure this teaching does not come into our church.

the answer to this is more teaching in the church!

about restricted countries, there are orthodox Christians evangelising in these countries. i have personally met an orthodox Christian who used to follow another religion (from a country where Christianity is officially illegal). i also know other stories which it is best not to tell here, because of their sensitive nature.
orthodox Christians, due to centuries of persecution in many parts of the world, know only too well what happens if they tell everyone about their evangelism in sensitive places, so they don't go telling people!
this is one of the reasons why it seems they are not evangelising. we don't get our funding from people who read glossy magazines and websites, so we don't need to publish what we do.

i have more to say, but i have mercy on people's reading abilities after a night of celebrating the resurrection of our Lord!
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« Reply #21 on: April 15, 2012, 07:15:17 AM »

Then let me try to get this straight: You think the vast majority of Christian missionaries are doing more harm than good when telling pagans about Jesus Christ?

Yes that is what I think.

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And you also think the Orthodox Church should become more Judaizing? What kind of things would that entail?

A Jesus in a more jewish context.I find a lot of wisdom in the Torah, Talmud and Jewish Theologies but than again that is a two-edged sword.The Church could use more diversification.. As I said in another post here assimiliting not just Jewish Customs but also Indians... I am very fond of this two Traditions although i don`t know very much of them.. This as an answer to what I would add to the Church..

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« Reply #22 on: April 15, 2012, 07:18:11 AM »



the answer to this is more teaching in the church!



Yes I am for that.More teaching in the church, more officialisation , more diversity and more poetry Wink.

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« Reply #23 on: April 15, 2012, 10:31:54 PM »

Very interesting thread. I was talking to an episcopal buddy of mine and he seems to see a type of arrogance in the Orthodox church.  I dont think he necessarily has anything against the church, but its one of the only turn offs to Orthodoxy that i hear from people.  After they mentioned it to me, I realized that I can kind of see where they are coming from, but I cant exactly pin point why. 

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« Reply #24 on: April 15, 2012, 10:45:27 PM »

I think that there are many reasons for this. I think that the biggest issue we have is our lack of reaching out to people and really spreading. We have become more of just a cultural thing that is passed down through families. Not really an active, community Church that is spreading and getting larger. I do think however that there are many reasons for this; the first one being just look at our recent history. Most, if not all of the capital Orthodox countries and places are going through very tough times. The Greek economy is in shambles, so they cannot really do anything, the Russians are just getting over horrible persecution and can barely help themselves, the Christians in the Middle East keep getting harassed by Muslims etc. So outreaching to others has become a bit hard to us. Now on the other hand, where do most of these modern Protestant Churches come from? America. And America right now is a first world country that has not really faced the same issues as the Orthodox countries have, so they have an easier time evangelising and spreading, whereas the Orthodox have it harder. However, it is also fair to mention, and I think you even said it yourself, is that many of these new Churches are sort of dying out in first world countries and many people are predicting that Evangelicism is going to implode very soon and in thirty years half of their Churches will be shut down. On the other hand, Orthodoxy in America is the largest growing form of Christianity in all of America. So clearly, the Orthodox in the free lands are in fact reaching out and spreading. It is just that the Orthodox in the native lands are not because they are going through so many problems.
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« Reply #25 on: April 16, 2012, 09:53:16 AM »

Very interesting thread. I was talking to an episcopal buddy of mine and he seems to see a type of arrogance in the Orthodox church.  I dont think he necessarily has anything against the church, but its one of the only turn offs to Orthodoxy that i hear from people.  After they mentioned it to me, I realized that I can kind of see where they are coming from, but I cant exactly pin point why. 

One thing that puzzles me, personally, is that the Orthodox aren't even sure that they want to have dialogue with Catholics and Protestants.

For example, many here have said that all dialogue with "heterodox" (Catholics and Protestants) should be halted until the EOs and OOs unite.

Or consider the Athonite call for

Quote
"the complete withdrawal from Orthodox lands by the Uniate agents and propagandists of the Vatican; the incorporation of the so-called Uniate Churches and their subjection under the Church of Rome before the inauguration of the dialogue, because Unia and dialogue at the same time are irreconcilable."
- Letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch Concerning the Balamand Agreement
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« Reply #26 on: April 16, 2012, 10:05:25 AM »

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On the other hand, Orthodoxy in America is the largest growing form of Christianity in all of America.

Not challenging you or saying youre wrong, but where did you find this?
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« Reply #27 on: April 16, 2012, 12:57:20 PM »

I think that there are many reasons for this. I think that the biggest issue we have is our lack of reaching out to people and really spreading. We have become more of just a cultural thing that is passed down through families. Not really an active, community Church that is spreading and getting larger. I do think however that there are many reasons for this; the first one being just look at our recent history. Most, if not all of the capital Orthodox countries and places are going through very tough times. The Greek economy is in shambles, so they cannot really do anything, the Russians are just getting over horrible persecution and can barely help themselves, the Christians in the Middle East keep getting harassed by Muslims etc. So outreaching to others has become a bit hard to us. Now on the other hand, where do most of these modern Protestant Churches come from? America. And America right now is a first world country that has not really faced the same issues as the Orthodox countries have, so they have an easier time evangelising and spreading, whereas the Orthodox have it harder. However, it is also fair to mention, and I think you even said it yourself, is that many of these new Churches are sort of dying out in first world countries and many people are predicting that Evangelicism is going to implode very soon and in thirty years half of their Churches will be shut down. On the other hand, Orthodoxy in America is the largest growing form of Christianity in all of America. So clearly, the Orthodox in the free lands are in fact reaching out and spreading. It is just that the Orthodox in the native lands are not because they are going through so many problems.

Not sure what the Orthodox tactic of Evangelisation is.Whatever it is it sure is smart.. And I include here the RC one also.. The history recalls entire nations coming to Christianity... On another hand, I agree that Orthodoxy should teach more and reach more to the people...
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« Reply #28 on: April 16, 2012, 01:16:49 PM »

Quote
On the other hand, Orthodoxy in America is the largest growing form of Christianity in all of America.

Not challenging you or saying youre wrong, but where did you find this?
Im not quite sure how folks are calculating it. Because in the news, it is stated that adventism is the fastest growing at 2.5% last year (ref: www.usatoday.com/news/.../2011-03-18-Adventists_17_ST_N.htm)

In the last decade, Orthodox parishes have grown 16% (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/06/report-finds-strong-growt_n_753447.html).

PP
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« Reply #29 on: April 16, 2012, 01:42:55 PM »

I know that you have this doctrine that the Orthodox Church is "the One, True, Apostolic Church" that we've been confessing in the Creed all this time, and that you see yourselves as having the "fullness". I've seen it explained many times. What I am here asking for is not a simplistic answer explaining how the faith was "once delivered to the saints", but rather how you as Orthodox reconcile such exclusivistic claims with the realities and complexities that surround us.

For example, Charismatic Protestant churches are growing like wildfires in previously non-Christian territories such as China and Africa. Muslims in Africa and the Middle-East are to various degrees finding faith in Christ thanks to Protestant minitries, in countries with ancient Orthodox Christian populations.
Growth in and of itself tells us little relevant to notions like universalism, inclusivism, exclusivism, or religious pluralism per se. A great deal of the growth of Charismatic Protestant churches is represented by elements like the prosperity doctrine. Oneness Pentecostalism has grown from a handful of proponents in the 1940s to millions of followers who affirm the ancient heresy of monarchian modalism (i.e. Sabellianism). Mormonism and Islam are growing, as is atheism.

When you suggest that "exclusive claims" of any kind may be viewed as "arrogant," you are not alone. How one might answer such a charge from an Orthodox perspective in part depends on the nature of your own views.

May I ask for a bit of clarification about where you are coming from to know how it might be best addressed? You self-identify as a Lutheran, but of course a wide variety of syncretistic perspectives are hardly unknown e.g. in the ELCA. For example may I ask what your own general view regarding exclusivistic claims of any kind are? Are you a universalist?  If you are not, do you consider your rejection of universalism to be "arrogant"? Do you reject the notion that everyone will be excluded from final salvation, whatever you personally conceive that to be? Does it matter if those claiming the name Christian have in many cases mutually exclusive notions of almost any theological reality one might care to name? I'll start with the extreme form of religious pluralism first; some considerations relating to this will also apply to the Smorgasbord view of Christianity which in some quarters reduces it's "core content" (historically a notorious ambiguity in itself) to most anything or nothing at all (cf. Bart Ehrman's Lost Christianities where polytheists, angel worshipers, and antinomians are all considered "Christian" simply because they claim the label. But back to religious pluralism...

“Aslan is Tash, Tash is Aslan.” They come from the final episode of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, The Last Battle, where Shift the Ape bamboozles the beasts into equating Tash, the devilish deity who is one of Narnia’s enemies, with Aslan, the Christ-like lion whom the Narnians love. Says Shift, “Tash is only another name for Aslan... Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know who... Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan, Aslan is Tash.” The name “Tashlan” is later coined to confirm the identity. But when Tash and Aslan appear, embodying ferocious cruelty and lordly love, respectively, it becomes plain that they are distinct—and as different as can be.

What Lewis’ story reflects is his view of the attempts of liberal theologians of his day to assimilate the world’s religions and religiosities into each other. As in the twilight all cats are grey, so at the dawn of the twenty-first century many still claim that all religions must be substantially the same, however different their outward forms. This claim is, however, in its final agonies of death taken as a whole.

Trajectories in Comparative religion for some time sought to combat claims that any religion is unique and synthesize/syncretize all religions into a non-dogmatic whole from S. Radhakrishnan’s Eastern Religions and Western Thought (NY: Oxford University Press, 1940, 2nd Ed.) to W. E Hocking’s The Coming World Civilization (NY: Harper, 1956) until Robert L. Slater, director of Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions proclaimed the attempt dead on arrival (Slater, R. L., World Religions and World Community (NY: Columbia University Press, 1963): “Slater notes that the early widely held belief that all the great religions are essentially the same has given way to a suspicion that they may really be quite irreconcilable... He adopts the notion [of]... neither displacement nor synthesis but a rediscovery in each religion of what is most essential” (Mountcastle, William W., Religion in Planetary Perspective: A Philosophy of Comparative Religion (Nashville: Abingdon), pp. 34-35; cf. pp. 21-42).

The religionsgeschichte (“history of religions”) school is a reflection of this attitude of taking each religion in its own terms: “Unlike the approach which seeks to reduce all experience and reality to a few basic ingredients or principles, this newer perspective strives to grasp a given reality in its own terms, in its own uniqueness, and in its own context. Basic similarities are not stressed at the expense of particularities or differences” (Eliade, Mircea, and Kitagawa, Joseph, eds., The History of Religions: Essays in Methodology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Although in the halls of academia syncretism is sickly and virtually dead, it is very much alive and well in the New Age movement and a good deal of non-Christian Eastern philosophy (primarily pantheistic/monistic varieties which are philosophically committed to the unity of all things including all things religious as a first principle). Like the Borg of Star Trek fame such thinkers are convinced they must assimilate all which lay in their path and proclaim “Aslan is Tash; Tash is Aslan!” “Jesus is our Savior/Avatar!”

Proponents of variegated philosophies of religious syncretism telling Christians of whatever profession their Church and their Bible and their Savior “really” teach Buddhism, Hinduism, etc (“rightly understood;” e.g. Alan Watts) are IMO as absurd in their own unique way as a Christian would be in claiming to find the discovery of DNA, the television, microwaves, and the bicycle predicted in the book of Revelation.

In the view of John Hick the syncretic impulse collapses into an uncritical reductionism at best, and deception/ propaganda at worst. Hick affirms an irreconcilable difference between Eastern and biblical religious claims and emphasizes the dishonesty of trying to homogenize them (especially, according to Hick, regarding three basic teachings: A. Creation/Creator distinction; B. The spirit of total malignant cosmic evil; and C. The uniqueness of Christ).

I'll reply further in a bit with more specific reference to Orthodoxy if you could clarify the nature of your notion that exclusivistic claims of any kind are arrogant.
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« Reply #30 on: April 16, 2012, 01:52:57 PM »

Quote
On the other hand, Orthodoxy in America is the largest growing form of Christianity in all of America.

Not challenging you or saying youre wrong, but where did you find this?
Im not quite sure how folks are calculating it. Because in the news, it is stated that adventism is the fastest growing at 2.5% last year (ref: www.usatoday.com/news/.../2011-03-18-Adventists_17_ST_N.htm)

In the last decade, Orthodox parishes have grown 16% (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/06/report-finds-strong-growt_n_753447.html).

PP

Thanks for this!
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« Reply #31 on: April 16, 2012, 03:20:49 PM »

Quote
On the other hand, Orthodoxy in America is the largest growing form of Christianity in all of America.

Not challenging you or saying youre wrong, but where did you find this?
Im not quite sure how folks are calculating it. Because in the news, it is stated that adventism is the fastest growing at 2.5% last year (ref: www.usatoday.com/news/.../2011-03-18-Adventists_17_ST_N.htm)

In the last decade, Orthodox parishes have grown 16% (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/06/report-finds-strong-growt_n_753447.html).

PP

Thanks for this!
No problem.

PP
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« Reply #32 on: April 16, 2012, 03:33:33 PM »

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« Reply #33 on: April 17, 2012, 03:45:11 PM »

May I ask for a bit of clarification about where you are coming from to know how it might be best addressed? You self-identify as a Lutheran, but of course a wide variety of syncretistic perspectives are hardly unknown e.g. in the ELCA. For example may I ask what your own general view regarding exclusivistic claims of any kind are? Are you a universalist?  If you are not, do you consider your rejection of universalism to be "arrogant"? Do you reject the notion that everyone will be excluded from final salvation, whatever you personally conceive that to be? Does it matter if those claiming the name Christian have in many cases mutually exclusive notions of almost any theological reality one might care to name? I'll start with the extreme form of religious pluralism first; some considerations relating to this will also apply to the Smorgasbord view of Christianity which in some quarters reduces it's "core content" (historically a notorious ambiguity in itself) to most anything or nothing at all (cf. Bart Ehrman's Lost Christianities where polytheists, angel worshipers, and antinomians are all considered "Christian" simply because they claim the label. But back to religious pluralism...

“Aslan is Tash, Tash is Aslan.” They come from the final episode of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, The Last Battle, where Shift the Ape bamboozles the beasts into equating Tash, the devilish deity who is one of Narnia’s enemies, with Aslan, the Christ-like lion whom the Narnians love. Says Shift, “Tash is only another name for Aslan... Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know who... Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan, Aslan is Tash.” The name “Tashlan” is later coined to confirm the identity. But when Tash and Aslan appear, embodying ferocious cruelty and lordly love, respectively, it becomes plain that they are distinct—and as different as can be.

What Lewis’ story reflects is his view of the attempts of liberal theologians of his day to assimilate the world’s religions and religiosities into each other. As in the twilight all cats are grey, so at the dawn of the twenty-first century many still claim that all religions must be substantially the same, however different their outward forms. This claim is, however, in its final agonies of death taken as a whole.

I'll reply further in a bit with more specific reference to Orthodoxy if you could clarify the nature of your notion that exclusivistic claims of any kind are arrogant.

I didn't even say I "self-identify" as a Lutheran. I belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden, formally, as do 70% of the population of Sweden (100% about 100 years ago). Looked at as a whole, the CoS is spiritually sickly and weak from liberal theology, the dissolvement of the family and lack of any real connection to the spiritual life. So I'm not as such very "fond" of the current state of my own church, or particularly proud at all.

Nor am I a theological Lutheran. I don't like the legal fiction of "imputed righteousness", nor "penal substitutionary atonement". I subscribe more to an Incarnational, Ontological, process-oriented and synergistic view of salvation. Actually, in terms of most theology, I try to get closer and closer to the Patristic teaching, and hence the Orthodox teaching.

However, it's not as easy as comparing your experience of the ELCA in the US with the Swedish situation. The "believing" (in any sense anything beyond nominal Christians) are somewhere between 5-10% of the Swedish population. We're one of the most secular countries in the world, and yet we were never communist. It's better to heat the frog's water slowly than to throw it into boiling water...

Anyways, this situation has led to WIDE ecumenism among the Protestant Christians of Sweden. Personally, I am part of "Swedish Evangelical Mission" (EFS in Swedish), which is a movement within the Church of Sweden. Yet, it has more emphasis on sanctification and repentance than traditional Lutheranism has. In addition to this, the charismatic movement has influenced pretty much every church in the country, and as such, there is more openness to the Holy Spirit, not only in terms of believing that God still works today, but also to a more mystical dimension than traditional Lutheranism. In addition to this, my church has Orthodox icons, and many within my generation are discovering the Church Fathers.

If you were to compare my church context with American ones, I suppose you could think of Charismatic/Evangelical Episcopalians.

As for your more direct questions: I am definitely not a pluralist. Inclusivism is a more useful term, in the sense that I believe everyone who repents and accepts salvation through Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, on Judgement Day, will be ultimately saved. That means I might even come close to C.S. Lewis' description in "The Last Battle", where a Talormene who thought he had worshipped Tash all his life, in fact had given his worship to Aslan, and thus belonged to him!

But, I definitely do not believe all paths lead to God, or even Christ. One might be saved, by God's infinite mercy, through false religion, but only through God's providential power of working with a fallen world, not by any merit of that religion on its own. I also believe many will fall away from the narrow path, and go on that wide road to perdition. Lord, have mercy!

To get to your basic question: It is not at all non-pluralism that I am reacting against with this post or in general. I have called myself a soteriological exclusivist at earlier points. And even though I've long held a Protestant "invisible church" ecclesiology, I am not very opposed to Orthodox ecclesiology either. In fact, I am very seriously trying to examine it in various ways to decide what to make of it.

So what is my real issue at this point? It is not easy to describe, but I suppose it is the attitude I meet all too often, of fierce opposition to even LEARNING anything from anyone outside Orthodoxy. See, it is not that I am against anything within Orthodoxy. It is that there seems often to be no real interest in anything Protestants do, say or practice from many within Orthodoxy. It's one thing that you do closed communion, but it just seems so far away for me for a hopeful future for a unified church, when from the Orthodox side, there seems to be so little practical accomodation in dialogue.

Now, I am willing to be found in the wrong about this. That's why I called it "a subjective query". But, I am wondering how you guys handle this. I'm not primarily asking a dogmatic question in the first place, but I'm asking for how you handle this practically, if you see any problems with Orthodoxy's attitudes towards other Christians, and only as a secondary question, how you justify or don't justify it.

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« Reply #34 on: April 17, 2012, 04:33:19 PM »

In the last decade, Orthodox parishes have grown 16% (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/06/report-finds-strong-growt_n_753447.html).

But what is the growth rate in membership?
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« Reply #35 on: April 18, 2012, 07:59:08 AM »

May I ask for a bit of clarification about where you are coming from to know how it might be best addressed? You self-identify as a Lutheran, but of course a wide variety of syncretistic perspectives are hardly unknown e.g. in the ELCA. For example may I ask what your own general view regarding exclusivistic claims of any kind are? Are you a universalist?  If you are not, do you consider your rejection of universalism to be "arrogant"? Do you reject the notion that everyone will be excluded from final salvation, whatever you personally conceive that to be? Does it matter if those claiming the name Christian have in many cases mutually exclusive notions of almost any theological reality one might care to name? I'll start with the extreme form of religious pluralism first; some considerations relating to this will also apply to the Smorgasbord view of Christianity which in some quarters reduces it's "core content" (historically a notorious ambiguity in itself) to most anything or nothing at all (cf. Bart Ehrman's Lost Christianities where polytheists, angel worshipers, and antinomians are all considered "Christian" simply because they claim the label. But back to religious pluralism...

“Aslan is Tash, Tash is Aslan.” They come from the final episode of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, The Last Battle, where Shift the Ape bamboozles the beasts into equating Tash, the devilish deity who is one of Narnia’s enemies, with Aslan, the Christ-like lion whom the Narnians love. Says Shift, “Tash is only another name for Aslan... Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know who... Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan, Aslan is Tash.” The name “Tashlan” is later coined to confirm the identity. But when Tash and Aslan appear, embodying ferocious cruelty and lordly love, respectively, it becomes plain that they are distinct—and as different as can be.

What Lewis’ story reflects is his view of the attempts of liberal theologians of his day to assimilate the world’s religions and religiosities into each other. As in the twilight all cats are grey, so at the dawn of the twenty-first century many still claim that all religions must be substantially the same, however different their outward forms. This claim is, however, in its final agonies of death taken as a whole.

I'll reply further in a bit with more specific reference to Orthodoxy if you could clarify the nature of your notion that exclusivistic claims of any kind are arrogant.

I didn't even say I "self-identify" as a Lutheran. I belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden, formally, as do 70% of the population of Sweden (100% about 100 years ago). Looked at as a whole, the CoS is spiritually sickly and weak from liberal theology, the dissolvement of the family and lack of any real connection to the spiritual life. So I'm not as such very "fond" of the current state of my own church, or particularly proud at all.

Nor am I a theological Lutheran. I don't like the legal fiction of "imputed righteousness", nor "penal substitutionary atonement". I subscribe more to an Incarnational, Ontological, process-oriented and synergistic view of salvation. Actually, in terms of most theology, I try to get closer and closer to the Patristic teaching, and hence the Orthodox teaching.

However, it's not as easy as comparing your experience of the ELCA in the US with the Swedish situation. The "believing" (in any sense anything beyond nominal Christians) are somewhere between 5-10% of the Swedish population. We're one of the most secular countries in the world, and yet we were never communist. It's better to heat the frog's water slowly than to throw it into boiling water...

Anyways, this situation has led to WIDE ecumenism among the Protestant Christians of Sweden. Personally, I am part of "Swedish Evangelical Mission" (EFS in Swedish), which is a movement within the Church of Sweden. Yet, it has more emphasis on sanctification and repentance than traditional Lutheranism has. In addition to this, the charismatic movement has influenced pretty much every church in the country, and as such, there is more openness to the Holy Spirit, not only in terms of believing that God still works today, but also to a more mystical dimension than traditional Lutheranism. In addition to this, my church has Orthodox icons, and many within my generation are discovering the Church Fathers.

If you were to compare my church context with American ones, I suppose you could think of Charismatic/Evangelical Episcopalians.

As for your more direct questions: I am definitely not a pluralist. Inclusivism is a more useful term, in the sense that I believe everyone who repents and accepts salvation through Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, on Judgement Day, will be ultimately saved. That means I might even come close to C.S. Lewis' description in "The Last Battle", where a Talormene who thought he had worshipped Tash all his life, in fact had given his worship to Aslan, and thus belonged to him!

But, I definitely do not believe all paths lead to God, or even Christ. One might be saved, by God's infinite mercy, through false religion, but only through God's providential power of working with a fallen world, not by any merit of that religion on its own. I also believe many will fall away from the narrow path, and go on that wide road to perdition. Lord, have mercy!

To get to your basic question: It is not at all non-pluralism that I am reacting against with this post or in general. I have called myself a soteriological exclusivist at earlier points. And even though I've long held a Protestant "invisible church" ecclesiology, I am not very opposed to Orthodox ecclesiology either. In fact, I am very seriously trying to examine it in various ways to decide what to make of it.

So what is my real issue at this point? It is not easy to describe, but I suppose it is the attitude I meet all too often, of fierce opposition to even LEARNING anything from anyone outside Orthodoxy. See, it is not that I am against anything within Orthodoxy. It is that there seems often to be no real interest in anything Protestants do, say or practice from many within Orthodoxy. It's one thing that you do closed communion, but it just seems so far away for me for a hopeful future for a unified church, when from the Orthodox side, there seems to be so little practical accomodation in dialogue.

Now, I am willing to be found in the wrong about this. That's why I called it "a subjective query". But, I am wondering how you guys handle this. I'm not primarily asking a dogmatic question in the first place, but I'm asking for how you handle this practically, if you see any problems with Orthodoxy's attitudes towards other Christians, and only as a secondary question, how you justify or don't justify it.

In Christ
/Peter

Great post.
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« Reply #36 on: April 18, 2012, 08:10:31 AM »

Great post.

Thank you. I'm still very self-conscious about even voicing my inner concerns and questions about Orthodoxy here, because the real questions relating to faith are often much more sensitive than forum discussions allow for.

I hope you will all do your best at interpreting my words in the best way possible - for I am very sympathetic to most people on this forum - it's the best one I've found dealing with Christianity.
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« Reply #37 on: April 18, 2012, 02:25:57 PM »

As for your more direct questions: I am definitely not a pluralist. Inclusivism is a more useful term, in the sense that I believe everyone who repents and accepts salvation through Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, on Judgement Day, will be ultimately saved. That means I might even come close to C.S. Lewis' description in "The Last Battle", where a Talormene who thought he had worshipped Tash all his life, in fact had given his worship to Aslan, and thus belonged to him!

But, I definitely do not believe all paths lead to God, or even Christ. One might be saved, by God's infinite mercy, through false religion, but only through God's providential power of working with a fallen world, not by any merit of that religion on its own. I also believe many will fall away from the narrow path, and go on that wide road to perdition. Lord, have mercy!
What I'm not really understanding is your usage of the term arrogance, and your perception of what is and is not arrogant. Please don't take me the wrong way, I think you are honest and sincere in all your remarks and not trying to be polemical.

It seems to me that you also, no less than the Orthodox, are willing to draw a circle which at least potentially includes some and excludes others, a circle which not everyone of whom you speak (e.g. the theological liberals you refer to, or e.g. Christian Universalists) would agree. Do you really think it would it be, to use your word, arrogant, for an Orthodox Christian to draw a circle different from the one you draw based on your own convictions if both you and the Orthodox Christian are drawing circles which leave some at least potentially outside of the circle? I guess I'm not really getting why the arrogance charge has to be a part of this discussion.

But perhaps it is best to avoid focusing too much on such things as my gut tells me you are sincere, although for the record I don't think some of your labels and characterizations about arrogance and supposed "fierce opposition to even LEARNING anything from anyone outside Orthodoxy" are really universally accurate or especially helpful (not to say such attitudes do not exist, but it seems to me they arguably also exist proportionately within fundamentalist Pentecostalism, Protestantism, and other conservative Christian trajectories you allude to as well re. positions outside those circles of which those groups are not especially disposed toward). I don't think it's true at all that Orthodox Christians are opposed, much less "fiercely," as you said, "to even LEARNING anything from anyone outside of Orthodoxy." Many of our own saints were very learned in all the Christian and non-Christian philosophies of their age up to our present time.

But characterizations of this sort aside, and in the spirit of trying to get closer to what your real concerns might be, what are Orthodox attitudes toward non-Orthodox Christians regarding both the scope of salvation and dialogue? Why don't we darned Orthodox seem to budge as much as others might wish we would? Bishop Kallistos Ware provides some insight:

Quote from: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
Because they believe their Church to be the true Church, Orthodox can have but one ultimate desire: the conversion or reconciliation of all Christians to Orthodoxy. Yet it must not be thought that Orthodox demand the submission of other Christians to a particular center of power and jurisdiction (‘Orthodoxy does not desire the submission of any person or group; it wishes to make each one understand’ (S. Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church, p. 214)). The Orthodox Church is a family of sister Churches, decentralized in structure, which means that separated communities can be integrated into Orthodoxy without forfeiting their autonomy: Orthodoxy desires their reconciliation, not their absorption (Compare the title of a famous paper written by Dom Lambert Beauduin and read by Cardinal Mercier at the Malines Conversations, ‘The Anglican Church united, not absorbed’). In all reunion discussions Orthodox are guided (or at any rate ought to be guided) by the principle of unity in diversity. They do not seek to turn western Christians into Byzantines or ‘Orientals,’ nor do they desire to impose a rigid uniformity on all alike: for there is room in Orthodoxy for many different cultural patterns, for many different ways of worship, and even for many different systems of outward organization.

Yet there is one field in which diversity cannot be permitted. Orthodoxy insists upon unity in matters of the faith. Before there can be reunion among Christians, there must first be full agreement in faith: this is a basic principle for Orthodox in all their ecumenical relations. It is unity in the faith that matters, not organizational unity; and to secure unity of organization at the price of a compromise in dogma is like throwing away the kernel of a nut and keeping the shell. Orthodox are not willing to take part in a ‘minimal’ reunion scheme, which secures agreement on a few points and leaves everything else to private opinion. There can be only one basis for union — the fullness of the faith; for Orthodoxy looks on the faith as a united and organic whole. Speaking of the Anglo-Russian Theological Conference at Moscow in 1956, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsey, expressed the Orthodox viewpoint exactly:

‘The Orthodox said in effect: ‘…The Tradition is a concrete fact. Here it is, in its totality. Do you Anglicans accept it, or do you reject it?’ The Tradition is for the Orthodox one indivisible whole: the entire, life of the Church in its fullness of belief and custom down the ages, including Mariology and the veneration of icons. Faced with this challenge, the typically Anglican reply is: ‘We would not regard veneration of icons or Mariology as inadmissible, provided that in determining what is necessary to salvation, we confine ourselves to Holy Scripture.’ But this reply only throws into relief the contrast between the Anglican appeal to what is deemed necessary to salvation and the Orthodox appeal to the one indivisible organism of Tradition, to tamper with any part of which is to spoil the whole, in the sort of way that a single splodge on a picture can mar its beauty (‘The Moscow Conference in Retrospect,’ in Sobornost, series 3, no. 23, 1958, pp. 562-563).

In the words of another Anglican writer: ‘It has been said that the Faith is like a network rather than an assemblage of discrete dogmas; cut one strand and the whole pattern loses its meaning’ (T. M. Parker, ‘Devotion to the Mother of God,’ in The Mother of God, edited by E. L. Mascall, p. 74). Orthodox, then, ask of other Christians that they accept Tradition as a whole; but it must be remembered that there is a difference between Tradition and traditions. Many beliefs held by Orthodox are not a part of the one Tradition, but are simply theologoumena, theological opinions; and there can be no question of imposing mere matters of opinion on other Christians. Men can possess full unity in the faith, and yet hold divergent theological opinions in certain fields.

This basic principle — no reunion without unity in the faith — has an important corollary: until unity in the faith has been achieved, there can be no communion in the sacraments. Communion at the Lord’s Table (most Orthodox believe) cannot be used to secure unity in the faith, but must come as the consequence and crown of a unity already attained. Orthodoxy rejects the whole concept of ‘intercommunion’ between separated Christian bodies, and admits no form of sacramental fellowship short of full communion. Either Churches are in communion with one another, or they are not: there can be no half-way house (Such is the standard Orthodox position. But there are individual Orthodox theologians who believe that some degree of intercommunion is possible, even before the attainment of full dogmatic agreement. One slight qualification must be added. Occasionally non-Orthodox Christians, if entirely cut off from the ministrations of their own Church, are allowed with special permission to receive communion from an Orthodox priest. But the reverse does not hold true, for Orthodox are forbidden to receive communion from any but a priest of their own Church). It is sometimes said that the Anglican or the Old Catholic Church is ‘in communion’ with the Orthodox, but this is not in fact the case. The two are not in communion, nor can they be, until Anglicans and Orthodox are agreed in matters of faith. http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/history_timothy_ware_2.htm

Another matter which might be perceived on the face of it as a sort of "arrogance" is closed communion; because the Orthodox understanding of this topic, I think, provides insights which can help an outsider to understand some of the related questions you are raising I'll also provide a brief discussion of this for your consideration after which I'll return to the question of the scope of salvation in Orthodox thinking. To that end is the following excerpt from the the booklet "Why the Orthodox Church Practices Closed Communion" by Fr. James A. Bernstein. The whole booklet can be had for about $1.50 http://www.conciliarpress.com/products/Communion%3A-A-Family-Affair.html (You might be more familiar with him from his Evangelical past. Before Fr. James converted to Orthodoxy he was president of IVP, an Evangelical Christian Press, and with Moshe Rosen had cofounded the organization Jews for Jesus).

Quote from: Fr. James A. Bernstein
Why the Orthodox Church Practices Closed Communion (Fr. James A. Bernstein)

For many inquirers into the Orthodox Faith, this is the most perplexing and disturbing questionn of all. Someone who is a sincere, faithful, upright member of another church may feel that he is being treated unfairly, even "judged" for not being Orthodox, because he is not allowed to receive the Lord's Supper. After all, in his own church, communion may be distributed freely, no questions asked, to all comers -sometimes even to those who are not baptized Christians. Who do these Orthodox think they are to be so exclusive?

This is a sensitive issue, and one that is difficult to comprehend without a thorough understanding of the Orthodox perspective on the nature of the Church and of the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is impossible for a brief booklet like this to impart such an understanding completely. It may be helpful, however, to look at the way the Eucharist itself and participation in it were viewed in the Church of the first few Christian centuries.

A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
An impartial examination of the New Testament and early Church writings reveals that the early Christians put a great emphasis on doctrine, morality, worship, and obedience. These four issues were so incredibly important that the early Church actually excluded from communion those baptized Christians who had forsaken them. As for a non-baptized person partaking -that was completely unheard of!

Surprising as it seems, the practice of "closed communion" was adhered to not only by all Eastern and Western churches since the earliest days -in other words, all of ancient Christendom- but it continued to be the standard, not only of the Orthodox Church, but of the Roman Catholic Church, and until recently, most Protestant denominations as well.

For example, until the beginning of the twentieth century, Anglicans and Episcopalians practiced closed communion. The various Lutheran synods did as well, and some of the more conservative still do. Most Baptist groups had closed communion, as do many Southern Baptist congregations to this day. Methodists had to review a "note of admission" to communion from the bishop every quarter. Reformed Presbyterians issued certificates or "sacramental tokens" to those who, after examination, were considered to be in good standing -a practice called "fencing the table."

Why was this careful guarding of Holy Communion, which numerous contemporary believers have ignored so widely, practiced by such a broad spectrum of churches? Let us examine its biblical and historical basis.

I. ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE

As a Jew who believes in Christ, I take some personal pride in the original Jewish Christian Church. Yet that church had serious problems. The Apostle Paul fought major battles with Jewish believers who demanded that Gentiles be circumcised and keep all the provisions of the Mosaic Law. Finally, the Council of Jerusalem, presided over by the Apostle James, decided that Gentiles could become Christians without circumcision or adherence to the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:1-31).

In his Epistle to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul specifically addresses those desiring to impose Judaic legalism upon Gentile believers: "But even if we," he writes, "or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8, 9).

Saint Paul's conflict with the "Judaizers" (subsequently called Ebionites) was not minor, but was in fact so significant that he excluded them from fellowship. In dealing with the issue of the Gentiles mingling covenants, the Apostle was clearly restrictive.

It's a paradox: the Apostle Paul, who probably brought more people into the Church than any other Apostle, also excluded from the Church -and from Communion- those believers who did not hold orthodox Christian doctrine! So adamant was Saint Paul that he twice states his position toward the doctrinally aberrant with a most severe Greek term" anathema (which means "accursed").

Throughout the New Testament, doctrine was always considered to be a matter of great importance. Saint Luke tells us concerning the new believers on the Day of Pentecost, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42).

The Apostle John, known as the Apostle of love, wrote, with regard to the Gnostic heretics, "For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.... If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him" (2 John 7, 10).

And the Apostle Paul wrote, "But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.... Note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 15).

To "keep company" is to "break bread" together; both terms are understood biblically as referring to Holy Communion. This passage with others contains a directive to exclue offenders from eucharistic fellowship, while also fulfilling Saint Paul's exhortations to "repay no one evil for evil... live peaceably with all men... do not avenge yourselves.... do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17, 18, 21).

Soon after the New Testament books were written, other heretical groups arose which, bu their error, excluded themselves from the Eucharist. In the third century, the Modalists rejected the Orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity. They denied that God the Father is the Fountainhead of the Trinity, teaching instead that God is somewhat distinct from the Trinity and has multiple modes of existence. The Sabellians, also in the third century, rejected the apostolic doctrine that the Three Persons of the Trinity are distinct. They sought to fuse Father and Son.

In the fourth century, Arianism arose, and for approximately two centuries engaged in moral combat with the Church. The Arians attacked the divinity of Christ, holding that in Jesus' preincarnate existence as Logos -Word of God- He had been created by God and was therefore neither divine nor God incarnate. The century also witnessed the rise of other heretical groups called Macedonians. They rejected the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Trinity, teaching instead that the Holy Spirit is not divine but merely a creation of God. The Apollinarians were another fourth-century group not in communion with the Church. They taught that Jesus did not have a human mind.

The fifth century witnessed the rise of the Nestorians. They taught that the Virgin Mary did not conceive within her womb the preexistent Son of God in the flesh. These false teachers recognized only the humanity of Christ in her womb, not His divinity. Ad to these sects the Antinomianists, Docetists, Novatians, Donatists, Monothelites, Montanists, and Theopaschites, and you still only have a partial list of those who departed from the Faith.

All these groups held one thing in common: they claimed to be "Christian" and to believe in Jesus Christ." But they were universally excluded from Holy Communion by the Church because they rejected the fullness of the Apostolic Faith, "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

In excommunicating them as heretics and schismatics the early church was not making a statement as to their eternal destiny. This is for God alone to decide. The Church was simply following the biblical injunction of Christ Himself, to be sure the worship of the Father was conducted "in Spirit and in truth" (John 4:23). In the historic Church, orthodox doctrine was a prerequisite for eucharistic unity.

II. ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN MORALITY

As a parent with four children, I have at times had to exercise discipline. Our contemporary secular culture understands love primarily in its encouraging, understanding, sympathetic, and lenient aspects. It deemphasizes, and even calls abusive, love's directive, intervening, disciplinary, and painful aspects -and it also sponsors seminars to find out why children lack focus and motivation!

I remember as a young Jew reading in the Old Testament, "My Son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction, for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights (Proverbs 3:11, 12).

The Apostle Paul quotes this passage in the Book of Hebrews, adding, "If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons... Now no chastening seems to be joyful" (Hebrews 12:7-11). The discipline of which the Scripture speaks is not punitive or abusive, but loving and applied with wisdom and restraint.

The exercise of discipline in the Church is based upon the teaching of Jesus. How does the Church relate to an unrepentant brother? If a personal word does no good, Jesus says, "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. 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 18:17-18).

Remarkable! These words come ffrom the same Lord who forgave the woman caught in adultery, saying to those who would have stoned her, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first" (John 8:7). This is the same Lord who said we should forgive our brother not "up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22) -the Hebrew idiom for infinity. And this is the same Lord who cried out upon the Cross, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" Luke 23:34).

This tell-it-to-the-church passage in Matthew 18 has universaly been understood as referring to the Church's responsibility to maintain internal discipline. Though we are called to be a loving and forgiving people, our kindness is not to prevent us from providing reasonable moral boundaries, guarding the integrity of our communion with God and with one another.

The Apostle Paul's castigation of the church in Corinth for ignoring the serious moral sin of an unrepentant Christian brother reinforces the Church's responsibility today to maintain a moral standard for communicants. In 1 Corinthians 5, Saint Paul says:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among Gentiles -that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in the body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed... I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner -not even to eat with such a person. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person." Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 5:1-6:10).

According to Saint Paul, Christian love within the Church was not wishy-washy warmth that ignored or winked at serious sin. For the Apostle to the Gentiles, love within the Church is tough love that calls the sinning brother to repentance for his own good. It is a love that excludes an immoral brother or sister from the eucharistic meal so as to stress the seriousness of sin. For our Savior and for Saint Paul, love was more demanding and discipline more severe toward those within the Church than toward those outside it. The Church has a responsibility for the moral conduct of her own that she doesn't have for others.

In addition to our individual responsibility for ourselves, our Mother Church also gives us a collective responsibility. Within the Church we call one another brothers and sisters. We bear the same last name: Christian. As with our nuclear family, the Church is morally accountable for her people and sets conditions for receiving Holy Communion. Both right doctrine and right morality are biblical prerequisites for eucharistic unity.

III. ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN WORSHIP
In addition to expressing unity of faith (doctrine) and unity of practice (morality), communion also expresses unity of worship. In contrast to the incredible variety of worship styles found in various churches today, the early Church had a form of worship that was quite consistent from one church to another across the Christian world.

The New Testament has little to say about worship other than to point out that the original Jewish Christians continued to worship as Jews in both the Jerusalem temple and the synagogues. They did so for as long as they were able, stopping only after the temple's destruction and their forced exclusion from the synagogues by the non-Christian Jews.

The New Testament epistles were written primarily to address problems and disputes within the Church. The fact that issues concerning worship are largely absent from the epistles indicates, therefore, that worship was not a problem. Though many theological issues were disputed uring the first few centuries, the form of worship was not.

Study of the writings of Christians from the first four centuries reveals a shape of worship that was based on temple and synagogue worship, and was remarkably unified throughout all the churches of Christendom. Of what did this shape of worship consist? It was essentially identical to present day Orthodox Christian worship.

Worship was universally centered upon weekly Sunday Eucharist, with the sermon serving a secondary, supportive role. The service was led by one person either a bishop or priest, who alone said the prayers consecrating the bread and wine.

Worship included a recounting of the Last Supper, the words of Institution, and an Epiclesis, or calling down the Holy Spirit upon the faithful and upon the bread and wine. Worship was understood to have a sacrificial aspect, as it re-presented the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. Following the consecration, the bread and wine were called the Body and Blood of Christ. Statements were made indicating that the ancient Church universally understood the Eucharist to be the glorified Body and Blood of Christ.

The early Church took seriously such passages as "This is My body" and "This is my blood" (see Luke 22:19, 20 and 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25); and "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53). They also heeded Saint Paul's warning that those who communed unworthily would be subject to possible sickness or even death (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

Communicants were required to be baptized, be living a moral life, and be reconciled with those within the Church. Only the faithful, those properly received into the Church and in good standing within it, were permitted to receive communion. The clergy were responsible for the implementation of the rules of discipline and for deciding who would and who would not be permitted to commune.

If communion is, as the early Church held, literally the glorified Body and Blood of Christ, it makes sense that it should be approached with a certain fear and trembling. And it makes sense that it should not be shared with someone who believes the sacrament to be only symbolic.

IV. ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN OBEDIENCE

In addition to expressing unity of faith (doctrine), unity of practice (morality), and unity of worship, communion also expresses a unity of obedience. In the early Church, a person could be excommunicated not only for blatant heresy or immorality, but also for severe and persistent factionalism of divisiveness. This area of offense may be the toughest for us modern Westerners to accept. After all, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, right? ...Besides, it is good to seek unity in diversity. We know these lines well -we've all used them. And certainly there are places for appropriate diversity, such as in the use of gifts, ministries, and activities (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-6).

But as we have seen, there is no room for diversity in doctrine or morals. Nor is there a diversity in obedience. While our civil government aims for democracy, the Kingdom of God is a theocracy: it is ruled by God. The Church is the presence of the Kingdom in the world. Thus, in the Church, as was true in the Old Covenant, God's people refrain from "doing whatever is right in (their) own eyes" (Deuteronomy 12:8). Christianity is not a 'do your own thing' affair.

In Israel of old, God governed His nation through prophets, patriarchs, kings, elders, and judges. He raised up leaders who would bring unity and order to His people. In the Church, there is leadership and order as well. Saint Paul speaks of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. In fact, as far as polity is concerned, the New Testament also reveals the Church is composed of her bishops surrounded by the presbyters, deacons, and "the people of God," the laity. Thus we have such exhortations as 'Obey those who rule over you and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17); see also 1 Peter 5:1-3).

Note that obedience is voluntary -as is our adherence to true doctrine and morality. In the first New Testament book written, Saint Paul instructs his flock "And we urge you brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13). Then in the very next verse, he says, "Warn those who are unruly," a word which means insubordinate or ungovernable -people who are out of control. In the New Testament, when people refused to obey the Apostles and their coworkers, it was a serious offense. Thus the Scriptures teach, "Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition" (Titus 3:10). The willingly divisive were ultimately excluded from communion.

A BROKEN UNITY

For the Apostles and the early Church, issues of doctrine, morality, worship, and obedience were never considered irrelevant or extraneous to a person's relationship with Christ. In regard to Holy Communion, the Sacrament of sacraments, no right-believing priest of the early period of the Church's history would have thought to offer the Holy Chalice to a person he knew had separated himself or herself from the Church in any of those areas.

For the first thousand years of her history, the Church in East and West was one. This meant that if a Christian was in good standing in any single church, he was in good standing in all churches and could receive communion in any. All the churches had unity of doctrine, morality, worship, and obedience to the bishops. B the same token, if a Christian had fallen out of fellowship with the Church in one of those areas, he could not simply walk out in a huff expecting to receive communion at the next Christian church own the street.

The Church's unity was most clearly manifest in her protection of the purity of the sacraments. For centuries, when at the Divine Liturgy the deacon proclaimed, "The doors, the doors," it was a sign that all but baptized believers in good standing were to depart. It was time to begin the Eucharistic portion of the Liturgy. Obviously, this state of unity no longer exists today... [cf. original booklet for further discussion of the Great Schism and the development and fragmentation of Protestantism]

COMMUNION IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

What does all this mean today for those non-Orthodox Christians who come to worship in the Orthodox Church?

Applying these four criteria of unity established in the ancient Church -doctrine, morality, worship, and obedience- the Orthodox church, which maintains the ancient Faith in its fullness, must and does refuse to admit to Holy Communion anyone who is not a baptized, chrismated Orthodox Christian (furthermore , even Orthodox Christians must be in good standing with the Church and must properly prepare themselves through regular confession and spiritual discipline).

With regard to doctrine, there is no non-Orthodox denomination I know of which holds to the fullness of the Orthodox Faith as expressed in the original, unaltered Nicene Creed. All but the Orthodox have either added to the Faith or subtracted from it. With regard to morality, of course there are many believers in other churches who lead upright, moral lives, but if they are not part of an Orthodox parish, regularly confessing their sins and receiving absolution, the priest has no way to be certain that they are not partaking unworthily...

Even if an individual holds the true belief and adheres to the correct practice... but is not a baptized, chrismated Orthodox Christian, the fourth criterion of obedience to the authority of the Church is still lacking. One must be born into the Church of God through these sacraments established by Christ himself to be fully in communion with her. If one is not in communion, one may not partake of Communion. It is as simple as that.

This policy of closed communion does not imply that those outside the Orthodox Church are considered not to be Christians, or not to be saved. The Church explicitly refuses to pass judgment concerning the salvation of any individual within or outside her walls. But having received the deposit of Faith from the Lord and His apostles, and having faithfully kept it intact down to this day, the Church must protect that deposit by extending communion only to those who have united themselves to her.

If you are surprised or saddened to hear that intercommunion is not possible between us, I am equally saddened to have to write these words. For more significantly, I believe that our Lord Himself is deeply wounded by the division which no exists between our churches. It is not because of callous indifference or pride that the Orthodox Church refuses communion to non-Orthodox Christians. It is rather an expression of the profound importance our Church throughout time has placed upon the Holy Eucharist -the partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ our Savior. The fact that division and schism now exist -a schism which every devout Orthodox Christian prays daily that God will bring to an end- cannot, must not obscure the transcendent reality of this great sacrament. To lose sight of this, even for the sake of compassion, is to lose sight of the Orthodox faith. This we cannot do.

No Christian living today is responsible for what happened almost one thousand years ago, or for the chaotic state of Christendom which has resulted. We are, all of us, survivors of a cataclysmic disaster -a disaster which took place long before we were born and over which we had no control whatsoever. We do have control, however, over the way we respond to this tragic situation. It is open to each and every Christian to embrace the fullness of the Apostolic Faith once more, and to choose to unite himself or herself to the Church which holds the Faith intact -the Orthodox Christian Church.

I hope these words will in some way help you to understand the Orthodox position in this very sensitive and emotional issue.
May we in love and humility pursue that unity which existed for the first thousand years of the Church's life -setting aside the passions of pride, jealousy, and malice, which have served to worsen the division. And may we all pray for the true unity which Christ our Lord can provide through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Orthodox Christians are not Inclusivists in the sense of claiming to know other individuals are saved who are not openly part of the Orthodox Church, however neither do they presume the heterodox are beyond the scope of salvation.

Metropolitan Philaret Voznesensky of New York (Russian Orthodox Church Abroad) affirmed:
"It is self evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members, of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e. those who knowingly pervert the truth… They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The Lord, “Who will have all men to be saved” (I Tim. 2:4) and “Who enlightens every man born into the world” (Jn 1:43), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation in His own way" Metropolitan Philaret, “Will the Heterodox be Saved?,” Orthodox Life, Vol. 34, No. 6 (Nov.-Dec., 1984).

'Inasmuch as the earthly and visible Church is not the fullness and completeness of the whole Church which the Lord has appointed to appear at the final judgment of all creation, she acts and knows only within her own limits; and... does not judge the rest of mankind, and only looks upon those as excluded, that is to say, not belonging to her, who exclude themselves. The rest of mankind, whether alien from the Church, or united to her by ties which God has not willed to reveal to her, she leaves to the judgment of the great day' ("The Church is One")    -Saint Philaret, Khomiakov http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/church_is_one_e.htm

See further http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,28592.0/topicseen.html
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« Reply #38 on: April 18, 2012, 06:46:36 PM »

Visit the monastery and have a talk with Father Dorotej or Father Gabriel:
http://www.crkva.se/kloster.htm
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« Reply #39 on: April 18, 2012, 06:54:05 PM »

Thank you for the well-formulated reply!

I've read Metr. Kallistos' chapter on this before, but it was a good reminder.
I think to a degree, what I've reacted to is the reactionary tone of many Orthodox. I do understand the idea that doctrine is a unified whole, and that the church corporately feels a need to "keep the faith once delivered". I think it is primarily my charismatic background that I feel clashing with Orthodoxy. But then again, it's specifically statements by the more polemical converts who have hurt me.

One example is the stance on glossolalia/the gift of tongues. I've seen Orthodox say it's demonic, that it's psychological suggestion, or that it is "for children". And in a sense, I can get that last part. The same would relate to prophecy and healing. There's so much scepticism, and knowing a good portion of my best friends, who are some of the sanest and spiritually mature people I've met my age, I'm disturbed by those who simply assume that because something isn't Orthodox, it's probably demonic/prelest - and at least definitely nothing that an Orthodox person could learn something from.

While one would have to accept Tradition as a whole to be Orthodox, I wonder if Charismatics and Pentecostals could "bring their gifts into the Heavenly City" (cf. Rev 21:24-26) in any meaningful sense...

Gorazd: I've had a friend who went there! I might visit at some point. I've been to the only entirely Swedish-speaking Ortodox congregation in Sweden once (St. Anna, Serbian Patriarchate), and the brother of a friend is a parishioner there.
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« Reply #40 on: April 18, 2012, 08:33:02 PM »

Quote
On the other hand, Orthodoxy in America is the largest growing form of Christianity in all of America.

Not challenging you or saying youre wrong, but where did you find this?

A pamphlet from the OCA.
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You're really on to something here. Tattoo to keep you from masturbating, chew to keep you from fornicating... it's a whole new world where you outsource your crosses. You're like a Christian entrepreneur or something.
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James, you have problemz.
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« Reply #41 on: April 18, 2012, 10:54:53 PM »

Thank you for the well-formulated reply!

I've read Metr. Kallistos' chapter on this before, but it was a good reminder.
I think to a degree, what I've reacted to is the reactionary tone of many Orthodox. I do understand the idea that doctrine is a unified whole, and that the church corporately feels a need to "keep the faith once delivered". I think it is primarily my charismatic background that I feel clashing with Orthodoxy. But then again, it's specifically statements by the more polemical converts who have hurt me.

One example is the stance on glossolalia/the gift of tongues. I've seen Orthodox say it's demonic, that it's psychological suggestion, or that it is "for children". And in a sense, I can get that last part. The same would relate to prophecy and healing. There's so much scepticism, and knowing a good portion of my best friends, who are some of the sanest and spiritually mature people I've met my age, I'm disturbed by those who simply assume that because something isn't Orthodox, it's probably demonic/prelest - and at least definitely nothing that an Orthodox person could learn something from.

While one would have to accept Tradition as a whole to be Orthodox, I wonder if Charismatics and Pentecostals could "bring their gifts into the Heavenly City" (cf. Rev 21:24-26) in any meaningful sense...

Gorazd: I've had a friend who went there! I might visit at some point. I've been to the only entirely Swedish-speaking Ortodox congregation in Sweden once (St. Anna, Serbian Patriarchate), and the brother of a friend is a parishioner there.
Thanks for the clarification about glossolalia. I am sorry that your feelings were hurt concerning this issue by others and hope that you have a better experience at our forum. We Orthodox are not cessationists, of course, by any stretch of the imagination, however there is still reason for caution about much of what derives from charismatic and pentecostal trajectories stemming from the Azusa Street incident at the turn of the 20th century in the considered opinion of many scholarly investigators in a manner in which I am personally fairly sympathetic to (more below). Perhaps it would be useful to turn to that subject a bit if that is nearer to the heart of why you suppose Orthodox Christians seem arrogant to you (since you have not yet retracted the term) for hesitancy about incorporating aspects of this movement as rapidly as has taken place in other quarters of Christendom.

Protestant scholar F. F. Bruce tells the story of how one Bible-oriented movement -which would have been particularly horrified at any suggestion of basing any Christian belief on anything other than scripture- cited cessationist "proof text" 1 Cor 13:10 [in the sense of: "when the perfect, THAT IS, THE BIBLICAL CANON, comes, imperfect things ...LIKE TONGUES AND MIRACLES... will pass away"] as "the standard' interpretation in our movement's churches," as his first example of Protestant Tradition (even in the face of the strongest attempts to practice sola scriptura) in his fine little book Tradition: Old and New (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970): "Quite apart from the validity of the exegesis -and that the concept of the completed New Testament canon was present to Paul's mind is extremely improbable- it is unwise to refer people of independent thought to a standard interpretation, for the very fact of its being so described renders it suspect" (ibid, p. 14)

The modern tongues movement essentially began 7:00 p.m. on New Year's Eve of the year 1900, and mushroomed due to a series of newspaper articles that were initially more interested in the fact that blacks and whites were having tiny joint services (which didn't last long -major branches, e.g. the Assembly of God denomination, began as little more than a continuation of the same movement by those who wanted whites only, a sordid origin which AOG formally repented of as a denomination not very long ago) which articles brought crowds of gawkers, and which crowds brought even more reporters to comment on the gawkers(!), which increased all the more as reports of "strange happenings" circulated... (I can recount the full history in much more depth, but won't go into all of it all for present purposes). Stranger things have surely worked the works of God, though, so what's the problem?

The first thing which strikes me as dubious is this. When the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Azusa street revival -the origin of the modern tongues movement- began, all the participants believed they had received the gift of speaking in other languages that would usher in the last day revival specifically in the form of being able to preach the Gospel to all the nations which was to take place before the end of all ends. Accordingly, many of the original Pentecostals sold possessions etc. in order to travel by sea and by air, to many foreign countries, fully believing that when they spoke in tongues their hearers would supernaturally hear the Gospel. Oops. When that expectation did not materialize, and only at that time, the chastened and to a tragic extent travel-weary movement as a whole adopted the "standard" interpretation (i.e. -as F. F. Bruce might say- soon-to-be "traditional" interpretation) that the gift they had received must be some kind of angelic language, or some kind of prayer language no person but God really understands. So what's the problem?

That modern tongues speaking probably isn't a language of any kind -angelic or human- was fairly well confirmed by a massive 5 year long multi-national linguistic analysis of tongue speakers from different cultures and language groups which confirmed not only that the tongues being spoken in the movement did not correspond to any known language, but, further, that the specific manner that people "spoke in tongues" was in accordance with the phonemes (basic vocalizations) which occurred in a given speaker's native language! The "heavenly language's" origin seemed to be of the earth, not just of the earth, but regional earth locations, varying very specifically by limitation to the specific language sounds known from birth by the given tongues speaker, varying according to one's native language and place of residence.

I. Howard Marshall, commenting on the skepticism-inducing nature of the exhaustive linguistic studies, nevertheless pointed to an example of a Marxist revolutionary and atheist known to Marshall who was converted to Christ after hearing his own daughter speak in a language that he had mastered, but that -he knew- his daughter was unable to speak. Marshall felt this case too convincing for him personally to discount despite the movement as a whole being still, well, entirely unconvincing to him (note, despite Marshall showing no bias for cessationism). To sum up, I have never thought scriptural arguments for cessationism by Protestant cessationists are even remotely convincing, however the nature of the phenomena in question themselves when placed under closer scrutiny (not to mention ancillary issues like heretical Sabellianism/monarchial modalism espoused by millions of pentecostals, e.g. United Pentecostal International et al, God wants you rich if you donate to me theology, sociological studies concerning an abysmal lack of fruitbearing, just to name a few reservations) and... well... just color me deeply skeptical of mostly the whole movement for now while being anything but a cessationist personally.


313 Azusa Street, AD 1900 -from whence the entire modern tongues movement sprang All major modern trajectories descend historically from this location/event.
__________
Addendum from the Wiki article on Glossolalia

Quote
Substantial scientific studies have been published that provide an objective description of the linguistics of glossolalic speech and the neural behaviour of the speakers.

Linguistics of Pentecostal glossolalia

William J. Samarin, a linguist from the University of Toronto, published a thorough assessment of Pentecostal glossolalia that became a classic work on its linguistic characteristics.[5] His assessment was based on a large sample of glossolalia recorded in public and private Christian meetings in Italy, Holland, Jamaica, Canada and the USA over the course of five years; his wide range included the Puerto Ricans of the Bronx, the Snake Handlers of the Appalachians, and Russian Molokan in Los Angeles.

Samarin found that glossolalic speech does resemble human language in some respects. The speaker uses accent, rhythm, intonation and pauses to break up the speech into distinct units. Each unit is itself made up of syllables, the syllables being formed from consonants and vowels taken from a language known to the speaker.

It is verbal behavior that consists of using a certain number of consonants and vowels[...]in a limited number of syllables that in turn are organized into larger units that are taken apart and rearranged pseudogrammatically[...]with variations in pitch, volume, speed and intensity.[6]

[Glossolalia] consists of strings of syllables, made up of sounds taken from all those that the speaker knows, put together more or less haphazardly but emerging nevertheless as word-like and sentence-like units because of realistic, language-like rhythm and melody.[7]

That the sounds are taken from the set of sounds already known to the speaker is confirmed by others: Felicitas Goodman found that the speech of glossolalists reflected the patterns of speech of the speaker's native language.[8]

Samarin found that the resemblance to human language was merely on the surface, and so concluded that glossolalia is "only a facade of language".[9] He reached this conclusion because the syllable string did not form words, the stream of speech was not internally organised, and– most importantly of all– there was no systematic relationship between units of speech and concepts. Humans use language to communicate, but glossolalia does not. Therefore he concluded that glossolalia is not "a specimen of human language because it is neither internally organized nor systematically related to the world man perceives".[9]

On the basis of his linguistic analysis, Samarin defined Pentecostal glossolalia as "meaningless but phonologically structured human utterance, believed by the speaker to be a real language but bearing no systematic resemblance to any natural language, living or dead".[10]

Practitioners of glossolalia may disagree with linguistic researchers and claim that they are speaking human languages (xenoglossia). For example Ralph Harris, in the work Spoken By the Spirit published by Radiant Life/GPH in 1973, describes seventy five occasions when glossolalic speech was understood by others. (Scientific research into such claims is documented in the article on xenoglossia.)
[edit] Comparative linguistics

Felicitas Goodman, a psychological anthropologist and linguist, studied a number of Pentecostal communities in the United States, Caribbean and Mexico; these included English, Spanish and Mayan speaking groups. She compared what she found with recordings of non-Christian rituals from Africa, Borneo, Indonesia and Japan. She took into account both the segmental structure (such as sounds, syllables, phrases) and the supra-segmental elements (rhythm, accent, intonation), and concluded that there was no distinction between what was practiced by the Pentecostal Protestants and the followers of other religions.[11]

Neuroscience

In 2006, the brains of a group of individuals were scanned while they were speaking in tongues. Activity in the language centers of the brain decreased, while activity in the emotional centers of the brain increased. Activity in the area of control decreased, which corresponds with the reported experience of loss of control. There were no changes in any language areas, suggesting that glossolalia is not associated with usual language function.[12][13][14] Other brain wave studies have also found that brain activity alters in glossolalia.[15]
Scientific explanation

Attempts to explain these physical and psychological from a scientific perspective have been suggested, including mental illness, hypnosis, and learned behaviour...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossolalia#Neuroscience
« Last Edit: April 18, 2012, 11:26:12 PM by xariskai » Logged

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« Reply #42 on: April 19, 2012, 07:59:11 AM »

a comprehensive and fair treatment of the 'speaking in tongues' phenomenon, in my opinion.
just because God may give heavenly languages to some people at some times; there can still be many episodes of mass hysteria, or just 'trying to fit in' at other times.

i think i have seen all forms of this, in my travels around the churches that lead eventually to my spiritual journey to orthodoxy.
certainly there are no less miracles and prophecies in the orthodox church, but there is much less publicity and hysteria; which can only be a good thing.
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« Reply #43 on: April 19, 2012, 03:50:43 PM »

In the defense of "post-revival" glossolalia practitioners, just because a practice is clearly physiological does not make it "false" or "un-spiritual". After all, we lower testosterone levels through caloric deprivation, which we would also call a spiritual lust-reducing discipline. We call the gift of tears a gift from God, and yet crying, under scientific scrutiny, would surely be crying just the same.

I think one of the greater risks of glossolalia is the same as many disciplines and practices: The risk of "half-converting" a native population. Glossolalia is part of many African religions, and the popularity of Pentecostalism among former slaves in the early 1900's probably had something to do with this. A group could simply switch the name of their idol to that of "Jesus Christ" or "Holy Spirit" and continue on much the same as before. The same thing happened in Central and South America with saint veneration, which is why you have so much pagan non-saint veneration there today (see: Santa Muerte, for example).

Perhaps one should ask, "Is the Glossolalia of the post-revival period typically practiced 'decently and in order', as St. Paul demands in his 1st Epistle to the Corinthians?" If so, or if not, what are we to then conclude of it?
« Last Edit: April 19, 2012, 04:02:27 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"You are philosophical innovators. As for me, I follow the Fathers." -Every heresiarch ever
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« Reply #44 on: April 19, 2012, 04:09:08 PM »

I think it is primarily my charismatic background that I feel clashing with Orthodoxy. But then again, it's specifically statements by the more polemical converts who have hurt me.

Such converts do more violence to their own brothers in the Church than to outsiders. They write silly polemical articles about how there is a revisionist conspiracy to make it look like long hair wasn't traditional among clergy before the Ottoman period. They fuss over scarves and lengths of clothing.

They actually *do* borrow from Protestants and Catholics quite extensively: Pseudo-geology from the Seventh-Day Adventists, political stances from the classical Evangelicals, Humanae Vitae from the Roman Catholics. They are all for ecumenism; just that ecumenism made in their own image.

I don't think there is a church that does not have such people in it. But their fervor lasts merely one generation, because very few, VERY few, of their offspring care to inherit such behavior. So their misguided zeal "goes out like burning thorns" as the Psalmist says. They have no wood to sustain them past kindling.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2012, 04:13:41 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

Quote from: Orthonorm
if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"You are philosophical innovators. As for me, I follow the Fathers." -Every heresiarch ever
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