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Question: Was your conversion to Orthodoxy based more on reason (philosophy, history, etc.), or experience (mystical/ spiritual)?
Reason - 8 (36.4%)
Experience - 1 (4.5%)
Both, equally. - 12 (54.5%)
Neither (please explain below) - 1 (4.5%)
Total Voters: 22

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Author Topic: Conversion to Orthodoxy by experience or reason?  (Read 1033 times) Average Rating: 0
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truthseeker32
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« on: July 14, 2012, 07:27:28 PM »

Hello everyone,

This question is the latest of many that have come to mind as I continue investigating the Orthodox faith. I come from a Mormon background where spiritual experience is relied upon heavily for both converts and cradle adherents. Upon encountering the difficult aspects of the history of the LDS church, or perhaps philosophical inconsistencies between a physical God and a finite universe, many have difficulty maintaining their faith. I am one sch example of such a falling away, and as a result it is now very difficult for me to trust any spiritual feelings or experiences I might have.

In contrast, many Roman Catholic converts I have met converted, at least in part, for so called "intellectual" reasons, being drawn by the rich and enduring philosophical and historical tradition they find in the faith. I was curious to find out whether this also tends to be the case among Orthodox Christians, or if there is more of an emphasis on experience.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2012, 07:30:10 PM by truthseeker32 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2012, 07:56:26 PM »

The Orthodox generally ignore reason and have a negative view about it sadly. There is definitely more of an emphasis on experience. However, I came to Orthodoxy through reason.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2012, 07:56:45 PM by JamesR » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2012, 08:10:53 PM »

The Orthodox generally ignore reason and have a negative view about it sadly. There is definitely more of an emphasis on experience. However, I came to Orthodoxy through reason.

Not necessarily. You should read more St. Justin Martyr, also called St. Justin "the Philosopher." He believed that Christianity was inherently reasonable and wrote a number of Apologies in defense of the Faith. He is a very early Church Father. It's human reason, by itself, that is foolish. But, when we begin to see the Divine, nothing else really makes sense and it is only Christianity that seems reasonable.

To the OP, both played a part in my conversion from Presbyterianism. I was awed by the beauty and holiness of Orthodox liturgy and inspired by the life of prayer. Coming from scholasticism, it was refreshing to have something to do about being Christian, rather than just something to think about.

However, at the same time, Orthodoxy had to make sense to me first, and I spent a long time studying history, Scripture and the Church Fathers. Eventually, I came to the logical conclusion that the claims of Orthodoxy were historically accurate and theologically solid. I came to believe it was really and truly the Church of Christ, and that I had to join it. A few issues remained, but I continued to read and ask questions of my priest and others...eventually those issues were resolved for me, and I converted formally.

So, in short, Orthodox spiritually told me that there was more to Christianity, and Orthodox history/theology convinced me that I needed it all.
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« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2012, 08:13:43 PM »

Reason really isn't enough though, and it is by experience one must come to truth. I could believe on good reason that being a fascist is true, however until I experience being a fascist that is merely an abstraction.

It's also why I think it's imperative to live out whatever religion or philosophy you want to adhere by. It's like this whole nonsense about "proving God exists", that has to come experientially for each individual person.

Now how to know what is the truth and how is Orthodoxy the truth is something that I cannot in anyway argue in words. That is something I would like to work on, for me my basis is looking at the various worldviews/religions in the world and all of them are fatalistic in one way or another, except for Orthodoxy. I have not found anything as beautifully wholesome to me. Now I do dislike relativism very much so, but perhaps it is upon the individual to determine what is beautiful and true, but I think that is maximized in the Orthodox Church.

Again my "logic" on the later isn't sound and it's something I need to develop. And I've deviated far from the topic, sorry.
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« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2012, 08:47:42 PM »

It's also why I think it's imperative to live out whatever religion or philosophy you want to adhere by. It's like this whole nonsense about "proving God exists", that has to come experientially for each individual person.
While saying one can prove God's existence may be a stretch (depending on how we understand the term "proof") I find a few of the arguments for the existence of God compelling (Aquinas's fifth way, Argument from order, Argument from morality, Idealism), and they eventually brought me out of my agnosticism.
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« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2012, 09:00:55 PM »

Ok so because there is order in the world thus there is a god, but then what is God? Perfect order? What kind of God is that? Is that a God worth worshipping?

These philosophical proofs for God just do a disservice to Christianity IMO. You got to start at Christ, not some Unmovable Mover then somehow connect that to Christ, because it's impossible.
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« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2012, 09:02:01 PM »

I found my way to Orthodoxy through reason.  Now that I am here, I have learned there is so much more than just reason, although reason was more than enough to get me here.
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« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2012, 10:03:14 PM »

Ok so because there is order in the world thus there is a god, but then what is God? Perfect order? What kind of God is that? Is that a God worth worshipping?

These philosophical proofs for God just do a disservice to Christianity IMO. You got to start at Christ, not some Unmovable Mover then somehow connect that to Christ, because it's impossible.
I didn't claim that such arguments got one to Christ. We can agree there. They can only get one to some unknown God.
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« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2012, 10:13:23 PM »

Just because something is beyond reason doesn't make it reasonless. Reason just comes up short.
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« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2012, 10:24:54 PM »

Ok so because there is order in the world thus there is a god, but then what is God? Perfect order? What kind of God is that? Is that a God worth worshipping?

These philosophical proofs for God just do a disservice to Christianity IMO. You got to start at Christ, not some Unmovable Mover then somehow connect that to Christ, because it's impossible.
I didn't claim that such arguments got one to Christ. We can agree there. They can only get one to some unknown God.
I didn't mean to insinuate that you made such a claim. If those "proofs" got you out of agnositicsm then great and even better if you are taking that further. But for me it's hardly persuasive.

Before Orthodoxy, I'd hear Christian philosophers like William Lane Craig harbor on his "5 irrefutable proofs for the existence of God" (not his direct words, mine) and somehow gets to using Christ at the end of the argument to prove without God then objective morality doesn't exist. He's a great debater and a very intelligent man, but alot of his discourses on trying to connect God to Christ is really irreducible
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« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2012, 10:30:41 PM »

When I announced my intent to convert to Orthodoxy I explained it to one of my best friends from our previous church (the one who still seems to have the most interest in it himself) and he indicated that my decision made sense to him but would scare most of the rest of our Charismatic church to death because my decision was based on reason and they looked at things more from an emotional perspective.  laugh
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« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2012, 10:31:51 PM »

When I announced my intent to convert to Orthodoxy I explained it to one of my best friends from our previous church (the one who still seems to have the most interest in it himself) and he indicated that my decision made sense to him but would scare most of the rest of our Charismatic church to death because my decision was based on reason and they looked at things more from an emotional perspective.  laugh
Strangely enough, I actually long for those days when my Christianity was based on an emotional response rather than an intellectual one. I was a much better Christian back then. Now I just like to rationalize away my own sins.
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« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2012, 10:34:28 PM »

When I announced my intent to convert to Orthodoxy I explained it to one of my best friends from our previous church (the one who still seems to have the most interest in it himself) and he indicated that my decision made sense to him but would scare most of the rest of our Charismatic church to death because my decision was based on reason and they looked at things more from an emotional perspective.  laugh
Strangely enough, I actually long for those days when my Christianity was based on an emotional response rather than an intellectual one. I was a much better Christian back then. Now I just like to rationalize away my own sins.
Yeah, that is a danger, I have that problem too sometimes.
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« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2012, 10:36:31 PM »

When I announced my intent to convert to Orthodoxy I explained it to one of my best friends from our previous church (the one who still seems to have the most interest in it himself) and he indicated that my decision made sense to him but would scare most of the rest of our Charismatic church to death because my decision was based on reason and they looked at things more from an emotional perspective.  laugh
Strangely enough, I actually long for those days when my Christianity was based on an emotional response rather than an intellectual one. I was a much better Christian back then. Now I just like to rationalize away my own sins.
Yeah, that is a danger, I have that problem too sometimes.
Now I couldn't say I could be a Charasmatic, though. I once entered one of their churches and was completely turned off by the charlatans running it.
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« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2012, 11:06:00 PM »

Neither.

I was from the cradle to the baptismal font.  You know what's weird, I really think I remember figments of my baptism at that age. Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2012, 11:18:21 PM »

I converted because of what this thread would call "reason", and then realized that I had been asking all the wrong questions. "Experience" is what has kept me.
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« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2012, 11:21:34 PM »

I found my way to Orthodoxy through reason.  Now that I am here, I have learned there is so much more than just reason, although reason was more than enough to get me here.
Me too, most of the time I wanted to shout, "Why hasn't anyone told me this before!?!"
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« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2012, 11:32:12 PM »

When I announced my intent to convert to Orthodoxy I explained it to one of my best friends from our previous church (the one who still seems to have the most interest in it himself) and he indicated that my decision made sense to him but would scare most of the rest of our Charismatic church to death because my decision was based on reason and they looked at things more from an emotional perspective.  laugh
Strangely enough, I actually long for those days when my Christianity was based on an emotional response rather than an intellectual one. I was a much better Christian back then. Now I just like to rationalize away my own sins.
Yeah, that is a danger, I have that problem too sometimes.
Now I couldn't say I could be a Charismatic, though. I once entered one of their churches and was completely turned off by the charlatans running it.

I don't think I could any more either, though for a different reason. Fortunately I was, and remain, very convinced of the sincerity of my former church, both the local and national leadership. No, I couldn't go back because coming to Orthodoxy I haven't lost the Holy Spirit, the so called claim to fame of the the Charismatic churches, and I now have so much more that they don't.
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« Reply #18 on: July 14, 2012, 11:57:16 PM »

Hello everyone,

This question is the latest of many that have come to mind as I continue investigating the Orthodox faith. I come from a Mormon background where spiritual experience is relied upon heavily for both converts and cradle adherents. Upon encountering the difficult aspects of the history of the LDS church, or perhaps philosophical inconsistencies between a physical God and a finite universe, many have difficulty maintaining their faith. I am one sch example of such a falling away, and as a result it is now very difficult for me to trust any spiritual feelings or experiences I might have.

In contrast, many Roman Catholic converts I have met converted, at least in part, for so called "intellectual" reasons, being drawn by the rich and enduring philosophical and historical tradition they find in the faith. I was curious to find out whether this also tends to be the case among Orthodox Christians, or if there is more of an emphasis on experience.

I personally do not understand the rational of limiting this inquiry to those that have or perhaps might convert. I suspect that if you included the so called "cradle" orthodox, you would more likely gain insight rather lose it due to meaningless tirades against [pick your favorite denomination].
Just a suggestion, I was somewhat put off by being excluded in this conversation at the outset.
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« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2012, 12:29:13 AM »

Just because something is beyond reason doesn't make it reasonless. Reason just comes up short.

The Orthodox Church agrees with you which is why we call the sacraments "Mysteries."  Reason can take us only so far. 
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« Reply #20 on: July 15, 2012, 01:25:10 AM »

I personally do not understand the rational of limiting this inquiry to those that have or perhaps might convert. I suspect that if you included the so called "cradle" orthodox, you would more likely gain insight rather lose it due to meaningless tirades against [pick your favorite denomination].
Just a suggestion, I was somewhat put off by being excluded in this conversation at the outset.
The point if the topic is to hear what led converts to the Orthodox faith. I am not exactly sure where you take issue with the thread.
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« Reply #21 on: July 15, 2012, 01:44:18 AM »

I clicked both on the survey.

Reason played an important role, particularly in a negative/Occam's razor sense--none of the other options I had explored had been able to stand up to reasonable inquiry. Orthodoxy provided a consistent paradigm which was then affirmed via experience.

Contra JamesR, Orthodoxy actually has a great respect for human reason. If you wish to use your reason, there are books and books and books from St. Justin Martyr in the second century to modern theologians like St. Justin Popovich or Vladimir Lossky which will challenge and exercise your intellectual capabilities. However, Orthodoxy respects reason in the same way it respects the body--it recognizes that it is an integral part of what God created when He created man, but it also recognizes that it is created (and therefore limited) and that since Eden it is fallen. As a creation of God, reason is a good thing--but like any other creation, we need to avoid the danger of making it an idol. We need to recognize its limitations and recognize that it is only one part of a full relationship with the divine. When you know a fellow human being, you can and should use your reason in working to understand them--but you don't use reason alone. You also use intuition, empathy, direct experience and even physical responses all together in terms of how you 'know' and how you respond to another human being. Since the Divine is a Person (3 Persons to be exact), the same is true of our interaction with it--we should use reason, but we cannot use only reason any more than you can have a relationship with another human person based wholely on reason.
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« Reply #22 on: July 15, 2012, 04:57:07 AM »

Reason played an important role, particularly in a negative/Occam's razor sense--none of the other options I had explored had been able to stand up to reasonable inquiry. Orthodoxy provided a consistent paradigm which was then affirmed via experience.

This. I clicked reason. My only "experience" was coming to feel at home with Orthodox theology. The practical aspects took more to feel accustomed to.
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« Reply #23 on: July 15, 2012, 06:35:47 AM »

Reason can lead the horse to water.
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« Reply #24 on: July 15, 2012, 07:42:45 AM »

Hello everyone,

This question is the latest of many that have come to mind as I continue investigating the Orthodox faith. I come from a Mormon background where spiritual experience is relied upon heavily for both converts and cradle adherents. Upon encountering the difficult aspects of the history of the LDS church, or perhaps philosophical inconsistencies between a physical God and a finite universe, many have difficulty maintaining their faith. I am one sch example of such a falling away, and as a result it is now very difficult for me to trust any spiritual feelings or experiences I might have.

In contrast, many Roman Catholic converts I have met converted, at least in part, for so called "intellectual" reasons, being drawn by the rich and enduring philosophical and historical tradition they find in the faith. I was curious to find out whether this also tends to be the case among Orthodox Christians, or if there is more of an emphasis on experience.

I personally do not understand the rational of limiting this inquiry to those that have or perhaps might convert. I suspect that if you included the so called "cradle" orthodox, you would more likely gain insight rather lose it due to meaningless tirades against [pick your favorite denomination].
Just a suggestion, I was somewhat put off by being excluded in this conversation at the outset.
The "cradle vs convert" description that comes up so frequently does indeed create a needless distinction. We are Orthodox by choice - some of us chose Orthodoxy as adults, others have chosen to remain Orthodox as they were raised.

Perhaps in the context of "experience or reason", you can give us insights about why you have chosen to remain Orthodox, just as some here have explained why they have chosen to become Orthodox.
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« Reply #25 on: July 15, 2012, 08:02:47 AM »

I always find these conversations helpful with making my own thoughts more clear.  

Unless one is a complete Rationalist- of the Enlightenment ilk- reason can only go so far.  That divinity exists may be demonstrated by reason, but as to the nature of God, character, His law, His love, etc., that is revelation. This is in keeping with most of the Fathers.

I suspect that 90% of those who engage in these conversations against reason do not intend misology, but wish to carve out spiritual space safe from polemics and sophistry.


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