All that we have said about the great Christian Mysteries is not an opinion of our own (if it were an opinion of our own it would be worth nothing), but it is the repeated experience of the Apostles in the ancient days and of the saints up to our own days. For the Church of God lives not on opinion, but on the experience of the saints, as in the beginning, so in our days. The opinions of intellectual persons may be wonderfully clever and yet be false, whereas the experience of the saints is always true. It is God the Lord who is true to Himself in his saints.
- St Nicholas of Zhica
Chris, in your message you equate the bearing of fruit with the development of new ideas, thus betraying a very post-Schism scholastic and rationalistic approach to the Faith that is not shared by the apostolic Church. What the Church so diligently safeguards is the “faith once and for all delivered to the saints”, and this faith is nothing other than the path of theosis, the method by which man becomes a sanctified dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and the means by which man attains to eternal salvation. When doctrines are corrupted, when false teachings are introduced, the way of theosis also become obstructed and man is cut off from the very means by which he was to become a vessel of divine grace.
In the pre-Schism Church (outside of St. Augustine), theology was understood a fruit of hesychia, ceaseless prayer, ascesis, the union of the mind with the heart, and the experience of the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the West, following the Schism, this genuine experience of the Holy Spirit, and the way to theosis, was abandoned in favor of a rationalistic approach to the faith which exalted reason and philosophy above divine revelation and the experience of the grace of God. When the faith is made subservient to philosophy, and the mind theologizes outside of the Holy Spirit, this results in the development of new teachings which are contrary to the faith “once and for all delivered to the saints”, and which obstruct the way to theosis. The way to theosis is always a way of foolishness to the Greeks (to those who seek intellectual stimulation from new ideas and spiritually barren philosophies), but is wisdom to those who are being saved (who seek salvation through the purification of the heart and the acquisition of the Holy Spirit through continual prayer).
The bishops, saints, and Fathers of the Church have spurned Roman Catholic heresies precisely because they are the fruit of man’s barren reasoning operating outside of the experience of sanctification by the Holy Spirit. Such “new ideas” obstruct and hinder man’s theosis, and thereby prevent man from bearing spiritual fruit. True fruit is produced by those faithful servants who practice the commandments of Christ, who purify their hearts, and who become temples of the Holy Spirit and vessels of divine grace. What draws many to the Orthodox Church is precisely the fact that saints in our own times continue to experience the grace of the Holy Spirit and exhibit the same power of the Holy Spirit as was seen in the lives of the Apostles and the earliest saints.
The faith “once and for all delivered to the saints” is intellectually dry to those who have traded the gospel for philosophy; but is life and truth for those seeking to acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit.