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Protestant seeker
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« on: October 08, 2002, 03:03:26 PM »

Hi, I am an Evangelical Protestant who has read some of the Church Fathers as well as some Roman Catholic and Orthodox apologetics. I am very much thinking about becoming either Catholic or Orthodox. I attended mass or a while, but for the past month or so have been attending my
local Antiochian Orthodox Church. I really like this church;
the liturgy is incredible and a welcomed relieve
for the silliness of Protestantism, the priest, deacon and people are all friendly and seem very godly. In addition, though it is a small church it has a lot of things going on that I see as positive (Bible studies, pro-life ministries, etc).
   At any rate, I have some doctrinal questions about
Orthodoxy:

1) The Orthodox Church believes that salvation is though
grace alone (sola gratia) though faith in Christ, correct?
Yet, man has free will to accept or reject grace, correct?
Also, salvation includes following Christ in a relationship
with him and partaking of the sacraments (esp. baptism,
cofession and communion), right? What about "deification",
how does that work into this?

2) Does the Orthodox Church believe in the concept of
mortal sin as does the Catholic Church? If so, are there
any differences between what the Orthodox Church
sees as mortal sin and what the Catholic Church sees
as mortal sin?

3) I know the Orthodox Church does not believe in the
false doctrine of once-saved-always saved. So, how
does someone in a state of grace lose that grace?
Is it mortal sin?

4) What about contraception and the Orthodox Church?
I understand that some Orthodox see it as wrong and
others do not. For those who see it as wrong, is it
considered a mortal sin?

O.K. these are a lot of questions, and I apologize for
so much upfront. Any help would be appreciated though.

In Christ,

The Protestant seeker
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« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2002, 03:53:53 PM »

Hi!

Quote
Hi, I am an Evangelical Protestant who has read some of the Church Fathers as well as some Roman Catholic and Orthodox apologetics.

You're on the right track.

Quote
1) The Orthodox Church believes that salvation is though grace alone (sola gratia) though faith in Christ, correct?

Faith vs. works is a very Western question and basically a nonissue, yet it helped start a slew of heresies in the West collectively known as Protestantism. This question really goes over my head but God saves, we don't save ourselves. Yet 'faith without works is dead'.

Quote
Yet, man has free will to accept or reject grace, correct?

Correct.

Quote
Also, salvation includes following Christ in a relationship with him and partaking of the sacraments (esp. baptism, cofession and communion), right?

Right.

Quote
What about "deification", how does that work into this?

Unlike Protestantism, we don't believe God just covers up our sins and that we're still dirty wretches afterwards. No. God wants to transform us into a glorified state, in perfect union with him.

Quote
2) Does the Orthodox Church believe in the concept of mortal sin as does the Catholic Church?

The term, and venial sin for mistakes that don't snuff out the life of grace in you, is Western (through the term is known in Russian: smertnyj grech). But the concept underneath is IMO the same on both sides.

Quote
If so, are there any differences between what the Orthodox Church sees as mortal sin and what the Catholic Church sees as mortal sin?

As far as what's objectively good and evil, as in the Ten Commandments and sexual morality, no. As for disciplinary things such as fasting, yes. See my Fasting page linked to my site's front page for more on this.

Quote
3) I know the Orthodox Church does not believe in the false doctrine of once-saved-always saved. So, how does someone in a state of grace lose that grace? Is it mortal sin?

Yes, it does; yes, you can and yes, that's it.

Quote
4) What about contraception and the Orthodox Church? I understand that some Orthodox see it as wrong and others do not. For those who see it as wrong, is it considered a mortal sin?

I dare say yes. Click here for more.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2002, 03:56:27 PM by Serge » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2002, 03:58:37 PM »

Glory to Jesus Christ!
Does the Orthodox Church believe in the concept of
mortal sin
First off welcome ProtestAnt seeker! Serge explained things very well and I have nothing to add to it, but wanted to show where the beginnings of the mortal sin concept comes from.

1 John 5:16-17
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.


While Orthodox have seperating of the 2 sins, it is our custom to confess all sins, not just those mortal. In the west, only mortal sins need be confessed. May God Bless you as you seek out the truth in Holy Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2002, 05:12:38 PM »

Thanks so much for the responses!
Serge, you have a cool website with a lot of good
info. Thanks for the link! I have a few follow up
questions:

Quote: "Faith vs. works is a very Western question and basically a nonissue, yet it helped start a slew of heresies in the West collectively known as Protestantism. This question really goes over my head but God saves, we don't save ourselves. Yet 'faith without works is dead'.

I agree and I see how it has led to so many unnecessary
problems in Protestantism. But, just to make sure I
understand what you are saying, in Orthodoxy God does
all the saving through his grace, yet man must accept
this grace freely. Also, though we can't work our
way to heaven, as you said "faith without works is dead".
As you said as well, "this goes over my head"-I take this to mean that salvation is a mystery of sorts that we will never be fully able to undersand. Is this right?

Finally, on contraception. I have read some on contraception
and tend to see it as wrong as well (my wife and I are
NFPers anyway). Catholicism sees contraception as a mortal
sin. Do traditional Orthodox see contraception not only
as wrong, but as the equivalent of a mortal sin? Oh,
and as for the Orthodox who don't see contraception as necessarily a sin or as more of a pastoral matter, are they considered heretics or what is your view of them?  Just wondering.


In Christ,

The Protestant seeker

P.S. I hope I am not asking too controvesial questions
or anything.
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« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2002, 05:52:33 PM »

You're welcome! I hope the link on contraception worked for you.

Quote
But, just to make sure I
understand what you are saying, in Orthodoxy God does
all the saving through his grace, yet man must accept
this grace freely. Also, though we can't work our
way to heaven, as you said "faith without works is dead".

Sounds good to me.

Quote
As you said as well, "this goes over my head"-I take this to mean that salvation is a mystery of sorts that we will never be fully able to undersand. Is this right?

Sounds good too but I meant I don't think I am qualified to explain how Orthodoxy is different from Protestant notions of salvation.

Quote
Oh, and as for the Orthodox who don't see contraception as necessarily a sin or as more of a pastoral matter, are they considered heretics or what is your view of them?

Objectively, they are sellouts trying to dodge a reality about sex for people of childbearing age. If you're of that age and fertile but aren't mature enough to be a parent, then objectively you have no right to get married or have sex.
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« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2002, 07:20:08 PM »

Seeker,

Welcome to the forum Smiley Some thoughts (and take everything I say with a grain of salt, I'm just a recent convert myself)...

Quote
2) Does the Orthodox Church believe in the concept of
mortal sin as does the Catholic Church? If so, are there
any differences between what the Orthodox Church
sees as mortal sin and what the Catholic Church sees
as mortal sin?

I think this depends largely on who you ask (ie., there is no one position that is "right," but there are a number of acceptable perspectives). In America today (and I assume in the west in general), Orthodox Priests tend to distance themselves from what they perceive to be "Roman Catholicism," and because of this you will hear many say that "Orthodoxy doesn't give penances such as saying 10 Hail Mary's," that "Orthodoxy doesn't divide sins into categories," and so forth. This is at best misleading. Church history clearly shows that Orthodox Priests did in fact give penances in past times unlike what they would give today (e.g., if you masturbate you might have to do 12 prostrations a day, with appropriate prayers, and not partake in communion for 40 days). Today the Orthodox seem to shy away from words and practices like that, which I assume is an allowance for our weakness. I do think the Orthodox view overall is different, so in a way I can understand the change in language; I think it important to admit that there are "moral sins" though. Regarding the actual sins (whether you call them mortal or not), I think we are pretty close to Catholicism.

Quote
3) I know the Orthodox Church does not believe in the
false doctrine of once-saved-always saved. So, how
does someone in a state of grace lose that grace?
Is it mortal sin?

I think the quickest way to explain it would be to compare it to a patient receiving medicine. The medicine had the ability to save from the beginning, no one denies that it was potent enough from the beginning and sufficient enough to save someone. So a person starts participating with this medicine (God's grace), and starts to get better. If, however, the patient later decides to stop taking the medicine, the physician doesn't force him to continue taking it. Certainly he and those around him try to persuade him, but they don't make him do something he doesn't want to do. Maybe he had been healed enough that he will live. Maybe he'll relapse after a little while. There's no real way of knowing. All that is known is that the medicine saves, and that we need to focus on taking it for all our lives. There's never a point at which we can proclaim ourselves healed and no longer in need of God's medicine (grace).

Regarding the "how," I think you can turn away in many many ways, though only the bigger ones can prevent your receiving the medicine. For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic and you snap at them, you will be hindering God's grace; you're creating an atmosphere where the passions reign and God's love doesn't. This in itself is minor, but if it builds up further and you get mad all day, holding a grudge and wanting revenge, then all of a sudden God's grace is being almost totally blocked out. In that way, while there are distinctions between the different levels of sin, all sin is treated as wrong and all sin needs to be repented (even sins you did out of ignorance).

Quote
4) What about contraception and the Orthodox Church?
I understand that some Orthodox see it as wrong and
others do not. For those who see it as wrong, is it
considered a mortal sin?

I think this is largely between you and your Priest (and God, of course!). I can't say whether it's mortal or not; I do think it's wrong though. In fact, I don't think Orthodoxy will, in the future, condone the use of contraceptives as widely as they do now (if at all). I disagree with most of what Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong says, but I think he's right on this issue, the currect Orthodox position (in some places, like America) on contraception is a moral lapse and not in line with either biblical or patristic thought. I look forward to the day when it's usage is extremely rare, and then only with NFP being used. (I don't consider NFP to be wholly valid either, I think it's contraception too, it's just a lesser evil than other forms on contraception).
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« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2002, 10:19:58 AM »

Welcome, Protestant Seeker!

I, too, am a Protestant inquirer into Orthodoxy, and like you have been attending a local Antiochians parish where I live.  (Though not yours, as we don't have a deacon!  Although our priest at the annual parish convocation expressed his wish to have a couple of deacons.  We do have a subdeacon, but he will be leaving for seminary in a year.  But I digress!)

The Orthodox understanding of salvation in the terms of healing has been among the most helpful changes in perspective for me.  It includes the notion that I do not have the wherewithal to heal myself, that I must maintain my own spiritual health by the appropriate diet and regimen, and that when I become sick, I must immediately seek treatment so as to regain a state of progressive health.  I can't tell you how this has helped me.

And it leaves the legal precision of deciding who is and isn't saved way out of the question.  Or, rather, the determination of whether one is or isn't currently in a state of grace (assuming they've followed Scripture by repentance and baptism/chrismation).  It also helps us keep the judging focus on ourselves.  Just as I cannot see inside someone to determine whether or not they have a viral infection, neither can I look in their heart and determine guilt.

Again, welcome.
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« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2002, 10:47:57 AM »

Yes, I know I am late in replying to this question, but I have been praying on the topic of theosis and felt that the following points may help Protestant Seeker as well as me in understanding some of his questions.

In the East, the relationship between free will and God's grace is explained as synergy. This word implies cooperation. Because God loves us all as His children, He is waiting for our assent to His energies in order to start forming Christ within us.

The best example of synergy in action is the Annunciation. Gabriel made known to a virgin God's plan, and then he waited for her assent. After responding to some queries from the young woman, she said 'yes'. Christ started to become formed within her.

This is one of the many reasons we look to the Theotokos. Her example has laid it out for all of us---God is present and waiting for our constant assent. This is how Man can finally become what God has wanted for all of His children--to share in His nature just as Christ is His son.

One aspect of deification is that all of us are trying to form Christ within us. This is why the way we love others demonstrates our love for Christ, and why 'faith without works is dead'. It also gives additional meaning to the scriptural reference of "I never knew you; depart from Me..." (Matt 7:23, NKJV)---if Christ was never formed within us, then He never knew us. Those unfortunates will not share in our transfigured future, which is God’s will and hope for all of His children.

Also, I like Slave of Christ's analogy of medicine regarding our salvation. Because of the union of mind, body, and soul the Eucharist assists in deifying all these elements. (All other Mysteries do this in a similar manner, but the Eucharist is the 'Apex' since it demonstrates Christ's immanence and presence in His Body, the Church).

Therefore, while Christ may have started to form within us, if we turn our backs to God and start to sin, then He will never be fully formed within us by our own choice. This is because God persuades and never compels.

This, at least for now, is how I understand theosis, salvation, faith being reflected in life, and how 'once-saved-always-saved' is not correct teaching.
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