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A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 02-08-2007

Dear Kirk,

Thank you for the reminder from such a source. It sometimes seems as though the more progress you think you have made, the more Satan's efforts are redoubled.

One of the very many reasons we need to live our Christian lives within the Church is the help and support we receive there against the assaults of the Enemy. I know that in some circles it is unfashionable to believe in the existence of Satan; but that seems one of his better ruses to disguise hi s activities in the world. He certainly provides us with an excuse for our own sinfulness and weakness.

In Christ,


- Rick Henry - 02-08-2007

Dear Kirk,

Yes, when we recognize that the Way is the goal, the gifts and fruits are more apparent. But, when I lose sight of this, as I often do, it is 'tempting' to even consider the fact, as John has mentioned, that "the devil made me do it."

It seems that I am receiving an abundance of gifts lately, thank you for showing us the superior Way today. Yes, moment-by-moment vigilance and humility, to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, or not . . . it is our choice.

In Christ,

a generous orthodoxy - kirk yacoub - 03-08-2007

If I may add something to the aspect of the conversation regarding that part of the Lord's Prayer which is "Thy kingdom come".
Like many Church Fathers the Syriac saint Moses Bar Kefo (d903), who was Bishop of Mosul, wrote a commentary on the Lord's Prayer, which includes:
"Thy kingdom come - That is: may Thy kingdom come and rescue
us from the devil who wishes to rule over us through evil thoughts
and reprobate manners [when God arrives to help us] straightway
[the devil] flees and trembles, he and every suffering and
Thy kingdom come - That is: that which is to be, and that which is
looked for that it may be revealed by the coming of Christ. But
perhaps someone will say: What profit comes to us that we pray
for that kingdom to come? And we say: Much. First, that we live
not neglectfully, but with diligence... Secondly, those who are holy
and virtuous look earnestly for it to come, that they may receive
their rewards... Thirdly, because this is proper to good sons, that
they be not enamoured of earthly things, but look for the things
to come and eagerly desire them...
Thy kingdom come - That is: He calls "the kingdom" the help and
succour of the Holy Spirit."
It is evident that St Moses bar Kefo understood that God's kingdom is both a contemporay reality and a future one, because, of course, for God
time does not exist, therefore His kingdom is eternally present outside of
and independent of our knowledge of it, and that we will, we hope, one day attain to this kingdom. The kingdom comes to our rescue via the Holy
Spirit, inhabiting this world but not of it. Remembering that Christ said that His kingdom is not of this world, we realise that it is out of the question that the kingom of heaven is or will be an earthly kingdom administered
by the Church hierarchy.
Another point to bear in mind is that many Monastic Fathers warned against the sly temptation whispered to us, namely that, if we get rich then we will be able to give greater help to the poor. The same warning would apply to those who seek worldly power in order to help others. It is
a trap.

Kirk Yacoub

- Rick Henry - 03-08-2007

'Living in the Already and the Not Yet'

Dear Kirk,

You are sharing some writing with me from a part of the Orthodox Tradition that I have not had exposure to in the past--thank you!

This particular passage that you have shared by saint Moses Bar Kefo, spurs me to thought of what is represented in the expression "Living in the already and the not yet." This expression may be somewhat overused, but I find much value in this way of thinking.

But, as it relates to 'living in the already and the not yet,' or as it relates to what some may consider a lifestyle of "Kingdom Living," I am moved to consider further what a Generous Orthodoxy is and what a Generous Orthodoxy is not.

What are we really saying here when we throw this term around like we do viz.are we just using it as a vehicle for discussion, or is this an umbrella of sorts? Some conversations begin in academic settings, like a "Radical Orthodoxy." And, for some it is best that they just remain a conversation (as opposed to ever really becoming a movement). I think from my point of view, a Generous Orthodoxy could be associated with the priestly prayer of Christ, and a theology of love. Other than this I'm not sure how much definition is required.

But, as we move to a consideration of definitions, and such things as boundaries and limits, I would like to share that as part of a time of meditation recently over a specific matter or two, I have been reading John Cassian. Specifically, his 'Second Conference of Abbot Moses,' in his writing on "discretion." And, I bring this up for an example more than anything else. An example of how when we may decide which part of Christianity to worship in, to be a part of on the local level, or for some who may find their vocation in the church, as we may consider which sector we may find ourselves working in as ministers of the gospel of Christ we need discretion, don't we? We need discernment to know where God would have us to be. Because this is what matters right? As shared elsewhere, we choose. And, we are responsible for our choice(s). And, we can be either deceived by the Deceiver or self-deceived; however, in the end, we have discretion, or we have a lack of discretion.

And, it occurs to me now that the primary readership of this forum is the UK, so there may be some present Anglicans (who would be Orthodox) reading this right now. And, you know *exactly* what I am talking about already. I don't need to try to develop this because you are living it right now! And, there may be some ex-Anglicans here who have already taken the plunge into Orthodoxy, and you have already been through this experience in the past.

And, I am not talking to any who are apathetic right now. Firstly, because an apathetic Christian would not still be reading this post. He would have bailed out by now. An apathetic Christian would not care where he is as long as he is comfortable. I think I am in a conversation now with those who appreciate what is authentic, genuine, and sincere, and not such things as what is fake, counterfeit, and artificial (especially as it relates to an artificial Union of any kind).

But, as soon as we move into this area we move into such thinking as idealistic thinking, or a contrary mindset that may decide that to accept things the way things are, is the best course of action. As we know the idealist sees things the way they 'ought' to be most of the time. And, characteristically the other mindset sees things the way they 'are' most of the time. Discussions of realism aside, the idealist will normally view a situation that is lacking in different ways, which include different degrees of tolerance or non-tolerance; but, normally in the end he will not be embarrassed to say something like. "Well, this may be the way things are, but it's not okay!." Whereas the contrary thinker may take the stand that "God is in control and we should sit down and be quiet!"

Even more specifically, in this light, as we consider such things as community and fellowship, which are 'living in the already and the not yet,' what is it that determines where we assemble together, where we worship, and where we minister from as a home base? What determines our association with a particular local church? What determines when/where we go and when/where we stay?

And, let us be completely honest here. Regardless of which approach one chooses to take (viz. 'this is the way things are, but it's not okay' versus 'sit down and be quiet'), there are "competing systems" to be found within Orthodoxy in particular as well as within Christendom as a whole. This cannot be denied no matter how it is worked around in circles. Not even the grand dragon of ambiguity himself, Humpty Dumpty could defend a contrary position here. There *are* competing systems.

Within Orthodoxy in particular we have O.O. and E.O. Within E.O. in particular we have a very 'ridged' sect and a more 'generous' approach.

So let alone the Roman Catholic label, and the Protestant label, there are competing systems. One can work from within one's own system and proclaim that it is the One True System or Church, and that in reality there is only Truth and Error. And, this same one can explain that if a true discretion is exercised then all will agree with him, as opposed to those who through a lack of discretion have been overcome by the Old Deluder and are in error. But, how absurd! How absurd to take even just one step back and look at at these competing systems promoted by the individual barkers with their megaphones trying to shout each other down by means of the same flawed method.

So, to try to wrap this behemoth up here, for now, how do we know?

Just as those who are called Protestants are belittled for what is perceived to be a method of everyone interpreting the Bible as it best suits their own purposes, their own agenda. The Anglicans, the Roman Catholics, and we "Orthodox" all do the very same thing with the writing of the Fathers, the Saints, and both the ancient and contemporary writers of theology. There is no difference in method here either!

So, how do we know?

And, if we appeal to a type of metaphysical plane in 'the already and the not yet' whereby we find a "common ground" with all others who desire to and actually have transcended all divisions in Christ, then what exactly does this way of being say about how we know?

Have we in fact found a genuine/authentic unity here? Have we found a way of being just as the Father and the Son are One, as Christ prayed we would be in John 17? Have we found a very authentic place, a Beautiful place from which the Spirit of Life dictates both a way of being and a way of knowing in which many if not all of the above questions are in fact without meaning anymore because where He is We are?

Or, have we further perpetuated the division to be found in the Body of Christ? Have we merely adopted the flawed and sorry attempt of some. The Bahai for example says that all are One, and if you do not recognize this then you are simply naive or unaware of the reality of the situation. But, this is to be rejected out of hand, because there is not objective reality in this statement at all and even on a metaphysical plane it is apparent that the 'we' of the Bahai clearly stand on separate shores.

But, possibly some here see the issues. Possibly some here see the ramifications of what is being presented as we seek and desire with our whole being to live God's way and walk the Path of Christ in 'the already and the not yet.'

Any and all 'grist for the mill' is appreciated.

In Christ,

A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 03-08-2007

Dear Rick,

The questions you ask are crucial ones, and I suspect they may speak to others of us here.

When you ask:
Quote:what is it that determines where we assemble together, where we worship, and where we minister from as a home base? What determines our association with a particular local church? What determines when/where we go and when/where we stay?
you ask something which most of us here will have asked themselves; and for now, if you will, can I concentrate on this point before coming back to others you raise, because I see this at the heart of a Generous Orthodoxy.

The first thing I would say is that for most of us there is indeed a choice. Those fortunate enough to be born Orthodox had no choice to make at that level - they could, of course, have declined from that Church, but they had no decision to make beyond that; I am not sure, on the basis of my experience that that equips them to understand converts very well; this is where 'generosity' is essential.

For years I stayed where I thought God had put me; I was English, I was an Anglican, my beliefs were, as far as I could judge, at one with Orthodox teaching; as a believer in the 'branch' theory, I could even convince myself that ecclesiologically I was, by that route, a part of the Orthodox Church.

Of course I recognised a certain amount of self-serving in the ecclesiological definitions I was using; but were they any more self-serving that the definition of the Church that said it had to accept the 7 Ecumenical Councils, or Papal Infallibility and Supremacy? It seemed to me you took your ecclesiology from where you were, and oddly enough (or not!) it answered the question of where should you worship.

But since no one else seemed to accept that Anglican ecclesiology, one could do two things: say, tough, this Church is Orthodox in its beliefs and its practices, and if the EO do not see that, well too bad, but that's life; or one could say, let us compare what is Orthodox with what is believed where I am. It was as the elements which were Orthodox became watered down that Anglicanism began to seem an unviable vehicle for Orthodox belief. True, that part of Anglicanism to which I belonged, that Anglo-Catholic tradition, was Orthodox - but at the other end of the spectrum of the same Church was something that seemed very unOrthodox. But still I stayed; who was I to decide where I should worship?

It was only when the pain and the barrenness of that place became too much to bear that I knew I must leave it; the pain was not that of subduing the will, but of hearing what was not and never had been Orthodox; Christ was not just a 'good man' who 'believed in social justice'.

What was clear to me from where I was (and that is a crucial part of deciding where one is heading) was that I needed to be in a place that was Orthodox: that left three places for me: the RCs, the EOs or, and these I discovered very late in my journey, the Oriental Orthodox.

I will say little about the other Churches. I have a great admiration for much that the Roman Catholic Church does in this world; but the Augustinian nature of its beliefs about Original Sin, and its innovations, made in a place that I could not go. Eastern Orthodoxy had long attracted me intellectually; but in practice I found it narrow, rigid and prone to confuse being Orthodox with being Russian or Greek; whilst I was the first, I was neither of the others, nor did I belong to that group of English slavophiles who want to turn Slavic. So for the longest time I felt there was no 'home', no way to Orthodoxy in a Church where I felt welcome and which would guide me to the loving God who made me in His image, an image which my own sinfulness and weakness had severely marred to the point it was unrecognisable.

Then, as I have said elsewhere here, I came across the BOC. Without it I would not have joined an Orthodox Church. It was Orthodox, yet eirenic in the best sense; it knew what was right, but you had to choose to learn the way; help was there whenever it was needed, but no one pushed, no one told one off for not knowing what was going on in the services; no one did anything but express friendship and generosity.

So, that was how I decided - although to me it seems it was 'decided' elsewhere.

What would I do if there was no BOC Church in Norfolk? Go where there was one as often as I could manage it.

Circumstances at Babingley mean we now have a Liturgy ever fortnight; personal circumstances mean that I missed the last one because I needed to be in Wales with one of my sons; so it is a month since I partook of the Eucharist; and I know I am suffering from that fast. I am trying to dedicate it to Him who made us all, but I sense it has made a difference to my spiritual state; I long for Sunday (and its long drive) like a man in the desert longs for water.

That is how I know I am in the right place. As an Anglican it seemed to make no difference if I took communion or not; now it does.

Since this is long enough, I shall come back to other points later - but I offer this as a testimony in the hope it is of some help, my dear Rick.

In Christ,


- Rick Henry - 04-08-2007

Dear John,

Thank you very much for your witness. It was most helpful to me as I read and considered such things as an English Anglicanism and Russian Orthdoxism, and now as a result, as I think back to my question:

'What is it that determines where we assemble together, where we worship, and where we minister from as a home base? What determines our association with a particular local church? What determines when/where we go and when/where we stay?'

I am brought to the words of St. Gregory Palamas who said:

Quote:Because the Deity is goodness itself, true mercy and an abyss of loving bounty--or, rather, He is that which embraces and contains this abyss, since He transcends every name that is named and everything we can conceive--we can receive mercy only by union with Him.

And, as I consider the fact that 'He transcends every name, and all that we can conceive,' this spurs me to consider the possibility for us to also transcend all divisions in Christ by means of this same 'loving bounty.'

But, there is a return to the quest and question(s) from this place. Yes, 'union with Him.'

I hope your journey on Sunday is a heavenly one John.

In Christ,

A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 04-08-2007

Dear Rick,

Thank you for the Palamas quotation, which I did not know, and which is most helpful.

We in the west have something of a problem on this one because we do have a genuine choice in a way which is not historically common. If one goes back to, say, John Henry Newman, whose experience as an Anglican has always spoken to me, his only choice once he felt Anglicanism had failed him was to become a Catholic. The Orthodox Church was known to him, of course, but he could no sooner have contemplated joining it than he could have becoming a Buddhist; these were not real options for him - they are for us. If Newman had wanted to become a Buddhist he would have had to come to it via a lot of hard to get reading, and discussions would not have been easy; if I wanted to I could chat on the Internet and be at the Buddhist centre in Norwich in 45 minutes; indeed, I discover there is a Buddhist centre rather nearer than that- in North Suffolk!

However much we, or others, may criticise the ideology of 'freedom' and 'choice' and preach the virtues of the ascetic life, none of that takes away from the reality of the immense range of choice available to us in our spiritual journey. The social stigma that would once have attached in some quarters to becoming a Catholic (for example) is no longer there; similarly, there are no laws or regulations through which the State seeks to control your life here. The privatisation and personalisation of Faith is now complete in the West.

So, what is it if it is not us, that decides the answer to your question? And if it is us, how do we reach that decision?

My wife, who is not a Christian, finds my own absorption with the Faith a bit of a puzzle. It is not always easy to explain it to her, or to myself at times. I have never had what I have heard called a 'conversion experience'; I have just never doubted that there is a God and that Jesus provides the Way to Him; everything else has followed from that.

But can I say to my two eldest sons, one of whom is a Baptist pastor, the other, although still formally an Anglican, an attender at an Independent Welsh Nonconformist Church, that they are in some way 'wrong'? Both centre their lives on Christ in a way I have never been able to manage, and both live lives of Faith and Works, devoting hours every week to studying and helping those less fortunate than themselves, and this they do in the name of the Risen Lord. Are they outside Christ's Church? Never an Orthodox missionary has crossed their paths, and no one from any Orthodox Church has ever come their way. Are they doomed for all Eternity because the Orthodox Church is pretty useless at Mission (the BOC excluded, of course!)?

When I talk with them about their beliefs, they are pretty Orthodox - indeed, since they both believe in the Seven Ecumenical Councils (or, as the Baptist son puts it, the 'eight')it could be argued by those of a strictly EO persuasion, that they were were more Orthodox than myself (although, as it happens, I have no beef with the other Councils). They have gone in the direction they have because that is where they have felt they were being led; perhaps if they had been in contact with an Orthodox Church, they would have felt led that way? Their Christology is perfectly Orthodox, and theologically they can talk their old father into a cocked hat. But ecclesiologically they are not Orthodox.

As I consider you question, Rick, about what decides where we worship, I think of both of them, and of the choices this society offers, and it gets harder to answer.

In Christ,


- Rick Henry - 04-08-2007

Dear John,

When I read in your last post:

Quote:So, what is it if it is not us, that decides the answer to your question? And if it is us, how do we reach that decision?

I was reminded of a dialogue I read last night from the movie the Easy Rider:

George Hanson: They're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent to 'em.

Billy: Hey, man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody who needs a haircut.

George Hanson: Oh, no. What you represent to them is freedom.

Billy: What the hell is wrong with freedom? That's what it's all about.

After my daughter surprising me with a raffle ticket, yesterday, for a Harley Davidson motorcycle that is being given away in a few weeks, I starting thinking about some things that have shaped and molded me in the past (note the proper spelling of the word molded Wink . . . I used to ride motorcycles when I was younger. If I win this one, I'm not sure I still have the nerve to ride one now. But, I found my mind wandering and remembered seeing this movie, Easy Rider when I was very young. And, I remembered drawing pictures of Peter Fonda's 'chopper' with the red, white, and blue gas tank. But, I couldn't remember what the movie was about, so I went back to take a look at it through these older eyes.

And, the above dialogue stood out to me. The movie as a whole I think shows a very bad type of individualism, and I think it speaks of a time in history, the hippie era, that is not without relevance to this present conversation. But, as we consider who decides, as you say above I think move again into the area of what may be considered individual faith and corporate faith.

And, now an article from the August 2007 edition of Christanity Today comes to mind. In an article here about the "New Perspective" view/scholars (viz. the new perspective on Paul) the following is expressed by Simon Gathercole:

Quote:Criticism of "individualistic" readings of Paul can throw the baby out with the bathwater. Some new perspective scholars want to guard against individualist understandings of justification. Seeing faith to be transcultural, available to both Jew and Gentile, these scholars shift the emphasis from personal conversion toward the larger canvas of God's dealings in salvation history. But we cannot escape the dimensions of conversion and personal faith in Paul. These are vitally important: The church is not a lump of humanity, but an assembly of individuals. Faith according to Paul is exercised by individuals (e.g. Rom. 4:5, 12:3; Gal 2:20), and is also a feature of the churches (e.g. Rom. 1:8, Col 1:4). Individual and corporate faith are not at odds with one another.

And, as this post has run too long before I ever taxied to the runway, it appears it will have to provide more of a smorgasbord than a specific meal today.

But, not before I address on last thing from your post. I wonder if any have ever considered the proposition that in regard to your sons' present position, which was mine not all that long ago, this position is usually in line with one's christology taking the seat of primacy over one's ecclesiology. But, in Orthodoxy, it appears to me that one's ecclesiology is one's christology. Regardless, of the perceived correctness or lack of it here, in either case, it is apparent who decides.''

Hopefully, I did not muddy the waters too much with this underdeveloped post; but if nothing else possibly some fodder for thought.

In Christ,

- Rick Henry - 07-08-2007

John Charmley Wrote:We in the west have something of a problem on this one because we do have a genuine choice in a way which is not historically common.

Dear John,

I wonder if we may just pretend that we are completely open minded here. What if for the sake of this post we just pretend that the individual Christian labels that we wear really do not matter to God.

What if just for this one post, we may consider, that it does not matter to God if a Roman Catholic priest prepares the bread and wine, or if an Orthodox priest prepares the bread and wine, or even in an old lady in the kitchen of a Holiness Pentecostal Church kitchen pours the grape juice into the little cups and pours the little pieces of cracker into the bowl before her church gets going upstairs.

Can we even allow this? Are we able to picture the little Greek boys and girls playing outside during their vacation church school, and then picture the little American boys and girls playing outside during their vacation bible school in some way as God may see these children?

And, there are other word pictures that we could draw here. But, as God looks at the old and the young as described above. Does He see in one group members of the One True Church of God, and in another group heretics manifesting prelest of the first degree? Do any of the labels above make any difference to God? Is one serving of the Lord's Supper the only one that is acceptable to Him whereby he considers the others to be unworthy offerings and foul smelling sacrifices?

For this post, I wonder if we could allow room for the possibility that God views all of his children, regardless of age, the same--He views them from the inside out, not the outside in (beginning with which group they find themselves a part of).

As I think about your quote above, I think of the Italian children who are born Roman Catholic, and I think about the Greek Children who are born Greek Orthodox, and I even think about some of the 'country kids' in West Middletown who are born Pentecostal. And, I wonder if God sees one of these groups of kids as being Christian kids, and the other groups of kids as deluded.

But, if we are to pretend that we are open minded here, and that we accept all of these groups of kids the same, as churches of the Church of God, as individual parts (viz. hands, arms, feet) of the Body of Christ, then would we not say that all of these kids have 'grown up a Christian, and never knew himself or herself to be otherwise,' just as Horace Bushnell has said? And, in this sense, regardless of which country these kids were born, their culture and geography, there was no choice, it was a non-issue. The Italians in their Italian clothes go to RCC. The Greeks in their Greek clothes go to the GOC. The Pentecostal women in their blue jean skirts which touch the floor and with their hair rolled up very high on top of their heads go to the Pentecostal Church. As, far as I can tell, from this point most either continue where they began, or stop going to 'church' while sharing the fact that they are whatever they are but do not attend a local visible church.

And, I realize that this post is not very on track, but I want to keep going with it by asking again, how does God view these children as they are now grown up, an as possibly some of them have become old and died? Is there on particular group here which he views as cradle to grave members of his church because of the 'name' and doctrines of the one particular church? Is there one group of individuals that is safe, that is saved here in the end, whereby the other groups of individuals have no hope possibly because they did not understand the minutia of Christology or never read the saints and fathers? Are these things criteria for being a member of the One True Church? I hope not, because I am not aware of any church which teaches their members about the Christoloigcal (or Trinitarian) controversies.

But, if we could pretend that labels do not matter to God, or that what is on the outside does not matter to God, then where would this leave us as we attempt to discern God's criteria? For those of us who do seek to genuinely know and be found in the Body of Christ, based on the criteria of the Father, if labels do not matter then where does this leave us? Could it be that we are left to follow the Holy Spirit for ourselves? And, in this sense if we are a Baptist pastor, and this is where God would have us at this point in time and history, then where He is we are? And, in this sense we are right in the middle of God's will, we are living and serving and worshipping in full obedience and with a true heart? Or, if we are a Roman Catholic priest, the same? Or, if we are a Greek Orthodox priest, the same?

And, in this sense, no other person can answer the question(s) that I have asked for me, or for you, or for your son, or for whoever . . . because either we have a personal relationship the Father through His Son and His Spirit for ourselves, or we don't. Either we walk by faith or we don't. In this sense where we worship, where we serve, where we receive the Lord's Supper, where, when, and how we are baptized, or whatever is either done in faith or it is not. Even at this basic level we know that without faith we cannot please God.

So, in this sense we see at a glance that without faith, nothing matters.

But, in conclusion I am wondering if it is possible that for the individual in his or her direct responsible relationship with God, there is no answer to the question(s) that I have asked other than one must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit of God. From the days of the first ones who had to struggle with whether to "Follow Me!" as Christ said, or not, who could answer that question for those fisherman?

In Christ,

A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 07-08-2007

Dear Rick,

You ask questions that have often occurred to me, and not least since it became clear to me that I could not remain an Anglican.

When we say that this is 'the Church' and 'that is not' we do not speak with the voice of God; indeed we may even be at risk of constructing a God in our image who judges as we do and who agrees with us; that would seem to be part of the human condition.

As I have mused elsewhere, assuming that 'the Church' is the EO or the OO, what has been the fate of those millions born in the west who have never had access to the Orthodox Church? Are we positing a God who just left millions of His people to languish without a Church. Or, say it is the Roman Catholic Church that is the Church, what then was the purpose of those millions of Orthodox lives lived in Him?

Yes, this being so (hypothetically) why did I not just stay an Anglican? Because there are some things which mark the real Church: it is Apostolic; it is Orthodox in its beliefs; it is sacramental; it holds the faith of the undivided Church. But, as I have said on another thread here, I get out of my depth quickly here.

I don't know what God thinks of the Pentecostals. I know Baptists who are convinced that they are 'saved' and I know Orthodox who think they are 'the Church' and both sets of folk quote the same Biblical verses in support of their positions and refer to their own apologetics for back-up. If I were a Baptist or Eastern Orthodox, I should no doubt be convinced by one or the other; but I'm not, so I'm equally convinced by both and wonder whether either have correctly identified the Church of which Christ spoke?

But then I think, what do I know?

I know that as part of the BOC I have found a Church which is Apostolic, sacramental and Orthodox, and through that a richness of experience I have not had elsewhere in terms of my encounter with Christ. As I stood in Church on Sunday there were six of us in the congregation - six you could see; but I could feel the presence of an unseen host - and I don't 'do' that - but I felt them all the same.

The Scriptures seem to indicate, as does the history of the Church, that right belief does matter - but to us. God can save whomsoever He deems worthy; but in this life the approach to Him is in one sense of the word, easier through His Church. Which is not to say there is no other way - just that there are different ways - just as some of the ways advertising themselves as such are dead-ends.

What you say here
Quote:Is there one group of individuals that is safe, that is saved here in the end, whereby the other groups of individuals have no hope possibly because they did not understand the minutia of Christology or never read the saints and fathers? Are these things criteria for being a member of the One True Church? I hope not, because I am not aware of any church which teaches their members about the Christoloigcal (or Trinitarian) controversies.
seems very important.

The Christian life cannot, surely, a lottery in which, if you get born somewhere as an Orthodox child and just do as you are told by your priest, you get the thumbs up even if you understand nothing of what is being said; but if you get born in Ethiopia as an Orthodox child and become a monk and devote your life to Christ, you get the thumbs down because God failed to recognise your Church just because some Greek-speaking guy did not found it. That would make salvation a lottery.

But enough from me - I am sure that there are other much more informed about these matters who can guide us aright.

In Christ,


- admin - 07-08-2007

Certainly not better informed, but I have also thought about these things for a long time without coming to firm conclusions.

I think I am sure that there are heretics and there is a sin of schism, which should not be understood as being directly applied to those who are born into a context - but rather to those who teach others to make choices in certain spiritually unhealthy directions, and also those who have a spirit of separation and exclusion in their hearts.

I think this was also the view of our Fathers who understood the difference between a Nestorius and a relatively simple layman in a Nestorian community.

But back to the topic, I wonder also if we are wrong to think in terms of God's displeasure as he looks at a Plymouth Brother, rather than a Greek Orthodox. Perhaps we should not think in terms of God's anger that someone is a Baptist, even a Baptist Pastor, but should understand that He is filled with love for that person and wishes them to experience more of Himself.

If being a Plymouth Brother is a step on the way to transforming Christian life in the Spirit, and is authentically already a partial means of transformation, then I don't see that God is angry. But looking at my own history, I can believe that He wished me to learn more and experience more.

I think, for myself, it would have been sin, and a cause of God's displeasure, had I rejected His call to take another step and then another. But this is the same for me now. I do not believe I am 'safe' because I have become Orthodox in the British Orthodox Church, rather I must still struggle to discern God's will and hear His voice so that I can follow the leading of the Spirit for the next step and then the next.

So I guess I am saying that I can believe that many of those in the other Christian communions are Christian, to the extent that they are being transformed by God and experience His life, but that I do believe He has more for them, and does will that they move to a greater experience of His life and love. Just as a cradle Orthodox must also make steps in their pilgrimage and must embrace as their own what is at first just an external spiritual environment which they may well fail to interiorise.

This does not mean that I believe that the other Christian organisations are THE CHURCH in the same way as the Orthodox. I do believe they are deficient - but I think it is permissible to seperate the faithful and devout believer in Christ from the organisation in which they find themselves, and the theology which they may embrace.

A Baptist may be a good Christian, but I believe God has a greater experience for them, and does provide them with opportunities to take steps into such greater experience even if these are not explicitly Orthodox opportunities. Many of the great Protestant 'Fathers' were orthodox if not Orthodox, which I think is a testimony to the fact that God is at work in many places and hearts.

Of course an Orthodox may be a bad Christian, which suggests to me that it is the journey, the pilgrimage, which counts, not the bare label. We may not be able to prejudge God's will for the path each of us takes, and for many millions the possibility of becoming formally Orthodox has been nil. But I think I am confident that if those millions are walking forward with God and to God and into God then they are not far from His will.

Is the Baptist and Brethren communion a means of grace? I believe so. Is the Orthodox Eucharist the reality of which these other practices is a shadow? I believe that also. But the latter truth does not mean that the former practice is without value.

Does any of this sound reasonable, and true?


A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 07-08-2007

Dear Peter,

I hope the holiday is going well!

Yes, it sounds very reasonable to me - and I find it most helpful. It is, indeed, the journey that counts. I remain grateful to my past. Had my mother not taken me to Sunday School at the Methodist Church she attended, and had I not attended Anglican services for many years, I should not have been able to get to where I am now. It also speaks to my sense that where I am now is a part of that journey.

I used to feel vaguely apologetic that I had not had a 'conversion experience', but I recognise now that that is what life is - one prolonged attempt to be with Him and to walk in His way. There are indeed many roads that are provided, and many travellers on them, and in His name those who attempt to do His work are my brothers and sisters on the road - even if we do not always recognise each other - and behave as a dysfunctional family.

In Christ,


- admin - 07-08-2007

Hi John

Yes, the holiday is going well. We've done something every day. Weather has been a bit mixed, and there has been plenty of rain, but it hasn't stopped us having fun. We're just back from seeing a Scottish Dancing and Pipe Band performance at Stirling Castle, and I've managed to fit in a few Holy Places.

I do think the journey is what is important, as well as the destination of course. That is why I have been so interested in helping all the people I come into contact with to become 'more' Orthodox than they are, rather than only to seek for them to become Orthodox.

As ever


A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 07-08-2007

Dear Peter,

Glad to hear that the holiday is going well.

What you say here:
Quote: That is why I have been so interested in helping all the people I come into contact with to become 'more' Orthodox than they are, rather than only to seek for them to become Orthodox.
is to my mind the definition of a 'generous Orthodoxy'.

There are times when it seems as though there are those who think that is they can only think themselves into the mindset of the 5th century they will be 'more Orthodox'; but is our challenge not to be 'more Orthodox' in our own times?

In Christ,


- Rick Henry - 08-08-2007

Dear Peter,

I appreciate your honesty when you say, as I do as well:

Quote:I have also thought about these things for a long time without coming to firm conclusions.

I think we need to know that it is okay to say we don't know, more than we do. It does not make one an agnostic to say that he or she does not know all the ways of God. But, as you begin to develop, as John has said, a definition of a Generous Orthodoxy in the following:


Perhaps we should not think in terms of God's anger that someone is a Baptist, even a Baptist Pastor, but should understand that He is filled with love for that person and wishes them to experience more of Himself.

You direct our attention to the inner man:

Quote:Just as a cradle Orthodox must also make steps in their pilgrimage and must embrace as their own what is at first just an external spiritual environment which they may well fail to interiorise.

and then you suggest, very well I think:

Quote:which suggests to me that it is the journey, the pilgrimage, which counts, not the bare label.

that it *is* the journey, the pilgrimage, the process which counts. Yes, it is the direction that one is heading that will determine where one ends up. For some, there needs to be a moving on down the road, for others a turning around or a turning from, but I think you very well describe an aspect of a Generous Orthodoxy here which recognizes the value in the statement, "It's not so much your perfection as it is your direction" (assuming none of us has arrived or apprehended that for which he or she has been apprehended).

So thank you Peter when you conclude:


Is the Baptist and Brethren communion a means of grace? I believe so. Is the Orthodox Eucharist the reality of which these other practices is a shadow? I believe that also. But the latter truth does not mean that the former practice is without value.

because while we will never have firm conclusions in all areas, as if we have become God's counselor (God forbid!), through your pen we can see value leading to a greater value; Grace leading to a Greater Grace.

Thank you for writing to us while you are on the road yourself, for being a tool in the hand of God for this fellow traveler. May you and your family have a joyful and blessed time away together and a safe journey home.

In Christ,