Thursday, June 04, 2009

Hierarchy of Conversion

The following was posted on a forum I mention often here, and is just something I wanted to place here, as well. Nothing groundbreaking or anything; just thought it was worth a mention:


I think there's a hierarchy to building faith, and faith rightly believed. If you've got an iPod (or about an hour to spend in front of PC speakers), you can see this hierarchy played out HERE and HERE in the life of a former Muslim who left Islam after reading the Passion passages in the Gospel, belonged to several different Protestant groups, and finally landed in Orthodoxy (iirc, he's been Orthodox for a while now).

This "hierarchy" I speak of can be accomplished within Orthodoxy itself -- and often is -- though sometimes it is not, and other times folks begin the "hierarchy" outside the Church (as you and I did), only to find its goal within Her.

The hierarchy I speak of isn't a "silver bullet" for spiritual growth, nor is it a hard and fast rule, but it goes roughly like this:
  • A person comes to a conscious, deliberate, chosen belief in Jesus Christ as his/her Savior, realizing the severity of his/her fallenness and the need to be redeemed from death. This can be a "watershed moment" and very dramatic, or it can be something that someone realizes they've always believed, but has now matured enough to where they could confess and live it. Regardless, I think that if someone does not have some sort of sense that s/he is grateful for the "great mercy" we sing so often about in church on Sundays, it will not matter what confession one belongs to, as one will not be "in church" for the right reason: giving thanks to the One Who saves.
  • A person needs to grow in knowledge of this Savior through familiarity with and regular reading of the Bible. I'm not saying they need to earn a theology degree, just...basic Bible vocab / characters / lingo / events. A "Who's Who and What's What," in other words. I did this as a Protestant kid in AWANA (a Scripture memory program); Orthodox kids can read children's Bibles with their parents, or (even better), the parents/priests/church school leaders can go over the short, lectionary readings with them when they're older. Parents are vital here, though, and need to lead by example.
  • A person needs to determine -- out of a desire to know Christ in the fullest way possible -- which of the many different confessions is the one Church Christ established and in which one can encounter and dwell in His divine Life. For Orthodox, they're already there. For those of us outside, we have to weigh the issues and enter later.
I've seen people come to Orthodoxy for wrong reasons (they love Russian music/art, they want to be right about everything, they're looking to be [insert former confession], just more "conservative"), so perhaps this contributes to some Orthodox people's not taking some converts very seriously. I've seen people who've grown up Orthodox who have (right in front of me) told me that what they're there for is fellowship among [a certain language]-speaking people, since that's what they are, and people who come because Mama makes them, and are therefore completely bored and hostile towards a faith they know nothing about, much less care about anything spiritual. Again, these are my experiences, and those vary, but it seems to me that if a certain "path of conversion" is followed -- roughly, that is -- it makes for a more natural, stable church life.

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