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Author Topic: Learning about the Orthodox Church  (Read 4641 times) Average Rating: 0
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Shanghaiski
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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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Matthew79
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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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Maria
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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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Matthew79
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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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