I sometimes receive emails from another forum when someone posts on a thread I had contributed to in the past. I received an email this morning which belonged to an old thread about those who died for their faith in Christ but were not Orthodox. I recall that the thread was about our own non-Chalcedonian martyrs, and about modern groups such as the Auca Martyrs, a group of young Brethren men who had been killed in the South American jungle while seeking to bring the knowledge of Christ to a much feared tribe.
The email I received today was from an Eastern Orthodox who said...
Quote:It's hard enough to tell the state of Orthodox Christians after death, let alone the state of non-Orthodox Christians. I'm not at all comfortable with equating the slaying of non-Orthodox missionaries to those baptized in their own blood in the early age of martyrs. Those holy martyrs had either the explicit intention of being united to the Church or to follow someone who was already Orthodox, like, in latter times, Sts. Alexander and Cyril, the guards of St. Lydia the New Martyr, who were killed for defending her. One of them even said to St. Lydia, "Saint, take me with you." This, to me, seems an equivalent of intention.
It's another matter entirely for those who, at their deaths, are not connected in some way to the Church. Only God, Who knows the heart and all the circumstances and Who has all the criteria and wisdom for judgement can make the call.
It is the sentence I have highlighted which concerns me and disturbs me a little. It seems to me to describe an ecclesiology which is essentially exclusive and introspective. For myself, I am wanting to understand that all those who love Christ are in a sense 'connected in some way to the Church', even if they are not formally members of an Orthodox community.
This does not mean that I think that doctrine and praxis in an Orthodox context are not very important, and salvific. But I am thinking that the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath. It is certainly best for a believer to be rooted in the visible Orthodox Church, for his own salvation, yet it does not seem to me to require that we say that all those who for a wide variety of reasons, not least complete ignorance of the visible Orthodox Church, who have a vibrant faith in Christ should be consigned to the darkness of being entirely unconnected to the Church, and therefore apart from the Body of Christ.
If we can criticise various doctrinal systems as being deficient, I am not sure that we can sop easily judge individual believers. It is a matter of fact that there are baptised Orthodox who have no knowledge of doctrine, or worse an heretical understanding of doctrine, and who live lives which are worthy of judgement - indeed are we all not such people. Yet there are also people who live truly godly lives and have a deep knowledge of God Himself, as well as a greater understanding of Orthodox theology than many Orthodox.
I may not be able to dogmatise on the position of such a one, but I find myself entirely prevented from saying that they are not connected in some way to the Church
because it seems to me that they truly are.
And it seems to me that if we begin by considering all Christian truth and life and light as belonging to Christ and to His Church then we meet others looking for what we share and have in common, rather than what divides us.
There have been too many occasions in my life when I have met or read the works of Christians who are not formally Orthodox but who manifest the life of Christ. In so far as He knows them they must surely be 'connected' in some way to the Church, to our own Orthodox Church.
What do others think?