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- admin - 04-02-2009 01:35 PM

Dear Chad

It is always a good thing to see any non-Orthodox community seeking to integrate aspects of Orthodox spirituality. Indeed the British Orthodox Church has developed the British Orthodox Fellowship with just such an end in view.

But there must be a limit to what can be acheived without a person or community becoming formally and sacramentally Orthodox.

If we take the instance of a Baptist for instance. He could begin to fast, to use the Jesus Prayer, even to venerate the Saints. And all of this could have a beneficial effect on his spiritual life. But he would be isolated from all the sacraments, and it is in the sacraments that the life of Christ is given and received. He would be part of a community which denied much of what Orthodox spirituality exists to achieve. He would increasingly be like a fish out of water, or else would simply be an idiosyncratic Baptist. It is just not possible to develop a coherent Baptist-Orthodox tradition since much of that which the Baptist tradition stands for is contrary to that which Orthodoxy stands for.

And surely this is the same situation in Anglicanism. Even if a congregation could become Anglo-Orthodox, and my local parish is close to that, it is missing much of what is most important about Orthodoxy. It is not part of a communion which thinks and believes in the same way, it would constantly have to deny that which other Anglicans believed, it would have to pretend that it was not in one communion with those who deny not only Orthodox beliefs but the traditional beliefs of generations of Christians.

Where will the Orthodox sacraments come from in an Anglo-Orthodox community? Surely they will be served by those who do not believe the Orthodox faith, or are in communion with those who do not believe the Orthodox faith. Therefore, from an Orthodox point of view, they cannot be Orthodox sacraments.

What is left? An Anglican community which is seeking to use Orthodox spirituality - not a bad thing at all, yet it can never become entirely Orthodox in the spiritual sense because it must be cut off from the source of Orthodox sacramental life. Does such a community decide to remain Anglican and deny the end to which Orthodox spirituality leads? Or become more Orthodox and accept that Anglicanism as a system is not Orthodox? That seems to me to be the question that must always be asked.

In the case of my local parish, I think that when the present very Orthodox minded priest retires the Church will fairly rapidly tend back towards ordinary Anglicanism. It cannot help but do so since the Orthodox congregation is rooted in an Orthodox communion with an Orthodox bishop, whereas an Anglican congregation is rooted in the Anglican communion with an Anglican bishop.

It is always good for an Anglican community to pray more, fast more, venerate the saints more, but to be of value there is surely also a need for such a community to become more theologically Orthodox, and this requires taking account of Orthodox ecclesiology, and also facing up to the fact that the majority of Anglicans do not hold to the Orthodox faith.

What then? Some Anglican priests have left and become Orthodox with their communities. We have some among the British Orthodox Church. Is it possible to become Anglo-Orthodox? I have to say that my personal opinion is that it is not possible. This does, at some point, require a rootedness in the Orthodox communion.

The issue of orders etc doesn't really come up for Orthodox. The Orthodox would say 'how can an Anglican bishop have valid orders if he doesn't confess the Orthodox faith?'. And is it really the case that there is a great connection to the Anglican tradition? I think that time has passed. As I witness to my colleagues at work I find a general openness to speak about my faith but no real connection to Anglicanism at all.

I am sure that others from a more Anglican background will also have more to add. This is only my opinion and should not be taken as anything more.

In Christ

Deacon Peter


- Simon - 04-02-2009 04:25 PM

Dear Chad,

I am always happy to learn of others enjoying the precious pearls of Orthodox Christianity since these spiritual treasures have not been given to Orthodox Christians to horde to ourselves but to give away and share with others. Whether it is one person or a local Church (of whatever denomination) that is coming to enjoy the spiritual riches of Orthodoxy and so enrich their spiritual and Church life, this gives me joy. Some people take something of Orthodoxy back into their own Church life - for example I remember one Pentecostal Christian who decided not to become an Orthodox Church member but to remain a Pentecostal but now with an icon corner where he prayed each day, with a deep love for and appreciation of the Jesus Prayer and with weekend visits to an Orthodox monastery from time to time. Then there are others of course who have gone on to become Orthodox Church members and to enjoy the spiritual riches within the very bosom and communion of Orthodox Church life. I firmly believe this to be the best course of action but I still rejoice for those who take something of Orthodoxy whilst remaining members of whichever Christian body it may be. Peace to all of them.

But having written that I must echo something of Deacon Peter's words concerning the difficulties and problems of trying to live as an Orthodox congregation within the Church of England. It is no easy task - one that I gave up two decades ago and would not wish on anyone else. You might have a sympathetic bishop or you might not but even if you do, well bishops retire and who knows what the successor will be like? And this assumes of course that the priest is sympathetic and even more than this, thoroughly absolutely committed, incredibly thick skinned, able to expend enormous quantities of energy in a defensive and invariably isolated struggle... in addition to the usual energies spent (assuming he has enough energy left over for this) on building up the flock for which he cares... And even if priest and people together are able to sustain their traditionalist island within their diocese, their position seems more akin to Congregationalism than Anglcianism or Orthodoxy. I wish you well in your pursuit of Orthodoxy but I cannot in good conscience or in love recommend the path of Anglo Orthodoxy to you.

Perhaps a look at a British Orthodox Liturgy might suggest it is not so rooted in a foreign culture - for though we are British ORTHODOX not Protestant nor Roman Catholic, we are BRITISH Orthodox not Coptic nor Ethiopian, neither Armenian nor Russian... I do have some highlights of one or two liturgies on DVD should this be of interest of help at all,

Simon


- Michael Kennedy - 06-02-2009 05:42 PM

The two previous postings have been very comprehensive and I agree entirely with what has been said. I too come from an Anglican background before becoming Orthodox some fourteen years ago. I can see the point of trying to shape one's own spiritual life in as Orthodox a manner as possible, even without the obvious final step of seeking reception in the Orthodox Church. But I cannot see the point in developing an Orthodox strain within the Church of England. It would generate, in the words of the familiar cliche, 'more heat than light'. The continuing experience of those within the church who would be Catholic should be sufficient to guard against such an enterprise. I do not, I cannot in all conscience on this forum, suggest that anyone should leave the Church of England for Orthodoxy but to live a personal spiritual and prayerful life as near to the Orthodox Faith as is possible would be a far better objective, and one that I would encourage. Who knows where such a pilgrimage might lead? But Deacon Peter is right to say that there will always be something missing which can only be found in the Orthodox Church.


- Michael Kennedy - 06-02-2009 05:42 PM

The too previous postings have been very comprehensive and I agree entirely with what has been said. I too come from an Anglican background before becoming Orthodox some fourteen years ago. I can see the point of trying to shape one's own spiritual life in as Orthodox a manner as possible, even without the obvious final step of seeking reception in the Orthodox Church. But I cannot see the point in developing an Orthodox strain within the Church of England. In would generate, inthe words of the familiar cliche 'more heat than light'. The continuing experience of those within the church who would be Catholic should be sufficient to guard against such an enterprise. I do not, I cannot in all conscience on this forum, suggest that anyone should leave the Church of England for Orthodoxy but to live a personal spiritual and prayerful life as near to the Orthodox Faith as is possible would be a far better objective and one that I would encourage. Who knows where such a pilgrimage might lead? But Deacon Peter is right to say that there will always be something missing, that sacramental something which can only be found in the Orthodox Church.


- Simon - 06-02-2009 11:25 PM

To Michael's posting I say only this:

AMEN


On Limiting, Reconciling, and Integrating - Rick Henry - 10-02-2009 05:22 PM

Dear Deacon Peter, Dear All,

First, after reading about your upcoming ordination in the other thread, may I please say, Many years! From my correspondence with you here and on the place, pastorally speaking, it seems to me that there is a positioning of a powerful tool in the hand of God. Axios-axios-axios!

And, after reading your post above, I'm not sure quite why really, but my mind went back to a conversation we had about an Indian man that you would see in a little store in your neck of the woods. As it relates to this thread, the question came to my mind about the integration of an Orthodox spirituality in terms of what is unique about some of the approaches that are used by the Orthodox. However, in the end, as we consider (again) "The Nature, Boundaries, and 'Limits' of the Church," there is the majority view, as you wrote:

Quote:But there must be a limit to what can be achieved without a person or community becoming formally and sacramentally Orthodox.

And, there is that word again . . . "limit."

Most of us here have run this well trod circle, and I see the disclaimer at the bottom of your last post, so I won't try to get us to chase that rabbit again. But, the word "reconcile" in the first post caught my attention in this thread much as the word "limit" did in your last post. Possibly, the connection here for me is that maybe as it relates to the place where the above merry go round ends up, some things just cannot be either reconciled or limited.

And, it is not lost on me how the initial question/proposition is crafted in this thread. What does an integral approach imply? Whether we are talking about one's path, one's personal journey from the starting place/beginning of being a Hindu, a Baptist, or even a Chalcedonian or Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox . . . or what happens along the way, I wonder if this is not more of an individual thing. Hopefully, this will not bring a volley of charges akin to the sin of individualism, as it is called. But, while it does not sound right to me to seek to develop a kind of Anglo-Orthodox denomination . . . who is to say that it is not God's will for even a short season? It has been my experience that for any who are poised at different levels/degrees of ignorance about The Orthodox Church any exposure at all, regardless of the instrumentality can prove to be a powerful tool in the hand of God.

And, what is the goal, if I may be so bold? Is the goal to receive formally as many converts as we can into Orthodoxy. Is this evangelism? Is this the End? Or, is this the Beginning, or a beginning? In this sense, what can be limited, what can be reconciled?

Hopefully, we can avoid the above mentioned rabbit trail here, but I think it may possibly be helpful to this topic, in this thread, to consider the question what is the goal? What path(s) lead to this goal, what path(s) do not lead to this goal? Regarding the path(s), does one size fit all . . . In the End, Who's to say?

In Christ,
Rick

PS It might even be interesting to do a comparison and contrast of how we did integrate Orthodox spirituality into our lives before we became Orthodox (those of us who are 'converts'), and how we employ Orthodox spirituality now, in the present day--now that we have 'converted.'


- admin - 19-02-2009 09:12 AM

Hi Rick

It is good to have you post here. I have been thinking about my Hindu friend. He noticed I was growing a beard and asked if I was going to become a priest. I explained that I was, and that my Church was related to the Indian Orthodox.

We talked a little more and then he said something like, 'when you are a priest you must bless me'.

He suggested that we all worshipped the same God, I mumbled something, and that was our conversation.

Now what does it mean that he asks an Orthodox priest for a blessing? And what does the blessing mean?

Is the asking a genuine witness to his personal spiritual journey? He was being himself, not just being polite. And if he was blessed would he receive a blessing from God, having asked?

I think of the verses...

Quote:Matthew 7:9-11 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

What does this mean when a Hindu asks a blessing of an Orthodox priest? This is not to say that all roads lead to God, or that Hinduism is the same as Christianity. But if a Hindu is truly seeking God then is he not on the same path in some sense?

Otherwise we could never begin to find God. We would have to be Orthodox Christians before we could become Orthodox Christians!

Associated with this. I was troubled by some postings from Eastern Orthodox on another forum. The topic was marriage and a few passages particularly brought me up and made me say, No!

Quote:Marriage A ... when a couple meet to pledge before God - Christ is standing next to them and marrying alongside them ... they are marrying *into* a TRINITY. It IS real because it has the REAL presence of Christ in the sacrament and in the union; it is a reflection of God himself - Trinitarian and perfect.

Marriage B ... a couple meet to pledge before God - Christ is not standing next to them because this service is not a sacrament since it is outside His Ark - the Church. So, he can not possible be participating in the exchange of commitment ... he observes from afar. The couple is uniting without the REAL presence of Christ; it is not a trinity; it is not a reflection of God himself - and thus not perfect.

and

Quote:I agree, that the presence of Christ in a non-orthodox marriage would be either totally absent, or minimal.

and

Quote:If the TRUE God is only to be found in the Orthodox church then any marriage outside the church does not have God in it .. thereby, it is merely an agreement between two people.

So, though two people are faithful and in every way a MIRROR of sacramental marriage ... they miss the presence of the REAL LIVING GOD .. who can only be found in HIS BODY :-)

What troubles me so much is that these Eastern Orthodox correspondents have taken a particular proposition - God only gives grace in His Church - and then equated their own community with God's Church, and then rearranged all their experience of human love and kindness within marriage to enable them to say that none of the marriages they have ever seen outside Orthodoxy, even those of their parents, have God dwelling within them.

Yet when I look at the love between my parents in their marriage, and their devotion to Christ and to His service, I could never ever say that Christ was not a foundational presence in their marriage. Indeed it is a trusim in evangelicalism that marriage is between three people - the couple and God.

Now I wonder if I want to look at everything in two ways, neither of which is black and white. I want to ask - what does it mean from an Orthodox point of view to see such love and devotion to Christ in many non-Orthodox marriages (and more widely in Christian lives), and on the other hand I want to ask - what is the special grace given in Orthodox marriage and in the Orthodox sacraments?

How do we understand these two propositions? It seems to me that either one on its own is wrong. We must say both - Orthodoxy is the Church and the Church is where God gives grace AND we see that God gives grace where He wills and He blesses those outside the Orthodox Church.

The first on its own produces a blindness to God's gracious activity in His world, and a rather unattractive narrowness. The other fails to comprehend the mission of the Orthodox Church in the world and tends to conclude all spiritual and religious activity has the same meaning and value.

I am still not anywhere near an answer. But I think of the Hindu shopkeeper. Is he on a journey towards God? But he is a Hindu. And if he is a Hindu on a journey towards God then does God bless him and give him grace? But he is outside the visible bounds of the Orthodox Church.

Many questions. But the answers I hear elsewhere seem to my heart to be wrong.

In Christ

Deacon Peter


- Rick Henry - 20-02-2009 02:10 PM

A Christlike Response

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven --Ecclesiastes 3:1


Dear Deacon Peter,

Thank you for opening your heart on this matter, it is helpful to me to read your last post. I hope this quality of having an open heart, and listening to your heart, does not disappear when the demands of the priesthood are upon you. As I'm sure you know, so many who have entered the ministry enter it with just such a way of knowing and in turn this very way of being only to find themselves longing for what was lost after they have been in the ministry for a period of time. And, this seems to happen to varying degrees as we see on one hand with St. Basil. As I read his early letters he writes of contemplation, prayer, reading the scriptures; he writes of the primacy of solitude and silence, and these from first hand experience (or 'theology in the first person' as another has well said). It is almost a sad thing to read St. Basil's early letters and then see how he was consumed by problems and politics and administrative issues and then to read his latter letters where he longs for the early days, the days when he wrote and lived 'theology in the first person.' But, St. Basil played his part and we are blessed today though his life and struggles from the beginning to the end. And, as I'm also sure you are well aware, the ministry is not a neat and tidy vocation, when we are in the trenches, on the front lines, face-to-face with hurting and broken people, we understand quickly that the ministry is a messy business. Things are not cut and dry. We have to listen to our heart to avoid ourselves a running in vain which is on the other hand, at the opposite end of the continuum from St. Basil. So I hope you always have this quality that is on display in your last post, otherwise what is there but either an increasingly mad state of being and way of knowing whereby our life really has no form or function and continues only in a radical mode of questioning all of our days, or a kind of group solipsism, or particularism, whereby we offer only curses, and no blessings, to any on any path. Some people say 'religion is the greatest enemy of Christ.' This is incorrect. Religion can be a very Beautiful thing. But, we could say a 'fixation on religion' is the greatest enemy to Christ. And, this 'fixation,' regardless of the motivation, is represented very well by this solipsism/particularism coupled with an escapism/isolationism. But, although both of these alternatives: 1) A perpetual state of radical questioning which yields a life with no form or function; and 2.) solipsism/particularism are miserable states, even these are occupied by individuals on their own paths--in their own direct and responsible relationship with the Triune God.

Just like the inclusive Hindu man who has asked for a blessing when you become a priest, the exclusive Orthodox man that you may meet in the future, the one whom is fixated on his religion and is asking for your blessing is on his own path.

And, I like the use of the word "pilgrimage" in the title of this thread. But, possibly it is somewhat misleading because it implies somewhat that there is an end to the journey to/of Orthodoxy in this life. And, it seems as well to, somewhat, assume that the Orthodox man, spoken of above, has arrived, as opposed to the Hindu man who has not arrived. And, in this sense, it would seem to be an easy thing to give the Orthodox man the blessing he asks for, but not as easy or clear to give the Hindu man the blessing he asks for.

Think about this, why is the Orthodox man, who is within the visible bounds of the Church, the one who is fixated on religion asking for your blessing? And, why is the Indian man who is outside the visible bounds of the Church asking for your blessing? Keeping in mind this is really only a scenario, I would like to suggest that the one(s) who are fixated on religion are seemingly not in pursuit of God, but their own introverted and self-serving goals/objectives. Whether an aggressive and violent type who is more interested in control freakery, or a passive and weak person who only knows what those in control of their particular cult tell them, there are varying levels of deception and self-deception here. For some there is a very sophisticated system of non-surrender, for others more of the escapism abdication of responsibility. But, I would also like to suggest, based on my interaction with non-Christian Indians that it sounds like this man has only one goal, one aim . . . God. So in this scenario which man is seemingly on the right path? The way I have crafted this scenario, it almost necessitates the answer, "The Indian man is seemingly on the right path more than the Orthodox man." However, the true answer is 'we don't know.'

We can speculate about what the Orthodox man who is fixated on religion is really basing his salvation on, and we can speculate about what the Indian man places his hope of salvation in, but we don't know. So using this example, who does the priest include? Who does the priest exclude? I think your verse you have quoted speaks to the heart of the matter here. As well, I think we could consider how Jesus interacted with those who were considered "outsiders" in his day.

Characteristically, would you say that Jesus was known as one who would stake out his territory and place guard dogs/minders at all the entrances? Would you say, characteristically, Jesus was known for building walls that were meant to keep seekers on the wrong path out? Does this sound like the Christ of the Holy Writ? No it doesn't.

But, for a place of balance here, as well, would you say that Jesus welcomed with open arms and embraced all those who came to him in a hostile fashion or in the spirit of the Pharisee? No he didn't.

So possibly, the point here is that as we might consider the Indian non-Christian or the Orthodox Christian Pharisee we know how Christ responded characteristically, but in the end, there is no one right answer that covers all situations in terms of a Christlike response.

There is not a one-size-fits-all rule here if we are to use Christ as our example.

Who did Christ attempt to proclaim the "Kingdom of Heaven" to, and who did he rebuke and remain mute with his kerygma?

Characteristically, what was/is the Christlike response to the one with the spirit of the Pharisee? And, what was/is the Christlike response to the one with the spirit of the sincere seeker?

As we read the Scriptures we see a clear pattern, but there are exceptions to any rule that might be drawn. So, again, and especially when we are out of the clouds, out of the land of theory, and when we are staring into the eyes of a man/women, there is no one right answer, for the one who would provide a Christlike response. Dogma is a stupid thing in this situation which provides only a glazing over of the eyes and a true state of stupor for both the one who would proclaim and the one who would respond.

How does the priest deal with a non-Christian Indian man asking for a blessing? There is no one right answer. It is a case-by-case situation. The only answer(s) will be the answer that "you hear in your heart" provided this quality/unction has not disappeared.

In Christ,
Rick

PS I would like to interact more with the content of your last post. But, I want this thought unit to stand alone as is.


- Rick Henry - 20-02-2009 02:57 PM

Before moving to a final post, in response to your last post, Deacon Peter, I would like to share two items from the other place.

These are two posts that were made in the last 24 hours in a thread titled "Antioch communing the non-Chalcedonians."

Here again, I think the answers and responses to these posts can only be found as "the answers you find in your heart."‎


Here is a post about the EO Antiochians who are communing the OO:

Quote:

People were Christian even before the fourth century, so 'signing up' to the Ecumenical Councils does not in itself define Orthodoxy. Now, some questions:

1.) The councils define Faith but do they define the boundaries of Faith? Can true Faith exist outside the Councils?

2.) If someone rejects a certain definition of truth, does one therefore reject Truth Himself?

3.) Can we define where the Church stops? Where Grace stops?

4.) If two people describe their faiths in different ways and with a different vocabulary, do they believe different things?

A few questions to think about


And, here is one that was posted by another man after that one:

Quote:

Too bad we ran off our OO posters a year or so ago.

I wonder who else we have or will run off.

If it's wrong, it's wrong. If it's right, it's right. If it is gray, it should be worked out so ALL peoples come to believe the same thing. No one should be left outside the Grace of God or the Church. I am not talking ecumenism, I am talking Love.

Wasn't there a EO Bishop flying in a helicopter off Athos a few years back on his way to Pope Shonouda that went down in the ocean? He was on his way to finish reconciling our two churches. Who is going to pick up his torch?



- Rick Henry - 23-02-2009 02:05 PM

Dear Father Peter,

Without delay, I would like to finish with a last installment in response to your last post. That's something really, it took me three posts to respond to your one post. Smile

Back to your Hindu friend who asked for your blessing and suggested that we all worship the same God. By way of review:


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Quote:Now what does it mean that he asks an Orthodox priest for a blessing?
And what does the blessing mean?
Is the asking a genuine witness to his personal spiritual journey?
He was being himself, not just being polite. And if he was blessed would he receive a blessing from God, having asked?
What does this mean when a Hindu asks a blessing of an Orthodox priest?
This is not to say that all roads lead to God, or that Hinduism is the same as Christianity. But if a Hindu is truly seeking God then is he not on the same path in some sense?

Otherwise we could never begin to find God. We would have to be Orthodox Christians before we could become Orthodox Christians!

and, also from the last post, which I think has a direct bearing on this:

Quote:
What troubles me so much is that these Eastern Orthodox correspondents have taken a particular proposition - God only gives grace in His Church - and then equated their own community with God's Church, and then rearranged all their experience of human love and kindness within marriage to enable them to say that none of the marriages they have ever seen outside Orthodoxy, even those of their parents, have God dwelling within them.

Yet when I look at the love between my parents in their marriage, and their devotion to Christ and to His service, I could never ever say that Christ was not a foundational presence in their marriage. Indeed it is a trusim in evangelicalism that marriage is between three people - the couple and God.

I suspect, you ran these two thought units together because they really are parallel thoughts on different planes. The love that you see in you parents in their marriage and their devotion to Christ, parallels the love that I see in the lives of many Indians in my neck of the woods and their devotion to God.

And, the 'mindset' of those of which you speak (viz. God gives grace in His church alone) sounds almost like some sort of doctrine of "The Church Alone" or a type of Orthodox sola. All these things are clearly related of which you have written. And, we want to be consistent in what we are saying as much as we can, don't we? As you also wrote, Father:

"How do we understand these two propositions? It seems to me that either one on its own is wrong. We must say both - Orthodoxy is the Church and the Church is where God gives grace AND we see that God gives grace where He wills and He blesses those outside the Orthodox Church."

I agree that it is not an either/or, neither/nor proposition; but, a both/and situation just as you have suggested, and yes, we "must" say both in order to avoid a cultlike methodology and the "blindness" of which you speak to God's gracious activity in His world.

And, to steer towards some sort of conclusion here, with the above post of mine that answers many of the above questions with what I hope you don't think is a non-answer, namely 'there is no one right answer,' I think if one can answer the following question of yours then one has answered all the questions as it relates to the Hindu shopkeeper, and any other that we might meet:

Quote:. . . I think of the Hindu shopkeeper. Is he on a journey towards God? But he is a Hindu. And if he is a Hindu on a journey towards God then does God bless him and give him grace? But he is outside the visible bounds of the Orthodox Church.


Because, this is ultimately what matters, is one on a journey towards God? Regardless, of whether one is a professing Hindu, Orthodox Christian, Baptist, Buddhist, Plymouth Brethren, or whatever . . . the list goes on and on and on and on . . . it just doesn't matter what one professes. The Orthodox Christian who sits in the liturgy each Sunday can be can be headed for hell just as fast and sure as the Hindu man who has no temple to worship in, or the Hebrew who does, and again on it goes . . . What matters not so much is what path is one on now, but how do these paths interconnect and what is the ultimate destination? I know Hindu's, Baptists, Buddhists, and even a Plymouth Brethren who have become Orthodox (some even Orthodox clergy).

But, here as with so many other aspects of one's spiritual journey, one's own personal history is the question, "Who determines who is on the right path or the wrong path AT ANY GIVEN POINT IN ONE'S LIFE?"

See Father, in an effort to be clear here, as I know you are aware, there are some who say that we are all climbing the same mountain in our journey to God. The point here is that the Hindu, the Orthodox Christian, the Baptist, the Buddhist, the Plymouth Brethren, and so on are all scaling the same mountain towards the same God, but from different sides of the mountain--different paths, but same mountain, same destination/goal.

I am not one of these people. I am convinced from my studies (especially in comparative religion) that we are definitely not all climbing the same mountain in this sense. It is clear to me in short order that many of us to stand on different shores.

But, what happens to this way of thinking/knowing and being when I look into the eyes of some like the Hindu shop keeper that you speak of, or into the eyes of some like your parents? Possibly, I would see the love that you speak of in you parents if this were possible, as well, if the Hindu shopkeeper is like the Hindus I know in Cincinnati, he is very humble and kind and likeable, he is soft spoken and caring and beams with varying degrees of what seems to be a genuine love for man and God. So what does this do to my way of knowing and being when we are face-to-face with those that are only discussed from afar, and in theory on electronic discussion boards?

It does nothing to my way of knowing/being. Nothing is changed, we are not climbing the same mountain. Many of us are climbing different mountains. Period. And, this is not an introverted and selfish or separatist/isolationist or cultlike mindset in my mind, but just the opposite in many ways.

But, let's keep going with this . . . so much for the above mentioned conclusion. So with this belief in place in myself, what do I do when I meet a Hindu shopkeeper, who seems sincere, who tells me we are all worshipping the same God? Especially, if this is the first time this subject has been broached with this person, I would tell him/her that we DEFINITELY DO NOT WORSHIP THE SAME GOD, and that he/she worships Satan and that if they do not do exactly what I am doing and join the TRUE CHURCH of the one living Holy Triune God, the Creator of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which is made up of only those who have signed up to the propositions laid down in Chalcedon, then you are headed for a fiery eternity in Hell my friend! I would tell him/her that . . . no, wait a minute, I wouldn't do that at all, that would absurd wouldn't it?

There is no wise as a serpent but harmless as a dove missiology in that approach is there? There's not much room for love in that response is there?

But, I don't need to provide a hypothetical example here, because I have a friend in Cincinnati who is an Indian man who has a statue of Krishna on his TV in his living room. And, next to this statue of Krishna he has a statue of Christ. This man came over on the boat from India. He is one of the most loving, kind, and gentle men I have ever met. He really has a healing touch in many ways. As far as he is concerned he and I both worship the same God. I remember once when he asked me a question in front of a group in a seminar situation that he was leading about a passage from Paramhansa Yoganannda. He kind of put me on the spot, asking what I thought about a specific comment by Yoganannada. I told him that I didn't think he wanted to know what I thought about this, and we all laughed. And, I went on to answer the question in a loving way, that was non-offensive, and in a way that still allowed and further promoted the language of Love to be spoken.

To me this is the key and the non-negotiable aspect of a situation like this. We are not dealing with a viper such as the Pharasee that Jesus dealt with when he walked the earth, when we speak of my Indian friend (and I suspect not your shopkeeper friend either). We are interacting with a different sort. It can be said, that this sort is at the opposite end of a continuum that would have our Indian friends on one side and our cultlike or taliban like Orthodox friends spoken of above on the other side . . . and we would have to allow some room for this . . but, still we are dealing with humble and seemingly loving gentle seekers where there is the opportunity to speak the language of love (as opposed to the language of legalism and particularism).

And, one more huge distinction here I think Father. One more important point I think in this . . .which is for those of us who do ultimately subscribe to a "Theology of Hope," with our Indian friends for example, this is EXACTLY how we can not allow ourselves to be used as a tool of Satan and be an instrument in the life or our Indian friends (or any friends who have not been completely overwhelmed), instead of standing up and citing canons and saying turn or burn, we can express our heartfelt and genuine/authentic hope that although we are not all climbing the same mountain, hopefully we are all on the same mountain range (connected subterraneously).

This way of knowing, if it is genuinely held, is I think also a helpful answer to us when we are not only talking on an electronic forum like we are now,but as well, when we are looking into the eyes of our Indian friends and our parents who just might not be Chalcedonian Orthodox Christians. Think about this please. If this position is honestly held, then we are not hiding anything from our friends. Over time they will come to see that we honestly do not believe that we are climbing the same mountain, but that we hope that we are all climbing the same mountain range. This way there can still be open/honest and loving dialogue instead of division,envy, and strife . . .

What a great thing if you think about it! There is nothing contrived about this at all . . . it is a genuine loving outreach/mission which relies on the sovereignty of God alone, and nothing else. Yes, there's a sola for you--God alone. We know there is a cooperation and a mutual embrace that must take place between a man/woman and God, but as it relates to this topic, one's spiritual pilgrimage, what a Beautiful and burden lifting teaching to understand this.

So "in conclusion" when is mumbling something and then walking out the door THE most godly and effective type of Christian witness? I would like to suggest that when the mumbler is mumbling the mysterious, language of Love, it is always a thing of Beauty and a great display of humility and wisdom, and in this sense a model of Christian witness (even if it doesn't seem like it at the time).

This can be a maddening thing Father, after more than a small amout of struggle/grief for me, I could only find an answer in the firm knowledge that there is no one right answer for the one who would proclaim the kerygma of Christ. And, lest one of us is omniscient and knows what is best for any given individual at every stage of that individual's life, then for the now (and the later), as it relates to the Indian shopkeeper, what can we hold but a theology of Hope, how can we speak but in the language of Love?

In Christ,
Rick