Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Consciences, Pledges, Wombs

My friend Alan of the blog Rhoblogy briefly took issue with my description of Evangelical salvation in comparison to the Orthodox model. He then, however, moves into another, related topic that is worth comment:

He writes:
My community group just finished studying Galatians in detail, and I join in the Apostle Paul's amazement at the Galatians' "bewitching", as he wonders aloud in many different ways how it was that the Galatians would exchange this Gospel of grace for a system of God's grace + human effort, no matter how innocuous and otherwise-endorsed-by-God it might be. No matter whether this human effort is adding the very God-ordained sign of the God-ordained covenant in the OT - circumcision. But it's permissible if we add the God-ordained sign of the God-ordained NT covenant - baptism - to it?
I've often sat back and marveled at the similarities of form that exist between the Pharisees of Christ's day and those of the Orthodox Church. Hierarchy and a sad history of replacing the Ignatian model of the bishop as locus of unity with that of him as the source thereof; ancient, venerated, often-complex roles of tradition and the subsequent tendency at times to strain at gnats and swallow camels; the deference of a desire to encounter the living God to a willingness to surrender oneself over to the rubrics books...sons of hell we all can so easily be and become.

I could speak of the scriptural parallel between circumcision and baptism (Col. 2:11-12). I could speak of how it itself is the pledge of a clean conscience, a pledge which is salvific through an appropriation of Christ's resurrection (1 Pet. 3:21). I could speak of how we are, in our view, mandated to do this and are saved because of this.

But I would rather speak of how absurd it is, really, to think that our meager prayers, our weak actions, our vulnerable, mortal bodies, dripping and cold (and, later, oily), could ever fathom standing on their own merits as somehow deserving of salvation per se. We have been given a gift in baptism, a gift of nothing other than grace undeserved. We ask that the Holy Spirit descend into waters we're meant to drown in and, hopefully in humble obedience, we follow, submitting both ourselves and our children to our God in a manner He has given us. We do this in faith that God will bring the increase, and that increase is solely by grace. His is the seed of life sown within us, for He is the Sower.

As was the case with circumcision, so the case with baptism: any ritual without Christ is a mockery and a sick, diseased, tragedy. My wife and I offered up our girls to the Creator of all things when we gave them to the font; for us to then ignore the Holy Scriptures, neglect lives of fasting, discipline and self-denial, pile up other priorities for ourselves instead of Sunday liturgy and evening Vespers (or, if not feasible, evening prayers at home in the family icon corner -- which, of course, being "magic Christians" who believed in baptism per se, we would do infrequently, if at all), fail to speak of our saintly Patriarchs, prophets, saints and martyrs as our holy guides and fellow-confessors -- such a life would be a mockery, a denial of our pledge to Him, completely unworthy of the calling to which we were called when we were buried with our Adam in a death like His.

We have, as Orthodox Christians, renounced the devil; not only have we done this, but we have breathed and spit upon him, turning immediately afterwards to the East to unite ourselves to the Christ of the living God. Christ, in His mercy, has given us a very accessible and obtainable means of union -- one that only He could effect. His Sun of Righteousness shines down on us once we pass, simply and obediently, through this womb of baptism which our Virgin Mother, the Church, has been given to bear Her children who've been orphaned by this world; for us to glory in getting wet is the height of arrogance and blindness.

This, I know, sets the stage for when the body is dry and one is no longer "oily 'round the ears"; how is it that one can justify a life lived in strict obedience to and self-denial for God -- a taking up of crosses, as it is termed in Scripture -- as a prerequisite for eternal life in Christ and yet adamantly deny that one is saved by his works? I would begin HERE. As for my own response...perhaps for another night; it is late, and I must go early tomorrow to welcome kids to Summer School. May it be blessed, and may I bear it honorably and for Christ. Prayers are appreciated.

Peace.

17 comments:

Rhology said...

Thanks for the reply.
I am not at all sure, however, that it interacts directly with what I wrote. 3 statements most clearly make me think that:

1) I could speak of how we are, in our view, mandated to do this and are saved because of this.

2) ...could ever fathom standing on their own merits as somehow deserving of salvation per se.

3) adamantly deny that one is saved by his works?


1) Biblically, we are mandated to keep the law perfectly. We don't, yet we are saved anyway.

2) Yet Paul went after the Judaisers in Galatia for their views on merit AND their demands for adding something to faith.

3) I'm not claiming you think you're saved by your works. What I am saying is that this view reduces to faith + something you do to save you. It's strange b/c
"it is no longer on the basis of works, else grace is no longer grace" (Rom 11:6) and b/c of the fact that your works are what got you into your sinful, dead predicament (how much more is this the case on EO-doxy, which denies original sin?) in the 1st place. And a further work is going to get you out somehow?

Anyway, you probably won't get to this before the wknd, and I'm off this Sunday to evangelise francophone Muslims for 2 weeks, so this may never get anywhere else, but I'll check back in 3-ish weeks.

Peace,
Rhology

PS - word verification is "cornboll". Indeed.

Darlene said...

David,

I am one of those who used to preach on the streets, in the malls, and just about wherever I could find people. Many Evangelicals have a zeal, but zeal of that sort only gets one so far. When the zeal wore off with me, I was left empty.

The motivation to resist sin, to repent when one sins, to fight the good fight of the faith, all become moot. Why? Because Christ has already done everything for you...at least that's what you're made to believe. He already forgave your sins, past, present and future. Where's the need for striving against evil or resisting sin in that? Believers are told that from the moment they believe, God looks upon them AS IF they ARE CHRIST. They are then saved straight through eternity by what the Son of God has done in their place. It is finally inconsequential what one does, for if one is saved, nothing can change the fact that their salvation is written in stone (so to speak). The doctrine of imputed righteousness guarantees that God looks at them AS IF they have lived the righteous life of Christ the moment they believe. And God will persevere them to the end, no effort on their part whatsoever.

The problem is, this teaching only speaks of a change of legal status, not being. The grace given to us is such that it can change our inward being into the likeness of Christ. The life of Christ enables us to live righteously so that God sees us as sons and daughters who are obedient to Him, unlike the imputed righteousness which requires God to be blind to what we really are. We can't fool God for He knows what lies within our hearts and very souls.

Yes, there is a work to be done AFTER regeneration. That work which is believing in Christ, causes one to carry their cross daily, to repent regularly, to pray without ceasing, to love one's neighbor, to love the brethren, to visit the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry. We are to let our light shine that others may see our good works and give glory to our Father in Heaven.

Living as an Evangelical Protestant became vacuous for me as time went on. To rest in a past event as if that was the be all/end all didn't work practically. What do I do with my sin, I would often wonder. What about putting to death the deeds of the flesh? That isn't something that we take no part in, but rather something WE must do, and are equipped to do in the power of the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy is a practical way to live out life in the Spirit on a daily basis. Yet even though it may be practical, it is not easy. It is, as our Lord says, "hard and narrow."

Living the gospel as preached by many Evangelical Protestants is very easy when compared to living the Orthodox way. And that is why one is popular and the other isn't.

David Bryan said...

Darlene,

Thank you for the post. I agree. Of course, God is not "blind" in the Evangelical scenario either, but I see what you meant.

You've probably already read much of Fr. Stephen Freeman's blog, but I thought I'd post two things in this combox as a reference (mostly for Alan, but also for all who'd read this) to the fundamental difference between Orthodox and Evangelicals regarding how our view of sin and salvation is very different.

The first is a post of Fr. Stephen's which has been reposted time and again on his blog, and for good reason: The Nature of Things and Our Salvation

The second is a work by Alexandre Kalomiros which I just finished re-reading (so it's fresh in my mind) and which Father posted on his blog, complete with the original footnotes (which are extremely helpful): The River of Fire.

David Bryan said...

Hey, Cornb--erm, Alan.

I've been thinking about what you said, and I think where our views diverge most starkly is, as you noted briefly, regarding our view of sin. You see it primarily as a crime in need of renumeration, while I see it primarily as a sickness in need of a cure. I see "the law" as we would speak of the "law" of gravity or the "law" of thermodynamics: it is, indeed, something to which we are bound, but it is a matter of our ontology, not a matter of a legal precedent that needs acquittal.

Christ has fulfilled the law. The problem in Galatia, as you no doubt studied, for wanting to go back to types and shadows of Judaism which had already been fulfilled. If it were sufficient to participate in these types and shadows -- circumcision being the main example -- then there would be no need for a change, no need for fulfillment.

Yet the Law taught us through our experience under it that we were mortal and, because of that, sinful (and thereby evermore mortal). We trust that the time for these things (the law of Moses which was fulfilled by Christ) has passed, and we do so by confessing His lordship through the sign of the fulfillment of His covenant with us (baptism) instead of the defunct type and shadow of said fulfillment. Yet this sign of baptism is no mere "outward form." St. Paul states that we "are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of [us] as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."

To say that baptism is a work on par with a legal system that set itself up apart from and against the lordship of the Messiah makes no sense, as it is itself the very confession of faith which saves us.

I'll say it again: Baptism is the faith that saves us. It is the way we trust in Christ. It is the way in which we have faith. It is the way in which we fall into the arms of Christ. It is the way in which we commit ourselves to a lifetime of daily dying.

The Evangelical would say that all of the above paragraph is done through inner belief and confession with one's mouth, yet would not feel as though this were a "work" (though it be something that s/he did with one's body); neither do we feel that baptism is a work -- it's certainly nothing to boast about, as it was not I who placed Christ upon and in me when I was baptized and chrismated -- but rather God saving us by grace through faith...faith that He will work His life into and through our hearts as we meet Him where He waits for us: in our death like His.

Rhology said...

Hi Darlene, David Bryan,

Just a coupla comments.
DB - Baptism isn't a work? It's certainly something one DOES, isn't it? And couldn't the Judaisers of Galatia just say the same about circumcision? Baptism is faith? No, baptism is baptism, and faith is faith. Unless you want to replace all the "faith"s in the Bible with "baptism", in which case I think you might have some problems. "By grace you have been saved, thru baptism, and this not of yourselves...", "Go in peace, your baptism has healed you." I don't see that working.

RE: sin. On my position, sin is BOTH a crime requiring justice AND a sickness (or more to the point, a death blow) requiring resurrection. I don't think anything is gained by dealing with only one side of anyone's position, and I think you'd agree.

RE: the law - the law is holy, righteous and good, still! To this day! This goes back to what I said about the sign of the OT covenant vs the sign of the NT covenant. Circumcision wasn't necessary for salvation in the OT; why think that baptism is in the NT?

Finally, Darlene, yes, Christ has done everythg for us, b/c we can do nothing on our own! It's just like I said - our works are evil; they are what killed us! And somehow our works are supposed to get us back to life?
On my position, Christ saves AND transforms the heart and the spirit of the believer by grace, empowering us to perform good works out of love and unity with Christ. Look at the way Ephesians 2:8-10 goes about it, and in what order. Or Titus 3:4 and following. B/c our hearts are changed, we WANT to put to death the deeds of the flesh and live holy. Given that you have since abandoned the Gospel of grace, I'd suggest that your problem is that your heart was never changed to begin with, and you have instead chosen to follow a system that insists on your own effort to get you there. After all, you did say: "Living the gospel as preached by many Evangelical Protestants is very easy when compared to living the Orthodox way. And that is why one is popular and the other isn't."


Peace,
Rhology

Rhology said...

"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."

Would this statement be possibly reconcilable within the position you're delineating here?

David Bryan said...

"Baptism isn't a work? It's certainly something one DOES, isn't it?"

Indeed, it is something in which one participates with one's body, as is confession with one's mouth and belief in one's heart. Is the physical body something to be denied participation within the economy of salvation?

"And couldn't the Judaisers of Galatia just say the same about circumcision?"

As unbelieving Jews, yes (at least while being internally consistent within their Christless religion). As followers of the Messiah and His new covenant, no. The two are qualitatively different by virtue of our Lord's institution of baptism over and above circumcision.

"Baptism is faith? No, baptism is baptism, and faith is faith. Unless you want to replace all the 'faith's in the Bible with 'baptism', in which case I think you might have some problems. 'By grace you have been saved, thru baptism, etc."

Well, I see a problem with your thinking here. "All rectangles are squares, but not all squares are rectangles," as they say. All baptisms are acts of faith, but not all acts of faith take the form of baptisms. Baptism is a sort of "sub-set" of "faith," as in, "One of the possible ways to express one's faith is baptism." Furthermore, your use of salvation in the quotes you use is inconsistent and anachronistic in one case.

"RE: sin. On my position, sin is BOTH a crime requiring justice AND a sickness (or more to the point, a death blow) requiring resurrection. I don't think anything is gained by dealing with only one side of anyone's position, and I think you'd agree."

Agreed. But, a question: who deals the "death blow"?

"RE: the law - the law is holy, righteous and good, still! To this day!"

As a tutor that shows us how much we need a Savior, yes. As some sort of life-giving agent, no. It does not function in this latter way. It was weak through sinful flesh, and Christ condemned it (sin) in His flesh so that we who walk in the Spirit (not just acknowledge and regret our sin independently of the body) would receive the fulfillment of the Law (Rom 8:2-3). It (the Law) is not against the promises of God in Christ, but it certainly can not do that which the promises of God in Christ can do…and this is effected, in part, through faith expressed in the context of baptism.

"Circumcision wasn't necessary for salvation in the OT; why think that baptism is in the NT?"

Jews in the OT understood salvation very differently that Christians ever have. In spite of this, it was very necessary to belong to the people of Elohim to be considered saved in any context. This was done, to infants, in circumcision, and it was required.

"Would this [quote from the Book of Mormon] be possibly reconcilable within the position you're delineating here?"

If the source of the quote was "guilt by association," well, I'll use a quote by St. John Chrysostom to "deflect": "Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved."

Darlene said...

Rhology,

I daresay that your view of baptism disagrees even with that of the great Reformer, Martin Luther. For he believed in baptism as regenerative, that the water joined with the words of the gospel in obedience to Christ's command effected a change. I don't have Luther's catechism in front of me, so I don't have his exact quotes. However, he didn't reduce baptism to a only a symbolic act but rather as a sacramental act.

Even his teaching on the Eucharist was much more akin to the Orthodox understanding, that we participate in receiving the body and blood of Christ. Modern Evangelical Protestants have strayed from their predecessors.

Lest you say, Martin Luther is not inerrant or infallible, only the Scriptures are my guide. Well, I ask, how do you know that your interpretation, that is, your understanding of Scripture is more accurate than Luther's? After all, he claimed the Scriptures as his guide the same as you.

Hoping you'll ponder this if you've never done so. :)

Darlene

Rhology said...

Indeed, it is something in which one participates with one's body, as is confession with one's mouth and belief in one's heart.

One's heart is a part of one's body?


The two are qualitatively different by virtue of our Lord's institution of baptism over and above circumcision.

Actually, I don't recall when the Lord Jesus ever addressed the question of circumcision, did He?
So, let's get closer to comparing apples to apples here, maybe I've been leading the topic astray. It was faith that saved in the OT economy - Habakkuk 2:4, quoted in Rom 1:17 - not circumcision. Circum was the SIGN of the covenant in operation at that time, the SIGN of one's membership in God's covenant people. Yet there were plenty of circumcised that were not saved and plenty of UNcircumcised who were saved. That's b/c it was a SIGN, not the "cause".
Fast fwd to NT times. All of a sudden, you would have us believe that the SIGN of the new covenant is different than the sign of the old covenant. I just don't see why, especially b/c it involves equivocating between the identity of faith and works as well as countermanding numerous NT psgs that say it's by faith, apart from works, by faith, not of yourselves, a gift from God, washing of regeneration, by grace, justified by faith.


Baptism is a sort of "sub-set" of "faith,"

This is just what I mean by equivocation. No, faith is faith-y. Baptism is not faith-y, it's something one DOES.
To illustrate, let me bring in another angle. The Christian is also required to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. It's a commandment. It's also a sign of the indwelling Holy Spirit and thus a sign of being a Christian - "if you love Me, you will obey My commandments". So tell me - do you love God? All the time, like you're supposed to? With ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
No, of course not. How is it different from not being baptised?
The Christian is required to love his neighbor as himself - "by your love all men will know you are My disciples." So tell me - do you love every one of your neighbors as you love yourself ? All the time, like you're supposed to? No, of course not. How is it different from not being baptised?
You're required to "do this, as often as you drink/eat it, in remembrance of Me." So do you do what you're supposed to, no problem, no deficit, every time you take the Eucharist?
It goes on and on. Your position is all Law and no Gospel. Where's the good news in this? That you can be saved if you'll just do better?


Darlene,

I'm not a Lutheran, and Luther was not perfect; I don't know why you think I should be obligated to defend sthg I think is wrong.
Let me turn your (amazingly common) question back on you, and you'll probably know my reply in your own: how do you know that your interpretation, that is, your understanding of Scripture is more accurate than mine?
Otherwise stated: how do you know that your interpretation, that is, your understanding of What The Church® Teaches is more accurate than Pope Benedict's?

Peace,
Rhology

David Bryan said...

"One's heart is a part of one's body?"

Both in a physical sense -- καρδια -- and a metaphysical sense -- νους -- yes. Either way, it is something that you consciously do. Faith is from God, yes. You and I disagree on whether or not that faith as a gift is irresistible.

"It was faith that saved in the OT economy - Habakkuk 2:4, quoted in Rom 1:17 - not circumcision."

True. Yet, if one did not get circumcised, one did not really have faith. Faith that saves is perfected by works.

"This is just what I mean by equivocation. No, faith is faith-y. Baptism is not faith-y, it's something one DOES."

The two are not mutually exclusive. I know I've used the metaphor several times, but Christ did not tell St. Peter to get out of the boat, then go over to the apostle, thump him on the head to make him believe Him, then pick up one leg after another and walk him out onto the water.

St. Peter had to do something. So do we. Our interaction with water does not provide us with any more room to boast than St. Peter's did, for we surely stumble after our contact with water, as well, and our saving encounter with Christ is facilitated entirely by His grace.

"So tell me - do you love God? All the time, like you're supposed to? With ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength? No, of course not. How is it different from not being baptised?"

It is different because the former is to be constantly increasing upon itself; the latter is a one-time occurrence. And the latter is meant to empower us that we might struggle by grace towards the former (as well as the other scenarios you mentioned).

"It goes on and on. Your position is all Law and no Gospel. Where's the good news in this? That you can be saved if you'll just do better?"

I think it's best to step back here and talk about our view of why these things are or are not done. I'm afraid my own descriptions in this combox on the matter at hand have been lacking. The western Christian is required to deal with a God who is offended and vengeful if one's sin is not dealt with according to justice; for the Evangelical, the Gospel therefore means a clear, loud message that God has offered a direct, unequivocal means of satisfying God's wrath and receiving His love.

For the Orthodox, sinners and saints alike are exposed to nothing other than the Love of God. There is no "Taskmaster" in the sky who makes demands of us which we, upon fulfilling, can check them off and "know we're going to heaven" because we jumped through all God's hoops. Rather, there is only a loving Father who shines the Sun of His Love and Righteousness down on all His Creation; those who have been formed into the image of Christ -- those who love their Lord and their neighbor, in other words -- will experience that Love as joy and a final refinement. Those who have not done so, will feel hell.

As to the exceptions -- Cornelius, the thief on the cross, the guy who dies before he gets baptized -- I would say they prove the rule, as exceptions are wont to do. The norm for Christian faith and obedience has always been that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death, therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Indeed, if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. This likeness, this antitype which now saves us—-baptism--is not worth boasting in (all we could say to have done is the removal of the filth of the flesh), but is rather the answer of a good conscience toward God, not working through any human agency but rather through the resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself.

He brings us through by His grace, that we might become what He is, by His grace. Rather than a requirement, it is the ultimate, and graciously offered, opportunity.

Rhology said...

I really do believe you're equivocating the two, and the disjunction in Scr is pretty clear, so it disturbs me to see this.
How do you understand the relation of Romans 11:6 and Titus 3:5 to this question?

Also, let me just say that while you believe faith to be resistible, there are plenty of things you don't think are resistible, such as the presence of God on the unbeliever as you mentioned, the power of God working to theosise, after death, the believer who was a sinner on Earth, physical birth, etc. It helps to expand the horizons a bit on this question, I think. :-)

Peace,
Rhology

PS - word verification is "sileta". Plankeye, anyone?

Darlene said...

Rhology,

I attempted to respond to you last Friday, but what I wrote was too much text. Also I was being distracted by my 3 yr. old gr. daughter.

You said, "Works are evil, they are what killed us."

On one hand, I would say that this statement leaves us with an either/or proposition. I don't think Scripture shows that works are evil. Rather, it is the condition of the heart that performs works which either makes one's works acceptable to God or not.

Consider I Jn. ch 3: "For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous." Even after the fall, it was possible for man to do works that were acceptable in God's sight. Yet it can be seen that Cain's heart was not motivated by love toward God, yet Abel's was.

The sheep and goats is another such parable that shows God's children can indeed perform good works and in fact, it is a must in order for Christ to receive them into His kingdom. We know that there are those who do works not motivated from a heart to please God. But for those who love their Lord and Master Jesus Christ, they perform good works out of a heart changed and softened by His love. These works done from a pure heart of devotion are not evil works, but rather the righteous deeds of the saints as spoken of in Revelation.

In Christ's Immeasurable Love,

Darlene

Darlene said...

Rhology,

On to your next comment. BTW, I think we may agree more on the sub. of works than disagree.

You said, "Given that you have since abandoned the gospel of grace, I'd suggest that your problem is that your heart was never changed to begin with, and you have instead chosen to follow a system that insists on your own effort to get you there."

There is so much to address in this one statement of yours. First off, you take a liberty that is not yours in saying I have abandoned the gospel of grace. I will give some background.

I was raised in an atheist/agnostic home and was unsure if God existed. I wanted to believe but found it difficult. After leaving home, one summer I prayed earnestly almost every night that if God existed, He would show Himself to me. "Are you there? Can you hear me?" I was in agonizing despair and wanted to take my life.

After 3 months, a Christian approached me and told me of Jesus' love. I met w. these Christians and prayed with them, repenting of my sins. Even as I prayed, I was unsure whether or not He could hear me. When I finished praying and went home, I was lifted to heights of joy unspeakable. Immediately I began telling all my friends about Jesus, even though I knew little.

The inward change of my heart permeated my whole being. All that I wanted to do was please God. Eventually as I grew in Christ, I learned that my responsibility was to carry my cross daily, even when I didn't feel like it. I needed to resist sin when temptations came and be an obedient child. I believed that I had the power from the Holy Spirit to please Him in this way and live victoriously.

I began attending a Wesleyan/Methodist College where J. Wesley's teachings were held in high esteem. These folks did not believe in OSAS thankfully. I worshipped with Christians who took living a holy life seriously and believed we can resist the Holy Spirit and rebel against Christ and thus fall away.

During this time I had a profound sense that Christ loved me and I was His child. I desired to please God and grew in His grace and knowledge. Then...something happened.

- To be con't

Darlene said...

The something that happened...many of my close Christian friends began telling my husband and me that they had been freed from the chains of trying to continually please God. They had discovered...GRACE! They no longer had to be concerned about being faithful to Christ because God would persevere them to the end. They didn't have to do a thing! The knowledge of this grace freed them from any kind of responsibility. I came learn that these folks had become Calvinists, TULIP and all!

Hey, it sounded great. Thus, my husband and I began to attend this Reformed Calvinist Church w. our friends. There I discovered that God had already determined that some are damned before the foundation of the world, and there was nothing they could do about it. Yet, the blessed folk in our church were chosen and saved. Or were they?

It turned out that one of the men who had been a Sun. school teacher and a Christian for over 20 yrs. backslid into grievous sin. Tragically, he died about 6 yrs later. This man was a very close friend and brother to my husband and to me. Well, the Calvinists would say he was never saved to begin with. But, my hus. & I knew he had tasted the kindness of the Lord. We knew there had been a drastic change in his life and he had lived as a child of God for all those yrs.

The longer we attended the Reformed church, the more troubled I became. I began to have inward struggles and doubts. The love of God was not stressed nearly as much as man's wickedness and God's justice. Try though I may, I could not be a Calvinist Christian and be filled with joy. I could not live as though I didn't have a responsibility to be an obedient child to God. And I could not live with a God who thinks that a believer's sin cannot be so serious as to cause him to fall away.

Calvinism could not give me peace. I had strayed from what I had first learned and heard, the belief that living a holy life unto Christ was needful and that I must seek Him daily in love and humility, repenting of my trespasses and sins. And that I must do good deeds out of love for my Heavenly Father.

- to be con't

Darlene said...

Fast forward to about 3 yrs. ago. I began reading church history seriously. Having been a graduate of history and English and a high school teacher, I took it upon myself to be objective in reading pre-Reformation history.

Needless to say, I discovered that the churches I had attended didn't teach the people about the early creeds or councils. As I read St. Irenaeus' "Against Heresies," St. Ignatius of Antioch's writings, St. Jerome's writings, Justin Martyr's writings, it became clear that their understanding of ecclesiology, baptism, and the Eucharist (to mention a few), were quite different fr. what I had been taught.

I investigated the RCC but could not reconcile the office of the Papacy w. Scripture, history, or Tradition. Other thgs such as Purgatory & indulgences were issues.

Then I became introduced, as it were, to the Orthodox faith. The more I read, the more intensely drawn I became. So much as far as the way we are to live the Christian life was similar to what I had been taught as a Wesleyan/Methodist. (imparted grace) However, the teaching on the Holy Mysteries was absent. So while I am ever grateful for what I have received as a Wes/Meth, I cannot but desire to grow deeper.

My love for Christ has only increased the more I study the Orthodox faith. And yet, I realize that I must live the life of the Beattitudes, I must be ever watchful of the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.

While I attend the Divine Liturgy, I've not yet formally become Orthodox. Yet I long to please Christ in all that I do, especially "in deed and in truth."

May Christ have mercy on me, a sinner.

In His Love,

Darlene

Darlene said...

Rhology,

When I said that the gospel according to many Protestant Evan. is easy, I was referring to that which was believed and taught within the Reformed Calvinist church I attended. Quite another story as far as Wesleyans, Methodists and Assemblies of God are concerned. (don't believe in OSAS)

However, I was specifically thinking of our Lord Jesus when He said, "The way to life is hard and narrow and few are those who find it." When one puts on the mindset that everything has been done for them and they can never fall away no matter what they do, that's a pretty easy pill to swallow.

Has our Lord not told us, "and he who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

Yet, my awareness of God's love not only toward me, but for all of His creation has filled me with such thankfulness and appreciation. I began to lose that awareness for those years I attended the Ref. Calvinist church.

Darlene

David Bryan said...

Rhology,

Sorry this comes so late; your trip out of the country came before I could respond.

"How do you understand the relation of Romans 11:6 and Titus 3:5 to this question?"

As to Romans 11:6, I understand that our salvation was entirely apart from us as concerns the Incarnation, Calvary, the Resurrection, the Ascension to the Right Hand and the Second and Glorious Coming. This all took place while we were yet sinners.

Our entry into our Savior's life is by faith -- HOW, exactly, one HAS faith, however, is the issue here, not that we are saved by grace through faith, nor that works follow faith to make said faith perfect and our calling and election sure (a making sure which is not a guarantee -- something I see Scripture as being very clear on, myself). For us, an entry into the waters is as simple and humble an act of faith as praying a prayer silently. Both are things we DO, but it is the One in Whom we trust when doing these things that makes the difference.

Regarding Titus 3:5, the Orthodox view, as you no doubt already know, of the phrase "washing of regeneration" is that it refers directly to baptism, and is intimately tied to the "renewing of the Holy Spirit" which follows (cf. I Pet. 3:21, where baptism does save you, yet does it by the resurrection of Jesus Christ).

"Also, let me just say that while you believe faith to be resistible, there are plenty of things you don't think are resistible, such as the presence of God on the unbeliever as you mentioned, the power of God working to theosise, after death, the believer who was a sinner on Earth, physical birth, etc. It helps to expand the horizons a bit on this question, I think. :-)"

All right...I don't think it's a matter -- from the Orthodox pov, at least -- of these things being "resisted." "Irresistible grace" can only be "resisted" if it is imposed on one from without. God does not impose; He simply is everywhere present and filling all things. We are made aware of His presence and must accept it, as is. Some will; some won't. This determines the destiny of a man.

So resistance of a force we are made to engage is not the problem; acceptance of a Person we encounter is.