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Author Topic: Confession to a Priest necessary.....  (Read 3782 times) Average Rating: 0
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KostaNY
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« on: March 27, 2006, 07:34:25 PM »

I come from a Greek-Orthodox background, now I don't carry all their traditions and beliefs, my views are more similar to Protestant then to the Greek-Orthodox beliefs, and one thing that a lot of Greek-Orthodox believers persist along with the Catholic religion is that confession to a Priest in necessary for forgiveness of sins, This is mind boggling to me, I know Jesus Christ is my mediator to our Father.

So instead of

Man-Jesus our Mediator-to our Father
its
Man-to Priest-To Jesus-Then to our Father

The following from Wikipedia.com

Orthodox Christians who have committed sins but repent of them, and who wish to reconcile themselves to God and renew the purity of their original baptisms, quietly confess their sins to God before an icon of Jesus and in the presence of a priest as a witness, who then prays for God's forgiveness and confirms it with a blessing. Although it is not an essential component of the Mystery, the opportunity is often taken at this time to offer spiritual counsel. Orthodox confession can therefore take the form of a discussion between the confessor and the penitent concerning his or her sins and the best means of overcoming them.


How can these religions hold on to these beliefs ? Where in New testament scriptures does it ever say we need to confess before a Priest for our sins to be forgiven. If anyone would like to back up this with scriptures that directly say we must go before a Priest for our sins to be forgiven and for salvation. I'm not interested in debating the traditions of the Greek Chruch, I respect the Greek Church, but I want scriptures to be the proof. (New testament ofcourse). Take care, Peace.


« Last Edit: March 27, 2006, 07:37:18 PM by KostaNY » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2006, 07:47:46 PM »

How can these religions hold on to these beliefs ? Where in New testament scriptures does it ever say we need to confess before a Priest for our sins to be forgiven. If anyone would like to back up this with scriptures that directly say we must go before a Priest for our sins to be forgiven and for salvation. I'm not interested in debating the traditions of the Greek Chruch, I respect the Greek Church, but I want scriptures to be the proof. (New testament ofcourse). Take care, Peace.

Judging from your request, we might first have to address the issue of sola scriptura.  Until we can convince you that the Bible was never meant to be our sole authority, we will only end up talking past each other.
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KostaNY
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« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2006, 07:53:25 PM »

I will look into this sola scriptura and see what this exactly is. So God's Word is not our final authority ? Take care, Peace.
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« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2006, 07:57:05 PM »

I come from a Greek-Orthodox background, now I don't carry all their traditions and beliefs, my views are more similar to Protestant then to the Greek-Orthodox beliefs, and one thing that a lot of Greek-Orthodox believers persist along with the Catholic religion is that confession to a Priest in necessary for forgiveness of sins, This is mind boggling to me, I know Jesus Christ is my mediator to our Father.

So instead of

Man-Jesus our Mediator-to our Father
its
Man-to Priest-To Jesus-Then to our Father

The following from Wikipedia.com

Orthodox Christians who have committed sins but repent of them, and who wish to reconcile themselves to God and renew the purity of their original baptisms, quietly confess their sins to God before an icon of Jesus and in the presence of a priest as a witness, who then prays for God's forgiveness and confirms it with a blessing. Although it is not an essential component of the Mystery, the opportunity is often taken at this time to offer spiritual counsel. Orthodox confession can therefore take the form of a discussion between the confessor and the penitent concerning his or her sins and the best means of overcoming them.


How can these religions hold on to these beliefs ? Where in New testament scriptures does it ever say we need to confess before a Priest for our sins to be forgiven. If anyone would like to back up this with scriptures that directly say we must go before a Priest for our sins to be forgiven and for salvation. I'm not interested in debating the traditions of the Greek Chruch, I respect the Greek Church, but I want scriptures to be the proof. (New testament ofcourse). Take care, Peace.

First, the Bible does say to confess your sins one to another.

Secondly, whether or not confession is in the Scriptures is irrelevant; Scripture is but one small part of our Tradition.

Thirdly, to answer your question, no confession is not absolutely necessary. I'm sure Christ will forgive you your sins if you are repentant of them, whether you confess to a priest or not, but why deprive yourself of a Sacrament of the Church that is designed to help you repent and heal?
« Last Edit: March 27, 2006, 07:58:20 PM by greekischristian » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2006, 08:06:43 PM »

I will look into this sola scriptura and see what this exactly is. So God's Word is not our final authority ? Take care, Peace.

I didn't say that the Bible is not our final authority, I just said that it is not our only authority.

"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

Ultimately, Tradition (defined in one way as "the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and the life of the Church in the Holy Spirit") is our final authority.  The Scriptures are the most authoritative product of this Tradition.

As an aside, according to St. John the Apostle, Jesus Christ is God's Word.
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KostaNY
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« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2006, 08:12:54 PM »

I didn't say that the Bible is not our final authority, I just said that it is not our only authority.

"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

Ultimately, Tradition (defined in one way as "the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and the life of the Church in the Holy Spirit) is our final authority.  The Scriptures are the most authoritative product of this Tradition.

As an aside, according to St. John the Apostle, Jesus Christ is God's Word.

Allright Peter I see where your coming from, as I said I will look into the sola scriptura, that is the famous scripture you just pointed out that Greek-Orthodox likes to use when dealing with these issues. And GreekChristian thats my fear brethren following mens traditions instead of God's Word. I don't think we need to get into all the scriptures that warn us about that. Thanks for responding. Take care, Peace.

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« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2006, 08:16:23 PM »

First, the Bible does say to confess your sins one to another.

"Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects."  (James 5:16)

To give a very brief history of the practice of Confession:  
In the earliest Church, Christians actually did confess their sins publicly to the entire congregation.  Over time, however, this evolved into private confession of sins to a presbyter who acted as a representative of the congregation.
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« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2006, 08:19:03 PM »

And just for the sake of discussion:

James 5:16
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

John 20:22-23
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

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KostaNY
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« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2006, 08:34:29 PM »

"Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects."  (James 5:16)

To give a very brief history of the practice of Confession: ÂÂ
In the earliest Church, Christians actually did confess their sins publicly to the entire congregation.  Over time, however, this evolved into private confession of sins to a presbyter who acted as a representative of the congregation.

I am aware of James 5:16. And I am not opposed to confessing before a Priest or another. What my question was directed at was to those that say it is necessary for forgiveness of sins and salvation. Then we are crossing the line of just a humble act to legalism. So back to the original question does the Greek-Orthodox faith believe that it is necessary for forgiveness of sins ?
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« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2006, 08:53:23 PM »

But why did Christ spefically bestow the Holy Spirit on the apostles to bind and loose sins?
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KostaNY
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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2006, 08:57:04 PM »

[quote author=Νεκτάριος link=topic=8566.msg113310#msg113310 date=1143507203]
But why did Christ spefically bestow the Holy Spirit on the apostles to bind and loose sins?
[/quote]

You didn't answer my question, so are you stating that the Greek-Orthodox beliefs say that confession before a Priest in necessary for forgiveness of sins ?
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2006, 09:05:27 PM »

Kosta,

    I think the primary component you are missing, touched on by both GiC and Peter is that fact that you cannot contemplate the Bible alone on these matters.  This is exactly the downfall of Protestantism and sola scripture.  

    The Orthodox Church is supported by 2000 years of tradition and teachings of Church Fathers in Apostolic Succession.  If you are looking to an answer for every aspect of live in the Bible, you won't have it spelled out for you everytime.

     You can't find whether to use Irish Spring or Coast in the Bible, but the Bible in conjunction with the rich history and teachings of the Church fathers, will offer us all a glimpse of the path towards salvation.

     While I appreciate GiC, Peter and Nektarios' ability to quote scripture, sometimes as Orthodox Christians we do things because it is a part of the Tradition of the Church.  The importance of those capital "T" traditions cannot be overstated.

     Take care.
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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2006, 09:12:59 PM »

One thing we Orthodox recognize about sin is that it is not just a break of communion between the individual and God.  If this were so, then one would not need to confess one's sins to a priest.  One could indeed confess directly to God as the more individualistic Protestants preach.

To the Orthodox, we are saved together.  We have always placed a much higher emphasis on community and each individual's place in the community.  As such, we recognize that sin disrupts one's relationship with the community.  The consequences of one's sins always have an impact on the entire community, most often in ways that we cannot see.  I believe that this is the context St. James had in mind when he told us to confess our sins to one another.

If sins have such an effect on the community, then it becomes necessary for a representative of the community (e.g., the presbyter) to hear the confessions of these sins.  In the prayers of absolution spoken by the priest over the penitent in the Orthodox rite of Confession, we recognize that ultimately only God can forgive sins.  However, one of the roles of the priest is to pronounce the community's forgiveness of our sins, as well.  One of the most important things a priest does in hearing Confessions is to reconcile the penitent with the church community over which he presides.
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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2006, 09:41:38 PM »

Thanks for the answers, I respect them. My take of what was said so far is that this sola scriptura and traditions is vitally important and that there is much more to the Greek-Orthodox beliefs then just the Holy Bible. That is pretty evident and clear in your replies. Now I still havn't got the definite answer here, of the simple yes or no. Are we saying here that the Protestant Churches and all the brothers and sisters that are in them are not saved and there sins are not forgiven because they do not confess before a Priest. This is the straight forward answer I am looking for, I know about the traditions, but can any of you say for definite one is not forgiven of his sins unless he confess to a Priest. And say one does start going to confession to be reconciled to God, how often does he go ? I mean we're all sinners we know that, and if this were the case would we have to be going to a Priest several times a week/month etc. , to be reconciled with our Father. Or is it only when someone is perhaps backsliding or maybe struggling with a particular sin. Or perhaps I just had seen a woman that was pleasent to my eyes and I had a lustful thought of her.Do I need to run to a Priest to have peace of mind ? How often do we go ? Is it then necessary that everytime I get upset and have an argument with a family member to go confess to a Priest to have my sin forgiven, am I not abosolutely sure I am forgiven unless I make that confession to a Priest. Please bare with me bros and forgive me if I am coming off the wrong way. These questions I have are eating at me, and I just need some answers here.
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« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2006, 10:25:48 PM »

Thanks for the answers, I respect them. My take of what was said so far is that this sola scriptura and traditions is vitally important and that there is much more to the Greek-Orthodox beliefs then just the Holy Bible. That is pretty evident and clear in your replies. Now I still havn't got the definite answer here, of the simple yes or no. Are we saying here that the Protestant Churches and all the brothers and sisters that are in them are not saved and there sins are not forgiven because they do not confess before a Priest. This is the straight forward answer I am looking for, I know about the traditions, but can any of you say for definite one is not forgiven of his sins unless he confess to a Priest. And say one does start going to confession to be reconciled to God, how often does he go ? I mean we're all sinners we know that, and if this were the case would we have to be going to a Priest several times a week/month etc. , to be reconciled with our Father. Or is it only when someone is perhaps backsliding or maybe struggling with a particular sin. Or perhaps I just had seen a woman that was pleasent to my eyes and I had a lustful thought of her.Do I need to run to a Priest to have peace of mind ? How often do we go ? Is it then necessary that everytime I get upset and have an argument with a family member to go confess to a Priest to have my sin forgiven, am I not abosolutely sure I am forgiven unless I make that confession to a Priest. Please bare with me bros and forgive me if I am coming off the wrong way. These questions I have are eating at me, and I just need some answers here.

No, we would say that we don't know IF non-Orthodox will be save or if they are on the path to Salvation.  But we DO know that the Orthodox Church is the Ark of Salvation that will guide you there and help you on the path to Christ if are part of her.  God is the only one who can say if anyone will be saved.  Salvation is a continual process throughout one's life - not a one time event of "getting saved".  St. Paul exhorts us to "work out our Salvation with fear and trembling."  That is obviously not a one time event, but a life long process.  We must endure to the end.  Joining the Church and geting baptized is just the START of the process.
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KostaNY
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« Reply #15 on: March 27, 2006, 10:40:35 PM »

No, we would say that we don't know IF non-Orthodox will be save or if they are on the path to Salvation.  But we DO know that the Orthodox Church is the Ark of Salvation that will guide you there and help you on the path to Christ if are part of her.  God is the only one who can say if anyone will be saved.  Salvation is a continual process throughout one's life - not a one time event of "getting saved".  St. Paul exhorts us to "work out our Salvation with fear and trembling."  That is obviously not a one time event, but a life long process.  We must endure to the end.  Joining the Church and geting baptized is just the START of the process.

I see Elisha, once again no definite answer. I understand that we are not to judge any other religion/faith and to assume whether or not they are saved. Only God knows the hearts of men. I completely respect that. What I would like to know is though that if it is the Greek-Orthodox beliefs that if one was not to confess before a priest that he will not be forgiven of his sins.Therefore has no salvation. Thats all I want to know and thats all I asked from the beginning. Also with your post one can never be sure of his salvation, and that from day to day they can lose it at any instant without even knowing it. How can one truly be at peace believing this ? I am by no means supporting the OSAS theory.
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« Reply #16 on: March 27, 2006, 11:03:35 PM »

Dude...go talk to priest
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« Reply #17 on: March 27, 2006, 11:17:19 PM »

Dude...go talk to priest

That is your advice ? I came to this board to search for answers and to try to understand the beliefs of the Greek-Orthodox religion. So far just about every answer that has been provided for me has escaped the actual question. So far all I have got is the Scriptures are not final authority to the Greek Church and that you also follow traditions of men. No one has told me whether or not it is mandatory for the Greek-Orthodox member to confess before a priest to have forgiveness of sins. That last post was also a gem, "dude, go talk to a priest", with his avatar of Scarface. Great advice now my questions are solved. By the way you probably know by my name I am a 100 % Greek, baptized into the faith as a child. Thats why these questions are so important to me. If I was a new believer in Christ and I came to this board to see what the Greek-Orthodox belief was about I would come off with the impression about having to keep a list of sacraments and working for my salvation. And I would not feel confident Christ's sacrifice at Cavalry was sufficient enough to pay for my sins, and that I needed to work to obtain it. Just for the sake of it lets throw in the most famous scripture of all time John 3:16. Is belief of Jesus alone enough to be saved ? Take care, Peace.
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« Reply #18 on: March 27, 2006, 11:21:07 PM »

I see Elisha, once again no definite answer. I understand that we are not to judge any other religion/faith and to assume whether or not they are saved. Only God knows the hearts of men. I completely respect that. What I would like to know is though that if it is the Greek-Orthodox beliefs that if one was not to confess before a priest that he will not be forgiven of his sins.
And you're not going to get a definite answer, but we are still telling you what you need to do.  I am not aware of any Church dogma that says that you will not be forgiven by not going to confession...but confesion sure helps!

Therefore has no salvation.
No, there is no "therefore" here - errant conclusion.

Thats all I want to know and thats all I asked from the beginning. Also with your post one can never be sure of his salvation, and that from day to day they can lose it at any instant without even knowing it. How can one truly be at peace believing this ?
And how can you have the audacity to know what God knows about you?  Your hope is in the Lord and you will have peace.  The Church will lead you there.

I am by no means supporting the OSAS theory.
Good...it is a very dangerous and complacent theory.

Now, as Mo said, GO TALK TO A PRIEST!
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« Reply #19 on: March 27, 2006, 11:21:40 PM »

I see Elisha, once again no definite answer. I understand that we are not to judge any other religion/faith and to assume whether or not they are saved. Only God knows the hearts of men. I completely respect that. What I would like to know is though that if it is the Greek-Orthodox beliefs that if one was not to confess before a priest that he will not be forgiven of his sins.Therefore has no salvation. Thats all I want to know and thats all I asked from the beginning. Also with your post one can never be sure of his salvation, and that from day to day they can lose it at any instant without even knowing it. How can one truly be at peace believing this ? I am by no means supporting the OSAS theory.
Kosta,

 ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚ These are not bad questions, but you are asking mere men to answer questions that only God can know.  If the question is simply "do I have to confess to a priest to be saved", the Orthodox response is "we can't say for certain".

 ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  Is there a possibility that a man who lives a very pious life, in the spirit that God had intended, but does not confess to a priest, will be saved?  I wish I could give you a direct answer, but that is not the essence of faith.

 ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  When you ask how one can truly be at peace believing in this, my answer is that my faith in the Lord and my faith that the Orthodox Church is the Truth, is enough to be at peace that I might find salvation by following the path the Church Fathers put before us.  For me, it's simply enough.

 ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  I hope you find your peace.
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« Reply #20 on: March 27, 2006, 11:23:15 PM »

Elisha,

     I posted a few minutes after you, but it looks like I wholesale plagiarized your thoughts!   Grin Grin Grin
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« Reply #21 on: March 27, 2006, 11:30:41 PM »

That is your advice ? I came to this board to search for answers and to try to understand the beliefs of the Greek-Orthodox religion. So far just about every answer that has been provided for me has escaped the actual question. So far all I have got is the Scriptures are not final authority to the Greek Church and that you also follow traditions of men.
No, "traditions of men" were those of the pharisees that were against the spirit of the law.  "traditions of men" are the Super Bowl, March Madness, Halloween and other things.  "Holy Tradtion" encompasses many of those things that help us keep the faith that has been passed down to us - what the Apostles exhort us to pass on.

No one has told me whether or not it is mandatory for the Greek-Orthodox member to confess before a priest to have forgiveness of sins.
It seems to me that you are just trying to find an excuse to NOT go to confession just because it may sound "embarassing" or difficult.  Trust me, a good priest who confesses the faithful regularly has heard everything under the sun and can advise you well.

That last post was also a gem, "dude, go talk to a priest", with his avatar of Scarface. Great advice now my questions are solved. By the way you probably know by my name I am a 100 % Greek, baptized into the faith as a child. Thats why these questions are so important to me.
If you're 100% Greek and baptized as a child, then why are you not asking a priest then?!?  You are not going to find your answers on the internet, but in the Church - we're not priests and don't have the training.  We can give you clues where to look, but don't have everything solved either - it's not that easy.  We're (or at least many of us here) are trying to "fight the good fight" and work out our salvation ourselves as well.
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« Reply #22 on: March 27, 2006, 11:32:07 PM »

And you're not going to get a definite answer, but we are still telling you what you need to do.  I am not aware of any Church dogma that says that you will not be forgiven by not going to confession...but confesion sure helps!
No, there is no "therefore" here - errant conclusion.
And how can you have the audacity to know what God knows about you?  Your hope is in the Lord and you will have peace.  The Church will lead you there.
Good...it is a very dangerous and complacent theory.

Now, as Mo said, GO TALK TO A PRIEST!

Elisha thank you, thats all I asked, so it is not mandatory to confess before a priest. And I do agree that it would be a good idea. And very helpful. And I intend on doing that as well as taking communion. I am just trying to seek the truth. And I must admit without scriptures backing up as evidence to your claims and beliefs it is very tough for me to accept them. I will look into the sola scriptura and see what thats all about. I am not trying to start some heated debate. I am just trying to understand more about the religion. Everybody thank you for the replies. Ola einai kala. Take care, Peace.
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« Reply #23 on: March 27, 2006, 11:40:23 PM »

Since we're on the subject, I've always felt the confession in the SOC has kind of been unimportant in the way its been handled.

Possibly because of time constraints or other reasons, but I've belonged to 4 different parishes (I've moved a lot), and each time confession NEVER consisted of an actual confession.

Each Priest did it identically.... "do you confess your sins"?  Yes.  Okay, now run along.

Not exactly, but close.

In fact, something I did for myself is that I got a pamphlet online (I think from the GOA), which gives some instructions for confession the evening prior to confession, with your nightly prayers.  So, in furtherance of this discussion, I think it is completely suitable for an Orthodox Christian to confess his/her sins directly to God, in conjunction with your Priest.
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« Reply #24 on: March 27, 2006, 11:41:19 PM »

Elisha thank you, thats all I asked, so it is not mandatory to confess before a priest. And I do agree that it would be a good idea. And very helpful. And I intend on doing that as well as taking communion. I am just trying to seek the truth. And I must admit without scriptures backing up as evidence to your claims and beliefs it is very tough for me to accept them. I will look into the sola scriptura and see what thats all about. I am not trying to start some heated debate. I am just trying to understand more about the religion. Everybody thank you for the replies. Ola einai kala. Take care, Peace.

Kosta,
I will tell you that the old priest line of (in a stern voice), "Go to church!" has a lot of truth in it.  I've been singing in the choir/chanting for over ten years know and feel that I've absorbed and learned a lot just by going to many services.  Yes, I'm personally horrible about picking up a Bible and reading and other things, but I've been blessed to be a member of some parishes that had regular services during the week and such.  With all of the readings, sermons, hymns, etc., they really help educate you and connect the dots.  The Church Fathers weren't just a bunch of hippies spouting weird philosophy - they knew what they were talking about!  If you are really in New York (as in City), I'm sure you have dozens of parishes with various styles around to choose from.  If you haven't been to church in a while, Lent is a great time to start again.  There are many services where you can learn a lot.  If one priest or parish is not welcoming, don't give up - stick with it or find another that is helpful.  Any priest worth his salt should be able to pastorally advise you and answer your questions.  Take care and welcome to the board.
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« Reply #25 on: March 27, 2006, 11:50:08 PM »

I see Elisha, once again no definite answer.

There are many things in Orthodoxy that you will never get a definite yes or no answer about.  For so many things in our faith, if we say that something is definitely one way, we have to answer again "yes, that is true, BUT..." and then give another side to the story.  Orthodoxy seldom has cut and dry answers to questions.  Your demand to have these right/wrong dichotomies spelled out for you shows that you think like a Protestant.  Which for you might be just fine, but it is very difficult for us to explain the Orthodox way of thinking when you insist on following Protestant thought patterns so aggressively.  The fact is that Orthodox are also allowed to have varying opinions on many important Church practices, but not to the point where cohesiveness of doctrine is lost.  

Quote
I understand that we are not to judge any other religion/faith and to assume whether or not they are saved. Only God knows the hearts of men.
Well, the other posters have been trying to tell you that in their opinion the answer to your question is NO, using logic very much like what you display in this quote.  Personally, I share their belief that confession is not absolutely necessary for forgiveness of sins or salvation.  However, you should know that there are many respected Orthodox who do not share this view, and who do think that it is necessary.  Despite feeling the way I do, I also feel quite strongly that Orthodox Christians should regularly partake of this sacrament.  You might say that in a certain way I am scandalized when they don't.

Quote
I completely respect that. What I would like to know is though that if it is the Greek-Orthodox beliefs that if one was not to confess before a priest that he will not be forgiven of his sins.Therefore has no salvation. Thats all I want to know and thats all I asked from the beginning.

Your question has been answered.

Quote
Also with your post one can never be sure of his salvation, and that from day to day they can lose it at any instant without even knowing it. How can one truly be at peace believing this ?

God grants us discernment to know when we are straying from the path.  If we are sincere and not bent on self-delusion, we will notice a "still, small voice" inside letting us know that something is not right.  Going to confession with a contrite heart is one really invaluable way to know whether or not we are straying from the path.....as are other ways of relating to the Body of Christ in its entirety.  We are not saved alone: we have  the Church to remind us to come back to Christ, again and again.  Once more, I think you are viewing this in a much too legalistic light.  It's not like, one second you're saved, the next you're not, although it can be this dramatic in some cases.  It is more like what your general spiritual condition is like in general.  
With regard to the second part of your question, we can be at peace because we know how merciful our God is.  We trust that even if we abandon Him for a time, He will never abandon us.  We know that this would not be according to His nature.

When we speak of Tradition, we are not talking about the customs of humanity through the generations.  We are talking about the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church.  For the Orthodox, scripture is a very important part of Holy Tradition.  But it is the Church Herself, through the Holy Spirit, who decides on how scripture is to be interpreted, and what is Holy Scripture and what is not.  It is not the other way around; scripture does not make the Church.  Holy Tradition, because it refers to the life of the Spirit in the Church, is dynamic, growing, full of Life as nothing else can be, as well as pointing to the changelessness of God.  (Again, another complete paradox!)  The Holy Fathers, as part of the cadre of Holy Tradition, have written commentaries to "unpack" the meaning of scripture for us.  In addition, the other posters have already alluded to how sacramental practice in the Church evolved while at the same time remaining perfectly faithful to the teachings of Holy Scripture.  

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« Reply #26 on: March 27, 2006, 11:51:08 PM »

Kosta,
I will tell you that the old priest line of (in a stern voice), "Go to church!" has a lot of truth in it.  I've been singing in the choir/chanting for over ten years know and feel that I've absorbed and learned a lot just by going to many services.  Yes, I'm personally horrible about picking up a Bible and reading and other things, but I've been blessed to be a member of some parishes that had regular services during the week and such.  With all of the readings, sermons, hymns, etc., they really help educate you and connect the dots.  The Church Fathers weren't just a bunch of hippies spouting weird philosophy - they knew what they were talking about!  If you are really in New York (as in City), I'm sure you have dozens of parishes with various styles around to choose from.  If you haven't been to church in a while, Lent is a great time to start again.  There are many services where you can learn a lot.  If one priest or parish is not welcoming, don't give up - stick with it or find another that is helpful.  Any priest worth his salt should be able to pastorally advise you and answer your questions.  Take care and welcome to the board.


Thanks Elisha, respect. Actually I am from Toronto, Canada. SouthSerb respect for you answer back as well. Since I started this thread, I'll support my claim with a few scriptures.

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" 1 Timothy 2:5 ÂÂ

"I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. " Psalm 32:5

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

"Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me." Psalm 51:2-3 ÂÂ

"Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." Psalm 130:1-4


I think these following scriptures speak for themselves. Take care, Peace.
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« Reply #27 on: March 27, 2006, 11:57:51 PM »

If you haven't been to church in a while, Lent is a great time to start again.  There are many services where you can learn a lot.  If one priest or parish is not welcoming, don't give up - stick with it or find another that is helpful.  Any priest worth his salt should be able to pastorally advise you and answer your questions.  Take care and welcome to the board.

I echo these sentiments. If I have been harsh in anything I have written, Kosta, I ask your forgiveness.  As Elisha says, if you go asking questions with a heart open to God, He will not leave you an orphan!  Take care.

James
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« Reply #28 on: March 28, 2006, 12:06:28 AM »

Hey James my brother, by no way have you offended me or come off the wrong way to me. I respect your answer back. I will continue to ask God with an open heart to show me the truth. Jehovah-Ra'ah. Peace.
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« Reply #29 on: March 28, 2006, 12:09:08 AM »

Thanks Elisha, respect. Actually I am from Toronto, Canada.

Timos, a young guy who posts on this board, goes to a Greek parish in Toronto.  I don't know if you'd like to PM him and compare notes on different Toronto churches, if you felt like it.
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« Reply #30 on: March 28, 2006, 12:10:41 AM »

Hey James my brother, by no way have you offended me or come off the wrong way to me. I respect your answer back. I will continue to ask God with an open heart to show me the truth. Jehovah-Ra'ah. Peace.

Thanks very much!  Peace to you too.
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« Reply #31 on: March 28, 2006, 12:55:34 AM »

Some thoughts on the Scriptural foundation for Holy Tradition:

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26)

"I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is Mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you." (John 16:12-15)

True to Christ's promise, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost, empowering them to build the Church, and He has been teaching the Church all things and guiding the Church into all the truth ever since.  This is Tradition.
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« Reply #32 on: March 28, 2006, 01:51:30 AM »

Some thoughts on the Scriptural foundation for Holy Tradition:

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26)

"I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is Mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you." (John 16:12-15)

True to Christ's promise, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost, empowering them to build the Church, and He has been teaching the Church all things and guiding the Church into all the truth ever since.  This is Tradition.


2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction of righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Well Peter I did some research on the sola scriptura and I want to know what your thoughts are on the following:

According to the Reformed confessional statements the Bible is a perfect, complete and sufficient rule of faith and life. Now that the canon is closed and direct revelation has ceased, the inspired Scriptures are the only rule of doctrine and practice. Although the Bible is the only rule that God has given us to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him, there are a number of issues that need to be clarified before we proceed.

First, the doctrine of sola scriptura is not a denial of natural revelation. The Bible itself teaches that there are things that man can learn about God and himself from nature (cf. Ps. 19; Rom. 1:20ff.). We should note, however, that: (1) Natural revelation was never intended to be used independently of direct revelation. Before the fall God spoke directly to Adam regarding the tree of good and evil. (2) When mankind fell in Adam, both the earth and the human race were affected by sin. Sin and the curse have rendered natural revelation unreliable as a source for ethics. (3) Scripture teaches that although natural revelation is enough to render the human race guilty and without excuse (Rom. 1:18), it is not sufficient to teach man about salvation, Christ and many other crucial doctrines. (4) Further, any doctrines or ethics that could be determined from natural revelation could not contradict and would have to be judged by the perspicuous and sufficient Holy Scriptures.

Second, the doctrine of sola scriptura is not a denial of the progressive nature and diverse means of divine revelation before the close of the canon. A fundamental teaching of the regulative principle of Scripture is that man is not to add or detract from God’s word (Dt. 4:2). Yet prior to the completion of Scripture this command did not preclude God himself from adding his own thoughts to that which the people of God already had. It did, however forbid anyone to add or detract from the divine revelation which they did have, whether by false prophecy, divination, human tradition and the neglect of God’s ordinances. Further, as Christians we look back to a completed and written revelation. (In times past men received visions, dreams and verbal communication from God, and not every revelation was committed to writing.) Note also that God could have preserved divine revelation by a supernatural preservation apart from committing revelation to written form if he had wanted to. However, in God’s good pleasure and infinite wisdom he has committed everything that the church and the world needs to a written revelation. Since natural revelation is insufficient, direct revelation to the church has ceased, and God has committed his will to us “wholly unto writing,” the Scriptures are our sole standard for faith and life.

Third, the doctrine of sola scriptura, which says that “the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture,” is not a denial that there were many revelations and historical events that did not make it into the canon. The completed Scripture that God has given to the church is exactly what he wanted us to have. He could have given his people one hundred volumes containing more case laws, more detailed histories of the patriarchs, Moses, Israel, Jesus Christ and the acts of the apostolic church. But Jehovah gave us the 66 books alone, and this completed canon is perfect and in every way sufficient to answer its design. God has many secret things that belong to himself and his divine perfections which are infinite and could never fully and adequately be revealed to us even if a million inspired volumes existed. But in his mercy everything that we do need to know, love and serve him has been given to us in the Scriptures.

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« Reply #33 on: March 28, 2006, 01:56:47 AM »

Kosta,

There is something in the Wikipedia article which I think you may have overlooked.  It doesn't really say that Orthodox Christians confess to a priest.  It says they "confess their sins to God" and that the priest serves "as a witness."

That is how I always felt confession was.  My Church has "general confession," where those who want to commune read, as a group, a confession of sin before the priest.  I always feel during these confessions that I am confessing to God and that the priest is the witness to my confession.  The benefit of course from individual confession with a priest (which I have also done, but not regularly) is that the priest can give personal advice which can be invaluable to your spiritual growth.  The individualistic belief that we can do everything alone without the help of others can be very spiritually damaging.

As for your quote from 1 Timothy 2:5 about Christ being the only mediator, St. Paul was talking about how Christ is the unique mediator between man and God since He is both divine and human.  In that passage he does not refute the belief that men can intercede for others before God.  In fact, in that same passage St. Paul urges all of us to intercede for each other.  That is what I believe the priest is doing during confession.  The priest is also following Christ's comand about forgiving or not forgiving people's sins.  The scriptures are very clear on the point that Christ did give that ability to his apostles, who were in effect the first clergy.  John 20:23

The other quotes from the Bible which you gave in that post also don't really refute confession before a priest, since you are still confessing your sins to God.  Also, as indicated by Nectarios, only with confession before a priest are you really fulfilling the command to "confess your sins to each other."  James 5:16

So you see, cofession before a priest is really very Biblical. ÂÂ The only advice I can give is for you to try it. ÂÂ You'll never know how valuable it is until then. ÂÂ What is that old saying? ÂÂ "Try it. ÂÂ You'll like it." ÂÂ  Smiley
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« Reply #34 on: March 28, 2006, 02:17:31 AM »

Quote
While I appreciate GiC, Peter and Nektarios' ability to quote scripture, sometimes as Orthodox Christians we do things because it is a part of the Tradition of the Church.  The importance of those capital "T" traditions cannot be overstated.

Thank you, SouthSerb, for making a very important point.  

Christ left us with the Church; it is the Church that teaches us, through the scriptures, fathers, liturgy et al.  Yet even the scriptures speak of the apostolic ministery passed down in today's priests and bishops forgiving sins.  I'd ask you, Kosta, where does the table of contents located in your Bible come from?  

Also I'd recomend reading this short article about the actual nature of the Church: http://www.westernorthodox.com/khomiakov
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« Reply #35 on: March 28, 2006, 02:18:53 AM »

Kosta,

There is something in the Wikipedia article which I think you may have overlooked.  It doesn't really say that Orthodox Christians confess to a priest.  It says they "confess their sins to God" and that the priest serves "as a witness."

That is how I always felt confession was.  My Church has "general confession," where those who want to commune read, as a group, a confession of sin before the priest.  I always feel during these confessions that I am confessing to God and that the priest is the witness to my confession.  The benefit of course from individual confession with a priest (which I have also done, but not regularly) is that the priest can give personal advice which can be invaluable to your spiritual growth.  The individualistic belief that we can do everything alone without the help of others can be very spiritually damaging.

As for your quote from 1 Timothy 2:5 about Christ being the only mediator, St. Paul was talking about how Christ is the unique mediator between man and God since He is both divine and human.  In that passage he does not refute the belief that men can intercede for others before God.  In fact, in that same passage St. Paul urges all of us to intercede for each other.  That is what I believe the priest is doing during confession.  The priest is also following Christ's comand about forgiving or not forgiving people's sins.  The scriptures are very clear on the point that Christ did give that ability to his apostles, who were in effect the first clergy.  John 20:23

The other quotes from the Bible which you gave in that post also don't really refute confession before a priest, since you are still confessing your sins to God.  Also, as indicated by Nectarios, only with confession before a priest are you really fulfilling the command to "confess your sins to each other."  James 5:16

So you see, cofession before a priest is really very Biblical. ÂÂ The only advice I can give is for you to try it. ÂÂ You'll never know how valuable it is until then. ÂÂ What is that old saying? ÂÂ "Try it. ÂÂ You'll like it." ÂÂ  Smiley

I completely agree with your assesment of the enitre situation. Respect for your knowledge on the topic. I was never trying to refute that it was not biblical, I was simply trying to prove that it was not necessary for forgiveness of sins. To those who go around telling others "confess to a priest or your sins won't be forgiven and your not saved", trust me there are some who hold to this legalistic belief. I was trying to prove that we are forgiven of our sins when we confess to God directly without a priest. Now I agree that it is very valuable and that we should use it to our advantage. And it is very biblical, just not absolutely necessary for forgiveness of sins. If we go back to the origanl question you can see I was asking if it was necessary in the Greek-Orthodox faith to confess before a priest. Allright boys, take care.
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« Reply #36 on: March 28, 2006, 02:25:37 AM »

[quote author=Νεκτάριος link=topic=8566.msg113366#msg113366 date=1143526651]
Thank you, SouthSerb, for making a very important point. ÂÂ

Christ left us with the Church; it is the Church that teaches us, through the scriptures, fathers, liturgy et al.  Yet even the scriptures speak of the apostolic ministery passed down in today's priests and bishops forgiving sins.  I'd ask you, Kosta, where does the table of contents located in your Bible come from? ÂÂ

Also I'd recomend reading this short article about the actual nature of the Church: http://www.westernorthodox.com/khomiakov
[/quote]

Nik that was uncalled for with the table of contents comment. If you saw my posts form the beginning I never said that confessing before a priest was unbiblical, I don't understand why some of you are coming to the conclusion that I said that. The scriptures I posted were to prove that there is forgiveness of sins when you pray to God directly without a priest. That it is not necessary to confess before a priest for forgiveness of sins. So again that comment was out of line. And you all agree that it not necessary which was the question from the start. So you can come off with the condescending attitude. Ola einai kala as I said before. Think what you want. Peace.
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« Reply #37 on: March 28, 2006, 02:43:51 AM »

Quote
Nik that was uncalled for with the table of contents comment.

Uncalled for?  It was to make a point that the Bible cannot exist without the Church.  My comment was by no means a personal insult.  

Quote
The scriptures I posted were to prove that there is forgiveness of sins when you pray to God directly without a priest.

The Orthodox Church doesn't teach that God cannot forgive sins outside of sacramental confession.  I'm not sure where you get this idea.  The Church is, by nature, maximalistic.  She gives us as many possible "tools" to use for our salvation.  Frequent confession and solid spiritual guidance greatly aide one on the spiritual path - that is why the church offers confession its faithful.  
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« Reply #38 on: March 28, 2006, 02:58:12 AM »

Kosta,

With regard to Sola Scriptura, you need to realize that without Tradition we would have no New Testament scriptures.  The New Testament canon was established in the late fourth and early fifth centuries by a group of bishops who used Tradition to determine which books would get in and which would stay out.   ÃƒÆ’‚ For example, the reason why all those gnostic books, which were circulating at the time, were kept out was specifically because they went against Tradition. ÂÂ

Now which Tradition am I speaking of?  Is it the "tradition of man," condemned by Christ?  No.  In fact I have often felt that many Protestant beliefs are "traditions of man" specifically because they are based on "personal interpretation" of scripture.  In my experience, "personal interpretation" of scripture often amounts to people inserting their own personal philosophies into their readings of the Bible.

The Tradition I am speaking of is the Tradition which St. Paul specifically commands us to keep. (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6)  Those are the teachings which have stood the test of time, remaining unchanged for 2,000 years.  Think about it.  The Orthodox beliefs you are questioning have been in practice since early Christian times.  For example, the bishops who put together the canon of scripture believed in and practiced the type of confession you are objecting to in this thread. ÂÂ

Many beliefs that have been held by Protestants, on the other hand, last a couple of generations and then die out, to be replaced by other beliefs. Study the history of just some of the thousands of groups that have evolved out of the Reformation and you'll see what I mean.  How could this be from the Holy Spirit?  As pointed out above, the Holy Spirit was sent to guide us in truth.  If that is the case, then it only makes sense that the beliefs which He preserves are those which would stand the test of time, not those which come and go.

As far as whether confession (or anything else for that matter) is absolutely necessary for forgiveness of sins or salvation, all I can say is that is not a question which the Orthodox typically ask.  I think that is why you are having such a hard time getting a straight answer here. ÂÂ

What I have personally noticed among Protestants is that they take a very minimalist approach to Christianity ("I don't want to do anything that is not absolutely necessary for my salvation.")  The Orthodox, on the other hand, have the approach of wanting to do everything possible to bring us as close to God as possible.  In other words, we are not concerned with only doing those things which are needed to get us into heaven.  When you think about it, that is a very mercenary, selfish approach to the Christian religion.  The goal in Orthodoxy is not so much to save oneself from hell, but to love God and be one with Him. ÂÂ

If your goal is only to do the bare minimum necessary to get into heaven, then the first thing you need to do is get rid of your Bible.  The thief on the Cross, after all, did not have a Bible.  In fact, you also need to get rid of your faith, since technically speaking (if you are a Calvinist) it's God's grace, not your faith, which saves you.  Do you see where that line of thinking can bring us?  I am not saying these things to be critical of you or of your Protestant friends.  I just want you to see that the Orthodox have a very different mind set and approach to Christianity than the Protestants.  That is why it is so hard for you to get the answer you are looking for here.
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« Reply #39 on: March 28, 2006, 03:37:47 AM »

Well Peter I did some research on the sola scriptura and I want to know what your thoughts are on the following:

Okay...  Now you're asking a non-theologian to do a theologian's work. Grin  Oh, well.  Seeing that you have invited me to do so, I'll go ahead and do the best I can to answer a few of your most important questions from what limited knowledge I have.

Quote
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction of righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

I'm very familiar with this passage and the Protestant misuses of it.  I grant that it does state very clearly the authority of Scripture as inspired by God, an authority that no Orthodox Christian will deny.  But it says nothing to indicate that we should see Scripture as the sole authority for Christian doctrine, which is what you're trying to argue.  Since it is so easy when proof-texting to take specific passages of Scripture out of context, let us not forget the exhortation of St. Paul that I quoted earlier in this thread.

"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter."  (1 Thessalonians 2:15)

I think we also need to remember that the writings understood to be Scripture by Ss. Paul and Timothy were solely from the Old Testament, since the New Testament had not even been compiled yet.

Quote
According to the Reformed confessional statements the Bible is a perfect, complete and sufficient rule of faith and life.

I find it interesting that it took 1500 years for Christians to figure this out.  What happened to that millennium-and-a-half?  Was the Church in error for those first 1500 years?  Did the gates of hell actually prevail against Christ's Church?  If so, then this makes Jesus out to be either a liar or an incompetent oaf.

Quote
Since natural revelation is insufficient, direct revelation to the church has ceased, and God has committed his will to us “wholly unto writing,” the Scriptures are our sole standard for faith and life.

By what logic does the above opinion conclude that "direct revelation to the church has ceased?"  True, we do believe that Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of God to man and that there will not be another fuller revelation.  (See Hebrews 1:1-2)  Hence, the work of the Holy Spirit is to not reveal anything new, but to lead the Church into a fuller understanding of Christ Himself.  But this work never ceases.

Quote
Third, the doctrine of sola scriptura, which says that “the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture,” is not a denial that there were many revelations and historical events that did not make it into the canon. The completed Scripture that God has given to the church is exactly what he wanted us to have. He could have given his people one hundred volumes containing more case laws, more detailed histories of the patriarchs, Moses, Israel, Jesus Christ and the acts of the apostolic church. But Jehovah gave us the 66 books alone, and this completed canon is perfect and in every way sufficient to answer its design. God has many secret things that belong to himself and his divine perfections which are infinite and could never fully and adequately be revealed to us even if a million inspired volumes existed. But in his mercy everything that we do need to know, love and serve him has been given to us in the Scriptures.

Where did these Scriptures really come from?  Did they just drop out of the sky in their completed form?  Or did they develop within the ongoing life of the Church?  For the first 200 years or so, the Church had no established New Testament canon.  All she had were various writings of the Apostles.  The Church didn't really start the work of compiling the canon of the New Testament until the 2nd Century, and they didn't finish the work until 397 with the Council of Carthage.

In the meantime, how did the Church determine which "Apostolic" writings to revere as Scripture and which to reject?  I would venture to say that all she had to work from was the oral traditions of what the Apostles taught.  If an "Apostolic" writing was consistent with the unwritten traditions of the Apostles, it was included in the developing NT canon.  Otherwise, it was rejected.  In fact, for the longest time the Eastern half of the Christian world almost universally rejected the Apocalypse of St. John (Revelation) because of Eastern Christendom's problems with the Montanist sect of 2nd Century Asia Minor, whereas the Western Church almost universally rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews because of the epistle's hard line against the restoration of apostates.  But the only reason why the Church could even decide what to recognize as Scripture was because God had given her the authority to do so.  Protestants wouldn't even have the New Testament if it were not for the authority, the Tradition, and the work of the Church.

As a final aside, let us look at the fruits of the doctrine of sola scriptura.  Protestants all have one Bible (or so they think), but there are currently over 10,000 Protestant denominations--more are born every day--because no one can agree on how to interpret that Bible.  St. Paul bemoaned the party spirit that had infiltrated the Corinthian Church (see 1 Corinthians 1:10-16); I wonder what he would have to say about the party spirit that is the hallmark of Protestantism.  Again, I cannot stress enough just how much damage the Protestant reformers did to the mission of Christ by wresting the Scriptures from the Church and subjecting them to interpretation apart from the authority of Holy Tradition.  Is it possible that the doctrine of sola scriptura is in itself a tradition made by men?
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« Reply #40 on: March 28, 2006, 09:22:24 AM »

Kosta:

PetertheAleut makes some excellent points. I do not have all the answers but let me appeal to you in a different way. For many years I was away from the Orthodox Church, but it didn't matter for I learned little about her or her rich traditions. It is if I had a pass to a banquent hall, fully catered soup to nuts, but never took advantage of it. While away some kind Protestants invited me for milk and cookies. They were nice and  fed me, but after many years milk and cookies got old.  And I was hungry.  So, I came back to my home in Orthodoxy, but determined to humble myself and learn. ANd I a mstill learning but there is a big banquet. I found that learning is incomplete without a spiritual father (not just computer freinds).  You are sitting at a banquet table Kosta. Eat it's yours.  Are you hungry.
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« Reply #41 on: March 28, 2006, 03:45:54 PM »

James 5:14-16 (emph. mine): "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

What is the purpose of the prayer of the elder (i.e., the bishop/priest) in the presence of the community of faith?

  • The healing of ailments of the body, aka sicknesses.  This does not preclude the work of doctors to heal us through medicines, etc, but it is the way the Lord gave us to receive healing, so we'd do well to partake of it for our own sakes--it's not as if God needs us to do it this way, but it would be foolish to do without something He's blessed us with, to use in addition to other means for the complete healing of our bodies.
  • The healing of ailments of the soul, aka sins.  This does not preclude the prayers of individuals directly to God to heal us through one-to-one communion through prayer, but it is the way the Lord gave us to receive forgiveness, so we'd do well to partake of it for our own sakes--it's not as if God needs us to do it this way, but it would be foolish to do without something He's blessed us with, to use in addition to individual prayer for the complete healing of our souls.

Will a man be forgiven without confession?  God only knows.  But I wouldn't recommend trying to find out.
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« Reply #42 on: March 30, 2006, 03:57:40 PM »

Kosta,

I think it's important to reassure you that Orthodoxy does not teach that one cannot be forgiven of their sins apart from going to confession.  Sincerity and humility are the essential conditions for forgiveness.  However, I would say that there are two things beyond this that need consideration.

First, Christianity is not a "me and Jesus" faith.  All members of the Church are not only partakers of Christ, but also members of one another.  Sin offends not only our Lord, but also His Church.  Hence, why confession of serious sins has always had an ecclessiastical element to it, though in the earliest period it would not simply be the Bishop (or a Priest, who really acts on the authority of his Bishop; acting as his consecrated representative for a Bishop cannot be in all places, especially if his diocese is large) who would bear witness to a person's confession, but likely members of the congregation of the faithful as well.  For very obvious pastoral reasons, this has been limited now to simply the Priest, who was the one who had the duty of imposing corrective penalties (penance) and/or readmitting the penitent to the Sacraments with a clear conscience anyway; so it could be said his presence is the essential part of our open confession before the Church (as well as God).

Second, some of the key reasons for going to sacramental confession (where one's regret for sin and ammendment to stop sinning are witnessed not only by God but by His Church, as spoken of in St.James' Epistle) are explicitly pastoral.  Though the specific rules can vary (it is ultimatly up to the Bishop), certain minimum requirements for going to sacramental confession can be imposed upon the faithful.  Their Bishops have authority to do this - it is implied in the very title of "bishop" itself (in Greek, episkopos which literally means "overseer"), and in their whole role of being shepherds over their respective flocks.  The reason for this is quite practical - so that the faithful are not tempted to approach other Holy Mysteries (especially Holy Communion) without proper discernment or with a conscience burdened by sin.  Priests are "ministers of the mysteries", and part of this is to act as the guardians of them; not for God's sake, but for the protection of the faithful.  And because the Priesthood has been given the power to "bind and loose" and to "remit sins" with the authority of Christ, they can give reassurance to the faithful who confess that God's mercy is upon them.  Sacramental confession is also an opportunity for the penitent to receive counsel very specific to his problems which he may not receive otherwise.

Now obviously, this whole process implies good faith on the part of the individual Christian going to confession.  There is nothing "hocus pocus" about this.  If a person goes to confession and simply lies, or is not genuinely sorry, it will not only do them no good whatsoever (their sins remain with them) but they will have added another sin to their debt before God.

I'd also have to say that on a practical note, going to confession is more excellent than simply confessing privately without the witness of the Church, for the simple reason that it encourages sincerity and firmness in our repentence.  Sadly, humans have a bad habit of deceiving themselves, and are not always objective in their appraisals of themselves.  And this can cut both ways - for a person cannot only be tempted to falsely justify themselves, but also tempted by the contrary extreme; to not believe God is merciful or to otherwise be unduly harsh with themselves.
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« Reply #43 on: March 30, 2006, 08:06:19 PM »

I'd also have to say that on a practical note, going to confession is more excellent than simply confessing privately without the witness of the Church, for the simple reason that it encourages sincerity and firmness in our repentence.  Sadly, humans have a bad habit of deceiving themselves, and are not always objective in their appraisals of themselves.  And this can cut both ways - for a person cannot only be tempted to falsely justify themselves, but also tempted by the contrary extreme; to not believe God is merciful or to otherwise be unduly harsh with themselves.


Back when I was a Protestant, I was involved with an international Protestant men's group known as the Promise Keepers.  One of the things this organization stresses is that men hold each other accountable before the Lord for how they live their lives--in this way Promise Keepers actually confess their sins to each other.  Fortunately for other doctrinal reasons the Orthodox Church has proved resistant to the Promise Keepers movement, but the Church has been practicing this accountability for close to 2000 years.  We call this Confession.

I can't tell you how much I need the accountability that Confession provides.  Knowing that I will have to give an account to another human (another man or group of men in a Promise Keepers group formed in my Protestant church or an Orthodox priest) has actually deterred me from committing sins and motivated me to not omit the things I should be doing.  Just confessing my sins directly to God really doesn't offer me this accountability that I need so much.
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