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ByzantineSerb
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« on: January 18, 2005, 09:15:07 PM »

Greetings all,

I am discerning a conversion to the Orthodox Church, and would like to inquire, "Why should I convert to Orthodoxy?" What arguments (sane, level-headed, Christian arguments) can be offered, or what sources can be given, that could sway me to your venerable ecclesial communities.

I have asked this question on a Catholic board, just in a paradox: what should I not convert to Orthodox, what arguments....

   God bless.


      Ben
 
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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2005, 09:19:10 PM »

One of my concerns is modernism (a lessening of discipline, saying that Muslims worship true God, etc) in the Roman Catholic Church.

Are there not instances of your own patriarchs making ecumenist/modernist statements, especially to false communities? I have glanced at the seemingly more radical Orthodox sites, and they seem to say that canonical Orthodoxy is "plagued". I honestly don't undertsnad much of thsi, but I am interested in objective discussions, so please, correct me as need be.

   God bless.
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« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2005, 10:15:47 PM »

Ben,

Greetings. Perhaps the best I could do would be to give a brief overview of how I myself came to be Orthodox Church, that way I can hopefully avoid being polemical. Even while still a Protestant I became convinced that our Lord founded a specific Church. There is Matt. 16:18-19 of course, but I think many verses are very difficul to handle outside of that perspective. Why does Hebrews say to submit to those over us, for example, and who decides who those men who are over us are? (Heb. 13:17) Paul says in one letter that he left Timothy to appoint others, but does that mean that you have to have a special appointment to appoint others? And if so, who was the original ones that did the original appointings, and how do we know that the people appointed are to be trusted?

Coming upon Matt. 23 and paying attention to it for the first time was a real thunderbolt for me. Jesus had blasted the pharisees elsewhere, and now here he was saying "whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do" (Matt. 23:3), though of course he said not to do as they did. So was the existing authority so important that people should listen to their teachings, even when they were hypocrites? And after the Church started, did the concept of authority just drop out of sight and everyone started doing their own thing? There seemed to be some passages to support that, but what did the bulk of the Scripture say?

People kept telling me to research what the "Church Fathers" said, so eventually I did wonder, what did the early Church say? What did those writing in the 1st century and 2nd century say? Clement, Didache, Melito, Ignatius, Ireneaus, Justin Martyr, etc. What I saw was a Church that was connected by it's faith, hierarchy, practices, and observance of certain continual celebrations (e.g., eucharist). Eventually I became convinced that yes, there was a Church established by Christ, spread by the apostles, and continued throughout early christian history.

The question then became, was it "corrupted"? Did Constantine's toleration or Theodosius' making it official, for example, lead it astray? Regarding that, since there were a lot of doctrines not really talked about in the early church literature, I tried to work in reverse chronological order. I started with what the doctrine was today, and worked my way backwards trying to figure out where or when it came into being, or at least when it started to really get talked about a lot.

An overarching principle that I held to, though, was that I realized that probably not everything would be resolved or detailed to my full intellectual satisfaction (I hate saying that! it sounds so arrogant, but I think you know what I mean). I allowed that, if the Church was a "truth telling thing," if it was what it claimed to be (the body of Christ, headed by the Truth incarnate Himself), that I would trust the Church about the things I didn't understanding or just couldn't fully agree with. After all, if the Church really was led by the Christ, trusting what the Church taught over the years was essentially the same as trusting the Scripture, the Bible etc. Yes, there was the possibility for error, but I had faith that in the long run, properly understood, these things were protected from error.

And what does "the gates of hades" mean, anyway? Part of what the fathers saw in that term was heresy, schism, etc. In other words, things that corrupt church doctrine, cause division, etc. So for the the gates of hades to not prevail, this meant that their had to be some Church out there which had kept things faithfully, who had "held the traditions handed to them by word and epistle".

So the question after a bit of exploring became, Catholic or Orthodox? (I would now include Oriental Orthodox in that question, though I didn't at the time) What about papal supremacy, papal infallibility, the immaculate conception, purgatory, created grace, etc.? Or on the other side, what about Orthodoxy not having an ecumenical council for a long time, or their distinction between the essence and energy of God, etc.? Is Orthodoxy too mystical for it's own good? Is Catholicism too scholastic for it's own good? Is Orthodoxy stagnant? Is Catholicism innovative?

I'll admit that it was quite a struggle for a time. Eventually though, I became Orthodox. I think there are a lot of confusing issues, and many things are far from cut and dry. Purgatory, papal supremacy, etc. all seem to have patristic support--and I'd go a step further and say that yes, Fathers did affirm some of this stuff that the Orthodox don't affirm. But since I'm Orthodox, I'm sure you can guess what my final conclusion was on a lot of these issues.

« Last Edit: January 19, 2005, 01:46:41 AM by Paradosis » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2005, 01:24:59 AM »

You should become Orthodox because you know it to be the Church, the tangible community of Christians who have kept the faith unchanged through the power of the Holy Spirit. You should become Orthodox because you long for unity and communion with the apostolic faith. Because you believe the Nicene-Constantinpolitan Creed and the Ecumenical Councils and all the teachings of the Church.

Why should you not become Orthodox? I can't say I know of any theological or spiritual answer to this one. Reasons you should not become Orthodox: You are running away from a bad situation in another church and want to "escape."  Because you think it is a perfect institution whose people will all be perfect and you will become perfect.  You are looking for some sort of ethnic club.  That's about all I can think of. You should run TO the Church, not away from another. The people are not perfect: the belief in Christ is. The faith is more important than what country you were born in.
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« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2005, 02:21:30 AM »

Quote
So the question after a bit of exploring became, Catholic or Orthodox?

Justin's experience sounds like what I was going through.

Quote
(I would now include Oriental Orthodox in that question, though I didn't at the time)

I at first did not include the Oriental Orthodox either, but after hearing about them I thought I would pay a visit to one. I will admit that I did not spend a lot of time on research to see why the Oriental Church rejected Chalcedon and the split between the OO and EO, and I really should have spent some time on this, to be fair and make a concise decision. I kind of thought that these differences between the Churches at that time were quite above my comprehension and understanding, so I left it at that. Mor started a thread a while ago about why converts to Orthodoxy chose either the Eastern or Oriental Orthodox church and I would have to say that I chose basically based upon the fact that I wasn't sure if I could ever fit in at thethat the Oriental church, so I visited an Eastern Church that I had visited in the past, and it really clicked, so I was initiated into the Orthodox faith there.

Quote
I'll admit that it was quite a struggle for a time. Eventually though, I became Orthodox. I think there are a lot of confusing issues, and many things are far from cut and dry. Purgatory, papal supremacy, etc. all seem to have patristic support--and I'd go a step further and say that yes, Fathers did affirm some of this stuff that the Orthodox don't affirm. But since I'm Orthodox, I'm sure you can guess what my final conclusion was on a lot of these issues.

Same here.

In Christ,
Aaron

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« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2005, 05:55:46 PM »

I am discerning a conversion to the Orthodox Church, and would like to inquire, "Why should I convert to Orthodoxy?" What arguments (sane, level-headed, Christian arguments) can be offered, or what sources can be given, that could sway me to your venerable ecclesial communities.

I have asked this question on a Catholic board, just in a paradox: what should I not convert to Orthodox, what arguments....

 

Hi Ben.  First, it's not about "arguments."  I've written numerous times about 'arm-chair' apologists.  They turn everything into an argument.  They toss out patristics quotes like they're ammunition.   (see my thread on religious bullies in the free for all section) 

As it says in book I'm currently reading (Orthodox Psychotherapy), Christianity is therapeutic.  It's about "theosis," i.e. holiness. 

So the best way to "discern" the east is to attend the liturgy and read the Fathers and Scriptures. 
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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2005, 06:03:08 PM »

Quote
So the best way to "discern" the east is to attend the liturgy and read the Fathers and Scriptures

Indeed.  The best way to discern it is to live it.  After all, Christ invites us to "Come and see".
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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2005, 06:14:09 PM »

One of my concerns is modernism (a lessening of discipline, saying that Muslims worship true God, etc) in the Roman Catholic Church.

Are there not instances of your own patriarchs making ecumenist/modernist statements, especially to false communities? I have glanced at the seemingly more radical Orthodox sites, and they seem to say that canonical Orthodoxy is "plagued". I honestly don't undertsnad much of thsi, but I am interested in objective discussions, so please, correct me as need be.

 God bless.

I'm going to mention *that* book again (Orthodox Psychotherapy) because it's really blowing me away right now.  The author says that Christianity is "therapeutic."  (yes I know that sounds like 'modernism' to someone fresh from the RC trenches)  The author says that our souls are sick and they are "cured" through ascetic practices and participation in the mysteries of the Church.   One of the most important ascetic practices being fasting which is rarely mentioned in Roman Catholicism.  You won't get sound spiritual direction in most Roman Catholic parishes. 

Of course there are some parishes where fasting is recommended.  I used to attend a parish where fasting was encouraged, even insisted upon. 

Now Roman Catholics would counter this by saying that they're in communion with the pope and ecclesiology trumps.  But if the purpose of Christianity is indeed to cure the soul through ascetic practices, then ecclesiology takes a back seat to 'right thinking.' 

Does that make sense? 
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« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2005, 06:48:03 PM »

This is a problem I have with western theology in general: the idea that you can compartmentalize the faith handed to us, emphasising one aspect of it while not worrying as much about the other. Catholics (for instance) say if you have a correct ecclesiology (submit to the Pope) then the rest will fall into place and isn't as important. I don't think that is true, but I don't think the reverse is true either. This is why people disagreed with what Matthew said about the liturgy.

I think you have to take the whole life in Christ, you can't emphasise just one aspect. We don't make a sharp distinction between justification and sanctification; we don't make a sharp distinction between faith and works; we don't make a sharp distinction between our free will and God's sovereign will (we instead affirm synergy); likewise I don't think either faith or practice trumps the other, but I think they work in unity. It is not just ascetic practices which purify the soul, but also right doctrine: "take heed unto thyself [ie. praxis], and unto the doctrine [ie. beliefs]; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." (1 Tim. 4:16) I hope I have not misunderstood you, if so I apologize, please disregard the above as applying to you.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2005, 06:54:07 PM by Paradosis » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2005, 06:55:03 PM »

I hate to say this Jennifer, but this is exactly the problem I have with western theology in general. Smiley This is what they say: that you can compartmentalize the faith handed to us, having one aspect of it while not worrying as much about the other.

I think you're exactly right.  I didn't clarify my statement as well as I should.  I used to think like Matthew, that the "right" liturgy enforced "orthodoxy," 'what we worship is what we believe.'  That came out of 'flirting' with the traditionatalist RC movement.  But then I realized that there are groups with the "right" liturgy who are not orthodox in their faith. 

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« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2005, 06:57:07 PM »

Oops! I feared that I had misunderstood you Jennifer and edited my post to take out reference to you. Then less than a minute later you posted. Smiley Sorry if this causes any confusion.

EDIT--I just noticed that I also left the last sentence in my post in, which can only further add to the confusion! Again, I apologize. That's what I get for posting something and then editing it several times, rather than editing it before I actually post it. :confused:
« Last Edit: January 19, 2005, 07:02:32 PM by Paradosis » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2005, 08:08:46 PM »

I will have to check out that book.

Actually, I might be a trifle "modernist" to some RCs (among the radical vocal minority), as I am disgusted that the good works of many non-Roman Christians are overlooked or shrugged off merely because they aren't, using that famed that vituperative word, "Papist". In this I mean, "Well, they're going down anyhow."

I'm sure some extreme Orthoies say this as well.

However, I am considering leaving the Roman Church because of modernism. But if ROCORites and other rad trads are correct about modernism plaguing the canonical Orthodox Communion, then why would I want to jump from one sinking ship and board another?

You see, that's the type of help I require. God bless, Jennifer.

Ben
« Last Edit: January 19, 2005, 08:09:38 PM by ByzantineSerb » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2005, 08:20:30 PM »

Quote
However, I am considering leaving the Roman Church because of modernism. But if ROCORites and other rad trads are correct about modernism plaguing the canonical Orthodox Communion, then why would I want to jump from one sinking ship and board another?

You shouldn't Smiley You should convert to Orthodoxy if you can, for example, with a clean conscience sing the post communion prayer in an Orthodox Church "We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly spirit, we have found the true faith, worshipping the undivided trinity, which has saved us." Do you believe Orthodoxy has the salvific medicine, true worship, right faith, right practice, and the holy Spirit working in it's sacraments? Then I'd say talk to a priest about starting the catechumenate. If, on the other hand, you are only fleeing something bad, then I would say it'd be best to wait a while longer, and trust the Holy Spirit to lead.

Being Orthodox, it's only natural that I think the grass is greener on our side; but I'm honest enough to admit that it's not as green as our brochures and tracts make it out to be. It should be; it could be; but 99.999999% of the time at the local parish level, it isn't. If you become Orthodox, it should be because you believe her to be the ark of salvation, which is incapable of being sunk by small dents and slashes (ie. non-heretical/schismatic problems); in that case you would convert no matter how infested Orthodoxy was with problems. As long as she doesn't hit a heretical or schismatic iceberg, it doesn't matter how many dents and slashes are in the ship, she will keep going. And in any event, part of the process should be deciding not just that Orthodoxy is right, but that Catholicism is wrong in such a way that prevents you from staying. That's my two cents anyway, others may disagree. Smiley
« Last Edit: January 19, 2005, 08:30:26 PM by Paradosis » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2005, 09:26:44 PM »

Well said Justin.  Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2005, 10:44:59 PM »

However, I am considering leaving the Roman Church because of modernism. But if ROCORites and other rad trads are correct about modernism plaguing the canonical Orthodox Communion, then why would I want to jump from one sinking ship and board another?

Ben, conventional wisdom is that you shouldn't 'convert from' a religion, but rather 'convert to' a religion.  Although I maintain that's not entirely possible.  Choosing another religion naturally entails rejecting your 'birth' religion.  But we shouldn't choose Orthodoxy because Rome is "bad" or "modernist." 

But Rome's "modernism" is illustrative of the flaws of Roman ecclesiology.  I maintain that the 'whacko-ness' of post-Vatican II Catholicism is a natural reaction to the 'closed' nature of Catholicism before the Council.  It's like the current day RCC is a teenager who was finally trusted with the keys to mom's car,e.g. a kind of adolescent rebellion.

Does that make sesnse? 

Now as for your question about "modernism" in the Orthodox Church.  Paradosis is current that Orthodox parish life is not perfect.  Orthodox Christians are human beings, after all.  But Orthodoxy isn't like pre-Vatican II Rome so there's not a 'teenage' rebellion 'fermenting.' 

From my perspective as a life-long Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christianity doesn't have Rome's problems.  I've yet to meet a "liberal" or "modernist" Orthodox priest.  I've never heard a 'stupid' sermon.  I've heard some less than inspiring sermons but nothing 'modernist.' 

But there things that are different about the SCOBA Churches and the "traditionalist" Orthodox Churches.  So the question I think you need to answer is what is tradition and modernism?  It's hard for traditional leaning RCs to answer that question.  We're sick to death of hearing about "little t" traditions vs. "big T" traditions.  But I think what we have to understand is that there's a balance that we have to sort out for ourselves. 

I highly recommend the book I mentioned, Orthodox Psychotherapy, because it illustrates better than anything else I've read the differences between the eastern and western approaches. 

P.S. you're "snitching" on me over at the DCF board apparently has gotten me booted from there.  Although no one has bothered to contact me.  That was a little tacky, IMHO. 

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« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2005, 12:37:18 PM »

An Interesting question: can an apostle lose his apostleship? With regards to Peter (at least), Catholics would say no; the Orthodox would say yes.

According to Saint Athanasius, "Judas was degraded from the Apostolical office" (To the Bishops of Egypt, 2)

According to Saint John Cassian, Judas "lost his apostolic rank." (Institutes, 7, 14)

And according to Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, "Peter, the chiefest and foremost of the Apostles, denied the Lord thrice before a little maid: but he repented himself, and wept bitterly. Now weeping shews the repentance of the heart: and therefore he not only received forgiveness for his denial, but also held his Apostolic dignity unforfeited." (Catechetical Lectures, 2, 19)

In other words, according to Saint Cyril, had Peter not repented, he would have lost his "Apostolic dignity". This is consistent with what Orthodox ecclesiology affirms, and what the other Fathers taught about being an apostle.
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« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2005, 01:13:25 PM »

An Interesting question: can an apostle lose his apostleship? With regards to Peter (at least), Catholics would say no; the Orthodox would say yes.

This idea--along with what you wrote concerning the eccleiology vs. praxis false comparison--really illustrates what I see as something Orthodoxy helped me to "bring over" from my days as an Evangelical: the idea that externals don't ultimately matter, in and of themselves; it's the heart and the belief of the individual that ultimately counts (though I would add now, as an Orthodox, that the externals of incense, icons, bishops, unction, confession, baptism, etc. all find their fulfillment through individual and corporate faith and even complete that faith).  It was that whole "submit to Rome; it's a catch-all that trumps any doctrinal disputes" kind of idea that turned me off to RC-ism.

ByzantineSerb--

If you're worried about "jumping from one sinking ship to another," don't be.  IMO, an Orthodox church on it's worst day is better than many RC churches on their best in terms of holding to the traditions.  The modernism within Orthodoxy is not NEARLY as pervasive (not even CLOSE), and hasn't spread to the "point of no return" where things can't be changed (i.e. calendar, disputes over receptions of converts, ideas on other confessions' statuses).
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« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2005, 05:24:10 PM »

From my perspective as a life-long Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christianity doesn't have Rome's problems. I've yet to meet a "liberal" or "modernist" Orthodox priest. I've never heard a 'stupid' sermon. I've heard some less than inspiring sermons but nothing 'modernist.'

Actually, those priests do exist - but I'm sure much less prevalent.  In these cases, I think it is more of a case where their Bishop is unaware and would crack down on the priest if he knew.
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« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2005, 07:37:42 PM »

Believe me folks,

   I have been really challenging myself to look deeper into the issues and keep an open mind; I could sway either way.

   Paradosis:

    Thank you for posting those few quotes about losing apostolic authority; very insightful.
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« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2005, 06:06:28 PM »

   Well, I have decided to write and call a priest concerning my contemporary thoughts and feelings, as surely that is the wisest thing to do in this case. I am largely convinced that I want and desire to convert to Orthodoxy, though I may have a few extant inquiries, however trite.

   Some people probably would say that my decision is very amateur, but I digress. There is only so much knowledge or information a person can attain before the unerring point of life or the path is skewed or lost entirely. I have read things that have convinced me, and then I have viewed things that have served as barriers.

   Pax Christi.
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« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2005, 06:15:13 PM »

excellent. God be with you! It took years for me to make up my mind.

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« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2005, 09:21:40 PM »

We all probably had reservations going in. I know I had alot. Coming from a conservative protestant background, it seemed everything Orthodoxy had to offer or stated seemed to contradict all of my previous teaching. As time and a half went by however, I saw the truth, timeless and unblemished since the founding of the church in its whole there. It helped overcome my doubts and convinced me to "dive in". Take it slow. Live and love the life. I promise you will not regret it. God bless you on your Journey, friend. May God show you His true light through His Holy Church. Wink

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