Questions from someone exploring the Orthodox faith...
Hello there, I am 17 and have recently started to explore the Orthodox faith. I have many questions about the Faith, but first I thought you might like to know a bit about my religious background so that you can understand my perspective, I am sorry if I have rambled on a bit :roll:
As a very young child I went to an Anglican church (CofE) and at the age of 13 I started to properly explore Christianity as I became convinced of God's existence. Since then I have been confirmed at an Evangelical Protestant Church (not CofE I don't think) but up until a month ago I did not commit to going to church regularly, only once every two months maybe, I did however attend a Youth Group with christian teachings.
I have always wanted to go to church regularly and get really into the life there but something or other has always put me off. In the last month I decided to try and go to church every week and have been dividing my time between a CofE church and a church set up by 'New Frontiers' which I don't think has a denomination, though I think it is Protestant. However I still don't feel like it's 'quite right' and I feel kind of restless...
I have been going through some really difficult times 'faith-wise' recently. I feel overwhelmed by all the conflicting views on Christianity, and feel like I've come to a crossroads in my life where I need to find concrete beliefs that I truly agree with. Growing up surrounded by Protestant teachings I have been taught (not so directly, more indirectly, but never the less this is the message I have received) that Christianity is about relationship with God and not about things such as insence or saying set prayers. However, although I acknowledge that these prayers etc are pointless if the person saying them does not believe the words, but there is a part of me that is drawn to these things, I feel that they are a great encourager in the Faith. For example, recently when I have been feeling like my faith is not strong, I have taken to saying the Lord's Prayer, and even though the words are not my own they encourage my faith! Is this OK?
Also, in the past months I have found myself thinking "Do I believe enough? Is there something huge I have missed for my salvation? Is the reason my faith is low and I am plagued with doubts is because God does not want me?" I hope that this is not true and that God does love me and want me as his daughter, but still there is that niggling voice. These thoughts of possible rejection started when I was told at the youth group I mentioned earlier about Calvinism - that out souls are totally depraved and that God chooses who will be saved, I started to worry that maybe I was part of the group who had not been chosen and that I was trying to sneak into God's chosen people, but that I was not wanted. I have since then read a little about Orthodox views about 'predestination' (if that's what it's called, I think) and what I have heard seems encouraging, that God wills all people to know Him and be saved, but that he wants us to have free choice. Does the Orthodox faith believe that God chooses each person, and it is up to the person to choose God? Or in other words, God loves everyone, and it is whether a person chooses to respond to this love? I understand that God knows who will choose him and agree with this.
Sorry about all those ramblings, I would be very impressed if you have read them all and not fallen asleep! My family are not Christian and I don't like talking much about matters of my faith that worry me deeply, so that's why once I start it's hard to stop!
I prayed to God to reveal Himself to me and to show me which faith is true to Him, and I have since then stumbled accross Orthodox views about Christianity, and am so surprised that the Faith is not more widely known in England! What I have read so far (on the <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.goarch.org/">http://www.goarch.org/</a><!-- m --> website) seems so wise! The little I have read about the Orthodox view of salvation makes a lot of sense to me, how it is less legalistic and more about communion with God (I think, sorry if that is wrong)
In short, here are my general questions about the Orthodox faith:
1) How is a person saved? (faith alone, faith + works?)
2) What is the Orthodox view of Calvinism / predestination?
3) I believe that Orthodox Christians pray to the Saints, is their attitude to this praying the same as Roman Catholics? Do Orthodox Christians ever pray to just God or is it always the Saints?
4) What is the Orthodox view of the role of man and woman in the home?
5) What are Orthodox church services like?
6) What does 'raising of incense' mean?
7) What does liturgy mean?
8) Are there any major differences between the Greek Orthodox Church and the British and the Russian?
Thank you so much for reading this and for taking the time to answer any of these questions.