A Generous Orthodoxy - Printable Version
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- John Charmley - 14-04-2008 01:54 PM
Indeed: 'How shall we live?'
He told us that it would be by our love each for the other that we would be identified as His children; by that standard how many of us fall short?
Some, there are, who think this is a pink fuzzy liberal cop-out; I think the cop out is not dealing with the question of what it means to love each other. Some there are who talk of tough love; in it is to be found more of the former than the latter. In some the spirit of domination and control runs high; and in the name of love Christians have committed some great atrocities. No doubt those who handed Our Lord over to be crucified were motivated by love for their fellow Jews and the desire to save them from this blasphemer.
We know from St. Paul's description what the qualities of Christian love are; we from Our Lord Himself that we are called to love our enemies and those who hurt us.
There is an inside and an outside to the Church. The inside consists of those theological realities which make her what she is in the saving economy of God: the continuation of the Spirit of Pentecost; the body of Christ living with His Spirit; this is a great mystery which brings us into the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Outside, the Church has an existence as a public and social body; she has a history which is part of that of this world. Part of that 'outside' is her liturgy, her canons and the culture within which she exists. The imperfect correspondence between her 'inside' and her 'outside' is part of our daily tragedy.
But we have His assurance that the reality of His salvation will always be communicated through her - whatever her earthly frailties and the shortcomings of her leaders. Many of the texts we quote at each other when ecclesiology is being discussed are worthless in this sense. Ecclesiology was not a recognised category of theology in patristic times; indeed even in the West one has to wait for the post-medieval schoolmen before one gets a sophisticated account of ecclesiological theory; I'm unconvinced we get it in the east until more modern times.
In patristic times the Church was taken for granted as the necessary medium and he environment in which we meet with God through Christ. Clement of Alexandria tells us:
Quote:Just as the will of God is an act and is called the world, so also is His intention is the salvation of the men and is called the Church. (Paedagogus, I:6)St. Maximos sees the Church as the image of God, as the source and end of all things; it mirrors the divine unifying activity. Where do we see that in the 'outside' of our Churches?
If, as St. Cyril tells us, the Church is the place in which we are filled with the very life of God, where theosis occurs, then we know that from our 'inside' knowledge of the Church. Since the whole purpose of the Incarnation is our divinization, that has its model in our Christology. That is why Christology matters.
We do not hold that Christ is a divine person whose two natures contribute to a total reality. The hypostatic union between the Word of God and the human nature of Jesus sees the divine penetrating the human to transfigure it. This is not to say that the humanity is swallowed up by the divinity (which would be Monophysite); but it is to say that it is wholly penetrated and transformed by it; in that sense, and that sense only, the divine nature is primary. That is why the non-Chalcedonians were accused of Monophysitism. But it seems to me that this is also now believed by Chalcedonians, at least in the West, where Catholic Christology tended in that direction until the more recent neo-Antiochian writings of those like Kaspar. Pope Pius XII certainly held a Christology similar to the one outline above.
If we come back to the definition of a Church offered before. The Oriental Orthodox are comfortable with the Ignatian model - the local community of the bishop with his priests, deacons and his people. This is not just the fundamental definition of the Church, it is the place where the 'inside' and the 'outside' meet. Any wider definition is the agglomeration of those Churches - which is why we pray for the 'Orthodox Churches'. Theologically, nothing is gained by adding them together, and if many, or any, should fall away, that is of no effect. He is present at the Eucharist. Breaks in communion are a symptom of sickness in the Body of Christ - not a life and death affair.
That is enough for now, and I need to be corrected is I have gone further than is orthodox in my Christology; so for now, I shall stop, take breath - and correction.
- Rick Henry - 15-04-2008 12:07 PM
Where Christology and Ecclesiology Overlap: "And Where They Don't"
Dear John, Dear Kirk, and All:
I see no correction being offered in this last series of posts.
And as Kirk has said that no particular denomination has the right to say we are "the" One True Church, and John has said that we find our definition of "a" Church in the Ignatian model--the local community of the bishop with his priests, deacons and his people--I think we find ourselves positioned like never before in this discussion.
As much as I would love to interact with every paragraph of John's Beautiful post above right now, I feel compelled to not do this at the present. But, instead I would just like to enjoy what is said above about "the" Church and "a" Church.
As Kirk wrote, "we human beings have set up internal barriers and behave as if the Church is disunited," I think we are beginning to address in a very real way what it means to transcend these internal barriers which are a symptom of sickness, and a tragedy.
Possibly at this point, and in light of John's post, as I consider the various definitions of the expression "identity crisis," especially as it relates to adolescents 'as a result of conflicting internal and external experiences, pressures, and expectations and often producing acute anxiety,' another way to come at this would be to ask where do "we" find our identity. Or, where do "you" find your identity?
How often do we confuse what we do with who we are?
I do not have any direct quotes from Pope Benedict, but in his present trip to the US, he seems to be pointing repeatedly to the person of Jesus Christ as being both the Way and the Bridge.
And, some might think something like, "well, that is starting to sound a little too protestant for me," and while this response would be laughable all things considered, I wonder if we could just think about what Pope Benedict is saying as it relates to our present discussion.
But, I am attempting to keep this contribution short because I feel we are in a very good place now with our discussion of "a" Church and "the" Church, so . . .
- John Charmley - 15-04-2008 09:09 PM
Another powerful post. Not Protestant at all. Christ founded a Church. That Church chose the canon of Scripture and interprets it aright, just as it provides the continuing locus for our Eucharistic encounter with the Risen Lord; so where else would a generous orthodoxy begin and end but with the alpha and the omega? So I like the idea of beginning with the Incarnate Word.
It was, after all, our failure to be able to define our common Christology which began the divisions which plague us to this day. But, as I tried to indicate above, they are just that - a plague, a sickness in the Body of Christ. Some may wish to claim they are a division of that body - but it cannot be divided. So I am driven to a conclusion that either large numbers of those who glory in the name of Christian are, in effect, deluded heretics; or that our sinful selves fail to comprehend the nature of the body of Christ. That does not mean that some who call themselves Christian are not deluded; nor does it mean that we comprehend the nature of that body accurately in every part.
But since He said that men would know we were His children by the love we bore each for the other, if we have no love then we have not Him; if we love not our brother whom we see clear, how shall we love Our Father whom we have not seen? If we define our brother as those who believe only as we do, how do we reconcile that with His command to love even our enemies?
It was His ineffable love for us which was the cause of the Incarnation; did we merit it? Do we merit it? Do we love others? If we do not not, we do not do His work.
So yes, begin where we end - with the Risen Christ and how we understand and where we encounter Him.
Faith in a System? Or Faith in a Person? - Rick Henry - 16-04-2008 01:47 PM
Transcending All Divisions in Christ
It almost sounds like you are saying something along the line of "In the End, the Beginning." And, as we do consider what you have well shared about the Alpha and the Omega in addition to:
and also as Kirk has shared:
we see in a most glaring way the causality of the divisions and barriers which are antithetical to a generous Orthodoxy.
I'm not sure how many different ways this can be illustrated.
But, what can we do here other than provide a continual/perpetual restatement of the problem? It does not take a Rhodes scholar to see what lies at the source of our weakness. What remedy can we offer to attempt to stamp out this plague or to actually bring about a healing?
In the Cincinnati, Ohio area there is a town called Mount Healthy. This city was named Mt. Healthy because it provided a refuge from the Cholera epidemic of 1850. Mt. Healthy was a higher ground that provided a place of health, safety, and welfare during a time when it was needed most. The residents of this city seemed to be unaffected by the epidemic, and for others who were not consumed by the Cholera, who took refuge there, this was a true 'place of blessing; (berachah!). During this point in history, those who found themselves abiding in Mt. Healthy, on this higher ground, found a true remedy to the problems of their day.
And, as it relates to our present conversation, whether we may choose to speak of a higher ground or a common ground, or whatever[!] . . . it seems more than apparent to me that in order to not ignore the priestly prayer of Christ, or the imperatives found in the Scriptures which speak directly to Unity (as well as those passages which speak to those who promote division in the Body of Christ), there must be a turning from the methodology of those who seek to perpetuate division in the Body of Christ. And, I am not saying there is to be an outright rejection, but a turning from . . . which is followed by a turning to nothing more or less than a Christocentric Ground.
This place, this Christocentric Ground can be the only true refuge in our day, in our point in history. But, this is a very abstract way of thinking isn't it? This is really to be up in the clouds, as if one is taking an imaginary hot air balloon ride to visit his imaginary friend somewhere, isn't it? Or, at best possibly this is viewed by some as what has been called the "Religion of the Future" by some, or a design-it-yourself religion, or a New Age pick and choose cafeteria style way of being and worshipping the Divine, or the Ultimate Cop-out? BUT . .. who would think these things? Why would they think these things? What emotions or motives would drive these kinds of thoughts as it relates to the suggestion of a generous Orthodoxy which sees a mystical abiding in Christ as both the vehicle and the goal of the the Life in Christ above ALL else--above even branches of systematic theology!/?
And, possibly, I find myself in a minority position, or standing alone here. Possibly, this way of knowing, this way of being pushes the envelope too far for some. But, as we speak of the Way or the Bridge, as it relates to our individual sanctification and our corporate Unity at the same time, there is no other way than the way of experience/encounter. Who is the learner? Who is the follower? Who is the disciple of Christ? Is it a prerequisite of these that one abides in a certain place? Is it a prerequisite of discipleship and genuine experience/encounter that one is under the 'authority' of a certain pope? . . . a certain bishop? If so, which one?
Who determines where this place of blessing is to be found. Who determines when and where one genuinely encounters and is consumed by the Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit of God.
Or, for that matter, even though some do not like the word 'validity' used in this way, who determines the validity of any particular ministry?
Well, I realize now that this has become too preachy here--sorry 'bout that. So I'll try to just find a place to land by stating that the individual members of the Body of Christ can no more bring about genuine structural unity in our day than those individuals who found themselves consumed by Cholera in 1850 could heal themselves. But, today, as in the past, I would like to suggest that there is a refuge and there is a place of blessing, a place of agape, a place of healing, a place of genuine Union/Communion which is in reality the Unity that our Lord prayed for, and this can be experienced and manifested in reality regardless of what hinders and plagues us structurally in the here and now.
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
a generous orthodoxy - kirk yacoub - 18-04-2008 09:48 AM
We all know of the event in St Matthew's Gospel (14v22-33) in which Christ approaches His disciples who are in a storm-tossed boat, walking towards them on the wind-raged waters. Simon Peter responded to Christ's calming words of "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid", with "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water." Christ replies, "Come," and Simon Peter leaves the boat and walks upon the water towards Christ. But when he realises the violence of the wind and the rage of the sea he suddenly becomes afraid and begins to sink and cries out for Christ to save him. "And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"
This event is rich in lessons regarding faith and Christ's protective power. It shows how simple, trusting, uncalculating faith in Christ will lift us above all obstacles, and it shows also how that reverting to human reasoning power can erase faith and lead to calamity. This event forms the background to the fourth couplet of a Syriac prayer:
"You drew Simon from the raging sea,
Draw Your Church, Lord, from schisms and disputes."
It is significant that the previous three couplets all end with:
"Forgive all my sins against You."
These simple words of prayer, based on the Gospel, teach us more than enough about how to live that generous Orthodoxy which is life in Christ.
- Rick Henry - 18-04-2008 12:16 PM
Thank you for sharing this Beautiful prayer with us, it speaks volumes to me and provides a look into a mind which is set on things above. Barring the use of this prayer by either the ostrich or the apathetic, I think this demonstrates perfectly the answer to the question "How then shall we live?" As you wrote:
Quote:These simple words of prayer, based on the Gospel, teach us more than enough about how to live that generous Orthodoxy which is life in Christ.
You seem to have a knack for saying in a short span what I cannot say over the course of many miles. From now on, when I am asked what I mean when using the expression a generous Orthodoxy, I will refer the enquirer to you post here (as well as others which bear your name above). Yes, this prayer teaches us, as you say, and it models for us the life lived by the one who has transcended all divisions, all obstacles by means of the Life in Christ. I wonder what denomination or what faith tradition would challenge this Way? Or, as we read, "Draw Your Church, Lord, from schisms and disputes," I also wonder who would seek to prevent the one who would rise above or desire to overcome all obstacles/divisions in Christ from praying this prayer?
And, I think it is interesting to read Matt 14:22-23 while reading the above Syriac prayer. Look at Peter in this. Observe his mindset(s). In some ways, we read in other passages that Peter was a man of extremes, somewhat impulsive, and one prone to let his excitement and passion for the Lord manifest itself in ways like (without any reckoning at all) reaching for his sword with lightening speed, or to even cast himself into the sea (I love John 21:7). However, regardless of our reading of the young Peter who walked with the Lord, or our reading of the mature Peter who offered comfort and instruction to those who might be prone to falter . . . Peter was neither an ostrich nor apathetic at any point in his life. During even his lowest moments we see great engagement/awareness.
However, as Peter has displayed a form of immature and mature faith/trust during the course of his life his entire life is so rich with lessons, especially for those like me who seem to have some things in common. And, it is also interesting to me to see that the same Peter who without seemingly any calculation was the first (and only) one to actually get out of the boat, while the storms and winds were doing what they do best, is the same Peter who wrote later in life about the necessity of exercising self-control, patience, and endurance. And, to these he wrote we should be diligent to add and exercise knowledge. So I think we are seeing a balance here as we might consider such things as a blind leap and a blind faith, as opposed to a mind set on the promises of God. For as we read the mature Peter, we see that it is through these precious promises that we may truly take flight of the rottenness and corruption that plague us that we may in truth become partakers of the Divine Nature.
So in an effort to be crystal clear here, we are not talking about a simple or ambiguous trusting, or faith in faith, when we speak of a generous Orthodoxy. And, we do not think it is our faith that will lift us above all obstacles. Our faith is neither the agent nor the vehicle . . . but, just as Kirk has implied there is a synergia as we speak of 'both' the participation 'and' the transcendence of that generous Orthodoxy which is life in Christ.
In closing, hopefully on lighter note, in the "for what it's worth" basket, I would like to offer an old Syriac saying that I heard last year (try to read this quickly and with a middle eastern accent):
"Have faith in God; but tie your camel at night."
PS I wonder who will have the great honor of making post #100 in the thread? :wink: . . . and come to think of it, <<<Tom>>> are you still out there? You might notice a few things in this thread that provide a common ground for those who ask if there is an American Orthodoxy? If you are still out there let me invite you to not be the lone stranger but come in here for conversation and companionship.
- John Charmley - 18-04-2008 02:16 PM
Dear Rick, Dear Kirk,
As ever, we are in Kirk's debt for the insights offered from the Syriac tradition; there is in it a true generosity that manifests itself in the compassion with which it responds to those who will receive it.
How often do we meet other Christians who seek from the faith validation for their own preferences and lifestyle, and who then respond with some hurt hostility when those from another tradition fail to do that? Our western liberal society has raised 'tolerance' into the most desirable virtue; but even it will not 'tolerate' those opinions which fall foul of its liberal bias. So should it be surprising that the Church which Christ founded also has to exclude those who preach 'another gospel'? If we read St. Paul to the Galatians, especially his first epistle, we see an evangelist writing in the white heat of inspiration, but also of indignation that those he had brought to the Faith had so swiftly fallen into error. Galatians 1:9 can be shocking to modern ears and eyes:
Quote:As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
But we can compare that with the tone of the dispute with St. Peter over eating with the Gentiles (2:11-13). St. Peter accepted the reproof and did not try to reprove St. Paul's teaching. Instead, as we know from Acts, the dispute was taken to the Church and decided in council at Jerusalem.
The blessed Apostles themselves show us here two things surely? One is that there were disputes between them from the very start; the second is how such disputes should be conducted.
How easy it would have been for St. Peter, who had known Christ personally and had been so close to Him, to have turned on this upstart ex-persecutor who claimed to have had some private revelation and told him to keep quiet. How easy it would have been for St. Paul, in the white heat of his dramatic conversion, to have dismissed Peter, James and the others as rustic conservatives who could not see what he could; how easily he could have made the claim to be 'reforming' that which had already fallen into caution and corruption. Yet neither of these great Saints behaved as so many of us have done since.
Peter accepted the reproof. St. Paul worked with his fellow Christians to find a way of working together in the name of the Risen Christ. It was by their love, each for the other, that they were identified as Christ's children. Can we make that boast?
- Rick Henry - 20-04-2008 01:42 PM
Thanks very much for the above meditation on preference, lifestyles, and ministry. How appropriate it is to even consider the interaction between Sts. Paul and Peter as you have. And, as you have written:
Quote:How often do we meet other Christians who seek from the faith validation for their own preferences and lifestyle, and who then respond with some hurt hostility when those from another tradition fail to do that?
I am reminded of the case of the immature man or woman who will never marry. There is a desire for the oneness and communion found in marriage, but due to a severe dysfunction in the life of this one, there will probably never be such a union. Often times in these situations, I have observed there is a continually calling for union in the life of the one who is handicapped in this way, but when a potential mate appears then there is a pushing away (especially when the would be spouse begins to get too close). There is a desire and a motioning to come close, but at the same time there is an aversion and a pushing away. And, while this does not speak fully to what you have described above, I think it does play a part at times. Especially, as you use the word "validation" above I think to a recent post of mine, where I wrote:
Quote:Or, for that matter, even though some do not like the word 'validity' used in this way, who determines the validity of any particular ministry?
Sometimes questions have no answers. But, I can't help but to think that as we might actually just even attempt to answer this question that there would be a good return on the investment. Who determines the validity of a particular ministry? Or, what determines the validity of a particular ministry? What criteria is used? Possibly, it would be helpful to consider who determined the validity of Christ's ministry or what determined this as we would look at some of the passages in the Scriptures, as the one shared by Kirk above. And, sure these questions can be answered with many catch phrases, I think. And, these same answers can be supported Ad nauseam via circular reasoning until the cows come home or the bed starts to spin . . . but what has really been said as we may say the validity of a particular ministry is determined by the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church which has guarded the Treasury of the Apostolic Witness through the writings of the fathers and saints? Or, possibly better yet[!] . . . let's turn that around and ask what has been said if an answer is supplied whereby the one Church, and the mind of the Church is to be equated to the Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit of God--then what have we said?? As another good doctor has written:
Quote:. . .In Being as Communion, in chap. 6 section V. The 'Validity' of the Ministry, John Zizioulas says:
Yes, the ultimate generous Orthodoxy . . . the koinonia of the Holy Spirit!
Yes, John, who can make that boast? Hmmm . . .
- John Charmley - 20-04-2008 02:40 PM
In a moment of quietness, it helps to turn back to the contemplation of this topic; but do forgive me if my thoughts are less ordered than they might otherwise be.
One of the key points which made me unhappy with my Anglicanism was the insistent question: 'By what authority to do you say these things? By whose warrant do you teach?' One often finds with Protestants that they will say that their answer here is: 'The Holy Spirit'. But how are we, outside that private revelation (against which St. Peter warns us) to know whether it is of God - especially when there seem to be so many different versions of what the Spirit says?
Writing recently to a Protestant correspondent who was using the familiar argument that everything he believed was found in Scripture, I responded thus:
'Your reliance upon Scripture is admirable, but what do you suppose the Church used before it decided upon the canon of Scripture? If it had gone by your teaching it would have had nothing to say or do because it had nothing but the OT to read. So, if we take the example of the early Church, it cannot have followed your example of relating everything to the NT because it did not have one. What do you suppose it did?
The Church knows what it did because it still does it, having canonised Holy Scripture and teaching naught that is not in it; but teaching it in the fullness of the Faith once received. You expect us to accept your man made declaration that you hold the warrant for what you preach from the Spirit; yet you will not accept that claim when made by the Church founded by Christ.
When Our Blessed Saviour ascended into Heaven He left no written Gospel behind Him. Let us abandon the worship of books and see what His Church possessed on the day of the Ascension.
It possessed the Holy Spirit which had descended upon His Apostles at the Pentecost.
It possessed the Eucharist instituted by Our Lord Himself at the Last Supper.
It possessed the 'Tradition' received from the Apostles.
It possessed the Old Testament which is full of prophecies and symbols concerning the Messiah and His redeeming work.
The Church first found the Gospel in the liturgy of the Eucharist; not in man made letters or words, but in the actual act of bestowing upon the faithful the sacrificial Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ as a revelation of salvation. Through the Eucharist we encounter the Risen Lord and receive remission of sin.
This is how the Church lived for at least twenty years after the ascension of the Lord until the first documents of what that Church would call the New Testament was written. The Eucharist was the practical and simple way in which the Church learned and practised the Gospel; it is still so today, although the Church has since given us the whole of the NT, pronouncing what is and what is not canonical.
One must know the relationship between the Eucharist and the Bible, as well as the Holy Spirit that abides forever according to His promise to His Church, to have the fullness of the Faith.'
I think, dear Rick, this is relevant to the turn our discussion has taken. As the 'good doctor' writes, we must begin with the community, and that, I think, means we must begin with what brings it together. Christ did not drop off a book of instructions, He left us His Church, and He left us the Eucharist at which we would be able to receive His Body and His Blood; He in us, and us in Him.
When we know that He is in us through the Eucharist, then our generosity knows no bounds - save those of our frailty.
- Rick Henry - 20-04-2008 06:04 PM
A moment of quietness in which one can contemplate this topic is what I find myself in also this Sunday afternoon (no kiddiewinks!). As for the less than ordered thoughts, knowing this is a rare exception in your case, how could the pot even think about calling the kettle black? :wink:
I learn so much from you and from my interaction(s) with you, this is always and only a pleasure on my end to contemplate, discuss, and sometimes even just think out loud.
And, with that shared, I have heard it said of this time in the history of the Church to which you refer can best be characterized as a 'passing of the baton' in many ways. While I was not particularly fond of this expression the first time I heard it, I think it can be helpful to employ it at times. And, also, I think it goes without saying that there are reasons why some groups place an emphasis on their Bible, while others place and emphasis on their Pope, and others on their Tradition. But, to point to the primacy of one is where I think things start to possibly become unbalanced, and we see both agendas and what may be called knee-jerk reactions (to these concepts which are not in opposition to each other to be sure).
But, I guess what I'm driving at here is that it is easy to spot a, shall we say, extremist or unbalanced position when it appears that one worships the Bible, or one worships the Pope, or when one worships Tradition. And, along this vein of thought (and knowing my background may be handicapping me here) I wonder how we may view a worshipping of the Eucharist or if we may consider the Eucharist to hold the place of primacy?
As I begin to consider this possibility, honestly, my mind I am forced to reject any of these things afore mentioned as holding the place of primacy as it relates to our present discussion. As I consider what Christ left us, His Church, or possibly better yet, what was sent only after his departure . . . it is clear in my mind that it is the Comforter, the Holy Spirit in which we find our Teacher and Guide which gives identity to and serves to identify Himself the "Community of communities."
And, as we may consider such as 'personal revelation' or a 'personal relationship with Christ' . . . in many ways John, I think this consideration has some things in common with the topic of ecumenicalism. I think you know what I mean here as we know there is a good kind of ecumenicalism as there is a bad kind. Not all ecumenical efforts are bad just as not all ecumenical efforts are good. And, maybe that's enough in that direction for now, but I do know what you mean in this area. It is so easy to appeal to personal revelation to justify anything and everything, and as you well know some who claim to serve the Eucharist, adhere to the Scriptures and Holy Tradition, and submit to their hierarchy do just this in a very unembarrassed way.
But, in the End, regardless of what one may point to or stand on in order to support one's position . . . what is superior to the Way of the one Who was sent? It is said we are not saved alone or dammed alone, and admittedly I'm not 100% sure exactly what is being said here (it seems like this goes without saying). However, again, in my view it has to be a genuine encounter with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ which brings a genuine knowing/relationship about through a personal relationship with Christ in order to not hear those dreadful words on that day, "I never knew you, depart from me."
And, to push this a bit further John, I have never come into contact with any particular community that I could point to, (like I can point to the horse in the field behind my backyard now) whereby I would say or think therein lies my sanctification/salvation exclusively . . . as if to say that if I am not in this group then I am destined for warmer climes.
So possibly, there is room to continue with this as I am suggesting it is not any one particular group, any one particular hierarchy, or the Bible, or Holy Tradition, or even the Eucharist that saves us . . . these can be and are great helps, great vehicles . . . but they are in no way agents. So if we are in agreement to this point, meaning that it is not the vehicle that saves, but it is the agent which saves . . . then I would like to submit that there is nothing which effects our sanctification/salvation or holds the seat of primacy over the synergy found between the Holy Spirit and the one in his direct and responsible relationship with Jesus the Christ. And, in this sense even though this could not possibly be more subjective/mystical, I would like to further suggest that the ones who participate in this experience/encounter and collectively form this Community, that cannot be pointed to in reality, stand on what has been called a common ground, or a Christocentric ground as One "divided without division" (although they may all have different labels, and possibly even different emphasis's, and maybe even just different agendas.)
Is to speak of the Church to speak of Christ. Some would say yes. Others would say no. Either way, an old question which has become cliche comes to mind now, as it has been asked, are we Christ centered or are we Church centered? Do we promote a Christianity or a Churchianity? In some groups one's ecclesiology is one's christology, but in others there is a distinction.
It's kind of a cloudy and gray day here, but it is very peaceful and quiet and very pleasant.
Peace and Joy to you John.
- John Charmley - 26-04-2008 11:05 AM
A thoughtful post. Like you, I read that we are not saved alone, and the words are words I comprehend; the meaning remains elusive. Perhaps that is the mindset of the society in which we grew up? After all, one of the lessons borne in on us in this world now is how interdependent we are. As each of us strives to to maximise our opportunities in this society, it gradually dawns on us that our deeds impact on others. But beyond this point I need help and advice.
The 'personal revelation' may have a relationship to the answer to this question. Here I write from within something of a fog. I'm not sure what 'personal revelation' means in my own case because I am not conscious of having had one. I believe because it seems natural to me to do so. I couldn't describe the air I breathe, but I breathe it; I can't tell you why I believe God is there, He just always has been. I read the Gospels and of course I believe their message. It would be an act of faith NOT to do so.
Beyond that, what? How do we articulate our belief if not through the medium of a Church? I know that to many this will seem odd; to me it has always been so; but in a complex way.
As an Anglican it seemed, frankly, possible to believe anything I wanted. Much of the way I came to articulate my faith had little do do with contemporary theology, where I still feel a stranger. My inclinations took me to the Fathers and the early Church, it was the interaction between those and what I was taught in my various Churches which formed my education as a Christian. I suppose I looked for something like the Catholic Catechism, but failed to find it in Anglicanism. But if I had really wanted that then I would have gone that way.
Hence, I think, my own personal need for a generous Orthodoxy!
As I stood in Church yesterday (Great Friday) I felt a connection which I have only ever felt in the BOC. It is hard to talk about things one has no words to describe, but let me take one example.
Abbas Seraphim heard each of us individually for confession between the end of the Third Hour service and the start of the Sixth Hour one; at his absolution I felt a sense of lightness and relief which, for a moment, quite disorientated me. What's that about? I can't properly describe it; but I know I felt it.
Does that mean that I am turning towards a faith based on feeling rather than on Christ's teachings? No, it feels to me as though the latter has led me to the former. What the Church teaches helps me understand what He means; it also brings me to a place where feeling validates something that may have been shaped by the teachings of the Church, but is based on something I have always been conscious of - that God is love. The nature of that love can be understood more clearly; but it can also be felt.
But until I was received into the BOC I had 'felt' nothing beyond that faith I was fortunate enough to be born with. The generous orthodoxy of the BOC allows that growth; it provides the rich soil within which growth can occur. If I understood more, I might be able to connect that with the thought that salvation does not come to individuals.
Lest Foundationalism is Dead: - Rick Henry - 28-04-2008 02:55 PM
"Back to the Pneumatological Dimension"
John Charmley Wrote:As I stood in Church yesterday (Great Friday) I felt a connection which I have only ever felt in the BOC.
Thank you for taking us in the direction that you have with this great post. Your phrase above about a 'felt connection' is, I think, especially helpful here as we are considering both vehicles and mediums of expression of a generous Orthodoxy.
And, I appreciate your pointer to the mindset of our teachers who have instructed us about an interconnectedness since we were young. This is very insightful and helpful to me personally. With this in view we can consider an overlap in the mindset of some who quote/teach their Lord Christ, and others who quote/teach their Lord Krishna, and others who quote/teach the Buddha Dharma. But, this would be to start another thread I think--possibly even best suited for another website? All of these groups teach of love and interconnectedness, and feelings whether psychosomatic or beyond are an integral part of what is taught. In fact, it occurs to me that the other two groups above could just as easily begin threads on their sites about a 'Generous Sanatan Dharma' or a 'Generous Buddha Dharma.' As I'm sure you know John, there are divisions and different schools of thought in the Vedic as well as Buddhist traditions in exactly the same way that their are in the Orthodox Christian tradition. The different 'tribes' found in these two groups could, in the same way--methodologically--as we do, speak of the nature, limits, and boundaries of their particular groups in terms of the question(s) of unity and division. These groups have their own ceremonies, rites, and vehicles of union with the divine as well as their own canvases on which to paint, express, articulate their beliefs. But, beyond all conversation(s) about vehicles/Vehicles or even vehicles/Agents . . .for all of these, in the end it seems for both the theistic and the non-theistic philosophies/systems and religions we end up just where you have taken us in your last post! We find either a starting point or a line of demarcation in experience/encounter or a 'felt connection.'
This is so crucial.
This is so subjective.
And, here, John, (the willfully ignorant or apathetic notwithstanding) we find a true watershed, I think. In terms of mindsets which undergird and buttress our beliefs (or webs of belief). In terms of our Foundation . . . for most, I think, the subjective is seen as 'shifting sand' and the objective is seen as 'solid rock.' After all who wants to build a structure on shifting/sinking ground? But, as you say John, "How do we articulate our belief if not through the medium of a Church?" . . . hence the watershed.
However, and I'm sorry for taking the long way round here; but, if you will allow me to use the word "criteriology" . . .
a.) If one determines his/her criteriology for genuine experience/encounter with the Divine to be a felt connection through a particular Vehicle or vehicles, then how can one limit either one's expression of faith or one's articulation of the faith to the medium of a particular church?
Possibly, John, you remember my babbling about the trip my wife and I took to Natural Bridge, Kentucky last year. We walked into this one particular woods which just overwhelmed us with the presence of God. We found ourselves whispering to each other when we spoke as if we were in a most holy cathedral. Through the vehicle of these mountains, these woods, nature, these plants, trees, cliffs, caves, rock bridges, the running water we experienced a cosmic liturgy which brought about a felt connection and a genuine experience/encounter with the Triune God in a way equal to or exceeding any divine liturgy we have attended anywhere.
And, in this sense, to move somewhat beyond 'relationship' to 'personal revelation,' this' was a rare gift where for the first time it seemed that God had revealed Himself to both of us at the same time whereby there was no "word from God" in terms of do this or do that. There was no specific calling or direction given . . . there was just a revealing of Himself. Period. And, this was the most Beautiful 'felt connection' of our lives. In fact we are going back to this same spot very soon. But, do you see what I'm stumbling towards here John? And, possibly you even remember me trying to write about this experience last year on the other site. I rambled and stammered and stuttered worse than normal and I never did articulate what we experienced that day--how (by what means) could I, how could anyone or any group?
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that on the one hand how could we seek to experience/encounter the Divine except through a church? But, on the other hand, as we consider creation, how could we not experience/encounter the Divine outside of a church?
And, as we may consider what it is that differentiates my story above from that of the New Ager, or the Vedantic or Buddhist approach, then we must speak in the language of an historic Orthodox Christian approach. In order to avoid a camouflaging of the fact that the above groups do stand on different shores from us, in order to avoid a rank comparative religion approach, or a bad kind of ecumenicalism whereby love and interconnectedness are the fare of the day regardless of the other antithetical doctrines which the different groups hold . . . there must be clearly defined boundary markers, there must be a hedge around the garden, and in some senses there must be icons and statues used as there are by these groups.
But, if we move from vehicles to a genuine experience/encounter based on the above criteriology I wonder if it is possible that there is not only one vehicle/means for the Christian to meet this criteria. We know there is one Way and this is through a knowing and being known of Christ . . . and, I know some Orthodox just completely blow a gasket when a discussion involves too much definition or systematics (which is just too bad) . . . but, in the rubber/road mode here again John, I have to conclude that there is not one particular group which has a corner on the market as it relates to genuine experience/encounter and in turn a genuine knowing of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I know there are some who claim to have a corner on the market, although any attempts to ask for an articulation of this position is often met with a gnashing of teeth. But, these aside . . . I have to wonder if there isn't or hasn't been a monk in Roman Catholic monastery, say the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, who hasn't felt this connection in his cell; or if there isn't one in a First Baptist Church somewhere who feels this in his/her pew, or the list could go on and on. But I have to wonder if what has been shared above about a felt connectedness is not determined at all by us, but in fact it is discovered by us in our inner man and is not limited/confined to any one set of walls--in fact possibly, at the end of the day, this criteria may have nothing to do with walls at all?. . . but, instead everything to do with the Spirit of Life.
- admin - 28-04-2008 07:19 PM
Christ is Risen!
I wonder if this scripture found in Romans has a bearing...
Quote:Romans 9:15-16 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
Not that this means that the Church is not the locus of salvation, but salvation is of the Lord and not of the Church, and He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.
I can remember several epiphanies when I knew nothing of Orthodoxy. I did not deserve any of them and none of them were based on my own understanding or knowledge, let alone on my having a completely Orthodox theology or praxis. They were undeserved and unexpected and can only be explained by me in the context of a sinner who loved God and strived weakly to live for Him and in Him.
One was driving as a passenger with a Church friend. I was just overcome with joy. Almost shaking with joy. Another was at Bible College when I was only discovering the world outside my Brethren roots. I remember that I was reading a passage from the rule of the modern Jerusalem Community, (The Jerusalem Community Rule of Life. Foreword by Carlo Carretto. Paulist Press, 1985) and I became overwhelmed with love - I mean a Divine love for me. And a third occasion was when I was still Brethren, perhaps 18 years old, and with my family I had a holiday in Spain. We were at Santander on a Sunday waiting for the ferry home and wandering round the town we came across a large Catholic church which was coming to the end of their service, perhaps the epiclesis and the distribution of communion. We were waved to come into the nave and I felt an overwhelming sense of the holiness of the place such that I wanted to prostrate myself - something unexperienced before and completely outside my Brethren praxis.
I have no doubt, as I look back at these and other events in my life, that these were all experiences of God, who has mercy on whom He will have mercy. But I also find that it is my growing into Orthodoxy which explains these events and makes them more than isolated flashes of light.
Is this is what we need to do? Allow for a wider experience of God but also understand that our experience comes to fruition in the context of a teaching community - and especially in the context of the Orthodox Church? I have to look at the Brethren community in which I grew up and I realise that much of what I experienced was mis-interpreted, as it were, and so precluded my becoming what I am becoming in Orthodoxy. This does not mean that there were not also those things which were interpreted aright and which supported my becoming Christian - I mean, by example, a sense of belonging to the community; a sense of wanting to be 'in Church' as much as possible; a sense of respect for the Scriptures. But much else was not interpreted aright.
I think that I am able to appreciate in my own past that it is possible to experience God as He wills, even outside of formal Orthodoxy - since surely all that is the experience of God is Orthodox.
That there is much in the churches which is of The Church and so interprets and facilitates these encounters with God, even when the truth is mixed with error.
But that The Church is a privileged place, not by any merit of the members of The Church, which has a responsibility to both carefully preserve the true interpretation and facilitation of our human experience of God, while also being open, and 'generous', so that this interpretation and facilitation is not a secret gnosis, only for the few, but an open secret for all who will heed the call.
I am unable to answer the question of the ontological status of those who are not baptised and communicant members of the Orthodox Church, save that I do believe that all that is truly Christian is of Christ and belongs to His Church, and that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and that while I was and remain a sinner, and while I knew nothing of Orthodoxy at all, God met me and blessed me on many occasions.
Christ is Risen!
- John Charmley - 30-04-2008 07:04 PM
Dear Peter, Dear Rick,
Yes, on the question of those outside the visible bounds of the Church it seems a humble Orthodoxy that admits the truth; this is for the only Just Judge. A God who so loves that He will send His only-begotten Son to suffer so that we will not is one whose ways are so beyond ours that awe and worship are the only fit responses. All doxologies are due to Him, and it is a delight to me to be able to join in the centuries' old Liturgy of St. James. It sometimes (and no doubt naively) seems to me that we express our theology in its purest form in the Liturgy. What I find in the Church here is the worship that seems most fitting; and what I find in the Eucharist is not something that words can express.
As for other religions, well it seems unlikely that man made in His image would not come up with something that might be thought of as theophanies; the Jews themselves show that. Our failure to carry out the Great Commission will be held, rightly, to our account, not to those we have failed.
In the Kentucky woods we can have the feeling of love and awe that come from contemplation of His work; that is quite different, and needs to be thought of thus, from the pantheism which is now so common a feature of our 'new age' thinkers. I need to locate some passages I have kept from the Fathers on this theme; His handiwork draws us to Him.
But we know of Him what He has revealed; and that revelation is fullest in Christ. We encounter Him at the Eucharistic feast - and so it is literally in the Church that we have the fullest encounter; it is there that we realise the truth that He was made man so that we could be made one with God.
In the quiet of that moment, I am still, and know He is God. There is nothing more.
Transition/Transformation? - Rick Henry - 01-05-2008 10:53 AM
Dear Peter, Dear John,
Peter, I think the scripture that you have quoted and the experiences you have shared both have a 'direct' bearing[!] on our present discussion wherein we see both a Beginning and an End. Especially in light of recent posts, as you have well said, "Not that this means that the Church is not the locus of salvation, but salvation is of the Lord and not of the Church, and He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy" . . . I feel strongly that to grasp what is shared here is to transcend all divisions in Christ in a way whereby there can be a genuine manifestation of and increased revelation of the Love of Christ and the Peace of Christ which further results in the stillness that John speaks of. And, specifically here a stillness which becomes more characteristic of the one who lives a life of prayer--possibly as opposed to moments of prayer.
And, all of this speaks to a cosmic irony in the life of the one who would seek to live a life characterized in his/her being by this way of knowing. Because, in short as John has concluded above, "There is nothing more."
And, right now Peter, I can think of no better book of the bible to quote than the one you already did as it speaks 'directly' to this. If we keep going with the section of Paul's letter to the Roman's that you have provided we see that his conclusion of the whole matter is further addressed at the end of chapter 11, and this just before a very key transition/transformation point which speaks of new life in Christ (12:1-2). In the closing verses of chapter 11 we read:
Quote:O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
How much more clear can this conclusion be? How arrogant, how ignorant to assume any other stance as it relates 'directly' to what we are discussing here . . . as we read in this same passage:
Quote:Do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
And, in this we see a hint of both the kindness and the severity of God, but again how much more clear can this be? But, we are not left dangling here . . . in the next lines penned by the one sent we read:
Quote:I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
This is a great one to look at the syntax for any so inclined. Paul is urging and beseeching here again (like in the first chapter), and the word for perfect in this passage, "teleion" brings a new way of understanding the doctrine of the endgame, a different kind of teleology. But, in the end, again it is just as the good doctor has said above here as well, "There is nothing more."
But, also, again, a cosmic irony here . . . do any see what I mean? As it relates to our conversation, would any who are living the life abandoned to God even participate in such tussles as are all around us as it relates to even such a question as a generous Orthodoxy? As we might consider a humble Orthodoxy, and as we might consider another kind of Orthodoxy which manifests itself more in the way of an Orthodox Taliban (with Orthodox Taliban Tendencies) . . . what place does the striving which is involved in even discussing such matters as unity and division hold/occupy? As the psalmist has said we are to "Cease striving and know that He is God;" we are to "Be Still and know that He is God."
On the one hand it occurs to me that in order for one's 'knowing' to be in harmony with one's 'being' there would be no place for such activities. But, on the other hand, we look at the life of the Apostle Paul himself and we see that this is not a 100% rule. Any who have read Paul's letters can easily see the different sides of him. I know the above is a translation (viz. 'O the depth of the riches . . .') but, here he sounds more like Keats than not. However, there are other samples of his writing whereby we could easily observe a less than serene and poetic state of being.
Possibly, there is a degree of idealism here, or at the least a desire to avoid a 'dull opiate' state in this enquiry, but it is a sincere one.
Although, I would like to interact with both of your posts more at this point, possibly I will just leave off here now with a less than open ended question.
Unless one is called to be like the Apostle Paul, an exception to the rule, doesn't it seem like the one who has really transcended all divisions in Christ, and is abandoned to Him, would simply turn from the gnashing of teeth associated with the promoters of division in Christ? I don't think I'm asking this very well here . . . but, to try again, wouldn't it seem that the one who had actually transcended all divisions in Christ be more likely to be found in a Church service or in the woods in contemplation of the divine Logos than somewhere doing battle with those with Orthodox Taliban Tendencies? Think about it . . . Paul preached of the Beauty to be found in the Life of Christ, the Spirit Filled Life, the Life lived in Christ--the peace that passes all understanding, etc., but (based on his writings), characteristically, Paul's ontology did not model his epistemology did it?