I want to thank Teresa Beam for originally uploading this video earlier this year. This message is from a retired Eastern Orthodox priest who worships with the Seventh Day Adventists on the Sabbath. His message is startling and profound. The Armstrongist Church of God splinters are by no means exempt from this message. It is time for some to open their eyes and open their mind and start thinking outside the box.
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo—remember that name. Gives a brilliant Eastern Orthodox take on the relationship between God and man and warns that morality can be “heretical”. Anybody ready to reject the Western Church’s concept of God and embrace the Eastern’s concept? I am. I look forward to seeing many others follow the same.
Hit tip to James Pate for this clip. I have been attracted to many of Eastern Orthodoxy’s teachings when it comes to their version of original sin, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the view of Christus Victor atonement. I even like their views on heaven and hell, especially if you come from a background like me who has believed in soul sleep-annhilationism very strongly as I did once did but found the evidence towards the opposite. I also could not accept evangelical Protestantism’s version of eternal conscious punishment. The Eastern Orthodox view provided a third option. What you will see in this clip show that a more holistic view of salvation is presented as opposed to the dualistic-legal approach that Western Churches adapted. Frankly, Eastern Orthodoxy whether intentionally or incidentally makes the best case of God as a Loving Father. I put the blame squarely on St. Augustine for developing the the theology that has been embraced by the Western Church. I believe if the Western Church (and I’m specifically referring to Evangelical Christianity) can learn something from Eastern Orthodoxy and the Patristics, maybe they’d be a revived and better church community for it.
(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.)
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:
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:
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.
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.
I have mentioned on a blog before that of recent, my theology has embraced some (and the word must be stressed SOME) theological ideas which have it’s origins in Eastern Orthodoxy. Does this mean I will ever become Eastern Orthodox? No, it does not. To burst a few people’s religious ideological bubbles, I will not be joining Roman Catholicism anytime soon (Sorry Jared and Darren!). My mind and philosphy is very much wired in the Protestant Reformation and proud of it. I don’t need any priest being a middle man or interpreting scripture for me personally. Well anyway, those SOME doctrines that I have embraced from Eastern Orthodoxy would be the Christus Victor view of Atonement (I hope to have a book review about two books about the subject), it’s view of heaven and hell, it’s universal access to salvation and oh yes, the touchy one for some, the rejection of the western view of original sin. Yes, you heard it the Eastern Orthodox reject the concept of Original Sin—at least the western view. I believe, my friend Dennis Diehl has no use for it and said along the lines that it has done a lot of harm to a lot of people. I agree 100%. Thanks to Augustine who introduced the concept back in the 4th century AD. The blogsite called TheoGeek explains in their post:
In the history of Christian theology there have been a number of major theological changes made in Western Christian theology over the course of time, often due to the use of inaccurate Latin bible translations.
The earliest of these changes chronologically was the doctrine of Original Sin. The Christian church in the second century AD had nothing remotely resembling the doctrine of original sin as we know it today. The universal view attested is that children are born innocent and that people are guilty only of their own sins. In some writers the concept that Adam’s sin damaged the likeness of God within humanity somewhat, and this is viewed as a kind of corruption of the natural order which is inherited – and this is generally taken to explain why humans die. But this is not taken to imply any inevitability to human sinfulness or any damage to free will. There is a dominating belief that through human effort and the assistance of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s example, humans can live godly lives that are upright and pleasing to God.
In the late second century, in North Africa, the writer Tertullian protested against the introduction of the practice of infant baptism there. He argued that baptism was supposed to be for the forgiveness of sins, but since infants had no sin the introduction of its use for them was wrong. The widespread thought however seemed to be that there might be some mysterious gracious blessing from God conveyed through baptism, and thus infant baptism quickly became a fairly universal custom.
In third and fourth century North African Latin Christianity, there is a clear trend present towards taking a darker view of the human condition. In the course of these centuries the theologians in this area began to take the view that humanity had been very seriously damaged by the fall, that humanity was bad, that the human will is not capable of becoming good, and that all humans are born guilty of Adam’s sin. It appears that a couple of generations after Tertullian, people had started using his same logic backwards: “We baptise infants, baptism is for forgiveness of sin, therefore infants must have sin.” Such doctrinal changes were geographically fairly confined. Greek Christian writings from during and after this period reflect an unchanged stance on the subject – eg John Chrysostom (d. 407), states explicitly that infants have no sin and that forgiveness of sin is not the motive for infant baptism.
Nor, it seems, had these innovations reached too far to the west. When a monk from England named Pelagius journeyed to Rome he was shocked by the theology he encountered there. He felt that the teachings of the North African bishop Augustine effectively denied the possibility of good moral conduct and human moral reform which Pelagius (in line with typical Christianity of earlier centuries) saw as the foundations of Christianity. Augustine had gone further than his North African predecessors and actually advocated Predestination, a doctrine that had always previously been strongly opposed by Christians. This led to an extended controversy between Pelagius and Augustine. Scholars are generally agreed that Pelagius’ viewpoints by and large were typical of previous Christian orthodoxy (especially the Greek-speaking church at the time, who couldn’t read Augustine’s writings) and Augustine’s were radically new. Nonetheless Augustine managed to use his influence to get Pelagius condemned as a heretic: “it was an injustice that made history” writes the renowned Lutheran patristics scholar Jaroslav Pelikan in his The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (pg 313).
One passage that Augustine drew heavily on in his arguments with Pelagius was Romans 5:12, which in the Latin translation (he couldn’t read Greek) said that everyone had sinned “in” Adam. Augustine used this to argue that all humanity was present “in” Adam when he sinned, and thus all are born guilty of sin. His Latin translation was extremely faulty here however, and it actually reads in the Greek that everyone dies “because” they sin or that everyone dies “because of which” they sin.
Thus the doctrine of Original Sin became standard within Latin Christianity. The Greek Christians however (who were at that time a large majority of Christendom), never read Augustine’s writings and continued to hold their traditional doctrines. To this day the Eastern Orthodox Christians continue to totally reject the Latin innovations of the doctrine of Original Sin. Unsurprisingly when we turn from history to the Bible, there isn’t much in the bible that could lend itself in support to the Latin doctrine of Original Sin. Nor did the Jewish Rabbis teach such a doctrine, and Judaism today rejects any such doctrine.
And that’s how the standard Protestant doctrine of Original Sin resulted from the introduction of infant baptism, a bad Latin translation, a conflict where influence beat orthodoxy, and a couple of centuries of doctrinal change.
Another website Sullivan-County.com continues on the topic of how the Eastern Orthodox understood Original Sin:
Augustine wrote in Latin in the fourth century, but his writings were not translated into Greek until the fourteenth century. Consequently, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity never held that guilt is inherited, and began repudiating this idea once they learned of it. They teach that we inherit a corrupted or damaged human nature in which the tendency to do bad is greater, but that each person is only guilty of their own sins. By participating in the life of the church, each person’s human nature is healed and it becomes easier to do good; at the same time, the Christian becomes more acutely aware of his or her shortcomings. Eastern Orthodox theologians believe that Adam and Eve began to choose separation from God when they chose independence and took fruit for themselves, rather than allow God to continue to feed them and remain dependent on Him. The expulsion from the Garden was not a legal consequence, but to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life and immortalizing their sin. As Christians partake of the Eucharist and eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, they return to dependence on God and experience a gradual healing of the relationship between God and humanity. The ultimate goal is theosis or divinization, an even closer union with God and closer likeness to God than existed in the Garden of Eden.
To sum it up: It was a biblical interpretation of scripture by a repressed man called Augustine who was no dummy but in spite of that fact caused a lot problems than solutions and his doctrines paved the way for a mean-spirited misanthrope in the 16th century, John Calvin who came up with the doctrine of total depravity and I don’t need to tell you what other problems that were created after that. It is time for Protestants to learn something from the Eastern Orthodox in the 21st century but I guess I am going to have to wait for some decades for that to see that actually materialized in it’s fullness.