Blessings to all, just introducing myself. - Printable Version
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- Robin Westwood - 04-04-2008
A very warm welcome David.
Like many of us here you have followed a similar journey to Orthodoxy. I too am a fairly newcomer to Orthodoxy from a Catholic background including recent ministry.
Please stay in touch with us here and I will enjoy hearing from you again on the forum pages?
God Bless you and your family down under.
- John Charmley - 04-04-2008
I am very interested that David and yourself both had a Catholic background.
When my own realisation dawned about my own uselessness to the Anglican communion, the question of Rome raised itself, not only for myself but for two friends who subsequently went that way.
I have an enormous respect for Rome, and not least for the last and the present Pope; and I deplore the odd obsession some Protestants have with their self-willed 11th commandment 'thou shalt hate Rome'; moreover, I am not myself unsympathetic to a version of the Petrine claims; but Rome never 'pulled' me. I mention my sympathies because I would never wish to be suspected of having any animus in asking you what you found insufficient in your Roman days?
Would you mind sharing any thoughts you can with us on this one? I know that many here are on their own spiritual journeys ecclesiologically, and it might help others to focus on what we mean when we say the fullness of the Faith is to be found in the Orthodox Church.
- davidlazarus - 05-04-2008
Blessings and thank you John and Robin for your kind welcome,
John, I would be happy to share my thoughts, and experiences, that if God wills may help show how I found why the fullness of the faith is only in the Orthodox faith.
As a child, and perceiving things as a child, all I knew at that time of Christianity was the Roman Catholic Church of the 60?s, and then only the parish which my family attended, however to me back then it reflected all of the Christian faith.
I heard many words of love, forgiveness and everything that sounded right, but then I witnessed much cruelty and injustice from some of the teachers at the Catholic school I attended, and at times the priest would stand there watching and condoning these actions.
To me at the time, I didn?t see it as the actions of a few misguided individuals as they represented the authority of the Church, so it symbolized all things Christian. Then, if I questioned what I had seen to my parents I was told what I was saying could not be true.
One example, when I was about six or seven years of age, two of the classes would regularly come together numbering about eighty students and we were made to kneel while each child was made to recite a prayer, starting with the girls and in alphabetical order according to our names, the girls being given a small pillow for their knees whereas the boys knelt on the wooden boards.
The two teachers, one of which was a Nun, along with the priest would stand watching and one would be holding a yard long ruler and would not hesitate to strike a student if he or she would make an error in their recital of the prayer given to them.
The whole process could often take nearly two hours and if we fidgeted due to our knees hurting or our legs beginning to cramp we would often feel the ruler for our disrespect for God.
Fortunately, I had been gifted with a good memory for such things and as I was one of the first boys to pray my wait was not as long as others, but for those who came later or who had become stressed by the ordeal, they often made many errors and received their punishment.
When the time of my Confirmation came, I wanted nothing to do with Jesus Christ and became ill at the thought of committing myself to this supposed religion, still having the understanding that this was Christianity.
My parents insisted that I still be confirmed and that my sickness was just nerves and so in my own way I prayed that something would happen to stop what was happening. About a week before the ceremony, I became more sick than usual and was taken to a doctor who admitted me to hospital because my appendix was about to rupture and was giving out toxins that had been the cause of my illness.
From that point on I knew there was some higher power, but I was also fully convinced that higher power did not want me confirmed into what I was equally convinced was a false religion, so throughout my teens and into my young adulthood I would privately study any faith I should hear of from Islam to Buddhism, Native American to Druidism and even delved into the occult and New age.
My hair grew long, I rode a Harley and associated with people that, like myself, lived a lifestyle of drugs, crime and all things opposite to Christianity and if I should speak with a Christian, I would do all I could to tear down their faith in the genuine belief I was doing them some kind of favor, oblivious to the fact I would manipulate and misquote the scriptures to achieve my desire to destroy their beliefs. However, I never even considered that although many of those with me would fall afoul of the law, some died and so on, I always came out on top. To me, it must have been my superior abilities that protected me from any consequences.
This continued until much of my life turned upside down, all the things precious to me were stolen, my dog who I considered my best friend was poisoned, I had a series of motor vehicle accidents, four of which I should have been killed and of these, twice the attending police asked where was the body of the driver while I stood before them. Still, it never occurred to me tha God may have had His hand on my life.
In time I settled down and married and my animosity also decreased and being now a slightly more mature adult, I could look back and see the errors I had seen in my childhood lay with the individuals concerned, not the Church of which they were a member, nor Christianity in general.
As my search for the true faith did full circle and all came up lacking, I returned to Christianity with a new outlook, although still very suspicious of many groups calling themselves Churches.
After joining a Pentecostal gathering, thinking any church would do as long as it wasn?t Roman Catholic, I again began hearing teachings that didn?t match the scriptures so I began reading the Bible again, but with a new perspective, being aware that all people made errors, were sinful, prideful and so on, and this very much included myself.
I would take my Bible everywhere and every chance I had I would read it until I had read it from cover to cover including the Deuterocanonical Books and soon confirmed the Roman Church was teachings things that conflicted with the scriptures, even their own Catholic translation that I had been reading from. Some examples are their Immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary doctrine, Infallibility of the Roman Pope, Primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, the Filioque addition to the Nicene Creed and others.
However, I also found the gathering I attended also held to even more false beliefs and after some research found this was common amongst all Protestantism, and when questioned on this, the excuses that I was given to justify their reasoning was as equally as twisted as I had been when I had attempted to turn others from the faith of Jesus Christ.
The one defense put to me that did hit a nerve, so to speak, was what makes me think I must be right and everybody else wrong and that I was just being prideful and arrogant, yet at the same time the Pastor asked me to teach at the Bible college he was in the process of starting and publicly directed the congregation to me if they had any questions concerning the Scriptures, as if to say I was some kind of authority.
Although the Pastor?s words to the people did successfully boost my pride, not that it needed any assistance, his other words seemed to make sense, being why would I be correct yet everyone else wrong. However, these comments also seemed to conflict, if I was so wrong, then why ask me to teach or send others to me with their questions. As I knew I wouldn't get any sensible answer from he Pastor I knew I had to look elsewhere to find out what was going on.
At that point, I began to study the early church and as a result of spinal and shoulder nerve damage from my accidents I was medically retired so I had ample time to spend doing the research and whenever I needed some sort of resource, it always became available just at the right time and always at the right price as we were financially struggling due to my loss of income.
My purpose was to ascertain what was the correct interpretation of scripture as the Holy Spirit first inspired it within those whom the Word of God confirms were anointed teachers of the faith such as the earliest Bishops etc.
Knowing that the Word of God declares that The Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit never changes it was evident that the truth that they as persons or as one would never conflict or altar from what has already been declared or inspired as truth and so I confirmed that both the Catholic additions and Protestant modifications were never part of the faith as it was first heard.
The final part of my journey to the Oriental Orthodox Churches, specifically the Coptic Church, occurred when I began to seek out a Church that still held to the original doctrines of faith. My method was to study the history of the Church to find out how and why the faith had branched out into so many variations, my hope was to backtrack and see if any of the original still existed and if they still held to what they had once believed.
During my search, I found a pattern started to form at the Council of Chalcedon, the Church split in two, the Oriental Orthodox on one side and the Roman Church on the other, which included the Eastern Orthodox as they were subject to Rome at that time. Then I applied the Biblical command to judge by the fruits and when I studied further I found the fruits of Chalcedon on the Roman side was division and variations in the faith in countless forms if we include all the branches that sprung from them.
On the other hand, all the evidence I found against the Oriental Orthodox on a corporate level was fabricated when fully examined such as that they are Monophysite. Also, I found evidence of tampering of Council minutes within the Latin versions as well as other incriminating evidence.
As the Word of god states there is only one ?Body of Christ? and only one ?faith?, it was evident that both sides could not be correct in their claims and as only the Oriental Orthodox maintained the faith as it had first been heard and their fruits showed consistency with the scriptures then I no longer had any doubts where I should go.
As all through this, I regularly found references to the Church of Alexandria I then spent about two years, confirming all my findings and examining the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church to confirm it was the same Church of Alexandria and not a counterfeit of the one I was seeking.
Once fully convicted, I approached the Coptic Orthodox Church most convenient to me and spoke to one of the priests there, a man who radiates the love of God through His very demeanor. He in turn introduced me to His Grace Bishop Daniel, who after greeting me simply said, ?Baptize him?.
For all of this, what I have been shown, the blessing of the injuries that ruined my career but left me with the time to be shown it, and everything else that has brought me to the Church, all I can say further is I don?t know why the Lord has granted me to stand before Him, except His unlimited mercy upon someone who had elected to become His enemy and His great compassion on someone in showing him the way when he was totally blind.
Peace and love to all
Thanks be to God - John Charmley - 05-04-2008
Your story is truly edifying; thank God for His great mercy in guarding and guiding you to where you were supposed to be/
I am struck, in your story and in that of so many others, by how much damage is done to the Faith by the experience which some have of it in early life. So many have been turned against the Faith by the very people who were charged with nurturing them in it; what a cause of sadness this is.
I suspect that your own wilder youth mirrors the reaction of many; how great is the mercy of God in sparing you. Your road back is of great interest. I wonder how many stay at that stage of being satisfied with the partial revelation given in Protestantism? How strange it sometimes seems that men who deny the teaching office of God's Church claim it for their own unaided efforts; pride is ever the barrier that separates us from the fullness of the Faith.
But how wonderful that your study and your faith should have taken you to the pure stream of the Coptic Church. I appreciate so much your search for the Church which has added and subtracted nothing; His ways are indeed for us to marvel at - and we are blessed in having you here with us.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us - and thanks be to God that you are here with us.
- davidlazarus - 07-04-2008
Quote:pride is ever the barrier that separates us from the fullness of the Faith.
This is very true, but even my pride and arrogance was used by the Lord to free me from the delusions of both protestantism and myself, although in regards to myself there is still much more work to be done.
I say this because much of my reason for studying as I did began as a desire to be proven right, partly for the truth to be known, but also to serve my own ego. This desire helped motivate me and my own self righteous "know it all" attitude kept me from accepting fully what they were preaching, unless of course it aligned with my own beliefs.
It was later, as I learnt more, I realised two major things one being the greatest lesson I received was just how much I didn't know and each time I learnt even the smallest point it again opened up a whole new area in which I knew nothing. The second was the realisation that the very thing I judged others for doing I was even more guilty myself, proving beyond any doubts that before we can see, we must take the beam out of our own eye.
Peace and Love to you
- John Charmley - 07-04-2008
What a wonderful lesson you provide for us here. The Lord works in wonderful ways, using even our pride to bring us where we need to be.
I was recently in a discussion with a Muslim colleague who tried to persuade me of his point of view by pointing out how logic and reasonable Islam was, and how the God it worships is accessible. My response was that whatever it was his mind had compassed, it could not be the Infinite Triune God who was knowable by His creation only in so far as He had revealed Himself.