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Conversion without conversion?
19-08-2008, 11:31 AM,
Dear Fr. Simon,

First, a big thank you for your post - which was over-short if anything Big Grin

When you cite C.S. Lewis here:
Quote:"The point is not that God will refuse you admission to His eternal world if you have not got certain qualities of character: the point is that if people have not got at least the beginnings of those qualities inside them, then no possible external conditions could make a ?Heaven? for them...?
it prompted me to think that we must all have the beginnings of those qualities inside us, since we are made in the image of God; so the question becomes not one of whether we have them or not (that would be an odd offshoot of predestination, I guess!) - but how they are nurtured and strengthened in this world marred by the effects of that sin which divides us from the will of that same God who made us in His image?

Here, perhaps, there is a real difference between the various Churches. If one holds a non-sacramental view of the Eucharist, then whether one communes or not is immaterial, except as an act of memory; but if one hold to the Orthodox view, then partaking of the Eucharist is an essential part of our theosis; St. Cyril of Jerusalem rightly compares losing some of the bread to losing precious gold. So, to me, at least, baptism and chrismation, and the Eucharistic feast, are essential parts of theosis. Does this mean, as some have said to me, that I ascribe magical qualities to these things? No, simply that my own experience matches what the Church teaches; explanations have I none, nor yet need of them. The Church's teaching and my experience are one here.

So, in that sense, I do want, at the very least, others to have that experience. The analogy I would use would be of various hospitals. I am sure that that hospital over there has excellent facilities and surgeons, and it certainly looks better funded and smarter than the one I'm in; but I know where I am being healed, and can only pray that those in that very smart hospital also experience the same healing. Of course, I can't pronounce either way; but I can say to those not in a hospital that this one is helping heal me. So yes, Fr. Simon, hospital or lifeboat, we can only be humble and speak of that which we know.

So many excellent counsels to silence, and yet, at least in this forum, it is necessary that we speak, not because we have any authority, but because we have something to share - and much to learn.

In Christ,

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)
22-08-2008, 02:07 PM,
Dear All,

I was just thinking about this thread "Conversion without conversion" and the question behind this thread. And, a scene popped into my mind where Indiana Jones was reaching for the Holy Grail and his dad said . . . "Let it go Indy."

And, this caused me to consider the very fine line between what may be described as a 'disillusionment-pathos-apathy' on one side and a 'transcending' of it all on the other side.

As Kirk has written:

Quote:. . . the Church is one, not through names like Eastern or Oriental Orthodox, or Roman Catholic, or Anglican, but because the Body of Christ can only be One, no matter how hard we sinful humans try to pull Him apart.

Either we agree with this or we don't.

And, as he has concluded:

Quote:The perfect answer to all this nonsense is found in the lives and sayings of the Desert Fathers who understood what Christ meant when He said that His Kingdom is not of this world,

I wonder if this 'perfect answer' as it relates to the ontology of the Desert Fathers is 'the only answer' to our question. As we think of the state of being of the Desert Fathers which perfectly modeled their way of knowing, how can there be any other answer?

The Desert Fathers did not "reject" but they did "turn from." In many ways they just "Let it go" in order to find IT, His Kingdom.

I think we can run the sacramental/non-sacramental, episcopate/non-episcopate, etc., circles until we drop from exhaustion and just don't care anymore. Or, we can look to the Desert Fathers who were not interested in the rot which is rooted in the politics, again as Kirk has mentioned. But, in the End, what can we, as individuals do, other than what the individual Desert Fathers did? What can we do but to turn from in the hope of going beyond in order to find that higher 'ground', that Holy 'Ground?'

Because, it is here, at this very place, that we cannot just "Let it go," can we?

Because, if we do, then what have we become?

What is there in the end, but the end?

What is there but a kind of death, not to self, but to the very spirit of the Desert Fathers?

And, as we look around in the present day, what is left for the ones who would seek to transcend "all this nonsense" . . . what is left for the ones who know that Christ and His Kingdom are not of this world, other than the Spirit of the Desert Fathers within?

Hmmm . . . yes, conversion to what?

Pray for me the chief of sinners.

In Christ,
22-08-2008, 03:22 PM,
Dear Rick,

Yes, I think we must transcend confessional differences. It seems to me entirely possible to see a diversity of approaches in the Scriptures themselves; Paul's later epistles suggest less reliance on the charismatic utterances of his early ones, even as one might see in St. John's Gospel a more sacramental approach to the Body and Blood of Our Lord than, in say St. Mark. Our efforts to smooth out the diversity of practice witnessed in the early Church by homogenising it to any one of our traditions does neither justice to the reality of the past, nor of the present.

After all, there is not a single Church which does not claim Scriptural warrant for its practices and interpretations, and rather than argue with others and claim that our tradition is somehow purer than theirs, it seems altogether more edifying to leave us all with whatever tradition we belong to, or feel drawn to; God will make the only judgement about such things that can be made, and what we think is irrelevant.

I am Orthodox because for me it is in this tradition that I encounter the Risen Lord, and in which I find the healing for what ails me; if others find these things in other traditions, then I am happy for them. I am not surprised that the Desert Fathers are concerned more with the encounter with Christ than anything else.

Is that letting it go? Or is it acknowledging what is - and that what is may well have always been? Historians, like theologians, have a tendency to tidy up the past, imposing an orderliness on a 'tradition' of which contemporaries might have been totally unaware, but which our own needs may lead us to accept uncritically. The Church itself only moved when ideas were thought to be heretical, and whilst we can say that such heresies should be avoided, we might note that the later desire to define quite tightly is one part of part of the western tradition. That does not make it illegitimate fro those who live in that tradition; but it makes it unnecessary for those of us who are not part of it.

None of us can know those things which the Only Just Judge knows; we can know only what the tradition we accept teaches. That acknowledges that whatever we may argue, we all make a choice. Whichever Church makes the claim to be 'the only true Church' makes it in all sincerity; but men can be sincerely wrong; sincerity is no guarantee of anything - even if it may occasionally be a sign of censoriousness. There are none so judgemental as those who secretly doubt their own judgement; even as there are none whose doubts are so justified.

You ask:
Quote:what is left for the ones who know that Christ and His Kingdom are not of this world, other than the Spirit of the Desert Fathers within?
- to which I would say what is left is the Risen Christ. Either we believe that He rose and brings with Him our salvation, or our Faith is in vain.

If we believe in Him, we take His message of repentance and amendment of life, and we seek how best to walk in His way; that, for me, is in the Orthodox Church. Those who find what I find there elsewhere, I wish the joy I receive. When, and if, we can understand the love of God that made Him sent His only-begotten Son that we should have life, then, and only then, would we be able to approach an understanding of what love means to God; and should we ever reach that point, we'd perhaps see the wisdom of leaving these things t God - and leaving to ourselves the effort of walking in His way.

In Christ,

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)
22-08-2008, 11:42 PM,
A Conclusion of the Conversation on Conversion?
Dear John,

I think your last post is worthy of a frame. Thank you. And, as I was reading it it occurred to me that you have included the words 'experience' and 'encounter' in some of your posts on this forum recently, as elsewhere in the past, as it relates to your experience with . . ., your encounter of . . ., your choice of faith traditions and what you have found within it since you have committed yourself to this way of life, this path. In these you have shared clearly and concisely what you have discovered, what you have understood along the way on your journey (and even some about before the journey began in terms of experience with others when you realized you were going to have to make a move a few years ago). There have been no formulas or systems presented by you. In short, you have shared with us basically what you have 'seen for yourself' and in this sense 'your living experience' of Orthodoxy Today.

And, it occurs to me that some could read what you have written and think something like:

"Well, I'm glad things worked our well for that chap, he seems happy enough . . . but, where is the value in this for me, what do these things have to do with these discussions on the BOF site about the nature of Christendom anyway? In fact, his writing seems to contain within it a very high degree of individualism that is only exceeded by the subjectivity of what is shared--the nature of Christianity aside, what does this really have to do with Orthodoxy, is this even the Orthodox Way? In fact, this method of me, myself, and I as the final authority sounds more like the Protestant Way and Protestant thinking to me than anything else ."

And, I have read things just like this in the past in another electronic discussion community. But, while I was reading your post above, I was struck by the way I could very easily break it down into bullet points and propositions with the way it flowed . . .and this reminded me of another piece that I thought I could break down in this very same way, and one that closely parallels what you are expressing above in words and through your example. I am speaking of a couple of paragraphs in a book titled "The Orthodox Way" by Bishop Ware. In Ware's book he shares that "To be a Christian is to be a traveller" and he follows this up in his Prologue with:

- "There is only one means of discovering the true nature of Christianity. We must step out upon this path, commit ourselves to this way of life, and then we shall begin to 'see for ourselves.'"

- "Certainly we need to be given directions before we start; we need to be told what signposts to look our for; and we need to have companions."

- "But, directions given by others can never convey to us what the way is actually like; they cannot be a substitute for direct personal experience."

- "Each is called to verify for himself what he has been taught, each is required to re-live the tradition he has received."

- "As a Christian of the Orthodox Church, I wish particularly to underline this need for 'living experience."'

- "For the Orthodox themselves, however, loyalty to Tradition means not primarily the acceptance of formulae or customs from past generations, but rather the ever-new, personal and direct experience of the Holy Spirit in 'the present,' here and now."

On this last point, I think this is what we are talking about in this thread. Although, it seems we have limited ourselves to 'our part' of the equation in this discussion, I think you post above offers a corrective to this, and I can say that your general conclusions, in the above, are my conclusions.

In Christ,
23-08-2008, 11:43 AM,
Dear Rick,

Thanks for another interesting post which pushes us along in directions we need to explore.

Uncomfortable though I am in writing about my own subjective experiences, and uncomfortably close to protestantism (for me) though it is to admit that one has made a choice, it seemed necessary to face up to both these things. After all, no one made me uncomfortable with where I was; that was something of which I had been aware for a long time. Neither was there an 'ejection' point. I could have continued to do what I had done for the best part of two decades, and what many better men and women than me still do. Indeed, and here full confessional mode is on, had it not been for encountering the British Orthodox Church, I should have done so.

There is not a Church that claims the name of Christian which cannot find in Holy Scripture some warrant for itself and its practices, and the historical record shows us a difference between the Jerusalem Church under St. James and the more charismatic early foundations of St. Paul; but these were differences the Apostles accommodated. We. alas, are inheritors of differences fossilised into confessional schism, and I have never felt an urge to insist on tribal preferences. Of course I have my views on the idea that the Eucharist can be celebrated using crackers and fruit juice; they happen to coincide with what the Orthodox Church has taught about the Eucharist; but I see no need to make my views explicit. Who am I that my views on these things matter? I am happy to stay within the Orthodox tradition whose understanding of the Eucharist has been shared by many of the Fathers and which is shared by many Christians.

Those who see the Orthodox Church as a fossilised survival of part of the ancient tradition need to do what +Kallistos recommends; experience it. The parallel with the citations from his book strike me in a way that had not occurred to me; but so many books about Orthodoxy say 'experience it'. Beforehand, I did not understand why; now I do.

In Christ,

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)
25-08-2008, 12:48 PM,
On ramifications of 'our views' & 'letting it go' or not
Dear John,

I would like to lift out two quotes from your last two posts:


Quote:Is that letting it go? Or is it acknowledging what is - and that what is may well have always been?

and secondly:

Quote:. . . but I see no need to make my views explicit. Who am I that my views on these things matter?

As we consider the reality of what is and what may have always been, as well as the sentiment 'who am I that my views matter,' I think I would like to push this a little farther yet.

You see, most thinking folks who have a background similar to mine, and who are still among the ranks of what we might call the American Fundamentalists and Evangelicals would consider Orthodoxy to be an example of a tradition which has an overdeveloped ecclesiology. And, to be fair, most thinking Orthodox that I have met consider the afore mentioned groups to have an underdeveloped sense of ecclesiology. In fact, when I pointed out these views to a long time Orthodox one day, over coffee, he responded by saying "how can there be an overdeveloped sense of ecclesiology in the Church?"

And, why is this John? Why did he say what he said? As you know, he said this because within Orthodoxy one's ecclesiology is one's christology. And, this matters here in reality to these two groups. And, at the risk of being accused on being on board with those who think right belief is the key to everything (as in an intellectual correctness determines whether one is a believer' or is deluded and in reality experiencing/encountering the unbelief of an 'unbeliever')' . . . I think it does matter what our views are here. And, I am open for correction here and aid in seeing this differently; but, it seems to me that there needs to be a separation of soteriology from ecclesiology.

There can never be a separation of soteriology from christology (heaven forbid!). But, is salvation to found within the church, or is it 'of' the church. Do you see what I mean here? And, I'm not sure that I have the time or focus to develop this well enough to be understood clearly, but . . .

As it relates to our views, as well as understanding correctly the words of the early church apologists and fathers, I wonder sometimes if we do have two views here that cannot be juxtaposed or if we have an example of divisions in Christ that need to be transcended?

Take the Orthodox view first, they can never ever accept a separation of soteriology and ecclesiology. I think this is why we see such a vehement response from some on other forums when anything even remotely close to this is hinted at. I think this is why there is a need on the part of some of the same ones to continually bash protestantism and continually separate themselves from protestantism. Because, for the lack of a better analogy at the present, to allow the separation of soteriology and ecclesiology in any form or fashion is to allow one to remove a card from the bottom of a house built of cards. The whole thing comes crashing down! If there is this separation, then there goes all the church polity, the episcopate/hierarchies and the sacramental views of the Orthodox Church. ***Interestingly enough the Spirit of the Desert Fathers remains unaffected by this fall, they remain fully intact . . .

But, I wonder if any of this is making any sense here John?

To take the other view (Evangelical, etc.,) while they could never accept a separation of soteriology and christology . . . there is no problem here with viewing christology on a different plane as ecclesiology and here clearly one's christology is not one's ecclesiology.

So, I hope you will forgive me if this sounds as unclear as I think it does. But, I am wondering if we are seeing two competing systems here, that cannot be juxtaposed, and at least somewhat understandably bring a foaming at the mouth on the part of those who understand this at times, or the feeling of the need of one group to evangelize the other group . . . or if these are all just words without meaning possibly in terms of the big picture?

Who doesn't want 'right' belief? Who doesn't want 'right' worship?

And, if these two approaches are one, and they are both the narrow way, then this doesn't matter. But, if these approaches are opposed to each other and one way is a part of the broad way, then our views do matter I think. So if this makes any sense, then this speaks to what I have shared in the past with such questions/statements about letting it go, or not.

In Christ,
25-08-2008, 10:54 PM,
Dear Rick,

What you ask here is the big question, and I can only approach it in parts, and then sideways. Whenever we get to ecclesiology I get to thinking of ecumenism, and want to try to go via it to at least the edge of the big question you ask.

It may be necessary to distinguish between types of ecumenism. That which seeks to ignore the causes of want of unity in a call for all 'to be one', proceeds by means of a lowest common denominator; but how low can that be when there are some who claim the name 'Christian' and yet deny that Christ was wholly divine as well as wholly human? Down such a road lies only further schism, since many Christians from all Churches will not go there.

The other form of ecumenism consists of exploring what it is divides us. In the case of the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox, these talks have been going on in their modern form for half a century, and whilst we are still far from united, we now all have access to a much more accurate account of what divided us, and what, of that, still does so. This is true ecumenism, for its objective is that we understand each other, not that we reach a consensus; if, as a result of a more perfect understanding, moves towards union happen, that is a happy by product - not the end of the talks.

The will of God is what will be done. For our part, we can contribute to a better climate by concentrating upon our own journey towards theosis, and upon the beam in our own eye. If, as the Orthodox believe, we have the fullness of the Faith, then the responsibility lies all the heavier on us to show that love which Christ said would mark us out as His children.

So where does this leave us when, as Orthodox, someone says 'no, this is the one true Church'? Does it leave us where the Fundies are? Does it leave us contesting that ground with the Catholics?

I am fond of the formulation one often sees in Orthodox literature, which is that whilst one can be sure where the Church is not, only God is sure where it is. It may well be that sometimes, in the sheer joy of the encounter with the Risen Christ in the Orthodox Church that we do sometimes give the impression that He is only with us; if we do that, then we fail in humility - or at the very least, in clarity of expression.

We know the Holy Ghost is with us, and we know that despite the many travails through which the Orthodox Church has passed and is passing, the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it; but that ought not to lead us into prideful attitudes; we should boast of naught save the name of Christ, and Him Crucified and Risen. To those to whom much has been given, much is expected, and there is none of us, no, not even one, who is righteous. So, if an impression of pride has been created, it is meet and right that we should say that any pride is only in Christ.

That said, the Orthodox do, of course, hold what others do in their turn, which is that the fullness of the Faith is to be found within the living Holy Tradition of the Church; but I hope we do that not in a spirit of denigrating others, but in one which simply expresses the hope that the healing which we have found, might also be found by others. And, of course, we can only be sure that that healing is found within the spiritual hospital which is the Orthodox Church. But we are not, I hope, unmindful that others may hold the same of the place where they encounter the Risen Lord.

My own personal hope is that others find what I have found in Orthodoxy; if they find that where they are, who am I to think I can set a limit to the work of the Spirit? We can know only what we experience; but we ought not to forget the same is true of others.

But that is not to subscribe to syncretism. However unfashionable it may be in parts of the Western world, there is a revealed Truth, and it is a person, the Risen Christ. Any attempt to water down to a lowest common denominator the 'faith once given', does threaten the means of salvation; that we cannot forget.

But that true ecumenism, which consists in finding what others who confess the name of Christ hold, does not seek unity as its goal, although it may, if it is God's will, find it as a consequence of straight talking - and listening to the same.

This gets us to borders of your central question - but reminds us of something which may bear on an answer to it.

In Christ,

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)
26-08-2008, 09:32 AM,
Re: On ramifications of 'our views' & 'letting it go' or
Dear Rick,

Reading through my last, I wonder whether I wasn't too tangential even for me? The point, I guess, is that if we believe in any sort of 'true' ecumenism, then we are acknowledging some point in talking to other Christians. If that point is to 'convert' them to our point of view, then it usually fails; but if our point is to share with them what we have both found to say of the Risen Christ, then we must, perforce, think they have something to contribute.

Which is where we come to your friend's excellent question:
Quote:"how can there be an overdeveloped sense of ecclesiology in the Church?"
to which the answer is that one which excludes us from listening to others is overdeveloped!

I wonder about the equation of Christology with Ecclesiology, simply because I wonder whether I understand enough of what the Catholics and the various types of Protestants hold about Christology to substantiate such a view? Indeed, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox parted company many years ago on a Christological issue - and yet I see OO people freely citing +Kallistos' book as an introduction to something called Orthodoxy - and some EOs advising people only to use the early editions, because they dislike the more eirenic tone of the more recent ones.

Right belief is what we hold we have; but none of the other Churches lay claim to 'wrong belief', and we have all hurled anathemata at each other in the firm belief that the other lot are wrong.

On soteriology and Christology, on the other hand, there can be no doubt.
Quote:But, is salvation to found within the church, or is it 'of' the church
is the question. We can know only what we know. What do we mean when we say we know the Holy Spirit is in our Church? If all we mean is an intellectual conviction, then we run the risk of holding to an intellectual construct, not the person of the Risen Christ - even as, if all we have is a 'feeling', we run the risk of believing in nothing more than our own emotions. I'm not sure that I am necessarily arguing for some construct called a 'balanced view', but I am sure we need to hold what we hold both intellectually and emotionally. But, and here is where some may part company with me, in the end we are making a choice.

Few of us were born into Orthodoxy, and we all make a choice about remaining in it. In my own case I am keenly aware (partly because I have two good friends who remind me of it) that the Orthodoxy into which I have been received is not that of the Russian and Greek Traditions; and if I needed any reminding, I only have to think that in order to post on that other forum where you and I met, I would have to submit to having myself called a 'guest from another religious tradition'; since I prefer to do without the bell and cries of 'unclean, unclean', I refrain from posting there, since to do so would be to submit to a label which I reject. I occasionally post on a Catholic forum, which is quite happy to welcome me as an Orthodox Christian from a sister Church which is not in communion with Rome.

When Orthodox lose the urge to bash each other, they may also begin to lose the urge to bash Protestants, Catholics and anyone else; examples of Christ bashing people seem few and far between. If we are called to walk in His way, I am happy to bash no one. I do wonder, at times, whether this urge is linked with a deep sense of defensiveness?

But what is there to be defensive about? If Russians want to link their Church with their sense of national superiority, they're welcome to it; just leave me out. It makes as much sense as those Victorian protestants who linked God with the expansion of the British Empire. One of the few lessons history may teach is the wisdom of Our Lord's comments about rendering unto Caesar those things which are his - but distinguishing these from the things we give to God.

The BOC, like the Copts and the Syriac Orthodox, do not have a relationship which involves their being a state Church; and I am glad of it.

For the rest, well, coming back to the Scriptures, we can see a variety of approaches in the early Church; we derive from a tradition we trace back to the beginning. I am happy with that. If others make similar claims, well, I'd be more convinced if I thought their arguments convincing - but that's a truism.

And I do come back to the personal here. Yes, I am intellectually convinced by the claims of the BOC - but in the encounter with Christ at the Eucharist, I am convinced in a way that transcends my intellectual and other limitations; that is the transcendence I think I look for elsewhere.

In Christ,

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)
26-08-2008, 05:01 PM,
Salvation and unity Together

This gets us to borders of your central question - but reminds us of something which may bear on an answer to it.

Dear John,

Tangential? I think not. I think you have moved us beyond the border(s) here in a most helpful and pleasing way as it relates to conversion/salvation. Hopefully, I can remain at least on the ragged edge/border of sanity as I work my way into this, as I have more than a few times in the past.

How can we not speak of unity and salvation together? Because, and hopefully, we can all agree that it is not unity which brings Salvation; but it is Salvation that brings unity.

And, this thread seems to revert to a very personal, and sometimes passionate, expression by the contributors at times. But, really how can it not for the ones who are engaged in what is being discussed. I think by means of this thread, I have actually realized for the first time that I have converted to a 'True' Christian ecumenism (as you have used this) which seemed to coincide with my move to Eastern Orthodoxy. So how appropriate this thread title is for me personally. I did not convert to Christianity when I went through catechism class and then took communion for the first time or received chrismation on Pascha two years ago. I was already a convert to Christ. I had already found experience/encounter and the koinonia of the Holy Spirit--the Holy Spirit of Christ. In my mind, based on the 'brochures' for Orthodoxy, what I converted to was an historic orthodox Christian approach/way, and in this sense the most 'True' manifestation of the Eucharistic Community. My conversion was to what I perceived to be the Orthodox Way which is what I perceive to be what you are describing as a 'True' ecumenicalism.

So for me, with the hope that this post is more clear than mud, You have moved beyond the borders of "The Big Question" and are pretty close to center here with your linking of conversion and unity, or if you will, salvation and a 'True' ecumenism. And, as we consider this very center as well as the "beginning".as you have referenced it above in your past three posts, the words of another of my favorite writing theologians comes to mind:

Ecumenism does not come into existence because of a human vision of unity . . . Ecumenism comes into being wherever--and this is everywhere--we find ourselves under the cross of Christ and recognize each other as brothers and sisters who are hungry in the same poverty (Rom 3:23). Under the cross we all stand empty-handed. We have nothing to offer except the burden of our guilt and the emptiness of our hearts. We do not stand under the cross as Protestants, as Catholics, or as adherents to Orthodoxy. Here, rather, is where the godless are justified, enemies are reconciled, prisoners are set free, the poor are enriched, and the sad are filled with hope. We discover ourselves, therefore, under the cross both as children of the same freedom of Christ and as friends in the same fellowship of the Spirit. --Moltmann (the other good doctor!)

See? So what is this? I would like to suggest that this is a mood, this is an attitude but one much more than a way of knowing characterized by such things as doctrinal beliefs as understood by a mere intellect, or such a thing as what is commonly understood as one's world view.

I would like to suggest that what we are seeing in such as Moltmann, or whoever you want to add into this IS a manifestation of what I have come to know as a noetic consciousness. In other words, IT refers to an "inner knowing, a kind of intuitive consciousness ? direct and immediate access to knowledge beyond what is available to our normal senses and the power of reason." On its base level, we are talking about an inner kingdom here which is not limited to the Christian. But, as it relates to the Christian, and the mood or the attitude on display by those such as Moltmann, possibly we see new meaning in our consideration of such as what you have concluded above:

And I do come back to the personal here. Yes, I am intellectually convinced by the claims of the BOC - but in the encounter with Christ at the Eucharist, I am convinced in a way that transcends my intellectual and other limitations; that is the transcendence I think I look for elsewhere.

And, I would ask at this point, as this way of knowing, this epistemology, is manifested by a Christian in terms of his/her state of being, his/her ontology . . . what in the world could we possibly be talking about here other than the 'nous' which is taught at length as being critical to our perception, to our understanding, to anything remotely resembling a relational ontology as we consider the Christ and the Holy Trinity?/!!

How could any hope to have a snowball's chance in hell at avoiding the plague in the polis, which is to say living as a walking civil war as those who "secretly doubt their own judgement" and cannot not live a life of disharmony as their method characterized by RealPolitik and love of power completely overwhelms any hope of operating by the power of Love. Yes, Eros and Agape!

These are the two "choices" as I see them John. There is a "True" ecumenism which I see as the Orthodox Way, the one I 'converted' to, and opposed to this are divisions and enmities which find at their heart at best fear and power politics. One of these is more open and the other more closed.

As we consider the outstretched arms of the suffering God on the cross, as we consider the mood(s) represented above, the "choice" seems blindingly clear to me. But, I guess in the End, it comes down to our individual ways of knowing. And, we all have different events and circumstances that have molded and shaped how we know, and in turn our theory of being . . . but if we agree that it is not unity that brings salvation, but salvation that brings unity, and it is a noetic consciousness that is necessary to 'discover' ourselves and 'recognize' each other as "brothers and sisters who are hungry and in the same poverty" . . . then somewhat as I have asked before, where does this leave us?

There must be dialogue/interpersonal communication, but there can be no dialogue/interpersonal communication lest there is a manifestation of the Word of God in the conversation. And, the Word of God reveals Himself when and where he "chooses." I think this might be IT John. Either there is a mutual embrace, a mutual recognition, a mutual apprehension all the way round, or there is not. And, in this sense where does this leave us . . . but with a theology of hope for ourselves, and each other. Think about this please. On this where is the room for second guessing and doubt? On this, where is there room for judgementalism? What do any have that was not given?

And, for that matter as it relates to "The Big Question" . . . I think there may be a kind of sweet irony at play there too. Because to even ask this question is to bring about a dialogue which in many ways does away with all artificial ecclesiologies and division which at the least makes the way straight for a pointing to Salvation and unity together.

In Christ,

"In the End, the Beginning"

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