As much as I enjoy museums and archives, I agree with John that such venerable institutions are not models for the Church. That for many of us Orthodoxy is not a repository for ?dead bones? is shown, albeit in a small way, by this discussion site and our lively discussion over the past months.
Our discussions are lively because we have a living Faith, and such a Faith inspires and challenges us to thought, reflection, meditation and, of course, prayer. It is a living organism rather than a museum case or an archival vault.
It is an integral part of the Orthodox mindset, and no doubt of the British ethos, that we seek to grow intellectually and spiritually by discussion, debate and even disagreement. Our Faith is not a dead script which has only to be learned by heart ? it is a way of life and an experience of the Spirit, a journey on which we must travel and not a map simply to be studied. We are excited by our Faith and stimulated by sharing and developing it through dialogue with others ? even when we may be challenged by what the others have to say!
This is an approach with which our Lord would have been familiar. In traditional Judaism, learning about and understanding of the Halakha (usually translated as ?law? but more accurately ?the way to go?) developed through questioning, debate, controversy and dialogue rather than the imposition of ?correct answers? by one authority. No doubt in His time and amongst the teachers of His day, the Lord observed this method in practice. Consider how rarely (if ever) He simply delivered lectures on theology!
Incidentally, an excellent study of the methods the Lord used in His own teaching is found in Roy Zuck?s ?Teaching as Jesus Taught? [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1995]. Although perhaps my academic colleagues would be surprised to know it, these are the methods I try to use when teaching my students.
It is ironic that in the West many people assume that the tradition of Orthodoxy is for ?men in black? to tell faithful, if mindless, laity what to think and do. But Orthodoxy has a long tradition of scholarly debate, of lay theologians, of lay men and women who were recognized as inspired guides to the spiritual life (the Russian version being the staretz), of the active participation of men and women in the life and thought of the Church. And so in our discussions on this site, men and women, clergy and laity, those who identities are known and those who are unknown, feel comfortable asking questions, participating in discussions and debates, considering and responding to both views with which they agree and those they reject.
And, I think, they participate because for them Orthodoxy is alive, and relevant, and challenging, and exciting!
Those who give me most hope for the future of a living Orthodoxy (apart, obviously, from my brothers and sisters in dialogue on this discussion site!) are the many young people with whom I speak and who ask questions, raise problems, desire to understand, want to confront the challenges of doubt and difficulty ? and maintain the Faith. They do not simply say ?Yes, Father? to whatever I tell them. They want dialogue not dictation. Their lively excitement and enthusiasm is infectious!