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Author Topic: Learning about the Orthodox Church  (Read 5391 times) Average Rating: 0
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Matthew79
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« on: July 01, 2013, 03:51:03 PM »

I have been studying a great deal about the Roman Catholic Church and I understand their doctrines/theology very well.I am interested in hearing from the OC, but the problem is I live in a heavily RC community and the nearest OC is an hour and a half drive one way. Too far to really meet anyone  let alone to consider joining and being involved.

What do OC Christians do when they don't live anywhere near an Orthodox church? Maybe that is an unrealistic question because anyone who is Orthodox lives near an Orthodox church?
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« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2013, 03:57:57 PM »


Welcome to the Forum, Matthew79!

No, many Orthodox Christians live far away from the nearest church.

Some try to make it to church as often as they can.

If not able, then pray at home.

You can listen to Ancient Faith Radio.  The hymns and commentary are very inspiring and soothing, not to mention informative.

...and of course you can learn a lot about Orthodoxy from the folks on this Forum.  Smiley  Just remember, people are people....and sometimes, they lose their tempers, say the wrong things, etc.  Don't let that influence your opinion of the Church.

Once again, welcome!!!


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« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2013, 04:35:01 PM »

If I lived that far away, then home worship would become much more important for me.  On weeks where I couldn't make it to Divine Liturgy (or other services) I would use my prayer book and perhaps do a reader service.   Set up an icon corner in the home.  Get connected with people online.  Stream a liturgy perhaps.  Hymns/chant in the stereo.  I would try to get to church at least once or twice a month at that distance.  Find someone to carpool with Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2013, 06:32:46 PM »

They stay connected to other Orthodox Christians by talking to each other on forums like this one.
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« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2013, 06:34:13 PM »

I commute about 1:15 now.
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« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2013, 06:48:14 PM »

I have been studying a great deal about the Roman Catholic Church and I understand their doctrines/theology very well.I am interested in hearing from the OC, but the problem is I live in a heavily RC community and the nearest OC is an hour and a half drive one way. Too far to really meet anyone  let alone to consider joining and being involved.

What do OC Christians do when they don't live anywhere near an Orthodox church? Maybe that is an unrealistic question because anyone who is Orthodox lives near an Orthodox church?

There was a time not too long ago when there were very few Orthodox churches in the US, and many Orthodox people could never get to one. In my area, the Orthodox would go to the Episcopal church until the 1950s, when the Orthodox got a parish organized.

But you might find it interesting if you can visit one Sunday.
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« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2013, 07:51:54 PM »

I know some people do "internet church", but I think face-to-face fellowship with other believers is vital to ones faith. I can't say I am anywhere near ready for that leap yet.

I know EO and RC have their differences that are actually pretty big, but they also have a lot of similarities and were at one time part of the same church. How big of a deal would it be to join a RC considering that it is so much more available? Does the EO see the RC as a part of the true church? For that matter, how does the EO view protestant churches?

RUFUS- How did those people come to be Orthodox if there weren't any around? Were they immigrants from another country where Orthodoxy was more prevalent? I will likely make a trip one day to go visit one.
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« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2013, 07:54:32 PM »

How big of a deal would it be to join a RC considering that it is so much more available?

Same deal as joining any other religion that is not Orthodox Christianity.

Quote
Does the EO see the RC as a part of the true church?

No.

Quote
For that matter, how does the EO view protestant churches?

Same as we view Catholics.
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« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2013, 08:10:34 PM »

Welcome Matthew, I read about Orthodoxy for a year before we started going to our Orthodox church. When we did start we would only go every other week, we live just over an hour away though there are people at our church who drive further. Now we go every Sunday and some Saturdays but it's totally worth it.

I would say not to join a church right now if your not certain doing something like joining the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church should not be something one does for just a little while, until something better comes along. Attend a local church perhaps but that doesn't mean you have to join one. Check out the Orthodox church when you get a chance. Then come back when you can. In the meantime read, but there's nothing like experiencing it.

Yes there are differences and some are significant enough to say someone is right and that does mean the other is wrong. Other differences not so much but some are significant.
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« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2013, 08:46:43 PM »


Yes there are differences and some are significant enough to say someone is right and that does mean the other is wrong. Other differences not so much but some are significant.

Thanks. I thought as much, but just trying to work through the options here. I suppose an hour and a half is not too bad if only once a week or every other week.

I see there seem to be varying sects of Orthodox (Greek, Russian, OCA, etc.) Where can I find a summary of the differences or comparison of these or are they all generally the same? Depending which one I went to, would that affect whether it was spoken in English or not?

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« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2013, 09:02:00 PM »

hey cool! I found a church locator. Turns out there is a Ukranian Orthodox just under an hour away. That other one I was thinking of is Greek and it is only 1:15.
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« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2013, 09:02:07 PM »



Thanks. I thought as much, but just trying to work through the options here. I suppose an hour and a half is not too bad if only once a week or every other week.

I see there seem to be varying sects of Orthodox (Greek, Russian, OCA, etc.) Where can I find a summary of the differences or comparison of these or are they all generally the same? Depending which one I went to, would that affect whether it was spoken in English or not?


They are not sects at all.  All of the ones you mention are in full communion with each other and fully Orthodox.  The beliefs are identical (if they weren't, we couldn't all be in communion).  Orthodoxy does not have a centralized structure.  There are 15 autocephalous (self-governing) churches and several more which are autonomous (largely self-governing but still responsible directly to the hierarchy of an autocephalous church).   Each national church is independent in polity but unified in faith (if one church started teaching erroneous doctrine, for example, the others would simply cut off communion).  

If you go to Russia, of course there you'd find the Russian Orthodox Church, but there is no need to denominate it as such, because it is the Orthodox Church in Russia, headed by the Patriarch of Moscow.  Similarly, if you go to Serbia, you'll find what we call the Serbian Orthodox Church but which is really the Orthodox Church which is headed by the Patriarch of Serbia.  You get the idea.

The problem comes in here in North America where the immigrants brought Orthodoxy here starting about 100 years ago, a little more than that now.  Originally the Russian Church was working to unify all of the Orthodox immigrants under its hierarchy, because it first evangelised North America, via Alaska, in the 1700s.  However, the Russian Revolution intervened, the hierarchy there was severely persecuted, and the Orthodox here largely had to fend for themselves.  So the Greek immigrants continued to report to the Greek hierarchy back home, the Syrian/Lebanese/Antiochian to theirs, etc., etc.  In 1970 Russia granted autocephaly to the Orthodox remaining under its jurisdiction here, who became the Orthodox Church in America.  (But even some of theirs didn't, and they remain directly under the Patriarch of Moscow to this day.  Still others who were very wary of the communist influence on the Russian Church had formed the "Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia" and these only rejoined with the Russian hierarchy in 2007 or so.)  So the ethnic qualifiers you see -- Ukrainian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, etc., only signify to which bishops those churches report, and (in many cases) where their founders came from.

The bishops themselves are all members of the Assembly of Bishops and meet regularly.  The goal is to unify the North American Church into one jurisdiction, for which we all pray.  But even though we report to different bishops, the faith is identical.  Some of the churches have different customs which vary from place to place, but the liturgy (our services), our prayers, our faith, etc., are identical, and I, as a Ukrainian Orthodox, can walk into a Greek Orthodox or Antiochian Orthodox, for example, and receive Holy Communion (provided that I am prepared).  A Roman Catholic or a Protestant could not do this, unless he or she became Orthodox.

English language use depends on the percentage of converts and/or third, fourth, etc., generations from the immigrants who attend the parish.  If the parish is still highly populated by immigrants it will likely use the ancestral tongue more heavily (that stands to reason).  

There are a lot of theories about how to relate to the non-Orthodox, such as the Roman Catholics, Protestants, etc.  Roman Catholics follow the Pope of Rome, who was originally a bishop in the one holy Orthodox Catholic Church, but who, with his jurisdiction, broke off in a lengthy process of divergence of faith and practice about 1000 years ago.  (I don't like to date it to 1054 because it was a big development.  In some rural provinces of Poland/Ukraine, for example, I've found evidence that the church was in communion with both Rome and Constantinople into the 14th century.)  Anyway, there is much written on this subject.  Rome broke from the Orthodox and the Protestants broke from Rome.  As this happened, these churches got further and further from the deposit of faith which resides in the Holy Orthodox Church founded by Christ.  But I don't think it is for us to say exactly what they possess in terms of grace and sacraments.  What they have, they have through God's mercy, but where they contradict Orthodox teaching, there is error.  I personally see much beauty there and sincere striving to follow Christ and I pray that these faithful may someday be reunited with the Orthodox Church.

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« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2013, 09:04:00 PM »

hey cool! I found a church locator. Turns out there is a Ukranian Orthodox just under an hour away. That other one I was thinking of is Greek and it is only 1:15.

Matthew,

If you want to attend a canonical Eastern Orthodox Church (which is in communion with all of the Orthodox), make sure that the Ukrainian Church is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.  The hierarchs should be listed as Metropolitan Antony and/or Bishop Daniel.  There has been a schism in Ukraine and some of the non-canonical churches have established parishes here in the USA.  There are only a few such, however.  That's a topic for another day. 
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« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2013, 09:54:47 PM »


The bishops themselves are all members of the Assembly of Bishops and meet regularly.


To what degree do the parishes answer to the bishops, do they send delegations to a meeting, or something?


Rome broke from the Orthodox and the Protestants broke from Rome.  

The Romans and Easterns both claim to be the original and that the other broke away from them. The fact that the Eastern one never had any major splits as the Roman did indicates to me that the Eastern was the original.

Matthew,

If you want to attend a canonical Eastern Orthodox Church (which is in communion with all of the Orthodox), make sure that the Ukrainian Church is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.  The hierarchs should be listed as Metropolitan Antony and/or Bishop Daniel.  There has been a schism in Ukraine and some of the non-canonical churches have established parishes here in the USA.  There are only a few such, however.  That's a topic for another day.  

Yeah, I'm not sure. They don't have a website as they are a small country parish. I found it at orthodoxyinamerica.org, if that means anything.
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« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2013, 10:57:49 PM »

It does good website.
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« Reply #15 on: July 02, 2013, 12:23:32 AM »

I know some people do "internet church", but I think face-to-face fellowship with other believers is vital to ones faith. I can't say I am anywhere near ready for that leap yet.

I know EO and RC have their differences that are actually pretty big, but they also have a lot of similarities and were at one time part of the same church. How big of a deal would it be to join a RC considering that it is so much more available? Does the EO see the RC as a part of the true church? For that matter, how does the EO view protestant churches?

RUFUS- How did those people come to be Orthodox if there weren't any around? Were they immigrants from another country where Orthodoxy was more prevalent? I will likely make a trip one day to go visit one.

They were immigrants and children of immigrants.

Actually, fifty years ago in the US, the idea of someone becoming Orthodox was unheard-of... the Orthodox churches were the "Greek churches" or whatever "ethnicity." Today, the Orthodox are much more Americanized, so converts are not so uncommon now. However, there are still many Orthodox churches that are largely made up of immigrants (Orthodox countries have not exactly been having a tea party recently).

As a result, Orthodox parishes in the US can be rather different from one another, and if you visit one, it's helpful to know what country the community originally came from.
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« Reply #16 on: July 02, 2013, 12:45:09 AM »

I see there seem to be varying sects of Orthodox (Greek, Russian, OCA, etc.) Where can I find a summary of the differences or comparison of these or are they all generally the same? Depending which one I went to, would that affect whether it was spoken in English or not?

The only material differences to a layman have to do with liturgical details and other customs. Some jurisdictions also tend to be more strict than others.

All Orthodox hold to the same core doctrine. There are some very subtle differences between jurisdictions, but they are not substantial. For example, some jurisdictions require a convert from another Christian denomination to be baptized while others don't.

Finding a parish that uses English is hit-or-miss. The OCA and Antiochian parishes are most likely to use English, but I see that there are none near you. You'll have to just see what you can find.
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« Reply #17 on: July 02, 2013, 12:48:10 AM »

How big of a deal would it be to join a RC considering that it is so much more available?
Same deal as joining any other religion that is not Orthodox Christianity.

Quote
Does the EO see the RC as a part of the true church?
No.

Quote
For that matter, how does the EO view protestant churches?
Same as we view Catholics.

Oh, so you and the Orthodox in general think that Catholics are the same as Zeus-worshippers?

I don't think so.
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« Reply #18 on: July 02, 2013, 05:12:05 AM »

It does good website.

Kinda outdated sometimes. This one is more up-to-date: http://www.assemblyofbishops.org/directories/parishes
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« Reply #19 on: July 02, 2013, 07:38:47 AM »


The bishops themselves are all members of the Assembly of Bishops and meet regularly.


To what degree do the parishes answer to the bishops, do they send delegations to a meeting, or something?


Rome broke from the Orthodox and the Protestants broke from Rome.  

The Romans and Easterns both claim to be the original and that the other broke away from them. The fact that the Eastern one never had any major splits as the Roman did indicates to me that the Eastern was the original.

Matthew,

If you want to attend a canonical Eastern Orthodox Church (which is in communion with all of the Orthodox), make sure that the Ukrainian Church is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.  The hierarchs should be listed as Metropolitan Antony and/or Bishop Daniel.  There has been a schism in Ukraine and some of the non-canonical churches have established parishes here in the USA.  There are only a few such, however.  That's a topic for another day.  

Yeah, I'm not sure. They don't have a website as they are a small country parish. I found it at orthodoxyinamerica.org, if that means anything.

1.  The ancient principle of the church is that "where the bishop is, there is the Church."  See the writings of the holy father Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans.  St. Ignatius (ca. 35? - ca. 117?) was a disciple of the Apostle John and served as the third Bishop of Antioch (the ruins of which are now on the Turkish-Syrian border).  So we take what he says to be very important.  Anyway, you can read his writings more fully online.  But the point is that, as near as we can tell, in the early days each church was drawn from a region of people and was led by the bishop, who conducted divine services.  Soon, however, these communities multiplied so much that the bishop couldn't be in all of the places at once.  So he deputized presbyters (priests) to serve the liturgy in his place.  Thus, the priest acts only in place of the bishop and is answerable to his bishop in all things.  Theoretically, he can do nothing without the permission of his bishop.  In modern times, bishops generally give priests latitude to run the more mundane aspects of their parishes (most parishes here have a parish council of laypeople to assist the priest).  The bishop must be consulted for more substantive actions, and the bishop makes it a point to visit the parishes in his territory regularly.  (In the Ukrainian tradition, as in others, I'm sure, this is beautiful; as the bishop approaches the church the bells are rung and he is greeted with the traditional gifts of bread and salt as he enters the church).  At least in our tradition, every year there is a Sobor (a council) which is held, led by the bishops, and to which the parishes all send delegates, both clergy and lay.  There, important decisions are taken concerning the life of the church.  These meetings cannot be used to alter doctrine, or anything of that sort; considerations of the faith of the church are taken only by the bishops meeting together in council.

2.  There were several groups who, in the judgment of the Eastern Orthodox, left the Orthodox Church throughout its history.  This is complicated.

a.  In the years following 431 (the Council of Ephesus), the Church of the East (encompassing Persia/India) broke communion over the Council's declaration that Christ was one person with human and divine natures and thus Mary can be called the "Mother of God."  These Christians today are the rather small Assyrian Church of the East and a small branch are the Ancient Church of the East (under a different hierarch) and were predominantly in Iraq and Persia, but the Iraq War has decimated their ranks and caused many to flee.  In the 16th century some joined with Rome but kept their ceremonies and are known as the Chaldean Catholic Church.

b.  In the years following 451 (the Council of Chalcedon), numerous churches broke with the Eastern Orthodox because they could not agree with the Council's definition on the relationship between the two natures of Christ (human and divine).  These churches are known as the Oriental Orthodox Churches or the Non-Chalcedonian Churches.  They include the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (in India, founded by St. Thomas the Apostle), and the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.  Although the Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox are not in communion, in recent years, diligent labors have been undertaken to determine the differences and understanding.  It is generally now recognized that the two churches may have been trying to define the same thing using slightly different words and that this, plus political differences, are the reason behind the split.  Because they have been out of communion for 1500 years, however, it will take some time to resolve all of the differences that have arisen since that time.

c.  In the Middle Ages, the Roman Church began to develop different doctrines and practices which became out of harmony with those of the other Orthodox Churches.  Communication was strained, and the relationship was broken when the Roman Church inserted a phrase into the creed unilaterally (that the Holy Spirit proceeded both from the Father and the Son), when the Pope of Rome asserted supremacy over the other Orthodox bishops in all matters, when the legates of the Pope of Rome excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople in the year 1054, and when zealous Catholic Crusaders sacked the city of Constantinople in 1204, defiling the holy places and setting up a Latin Patriarch who reported to Rome.  In my mind this split was final around the time that the Council of Florence (1439) tried to reunify the sides, was initially accepted by many of the bishops, but was rejected outright by the Orthodox faithful at home when they learned that they would have to accept all manner of Roman innovation.  Some portions of Orthodox Churches, for political and sometimes theological reasons, accepted the authority of Rome and its theology while being permitted to maintain their own rites.  They are known as the "Greek Catholic Churches" or the "Eastern Catholic Churches," and came from both Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox communions.  Dialogue between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches began in earnest in the 1960s and continues today.  You may have heard that, for the first time in history, the Patriarch of Constantinople attended the inauguration of the Pope of Rome.  But we differ with the Roman Catholics on many important points of doctrine and it will take considerable effort to see how much can be resolved through semantics and how much is truly a difference of faith which must be strongly considered.

d.  Another group is worth mentioning.  In the mid-17th century, Patriarch Nikon of Moscow attempted to reform the Russian Orthodox liturgy to bring it in line with the liturgy as then practiced by the Greek Orthodox Church.  He did this because he mistakenly believed that the Greek liturgy was older when, in fact, it had itself been revised in some points.  A group of people, unwilling to accept the validity of the Greek liturgy (and the revised Russian liturgy), broke off and became known as the "Old Believers."  They have since split and split again; some have priests, some don't, etc.  They exist in Russia and some are in the USA now.  Some of them have since reunited with canonical Orthodoxy.

e.  In the 20th century there are some who have declined to remain in communion with the Eastern Orthodox because of the changes to the calendar and perceived ecumenical efforts.  They are often called the "Old Calendarists."

3.  Use the site www.assemblyofbishops.org.  If the parish doesn't have a website, e-mail or call (even better) the number listed to confirm the service times.  If you explain your interest and the priest knows you're coming he may be able to set aside some more time to talk with you if you'd like.  You'll probably be able to catch him at the coffee hour after church (almost all of our parishes have one, in my experience) but he is very busy and it might be good to let him know ahead of time so he'd be more prepared to be available to answer your questions.  I invite you to try the Ukrainian parish.  Our traditions are beautiful (as are the others, I'm sure) and our melodies are more European-sounding so might be more familiar to your ear.  The language of the parish will probably depend on how many immigrants are in the church.  It might be split, as well, with some prayers in English and some in Ukrainian.  You might want to call the priest and ask.  In any event, most churches have service books printed in both languages so you can follow along, if need be.

Please let us know if you have other questions or if we can help you in your quest to discover more about the Orthodox Church!


Thanks for getting back on topic---great post BTW!  Thomas Convert Issues Forum Moderator
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« Reply #20 on: July 02, 2013, 07:42:47 AM »

That's a great post, Yurysprudentsiya.
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« Reply #21 on: July 02, 2013, 07:43:24 AM »

I know some people do "internet church", but I think face-to-face fellowship with other believers is vital to ones faith. I can't say I am anywhere near ready for that leap yet.

I know EO and RC have their differences that are actually pretty big, but they also have a lot of similarities and were at one time part of the same church. How big of a deal would it be to join a RC considering that it is so much more available? Does the EO see the RC as a part of the true church? For that matter, how does the EO view protestant churches?

RUFUS- How did those people come to be Orthodox if there weren't any around? Were they immigrants from another country where Orthodoxy was more prevalent? I will likely make a trip one day to go visit one.

They were immigrants and children of immigrants.

Actually, fifty years ago in the US, the idea of someone becoming Orthodox was unheard-of... the Orthodox churches were the "Greek churches" or whatever "ethnicity." Today, the Orthodox are much more Americanized, so converts are not so uncommon now. However, there are still many Orthodox churches that are largely made up of immigrants (Orthodox countries have not exactly been having a tea party recently).

As a result, Orthodox parishes in the US can be rather different from one another, and if you visit one, it's helpful to know what country the community originally came from.

Or even what province of what country.

ACROD Parishes are generally English speaking these days also.
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« Reply #22 on: July 02, 2013, 07:48:07 AM »

That's a great post, Yurysprudentsiya.

You beat me to it. It is a blessing to read an explanation that is balanced and doesn't tout one tradition within Orthodoxy over another, while putting in a gentle plug for your own! Thank you!
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« Reply #23 on: July 02, 2013, 10:41:52 AM »

I know some people do "internet church", but I think face-to-face fellowship with other believers is vital to ones faith. I can't say I am anywhere near ready for that leap yet.

I know EO and RC have their differences that are actually pretty big, but they also have a lot of similarities and were at one time part of the same church. How big of a deal would it be to join a RC considering that it is so much more available? Does the EO see the RC as a part of the true church? For that matter, how does the EO view protestant churches?

RUFUS- How did those people come to be Orthodox if there weren't any around? Were they immigrants from another country where Orthodoxy was more prevalent? I will likely make a trip one day to go visit one.

They were immigrants and children of immigrants.

Actually, fifty years ago in the US, the idea of someone becoming Orthodox was unheard-of... the Orthodox churches were the "Greek churches" or whatever "ethnicity." Today, the Orthodox are much more Americanized, so converts are not so uncommon now. However, there are still many Orthodox churches that are largely made up of immigrants (Orthodox countries have not exactly been having a tea party recently).

As a result, Orthodox parishes in the US can be rather different from one another, and if you visit one, it's helpful to know what country the community originally came from.

Or even what province of what country.

ACROD Parishes are generally English speaking these days also.

Yes, a nearby parish with remarkable internal problems has replaced the women-on-the-left men-on-the-right thing with Macedonians on the left and Epirots on the right. And you do not cross sides.
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« Reply #24 on: July 02, 2013, 10:42:55 AM »

Yes, a nearby parish with remarkable internal problems has replaced the women-on-the-left men-on-the-right thing with Macedonians on the left and Epirots on the right. And you do not cross sides.

Really? That's weird.
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« Reply #25 on: July 02, 2013, 10:52:36 AM »

There were several groups who, in the judgment of the Eastern Orthodox, left the Orthodox Church throughout its history.  This is complicated.

So I guess my appeal to lack of schisms as evidence of the true church has been shattered  Grin... What would an EO say are the marks of a true church?

I don't know if I've ever clarified, but I am currently protestant- been apart of several traditions, but mostly Baptist. (Actually, tradition used loosely- most people I know view tradition as dull and lifeless and would be offended at the suggestion they followed any kind of tradition.) We would say the marks of a true church are that they preach the Gospel- full divinity/humanity of Jesus, salvation through faith in his payment for our sins on the cross (of course followed by repentance), his resurrection, and the proof of faith by a changed, spirit-filled life.  That pretty much leaves the door wide open for many various ways of "doing church". Given the smorgasboard of denominations, I'm sure you can understand how important it would be for a protestant to ask these kinds of questions. We wouldn't say (at least in theory) that we have our theology all figured out, so we have to be open to change and to be teachable (hard thing for a lot of Baptists, I know Grin), but we take pride in our shortcomings.

Rufus- you're funny!
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« Reply #26 on: July 02, 2013, 11:04:45 AM »

There were several groups who, in the judgment of the Eastern Orthodox, left the Orthodox Church throughout its history.  This is complicated.

So I guess my appeal to lack of schisms as evidence of the true church has been shattered  Grin... What would an EO say are the marks of a true church?

I don't know if I've ever clarified, but I am currently protestant- been apart of several traditions, but mostly Baptist. (Actually, tradition used loosely- most people I know view tradition as dull and lifeless and would be offended at the suggestion they followed any kind of tradition.) We would say the marks of a true church are that they preach the Gospel- full divinity/humanity of Jesus, salvation through faith in his payment for our sins on the cross (of course followed by repentance), his resurrection, and the proof of faith by a changed, spirit-filled life.  That pretty much leaves the door wide open for many various ways of "doing church". Given the smorgasboard of denominations, I'm sure you can understand how important it would be for a protestant to ask these kinds of questions. We wouldn't say (at least in theory) that we have our theology all figured out, so we have to be open to change and to be teachable (hard thing for a lot of Baptists, I know Grin), but we take pride in our shortcomings.

Rufus- you're funny!

The schisms within Orthodoxy are not deeply rooted in belief and doctrine as in the west, they deal with more minutiae and are often unfathomable to non eastern Christians. The groups which truly departed Orthodoxy, like the 'Skoptsy'  -   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skoptsy  -  were few in number and even fewer in actual adherents compared to the myriad divisions within Protestantism.
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« Reply #27 on: July 02, 2013, 11:59:27 AM »

There were several groups who, in the judgment of the Eastern Orthodox, left the Orthodox Church throughout its history.  This is complicated.

So I guess my appeal to lack of schisms as evidence of the true church has been shattered  Grin... What would an EO say are the marks of a true church?

I don't know if I've ever clarified, but I am currently protestant- been apart of several traditions, but mostly Baptist. (Actually, tradition used loosely- most people I know view tradition as dull and lifeless and would be offended at the suggestion they followed any kind of tradition.) We would say the marks of a true church are that they preach the Gospel- full divinity/humanity of Jesus, salvation through faith in his payment for our sins on the cross (of course followed by repentance), his resurrection, and the proof of faith by a changed, spirit-filled life.  That pretty much leaves the door wide open for many various ways of "doing church". Given the smorgasboard of denominations, I'm sure you can understand how important it would be for a protestant to ask these kinds of questions. We wouldn't say (at least in theory) that we have our theology all figured out, so we have to be open to change and to be teachable (hard thing for a lot of Baptists, I know Grin), but we take pride in our shortcomings.

Rufus- you're funny!

I think that to answer this question you need to begin at the beginning.   As a Baptist, you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  So we can start there.  I presume that you believe what he teaches is true.  So we start with His promise to create a Church against which the gates of hell will not prevail (Matthew 16:18) and which will be led by the Holy Spirit into all truth. (John 16:13). 

Then we have Acts showing how this church was founded.  We have Paul telling us it is the pillar and ground of truth.  (1 Tim. 3:15).  So far, so good.  We see from the New Testament that this church had bishops/presbyters and deacons, that they met according to regions, that their leaders were ordained by laying on of apostolic hands, etc.  We know that they often celebrated the Eucharist, believed that it was the Lord's body and blood, and that it must be received following preparation (1 Cor. 11:23-34). 

Where did this church go?  We have the next generation, people like Polycarp, Ignatius, and the generation after that, such as Justin Martyr, leading the church.  Read their writings online and you'll see them talk about the church.  They all learned from the Apostles.  They describe the same kind of church, a visible organization led by those ordained in the line of succession from the Apostles by laying on of hands, teaching the same faith received from the Apostles.  Read the Didache, a very early document, to see a description of the church in the early second century.

At this time there was of course no compiled Bible.  Instead the church had the oral teaching of Christ and the Apostles passed down through Holy Tradition.  This was their yardstick to measure truth.  See 2 Tim. 1:13-14 and 2:1-2.  See also 2 Thess. 2:15.  If a letter was received the church determined if it accorded with tradition.  If it was faithful to what Christ taught they received it for use in worship.  So the canon of Scriptire was formed. 

Thus, it went this way:
1.   Christ through the Apostles gave us the Church by the Holy Spirit.
2.  The Church preserved the teaching of Christ faithfully as its Tradition.
3.  If a writing appeared the church accepted it for public reading if it was faithful to the received Tradition of the Church.

Over time groups split from the Church but we can't call them schisms.  That would imply that the church is split.  That's impossible according to Christs promise.  Is Christ divided?  (1 Cor. 1:13).  Those who split have simply left the Church.  Now they may, by God's mercy, have some of the deposit of faith and there may be much good there.  But they no longer have protection against error.  But we do not know the salvation of anyone.  I think personally perhaps it might be like the parable of the Talents and that they will be accountable for what they did with what they received.  It is certainly not our job to root out the tares from the wheat as another parable says but instead to work out our own salvation and to live as examples to those around us. 

So the true church for us is the original church which Christ established and which exists to this day according to his promise.  It needed no reform or revival, though many have found its teachings hard and turned aside from it.  Other churches are not the church by definition although there may be faithful Christians there.  We do not know and we do not judge.  We leave it to the Lord's mercy. 

It follows that we interpret the Bible according to the Church's received teaching.   

I hope this is a little bit helpful. 
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« Reply #28 on: July 02, 2013, 01:02:17 PM »

Those who split have simply left the Church.  Now they may, by God's mercy, have some of the deposit of faith and there may be much good there.  But they no longer have protection against error.  But we do not know the salvation of anyone... Other churches are not the church by definition although there may be faithful Christians there.  We do not know and we do not judge.  We leave it to the Lord's mercy. 

Very helpful, thanks for the clear explanation. I think this is pretty much the same argument the Romans use, but I think they might admit to schisms rather than people leaving the Church. I suppose the difference would be that maybe the Orthodox church uses the term "chose to leave" whereas the Catholics have actually excommunicated people.

So, to be clear, the Orthodox Church believes people can receive salvation outside of the church?

Maybe this is another topic, but kind of related to salvation... This has been a concern of many protestants, myself included, we often see churches like the Roman Catholic to be lacking in mature, godly believers who instead give lip service on Sunday and live like the devil the rest of the week. There is certainly hypocrisy in protestant churches too, but we have assumed that though people in Catholic churches can have a true faith, it isn't a very good place to grow in maturity and Christ-likeness, I think, because the focus is often on the rituals, formulas, and legalistically following a list of rules- always looking for a loophole- and not on the preaching and exposition of the Word, which according to 2Tim3:16-17 is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

Maybe we are judging Catholics unfairly, judging by those who do not practice their faith instead of the ones who actually do. I suppose we just assume the Orthodox is similar and probably because their churches are so scarce no one knows much about them. How does the Orthodox view discipleship? What does the growth process look like?
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« Reply #29 on: July 02, 2013, 01:56:13 PM »

Those who split have simply left the Church.  Now they may, by God's mercy, have some of the deposit of faith and there may be much good there.  But they no longer have protection against error.  But we do not know the salvation of anyone... Other churches are not the church by definition although there may be faithful Christians there.  We do not know and we do not judge.  We leave it to the Lord's mercy. 

Very helpful, thanks for the clear explanation. I think this is pretty much the same argument the Romans use, but I think they might admit to schisms rather than people leaving the Church. I suppose the difference would be that maybe the Orthodox church uses the term "chose to leave" whereas the Catholics have actually excommunicated people.

So, to be clear, the Orthodox Church believes people can receive salvation outside of the church?
We do not say dogmatically yes or no.  That is only known to God.  We pray for the salvation of everyone though, and hope that God will grant salvation to all mankind.

Quote
Maybe this is another topic, but kind of related to salvation... This has been a concern of many protestants, myself included, we often see churches like the Roman Catholic to be lacking in mature, godly believers who instead give lip service on Sunday and live like the devil the rest of the week. There is certainly hypocrisy in protestant churches too, but we have assumed that though people in Catholic churches can have a true faith, it isn't a very good place to grow in maturity and Christ-likeness, I think, because the focus is often on the rituals, formulas, and legalistically following a list of rules- always looking for a loophole- and not on the preaching and exposition of the Word, which according to 2Tim3:16-17 is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

Maybe we are judging Catholics unfairly, judging by those who do not practice their faith instead of the ones who actually do. I suppose we just assume the Orthodox is similar and probably because their churches are so scarce no one knows much about them. How does the Orthodox view discipleship? What does the growth process look like?
There are protestants, Catholics and Orthodox who take their faith very seriously and also those who do not. In Orthodoxy, discipleship is taken very seriously and it is standard to have godparents who will help guide you in the faith as well as a spiritual father (often but not always your priest) who is responsible for your spritual wellbeing. I would guess Catholics would probably make the same claim, but I think it would be more difficult for their priests to be true spiritual fathers because there is such a shortage of Catholic priests that they are rather overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Orthodox parishes are USUALLY smaller than their Catholic counterparts, at least in the US.
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« Reply #30 on: July 02, 2013, 01:58:49 PM »

Those who split have simply left the Church.  Now they may, by God's mercy, have some of the deposit of faith and there may be much good there.  But they no longer have protection against error.  But we do not know the salvation of anyone... Other churches are not the church by definition although there may be faithful Christians there.  We do not know and we do not judge.  We leave it to the Lord's mercy. 

Very helpful, thanks for the clear explanation. I think this is pretty much the same argument the Romans use, but I think they might admit to schisms rather than people leaving the Church. I suppose the difference would be that maybe the Orthodox church uses the term "chose to leave" whereas the Catholics have actually excommunicated people.

So, to be clear, the Orthodox Church believes people can receive salvation outside of the church?

This is a rather complicated issue, and you will get a broad range of answers depending on who you ask. Also, not everyone defines "the Church" in the same way.

The contemporary trend is to say that salvation is possible outside of the visible boundaries of the Church. The thing is, the Church, properly defined, is all of the people of God, which means that Church=saved. So you can pick out two senses in which the term "Church" is used, which some Orthodox would feel uneasy about.

Search the forum (use Google--the forum search engine is terrible) and you'll find a whole bunch of threads dealing with this question, which has been beaten to death here.

Quote
Maybe this is another topic, but kind of related to salvation... This has been a concern of many protestants, myself included, we often see churches like the Roman Catholic to be lacking in mature, godly believers who instead give lip service on Sunday and live like the devil the rest of the week. There is certainly hypocrisy in protestant churches too, but we have assumed that though people in Catholic churches can have a true faith, it isn't a very good place to grow in maturity and Christ-likeness, I think, because the focus is often on the rituals, formulas, and legalistically following a list of rules- always looking for a loophole- and not on the preaching and exposition of the Word, which according to 2Tim3:16-17 is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

Maybe we are judging Catholics unfairly, judging by those who do not practice their faith instead of the ones who actually do. I suppose we just assume the Orthodox is similar and probably because their churches are so scarce no one knows much about them. How does the Orthodox view discipleship? What does the growth process look like?

This is where the Orthodox are weak. Discipleship nearly doesn't exist, except in monastic establishments. It is a problem.

I have seen Orthodox doing discipleship and been a part of it; it is just uncommon.

At any given parish, you will probably find that many of the people are astoundingly ignorant of doctrine and the Bible. This is partly because almost all of them are Orthodox out of family tradition, partly because of lack of catechism, partly because of the increasing religious indifference of people today, and partly because the Orthodox came from countries where pretty much everyone was an illiterate peasant.

So there is some housecleaning to do in these areas.
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« Reply #31 on: July 02, 2013, 02:05:25 PM »

So, to be clear, the Orthodox Church believes people can receive salvation outside of the church?

Fwiw, something I posted a while back on here...

What happens to the non-Orthodox on judgment day?

Short Answer: I don't know. And I won't until judgment day. And I'm pretty sure when that day comes it will be a case-by-case basis, such that you can't speak of all Orthodox being judged this way or all non-Orthodox being judged that way. God will judge each of us based on our heart and our deeds, and while our ecclesiastical affiliation is an important factor in how we work out our salvation, it is not the deciding one.

Long Answer: Salvation resides in the Church. Yet it is possible for people who were never formally part of the Church to be saved. How can these two things be reconciled? I don't know. Met. Kallistos says that "We know where the Church is but we cannot be sure where it is not." (The Orthodox Church, p. 308) And earlier Khomiakov expressed a similar idea:

Quote
The Church visible, or upon earth, lives in complete communion and unity with the whole body of the Church, of which Christ is the Head. She has abiding within her Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit in all their living fullness, but not in the fullness of their manifestation, for she acts and knows not fully, but only so far as it pleases God. 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 (according to the words of Paul the Apostle, to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 5. 12) 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.

-- Alexei Khomiakov, The Church is One, p. 11

How can such people be saved? Will they have the Gospel revealed to them after their death, in the same way that we say it was revealed to the people from Old Testament times? Will they then be given a choice at a later date? Heb. 9:27 says: "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." Does this exclude the possibility of such revelation of preaching after death? Or is there some flexibility in this, with the passage not giving a precise outline of how things will go?

Another option is that God will judge people based on how they responded to God's revelation to them in this world, however incomplete that might be. Thus we find it said in Ps. 14:1 that: "The fool has said in his heart, There is no God," and in another place the Psalmist says: "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge." (Ps. 19:1-2)

And St. Paul, seeming to speak on just this matter, say in his letter to the Romans: "for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel." (Rom. 2:14-16)  And in another place: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse." (Rom. 1:20)

So where does this leave us? There is only one unforgivable sin (Matt. 12:31-32), but just because someone can be forgiven that doesn't mean that they will be forgiven. And Jesus said of the narrow way that "there are few who find it." (Matt. 7:13-14) On the other hand, God wants nothing other than for us to be saved. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:3-4)  God gives us the grace (Phil. 2:13), so that if we cooperate with him (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 6:1), insofar as we understand how, and move towards him, then he will move towards us. (Ps. 145:18; James 3:Cool. We need only cry out to God, to the extent and in the way that we can: "Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end." (Ps. 119:33)

None of this is meant to minimize that salvation comes through Christ. Indeed, the entire work of Christ is the only reason anyone can possibly be saved. All I am saying is that an exact understanding has not been given to us as to what will happen to whom on judgment day. Thus we return to the beginning: what will happen to non-Orthodox on judgment day? I don't know. Just like I don't know what will happen to each Orthodox person. But to give a quote of St. Theophan the Recluse, who was in turn quoted by Met. Philaret:

Quote
You ask, will the heterodox be saved... Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins

-- Source
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« Reply #32 on: July 02, 2013, 02:14:29 PM »


This is where the Orthodox are weak. Discipleship nearly doesn't exist, except in monastic establishments. It is a problem.

I have seen Orthodox doing discipleship and been a part of it; it is just uncommon.

At any given parish, you will probably find that many of the people are astoundingly ignorant of doctrine and the Bible. This is partly because almost all of them are Orthodox out of family tradition, partly because of lack of catechism, partly because of the increasing religious indifference of people today, and partly because the Orthodox came from countries where pretty much everyone was an illiterate peasant.

So there is some housecleaning to do in these areas.

Interesting, that has not been my experience at all, Rufus.
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« Reply #33 on: July 02, 2013, 02:47:04 PM »

Those who split have simply left the Church.  Now they may, by God's mercy, have some of the deposit of faith and there may be much good there.  But they no longer have protection against error.  But we do not know the salvation of anyone... Other churches are not the church by definition although there may be faithful Christians there.  We do not know and we do not judge.  We leave it to the Lord's mercy. 

Very helpful, thanks for the clear explanation. I think this is pretty much the same argument the Romans use, but I think they might admit to schisms rather than people leaving the Church. I suppose the difference would be that maybe the Orthodox church uses the term "chose to leave" whereas the Catholics have actually excommunicated people.

So, to be clear, the Orthodox Church believes people can receive salvation outside of the church?

Maybe this is another topic, but kind of related to salvation... This has been a concern of many protestants, myself included, we often see churches like the Roman Catholic to be lacking in mature, godly believers who instead give lip service on Sunday and live like the devil the rest of the week. There is certainly hypocrisy in protestant churches too, but we have assumed that though people in Catholic churches can have a true faith, it isn't a very good place to grow in maturity and Christ-likeness, I think, because the focus is often on the rituals, formulas, and legalistically following a list of rules- always looking for a loophole- and not on the preaching and exposition of the Word, which according to 2Tim3:16-17 is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

Maybe we are judging Catholics unfairly, judging by those who do not practice their faith instead of the ones who actually do. I suppose we just assume the Orthodox is similar and probably because their churches are so scarce no one knows much about them. How does the Orthodox view discipleship? What does the growth process look like?

1.  The idea of schisms has proved problematic for the Catholic Church.  You get groups such as the Old Catholics who are hardly distinguishable from Protestants in some points but are admitted to communion and viewed as part of the church because their bishops have apostolic succession at least in name.  We don't have that.  If they start going off the rails they have departed from the church. 

2.  We have very strict discipleship.  I'm not sure what Rufus has seen but his experience shows that we are imperfect.  Our church teaches the opposite of legalism although we have many rules.  Christ came as the Great Physician, to heal that wounded by sin.  The Apostles did the same.  See how Paul served as a spiritual father to Timothy.  So too we must seek out a spiritual father, a wise practitioner, to help us.  Usually this is the parish priest although it could be a monk or nun.  We go to the spiritual father and share our imperfections.   He, if a priest, pronounces absolution.  If our confessor is not a priest we must still go to the priest for absolution.  The spiritual father will get to know us well and will give us right medicine to help us fight our sin.  Here is the opposite of legalism.  The fasting rules say we should keep a vegan fast Wednesday and Friday and other times to help us on prayer.  The fast does
Not save us but is a tool to help us to salvation through controlling the passions in prayer. Maybe we are new or weak so maybe our spiritual father will lessen the fast for us or maybe will add something to it if he knows something is causing us to sin. He has to be able to tell what will help us to salvation, not hinder us. 
By these things we grow, doing what we are able.  We do not get good points for fasting or confessing.  It is to help us become Christlike and can be adjusted from the base line as needs require. 

Does everybody do this?   No.  But the point is that through the church these tools are there for our salvation. We can choose to use them or not. 
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« Reply #34 on: July 02, 2013, 02:55:17 PM »

Those who split have simply left the Church.  Now they may, by God's mercy, have some of the deposit of faith and there may be much good there.  But they no longer have protection against error.  But we do not know the salvation of anyone... Other churches are not the church by definition although there may be faithful Christians there.  We do not know and we do not judge.  We leave it to the Lord's mercy. 

Very helpful, thanks for the clear explanation. I think this is pretty much the same argument the Romans use, but I think they might admit to schisms rather than people leaving the Church. I suppose the difference would be that maybe the Orthodox church uses the term "chose to leave" whereas the Catholics have actually excommunicated people.

So, to be clear, the Orthodox Church believes people can receive salvation outside of the church?

Maybe this is another topic, but kind of related to salvation... This has been a concern of many protestants, myself included, we often see churches like the Roman Catholic to be lacking in mature, godly believers who instead give lip service on Sunday and live like the devil the rest of the week. There is certainly hypocrisy in protestant churches too, but we have assumed that though people in Catholic churches can have a true faith, it isn't a very good place to grow in maturity and Christ-likeness, I think, because the focus is often on the rituals, formulas, and legalistically following a list of rules- always looking for a loophole- and not on the preaching and exposition of the Word, which according to 2Tim3:16-17 is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

Maybe we are judging Catholics unfairly, judging by those who do not practice their faith instead of the ones who actually do. I suppose we just assume the Orthodox is similar and probably because their churches are so scarce no one knows much about them. How does the Orthodox view discipleship? What does the growth process look like?

1.  The idea of schisms has proved problematic for the Catholic Church.  You get groups such as the Old Catholics who are hardly distinguishable from Protestants in some points but are admitted to communion and viewed as part of the church because their bishops have apostolic succession at least in name.  We don't have that.  If they start going off the rails they have departed from the church. 

2.  We have very strict discipleship.  I'm not sure what Rufus has seen but his experience shows that we are imperfect.  Our church teaches the opposite of legalism although we have many rules.  Christ came as the Great Physician, to heal that wounded by sin.  The Apostles did the same.  See how Paul served as a spiritual father to Timothy.  So too we must seek out a spiritual father, a wise practitioner, to help us.  Usually this is the parish priest although it could be a monk or nun.  We go to the spiritual father and share our imperfections.   He, if a priest, pronounces absolution.  If our confessor is not a priest we must still go to the priest for absolution.  The spiritual father will get to know us well and will give us right medicine to help us fight our sin.  Here is the opposite of legalism.  The fasting rules say we should keep a vegan fast Wednesday and Friday and other times to help us on prayer.  The fast does
Not save us but is a tool to help us to salvation through controlling the passions in prayer. Maybe we are new or weak so maybe our spiritual father will lessen the fast for us or maybe will add something to it if he knows something is causing us to sin. He has to be able to tell what will help us to salvation, not hinder us. 
By these things we grow, doing what we are able.  We do not get good points for fasting or confessing.  It is to help us become Christlike and can be adjusted from the base line as needs require. 

Does everybody do this?   No.  But the point is that through the church these tools are there for our salvation. We can choose to use them or not. 



I should add that for us the goal of discipleship is union with the uncreated energies of God (not his essence).  We call this theosis.  It comes not from knowing about God but from knowing God.  All of the sacraments, prayers, and tools we have ate to help this process which God desires and which Christ died to make possible. 
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« Reply #35 on: July 02, 2013, 03:09:31 PM »


This is where the Orthodox are weak. Discipleship nearly doesn't exist, except in monastic establishments. It is a problem.

I have seen Orthodox doing discipleship and been a part of it; it is just uncommon.

At any given parish, you will probably find that many of the people are astoundingly ignorant of doctrine and the Bible. This is partly because almost all of them are Orthodox out of family tradition, partly because of lack of catechism, partly because of the increasing religious indifference of people today, and partly because the Orthodox came from countries where pretty much everyone was an illiterate peasant.

So there is some housecleaning to do in these areas.

Interesting, that has not been my experience at all, Rufus.

Nor mine. On the contrary, I have been chastened and humbled by the Orthodox Faithful, especially the yiayias, which it has been my privilege to meet.
Naturally there are always people who are less pious or devout or learned. But you find that everywhere.
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« Reply #36 on: July 02, 2013, 03:19:03 PM »


This is where the Orthodox are weak. Discipleship nearly doesn't exist, except in monastic establishments. It is a problem.

I have seen Orthodox doing discipleship and been a part of it; it is just uncommon.

At any given parish, you will probably find that many of the people are astoundingly ignorant of doctrine and the Bible. This is partly because almost all of them are Orthodox out of family tradition, partly because of lack of catechism, partly because of the increasing religious indifference of people today, and partly because the Orthodox came from countries where pretty much everyone was an illiterate peasant.

So there is some housecleaning to do in these areas.

Interesting, that has not been my experience at all, Rufus.

Nor mine. On the contrary, I have been chastened and humbled by the Orthodox Faithful, especially the yiayias, which it has been my privilege to meet.
Naturally there are always people who are less pious or devout or learned. But you find that everywhere.

Getting chastened by yiayias doesn't amount to discipleship. Discipleship happens one-on-one or among small groups of friends, and it involves having a close and transparent relationship with another person. It does exist within Orthodox parishes, but it's not widespread.

Really, most people aren't even ready for that sort of thing.

A serious godparent who is available is a huge blessing. Of course, converts are much more likely to be assigned such a figure than a baby is.
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« Reply #37 on: July 02, 2013, 03:19:12 PM »

I have been studying a great deal about the Roman Catholic Church and I understand their doctrines/theology very well.I am interested in hearing from the OC, but the problem is I live in a heavily RC community and the nearest OC is an hour and a half drive one way. Too far to really meet anyone  let alone to consider joining and being involved.

What do OC Christians do when they don't live anywhere near an Orthodox church? Maybe that is an unrealistic question because anyone who is Orthodox lives near an Orthodox church?

Matthew, be aware that I am only a lifelong Christian (baptized Roman Catholic) yet wandered in the protestant world after Vatican 2. The folks here have been great answering your various questions from their perspective. I will give you mine, still after over a year of being OUTSIDE and looking in. You write that you are considering 'joining' an OC church.

I thought so, too, back in Sep of 2012. Having attended faithfully (more faithfully than the EO membership) since Nov 2012 AND attending something called a faith class, I am no nearer being a catechumen/member/disciple than I was when I started reading about EO in Nov of 2011.

My experience is more of what Rufus is talking about. What discipleship? After 2000 years you'd figure they would have a set catechesis. Its all over the place with regards to WHAT you are to study, HOW LONG you are to study, no consideration if you walked out of a mosque yesterday or have been a faithful Christian all your life. Its been a very discouraging journey.

They will tell you here to talk to your priest, if he is not busy and not a dual career priest; or find a spiritual father, I believe they all died in Russia 200yrs ago.
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« Reply #38 on: July 02, 2013, 03:47:08 PM »

Its rather discouraging to hear that. I hope those are just isolated incidents and not widespread in the Church. In addition to catechumen class, my priest will email back and forth w/ me about questions I have and I would have no problem giving him a call just to talk.
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« Reply #39 on: July 02, 2013, 03:54:21 PM »


This is where the Orthodox are weak. Discipleship nearly doesn't exist, except in monastic establishments. It is a problem.

I have seen Orthodox doing discipleship and been a part of it; it is just uncommon.

At any given parish, you will probably find that many of the people are astoundingly ignorant of doctrine and the Bible. This is partly because almost all of them are Orthodox out of family tradition, partly because of lack of catechism, partly because of the increasing religious indifference of people today, and partly because the Orthodox came from countries where pretty much everyone was an illiterate peasant.

So there is some housecleaning to do in these areas.

Interesting, that has not been my experience at all, Rufus.

Nor mine. On the contrary, I have been chastened and humbled by the Orthodox Faithful, especially the yiayias, which it has been my privilege to meet.
Naturally there are always people who are less pious or devout or learned. But you find that everywhere.

Getting chastened by yiayias doesn't amount to discipleship. Discipleship happens one-on-one or among small groups of friends, and it involves having a close and transparent relationship with another person. It does exist within Orthodox parishes, but it's not widespread.

Really, most people aren't even ready for that sort of thing.

A serious godparent who is available is a huge blessing. Of course, converts are much more likely to be assigned such a figure than a baby is.

Sorry I was not more clear. Perhaps I should have said "been inspired by." I didn't mean "scolded by." Also, I believe that discipleship means following Christ - it doesn't have to happen only the way you describe.
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« Reply #40 on: July 02, 2013, 04:27:49 PM »

I have been studying a great deal about the Roman Catholic Church and I understand their doctrines/theology very well.I am interested in hearing from the OC, but the problem is I live in a heavily RC community and the nearest OC is an hour and a half drive one way. Too far to really meet anyone  let alone to consider joining and being involved.

What do OC Christians do when they don't live anywhere near an Orthodox church? Maybe that is an unrealistic question because anyone who is Orthodox lives near an Orthodox church?

Matthew, be aware that I am only a lifelong Christian (baptized Roman Catholic) yet wandered in the protestant world after Vatican 2. The folks here have been great answering your various questions from their perspective. I will give you mine, still after over a year of being OUTSIDE and looking in. You write that you are considering 'joining' an OC church.

I thought so, too, back in Sep of 2012. Having attended faithfully (more faithfully than the EO membership) since Nov 2012 AND attending something called a faith class, I am no nearer being a catechumen/member/disciple than I was when I started reading about EO in Nov of 2011.

My experience is more of what Rufus is talking about. What discipleship? After 2000 years you'd figure they would have a set catechesis. Its all over the place with regards to WHAT you are to study, HOW LONG you are to study, no consideration if you walked out of a mosque yesterday or have been a faithful Christian all your life. Its been a very discouraging journey.

They will tell you here to talk to your priest, if he is not busy and not a dual career priest; or find a spiritual father, I believe they all died in Russia 200yrs ago.

I know someone who had a very similar story. Eventually the parish got a new priest, and he immediately had her chrismated. So which priest you're dealing with can make a big difference.

To understand why things are like this, you've gotta look into the political history of the Orthodox Church.

Anyway, my point is not to poop on the Orthodox Church; I'm just trying to give Matthew79 an idea of what Orthodox churches are typically like so he can get his bearings.

And of course, we're just talking about the US, which is the fringe of the Orthodox world.
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« Reply #41 on: July 02, 2013, 06:18:43 PM »

I have been studying a great deal about the Roman Catholic Church and I understand their doctrines/theology very well.I am interested in hearing from the OC, but the problem is I live in a heavily RC community and the nearest OC is an hour and a half drive one way. Too far to really meet anyone  let alone to consider joining and being involved.

What do OC Christians do when they don't live anywhere near an Orthodox church? Maybe that is an unrealistic question because anyone who is Orthodox lives near an Orthodox church?

Matthew, be aware that I am only a lifelong Christian (baptized Roman Catholic) yet wandered in the protestant world after Vatican 2. The folks here have been great answering your various questions from their perspective. I will give you mine, still after over a year of being OUTSIDE and looking in. You write that you are considering 'joining' an OC church.

I thought so, too, back in Sep of 2012. Having attended faithfully (more faithfully than the EO membership) since Nov 2012 AND attending something called a faith class, I am no nearer being a catechumen/member/disciple than I was when I started reading about EO in Nov of 2011.

My experience is more of what Rufus is talking about. What discipleship? After 2000 years you'd figure they would have a set catechesis. Its all over the place with regards to WHAT you are to study, HOW LONG you are to study, no consideration if you walked out of a mosque yesterday or have been a faithful Christian all your life. Its been a very discouraging journey.

They will tell you here to talk to your priest, if he is not busy and not a dual career priest; or find a spiritual father, I believe they all died in Russia 200yrs ago.

Oh my.  This certainly isn't the case everywhere.  Without knowing your situation, have you raised these concerns directly with your priest?   Maybe it would be good to schedule an appointment to ask him just what is needed for you to be received into membership and what his thoughts are on your readiness and if he sees anything specific that you should work on.  His response might be helpful to you.  My experience is the opposite, parishes who love to see new faces and are eager to receive them, sometimes too eager perhaps. 

I don't believe in jurisdiction hopping by any means but if there is a real problem maybe there are Other Orthodox Churches nearby?  If there is a real problem and you can't work it out after trying maybe it is something to think about. 

Certainly there are good, although busy, spiritual fathers today.  Is there a monastery near you?  Even a short stay could prove refreshing and helpful.  But I'd recommend trying to get to the bottom of things with your current situation if you haven't directly approached with your questions and confusion.   That might give you some peace and correct any misunderstandings. 
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« Reply #42 on: July 02, 2013, 06:51:33 PM »

I am not sure how much I am considering joining an EO, but just trying to learn what they're all about.

Lately, I have been longing to find my roots and be connected to the early church. Protestant church history talks briefly about the first couple hundred years, but most of our history only goes back as far as Martin Luther. I have some frustrations with Protestantism in general. A couple years ago, my church's founding pastor had some anger issues and lashed out at some people in the congregation. Our elder board asked him to step down from leadership. So he goes across town and starts a new church of his own. He was denied membership in the conference that our church is apart of and thus, his new church has no accountability. I don't think I have to tell you how dangerous this is. On top of all that, our church is still supporting his new plant financially. The bigger problem is that you see this kind of thing happening all over Protestantism. American consumerism has infected the Church. People are quick to jump ship when they aren't growing or things don't go the way they think it should, assuming it is the leadership's fault, sometimes it is. Secondly, I have a lot of friends who are church planters and each of them struggles to figure out how to do things- how to order the worship service, how to do discipleship, how to do ministry, etc.. You would think that after over 2,000 years of church history God would have provided some model that has been proven effective. This is why I studied the RC and now looking into EO. Actually, I must admit, the current pastor of my church is pretty good with discipleship. He is committed to training up other leaders in the church and making sure every member has someone reaching out to them, that they know someone cares and is there to support them. We have always been known as "a sending church"- sending out church planters and missionaries all over the country and world.

What I like about the EO is they have a model for the order of worship that is relatively the same in every parish. And there is some solid accountability for doctrines. Depending on the condition of the EO's I find in my area, I may just end up staying where I am, but hopefully I will find them strong in discipleship as many of you claim they are. I would ask anyone to please pray about that for me.
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« Reply #43 on: July 02, 2013, 06:57:17 PM »

I am not sure how much I am considering joining an EO, but just trying to learn what they're all about.

Lately, I have been longing to find my roots and be connected to the early church. Protestant church history talks briefly about the first couple hundred years, but most of our history only goes back as far as Martin Luther. I have some frustrations with Protestantism in general. A couple years ago, my church's founding pastor had some anger issues and lashed out at some people in the congregation. Our elder board asked him to step down from leadership. So he goes across town and starts a new church of his own. He was denied membership in the conference that our church is apart of and thus, his new church has no accountability. I don't think I have to tell you how dangerous this is. On top of all that, our church is still supporting his new plant financially. The bigger problem is that you see this kind of thing happening all over Protestantism. American consumerism has infected the Church. People are quick to jump ship when they aren't growing or things don't go the way they think it should, assuming it is the leadership's fault, sometimes it is. Secondly, I have a lot of friends who are church planters and each of them struggles to figure out how to do things- how to order the worship service, how to do discipleship, how to do ministry, etc.. You would think that after over 2,000 years of church history God would have provided some model that has been proven effective. This is why I studied the RC and now looking into EO. Actually, I must admit, the current pastor of my church is pretty good with discipleship. He is committed to training up other leaders in the church and making sure every member has someone reaching out to them, that they know someone cares and is there to support them. We have always been known as "a sending church"- sending out church planters and missionaries all over the country and world.

What I like about the EO is they have a model for the order of worship that is relatively the same in every parish. And there is some solid accountability for doctrines. Depending on the condition of the EO's I find in my area, I may just end up staying where I am, but hopefully I will find them strong in discipleship as many of you claim they are. I would ask anyone to please pray about that for me.

I saw some (but not all) of these problems when I was a Protestant.  Please let us know how your visit goes.  And also any questions you might have !  Orthodoxy is trying to recover its mission mindedness.  Having been oppressed nearly everywhere for centuries it just focused on survival.  One huge exception is the missionary work to the native Alaskans.  Read about St Innocent of Alaska and you'll be inspired.  I know I was as I learned how he slept in a floating kayak traveling frigid seas for days to visit people. 
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« Reply #44 on: July 02, 2013, 07:06:35 PM »

You should definitely visit an Orthodox Liturgy and see the worship.  Liturgy (western or eastern) is such a wonderful blessing compared to standard evangelical worship.  At least I thought so.  It gives a sense of historical and geographical connectedness to the rest of the Church that is really missing in protestant traditions.

here's a video i found helpful on my journey:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-CJhPlmznA

if you've never heard of Francis Schaeffer (this is his son) then it may not matter to you, but he's a titan in the presbyterian church.


J
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« Reply #45 on: July 02, 2013, 07:35:32 PM »

Orthodoxy is trying to recover its mission mindedness.  Having been oppressed nearly everywhere for centuries it just focused on survival. 

Actually, history has shown that the Church thrives most under persecution.

You should definitely visit an Orthodox Liturgy and see the worship.  Liturgy (western or eastern) is such a wonderful blessing compared to standard evangelical worship.  At least I thought so.  It gives a sense of historical and geographical connectedness to the rest of the Church that is really missing in protestant traditions.

here's a video i found helpful on my journey:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-CJhPlmznA

if you've never heard of Francis Schaeffer (this is his son) then it may not matter to you, but he's a titan in the presbyterian church.

Yes! HUGE Schaeffer fan. Actually, I just saw this video a couple weeks ago and ordered the book, Dancing Alone. Eager for it to arrive! (it's a little late)

My first real experience with a liturgical service, and what actually awakened my interest in the ancient church, was actually in a Southern Baptist church. My pastor at that time liked to refer to us as "the black sheep of the Baptist family." Also used the description, "artsy-fartsy" and "hipster". It was Baptist theology with a liturgical flavor and an awesome worship band. Heavily influenced by Tim Keller- another big name Presbyterian pastor.
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« Reply #46 on: July 02, 2013, 07:43:04 PM »

Orthodoxy is trying to recover its mission mindedness.  Having been oppressed nearly everywhere for centuries it just focused on survival. 

Actually, history has shown that the Church thrives most under persecution.

It sometimes says that it does, certainly.
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« Reply #47 on: July 02, 2013, 07:47:56 PM »

It sometimes says that it does, certainly.

You don't think so?
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« Reply #48 on: July 02, 2013, 07:56:47 PM »

I have been studying a great deal about the Roman Catholic Church and I understand their doctrines/theology very well.I am interested in hearing from the OC, but the problem is I live in a heavily RC community and the nearest OC is an hour and a half drive one way. Too far to really meet anyone  let alone to consider joining and being involved.

What do OC Christians do when they don't live anywhere near an Orthodox church? Maybe that is an unrealistic question because anyone who is Orthodox lives near an Orthodox church?

Matthew, be aware that I am only a lifelong Christian (baptized Roman Catholic) yet wandered in the protestant world after Vatican 2. The folks here have been great answering your various questions from their perspective. I will give you mine, still after over a year of being OUTSIDE and looking in. You write that you are considering 'joining' an OC church.

I thought so, too, back in Sep of 2012. Having attended faithfully (more faithfully than the EO membership) since Nov 2012 AND attending something called a faith class, I am no nearer being a catechumen/member/disciple than I was when I started reading about EO in Nov of 2011.

My experience is more of what Rufus is talking about. What discipleship? After 2000 years you'd figure they would have a set catechesis. Its all over the place with regards to WHAT you are to study, HOW LONG you are to study, no consideration if you walked out of a mosque yesterday or have been a faithful Christian all your life. Its been a very discouraging journey.

They will tell you here to talk to your priest, if he is not busy and not a dual career priest; or find a spiritual father, I believe they all died in Russia 200yrs ago.
My, someone seems to have martyr complex.

Perhaps dropping your preconceptions on how the Church should do things might be less discouraging.
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« Reply #49 on: July 02, 2013, 07:59:24 PM »

I have been studying a great deal about the Roman Catholic Church and I understand their doctrines/theology very well.I am interested in hearing from the OC, but the problem is I live in a heavily RC community and the nearest OC is an hour and a half drive one way. Too far to really meet anyone  let alone to consider joining and being involved.

What do OC Christians do when they don't live anywhere near an Orthodox church? Maybe that is an unrealistic question because anyone who is Orthodox lives near an Orthodox church?

Matthew, be aware that I am only a lifelong Christian (baptized Roman Catholic) yet wandered in the protestant world after Vatican 2. The folks here have been great answering your various questions from their perspective. I will give you mine, still after over a year of being OUTSIDE and looking in. You write that you are considering 'joining' an OC church.

I thought so, too, back in Sep of 2012. Having attended faithfully (more faithfully than the EO membership) since Nov 2012 AND attending something called a faith class, I am no nearer being a catechumen/member/disciple than I was when I started reading about EO in Nov of 2011.

My experience is more of what Rufus is talking about. What discipleship? After 2000 years you'd figure they would have a set catechesis. Its all over the place with regards to WHAT you are to study, HOW LONG you are to study, no consideration if you walked out of a mosque yesterday or have been a faithful Christian all your life. Its been a very discouraging journey.

They will tell you here to talk to your priest, if he is not busy and not a dual career priest; or find a spiritual father, I believe they all died in Russia 200yrs ago.
My, someone seems to have martyr complex.

Perhaps dropping your preconceptions on how the Church should do things might be less discouraging.

I didn't read the frustration this way, but it is hard to read anything accurately on a text-only basis.  I really feel this person should make sure that they are communicating their confusion to their priest; "venting" it here is of no help, especially if the priest may have no idea of the frustration the person is feeling.  Talking it over and making sure both parties understand the situation seems to be the only way to make progress.
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« Reply #50 on: July 02, 2013, 08:02:04 PM »

I have been studying a great deal about the Roman Catholic Church and I understand their doctrines/theology very well.I am interested in hearing from the OC, but the problem is I live in a heavily RC community and the nearest OC is an hour and a half drive one way. Too far to really meet anyone  let alone to consider joining and being involved.

What do OC Christians do when they don't live anywhere near an Orthodox church? Maybe that is an unrealistic question because anyone who is Orthodox lives near an Orthodox church?

Matthew, be aware that I am only a lifelong Christian (baptized Roman Catholic) yet wandered in the protestant world after Vatican 2. The folks here have been great answering your various questions from their perspective. I will give you mine, still after over a year of being OUTSIDE and looking in. You write that you are considering 'joining' an OC church.

I thought so, too, back in Sep of 2012. Having attended faithfully (more faithfully than the EO membership) since Nov 2012 AND attending something called a faith class, I am no nearer being a catechumen/member/disciple than I was when I started reading about EO in Nov of 2011.

My experience is more of what Rufus is talking about. What discipleship? After 2000 years you'd figure they would have a set catechesis. Its all over the place with regards to WHAT you are to study, HOW LONG you are to study, no consideration if you walked out of a mosque yesterday or have been a faithful Christian all your life. Its been a very discouraging journey.

They will tell you here to talk to your priest, if he is not busy and not a dual career priest; or find a spiritual father, I believe they all died in Russia 200yrs ago.

I know someone who had a very similar story. Eventually the parish got a new priest, and he immediately had her chrismated. So which priest you're dealing with can make a big difference.

To understand why things are like this, you've gotta look into the political history of the Orthodox Church.

Anyway, my point is not to poop on the Orthodox Church; I'm just trying to give Matthew79 an idea of what Orthodox churches are typically like so he can get his bearings.

And of course, we're just talking about the US, which is the fringe of the Orthodox world.
If the US is where you are, it might as well be the center.
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« Reply #51 on: July 02, 2013, 08:04:57 PM »

It sometimes says that it does, certainly.

You don't think so?

Some random--probably terribly disjointed--thoughts... I think apologetics get in the way sometimes. The biggest controversy in the first three hundred years of Christian history was what to do with people who abandoned the faith to save their skins, but then wanted to come back afterwards when things were peaceful. Whether Christians thrived during this period is debatable. There is that line about the blood of the martyrs being the seed of the faith. Persecution was sporadic, coming in waves; and not all places experienced it in the same way. Was there a major surge in conversions under Diocletian? The Church definitely seemed to take off the most after 313 when it became tolerated, measuring by adherents, churches built, theological writings, etc. Did monasticism start because the church became more worldly? Monasticism didn't take off until the 4th century, but there were Christian monastics before that.

Did the Church thrive more under the Christian emperors? What happened when an emperor who held to a non-orthodox viewpoint came into power? It seems to me like it was largely a mixed result. Were there large theological, missionary, and educational projects during times of persecution in Constantinople, Syria, Egypt, Greece, Russia, etc., or were they mostly just focusing on surviving? Orthodoxy is still fairly limited in growth outside lands that have been Orthodox for a thousand years. On the other hand it's the 2nd biggest Christian group, despite going through more crap than pretty much any other. And in a sense I can see how persecution would have a positive element to it, what with forcing people who are serious about the faith to come together and weather the storm; it's probably when everything is going smoothly that people are likely to have a somewhat lessened attitude. Does the Church thrive most under persecution? I don't know...
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« Reply #52 on: July 02, 2013, 08:07:05 PM »

Yes! HUGE Schaeffer fan. Actually, I just saw this video a couple weeks ago and ordered the book, Dancing Alone. Eager for it to arrive! (it's a little late)

My first real experience with a liturgical service, and what actually awakened my interest in the ancient church, was actually in a Southern Baptist church. My pastor at that time liked to refer to us as "the black sheep of the Baptist family." Also used the description, "artsy-fartsy" and "hipster". It was Baptist theology with a liturgical flavor and an awesome worship band. Heavily influenced by Tim Keller- another big name Presbyterian pastor.
Fair warning.  Frank is pretty disappointing lately, but that interview is still great.
For your first Liturgy, i would strongly encourage you to attend a large parish with a good choir, iconography, architecture, etc.  Let that first impression be a good one.  My first was Christmas Eve at St George's in Greenville, SC.  Simply amazing.
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« Reply #53 on: July 02, 2013, 09:00:43 PM »

Some random--probably terribly disjointed--thoughts... I think apologetics get in the way sometimes. The biggest controversy in the first three hundred years of Christian history was what to do with people who abandoned the faith to save their skins, but then wanted to come back afterwards when things were peaceful. Whether Christians thrived during this period is debatable. There is that line about the blood of the martyrs being the seed of the faith. Persecution was sporadic, coming in waves; and not all places experienced it in the same way. Was there a major surge in conversions under Diocletian? The Church definitely seemed to take off the most after 313 when it became tolerated, measuring by adherents, churches built, theological writings, etc. Did monasticism start because the church became more worldly? Monasticism didn't take off until the 4th century, but there were Christian monastics before that.

Did the Church thrive more under the Christian emperors? What happened when an emperor who held to a non-orthodox viewpoint came into power? It seems to me like it was largely a mixed result. Were there large theological, missionary, and educational projects during times of persecution in Constantinople, Syria, Egypt, Greece, Russia, etc., or were they mostly just focusing on surviving? Orthodoxy is still fairly limited in growth outside lands that have been Orthodox for a thousand years. On the other hand it's the 2nd biggest Christian group, despite going through more crap than pretty much any other. And in a sense I can see how persecution would have a positive element to it, what with forcing people who are serious about the faith to come together and weather the storm; it's probably when everything is going smoothly that people are likely to have a somewhat lessened attitude. Does the Church thrive most under persecution? I don't know...

Well, I guess I haven't really thought about it much. Just recognizing that all the persecution during the Roman Empire couldn't snuff out the Church and even recently, within the last century, the explosion of conversions in Korea and China. I still think that persecution strengthens the true Church because it weeds out those who really didn't believe.... Ah, but I have to remember the EO perspective of "the Church". You guys don't believe in a distinction between the visible and invisible Church, right? 
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« Reply #54 on: July 02, 2013, 09:06:52 PM »

Fair warning.  Frank is pretty disappointing lately, but that interview is still great.
For your first Liturgy, i would strongly encourage you to attend a large parish with a good choir, iconography, architecture, etc.  Let that first impression be a good one.  My first was Christmas Eve at St George's in Greenville, SC.  Simply amazing.

Actually, I think my first real experience with a real liturgical church was a Christmas Eve Mass at a Catholic cathedral. The bishop was officiating. I was trying to see if any Catholic churches out there had any good, strong preaching. I figured, if any Catholic church had good preaching it would certainly be at the diocese with a bishop.... I was pretty disappointed in those regards, but the aesthetics were pretty sweet, though.
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« Reply #55 on: July 03, 2013, 01:06:03 AM »

There were several groups who, in the judgment of the Eastern Orthodox, left the Orthodox Church throughout its history.  This is complicated.

So I guess my appeal to lack of schisms as evidence of the true church has been shattered  Grin... What would an EO say are the marks of a true church?

I don't know if I've ever clarified, but I am currently protestant- been apart of several traditions, but mostly Baptist. (Actually, tradition used loosely- most people I know view tradition as dull and lifeless and would be offended at the suggestion they followed any kind of tradition.) We would say the marks of a true church are that they preach the Gospel- full divinity/humanity of Jesus, salvation through faith in his payment for our sins on the cross (of course followed by repentance), his resurrection, and the proof of faith by a changed, spirit-filled life.  That pretty much leaves the door wide open for many various ways of "doing church". Given the smorgasboard of denominations, I'm sure you can understand how important it would be for a protestant to ask these kinds of questions. We wouldn't say (at least in theory) that we have our theology all figured out, so we have to be open to change and to be teachable (hard thing for a lot of Baptists, I know Grin), but we take pride in our shortcomings.

Rufus- you're funny!
This, the part I bolded,  is what started me on the road to Orthodoxy. I realized that all churches have tradition. Where your using the term tradition loosely I wont, from my perspective I will say that for each Protestant church their tradition is is every inch a Tradition. This is why  when you were a Baptist you were a Baptist and not a Lutheran, there are real differences yet all "based on the Bible". The problem is most Protestants wont even admit to the differences let alone the tradition. For me, once I realized all churches had traditions I knew I needed to choose one and given the respect I had for the Bible I decided to go with the Tradition that gave us the Bible rather than one that disagrees with it's siblings about what the Bible means.
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« Reply #56 on: July 03, 2013, 05:11:26 PM »

This, the part I bolded,  is what started me on the road to Orthodoxy. I realized that all churches have tradition. Where your using the term tradition loosely I wont, from my perspective I will say that for each Protestant church their tradition is is every inch a Tradition. This is why  when you were a Baptist you were a Baptist and not a Lutheran, there are real differences yet all "based on the Bible". The problem is most Protestants wont even admit to the differences let alone the tradition. For me, once I realized all churches had traditions I knew I needed to choose one and given the respect I had for the Bible I decided to go with the Tradition that gave us the Bible rather than one that disagrees with it's siblings about what the Bible means.

Well, there's a difference between doctrinal traditions and the traditions of the worship service (rituals, ceremonies, having everything planned out down to the "t" and as they say, "no room for the move of the Holy Spirit"). I think this is more what many Protestants rebel against when they talk about tradition...of course, they obviously reject certain doctrines as well. I don't think that we don't admit to the differences, but a lot of the differences we don't see as a big deal, yet, big enough to split off from each other. We still recognize each other as brothers, but have difficulty coming to an agreement, which makes ministry together difficult. The way we perceive various interpretations is that as long as we agree on the core beliefs, the Gospel, that's most important- it cannot be compromised or overlooked. With everything else, certainly there is a right and wrong interpretation, but  we don't proclaim to have all the answers and trust that God will eventually lead us to the truth as long as we seek Him. We take the posture of the Bereans (Acts 17) by keeping our interpretations open to change if someone can convince us through Scripture... at least, in a perfect world. In reality, the Church is full of sinners, and many churches are not open to change and are not seeking the truth of God- those are the ones that usually die out or descend into cultism- or become stale, at best. They have assumed that they have arrived and need no correction. This is a big reason why I haven't found peace in my trekk through Roman theology. The big thing I look for is a church with enough humility to admit there might be something that God can teach them.

But so far, what I see in the EO, I like.
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« Reply #57 on: July 03, 2013, 05:24:22 PM »

This, the part I bolded,  is what started me on the road to Orthodoxy. I realized that all churches have tradition. Where your using the term tradition loosely I wont, from my perspective I will say that for each Protestant church their tradition is is every inch a Tradition. This is why  when you were a Baptist you were a Baptist and not a Lutheran, there are real differences yet all "based on the Bible". The problem is most Protestants wont even admit to the differences let alone the tradition. For me, once I realized all churches had traditions I knew I needed to choose one and given the respect I had for the Bible I decided to go with the Tradition that gave us the Bible rather than one that disagrees with it's siblings about what the Bible means.

Well, there's a difference between doctrinal traditions and the traditions of the worship service (rituals, ceremonies, having everything planned out down to the "t" and as they say, "no room for the move of the Holy Spirit"). I think this is more what many Protestants rebel against when they talk about tradition...of course, they obviously reject certain doctrines as well. I don't think that we don't admit to the differences, but a lot of the differences we don't see as a big deal, yet, big enough to split off from each other. We still recognize each other as brothers, but have difficulty coming to an agreement, which makes ministry together difficult. The way we perceive various interpretations is that as long as we agree on the core beliefs, the Gospel, that's most important- it cannot be compromised or overlooked. With everything else, certainly there is a right and wrong interpretation, but  we don't proclaim to have all the answers and trust that God will eventually lead us to the truth as long as we seek Him. We take the posture of the Bereans (Acts 17) by keeping our interpretations open to change if someone can convince us through Scripture... at least, in a perfect world. In reality, the Church is full of sinners, and many churches are not open to change and are not seeking the truth of God- those are the ones that usually die out or descend into cultism- or become stale, at best. They have assumed that they have arrived and need no correction. This is a big reason why I haven't found peace in my trekk through Roman theology. The big thing I look for is a church with enough humility to admit there might be something that God can teach them.

But so far, what I see in the EO, I like.

For us, this distinction is not so clear cut.  The worship services, particularly the Liturgy, are the repository of our doctrine.  If we pray it there, we believe it is true. This if you want to really grasp our beliefs the best thing to do is to attend the prayers for an extended period and listen to them.  Even the movements embody the faith.  We inherited our worship from the synagogue and temple.  So the holy of Holies is separated by a curtain.  There our sacrifice is made but it is no longer animal but the Eucharist of Christ who died once for all.

And the priest makes an entrance twice, first with the Gospel book and later with the bread and wine.  First is to show that Christ entered the world and began his teaching.  Second is to show him coming to offer himself. Then he goes to the altar, the sacrifice is made and the curtains are shut with the doors.  This symbolizes his burial.  Then the doors are opened and the curtain pulled away and we commune.  His Resurrection is this shown.  Behind every phrase uttered and every gesture there is a meaning that edifies.   

All of this is done so that we may worship God rightly understanding Him.  To change the ritual could thus distort the doctrine.  Very rarely prayers were added over centuries to combat this or that error or doctrinal confusion.  That way the worshippers knew exactly whom they were worshipping. 

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« Reply #58 on: July 03, 2013, 05:54:06 PM »

For us, this distinction is not so clear cut.  The worship services, particularly the Liturgy, are the repository of our doctrine.  If we pray it there, we believe it is true. This if you want to really grasp our beliefs the best thing to do is to attend the prayers for an extended period and listen to them.  Even the movements embody the faith.  We inherited our worship from the synagogue and temple.  So the holy of Holies is separated by a curtain.  There our sacrifice is made but it is no longer animal but the Eucharist of Christ who died once for all.

And the priest makes an entrance twice, first with the Gospel book and later with the bread and wine.  First is to show that Christ entered the world and began his teaching.  Second is to show him coming to offer himself. Then he goes to the altar, the sacrifice is made and the curtains are shut with the doors.  This symbolizes his burial.  Then the doors are opened and the curtain pulled away and we commune.  His Resurrection is this shown.  Behind every phrase uttered and every gesture there is a meaning that edifies.   

All of this is done so that we may worship God rightly understanding Him.  To change the ritual could thus distort the doctrine.  Very rarely prayers were added over centuries to combat this or that error or doctrinal confusion.  That way the worshippers knew exactly whom they were worshipping. 

Neat. After I finished your first paragraph, I was immediately curious about how you interpreted the verse that says Jesus' cry tore the temple curtain in two. I get it though. Paragraph 2 explained it. That's really cool! See, Protestant churches don't have stuff like that.
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« Reply #59 on: July 03, 2013, 07:02:22 PM »

For us, this distinction is not so clear cut.  The worship services, particularly the Liturgy, are the repository of our doctrine.  If we pray it there, we believe it is true. This if you want to really grasp our beliefs the best thing to do is to attend the prayers for an extended period and listen to them.  Even the movements embody the faith.  We inherited our worship from the synagogue and temple.  So the holy of Holies is separated by a curtain.  There our sacrifice is made but it is no longer animal but the Eucharist of Christ who died once for all.

And the priest makes an entrance twice, first with the Gospel book and later with the bread and wine.  First is to show that Christ entered the world and began his teaching.  Second is to show him coming to offer himself. Then he goes to the altar, the sacrifice is made and the curtains are shut with the doors.  This symbolizes his burial.  Then the doors are opened and the curtain pulled away and we commune.  His Resurrection is this shown.  Behind every phrase uttered and every gesture there is a meaning that edifies.   

All of this is done so that we may worship God rightly understanding Him.  To change the ritual could thus distort the doctrine.  Very rarely prayers were added over centuries to combat this or that error or doctrinal confusion.  That way the worshippers knew exactly whom they were worshipping. 

Neat. After I finished your first paragraph, I was immediately curious about how you interpreted the verse that says Jesus' cry tore the temple curtain in two. I get it though. Paragraph 2 explained it. That's really cool! See, Protestant churches don't have stuff like that.

Glad that my description answered the question before it was asked!  You might be interested in looking at the text of our normal Sunday Liturgy, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, compiled by him in the 4th century.  It is the one that we usually use on Sundays.  Note that all of this is sung:
http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/liturgy_hchc

It may help to read over this before you go so you will recognize the parts as they occur.

Now, you may wonder about this when you attend the service.  Parts of it are read silently by the priest in the altar.  Some parts may be sung rather quickly or in a foreign language (to you), depending on the parish that you visit.  But the first point to remember is that, while it is true that we benefit by hearing it and participating in it, the Liturgy is primarily a prayer to God.  So if the priest makes certain prayers while we are praying something else, that's OK.  Besides, attending week after week, the main parts of the Liturgy don't change so the average person would pick it up pretty fast.  It helps in that regard that it is set to music.  And, although our ancestors were mostly illiterate peasants, they could learn from the priest or learn the faith from the icons painted around the church, teaching the faith in an accurate manner.  And now, of course, we have the benefit of service books to help us follow along and, after a period of time, even to memorize large parts of the service.

That is not to say that this is the only way in which worship can be conducted.  There were (and are) other liturgies, such as the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great and the Liturgy of St. James (the oldest one still in use), used by the Orthodox Church.  Some of our parishes (very few) use a revised western form of the liturgy.  Of course, in the west during the first millennium of the Church, they used liturgies such as the Gallican Liturgy, the Sarum Liturgy, and the ancient Roman Liturgy which evolved into the Latin Mass.  But what all of these have in common, if you look them up, is that they all proclaim doctrine just the same as ours does.



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« Reply #60 on: July 03, 2013, 07:07:02 PM »

For us, this distinction is not so clear cut.  The worship services, particularly the Liturgy, are the repository of our doctrine.  If we pray it there, we believe it is true. This if you want to really grasp our beliefs the best thing to do is to attend the prayers for an extended period and listen to them.  Even the movements embody the faith.  We inherited our worship from the synagogue and temple.  So the holy of Holies is separated by a curtain.  There our sacrifice is made but it is no longer animal but the Eucharist of Christ who died once for all.

And the priest makes an entrance twice, first with the Gospel book and later with the bread and wine.  First is to show that Christ entered the world and began his teaching.  Second is to show him coming to offer himself. Then he goes to the altar, the sacrifice is made and the curtains are shut with the doors.  This symbolizes his burial.  Then the doors are opened and the curtain pulled away and we commune.  His Resurrection is this shown.  Behind every phrase uttered and every gesture there is a meaning that edifies.   

All of this is done so that we may worship God rightly understanding Him.  To change the ritual could thus distort the doctrine.  Very rarely prayers were added over centuries to combat this or that error or doctrinal confusion.  That way the worshippers knew exactly whom they were worshipping. 

Neat. After I finished your first paragraph, I was immediately curious about how you interpreted the verse that says Jesus' cry tore the temple curtain in two. I get it though. Paragraph 2 explained it. That's really cool! See, Protestant churches don't have stuff like that.

Read Hebrews chapter 13 when you have a chance.  Before and/or after you visit our worship.  We believe that it is writing about the very worship that was given to us by the Apostles and which we still conduct.
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« Reply #61 on: July 04, 2013, 01:26:35 AM »

Yurysprudentsiya it's been said before but I'll say it again your putting some really good stuff out there.

Well, there's a difference between doctrinal traditions and the traditions of the worship service (rituals, ceremonies, having everything planned out down to the "t" and as they say, "no room for the move of the Holy Spirit"). I think this is more what many Protestants rebel against when they talk about tradition...of course, they obviously reject certain doctrines as well.
Oh, some Protestants spend plenty of time railing against both.  Cheesy

I don't think that we don't admit to the differences, but a lot of the differences we don't see as a big deal, yet, big enough to split off from each other. We still recognize each other as brothers, but have difficulty coming to an agreement, which makes ministry together difficult. The way we perceive various interpretations is that as long as we agree on the core beliefs, the Gospel, that's most important- it cannot be compromised or overlooked.
Been there done that, I was raised with that belief major in the majors, minor in the minors. During the early part of my journey my wife who was raised Roman Catholic asked me to explore salvation from the perspective of the Roman church because like a good Protestant she was worried about the salvation of her Roman Catholic parents. When I started looking for tools to compare the Roman view of salvation to the Protestant view I got quite a surprise. There wasn't just one Protestant view. But wait, salvation was a core beleif, it wasn't supposed to be compromised or overlooked. And of course it wasn't completely overlooked, which is why Jacobus Arminius was anathematized by the Synod of Dort.

With everything else, certainly there is a right and wrong interpretation, but  we don't proclaim to have all the answers and trust that God will eventually lead us to the truth as long as we seek Him.
And as you've no doubt figured out the EO church doesn't claim to have all the answers either, it has long been content to look at certain things and say we believe it, we don't completely understand it but we believe it and that's okay. Smiley
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« Reply #62 on: July 04, 2013, 08:10:16 AM »

I just remember some of the questions that I had when I first found Orthodoxy!  There is so much there it would take more than a lifetime to learn it all, and it is even harder to do what we have learned.  But if I can help even in a small way, I'm glad.

Maximum Bob is absolutely right.  There is much that we take by faith, because it has been given to us, although we cannot explain it at all.  The Roman Church, with the advent of scholasticism in the late Medieval ages, tried to define everything exactly.  While some of their definitions might be right, our general answer to a lot of it is that "we just don't know," and often, "we just can't can't know."  And once you define exactly how the Communion changes or exactly how salvation works down to the last detail, some people try to satisfy the "bare minimum" requirements.  I think our answer to that is that we know what is given to us to lead us to salvation, but we don't know what the "minimum" is to get there.  If you start fiddling around with it, removing bolts and pieces from the machine, it might still work, but then again it might not.  So we think it is safer to use the device as the designer intended, even if we don't always know exactly how it works.  Smiley 


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« Reply #63 on: July 04, 2013, 01:08:55 PM »

Been there done that, I was raised with that belief major in the majors, minor in the minors. During the early part of my journey my wife who was raised Roman Catholic asked me to explore salvation from the perspective of the Roman church because like a good Protestant she was worried about the salvation of her Roman Catholic parents. When I started looking for tools to compare the Roman view of salvation to the Protestant view I got quite a surprise. There wasn't just one Protestant view. But wait, salvation was a core beleif, it wasn't supposed to be compromised or overlooked. And of course it wasn't completely overlooked, which is why Jacobus Arminius was anathematized by the Synod of Dort.
I had casually studied RC for many years, but most of my knowledge was from an Evangelical point of view. I began studying it from the RC perspective within the last year because I have moved in with my RC grandmother to help her in her old age. I wanted to really understand her faith and how I should think about her as a Christian. This lead me to the early fathers, and now, to EO.
I was trained in the Southern Baptist seminary, which is Calvinistic. As for the Calvinism/Aminian debate- They would both agree on how a person is saved- the necessity of faith and confession of Jesus, which if true faith, leads to repentance and good works. Both would admit we each have some measure of responsibility in that area (this is the core belief). The big disagreement is how that faith is given/received; who can be saved and can they lose it. A Calvinist would say only God knows whom He has chosen, so we must witness and give that opportunity to everyone.

And as you've no doubt figured out the EO church doesn't claim to have all the answers either, it has long been content to look at certain things and say we believe it, we don't completely understand it but we believe it and that's okay. Smiley

Some of us Protestants act like we have all the answers, but I think for most of us it is just the verbalization of working through it in our own minds. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit we don't know it all.

There is much that we take by faith, because it has been given to us, although we cannot explain it at all.  The Roman Church, with the advent of scholasticism in the late Medieval ages, tried to define everything exactly. 

I think this is where the RC misunderstands Protestants. They assume that we believe the authority of Scripture is subject to our conscience (or interpretation), not the other way around. For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell, but it is clear in Scripture so we must accept it and try our best to understand it. Some Protestants, like Rob Bell, have tried to soften that blow to the point of heresy, but he's been rejected by the majority of the Protestant community. The things that we are a little more lax about are the things that are not clear from Scripture, we leave that to a conscience submitted to God.
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« Reply #64 on: July 04, 2013, 04:13:27 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.
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« Reply #65 on: July 04, 2013, 05:13:32 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Well, I don't think Edwards preached Hell to get money considering all his sermons were preached free of charge. I think he was preaching out of his own conviction and concern for those who do not trust in Jesus.
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« Reply #66 on: July 04, 2013, 07:00:06 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Well, I don't think Edwards preached Hell to get money considering all his sermons were preached free of charge. I think he was preaching out of his own conviction and concern for those who do not trust in Jesus.
He spent his life turning God into the boogie man and lived a very wealthy life because of it.
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« Reply #67 on: July 04, 2013, 08:43:15 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
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« Reply #68 on: July 04, 2013, 08:54:57 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.
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« Reply #69 on: July 04, 2013, 08:58:13 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
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« Reply #70 on: July 04, 2013, 09:06:20 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
Comes nowhere close to;
 "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire;".
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« Reply #71 on: July 04, 2013, 09:11:33 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
Comes nowhere close to;
 "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire;".

OK, so the language is stronger, but it's not wildly off the mark.

Unlike universalism, for instance.
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« Reply #72 on: July 04, 2013, 09:44:33 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
Comes nowhere close to;
 "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire;".

OK, so the language is stronger, but it's not wildly off the mark.

Unlike universalism, for instance.
That's a seven thousand word sermon that has one message, God is the boogie man and hell is his weapon of choice.
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« Reply #73 on: July 04, 2013, 11:15:32 PM »

Well, anyway, I'm not here to argue anything. Red, You seemed to have completely missed my point.
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« Reply #74 on: July 05, 2013, 05:47:05 AM »

Well, anyway, I'm not here to argue anything. Red, You seemed to have completely missed my point.
It would not be the first time.
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« Reply #75 on: July 05, 2013, 07:55:13 AM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.

Although I believe that we as Orthodox could not countenance the doctrine propounded by Edwards in his landmark sermon, I wouldn't cast aspersions on Edwards here.  I know of many people who did, and do, believe such things with great sincerity.  It is a logical outcome of following St Anselm's satisfaction theory to the extreme.  Edwards simply vivifies it.  Which we believe is error.  We would say that Edwards was wildly off the mark in how he extrapolated the character of God from this theory.  And as to getting wealthy, I cannot say, although I know that he was thrown out of his church for such preaching at one point (as most of the early revivalists were).  Sometimes it is easier to attack a man's motivations or character than it is to refute his doctrine, but I believe it is more profitable to do the latter.  For us, the doctrines expressed in that sermon concerning the attributes of God (as I understand it) are simply an example of going further and further down a path which is not hemmed in by the teachings of the Church.  Edwards apparently also taught that Holy Communion does not possess sacramental grace, which we also claim as error.  But I personally wouldn't want to start accusing this man, who, it seems to me sought to do much good, of being a charlatan.

Incidentally, and completely as an aside, I learned that one of Edwards' grandsons was Aaron Burr.  That is an interesting connection.
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« Reply #76 on: July 05, 2013, 10:03:48 AM »


The bishops themselves are all members of the Assembly of Bishops and meet regularly.


To what degree do the parishes answer to the bishops, do they send delegations to a meeting, or something?


Rome broke from the Orthodox and the Protestants broke from Rome.  

The Romans and Easterns both claim to be the original and that the other broke away from them. The fact that the Eastern one never had any major splits as the Roman did indicates to me that the Eastern was the original.

Matthew,

If you want to attend a canonical Eastern Orthodox Church (which is in communion with all of the Orthodox), make sure that the Ukrainian Church is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.  The hierarchs should be listed as Metropolitan Antony and/or Bishop Daniel.  There has been a schism in Ukraine and some of the non-canonical churches have established parishes here in the USA.  There are only a few such, however.  That's a topic for another day.  

Yeah, I'm not sure. They don't have a website as they are a small country parish. I found it at orthodoxyinamerica.org, if that means anything.

1.  The ancient principle of the church is that "where the bishop is, there is the Church."  See the writings of the holy father Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans.  St. Ignatius (ca. 35? - ca. 117?) was a disciple of the Apostle John and served as the third Bishop of Antioch (the ruins of which are now on the Turkish-Syrian border).  So we take what he says to be very important.  Anyway, you can read his writings more fully online.  But the point is that, as near as we can tell, in the early days each church was drawn from a region of people and was led by the bishop, who conducted divine services.  Soon, however, these communities multiplied so much that the bishop couldn't be in all of the places at once.  So he deputized presbyters (priests) to serve the liturgy in his place.  Thus, the priest acts only in place of the bishop and is answerable to his bishop in all things.  Theoretically, he can do nothing without the permission of his bishop.  In modern times, bishops generally give priests latitude to run the more mundane aspects of their parishes (most parishes here have a parish council of laypeople to assist the priest).  The bishop must be consulted for more substantive actions, and the bishop makes it a point to visit the parishes in his territory regularly.  (In the Ukrainian tradition, as in others, I'm sure, this is beautiful; as the bishop approaches the church the bells are rung and he is greeted with the traditional gifts of bread and salt as he enters the church).  At least in our tradition, every year there is a Sobor (a council) which is held, led by the bishops, and to which the parishes all send delegates, both clergy and lay.  There, important decisions are taken concerning the life of the church.  These meetings cannot be used to alter doctrine, or anything of that sort; considerations of the faith of the church are taken only by the bishops meeting together in council.

2.  There were several groups who, in the judgment of the Eastern Orthodox, left the Orthodox Church throughout its history.  This is complicated.

a.  In the years following 431 (the Council of Ephesus), the Church of the East (encompassing Persia/India) broke communion over the Council's declaration that Christ was one person with human and divine natures and thus Mary can be called the "Mother of God."  These Christians today are the rather small Assyrian Church of the East and a small branch are the Ancient Church of the East (under a different hierarch) and were predominantly in Iraq and Persia, but the Iraq War has decimated their ranks and caused many to flee.  In the 16th century some joined with Rome but kept their ceremonies and are known as the Chaldean Catholic Church.

b.  In the years following 451 (the Council of Chalcedon), numerous churches broke with the Eastern Orthodox because they could not agree with the Council's definition on the relationship between the two natures of Christ (human and divine).  These churches are known as the Oriental Orthodox Churches or the Non-Chalcedonian Churches.  They include the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (in India, founded by St. Thomas the Apostle), and the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.  Although the Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox are not in communion, in recent years, diligent labors have been undertaken to determine the differences and understanding.  It is generally now recognized that the two churches may have been trying to define the same thing using slightly different words and that this, plus political differences, are the reason behind the split.  Because they have been out of communion for 1500 years, however, it will take some time to resolve all of the differences that have arisen since that time.

c.  In the Middle Ages, the Roman Church began to develop different doctrines and practices which became out of harmony with those of the other Orthodox Churches.  Communication was strained, and the relationship was broken when the Roman Church inserted a phrase into the creed unilaterally (that the Holy Spirit proceeded both from the Father and the Son), when the Pope of Rome asserted supremacy over the other Orthodox bishops in all matters, when the legates of the Pope of Rome excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople in the year 1054, and when zealous Catholic Crusaders sacked the city of Constantinople in 1204, defiling the holy places and setting up a Latin Patriarch who reported to Rome.  In my mind this split was final around the time that the Council of Florence (1439) tried to reunify the sides, was initially accepted by many of the bishops, but was rejected outright by the Orthodox faithful at home when they learned that they would have to accept all manner of Roman innovation.  Some portions of Orthodox Churches, for political and sometimes theological reasons, accepted the authority of Rome and its theology while being permitted to maintain their own rites.  They are known as the "Greek Catholic Churches" or the "Eastern Catholic Churches," and came from both Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox communions.  Dialogue between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches began in earnest in the 1960s and continues today.  You may have heard that, for the first time in history, the Patriarch of Constantinople attended the inauguration of the Pope of Rome.  But we differ with the Roman Catholics on many important points of doctrine and it will take considerable effort to see how much can be resolved through semantics and how much is truly a difference of faith which must be strongly considered.

d.  Another group is worth mentioning.  In the mid-17th century, Patriarch Nikon of Moscow attempted to reform the Russian Orthodox liturgy to bring it in line with the liturgy as then practiced by the Greek Orthodox Church.  He did this because he mistakenly believed that the Greek liturgy was older when, in fact, it had itself been revised in some points.  A group of people, unwilling to accept the validity of the Greek liturgy (and the revised Russian liturgy), broke off and became known as the "Old Believers."  They have since split and split again; some have priests, some don't, etc.  They exist in Russia and some are in the USA now.  Some of them have since reunited with canonical Orthodoxy.

e.  In the 20th century there are some who have declined to remain in communion with the Eastern Orthodox because of the changes to the calendar and perceived ecumenical efforts.  They are often called the "Old Calendarists."

3.  Use the site www.assemblyofbishops.org.  If the parish doesn't have a website, e-mail or call (even better) the number listed to confirm the service times.  If you explain your interest and the priest knows you're coming he may be able to set aside some more time to talk with you if you'd like.  You'll probably be able to catch him at the coffee hour after church (almost all of our parishes have one, in my experience) but he is very busy and it might be good to let him know ahead of time so he'd be more prepared to be available to answer your questions.  I invite you to try the Ukrainian parish.  Our traditions are beautiful (as are the others, I'm sure) and our melodies are more European-sounding so might be more familiar to your ear.  The language of the parish will probably depend on how many immigrants are in the church.  It might be split, as well, with some prayers in English and some in Ukrainian.  You might want to call the priest and ask.  In any event, most churches have service books printed in both languages so you can follow along, if need be.

Please let us know if you have other questions or if we can help you in your quest to discover more about the Orthodox Church!

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« Reply #77 on: July 05, 2013, 10:33:34 AM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
Comes nowhere close to;
 "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire;".

OK, so the language is stronger, but it's not wildly off the mark.

Jesus never taught that God feels we're worthless vermin.
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« Reply #78 on: July 05, 2013, 11:21:03 AM »

I just remember some of the questions that I had when I first found Orthodoxy!  There is so much there it would take more than a lifetime to learn it all, and it is even harder to do what we have learned.  But if I can help even in a small way, I'm glad.

You have help me. Its my frustration trying to grasp all there is to know, and trying to know when is one 'ready' to become a catechumen, much less accepted by the church as a member. I cant know 'everything'. That takes a lifetime. My frustrations is with a 'catechism' outline that was assembled by an angry, ex-protestant, its vague and condescending...now I know what to ask my priest. How was he catechized? I am finding the Law of God by Slobodskoy refreshing. I have learned there is even an older catechism, by St. Philaret of Moscow (both free online) why are these not used? What are American inquirers subjected to the dribble of newly published works? or at worse someone's haste, off the cuff outline?
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« Reply #79 on: July 05, 2013, 11:57:41 AM »

I have learned there is even an older catechism, by St. Philaret of Moscow (both free online) why are these not used?

Well for one thing the Bible canon he gives in that catechism conflicts with the one favored by most Orthodox today, which sort of muddies that whole "our faith doesn't change" thing  Wink
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« Reply #80 on: July 05, 2013, 12:07:29 PM »

The canon can change but that doesn't mean the faith does.
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« Reply #81 on: July 05, 2013, 12:08:46 PM »

I agree. Not everyone does.

EDIT--That's what I meant by it muddying things, and why I didn't say something like "it therefore proves that the faith changes".
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« Reply #82 on: July 05, 2013, 12:59:31 PM »

I just remember some of the questions that I had when I first found Orthodoxy!  There is so much there it would take more than a lifetime to learn it all, and it is even harder to do what we have learned.  But if I can help even in a small way, I'm glad.

You have help me. Its my frustration trying to grasp all there is to know, and trying to know when is one 'ready' to become a catechumen, much less accepted by the church as a member. I cant know 'everything'. That takes a lifetime. My frustrations is with a 'catechism' outline that was assembled by an angry, ex-protestant, its vague and condescending...now I know what to ask my priest. How was he catechized? I am finding the Law of God by Slobodskoy refreshing. I have learned there is even an older catechism, by St. Philaret of Moscow (both free online) why are these not used? What are American inquirers subjected to the dribble of newly published works? or at worse someone's haste, off the cuff outline?

I am glad that something that I said proved helpful to you.  I hope and pray that when you talk with your priest, these things will be resolved.  I'm not sure what exactly your process is for being received into the church . . . as for me, when I told Father that I was interested in considering joining the Church, I was given a couple of catechisms authored by former leaders in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  I studied them, as well as some other books such as Bishop Kallistos' The Orthodox Church, attending services in the meantime, and came to Father and told him that I believed all that was written in the catechisms that I had read, and I was convinced that the Orthodox Church was the Church that Christ spoke of in the Bible.  We then made arrangements for my chrismation.  Of course, I've had many questions since, much that I don't know, and much that is sinful in my life needing repentance, but that hasn't affected the Church's willingness to receive me.  Thanks be to God!
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« Reply #83 on: July 05, 2013, 01:11:49 PM »

I have learned there is even an older catechism, by St. Philaret of Moscow (both free online) why are these not used?

Well for one thing the Bible canon he gives in that catechism conflicts with the one favored by most Orthodox today, which sort of muddies that whole "our faith doesn't change" thing  Wink
Only if you believe in Sola Scriptura, and reject Holy Tradition (the same reason why Orthodox should have no problem with St. Jude quoting the Book of Enoch, but the Protestants have a real problem on their hand).

You will find that the same discussion was held at least as far back at the 2nd century.  So our Faith hasn't changed.
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« Reply #84 on: July 05, 2013, 01:13:52 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
Comes nowhere close to;
 "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire;".

OK, so the language is stronger, but it's not wildly off the mark.

Unlike universalism, for instance.
That's a seven thousand word sermon that has one message, God is the boogie man and hell is his weapon of choice.
Yeah, I always called that "Boogie-man theology."
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« Reply #85 on: July 05, 2013, 01:26:47 PM »

You will find that the same discussion was held at least as far back at the 2nd century. 

Exactly.
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« Reply #86 on: July 05, 2013, 03:20:10 PM »

So, is it the Orthodox position that Hell does not exist and God doesn't send people there anymore? That God is not now, nor ever was angry with anyone? ... That's just what I'm picking up from the discussion about Edwards. While I appreciate personal opinions, I am also looking for official Church teaching.
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« Reply #87 on: July 05, 2013, 03:51:27 PM »

So, is it the Orthodox position that Hell does not exist and God doesn't send people there anymore? That God is not now, nor ever was angry with anyone? ... That's just what I'm picking up from the discussion about Edwards. While I appreciate personal opinions, I am also looking for official Church teaching.


This is a very complex subject.  First, you have to understand that until the final judgment, no one is sent eternally to heaven or hell.  In Orthodox teaching, the righteous spirits go to a paradise which is a foretaste of their eternal abode.  Likewise, the unrighteous go to a place of temporary punishment until the final judgment.  It is only after the final judgment that they will be consigned to hell.

There is a very good book which was recently written by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who is probably one of the most erudite scholars in the Orthodox Church today.  He serves as director of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church and is frequently going to Rome and London to speak with the Roman Catholics and Anglicans about faith issues. Recently he was in America and spoke at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, a prominent private Catholic university in the Philadelphia area.  Unfortunately I didn't get to attend his talk.  His book that I reference is called "Christ the Conqueror of Hell" and is a very good systematic study of the doctrine of hell -- and what Christ did with respect to it -- starting with Scripture, looking at the writings of the Fathers, references to it in the early prayers of the Church, etc. 

My recollection from this book, and my gleanings elsewhere, is as follows:

There is absolutely a place to which the dead went (and go), a place of prison for spirits, as Peter says.  They went there, and we go there, because of our sin.  My understanding is that it is our teaching that, before Christ went to the cross, everyone went to this place, because there was no salvation for them.  But, after His death, Christ went to this place and brought out the spirits who were then in prison.  You can read about this in 1 Peter 3:19.  You can also read about this in Matthew 12:29, when Christ spoke of binding the strong man and plundering his house.  From the earliest teachings of the Church and the ancient prayers in the earliest liturgies, we know that the first Christians believed that the dead Christ went to this place of the dead, and the gates of hell received Him, not recognizing Him.  But when He entered, they realized who had come, and were powerless to stop Him from leading the righteous dead out from hell.

Now, of that much we have some confidence.  But there are several things that we don't know, and are content to leave as mysteries:
1.  How is it that Christ was in this place, and yet, He was never separated from the Father (another core Orthodox teaching)?  This is a mystery, although one explanation of what hell is (see below) might help clarify this.
2.  When Christ performed this "harrowing of hell," as it is often called, did EVERYONE who had died up to that time exit?  Sometimes this is asked, was anyone besides the devil and his angels left in Hades, this place of temporal punishment)?  There is no clear answer on this.  Some Fathers depicted it as such; a second group depicted it as only the Old Testament righteous (named in the Old Testament) were taken with Christ; and a third group depicted it as many righteous, known and unknown to us, exited with Christ at that time.  The third position is the most popular among the Fathers, as I recall, but we cannot be 100% sure of what happened in this respect.
3.  For those who subscribe to the perspective that Christ completely emptied Hades, and knowing that Christ is outside of time, the next question is, Did he also lead out those souls who came into Hades after His death and resurrection?  Try to get your mind around that.  The answer on this is extremely unclear, although that seems doubtful to many.

Now, there are a separate set of questions that have been considered by the Church.  When people go to this realm of temporal punishment, can their fate be changed?  One thing that we do know, from the Bible and the teachings of the Fathers, is that prayer for the dead is beneficial for them.  In the Second Book of Maccabees, which is part of our Bible, prayers and sacrifices were offered for the sins of dead Jewish soldiers.  And in the New Testament, Paul clearly offers up a prayer for his dead friend Onesiphorous in 2 Tim. 1:16-18 and 2 Tim. 4:19, that "he might find mercy in the Lord in that day," presumably, the day of judgment.  We also have the teaching of a very early Father, St. Macarius of Egypt (300-391), that a skull spoke to him and thanked him for offering up prayers for its soul, by which it received some relief from the fires consuming it.  But we do not, we cannot, define it precisely like the Catholic Church does, with their treasury of merit and the purchasing of indulgences to knock time off of purgatory.  We only know that prayer for the departed is helpful to them.  Here is what St. Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome (540-604), had to say:

"The Holy Sacrifice of Christ, our saving Victim, brings great benefits to souls even after death, provided their sins (are such as) can be pardoned in the life to come. For this reason the souls of the dead sometimes beg to have Liturgies offered for them ... The safer course, naturally, is to do for ourselves during life what we hope others will do for us after death. It is better to make one's exit a free man than to seek liberty after one is in chains. We should, therefore, despise this world with all our hearts as though its glory were already spent, and offer our sacrifice of tears to God each day as we immolate His sacred Flesh and Blood. This Sacrifice alone has the power of saving the soul from eternal death, for it presents to us mystically the death of the Only-begotten Son."

Within the Orthodox Church, although this is a realm far beyond our certain knowledge, there is much thought that what hell really is, is standing in the presence of God in an unprepared state (without our wedding garment).  We are free to choose in this life; if we choose Christ and are made holy through Him, through the gifts He has given us, then we will be ready to meet Him and enter a stated of blessedness.  If we choose to reject Christ, He will respect our choice.  And the beauty of Heaven will seem as a violent torment for those who, with all of their being, have rejected Christ and want nothing to do with Him or His glory.  (A non-Orthodox writer, C. S. Lewis, even wrote about this kind of an analogy in his book, "The Great Divorce," where people from Hell were given a day trip to Heaven and couldn't stand it.)

One final point.  The Orthodox Church teaches that the doctrine of Universalism, that all souls will of necessity be saved, is heresy.  The belief that all souls might be saved, however, is not heretical, in that we don't know the state of anyone's salvation.  There was even one Father, whose name escapes me, who prayed for the conversion of the devil.  We know what awaits those who reject God.  And we know that God will allow them to reject Him if they so choose.  What we don't know is what choice all of these people will ultimately make.

Here is an article which explains all of this much more succinctly and clearly than I have.
http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles-2009/Mettalinos-Paradise-And-Hell-According-To-Orthodox-Tradition.php
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« Reply #88 on: July 05, 2013, 06:35:01 PM »

So, is it the Orthodox position that Hell does not exist and God doesn't send people there anymore? That God is not now, nor ever was angry with anyone? ... That's just what I'm picking up from the discussion about Edwards. While I appreciate personal opinions, I am also looking for official Church teaching.


If you do some research in Patristic writings on hell, you will find a very broad variety of interpretations. However, no Orthodox writer ever denied the existence of hell.

While I can't imagine any Orthodox would say that God "abhors" or hates anyone, some contemporary Orthodox circles have some really ridiculous notions about eternal punishment.

A look a Orthodox hymnography, which is a very reliable standard for discerning Orthodox doctrine, will reveal quite a number of allusions to eternal punishment.
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« Reply #89 on: July 05, 2013, 09:57:52 PM »

So, is it the Orthodox position that Hell does not exist and God doesn't send people there anymore? That God is not now, nor ever was angry with anyone? ... That's just what I'm picking up from the discussion about Edwards. While I appreciate personal opinions, I am also looking for official Church teaching.

From creation, through the incarnation to the ascension and beyond, Gods work has been for our salvation. Hell is very real and the gates of hell are locked from the inside.
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« Reply #90 on: July 05, 2013, 10:09:19 PM »


This is where the Orthodox are weak. Discipleship nearly doesn't exist, except in monastic establishments. It is a problem.

I have seen Orthodox doing discipleship and been a part of it; it is just uncommon.

At any given parish, you will probably find that many of the people are astoundingly ignorant of doctrine and the Bible. This is partly because almost all of them are Orthodox out of family tradition, partly because of lack of catechism, partly because of the increasing religious indifference of people today, and partly because the Orthodox came from countries where pretty much everyone was an illiterate peasant.

So there is some housecleaning to do in these areas.

Interesting, that has not been my experience at all, Rufus.

"Discipleship" is a construct. It means a certain thing to certain people.

We have a more total concept, I believe, by following the examples of the saints. Do you want to follow Christ and be his disciple? Imitate the saints. As St. Paul wrote, "Be ye imitators of me as I am of Christ." This has nothing to do with the so-called book-learning, but everything to do with repentance, love, and keeping Christ's commandments.
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« Reply #91 on: July 14, 2013, 01:40:30 AM »

Been there done that, I was raised with that belief major in the majors, minor in the minors. During the early part of my journey my wife who was raised Roman Catholic asked me to explore salvation from the perspective of the Roman church because like a good Protestant she was worried about the salvation of her Roman Catholic parents. When I started looking for tools to compare the Roman view of salvation to the Protestant view I got quite a surprise. There wasn't just one Protestant view. But wait, salvation was a core beleif, it wasn't supposed to be compromised or overlooked. And of course it wasn't completely overlooked, which is why Jacobus Arminius was anathematized by the Synod of Dort.
I had casually studied RC for many years, but most of my knowledge was from an Evangelical point of view. I began studying it from the RC perspective within the last year because I have moved in with my RC grandmother to help her in her old age. I wanted to really understand her faith and how I should think about her as a Christian. This lead me to the early fathers, and now, to EO.
I was trained in the Southern Baptist seminary, which is Calvinistic. As for the Calvinism/Aminian debate- They would both agree on how a person is saved- the necessity of faith and confession of Jesus, which if true faith, leads to repentance and good works. Both would admit we each have some measure of responsibility in that area (this is the core belief). The big disagreement is how that faith is given/received; who can be saved and can they lose it. A Calvinist would say only God knows whom He has chosen, so we must witness and give that opportunity to everyone.
First, sorry I haven’t responded to this any sooner been a busy week. 

It’s an interesting break down you provide there, that allows you to emphasize the similarities while downplaying the differences. Not that I would say you’re wrong about there being similarities as well as differences.

The breakdown though, from an Orthodox point of view, would part of the problem Orthodoxy (at least in my understanding at this point, based on a few years of intense study) tends to view things in a more holistic manner in which you really can’t explain or understand something by referencing the parts but only by looking at the whole.

 (This was a very hard concept for me to grasp for a while and I offer it up in from the angle that in order to understand Orthodoxy you really do need to understand that Orthodox Christians and Western Christians really don’t think about things the same way at all. Know, for example, that most questions come with underlying assumptions and chances are that any Western assumptions underlying a particular question are not the same as the Eastern assumptions.)

From that perspective while Calvinism and Arminianism do have similarities these don’t erase the differences which again, were enough that the Synod of Dort anathematized Arminius. Anathematism, of course, is not a minor matter.
 


There is much that we take by faith, because it has been given to us, although we cannot explain it at all.  The Roman Church, with the advent of scholasticism in the late Medieval ages, tried to define everything exactly. 
I think this is where the RC misunderstands Protestants. They assume that we believe the authority of Scripture is subject to our conscience (or interpretation), not the other way around. For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell, but it is clear in Scripture so we must accept it and try our best to understand it. Some Protestants, like Rob Bell, have tried to soften that blow to the point of heresy, but he's been rejected by the majority of the Protestant community. The things that we are a little more lax about are the things that are not clear from Scripture, we leave that to a conscience submitted to God.
While I can’t, of course, speak from an RC perspective I can say from the perspective of an ex Protestant minister, now Orthodox catechumen that of course the Protestant church does not “believe” that the authority of Scripture is subject to conscience (or interpretation).  The authority of Scripture in the Protestant tradition is inherent within the Scripture itself.

Of course the Christian needs to conform himself to the Bible not the Bible to himself no matter how hard a doctrine is so when Jesus says (John 6: 53-58 NKJV)” Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whosoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live forever.” We should therefore believe that communion is not just symbolic but really flesh and blood of Jesus and necessary for life, that is salvation. And we should not do as did (John 6:60 NKJV) “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?”

 Yet despite the truth in what you say of Protestant beliefs, in practice they do all read the same Bible and do not all believe it the same way and churches divide because of that and in days past Protestants died at the hands of other Protestants because of that. So in practice the Protestant church has, all too often, made Scripture subservient to the authority of their interpretation.

Well, hopefully this has helped in some way, the goal, and not made things worse more confusing or more difficult. It's good talking to you, good night for now.
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« Reply #92 on: July 14, 2013, 02:46:20 PM »

It’s an interesting break down you provide there, that allows you to emphasize the similarities while downplaying the differences. Not that I would say you’re wrong about there being similarities as well as differences.

yeah, I definitely don't want to trivialize the differences. There are certainly big ones, and important ones. Honestly, that's been some of my frustration with Protestantism that has lead me to look elsewhere. But the theological differences don't bother me as much as the practical implications of that theology. I think there are some things that are good and right within the Protestant church in general, so I just wanted to make sure that was being recognized. It is easy to find the faults with people and minimize what they got right.

The breakdown though, from an Orthodox point of view, would part of the problem Orthodoxy (at least in my understanding at this point, based on a few years of intense study) tends to view things in a more holistic manner in which you really can’t explain or understand something by referencing the parts but only by looking at the whole.

I wholeheartedly agree. I understand there's a difference between Eastern and Western ways of thinking, not just religiously, but in general. Westerners tend to be more linear and analytical; whereas Eastern thinking tends to be more circular (I don't mean circular reasoning) and interwoven, jumbled together like a puzzle- or as you say, holistic. I understand this intellectually, but applying this to the way I see things is much more difficult. So, I appreciate the patience if I ask a lot of questions that seem simple to people on this forum because they grew up with it. 

I took interest in holistic approaches at seminary, I majored in Biblical Counseling, which I saw as a more holistic approach to dealing with the human condition because unlike some secular forms of counseling, Biblical counseling addressed the heart issues which lie at the roots of many of our behavioral/mental problems.

Of course the Christian needs to conform himself to the Bible not the Bible to himself no matter how hard a doctrine is so when Jesus says (John 6: 53-58 NKJV)” Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whosoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live forever.” We should therefore believe that communion is not just symbolic but really flesh and blood of Jesus and necessary for life, that is salvation. And we should not do as did (John 6:60 NKJV) “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?”

Since you brought it up, I want to understand more how this passage is understood, what does the Church teach about how a person is conformed to the image of Christ? I am beginning to accept it more now, but I think the thing that has been difficult for me to accept (besides the whole "eating the flesh and drinking the blood"- that was actually the easy part for me! Smiley ) is because it seemed as if the Church is teaching that in order to become like Christ all we have to do is eat and drink this, as if we can reap the benefits without the commitment. We see that a lot in culture with things like the "miracle weight loss pill" or "take this pill and become a sex god overnight!" Snake oil salesmen aren't new, they've been scamming people for centuries. This may seem ridiculous to many of you, and does to me as well, but I have grown up with the primary emphasis on the way to become like Christ is through obedience, perseverance, and daily dying to self. Communion (as I understood it) was an important part of it, but not emphasized so much- and mainly because it was only viewed as symbolic. I have learned that a lot of things in our faith are not "either/or's" but "both/and's". Meaning, not "either we become like Christ by commumion OR by obedience" but I would say that "we become like Christ by communion AND obedience."... which taking communion would be a part of obedience, so you can't really separate that.

I hope I am making sense here, the thing I am trying to communicate is that while I may wrestle with the issue a bit yet, I am on my way.

 
Yet despite the truth in what you say of Protestant beliefs, in practice they do all read the same Bible and do not all believe it the same way and churches divide because of that and in days past Protestants died at the hands of other Protestants because of that. So in practice the Protestant church has, all too often, made Scripture subservient to the authority of their interpretation.

Well, hopefully this has helped in some way, the goal, and not made things worse more confusing or more difficult. It's good talking to you, good night for now.

I do recognize evil has been done in the name of Christ by various churches who claim to have the Truth; and that embarrasses me. I would not recognize those people as true Christians/believers. They are anti-christs, false teachers. Yes, I understand what I just said in light of attending a Calvinist seminary. I just don't want to throw out whole ideas or churches because of the hypocrisy and evilness of some individuals. I understand it is a bit different when the founder of that church was the one committing the evil, but I don't want to say that everyone who is in that tradition today is all like their founder. There's godly people in every denomination. That's why my dad threw out the entire RC and why I grew up under an anti-Catholic attitude. We can have right theological understanding and yet be a child of the Devil. That's why Jesus told the people, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them." God doesn't so much look at the name on the church building as He peers into the hearts of the individual parishioners sitting in the pews.

You have been helpful, thank you, and I enjoy your comments as well.
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« Reply #93 on: July 14, 2013, 03:39:52 PM »

Quote
Since you brought it up, I want to understand more how this passage is understood, what does the Church teach about how a person is conformed to the image of Christ? I am beginning to accept it more now, but I think the thing that has been difficult for me to accept (besides the whole "eating the flesh and drinking the blood"- that was actually the easy part for me! Smiley ) is because it seemed as if the Church is teaching that in order to become like Christ all we have to do is eat and drink this, as if we can reap the benefits without the commitment. We see that a lot in culture with things like the "miracle weight loss pill" or "take this pill and become a sex god overnight!" Snake oil salesmen aren't new, they've been scamming people for centuries. This may seem ridiculous to many of you, and does to me as well, but I have grown up with the primary emphasis on the way to become like Christ is through obedience, perseverance, and daily dying to self. Communion (as I understood it) was an important part of it, but not emphasized so much- and mainly because it was only viewed as symbolic. I have learned that a lot of things in our faith are not "either/or's" but "both/and's". Meaning, not "either we become like Christ by commumion OR by obedience" but I would say that "we become like Christ by communion AND obedience."... which taking communion would be a part of obedience, so you can't really separate that.

I hope I am making sense here, the thing I am trying to communicate is that while I may wrestle with the issue a bit yet, I am on my way.

Maybe it is helpful to think about these things as "tools" to enable us to be conformed to the image of Christ.  The Church gives us many such "tools," such as baptism, chrismation, holy communion, anointing of the sick, prayer, fasting, etc., etc., etc.  We use these to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling."  The tools have to be used with correct understanding (i.e., in the church) and in the correct way to do good.  If I use an electric drill on a piece of particle board, for example, I'm more likely than not going to end up with a ruined mess at the end, rather than a finished product.  If you start to use these tools, such as prayer, fasting, receiving holy communion, etc., in the correct way as applied to your situation, with the help of an experienced spiritual guide, things will start happening in your life to conform you to the image of Christ.  (At these times, it seems, temptation comes even stronger.)  I just finished reading a wonderful book, "Everyday Saints," about the lives of monks in the USSR which illustrates this point many times over.

And I have found this analogy helpful in another context.  When you think about salvation, you might say that we are given the task to build an edifice.  If you have the plans and the tools, and an experienced foreman to show you how to do it, and if you follow them, you'll build the edifice in the end.  If you don't have the plans, or you don't have the tools (or the wrong tools) and you don't have an experienced foreman, or if you have them and you don't use them -- well, you might get that edifice built, but you have no guarantee at all that it will come out right.  More likely than not, it will be built incorrectly or it might even fall down.  You speak about commitment; well, from this analogy, it might become a little clearer that without extreme commitment you couldn't even begin to use the tools or to build the edifice at all. 
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« Reply #94 on: July 14, 2013, 03:48:02 PM »

Quote
Since you brought it up, I want to understand more how this passage is understood, what does the Church teach about how a person is conformed to the image of Christ? I am beginning to accept it more now, but I think the thing that has been difficult for me to accept (besides the whole "eating the flesh and drinking the blood"- that was actually the easy part for me! Smiley ) is because it seemed as if the Church is teaching that in order to become like Christ all we have to do is eat and drink this, as if we can reap the benefits without the commitment. We see that a lot in culture with things like the "miracle weight loss pill" or "take this pill and become a sex god overnight!" Snake oil salesmen aren't new, they've been scamming people for centuries. This may seem ridiculous to many of you, and does to me as well, but I have grown up with the primary emphasis on the way to become like Christ is through obedience, perseverance, and daily dying to self. Communion (as I understood it) was an important part of it, but not emphasized so much- and mainly because it was only viewed as symbolic. I have learned that a lot of things in our faith are not "either/or's" but "both/and's". Meaning, not "either we become like Christ by commumion OR by obedience" but I would say that "we become like Christ by communion AND obedience."... which taking communion would be a part of obedience, so you can't really separate that.

I hope I am making sense here, the thing I am trying to communicate is that while I may wrestle with the issue a bit yet, I am on my way.

Maybe it is helpful to think about these things as "tools" to enable us to be conformed to the image of Christ.  The Church gives us many such "tools," such as baptism, chrismation, holy communion, anointing of the sick, prayer, fasting, etc., etc., etc.  We use these to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling."  The tools have to be used with correct understanding (i.e., in the church) and in the correct way to do good.  If I use an electric drill on a piece of particle board, for example, I'm more likely than not going to end up with a ruined mess at the end, rather than a finished product.  If you start to use these tools, such as prayer, fasting, receiving holy communion, etc., in the correct way as applied to your situation, with the help of an experienced spiritual guide, things will start happening in your life to conform you to the image of Christ.  (At these times, it seems, temptation comes even stronger.)  I just finished reading a wonderful book, "Everyday Saints," about the lives of monks in the USSR which illustrates this point many times over.

And I have found this analogy helpful in another context.  When you think about salvation, you might say that we are given the task to build an edifice.  If you have the plans and the tools, and an experienced foreman to show you how to do it, and if you follow them, you'll build the edifice in the end.  If you don't have the plans, or you don't have the tools (or the wrong tools) and you don't have an experienced foreman, or if you have them and you don't use them -- well, you might get that edifice built, but you have no guarantee at all that it will come out right.  More likely than not, it will be built incorrectly or it might even fall down.  You speak about commitment; well, from this analogy, it might become a little clearer that without extreme commitment you couldn't even begin to use the tools or to build the edifice at all. 

Another thought:  when you think about Holy Communion, St. Paul said in his First Epistle to the Corinthians that "So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup."  The Orthodox Church has kept this teaching right from the beginning.  To commune in an Orthodox Church, one must do these things:  (1) fast from all food and drink from at least midnight before receiving; (2) have prepared oneself for receiving by confessing one's sins.  Now, if someone is diabetic, etc., the fasting requirements can be adjusted for that person -- again, by an experienced spiritual guide who has that person's salvation in view.  So we are never to judge what someone else is doing for that reason.  Likewise, most jurisdictions now teach that if one receives communion regularly (as was the ancient practice) and keeps the regular fasting seasons of the church, and confesses regularly (usually at least once a month), one does not need to fast strictly and confess right before receiving Communion.  But if one does not fast regularly, confess regularly, etc., one should fast for the three days before receiving as well as confess right before receiving.  Different jurisdictions apply this a little differently, again, taking into account their parishioners' spiritual welfare, but the teaching is clear:  we have to prepare ourselves to receive Holy Communion.  So it benefits us not only by taking it, but by preparing for it.  It benefits us in ways that are understandable and in ways that remain a mystery.  God gives us this "tool" in which Christ Himself is given to us, but we must use (receive) it properly for it to work the intended effect. 
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« Reply #95 on: July 14, 2013, 03:57:55 PM »

Orthodoxy is trying to recover its mission mindedness.  Having been oppressed nearly everywhere for centuries it just focused on survival. 

Actually, history has shown that the Church thrives most under persecution.

You should definitely visit an Orthodox Liturgy and see the worship.  Liturgy (western or eastern) is such a wonderful blessing compared to standard evangelical worship.  At least I thought so.  It gives a sense of historical and geographical connectedness to the rest of the Church that is really missing in protestant traditions.

here's a video i found helpful on my journey:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-CJhPlmznA

if you've never heard of Francis Schaeffer (this is his son) then it may not matter to you, but he's a titan in the presbyterian church.

Yes! HUGE Schaeffer fan. Actually, I just saw this video a couple weeks ago and ordered the book, Dancing Alone. Eager for it to arrive! (it's a little late)

My first real experience with a liturgical service, and what actually awakened my interest in the ancient church, was actually in a Southern Baptist church. My pastor at that time liked to refer to us as "the black sheep of the Baptist family." Also used the description, "artsy-fartsy" and "hipster". It was Baptist theology with a liturgical flavor and an awesome worship band. Heavily influenced by Tim Keller- another big name Presbyterian pastor.

Be careful when reading Schaeffer, Jr. My parents loved Schaeffer (the father), but his son really upset them. I would select other books, like The Orthodox Church by Met. Kallistos (Timothy Ware).
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« Reply #96 on: July 14, 2013, 04:05:02 PM »

I just remember some of the questions that I had when I first found Orthodoxy!  There is so much there it would take more than a lifetime to learn it all, and it is even harder to do what we have learned.  But if I can help even in a small way, I'm glad.

You have help me. Its my frustration trying to grasp all there is to know, and trying to know when is one 'ready' to become a catechumen, much less accepted by the church as a member. I cant know 'everything'. That takes a lifetime. My frustrations is with a 'catechism' outline that was assembled by an angry, ex-protestant, its vague and condescending...now I know what to ask my priest. How was he catechized? I am finding the Law of God by Slobodskoy refreshing. I have learned there is even an older catechism, by St. Philaret of Moscow (both free online) why are these not used? What are American inquirers subjected to the dribble of newly published works? or at worse someone's haste, off the cuff outline?

Which catechism is this (see bolded text above)?

[so we can avoid it]
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« Reply #97 on: July 14, 2013, 04:14:00 PM »

Another thought:  when you think about Holy Communion, St. Paul said in his First Epistle to the Corinthians that "So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup."  The Orthodox Church has kept this teaching right from the beginning.  To commune in an Orthodox Church, one must do these things:  (1) fast from all food and drink from at least midnight before receiving; (2) have prepared oneself for receiving by confessing one's sins.  Now, if someone is diabetic, etc., the fasting requirements can be adjusted for that person -- again, by an experienced spiritual guide who has that person's salvation in view.  So we are never to judge what someone else is doing for that reason.  Likewise, most jurisdictions now teach that if one receives communion regularly (as was the ancient practice) and keeps the regular fasting seasons of the church, and confesses regularly (usually at least once a month), one does not need to fast strictly and confess right before receiving Communion.  But if one does not fast regularly, confess regularly, etc., one should fast for the three days before receiving as well as confess right before receiving.  Different jurisdictions apply this a little differently, again, taking into account their parishioners' spiritual welfare, but the teaching is clear:  we have to prepare ourselves to receive Holy Communion.  So it benefits us not only by taking it, but by preparing for it.  It benefits us in ways that are understandable and in ways that remain a mystery.  God gives us this "tool" in which Christ Himself is given to us, but we must use (receive) it properly for it to work the intended effect.  

Your first post was really helpful, thanks.  As I understand the passage where Paul talks about eating and drinking in an unworthy manner, I believe he was addressing the problem where when people would come to church they would gorge themselves on the Lord's Supper and one person goes hungry and the other drunk. He told them to all eat at home so there is enough for everyone. I have never seen anyone at a church pigging out on bread and communion wine, most people have enough self-control for that, but I worry about the requirement of the 3 day fast. What type of fast is that? No food/drink whatsoever? But I also understand the danger of taking the Lord's Supper without examining yourself. In fact, that is one thing my church emphasizes. It is good that they give a few minutes right before distribution for reflection and getting up to make things right with people, but a lot of times it is not enough time to really consider the state of their soul or find the people they need to find.
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« Reply #98 on: July 14, 2013, 04:18:37 PM »

Another thought:  when you think about Holy Communion, St. Paul said in his First Epistle to the Corinthians that "So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup."  The Orthodox Church has kept this teaching right from the beginning.  To commune in an Orthodox Church, one must do these things:  (1) fast from all food and drink from at least midnight before receiving; (2) have prepared oneself for receiving by confessing one's sins.  Now, if someone is diabetic, etc., the fasting requirements can be adjusted for that person -- again, by an experienced spiritual guide who has that person's salvation in view.  So we are never to judge what someone else is doing for that reason.  Likewise, most jurisdictions now teach that if one receives communion regularly (as was the ancient practice) and keeps the regular fasting seasons of the church, and confesses regularly (usually at least once a month), one does not need to fast strictly and confess right before receiving Communion.  But if one does not fast regularly, confess regularly, etc., one should fast for the three days before receiving as well as confess right before receiving.  Different jurisdictions apply this a little differently, again, taking into account their parishioners' spiritual welfare, but the teaching is clear:  we have to prepare ourselves to receive Holy Communion.  So it benefits us not only by taking it, but by preparing for it.  It benefits us in ways that are understandable and in ways that remain a mystery.  God gives us this "tool" in which Christ Himself is given to us, but we must use (receive) it properly for it to work the intended effect.  

Your first post was really helpful, thanks.  As I understand the passage where Paul talks about eating and drinking in an unworthy manner, I believe he was addressing the problem where when people would come to church they would gorge themselves on the Lord's Supper and one person goes hungry and the other drunk. He told them to all eat at home so there is enough for everyone. I have never seen anyone at a church pigging out on bread and communion wine, most people have enough self-control for that, but I worry about the requirement of the 3 day fast. What type of fast is that? No food/drink whatsoever? But I also understand the danger of taking the Lord's Supper without examining yourself. In fact, that is one thing my church emphasizes. It is good that they give a few minutes right before distribution for reflection and getting up to make things right with people, but a lot of times it is not enough time to really consider the state of their soul or find the people they need to find.

Paul was addressing his comments to a particular audience in light of a particular problem.  But the principle he enunciates, not to receive in an unworthy manner, goes beyond the particular situation he addressed and has always been understood by the Church as such.

Usually chrismation is performed at the time of baptism and is followed immediately thereafter by communion.  If baptism and chrismation are separated, as, for example, with a convert from a non-Orthodox Church, there are various views on what chrismation does, but the general practice, as I have seen it, is that it acts like a baptism and the sacrament of holy communion is received immediately thereafter.
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« Reply #99 on: July 14, 2013, 04:23:12 PM »

Be careful when reading Schaeffer, Jr. My parents loved Schaeffer (the father), but his son really upset them. I would select other books, like The Orthodox Church by Met. Kallistos (Timothy Ware).

Yeah, I started Jr.'s book a few days ago. I'm not a fan. He seems to be blaming all of the world's moral and political problems on Protestants- Especially those of America. I'll check out Met. Kallistos, though. thanks for the recommendation!
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« Reply #100 on: July 14, 2013, 04:30:24 PM »

Paul was addressing his comments to a particular audience in light of a particular problem.  But the principle he enunciates, not to receive in an unworthy manner, goes beyond the particular situation he addressed and has always been understood by the Church as such.

Usually chrismation is performed at the time of baptism and is followed immediately thereafter by communion.  If baptism and chrismation are separated, as, for example, with a convert from a non-Orthodox Church, there are various views on what chrismation does, but the general practice, as I have seen it, is that it acts like a baptism and the sacrament of holy communion is received immediately thereafter.

Actually, I edited my comment to ask a different question... don't know if you saw that. I don't think anyone fasting for 3 days prior would go to church and pig out, but I am just wondering what type of fast it is? Water only?
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« Reply #101 on: July 14, 2013, 04:57:37 PM »

Paul was addressing his comments to a particular audience in light of a particular problem.  But the principle he enunciates, not to receive in an unworthy manner, goes beyond the particular situation he addressed and has always been understood by the Church as such.

Usually chrismation is performed at the time of baptism and is followed immediately thereafter by communion.  If baptism and chrismation are separated, as, for example, with a convert from a non-Orthodox Church, there are various views on what chrismation does, but the general practice, as I have seen it, is that it acts like a baptism and the sacrament of holy communion is received immediately thereafter.

Actually, I edited my comment to ask a different question... don't know if you saw that. I don't think anyone fasting for 3 days prior would go to church and pig out, but I am just wondering what type of fast it is? Water only?

I have never seen the three-day fast that some churches use for non-regular communicants.  But I know that the standard fast is a vegan diet.  This is the fast for Wednesdays and Fridays and the four Fasting Seasons.  (No meat or dairy, as well as no wine and no olive oil).  On certain days fish, oil, and wine are allowed.  The standard pre-communion fast (from midnight or, in some traditions, from vespers the previous evening) is nothing at all - no food or water.  But you have to understand that these are not "rules."  They are tools to help us to repent and to spur us on to closeness with God through prayer.  Christ even said that a certain type of demon could only be driven out through prayer and fasting.   
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« Reply #102 on: July 14, 2013, 05:13:22 PM »

I have never seen the three-day fast that some churches use for non-regular communicants.  But I know that the standard fast is a vegan diet.  This is the fast for Wednesdays and Fridays and the four Fasting Seasons.  (No meat or dairy, as well as no wine and no olive oil).  On certain days fish, oil, and wine are allowed.  The standard pre-communion fast (from midnight or, in some traditions, from vespers the previous evening) is nothing at all - no food or water.  But you have to understand that these are not "rules."  They are tools to help us to repent and to spur us on to closeness with God through prayer.  Christ even said that a certain type of demon could only be driven out through prayer and fasting.   

Thanks for clarifying they are not hard and fast rules. I think a lot of people have a hard time separating churches, like the EO that practice these things, from the Pharisees in the Bible because they see it as heaping a bunch of requirements on people.

I am kind of a vegan anyway for medical purposes, so I don't eat meat or dairy ever. I suppose maybe I would work out some other creative option with my priest?
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« Reply #103 on: July 14, 2013, 05:16:47 PM »

I have never seen the three-day fast that some churches use for non-regular communicants.  But I know that the standard fast is a vegan diet.  This is the fast for Wednesdays and Fridays and the four Fasting Seasons.  (No meat or dairy, as well as no wine and no olive oil).  On certain days fish, oil, and wine are allowed.  The standard pre-communion fast (from midnight or, in some traditions, from vespers the previous evening) is nothing at all - no food or water.  But you have to understand that these are not "rules."  They are tools to help us to repent and to spur us on to closeness with God through prayer.  Christ even said that a certain type of demon could only be driven out through prayer and fasting.   

Thanks for clarifying they are not hard and fast rules. I think a lot of people have a hard time separating churches, like the EO that practice these things, from the Pharisees in the Bible because they see it as heaping a bunch of requirements on people.

I am kind of a vegan anyway for medical purposes, so I don't eat meat or dairy ever. I suppose maybe I would work out some other creative option with my priest?

Yes, that is quite possible.  Here is another analogy:  our sickness because of sin can be compared to a cancer patient.  Maybe you can give the cancer patient heavy chemotherapy and it will kill all of his cancer, but it will also kill him too.  Better to work out a therapy that eases him into it for the best results.  Likewise, maybe one person needs more chemo than another, etc.

Usually a new convert is eased into fasting.  The same thing with a prayer life.  Your priest will work with you to develop a personal prayer rule, which you follow.  As time goes on, it might be increased when you're ready to handle it.
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« Reply #104 on: July 14, 2013, 05:19:26 PM »

I have never seen the three-day fast that some churches use for non-regular communicants.  But I know that the standard fast is a vegan diet.  This is the fast for Wednesdays and Fridays and the four Fasting Seasons.  (No meat or dairy, as well as no wine and no olive oil).  On certain days fish, oil, and wine are allowed.  The standard pre-communion fast (from midnight or, in some traditions, from vespers the previous evening) is nothing at all - no food or water.  But you have to understand that these are not "rules."  They are tools to help us to repent and to spur us on to closeness with God through prayer.  Christ even said that a certain type of demon could only be driven out through prayer and fasting.   

Thanks for clarifying they are not hard and fast rules. I think a lot of people have a hard time separating churches, like the EO that practice these things, from the Pharisees in the Bible because they see it as heaping a bunch of requirements on people.

I am kind of a vegan anyway for medical purposes, so I don't eat meat or dairy ever. I suppose maybe I would work out some other creative option with my priest?

Yes, that is quite possible.  Here is another analogy:  our sickness because of sin can be compared to a cancer patient.  Maybe you can give the cancer patient heavy chemotherapy and it will kill all of his cancer, but it will also kill him too.  Better to work out a therapy that eases him into it for the best results.  Likewise, maybe one person needs more chemo than another, etc.

Usually a new convert is eased into fasting.  The same thing with a prayer life.  Your priest will work with you to develop a personal prayer rule, which you follow.  As time goes on, it might be increased when you're ready to handle it.

Some wise person somewhere said that the point of the fasts is to help us to fast from sin (i.e., by repentance, prayer, and closer attention to God).  If we are not doing it for this purpose, the rest of it is meaningless.
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« Reply #105 on: July 14, 2013, 05:30:48 PM »

I have never seen the three-day fast that some churches use for non-regular communicants.  But I know that the standard fast is a vegan diet.  This is the fast for Wednesdays and Fridays and the four Fasting Seasons.  (No meat or dairy, as well as no wine and no olive oil).  On certain days fish, oil, and wine are allowed.  The standard pre-communion fast (from midnight or, in some traditions, from vespers the previous evening) is nothing at all - no food or water.  But you have to understand that these are not "rules."  They are tools to help us to repent and to spur us on to closeness with God through prayer.  Christ even said that a certain type of demon could only be driven out through prayer and fasting.   

Thanks for clarifying they are not hard and fast rules. I think a lot of people have a hard time separating churches, like the EO that practice these things, from the Pharisees in the Bible because they see it as heaping a bunch of requirements on people.

I am kind of a vegan anyway for medical purposes, so I don't eat meat or dairy ever. I suppose maybe I would work out some other creative option with my priest?

Yes, that is quite possible.  Here is another analogy:  our sickness because of sin can be compared to a cancer patient.  Maybe you can give the cancer patient heavy chemotherapy and it will kill all of his cancer, but it will also kill him too.  Better to work out a therapy that eases him into it for the best results.  Likewise, maybe one person needs more chemo than another, etc.

Usually a new convert is eased into fasting.  The same thing with a prayer life.  Your priest will work with you to develop a personal prayer rule, which you follow.  As time goes on, it might be increased when you're ready to handle it.
My son cannot fast for health reasons (doctor's orders, and she's Greek).  So he abstains from sugar and sweets instead.  He also from a child has been good at the connection of fasting and almsgiving.
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« Reply #106 on: July 15, 2013, 04:27:21 PM »

I just remember some of the questions that I had when I first found Orthodoxy!  There is so much there it would take more than a lifetime to learn it all, and it is even harder to do what we have learned.  But if I can help even in a small way, I'm glad.

You have help me. Its my frustration trying to grasp all there is to know, and trying to know when is one 'ready' to become a catechumen, much less accepted by the church as a member. I cant know 'everything'. That takes a lifetime. My frustrations is with a 'catechism' outline that was assembled by an angry, ex-protestant, its vague and condescending...now I know what to ask my priest. How was he catechized? I am finding the Law of God by Slobodskoy refreshing. I have learned there is even an older catechism, by St. Philaret of Moscow (both free online) why are these not used? What are American inquirers subjected to the dribble of newly published works? or at worse someone's haste, off the cuff outline?

Which catechism is this (see bolded text above)?

[so we can avoid it]

You will know it if you see it, it was just a printout, I questioned the youtube videos and hollywood movies listed - movies I havent heard of but one I have avoided on purpose. I just kept thinking, 100yrs ago this would not be included in a catechism. Searching for the ancient church brought me to Orthodoxy, I dont want a 'modern' catechism.
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« Reply #107 on: July 15, 2013, 08:00:12 PM »

The Church gives us many such "tools," such as baptism, chrismation, holy communion, anointing of the sick, prayer, fasting, etc., etc., etc. 

Just thinking some more today about what you were saying here... The Eucharist would have to be more than simply a "tool", otherwise a Protestant interpretation of John 6 would be sufficient. If there is no element of the physical body and blood of Christ that affects a person's holiness, then what else is there to it? Maybe the question I should ask is how does Orthodoxy teach a person is made holy?
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« Reply #108 on: July 15, 2013, 08:14:35 PM »

The Church gives us many such "tools," such as baptism, chrismation, holy communion, anointing of the sick, prayer, fasting, etc., etc., etc. 

Just thinking some more today about what you were saying here... The Eucharist would have to be more than simply a "tool", otherwise a Protestant interpretation of John 6 would be sufficient. If there is no element of the physical body and blood of Christ that affects a person's holiness, then what else is there to it? Maybe the question I should ask is how does Orthodoxy teach a person is made holy?

You always seem to post right when I sit down at the computer!  Ha.  Yes, of course, it is more than a tool.  I was presenting it in that context so you could get some sense of how it generally operates.  I don't know whether we can say very much about exactly how the Eucharist leads us on to Holiness.  Perhaps someone with more extensive knowledge of the Fathers might be able to offer something.  But I believe that I have heard that it partially relates to the fact that what is not assumed is not healed, as St. Gregory the Theologian put it.  We receive Christ physically and spiritually and He fills our being.  But because it is a Mystery there is probably not a whole lot of detail that can be given about exactly how it works.

The most direct answer to your second question is probably that we are made holy by participating in the energies of God, i.e., His uncreated light.  Everything we do should be a striving toward this end.  This theology was best expressed by St. Gregory Palamas, but you can find it elsewhere as well.  To explain it fully would require volumes and volumes, if that were possible at all.  To do it is the greatest challenge!
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« Reply #109 on: July 15, 2013, 08:40:11 PM »

haha, well I can't explain today, but on days I'm not working I am at my computer several times, so we are bound to run into each other. And I know why you referred to it as a tool, but I am just trying to think the issue through. I appreciate your analogies, it helps. Sometimes it is tiring trying to understand some of the more knowledgeable people.

The most direct answer to your second question is probably that we are made holy by participating in the energies of God, i.e., His uncreated light. 

I have heard this "light" and "energies" talk before. I find it a bit confusing. I can get a general idea, but I want to make sure I am on the same page as everyone else. I know the uncreated light is the light of God, but can you explain more what it means to "participate in the energies of God"?
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« Reply #110 on: July 15, 2013, 08:54:32 PM »

haha, well I can't explain today, but on days I'm not working I am at my computer several times, so we are bound to run into each other. And I know why you referred to it as a tool, but I am just trying to think the issue through. I appreciate your analogies, it helps. Sometimes it is tiring trying to understand some of the more knowledgeable people.

The most direct answer to your second question is probably that we are made holy by participating in the energies of God, i.e., His uncreated light. 

I have heard this "light" and "energies" talk before. I find it a bit confusing. I can get a general idea, but I want to make sure I am on the same page as everyone else. I know the uncreated light is the light of God, but can you explain more what it means to "participate in the energies of God"?

In a very basic way (and I don't even know if I am qualified to say more), we understand that God, in His essence, is essentially unknowable.  He is "beyond being" (Supersubstantial) as is said in the Baptismal liturgy.  But God in His energies, how He presents Himself to us, we can know.  This is Theology.  Not knowing about God, but knowing God.  That is why there are only very few saints in the Orthodox Church who are given the title, "the Theologian."  Not because they knew about God, but because we believe that on this earth they knew God, they experienced God.  You can see that kind of relationship the whole way back to Enoch in the Old Testament, I suppose.

But they didn't know God in His essence, but rather in His energies.  They experienced the Uncreated Light.  St. John talks a lot about this Light in His Gospel.  We know that St. Paul experienced it on the Road to Damascus.  Other saints saw it down through the ages.  As I said, St. Gregory Palamas expounded on it most thoroughly.  The practice by which some, usually devout monks, seek this Light is through a process of very advanced prayer, self-denial, and discernment, called hesychasm.  (There is an aside.  By what they do, devoting their lives to God, the monks pray more effectually for the whole world, "The prayer of a righteous man avails much," and also can help lead others who come to them for guidance.  St. Paul himself talked about the virtue of this kind of life in 1 Corinthians 7, but recognized that while some people are called to it, some people are called to marriage.  Both estates are honorable before God.)

Despite our sin, because our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ came and redeemed the world by His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, we too may be reconciled with God.  (See Christ's prayer in John 17:21.)  We may walk with Him, which is one way of putting it; we may partake in His divine energies so that they may fill us.  We are not subsumed by them (that would be Buddhism).  Likewise, we may never partake in the Divine Essence of God and become God ourselves -- that would be Mormonism.  Rather, the Divine Energies express themselves through us, so that we will shine like Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Our will, while not being subsumed into the Divine Will (that is an ancient heresy) will be completely in harmony with it.  This is what we were created for, both body and soul.  This is what we call "Heaven."  This is what Christ came to bring to us.

When you understand salvation in this way, as taught by those who experienced at least a part of it in this life, the rest of the faith starts to become a little clearer.  When you go back and read a lot of Bible passages in the light (no pun intended there, really) of the Holy Tradition, you can see how it all starts to fit together.  At least, that's been my experience so far but I have a long, long way to go.
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« Reply #111 on: July 15, 2013, 11:11:39 PM »

A simple definition: God's essence is what He is, God's energies are what He does.  Smiley
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« Reply #112 on: July 16, 2013, 12:52:05 AM »

It's an interesting break down you provide there, that allows you to emphasize the similarities while downplaying the differences. Not that I would say you're wrong about there being similarities as well as differences.

yeah, I definitely don't want to trivialize the differences. There are certainly big ones, and important ones. Honestly, that's been some of my frustration with Protestantism that has lead me to look elsewhere. But the theological differences don't bother me as much as the practical implications of that theology. I think there are some things that are good and right within the Protestant church in general, so I just wanted to make sure that was being recognized. It is easy to find the faults with people and minimize what they got right.
I don't disagree with you here, there are some former Protestants who really don't care for their former churches. I like to tell folks that I didn't so much leave Protestantism as I came to Orthodoxy. I didn't have a problem with my former church or denomination, I still have friends there and still pray for them and we still get together sometimes, just not in church.  Smiley Also, I still stick up for them in Orthodox circles if I think they're getting a bum rap on something. This doesn't mean, of course that I haven't come to recognize some of the flaws in the system.

The breakdown though, from an Orthodox point of view, would part of the problem Orthodoxy (at least in my understanding at this point, based on a few years of intense study) tends to view things in a more holistic manner in which you really can't explain or understand something by referencing the parts but only by looking at the whole.

I wholeheartedly agree. I understand there's a difference between Eastern and Western ways of thinking, not just religiously, but in general. Westerners tend to be more linear and analytical; whereas Eastern thinking tends to be more circular (I don't mean circular reasoning) and interwoven, jumbled together like a puzzle- or as you say, holistic. I understand this intellectually, but applying this to the way I see things is much more difficult. So, I appreciate the patience if I ask a lot of questions that seem simple to people on this forum because they grew up with it. 

I took interest in holistic approaches at seminary, I majored in Biblical Counseling, which I saw as a more holistic approach to dealing with the human condition because unlike some secular forms of counseling, Biblical counseling addressed the heart issues which lie at the roots of many of our behavioral/mental problems.
Interesting, I majored counseling myself and work in the addictions fields.

Of course the Christian needs to conform himself to the Bible not the Bible to himself no matter how hard a doctrine is so when Jesus says (John 6: 53-58 NKJV)” Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whosoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live forever.” We should therefore believe that communion is not just symbolic but really flesh and blood of Jesus and necessary for life, that is salvation. And we should not do as did (John 6:60 NKJV) Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?”

Since you brought it up, I want to understand more how this passage is understood, what does the Church teach about how a person is conformed to the image of Christ? I am beginning to accept it more now, but I think the thing that has been difficult for me to accept (besides the whole "eating the flesh and drinking the blood"- that was actually the easy part for me! Smiley ) is because it seemed as if the Church is teaching that in order to become like Christ all we have to do is eat and drink this, as if we can reap the benefits without the commitment. We see that a lot in culture with things like the "miracle weight loss pill" or "take this pill and become a sex god overnight!" Snake oil salesmen aren't new, they've been scamming people for centuries. This may seem ridiculous to many of you, and does to me as well, but I have grown up with the primary emphasis on the way to become like Christ is through obedience, perseverance, and daily dying to self. Communion (as I understood it) was an important part of it, but not emphasized so much- and mainly because it was only viewed as symbolic. I have learned that a lot of things in our faith are not "either/or's" but "both/and's". Meaning, not "either we become like Christ by Communion OR by obedience" but I would say that "we become like Christ by communion AND obedience."... which taking communion would be a part of obedience, so you can't really separate that.

I hope I am making sense here, the thing I am trying to communicate is that while I may wrestle with the issue a bit yet, I am on my way.
"obedience, perseverance, and daily dying to self" You will find these things alive and well in Orthodoxy, though as mentioned before not in a legalistic way. Discipline in Orthodoxy is more of a self-discipline thing with some accountability and counseling. There's a large idea that it's about healing and restoration, probably the very thing that attracted your counselor self to it. Because it's all about growing in relationship with Christ and becoming more like Him we use the tools that he has given us through His church and we either put the work into it or we don't in the end there's no fooling Him and perhaps more importantly (?) no fooling ourselves. We always do what we want to do God doesn't force us and no one else can. If we want something more than we want God that's what will get in our way and nothing we tell ourselves or others will change that if we don't change that. (Ha, see if you can guess what school of counseling theory I've spent most of my time with.) Cheesy

Yet despite the truth in what you say of Protestant beliefs, in practice they do all read the same Bible and do not all believe it the same way and churches divide because of that and in days past Protestants died at the hands of other Protestants because of that. So in practice the Protestant church has, all too often, made Scripture subservient to the authority of their interpretation.

Well, hopefully this has helped in some way, the goal, and not made things worse more confusing or more difficult. It's good talking to you, good night for now.

I do recognize evil has been done in the name of Christ by various churches who claim to have the Truth; and that embarrasses me. I would not recognize those people as true Christians/believers. They are anti-christs, false teachers. Yes, I understand what I just said in light of attending a Calvinist seminary. I just don't want to throw out whole ideas or churches because of the hypocrisy and evilness of some individuals. I understand it is a bit different when the founder of that church was the one committing the evil, but I don't want to say that everyone who is in that tradition today is all like their founder. There's godly people in every denomination. That's why my dad threw out the entire RC and why I grew up under an anti-Catholic attitude. We can have right theological understanding and yet be a child of the Devil. That's why Jesus told the people, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them." God doesn't so much look at the name on the church building as He peers into the hearts of the individual parishioners sitting in the pews.

You have been helpful, thank you, and I enjoy your comments as well.
Your right not everyone in any denomination or church is a perfect mirror of what that organizations ideals are. Certainly, I'm not. Still those attitudes, and the authority we put ourselves under does filter down from the theoretical/theological to the practical. I have friends who are Calvinist and involved an apologetics  ministries. When one is familiar with the history of their movement it becomes very easy to see what the root of the attitude that they do bring to their ministry is.
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« Reply #113 on: July 16, 2013, 06:17:59 AM »


But they didn't know God in His essence, but rather in His energies.  They experienced the Uncreated Light.  St. John talks a lot about this Light in His Gospel.  We know that St. Paul experienced it on the Road to Damascus.  Other saints saw it down through the ages.  As I said, St. Gregory Palamas expounded on it most thoroughly.  The practice by which some, usually devout monks, seek this Light is through a process of very advanced prayer, self-denial, and discernment, called hesychasm.  (There is an aside.  By what they do, devoting their lives to God, the monks pray more effectually for the whole world, "The prayer of a righteous man avails much," and also can help lead others who come to them for guidance.  St. Paul himself talked about the virtue of this kind of life in 1 Corinthians 7, but recognized that while some people are called to it, some people are called to marriage.  Both estates are honorable before God.)

Despite our sin, because our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ came and redeemed the world by His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, we too may be reconciled with God.  (See Christ's prayer in John 17:21.)  We may walk with Him, which is one way of putting it; we may partake in His divine energies so that they may fill us.  We are not subsumed by them (that would be Buddhism).  Likewise, we may never partake in the Divine Essence of God and become God ourselves -- that would be Mormonism.  Rather, the Divine Energies express themselves through us, so that we will shine like Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Our will, while not being subsumed into the Divine Will (that is an ancient heresy) will be completely in harmony with it.  This is what we were created for, both body and soul.  This is what we call "Heaven."  This is what Christ came to bring to us.

When you understand salvation in this way, as taught by those who experienced at least a part of it in this life, the rest of the faith starts to become a little clearer.  When you go back and read a lot of Bible passages in the light (no pun intended there, really) of the Holy Tradition, you can see how it all starts to fit together.  At least, that's been my experience so far but I have a long, long way to go.

So God's essence is that part of Him that is eternal, infinite that we will never reach the end of, but the part of God we know is how he influences our lives. For example, God is love, and we can know His love through His giving to us, but we can't ever know the depth of it?

This light, is it kind of the same as the Holy Spirit? Sometimes he reveals himself to us in ways we can "sense" him or "feel" him. And as we can sense the Spirit of light, we can also sense the darkness.
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« Reply #114 on: July 16, 2013, 08:00:09 AM »

So God's essence is that part of Him that is eternal, infinite that we will never reach the end of, but the part of God we know is how he influences our lives. For example, God is love, and we can know His love through His giving to us, but we can't ever know the depth of it?

This light, is it kind of the same as the Holy Spirit? Sometimes he reveals himself to us in ways we can "sense" him or "feel" him. And as we can sense the Spirit of light, we can also sense the darkness.

For your first paragraph, something a little like that.  Basically, we can know God only as He reveals Himself to us (His energies), not as He is (His essence).

The second paragraph - I don't think that is a good analogy.  The Holy Spirit is Himself God and shares of the same essence with the Father and the Son.  One way to say this is, "What the Father is, the Son is by begetting, and the Holy Spirit is by procession."  That is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as hammered out by the early councils.  (Now you get a glimpse of why it is so important that the Holy Spirit proceed only from the Father; if you have the Spirit proceeding from both the Father and the Son in essence, you change the entire nature of the Holy Trinity.)  So I don't think you can say that the Holy Spirit constitutes the revelation of God; the Holy Spirit is God, and sometimes is revealed to us (energies) but we cannot understand the Holy Spirit in terms of essence. 

In his recent book, Encountering the Mystery, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople writes somewhat on this subject.  He insightfully writes that God is fundamentally a relationship - the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are all in relationship.  This we see through their energies.  We are called, as being made in the "image of God," to also partake in these energies.  So we are called to relationship with God, with our fellow man, and with all of God's creation.  This right relationship, where we partake of the energies of God, is our salvation.  Even from the beginning we read "it is not good for man to be alone."  John writes about this in His Epistles, that we must love one another, and that if anyone says he loves God but does not love his brother, he is a liar, etc.  The two Great Commandments also make abundant sense in light of this understanding.
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« Reply #115 on: July 16, 2013, 01:35:47 PM »

So God's essence is that part of Him that is eternal, infinite that we will never reach the end of, but the part of God we know is how he influences our lives. For example, God is love, and we can know His love through His giving to us, but we can't ever know the depth of it?

This light, is it kind of the same as the Holy Spirit? Sometimes he reveals himself to us in ways we can "sense" him or "feel" him. And as we can sense the Spirit of light, we can also sense the darkness.

For your first paragraph, something a little like that.  Basically, we can know God only as He reveals Himself to us (His energies), not as He is (His essence).

The second paragraph - I don't think that is a good analogy.  The Holy Spirit is Himself God and shares of the same essence with the Father and the Son.  One way to say this is, "What the Father is, the Son is by begetting, and the Holy Spirit is by procession."  That is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as hammered out by the early councils.  (Now you get a glimpse of why it is so important that the Holy Spirit proceed only from the Father; if you have the Spirit proceeding from both the Father and the Son in essence, you change the entire nature of the Holy Trinity.)  So I don't think you can say that the Holy Spirit constitutes the revelation of God; the Holy Spirit is God, and sometimes is revealed to us (energies) but we cannot understand the Holy Spirit in terms of essence. 

In his recent book, Encountering the Mystery, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople writes somewhat on this subject.  He insightfully writes that God is fundamentally a relationship - the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are all in relationship.  This we see through their energies.  We are called, as being made in the "image of God," to also partake in these energies.  So we are called to relationship with God, with our fellow man, and with all of God's creation.  This right relationship, where we partake of the energies of God, is our salvation.  Even from the beginning we read "it is not good for man to be alone."  John writes about this in His Epistles, that we must love one another, and that if anyone says he loves God but does not love his brother, he is a liar, etc.  The two Great Commandments also make abundant sense in light of this understanding.

So this 'sensing' or 'feeling' Him as Matthew79 put it, is that 'nous'? God is calling us into a relationship with Him? I was so startled by the definition of 'nous', knowing what it was but not knowing there was a 'word' for it. Wondering why He choses to reveal things to us outside the church (Orthodoxy) yet leaves us
searching, wandering and potentially losing faith because of it (faith that there exists a 'church' not that He exists...that always remains).
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« Reply #116 on: July 16, 2013, 05:42:32 PM »

The second paragraph - I don't think that is a good analogy.  The Holy Spirit is Himself God and shares of the same essence with the Father and the Son.  One way to say this is, "What the Father is, the Son is by begetting, and the Holy Spirit is by procession."  That is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as hammered out by the early councils.  (Now you get a glimpse of why it is so important that the Holy Spirit proceed only from the Father; if you have the Spirit proceeding from both the Father and the Son in essence, you change the entire nature of the Holy Trinity.)  So I don't think you can say that the Holy Spirit constitutes the revelation of God; the Holy Spirit is God, and sometimes is revealed to us (energies) but we cannot understand the Holy Spirit in terms of essence. 

I've always understood the Holy Spirit as God, equal to the Father and Son, not just an energy force, if that was what you were concerned about. I was just trying to understand what you were calling "the light". I've also always just understood the Spirit coming from the Father through the Son, because of John 15:26, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,". So, if you say that the Spirit comes from the Father and the Son, that kind of makes the Spirit subject to the Father and Son, and not equal?

So we are called to relationship with God, with our fellow man, and with all of God's creation.  This right relationship, where we partake of the energies of God, is our salvation.  Even from the beginning we read "it is not good for man to be alone."  John writes about this in His Epistles, that we must love one another, and that if anyone says he loves God but does not love his brother, he is a liar, etc.  The two Great Commandments also make abundant sense in light of this understanding.

So why don't y'all just say that, instead of cloaking it in talk about energies and light?
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« Reply #117 on: July 16, 2013, 05:52:43 PM »

Wondering why He choses to reveal things to us outside the church (Orthodoxy) yet leaves us
searching, wandering and potentially losing faith because of it (faith that there exists a 'church' not that He exists...that always remains).

Maybe some will disagree with me here, but I think it is because God wants us to ultimately trust Him and that "partaking of His energies" for our salvation, not the church. The church can lead us to Christ, but He alone is the Living Water of which we must drink. Like the old saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."
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« Reply #118 on: July 17, 2013, 08:50:56 AM »


I've always understood the Holy Spirit as God, equal to the Father and Son, not just an energy force, if that was what you were concerned about. I was just trying to understand what you were calling "the light". I've also always just understood the Spirit coming from the Father through the Son, because of John 15:26, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,". So, if you say that the Spirit comes from the Father and the Son, that kind of makes the Spirit subject to the Father and Son, and not equal?


Oh, good.  I figured as such but just wanted to clear up my own confusion about what you said.  Yes, you've hit on one of the major, major differences between Western and Orthodox theology since the schism.  The Western Church, starting in Spain, I believe, in the 6th century, added "and the Son" to the Creed to describe the Holy Spirit's procession, in a misguided attempt to combat Arianism (that the Son was not Eternal God).  This was denounced by many, including the Pope of Rome, at the time.  Later, under the influence of Charlemagne, I believe, it gained increasing acceptance in the West and finally was added to the Creed.  The Orthodox have a major problem with this, because:
1.  It is theologically incorrect;
2.  It was not in the Creed as settled by the Ecumenical Councils;
3.  A modification of the Creed cannot be done, in any event, unilaterally by one bishop.  (There we get to the problem of papal supremacy.)

Now the Roman Catholic Church says that they meant that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father "through the Son."  I believe that we as Orthodox would generally be OK with that if properly understood, but nevertheless, we cannot accept the Pope of Rome unilaterally altering an unalterable creed to add language which shouldn't be there in the first place.

So we are called to relationship with God, with our fellow man, and with all of God's creation.  This right relationship, where we partake of the energies of God, is our salvation.  Even from the beginning we read "it is not good for man to be alone."  John writes about this in His Epistles, that we must love one another, and that if anyone says he loves God but does not love his brother, he is a liar, etc.  The two Great Commandments also make abundant sense in light of this understanding.

So why don't y'all just say that, instead of cloaking it in talk about energies and light?
[/quote]

Ask Paul, John, etc.   This phenomenon has been revealed to us as Light, and Jesus himself said, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12).  To describe it this way is to most accurately express the idea.  If one cuts that out, you might devolve into the whole situation which is popular now, "To be a good Christian is to be a good neighbor."  Well, that's true as far as it goes, but that hardly gets at the depth of the love and existence which God has revealed to us.
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« Reply #119 on: July 17, 2013, 10:38:58 AM »

haha, well I can't explain today, but on days I'm not working I am at my computer several times, so we are bound to run into each other. And I know why you referred to it as a tool, but I am just trying to think the issue through. I appreciate your analogies, it helps. Sometimes it is tiring trying to understand some of the more knowledgeable people.

The most direct answer to your second question is probably that we are made holy by participating in the energies of God, i.e., His uncreated light. 

I have heard this "light" and "energies" talk before. I find it a bit confusing. I can get a general idea, but I want to make sure I am on the same page as everyone else. I know the uncreated light is the light of God, but can you explain more what it means to "participate in the energies of God"?
It is like partaking of the energies of the sun trapped in the food chain and walking in the sunlight but not being able to set foot on the solar surface.
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« Reply #120 on: July 17, 2013, 05:59:37 PM »

3.  A modification of the Creed cannot be done, in any event, unilaterally by one bishop.  (There we get to the problem of papal supremacy.)

... One of the things that make Orthodoxy more attractive to Protestants than Catholicism. We don't like the idea of a Pope either Smiley I wonder how much Martin Luther knew about the Eastern Orthodox Church. There probably weren't any in his region at that time, so I'm guessing he wasn't too aware of it except for some brief mention in history class. I would think that he would have just joined up with them.

Now the Roman Catholic Church says that they meant that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father "through the Son."

... sounds like an attempt at saying they were wrong without actually having to admit error. I mean, I'm not trying to Catholic bash here, but a person or group should either fess up to their mistakes or don't say anything at all.

Ask Paul, John, etc.   This phenomenon has been revealed to us as Light, and Jesus himself said, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12).  To describe it this way is to most accurately express the idea.  If one cuts that out, you might devolve into the whole situation which is popular now, "To be a good Christian is to be a good neighbor."  Well, that's true as far as it goes, but that hardly gets at the depth of the love and existence which God has revealed to us.

I mean, I guess I understand the talk about "the Light", as I am very familiar with these types of passages. My main confusion was about the "participating in the energies of God", we could easily just say "relationship with God and man"... but I guess that's eastern thinking at work. I guess I shouldn't ask them to change who they are to fit my western way of seeing things.
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« Reply #121 on: July 17, 2013, 07:12:11 PM »

It is like partaking of the energies of the sun trapped in the food chain and walking in the sunlight but not being able to set foot on the solar surface.

I wish I had a "like" button!
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« Reply #122 on: July 17, 2013, 09:07:34 PM »

It is like partaking of the energies of the sun trapped in the food chain and walking in the sunlight but not being able to set foot on the solar surface.

I wish I had a "like" button!
I've wished that many times.   Smiley
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« Reply #123 on: July 18, 2013, 07:58:33 AM »


... One of the things that make Orthodoxy more attractive to Protestants than Catholicism. We don't like the idea of a Pope either Smiley I wonder how much Martin Luther knew about the Eastern Orthodox Church. There probably weren't any in his region at that time, so I'm guessing he wasn't too aware of it except for some brief mention in history class. I would think that he would have just joined up with them.


We have no problem with a man called "pope," because it is just an honorific title for a bishop.  The head of the Church of Alexandria (in Egypt) has also historically been called Pope.  But I think you are talking about the significance the Roman Catholic Church attaches to the title, and we agree.  That's why we generally call him the "Pope of Rome."

The interaction between Orthodoxy and the early Protestants is very interesting.

Luther was aware that a Greek Church existed but I don't think he knew a whole lot about it because the Eastern Roman Empire fell to the Turks in 1453, about 30 years before he was born.  About 40 years after Luther's death, some German Lutherans made serious efforts to contact the Orthodox Church through an emissary the Germans had sent to Constantinople, then ruled by the Ottomans.  They finally successfully contacted Patriarch Jeremias II in 1589.  There followed an exchange of several letters, in which they asked the Patriarch about the doctrines of the Orthodox Church, he replied, they agreed with some and objected to several of them as not being compatible with Lutheranism, he replied that his customs were ancient and venerable and that their objections had no basis, they replied with more objections, and he basically replied that if they weren't going to accept his teachings, to write to him in friendship but not to write about disputing theology anymore.  The correspondence stopped.  You can find it online if you Google for it.

One of the 17th century Patriarchs of Constantinople, Cyril Lucaris, was said to have Calvinist leanings.  He, or someone writing in his name, composed a very Calvinist-sounding confession of faith.  (This is still very much disputed.)  In response to these occurrences, the Orthodox Church convened the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672 at which they condemned Calvinism.

There were also some efforts by some of the Scots to unite with Orthodoxy in the early 1700s, as I recall.  A Scottish emissary was to be sent to the court of Peter the Great in Russia to discuss the matter but the Tsar died suddenly and the plans got scuttled.

Greeks came to England in the mid-17th century and established a church in London.  Here at least one colonial Virginian, who had studied the church fathers in his home in America, traveled to England and was received into the Orthodox faith in this parish.  He went decades without communion but did return to England once or twice to participate in church life.  Otherwise he maintained private devotions at home.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement in the Church of England, was conversant with more of the Greek fathers than most of his contemporaries.  Consequently, he developed doctrines such as "entire sanctification" and "holiness" principles which are quite analogous to the Orthodox doctrine of theosis.  There is even a legend that he was secretly consecrated to the episcopacy by a wandering Greek Orthodox bishop, although completely outside the method of any canonical consecration, as I understand it.  I came out of Methodism into Orthodoxy and I note the theological similarities, although the worship service is completely different.

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« Reply #124 on: July 22, 2013, 04:23:47 PM »

We have no problem with a man called "pope," because it is just an honorific title for a bishop.  The head of the Church of Alexandria (in Egypt) has also historically been called Pope.  But I think you are talking about the significance the Roman Catholic Church attaches to the title, and we agree.  That's why we generally call him the "Pope of Rome."

Do you define Pope as merely an honorific title for bishop, or is there more to it? I see Pope as a supreme leader of a church with absolute power and  who has a line of direction revelation from God.

Thanks for the interesting stuff about Protestant communication with Orthodoxy. Yep, that sounds like us alright... always wanting to debate theology with whoever will listen! To speak for myself (I'm sure there are others), it isn't so much wanting to "debate", but just to understand and allow God to change me.
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« Reply #125 on: July 22, 2013, 09:17:29 PM »

Do you define Pope as merely an honorific title for bishop, or is there more to it? I see Pope as a supreme leader of a church with absolute power and  who has a line of direction revelation from God.

"Pope" is from the Latin "papa" or the Greek "pappas," meaning simply, "Father."  The Patriarch of Rome had long been given this title.  Because Old Rome was of preeminent importance, it was accorded the primary status among the various Churches.  New Rome (Constantinople) came second.  Then came Alexandria (in Egypt), Antioch (in Syria), and Jerusalem (although small, it was listed among the first because of its connection with the events of Christ's life and the early church).  These were called the "Pentarchy."  The Patriarch of Rome, as first among equals, was sometimes called upon to arbitrate disputes among the other self-governing Churches.  But nowhere was he considered the leader of the Church.  No doctrine could be dogmatized, as it were, without calling a council, of which seven ecumenical councils were called in the first eight centuries of the church.  Many other councils, which were local in nature, were called before and since then, but they have only "persuasive" authority on the church, not "binding" authority as do the seven ecumenical councils.

In fact that is hardly surprising, for what do we see in the Book of Acts, chapter 15, but the very first of the church's councils, the Council of Jerusalem from ca. 50 AD.  There, there were some who were telling the Gentile Christians that they had to be circumcised.  The apostles and bishops called a council.  Peter made a speech and the Apostle James, who at that time was Patriarch of Jerusalem (and would be until his death in AD 62 or 69), decreed that a message should be sent to the Gentiles explaining exactly what to do about this.  After listening to the views of those around him (Peter's speech), considering the scripture and holy tradition (he references the Psalms), James gives his "judgment."   (Acts 15:19).  This is how a council works.  James presided because the council was held in his see (Jerusalem).  If the Catholic claims were right, Peter should have been presiding.  Instead, he was simply a participant -- a wise one whose words were heeded -- but not the "chair of the meeting," so to speak.  And certainly not viewed as infallible.  Read also Galatians 2 where Paul seems to talk about this same council, but then seems to go on to rebuke Peter for later not following the dictates of this council when he returned to Antioch.  Hardly how one apostle would treat an infallible pope, but more in keeping with the collegiality model of governance which we know in the Orthodox Church.

The bishop is said to govern his diocese from a chair.  In Latin this word is "cathedra."  Thus, a "cathedral" is a church wherein sits the bishop's chair.  In English it is also translated "throne."  (The Roman Catholic Church now says that the pope is infallible when he speaks "ex cathedra," or, "from his chair."  This concept of the infallibility of one bishop is foreign to the Orthodox Church.)

We know from history that the Patriarchate of Rome was founded by the Apostle Peter.  The Roman Catholic Church claims from this that its bishops inherited Christ's promise to Peter that "Thou art Peter, and on this rock I shall build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."  From here comes their doctrine of papal infallibility.  But they don't highlight that Peter was also the head of the Church of Antioch from circa 37 to circa 53, before he went to Rome, and that he consecrated St. Mark the Evangelist, who was the first bishop of Alexandria, from circa 43 to circa 68.  Why did Peter's alleged infallibility descend only along the Roman line, and not to the bishops in the line of succession in Antioch or Alexandria?  (We believe instead that the infallibility rests with the Church as a whole, that it would be preserved from error.)

The honor given to Rome was expressly accorded because of its status as the capital of the empire.  This was stated on the record at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, where it was recorded, "the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city" and they further said that "actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome [Constantinople], justly judging that the city which is honoured with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her."  You see from the decrees of these holy Councils that the primacy of Rome was not based on the fact that its bishop was the successor of Peter (although he certainly was), nor was any infallibility ascribed to the throne of Rome at that time.  The Church of Rome was a powerful defender of the Orthodox faith; when many among the churches of the east, including Constantinople, embraced the iconoclastic heresy, it was Rome who called them back to their senses.  They greatly honored one another but Rome was not considered infallible.

The early Church seemed to love to give the various sees honorific titles. The Patriarch of Rome was called "Pope."  The Patriarch of Constantinople was accorded the title "Ecumenical Patriarch" in the 6th century.  The Patriarch of Alexandria began to be called "Pope" in the 3rd century.  After he successfully mediated a dispute between the Roman Emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople in the 11th century, the Patriarchate of Alexandria was even given the title "Judge of the Universe."  But no one takes this to mean that he rules over the other churches or usurps the prerogatives of God in this respect!
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« Reply #126 on: July 23, 2013, 12:13:31 PM »


We have no problem with a man called "pope," because it is just an honorific title for a bishop.  The head of the Church of Alexandria (in Egypt) has also historically been called Pope.  But I think you are talking about the significance the Roman Catholic Church attaches to the title, and we agree.  That's why we generally call him the "Pope of Rome."


One of the 17th century Patriarchs of Constantinople, Cyril Lucaris, was said to have Calvinist leanings.  He, or someone writing in his name, composed a very Calvinist-sounding confession of faith.  (This is still very much disputed.)  In response to these occurrences, the Orthodox Church convened the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672 at which they condemned Calvinism.


John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement in the Church of England, was conversant with more of the Greek fathers than most of his contemporaries.  Consequently, he developed doctrines such as "entire sanctification" and "holiness" principles which are quite analogous to the Orthodox doctrine of theosis.

all this post was interesting and good (i knew only some of it before) but i am just highlightling the parts i will respond to here.

firstly, there are currently 2 popes of alexandria! (who get on well and also share the same first name) and it was the alexandrian patriarch who was first called 'pope'. this did not give him any seniority over the other patriarchs. the orthodox churches see the catholic patriarch of rome as another patriarch just like them (and the current one has good relationships with the orthodox chruches) rather than someone they should obey.

i didn't know calvinism was condemned at a synod. this saves us doing it again in modern times!
similarly to yurysprudentsiya, the first church i was a member of (as a child) was a methodist church, and although i was only there for a few years, a lot of the preachers we heard in the 'house churches' afterwards (the uk 'house churches' in the 1980s were a very gentle breed of charismatic church, no shrieking or asking money for prayers) were ex methodists, so it was only until i had a lot to do with eastern european protestants as an adult that i noticed the importance they gave to calvinism (strong german influence to these churches).
historically, the uk methodists (lead by rev. john wesley) were not calvinists, and even had some theology that fits with orthodoxy (i changed very little of my theological ideas as i became orthodox), but the usa methodists (lead by rev. whitby if i got the name right) were calvinist, and this is why so many american protestants are calvinist.

the problem with calvinism (especially the extreme american version of 1990 to the present time) is that man's free will is disregarded, and our Lord Jesus' sacrifice is considered only as a legal option to fulfil God's wrath (makes God out to be as angry as some calvinists) and not as God becoming man so that man could become (like) God, in the metaphor given by saint athanasius. of course the legal aspect of the sacrifice of Jesus is part of the picture of taking our sin, but not the whole picture.
i have read that jean (john in english) calvin confessed on his death bed that he had made very many mistakes.
i pray for the calvinists that they will find peace and the depths of God's love in the orthodox church.
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« Reply #127 on: July 24, 2013, 07:46:47 AM »

all this post was interesting and good (i knew only some of it before) but i am just highlightling the parts i will respond to here.

firstly, there are currently 2 popes of alexandria! (who get on well and also share the same first name) and it was the alexandrian patriarch who was first called 'pope'. this did not give him any seniority over the other patriarchs. the orthodox churches see the catholic patriarch of rome as another patriarch just like them (and the current one has good relationships with the orthodox chruches) rather than someone they should obey.

Thanks for adding this, mabsoota!  I am one of those who think that we EO and the OO are not that far apart, and that for many centuries we may have been talking past one another on a number of key issues, and saying many of the same things in different words.  I pray for the re-establishment of communion between us.

i didn't know calvinism was condemned at a synod. this saves us doing it again in modern times!
similarly to yurysprudentsiya, the first church i was a member of (as a child) was a methodist church, and although i was only there for a few years, a lot of the preachers we heard in the 'house churches' afterwards (the uk 'house churches' in the 1980s were a very gentle breed of charismatic church, no shrieking or asking money for prayers) were ex methodists, so it was only until i had a lot to do with eastern european protestants as an adult that i noticed the importance they gave to calvinism (strong german influence to these churches).
historically, the uk methodists (lead by rev. john wesley) were not calvinists, and even had some theology that fits with orthodoxy (i changed very little of my theological ideas as i became orthodox), but the usa methodists (lead by rev. whitby if i got the name right) were calvinist, and this is why so many american protestants are calvinist.

Although Rev. George Whitfield (I think that's who you were looking for) did have an influence in America, the Methodists here did not get much of it from him.  Here, as in England, the American Methodists were and are Arminians (free-will).  Whitfield's Calvinist Methodists were mostly in Wales. 

Calvinism in the USA came from several immigrant groups - the Dutch Reformed, the German Reformed, the Scots-Irish Presbyterians, the English Puritans/Congregationalists, and some of the English Baptists (called the "Particular Baptists") who settled here in Colonial times and afterwards.  It was a very strong influence on the development of the American psyche.  There is a book called "Seeds of Albion" which I think discusses this, and which I have, but which I've not yet read.  It is on my "to do" list!

the problem with calvinism (especially the extreme american version of 1990 to the present time) is that man's free will is disregarded, and our Lord Jesus' sacrifice is considered only as a legal option to fulfil God's wrath (makes God out to be as angry as some calvinists) and not as God becoming man so that man could become (like) God, in the metaphor given by saint athanasius. of course the legal aspect of the sacrifice of Jesus is part of the picture of taking our sin, but not the whole picture.
i have read that jean (john in english) calvin confessed on his death bed that he had made very many mistakes.
i pray for the calvinists that they will find peace and the depths of God's love in the orthodox church.
 Smiley
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« Reply #128 on: July 24, 2013, 10:19:06 AM »

thanks,
sorry, i was thinking of the synod of whitby, which was when the early britons decided to follow the rules of the church of rome instead of the celtic church (which was in communion with the orthodox catholic church of rome but had a few different rules).
i got that confused with rev. george whitfield. thanks for the other background info.
if the presbyterians were calvinists, maybe this is why they were excessively solemn.
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« Reply #129 on: September 17, 2014, 10:39:05 PM »

"For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell"

Fred Phelps did. He seemed to take sadistic pleasure from telling people that's where they were going and there wasn't a thing they could do about it.
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