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Author Topic: What exactly *is* Orthodoxy?  (Read 1986 times) Average Rating: 0
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MaximosConfessor
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« on: August 13, 2013, 12:58:04 PM »

Hi, everyone,

I'm hoping that someone might be able to help me out here. I'm a bit confused about what constitutes "Orthodoxy" (of either the Chalcedonian or non-Chalcedonian variety). Suppose that I accept the teachings of the seven (or three) ecumenical councils. Am I then Orthodox in belief (even if not canonically Orthodox)? For example, would I have to accept anything else to be Orthodox, i.e., to be received into the Church?

Here's another way of asking the question. Would I be heterodox if I accepted completely the teachings of the seven (or three) ecumenical councils, remained in communion with the Church, etc., but did not believe that the Mother of God was assumed body and soul into heaven? What if I allowed that it was possible that she was assumed, but simply did not hold the belief that she was in fact assumed, and so doubted that such a belief is required for orthodoxy?

I'm guessing that this question has been asked here before, so forgive me if I am repeating things. I'm not good enough at using the search function to find threads that discuss this in any detail.

Thank you!
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« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2013, 01:05:54 PM »

Would I be heterodox if I accepted completely the teachings of the seven (or three) ecumenical councils, remained in communion with the Church, etc., but did not believe that the Mother of God was assumed body and soul into heaven?
The teaching is that the Mother of God died, her soul/life departed, and that days later her body was taken into heaven. Not that she was just assumed body and soul into heaven.
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MaximosConfessor
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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2013, 01:07:56 PM »

The teaching is that the Mother of God died, her soul/life departed, and that days later her body was taken into heaven like Moses's. Not that she was just assumed body and soul into heaven.
Thank you. I understand this; I was just abbreviating. But my question remains: this is something that I would have to believe in order to be accepted into the Orthodox Church? Anyone who does not believe this is heterodox, even if they accept the teachings of the ecumenical councils in their entirety?
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« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2013, 01:11:09 PM »

First, welcome to the forum!

Being Orthodox means being part of the true Body of Christ. If you are a member of the Church, you are indeed required to believe in the dogmatic decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.

I do not believe that the Assumption of our Blessed Theotokos is a dogma of the Church. However, since Orthodoxy also means acceptance of the Holy Tradition, we find ourselves in a gray zone here. I am sure that members of the forum who are much more learned then I will correct me and expand on what I have said. Again welcome!
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« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2013, 01:15:31 PM »

Hi, everyone,

I'm hoping that someone might be able to help me out here. I'm a bit confused about what constitutes "Orthodoxy" (of either the Chalcedonian or non-Chalcedonian variety). Suppose that I accept the teachings of the seven (or three) ecumenical councils. Am I then Orthodox in belief (even if not canonically Orthodox)? For example, would I have to accept anything else to be Orthodox, i.e., to be received into the Church?

Here's another way of asking the question. Would I be heterodox if I accepted completely the teachings of the seven (or three) ecumenical councils, remained in communion with the Church, etc., but did not believe that the Mother of God was assumed body and soul into heaven? What if I allowed that it was possible that she was assumed, but simply did not hold the belief that she was in fact assumed, and so doubted that such a belief is required for orthodoxy?

I'm guessing that this question has been asked here before, so forgive me if I am repeating things. I'm not good enough at using the search function to find threads that discuss this in any detail.

Thank you!

Primarily you need to accept The Church as the body of Christ on Earth and acced to her authority. Certainly you must believe in the core teachings of Christianity . If you have trouble with the Trinity for example, that would be a no go. If you have trouble with the reserection and divinity of Jesus Christ and perhaps think of him as a great teacher or some such, that would be a no go.

Can you recite the creed with faith is a good benchmark. Have you given up former heretical idea's? "The Pope is the head of the Univesal Chruch" for one example.  

But as to many matters that you either are not familiar with or have trouble with, you simply go back to step one. You accept that the Church has wisdom that you don't have and you don't yet fully understand how they have come to teach certain things.

Orthodoxy is more experiential than Western Christianity. As you participate in the full sacramental cycle, Baptism, regular confession, regular communion etc. you will then grow in wisdom. You will be transformed and some things that didn't add up earlier will now take firmer root.
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MaximosConfessor
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« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2013, 01:17:06 PM »

First, welcome to the forum!
Thank you!

Being Orthodox means being part of the true Body of Christ. If you are a member of the Church, you are indeed required to believe in the dogmatic decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
Indeed.

I do not believe that the Assumption of our Blessed Theotokos is a dogma of the Church. However, since Orthodoxy also means acceptance of the Holy Tradition, we find ourselves in a gray zone here.
This "gray zone" is exactly what I am curious about. I simply don't think that I understand the status of the Dormition traditions in Orthodoxy. I have heard it said that they are not dogma, as you say here. But does that mean that they are mere theologoumena, pious opinions that one need not accept? It seems that some people would be apprehensive to say that.

I am not sure whether there are other categories between dogma and theologoumena, though, so I am at a bit of a loss -- confused.
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« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2013, 01:17:49 PM »

Hi, everyone,

I'm hoping that someone might be able to help me out here. I'm a bit confused about what constitutes "Orthodoxy" (of either the Chalcedonian or non-Chalcedonian variety). Suppose that I accept the teachings of the seven (or three) ecumenical councils. Am I then Orthodox in belief (even if not canonically Orthodox)? For example, would I have to accept anything else to be Orthodox, i.e., to be received into the Church?

It's not just a matter of believing what the councils taught.  That is necessary, obviously, but the councils did not comprehensively cover all aspects of the faith necessary for belief.  You have to profess the faith of the Church in order to be Orthodox.  The faith of the Church is expressed in the decisions of the ecumenical councils, but also (in no particular order) the Holy Scriptures, the liturgical texts and rites, the lives of the saints and their own writings, etc.  

Quote
Here's another way of asking the question. Would I be heterodox if I accepted completely the teachings of the seven (or three) ecumenical councils, remained in communion with the Church, etc., but did not believe that the Mother of God was assumed body and soul into heaven? What if I allowed that it was possible that she was assumed, but simply did not hold the belief that she was in fact assumed, and so doubted that such a belief is required for orthodoxy?

You can't reject the belief that our Lady died and was then "translated to life" (i.e., taken body and soul into heaven).  You can, however, reject the idea that she was taken to heaven without ever having died--the Church does not believe this.  

But my question remains: this is something that I would have to believe in order to be accepted into the Orthodox Church? Anyone who does not believe this is heterodox, even if they accept the teachings of the ecumenical councils in their entirety?
 

Yes.  Again, as above, the councils are necessary but not sufficient.  
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MaximosConfessor
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« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2013, 01:22:19 PM »

Primarily you need to accept The Church as the body of Christ on Earth and acced to her authority. Certainly you must believe in the core teachings of Christianity . If you have trouble with the Trinity for example, that would be a no go. If you have trouble with the reserection and divinity of Jesus Christ and perhaps think of him as a great teacher or some such, that would be a no go.

Can you recite the creed with faith is a good benchmark.
Yes, indeed. I have no trouble with these teachings at all.

Have you given up former heretical idea's? "The Pope is the head of the Univesal Chruch" for one example.
This is an interesting question that seems to make a very important point. You're right; one would have to renounce the belief that the Pope is the head of the universal Church in order to become Orthodox. But the teaching, "the Pope is not the head of the universal Church," is not something that was stated explicitly at any ecumenical council. So, it seems that there are teachings that are dogmatically required for Orthodoxy even though they were not taught at any ecumenical council. Is the Dormition/Assumption (rightly understood) one of those?

But as to many matters that you either are not familiar with or have trouble with, you simply go back to step one. You accept that the Church has wisdom that you don't have and you don't yet fully understand how they have come to teach certain things.

Orthodoxy is more experiential than Western Christianity. As you participate in the full sacramental cycle, Baptism, regular confession, regular communion etc. you will then grow in wisdom. You will be transformed and some things that didn't add up earlier will now take firmer root.
Thank you for these comments.
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« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2013, 01:25:24 PM »

What if I allowed that it was possible that she was assumed, but simply did not hold the belief that she was in fact assumed, and so doubted that such a belief is required for orthodoxy?

A more important question is why do you not believe this as the Orthodox do?  As you may know, we have many relics of the saints, including the head of St. John the Baptist.  Where is the body of the Theotokos?  

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« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2013, 01:29:12 PM »


This "gray zone" is exactly what I am curious about. I simply don't think that I understand the status of the Dormition traditions in Orthodoxy. I have heard it said that they are not dogma, as you say here. But does that mean that they are mere theologoumena, pious opinions that one need not accept? It seems that some people would be apprehensive to say that.

I am not sure whether there are other categories between dogma and theologoumena, though, so I am at a bit of a loss -- confused.
I believe it's important to accept the spiritual truth of the Dormition: that Christ will receive our bodies as well as our souls at some future time. It is also clear from Scripture "that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep." (I Thess 4:15, NKJV) So it is reasonable to believe that some will be received by Him first - and why not His own mother as the very first?

The matter, I think, that you are questioning is whether the story itself is historical fact or an allegory - not unlike our understanding of some of the stories in Genesis. I think you'll find a wide range of opinion on this.

I personally hold to her having already been received into heaven as the first amongst the saints. However, I'm less sure of the historical accuracy of some of the rest of the details. And quite frankly, at least for me, either way that's not a deal breaker.
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« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2013, 01:30:03 PM »

Right praxis,belief,and doctrine of Christianity
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« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2013, 01:30:09 PM »

It's not just a matter of believing what the councils taught.  That is necessary, obviously, but the councils did not comprehensively cover all aspects of the faith necessary for belief.  You have to profess the faith of the Church in order to be Orthodox.  The faith of the Church is expressed in the decisions of the ecumenical councils, but also (in no particular order) the Holy Scriptures, the liturgical texts and rites, the lives of the saints and their own writings, etc.
Thank you. I have heard this, and it seems to bear out a previous comment in this discussion. What the Church teaches goes beyond the ecumenical councils, though it encompasses them. This suggests that accepting the seven (or three) councils is not enough. 

You can't reject the belief that our Lady died and was then "translated to life" (i.e., taken body and soul into heaven).  You can, however, reject the idea that she was taken to heaven without ever having died--the Church does not believe this.
Thank you. I am aware that the Church does not believe the last thing you mentioned. Would you say that it is "dogma" that our Lady died and was then translated to life?

Yes.  Again, as above, the councils are necessary but not sufficient.  
Thank you for your helpful reply. How does one determine what else is necessary? Simply by participating in the liturgy and so on? Some things are said in a liturgical context that do not seem to constitute dogma. For example, the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus are commemorated liturgically at least twice in the calendar. It is said that these "sleepers" miraculously slept for about 200 years in a cave. Presumably, it is not a dogmatic teaching of the Church that this happened, however -- or am I wrong?

If I am right, then which things that are celebrated liturgically are dogmatic teachings of the Church, and which things are not? How does one discern what one must accept and what is merely theologoumena?

Thanks again!
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« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2013, 01:31:49 PM »

What if I allowed that it was possible that she was assumed, but simply did not hold the belief that she was in fact assumed, and so doubted that such a belief is required for orthodoxy?

A more important question is why do you not believe this as the Orthodox do?  As you may know, we have many relics of the saints, including the head of St. John the Baptist.  Where is the body of the Theotokos?  


Thank you for this comment. I understand why you say that this is more important, and I agree that it is. However, in order to best understand things step by step, I would like to not change the subject to my reasons for (some) skepticism, yet. I simply want to understand what it is that the Church teaches as a matter of dogma -- which must be accepted -- as opposed to theologoumena.
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« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2013, 01:41:58 PM »

Hello, welcome, etc.

Don't expect unified answer to your question.

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« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2013, 01:46:37 PM »

What if I allowed that it was possible that she was assumed, but simply did not hold the belief that she was in fact assumed, and so doubted that such a belief is required for orthodoxy?

A more important question is why do you not believe this as the Orthodox do?  As you may know, we have many relics of the saints, including the head of St. John the Baptist.  Where is the body of the Theotokos?  


Thank you for this comment. I understand why you say that this is more important, and I agree that it is. However, in order to best understand things step by step, I would like to not change the subject to my reasons for (some) skepticism, yet. I simply want to understand what it is that the Church teaches as a matter of dogma -- which must be accepted -- as opposed to theologoumena.

"Theologoumena" has become a popular phrase but it is not a patristic term.  To be Orthodox is to have right belief and participate in true worship as a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Orthodox Christians believe as true that which is attested to by the consensus of the Fathers, by the declarations of the Ecumenical Councils, and by our divine services.  The primary question for the seeker is where is the true Church, the Church which is the body of Christ and which is declared in the Scriptures to be the "pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15)."  Initially, a person will inquire about the beliefs, history, and worship of the Orthodox Church until one comes to the point that they believe the Orthodox Church is the true Church and the "pillar and ground of the truth".  When one recognizes the greater authority of the Church above one's own limited intelligence and reasoning, and the higher spiritual authority of the saints and Fathers over one's own limited understanding, one may come to a point of humbling himself before the Church with the desire to crucify his own mind that he may receive the mind of Christ.    It may take a person some time to get to this point, but one must diligently seek the truth without rushing the decision to become Orthodox.  As long as one thinks, "I can agree with these things that the Fathers, Councils, and divine services proclaim; but not these other things", one is not ready to enter the Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #15 on: August 13, 2013, 01:51:18 PM »

Quote
Thank you for your helpful reply. How does one determine what else is necessary? Simply by participating in the liturgy and so on? Some things are said in a liturgical context that do not seem to constitute dogma.


St. Theophan the Recluse said that hymnology inside the Church is sufficient. Liturgy is sufficient. The Councils are there to defend the Faith, as were the Saints of the past.
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« Reply #16 on: August 13, 2013, 01:56:23 PM »

Don't expect unified answer to your question.

Of course not. This is OC.net.
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« Reply #17 on: August 13, 2013, 02:06:56 PM »

Suppose that I accept the teachings of the seven (or three) ecumenical councils. Am I then Orthodox in belief (even if not canonically Orthodox)? For example, would I have to accept anything else to be Orthodox, i.e., to be received into the Church?

In that process right now, all of the above plus you will need years of vague examination, study, questions, right praxis, if you havent lost your faith in 'church' or God by then, the claim is that you will be received.
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« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2013, 02:38:51 PM »

"Theologoumena" has become a popular phrase but it is not a patristic term.  To be Orthodox is to have right belief and participate in true worship as a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Orthodox Christians believe as true that which is attested to by the consensus of the Fathers, by the declarations of the Ecumenical Councils, and by our divine services.  The primary question for the seeker is where is the true Church, the Church which is the body of Christ and which is declared in the Scriptures to be the "pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15)."  Initially, a person will inquire about the beliefs, history, and worship of the Orthodox Church until one comes to the point that they believe the Orthodox Church is the true Church and the "pillar and ground of the truth".  When one recognizes the greater authority of the Church above one's own limited intelligence and reasoning, and the higher spiritual authority of the saints and Fathers over one's own limited understanding, one may come to a point of humbling himself before the Church with the desire to crucify his own mind that he may receive the mind of Christ.    It may take a person some time to get to this point, but one must diligently seek the truth without rushing the decision to become Orthodox.  As long as one thinks, "I can agree with these things that the Fathers, Councils, and divine services proclaim; but not these other things", one is not ready to enter the Orthodox Church.
Thank you for this comment. However, my position is not, "I can agree with these things that the Fathers, Councils, and divine services proclaim; but not these other things." Instead, my question is simply, "What are the things that the Fathers, Councils, and divine services proclaim?" For example, some of the writings of the Fathers and some of the hymns in the divine services say that, at the time of the Blessed Virgin's Dormition, the apostles (excepting Thomas) were picked up in clouds and transferred from various places of the earth to her side. I have never heard anyone refer to this as dogma, however. So, is it something that the Fathers, Councils, and divine services proclaim? Must I accept it, or can one doubt that detail of the story? Isn't it a theologoumena? And if so, how do I distinguish between it and between the rest of the Dormition story?
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« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2013, 02:52:57 PM »

For example, some of the writings of the Fathers and some of the hymns in the divine services say that, at the time of the Blessed Virgin's Dormition, the apostles (excepting Thomas) were picked up in clouds and transferred from various places of the earth to her side. I have never heard anyone refer to this as dogma, however. So, is it something that the Fathers, Councils, and divine services proclaim? Must I accept it, or can one doubt that detail of the story? Isn't it a theologoumena? And if so, how do I distinguish between it and between the rest of the Dormition story?

Do you doubt Acts 1:9-12?

Quote
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

What about 2 (4) Kings 2:11-12?

Quote
As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, ‘Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’

What about the additions to Daniel (received as Scripture in the Orthodox Church)?

Quote
The prophet Habakkuk was in Judea. He mixed some bread in a bowl with the stew he had boiled, and was going to bring it to the reapers in the field, 34when an angel of the Lord told him, “Take the meal you have to Daniel in the lions’ den at Babylon.” 35But Habakkuk answered, “Sir, I have never seen Babylon, and I do not know the den!” 36The angel of the Lord seized him by the crown of his head and carried him by the hair;a with the speed of the wind, he set him down in Babylon above the den. 37“Daniel, Daniel,” cried Habakkuk, “take the meal God has sent you.” 38“You have remembered me, O God,” said Daniel; “you have not forsaken those who love you.” 39So Daniel ate, but the angel of God at once brought Habakkuk back to his own place. 
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« Reply #20 on: August 13, 2013, 02:58:19 PM »

"Theologoumena" has become a popular phrase but it is not a patristic term.  To be Orthodox is to have right belief and participate in true worship as a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Orthodox Christians believe as true that which is attested to by the consensus of the Fathers, by the declarations of the Ecumenical Councils, and by our divine services.  The primary question for the seeker is where is the true Church, the Church which is the body of Christ and which is declared in the Scriptures to be the "pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15)."  Initially, a person will inquire about the beliefs, history, and worship of the Orthodox Church until one comes to the point that they believe the Orthodox Church is the true Church and the "pillar and ground of the truth".  When one recognizes the greater authority of the Church above one's own limited intelligence and reasoning, and the higher spiritual authority of the saints and Fathers over one's own limited understanding, one may come to a point of humbling himself before the Church with the desire to crucify his own mind that he may receive the mind of Christ.    It may take a person some time to get to this point, but one must diligently seek the truth without rushing the decision to become Orthodox.  As long as one thinks, "I can agree with these things that the Fathers, Councils, and divine services proclaim; but not these other things", one is not ready to enter the Orthodox Church.
Thank you for this comment. However, my position is not, "I can agree with these things that the Fathers, Councils, and divine services proclaim; but not these other things." Instead, my question is simply, "What are the things that the Fathers, Councils, and divine services proclaim?" For example, some of the writings of the Fathers and some of the hymns in the divine services say that, at the time of the Blessed Virgin's Dormition, the apostles (excepting Thomas) were picked up in clouds and transferred from various places of the earth to her side. I have never heard anyone refer to this as dogma, however. So, is it something that the Fathers, Councils, and divine services proclaim? Must I accept it, or can one doubt that detail of the story? Isn't it a theologoumena? And if so, how do I distinguish between it and between the rest of the Dormition story?

Westernized Christianity seems to want everything to come from a single source. For the RCC, it is out of the mouth of the Pope, for Protestants, it is the Bible.. One single ultimate source. So it is natural for someone to look for the one ultimate source for the Orthodox too.

It doesn't work like that for us. We have inherited the Faith, once delivered, through several sources:

The Scriptures (nothing can be counter to Scripture), the writings of the Fathers, the Councils, the Hymnography , the Iconography, the Bishops  and the example of the Saints. And more..

This forms an organic whole. Some of these things are learned and some are subsumed by you through experience and via God's grace. The Church is like a hospital where you can come to be healed.
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« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2013, 03:10:16 PM »

It's participation in the Body of Christ.

Now, the Orthodox Catholic Church, the Non-Chalcedonean Churches (parenthetical comment removed by moderator), Rome, and each Protestant denomination each have a different "long description" of what "belonging" to the Body of Christ means, and what the requirements are, and what automatically puts you out of it. In short words, each has a completely different ecclesiology.

For Orthodoxy, to be part of the Church means being a formal member of the communion of Orthodox Churches (about 15 if you include the OCA), and be not mistaken, that "formalism" holds an exclusive kind of Grace that is the very reason why Christ incarnated and sent the Holy Spirit to the world for, and there is a mystical change in the person just by that.

To be a *living* Orthodox Christian you must be a follower and disciple of Christ with a contrite heart and joyful longing for His Glory, struggling everyday to become a better temple of the Holy Spirit.

To be someone who will be judged worthy of being counted among the lambs on the last judgment, you have to be as good as possible, regardless of what you believe or where you live, obedient to the natural law in your heart.



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« Reply #22 on: August 13, 2013, 03:11:32 PM »

Do you doubt Acts 1:9-12?

What about 2 Kings 2:11-12?

What about the additions to Daniel (received as Scripture in the Orthodox Church)?

No, no, and no.

Do I doubt that the apostles were taken on a cloud from the ends of the earth to the side of the Theotokos? I wouldn't say that I doubt it. I do not think that it is something that one must accept on pain of heterodoxy, though.
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« Reply #23 on: August 13, 2013, 03:14:11 PM »

Westernized Christianity seems to want everything to come from a single source. For the RCC, it is out of the mouth of the Pope, for Protestants, it is the Bible.. One single ultimate source. So it is natural for someone to look for the one ultimate source for the Orthodox too.

It doesn't work like that for us. We have inherited the Faith, once delivered, through several sources:

The Scriptures (nothing can be counter to Scripture), the writings of the Fathers, the Councils, the Hymnography , the Iconography, the Bishops  and the example of the Saints. And more..

This forms an organic whole. Some of these things are learned and some are subsumed by you through experience and via God's grace. The Church is like a hospital where you can come to be healed.
Thank you. However, I am not looking for a single source for dogma; I have no opposition to the view that dogma comes from various sources. I just do not have a good idea what is dogma and what is not, and that is what I am seeking in this thread.
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« Reply #24 on: August 13, 2013, 03:16:39 PM »

Thank you. I am aware that the Church does not believe the last thing you mentioned. Would you say that it is "dogma" that our Lady died and was then translated to life?

I suppose it depends on how you define "dogma".  If "dogma" is just a fancy word for "teaching", then yes.  But "dogma" is usually a more technical term specifying a certain category of teaching.  The tenets of the Creed, the decrees of the ecumenical councils, etc. are dogma: they are specific affirmations of beliefs which were called into question and defined in such a way as to leave no room for doubt.  That our Lady is the Mother of God is dogma: it was called into question, clarified, defined, and alternate opinions were anathematised because, at its heart, that teaching has to do with the person and identity of Christ.  I'm not so sure that I'd called the Dormition a "dogma", though.  It doesn't seem to have ever risen to that level, seeing as it doesn't directly concern Christ, but was a privilege due to her relation with Christ.  It is simply believed by the whole Church, and that belief gives us hope because what is hers now will be ours later.  In all likelihood, we probably would not be discussing this teaching in "dogmatic" terms if the Roman Catholics did not define it as such and thus force the issue.    

Quote
Thank you for your helpful reply. How does one determine what else is necessary? Simply by participating in the liturgy and so on? Some things are said in a liturgical context that do not seem to constitute dogma. For example, the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus are commemorated liturgically at least twice in the calendar. It is said that these "sleepers" miraculously slept for about 200 years in a cave. Presumably, it is not a dogmatic teaching of the Church that this happened, however -- or am I wrong?

What is necessary to believe when joining the Church is the faith of the Church.  Basically, if you can assent to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and to the doctrinal teachings of the ecumenical councils, and generally to everything else the Church believes, that's enough.  Now that last bit sounds circular, but faith and the Church are linked.  I feel uncomfortable saying "Believe in the Creed and the doctrinal definitions of the ecumenical councils" as if that was the bare minimum.  If you think of things in terms of minima, it doesn't make sense.  We find that even in the Gospels.  The rich young man asks Jesus what must he do, and Jesus lists the commandments.  But when he persists in his question because he's done all those things, Jesus tells him to sell everything, give to the poor, and follow him.  The bare minimum will only get you so far, but it always points to the "maximum", which is divesting ourselves of what weighs us down and following Christ.  We do that, by God's grace, within the Church of believers.  

Regarding the Seven Sleepers and their nap, no, it's not a dogmatic teaching.  Generally speaking, "phenomena" in the lives of the saints, even if commemorated in our liturgical texts, are not "dogmatic" because they are usually specific to the case of the particular saint.  But again, does that mean you don't have to believe it, that you can reject it?  It is a tradition regarding seven particular saints which has been received by the Church and celebrated liturgically.  I suppose you could study the issue and come up with a guess as to what "really happened" and how that got "hagiographed" into the story we remember today.  I don't think that would fundamentally alter our confession of faith, but perhaps it calls into question our notion of faith.  Is it so hard for God to cause seven saints to sleep for two centuries?  Why does that seem like a mythology but the Resurrection of Christ is considered an undeniable historical fact?  If you believe the latter, the former really isn't so bad.  It seems rather harmless to believe it, so why call it into question if you're not going to question the weightier matters?        
    
Quote
If I am right, then which things that are celebrated liturgically are dogmatic teachings of the Church, and which things are not? How does one discern what one must accept and what is merely theologoumena?

You'll only ever really "get it" within the Church, not by standing outside and trying to use your wits to figure it out.  That means you attend the services and pray them.  Study the teachings of the Church as expressed in the Creed and in the declarations of the ecumenical councils.  Study the Scriptures and how the Fathers interpreted them.  Participate in the sacramental life of the Church.  The Church holds out certain things as a bare minimum, as I said above, but that's not all she holds out, nor is that the best way of looking at the issue.  
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« Reply #25 on: August 13, 2013, 03:19:26 PM »

Do you doubt Acts 1:9-12?

What about 2 Kings 2:11-12?

What about the additions to Daniel (received as Scripture in the Orthodox Church)?

No, no, and no.

Do I doubt that the apostles were taken on a cloud from the ends of the earth to the side of the Theotokos? I wouldn't say that I doubt it. I do not think that it is something that one must accept on pain of heterodoxy, though. (Both sources are more or less equally late as compared to the people and events they talk about.)

Orthodoxy is the faith of many miracles. If - as St. Augustine put it - we believe in the Gospels/Scripture because the Church commends them, I don't think it's fair (or scientific) to distinguish between layers of tradition, assign ranks of authority or try to arbitrarily demythologise certain tenets of Orthodoxy rather than others.   

If you believe an Angel brought Habbakuk from Judea by his hairs, through the air, to meet Daniel in Babylon, why is it less plausible that the Apostles were brought on clouds to attend the Dormition of the Theotokos?
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« Reply #26 on: August 13, 2013, 03:19:32 PM »

It's participation in the Body of Christ.

Now, the Orthodox Catholic Church, the Non-Chalcedonean Churches (none of which are Orthodox), Rome, and each Protestant denomination each have a different "long description" of what "belonging" to the Body of Christ means, and what the requirements are, and what automatically puts you out of it. In short words, each has a completely different ecclesiology.

For Orthodoxy, to be part of the Church means being a formal member of the communion of Orthodox Churches (about 15 if you include the OCA), and be not mistaken, that "formalism" holds an exclusive kind of Grace that is the very reason why Christ incarnated and sent the Holy Spirit to the world for, and there is a mystical change in the person just by that.

To be a *living* Orthodox Christian you must be a follower and disciple of Christ with a contrite heart and joyful longing for His Glory, struggling everyday to become a better temple of the Holy Spirit.

To be someone who will be judged worthy of being counted among the lambs on the last judgment, you have to be as good as possible, regardless of what you believe or where you live, obedient to the natural law in your heart.
Indeed, to be an Orthodox Christian requires more than belief. But it does require belief.

Belief in what, though? The teachings of the councils and of Scripture, certainly. The reason I asked about the Dormition is because I have seen people say that it is not dogma (sometimes they say this because it is not taught by an ecumenical council). So, I was confused about whether it is one of the things that an Orthodox Christian must believe. The general view here seems (mostly) to be yes. That leads to my question about how to tell which of the things that are not taught by ecumenical councils but are taught in the liturgy are things that must be believed? Must I believe that the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus were preserved in a cave for 200 years and resurrected from the dead, then went back to the cave and died again? Must I believe that the apostles were transferred on clouds to the side of the Blessed Virgin at her Dormition? I simply do not know.
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« Reply #27 on: August 13, 2013, 03:21:27 PM »

Well, if you are looking for what is and what isn't dogmatic, you should look at the Nicene Creed (the "Symbol of Faith").

Quote
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man;

And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;

And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;

And ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father;

And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets;

And we believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.

We look for the Resurrection of the dead,

And the Life of the age to come. Amen.

If there is anything dogmatized that is important to know it's the Symbol of Faith.
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« Reply #28 on: August 13, 2013, 03:24:26 PM »

Westernized Christianity seems to want everything to come from a single source. For the RCC, it is out of the mouth of the Pope, for Protestants, it is the Bible.. One single ultimate source. So it is natural for someone to look for the one ultimate source for the Orthodox too.

It doesn't work like that for us. We have inherited the Faith, once delivered, through several sources:

The Scriptures (nothing can be counter to Scripture), the writings of the Fathers, the Councils, the Hymnography , the Iconography, the Bishops  and the example of the Saints. And more..

This forms an organic whole. Some of these things are learned and some are subsumed by you through experience and via God's grace. The Church is like a hospital where you can come to be healed.
Thank you. However, I am not looking for a single source for dogma; I have no opposition to the view that dogma comes from various sources. I just do not have a good idea what is dogma and what is not, and that is what I am seeking in this thread.

Easily solved. Go read a book on Orthodox Dogmatic Theology. I would reccomend the one by Michael Pomazansky.. "Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition".... There are also classes at various Orthodox seminaries on Dogmatic Theology..
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« Reply #29 on: August 13, 2013, 03:27:46 PM »

I suppose it depends on how you define "dogma".  If "dogma" is just a fancy word for "teaching", then yes.  But "dogma" is usually a more technical term specifying a certain category of teaching.  The tenets of the Creed, the decrees of the ecumenical councils, etc. are dogma: they are specific affirmations of beliefs which were called into question and defined in such a way as to leave no room for doubt.  That our Lady is the Mother of God is dogma: it was called into question, clarified, defined, and alternate opinions were anathematised because, at its heart, that teaching has to do with the person and identity of Christ.  I'm not so sure that I'd called the Dormition a "dogma", though.  It doesn't seem to have ever risen to that level, seeing as it doesn't directly concern Christ, but was a privilege due to her relation with Christ.  It is simply believed by the whole Church, and that belief gives us hope because what is hers now will be ours later.  In all likelihood, we probably would not be discussing this teaching in "dogmatic" terms if the Roman Catholics did not define it as such and thus force the issue.
This is very helpful. Thank you. The idea, then, is that there are certain teachings of the Church that are called "dogma," but there are other teachings of the Church not given that name, but that are nevertheless a part of the teaching and faith of the Church (the Dormition being one of the latter things). That is, I think, the most coherent position on these issues that I have seen so far.

Regarding the Seven Sleepers and their nap, no, it's not a dogmatic teaching.  Generally speaking, "phenomena" in the lives of the saints, even if commemorated in our liturgical texts, are not "dogmatic" because they are usually specific to the case of the particular saint.  But again, does that mean you don't have to believe it, that you can reject it?  It is a tradition regarding seven particular saints which has been received by the Church and celebrated liturgically.  I suppose you could study the issue and come up with a guess as to what "really happened" and how that got "hagiographed" into the story we remember today.  I don't think that would fundamentally alter our confession of faith, but perhaps it calls into question our notion of faith.
Thank you for this, as well. It offers a lot to think about. Do you suggest by these comments that the phenomena surrounding the Dormition (e.g., transfer of apostles on clouds -- I'm sorry to single this out, but it is one of the phenomena of that tradition with which I am most familiar) could be doubted without fundamentally altering the confession of faith?

Do you think that denying the whole Dormition/Assumption (properly understood), on the other hand, would fundamentally alter the confession of faith, though? This is a main issue that I am struggling with. I have a hard time viewing it as part of the apostolic deposit.

Is it so hard for God to cause seven saints to sleep for two centuries?  Why does that seem like a mythology but the Resurrection of Christ is considered an undeniable historical fact?  If you believe the latter, the former really isn't so bad.  It seems rather harmless to believe it, so why call it into question if you're not going to question the weightier matters?
I agree with everything you have said here. My concern is that requiring such belief for someone to be received into Orthodoxy seems to amount to "too much." My concern here is pretty vague, though; it just does not seem that this story (about the Seven Sleepers) could be part of the apostolic deposit (obviously, given that it happened well after the apostles had passed on). In what sense (or on what grounds), then, could it be a required belief?
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« Reply #30 on: August 13, 2013, 03:30:22 PM »

Orthodoxy is the faith of many miracles. If - as St. Augustine put it - we believe in the Gospels/Scripture because the Church commends them, I don't think it's fair (or scientific) to distinguish between layers of tradition, assign ranks of authority or try to arbitrarily demythologise certain tenets of Orthodoxy rather than others.   

If you believe an Angel brought Habbakuk from Judea by his hairs, through the air, to meet Daniel in Babylon, why is it less plausible that the Apostles were brought on clouds to attend the Dormition of the Theotokos?
I agree with much of what you say here. My concern is not that the traditions surrounding the Dormition are "less plausible" than others. Instead, my concern is that I do not understand the basis of requiring belief in the Dormition and the surrounding traditions in order to be Orthodox. I have a hard time seeing it as "of the essence of the faith," something constituting the faith once delivered to the saints. That may be a failing on my part, though.
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« Reply #31 on: August 13, 2013, 03:34:16 PM »

Quote
Indeed, to be an Orthodox Christian requires more than belief. But it does require belief.

Belief in what, though? The teachings of the councils and of Scripture, certainly. The reason I asked about the Dormition is because I have seen people say that it is not dogma (sometimes they say this because it is not taught by an ecumenical council). So, I was confused about whether it is one of the things that an Orthodox Christian must believe. The general view here seems (mostly) to be yes. That leads to my question about how to tell which of the things that are not taught by ecumenical councils but are taught in the liturgy are things that must be believed? Must I believe that the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus were preserved in a cave for 200 years and resurrected from the dead, then went back to the cave and died again? Must I believe that the apostles were transferred on clouds to the side of the Blessed Virgin at her Dormition? I simply do not know.

Wow, what a stumbling block. There was a tradition of the Desert Fathers that goes something like this... the Father recited a verse from the Holy Scripture and asked his disciples what the verse meant. They had different answers, some had profound explanations, some basic and obvious ones. Until they reached the last disciple, who answered "I don't know.", and the Holy Father replied: "He has spoken correctly."

Orthodox only know what has come down through the Apostolic deposit. Anything more is dangerous speculation.
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« Reply #32 on: August 13, 2013, 03:37:07 PM »

Easily solved. Go read a book on Orthodox Dogmatic Theology. I would reccomend the one by Michael Pomazansky.. "Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition".... There are also classes at various Orthodox seminaries on Dogmatic Theology..
Thank you for this reference. I will read it.
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« Reply #33 on: August 13, 2013, 03:40:57 PM »

Orthodoxy is the faith of many miracles. If - as St. Augustine put it - we believe in the Gospels/Scripture because the Church commends them, I don't think it's fair (or scientific) to distinguish between layers of tradition, assign ranks of authority or try to arbitrarily demythologise certain tenets of Orthodoxy rather than others.   

If you believe an Angel brought Habbakuk from Judea by his hairs, through the air, to meet Daniel in Babylon, why is it less plausible that the Apostles were brought on clouds to attend the Dormition of the Theotokos?
I agree with much of what you say here. My concern is not that the traditions surrounding the Dormition are "less plausible" than others. Instead, my concern is that I do not understand the basis of requiring belief in the Dormition and the surrounding traditions in order to be Orthodox. I have a hard time seeing it as "of the essence of the faith," something constituting the faith once delivered to the saints. That may be a failing on my part, though.

You shouldn't feel like someone is trying to impose a belief on you. Faith is a gift we should pray for: "I believe, help Thou mine unbelief"...

My contention was that it's better not to get "essentialist" or all rationally worked-up when it comes to matters of faith. I found it to be spiritually counter-productive, to say the least.

Many times, God is (or "lives") in the details.   
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« Reply #34 on: August 13, 2013, 03:53:54 PM »

Thank you for this, as well. It offers a lot to think about. Do you suggest by these comments that the phenomena surrounding the Dormition (e.g., transfer of apostles on clouds -- I'm sorry to single this out, but it is one of the phenomena of that tradition with which I am most familiar) could be doubted without fundamentally altering the confession of faith?

Do you think that denying the whole Dormition/Assumption (properly understood), on the other hand, would fundamentally alter the confession of faith, though? This is a main issue that I am struggling with. I have a hard time viewing it as part of the apostolic deposit.

This is just my opinion: I'm not sure whether the apostles flying on clouds literally happened or whether that's a sort of poetic way of saying that they were all able to be in Jerusalem for our Lady's death even though they were all previously on missions.  If I believe in the Resurrection of Christ, then the story can certainly be true.  But if it's a kind of imagery not meant to be taken literally, I don't think we lose too much. 

But if you reject the whole idea of the Dormition of our Lady, then you have to ask yourself what you think you're doing in church on 15 August.  How do you reconfigure the entire Church's tradition to fit your idea?  Basically, you don't.   

Quote
I agree with everything you have said here. My concern is that requiring such belief for someone to be received into Orthodoxy seems to amount to "too much." My concern here is pretty vague, though; it just does not seem that this story (about the Seven Sleepers) could be part of the apostolic deposit (obviously, given that it happened well after the apostles had passed on). In what sense (or on what grounds), then, could it be a required belief?

Simply on the grounds that it is a pious tradition regarding those saints which has been received by the Church in the form of liturgical hymns sung on their feasts which feature that tradition as a "given". 
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« Reply #35 on: August 13, 2013, 04:24:10 PM »

Orthodoxy is Christianity. Not an ideology divorced from it. If Orthodoxy is Christianity, and Christianity is the imitation of Christ, then Orthodoxy is the imitation of Christ. And since Christ cannot be encompassed by words, neither can his imitation, and as such, neither can Orthodoxy.

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« Reply #36 on: August 13, 2013, 04:58:25 PM »

No it's not a dogma. You will still be accepted although I see no reason not believing it but as You wish. Wink
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« Reply #37 on: August 13, 2013, 06:09:18 PM »

Right praxis,belief,and doctrine of Christianity

Orthodoxy is Christianity. Not an ideology divorced from it. If Orthodoxy is Christianity, and Christianity is the imitation of Christ, then Orthodoxy is the imitation of Christ. And since Christ cannot be encompassed by words, neither can his imitation, and as such, neither can Orthodoxy.

Holy Orthodoxy is life, and it is unpackageable.

Amen and Amen.

The OP's question is an interesting one.  Synthesizing WPM and Ray's responses, is it perhaps best to define Orthodoxy in an apophatic way while simultaneously adhering to the ancient boundary stones established by our Fathers in the Faith?

Is it necessary to define Orthodoxy in order to halt or address the spread of heterodox praxis or theology in the Church?  If someone wants to introduce an innovation that is obviously contrary to the Faith, something rooted in heterodoxy like a Charismatic Catholic novus ordo mass or a Pentecostal "praise & worship" service, and then resort to "But who's to say what is and isn't Orthodoxy anyway?" defense, would an apophatic, "We know what Orthodoxy is not" response sufficient to address this?
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« Reply #38 on: August 13, 2013, 06:11:51 PM »

What about lex orandi, lex credendi? Isn't the Dormition one of the Great Feasts? That would be awkward, celebrating an event that you don't believe took place.
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« Reply #39 on: August 13, 2013, 08:09:11 PM »

The teaching is that the Mother of God died, her soul/life departed, and that days later her body was taken into heaven like Moses's. Not that she was just assumed body and soul into heaven.
Thank you. I understand this; I was just abbreviating. But my question remains: this is something that I would have to believe in order to be accepted into the Orthodox Church? Anyone who does not believe this is heterodox, even if they accept the teachings of the ecumenical councils in their entirety?

While there is no written dogma concerning this, it is in the prayers, the Synaxarion, and the mind of the Church. It is part of holy tradition. Also, the Mother of God is a real person who is actually alive and working.
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« Reply #40 on: August 13, 2013, 08:17:05 PM »

Do you doubt Acts 1:9-12?

What about 2 Kings 2:11-12?

What about the additions to Daniel (received as Scripture in the Orthodox Church)?

No, no, and no.

Do I doubt that the apostles were taken on a cloud from the ends of the earth to the side of the Theotokos? I wouldn't say that I doubt it. I do not think that it is something that one must accept on pain of heterodoxy, though.

But it's the truth. Why accept the things you think are good and reject that which you don't like or don't understand? There is much, much more to life than our own experience and understanding, and yet, we are all living it as best we can. It is the same with being Orthodox. What matters is participation, a pure heart, and a humble mind. One must not adopt a "blasphemous perspective" whereby one places oneself over the content of dogma ("I like this, not that." "This is ridiculous." "I want to know everything."), and leads subtly  to putting oneself over God ("I believe You did this, but not that.").

We are the recipients and beneficiaries of what the Church and God give us. Shall we accept some of God's gifts and reject others?
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« Reply #41 on: August 13, 2013, 08:20:56 PM »

What about lex orandi, lex credendi? Isn't the Dormition one of the Great Feasts? That would be awkward, celebrating an event that you don't believe took place.

Some unfortunate people tie themselves in knots celebrating the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple and yet believing that she never went into the Temple.
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If you spend long enough on this forum, you'll come away with all sorts of weird, untrue ideas of Orthodox Christianity.
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I would suggest most persons in general avoid any question beginning with why.
Shanghaiski
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Holy Trinity Church of Gergeti, Georgia


« Reply #42 on: August 13, 2013, 08:22:30 PM »

Conversion to Orthodoxy is not simply an assent to dogmas. It is submission to God and the Church. God doesn't need you to be a disciple and learn from the Church. You need this.
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Quote from: GabrieltheCelt
If you spend long enough on this forum, you'll come away with all sorts of weird, untrue ideas of Orthodox Christianity.
Quote from: orthonorm
I would suggest most persons in general avoid any question beginning with why.
Justin Kissel
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« Reply #43 on: August 13, 2013, 08:45:39 PM »

What about lex orandi, lex credendi? Isn't the Dormition one of the Great Feasts? That would be awkward, celebrating an event that you don't believe took place.

Some unfortunate people tie themselves in knots celebrating the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple and yet believing that she never went into the Temple.

Of course some of us don't believe she was in the holy of holies, but don't end up tying ourselves in knots  Cool
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Shanghaiski
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Posts: 7,970


Holy Trinity Church of Gergeti, Georgia


« Reply #44 on: August 13, 2013, 08:47:37 PM »

What about lex orandi, lex credendi? Isn't the Dormition one of the Great Feasts? That would be awkward, celebrating an event that you don't believe took place.

Some unfortunate people tie themselves in knots celebrating the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple and yet believing that she never went into the Temple.

Of course some of us don't believe she was in the holy of holies, but don't end up tying ourselves in knots  Cool

You will be. Shocked Grin angel police
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Quote from: GabrieltheCelt
If you spend long enough on this forum, you'll come away with all sorts of weird, untrue ideas of Orthodox Christianity.
Quote from: orthonorm
I would suggest most persons in general avoid any question beginning with why.
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