More on Eastern Orthodoxy

 

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(Editor’s note: April 5th’s post, discusses my agreement with bloggist The Rebel God’s Derek Flood about the beauty of Eastern Orthodox religion but we stop short of actually becoming Eastern Orthodox for similiar and various reasons. One person in the comment section of the post in  Derek’s blog made that first step in becoming Orthodox. Here’s his story in splendidly written detail.)

Hey Derek

You bring up big issues on the difference between the Orthodox Churches and the Evangelical/Protestant churches. As a convert to Orthodox Christianity, I will try to give you some of my personal perspective.

I was raised in the bible belt, where the predominant culture was Evangelical, (Southern Baptist, Methodist, & Presbyterian). I was brought up in the relatively liberal Episcopal Church. I spent my adolescence fending off attempts from my friends to ‘save’ me, defending the theory of evolution against creationism in school, and in general rejecting the simplistic, self righteous fundamentalism that permeats southern culture, & thus Christianity as it was presented to me. I read the Gospels when I was in my 20s & trying to find a spiritual path, was quite moved by this Jesus person, but had no idea what to do with that. (I was a Sufi wannabe at the time, & later explored Buddhism & Yoga )

About 5 years ago I was drawn to the Orthodox church after attending a talk by an Orthodox priest. I found the services & the church itself strange & overwhelming, but I kept going back, not really understanding why. I think my original motivation for checking out the church was that I might be initiated into the Jesus Prayer or some other esoteric practice. As I read more about the history & theology of the church, & kept attending services I realized that if I wanted to be more deeply involved, I would have to accept the church on its own terms. This meant I would have to accept that Jesus Christ is who the church says he is, God become man that we might be reconciled to God. I took over 2 years to decide to join. My wife & I were accepted into the orthodox Church by Charismation (annointing with oil & laying on of hands by the priest) as we had both been baptized as children. Conversion was a process for me & remains so. I never had a defining moment where I felt I was ‘saved’ or ‘born again’.

Although theology was important in my conversion, the beauty & sacramental focus of Orthodox liturgy & hymns, as well as the warmth & hospitality of the people are what really won me over. Orthodoxy is equally about right worship & right theology. Protestant/Evangelical church services & hymns seem to me one dimensional & excessively sentimental in comparison. The Orthodox sing their theology. To be Orthodox is to participate in a worshipping community. (In my case that community includes Arabs, Greeks, & Eritrians). The reason you don’t hear Orthodox Christians talk about being saved or born again is that isn’t the focus. It isn’t about Jesus and Me. It’s about the mystery of our relationship to God & our salvation in the life, teaching, death & resurrection of Jesus Christ. This mystery is celebrated ritually in liturgical prayer & the eucharist.

Last night we attended a Lenten service, the Akathist of the Mother of God. It is a long hymn in praise of the Virgin Mary, & is essentially a celebration of the paradox of the Incarnation. A pretty good translation can be found here:
http://www.orthodoxa.org/GB/orthodoxy/spirituality/AkathistMotherGodGB.htm

If you want to understand the Orthodox church, you have to experience the beauty of it’s services as well as it’s theology. Check out the Byzantine & Russian chant sections at liturgica.com . Check out the website of the chanter in my church here:
http://www.kelfar.net/orthodoxiaradio/

This doesn’t begin to address all the questions you raise, and I hope the dialogue continues. But I also hope this might give you some sense of how privileged I feel participating in this Christian community with ancient roots.

peace

Joseph

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It is sooo good to find a great mind who thinks alike

These were my words in Gary Scott’s former blog XCG in May of 2007,

[I] Still consider myself a post evangelical who is interested in some of what Eastern Orthodoxy has to say on original sin, their Christus Victor view on the Atonement (as opposed to the western view of penal subsititution), their view of heaven and hell among other things.

Here is what a guy Derek Flood from his blog, The Rebel God said in his post March 21st of this year:

Pretty much all of my theology is very much in line with the Eastern Orthodox church. For example I have an understanding of sin as bondage and sickness rather than as transgression. As a result, I have an Orthodox ‘transformative’ understanding of salvation rather than a Western ‘judicial’ one, meaning that the real object of salvation is God effecting an inner change in us. Again, the model of atonement I have is an Orthodox one of recapitulation, rather than appeasement. In other words, the need for the atonement was not to satisfy a need God had for punishment, but rather to recreate in us the image of God that we had lost, and to free us from the bondage of sin. I also share with the Orthodox church the focus on theosis – our participation in the divine life which changes us into the likeness of Christ. In that sense I see salvation not as a one time act, but as a growing relationship with God. I also think the Orthodox church is right in their understanding of original sin, not as inherited guilt, but as our inheriting the consequences of living in a sinful world.

So if I agree with the Orthodox church on original sin, recapitulation, theosis, and the relational transformative focus of salvation, why am I not Eastern Orthodox?…

Why not check Derek’s blog for his answer and his other topic he holds dear to his heart, the Christus Victor view of atonement on the sacrifice on Jesus Christ. Oh yes,  Holy Week season is upon us. I need to write a special commentary appropriate for that time soon. By the way, Derek’s blog is now on my blog list and you can read the rest of the article here.