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

Dear Rick,

This 'conversation' is a blessing to me, and I hope, to others here. It goes along with what Kirk has written in another thread that
Quote:there is only one Church, but who belongs to the Church is not decided by us, but by God. To be baptized, to take Communion, to strive to love our fellow human beings is to live according to Christ, to be part of the Church. There are no branches, simply members of the one Church meeting in different buildings, praying in different languages, receiving the Sacraments through clergy ordained Apostolically.

This, and Peter's statements knit beautifully together to form something that one instinctively recognises as His teaching because it is filled with love, and absent from it is any sense of judgementalism. It is, as Kirk reminds us wisely, God who decides; whenever we think we are talking for Him, I suspect we just created a God in our image, which is the opposite of what we are called to do in the Christian life, where theosis means realising God's image in us.

It is more than I can do to concentrate on trying to walk in His way, and without the help of His Church I would fail totally; I make no judgements on others who are trying to do that. Where what is said runs counter to the Orthodox understanding of the Faith, clearly there is error; but my part is to live the sinner even if I abhor the sin.

In Christ,


- Rick Henry - 09-08-2007

Dear John,

Yes, there is a knitting together here, or a kind of hand weaving of a very Beautiful tapestry I think. And, this is why such conversations like this, take time to construct or bring into view the desired End result. Much in the way of the previous discussion of the Kingdom of God Itself, to even talk about such a place as a Generous Orthodoxy requires ears to hear and eyes to see 'the already and the not yet.' There is an intuitive knowing involved here that often surpasses what is written and spoken as it 'instinctively recognizes His teaching,' His voice. and then follows the True Shepherd.

And, this is the very place where our theology can often times get in the way of our understanding. I know that I have been guilty of this more than once. But, as you share in the following:

Quote: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.

you bring into harmony for us, in a real way, a manifestation (experience/encounter) of a Generous Orthodoxy that recognizes as it is recognized; whereby a mutual embrace of the seen and the Unseen put into a divine perspective the question of boundaries and limits.

Yes, Berachah! ( A place of blessing)

In Christ,

A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 09-08-2007

Dear Rick,

Yes, I think you are right and there is a coming together here to understand something important. Abba Seraphim has recently reminded me of something along this line, writing:
Quote:Saint Jerome tells us of the tradition that when, through old age Saint John was too feeble to preach, he had to be carried into the church in Ephesus in the arms of his disciples. At these meetings, he was accustomed to say no more than, ?Little children, love one another!? After a time, the disciples wearied at always hearing the same words, asked, ?Master, why do you always say this?? ?It is the Lord's command,? was his reply. ?And if this alone be done, it is enough!?

No better source, no better advice; and how hard sinful man finds it- as I am sure St. John knew.

In Christ,


- Rick Henry - 10-08-2007

Dear John,

As I consider this tradition that you have shared with us about the Apostle of Love, this sounds just perfect. And, I think of the poetic piece written by Peter that I quoted earlier in this thread. And, it occurs to me that as we may set about the task of discussing and defining a Generous Orthodoxy, or any other kind of Orthodoxy (regardless of the modifier), I wonder if there is anything more to say than what St. John has said, as quoted here?

Or, as he has said in his younger days through his first letter, The Book of First John . . . at the End of the day, when it comes right down to IT, what more really needs to be said?

But, again as the Apostle Paul has said, how shall any hear without a preacher.

Thanks for this Beautiful sermonette here John. As we see once again, from you and the sharing of St. Jerome's words of St. John:

Quote:Proverbs 25:11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.

In Christ,

A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 10-08-2007

Dear Rick,

I am glad the words came at the right moment; sometimes these things are meant. I do wonder if there is any more to say than the aged Apostle's exhortation. So profound was God's love for us that He sent His only-begotten Son to die for us that we might have life; no wonder the Beholder-of-God St. John spoke as he did.

That Christ who adjured us to love the sinner even though we should hate the sin, and to turn the other cheek, and to love them who hate us, counselled nothing but what He had Himself done. When those who could see no further than the ends of their noses turned them up at Mary anointing His blessed feet, He recognised the sacrifice and outpouring of love and commended it to them - and to us.

One of the things that puts so many off Christianity is the perceived presence of the opposite of what has just been described; the sense that Christians are narrow, judgemental, censorious; of course, being sinners, we suffer these vices as do those who criticise us for them; but perhaps what they really criticise us for is not being better than that - not living up to His example?

Sometimes we seem to spend a good deal of time behaving almost like lawyers, seeking to establish which Church is the True Church by looking at title deeds such as lineage, Apostolicity and doctrine - all of which matter terribly; but where His Spirit is, so are those other determinants of authenticity - how could it be otherwise?

Do we love one another? Can the world recognise us as His by this fact?

In Christ,


Re: A Generous Orthodoxy - Rick Henry - 11-08-2007

Quote:Sometimes we seem to spend a good deal of time behaving almost like lawyers, seeking to establish which Church is the True Church by looking at title deeds such as lineage, Apostolicity and doctrine - all of which matter terribly; but where His Spirit is, so are those other determinants of authenticity - how could it be otherwise?

Dear John,

Thanks again for your writing here and elsewhere. And, as I consider your above words in combination with the last few posts here, I would like to share part of a sentence I read a minute ago in the "Cloud of Unknowing:"

Quote:. . . what cannot be ours by intelligence can be ours as we embrace love.

As a stand alone quote, possibly for some this says nothing; however, for me, at this stage, in light of the above quote by St. John, I think it says just about everything.

In Christ,

Love - John Charmley - 11-08-2007

Dear Rick,

Indeed it is so.

That the aged St. John should have summarised the message of His Master in the words 'Little children, love one another' seems a profound truth.

Sometimes, too often perhaps, we get some reacting to 'Christ in love' with something 'tough' because they think our syncretic age misreads what was being said; but if we look at Our Lord's teaching here it is not at all an easy road - it took Him to Calvary; but without Calvary we should not have the Joy and Hope of Pascha.

So it is, at times, with us at our humbler level; we are commanded to walk in His way - and that is along His road.

In Christ,


a generous orthodoxy - kirk yacoub - 13-08-2007

It seems that all those saints who wrote about prayer and its joyful wonders also stressed that love is higher than prayer. Prayer is our
innermost contact with God, it is the road rather than the destination, because our destination is God and, as we are told, "God is love". This means that St John's repeated admonitions for us to love one another is
basically the most straightforward command to behave in the way that
God requires of us. It is the most precise imitation of Christ.

Kirk Yacoub

God is Love? - John Charmley - 13-08-2007

Dear Kirk,

Yes, I agree with what you say here.

Can I take up another, related question, partly because reading through what I have written I suspect it could read as though I am subscribing to a form of Indifferentism - that is the idea that God forgives us all without any cost to anyone, which, of course, is hardly Orthodox. What I should like to do is to explore a little more the idea of God as love.

You can tell from this, and my other post today on 'Prayers for those in Hell' that I am reading Romans and some of the Patristic commentaries on it. It seems that St. Paul wrestles with this same issue in Romans 3:23-26 when he tells us:
Quote:3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
3:24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
3:25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
3:26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

if we subsume all aspects of God into our concept of 'love' we miss that He is also light and a consuming fire, and that He is the only Just Judge. Matthew 13:49 and following remind us of this, and even in the Sermon on the Mount we are told about His judgement as well as His love. In Matthew 22:21-23 we are told specifically:
Quote:7:21 Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
7:22 Many will say to Me in that day, `Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
7:23 And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
I hope I am not proof-texting here, but it does seem there is a very substantial body of material, just in Matthew, about God's judgement as well as His forgiveness.

Perhaps we have to remember how expensive our salvation is to God? As the upholder of a moral universe, God cannot just overlook our sins- that would be to make a nonsense of everything He has made. We can be redeemed by the sacrifice on Calvary and the Resurrection if we become sons by adoption, by believing in or receiving Him (John 1:12). If we ignore or reject Him, then we pay the penalty for that: He sends no one to Hell - but we can send ourselves if we reject His love.

Here, St. Paul's comment quoted above shows us how God remains just and justifies the believer - through the sheer grace of God as a free gift; but that free gift, if I understand aright, did not dispense with the expiation of our sins, it required it and obtained it through Calvary. That justifies and acquits us of our sins, we are forgiven and our relationship with God restored; but if that is so, then we have to acknowledge our sins and amend our lives.

The Cross on Calvary transcends any human sense of justice. If we want that sort of justice we find it in Romans 6:23 - where we also find His generosity to us:
Quote:6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

So yes, God is love, but we also stand under judgement, and our obedience to Him shows our love for what He has done in setting us free.

Or so it seems to me; I would, as ever, appreciate being put right if I have erred; I would also be interested to know how others read these matters. I have tried to read these things in the light of the teachings of the Church, but my success may have been very small.

In Christ,


- Rick Henry - 13-08-2007

Dear Kirk, Dear John,

There are so many divine avenues present in these last two posts. Both of these take us with great speed to very deep waters. I think in some ways there are multiple conversations here, but in other ways we are speaking of just one dilemma which is 'freedom as love' or 'freedom as negation.'

And, I'm afraid now as I begin to dive into this that this may not be something that can be initiated and developed in a comprehensible way in this post, on my part. However, if we would agree that love is identified with ontological freedom, the freedom to participate in love, or the freedom to reject love then the expression "God is Love" I think ties together all thoughts on prayer/communion/participation and the justice of God.

Or to be more specific and to obtain a little help from my silent companion here, John Zizioulas, to paraphrase we are saying:

1.) Love is God's mode of existence
2.) Love constitutes His being
3.) It is Love which makes God what He is, the One God!
4.) God does not subsist as a property or substance of any kind (Love is not a property)
5.) God subsists as Trinity . . .

and here it is:

Quote:"Thus love ceases to be a qualifying--i.e. secondary--property of being and becomes the supreme ontological predicate!!!" [exclamation points mine] Wink

And, while arguments of such terms as the Triune God or God as Trinity can be helpful at times, here at this place they are transcended and moved beyond in a way that also moves beyond some discussions of behavior (viz, behavior for behavior's sake) and obedience (viz. obedience for obedience's sake). In some ways as we see that 'love is the supreme ontological predicate!' all else is moot, all else is secondary. We exercise our freedom as love for the One who first loved us, or we exercise our freedom as a negation of our image, as a negation of love.

So yes as we explore the idea of God as Love, we see reason for thanksgiving and joy as well as fear and trembling. And, this reminds me of a time a few years ago when my mom told me that she had a problem coming to terms with a God who is a God of Love and a God of justice. She could not reconcile the two. I suggested that she contemplate the crucifixion of the Son of God whereby we see both the Love of God and the Justice of God explained through God's Love for the world.

And, regardless of one's view of what is meant by the word "world" in John 3:16, or what Paul meant when he spoke to those on Mars Hill as being all children of God. We do choose to embrace the Love of God or we choose to negate it. And, I think this is how we can recognize each other, as the Apostle John has written, Just as love is God's mode of existence, as Christ prayed in the priestly prayer in John 17, this is IT. God is Love is the Kingdom of God. God is Love is the Church. God is Love is a Common Ground. God is Love is a Generous Orthodoxy, or a British Orthodoxy, or even what some may call an American Orthodoxy.

So hopefully I have not wasted the time of the reader here. But, as we may possibly continue to consider such things as prayer, or behavior, conduct, and obedience as it relates to the idea of God as Love. Possibly we can also consider what the driving force of these really is. As it relates to the type of union/communion that is spoken of above, how much is our behavior/conduct by means of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and how much of this is more of a naturally occurring by product or fruit of our participation in the Life of Christ?

I already know what a legalistic introverted fundamentalism says our part of the Christian life is; but, I wonder what a Generous Orthodoxy says our part of the Christian life is? What's the difference between imitating and participating?

In Christ,

A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 14-08-2007

Dear Rick,

There is so much here, and so much to think about - but we are in your debt for sharing these thoughts with us.

In 1 John 4:19 we read:
Quote:19 We love Him because He first loved us.
As the Apostle tells us a few verses before:
Quote:4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
4:9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
This seems pretty clear about God and love. Of course there is the usual antimony between God being unknowable and our attribution of emotions to Him - but that is what the Apostle says - 'God is of love' - a love that led to Calvary for our sake. It gets no better than that for sinful mankind: Grace freely given to those who will receive it. This would seem to suggest that what you say about the supremacy of love is spot on.

We can discuss who is meant to be included in this love, but is it wrong to suggest that all who believe in Him, confess His name, receive His sacraments, show their salvation through faith and works, and who call on Him? As I suggested earlier, this is not universalism or indifferentism; it requires Orthodox belief and worship, and it does not reject doctrine or dogma.

I don't see how we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps - that, surely, is why we needed the Incarnation, Calvary and the Resurrection? It is why we need a generous Orthodoxy too. It does no one any favours to pretend that all that is needful for salvation is to be good; as St. Paul told the jailer, it was necessary to believe in Him. Once we believe in Him and repent, we need guidance and the sacraments, and that is what I have found in the BOC.

I hope this helps us along the Way.

In Christ,


- Rick Henry - 15-08-2007

Dear John,

Thanks for your kind words. But, you know what John? . . . sometimes, 'me thinks' when we move towards the Zizioulasian heights, nothing short of divine intervention is needed to bring about any kind of real value the great majority of the time. Also, sometimes, I think if Keats were still with us, and he would meet some of us and read some of our threads, he would be inclined to write of the opium of the theologians which serves as the voice of a nightingale more than in any truly spiritual way, as it relates to the path of Christ. At least I will confess to this at times in my life. And, this is debatable, I know, but as I read your last post where the question is raised, 'who is meant to be included in His love?' While I am sure that the doctrine of the Trinity provides very clear answers, I am not sure that it provides them in a way that is accessible. So, if we do kick this down a few notches and very simply consider:

Quote:all who believe in Him, confess His name, receive His sacraments, show their salvation through faith and works, and who call on Him?

as you have said, then I wonder have we again provided a working definition of a Generous Orthodoxy? Or, have we provided in fact an example of universalism or indifferentism?

Is it possible that while not in the narrow sense, this is an example of a universalism or an indifferentism in the broad sense? Or, could this be worse than either of these two things which is a very divisive particularism under the guise of a call for generous behavior, under the guise of a call for unity? Well let's see . . .

You are presenting the Gospel of Christ here in the above, the Good News of Christ. So this is a particular message. You seem to be indicating that all who believe in Him and confess His name, receive His sacraments, and show salvation through faith and works together, and who call on Him will be saved. If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying this is available to all. And, there is a passion here that comes through your pen, just as does St. James in his addition to the New Testament.

So even at a glance, what do we conclude with little effort?

I would like to suggest that it is absurd to even consider indifferentism here. But, as we consider who is included and who is excluded from the Love of God, possibly we see that all are included who embrace this Divine Particularism which has a Universal appeal. The Gospel of Christ is a particularistic message with a universal appeal. No matter how we look at it this is a true statement. But, within the Gospel of Christ we do not see an introverted and self-seeking self-serving focus, or as some of the neo-Orthodox have written of 'eros,' but we see only a very beautiful 'agape' the agape/love of God, which is the opposite of 'eros' as spoken of previously.

And, I wonder if this offers a further help to us as we attempt to bring into view a Generous Orthodoxy? I wonder if we may use the agape of God as a 'reference point' whereby we may recognize each other? And, possibly this will need developed further in a future post here, but by the same token, I wonder if we may also use the 'eros' previously spoken of to bring about an identificational signification of the one's who have excluded themselves from the Gospel of Christ? And, I don't mean to sound harsh or judgmental here in the least; however, as we may consider moods and methods, and as we may seek to establish something more concrete and to give form to what is being said in a way that may be more helpful where the rubber meets the road, I wonder if this is a viable option at this time.

In Christ,

A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 15-08-2007

Dear Rick,

I do hope we are not writing in a vacuum here, and that some other members of the Fellowship may feel free to intervene and put us right if we err.

We are both right to be worried about the possibility of veering into Indifferentism or Universalism, because they do seem the besetting temptations of saying that God is love; modern man tends to forget those passages about judgement!

I have raised on another thread here the question of 'Purgatory' partly because it seems to me like a Catholic scholastic 'add on' to the teaching of the early Fathers, who were happy enough with one final Judgement, and saw God's love for us as so immense that the Blood of Christ washes us clean of all our sins if we receive Him. It is in knowing what 'receive' Him means that we need (or so it seems to me) the Church.

Those Protestants to say they have received Christ as their Saviour and who confess His Holy Name, what to make of them? They feel they have had a genuine encounter with the Risen Lord, but how can they be sure? How, too, can they grow in the Lord?

I don't want to make any comments here that seem to dismiss any one's experiences, and ask these questions in the light of our discussion.

You ask:
Quote:I wonder if we may use the agape of God as a 'reference point' whereby we may recognize each other?
I think we have to - we are called to love one another- as He loves us. When I contemplate that I shiver a little; He laid down His life so that sinners should have life, and life abundant. In the real sense to that abused word, 'awesome'. How can I not worship Him? How can I not love Him - He loved me first?

In Christ,


- Rick Henry - 15-08-2007

Dear John,

A vacuum? Confusedhock: Hmmm . . . I have it! Idea We will offer door prizes! It appears that we have readers but not many contributors. So, for all first time contributors to this thread (sorry Kirk and Peter), we will serve free coffee and sandwiches. Or possibly better yet, free steak and kidney pie. Yes, for all first time contributors to this thread, please PM me your home address and I will mail you a delicious and generous portion of steak and kidney pie! Big Grin

And, if at all possible to recover from that and try to be serious here, I am afraid that I could not carry on an intelligent conversation about the question of Purgatory. With all due respect to any Roman Catholic Church brothers or sisters that are reading here, each time I try to investigate this doctrine I am reminded of the saying,"sometimes to study something is to refute it.' Actually, I'm not sure if I heard that saying somewhere or if I made that up, but to be brutally honest, much like to study the Church of Latter Day Saints is to refute it, I just can't get very far with the doctrine of Purgatory. Possibly, if that conversation gets going John, you could let me know how to find that thread and I could read along.

As for eros and agape, possibly I should hold off on this to see if any will take me up on my offer above first, and at the same time possibly provide some intervention in some area.

In Christ,

PS Could anyone send me a recipe for the afore mentioned dish please?

A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 15-08-2007

Dear Rick,

Quote:"Rick Henry"]Dear John,

A vacuum? Confusedhock: Hmmm . . . I have it! Idea We will offer door prizes! It appears that we have readers but not many contributors. So, for all first time contributors to this thread (sorry Kirk and Peter), we will serve free coffee and sandwiches. Or possibly better yet, free steak and kidney pie. Yes, for all first time contributors to this thread, please PM me your home address and I will mail you a delicious and generous portion of steak and kidney pie! Big Grin

A whole new definition of 'generous'! :lol:

Of course, during the fasting period you might have to offer a vegan alternative - which might not be quite the same draw!

I'm interested in your comments on Purgatory; I have been looking at some RC sources and talking with my two RC chums about it, and really cannot see it at all; it seems so contrary to what the Fathers say, and a quite obvious addition with ulterior motives. I admire Catholic spirituality, and, like you, have an immense amount of time for some of the Roman Catholic mystics, but find such additions unnecessary.

Aquinas seems to have a lot to do with it - but then as it is twenty years since I read much of his work, it is best to shut up whilst people just think I'm a fool, rather than going on and proving it beyond doubt.

In Christ,