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Questions about the Eastern Orthodox faith

Discussion in 'Orthodox Christian DIR' started by James the Persian, Jun 27, 2005.

  1. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    I was inspired by Scott's efforts over on the Roman Catholic forum to do something similar for our faith. If you have any questions about Orthodoxy I will do my best to answer them, though I have no intention of this thread becoming a debate.

    I hope that this might be valuable to the many people here who are unfamiliar with Orthodoxy and would wish that thios might contribute to people understanding my faith better and a reduction in the number of misconceptions I see that people hold about us. Feel free to ask me absolutely anything (on this topic ;) ) and I'll try to respond promptly.

    James
     
  2. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    *bump*

    What with all the other such threads, I figured I'd bump James' thread to see if it gets more responses :).
     
  3. michel

    michel Administrator Emeritus
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    I do remember a thread in which I posted the Nicene Creed, which I got from the Catholic Encyclopedia, and mistakenly and unfortunately upset you.

    Could you explain the difference between the Creed that you use, and the one used by the Catholic, and Anglican Churc ? (I am sorry, I am not knowledgeable)
     
  4. Quiddity

    Quiddity UndertheInfluenceofGiants

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    Alright I have one.:)
    As Scott and James may have noticed that I have an irrational desire to bring our Churches back together. I post in OC.net from time to time to come to a fuller understanding of both sides. Reading a book by Micheal Whelton and things of that nature. Anywho, my question that of collegiality. How does it work? More specifically is how did it work during Iconoclasm where most bishops were teaching error?

    Peace In Christ
    ~Victor
     
  5. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    I probably more corrected and objected. I doubt it upset me very badly :).

    Here is the Creed in its final form from 381:

    I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
    And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages.
    Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not created, of one essence with the Father through whom all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.
    He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and he suffered and was buried.
    On the third day he rose according to the Scriptures.
    He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again in glory to judge the living and dead. His kingdom will have no end.
    And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father,
    who together with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who spoke through the prophets.
    In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
    I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    I expect the resurrection of the dead.
    And the life of the ages to come. Amen.​

    The chief objection arises from the clause "And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father." In the Western version, it adds the words "and the Son" so that it reads "And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son"

    The addition changes the workings of the Trinity slightly, but I don't pretend to understand it all that well, but Eastern theologians have attacked it as being semi-sabellian. Basically, the Father is the source of all being, and the Son is begotten from Him and the Spirit proceeds from Him. Changing the creed makes the mechanics so that they all proceed from each other and blurs the distinctions.

    That said, I don't think those problems are insurmountable. Perhaps the biggest problem is linked to papal supremacy. All claims for its legitimacy require a sort of papal supremacy, and the ecclessiology is not compatible with Orthodoxy. Moreover, we perceive the additions to have been made official by a power grab, so that makes it even more troublesome.

    When the theological problems are coupled with the political, it creates a pretty hostile climate. Reactions range from benign (only objecting to the political portion) to vehemently hostile, condemning it as a heresy. St. Photios took the latter approach.
     
  6. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    Short answer: Very messily :D.

    Long answer: Basically, it spread like a virus and infected most of the bishops. It was, in many ways, like Arianism. At one time Arianism dominated the Church in the East, and after Constantine, the Emperors supported it. The faithful laity opposed it most effectively (In Orthodoxy, the laity also have a role in defending the faith, even if their bishop goes into heresy), and then great men of God in the clergy defeated it. After everything was said and done, the disease healed organically.

    The same thing happened with Iconoclasm. The emperors began to force it on the people, and it came to dominate the episcopacy, but it did not do so outside the Emperor's reign, and the changes never took full force even there (exile and persecution couldn't stope the iconodules). When the saints beyond the borders' material got published within it, it set the stage for Empress Theodora's call to a council. Once the Imperial support was gained, the heresy subsided, because unlike the iconodules, it could not survive without it.

    In the end, collegiality works (thanks to the Spirit), but it is a very messy process that can take a while.
     
  7. Quiddity

    Quiddity UndertheInfluenceofGiants

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    Thanks. So collegiality isn't power by numbers, right?
    And I completely agree that the laity is responsible for defending the faith, I do not believe it is any source for knowing the faith definitively. In other words, one does not look to the flock to know what is and what isn't, correct? Or is there a different perspective you will bring forth?
     
  8. Polaris

    Polaris Active Member

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    I have a few questions.

    First of all I'm new to the forum. I've read through several threads before deciding to join and I have been impressed with the Orthodox representatives in this forum. Obviously, being LDS, I believe that priesthood authority and all that comes with it - general (not personal) revelation, pure doctrinal truths, etc - were taken from the earth after the Apostles were killed. However, I have complete respect for your positions on those issues.

    Let me preface by stating that my question are in no way meant to be attacking of the Orthodox Church. They are honest questions that I have.

    My first question deals with the organizational hierarchy of the Orthodox church. It appears that when Christ and subsequently the 12 Apostles organized the church, it was done so with a very top-down hierarchy:
    1. Christ as the head
    2. The Apostles as the general leadership
    3. The Seventy, Elders, and Bishops as more localized leadership
    In my admittedly little understanding of the Orthodox church it appears to have a much more horizontal hierarchy. Is it true that there is no leadership above that of the local bishops? To me this seems like a difficult way to avoid curruption within the various Orthodox branches. How do they prevent doctrinal drifting at a local level? I also understand that the main Orthodox groups don't agree on which groups are actually part of the valid Orthodox Church. Doesn't this discord call for a higher level of authority, as was present at the time of the Apostles, so that such matters can be adequately resolved? In my opinion this is one of the few areas where the Roman Catholic church makes more sense than the Orthodox.

    Question number two. Now I realize that the Bible is understood with many subjective interpretations by all different religions, and any religion could be presented a scripture that "appears" to be contradictory to that church's teachings. With this in mind I am interested in hearing your explanation for the scriptures that seem to imply that God the Father and Jesus Christ are indeed Father and Son, two separate persons. In particular why does Jesus constantly refer to God as his Father, and how do you explain Stephens vision in which he saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God?

    I have several other questions, but to keep the size of this post down I'll present just one more. One of the Orthodox practices that simply surprises me is your use of idols. This is something that is condemned over and over in the Old Testament. What is your justification for the use of idols in the Orthodox church?

    Again, I'm not attacking. I have a great deal of respect for you and your beliefs, I'm just curious.
     
  9. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    No, you misunderstand the way our heirarchy works. All bishops are equal in a spiritual sense, but not all bishops have the same temporal role. Whilst the local church with the bishop at its head is considered complete in itself (i.e. catholic), it is not an independant entity as such. We do have archbishops who are 'above' the local bishops as regards day to day running of the Church. We have Metropolitans, who are archbishops who run a large area and we have Patriarchs who run the whole local church (e.g. Romanian, Greek etc.). The titles vary a little from church to church but the structure is pretty much always like this. In effect, though, the higher bishop only runs things between the sitting of a local synod. When the synod meets, he is first among equals. As an example, the priests in my wife's home town are under the Archbishop of Suceava and Radauti, he in turn is under (and has a seat in the Moldovan synod) the Metropolitan of Moldova and Bucovina. He is under Patriarch Teoctist and also has a seat on the Romanian Church's Holy Synod. Teoctist, like all the other Patriarchs, is of precisely the same rank as the Ecumenical Patriartch in Constantinople, but the latter has a primacy of honour, which basically means that he has the chair in Pan-Orthodox Synods (and an Ecumenical Council if one were called). Does that clarify things? Doctrinal issues, as you asked about those, are settled by synods at whichever level is appropriate and never by single bishops and it obviously works as our faith simply doesn't drift or change.

    You are mistaken about us not knowing which churches are Orthodox. It's really very clear. Churches which hold to the Orthodox faith and are not in Schism (so are in communion with other Orthodox churches) are Orthodox. It's easy to get a list of the canonical churches. There are some schismatic groups, but they generally bear the same relation to us as the arch traditionalist Roman Catholic groups do to the RCC. Their faith might be Orthodox but their churches are not. There is one strange situation, which is that of ROCOR. They have never been out of communion with all Orthodox churches, but they are not in communion with some. This, however, really only affects relationships between clergy and is more of a 'political' issue. It will likely soon be sorted out in any case.

    This has simply never been an issue for us. The fact that God is one is clear throughout the Bible and that He is also three seems clear to me from the NT. The fact that God is spirit rather than matter also appears more than clear and so the idea of seperate individuals (as in seperate, physical people like you believe) simply makes no sense to us and contradicts Scripture and the Patristic witness. As soon as you understand that God doesn't have physical hands and feet and all the other anthropomorphic language used it becomes apparent that such things are metaphors and speak of a spiritual not physical reality. God the Father and Christ are Father and Son for us, too, just not in a human sense.

    We do not have idols and idolatry is strictly forbidden. We do have icons but they are not objects of worship and hence cannot be called idols. Only God is an object of worship. When we venerate (not worship and the words are quite distinct in Greek) an icon we are showing respect and love for the individual poirtrayed in it. If it is Christ or the Holy Spirit (who is sometimes depicted) this is obviously aimed at God. If it is a saint it is also aimed at God as we do not believe any saint can do anything in and of themselves. We venerate the power of God working through them. We have no justification for using idols in Church for they are forbidden, and rightly so. If you want to see the justification for iconography then I suggest you look to the canons of the 7th Ecumenical Council, Nicea II.


    Well, apart from referring to icons as idols (which I'll put down to honest ignorance on your part) you've been very respectful, which is appreciated. Feel free to ask more questions and I'll do my best to answer.

    James
     
  10. Polaris

    Polaris Active Member

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    Thanks for the clarification, that makes much more sense.


    We obviously have different interpretations as to the nature of God, and I don't want to turn this into a scriptural debate. But I would be interested to hear more - specifically your position on the scripture in Genesis that states that God made man in his image and again Stephen's account of seeing Jesus on the right hand of God. I interpret these quite literally, which would suggest that God is a corporal being similar to us (obviously in a much more glorified state) and that He and Jesus are distinct and seperate persons. Do you interpret these scripture then as metaphors?

    You are correct that my idol/icon confusion is due to honest ignorance. So if I understand this correctly an idle is an object of worship, while an icon is a medium through which the worship of something greater is performed. Is that a correct statement? What do you mean by venerate? Do you actually pray to them or are they just tokens of respect? Is there any scriptural precedent for the use of icons?

    I do have other questions, but first I'll let you address these follow-up questions.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  11. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    I see these types of passages as the authors using anthropomorphic language to describe spiritual realities that are absolutely other than our physical experience here on earth. That's less of a metaphor than it is an attempt to describe revelation in language that can be understood by other humans. Nothing in my reading of the Scriptures or the Fathers has ever lead me to believe there is any support for the idea that God is corporeal. God is spirit and He is the Creator. He is utterly different from His creation and so we cannot know His essence. I fail, then, to see how he can be anything like us at all in His nature, and certainly not corporeal.

    Yes, an idol is an object worshipped as a god. An icon takes the place of a 'spiritual photograph' if you like. It is an image representing a spiritual reality (which is why they are deliberately not naturalistic and why we do not use statuary) not physical. Just as we have photographs of our loved to remind us of them when they are distant, we have icons of those in heaven to remind us of the cloud of witnesses. Veneration is basically honouring. We honour the image in the belief that that honour passes to the prototype in heaven. A good way to look at this is to ask, if a man kisses a photograph of his distant wife, is he showing love to her, even though she is not present, or to the paper on which the image is reproduced? Obviously it is the former. Icons are much the same and hence are certainly not idols. Worship is much more than, though it includes, veneration and this is due only to God. Even the veneration of a saint is really aimed at God working through them. We do not worship icons or even worship through them as such. They are an aid to worship, though, a reminder of those who have lived the faith before us and of the examples they have set for us. There are scriptural precedents for the use of images but not specifically icons. There is the serpent raised up by Moses, the images on the Ark of the Covenant and in the Temple, etc. I'm sure you realise, though, that Orthodoxy does not rely on Scripture alone and so Holy Tradition, which is certainly in favour of iconography, also plays a part. All three of the Apostolic churches (us, the RCs and the OOs) use iconography in one form or another and it is clearly an ancient practice. I'd also note that frescoes are a prominent part of at least some early Christian era Jewish synagogues, too, such as the one at Duros Europa. Other than during the iconoclast hersey (which was influenced by the incursions of Islam) nobody ever questioned the practice until the time of the Reformation.

    Hope that helps.

    James
     
  12. Polaris

    Polaris Active Member

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    Fair enough. There are obviously things in the Bible that are meant to be taken literally and others that are figurative. The difficulty lies in knowing which to apply to a given passage. As we can see they can result in completely different understandings of truths even as fundamental as the nature of God.

    Though I still find venerate a strong term to apply to an icon, I do believe in maintaining a certain degree of reverence and respect for different symbols, buildings, and even art work that portrays sacred things. Thanks for your explanation, it did help.

    My other questions are concerning your views of life after death. First, what does salvation mean in Orthodox understanding?

    What are the requirements for salvation?

    Do you believe in a literal resurrection?

    One of the Mormon beliefs that I especially cherish is the knowledge that my wife and I will continue to be united as husband and wife after this life because we were sealed by one who had the sealing preisthood authority like that given to Peter ("whatsoever thou shalt seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven"). Do you believe that marriages and families can continue beyond the grave?

    Finally, what do the Orthodox believe happens to the millions of people who never had a chance to even learn about Christianity, much less be baptised?
     
  13. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    I'm glad that my post helped you understand our practices better.
    Firstly, salvation for us is a process not a once and for all event as some Protestants understand it. For that reason, nobody in this life can have an assurance of salvation. In our view this process (theosis) is a synergy between God and man. God grants us His grace and by accepting it and persevering we slowly become more and more like God. We can never become gods in actuality but we can become gods by Grace. In other words, we can become as close to God as it is possible for a created being to be. If you want to understand our soteriology better I would suggest reading St. Athanasios' On the Incarnation, which you can find online.
    As I suggested above, acceptance of God's grace and perseverence in the faith, striving to follow Him for the rest of our lives.
    Yes, and we specify as much at every Liturgy when we recite the (unaltered) Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.
    I hope so, but this is one of those areas in which, it seems to me, an honest Orthodox answer is, I don't know. We do know that people are not given in marriage in Heaven because Christ said as much, but exactly what the state after death is of those who are made one flesh in this life seems to be unclear. I believe that if we are truly one flesh in this life then we will be in the next also, but this is a personal belief (a theologoumenon) and not one I've heard taught as official doctrine.
    We leave them in the hands of God, who we are confident wills that all should be saved. Some Fathers (St. Gregory of Nyssa, for example) have come very close to a universalist belief and that's the way I tend myself (though real universalism, being a denial of free will, is condemned). I believe that all people come to God through Christ, even if they are not aware of it (which is how most Orthodox I know understand that passage that Protestants often use to claim that all non-Christians are damned). We often say that while we know where salvation is (i.e. in the Church) we do not know where it is not. As our concept of Heaven and Hell is generally of a state rather than a place, where God's love is experienced as joy or fire depending on the attitude of the individual towards God, I think you'll find that most Orthodox only believe that those who wilfully and adamantly reject Him will be damned.

    James
     
  14. Polaris

    Polaris Active Member

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    I completely agree.

    Again, I largely agree with you here.

    Could you be a little more specific? For example do you believe that you have to be baptised? What exactly do you mean by acceptance of God's grace?

    OK. So you believe that Jesus was literally resurrected? If He and God are the same substance and God is incorporal, then why was He resurrected, and then does He just abandon the corporal state when he assumes the role of "God"? If this is your belief, are there any scriptures that back up this idea?

    I appreciate your honest answer. I believe your personal belief is correct.

    I very much share you view on this topic, though I'll go one step further and suggest that the Bible gives somewhat subtle insights as to how such indivuals can be saved. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the following scriptures:

    First, are statements made by Peter that indicates that the gospel is preached to spirits of those who have died.
    • 1 Peter 3:18-19 - For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
    • [FONT=Arial,Helvetica][FONT=Arial,Helvetica] [/FONT][/FONT]1 Peter 4:5-6 - Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
    In this last scripture, in defense of the resurrection, Paul refers to the practice of baptism for the dead. Paul appears to be using baptism for the dead as his arguing point for the resurrection, in essence he's asking, if there is no resurrection then why would we baptise for the dead? To me this verse implies that baptism for the dead was an ordinance that was practiced in the early church, because they understood that baptism was necessary for spiritual salvation, and this allows EVERYONE a chance to accept it.
    • 1 Corinthians 15:29 - Else what shall they do which are baptized the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
    What are your thoughts?

    I agree.
     
  15. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    By accepting God's grace, I mean that God gave us free will and hence we always have a choice. His grace is poured out on everyone, but it's more of an invitation than a command, if you understand what I'm getting at. I don't believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation. We have a lot of saints who were not baptised because they were martyred before they had the chance. I do believe, however, that it is important to be baptised and that refusal to do so would be evidence that one is not really trying to follow God. In effect it would be wilful rejection of Christ. However, in adition to baptism in fact we also recognise baptism by blood (martyrdom before baptism) and baptism by desire (the sincere wish to be baptised being thwarted by death). An example of the practical application of the latter is that an unbaptised catechumen who dies will be afforded an Orthodox burial even though this is normally only allowed for baptised members of the Church.
    Yes, Christ was literally resurrected and no we do not believe that he gave up His human nature, but Christ is both fully human and fully Divine. This is extremely important for our soteriology and again I suggest you read On The Incarnation for clarification (you can find it here: http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/ath-inc.htm). If God was not both fully human and fully God then our soteriology would make no sense at all, hence the fact that there were so many Ecumenical Councils called over Christological heresies. The resurrected Christ, then, has both a corporeal human nature and an incorporeal Divine nature. I would actually suggest that the LDS idea that God is corporeal makes the Incarnation rather pointless, though this could just be a misunderstanding of your own position.
    And I hope it is too.
    This is completely uncontroversial for us. We celebrate the harrowing of Hell when we celebrate Pascha and read this passage as literal. I'd also note that our practice of prayer for the dead implies that an individual can, by the Grace of God, repent and reconcile to Him even after death. Otherwise why pray to God that their sins be forgiven?
    Firstly, I don't accept the absolute need for baptism on which you base this interpretation, as I stated above. I think it's quite possible for God to save who He wills, with or without the sacraments. Secondly, I don't interpret the passage in quite the way you do. Whilst I agree that it is possible that the practice Paul mentions is similar to the Mormon idea of baptism for the dead, I see nothing to suggest that it can't be just as easily as interpreted as being baptised in the name of someone (a saint) who has passed on. All the Apostolic churches do this (I have St. James the Persian, for instance, as my patron - hence the screen name) but none of us have a practice similar to yours and I truly fail to see what this would accomplish. It almost seems that you think that God is bound by the sacraments and powerless to act outside of them, which is a view I would have to totally reject.

    Do you not also have the concept of an 'age of consent'? It seems most westerners do, though we do not. If you do then why does this not apply to the dead you baptise and how can they possibly consent in the way that a sufficiently old living human can? I'm afraid that I find this particular practice of yours to be rather bizarre and we have absolutely nothing similar. I feel that I have to say at this point that I have distant relatives in the US who are Mormon and have baptised my grandparents. Not only do I find this disconcerting but I'm sure that my grandfather would not possibly approve. How, then, could the baptism be valid? It makes no sense to me.

    James
     
  16. Polaris

    Polaris Active Member

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    I didn't realize that you don't see baptism as necessary for salvation, I'll admit I'm a little surprised. So how do you interpret John 3:5 - "Except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." There are at least a dozen other scriptures that similarly imply that baptism is necessary. I'll be the first to admit that simply being baptised isn't sufficient for salvation, but it certainly sounds like one of the requirements.

    Thanks, I'll read through it.

    I agree, though I see it as similar to how we have both a corporeal and spiritual nature, though His is more glorified.

    No offence, but I think you misunderstand our position. We believe that God has a corporeal body, and we believe that before Christ came to earth he did not have a corporeal body, but was only a personage of spirit. In fact we believe that we all existed before we came to earth as spirit beings. One of the many reasons that Christ came to earth (and all of us for that matter) was to receive a body. Through Christ's atonement and resurrection this would enable us to become more like God our Father who has a perfected, glorified body. In this sense the "Incarnation" is not at all pointless, though our perspective of the Incarnation differs from yours.

    Well put, I agree, and knowledge of Christ and faith in Him along with baptism are part of repentance.

    Fair enough.

    If your interpretation is correct then the scripture is very misleading because it specifically says "baptise for the dead" not "in the name of". To the contrary it was often taught that we are to be baptised in the name of the "Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost". I'm not suggesting that God is bound by sacraments and is powerless to act outiside of that, but I do believe that when he gives a commandment he holds us to it and always provides a way that all might be able to fulfill the commandment. If his commandments aren't binding then why even give commandments with such strong, binding words as those in John 3:5?

    Yes we do believe in age of consent and accountability. However, I think your missing the complete picture here. Baptism for the dead is a vicarious work, meaning that it is a work done by someone in behalf of (or in place of) someone else. It's very similar in principle to the atonement of Jesus Christ. He suffered for our sins, he suffered in behalf of us (or in place of us). However, both are conditional; in the same way that we are not forced to accept the atonement, the dead are not forced to accept the baptism. What is important is that it is made available to all so that every person can make their own decision. You may be right, your grandfather may not approve, but at least now he has the choice. In the same way that the atonement has no effect on us if we don't accept it, the vicarious baptism also has no effect if the recipient choses not to accept it. Please understand, this is not a practice intended to force baptism on everyone. It is a wonderful way that God had provided for all of his children to keep his commandment of baptism according to their own free will.
     
  17. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    Baptism is necessary for us, which is why refusal to be baptised would be a rejection of Christ. What I was saying is that it is not necessary for God, who is not bound by any necessity, and hence He can save whoever He wills. Does that make my position clearer?
    Good. Hopefully that will make our soteriology clearer to you than I can possibly manage.
    We would go further than this. Christ is completely Divine and completely man - including man's spiritual nature. This is very important for Orthodox soteriology as it is through the Incarnation (rather than just the Crucifixion) that human nature is reconciled to God, as you'll see if you read the link I provided.
    I did say that I might be misunderstanding your position. I'm no expert on LDS doctrine. We don't share your belief in pre-existence and from an Orthodox perspective your view on Christ misses the main point of the Incarnation, however.
    You appear to have misunderstood me. We are baptised, by triple immersion, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are, however, baptised with the name of a saint, who we believe prays for us in Heaven. To my mind this can be described as being baptised for the dead, though I respect that your opinion differs.
    I still fail to see what effect this practice can have that simple prayers for the dead would not have unless, of course, you do actually believe that God is bound by the same sacraments He has given to man. We certainly do not believe this. I would also point out that whilst you refer to 'the atonement' as though it is self evidently the belief of all Christians, this is not actually true. Orthodoxy does not teach substitutionary atonement in the way that western Christianity does. This is, in fact, one of the major reasons for my conversion as I find the image of a God who can only be satisfied by substituting His Son for punishment in our place to be petty and vindictive, more like a human tyrant than the God of love. Most western Christians seem to be unaware that the ancient teaching on the Incarnation found in the east (both EO and OO) is radically different and always was. The more juridical view of salvation is a later and purely western devlopment, particularly influenced by the philosophy of Roman Catholic scholastic theologians during the middle ages.

    James
     
  18. Polaris

    Polaris Active Member

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    OK, one last question for clarification. So baptism is necessary for you, but not in general. So for whom exactly is baptism required? If John 3:5 is not directed to everyone who is it directed to?

    Interesting, is there any scriptural evidence for this?

    You may be right, God may very well make exceptions to His commandments as He sees fit, but I believe that in general He is bound by His word, not out of any limitation on His part, but out of His desire to be true to His word and His desire for all of us to keep His commandments.

    I'm not sure what your saying here, but by "atonement" I was referring to Christ's suffering for our sins, do you not believe that He did so?

    Ouch, I don't see it that way at all. John 3:16 seems to sum it up pretty well for me, again I interpret this verse very literally:[SIZE=-1] "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Because God loved us he allowed His only-begotten to suffer for our sins that we might be washed clean so we can all return to live with God. Christ willingly drank the bitter cup because it was the only way that the demands of justice could be met. I see it as an act of loving sacrifice on the part of both the Father and Son.

    [/SIZE]
    I'm not sure if I agree completely with the whole Eastern vs Western theology comparison. It seems the main difference between what you believe and what I believe is better contrasted as a Literal vs Figurative interpretation of the Bible. It has seemed that in most cases where we've identified differences in doctrine, my belief has been based on a very literal interpretation of scripture while yours has tended to be more figurative or metaphorical. Obviously both our differing interpretations can't be correct, but without additional enlightenment both are worthy of consideration.

    I'd like to thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions. I feel I have a much better understanding of the Orthodox beliefs than I had previously. As I mentioned before I have a lot of respect for you and your beliefs.
     
  19. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    Us in this context meant mankind. Evidently I wasn't being clear enough. It is required for all people who accept Christ but that doesn't mean that God is unable to save someone who is not baptised.
    For what exactly? I'd also caution you that always asking for Scriptural bases for Orthodox practices will not work. We are not sola scripturalists.
    I agree that God keeps His word but not that He is bound by it. Maybe this is just semantics, though, as I suspect you mean the same thing. However, God's word does not really apply here in my opinion. We are told to be baptised because we are followers of Christ, but I don't see that God showing mercy to those who never had a chance to be baptised is in any way indicative of Him breaking His word.
    Not really, no. Did you read that link? We do not believe in the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. The crucifixion was Christ's self-sacrifice for Man not His sacrifice to God. By His death and resurrection He destroyed the power of death over mankind as by His Incarnation He reconciled the human and the Divine. We do not view Christ as a sacrificial substitute for our sins which is a view that, to me at least, implies that God the Father is vindictive and unforgiving (as He absolutely had to have satisfaction for Adam's slight). It is love to lay down your life for someone else (which is what we believe Christ did) but sacrificing someone else would be evil in my opinion.
    [SIZE=-1]
    I pretty much covered my objections to this above but I'd just like to further comment on this justice idea of yours. Either God creates justice in which case He can ameliorate it by showing mercy (which is what we believe to be the case) or He is bound by justice which means that it is necessary for Him to adhere to it and justice is greater than God. This I often have referred to as the 'deification of Necessity' and sems to me a concept consistent with pre-Christian pagan philosophy. If you believe in the former then allowing His Son to die so that He might show us mercy makes God vindictive and blood thirsty because it implies that whilst He can show mercy He will not do so without a bloody satisfaction. That's not the God I wordhip. If you believe in the latter then, yes, the atonement is an act of Love and, yes, God does allow, rather than require, Christ's sacrifice but it also means that He is not all powerful as He is bound by something above Himself. That, in my opinion, is no God at all.
    [/SIZE]
    Believe me, there is an awful lot more to the differences between eastern and western Christian thought than simply how we interpret Scripture. The RCs interpret it in a similar manner to us and yet have a completely different approach to the faith, one which is often closer to Protestant Christians than to us. There is a completely different mindset involved in eastern Christianity than in the west and soteriology is one of the areas in which it shows up most clearly. As I was raised Protestant and only converted to Orthodoxy as an adult, the differences are glaringly obvious to me, though I accept that outsiders can't always see them so easily. I'll happily try to explain some of the differences to you if you wish but a general (and very simplified) metaphor that I have found helpful in the past is that the west tends to use a legalistic metaphor to understand the faith, where God is judge aboce all and the Church has the feeling of a courtroom. We use more of a medical metaphor with the Church as a hospital and God as the chief physician. Evidently this means that we tend to view sin as an illness in need of healing rather than a crime in need of punishment. Does that help at all? It is certainly the major difference in perspective that convinced me that my faith in God had to lead me eastwards.
    No problem. I'm glad to help clarify (and I hope I'm doing so rather than confusing things) the Orthodox faith because we are so often misrepresented in the west. Most Protestants, for instance, seem to see us simply as eastern Roman Catholics or Catholics without a Pope, which is really incorrect and superficial. That's why I started this thread after all. I was disappointed that it was unvisited for so long but am glad to see that it is now being used for the reasons I initially intended.

    James
     
  20. Polaris

    Polaris Active Member

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    I'm afraid that you're probably getting sick of me, and I don't want to overstay my welcome in your forum, so I promise this will be my last post.

    Triple immersion and being baptised with the name of a saint. I'm also not a sola scripturalist, but I don't believe that basic ordinances should really deviate from that established by Christ as documented in the Bible.

    You bring up an interesting point, and I've thought a lot about it. I really do believe that God is bound by His word, otherwise He would be a liar. Anyone who goes against their word is not completely honest, and God is perfectly honest and trustworthy. If He gives a commandment He has to stick by it or its a lie, unless He provides some sort of disclaimer. A perfect example is again the John 3:5 scripture. "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God". I agree with you that this scripture is directed to mankind, and I don't see anywhere indicated that it is just binding on those who accept Christ. Now, if there is an exception to this scripture, then the scripture isn't completely true as stated. There would have to be some sort of disclaimer clause that allowed for any kind of exception. Because God is not a liar, in my view this commandment is binding on everyone. I don't believe God's mercy will allow Him to go against His word, however it is through His mercy that He has provided a way that all will be able to be baptised.

    [SIZE=-1]
    I have read through the first couple chapters, I plan on finishing it over the weekend.

    I believe you that Christ's sacrifice was for Man, but I believe it was done as payment for our sins. Otherwise how do you interpret the following verses in Isaiah 53?
    [/SIZE]
    5. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
    6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

    8. ... for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

    10. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, ...
    11. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
    12. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

    There are numerous similar verses throughout the N.T. as well that indicate that Christ indeed suffered for our sins that he might "justify many".

    [SIZE=-1]
    [/SIZE]
    OK, I understand where you're coming from, but I believe it goes back to the question of God being bound by His word. He gave the laws and commandments by which we are to be judged. He must hold to those laws or He'd be caught in a lie and the laws would become worth nothing. I don't believe God will say one thing then do another. Another way of looking at it is that God is bound by righteousness or He would cease to be God. I believe Him to be a perfect being, perfectly just, perfectly honest, etc. in addition to being omnipotent. If He wasn't bound by justice, He would not be perfectly just and that, in my opinion, would make Him no God at all. Christ's sacrifice was needed to reconcile us to God with respect to His laws and commandments.

    I agree that there are significant differences between Eastern and Western Christian theology in general. However I see a position (based on your metaphor example) that encompasses principles from both sides that makes sense. For example, I believe that as we learn of Christ and try to follow his example we experience a healing process, in that our desire to do good and avoid sin is increased. However the idea of God as our judge is heavily rooted in scripture and can't be discounted. I believe if we don't follow Christ and keep his commandments and experience this healing of our soul, we will be held accountable, in which some sort of payment, or punishment, or lack of reward is required. What are your thoughts?
     
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