When you write
Quote:Is there one particular group which is superior to all others in their service/treatment (and education) which they provide?
And, if so, what is their name?
then the rubber does indeed hit the road.
Perhaps here we see dimly one of the problems with the sola scriptura
approach so popular in some quarters?
There is a level at which it is seductive to say that we put nothing between us and the Word of God; but in so doing, do we not restrict ourselves terribly? Do we not run the risk of thinking that we are 'superior' and have a better understanding than others? Part of what we mean by the 'fullness of the Faith' has to do with a humility on our part; a recognition that the Scriptures are part of the tradition of the Church, and that they are best read in the light of that tradition - and not just by the feeble flicker of our individual candle?
What is superior is not our understanding as such, but the recognition that Orthodoxy developed out of the need to identify the True message and distinguish it from what seemed plausible to some; we rely not on our understanding, but upon what has been believed at all times and everywhere. When Newman applied those words to his own time he realised, with horror, that he belonged to an Arian Church and he sought the closest he could come in his time to Orthodoxy. For all the attempts to claim the totality of his thought from the Roman Catholic Church, Newman seems to me a genuine Catholic; his horror at Papal Infallibility reflects a sense that in a battle that he knew was necessary, the Church had resorted to a weapon which was not. What Newman left for Anglicanism was a renewed realisation of the importance of Tradition and of the Fathers, and it is no accident that the modern collections we use for the Fathers dates from his time and from that tradition.
That does not make our reading of scripture superior in itself, it simply means we read it in the fullest illumination, and therefore what we receive is fuller. However, part of that fullness is the realisation that Christianity is an experiential Faith; we cannot just read it in a book, or practice it by believing in certain doctrines and accepting certain dogmas. There is the living encounter with the Risen Lord in the Eucharist. There is also the realisation that living the Christian life is a process, as is Salvation; the notion of Theosis
seems to me one which the West has indeed lost sight of.
Those Orthodox who criticise 'western' ideas have, until recently, been able to do so from the comfort of not having to live with them; it will be interesting to witness the encounter between western ideas and Orthodoxy as it works out in the USA - which is the only country in the world where every variety of the Christian Faith flourishes.
Until recently, and still in some quarters, it has been the case that Orthodoxy has been an expression of ethnicity. But as second and third generation Orthodox come to maturity, and as other groups convert, that is becoming less so, and I have a sense it creates strains the like of which we see but pale shadows of here. Nowhere is the encounter between modernity and Orthodoxy rawer than in the USA.
For all the awfulness of oppression by Communism or by Islam, it served to cement the Faith in a way that persecution always has; it also served as a guard against innovation; defence tends to preclude that. Exposure to the aggressive secular materialism characteristic of the modern west, presents fresh challenges. Being ignored and treated as irrelevant is, in some ways, a greater challenge than being thought important enough to warrant persecution. Who needs God when science says he doesn't exist and you can fill that gap with hedonism easily available?
The modern west, witnessing the triumph of secular liberalism, says that it has the superior way of being, and the answer to all our problems via a seductive mix of social welfare, scientific medicine, education and entertainment; man can create himself in his own image.
Is it not in the recognition of the inadequacy of this answer that we make common concern with our fellow Christians? Those who espouse the 'prosperity gospel' commit the greatest heresy - that of creating a God in the image of man, rather than preaching repentance and the effort to recreate us in His image.
I hope this is saying more than that Christians should hang together for fear of hanging separately; after all, secure in the Risen Lord, what have we to fear from death? It is more about bearing witness to the Life Abundant which He has brought.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)