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Author Topic: The Ecumenical "Deep Well"  (Read 892 times) Average Rating: 0
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Hinterlander
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« on: February 13, 2014, 11:47:45 AM »

As a Protestant I am increasingly sensitive to a growing trend where Protestant authors are advocating an exploration of the "deep well" of Christianity.  The idea is we can become more authentic and mature Protestants by drawing on the rich heritage of Christianity as a whole.  This is basically where I was at several years ago.  It was this kind of approach that exposed me to the Jesus Prayer which led down a path where I am now pretty seriously inquiring into Orthodoxy.  

What increasingly convicted me is that Orthodoxy is a complete package - you can't take practices out of it and expect them to really bear substantial fruit in fact, I am convinced, that Protestants experimenting with practices like the Jesus Prayer and cyclical fasting outside of the liturgical and confessional context is nearly impossible.  

What also really struck me is the issue of discernment . . . Do Protestants expect to be able to successfully discern and explore all these myriad strands of spiritual and devotional life guided simply by the Holy Spirit?  Can even a small gathering of Christians  expect to travel this road safely?

This kind of approach seems propelled by a fearlessness and gung ho attitude . . . "God is with us no need to worry."

I am really looking for ways to gently but critically approach this issue with my brothers and sisters who advocate and celebrate this sort of "deep well" approach without much trepidation or skepticism.
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2014, 12:14:33 PM »

As a Protestant I am increasingly sensitive to a growing trend where Protestant authors are advocating an exploration of the "deep well" of Christianity.  The idea is we can become more authentic and mature Protestants by drawing on the rich heritage of Christianity as a whole.  This is basically where I was at several years ago.  It was this kind of approach that exposed me to the Jesus Prayer which led down a path where I am now pretty seriously inquiring into Orthodoxy.  

What increasingly convicted me is that Orthodoxy is a complete package - you can't take practices out of it and expect them to really bear substantial fruit in fact, I am convinced, that Protestants experimenting with practices like the Jesus Prayer and cyclical fasting outside of the liturgical and confessional context is nearly impossible.  

What also really struck me is the issue of discernment . . . Do Protestants expect to be able to successfully discern and explore all these myriad strands of spiritual and devotional life guided simply by the Holy Spirit?  Can even a small gathering of Christians  expect to travel this road safely?

This kind of approach seems propelled by a fearlessness and gung ho attitude . . . "God is with us no need to worry."

I am really looking for ways to gently but critically approach this issue with my brothers and sisters who advocate and celebrate this sort of "deep well" approach without much trepidation or skepticism.
Do these Protestants have a spiritual guide?
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2014, 12:15:55 PM »

As a Protestant I am increasingly sensitive to a growing trend where Protestant authors are advocating an exploration of the "deep well" of Christianity.  The idea is we can become more authentic and mature Protestants by drawing on the rich heritage of Christianity as a whole.  This is basically where I was at several years ago.  It was this kind of approach that exposed me to the Jesus Prayer which led down a path where I am now pretty seriously inquiring into Orthodoxy.  

What increasingly convicted me is that Orthodoxy is a complete package - you can't take practices out of it and expect them to really bear substantial fruit in fact, I am convinced, that Protestants experimenting with practices like the Jesus Prayer and cyclical fasting outside of the liturgical and confessional context is nearly impossible.  

What also really struck me is the issue of discernment . . . Do Protestants expect to be able to successfully discern and explore all these myriad strands of spiritual and devotional life guided simply by the Holy Spirit?  Can even a small gathering of Christians  expect to travel this road safely?

This kind of approach seems propelled by a fearlessness and gung ho attitude . . . "God is with us no need to worry."

I am really looking for ways to gently but critically approach this issue with my brothers and sisters who advocate and celebrate this sort of "deep well" approach without much trepidation or skepticism.

Sounds to me more like testing the shallow waters. Sure, you'll get a bit wet, but never completely immersed. Like the old Coca-Cola ads used to say, " There ain't nothing like the real thing..."
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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2014, 12:28:00 PM »

This is for me, the unfortunate result of two contradicting ideas...

1. In general, Protestants have been taught to beleive that 'hierarchy' and 'format' and 'liturgical' mean 'something between me and God'  and honestly who wants to pick something that they in good faith believe keeps them further from God.


2. A desire to get back to the Christianity of the Apostles.  To return to a purer, more devoted life with Christ.


When you combine these two very well meant things, you are left spinning in between wanting to go back, to look into the ancient faith, the practices, etc....but then you spin back again due to the 'nothing or no-one between me and God'  issue.

Leaving you to cherry pick practices without the knowledge about them, issues, potential trouble spots, etc.  The practices cannot be separated from The Church, but the ingrained teachings of 'Priestlessness' cause a lack of interest in the True Church.
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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2014, 12:33:13 PM »

This is for me, the unfortunate result of two contradicting ideas...

1. In general, Protestants have been taught to beleive that 'hierarchy' and 'format' and 'liturgical' mean 'something between me and God'  and honestly who wants to pick something that they in good faith believe keeps them further from God.


2. A desire to get back to the Christianity of the Apostles.  To return to a purer, more devoted life with Christ.


When you combine these two very well meant things, you are left spinning in between wanting to go back, to look into the ancient faith, the practices, etc....but then you spin back again due to the 'nothing or no-one between me and God'  issue.

Leaving you to cherry pick practices without the knowledge about them, issues, potential trouble spots, etc.  The practices cannot be separated from The Church, but the ingrained teachings of 'Priestlessness' cause a lack of interest in the True Church.

This is a helpful analysis for me.  What I labeled the "gung ho fearlessness" is definitely tied to your "1." point. 
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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2014, 12:35:30 PM »

Do these Protestants have a spiritual guide?

Ordained Protestant ministers and some mature Protestant Christians but not in the sense that they are seeking out Orthodox or Catholic spiritual guides.
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« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2014, 12:38:46 PM »


What increasingly convicted me is that Orthodoxy is a complete package - you can't take practices out of it and expect them to really bear substantial fruit in fact, I am convinced, that Protestants experimenting with practices like the Jesus Prayer and cyclical fasting outside of the liturgical and confessional context is nearly impossible.  
To be fair, most of those who are experimenting with such things have erected some kind of liturgical construct. It may be based purely on aesthetics, but the framework is there.

I guess the discussion to be had is to what extent should one play liturgy writer? Is creating one’s own liturgy and calendar (as some independent, so-called Old Catholic groups have) anything more than presumptive? To what extent is it OK, and when does it become little more than a LARP?
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« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2014, 01:03:33 PM »

What increasingly convicted me is that Orthodoxy is a complete package - you can't take practices out of it and expect them to really bear substantial fruit in fact, I am convinced, that Protestants experimenting with practices like the Jesus Prayer and cyclical fasting outside of the liturgical and confessional context is nearly impossible.  

Hinterlander,

Would you please explain what you mean by this a little more?  I've heard something like this regarding the "serious" practice of the Jesus Prayer (and I accept that), but as a general principle I'm not sure if I agree with it entirely, at least as I am understanding it.  How is this different from saying that, basically, any spiritual practice Protestants attempt is useless as long as they're not Orthodox?     
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« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2014, 02:39:52 PM »

What increasingly convicted me is that Orthodoxy is a complete package - you can't take practices out of it and expect them to really bear substantial fruit in fact, I am convinced, that Protestants experimenting with practices like the Jesus Prayer and cyclical fasting outside of the liturgical and confessional context is nearly impossible

Hinterlander,

Would you please explain what you mean by this a little more?  I've heard something like this regarding the "serious" practice of the Jesus Prayer (and I accept that), but as a general principle I'm not sure if I agree with it entirely, at least as I am understanding it.  How is this different from saying that, basically, any spiritual practice Protestants attempt is useless as long as they're not Orthodox?     

I think my comment is coming a bit too much from my own personal situation and experience.  My own attempts at practicing the Jesus Prayer, a prayer rule, fasting cycles etc have really been frustrating and in the end I have sort of "backed off" of trying to thoroughly implement these devotional practices until I feel like I am receiving appropriate guidance and living a more sustained life of corporate worship.  Right now my experience of corporate worship are 8-10 praise songs once a week in my Protestant church.

I still do say the Jesus Prayer just not in the form of some sort of sustained practice.  I am not saying that Protestants shouldn't completely neglect these practices I just wonder, in the end, what is the purpose if it's only being selected as a particular side dish from the buffet.

I don't think Protestantism is useless and indeed my own current commitment to remaining a Protestant stems from my conviction and experience that there is grace, love and truth in the community I am with . . . I just wonder about the prospects for true maturation and more across-the-board transformation within the community when the approach is this what I call ecumenical "deep well" drawing selection of devotional/spiritual practices.

I hope this helps clarify where I'm coming from.

BTW, if anyone is interested in pursuing my own personal experience as a Protestant with these Orthodox leanings please PM me as I am not really interested in discussing it all openly here.  Thank you.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 02:41:10 PM by Hinterlander » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2014, 03:29:03 PM »

OTOH, even the dogs can benefit from eating the scraps that fall off the Master's table.
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« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2014, 04:32:36 PM »

As a Protestant I am increasingly sensitive to a growing trend where Protestant authors are advocating an exploration of the "deep well" of Christianity.  The idea is we can become more authentic and mature Protestants by drawing on the rich heritage of Christianity as a whole.  This is basically where I was at several years ago.  It was this kind of approach that exposed me to the Jesus Prayer which led down a path where I am now pretty seriously inquiring into Orthodoxy. 

Before converting to Orthodoxy, I was part of a megachurch that promoted a Protestantized version of the Daily Office. I also know of a couple of prominent non-denominational people who have been introduced to the Jesus prayer. So yes, there is a movement in that.

Quote
What increasingly convicted me is that Orthodoxy is a complete package - you can't take practices out of it and expect them to really bear substantial fruit in fact, I am convinced, that Protestants experimenting with practices like the Jesus Prayer and cyclical fasting outside of the liturgical and confessional context is nearly impossible. 

Exactly. All of these practices arose within a specific context, and that context is where it is meant to be used.

Now, that could lead someone to become Orthodox. But it could also just enable a person to continue in a transient state, where one never puts down any roots and continually drifts from one thing to another.

My view is that a solid Protestant who believes in a basic form of Christianity based in the Nicene Creed is in a better position to bear fruit than someone who dabbles for his entire life and never commits to anything. I have known such people, and they are spiritually unstable and mistake their explorations for growth. A tree often uprooted is not going to bear fruit.

[edit] That said, I think things like reading the Church Fathers and fasting are something all Christians should do. What I'm getting at is commitment more than anything. If a Protestant picks up the Didache and realizes Christians are supposed to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and decides to do so, fine, but what about accountability? What happens when you decide to adopt another schedule a month later? That's the problem with doing things outside of the Church's organic structure.
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« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2014, 04:52:45 PM »

As a Protestant I am increasingly sensitive to a growing trend where Protestant authors are advocating an exploration of the "deep well" of Christianity.  The idea is we can become more authentic and mature Protestants by drawing on the rich heritage of Christianity as a whole.  This is basically where I was at several years ago.  It was this kind of approach that exposed me to the Jesus Prayer which led down a path where I am now pretty seriously inquiring into Orthodoxy. 

Before converting to Orthodoxy, I was part of a megachurch that promoted a Protestantized version of the Daily Office. I also know of a couple of prominent non-denominational people who have been introduced to the Jesus prayer. So yes, there is a movement in that.

Quote
What increasingly convicted me is that Orthodoxy is a complete package - you can't take practices out of it and expect them to really bear substantial fruit in fact, I am convinced, that Protestants experimenting with practices like the Jesus Prayer and cyclical fasting outside of the liturgical and confessional context is nearly impossible. 

Exactly. All of these practices arose within a specific context, and that context is where it is meant to be used.

Now, that could lead someone to become Orthodox. But it could also just enable a person to continue in a transient state, where one never puts down any roots and continually drifts from one thing to another.

My view is that a solid Protestant who believes in a basic form of Christianity based in the Nicene Creed is in a better position to bear fruit than someone who dabbles for his entire life and never commits to anything. I have known such people, and they are spiritually unstable and mistake their explorations for growth. A tree often uprooted is not going to bear fruit.

[edit] That said, I think things like reading the Church Fathers and fasting are something all Christians should do. What I'm getting at is commitment more than anything. If a Protestant picks up the Didache and realizes Christians are supposed to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and decides to do so, fine, but what about accountability? What happens when you decide to adopt another schedule a month later? That's the problem with doing things outside of the Church's organic structure.

The problem comes, like in my case, where you no longer agree with the filioque; or when you believe Saint veneration is primitive and apostolic. Since Protestantism is against those things, it kind of 'negates' my Protestantism.
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« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2014, 06:03:45 PM »

I think there are some inquirers who have acquired an implicit Orthodox faith but sense that there will be a loss of an explicit Christian fellowship in becoming Orthodox. This seems to be a reasonable concern; while Orthodox faithful are basically good Christians, there is not much faith conversation at coffee hour. These circumstances are often beyond some overanxious newbie overdoing things in contrast to a basic desire to just have some faith based discussion. While it is good to be rid of pretrib, post trib, rapture doctrines etc , one may still feel a sense of void in fellowship which is a trade off to the sense of void often felt in non Orthodox worship.
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« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2014, 06:17:20 PM »

As a Protestant I am increasingly sensitive to a growing trend where Protestant authors are advocating an exploration of the "deep well" of Christianity.  The idea is we can become more authentic and mature Protestants by drawing on the rich heritage of Christianity as a whole.  This is basically where I was at several years ago.  It was this kind of approach that exposed me to the Jesus Prayer which led down a path where I am now pretty seriously inquiring into Orthodoxy. 

Before converting to Orthodoxy, I was part of a megachurch that promoted a Protestantized version of the Daily Office. I also know of a couple of prominent non-denominational people who have been introduced to the Jesus prayer. So yes, there is a movement in that.

Quote
What increasingly convicted me is that Orthodoxy is a complete package - you can't take practices out of it and expect them to really bear substantial fruit in fact, I am convinced, that Protestants experimenting with practices like the Jesus Prayer and cyclical fasting outside of the liturgical and confessional context is nearly impossible. 

Exactly. All of these practices arose within a specific context, and that context is where it is meant to be used.

Now, that could lead someone to become Orthodox. But it could also just enable a person to continue in a transient state, where one never puts down any roots and continually drifts from one thing to another.

My view is that a solid Protestant who believes in a basic form of Christianity based in the Nicene Creed is in a better position to bear fruit than someone who dabbles for his entire life and never commits to anything. I have known such people, and they are spiritually unstable and mistake their explorations for growth. A tree often uprooted is not going to bear fruit.

[edit] That said, I think things like reading the Church Fathers and fasting are something all Christians should do. What I'm getting at is commitment more than anything. If a Protestant picks up the Didache and realizes Christians are supposed to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and decides to do so, fine, but what about accountability? What happens when you decide to adopt another schedule a month later? That's the problem with doing things outside of the Church's organic structure.

Thanks for the post I really appreciate these comments.
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« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2014, 06:18:08 PM »

OTOH, even the dogs can benefit from eating the scraps that fall off the Master's table.

This allusion has crossed my mind.
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« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2014, 10:47:27 PM »

OTOH, even the dogs can benefit from eating the scraps that fall off the Master's table.

This allusion has crossed my mind.
Saying what I just said, though, I will say that diving into a pool of Christian spirituality much deeper than you're used to can be very dangerous. My first experience of traditional Christian spirituality (a much deeper form than can be found in evangelical Protestantism) actually led me into a very real spirit of prelest (spiritual delusion) from which others had to help me break free when I became Orthodox.
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« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2014, 11:00:24 PM »

OTOH, even the dogs can benefit from eating the scraps that fall off the Master's table.

This allusion has crossed my mind.
Saying what I just said, though, I will say that diving into a pool of Christian spirituality much deeper than you're used to can be very dangerous. My first experience of traditional Christian spirituality (a much deeper form than can be found in evangelical Protestantism) actually led me into a very real spirit of prelest (spiritual delusion) from which others had to help me break free when I became Orthodox.

This is exactly my concern.  How much confidence can Protestants have in their dabbling?  How can one alert Protestants to these dangers when they have the sort of attitude towards "authority" that Denise mentioned? 
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« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2014, 11:24:52 PM »

OTOH, even the dogs can benefit from eating the scraps that fall off the Master's table.

This allusion has crossed my mind.
Saying what I just said, though, I will say that diving into a pool of Christian spirituality much deeper than you're used to can be very dangerous. My first experience of traditional Christian spirituality (a much deeper form than can be found in evangelical Protestantism) actually led me into a very real spirit of prelest (spiritual delusion) from which others had to help me break free when I became Orthodox.

This is exactly my concern.  How much confidence can Protestants have in their dabbling?  How can one alert Protestants to these dangers when they have the sort of attitude towards "authority" that Denise mentioned?
Unfortunately, fire is often its own best teacher. You can tell a child, "Don't stick your hand in the fire. It will burn you," until you're blue in the face, but until he actually sticks his hand in the fire and gets burned, he may never get the message you're trying to teach him.
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« Reply #18 on: February 14, 2014, 12:10:33 AM »

OTOH, even the dogs can benefit from eating the scraps that fall off the Master's table.

This allusion has crossed my mind.
Saying what I just said, though, I will say that diving into a pool of Christian spirituality much deeper than you're used to can be very dangerous. My first experience of traditional Christian spirituality (a much deeper form than can be found in evangelical Protestantism) actually led me into a very real spirit of prelest (spiritual delusion) from which others had to help me break free when I became Orthodox.

This is exactly my concern.  How much confidence can Protestants have in their dabbling?  How can one alert Protestants to these dangers when they have the sort of attitude towards "authority" that Denise mentioned? 


A very visible result of dabbling in Orthodox things by those not properly guided is the proliferation of schlock "icons" from their hands. Only a small proportion of these are the result of honest ignorance.
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« Reply #19 on: February 14, 2014, 12:10:59 AM »

The pretended concern in this thread for ignorant protestants looks very much like the patronizing, nosy meddling of busybodies.  Look to your own selves before you start worrying about how others are fasting wrong.
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« Reply #20 on: February 14, 2014, 12:24:35 AM »

The pretended concern in this thread for ignorant protestants looks very much like the patronizing, nosy meddling of busybodies.  Look to your own selves before you start worrying about how others are fasting wrong.

I am a Protestant reading these sorts of books and discussing these issues I am not at all pretending anything.
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« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2014, 12:31:07 AM »

The pretended concern in this thread for ignorant protestants looks very much like the patronizing, nosy meddling of busybodies.  Look to your own selves before you start worrying about how others are fasting wrong.

Have you been following the "Schlock icons" thread at all?
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« Reply #22 on: February 14, 2014, 12:39:24 AM »

The pretended concern in this thread for ignorant protestants looks very much like the patronizing, nosy meddling of busybodies.  Look to your own selves before you start worrying about how others are fasting wrong.
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« Reply #23 on: February 14, 2014, 12:47:57 AM »

Perhaps I've "inquired" myself into a corner and need to lighten up a bit.
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« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2014, 12:52:12 AM »

Perhaps I've "inquired" myself into a corner and need to lighten up a bit.


Not so..

I think discussing the -why- this might happen....what are the repercussions of this.....is a fair game topic without a 'holier then those folks' element....which I didn't see in this thread at all.

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« Reply #25 on: February 14, 2014, 01:03:51 AM »

and for what its worth most of the 'warnings about potential bad things' for doing all this without guidance, pretty much apply to the Orthodox as well....do things without guidance of your Spiritual Father or Parish Priest and you can put yourself in the same situation.

So its not 'ignorant Protestant' judging by any means.....its 'unprepared and unguided' and what could happen discussion.
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« Reply #26 on: February 14, 2014, 01:08:49 AM »

and for what its worth most of the 'warnings about potential bad things' for doing all this without guidance, pretty much apply to the Orthodox as well....do things without guidance of your Spiritual Father or Parish Priest and you can put yourself in the same situation.

So its not 'ignorant Protestant' judging by any means.....its 'unprepared and unguided' and what could happen discussion.

Precisely. To carry on the iconographic slant, the Schlock Icons thread features images painted by artists who are Orthodox, as well as non-Orthodox.
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« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2014, 01:16:20 AM »

OTOH, even the dogs can benefit from eating the scraps that fall off the Master's table.

This allusion has crossed my mind.
Saying what I just said, though, I will say that diving into a pool of Christian spirituality much deeper than you're used to can be very dangerous. My first experience of traditional Christian spirituality (a much deeper form than can be found in evangelical Protestantism) actually led me into a very real spirit of prelest (spiritual delusion) from which others had to help me break free when I became Orthodox.

This is exactly my concern.  How much confidence can Protestants have in their dabbling?  How can one alert Protestants to these dangers when they have the sort of attitude towards "authority" that Denise mentioned? 


Confidence is an illusion and is easily acquired.  I once was a member of a "non-denominational" denomination that led the "Daniel Fast" craze.  In the end, it's a nice diet and the minister makes a killing off writing books.  If I was not on the Orthodox way, being a Protestant minister in a mega-church would be a nice living: no connection with parishioners and automatic TV and book deals.
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« Reply #28 on: February 14, 2014, 01:23:35 AM »

and for what its worth most of the 'warnings about potential bad things' for doing all this without guidance, pretty much apply to the Orthodox as well....do things without guidance of your Spiritual Father or Parish Priest and you can put yourself in the same situation.

So its not 'ignorant Protestant' judging by any means.....its 'unprepared and unguided' and what could happen discussion.
And for one person, it's speaking from personal experience. I talked of some of the pits I fell into with the hope that others may recognize those pits and be careful not to fall into them themselves. I'm not going to say that Protestants should not dabble with some elements of Orthodox spirituality like fasting and the Jesus Prayer. I will just say that if you dabble, do so with extreme care. Some practices may be beneficial if you're careful, but others are potentially dangerous enough to the uninitiated that they should probably not be tried outside the sacramental life of the Church and without the guidance of a wise teacher.
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« Reply #29 on: February 14, 2014, 01:34:55 AM »

The pretended concern
Do you have the discernment to be able to recognize our concern as pretended?

in this thread for ignorant protestants looks very much like the patronizing, nosy meddling of busybodies. Look to your own selves before you start worrying about how others are fasting wrong.
Someone asked for guidance from an Orthodox POV. Are we to deny it to him?
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« Reply #30 on: February 14, 2014, 12:32:43 PM »

Just IMHO, but I don't think there is anything inherently spiritually destructive in reading the Fathers or praying the Jesus Prayer, but I think PtA's warnings are kindly meant and true.
On the one hand, I have a personal aversion to "co-opting" other faith communities' practices. I can't stand the Protestant fad (at one time) of holding seders and the like. To me it has always seemed disrespectful.

Hinterlander's original point is well-taken. It's really not possible to "get the benefit" of Orthodox practices, beliefs and teachings unless you are Orthodox. It's sort of an all or nothing proposition - at least, that's how it seemed to me when I finally took the dive into the deep water!

Otherwise, isn't it just LARPing?
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« Reply #31 on: February 14, 2014, 02:07:57 PM »

I am really looking for ways to gently but critically approach this issue with my brothers and sisters who advocate and celebrate this sort of "deep well" approach without much trepidation or skepticism.

Well I wouldn't call them LARPers, as some seem to think they are.
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« Reply #32 on: February 14, 2014, 02:17:52 PM »

I am really looking for ways to gently but critically approach this issue with my brothers and sisters who advocate and celebrate this sort of "deep well" approach without much trepidation or skepticism.

Well I wouldn't call them LARPers, as some seem to think they are.


Indeed.

Larping is -intentionally- playing a role.....doing something out of good intent...even if, as in this case it is misguided, is NOT the same as putting on an act or role.


If the person  trying to take on new spirituality uses something Orthodox even if they are unaware it is such, how can they be taking on or putting on an act?
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« Reply #33 on: February 14, 2014, 08:46:58 PM »

Someone asked for guidance from an Orthodox POV. Are we to deny it to him?
The originator's query can be addressed without turning the thread into a carnival of bigotry.
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« Reply #34 on: February 14, 2014, 09:50:35 PM »

As a Protestant I am increasingly sensitive to a growing trend where Protestant authors are advocating an exploration of the "deep well" of Christianity.  The idea is we can become more authentic and mature Protestants by drawing on the rich heritage of Christianity as a whole.
It might be easier for others to address the philosophy of the authors you mention if you would name them and some of their writings.

What increasingly convicted me is that Orthodoxy is a complete package - you can't take practices out of it and expect them to really bear substantial fruit in fact, I am convinced, that Protestants experimenting with practices like the Jesus Prayer and cyclical fasting outside of the liturgical and confessional context is nearly impossible.
This is far from clear.  Fasting as an individual spiritual discipline has been part of Christianity from the very beginning (e.g. Acts 13.2), long before the Byzantine rite reached its present form.  Why do you think the one is inseparable from the other?

What also really struck me is the issue of discernment . . . Do Protestants expect to be able to successfully discern and explore all these myriad strands of spiritual and devotional life guided simply by the Holy Spirit?  Can even a small gathering of Christians  expect to travel this road safely?
Who says they can't?  Your words are so broad that they can cover a wide range of practices, some well-advised, some ill-advised.

Some further remarks:

(1) Straw-men and sweeping generalizations about others' traditions have no place in discussions of what constitutes a good approach to fasting.  A believer's prayer-rule or life-rule is normally a matter of individual conscience. There is no one-size-fits-all rule.  "Let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath." (Colossians 2.16).  If we are to let no one pass judgement on us, it is reasonable to suppose that we should not pass judgement on others.  If a vegetarian friend, who normally eats no meat, adopts the spiritual discipline of eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent, we have no basis for finding fault.  Of course such matters cannot always be left entirely to the individual, but this precept should not be an excuse for meddling.  If someone's fasting veers off into anorexia or other dangerous ways, his relatives, friends, and pastor should intervene;  others should ordinarily mind their own business.   

(2) On the particular matter of the Jesus Prayer, which you mention:  I do not use it, so everything that follows comes from a stranger to the technique.  If I were nevertheless in a position where advice was demanded of me, my normal caution would lead me to advise that no one should adopt this technique except under the tutelage of someone who is known to be discreet, reliable, and spiritually mature, and who has many years' experience using the same technique.  Such people may be rare, but I see nothing that makes them inherently inseparable from the Julian paschalion.
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« Reply #35 on: February 14, 2014, 10:49:23 PM »

Someone asked for guidance from an Orthodox POV. Are we to deny it to him?
The originator's query can be addressed without turning the thread into a carnival of bigotry.
However, I don't think anyone is turning this thread into a "carnival of bigotry".
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« Reply #36 on: February 14, 2014, 11:32:35 PM »

As a Protestant I am increasingly sensitive to a growing trend where Protestant authors are advocating an exploration of the "deep well" of Christianity.  The idea is we can become more authentic and mature Protestants by drawing on the rich heritage of Christianity as a whole.
It might be easier for others to address the philosophy of the authors you mention if you would name them and some of their writings.

Here are two books that are the "sort" of book that inspired my post.

Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries by Jerry Sittser
Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path to God by Gary Thomas
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« Reply #37 on: February 14, 2014, 11:38:45 PM »


What increasingly convicted me is that Orthodoxy is a complete package - you can't take practices out of it and expect them to really bear substantial fruit in fact, I am convinced, that Protestants experimenting with practices like the Jesus Prayer and cyclical fasting outside of the liturgical and confessional context is nearly impossible.
This is far from clear.  Fasting as an individual spiritual discipline has been part of Christianity from the very beginning (e.g. Acts 13.2), long before the Byzantine rite reached its present form.  Why do you think the one is inseparable from the other?

I should have been more clear . . . by "cyclical fasting" I mean fasting, more or less, according to the Orthodox calendar which really isn't something I see advocated in the books I mentioned but was something I was trying to do for awhile.
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« Reply #38 on: February 14, 2014, 11:42:18 PM »

What also really struck me is the issue of discernment . . . Do Protestants expect to be able to successfully discern and explore all these myriad strands of spiritual and devotional life guided simply by the Holy Spirit?  Can even a small gathering of Christians  expect to travel this road safely?
Who says they can't?  Your words are so broad that they can cover a wide range of practices, some well-advised, some ill-advised.

Thanks for pointing this out.  The more I've thought about it I realize that I really am not to judge what the Holy Spirit will and will not do in response to sincere Christians' pursuit of God.
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« Reply #39 on: February 14, 2014, 11:47:04 PM »

On the particular matter of the Jesus Prayer, which you mention:  I do not use it, so everything that follows comes from a stranger to the technique.  If I were nevertheless in a position where advice was demanded of me, my normal caution would lead me to advise that no one should adopt this technique except under the tutelage of someone who is known to be discreet, reliable, and spiritually mature, and who has many years' experience using the same technique.  Such people may be rare, but I see nothing that makes them inherently inseparable from the Julian paschalion.

I would agree with your comment and it is pretty much what I meant when I said "confessional context" even though I understand that not all confessors are spiritual guides of the sort you describe.
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« Reply #40 on: February 15, 2014, 12:19:49 PM »

Hinterlander, thanks for your replies.

I looked at parts of Sittser's book using Amazon's "Look Inside" feature.  I'm not yet certain that it's a book I can recommend to others.  I fully agree, though, with his basic presupposition that Christians can and should learn from their history.  And I know from experience that those of us who love history can sometimes feel frustrated when our friends don't share our enthusiasm to the same extent.

I notice that Sittser himself seems to think that focusing on specific spiritual techniques like the Jesus Prayer is to miss the point of his book.  He writes:
Quote
The magnificient history of Christian spirituality...provides us with a wide variety of traditions from which to learn.   The martyrs call us to proclaim Jesus as Lord and the desert saints to fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil.  The early church challenges us to create a community of belonging for broken, displaced, disconnected people.  Medieval monks invite us to abide by healthy rhythms, mendicants to imitate the life of Christ and mystics to seek union with God.  The Reformers urge us to listen to the Word of God, evangelicals to surrender our lives to it and missionaries to proclaim it to the word.  The stories of these saints are at our disposal to enlarge, enrich and warn us....

None of these traditions is without fault.  I could just as easily have written a book about their weaknesses.  The history of Christian spirituality does not always tell a happy story.  Every person, movement and tradition I have introduced has left an ambiguous legacy.  I have chosen to dwell on the good part of the story, though I could have done the opposite.  But I believe that failures and abuses do not nullify the value of these traditions....

Where do we go from here?  Throughout the book I have described various disciplines that Christians have used in the spiritual life--lectio divina, wordless prayer and fasting, for example.  I decided not to explain them at length because I did not want to leave the impression that Christian spirituality is primarily concerned with technique, practice and discipline.--pp. 281-282.

I get the impression from re-reading your posts that you come from a tradition that uses free-form worship--not even the traditional protestant "hymn sandwich"--and that you are becoming discouraged with the limitations of the free-form approach.  If this impression is wrong, please ignore everything that follows.  If it is right, maybe your first step should be to find a "shack" that uses a more structured approach to Sunday worship, such as a Lutheran, Methodist, or Anglican parish, and attend for some weeks or months until you get an impression of the advantages and limitations of the more formal, ceremonious approach.  But maybe you've done this already.
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Forþon we sealon efestan þas Easterlican þing to asmeagenne and to gehealdanne, þaet we magon cuman to þam Easterlican daege, þe aa byð, mid fullum glaedscipe and wynsumnysse and ecere blisse.--Byrhtferth of Ramsey
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« Reply #41 on: February 16, 2014, 06:49:14 AM »

I can only see three outcomes, they will either reject Christianity based on the past (That is how chaotic it was), accept Christianity based on their understanding of the past which will either lead to an acceptance of a more ancient form of Christianity or an attempt to harmonize modern Protestantism with the ancient church. I rushed into the patristics and loved them and was convinced of orthodoxy, only now however have I but begun to look at history from a more critical level which in of itself has helped me understand aspects of the past I was all to unaware of. If one seriously wants to investigate the past they need modern scholarship to help understand concepts and words which would be unfamiliar to a lot of us. I doubt many protestants would understand why for  saint Maximos it was so important to say that Christ had two wills instead of One or why the Nestorians came to believe what they did in rejecting the term Theotokos (which i suspect many protestants would be interested in).

There is no one perspective on reading the church fathers, there are multiple perspectives from multiple different positions and eventually there has to be a choice between either a traditional Christianity, Catholicism or Orthodoxy (then subsequently a choice between the two or more if we include others) or a newer Protestantism. I think it is beyond obvious that the ancient church and its methods and ways of doing things was not like how the evangelical might do it today, so that will challenge preconceptions and it will also challenge the preconceptions of Orthodox Christians as well in many surprising ways. I don't think it would challenge all protestants however; conservative Anglicans and Lutherans who actually do respect the past (at least more than their cousins) insist on their respect of the fathers even if they tend to disagree with the fathers a lot (at least that's how I see it).

I think however its better than not to investigate the past, than to embrace a rather common attitude among fundamentalists who see the fathers and ultimately their inheritance from them as unimportant. They think they have just read the bible and come to the conclusions of trinity, incarnation by themselves but they haven't.
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