I hesitate to answer too firmly because I rather have the sense that the question I want to answer is whether or not re-incarnation is part of the Christian Faith, rather than whether or not someone who holds to that idea is in or out. If membership of the Church were such a simple matter of being in or out then I would imagine that I would be out because we would have to move from the simple ticking of boxes to ensure right doctrine, to the simple ticking of boxes to ensure holy living. And since I am not a holy person and sin often I would be cast out.
But the Church is not like that, and Christ is not like that, even while it is an historical fact that re-incarnation is not and has never been accepted as being part of the Christian faith.
In Christianity, certainly that of the British Orthodox Church, re-incarnation is not accepted as compatible with the Gospel because it denies the unique value of each person made especially by God to be in relationship with Him. It also denies the unique work of the incarnate Word in salvation because it denies that faith in Christ brings us to life with God in eternity, on the contrary it teaches us that we need to go round again and again, hopefully getting better as we do.
Christianity teaches us that we cannot ever get better enough!
It is a different Gospel than the one we so thankfully embrace. The Good News for us is that despite our weakness, our sinfulness, our regular failings, Christ chooses to make His home in our hearts, to unite us with God and to transform our unique being so that as far as is humanly possible we can share in the divine life.
There is no scope for re-incarnation in such an understanding because our unique personhood is of etrenal value to God, such that He became incarnate, suffered, died and rose again for ME - this ME typing here. And even though I live a weak life that brings Him no glory, and even though given a million lives I would not improve, nevertheless He calls ME - this ME - brother and son and friend.
I am of such value to Him, and you are, and each one of us is. He made us ONCE to be in relationship with Him. It is just not part of the Christian hope that having failed in this life we start again as some other person. Because it denies that the incarnate Christ has saved us at all.
We would have to posit that after coming into relationship with me and offering me eternal life with Him as a gift and not based on any merit of my own, and after starting to see some growth in my life with Him, this is all swept away and some other person linked to me in some way starts all over again.
This denies the unique value of each one of us in God's eyes, and makes the salvation offered by Christ to be meaningless. So it is incompatible with Christianity.
I would suggest, and others, especially clergy should correct me, that you not worry so much about what might make someone in or out of the British Orthodox Church. They let me stay! But of course there are boundaries to the faith that are there for our spiritual health. The catechumenate is the place to work through some of these issues, that is entirely what it is there for. As folk have said elsewhere, just as we are not expected to be perfect when beginning, or ending, the catechumenate, so, especially at the beginning of the catechumenate, we are not expected to have dealt with every doubt, qualm and obstacle to faith.
Today as I was driving to work I was moved by the readings in Our Daily Life, as I often am. The short verse said..
Quote:Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and he will direct thy paths.
I am myself struggling with various issues, not least, badly behaved children, moody colleagues at work, and an exhausted spouse. All of which leave me frustrated if not angry. And this morning I was asking God what He was doing when I was trying to serve Him, and then I read this verse.
Does this mean I should switch my brain off? I don't think so. But it does teach me not to expect to understand everything that is taking place at a particular time in my life, nor to expect to have all the answers to every question.
This would be my counsel to you. Park this issue, and others which you raise, keep them somewhere in your mind where they can be discussed as appropriate, and they will need to be discussed and considered. But do not let them stand in the way of trusting God. He promises to make things clear, in the end, and even if the path is difficult, but He will make things as clear as we need. And in the end, when it is still unclear, we have faith. Not blind faith, but faith in a person, our heavenly Father, whom we grow to trust more and more as a reasonable response to our existence, and as we experience His loving care in and through our lives and the lives of others.
Likewise in the passage we read today in ODL from Abba Nestoros, he teaches us that we do not find life in Christ through miracles, and I will add through knowledge and human understanding, but through humble love, of God and of others and of ourselves.
You, yourself, Mark Fletcher, are precious to God, and to many of us here who see God at work in you. That being so it is our constant prayer and desire that you, yourself, in this life and no other, find Him and are transformed by Him into the unique person He has made you to be.
All of your questions are completely fair and valid and necessary. But in the end God is a unique person as you are a unique person, and the Christian life is lived in that meeting of the human with the Divine. So trust Him and He will work things out.
Sorry to ramble on, and I will try to read up a bit more on the topics you raise.
Best wishes and continuing prayers