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Old 05-05-2014, 02:44 AM   #1
InChristAlone
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I want to start this blog to share some interesting facts that I find recovering the roots of my Christian faith. It may turn out to be too simplistic. But I am a simple man. So bear with me, please.

---

I have never pondered the idea of sin. We all know: sin is sin. It means:

a) an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law;
b) an act regarded as a serious or regrettable fault, offence, or omission.

We know that the Gospels were written in Greek. So I wondered what word the four evangelists had used in Gospel, talking about sin. I was surprised to know that the original meaning was a bit different. The Greek word hamartia (ἁμαρτία) is usually translated as sin in the New Testament. “Hamartia” means "to miss the mark" or "to miss the target.” In other words, God is our target. Sin is an action that doesn't lead us to God.

Orthodoxy also understands sin as a disease of the soul, an illness or infirmity, a condition where the soul is lacking in God's grace. Union with God, which is made possible through Christ, is the ultimate medicine. The mysteries of the Church are vehicles leading towards union with God. The healing takes place in Holy Baptism, the Holy Mystery of Penance, Holy Unction and by worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist: The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

Jesus forgives our sins through the sacramental power given to the Church, first to the Apostles, then to their successors, right down to the present day, when He told them: "After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:20-23

PS There are about seven different Greek words for sin, each one having a slightly different meaning.

1. You already know the first word, "hamartia" = "to miss the mark". This is the general Greek word for sin. It's used 221 times.

2. "Hettema" = "diminishing what should have been given full measure".

3. "Paraptoma" = "falling when one should have stood". It means an unintentional slip. Example: Eph. 1:7, KJV = We have "the forgiveness of sins (paraptoma), according to the riches of His grace".

4. "Agnoeema" = "ignorance when one should have known". Example: Heb. 9:7, KJV = "the errors (agnoeema) of the people".

5. "Parakoe" = "to refuse to hear and heed God's word". Example: 2 Cor. 10:6, KJV = "disobedience".

6. "Parabasis" = "to intentionally cross a line". Example: Heb. 2:2, KJV = "every transgression (parabasis) & disobedience (parakoe) received a just recompense of reward".

7. "Anomia" and "paranomia" = "lawlessness, or willfully breaking God's written rules". Example: Titus 2:14 KJV = Jesus gave himself for us in order to "redeem us from all iniquity (anomia)".
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Old 05-05-2014, 04:04 PM   #2
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An interesting place to start. And one that I had some view into a year or so ago.

It seems that there is some evidence that the Greek word does not actually have the implication of "miss the mark," but that the word that was translated into may have that as one of several meanings that came along over time. So, while we have so often used the archery definition, the real meaning may not really be that, but rather to violate the rules.

Not saying this is simply right and the old thinking is wrong. But it may be.
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Old 05-08-2014, 09:06 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OBW View Post
An interesting place to start. And one that I had some view into a year or so ago.
Thank you, OBW. I'm sorry for the late reply. I didn't have Internet access for the last few days.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OBW View Post
It seems that there is some evidence that the Greek word does not actually have the implication of "miss the mark," but that the word that was translated into may have that as one of several meanings that came along over time. So, while we have so often used the archery definition, the real meaning may not really be that, but rather to violate the rules.
Wish we knew Greek. I've checked the definition from Wikipedia and some other sites.

This one is from Wiki:

"The Biblical Greek term for sin is αμαρτία (amartia) which means missing the mark, it means that our aim is out and we have not reached our goal, our fullest potential. As in Western Christianity, in Eastern Orthodoxy, the goal is union with God. Orthodoxy also understands sin as a disease of the soul, a condition where the soul is lacking in God's grace. Union with God, which is made possible through Christ, is the ultimate medicine."

BTW, I was also surprised to know in the Orthodox Church there are no “categories” of sin as found in the Catholic Church.

Quote:
In the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic catechism, sins were categorized as “mortal” and “venial.” In this definition, a “mortal” sin was one which would prevent someone from entering heaven unless one confessed it before death. Not only were such things as pride, lust, and sloth on the list of “mortal” sins, but failing to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation were also considered “mortal” sins. A “venial” sin, according to this line of thinking, did not jeopardize one’s salvation. While stealing a car might be considered a “mortal” sin, stealing a candy bar was not. While a “venial” sin did not jeopardize one’s salvation, it still needed to be confessed and still may have had time in purgatory attached to it. Another way to see this distinction in Roman Catholic teaching—and here I simplifyy a tremendously complex line of reasoning—is as follows: If one commits a mortal sin and dies before confessing it, one would go straight to hell. If one commits a venial sin and dies before confessing it, one would not go straight to hell, but would have to spend time in purgatory before entering heaven.

[The Orthodox Church does not accept the teaching on purgatory that developed in more recent times in Roman Catholicism.]

These categories do not exist in the Orthodox Church. Sin is sin.
The Greek word for sin, amartia, means “to miss the mark.” As Christians, the “mark” or “target” for which we “aim” is a Christ-like life, one lived to the best of our ability in line with the teachings, precepts, and commandments of God. When we miss this mark, when we fail to hit this target, we sin. Murder is a sin. Pride and envy are sins. Stealing a car is a sin. Stealing a candy bar is a sin. Refusing to attend the Liturgy is a sin—but so is attending the Liturgy with hatred for others.

Missing the mark is missing the mark. If we aim at the bullseye and miss, it makes no difference if it is by an inch or a yard. In both cases, we have failed to achieve that for which we strive.

In some Orthodox catechisms one finds lists of the “seven deadly sins.” While there can be no doubt that these sins are deadly—here deadly and “mortal” are synonymous, but “mortal” is not used in the same way as in the Roman Catholic “mortal” sin described above—they are not “worse” in the ultimate sense than sins that are not on the list.

[In the quote from Fr. Harakas’ book, the use of the word “mortal” should not be understood in the Roman Catholic definition of “mortal” outlined above. He clearly defines the term as meaning “unto death,” or “deadly.”]

For example, one would not find listening to rock and roll music on the list of deadly sins. However, a person who spends all of his or her time listening to such music, to the point that he or she ignores others, isolates himself or herself from people and other activities, and becomes controlled by his or her desire to listen to such music to the exclusion of other important aspects of life, can find himself or herself in a deadly and sinful condition. Listening to the music is not the sin; the music itself is not the sin; becoming obsessed with the music—and ignoring other aspects of one’s life or the importance of loving relationships with others—is what is sinful.

I cannot produce a list of sins; there are countless things that, while not in and of themselves sinful, can lead one to sin. A list of sins implies that things not found on the list are not sinful. Such is not the case. A better way to look at sin would be the following: Are my actions, my thoughts, my attitudes, my material goods, etc. controlling me, or am I in control of them.
Here I will give you another example: It is not sinful to have a glass of wine or a can of beer. Allowing wine or beer to control me, however, is sinful. Why? Because I have the ability to control what I drink. At the same time, what I drink cannot control me—unless, of course, I allow it to do so. It would be ridiculous to think that a can of beer can force itself down the throat of a person who does not want to drink it. Whether we speak of wine, beer, watching television, giving attention to our car, gossiping, or whatever—we have the ability to control these things. What is sinful is allowing these things, which in and of themselves have no power of their own, to control us. What is even more sinful is when we fail to recognize that we are being controlled by something which, in reality, is within our control, or when we rationalize our sins by claiming “I just couldn’t help it.” Huh? Your television turned itself on and held you captive during nine hours of soap operas while you ignored the needs of your family or coworkers or neighbor?

Concerning Confession, having a list of deadly sins could, in fact, become an obstacle to genuine repentance. For example, imagine that you commit a sin. You look on the list and do not find it listed. It would be very easy to take the attitude that, since it is not on a list of deadly sins, it is not too serious. Hence, you do not feel the need to seek God’s forgiveness right away. A week passes and you have completely forgotten about what you had done. You never sought God’s forgiveness; as a result, you did not receive it, either. We should go to Confession when we sin—at the very least, we should ask God to forgive us daily in our personal prayers. We should not see Confession as a time to confess only those sins which may be found on a list.

Rather than worry about developing a list of sins to avoid, it would be much wiser to make a list of virtues and attitudes and ministries to achieve. While it is good to avoid places of temptation, it is better to seek places of inspiration. While it is good to avoid individuals who may lead you to sin, it is better to seek out individuals who will lead you to virtue. While it is good to shun those things which tend to control us, it is better to seek self control over things which have no power over us unless we give them that power.

http://oca.org/questions/sacramentconfession/sin
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Old 05-08-2014, 09:55 PM   #4
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I also find it interesting that in the Orthodox Christianity, the original sin concept is different from the Catholic and Protestant viewpoint.

I'm sorry, I have to copy and paste but English is not my native language. So I will never be able to be as eloquent as the author of this article:

The churches of the West- roman catholic and protestants teach that every child is born a sinner.

Western viewpoint of Original sin.
from catholic encylopaeida:-
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11312a.htm

Original sin may be taken to mean:

(1) the sin that Adam committed;
(2) a consequence of this first sin, the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam.

They call it “Hereditary Stain”.
This belief of the catholic church was later adopted by some sects of protestantism as well.

st. augustine’s dogma.
http://www.answers.com/topic/original-sin

“The Western tradition, both Catholic and Protestant, concerning original sin is largely based on writings by Augustine of Hippo, who concluded that unbaptized infants go to hell[3][4] because of original sin.”

Both the Protestants and Catholics in West accept the teaching of St. Augustine of Hippo. He said that unbaptised infants go to hell.

Implications of this western teaching
Since children are born as “Sinners”, they cannot be baptised or share qurbana until they are old enough to “repent” and “believe”.

This is why roman catholics give Qurbana(aadyaqurbana) to children only at 7 or 8 years of age.
And this is also why many protestant “Born again” sects dont consider a child as a christian until he is old enough to “repent” and “be baptised”.

But this is an Unbiblical teaching. The Oriental Orthodox Church doesnt teach that children are born “Sinners”.

Eastern concept of original sin is different.
“In this perspective, “original sin” is understood not so much as a state of guilt inherited from Adam but as an unnatural condition of human life that ends in death. Mortality is what each man now inherits at his birth and this is what leads him to struggle for existence, to self-affirmation at the expense of others, and ultimately to subjection to the laws of animal life.
The “prince of this world” (i.e., Satan), who is also the “murderer from the beginning,” has dominion over man. From this vicious circle of death and sin, man is understood to be liberated by the death and Resurrection of Christ, which is actualized in Baptism and the sacramental life in the church.

The general framework of this understanding of the God-man relationship is clearly different from the view that became dominant in the Christian West-i.e., the view that conceived of “nature” as distinct from “grace” and that understood original sin as an inherited guilt rather than as a deprivation of freedom.

In the East, man is regarded as fully man when he participates in God; in the West, man’s nature is believed to be autonomous, sin is viewed as a punishable crime, and grace is understood to grant forgiveness. Hence, in the West, the aim of the Christian is justification, but in the East, it is rather communion with God and deification.

In the West, the church is viewed in terms of mediation (for the bestowing of grace) and authority (for guaranteeing security in doctrine); in the East, the church is regarded as a communion in which God and man meet once again and a personal experience of divine life becomes possible.”

ie in short:

We Only inherited Adam’s punishment—Mortality(death).

We dont inherit sin, only Adam’s deficiency(death)
“Original Sin is understood differently by the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church denies that a sin committed by someone else (in this case, Adam) can be somehow “transmitted” to the rest of humanity.
Adam’s personal sin of rebellion against God was his alone to atone for.

What we “inherit” or what is “transmitted” to us is Adam’s human nature which was weakened and damaged by the passions.
Thus, we inherit the experiences of suffering and death from our first parents. It is that state of our human nature that we inherit, that is “transmitted” to us, not the actual sin committed by Adam.

Christ, the Son of God and True God Himself, assumed our human nature and transformed it with His Divinity and Saving Power by His Life, Death and Resurrection.”

http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/17547.htm

The non-Orthodox teach that Original Sin is the Personal sin and guilt of Adam transmitted from him to all mankind. The Church does not agree with this teaching. Original sin is the “sinful state” of our nature with which we are born. Because of the fall, human nature is disposed toward sinfulness: human nature is corrupt and that which we refer to as man, is really less than man: human nature has been weakened, therefore, the ability to resist every temptation (without the special Graces of God) has been taken away.

The Church teaches that when man fell he did not receive Adam’s sin and guilt – but his punishment, which is corrupt human nature..
He also lost physical immortality. And since the bond between the individual soul and God was broken, there occurred an eternal separation between God and man.”

“Son shall not bear the iniquity of the father”
Man was made in the Image of God. He didnt mortality then.

However after he ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he became aware of his nakedness and he became guilty.

As a result of this a new deficiency plagued him—Mortality.

Genesis 3:19
“By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
AND TO DUST YOU WILL RETURN”.

However, we the children after Adam and Eve did not Inherit their Sin. We only inherited this Deficiency of Mortality.
God doesnt judge the child by the deeds of his parents.

John 9:1

“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind.
2 His followers asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused this man to be born blind–his own sin or his parents’ sin?”
3 Jesus answered, “It is not this man’s sin or his parents’ sin that made him be blind. This man was born blind so that God’s power could be shown in him.

” The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father,
neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”–Ezekiel 18:20

A New Born Baby is not a Sinner.
“Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.” Psalm 119:73

“Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee: for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13, 14

“Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?” Job 31:15

“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee”. Jer. 1:5

“Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us and not we ourselves”. Psalm 100:3

“Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? “Mal. 2:10

IT IS GOD WHO FASHIONS EACH OF US IN OUR MOTHERS WOMBS. Are we to understand from these passages that God fashions men into sinners in their mother’s womb?

We are all created upright.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Gen.1:26,27

Ye are gods; and all of you are the children of the most High. Psalm 82:6

For in the image of God made he man. Gen. 9:6

Man is the image and glory of God. I Cor. 11:7

Men are made after the similitude of God. James 3:9

The Lord formeth the spirit of man within him. Zech. 12:1

The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. Job 33:4

He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. Acts 17:25

We are the offspring of God. Acts 17:29

I am the root and the offspring of David. Rev. 22:16

Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. Eccl. 7:29

What is Sin?
Sin is by definition, individual in nature, being either a violation of
transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4)

Sin is a violation of our conscience (Romans 14:23).

“Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:1415).

A BABY IS NOT A SINNER.

Since a baby does not even know his right hand from his left (Jonah 4:11), how
can he/she commit sin by not doing what he/she is incapable of doing?

Our sins are a result of our own lust and desires, not because of the sin of Adam.

Our spirit came from God and will return to Him (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the
righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him”
(Ezekiel 18:20).

18:3-4, Jesus declared, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the
kingdom of heaven.

“For such(children) is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 19:14,

“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to
come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:3-4, Jesus declared,

“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the
kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as the little child, the
same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

“Little Children” are Sinful according to Pentecostals and Roman Catholics.

So why did Jesus tell us to be like them inorder to “enter the kingdom of heaven”?
Jesus would not ask us to be more like a sinner in order to go to heaven.

Children are innocent of sin until they are able to reach a certain level of maturity.

Do not despise that which God pronounced as good.
The doctrine of original sin is false: it slanders and libels the character of God, it shocks man’s god-given consciousness of justice, and it flies in the face of the plainest teachings of God’s holy Word.
The doctrine of original sin is not a Bible doctrine. It is a grotesque myth that contradicts the Bible on almost every page.

18:3-4, Jesus declared, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”–Matthew 18:10

Please do not despise the little infants as “sinners” . Jesus warned us against it.

You might invite the wrath of their powerful guardian angels in heaven who always behold the face of the Almighty Father. Be careful.

Children too are part of kingdom of heaven.
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).

“Now they were bringing even infants to him” (Greek, Prosepheron de auto kai ta brepha).

http://www.antiochian.org/node/16904

The Greek word brepha means “infants”-children who are quite unable to approach Christ on their own and who could not possibly make a conscious
decision to “accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.” And that is precisely the problem.

Fundamentalists refuse to permit the baptism of infants and young children, because they are not yet capable of making such a conscious act.

But notice what Jesus said: “to such as these [referring to the infants and children who had been brought to him by their mothers] belongs the kingdom of heaven.” The Lord did not require them to make a conscious decision.
He says that they are precisely the kind of people who can come to him and receive the kingdom.

So on what basis, Fundamentalists should be asked, can infants and young children be excluded from the sacrament of baptism? If Jesus said “let them come unto me,” who are we to say “no,” and withhold baptism from them?

This is why we Orthodox Christians believe in Baptising Infants and in giving the Holy Communion(Qurbana) to them.

http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/o.../original-sin/
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Old 05-08-2014, 10:03 PM   #5
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One more article about original sin, written by a Greek archimandrite, Vassilios Papavassiliou.

"How easily we Orthodox indiscriminately adopt the language of Western theology! It is always a great temptation for those who have converted to Orthodoxy from Western Christian denominations to bring the baggage of their former allegiances with them rather than embrace Orthodoxy as something which is entirely different from the Christianity they left behind. While they may see the Western Christendom of today as alien to the Church of the Fathers, they are sometimes reluctant to accept that not everything from the pre-schism West is part and parcel of Orthodoxy. And yet, the influence of Western theology is to be found not only amongst Orthodox converts in the West, but also among those who have been brought up in the Orthodox Faith in traditionally Orthodox countries such as Greece and Russia.

Alas, we Orthodox are too quick to assume that the most ‘hardcore’ fundamentalist views among Western Christians must also be the most ‘correct’ Orthodox ones. Rarely, if ever, is this the case. Heresies always tend to be found at opposite poles. It is not unusual for one heresy to arise in reaction to another. One heresy claims that Christ is not God, another that He is not man. One heresy condemns the veneration of the Virgin Mary as Mother of God, another makes her the Immaculate Conception. One claims that man is saved by grace alone, another that he is saved only by works. Such extremes are not easily embraced by Orthodoxy.

True Orthodoxy tends to be the middle-way between the two extremes. This holds true also for the doctrine of ‘Original Sin’. “But wait!” I hear someone protest. “The Orthodox Church does believe in Original Sin!” I would hesitate to say so, at least without serious qualification. I would prefer to say that the Orthodox Church believes in the ‘Ancestral Sin’ (πρωπατορικό ἁμάρτημα). Is this mere semantics? By no means! For anyone who says ‘Original Sin’ is bound to find themselves involved in the doctrine expounded by Augustine and ever since then by the Latin Church, and not that of the Fathers of the Eastern Orthodox Church. I intend to illustrate that the Orthodox understanding of Ancestral Sin is a far cry from that of Augustine, and that, despite the fact that the Latin doctrine of Original Sin was never formally condemned as heretical in the East, it is, nonetheless, not that of the Orthodox Church.

Augustine and Pelagius

Augustine’s doctrine of Original Sin was born from his attempt to combat the heresy of Pelagianism. The controversy began in Rome when the British monk, Pelagius, opposed Augustine’s prayer: “Grant what you command, and command what you desire”. Pelagius was opposing the idea that the divine gift of grace was necessary to perform the will of God. Pelagius believed that if we are responsible for obeying the commandments of God, then we must all also have the ability to do so without divine aid. He went on to deny the doctrine of Ancestral Sin, arguing that the consequences of Adam’s sin are not passed on to the rest of mankind. Adam’s sin affected Adam alone, and thus infants at birth are in the same state as Adam was before the Fall.

Augustine took a starkly different view of the Fall, arguing that mankind is utterly sinful and incapable of good. Augustine believed that the state of Original Sin leaves us in such a condition that we are unable to refrain from sin. The ‘image of God’ in man (i.e., free will) was destroyed by the Fall. As much as we may choose to do good, our evil impulses pervert our free will and compel us to do evil. Therefore we are totally dependent upon grace.

So far did Augustine take his grim view of the human condition, that he argued not only that the Original Sin effects all of Adam’s descendants, but that each person is guilty of the Original Sin from birth (Original Guilt). Infants are therefore guilty of sin and thus infants who die before baptism, in which (according to Augustine) the guilt of Original Sin is removed, are condemned to perdition and cannot be saved. As if that was not bad enough, Augustine went on to formulate the doctrine of Predestination, which affirms that God has foreordained who will be saved and who will not.

Augustine prevailed and Pelagius was condemned as a heretic by Rome at the Council of Carthage in 418. It seemed that Pelagius’ views were more reprehensible to the Latin Church than the idea of predestination and babies burning in hell – views that the Latin Church was not only willing to tolerate, but even willing to champion as Orthodox doctrine!

St John Chrysostom

Between Augustine and Pelagius there appeared to be no middle-way in the West. A different view, however, was expressed in the East by Augustine’s contemporary, John Chrysostom. The dispute between Augustine and Pelagius had not reached the East, and so Chrysostom’s views were not so agitated by heated disputes and polemics. Were Chrysostom involved in the dispute between Augustine and Pelagius, perhaps his teaching on Ancestral Sin would have prevailed over both Pelagius and Augustine alike, but considering that the sole concern of the Latin Church seemed to be the condemnation of Pelagianism, it is probably more likely that he would have been condemned as semi-pelagian.[i] Whatever the case, Chrysostom’s views on the subject have never enjoyed the attention they deserve, and the heated nature of the dispute in the West meant that the doctrine of ‘Original Sin’ as expounded by Augustine was regarded as the only safeguard against the heresy of Pelagianism.

Chrysostom, while claiming that all human beings are made in the image of God, believed that the Ancestral Sin brought corruptibility and death not only to Adam but to all his descendants, weakening his ability to grow into God’s likeness, but never destroying God’s image (free will). Chrysostom is a major voice within a consensus of Greek patristic writers who interpret the Fall as “an inheritance essentially of mortality rather than sinfulness, sinfulness being merely a consequence of mortality”.[ii] Chrysostom’s position is echoed, for example, by St Athanasius the Great and St Cyril of Alexandria, who claimed that we are not guilty of Adam’s sin, though we inherit a corrupted nature; but our free will remains intact. This Greek patristic interpretation is founded upon Romans 5:12: “As sin came into the world through one man, and through sin, death, so death spread to all men because all men have sinned”[iii]. John Meyendorff explains how the deficient Latin translation of the text may have contributed to such a stark difference in the Latin interpretation of the Ancestral Sin:

‘In this passage there is a major issue of translation. The last four Greek words were translated in Latin as in quo omnes peccaverunt (“in whom [i.e., in Adam] all men have sinned”), and this translation was used in the West to justify the guilt inherited from Adam and spread to his descendants. But such a meaning cannot be drawn from the original Greek’.[iv]

St Cyril of Alexandria explained the passage in this way:

“How did many become sinners because of Adam?… How could we, who were not yet born, all be condemned with him, even though God said, ‘Neither the fathers shall be put to death because of their children, nor the children because of their fathers, but the soul which sins shall be put to death’? (cf. Deut. 24:18) … we became sinners through Adam’s disobedience in such manner as this: he was created for incorruptibility and life, and the manner of existence he had in the garden of delight was proper to holiness. His whole mind was continually beholding God; his body was tranquil and calm with all base pleasures being still. For there was no tumult of alien disturbances in it. But because he fell under sin and slipped into corruptibility, pleasures and filthiness assaulted the nature of the flesh, and in our members was unveiled a savage law. Our nature, then, became diseased by sin through the disobedience of one, that is, of Adam. Thus, all were made sinners, not by being co-transgressors with Adam,… but by being of his nature and falling under the law of sin… Human nature fell ill in Adam and subject to corruptibility through disobedience, and, therefore, the passions entered in”.[v]

St John Cassian

The East paid little attention to Augustine, and this was largely due to language barriers. For the Eastern Christians, serious theologians wrote in Greek, and they paid little heed to Latin writers. What opposition did come from the East came from some Eastern Orthodox theologians who, for one reason or another, found themselves living in the West. Amongst the most prominent was St John Cassian. St John opposed Augustine on four major points:

1) There were clearly instances where people had come to God of their own volition, who, while called by Christ and aided by divine grace, chose to change their ways (e.g. Matthew, Paul, Zacchaeus). Therefore, it is not grace alone that saves us, but also man’s willingness to repent.

2) After the Fall, Adam and his descendants retained a knowledge of good, and an impulse, however weakened, to pursue good. Man was not, as Augustine claimed, utterly depraved and incapable of good after the Fall.

3) The ‘Image’ of God in man is sick, but not dead. The divine image is in need of healing, but this healing requires synergy (the co-operation of man’s will with divine grace).

4) God wishes all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, so those who are not saved reject salvation against His will. Predestination should be understood as foreknowledge and not as foreordination.

The West condemned St John Cassian’s views as semi-pelagian, but for the Orthodox, Cassian is one of the foremost exponents of the Orthodox doctrine of theosis.[vi] His views were supported also by Theodoret of Antioch:

“There is need of both our efforts and divine aid. The grace of the Spirit is not vouchsafed to those who make no effort, and without grace our efforts can not collect the prize of virtue”.

The Ancestral Sin and Baptism

Augustine’s view of Original Sin was the reason also for his justification of infant baptism. Believing that babies are born guilty of sin, he argued that baptism was necessary for the babies’ salvation. He saw the innocence of infants purely in terms of their being physically too weak to commit sin, but equally guilty as adults of Adam’s sin.

The Greek Fathers, having a different view of the Fall and the Ancestral Sin, interpreted the purpose of infant baptism in another way, different in important respects from the familiar Augustinian and Reformed interpretations of the West. The Greek Fathers believed that newborn infants are innocents, wholly without sin. While infants inherit a human nature which, in its wholeness, is wounded by the Ancestral Sin, weakening the will and making each person prone to sin, they are innocent of sin nonetheless. In the fourth of his catechetical homilies on baptism, St John Chrysostom states, “We do baptise infants, although they are not guilty of any sins”. For the Greek Fathers, baptism, above all else, is an acceptance by the Church and entrance of the baptised person into the redeemed and sanctified Body of Christ, the beginning of a life spent in spiritual combat and instruction in holiness on the deepening journey to the Kingdom of God.

Considering the stark contrast between the Orthodox doctrine of the Ancestral Sin and the Augustinian doctrine of Original Sin, and the different understanding of baptism that these doctrines lead to, is it not surprising that some Orthodox speak of baptism in Augustinian terms – of the forgiveness of Original Sin – especially considering that the Orthodox service for baptism makes not a single reference to it? The closest we come to mention of the Ancestral Sin (Πρωπατρορικό ἁμάρτημα) in baptism is in the first prayer of the Service for the Making of a Catechumen (which was originally completely separate from the service of Baptism): “Remove far from him/her that ancient error” (παλαιά πλάνη). If one of the main purposes of baptism was the forgiveness of Original Sin, surely it would be worth mentioning in the baptism service! But the idea of ‘Original Sin’ being “forgiven” is nowhere to be found in the Greek Fathers or in the hymns and prayers of the Orthodox Church. For it is an idea which is alien to Greek Patristic thought. The Ancestral Sin is a condition, primarily of mortality and corruptibility, which needs healing, an inherited ‘illness’ which means that free will – or ‘the Image of God’ as the Greek Fathers preferred to put it – though kept intact, is in need of divine grace in order to progress along the path to attaining God’s ‘likeness’, the path to theosis or ‘deification’.

Conclusion

Bearing in mind the significant differences between the Orthodox and the Augustinian views of ‘Original Sin’, it surprises me that some Orthodox Christians are so quick to employ the term, claiming that the Orthodox Church holds to the doctrine of ‘Original Sin’, and qualifying this simply by saying that it does not embrace the doctrine of ‘Original Guilt’. I do not think that this is adequate for expounding the Orthodox position on Original Sin. Although Augustine was recognised as a saint by the Orthodox Church,[vii] it has never accepted his teaching on Original Sin. If what I have written above is correct, then the Augustinian doctrine of Original Sin is wholly un-Orthodox, and it led, I believe, to a whole series of heresies in the Latin Church, such as Predestination, Purgatory, Limbo and the Immaculate Conception. We Orthodox would do well to distance ourselves from the well-known Augustinian position on Original Sin by employing a less familiar term: Ancestral Sin. It is not merely a case of semantics. For an erroneous understanding of this doctrine has serious repercussions for our understanding of sin and the Fall, for grace and free will, for baptism, the human condition and man’s deification. In short, how we understand the Ancestral Sin has direct implications for our whole soteriology – our understanding of the salvation of man and the world."

http://pemptousia.com/2011/11/origin...ine-or-heresy/
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Old 05-13-2014, 12:59 PM   #6
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I have never been satisfied with my prayer life in the LRC. So when today, on Tuesday prayer meeting, we were reading another article on prayer, written by WL, I realized how little he knew about prayer. Yes, he wrote a lot about it. We have been reading WL’s articles about prayer for 2 or 3 months, every Tuesday. But to write about prayer is one thing. To understand and practice it, having communion with the Lord, is another thing.

I believe WL’s understanding of prayer affected his followers. My wife likes these Tuesday meetings. She says that corporate prayer is important. Yes, indeed. But in the LC, I find it fruitless. We are not praying but babbling. Sometimes I feel excitement but I never feel interaction, communion, with the Lord. Why? Maybe Anthony Bloom, physician, monk, and archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain, answered this question when he said:

"One of the reasons why communal worship or private prayer seem to be so dead or so conventional is that the act of prayer, which takes place in the heart communing with God, is too often missing. We all know in human relationships that love and friendship are deep when we can be silent with someone. As long as we need to talk in order to keep in touch, we can safely assume that the relationship is still superficial; and so, if we want to worship God, we must first of all learn to feel happy, being silent together...

Once the Cure d'Ars, a French saint of the eighteenth century, asked an old peasant what he was doing sitting for hours in the church, seemingly not even praying; the peasant replied: 'I look at Him, He looks at me and we are happy together.' That man had learned to speak without breaking the silence of intimacy by words."


Too many words, too much exaltation, and too many loud voices, with no awe and no reverence, prevent us from hearing His voice, whom we target all our petitions.

What are all our meetings for? To gather and shout in one accord, or to establish our common relationship with the Lord, feel His presence, and hear His voice?

As I said earlier, I am struggling with my prayer life in the LC. Therefore, a few weeks ago I started my research on prayer. Since I am a kind of traditionalist, I had to get back to my Orthodox Christian background. I must admit I was not aware of the depth and richness of the Church’s spiritual tradition when it comes to personal devotion. There are numerous books and articles about prayer and prayer life. I could have mentioned some volumes but they have never been translated into English. Anyway, from what we all can get, I believe among the best are Anthony Bloom’s books: “Beginning to Pray”, “Meditations on a Theme”, and “Living Prayer”. They all became spiritual classics in the Orthodox world.

http://www.amazon.com/Beginning-Pray...=cm_cr_pr_pb_t

I’ll share a few excerpts from “Beginning to Pray”:

"If you look at the relationship (us and God) in terms of mutual relationship, you would see that God could complain about us a great deal more than we about Him. We complain that He does make Himself present to us for a few minutes we reserve for Him, but what about the twenty-three and half hours during which God may be knocking at our door and we answer 'I am busy..."

The “madness” of Christianity

"As Christians we are always in tension — the anguish and at the same time in bliss. This is mad, ridiculous. But it is true — accepting the dark night just as we accept the brilliance of the day … But, on the other hand, the Christian is like someone who lives in three dimensions in a world in which the majority of people live in two."

On the “absence” of God:

The day when God is absent, when He is silent — that is the beginning of prayer. Not when we have a lot to say, but when we say to God ‘I can’t live without You. Why are You so cruel, so silent?’ This knowledge that we must find or die — that makes us break through to the place where we are in the Presence. If we listen to what our hearts know of love and longing and are never afraid of despair, we find that victory is always there on the other side of it.”

Meeting God

"When we read the Gospel and the image of Christ becomes compelling, glorious, … do we ever say, ‘I am unworthy that He should come near me?’ Not to speak of all the occasions when we should be aware that He cannot come to us because we are not there to receive Him. We want something from Him, not Him at all. Is that a relationship? Do we behave in that way with our friends? Do we aim at what friendship can give us or is it the friend whom we love? Is this true with regard to the Lord?"

Another good book for a beginner like me, is “The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology” by Igumen Chariton. (A spiritual anthology drawn from the Greek and Russian traditions, concerned in particular with the most frequently used and best loved of all Orthodox prayers--the Jesus Prayer. Texts are taken chiefly from the letters of Bishop Theopan the Recluse, along with many other writers).

http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Prayer.../dp/0571191657

I am not asking anyone to read these books. I am just sharing my experience, some little but important things that you may already know, but which I am still struggling to learn on my spiritual journey.

I am a beginner. I’ve just started learning a way to prayer. So I compiled this post from different Orthodox Christian sources, mainly from sermons given by St. Theophan the Recluse. I am doing it for myself, my wife, my English speaking friends, and everyone who is interested to improve his or her prayer life.

I believe I can name this post by the same title that belongs to a book by Michael Keiser:

A Beginner's Guide to Prayer: The Orthodox Way to Draw Closer to God

What is prayer?

God loves all His creations, and in particular He loves each of us since He is our Heavenly Father. As it is natural for children to want to see and converse with their parents, so it should also be natural and pleasant for us to converse with our Heavenly Father and to want to be in spiritual communion with Him. This conversation with God is called prayer. According to Saint John of Kronstadt, "Prayer is a golden bond of the Christian — a stranger and wanderer on earth — with the spiritual world of which he is a part, and even more so with God, the source of life."

A very simple definition of prayer is from St. John of Damascus, “The raising up the heart and mind to God.” This raising up the heart begins with loving God. It all starts with asking Him to open your heart. Once you are united with Him in spirit and truth you will step into the realm of the prayer of silence and then later in your prayer life you will learn prayer without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

So, prayer is doxology, praise, thanksgiving, confession, supplication and intercession to God. "When I prayed I was new," wrote a great theologian of Christian antiquity, "but when I stopped praying I became old." Prayer is the way to renewal and spiritual life. Prayer is aliveness to God. Prayer is strength, refreshment, and joy. Through the grace of God and our disciplined efforts prayer lifts us up from our isolation to a conscious, loving communion with God in which everything is experienced in a new light. Prayer becomes a personal dialogue with God, a spiritual breathing of the soul, a foretaste of the bliss of God's kingdom.

Prayer is the essence of the Orthodox Christian way of life. It is the means by which one achieves communion with God. Moreover, it is the means by which one experiences the presence of God in his/her life.

Through a disciplined and regimented prayer life one enables him/herself to keep a continuous focus on Christ and His will. One is taught to pray in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, before sleep, before meals, simply, throughout the day. The Orthodox Church therefore encourages both private prayer (taking place personally and privately between God and us) and corporate prayer (taking place in the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Mysteria, and other services of the Church) as a means to this end. Whether corporate or private, prayer is understood in the Orthodox Church as the "lifting of the mind and heart to God." We turn our minds and our hearts toward Him and His will. This is accomplished by either speaking to Him with words or by standing in silence, trusting in God and being open to His will for us.

Saying prayers is not the same as praying. We pray to know God. If our prayers do not assist us to this end, then they may have become simply mechanical exercises for us; our heart and mind have lost sight of both the meaning of the words and the intent of the prayer that we utter.

How to learn to pray?

"He who is able to pray correctly, even if he is the poorest of all people, is essentially the richest. And he who does not have proper prayer, is the poorest of all, even if he sits on a royal throne."
St John Chrysostom

Prayer is the elevation of the mind and the heart to God in praise, in thanksgiving, and in petition for the spiritual and material goods we need. Our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to enter into our inner room and there pray to God the Father in secret. This inner room means the heart, the core of our being. The Apostle Paul says that we must always pray in our spirit. He commands prayer for all Christians without exception and asks us to pray unceasingly.

Only the Holy Spirit can guide us to pray as we should. Just as a child learns to walk by walking, one can best learn to pray by praying, trusting in the help of God. Put your whole soul into your prayer. Think about the meaning of every word you pray. Make it your own personal prayer. Be persistent in prayer. Do not yield to carelessness or neglect. Strengthen your prayer through a lively faith in the Lord, a spirit of forgiveness toward others, and genuine Christian living.

Preparation for Prayer

Prepare yourself to stand properly before God—don't just jump into prayer after gossiping and gadding about or doing house chores. Schedule the time and rouse the urge to pray precisely at that hour. Another opportunity may not come.

Don't forget to re-establish your sense of spiritual need. Bring your need for God to the front of your mind, then begin to draw your mind into your heart by organizing your thoughts into prayer and calling forth your desire to find their fulfillment in God.

When the heart is conscious and feels the need for prayer, then the attentive heart itself will not let your thoughts slide to other matters. It will force you to cry out to the Lord in your prayers. Most of all, be aware of your own helplessness: were it not for God, you would be lost. If someone who is doomed to disaster were to stand before the one person who, with a glance, could save him, would he look here and there for his salvation? No, he would fall down before him and beg mercy. So it will be when you approach Him in prayer with an awareness of all-encompassing peril and the knowledge that no one can save you but God.

All of us have this little sin hanging about us. Though we make painstaking preparations for every other task (no matter how trivial), we do not prepare for prayer. We take up prayer with flighty thoughts, willy-nilly, and rush to get it over with, as if it were an incidental, though unavoidable, bother—and not the center of our life, as it should be.

Without preparation, how can there be a gathering of thought and feeling in prayer? Without preparation, prayer proceeds shakily instead of firmly.

No, you must determine to deny yourself this little sin and under no circumstance allow yourself to come to prayer with your heart and mind unprepared, your thoughts and feelings scattered in a dozen directions. Such a careless attitude toward prayer is a crime, a serious one—a capital one. Consider prayer the central labor of your life and hold it in the center of your heart. Address it in its rightful role, not as a secondary function!

Toil! God will be your helper. Take care to fulfill your prayer rule. If you begin to fulfill it, soon, very soon, you will see the fruits of your labor. Strive to experience the sweetness of pure prayer. Once experienced, pure prayer will draw you on and enliven your spiritual life, beckoning you to more attentive, more difficult, and ever-deepening prayer.

Introductory Prayers

The following prayers should be said each time you begin your prayers whether in the morning or evening or any other time of the day.

Begin your prayer with

In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Glory to you our God, Glory be to Thee!

Glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen

Prayer to Holy Spirit

Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, present in all places and filling all things, Treasury of Goodness and Giver of life: come and abide in us. Cleanse us from every stain of sin and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.

Lord's Prayer

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

What to ask for?

St. Isaac the Syrian writes: "Don't be thoughtless in your petitions, in order not to offend God by your foolishness. But rather be wise, to become worthy of the greatest gifts. Ask for a treasure from Him Who is a stranger to stinginess and you will receive a treasure from Him in accordance with the reasonableness of your request. Solomon asked for wisdom and together with it he received an earthly kingdom because he made a wise request before the Great King. Elisseus asked for a twofold portion of grace of the Holy Spirit and his request was not refused. To ask for trifles from the King insults his dignity."

The greatest teacher of prayer is our Savior. Prayer accompanies all the important events of His earthly life. The Lord prayed, receiving baptism from John (Luke 3:21). He spent the whole night praying before He chose the Apostles (Luke 6:12). He prayed during the Transfiguration (Luke 22:41). He prayed on the Cross. The very last word before His death was a prayer (Luke 23:46).

Being impressed by the inspiring image of the praying Savior, one of His disciples turned to Him with the request: "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). And in answer to this Jesus Christ gave the prayer, short in form, but rich in content, that wonderful, incomparable prayer which to this day unifies the whole Christian world, the "Our Father," the Lord's Prayer.

This prayer teaches us about what and in what order to pray. Having turned to God, "Our Father," we acknowledge ourselves to be His children, and in relation to each other, brothers, and, therefore, we pray not only for ourselves but for all people. With the petition "Hallowed be Thy name," we ask that His name might be holy for all people, that everyone might glorify the name of God by their words and deeds. "Thy Kingdom come."The kingdom of God begins within the believer, when the grace of God, having filled him, cleanses and transfigures his inner world. Simultaneously, grace unites everyone, people and angels, into one great spiritual family called the Kingdom of God or the Church. For the good to be spread among people, one should ask: "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven;" that is, that everything in the world should be done according to the all-good, all-wise will of God, and that people should as diligently fulfill the will of God on the earth as the angels do it in heaven.

"Give us this day our daily bread;" give us today all that is necessary for our daily sustenance. What will happen to us tomorrow we don't know; we need only our "daily bread," i.e., every day that which is necessary to sustain our existence. "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." These words are explained by St. Luke who states them thus: "And forgive us our sins" (Luke 11:4) — our sins become our debts because in sinning we fail in our duty and become debtors before God and man. This petition with special emphasis admonishes us to forgive our neighbor for all offenses. Having refused to forgive others, we dare not ask God to forgive us our sins and say the words of the Lord's Prayer. "And lead us not into temptation" — a test of our moral powers by means of an inclination towards some sinful act. Here we ask God to protect us from falling into sin if such a test is necessary. "But deliver us from the evil one" — from every evil and the cause of evil, the devil. The prayer finishes with the assurance of fulfillment of our request, for to God belongs an eternal kingdom, power, and glory.

Thus the Lord's Prayer, unifying within itself all for which it is necessary to pray, teaches us to place in proper order all our personal desires and necessities. First we must ask for the highest good — for God's glory, for the spreading of good among people and the salvation of our souls, and only then we make requests for our daily needs. In relation to our requests "Let us not teach Him how He should help us," says St. John Chrysostom. "If we discuss our business with those who defend us before the judges, and leave the way of defense up to them, all the more should we act likewise in relation to God. He knows well enough what is beneficial to you." Besides this, we should completely deliver ourselves to the Lord's will: Thy will be done! An example of such a prayer has been left to us by the Savior Himself. In the garden of Gethsemane He prayed: "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me," and immediately added: "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matt. 26:39).

How we should pray

St. Isaac the Syrian put it marvelously: "When you turn to God in prayer, be in your thoughts as an ant, as a serpent of the earth, like a worm, like a stuttering child. Do not speak to Him something philosophical or high-sounding, but approach Him with a child's attitude" (Homily 49).

When praying, it is important to turn away from our usual cares and preoccupations, collect our scattered thoughts, as if closing the door of the soul against all that is worldly, and direct all our attention towards God.

Placing oneself before the face of God and bringing to mind His greatness, one who prays must necessarily recognize his unworthiness and spiritual poverty. "While praying one should imagine all creation as nothing compared to God, and only God as everything" (St. John of Kronstadt). An edifying example of the proper attitude of prayer was given by our Savior in the parable regarding the publican who was justified by God for his humility (Luke 18:9-14).

Christian humility does not cause depression or hopelessness. On the contrary, it is linked with firm faith in the goodness and omnipotence of the Heavenly Father. Only prayer of faith is accepted by God, as we read in the Gospel: "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24). Warmed by faith, a Christian's prayer is very powerful. The Christian remembers the command of Jesus Christ that it is necessary to pray always and not lose heart (Luke 18:1), and His promise: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matt. 7:7).

Do not read prayer hurriedly; pay attention to every word and let the meaning of each word enter into your heart...

Understand what you are reading and feel what you are understanding.

No other rules are necessary. These two – understanding and feeling – have the effect of making prayer fitting, and fruitful. For example, you read: "cleanse us from every stain" - feel your stain, desire cleanliness, and ask it from the Lord with hope.

When you read: "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" - forgive all in your soul, and having forgiven everyone everything in your heart, ask for forgiveness for yourself from the Lord.

When you read: "Thy will be done" - completely give up your own will to the Lord in your heart, and honestly be prepared to meet everything that the Lord is well-pleased to send to to you with a good heart.

If you read each verse of your prayers in this way, then you will be truly praying.

When to pray?

The apostle Paul teaches us: "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). It is necessary to pray during those bright, exalted moments when the soul experiences a visitation from above and soars towards heaven and feels a need for prayer. It is necessary as well to pray at all other times assigned for prayer (in the mornings and evenings) even though we are not in the mood to pray. Otherwise, the ability to pray will be lost, just us an old iron key rusts when it is not used. For our soul to preserve a pious freshness, it is necessary to set as a goal to pray regularly, despite the fact that we might or might not be inclined to. Orthodox Christians pray daily in the morning, after awakening, and in the evening before going to bed. We should also pray at the beginning and the end of every important work. In this respect a prayer book is a necessary companion.

When you are preparing to pray, stand, sit or walk a few minutes and steady your mind to concentrate on God, casting off from all earthly activities and objects. Call to mind the One to Whom you are praying, Who He is and who you are, as you begin this prayerful petition to Him. Remember, it is God Himself who you are about to talk with. Awaken in your soul the feeling of humility and reverent awe of standing before God in your heart.

As you begin to pray enter into every word of the prayer. Bring the meaning of the words down into your heart. Do not rush through the prayers like you are in a hurry to get them over with. Let them slowly drop into the depths of your heart with humility and awe of God.

Beware of the tendency to rush to complete the prayer hurriedly. When this happens you have turned your prayer into an obligation and it is no longer true prayer. Don’t worry if you catch your self doing this. It is normal at first. Just stop and slow down and proceed asking God’s forgiveness and help.

Accustom yourself to pray your own prayers. For instance: it is the essence of evening prayer to thank God for the day and everything that happened, both pleasant and unpleasant; to ask forgiveness for all wrongs committed, promising to improve during the next day; and to pray that God preserve you during sleep. Express all this to God from your mind and from your whole heart.

The essence of morning prayer is to thank God for sleep, rest and regained strength and to pray that He will help us do everything to His glory. Express this to Him with your mind and with your whole heart. Along with such prayers in the morning and evening, present your greatest needs to the Lord, especially spiritual needs. Besides spiritual needs, present your worldly cares, saying to Him as would a child: "See, O Lord, my sickness and weakness! Help and heal!" All this and the like can be spoken before God in your own words, without the use of a prayer book. Try this and, if it works, you may leave the prayer book altogether; but if not, you must pray with the prayer book, otherwise you might end up with no prayer at all.

When you finish your prayer

When you finish your prayers, do not immediately go off to any sort of work, but remain and think at least a little about what you have just finished and what now lies before you. If some feeling was given to you during prayer, keep it after you pray. If you completed your prayer rule in the true spirit of prayer, then you will not wish to quickly go about other work; this is a property of prayer. Thus our ancestors said when they returned from Constantinople: "he who has tasted sweet things does not desire bitter things". So it is with each person who has prayed well during his prayers. One should recognize that tasting this sweetness of prayer is the very goal of praying, and if praying leads to a prayerful spirit, then it is exactly through such a tasting.

Remember to make your prayer life one that is a firm rule and not something that is done occasionally or sporadically. It must be done each day morning and evening at a minimum. You need to have specific prayers that are part of your prayer rule. You need to commit to doing you rule each and every day. Think about certain personal hygiene tasks such as brushing your teeth that you do each day out of habit . You don’t forget to do them each day. The same needs to be with your prayer rule. You need to make prayer a similar habit that you never forget. Just like the hygiene activities that we do for the health of our body, prayer is essential for the health of our soul.

Nurturing the Desire for God

Do you wish to enter Paradise more quickly? This is what you must do: When you pray, do not complete your prayer before arousing in your heart some feeling toward God—reverence, loyalty, thanksgiving, exaltation, humility, contrition, or assurance and hope in God...

Carelessness and Presumption in Prayer

Well, where has your prayer vanished? It seems to have started off quite well, and you had already experienced its grace-filled actions in your heart. I will tell you where it has gone. Having prayed once or twice with warmth and in earnest, and having experienced such immediate help through prayer at the shrine of St. Sergius, you thought your prayer was forever established, and that there was no need to maintain it. You thought it would flow by itself. Expecting prayer to continue on its own, you began to rush and carelessly left your thoughts to wander unchecked. From this, your attention scattered, thought went in all directions, and your prayer was no longer true. Once, twice in such a careless manner, and prayer disappeared. Begin anew to establish prayer and plead with the Lord to help you.

A Fixed Time for Prayer

Why does haste in prayer occur? It is incomprehensible. We spend hours involved in other things, and they seem like minutes; but just begin to pray, and it seems we have stood for a long time. And then we feel we must hurry to finish as soon as possible. No benefit is reaped by praying in this way. What should one do?

To avoid such self-deception, some do this: Set a definite length of time for prayer—a quarter of an hour, a half, or a whole hour (whatever is convenient), and regulate your vigil so that the clock striking on the half hour or the hour signals the end of prayers. Then when you begin prayers, do not concern yourself with the number of prayers read, but only lift your heart and mind to the Lord in prayer, and continue in a worthy manner for the time set aside.

Forcing Oneself to Pray

You have the book of discourses by St. Macarius of Egypt. Kindly read the 19th discourse, concerning a Christian's duty to force himself to do good. There it is written, "One must force oneself to pray, even if one has no spiritual prayer." And, "In such a case, God, seeing that a man earnestly is striving, pushing himself against the will of his heart (that is, his thoughts), He grants him true prayer." By true prayer, St. Macarius means the undistracted, collected, deep prayer that occurs when the mind stands unswervingly before God. As the mind begins to stand firmly before God, it discovers such sweetness, that it wishes to remain in true prayer forever, desiring nothing more.

I have stated more than once exactly what efforts must be made: Do not allow your thoughts to wander at will. When they do involuntarily escape, immediately turn them back, rebuking yourself, lamenting and grieving over this disorder. As St. John of the Ladder says, "We must lock our mind into the words of prayer by force. "

The fruits of prayer

“We must remember that the fruits of prayer are... a deep change in the whole of our personality.” (Metropolitan Anthony Bloom)

Prayer, like a farmer, plows the field of our heart and makes it capable of receiving heavenly blessings and bringing forth fruits of virtues and perfection. Prayer attracts into our hearts the grace of the Holy Spirit, thus strengthening our faith, hope, and love. It illuminates our minds, directs our will to do good, consoles the heart in sorrow and suffering, and, in general, gives us everything that serves our true welfare.

Prayer, according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers, is "the breath of the soul" and is a great blessing to us all. The ability to pray with due concentration and with the whole heart, or to have the gift of prayer, is one of the most precious spiritual gifts. The merciful God endows a person with this ability as a reward for his diligence in prayer.

Brief Prayers

Zealous Christians have a certain technique that they apply to secure the continual remembrance of God more firmly. It is the constant repetition of a short prayer, ordinarily either, "Lord, have mercy," or "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." If you haven't heard this, then listen now. If you have never done this, begin now.

Time Will Bring a Constant Remembrance of God

We must continue to hold our attention on God during the day. To support our attention, I have said more than once: Remember God through a briefly worded prayer.

At times, it is very fruitful to substitute a few psalms for the short prayer psalms you have reflected upon thoroughly and memorized. You can do this during free moments and throughout the day's activities. Repeating memorized psalms is an ancient Christian custom that was developed and brought into the monastic rule in the fourth century by Saints Pachomius and Anthony [the Great].

After spending the entire day in such a prayerful attitude, take even more time in the evening to concentrate at prayer and increase your prostrations. Intensify your supplications to God and, having again dedicated to God's care, bed down with a brief prayer on your lips and fall asleep with it, or with the repetition of a psalm.

Which psalms to learn? Memorize those that drop into your heart when you read them. Different people are moved by different psalms. Begin with Psalm 50, then Psalms 102 and 145, the antiphons for the Liturgy; also, the psalms from the Preparation for Communion (Psalms 22, 2:3, 115); as well as Psalm 69, Psalm 4 (the first psalm of [Great] Compline [during the first week of Great Lent]), the psalms for the Hours, and the like. Read the Psalter and choose.

Having memorized all this, you will be totally armed for prayer. When a disturbing thought comes to mind, rush to the Lord with a brief prayer or some psalm, especially, "O God, be attentive unto helping me" (Psalm 69), and the disturbing cloud will immediately vanish.

The essence of prayer lies in lifting the mind and heart to God. Prayer rules are only aids to this end. We weak ones cannot do without them.

That summarizes prayer rules.

But I repeat: Remember, all of this is a guide. The heart of the matter is: Stand with reverence before God, with the mind in the heart, and strive toward Him with longing.

Be encouraged! Take up prayer more readily and continue without interruptions—and you will soon achieve your desired goal. Soon a reverent attention to the One God will be established, and with it, inner peace. I say soon, not now, or in a day or two. Months may be required, sometimes, even years. Ask the Lord and He will help.

Mental Prayer

We must strive to reach the point where our soul by itself begins speaking, so to speak, in a prayerful conversation with God and by itself ascends to Him and opens itself to Him and confesses what is in it and what it desires.

The soul must be taught how to ascend to God and open itself to Him. I will briefly instruct you how one should proceed in order to succeed in this art.

First Step: Cry out to God More Often

In order to begin this task, one must first, during the course of the day, cry out to God more often, even if only with a few words, according to need and the work of the day.

Beginning anything, for example, say "Bless, O Lord!" When you finish something, say, "Glory to Thee, O Lord", and not only with your lips, but with feeling in your heart.

If passions arise, say, "Save me, O Lord, I am perishing." If the darkness of disturbing thoughts comes up, cry out: "Lead my soul out of prison."

If dishonest deeds present themselves and sin leads you to them, pray, "Set me, O Lord, in the way", or "do not give up my feet to stumbling."

If sin takes hold of you and leads you to despair, cry out with the voice of the publican, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Do this in every circumstance, or simply say often, "Lord, have mercy", "Most Holy Theotokos save us”, "Holy Angel, my guardian, protect me", or other such words.

Say such prayers as often as possible, always making the effort for them come from your heart, as if squeezed out of it. When we do this, we will frequently ascend to God in our hearts, making frequent petitions and prayers. Such increased frequency will bring about the habit of mental conversation with God.

Second Step: Ascribe Everything to the Glory of God

But in order for the soul to begin crying out in this way, one must first teach the soul to ascribe everything to the glory of God, all of its works, whether great and small. This is the second way of teaching the soul to turn to God more often during the day, for if we apply ourselves to fulfill the apostolic commandment, that is, do all things for the glory of God, even "if we eat or drink" (1 Cor 10:31), then we will ceaselessly remember God in all that we do. Our remembrance of God will be accomplished not simply, but with care, so that in no case we would act wrongly and offend God by any deed.

This will help us to turn to God with fear, prayerfully asking for help and understanding. Since we are almost always doing something, we will always be turning to God in prayer. Consequently, the art of raising up the heart in unceasing prayer to God will develop within our souls.

In order for the soul to do all things as they should be done, that is to the glory of God, one must prepare from the early morning, from the very beginning of the day, before "a man goes forth unto his work, and unto his labors until evening" (Psalm 103(104):23).

Third Step: Contemplation of God

This inclination leads to the contemplation of God, and this the third way of teaching the soul to turn frequently to God. Contemplation of God is the pious reflection on divine properties and actions, and about our necessary response to them. It means to reflect on God's goodness, righteous judgment, wisdom, omnipotence, omnipresence, knowledge of all things, about creation and industry, about the working of Salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ, about grace and the word of God, about the holy mysteries and about the Kingdom of Heaven. If you start to reflect on any one of these things, your soul will immediately be filled with pious feeling toward God.

Consider, for example, the goodness of God, and you will see that you are surrounded by God's mercies, both physical and spiritual, and that you would have to be a stone not to fall down before God pouring out feelings of thanksgiving.

Consider the omnipresence of God, and you will understand that you are always before God, and God is before you, and thus you cannot avoid being filled with pious fear.

Consider the knowledge God has of all things, and you will realize, that nothing inside of you is hidden from the eye of God, and will set yourself to be strictly attentive to the movements of your heart and mind, in order not to offend the all-seeing God in any way.

Consider the righteousness of God, and you will believe that not one evil deed remains unpunished. As a result you will firmly set yourself to cleansing all of your sins in a heartfelt way before God with brokenness and repentance.

Thus, whatever property or action of God on which you reflect, that reflection will fill your soul with pious feelings and inclinations towards God. It will align all of your human substance towards God, and it is therefore the most direct means of teaching the soul to ascend to God.

The most useful and comfortable time for this is morning, when the soul is not yet burdened with many worries and work issues. Specifically, the best time is after morning prayers. Finish your prayers, sit down, and with thoughts cleansed by prayer, begin to think now about one divine aspect, and tomorrow about another, and incline your soul to this aspect. "Come", says St. Dimitri of Rostov, "come, holy contemplation of God, and let us immerse ourselves in contemplation of the great works of God", and he passed mentally through the works of providence and creation, or the miracles of our Lord and Savior, or His sufferings, or something else, and warmed up his heart, and began to pour out his soul in prayer. Everyone can do the same. The work is small; one only needs desire and resolve, but the fruits are many.

Summary
Three means to teach the soul to ascend prayerfully to God other than the prayer rule:

1. Dedicate some time in the morning to the contemplation of God;
2. Turn every action to the glory of God, and
3. Often turn to God with short prayers.


When contemplation of God goes well in the morning, it leaves a deep inclination toward thinking about God.

Thinking about God makes the soul carefully order all of its actions, interior and exterior, and turn them to the glory of God. At the same time, this sets up a state in the soul that it often will be moved by prayerful cries to God.

These three: contemplation of God, doing all to the glory of God, and frequent short prayers are the most active weapons of mental prayer and prayer of the heart. Each of them raises the soul to God. He who decides to practice these quickly attains the habit of ascending to God in his heart. The labor put into these leads to the heights. The higher one ascends on a mountain, the freer and easier he breathes. Thus it is also here: the more one does these exercises, the higher his soul ascends, and the higher the soul ascends, the more freely prayer can act in it.

Our soul by nature is the abode of the higher divine world. Our soul should always be in this world by thoughts and feelings of the heart. But the baggage of worldly thoughts and passions leads and pulls the soul down.

These methods separate the soul little by little from the earth, and then completely pull it away. When they have completely pulled the soul from the earth, then the soul lives in its own region, and will happily live on high.

Here in heart and mind, and later in actual substance it will be vouchsafed to be before the face of God in the choirs of the angels and the saints.

Personal and corporate prayer

Anyone who wants to grow closer to God must develop a disciplined prayer life. Public worship and personal prayer are the twin support beams of the spiritual life for any believer. All our growing will take place within the framework they provide. But they are not the same thing, and they are not interchangeable.

Personal prayer is just that, personal and individual. It is my own personal conversation with God, in which no one else will be involved. In personal prayer I will pray for others, but not with others.

Jesus’ teaching about prayer makes it clear: “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6).

Personal prayer is our own private time with our Father. Everyone feels the need for a little personal attention at times, and in prayer we get that; but it never replaces our worship in church. The oneness of being in the Body of Christ, united in faith and love with other believers, is both glorious and necessary. But an individual relationship with God is just as important. In order to be a complete Christian one must relate to the members of the Body of Christ together, and relate to God as a person. St. John of Kronstadt (1829–1908) wrote, “Why is it necessary to pray at home, and to attend divine services in church? Well, why is it necessary for you to eat and drink, to take exercise, or to work every day? In order to support the life of the body and strengthen it.” Worship and prayer are the food and drink, the work and workout, of our life with God.

Your relationship with a personal God is what private prayer is all about. There are many things required for our growth, such as reading, study, and good works. But they will bear no real fruit unless they are supported by the life of worship and prayer.

Americans are practical people. They like to know what is involved before committing ourselves to a program. It only makes sense to do things this way. Jesus certainly expressed this idea when He said, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” (Luke 14:28). So we need to count the cost. Why bother with the effort of a disciplined prayer life at all?

There are several possible answers to the question, but I find two to be persuasive: We pray as a response to love, and we pray in order to love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. . . . 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 4:7, 10).

God always takes the first step! We do not have to worry about getting in touch with Him, because He has already established contact with us by sending His Son to die for us. God is the primary Lover of the creation and everything in it—the One who sweeps us off our feet the first time we really encounter Him. And He does this not so much by what He does as by who He is.

For Christians, love is action, not feeling. Christian love is not the warm rush of desire and joy that can be experienced in a love affair, political rally, or charismatic power meeting. That is romanticism, not Christianity. So responding to God with warm feelings is not what prayer should be about. As we shall see, the Orthodox tradition is very cautious about such things.

Love experienced on the deep level of reality results in a conscious decision to act toward someone in a caring way and to communicate with that person. So God acts by sending His Son, the Eternal Word, to us. This is the ultimate declaration of love. We respond to the sending of His Word with our words. We pray.

The Act of Loving

Prayer is more than just our response to the way God loves us. It is part of how we love Him. Love breaks down separation because we want to be one with the person we love. If we love God, we want to become one with Him. St. Dimitri of Rostov wrote, “No unity with God is possible without an exceeding great love.” Loving and joining go together.

But you cannot become one with someone if you never talk to him. You cannot be in love with someone you do not know. Genuine lovers are always discovering things about each other. The more you know about the one you love, the more you will be in love with him.

Our relationship with God is like that, and it is not hard to understand what happens. In order to love Him, we have to trustingly open ourselves to Him, and He will open Himself to us. We become one with our Lover. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). He already knows about us (He did create us, remember), but He will open Himself to us so that we can learn as much as possible about Him. This does not mean that we will learn everything there is to know about God, but we will learn all that we can possibly absorb. We can ask no more of any lover.

Our love will express itself in a desire for knowledge and union. Prayer is the way we express our desire and the way we achieve it. To understand the need for prayer, we must realize how much we need a personal relationship with God. Prayer is the encounter between two loving persons seeking to become one: God in us, and we in Him. “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16).

A Life of Prayer

It is difficult, if not impossible, to succeed in prayer, if we do not at the same time work on other virtues.

If we compare someone who prays to the whole body, then we see the following lesson: as it is impossible for a man without legs to walk, even if the rest of his body is healthy, so it is impossible to approach God, or reach God in prayer, without active virtue. Look in the apostolic teachings, and you will see that in them prayer does not stand alone, but together with a whole host of virtues.

For example, the apostle Paul arms a Christian in spiritual battle and dresses him in the full armor of God. Look at what this is:

The belt is truth,
the armor is righteousness,
the shoes are the gospel of peace,
the shield is faith,
the helmet is hope,
the sword is the word of God (Eph 6.14-17).


Such weapons!

After all of this he places his warrior in prayer as if in some sort of fortress: "pray at all times in the spirit with all sorts of prayer and petition" (Eph 6.18).

It is possible for prayer alone to defeat all enemies, but to be strong in prayer, one must be successful in faith, hope, truth, righteousness, and all the rest.

In another place, the same apostle adorns the soul with bridal clothing as the bride of Christ, saying,

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col 3.12-16).

In many other places in the word of God, prayer is bound up tightly with all the other virtues, as their queen, after which they all strive, and which draws all of them after itself, or even better, as their fragrant flower. As it is necessary for a flower to be covered with leaves as well as having a stem, branches and root, in order to attract attention, it is also necessary for prayer to be accompanied by other good spiritual inclinations and labors in order to blossom like a flower in the soul; faith is the root, active love is like a stem and branches, and labors of a spiritual-physical nature are like leaves.

When such a holy tree is planted in the soul, then in the morning, and in the evening, and during the course of the day, according to its state, the flowers of prayer will freely blossom and fill all of our inner chambers with fragrance.
I remind you of all of this, so that no one would think: "I labor in prayer, and that is enough". No - one must work and be zealous for all things together, both praying and working at all the virtues.

It is true that it is impossible to succeed in virtues without prayer, but it is also necessary to work at the virtues while praying, so that the prayer can show its cooperation in these virtues.

In order to succeed in prayer, one must pray, but the labor of prayer should be used as the means to virtues.

One must be concerned about all things, and always strive to be on the right side. The same thing happens in a clock. A clock works properly and shows the correct time only when all of the gears and other parts inside are complete and in their correct place, and joined together properly. This is the same in our inner spiritual mechanism: the striving of the soul will be true like an arrow, directed straight toward God, when all other parts of the soul are whole and are established in their correct places, so to speak, put in place by virtue.

Kind of Virtues that Surround Prayer

I will teach you what sort of virtues should surround your prayer, or what sort of prayerful, virtuous life a Christian should plant in himself, not in my own words, but in the words of the holy hierarch Dimitri of Rostov, who briefly lists these things in the following instructions (from Christian Spiritual Instruction, part 1, p. 288):

1. When you wake up, let your first thought be about God, your first word be a prayer to God your creator and keeper of your life, Who is always able to give life or destroy it, who can strike with illness and heal, and who can save or destroy.

2. Bow and give thanks to God Who raised you from sleep, and Who did not allow you to perish in your sins, but with long-suffering awaited your repentance.

3. Make a start for better things, saying with the Psalmist: "I said, now I have made a beginning" (Ps. 76.11) For no one completes the path to heaven except he who makes a good beginning everyday.

4. From the morning pray like the Seraphim, act like the Cherubim, and be surrounded with angels.

5. Do not waste time any longer. Do only those things which are necessary.

6. In all deeds and words, keep your mind in God; do not write anything in your mind except Christ, and let no image touch your pure heart except the pure image of Christ our God and Savior.

7. Awaken yourself to the love of God in all things, whenever you are able, especially say to yourself with the Psalmist: "in my meditation a fire was kindled" (Ps. 38.4).

8. You desire to love God, Whose visitation you always see and gaze upon with your interior eyes, therefore turn away from all evil deeds, words, and thoughts. Do, say, and think all things honorably, humbly, and with the fear of a son.

9. Let meekness with praise and humility with honor be together.

10. Let your words be quiet, humble, honorable, and useful. Let silence decide the words that you say. From henceforth, let no empty or rotten word escape your lips.

11. If something funny happens, allow yourself only a smile, and this not often.

12. You will fall into prodigality through anger, wrath, and arguing: keep yourself moderate in anger.

13. Always observe moderation in eating and drinking.

14. Be condescending in all things, and God will bless you, and people will praise you.

15. You must pray about your death, which is the end of all things.

See what sort of wonderful life is taught to the praying Christian.

It is true that in one place we have spoken more about prayer, that is, of mental and heart-felt turning to God, but in another place, other virtues have been mentioned, and yet without all of them together, it is impossible to get a foothold in prayer.

Let everyone strive in knowledge: standing in prayer and exercising is according to your instruction. How can you stand to pray if you are weighed down with intemperance, or carried away with anger, or if you do not stand in peace, or you are distracted by work and lack of attention and so on?

If we are to avoid these things, then we are to strive to attain the opposite: that is, virtue. For this reason, St. John of the Ladder speaks of prayer, saying that it is the mother and the daughter of virtues.

Hearing this, some might say, "what great demands! What a heavy burden! Where can I ever find time and the strength?"

But be strong, brethren! Very little is necessary, and one must only take up one thing: zeal for God and salvation in Him in your soul.

By its nature, the soul has much good in it and it is only misdirected into all evil things. As soon as zeal for salvation and the pleasing of God is born in one's soul, all of the goodness gathers around this zeal, and immediately no small amount of good appears in the soul. Then zeal, strengthened by the grace of God, with the help of this initial good, begins to find more goodness, and enriches itself with it, and all begins to grow by degrees.

Zeal itself has the beginnings of prayer already. It is fed at first by natural virtue, and then begins to feed on the works of virtue that it engendered, and grows and becomes strong, and blossoms and begins to sing and hymn God with a harmonious and prayerful song in the heart.

May the Lord help us succeed in this. Amen.


http://www.fatheralexander.org/bookl...ish/prayer.htm
http://www.orthodoxprayer.org/Theophan-Homily4.html
http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8634
http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/prayrule.aspx
http://www.antiochian.org/node/25484
http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/theoph_prayer.aspx
http://www.orthodoxprayer.org/Theoph...ed%20time.html
http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/pr_prayer.aspx
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Old 05-14-2014, 03:19 AM   #7
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Rules for Pious Life by Platon, Archbishop of Kostroma, Russia (1809 – 1877)

FORCE YOURSELF to get up early and on a set schedule. As soon as you wake up, turn your mind to God: make the Sign of the Cross, and thank Him for the night that has passed and for all His mercies towards you. Ask Him to guide all your thoughts, feelings and desires, so that everything you say or do will be pleasing to Him.

As you dress, recollect the presence of the Lord and of your Guardian Angel. Ask the Lord Jesus Christ to put on you the robe of salvation.

After washing yourself, get down to morning prayers. Pray kneeling, with concentration, and with reverence and meekness, as is proper before the eyes of the Almighty. Ask Him to give you faith, hope, and charity, as well as calm strength to accept all that the coming day may bring to you - its hardships and troubles. Ask Him to bless your labors. Ask for help: to accomplish some particular task that you face; to steer clear of some particular sin.

If you can, read something from the Bible, especially from the New Testament and the Psalms. Read with intent to receive some spiritual enlightenment, inclining your heart to compunction. Having read a little, pause and reflect on what you read, and then proceed further, listening to what the Lord suggests to your heart.

Try to devote at least fifteen minutes to spiritually contemplate the teachings of the Faith and the profit to your soul in what you have read.

Always thank the Lord that He did not leave you to perish in your sins, but cares for you and in every possible way leads you to the Heavenly Kingdom.

Start every morning as if you had just decided to become a Christian and to live according to God's commandments.

As you enter upon your duties, strive to do everything towards the glory of God. Start nothing without prayer, because whatever we do without prayer later turns out to be futile or harmful. The words of the Lord are true: "Without me, you can do nothing."

Imitate our Saviour, Who labored helping Joseph and His most pure Mother. While working, keep a good spirit, relying always on the Lord's help. It is a good thing to repeat unceasingly the prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."

If your labors are successful, give thanks to the Lord; and if they are not, place yourself in His will, for He takes care of us and directs everything towards the better. Accept all hardships as a penance for your sins - in the spirit of obedience and humility.

Before every meal, pray that God will bless the food and drink; and after the meal give thanks to Him and ask Him not to deprive you of spiritual blessings. It is good to leave the table feeling a bit hungry. In everything, avoid excess. Following the example of Christians of old, fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Do not be greedy. Be content having food and clothing, imitating Christ Who became impoverished for our sake.

Strive to please the Lord in everything, so that you will not be reproached by your own conscience. Remember God always sees you, and so be carefully vigilant concerning the feelings, thoughts and desires of your heart.

Avoid even the smallest sins, lest you fall into greater ones. Drive away from your heart each and every thought or design that moves you away from the Lord. Strive especially against unclean desire; drive it out of your heart like a burning spark fallen on your coat. If you do not want to be troubled by evil desires, meekly accept humiliation from others.

Do not say too much, remember that for every spoken word we will give account before God. It is better to listen than to talk: in verbosity it is impossible to avoid sin. Do not be curious to hear the news, which only entertains and distracts the spirit. Condemn no one, but consider yourself to be worse than everyone else. The one who condemns another is taking another's sins onto himself; it is better to grieve about the sinner, and pray that God will correct him in His own way. If someone does not listen to your advice, do not dispute with him. But if his deeds are a temptation to others, take appropriate measures, because their good, being many, must carry more weight than his, being only one.

Never argue or make excuses. Be gentle, quiet and humble; endure everything, according to the example of Jesus. He will not burden you with a cross that exceeds your strength. He will also help you carry the Cross that you have.

Ask the Lord to give you the grace to fulfill His holy Commandments as well as you can, even if they seem too difficult to keep. Having done a good deed, do not expect gratitude, but temptation: for love towards God is tested by obstacles. Do not hope to acquire any virtues without suffering sorrows. In the midst of temptations do not despair, but address God with short prayers: "Lord, help... Teach me to... Do not leave... Protect me... " The Lord allows temptations and trials; He also gives the strength to overcome them.

Ask God to take away from you every thing that feeds your pride, even if it will be bitter. Avoid being harsh, gloomy, nagging, mistrustful, suspicious or hypocritical, and avoid rivalry. Be sincere and simple in your attitude. Humbly accept the admonitions of others, even if you are more wise and experienced.

What you do not want done to you, do not do to others. Rather, do for them what you wish to be done for you. If anyone visits you, be tender towards him, be modest, wise, and, sometimes, depending on the circumstances, be also blind and deaf.

When you feel slack, or a certain coolness, do not leave off the usual order of prayer and pious practices which you have established. Everything that you do in the name of the Lord Jesus, even the small and imperfect things, becomes an act of piety.

If you desire to find peace, commit yourself completely onto God. You will find no peace until you calm down in God, loving Him alone.

From time to time seclude yourself, following the example of Jesus, for prayer and contemplation of God. Contemplate the infinite love of our Lord Jesus Christ, His sufferings and death, His Resurrection, His Second Coming and the Last Judgment.

Visit the church as often as possible. Confess more often and receive the Holy Mysteries. Doing so you will abide in God, and this is the highest blessing. During Confession, repent and confess frankly and with contrition all your sins; for the unrepented sin leads to death.

Devote Sundays to works of charity and mercy; for example, visit someone who is sick, console someone who is in sorrow, save one who is lost. If anyone will help the lost one turn towards God he will receive a great reward in this life and in the age to come. Encourage your friends to read Christian spiritual literature and to participate in discussing spiritual matters.

Let the Lord Jesus Christ be your teacher in everything. Constantly address Him by turning your mind to Him; ask yourself: what would He do in similar circumstances?

Before you go to sleep, pray frankly and with all your heart, look searchingly at your sins during the past day. You should always compel yourself to repent with a contrite heart, with suffering and tears, lest you repeat past sins. As you go to bed, make the Sign of the Cross, kiss the cross, and entrust yourself to the Lord God, who is your Good Shepherd. Consider that perhaps this night you will have to appear before Him.

Remember the Lord's love towards you and love Him with all your heart, your soul and your mind.

Acting in this way, you will reach the blessed life in the Kingdom of Eternal Light.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

http://www.fatheralexander.org/bookl...sh/ch_life.htm


PS I can't edit my previous post. But I'd like to add one more line to the paragraph about the fruits of prayer:

One more fruit of prayer is inner peace. If, after praying, you feel inner peace, plus love and joy of communion with God, it means your prayer was not in vain.
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Old 05-14-2014, 02:56 PM   #8
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I really don't like people writing much in my blog, so I will be somewhat brief. This last post stands in sharp contrast to something I have been thinking about lately, and oddly, I read the following this morning. It is part of a series of blog posts on the general topic of "ordinary Christianity" or "quiet Christianity" and can be found at www.internetmonk.com.

Quote:
One of my consistent critics — who is also a respected friend — called to mind a statement I’d made in the past about the problem of being “too God-centered.” He was obviously wondering if, with time and reflection, I’d thought better of that phrase and wanted to repent.

Answer: No. It still concerns me. Not whether all things are centered in, related to, dependent on, destined for and exist to glorify God, but whether some expressions of Christianity can become so God-focused that the significance of what is not God — including all things in human experience — are devalued and even distorted to the point of confusion in the minds of God loving/God believing people.

I’ve sensed, as long as I have been around my intensely theological Protestant (mostly reformed and evangelical) brothers and sisters, a kind of clumsiness with the subject of the significance of anything in human experience. By clumsiness I mean that these matters are handled, but the constant pressure to be singularly God centered and God focused makes it difficult to handle both God and human life at once without one overwhelming the other.
This and other posts point to a very different understanding of the "job" of the Christian. Not saying that any particular part of the above is too much, but that taken as a whole, it has created a kind of life that is nearly impossible for the average person to actually live, even those of EO faith.

The most recent post in the series points to the constant barrage of teaching and preaching that indicates that we need to be so engaged in Christian work that it is nearly impossible to actually do normal living. Everyone is treated as if called to something special (beyond the specialness of our calling to Christ). I do not diminish the actual calling to the mission field, or to ministry, etc., that some receive. But everyone does not get that calling. Paul did not call any of those churches to do what he did, but rather to live their Christian life rightly and quietly in front of the world.
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Old 05-15-2014, 06:50 AM   #9
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OBW, I do welcome comments, especially if they are in a friendly manner and help me to see, ponder or understand something that was missing from my point of view.

I’ve just started my rediscovering the Orthodox Christianity. So I am not qualified well enough to answer your question. But I’ll try to do it, though I will have to use my copy and paste approach. (It’s going to be a long post but please bear with me. I need a long start to explain the Orthodox way).

The Orthodox Church is a Christ-centered church. For Orthodox people, Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all things. He is our path to Salvation, and the cure for all our sins and weaknesses. If we want to be faithful to Our Lord Jesus Christ, we must be Christians not only by our faith, because we believe in Christ, but also by our actions, by placing Christ Jesus into the center of our life.

The essence of Orthodox life consists in communion with God, in Christ Jesus our Lord. As St. Theophan the Recluse says, “The chief end of our life is to live in communion with God. To this end the Son of God became incarnate, in order to return us to this divine communion, which was lost by the fall into sin”.

The entire faith of the Church is built on the fact that “God is the Lord and has revealed Himself unto us.” God has revealed Himself! He has not merely told some things about Himself, or communicated some data about His divine existence and purposes. He has shown forth Himself and has given Himself to men for divine communion.

I’ll repeat one more time. According to Orthodoxy, there is no other meaning to the life of man except in communion with God. God is the end of all longing, the fulfillment of all desires, the source and the goal of man’s very humanity made in God’s divine image and likeness. Through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, man comes to living communion with God the Father Himself. There is no other meaning and purpose to the Church and to life itself.

To have communion with God, we must be filled with nothing less than the Life of God in order to be healed, forgiven and made new. Jesus did not come to make bad men good; He came to make dead men live. And I believe that’s possible only if we place Christ into the center of our life. If we don't take God as the center, then something else will occupy this place.

Stated simply, to have communion with God means to have a share in His Divine Life. He lives in me and I in Him. I come to know God even as I know myself. I come to love even as God loves because it is His love that dwells in me. I come to forgive as God forgives because it is His mercy that dwells within me.

Without such an understanding of communion, these vitally important parts of the Christian life usually become reduced to mere moralism. We are told to love our enemies as though it were a simple moral obligation. Instead, we love our enemies because God loves our enemies, and we want to live in the Life of God. We’re not trying to be good, or to prove anything to God by loving our enemies. It is simply the case that if the Love of God dwells in us, then we will love as God loves.

Of course all of this is the free gift of God, though living daily in communion with God is difficult. The disease of broken communion that was so long at work in us is difficult to cure. It takes time and we must be patient with ourselves and our broken humanity – though never using this as an excuse not to seek the healing that God gives.

But Orthodox believe that God is not an angry and vengeful judge anxious to destroy sinners. Rather, He is the loving and eternally merciful God who created the universe and called it “good.” He made mankind in His own image and likeness for a life of joyful communion with Him. Despite our failings, sins and mistakes, He never ceases to love and freely offer His mercy, forgiveness and grace. However, to be a Christian is a great responsibility. God is our target. And we should not miss it. Therefore, in our daily life, we must try to live in spirit. Our thoughts must be focused on God. Our actions must glorify His name. In other words, we must remember Him through the day and avoid any desires, wishes, and acts that lead us astray or may be an offence to God. It sounds idealistic and maybe impossible but nobody says it’s an easy way. Everything takes practice.

As for our spiritual life (be it worship, prayer or church gatherings), we must also remember the goal of all these things. And it’s again – communion with God. But if “we don’t bear the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, it has no value at all before God. Such things would be like souless statues. Good clocks also work correctly; but who will say that there is life in them? It is the same thing here. Often thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead in reality”. (St. Theophan the Recluse).

Here are some other quotes:

Do not think about or do anything without a spiritual purpose, whereby it is done for God. For If you travel without purpose, you shall labor in vain.
(St. Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 1.54)

All that you lose in the name of God, you keep. All that you keep for your own sake, you loose. All that you give in the name of God, you will receive with interest. All that you give for the sake of your own glory and pride, you throw into the water. All that you receive from people as from God will bring you joy. All that you receive from people as from people will bring you worries.
(St. Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil)

Do not seek earthly glory in any matter, for it is extinguished for him who loves it. In its time it blows on a man like a strong wind, and then quickly, taking from him the fruits of his good works, it goes away from him, laughing at his foolishness.
(St. Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 35)

Christians, have we understood the great responsibility that we have taken on before God through baptism? Have we come to know that we must conduct ourselves as children of God, that we must align our will with the will of God, that we must remain free from sin, that we must love God with all our hearts and always patiently await union with Him? Have we thought about the fact that our heart should be so filled with love that it should overflow to our neighbor? Do we have the feeling that we must become holy and perfect, children of God and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven? We must struggle for this, so that we may not be shown unworthy and rejected. Let none of us lose our boldness, nor neglect our duties, nor be afraid of the difficulties of spiritual struggle. For we have God as a helper, who strengthens us in the difficult path of virtue. (St. Nektarius of Aegina, The Path to Happiness, 2)


St. Theophan the Recluse says, "From turning all of our works to the glory of God, we obtain a constant remembrance of God, or in other words, walking before God. Walking before God consists of doing nothing without remembering that you are in the presence of God". That’s a key point. Whatever we do, we have to walk before God. I.e. in our daily life and in our spiritual life, we must always remember and feel that we are in the presence of God.

God is with us everywhere. If we were not so distracted, we would have a constant awareness of God's presence — whether we were at home, on the street, in the field, in the forest, on the sea, underground. What may help us to have this constant awareness of God’s presence? Prayer. It is the breath of the Christian life. Through prayer we are able to have communion with God. Always to be with God in our thoughts — this is to be in a state of constant prayer, which is a testimony of the spiritual life.

I believe one of the best books on how to live an authentic spiritual life in the modern world is "The Path to Salvation: A Manual of Spiritual Transformation" by St. Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894). It’s an old book, indeed, but it’s worth reading.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Path-Salva.../dp/1887904506
http://www.holytrinitymission.org/bo...on_theofan.htm
http://www.scribd.com/doc/114913207/...on-Part-1-Ch-1

In this book and his other books, St. Theophan the Recluse stresses the main goal of the repentant sinner which is total, light-bearing and blessed communion with God, through prayer, through walking before God, and remembering of Him in our daily life:

“From turning all of our works to the glory of God, we obtain a constant remembrance of God, or in other words, walking before God. Walking before God consists of doing nothing without remembering that you are in the presence of God.”

“The principal thing is to walk before God, or under God’s eye, aware that God is looking at you, searching your soul and your heart, seeing all that is there. This awareness is the most powerful lever in the mechanism of the inner spiritual life.”

“You must also maintain prayerful attention toward God throughout the day. For this, as we have already mentioned more than once, there is remembrance of God; and for remembrance of God, there are short prayers. It is good, very good, to memorize several psalms and recite them while you are working or between tasks, doing this instead of short prayers sometimes, with concentration. This is one of the most ancient Christian customs, mentioned by and included in the rules of St. Pachomius and St. Anthony.”

“If now we resolve not only to pray with attention and feeling in the morning and the evening, but also to spend every day in contemplation of God, doing all things to the glory of God, and frequently calling to God from our hearts with short words of prayer, then this long period between morning and evening prayers and from evening to morning prayers will be filled with frequent turnings to God and pure prayerful actions.”

"Our inner lives never get put into the proper order all of a sudden. What is always required and what lies ahead is intensified labor over oneself, over one's inner self, by the assimilation of good intention and the enabling of grace through the Mysteries. This labor is directed toward destroying the disorder that reigns inside; in its place it establishes order and harmony, after which follows inner peace and a continual joyful mood of the heart."


I want to mention one more book by St. Theophan the Recluse, “The Spiritual Life: And How to Be Attuned to It”. (There is another translation of the same title: "The Nature of the Spiritual Life, And How To Adapt Oneself To It" but it’s the same book).

http://www.amazon.com/The-Spiritual-.../dp/0938635360

In this book St. Theophan the Recluse gives his piece of advice to one of his spiritual daughters:

Worldly Cares (from Letter 49)

There is a widely-accepted misconception among us that when one becomes involved in work at home or in business, immediately one steps out of the godly realm and away from God-pleasing activities. From this idea, it follows that once the desire to strive toward God germinates, and talk turns toward the spiritual life, then the idea inevitably surfaces: one must run from society, from the home—to the wilderness, to the forest.

Both premises are erroneous!

Homes and communities depend on concerns of daily life and society. These concerns are God-appointed obligations; fulfilling them is not a step toward the ungodly, but is a walking in the way of the Lord.

All who cleave to these erroneous premises fall into the bad habit of thinking that once they accept worldly obligations, they no longer need strive towards God.

I see that these misconceptions have trapped you also. Cast them aside and grasp the concept that everything you do, in and outside your home, concerning social life, as a daughter, as a sister, as a Muscovite—is godly and God-pleasing. There is an appointed commandment for everything in our lives. How can the fulfillment of commandments be displeasing to God? Your misconceptions truly make them ungodly, because you fulfill your daily tasks with an attitude contrary to the one God intended you to have.

You complete godly deeds in an ungodly manner. They are needlessly lost and tear your mind from God. Correct this and, from now on, approach daily matters with the knowledge that to fulfill them is a commandment. Administer them as administering God's law.

Once you adjust yourself to this outlook, no worldly duty will distract you from God. Instead, it will bring you close to Him. We are all servants of our God. God has assigned to each his place and responsibilities, and He watches to see how each approaches his assignment. He is everywhere. And He watches over you. Keep this in mind and do each deed as if it were assigned to you directly by God, no matter what it is.

Do your housework in this manner: When someone comes to visit, keep in mind that God has sent you this visitor, and is watching. When you have to leave your house, keep in mind that God has sent you out on an errand, and is watching. Will you complete it as He wishes?

By orienting yourself to God at all times, your chores at home and responsibilities outside the house will not distract your attention from God, but, on the contrary, will keep you intent on completing all tasks in a God-pleasing manner. All will be performed with the fear of God, and this fear will keep your attention on God unswervingly.

To determine which duties inside and outside the family are God-pleasing, take the books in which these matters are discussed as your guides. Be careful to distinguish between concerns prompted by frivolity, passions, flattery and worldliness, from those that are correct, appropriate and honorable.

Of course, having expressed the firm determination to live in a God-pleasing manner, you will need no prompting to discriminate between godly tasks and ungodly ones.


http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/theoph_prayer.aspx

Another translation of the same letter:

http://www.monachos.net/conversation...ayer-and-life/

OBW, I am not sure if I have answered your question. But so far I have not read anything more simple as well as profound than St. Theophan’s advice on how to live Christian life in the modern world.

PS http://glory2godforallthings.com/200...nion-with-god/ about communion with God.
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Old 05-15-2014, 03:51 PM   #10
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Two thoughts. Well, actually three.

First, While I thought I was the master of excessively long posts, yours are so long that even I have trouble keeping from getting distracted before the end. It might be better to post a less broad range of items in one post and then do more posts. Yeah, it is the same amount of data, but at least each is closer to "bite-sized" and one can stop and think about the one thing as a unit.

Second, one of the problematic things with the general descriptives, and names, revolving within the EO organizations is the word "orthodoxy." Orthodoxy is a word with a meaning. But when it becomes the name of a group, and is used adjectively to label the positions and practices of the group, then the word becomes meaningless in the broader conversation.

Why meaningless? Because by its very use as a moniker rather than as a subject to discuss and arrive at, they (and you) usurp the word to belong to you without evidence that, in its general use, you actually fit. It declares itself to be the finished product of careful study and discussion when, in fact, the discussion is still ongoing.

I will agree that there are plenty of others that throw the word around just as brashly to describe their particular doctrines and teachings. Lee and the LRC have added "ground of the church" to the core of the faith, and therefore to orthodoxy.

For me, orthodoxy is much narrower than most who wield it like a sword would have it be. From the LRC, to the Bereans (who host another site that discusses religious cults), to the RCC, to the EO, and many in between, orthodoxy is often found to include very particular and peculiar thoughts to each separate group. But either orthodoxy is so broad as to sweep in almost all reasonable variations in belief, or it must be restricted to the core of the faith — that which must be to truly be Christian. I lean heavily toward the latter.

And while I can't demand anything, it would be helpful to the fostering of discussion if you could with the general Eastern Orthodox what many of us have done with the "local churches." And that is use something different from the base term. Since "local churches" to most of us mean the various assemblies that we find nearby, and not exclusively those who do or have followed Nee and Lee, or the LSM, many of us have reserved the term "local churches" to mean what it actually means — churches in a location — and instead given some kind of alternate name to the group that this forum discusses. For many of us, that was to take the idea of "churches of recovery" and refer to them as "Lord's recovery churches" or the "LRC." For the group that has put "orthodox" in its name, to continue to insist on using your regular terms of "Orthodoxy" or "Orthodox" to refer to only those of the EO implies a claimed lock on truth — at least to the weak of mind. (And sometimes that is all of us.) Maybe "EO" could be used instead. We would understand that it is the position of your group yet those who might otherwise not take that position would not be lulled into accepting it simply by the use of the word "Orthodox" or "Orthodoxy."

I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the name of your group, or saying that it is not orthodox. I have no problem with the name. And in some ways, all of us will find ourselves to be unorthodox and in other ways orthodox. Let's just let the discussions lead the reader where it does without the implication that the conclusion is already determined.

Last, I note this quote early in your post.
Quote:
Originally Posted by InChristAlone View Post
Jesus did not come to make bad men good; He came to make dead men live.
This is one of those statements that gets thrown around a lot. And it sounds good. But I think it is an overly simplistic statement that I would find to be odd coming from either of the two oldest Christian groups we generally see today — the RCC and the EO. These kinds of statements sound more like the cheap grace that is often taught in some more modern evangelical groups. You know, the kind that want you to walk the aisle, say a prayer and then wait for heaven. The kind that don't think that salvation is much more than a change of underwear. I will agree that Jesus starts by making dead men alive. That is the initiation into the faith. But if it stops there, then there is a problem. We should continue in our faith and obedience to become what we were created for in this life — and that is, among other things, to be righteous. And if we do that, then we can honestly say that Jesus has made a bad man good. If we come to the end of our life and cannot say that, then there is a dark cloud over the very claim that we were ever made alive. I would not go so far as to declare that we simply were not made alive, but there is a question.
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Old 05-16-2014, 02:18 AM   #11
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First of all, I want to apologize for my long posts. This one will not be an exception.

Second, I believe it does not really matter if we call the Eastern Orthodox Church and her belief - the EOC or just "o". It’s still “O.” and “o.” Though the term "Orthodox," when capitalized, usually refers to the group of Orthodox Christian faith groups. Other times, particularly when not capitalized, the word "orthodox" can mean normal, authoritative, mainline, or correct. For example, religious essays often refer to "orthodox Christian beliefs" to refer to beliefs held in common by a broad range of Christian faith groups in past centuries.

So to me, the EOC is Orthodox and orthodoxy (orthodox), in both meanings. Why? Orthodox is a combination of two Greek words, orthos and doxa. Orthos means "straight" or "correct." (It is also found in the word "orthopedics," which in the original Greek means "the correct education of children.") Doxa means at one and the same time "glory," "worship" and "doctrine." So the word orthodox signifies both "proper/true worship" and "correct doctrine/belief)." In the Christian sense the term means "conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church".

The word orthodox was coined by the ancient Christian Fathers of the Church, the name traditionally given to the Christian writers in the first centuries of Christian history. The earliest (first) recorded use of the term "orthodox" is in the Codex Iustinianus of 529-534, but "heterodoxy" ("other teaching" or heresy) was in use from the beginning of the first century of Christianity.

So when you say that we usurp the word, I don’t think it’s fair. "Usurp" means "take (a position of power or importance) illegally or by force". Did it happen with the EOC? Where and when then? In classical Christian usage, the term orthodox refers to the set of doctrines which were believed by the early Christians. If you start learning about the creeds and the church councils, you will find out that the EO faith and theology have to do with the creeds of the early Church more than any other church, be it Protestant or Roman Catholic. None of Protestant churches has anything to do with the Church Councils. Protestant movement didn't exist in the first centuries of Christianity. They are new churches, mainly based on Martin Luther's teachings from the 16th century. You can check here how old your faith is:

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.

If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to re-marry.

If you are Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England, founded by Samuel Senbury in the American colonies in the 17th century.

If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1606.

etc.

http://stinnocentorthodoxchurch.org/...rthodox-faith/

Who is more orthodox then?

The root of the word "Protestant" is protest. We did not participate in the 16th century Reformation that protested, among other things, the sale of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church of that time. From the Orthodox point of view, Roman Catholicism is a medieval modification of the original Orthodox faith of the Church in Western Europe, and Protestantism is a later attempt to return to the original Faith. There is a certain sense in which, to our way of thinking, the Reformation did not go far enough.

We differ with Roman Catholicism on questions of papal authority, the nature of primacy within the Church, and a number of other consequent issues. Historically, the Orthodox Church is both "pre-Protestant" and "pre-Roman Catholic" in the sense that many modern Roman Catholic teachings (such as the dogmas of papal infallibility and the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary) were developed much later in Christian history.

So as you may see, the EOC isn't non-denominational - it is pre-denominational church. It has believed, taught, preserved, defended and died for the Faith of the Apostles since the Day of Pentecost 2000 years ago, before any of the many Protestant denominations existed. It's the EOC that accepts the validity of the first seven Ecumenical Councils, not modern Protestant churches. In fact, it was the EO church which gave us the Bible.

Many people, including even many Orthodox Christians, do not know that the Orthodox Church has a larger Bible than Protestants and Roman Catholics. In our Bibles, like the recently published Orthodox Study Bible, the Old Testament has more books in it than will be found, for example, in Protestant Bibles like the King James Version or the much more recent and very popular New International Version. The books missing from Protestant Bibles are: 1st Esdras, Tobit, the Wisdom of Solomon, Judith, Baruch, the Wisdom of Sirach, the Letter of Jeremiah, and 1st, 2nd and 3rd Maccabees. Other books of our Bible are also longer. For example, our Old Testament Book of Daniel includes the Song of the Three Young Men in the Furnace, a beautiful hymn sung by Orthodox Christians at the Liturgy on Holy Saturday morning, but not found in Protestant versions of the Book of Daniel. So, there are 39 books in the Protestant Old Testament; 46 books in the Roman Catholic Old Testament; and by some counts, as many as 49 books in the Orthodox Old Testament.

Whenever the authors of the books of the New Testament, writing in Greek, cite passages from the Old Testament, they almost always do so from a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures made more than 300 years before Christ in the ancient city of Alexandria in Egypt called the Septuagint or The Translation of the Seventy. This translation, which was widely used by the Jewish people at the time of Christ, was the version of the Old Testament preferred by the apostolic writers of the New Testament and has therefore remained the preferred text of the Old Testament in the Orthodox Church to this day. The Septuagint contains the books of the Old Testament found in our Bibles that, without going into great detail, were ultimately rejected by Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin in their debates with the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century.

Anyone can use the words “orthodox” and “orthodoxy” for his teachings but if you start digging the roots, historically and theologically, you will see who has more rights to claim it.

http://www.stpaulsirvine.org/FAQs.html
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Old 05-16-2014, 02:23 AM   #12
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More links about orthodoxy of the EO church.

A Brief History

The Orthodox Church is the original Christian Church, the Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ and described in the pages of the New Testament. Her history can be traced in unbroken continuity all the way back to Christ and His Twelve Apostles.

Incredible as it seems, for over twenty centuries she has continued in her undiminished and unaltered faith and practice. Today her apostolic doctrine, worship, and structure remain intact. The Orthodox Church maintains that the Church is the living Body of Jesus Christ.

Many of us are surprised to learn that for the first 1000 years of Christian history there was just one Church. It was in the eleventh century that a disastrous split occurred between Orthodox East and Latin West. Although it had been brewing for years, the so-called “Great Schism” of 1054 represented a formal—and shocking— separation between Rome and Orthodoxy. At the core of the controversy were two vitally important areas of disagreement: the role of the papacy, and the manner in which doctrine is to be interpreted.

But What Is the Real Difference?

One writer has compared Orthodoxy to the faith of Rome and Protestantism in this basic fashion: Orthodoxy has maintained the New Testament tradition, whereas Rome has often added to it and Protestantism subtracted from it.

For example, Rome added to the ancient Creed of the Church, while numerous Protestant Churches rarely study or recite it. Rome has layers of ecclesiastical authority; much of Protestantism is anti-hierarchical or even “independent” in polity. Rome introduced indulgences and purgatory; in reaction, Protestantism shies away from good works and discipline.

In these and other matters, the Orthodox Church has steadfastly maintained the Apostolic Faith. She has avoided both the excesses of papal rule and of congregational independence. She understands the clergy as servants of Christ and His people and not as a special privileged class. She preserved the Apostles’ doctrine of the return of Christ at the end of the age, of the last judgement and eternal life, and continues to encourage her people to grow in Christ through union with Him. In a word, Orthodox Christianity has maintained the Faith “once for all delivered to the saints.”

http://www.antiochian.org/content/wh...rthodox-church

The Eastern Orthodox Church (encompassing national Orthodox jurisdictions such as Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc. is a body of Christians whose origins extend directly back to Jesus and his Apostles through unbroken Apostolic Succession. Its doctrines were developed through a series of church councils, the most authoritative being the Seven Ecumenical Councils held between the 4th and 8th centuries. These councils were convened out of the necessity to thwart certain heresies that had developed, such as Arianism, Nestorianism, and Monothelitism. Toward the end of its first thousand years of existence differences developed between the Eastern and Western Roman Empire that ultimately led to the Great Schism in 1054 AD, splitting Roman Catholics from the Eastern Orthodox.

http://www.kurskroot.com/orthodox_church.html
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Old 05-16-2014, 03:17 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OBW View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by InChristAlone
Jesus did not come to make bad men good; He came to make dead men live.
This is one of those statements that gets thrown around a lot. And it sounds good. But I think it is an overly simplistic statement that I would find to be odd coming from either of the two oldest Christian groups we generally see today — the RCC and the EO. These kinds of statements sound more like the cheap grace that is often taught in some more modern evangelical groups. You know, the kind that want you to walk the aisle, say a prayer and then wait for heaven. The kind that don't think that salvation is much more than a change of underwear. I will agree that Jesus starts by making dead men alive. That is the initiation into the faith. But if it stops there, then there is a problem. We should continue in our faith and obedience to become what we were created for in this life — and that is, among other things, to be righteous. And if we do that, then we can honestly say that Jesus has made a bad man good. If we come to the end of our life and cannot say that, then there is a dark cloud over the very claim that we were ever made alive. I would not go so far as to declare that we simply were not made alive, but there is a question.
First of all, this “overly simplistic statement” can be supported by a few Bible verses:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. (Romans 6:6)

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)

But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Second, actually, I agree with you. So there is no field for an argument here. Probably, every statement and many Bible verses can be called “overly simplistic” or “cheap grace” if they are just words (for us), not supported by our faith and actions. It’s not what we hear and say, but what we do.

Third, as for doctrines of the EO church, especially the doctrine of personal salvation, they are far away from simplicity of Protestant doctrines. For the EO Christians, salvation is an ongoing process.

You can check out “An Orthodox Christian View of the Doctrine of Salvation by Faith” on Youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkPcVFx-U-k

Or read this book, “How are we Saved? The Understanding of Salvation in the Orthodox Tradition”, by Bishop Kallistos Ware

http://www.amazon.com/How-Are-Saved-.../dp/1880971224

Here is an excerpt from the first chapter entitled "Are you saved?"

"Twice in my life, once in a bus and once in a railway carriage, I have been asked by a stranger: "Are you saved?" How should we reply to this question? For my own part, I hesitate to respond categorically, "Yes, I am saved." Such an answer suggests that my salvation is already here and now an accomplished fact, a fully realized and completed actuality. But how can I know for certain what my behaviour will be during the remaining course of my life? Despite God's guiding hand upon me, I still retain the power to say No to Him as well as Yes.

Long after his conversion on the road to Damascus St. Paul feared that after preaching to others he might himself end up "rejected" or "disqualified" by God (1 Corinthians 9:27 - "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize".) Must we not show a similar caution? The warning issued by the pagan Solon applies equally in a Christian context: "Call no one blessed until he/she has died." It is the one who endures to the end who will be saved (Matthew 10:22; 24:13)"

St. Paul reminds us that although salvation is impossible in our own strength without God's prevenient grace, yet we are not creatures without free will and by God's grace - and with our continued co-operation and reception of that grace - we will one day be saved. He writes to the Philippians in Chapter 2:

"Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure".(Philippians 2:11-12 NRSV)

And again later in Chapter 3:"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14 NRSV)

Even Paul, the great saint himself, is not complacent, but humbly acknowledges that there is still work for the Lord to do in him. We would do well in using similar caution and humility when we talk about our own salvation.


http://orthodoxpathway.blogspot.com/...you-saved.html

Read Matthew 25:31-46, in which we find the parable of the sheep and goats. In this parable, Christ reveals that which He will ask of us when He judges us, as well as that which He expects from those who call themselves by His name. He asks if we have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, given drink to the thirsty, ministered to the sick and imprisoned—and, of utmost importance, whether we have discerned His very image in those around us, especially the “least of the brethren.” If we fail to put our faith into action through such works of mercy, our faith is purely intellectual, “lip service,” so to speak. Simply stated, if we accept Christ as the Son of the Living God and the Savior of the world, yet we fail to bring His love to others around us, then we are liars. Hence, faith without such good works is dead, and it is precisely on our willingness to put our faith into action that our eternal salvation hinges, as Christ reveals in Matthew 25.

http://oca.org/questions/teaching/grace-and-salvation
http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/inq_salvation.aspx

The Ascetic Ideal and the New Testament. Reflections on the Critique of the Theology of the Reformation by Father George Florovsky

This is one of the most important articles a Protestant inquirer to Orthodoxy could read. It is a lengthy survey of almost the entire New Testament. The author demonstrates that in each book the Orthodox doctrines of synergy and theosis are taught. He interacts constantly with the theology of Luther and Calvin, as well as the book Agape and Eros, by Anders Nygren.

http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/florov_nt.aspx
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Old 05-16-2014, 04:07 AM   #14
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OBW, I am posting these long posts because I am also in the process of learning something new. I also want to know the truth. But to me, a brief answer is not enough. I need to see a bigger picture to get at the roots of things. So when you question me, I google for the answers. And the more I read, the more it makes sense to me. Though, I know I might be biased because the EO church is a part of my historical and cultural background.

How Are We Saved?

(It's a long article, I'll share the summary)

The work of salvation belongs entirely to God. It is God through Christ and the Holy Spirit, who has the divine power to rescue us from the forces of sickness, evil, sin, death, and the devil. It is God through Christ and the Holy Spirit who alone provides justification, forgiveness, and new life to sinners who come to Him with faith. And God provides salvation as a most amazing and unceasing gift to all sincere seekers.

From our side, the question is about receiving and using the gift of salvation. The gift is offered, but if we do not receive it, we don’t have it, and certainly cannot use it. God offers the gift. We can choose to accept it or reject it. As Orthodox Christians we do not believe in predestination. Jesus said: “Whoever wants to come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The gift and the challenge to follow Jesus through a life of faith and works coincide.

The reception of the gift of salvation is not a one-time event but a life-time process. St. Paul employs the verb “to save” (sozesthai) in the past tense (“we have been saved,” Rom 8:24; Eph 2:5); in the present tense (“we are being saved,” 1 Cor 1:18; 15:2), and in the future tense (“we will be saved,” Rom 5:10). He can think even of justification as a future event and part of the final judgment (Rom 2:13, 16). For Paul, Christians are involved in a lifetime covenant with God in which we work, planting and watering, but it is “only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:7).

We are “co-workers with God” (synergoi Theou, 1 Cor 3:9; 1 Thess 3:2). (Not “co-workers under God” as some translations would have it). The mystery of salvation is a duet, not a solo. It is a life-time engagement with God. It has ups and downs, twists and turns, with opportunities to grow in the love of God, knowing that we can turn to Him again and again and receive forgiveness and a new birth. When we come to Christ as sinners, we have no works to offer to Him, but only faith and repentance. But once we come to Him and receive the gift of salvation, we enter into a sacred covenant to honor Him with good works. We read in Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God . . . [We are] created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:8-10).

The teaching of the New Testament is that God’s grace, our free will, and our faith and good works, are intimately connected. The Holy Spirit energizes in us both faith and good works as we thirst for and seek God’s grace. Neither faith nor good works can be presented as merit before God, but only as return gifts in humility, love, and thanksgiving. Let us not forget as well the sober words of James: “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead . . . Faith is completed by works . . . A person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:17, 22, 24). By free will, faith, and earnest labors, we work together with the grace of God in the awesome gift and mystery of salvation. As St. Paul puts it: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13). To God Almighty, together with the Son and the Holy Spirit, be praise and worship forever. Amen.


http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/how-are-we-saved

THE ORTHODOX TEACHING ON PERSONAL SALVATION

Chapter 1 of a thesis by Deacon Victor E. Klimenko, Ph.D., a graduate of the Pastoral School of the Chicago and Mid-America of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

I was prompted to choose this particular topic for the present Thesis by my apologetical dialogue in the Apologetics class. When my opponent – a Presbyterian pastor – and I got into the discussion of the subject of personal salvation and went through the usual set of Biblical quotes that the two sides read differently, I felt that it was important to emphasize that the Orthodox and the Protestant teachings on salvation do not exactly carry the same weight, as the Protestant teaching of “faith only” happens to be a 16th-century novelty that was born out of the protest against the abuses of the Papacy. Neither the Apostles, nor the Eastern Fathers, nor the Latin Fathers taught about salvation this way.

To my surprise, this statement made an impression on my opponent. He said that he does have a problem with this fact, that this is something he is “wrestling with”, and that he even finds it “troubling.” Another admission that he made was that he (in spite of his being a pastor and a seminary graduate, I would add) never questioned the Protestant views on salvation and never had to deal with the opposing views of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches...

(This chapter is even longer than the previous article, so I'll stop here by giving the link).

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/46463.htm

ORTHODOX CRITICISM OF THE WESTERN CHRISTIAN TEACHING ON PERSONAL SALVATION
Chapter 2

Source: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/46465.htm
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Old 05-16-2014, 03:48 PM   #15
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I find this short bit in your next to last post refreshing.
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For my own part, I hesitate to respond categorically, "Yes, I am saved." Such an answer suggests that my salvation is already here and now an accomplished fact, a fully realized and completed actuality.
This is a way of putting my wandering somewhere between Calvin and Arminius that I am working through. I am not sure that I would hesitate to say "Yes, I am saved." Yet I think I am beginning to understand that salvation may not be simply some line in the sand in the past.

As for the orthodoxy thing, I will say one more thing then let it go.

At its core, I find the "Orthodox" to be no less orthodox than many others. And in some cases more so. But, in a different way, it has elevated things above their place in worship, and even in power. The RCC has elevated Mary and the enumerated Saints while the EO elevates icons and practices which are, at best, not proscribed. To be honest, I find the things that I would have a problem with less troublesome than those of the RCC. But the insistence that any of them (EO, RCC, or any "protestant" group) is so much better than all of the others is not a sound conclusion.

I think the argument about the name "protestant" is pretty much a strawman. We may have protested the RCC's grievous errors, but they essentially kicked anyone who did not shut-up and go along to the curb, so what were we to do? The fact that you just ignored the whole mess is not much different than the way the RCC has mostly ignored everyone else. It doesn't make you better, or worse. Just not discussing it. And standing at odds with the RCC (ignoring everything that went on afterwards) does not make the EO right. It was a schism that neither would reach out to mend. That is the reason that the EO was not even considering the errors of the RCC in the 1400s and after. They just stuck to their guns and went on as if the others weren't there.

Casting of any group as the "original" is meaningless. The question that all have to consider is what they are doing about it now besides asking everyone else to go their way. That is not an exclusively EO, RCC, Baptist, Methodist, Reformed, Charismatic, etc., etc., problem. It is all of our problems.
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Old 05-18-2014, 10:15 AM   #16
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OBW, I believe everyone has his or her opinion. And who is right and who is wrong – only God knows. Probably, there is no perfect church on earth, since we human beings are all imperfect.

We need to remember that our spiritual journey is not about seeking the best church or the best doctrine but God. When we die and appear before the Lord, I don’t think He will ask us if we belonged to the EOC, RCC, or Protestant churches. He will ask us if we were faithful to Him, putting our faith into action and bringing His love to people around us. (I am sorry to say this but I’d be a failure. That’s why I want to change my life and get back to the Lord).

As for icons, they are unimportant in themselves. Nobody forces an EO Christian to use them. They are tools, symbols, and means, not the target. The target is God. For an EO Christian, a church (as a building) is neither business center, nor club, nor community center, nor a concert hall. And it's not only some place of worship. It is the “heaven on earth”, place of an ongoing communion with God. Icons are one of the tools/means that help believer to focus his thoughts on spiritual reality, enter into the presence of God, and have communion with Him. BTW, candles symbolize our soul's burning love of God.

When I get at the roots of the EO doctrines and practices, I realize that everything has a meaning. There is no thing-in-itself. But it takes time to get to the core and understand some issues because our culture has lost the meanings behind things that were common in the Bible and much of Christian history. I’ve spent some time and studied the icon issue with an open mind. Again, I might be biased, but the answers that the EO church gives about veneration (veneration, not worshiping!) of icons sound true to me.

Here are a few links that explain the question:

1 Is Venerating Icons Idolatry? by Timothy Copple

http://www.orthodoxconvert.info/Q-A....Icons+Idolatry

When I was first looking into the Orthodox Church, I was a bit puzzled by the veneration of icons, not having a real context to know what it really meant. So, like a good Protestant, I did a Biblical word study on the acts of veneration in the Bible to help see how it was used in the context of worship and otherwise. I originally wrote this back in 1996, but have updated and adjusted it since then a few times.

One of the most difficult things for Protestants to grasp when considering Orthodoxy is the veneration of Icons. The immediate reaction of many is that it is worship, or at least borders on worship of the Icon rather than simply honoring the Saint depicted. After all, most Protestants do have pictures and do use them to remind them of people, yet they do not bow to them or kiss them. It is the bowing and kissing of Icons that seems to cause the most problems. Protestants see in these actions a "worship" of the item. There are two questions to answer concerning this view. One, is this idea and impression Biblical? Two, why do we see these actions as worshiping the Icon?

First, let's look at the Biblical examples and the relationship of bowing and prostrating to worship. To start, we will examine the Hebrew words and examples in the Old Testament. The primary word in the Hebrew for worship and bowing is described in Strong's concordance as:

shachah, shaw-khaw'; a prim. root; to depress, i.e. prostrate (espec. reflex. in homage to royalty or God):—bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.

However, this word is very context sensitive. There are many places where this word is translated as "worship" (Exo 12:27 (Uses "qadad" to bow the head and "shachah" to indicate worship); 1 Chron 29:20; 2 Chr 7:3; 20:18; 29:29-30; Neh 8:6; Psalm 22:29; 95:6). "Worship" in the context of this word specifically refers to the god which one serves.

At the root of this word, is the idea that one bows to another who is to be respected and/or is in authority over you. Bowing was a sign of submission to another person and showing honor. Also, it was a humbling of yourself before another person. The position makes one vulnerable to the other person. With head bowed, you are at the mercy of the other person who could at that point kill you if he wished. In that way, you are submitting yourself to that person.

Consequently, this word is not just translated as "worship" but also frequently translated as "bowing" in context that would not suggest a worshiping attitude. It suggests a respect or recognition of another person's authority. This was frequently done in greeting another person. (Gen 27:29; 33:3-7; 37:10; 41:43; 42:6; 43:26; 47:31; 48:12; 49:8; Ruth 2:10; 1 Sam 20:41; 24:8; 25:23, 41; 28:14; 2 Sam 9:8; 14:22, 33; 18:21; 24:20; 1 Kings 1:15, 23 (obeisance), 31(reverence), 47, 53; 2:19; 2 Kings 2:15; 4:37; 1 Chr 21:21; Est 3:2 (reverence); Isa 60:14).

It is also translated as "bowing" concerning God's command to not bow and serve any idol or graven image (Exo 11:8; 20:4-5 ("shachah" used as bowing to an idol toserve it, thus being in submission to it); 23:24; Lev 26:1; Num 25:2; Deut 5:8-9; Joshua 23:7; 23:16; Judges 2:12, 16-19; 2 Kings 17:35; 2 Chr 25:14). That we could have no other God before us results in not bowing to another god. As Jesus says, we cannot serve two masters equally. Bowing in submission to an idol (the Hebrew word for "idol" means "empty and vain") suggested that they had taken their submission away from God. The emphasis of the bowing was to show whom one served when done to one perceived as a god.

Context is all important. The word could mean worship, or it could mean a simple sign of respect, or even affection in friendship as when David bowed before Jonathan. It is in this context that the word finds it's broadest meaning. However, when we apply the action to a god, it becomes an act of worship. In that act of bowing to a god, it is an indication of submission to it and that you will serve it. It is the person's heart which is critical; who are they serving? In the Bible, whenever bowing to God or an idol is mentioned, the context of serving that god is usually included, the implication being that it is to the exclusion of other gods. It is this attitude of being in submission to God that the word "worship" holds for the Jew. It is not just offering up words and bowing, but an attitude of the heart to serve God and Him alone...

Now let's examine the Greek words and usage in relation to bowing and worship. The primary Greek word for worship is:

4352. proskuneo, pros-koo-neh'-o; from G4314 and a prob. der. of G2965 (mean. to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand); to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (lit. or fig.) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore):—worship. (combination of: 4314. pros, pros; a strengthened form of G4253; a prep. of direction; forward to, i.e. toward. and 2965. kuon, koo'-ohn; a prim. word; a dog ["hound"] (lit. or fig.):—dog.)

Kind of a strange way to come up with the word for worship of God, but I would imagine that the attitude would be the same that a dog has for his master. Although the elements of "kissing" and "prostration" are included in the definition, the word is never translated as such in the New Testament, but always as "worship". It occurs 60 times in 54 verses, so I won't quote all of them here. The word is frequently used in relation to the way people approached Jesus. This was the way in which the Gospel writers intended to relate that Jesus was indeed God, for consistently through the New Testament, this worship is reserved for God alone and condemned when directed toward men or other beings. So its free use in relation to Jesus shows the attitude of the writers toward Him, that He is indeed God and worthy to be worshiped.

To read the whole article:

http://www.orthodoxconvert.info/Q-A....Icons+Idolatry

I believe this long article answers all the questions but if it's not enough, here a few other links:

2 No Graven Image: Icons and Their Proper Use by Fr. Jack N. Sparks, Ph.D.

The history of icons and of their use in the Orthodox Church is not only fascinating but instructive. They are no new thing. Nor were they invented by an apostate medieval Church. The use of representations for instruction and as aids to piety goes back to the earliest centuries of the Church, and likely they were there in some form from the very beginning. Certainly we know that even in legal-minded Israel, paintings and other artistic representations used to help the people remember spiritual truth were not at all unknown.

In both the tabernacle and the later temples there were images used, especially of the cherubim. And a recently unearthed synagogue of the last few centuries before Christ has paintings of biblical scenes on its walls.

But was this done contrary to the command of God?

To read the whole article:

http://www.antiochian.org/content/no...eir-proper-use

3 Are not icons images or idols that are forbidden by the ten commandments? Why do the Orthodox give such reverence (kissing, etc) to icons?

The difference between idol and icon is whether the latreia (divine service) is directed to the ultimate source (in Orthodox theology to God the Father) or stops at the person or thing which then becomes an idol. Proskunesis (to express adoration, to offer relative worship) is an act of reverence which can be suitable for things and people other than God, but this depends on the intention and context. Proskunesis is not idolatry if it is offered in a relative sense, with the intention to refer all things to the divine source. For instance, all honor is due to God, but we offer honor to parents and kings / rulers with reference to God who is the source and authority...

To read the whole article:

http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/answer/24/

4 The Functions of Icons by Dr. Constantine Cavarnos

http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/icon_function.aspx

5 What is an Icon? Do Orthodox Christians pray to Icons? Do Icons work miracles? Doesn’t the 2nd Commandment forbid Icons? Icons in the Old Testament.

http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/o...ns-and-relics/

The Icon FAQ
http://waysha.com/faq.htm

Orthodox America
Holy Fathers – On Veneration of Icons (Fr. Alexey Young)
http://www.roca.org/OA/19/19e.htm

Icons and Orthodoxy
http://www.stnicholas-billings.org/Practices/icons.htm

Why Icons?
Jane M. deVyver, M.Th., Ph.D
http://www.firebirdvideos.com/articles/whyicons.htm

The Veneration of Icons
from “The Orthodox Companion”
by Rev. David F. Abramtsov
http://www.orthodoxnet.com/wisdom/hi002.html

Holy Relics

The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church
by St. Justin Popovich
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/relics_place.aspx

The Veneration of Relics: Making the Holy Spirit “matter”
Dr. Alexander Roman
http://www.unicorne.org/orthodoxy/avrilmai/relics.htm

Why Relics?
Jane M. deVyver, M.Th., Ph.D.
http://www.firebirdvideos.com/articles/whyrelics.htm

Veneration of Holy Relics in Orthodox Tradition
Jack Eapen
http://www.niranamchurch.com/articles1.asp

On the Veneration of the Holy Relics and Remains of the Saints
by Archpriest Vasily Demidov
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/relics.aspx
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Old 05-18-2014, 09:09 PM   #17
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You see a lot the way I see it when you say:

Quote:
I don’t think He will ask us if we belonged to the EOC, RCC, or Protestant churches. He will ask us if we were faithful to Him, putting our faith into action and bringing His love to people around us.
Much to agree with there.

Can't say the same for the rest. The articles only suggest that there is an out on the idolatry thing. I agree. But it doesn't make everything OK. Just not simple idolatry.
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Old 05-18-2014, 10:27 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OBW View Post
You see a lot the way I see it when you say:

Much to agree with there.

Can't say the same for the rest. The articles only suggest that there is an out on the idolatry thing. I agree. But it doesn't make everything OK. Just not simple idolatry.
OBW, you have your opinion. I have mine. That's fine with me.

You know, Muslims also blame Christians for worshiping and believing in three different gods, but do we really do it? I bet they say so because:

a) they hardly studied the doctrine;
b) they have not experienced the Living Reality of God behind the words and concepts;
c) they don't really want to understand it.

The LRC has a similar issue when WL and his followers reject celebrating Easter and Christmas. These holidays are unbiblical for them, but based on some pagan holidays. No matter how hard you try to explain them the meaning of the celebrations, they will still stick to the letter, not the spirit. But whose loss is it? I.e. who is losing: Christians who celebrate Easter and Christmas, rejoicing and praising the Lord, or followers of WL who ignore these holidays? Paradox: the latter don't want to celebrate the holidays related to their Lord but do celebrate b'days and other significant dates related to their friends and relatives.

BTW, just an observation, I have always been surprised why in the LC, on the Lord's Table, we break bread and drink grape juice. If WL was so keen on the recovery and restoring of the biblical practices, including "one location - one church" idea, why didn't he go further and use wine for communion?

PS Yesterday I found this article, “Forty excuses for not joining the Orthodox Church.”

I will share some quotes. Please don't take them too seriously. They are written with a good sense of British humor.

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because it’s a sect’.
(For nearly 2,000 years, billions of people have not thought so. Are you so much cleverer than all of them?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you have saints’.
(Sadly, that is your loss. Don’t you want to know the friends of Christ?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you kiss icons’.
(Don’t you kiss members of your family? Don’t you love Christ and those close to him? Are you not members of the family of Christ? Or are you victims of Protestant scientism?).

I can’t become Orthodox, because Orthodox are sinners and argue among themselves’.
(Yes, we know about ourselves, that we are sinners. We also think our Faith is important – that’s why we argue, because we are not lukewarm and indifferent. And that’s why we go to church and go to confession and communion, repent, read the Lives of the Saints and find healing for our arguments. You mean you do not know about yourself and your own need to repent?).

‘I cannot become Orthodox, because you don’t sing our hymns’.
(Why sing Victorian platitudes, when you can have ancient spiritual depth?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you can’t take part in the services’.
(You mean you have never tried praying?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I will no longer be free to change the Faith and pick from it what I want’.
(You don’t come to the Church to change the Orthodox Faith, you come to the Church to be changed by the Orthodox Faith. Or do you consider that you do not need changing?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because it’s not Western, it’s Oriental’.
(Then it’s like Christ. He came for the Middle East. He wasn’t Western and secular either).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I was born English’.
(Nor was Christ. By the way, I didn’t know that ‘English’ was a religion).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the services are too long’.
(You mean you are lazy?).

‘The services start too early and finish too late’.
(See above).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because then I won’t be able to live with my partner any longer’.
(Yes, you will, only you will receive a Divine blessing, your union will become spiritual as well as physical, and your ‘partner’ will become your legitimate spouse, instead of your partner in sin).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you have to fast’.
(You mean you reject Christ’s sacrifice of fasting in the desert and his Gospel instructions about freeing yourself from demons through prayer and fasting?)

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the priest says that I should try to give up smoking’.
(You mean your passions are stronger than your faith?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the clergy wear beards’.
(So did Christ. More victims of their cultural prejudices).

http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/40excuse.htm

BTW, when the author of the article complains that in the times of the Cold War the ROCOR didn’t want to accept him because he had no Russian roots (which is a wrong thing, of course), I believe the Russian priests were just too cautious. Probably, they were afraid of British spies.
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Old 05-19-2014, 02:09 PM   #19
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ICA,

My responses have not been to argue in a hostile or antagonistic way. Its just I that have an opinion that I believe I have come upon quite honestly.

Of course, one of the things that I believe that I have to my advantage is something that you have as well, and that is the openness to have changed. Since we have changed from Lee's mess to something else, and probably done more changing than that, I now find myself less tied to some of the rhetoric that I even hear continually where I presently attend.

I began life in the Assemblies of God, a non-Calvinist Pentecostal group that dates to the beginnings of the Pentecostal movement 100 years or so ago. That was until age 18. Then the LRC for 14 years. Then Bible churches until now. But while Bible churches are a loose affiliation of churches that are somewhat Reformed/Baptist/free group. And while I grew to fit them so well over the years as I threw off the LRC, I find that as I really began to face the hidden junk of the LRC, I do not entirely fit in with the Bible churches. But they are about as close as it gets. What I would probably fit in with better would be a church that is more concerned with right practice than right teaching and knowledge. One that is somewhat morphed toward an evangelical form of liturgy that expands worship and turns the sermon into something closer to a homily. I don't particularly want kneeling rails and excessive outward demonstration, but do not want to stifle the acts of those who want to be demonstrative to an extent. I like the form of communion where they have everyone come by a table with the bread and some juice or wine in a bowl in which you dip the bread — not because I think it is most like the original rite, but because it is more easily a part of a time in which everyone is freer to be reflective, in prayer, etc.

I would not be comfortable with the level of reverence related to icons that I see in the EO. As I said, I do not condemn it as idolatry, but it does seem to be excessively prone to becoming that for the individual even if the doctrinal position is not consistent with that determination. That does not mean that I think that there are not similar things in all sorts of other groups, including Bible churches, that are not prone to becoming error. But from my vantage point, the proximity is too close for me to accept as a regular part of worship.

I will leave your posts alone. At least on this subject. BTW, you are free to pick over mine as well. Despite the perception that I am set in my ways, the changes that I have experienced during the 9 years I have been involved in these forums is somewhat dramatic. My wife even wonders about me sometimes now. Not in a bad way. But she wonders.
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Old 05-19-2014, 08:04 PM   #20
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OBW,

I want to make an apology. I feel I have been pushy and intolerant, trying to protect my point of view. Your honest, friendly, and thoughtful opinion along with your critical observations are always welcome in my blog.
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Old 05-19-2014, 09:05 PM   #21
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Don't sweat it. I consider it a challenge — not to make you change your mind, but to at least be open enough to rethink it and possibly come to the same conclusion you already have. If we just chant our mantras without personal critique, it suggests we don't know what we believe, even if it turns out to be true.
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Old 05-19-2014, 09:31 PM   #22
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Don't sweat it. I consider it a challenge — not to make you change your mind, but to at least be open enough to rethink it and possibly come to the same conclusion you already have. If we just chant our mantras without personal critique, it suggests we don't know what we believe, even if it turns out to be true.
Thank you, OBW. I appreciate it.
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Old 05-23-2014, 03:39 AM   #23
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I heard these word combination “Apostolic Fathers” long time ago. But I had no idea who they were and why they were called not only “apostolic” but also “fathers.” Only today, while listening to an audio lecture, I heard about the Apostolic Fathers again. The lecturer recommended new Christians to read the books of the Apostolic Fathers after the Holy Bible. I had to google those names and that's what I found:

The Apostolic Fathers were a group of early Christian leaders believed to know the Apostles personally. The term also refers to the collection of Christian writings attributed to these men from the late first century C.E. and the first half of the second century C.E. The authors are traditionally acknowledged as leaders in the early church whose writings were not included in the New Testament biblical canon. Evidence exists that some of these works were once bound as part of the New Testament scriptures. However, several of the works are actually anonymous, and their attributions have been challenged by recent scholarship.

The term “Apostolic Fathers,” has been used since the seventeenth century to emphasize that these authors were thought of as being of the generation that had personal contact with the Apostles. Thus they provide a link between the Apostles who knew Jesus of Nazareth and the later generation of Christian apologists and defenders of orthodox authority known as the Church Fathers.
Study of the Apostolic Fathers has yielded important insights into the formation of the early Christian tradition, the emergence of the bishop's office, the development of a concept of Christian scriptures, and the emergence of "proto-orthodox" Christian theology.

The list of Apostolic Fathers has varied. Official inclusion is based strictly on church tradition, but literary criticism resulted in the removal of some writings formerly considered as second century.

The most common lists of these writings usually include most or all of the following:
The Epistle to Diognetus
The First Epistle of Clement
The Second Epistle of Clement
The Didache
The Epistle of Barnabas
Seven short Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch (the longer forms of these Epistles, and those beyond the seven, are widely considered later emendations and forgeries)
The Epistle of Polycarp
The Martyrdom of Polycarp
The Shepherd of Hermas

More:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolic_Fathers

Apostolic Fathers by Jack N. Sparks
http://www.amazon.com/Apostolic-Fath.../dp/0840756615

Book Review:

"These writings give a glimpse of what the early church believed and what was important to them, and the faith that was passed on from the Apostles to them and to us as modern Christians. The early Christians believed the sacraments such as Baptism and the Eucharist were critical and the norm, as well as the importance of the Bishop, and Presbyters and unity in the Body of Christ".
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Old 05-29-2014, 08:56 AM   #24
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I started reading Anthony Bloom's book "Beginning to Pray" and I'd like to share a story from this spiritual classic.

http://www.amazon.com/Beginning-Pray.../dp/0809115093

Unfortunately, it's a long passage and it may take me about an hour to type the excerpt. But thank God for google; I found the same story in one of Anthony Bloom's articles, so I can copy and paste it within a few seconds:

"I would like to illustrate this vision of a sacrifice and its consequences for us by something taken from the late history of the Russian Church. In the years of the Civil War when the opposing armies were contending for power, conquering and losing ground in the course of three years, a small town fell into the hands of the Red army which had been held by the remnants of the Imperial troops. A woman found herself there with her two small children, four and five years of age, in danger of death because her husband belonged to the opposite camp. She hid in an abandoned house hoping that the time would come when she would be able to escape. One evening a young woman of her own age, in the early twenties, knocked at the door and asked her whether she was so-and-so. When the mother said she was, the young woman warned her that she had been discovered and would be fetched that very night in order to be shot. The young woman added, 'You must escape at once'. The mother looked at the children and said, 'How could I?' The young neighbour, who thus far had been nothing but a physical neighbour, became at that moment the neighbour of the Gospel. She said, 'You can, because I will stay behind and call myself by your name when they come to fetch you'. 'But you will be shot,' said the mother. 'Yes, but I have no children'. And she stayed behind.

We can imagine what happened then. We can see the night coming, wrapping in darkness, in gloom, in cold and damp, this cottage. We can see there a woman who was waiting for her death to come and we can remember the Garden of Gethsemane. We can imagine this woman asking that this cup should pass her by and being met like Christ by divine silence. We can imagine her turning in intention towards those who might have supported her, but who were out of reach. The disciples of Christ slept; and she could turn to no one without betraying. We can imagine that more than once she prayed that at least her sacrifice should not be in vain, and here we can see the image of another man who stood before death and hesitated. The greatest of those born to a woman, John the Baptist, who as death was coming to him, sent two of his disciples to Christ to ask him, 'Is it really you, or should we expect another one?' If it is really you then all the sacrifices of my youth, all the years in the wilderness; all the hatred I was surrounded by; the coming of death; my diminishing in order that you might grow, is a blessedness; but if it is not you then I have lost my life, I have lived and I shall die in vain. Here again the prophet received the reply of the prophet, but no word of consolation.

This young woman probably asked herself more than once what would happen to the mother and the children when she was dead, and there was no reply except the word of Christ, 'No one has greater love than he who lays down his life for his friend'. Probably she thought more than once that in one minute she could be secure! It was enough to open the door and the moment she was in the street she no longer was that woman, she became herself again. It was enough to deny her false, her shared identity. We can see again one of the strongest men in history, Peter the apostle, challenged by a woman in the coldness of night and in his desperate loneliness denying in order to save his life. She died, shot. The mother and the children escaped, and here we see one more thing which will be the last I wish to mention.

St Paul tells us, 'It is no longer I who live, it is Christ who lives in me'. We often wonder at the meaning of these words. How can Christ live in one? We can have an inkling of this meaning from the life of this mother and her children. They remained alive because another died. They have remained aware throughout their lives that they lived on borrowed life. Their life was cut off the earth by the hatred of men and it was given back by the love of this woman. If they were alive it was because she had lived; her life was theirs. They had to live and fulfil her life. They had to live as she had taught them. Is not this something which we can learn also? Is not this what we must learn from the act of perfect solidarity which we find in the Incarnation, from the insuperable courage and love of God, from the Garden of Gethsemane and the death upon the Cross? Solidarity not only between ourselves, but with every man, because God is solid with the godless as with the saint. The victory of life is in us not only because we receive the miraculous gift of life from God, but because if we live as he taught us he will be alive in us, and we shall be alive in him, now and for all eternity".

http://masarchive.org/Sites/texts/19...yOfChrist.html
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Old 06-02-2014, 10:26 PM   #25
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“What I see around me would drive me insane if I did not know that no matter what happens, God will have the last word.”
– Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

Remember, never to fear the power of evil more than your trust in the power and love of God.
—Hermas, one of the Seventy

"Always remember that at the Last Judgement we are judged for loving Him, or failing to love Him, in the least person."
—Archbishop Anastasios of Albania

“When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way. Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator.”
– St. Basil the Great

"You ask, will the heterodox be saved... Why do you worry about them? They have Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins.”
- St Theophan the Recluse


"We see the water of a river flowing uninterruptedly and passing away, and all that floats on its surface, rubbish or beams of trees, all pass by Christian! So does our life. . .I was an infant, and that time has gone. I was an adolescent, and that too has passed. I was a young man, and that too is far behind me. The strong and mature man that I was is no more. My hair turns white, I succumb to age, but that too passes; I approach the end and will go the way of all flesh. I was born in order to die. I die that I may live. Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom!"
—St. Tikhon of Voronezh

"Do not be irritated either with those who sin or those who offend; do not have a passion for noticing every sin in your neighbour, and for judging him, as we are in the habit of doing. Everyone shall give an answer to God for himself. Everyone has a conscience; everyone hears God's Word, and knows God's Will either from books or from conversation with other people. Especially do not look with evil intention upon the sins of your elders, which do not regard you; "to his own master he standeth or falleth." Correct your own sins, amend your own life."
—St. John of Kronstadt

"…should we fall, we should not despair and so estrange ourselves from the Lord's love. For if He so chooses, He can deal mercifully with our weakness. Only we should not cut ourselves off from Him or feel oppressed when constrained by His commandments, nor should we lose heart when we fall short of our goal...let us always be ready to make a new start. If you fall, rise up. If you fall again, rise up again. Only do not abandon your Physician, lest you be condemned as worse than a suicide because of your despair. Wait on Him, and He will be merciful, either reforming you, or sending you trials, or through some other provision of which you are ignorant."
—From St. Peter of Damascus

"The way of humility is this: self-control, prayer, and thinking yourself inferior to all creatures."
—Abba Tithoes

“Cleanse your mind from anger, remembrance of evil, and shameful thoughts, and then you will find out how Christ dwells in you.”
– St. Maximus the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 4.76

You see very clearly that it is extremely difficult, and without God’s grace and your own fervent prayer and abstinence, impossible, for you to change for the better. You feel within yourself the action of a multitude of passions: of pride, malice, envy, greediness, the love of money, despondency, slothfulness, fornication, impatience, and disobedience; and yet you remain in them, are often bound by them, whilst the long-suffering Lord bears with you, awaiting your return and amendment; and still bestows upon you all the gifts of His mercy.
Be then indulgent, patient, and loving to those who live with you, and who also suffer from many passions; conquer every evil by good, and, above all, pray to God for them, that He may correct them—that He may turn their hearts to Himself, the source of holiness.
Do not help the Devil to spread his kingdom. Hallow the name of your Heavenly Father by your actions; help Him to spread His Kingdom on earth. ‘For we are laborers together with God.’
Be zealous of the fulfillment of His will on earth, as it is in heaven. Forgive them that trespass against you with joy, as a good son rejoices when he has a chance of fulfilling the will of his beloved father.
+ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

http://orthodoxchurchquotes.com/tag/awareness-of-god/
http://theodorakis.net/orthodoxquotescomplete.html
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Old 06-04-2014, 10:26 AM   #26
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I was watching “BBC: Extreme Pilgrim - Ascetic Christianity” (the beginning is boring; you may start watching it from 21st minute) and saw a Coptic monk Father Lazarus, modern-day hermit, living in a cave in the Egyptian desert.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VjU_505i6E

He looked like a fascinating character, so I googled some info about him and found this:

Father Lazarus El Anthony was born in Tasmania and had worked as a university lecturer in a provincial city in Australia teaching literature and philosophy, very often preaching against Christianity in many of his classes. He spent about forty-years of his life as a militant atheist, deriving his philosophy from Marxism. When his mother was diagnosed with incurable cancer and died, "he began realise that he had indentured himself to things, to the promise of illusory happiness; and began to understand the true paradox of existence: that it cannot be ordered or forecast." Ultimately he abandoned his life in Australia and went in search of God and freedom. His pilgrimage eventually brought him to rejecting the empty doctrine of Marxist Atheism and embracing the life of a Coptic Christian monk. He met H.H. Pope Shenouda III, who lead him to where he is today. Father Lazarus El Anthony lives in solitude on the Al-Qalzam Mountain (Egypt). It was in a cave at this mountain that the great hermit, the founder and the father of the monastic life, Saint Anthony the Great (Abba Antonius) lived. At the foot of the mountain lies St. Anthony's Monastery (Deir Mar Antonios), the oldest active Christian monastery in the world, founded in 356 AD, just after the saints' death.

Conversion of Fr. Lazarus ElAnthony

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-armbcp-No

If you don’t have much time, I’d recommend to watch this short movie called “The Last Anchorite”.

The Last Anchorite part1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKXf_7Tt0-c

The Last Anchorite part2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ag6WE__82Q8

Fr. Lazarus is definitely out of this world. I don’t know if he is a saint but he looks like one.
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Old 06-04-2014, 03:46 PM   #27
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Fr. Lazarus is definitely out of this world. I don’t know if he is a saint but he looks like one.
Doesn't matter what he looks like. Within the Biblical use of the term saint, he is or is not based on his status as child of God, as are you and I.
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Old 06-04-2014, 11:36 PM   #28
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Doesn't matter what he looks like. Within the Biblical use of the term saint, he is or is not based on his status as child of God, as are you and I.
Mike, thank you for your comment. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Scripturally speaking, all Christians are considered saints.

Anyway, I have done a small research:

The word “saint” comes from the Greek word "aghios"(hágios), which means “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious" or "he or she who is separated". The New Testament uses the word saint or saints 67 times. In every instance, the reference is to all believers. The idea of the word “saints” is a group of people set apart from the corruption of the world. They are those who set apart for the Lord and His kingdom. First Corinthians 1:2 says: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…” The words “sanctified” and “holy” come from the same Greek root as the word that is commonly translated “saints.” Christians are saints by virtue of their connection with Jesus Christ. Christians are called to be saints, to increasingly allow their daily life to more closely match their position in Christ.

1. In many Protestant churches, the word "saint" is used more generally to refer to anyone who is a Christian. This is similar in usage to Paul's numerous references in the New Testament of the Bible. In this sense, anyone who is within the Body of Christ (i.e., a professing Christian) is a 'saint' because of their relationship with Christ Jesus. A Protestant pastor writes, "Rejoice today you who are Christians, rejoice I say, for you are cleansed and sanctified, and now appear holy before God. If you have repented of your sins, seen the need to have the wrath of God removed from off of you who rightly deserve it, the filth and stench of sin (Rom 6:23, 3:23), and you have confessed your sins to God (1 John 1:9), you already have eternal life (John 3:16-17) and have been made righteous in the sight of God because you have placed your trust in Christ to save you (Rom 10:9-13). If you have, then right at this very moment, you can know that you are a saint of God. You don’t have to wait until you die and go to the Kingdom of Heaven. If you are His, you are a saint right now! When God sees you He sees the Son of God’s holiness.” (That does not resonate with me because I don't feel a living experience of Christ's holiness in me behind these words. I can blow my own trumpet, saying that I am a saint and when God sees me, He sees the Son of God’s holiness. But I am afraid it's self-deception).

In Orthodox and Catholic teachings, a saint is not only every Christian believer but also one who has been recognized for having an exceptional degree of holiness.

2 The Catholic Church teaches that it does not make or create saints, but rather, recognizes them. In the Church, the title of Saint refers to a person who has been formally canonized (officially recognized) by the Catholic Church, and is therefore believed to be in Heaven. Canonization is the process by which the Catholic Church confers sainthood upon a person based on that person's special deeds. In his book, Saint of the Day, editor Leonard Foley, OFM, says this of saints: "[Saints'] surrender to God's love was so generous an approach to the total surrender of Jesus that the Church recognizes them as heroes and heroines worthy to be held up for our inspiration. They remind us that the Church is holy, can never stop being holy and is called to show the holiness of God by living the life of Christ." In his book, on Making Saints, author Kenneth L. Woodward notes the following: A saint is always someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like—and of what we are called to be. Only God "makes" saints, of course. The church merely identifies from time to time a few of these for emulation. “

3 a) In the Eastern Orthodox Church, in the general sense of the word, all Christians are saints. A Christian is separated from the domination of death, evil, sin and the devil when he or she is baptized and becomes a member of the Church – the “household of God” (Epesians 2:19). This new status makes every Christian a saint in the general sense. It describes our new condition. We are all now “children of the Kingdom” and no longer “children of the wicked one” (Mathew 13:38). We are all now “children of light” and no longer “walk in darkness”. But this is not enough. As St. Paul says, “ For ye were sometimes darkness, but now ye are light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Epesians 5:8). Those who “have walked” the road of growth in communion and obedience to God, approach the perfection of Godlikeness. Those who have done so in significant proportion we call “Saints” in the specific sense of the word, and we honor them as Saints in the worship of the Church. It is better for the rest of us to focus upon what God expects of us as we seek to “walk in the light” daily, than to spend too much energy on our titles.

b) Another source: In the EO church, a saint is defined as anyone who is in Heaven, whether recognized here on earth, or not. A saint is one who is holy, that is, set apart for God's service. It is a person who has cooperated with God's grace to the extent that his or her holiness is beyond doubt. In the Holy Scripture, the word saint is used to refer to those who have been set apart for the service of God, consecrated for his purposes. As such, all members of the Church are called saints, regardless of their personal holiness or sinlessness. It is still appropriate to use the term in this way. Aside from the more general use of the word saint to refer to all members of the Church, Holy Tradition also ascribes Saint as a title to particular persons whose lives have shown most clearly what it means to follow Jesus Christ. Saints are not thought of as either perfect or infallible, and it is only because of the work of Christ in them that the Church praises these people. Sainthood in the Orthodox Church does not necessarily reflect a moral model, but the communion with God: there are countless examples of people who lived in great sin and became saints by humility and repentance, such as Mary of Egypt, Moses the Ethiopian, and of course Dysmas, the repentant thief who was crucified. Therefore, a more complete definition of what a saint is, has to do with the way that saints, through their humility and their love of humankind, saved inside them the entire Church, and loved all people. Because the Church shows no true distinction between the living and the dead (the saints are considered to be alive in Heaven), saints are referred to as if they were still alive.


Personally, I don't feel any holiness in myself. Yes, I am a saint in the Biblical use of the word. But I have not walked the road of growth in communion and obedience to God. I am full of sins and passions, with lack of humility and love to God and my neighbor. I am still a beginner, a “nominal Christian”, or a nominal saint. While Father Lazarus has walked a lot with the Lord. So when I compare him with myself, he looks more like a saint than I am.
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Old 06-07-2014, 10:53 PM   #29
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I will post the quote that has been deleted first. And then I will try to answer bro Awareness's question.

About the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”.

In the EO tradition the eating of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” is generally interpreted as man’s actual taste of evil, his literal experience of evil as such. Sometimes, this eating is also interpreted (as by St. Gregory the Theologian) as man’s attempt to go beyond what was possible for him; his attempt to do that which was not yet within his power to realize.

The word sin means literally “missing the mark.” It means the failure to be what one should be and to do what one should do.

Originally man was made to be the created image of God, to live in union with God’s divine life, and to rule over all creation. Man’s failure in this task is his sin which has also been called his fall. The “fall” of man means that man failed in his God-given vocation. Man was seduced by evil (the serpent) into believing that he could be “like God” by his own will and effort.

By his sin-and his sins—man brings himself and all creation under the rule of evil and death.

Whatever the details of the various interpretations of the Genesis story, it is the clear doctrine of Orthodoxy that man has failed in his original vocation. He disobeyed God’s command through pride, jealousy and the lack of humble gratitude to God by yielding to the temptation of Satan. Thus man sinned. He “missed the mark” of his calling. He transgressed the Law of God (see 1 Jn 3:4). And so he ruined both himself and the creation which he was given to care for and to cultivate. By his sin-and his sins—man brings himself and all creation under the rule of evil and death.

In the Bible and in Orthodox theology these elements always go together: sin, evil, the devil, suffering and death. There is never one without the other, and all are the common result of man’s rebellion against God and his loss of communion with Him. This is the primary meaning of Gen 3 and the chapters which follow until the calling of Abraham. Sin begets still more sin and even greater evil. It brings cosmic disharmony, the ultimate corruption and death of everyone and everything. Man still remains the created image of God—this cannot be changed—but he fails to keep his image pure and to retain the divine likeness. He defiles his humanity with evil, perverts it and deforms it so that it cannot be the pure reflection of God that it was meant to be. The world also remains good, indeed “very good,” but it shares the sorry consequences of its created master’s sin and suffers with him in mortal agony and corruption. Thus, through man’s sin the whole world falls under the rule of Satan and “lies in wickedness” (1 Jn 5:19; see also Rom 5:12).

The Genesis story is the divinely-inspired description in symbolic terms of man’s primordial and original possibilities and failures. It reveals that man’s potency for eternal growth and development in God was turned instead into man’s multiplication and cultivation of wickedness and his transformation of creation into the devil’s princedom, a cosmic cemetery “groaning in travail” until saved once more by God (Rom 8:19-23). All the children of Adam, i.e. all who belong to the human race, share in this tragic fate. Even those born this very minute as images of God into a world essentially good are thrown immediately into a deathbound universe, ruled by the devil and filled with the wicked fruit of generations of his evil servants.

This is the fundamental message: man and the world need to be saved. God gives the promise of salvation from the very beginning, the promise which begins to be fulfilled in history in the person of Abraham, the father of Israel, the forefather of Christ.

http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodo...l-of-faith/sin
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Old 06-08-2014, 05:57 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by InChristAlone View Post
The word sin means literally “missing the mark.” It means the failure to be what one should be and to do what one should do.
I have read that the word translated into "sin" did not include the meaning of simply missing the mark when it was written. There is evidence that this English word (in older days) into which it was translated also included the meaning of not hitting the bulls-eye in archery. But the evidence that such a meaning was in the un-translated word is missing. In the first century AD, the word seems to mean to do what was wrong or forbidden. Not just do what was right but not perfectly.

Not saying that missing the mark is OK. But it is not so clear that it bears the label of sin.
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Old 06-08-2014, 04:06 PM   #31
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In the EO tradition the eating of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” is generally interpreted as man’s actual taste of evil, ...

. . . Originally man was made to be the created image of God, to live in union with God’s divine life, and to rule over all creation.

. . . And so he ruined both himself and the creation which he was given to care for and to cultivate. By his sin-and his sins—man brings himself and all creation under the rule of evil and death. . . .

. . . Man still remains the created image of God—this cannot be changed—but he fails to keep his image pure and to retain the divine likeness.

. . . All the children of Adam, i.e. all who belong to the human race, share in this tragic fate. Even those born this very minute . . .
This is not my original response ... but the gist is a reasonable likeness ...

That's a pretty bleak view ICA, of humanity.

So the minute we're born we're fallen? None of us disobeyed and ate the evil fruit, but we're still evil because thousands of years ago the first couple infracted God's commandments, and ate evil fruit?

So does the EO see this as a mutation of human DNA ... that's being passed down thru genetics to us today? Is that how we come by being fallen?

So since this is coming from the 15:45 thread, will the resurrection undo this genetic mutation? Does the life-giving spirit undo it?
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Old 06-08-2014, 07:43 PM   #32
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Awareness, I have your original question, so I will reply it first.

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Originally Posted by awareness View Post
So does the EO see the fall as Adam and Eve introducing evil into their DNA? So therefore must be passed on down to us thru genetics? So that OUR human genetics was modified by introduction of evil into it?

I didn't eat the fruit of evil ... yet according to this exposition I have it ... so I must have gotten it thru fallen human DNA. Right?
I am afraid, I can't give you a clear answer. The Church Fathers knew nothing about genetics so they did not operate with such terms like "DNA." They focused more on the consequences and solutions than on the process itself. Besides, it is not required that one have a thorough knowledge of exactly how the transmission of original sin works in order to be saved. The Bible is not a science textbook, but the divinely inspired Word of God and God's self-revelation to the human race. The Bible's prime purpose concerns salvation, not scientific explanation. Science textbooks may contain both known facts and speculative theory, but they are not infallible. So we try not to build an unnecessary and artificial wall between science and the Christian faith. Rather, we understand honest scientific investigation as a potential encouragement to faith, for all truth is from God. Genetics is relatively new science. It’s less than 200 years old. And there is a chance that there will be other scientific discoveries and other branch of science that will try to answer the same questions. But the real answers can always remain a mystery for us.
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Old 06-08-2014, 08:38 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by OBW View Post
I have read that the word translated into "sin" did not include the meaning of simply missing the mark when it was written. There is evidence that this English word (in older days) into which it was translated also included the meaning of not hitting the bulls-eye in archery. But the evidence that such a meaning was in the un-translated word is missing. In the first century AD, the word seems to mean to do what was wrong or forbidden. Not just do what was right but not perfectly.

Not saying that missing the mark is OK. But it is not so clear that it bears the label of sin.
For better understanding, I think we can check the word "sin" in Greek and Hebrew. Anyway, I believe you get it right. "To miss the mark" does not mean "I tried my best to reach my target but fell short". We are missing the mark (God) when we are not focusing on God but on our own wants. That is, in itself, violating God’s will (current usage of sin).

hamartia

Etymology
From Ancient Greek ἁμαρτία (hamartia), meaning error or failure. From the verb ἁμαρτάνω hamartanō, "to miss the mark".

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hamartia

In response to a recent post, several readers commented that the word sin has some connection to an archery term for “missing the mark.” The connection is a tenuous one. The Greek word hamartia can mean “missing the mark” in the sense that an arrow misses its target. Aristotle used the word in Poetics to mean error that could include mere accident or mistake. In the context of Greek drama, hamartia is the hero’s tragic flaw. It can be an injury committed through ignorance. The English word sin, on the other hand, has its roots in proto-Germanic and has always been associated with guilt, crime, and wrong-doing. When the Greek books of the New Testament were written, Christians were using the word hamartia to mean “moral flaw” and it was in that sense that it was translated into English as sin.
So, while hamartia can mean an accidental lapse, or “missing the mark,” in English sin is sin and sin is bad.

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/sin-is-bad/

Strong's H2398 - chata': to sin, miss, miss the way, go wrong, incur guilt, forfeit, purify from uncleanness

http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/...gs=H2398&t=KJV
http://biblehub.com/hebrew/2398.htm

In Hebrew, the word most commonly translated simply as "sin", hata, literally means "to go astray."Just as Jewish law, halakha provides the proper "way" (or path) to live, sin involves straying from that path.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_views_on_sin

There are about 20 different Hebrew words which denote sin in the Jewish Scriptures. The three words that are used the most often are HET, PESHA, and AVON.

The root HT occurs 459 times and the original meaning of the verb HATA is “to miss” something, “to fail.” It signifies a failure of mutual relations and corresponds to the modern idea of “offense” rather than the theological concept of “sin.”

http://biblicalheritage.org/BHC_Hand...ing_of_Sin.pdf

In Hebrew, words can have multiple layers of meaning. They can be used in one context and have one level of understanding but when used in a different context can mean something else idiomatically. (Just as "kick the bucket" does not mean to literally strike a pail with one's foot.)

While the word chet can mean to miss the mark, it can also be understood to miss the mark of appropriate behavior and can be seen to be the fault of the one who did the wrong behavior.

https://malaysia.answers.yahoo.com/q...4195318AAZa0gn

The Biblical terms that have been translated from Greek and Hebrew as “sin” or "syn" originate in archery and literally refer to missing the "gold" at the centre of a target, but hitting the target, i.e. error. In archery, not hitting the target at all is referred to as a "miss".

In Western Christianity, sin is believed to alienate the sinner from God even though He has extreme love for men. It has damaged, and completely severed, the relationship of humanity to God. That relationship can only be restored through acceptance of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice for humanity's sin. Humanity was destined for life with God when Adam disobeyed God. The Bible in John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only begotten Son, so that whoever believes will not perish, but have everlasting life."

In Eastern Christianity, sin is viewed in terms of its effects on relationships, both among people and between people and God. Sin is seen as the refusal to follow God's plan, and the desire to be "like God" (Genesis 3:5) and thus in direct opposition to God's will (see the account of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sin

Hamartia (Ancient Greek: ἁμαρτία) is a word most famously used in Poetics, where it is usually translated as a mistake or error in judgment. In modern discussions of tragedy, hamartia has often been described as a hero's "tragic flaw." The word hamartia is rooted in the notion of missing the mark (hamartanein) and covers a broad spectrum that includes ignorant, mistaken, or accidental wrongdoing, as well as deliberate iniquity, error, or sin. The term is better understood more broadly as a description of the element (vice, virtue, misfortune, etc.) in a tragedy or tragic character that makes it tragic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamartia

hamartía ("sin, forfeiture because missing the mark") is the brand of sin that emphasizes its self-originated (self-empowered) nature – i.e. it is not originated or empowered by God.

ἁμαρτία, (ας, ἡ (from 2 aorist ἁμαρτεῖν, as ἀποτυχία fromἀποτύχειν), a failing to hit the mark (see ἁμαρτάνω. In Greek writings (from Aeschylus and Thucydides down). 1st, an error of the understanding (cf. Ackermann, Das Christl. im Plato, p. 59 Anm. 3 (English translation (S. R. Asbury, 1861), p. 57 n. 99)). 2nd, a bad action, evil deed.

http://biblehub.com/greek/266.htm
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Old 06-08-2014, 09:53 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by awareness View Post
This is not my original response ... but the gist is a reasonable likeness ...

That's a pretty bleak view ICA, of humanity.

So the minute we're born we're fallen? None of us disobeyed and ate the evil fruit, but we're still evil because thousands of years ago the first couple infracted God's commandments, and ate evil fruit?

So does the EO see this as a mutation of human DNA ... that's being passed down thru genetics to us today? Is that how we come by being fallen?

So since this is coming from the 15:45 thread, will the resurrection undo this genetic mutation? Does the life-giving spirit undo it?
Maybe it’s bleak but if it’s reality, then that’s why Jesus came to the earth. This is one of the differences between Christianity and other religions. Christians believe that mankind was created specifically to have a relationship with God, but sin separates all men from Him. We are incapable of standing up to a holy and righteous God because our human condition is in a fallen state and in need of a Savior. Only Jesus can save us from sin because only He bridged the huge chasm that was created as a result of the fall.

Other religions just say that we are not fallen but weak or they don’t even recognize the reality of the “sin” defect in every human being. Followers of other religions don’t know anything about a loving God and his Son Jesus Christ who died for us so that all who choose to accept His forgiveness for their sins may be forgiven and have a personal relationship with Jesus throughout their life and spend eternity with God when they die. No one of other religions doesn't give believers that privilege. They only get the hope that their god will be pleased with them and the hope that a better place awaits them when they die.

Anyway, I believe the EO view of humanity is less bleak than that one in the RCC or in some Protestant churches. The Eastern Orthodox Church accepts the concept of the fall but rejects the idea that the guilt of original sin is passed down through generations. It bases its teaching in part on Ezekiel 18:20 that says a son is not guilty of the sins of his father. The Church teaches that, in addition to their conscience and tendency to do good, men and women are born with a tendency to sin due to the fallen condition of the world. It follows Maximus the Confessor and others in characterizing the change in human nature as the introduction of a "deliberative will" in opposition to the "natural will" created by God which tends toward the good. Thus, according to St Paul in his epistle to the Romans, non-Christians can still act according to their conscience.

Orthodoxy believes that, while everyone bears the consequences of the first sin (that is, death), only Adam and Eve are guilty of that sin. Adam's sin isn't comprehended only as disobedience to God's commandment, but as a change in man's hierarchy of values from theocentricism to anthropocentrism, driven by the object of his lust, outside of God, in this case the tree which was seen to be "good for food", and something "to be desired".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_man

In my next post I'll try to tell more about the EO concept of the Original Sin.

As for genetics, the EOC is not really interested in modern science, since science adjusts its view based on what's observed. Our prime aim is salvation. The rest are details. The resurrection will change our bodies completely. It will not be a natural (Adam's) body but a spiritual body (Christ's). Can a spiritual body or a life-giving spirit have DNA? Personally, I don't think so.
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Old 06-09-2014, 04:27 AM   #35
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I already had posts on the concept of the Original Sin, history of the question, and the difference between the EOC and the RCC doctrines. (Posts #4 and #5).

It’s hard to add something absolutely new – maybe just a few details, the same things in other words and how it all related to salvation.

1 ...original sin is understood by Orthodox theology as a sinful inclination which has entered into mankind and become its spiritual disease. (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, pp. 160-164).

http://fatherjohn.blogspot.com/2014/...ginal-sin.html

2 Why do we call Christ “the Savior”? Likewise, we can also ask: what is salvation? Salvation from what? If we are talking about salvation, someone must be in danger. The answers that the Orthodox Church gives to these questions are tied to the Orthodox teaching about the “original sin” and its consequences. From the beginning, the Church’s teaching has been that the nature of man was profoundly corrupted as a result of the fall. Adam and Eve sinned by violating God’s order and breaking their connection with God – Who alone is Life. "Original sin is understood by Orthodox theology as a sinful inclination which has entered into mankind and become its spiritual disease.” This damage “was transmitted to [Adam’s] descendants and weighs upon them.” We are not guilty of Adam’s sin (as Western soteriology puts it) but still have to deal with its consequences, as it affected the whole of mankind.

This understanding of Adam’s sin as damage has deep implications for our understanding of what Christ has done for us, because otherwise one could ask: why couldn’t a loving God just forgive the sin of Adam? Why did Christ need to come? The Patristic answer to this is that the “original damage” cannot be “forgiven” – it can only be cured! Adam and Eve repented – however, “repentance [does not] recall men from what is according to their nature; all that it does is to make them cease from sinning” (St. Athanasius the Great, “On the Incarnation”).

Christ did not make us sinless, as there is still sin in the world, even after the Resurrection of Christ. He delivered us from the power of sin, from pre-disposition to sin that man was unable to reverse by himself. Christ restored our human essence in Himself.“Jesus Christ, by uniting humankind and God in His own person, reopened for us humans the path to union with God. In His Own person Christ showed what the true “likeness to God” is, and through His redeeming and victorious sacrifice He set that likeness once again within our reach.” This is how the Church has always understood salvation delivered to us by Jesus Christ.

Salvation is the restoration of the wholeness of God’s image in us, of the possibility of our union with God. It is the restoration of our original essence. “Holy Tradition teaches that… we will be saved when we become like Christ… Because of our faith in Him and our desire to become God-like, we are not so much saved all at once as slowly changed into the creatures we were created to be.”

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/46463.htm

3 We share in Adam and Eve's original sin, although the Eastern churches' understanding differs from the Western churches' in some crucial ways. The Eastern Church does not teach that we inherit the guilt of Adam. Rather, we share in the sin of Adam in that we are born into a world where the consequences of sin prevail. These consequences are not only the outward brokenness like disease and death, but interior disorder as well. Our nature is corrupted. We are subject to temptation, prone to sin, and share in death.

We enter into the life of Christ through baptism; entering the waters enables a person to enter into the death of Christ and be raised in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:1-10). Baptism is the first step in the restoration of body and soul, a return in some measure to the communion with God that Adam and Eve experienced before their disobedience. The promise from God is that this journey may end in His Kingdom, although this end is by no means automatic or guaranteed apart from testing and trial. Our faith in God has to be proven, that is, refined in the fire of tribulation as St. Peter taught, and not be found lacking.

http://www.antiochian.org/morelli/th...istian-healing

4 As pervasive as the term original sin has become, it may come as a surprise to some that it was unknown in both the Eastern and Western Church until Augustine (c. 354-430). The concept may have arisen in the writings of Tertullian, but the expression seems to have appeared first in Augustine's works. Prior to this the theologians of the early church used different terminology indicating a contrasting way of thinking about the fall, its effects and God's response to it. The phrase the Greek Fathers used to describe the tragedy in the Garden was ancestral sin.

Ancestral sin has a specific meaning. The Greek word for sin in this case, amartema, refers to an individual act indicating that the Eastern Fathers assigned full responsibility for the sin in the Garden to Adam and Eve alone. The word amartia, the more familiar term for sin which literally means "missing the mark", is used to refer to the condition common to all humanity (Romanides, 2002). The Eastern Church, unlike its Western counterpart, never speaks of guilt being passed from Adam and Eve to their progeny, as did Augustine. Instead, it is posited that each person bears the guilt of his or her own sin. The question becomes, "What then is the inheritance of humanity from Adam and Eve if it is not guilt?" The Orthodox Fathers answer as one: death. (I Corinthians 15:21) "Man is born with the parasitic power of death within him," writes Fr. Romanides (2002, p. 161). Our nature, teaches Cyril of Alexandria, became "diseased...through the sin of one" (Migne, 1857-1866a). It is not guilt that is passed on, for the Orthodox fathers; it is a condition, a disease.

According to the Orthodox fathers sin is not a violation of an impersonal law or code of behavior, but a rejection of the life offered by God (Yannaras, 1984). This is the mark, to which the word amartia refers. Fallen human life is above all else the failure to realize the God-given potential of human existence, which is, as St. Peter writes, to "become partakers of the divine nature" (II Peter 1:4). St. Basil writes: "Humanity is an animal who has received the vocation to become God" (Clement, 1993, p. 76).

In Orthodox thought God did not threaten Adam and Eve with punishment nor was He angered or offended by their sin; He was moved to compassion.[3] The expulsion from the Garden and from the Tree of Life was an act of love and not vengeance so that humanity would not "become immortal in sin" (Romanides, 2002, p. 32). Thus began the preparation for the Incarnation of the Son of God and the solution that alone could rectify the situation: the destruction of the enemies of humanity and God, death (I Corinthians 15:26, 56), sin, corruption and the devil (Romanides, 2002).

God and human nature, separated by the Fall, are reunited in the Person of the Incarnate Christ and redeemed through His victory on the Cross and in the Resurrection by which death is destroyed (I Corinthians 15:54-55). In this way the Second Adam fulfills the original vocation and reverses the tragedy of the fallen First Adam opening the way of salvation for all.

http://www.stmaryorthodoxchurch.org/...s_original_sin

5 The Roman Catholic understanding of “original sin” is not accepted by the Orthodox Church because it sees all men as “guilty” of the first sin of Adam, not by repetition but by personal participation. This teaching was related to a mistranslation of Romans 5:12 from Greek into Latin which purported that “all sinned in Adam”. This was tied to the heresy that the souls of children are somehow in the loins of their parents (Traducianism – Google it!), rather than created by God at the time of conception.

Instead, we teach the doctrine of “ancestral sin”, which does not and cannot hold Adam’s descendants individually accountable for his sin because they weren’t even created yet. Adam passes to his descendants, not his guilt but the consequences of his sin: fallen human nature in a state of broken communion with God, an inclination to sin, sickness, mortality, corruption, etc..

In this verse of Psalm 50(51), it is the sinful state that is referred to, not an actual sin. Conception and birth both take place, not by sin, but rather in the world of iniquity – the fallen world, which has been separated from God, through the ancestral sin of Adam. The verse implicates neither mother nor child (nor even Adam) as its meaning is not legal but ontological, simply talking about the world into which the newly created person is conceived and born; guilt has to be read into the verse by an overly legalistic theology.

In Orthodoxy, there is no overemphasis or fixation on the legal approach to sin. This tendency has led some in the West to mistranslate or misinterpret Biblical passages such as those mentioned above. The Orthodox Church deals with sin/redemption in a more holistic way, balancing the legal aspects of personal guilt and forgiveness, with the equally present ontological and therapeutic approaches to man’s salvation: ontological – the uniting of the human nature back to the divine nature; and therapeutic – the healing of man’s mind, heart, will, soul and body through personal reunion with God, in the Church, the spiritual hospital, the Body of Christ, by the indwelling grace of the Holy Spirit, received in the sacraments and by keeping the commandments.

http://orthodoxdelmarva.org/faq.html
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Old 06-09-2014, 04:31 AM   #36
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One more article:

The Roman Catholic Church was the first to articulate the doctrine of original sin as a state of inherited guilt. Inspired first by the reactionary theology of St. Augustine of Hippo and solidified by later councils and theologians, Roman Catholics took a distinctly different theological path from Orthodox Christians. The Roman Catholic Church’s teaching of original sin states that each human being at the moment of conception shares in the guilt of Adam's sin of disobedience. In the medieval Western Catholic Church, original sin was believed to be transmitted in a physical sense through conception. There are notable implications for the doctrine of original sin. If original sin is true, then human nature is bad—not only positionally, but fundamentally bad. Not only do we bear the guilt of our first parents upon our souls, we inherited a corrupted ontology and therefore an inability to do anything good. Adam’s guilt changed human nature itself into something dirty, pitting nature against grace. If human nature is inherently depraved, what does this mean for the Incarnation? How could God take on human flesh? Did Christ inherit Adam’s guilt and corrupted nature? Of course not, and therefore bad theology begets bad theology.

Heterodox theology #1: The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary put forth by Roman Catholicism conveniently sidesteps the problem of God taking on a corrupted human nature by guaranteeing the nature of His mother to be free from the stain of original sin transmitted through the corrupted seed of an earthly father. This is a logical outworking of the doctrine of original sin. While the Orthodox Church believes that Mary was full of grace from her childhood, we do not need to “fix” her humanity prior to the Annunciation to explain our Christology, because the early Church never taught this doctrine of original sin in the first place.

Heterodox theology #2: The doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement stems from the same legal categories created by the doctrine of original sin in western theology. Original sin belongs to a legal paradigm in which the wrath of God against humanity for Adam’s sin must be satisfied so that we can be saved from eternal hellfire. God’s justice and love, however, cannot be separated from each other because our relationship with God is based on freedom, not necessity. While the atonement of Christ is certainly an Orthodox concept, the salvation of humanity cannot happen through a simple act of forgiveness or juridical payment plan. Salvation can only happen through gradual destruction of the devil and our passions by working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).

Heterodox theology #3: The doctrine of limbo also sidesteps the problem of original sin for the unbaptized in Roman Catholic theology. A rather nuanced concept, humanity’s “loss of original justice” still results in separation from God and eligibility for punishment according to Roman Catholic theology. Thus, even though they may not technically inherit Adam’s guilt, unbaptized infants who die are relegated to an eternity in limbo, functionally implicating the traditional Roman Catholic understanding of original sin—a doctrine which ultimately dies the death of a thousand qualifications. What differentiates that gulf between heaven and hell for each person, however, is the accumulation of guilt due to a personal, not inherited, loss of justification. At any rate, the more we choose to speculate about the intricacies of salvation and damnation, the more doctrines we must use to support our speculation. God’s grace cannot be measured with scales.

The Orthodox picture of fallen humanity is far less somber than that of Roman Catholicism. Although the Orthodox Church does teach that humanity is damaged by sin, our depravity is not total, consummate, or inherent to human nature—we retain our reason and free will (Imago Dei). The personal consequences for moral deviation are spiritual death and physical death, but the universal consequences for humanity are physical death, disease, and difficult labor. Death is the consequence of breaking communion with God, not a judgment, because created beings cannot continue to exist without God. Since Adam and Eve are linked to humanity, and humanity is linked to creation, all of nature is subjected to the same death and corruption. We inherited a cosmos where sickness and death reign. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware put it, “Even though we are not guilty of the sins of others, yet we are somehow always involved.”

The Fall of Adam and Eve also created an inclination for humanity to move away from God. While Adam and Eve did not possess a mature holiness, they did possess innocence and potential for holiness, which were lost after the Fall. The theologians of the Church speak of a corruption of human nature which is the result of a loss of the indwelling grace of God—and humans sin because we are willingly yoked to the power of death and its consequences rather than to God’s nurturing grace.

According to St. Maximos the Confessor, the problem is that our natural will has become a gnomic will, meaning that we can now waver between choices. The gnomic mode is what inclines us to sin against nature. Even after heaping guilt upon his own soul, a person’s nature is not mutilated beyond recognition. The corruption of human nature from sin is a sickness or illness. A woman with cancer is ill, but she herself is not fundamentally bad. A boy with paralyzed legs cannot walk, but he himself is no less of a human than anyone with functioning legs. In the same way, sin is not the tainting of a nature but corruption within an individual.

Building upon classic Orthodox theology of God, Patriarch Meletios Pegas (1549-1601) put it this way: although the “energies” of a person’s soul are spoiled by sin, the person’s “essence” is not. Just as the distinction between essence and energies is of vital importance to an Orthodox understanding of God, it can also assist in explaining humanity’s inclination to sin without inheriting the guilt of our first parents. Sin is not who we are, but what we do.

The doctrine of original sin as originally articulated by the Roman Catholic Church and later by Protestants is not simply a case of semantics, but an erroneous anthropology resulting from theological reactions and misunderstandings. This doctrine has wide implications for anthropology—sin, grace, free will, baptism, and theosis. How we understand the effects of the Fall directly bears on our soteriology. The Orthodox position on original sin (“ancestral sin”) is that humanity inherited only the consequences of sin from Adam and Eve, rather than their guilt. Baptism restores God’s grace to humans so that we have the ability to overcome sin and death and finish the song of humanity.

http://orthodoxyandheterodoxy.org/20...ef-comparison/
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Old 06-09-2014, 02:02 PM   #37
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Great response ICA. Thanks. Some comments, observations & questions:

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Maybe it’s bleak but if it’s reality, then that’s why Jesus came to the earth. This is one of the differences between Christianity and other religions. Christians believe that mankind was created specifically to have a relationship with God, but sin separates all men from Him.
Actually, isn't God pretty forgiving of sin, if we have a heart for Him? Consider David ... for just one example ... or King Manasseh, for an extreme example.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ICA
We are incapable of standing up to a holy and righteous God because our human condition is in a fallen state and in need of a Savior.
So that's why when Christian missionaries bring the good news to the primitives the first thing they need to bring is the bad news, that, they are fallen. Seems counter-intuitive, to say the least.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ICA
Other religions just say that we are not fallen but weak or they don’t even recognize the reality of the “sin” defect in every human being.
And some moderns say that, we're just human primates ... and so we can't help it -- what do you expect from animals? -- And that we've evolved pretty damn good, from our more primitive days. Of course that's debatable. Whatever. The world looks pretty damn crazy to me ... including the Christians ... even born-againers. There's no doubt we're in bad need of somekind of divine intervention.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ICA
Followers of other religions don’t know anything about a loving God and his Son Jesus Christ who died for us so that all who choose to accept His forgiveness for their sins may be forgiven and have a personal relationship with Jesus throughout their life and spend eternity with God when they die. No one of other religions doesn't give believers that privilege. They only get the hope that their god will be pleased with them and the hope that a better place awaits them when they die.
You paint with a very broad brush. Sounds like Lee to me, concerning Christians.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ICA
Anyway, I believe the EO view of humanity is less bleak than that one in the RCC or in some Protestant churches.
I prefer Original Blessings. It's the least bleak. A RCC priest -- Matthew Fox -- wrote a book on it, by that title ... well a ex-priest ... he got the boot for not embracing original sin. They basically thought that, if you take away original sin, then there's no need for salvation. That's why when raised in the Southern Baptist, I had to be indoctrinated that I was fallen. They believe in original sin too. A concept born in the 2nd century.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ICA
The Eastern Orthodox Church accepts the concept of the fall but rejects the idea that the guilt of original sin is passed down through generations. It bases its teaching in part on Ezekiel 18:20 that says a son is not guilty of the sins of his father. The Church teaches that, in addition to their conscience and tendency to do good, men and women are born with a tendency to sin due to the fallen condition of the world.
This sounds a whole lot like : We're not fallen. We've developed a fallen system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ICA
It follows Maximus the Confessor and others in characterizing the change in human nature as the introduction of a "deliberative will" in opposition to the "natural will" created by God which tends toward the good. Thus, according to St Paul in his epistle to the Romans, non-Christians can still act according to their conscience.
Just how was this "deliberative will" instilled into you and I?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ICA
Orthodoxy believes that, while everyone bears the consequences of the first sin (that is, death),
But isn't it a good thing that we die? and each generation dies? We're already crowding this plant. Can you imagine if all generations never died? We be standing shoulder to shoulder, and stacked up to the moon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ICA
As for genetics, the EOC is not really interested in modern science,
So EO is still hanging onto ancient teachings and practices of the Bronze and Iron age? Not my cup of tea. All the early Christians, in fact all the world, back then, were absent of science. It's not possible, in these modern days of science, to live like they lived back then. We're literate. While 90% back then were completely illiterate. Ya can't be on the web and deny science.
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Old 06-10-2014, 05:50 AM   #38
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Awareness, thank you for your comments and questions. They help me dig up and ponder more than I usually do.

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Actually, isn't God pretty forgiving of sin, if we have a heart for Him? Consider David ... for just one example ... or King Manasseh, for an extreme example.
You are right. God is merciful but I am still a sinner. And I am sorry to say that but quite often I don’t have a heart for Him. St. John Chrysostom reminds us: "Certainly it is sinful to fall, but it is devilish to remain fallen". So I sin and repent, then sin and repent again, and so on without end. I know it's my own fault but it's also the fallen nature of humanity.

In the EO, sin is viewed as a sickness or a disease which hinders our way to Theosis (Union with God). Sin makes us to be out of communion with God. Christ is our healer. Salvation is not just about sins being forgiven. And it’s not just about liberation from death and Hades. It’s an on-going process. The ultimate destination is to attain the likeness of God (which is the true purpose of our creation). St Cyril of Alexandria says that salvation is a restoration to the condition God originally gave to mankind. Salvation cannot be earned, being a free gift from God. Its acquisition, however, requires man's cooperation with God, because God will not violate the free will of man. No matter where our errors, our trials, our tribulations may lead us, we must always pick ourselves up and continue our spiritual journey towards Christ.

All God wants from us is that we work with Him, in 'synergy', or co-operation. Ascetically working on ourselves with His help, we can acquire His grace and be saved by His mercy. Those who deny the need for such ascetic struggle, because they imagine that they have already been 'saved', dwell in the deepest spiritual delusion.

Man's personal efforts alone are insufficient for his salvation - but they are necessary, for without them, God's Grace will not begin to work out the matter of his salvation. Thus, man's salvation is worked out simultaneously through the action of God's saving Grace, and through the personal efforts of man himself.

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Originally Posted by awareness View Post
So that's why when Christian missionaries bring the good news to the primitives the first thing they need to bring is the bad news, that, they are fallen. Seems counter-intuitive, to say the least.
If everything is fine with humanity, then why do we need Christ? In Genesis 1:26, God says "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." What happened with His image and likeness then? Why does the Holy Bible describes man's nature as being corrupted? Wasn't it thanks to the fall of man?

Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Psalms 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

Ephesians 5:8
for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.

Ecclesiastes 7:20
Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.

Genesis 6:5
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Romans 3:10
As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;

1 John 1:10
If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

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Originally Posted by awareness View Post

And some moderns say that, we're just human primates ... and so we can't help it -- what do you expect from animals? -- And that we've evolved pretty damn good, from our more primitive days. Of course that's debatable. Whatever. The world looks pretty damn crazy to me ... including the Christians ... even born-againers. There's no doubt we're in bad need of somekind of divine intervention.
I'll share an excerpt form Fr Andrew Phillips article "TOWARDS AN ORTHODOX VIEW OF CREATION AND EVOLUTION":

The Creation of Man

We note that in the Book of Genesis, as in scientific evolutionary theories, Evolution proceeds from the lower to the higher, from plants to animals to men. Man is the crown of creation because he is made 'in our image, after our likeness' (Gen. 1, 26), that is man resembles God the Holy Trinity. He is different from all else because God breathes life into him, that is, He endows him with 'a living soul' (Gen. 2, 7). As regards the creation of the human body, this is made from 'the dust of the ground' (Gen. 2, 7). We now understand this to mean the various chemical elements, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus etc, which make up the human body's chemical composition and which are also found in the earth.

Now, there are many resemblances between the human body and the bodies of animals, especially those of the higher animals. Thus, both humans and such animals have four limbs, a head, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, ears, the same number of internal organs, a heart, a liver, two lungs and two kidneys, a stomach, a bladder, intestines, reproductive organs etc. But why ever should this mean that man is evolved from animals, as atheist evolutionists claim? All this means is that both the human body and the bodies of animals were designed by the same Maker. Surely the resemblances are rather proof of the existence of a Higher Being, Who is our Creator?

What interests us much more than resemblance is the difference between men and animals - the existence of the eternal and immortal soul among men, but not among animals. The 'breath of life' that God put into man is in fact the kiss of eternal life. Man is not destined for death, like the rest of Creation. And what is the outward sign of the existence of the soul and man's resemblance to God? It is the fact that human-beings are capable of speech, in other words, they possess to some small degree the Word of God, the sign of divine origin and divine destiny. Man is different from all else in the visible creation, the animals do not speak, except, occasionally, by imitation. This reflection of man's divine origin can even be seen in the phrase homo sapiens. Man is 'sapiens, i.e, wise, in that he reflects the Wisdom of God. Thus, in image and likeness he reflects the Word and the Wisdom of God.

http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/towardso.htm

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Originally Posted by awareness View Post
You paint with a very broad brush. Sounds like Lee to me, concerning Christians.
If you name another religion where God sent His only begotten Son to save humankind, then I'll agree. In Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc there is no God who sacrifices His Son for the sins of mankind. Only in the Bible you may find next verses:

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:9
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

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Originally Posted by awareness View Post
I prefer Original Blessings.
Thanks for the info. I have never heard of Matthew Fox. So I checked him out with Amazon and wiki. I don't buy his ideas. The problem is that the concept of original sin was first alluded to in the 2nd century by Irenaeus, then developed by St Augustine. And Fox's concept was born in the 20th century. I also checked some articles about Fox. And I must say his teachings sound too controversial and remind me a “feel good” New Age religion.

http://wdtprs.com/blog/2010/05/matth...till-an-idiot/

As I said earlier, EO doesn't accept St Agustin's concept of the original sin and hereditary guilt. We rather call it ancestral sin, which is the inclination to sin. "Most orthodox theologians reject the idea of original guilt… Men automatically inherit Adam’s corruption and mortality, but not his guilt; they are only guilty insofar as by their own free will they imitate Adam". (Kallistos Ware "The Orthodox Church")

Baptism washes away the corruption of the ancestral sin, and it washes away the guilt of all sins previously committed by the one being baptized. Nevertheless, the seeds of sin - sinful habits and desires toward sin - remain in one and are overcome by means of life-long moral struggle (man's efforts in cooperation with God's Grace). For, as we already know, God's Kingdom is acquired by effort, and only those who use effort attain it. Other holy mysteries of the Church - repentance, Holy Communion, anointing and various prayers and divine services are moments and means of the consecrating of a Christian. According to the measure of his faith, a Christian receives divine Grace in them, which facilitates his salvation. Without this Grace, according to apostolic teaching, we not only cannot do good, but we cannot even wish to do it (Phil. 2:13).

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Originally Posted by awareness View Post
This sounds a whole lot like : We're not fallen. We've developed a fallen system.
We may call it anyhow but the fact is that humankind has an inclination to sin. And it's only Jesus Christ can wash us clean from our sins. If everything were fine, people would always live in communion with God and had no idea about what sin was.

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Originally Posted by awareness View Post
Just how was this "deliberative will" instilled into you and I?
I don't know how this "deliberative will" was instilled into you and me. I believe it's less important then the choices we make.

Quote:
"In fact, under the Western rubric of original sin, eternal destinies are decided by God alone in his inscrutable decrees. The logical entailment is as stark as it is intuitively horrifying: God creates some persons for heaven and some persons for hell.

Orthodoxy, however, avoids these problems altogether, by understanding that all that God creates is good, including human nature and free will. Though postlapsarian humans are born with original sin, this original sin is the capacity for corruption and mortality that is part of unredeemed human nature. Though human nature has been compromised by Adam’s fall, that nature in no way necessitates that we sin. That humans do sin, then, is not directly a result of their fallen human nature, but is rather the direct result of the failure of their deliberative will.

That is to say, as a result of deliberation humans take an apparent good for a real good, and mistakenly choose the apparent good. Free will, then, does not necessitate a relation of opposition, but only a deliberation among multiple goods. In a fallen world, apparent goods ultimately entail sin, since they are a rejection of the real good. But in the eschaton all goods will be real, and there will be no need for deliberation. So, in orthodoxy, free will is good, but the deliberative use of that will can be either good or evil–the use being completely up to the person so willing.

Christ, however, did not need the deliberative will. Like all humans, he had a human nature and a human will, and like all humans, his will was free to choose among different acts. The difference however, which results from his mode of existence as the incarnate God-man, is that Christ’s human nature and will were deified in the union with his divine nature and will and he had no need to deliberate between apparent and real goods. His personal choice to act made use of his human will such that he always chose the real goods available to him. Unlike Adam and unlike humans prior to the eschaton, in his Person, Christ was fixed in virtue: all his thoughts and acts were good. His divine nature had deified his human nature. But like Christ, regenerated humans in the eschaton will be fixed in virtue, we will be deified through our hypostatic union with God in Christ. Thus all our willing will be according to our natures, which natures are divinized, and our wills will freely choose among multiple goods, about which there will be no need of deliberation.

In other words, in Orthodoxy, the deliberative will is the mode of willing peculiar to the un-deified mode of existence unique to humans prior to the eschaton. Such a deliberative mode of willing is not, in itself, evil, since it was the mode of willing given to Adam in the garden, and through which mode Adam, had he so chosen freely, would have been fixed in virtue and been deified in Christ. Indeed, it is precisely this use of the deliberative will prior to the eschaton which fixes either in virtue or in vice, the humans who make use of it. This explains both why it is possible to fall away from God after regeneration and why it is possible to reach a point in which repentance is no longer possible; i. e., why humans choose hell and remain fixed in that choice for all eternity.

Thus, in Orthodoxy, the cause of sin is properly placed not in God, for all his gifts are good, but in the creatures He has created who use that good gift to reject God, not for another objective evil but for another apparent good. It is also places the responsibility for our personal eternal destinies in our hands, for all our accumulated choices arising from our countless deliberative moments in this life, are ultimately our own authorship of our character and and fate".

http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2011/0...ng-mans-faith/
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Originally Posted by awareness View Post
But isn't it a good thing that we die? and each generation dies? We're already crowding this plant. Can you imagine if all generations never died? We be standing shoulder to shoulder, and stacked up to the moon.
Surely, it's a good thing. We don't want to live a sinful life for all eternity, turning our planet into a garbage dump. But that is not God's original plan for mankind.

Quote:
The effects of man's fall were both physical and moral. On the physical level human beings became subject to pain and disease, to the debility and bodily disintegration of old age. Woman's joy in bringing forth new life became mixed with the pangs of childbirth (Gen. 3:16). None of this was part of God's initial plan for humanity. In consequence of the fall, men and women also became subject to the separation of soul and body in physical death. Yet physical death should be seen, not primarily as a punishment, but as a means of release provided by a loving God. In his mercy God did not wish men to go on living indefinitely in a fallen world, caught for ever in the vicious circle of their own devising; and so he provided a way of escape. For death is not the end of life but the beginning of its renewal. We look, beyond physical death, to the future reunion of body and soul at the general resurrection on the Last Day. In separating our body and soul at death, therefore, God is acting like the potter: when the vessel upon his wheel has become marred and twisted, he breaks the clay in pieces so as to fashion it anew (compare Jer. 18:1- 6). This is emphasised in the Orthodox funeral service:

Of old thou hast created me from nothing, And honoured me with thy divine image; But when I disobeyed thy commandment, Thou hast returned me to the earth whence I was taken.
Lead me back again to thy likeness, Refashioning my ancient beauty.

On the moral level, in consequence of the fall, human beings became subject to frustration, boredom, depression. Work, which was intended to be a source of joy for man and a means of communion with God, had now to be performed for the most part unwillingly, 'in the sweat of the face' (Gen. 3:19). Nor was this all. Man became subject to inward alienation: weakened in will, divided against himself, he became his own enemy and executioner. As St Paul puts it, 'I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells nothing good. I am able to choose with my will, but how I am actually to carry out what is good I do not know. For the good which I choose I do not do; but the evil which I do not choose, that I do... O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me?' (Rom. 7:18,19,24). Here St Paul is not just saying that there is a conflict within us between good and evil. He is saying that, all too often, we find ourselves morally paralysed: we sincerely desire to choose the good, but we find ourselves caught in a situation where all our choices result in evil. And each of us knows from personal experience exactly what St Paul means. St Paul, however, is careful to say: 'I know that in my flesh dwells nothing good'. Our ascetic warfare is against the flesh, not against the body as such. 'Flesh' is not the same as 'body'. The term flesh, as used in the passage just quoted, signifies whatever within us is sinful and opposed to God; thus it is not only the body but the soul in fallen man that has become fleshly and carnal. We are to hate the flesh, but we are not to hate the body, which is God's handiwork and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Ascetic self-denial is thus a fight against the flesh, but it is a fight not against but for the body. As Fr Sergei Bulgakov used to say, 'Kill the flesh, in order to acquire a body.' Asceticism is not self-enslavement, but the way to freedom.

http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/original.htm
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Originally Posted by awareness View Post
So EO is still hanging onto ancient teachings and practices of the Bronze and Iron age? Not my cup of tea. All the early Christians, in fact all the world, back then, were absent of science. It's not possible, in these modern days of science, to live like they lived back then. We're literate. While 90% back then were completely illiterate. Ya can't be on the web and deny science.
Early Bronze Age I: 3150 -- 2900 BCE
Late Bronze Age II: 1400 -- 1200 BCE
Iron Age I: 1200 -- 1000 BCE
Iron Age II: 1000 -- 586 BCE

A chronology of Jesus typically has the date of the start of his ministry estimated at around AD 27–29 and the end in the range AD 30–36.

The Eastern Orthodox Church doesn't hang onto teachings and practices of the Bronze and Iron but onto the Holy Bible and ancient teachings and practices of Christ, Apostles, and the Church Fathers. The Orthodox Church is the one Church founded by Jesus Christ and his apostles, begun at the day of Pentecost with the descent of the Holy Spirit in the year 33 A.D.

The EO church doesn't deny science. She doesn’t rely on it. There are a number of great scientists who were Eastern Orthodox:

Alexander Friedmann – Discovered the expanding universe solution to the Einstein field equations.
Sergei Korolev – Designed the R-7 rocket which launched the Space Age on October 4, 1957.
Dmitri Mendeleev – Noted chemist. He formulated the Periodic Law, created his own version of the periodic table of elements.
Ivan Pavlov – (Remember Pavlov's dogs?)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...dox_Christians

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Orthodox theology exists outside of the limited scope of scientific inquiry as well as the speculative arguments and rational categories of Western philosophy. Science and Western philosophy are concerned with the knowledge of the rational mind, but theology is concerned with gnosis, the knowledge of the heart (nous), the spiritual intellect. Science and philosophy are based on humanly-derived principles and theories. Orthodox theology is rooted in divine revelation. Philosophy and science deal with concepts. Orthodox theology is a Mystery beyond concept. Scientific study and philosophy are limited to the creation. Theology involves experiencing the Uncreated. In the West, a "theologian" is an educated scholar who knows about religious beliefs, ideas, and practices. In the Orthodox Church, a theologian is one who acquires divine knowledge in the heart through humility, repentance, and prayer.

While scientific understanding of the creation and technology have progressed through the centuries, the dogma of the Orthodox Church does not change or develop. Scientific theories and Western philosophical ideas are adaptable and constantly change in light of new evidence and ideas, but theology is unalterable. This is why the same theological experience is expressed through the writings of the Fathers of the Orthodox Church from the 1st century to the 21st century. (Remember that the dogma of the Church is not just a collection of philosophical propositions to be rationally accepted, but boundaries to keep us on the path of authentic theological experience, which is the Way of personal knowledge, healing, and transformation.)

In an article published in Christian Bioethics (Oxford Journals/Oxford University Press), Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos (Greece) wrote,

As Christians, particularly as Orthodox Christians, we are certainly not opposed to research and progress. Nor do we want the Western conflict between the Christian faith and science to be repeated. To avoid this, science itself ought to set limits and conditions for research, and theology should be occupied with giving meaning to human life and guiding people toward putting right their relationships with themselves, their fellow human beings, creation, and God. The aim of science is to improve human life, and the aim of theology is to help human beings acquire existential peace, freedom, and knowledge of themselves and God. When both sides stay within these boundaries, there can be no conflict between theology and science.

http://orthodoxhealing.blogspot.com/...y-science.html
We can have the most advanced science but it won’t help man to restore communion with God. That’s why man still need faith. The entire faith of the Church is built on the fact that “God is the Lord and has revealed Himself unto us.” It’s not through science, but through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, man comes to living communion with God the Father Himself. There is no other meaning and purpose to the Church and to life itself.
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Old 06-10-2014, 11:43 AM   #39
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I feel honored to be having a discussion with an EO apologist. I'm learning a lot.

Proverbs: “Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” 4:13
“The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.” 10:14 “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”18:15



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Originally Posted by InChristAlone View Post
Awareness, thank you for your comments and questions. They help me dig up and ponder more than I usually do.
You are welcome ... and ... me too ...

You present a lot of meat. More than a meal full. I'll do my best with it.

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Originally Posted by ICA
You are right. God is merciful but I am still a sinner.
By very definition. Cuz any other definition would spoil the salvation paradigm.

Yes even after being born again we still have our humanity to deal with (And we're not Gnostics, are we? That disdained humanness.. We can still sin ... and do. God forgave David, but David still had to pay the consequences of his actions. And so do we. We're forgiven but still God is seeking to teach us by the consequences of our sin(s) ... And to be honest, I've gone thru some very hard lessons. Gosh, am I stupid ... award worthy. UntoHim is right about me. I'm a sinner, quintessential, sorry to say. I'm broken and in bad need of divine vouchsafing.

What happened to all that transformation that was suppose to be going on in the local church? Ten years of eating Jesus, calling on his name like it was OCD, pray-reading the Bible, attending meetings every day, service groups, morning watch, life-studies, conferences, and I ended up with very little to show for all that fanatical -- all in -- commitment. Ended up transformation was a bill-of-goods ... a bait and switch ... a expectation and promise broken.

This is where I have a rub with the EO and Theosis. I don't buy it for a second. If they (EO) only mean it as union with God then I have no problem with it. I've experienced that. But as I understand it they mean deification, or changing into a likeness of God. Sorry, thousands of years and still only one like God. No others. Theosis is a false claim. As false as transformation in the LRC.

Sorry ICA to get carried away. I've got more responses to your long post (and will continue) but I think I'm gonna stop here for now.

Respond, or not, as you feel moved.
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Old 06-11-2014, 04:36 AM   #40
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Awareness, thank you for your kind and sincere reply. It’s nice to have a conversation with you. You have knowledge and experience that I am lack of. If I am not mistaken, it was you who mentioned Theosis in one of the threads a couple of months ago. I had to google it because I had no idea what you were talking about.

You are outspoken, which I consider a good thing. But you are not stupid. At least not any more than me. I often copy and paste someone else's wise thoughts and ideas. While you always speak for yourself. Besides, stupidity is a lack of good judgment. It’s when one has a choice between a right and wrong decision. It’s easy to decide what to have for breakfast when you have to choose between an oat meal and a bowl of pebbles. But when you have a choice between two or several alternatives that look more or less equal, that’s a different thing. It may take the whole life and maybe beyond it so that to make sure if your choice was right or wrong.

We are all sinners, fallen and unworthy. But it's only one side. That's not a foundation of our spiritual life. It's important to remember our corrupted nature because this remembrance is a base for repentance which may lead us to salvation. However, it's not the whole truth. The main thing is that we are Christians. We are members of the Body of Christ, who came and died for our sins. And now He is with us and in us. That's why we repent and fight our passions and sins. We want to acquire God's grace. We want to be with the Lord in eternity, be saved, and restore our communion with God. Acknowledgment of our corrupted nature, repentance, and prayer are not the goals of our spiritual life. They are functions, means, and tools. The goal is communion with God. It's true when the Lord says, "For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14) But we can't put our sinful nature above some other considerations. First of all, we are members of the Church, the Body of Christ. That's the main thing. Our weaknesses, passions, and sins are considered of secondary importance. The center and focus of our spiritual life is Christ, not "I and my transgressions".

But if we feel we are already holy, that's another mistake. A saint doesn't need a savior. The Lord came to save us, sinners.

I think I also was carried away. Ok, let me try to explain why I buy the idea of theosis. But let’s recall what it’s all about:

Quote:
1. “In Eastern Orthodoxy deification (theosis) is both a transformative process as well as the goal of that process. The goal is the attainment of likeness to or union with God. Naturally, the crucial Christian assertion, that God is One, sets an absolute limit on the meaning of theosis: as it is not possible for any created being to become God ontologically, or even a necessary part of God (of the three existences of God called hypostasis). As a created being cannot become Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit nor the Father of the Trinity. Most specifically creatures, i.e. created beings, can not become God in His transcendent essence, or ousia. Such a concept would be the henosis, or absorption and fusion into God of Greek pagan philosophy. However, every being and reality itself is considered as composed of the immanent energy, or Energeia, of God. As energy is the actuality of God, i.e. His immanence, from God's being, it is also the Energeia or activity of God.

Theosis has three stages: first, the purgative way, purification, or katharsis; second, illumination, the illuminative way, the vision of God, or theoria; and third, sainthood, the unitive way, or theosis.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosis...hodox_theology)

2. Theosis ("deification," "divinization") is the process of a worshiper becoming free of hamartía ("missing the mark"), being united with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in bodily resurrection. For Orthodox Christians, Théōsis (see 2 Pet. 1:4) is salvation. Théōsis assumes that humans from the beginning are made to share in the Life or Nature of the all-Holy Trinity.

The journey towards theosis includes many forms of praxis. Living in the community of the church and partaking regularly of the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, is taken for granted. Also important is cultivating "prayer of the heart", and prayer that never ceases, as Paul exhorts the Thessalonians (1 and 2). This unceasing prayer of the heart is a dominant theme in the writings of the Fathers, especially in those collected in the Philokalia.

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Theosis

3 Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with God, and so become like God to such a degree that we participate in the divine nature.

The human person does not merge with some sort of impersonal divine force, losing individual identity or consciousness. Intrinsic divinity is never ascribed to humankind or any part of the creation, and no created thing is confused with the being of God. Most certainly, humans are not accorded ontological equality with God, nor are they considered to merge or co-mingle with the being of God as He is in His essence.

In fact, to safeguard against any sort of misunderstanding of this kind, Orthodox theologians have been careful to distinguish between God’s essence and His energies. God is incomprehensible in His essence. But God, who is love, allows us to know Him through His divine energies, those actions whereby He reveals Himself to us in creation, providence, and redemption. It is through the divine energies, therefore, that we achieve union with God. We become united with God by grace in the Person of Christ, who is God come in the flesh. The means of becoming “like God” is through perfection in holiness, the continuous process of acquiring the Holy Spirit by grace through ascetic devotion.

St. Maximos the Confessor, as Fr. Hester notes, defined theosis as “total participation in Jesus Christ.” Careful to maintain the ontological safeguard noted above, St. Maximos further stated, “All that God is, except for an identity in being, one becomes when one is deified by grace.”

http://www.antiochian.org/content/th...-divine-nature

4 The Orthodox Church understands theosis as a union with the energies of God and not with the essence of God which always remains hidden and unknown.

http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7114

5 In the Orthodox Church of Christ man can achieve daification because, according to the teachings of the Holy Bible and the Fathers of the Church, the Grace of God is uncreated. God is not only essence, as the West thinks; He is also energy. If God was only essence, we could not unite with Him, could not commune with Him, because the essence of God is awesome and unapproachable for man, in accordance with: ‘Never will man see My face and live’ (Exod. 33:20).

The energies of God are divine energies. They too are God, but without being His essence. They are God, and therefore they can deify man. If the energies of God were not divine and uncreated, they would not be God and so they would not be able to deify us, to unite us with God. There would be an unbridgeable distance between God and men. But by virtue of God having divine energies, and by uniting with us by these energies, we are able to commune with Him and to unite with His Grace without becoming identical with God, as would happen if we united with His essence.

So, we unite with God through His uncreated energies, and not through His essence. This is the mystery of our Orthodox faith and life.

http://www.greekorthodoxchurch.org/theosis_how.html’

6 Theosis is man’s union with God, wherein we participate in the uncreated energies of the Trinity. We do not become what God is in his essence, but we are invited to participate in his energies. This is the purpose and goal for which we were created. Theosis can only be attained in Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit, as we freely cooperate with the Father’s unmerited grace. The path to theosis involves participation in the sacraments, participation in the ascetic struggle, and culminates in the vision of the uncreated light of God.

http://theorthodoxlife.wordpress.com...at-is-theosis/

7 The idea of Theosis will be unfamiliar to the Western mind, although it is not a new concept to Christianity. When Christ said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” [1] this is a call to a life of Theosis.

Theosis is personal communion with God “face to face.” [2] To the Western mind, this idea may seem incomprehensible, even sacrilegious, but it derives unquestionably from Christ’s teachings. Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the messianic dream of the Jewish race; [3] His mission to connect us with the Kingdom of God [4]—a Kingdom not of this world. [5] When Jesus said, “You are gods,” [6] “be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” [7] or “the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father,” [8] this is to be taken literally. For those who are interested, further Biblical evidence for this can be found in Leviticus 11:44-45; 20:7-8; Deuteronomy 18:13; Psalms 82:1,6; Romans 6:22; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:2-4.
http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/theosis.aspx

Theosis is the heart of the Eastern Orthodox mystical tradition. Protestants don’t know much about it, since they don’t keep spiritual practices and traditions of the ancient church. So I am not sure if you heard anything about Hesychasm and the practice of the Jesus Prayer. (Hesychasm (from Greek word "hesychia" – silence, peace, quietness) – teaching and practice aimed for the acquisition of the Holy Spirit and deification of human soul and body. The ultimate goal of hesychasm is human transfiguration and theosis after the likeness of the risen Christ). People who practice Hesychasm can feel God’s presence as strong as you and I feel toothache. It’s not a visualization. It’s not some kind of self-deception. Why? Because it bears spiritual fruits. It’s a real life practice and experience that transform life and spiritual nature of believers. They became selfless and humble, they never judge anyone, they literally radiate unconditional love and compassion and they see Christ (or Devine nature) in every man and woman. But it’s a rare thing. Not every monk or layman reaches that stage of spiritual transformation. (And it’s also Theosis). Personally, I've never met such kind of people. But I read about them and saw a couple of such monks on youtube.

About Hesychasm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesychasm
http://hesychasm.ru/en/the-heart-of-...chasm-library/

While some of the craziest ideas were born in one man's head, Theosis is not one man's idea or opinion. It is a teaching that is shared by all Church Fathers of the Eastern Church who read the Bible in its original Greek, wrote in Greek, and lived in different countries. Besides, Theosis is supported by the Scripture.

Theosis is both a transformative process as well as the goal of that process. We believe that Christ came to the earth to restore man’s union with God so that we may participate in the uncreated God’s energies. (Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.2 Peter 1:4). How can we participate in the divine nature? Only through Theosis, or changing into a likeness of God. It takes God's grace, our participation in the sacraments and in the ascetic struggle, and it culminates in the vision of the uncreated light of God while living on the earth.

Baptism gives an impulse to our spiritual transformation. Through Christ we start restoring our communion with God. But we don’t stop at baptism. Our goal is participation in the divine nature or divine energies, in other words, salvation, i.e. eternal and full communion with God. It will happen only after the Lord’s second coming, when He transforms and turns our natural body into the resurrection body. As I said before, the process of restoration and transformation has started from our baptism. We are no more slaves of our fallen nature. We can fight and overcome our sins. That’s the stage of purification, which involves participation in the sacraments of the Church and ascetic struggle. If we don’t take part in them, then we can’t be transformed any further. But it's not a mechanical process as we see it in the LRC. (Well, to be frank, it also happens in the EC church when people take rituals and external things for their ultimate aim). Our ultimate goal is communion with God. All our being, heart and mind, must participate. We have to cooperate with God. He saves us by His grace but we must also take our part and work out our salvation and help Him to transform our spiritual condition. And that's why I am lack of diligence.

Anyway, a church is judged by her saints, not by her sinners. "Reveal your saints and you reveal your church". Let's look at the LC first. I think in the LRC they have only two “saints”: WN and WL. We don’t know much about WN. What about WL then? What can we learn from him? Strong faith? Humility? Compassion? Unconditional love to brothers and sisters? His message can be put into one short sentence: "Go to the Local Church, read my books, and you will be transformed." Transformed like who? Like WL? Not a good example for me.

Once I told you about 200 000 Russian priests, monks and nuns who were killed by communists. I believe they could have saved their lives, rejecting Christ but they didn’t do that. Were they just brainwashed by a false teaching or they had a living faith, experiencing the living reality of God? I believe it was the latter. Their death gave meaning to their life. Their faith was proved by their actions. And we have such kind of saints through 2000 years of the church history.

As professor Osipov says, “Tell me who your saints are and I will tell what your church is. Any church calls as saints only those who realized in their life the Christian ideal, as this Church understands it. That is why canonization of a certain saint is not only testimony of the Church about this Christian, who according to her judgment is worthy of the glory and suggested by her as an example to follow. It is at the same time a testimony of the Church about herself. By the saints we can best of all judge about the true or imaginary sanctity of the Church”.

We can be good church goers but “going to church doesn't make us a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes us a car”. Theois is an ongoing process and takes lots of personal effort as well as God’s grace. We can hardly see Christians who are transformed their spiritual nature to such extend that we can say about them "He is like an angel", or "She is not of this world". But when you meet such kind of people, you can't be mistaken. You know that they are not of this word. They are in the process of theosis, spiritual transformation.

I want to share a few quotes by the Church Fathers of the East:

Quote:
"... when the intellect has been perfected, it unites wholly with God and is illumined by divine light, and the most hidden mysteries are revealed to it. Then it truly learns where wisdom and power lie... While it is still fighting against the passions it cannot as yet enjoy these things... But once the battle is over and it is found worthy of spiritual gifts, then it becomes wholly luminous, powerfully energized by grace and rooted in the contemplation of spiritual realities. A person in whom this happens is not attached to the things of this world but has passed from death to life." St. Thalassios, "On Love, Self-control and Life in accordance with the Intellect", Philokalia.

'Can a man take fire into his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?' (Prov. 6:27) says the wise Solomon. And I say: can he, who has in his heart the Divine fire of the Holy Spirit burning naked, not be set on fire, not shine and glitter and not take on the radiance of the Deity in the degree of his purification and penetration by fire? For penetration by fire follows upon purification of the heart, and again purification of the heart follows upon penetration by fire, that is, inasmuch as the heart is purified, so it receives Divine grace, and again inasmuch as it receives grace, so it is purified. When this is completed (that is, purification of heart and acquisition of grace have attained their fullness and perfection), through grace a man becomes wholly a god." St. Simeon the New Theologian (Practical and Theological Precepts no. 94, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pgs. 118-199)

He will share in Christ's glory who, through being formed in Christ, has received renewal by the Spirit and has preserved it, and so has attained to ineffable deification. No one, there, will be one with Christ or be a member of Christ, if he has not become even here a receiver of grace and has not, thereby, become 'transformed by the renewal of' his 'mind' (Rom. 12:2). St. Gregory of Sinai

The Son of God has become Son of Man in order to make us...sons of God, raising our race by grace to what He is Himself by nature, granting us birth from above through the grace of the Holy Spirit and leading us straightway to the kingdom of heaven, or rather, granting us this kingdom within us (Luke 17:21), in order that we should not merely be fed by the hope of entering it, but entering into full possession thereof should cry: our 'life is hid with Christ in God.' (Col. 3:3)." St. Simeon the New Theologian

The grace of deification thus transcends nature, virtue and knowledge, and (as St. Maximus says) `all these things are inferior to it.' Every virtue and imitation of God on our part indeed prepares those who practice them for divine union, but the mysterious union itself is effected by grace. It is through grace that `the entire Divinity comes to dwell in fullness in those deemed worth,' and all the saints in their entire being dwell in God, receiving God in His wholeness, and gaining no other reward for their ascent to Him than "God Himself. The Triads, St. Gregory Palamas

The holy mystery of the day of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, is to be understood in the following manner: the spirit of man must be completed and perfected by the Holy Spirit, that is, it must be sanctified, illuminated, and divinized by the Holy Spirit. This holy mystery is realized continually in the Church of Christ and because of this the Church is really a continuous Pentecost.... From Holy Pentecost, the day of the Holy Spirit, every God-like soul in the Church of Christ is an incombustible bush which continuously burns and is inflamed with God and has a fiery tongue within it. (St.) Fr. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ

Three realities pertain to God: essence, energy, and the triad of divine hypostases. As we have seen, those privileged to be united to God so as to become one spirit with Him - as St. Paul said, 'He who cleaves to the Lord is one spirit with Him' (I Cor. 6:17) - are not united to God with respect to His essence, since all theologians testify that with respect to His essence God suffers no participation.
Moreover, the hypostatic union is fulfilled only in the case of the Logos, the God-man.

Thus those privileged to attain union with God are united to Him with respect to His energy; and the 'spirit', according to which they who cleave to God are one with Him, is and is called the uncreated energy of the Holy Spirit, but not the essence of God... St. Gregory Palamas

We unite ourselves to Him [God], in so far as this is possible, by participating in the godlike virtues and by entering into communion with Him through prayer and praise. Because the virtues are similitudes of God, to participate in them puts us in a fit state to receive the Deity, yet it does not actually unite us to Him. But prayer through its sacral and hieratic power actualizes our ascent to and union with the Deity, for it is a bond between noetic creatures and their Creator. St. Gregory Palamas
Here is one of my favorite stories about St Anthony (251–356), a father of monastic life. The story gives some hints at theosis and why avid church goers can't experience this transformation.

"One day, while St. Antony was sitting with a certain Abba, a virgin came up and said to the Elder: 'Abba, I fast six days of the week and I repeat by heart portions of the Old and New Testament daily.' To which the Elder replied: 'Does poverty mean the same to you as abundance?' 'No', she answered. 'Or dishonor the same as praise?' 'No, Abba.' 'Are your enemies the same for you as your friends?' 'No', she replied. At that the wise Elder said to her: 'Go, get to work, you have accomplished nothing.' "
—St. Peter of Damaskos

PS Looks like I felt really moved.
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Old 06-11-2014, 08:52 AM   #41
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Okay, ICA, I think we've covered enough ground of Theosis, in the abstract.

In your posting you quote:

"the continuous process of acquiring the Holy Spirit by grace through ascetic devotion."

So let's get down to brass tacks. To truly become fully Theotic requires bringing both the mind and the body under the reign of Christ.

The mind might be easy enough by praying unceasingly. The body, however, is a whole other matter. It is said that, God speaks with a still small voice. Well the body speaks with a megaphone. A Catholic friend of mine just a couple of days ago told me that, sex trumps religion, and God.

So fanatics of Theosis have resorted to asceticism to tame the body's impulses, and to mortification of the flesh.

One way is to become a eunuch, or "cut 'em off." That'll fix the flesh ... they think. But it didn't for the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.

And then there's the practice of mortifying flesh by flagellation, or self whipping to drawing of blood.

Or the use of a cilice, spikes strapped around the flesh.

This to me is not the "process of acquiring the Holy Spirit by grace."

So does God demand that for union with Him we have to resort to such gruesome practices?

Is that what Theosis demands?

Or are vestments, robes, and funny hats enough?

Are the leaders of the EO considered the most Theotic ... the leaders of Theosis?
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Old 06-13-2014, 09:26 AM   #42
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Awareness, I am sorry for my late reply. I have been busy at work.

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So fanatics of Theosis have resorted to asceticism to tame the body's impulses, and to mortification of the flesh.
In other words, one needs to fight one’s PASSIONS and lead a life of self-discipline. Passions are the emotions that control us. They include sexual desire, anger, envy, desire for material goods, rejection, fear and love to name a few. They are all desires that cannot be satisfied till the end.

The Apostle Paul reminds us, Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:24) Jesus says, From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these things come from within and they defile man.” (Mark 7: 21-23)

Remember the parable of the sower where Christ tells us about the seeds that were sown among the thorns? Jesus tells His disciples, “As for what fell among the thorns, they are those who, hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” (Luke 8:14)

I don’t see anything wrong with the fight against our passions, since they block us from our goal to be united with Christ. Each of us are afflicted by certain passions that occurred after the fall of Adam and Eve. This is the disease that was passed down. Many of the passions feel natural and pleasurable to us, like gluttony, pride, lust, anger, and avarice. But in reality, these things cause us to suffer and are pulling us away from God. We cannot serve two masters Christ teaches us. (Matt. 6:24)

Quote:
"What a man loves, that he certainly desires; and what he desires, that he strives to obtain."
- Abba Evagrius, Directions on Spiritual Training

”So, being the portion of the Holy God, begin to do all that pertains to holiness, running away from evil words, unclean and shameful relations, drunkenness, passions and innovations, base lusts, defiled adulteries and overweening pride. For it is said: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (I Pet. 5:5). So, let us unite ourselves to them to whom grace has been given by God. Let us put on oneness of mind, let us be humble, temperate, far from any cursing or evil speech, making ourselves righteous by deeds and not by words... Let our praise be from God, and not from ourselves. God hates those who praise themselves. Let the witness of our good deeds be given by others.
(St. Clement of Rome)

Food is not evil, but gluttony is. Childbearing is not evil, but fornication is. Money is not evil, but avarice is. Glory is not evil, but vainglory is. Indeed, there is no evil in existing things, but only in their misuse.” (St. Maximus the Confessor)
In this life, we either strive to obtain God, or we strive to obtain the things that are opposed to God and are controlling us. The Church fathers defined each of the passions and laid out the way of healing. St. John Cassion lays them out in this way:

gluttony
fornication (lust, unchastity)
love of money (coveteousness, avarice)
anger
dejection,
despondency (listlessness)
vainglory
pride

We can think of them in two types: natural and unnatural passions.

The natural passions depend on our physical nature and the maintenance of our physical being. These include our appetite for food, our fear of being harmed, and our sexual attraction to the opposite sex. These are all necessary for our preservation. They are a central part of our animal nature and common to all animals. These are not a problem unless they go beyond the need for self-preservation.

Then there are the unnatural passions. These are our natural passions that we mistakenly connect with our longing for spiritual wholeness. We continually seek happiness only to find pain on the other end. Then feeling pain or dissatisfaction, we again seek more pleasure only again to find again pain.

As pleasurable and deceptive as the passions are, we can be healed from them and find the eternal happiness that is in Christ. This process is often painful, but as St. Paul writes, "for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Rom. 8:18)

Quote:
Originally Posted by awareness View Post
One way is to become a eunuch, or "cut 'em off." That'll fix the flesh ... they think. But it didn't for the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. And then there's the practice of mortifying flesh by flagellation, or self whipping to drawing of blood. Or the use of a cilice, spikes strapped around the flesh.

This to me is not the "process of acquiring the Holy Spirit by grace."
I don’t think this is the "process of acquiring the Holy Spirit by grace”, either. You are talking about extreme cases in cults and sects that have nothing to do with the EO. I know some monks used to wear fetters in old times but it was rare. Probably, nobody wears fetters anymore. Anyway, they are just physical tools to tame passions. Prayer, fasting, and repentance are more important.

The Eastern Orthodox Church sees passions as the distortion of the natural tendencies. Lust is an unnatural use of sexuality. Gluttony is an unnatural use or connection with food. Greed is the unnatural attachment with the material world. Envy is an unnatural need and want for what one does not have. The passion of anger is an unnatural form of anger.

Unlike Western teaching that suggests that man is totally depraved and that his truest nature is sinful and wicked, the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church teaches that we are sick with the sickness of sin and the passions. Our true nature is to be well. To love God, to keep his commandments and live in all of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The main thing is to control our passions, not to be controlled by them. They increase when they are "fed", which happens when a man capitulates to the temptation, and they whither away (slowly), when they are starved. Taming the passions is gaining freedom from our weaknesses which entice us to sin.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. (Ephesians 6:12)

Quote:
Struggle, my child, for God's road is narrow and thorny; not inherently, but because of our passions. Since we want to eradicate from our heart the passions, which are like thorny roots, so that we may plant useful plants, naturally we shall toil greatly and our hands will bleed and our face will sweat. Sometimes even despair will overcome us, seeing roots and passions everywhere!

But with our hope in Christ, the Repairer of our souls, let us diligently work at clearing the earth of our heart. Patience, mourning, humility, obedience, cutting off one's will -- all these virtues help cultivate it. We must apply all our strength, and then God, seeing our labor, comes and blesses it, and thus we make progress.

Take courage, for the toil is temporary and ephemeral, whereas the reward is great in heaven. Struggle and be vigilant with your thoughts. Keep a firm hold on hope, for this shows that your house is founded on the rock -- and the rock is our Christ.

Do not feed your passions by yielding to them, so that you do not suffer pain and affliction later! Labor now, as much as you can, because otherwise, if the passions are not tended to, in time they become second nature, and then try and deal with them! Whereas now, if you fight against them lawfully, as we advise you, you will be freed and will have happiness by the grace of God.

Elder Ephraim"Counsels from the Holy Mountain"
It’s all based on the Bible and the Holy Tradition. For example, in the tradition of the Church, fasting was always one of the first disciplines taught after prayer. This was taught to us by Christ Himself. The first thing He did after His Baptism was to go into the desert to fast and pray for forty days. Since He was both fully human and fully divine, He had to tame His human passions. Why do we think that we are any better than Him and we don’t need to tame our own passions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by awareness View Post
So does God demand that for union with Him we have to resort to such gruesome practices? Is that what Theosis demands? Or are vestments, robes, and funny hats enough?
I wonder what would you say if you saw Christ and apostles in their clothes.

I have already told you. Gruesome practices have nothing to do with the Orthodox Church. They exist only in your imagination.

God wants our hearts but if they are full of desires, passions and transgressions, I don’t think we may have communion with Him.

Quote:
Originally Posted by awareness View Post
Are the leaders of the EO considered the most Theotic ... the leaders of Theosis?
Where did you get that information? You will be surprised to know that in the Eastern Orthodox church man's holiness does not depend on his rank in the hierarchy of clergy. So, no such thing as the leaders of Theosis. And no such thing as the higher one’s rank or position in the church, the closer he stands to God. Using your terminology, a layman may be considered “more Theotic” than a bishop or a patriarch. A word of an ordinary monk or priest can have more power and authority that a bishop’s word. And sometimes a layman can have more respect and authority than a patriarch. It’s his personal holiness, moral strength, and spiritual growth that gives him authority, not his position in the hierarchy.

Check out this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCnn_rgxNGE

Father Tadej was one of the ordinary Orthodox monks, neither patriarch, nor bishop. He was a very simple and humble man, full of unconditional love to God and people. In Eastern European countries, nobody knows the names of past and current Serbian bishops. But many Orthodox Christians from different countries know the name of this ordinary monk. When I say, “God is love,” I speak like a Pharisee because these words don’t mean much to me. They are not coming from my heart. It’s just some noise in the air. I don’t experience love and the living reality of God behind these words. But when Father Tadej says “God is love”, he means it. You can see that in his eyes.

If you want to have an idea what Orthodox Christian spirituality is, I’d like to recommend you this book, “Unseen Warfare”. The original title is “The Spiritual Combat” (1589). It was written by a Catholic priest, Lorenzo Scupoli. But then it was significantly revised by St. Nicodemus, and even more thoroughly revised by St. Theophan the Recluse for the Russian edition, which is the basis of the English translation. It’s a classic of Orthodox spirituality and I believe one of the most important spiritual books I have.

http://www.stnicholasdc.org/files/Or...en-Warfare.pdf

Please read the book, get some ideas and we will have more things to discuss.
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Old 06-13-2014, 09:34 AM   #43
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An excerpt from "Unseen Warfare" by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and Theophan the Recluse.

The whole purpose of Unseen Warfare is to give the Orthodox Christian teaching concerning perfection in virtue and the "unseen warfare" necessary to accomplish this: "I will tell you plainly: the greatest and most perfect thing a man may desire to attain is to come near to God and dwell in union with Him.

"There are many who say that the perfection of Christian life consists in fasts, vigils, genuflections, sleeping on bare earth and other similar austerities of the body. Others say that it consists in saying many prayers at home and in attending long services in church. And there are others who think that our perfection consists entirely in mental prayer, solitude, seclusion and silence. But the majority limit perfection to a strict observance of all the rules and practices laid down by the statutes, falling into no excess or deficiency, but preserving a golden moderation. Yet all these virtues do not by themselves constitute the Christian perfection we are seeking, but are only a means and a method for acquiring it.

"You must learn that perfection consists in nothing but coming near to God and union with Him, as was said in the beginning. With this is connected a heartfelt realization of the goodness and greatness of God, together with the consciousness of our own nothingness and our proneness to every evil .... This is the law of love, inscribed by the finger of God Himself in the hearts of His true servants ! This is the renunciation of ourselves that God demands of us! This is the blessed yoke of Jesus Christ and His burden that is light! This is the submission to God's will, which our Redeemer and Teacher demands from us both by His word and by His example!

"Do you now see what all this means, brother? I presume that you are longing to reach the height of such perfection. Blessed be your zeal! But prepare yourself also for labor, sweat and struggle from your first steps on the path. You must sacrifice everything to God and do only His will. Yet you will meet in yourself as many wills as you have powers and wants. Therefore, to reach your desired aim, it is first of all necessary to stifle your own wills and finally to extinguish and kill them altogether. And in order to succeed in this, you must constantly oppose all evil in yourself and urge yourself towards good. In other words, you must ceaselessly fight against yourself and against everything that panders to your own wills, that incites and supports them. So prepare yourself for this struggle and this warfare and know that the crown--attainment of your desired aim--is given to none except to the valiant among warriors and wrestlers.

"But if this is the hardest of all wars... victory in it is the most glorious of all .... If you really desire to be victorious in this unseen warfare and be rewarded with a crown, you must plant in your heart the following four dispositions and spiritual activities, as it were arming yourself with invisible weapons, the most trustworthy and unconquerable of all, namely:

a) never rely on yourself in anything;
b) bear always in your heart a perfect and all-daring trust in God alone;
c) strive without ceasing; and
d) remain constantly in prayer.

"You must know that progress on the path of spiritual life differs greatly from an ordinary journey on earth. If a traveler stops on his ordinary journey, he loses nothing of the way already covered; but if a traveler on the path of virtue stops in his spiritual progress, he loses much of the virtues previously acquired .... In an ordinary journey, the further the traveler proceeds, the more tired he becomes; but on the way of spiritual life the longer a man travels, reaching forth unto those things which are before, the greater the strength and power he acquires for his further progress."

http://www.stnicholasdc.org/files/Or...en-Warfare.pdf
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:12 AM   #44
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Quote:
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http://www.stnicholasdc.org/files/Or...en-Warfare.pdf

Please read the book, get some ideas and we will have more things to discuss.
Quote:
Large parts of the Philokalia have been translated into English; however, it must be said that these writings are not for the beginner, nor even for the average Orthodox Christian. There is even a danger in their being read "out of season" and without proper guidance.
What if I'm not worthy, or it's the wrong season ... and then danger, danger, danger?
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:49 AM   #45
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Another quote:
Quote:
"But if this is the hardest of all wars... victory in it is the most glorious of all .... If you really desire to be victorious in this
unseen warfare and be rewarded with a crown, you must plant in your heart the following four dispositions and spiritual
activities, as it were arming yourself with invisible weapons, the most trustworthy and unconquerable of all, namely:

a) never rely on yourself in anything;Unseen Warfare
b) bear always in your heart a perfect and all-daring trust in God alone;
c) strive without ceasing; and
d) remain constantly in prayer.
So we don't rely on ourself ... but we "bear," "strive," and "remain." Sounds paradoxical to me.

Why does God require paradox to come close to him? Is He playing games with us?

And while I'm at it, if Theosis requires silly hats and habits, count me out.

And what's a Schemamonk?
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Old 06-14-2014, 04:08 AM   #46
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What if I'm not worthy, or it's the wrong season ... and then danger, danger, danger?
You are worthy. The danger may come if you start building fantasies and imaginings about your achievements before you have attained them. The practice must be done with humility. Arrogance and pride can lead to self-delusion. For example, you may have some visions of light, angels, or Jesus, or pray longer than anyone else and therefore start thinking that you are better than others, while your visions are just illusions and your prayer is a vain repetition. So one needs a spiritual guide or director that may help him not to be fall into temptations.

Quote:
In order not to fall into illusion, while practicing inner prayer, do not permit yourself any concepts, images, or visions. For vivid imaginings, darting to and fro, and flights of fancy do not cease even when the mind stands in the heart and recites prayer: and no one is able to rule over them, except those who have attained perfection by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and who have acquired stability of mind through Jesus Christ.

St Theophan the Recluse
Some other errors:

http://livingorthodoxfaith.blogspot....us-prayer.html

More about the Jesus prayer:

http://www.orthodoxa.org/GB/orthodox...usprayerGB.htm
http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodo...e-jesus-prayer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Prayer
http://www.svots.edu/content/rossi-jesus-prayer
http://www.orthodoxprayer.org/Jesus%20Prayer.html
http://www.pravmir.com/the-jesus-prayer-3/
http://www.antiochian.org/node/25485
http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/ignaty_jesus.aspx
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Old 06-14-2014, 06:36 AM   #47
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Another quote:

So we don't rely on ourself ... but we "bear," "strive," and "remain." Sounds paradoxical to me.

Why does God require paradox to come close to him? Is He playing games with us?

And while I'm at it, if Theosis requires silly hats and habits, count me out.

And what's a Schemamonk?
Another paradox is that we are saved by grace but we still have to cooperate with God and fight our passions. Probably, Christianity is a religion of paradoxes: the cross, a symbol of death, that becomes the symbol of life, or God becomes man or a virgin gives birth, or God who loves the world, and man who becomes first only by making himself last.

However, in that context, the meaning of "never rely on yourself in anything" is quite clear. The explanation must be in the same or next chapter where St. Nikodemos and Theophan the Recluse explain what it means. If I am not mistaken, the main point is "rely on God only", i.e. always remember the Lord in everything you do, pray unceasingly, and ask Him for guidance. In other words, don't say, "I am so great, therefore I can make it by myself." Say "Lord, I can't achieve anything without You. Please help me." And when you attain something, especially spiritual gifts, don't be proud, saying, "I achieved it thanks to my own strength, endurance, and wisdom". Always remember the words: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing". (John 15:5)

I don't think that God is playing with us. Probably, it's our mind that is so small and limited that we can't really see how weak we are. I like the words of Fr Seraphim Rose (he was an American convert who became a monk) which he addressed to the Orthodox Christians. I think Fr Seraphim's words can be applied to all Christian believers: "Orthodox Christians! Hold fast to the grace which you have; never let it become a matter of habit; never measure it by merely human standards or expect it to be logical or comprehensible to those who understand nothing higher than what is human…"

In our context, I would say that we should not measure God by our human standards or expect it to be logical or comprehensible to us who understand nothing higher than what is human. We know that God is love. And He loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins. What more or higher than that do we need to know to understand God better?

I think one of the dangers for us human beings is to believe in God that suits us the most. We are seeking God, maybe even find Him but if He doesn't correspond to our own imagination, or our own image, then we create our own "god". This "god" may fit us like a glove and we may be faithful to him till the end of our days but at the end we may hear 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matthew 7:23) You know, I wanted to mention WL when I was talking about the glove and god that we create for ourselves. But then I thought that it was very stupid of me. I don't need to read all those Bible Studies, Crystallizations, and Morning Revivals to know that God is love but I sill have my own personal imagination about Him. I imagine Him so merciful that I hope that He will save and forgive me even if I still continue to live a sinful life. Who is playing with who? God - with me or I - with Him? Then how about: "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven". (Matthew 7:21) If I ask myself "Do I do the will of the Father? Do I fulfil commandments, fight my passions, love God and my neighbor?" then there can be only one sincere answer: "Not really" -- and if I take out the last word from my answer; the outcome can't be clearer than that. Sorry, I have carried away again. I think I could blame WL for the lack of love, strength, and faithfulness in me, but I must admit that it's all my fault. God is always here. And no man can deprive us from Him. And no man can stop us from doing His will. But I am still weak. That's why I want to get back to my EO background. Will the EO church give me strength? I believe it is God who gives it, not a church. In the church but through the Holy Spirit. Anyway, I feel the EO church gives me a good guidance and shows a path to the Lord. At least I see it clearly in the books of St. Nikodemos, Theophan the Recluse, Alexander Schmemann, and Anthony Bloom. I don't want to call myself a "prodigal son"; to me, it sounds like a title. I am just a sinner who wants to get back home.

Ok, let's change the topic. I am not very familiar with monastic ranks. I just know that schemamonk can be an ordinary monk; it depends on the vows he takes. Schemamonk must be one of the most ascetic.

BTW, I downloaded an EO application for my smartphone. It's mainly about prayers. But there is some info about the church and clergy. That info supports my knowledge about the EO clergy: "Clergy are those in the Eastern Orthodox Church who have been called by God to fulfill specific functions of service and leadership in the church. Clergy are not inherently higher or better than laity in the Church, who are also ordained to a specific ministry as the Royal priesthood of Christ." Actually, I have read about some significant differences between the EOC and the RCC clergy. For example, If I am not mistaken, in the RCC, a priest is always a priest, even if he is retired. In the EOC, if a priest is retired, he is no more a priest but a layman.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...ss.prayersfree

PS About Eastern Orthodox monasticism:

Orthodox monasticism is inconceivable without its loftiest step - the Great Schema. The Holy Fathers of the Church regarded it as the culmination of monastic life. Monks find in the Great Schema the complete expression of their vocation - the attainment of the Gospel ideal of holy perfection. A man ascends to this level only gradually - according to his strengththrough life-long effort.

Monastic life elevates a monk to spiritual perfection in the spirit of Christ's love and, by living in this love, bears light and spiritual warmth to the world.

By withdrawing from the world, a monk does not express contempt for it, but, on the contrary, acquires a perfect love for the world, a pure love in Christ which is alien to worldly passions. By turning away from vanity the monk strives to perceive himsell and his impotence, and to fortify himself spiritually through prayer to God.

There are three monastic ranks: the Rassaphore, the Stavrophore, and the Schema-Monk (or Schema-Nun). Each of the three degrees represents an increased level of asceticism. In the early days of monasticism, there was only one level—the Great Schema. In the Russian tradition, whose abbot feels they have reached a high level of spiritual excellence reach the final stage, called the Great Schema.

A Schemamonk is a rare step taken in monastic life and is seldom approved by the Abbot or Bishop. The Schema, goes beyond carrying the Cross of Christ. Like our Lord Jesus Christ, he must be willing to surrender his life to totally save peoples souls. He must in fact be willing to be nailed to the cross he has been carrying. The Schemamonk is in essence, an Elder among the monastic, He is a monk who has aspired to a spiritual level that transcends worldly desires. It is a life of constant prayer. He is a walking icon of our Lord Jesus Christ. A Schemamonk is sought after by religious of all ranks, monastic and lay people for spiritual advice and comfort, as well as other Spiritual and religious matters. The Schemamonk will again take a new Name in Christ to show he has totally given up his worldly life.

Monastic Ranks

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Monastic_Ranks
http://sttikhonsmonastery.org/article.php?id=25
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Old 06-14-2014, 08:25 AM   #48
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So one needs a spiritual guide or director that may help him not to be fall into temptations.

"In order not to fall into illusion, while practicing inner prayer, do not permit yourself any concepts, images, or visions."
St Theophan the Recluse
Sure sounds eastern to me ... with master/student. Must be Hindu influenced. Even prayer is instructed the same as quieting the mind in Hindu meditation.

These are not bad practices ... Hindu or not.

But I'm broken. I can't do the master/student/devotee thing ... either as the student or the master. I don't abide such systems or arrangements. If anything I'm a pointer, at the real master ... not of flesh.

We believers seem weak to me, to require a leader in the flesh, like Nee or Lee. It seems a fleshy need to me ... and not truly spiritual ... a falling short ... like arrows when shot that can't reach the target.

But then again, as the story goes, God became flesh.

But who knows the Logos? Methinks the Logos has its arms open to all who open and turn their hearts ... even if they don't know what they are doing ... and has been so active since its inception ... being the creative force of everything ... even this moment, right here and now.

But like I say, I'm broken. So don't listen to me.

And thanks for this discussion ICA. Really great stuff. Can't keep up. Me brain is overwhelmed with all the info, homework, and study.

Are you trying to convert me to EO?
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Old 06-14-2014, 09:58 AM   #49
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Sure sounds eastern to me ... with master/student. Must be Hindu influenced.
You look at Christianity through eyes of a man who lives in America in the 21st century. But don't forget that Christ and His apostles have never been American citizens. Besides, Christianity did not start in Europe with Luther. It began in the Middle East in the 1st century AD and it has a long and rich tradition.

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Are you trying to convert me to EO?
No. Do I need to explain why? First, I don’t see a reason to do that. Second, I believe it’s not a fruitful work. It’s a waste of time to convert someone who doesn’t share your experience. I have two best friends who are atheists. I can talk to them about God but if they don’t feel any reality behind my words, then my talk is useless. They can’t prove me that there is no God. And I can’t prove them that there is God. Our views are based on different experiences. Third, doing is better than saying. To me, conversion is not about what someone says but what he does. And I do nothing inspiring. So I just want to help you clear stereotypes about the EO Christians and convert nobody but myself to the Eastern Orthodox beliefs and practices.

Anyway, Awareness, thanks. It was nice talking to you. God bless.
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Old 06-14-2014, 10:06 AM   #50
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You look at Christianity through eyes of a man who lives in America in the 21st century. But don't forget that Christ and His apostles have never been American citizens. Besides, Christianity did not start in Europe with Luther. It began in the Middle East in the 1st century AD and it has a long and rich tradition.


No. Do I need to explain why? First, I don’t see a reason to do that. Second, I believe it’s not a fruitful work. It’s a waste of time to convert someone who doesn’t share your experience. I have two best friends who are atheists. I can talk to them about God but if they don’t feel any reality behind my words, then my talk is useless. They can’t prove me that there is no God. And I can’t prove them that there is God. Our views are based on different experiences. Third, doing is better than saying. To me, conversion is not about what someone says but what he does. And I do nothing inspiring. So I just want to help you clear stereotypes about the EO Christians and convert nobody but myself to the Eastern Orthodox beliefs and practices.

Anyway, Awareness, thanks. It was nice talking to you. God bless.
Excuse me, but unless you are killing yer blog, I don't think we're done talking.

Likely there will be more to discuss ... you are right EO is interesting.

And I didn't intend to put the brakes on.
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Old 06-15-2014, 04:05 AM   #51
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Excuse me, but unless you are killing yer blog, I don't think we're done talking.
I see. I thought you had more important things to do when you said:

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And thanks for this discussion ICA. Really great stuff. Can't keep up. Me brain is overwhelmed with all the info, homework, and study.
But if you want more interesting stuff, please check out this article:

Patriarchates, Bishops, and Popes - Is the Catholic Church the direct line from Peter?

http://wellthoughtoutlife.blogspot.c...-popes-is.html

(I think it's easier to click the link and read the article at the original website, since my post does not have pictures).

The Five Patriarchates of the Early Church

As early church spread like a wildfire from Jerusalem through the Roman world (above), the need for organized leadership eventually led to Bishops being appointed in the five leading cities with Christian populations (all appointments happened in the first 150 years of the church). As we see in Acts, initially the disciples were based in Jerusalem (see the Council of Jerusalem in Acts), but perhaps because of persecution the leadership quickly moved to Antioch. The church in Antioch is said to have been founded by Peter.

The other early Bishops were in Alexandria (center of Hellenistic culture and learning for a long period of time - and the early heritage of African Christianity), and Rome. Roman was the capitol of the Roman world and Paul refers to a growing church there. History tells of the great persecution of the Christians under Nero. Initially these were the three governing church patriarchates: Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. The patriarchates were each led by a Bishop. Rome did not lead the other Patriarchates - each Bishop was the Patriarch who led his own Patriarchate.

At the time of the early council of Nicaea and Chalcedon, Constantinople and then finally Jerusalem were accepted as patriarchates. Constantinople, was the head of the Byzantine empire, and with this growing political leverage it began to go head to head with Rome in terms of pure influence in the Church as a whole. The council of Constantinople confirmed this growing authority, and a quiet power struggle between the two Bishops began. To quote the Catholic New Advent website: "So we have the new order of five patriarchs — Rome, Constantinople,Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem — " [see (ibid., 46-47) the letter of Peter III of Antioch, c. 1054].

As the church grew and spread things became more complicated. Theology was developed, councils began to publicly define doctrine and condemn heresy. Christianity spread to distant lands out of the direct reach of the patriarchates (what Patriarchate heads up the suprisingly early rise of Christianity in Ireland??). There was also a growing cultural rift between the East and the West. The Latin-speaking Western church was generally under the leadership and influence of Rome. The Greek-speaking East included all of the other Bishops, with Constantinople as the largest. They began to develop seperate traditions and practices. Rome had long thought of itself as the leader of the other Patriarchates, though this is not always clear or shared by others.

Eventually Islam grew and Muslim rulers took over the Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria, leaving the Church with Bishops in Constantinople and Rome. Thus... the stage is set for a clash of power.

Some distinct differences that led up to the Great Schism between the East and the West, drawn from the New World Encyclopedia:

The Filioque—Traditionally, the Nicene Creed spoke of the Holy Spirit "proceeding" from the Father only, but the Western Church began using the filioque clause—"and the Son"—an innovation rejected by the East and later declared by the Orthodox Church to be a heresy.

Iconoclasm—The Eastern Emperor outlawed the veneration of icons, which was accepted by some and resisted by others in the East. Rome firmly objected to this policy.

Jurisdiction—Disputes in the Balkans, Southern Italy, and Sicily over whether the Western or Eastern Church had jurisdiction.

Authority and Power—Disputes over whether the Patriarch of Rome, the Pope, should be considered a higher authority than the other Patriarchs, or whether he should be considered merely primus inter pares, "the first among equals." Rome objected to the Patriarch of Constantinople calling himself the Ecumenical Patriarch, which Rome felt insinuated his leadership of all Patriarchates.

Ceasaropapism - initially the Emperor of Byzantium was in Constantinople and exercized heavy influence over the Church, which Rome objected to. This is ironic because eventually Constantinople fell and the Church became counter-cultural in the East, whereas in Rome the Church became THE political power and became deeply entertwined with the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages.

Liturgical practices—The East objected to Western changes in the liturgy, such as the Western Athanasian Creed, with its use of the filioque.

Clerical celibacy—The practice of celibacy began to be required for all clergy in the West, as opposed to the Eastern discipline whereby parish priests could be married if their marriage had taken place when they were still laymen.

Eventually, the underlying tension came out into the open as the Bishop of Rome (now known as the Pope) demanded that the Bishop of Constantinople recognize Rome as the head of all of the Church, and the Bishop of Constantinople (now known as the Patriarch) refused. In fits of anger and resentment, both Bishops excommunicated the other, and so in 1054 the Church ceased interacting as a single body. Thus... the Great Schism.

So. How do we perceive this? There are side issues involved, but the real core is that Rome wanted authoritative supremacy and Constantinople wouldn't give it. It comes down to ecclesiology. Rome believes that authority was given by Jesus to Peter to rule the Church, and Peter as the first Bishop passed his authority from Bishop to Bishop (which eventually became known as Pope in Rome). Constantinople, on the other hand, believes that all of the Bishops are ontological equals, and the Bishop of Rome is merely the "first among equals". To give full authority of the whole church to one man was not okay with them.

Okay. I have to be honest and say that as I read history, the claims of the Bishop of Rome do not sound reasonable. If Peter was given the keys to rule the Church, why does Rome conclude that authority was passed directly to Rome, despite the fact that Peter also started the Church in Antioch and Jerusalem? If the church should have one supreme leader, why not have it be the Bishop of Antioch? To me, it doesn't make sense - and it hints at a hunger for power.

Perhaps it's just that I'm an American and I have that "balance of power" idea built into me, so the Eastern Orthodox idea of "first among equals" sounds much better than the supreme authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

There's also the filioque clause, which was the theological disagreement that sort of was the straw that broke the camel's back and began the final separation. The Pope decided to insert a new clause into the Nicene Creed. He changed it from "The Holy Spirit... who proceeds from the Father" to " the Holy Spirit... who proceeds from the Father and the Son." It's a small or large point, depending on how you look at it. The Eastern Orthodox have never accepted this change, and although it seems to be a fuzzy line, I find it rather difficult to argue with the Eastern position, considering it is nearly a direct quote from John 15:26.

The Fourth Crusade

In any case, my discomfort with the demands of the Pope that caused the Great Schism are sort of exacerbated by the actions of Rome following the Schism. Although the East and the West were officially separated in 1054, they were still thrown together as Christian people and lands against the massive threat of Islam. There were friendly relations between the two Churches, they simply existed as two separate bodies and reunion attempts were made several tiems. What is really horrifying is what happened in the Fourth Crusade. Generally the Crusades were seen as a broadly "Christian" project (of course, very misguided). During the Fourth Crusade the troops recruited by the Pope planned to invade Jerusalem but instead (without the Pope's instructions) switched tracks and sacked Constantinople.

Did you hear that? Western Christians sacked the capitol city and center of the church of their allies. When I was marveling over this to Isaac he said that it would be like American troops heading to Europe in WWII to help fight the Germans, and instead sacking and taking over London. Just horrible, unthinkable violence. What had been separate churches with friendly relations and and attempts for reunification became two enemy churches with deep grievances between them.

It's such a shame. These are the words of the Pope during the ill-fated Fourth Crusade, Innocent III.

"How, indeed, will the church of the Greeks...return into ecclesiastical union and to a devotion for the Apostolic See, when she has seen in the Latins only an example of perdition and the works of darkness, so that she now, and with reason, detests the Latins more than dogs? As for those who were supposed to be seeking the ends of Jesus Christ, not their own ends, who made their swords, which they were supposed to use against the pagans, drip with Christian blood, they have spared neither religion, nor age, nor sex. They have committed incest, adultery, and fornication before the eyes of men. They have exposed both matrons and virgins, even those dedicated to God, to the sordid lusts of boys. Not satisfied with breaking open the imperial treasury and plundering the goods of princes and lesser men, they also laid their hands on the treasures of the churches and, what is more serious, on their very possessions. They have even ripped silver plates from the altars and have hacked them to pieces among themselves. They violated the holy places and have carried off crosses and relics."

So - ultimately after having looked at that history, I do not understand how the Catholic Church can claim to be the ONE holy apostolic Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church has equal if not greater stake in this claim, at least from what I see.

Oh, and in defense of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II finally reestablished a line of communication with the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch and formally apologized for the Fourth Crusade.

http://wellthoughtoutlife.blogspot.c...-popes-is.html
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Old 06-15-2014, 10:31 AM   #52
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“Which Came First: The Church or the New Testament?” If someone asked me that question a few months ago, I’d say “the Church”... thinking hard for 5 minutes. Then if someone asked me “Do you know that the Scriptures were not what was being taught in Jesus' day?” I’d say “Hmmm.... Are you sure?” I knew that the NT was a compilation of several Christian books but somehow it never crossed my mind that there were a few hundred years between Jesus and the compilation of the books. Besides, I never thought that for the apostles, the Scriptures were the Old Testament only. When you take something for granted, you don’t try to analyze and understand what stands behind it.

I believe Fr. James Bernstein’s article “Which Came First: The Church or the New Testament?” may answer all the questions. (The article is quite long, so I'll share a few excerpts).

http://www.protomartyr.org/first.html

THE BIBLE OF THE APOSTLES

My initial attitude was that whatever was good enough for the Apostles would be good enough for me. This is where I got my first surprise. As I mentioned previously, I knew that the Apostle Paul regarded Scripture as being inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). But I had always assumed that the "Scripture" spoken of in this passage was the whole Bible-both the Old and New Testaments. In reality, there was no "New Testament" when this statement was made. Even the Old Testament was still in the process of formulation, for the Jews did not decide upon a definitive list or canon of Old Testament books until after the rise of Christianity. As I studied further, I discovered that the early Christians used a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. This translation, which was begun in Alexandria, Egypt, in the third century B.C., contained an expanded canon which included a number of the so-called "deuterocanonical" (or "apocryphal") books. Although there was some initial debate over these books, they were eventually received by Christians into the Old Testament canon. In reaction to the rise of Christianity, the Jews narrowed their canons and eventually excluded the deuterocanonical books-although they still regarded them as sacred. The modern Jewish canon was not rigidly fixed until the third century A.D. Interestingly, it is this later version of the Jewish canon of the Old Testament, rather than the canon of early Christianity, that is followed by most modern Protestants today. When the Apostles lived and wrote, there was no New Testament and no finalized Old Testament. The concept of "Scripture" was much less well-defined than I had envisioned.

EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITINGS

The second big surprise came when I realized that the first complete listing of New Testament books as we have them today did not appear until over 300 years after the death and resurrection of Christ. (The first complete listing was given by St. Athanasius in his Paschal Letter in A.D. 367.) Imagine it! If the writing of the New Testament had been begun at the same time as the U.S. Constitution, we wouldn't see a final product until the year 2076! The four Gospels were written from thirty to sixty years after Jesus' death and resurrection. In the interim, the Church relied on oral tradition-the accounts of eyewitnesses-as well as scattered pre-gospel documents (such as those quoted in 1 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Timothy 2:11-13) and written tradition. Most churches only had parts of what was to become the New Testament. As the eyewitnesses of Christ's life and teachings began to die, the Apostles wrote as they were guided by the Holy Spirit, in order to preserve and solidify the scattered written and oral tradition. Because the Apostles expected Christ to return soon, it seems they did not have in mind that these gospel accounts and apostolic letters would in time be collected into a new Bible. During the first four centuries A.D. there was substantial disagreement over which books should be included in the canon of Scripture. The first person on record who tried to establish a New Testament canon was the second-century heretic, Marcion. He wanted the Church to reject its Jewish heritage, and therefore he dispensed with the Old Testament entirely. Marcion's canon included only one gospel, which he himself edited, and ten of Paul's epistles. Sad but true, the first attempted New Testament was heretical. Many scholars believe that it was partly in reaction to this distorted canon of Marcion that the early Church determined to create a clearly defined canon of its own. The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the breakup of the Jewish-Christian community there, and the threatened loss of continuity in the oral tradition probably also contributed to the sense of the urgent need for the Church to standardize the list of books Christians could rely on. During this period of the canon's evolution, as previously noted, most churches had only a few, if any, of the apostolic writings available to them. The books of the Bible had to be painstakingly copied by hand, at great expense of time and effort. Also, because most people were illiterate, they could only be read by a privileged few. The exposure of most Christians to the Scriptures was confined to what they heard in the churches-the Law and Prophets, the Psalms, and some of the Apostles' memoirs. The persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire and the existence of many documents of non-apostolic origin further complicated the matter. This was my third surprise. Somehow I had naively envisioned every home and parish having a complete Old and New Testament from the very inception of the Church! It was difficult for me to imagine a church surviving and prospering without a complete New Testament. Yet unquestionably they did. This may have been my first clue that there was more to the total life of the Church than just the written Word.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO WHOM?

Next, I was surprised to discover that many "gospels" besides those of the New Testament canon were circulating in the first and second centuries. These included the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Gospel according to the Egyptians, and the Gospel according to Peter, to name just a few. The New Testament itself speaks of the existence of such accounts...

OTHER CONTROVERSIAL BOOKS

My favorite New Testament book, the Epistle to the Hebrews, was clearly excluded in the Western Church in a number of listings from the second, third, and fourth centuries. Primarily due to the influence of Augustine upon certain North African councils, the Epistle to the Hebrews was finally accepted in the West by the end of the fourth century. On the other hand, the Book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse, written by the Apostle John, was not accepted in the Eastern Church for several centuries. Among Eastern authorities who rejected this book were Dionysius of Alexandria (third century), Eusebius (third century), Cyril of Jerusalem (fourth century), the Council of Laodicea (fourth century), John Chrysostom (fourth century), Theodore of Mopsuesta (fourth century), and Theodoret (fifth century)... Interestingly, the sixteenth-century father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, held that the New Testament books should be "graded" and that some were more inspired than others (that there is a canon within the canon). Luther gave secondary rank to Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation, placing them at the end of his translation of the New Testament. Imagine-the man who gave us sola scriptura assumed the authority to edit the written Word of God!

WHO DECIDED?

With the passage of time the Church discerned which writings were truly apostolic and which were not. It was a prolonged struggle, taking place over several centuries. As part of the process of discernment, the Church met together several times in council...

HUMAN AND DIVINE

Deeply committed, like many evangelicals, to belief in the inspiration of Scripture, I had understood the New Testament to be God's Word only, and not man's. I supposed the Apostles were told by God exactly what to write, much as a secretary takes down what is being dictated, without providing any personal contribution. Ultimately, my understanding of the inspiration of Scripture was clarified by the teaching of the Church regarding the Person of Christ. The Incarnate Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is not only God but also man. Christ is a single Person with two natures-divine and human. To de-emphasize Christ's humanity leads to heresy. The ancient Church taught that the Incarnate Word was fully human-in fact, as human as it is possible to be-and yet without sin. In His humanity, the Incarnate Word was born, grew, and matured into manhood. I came to realize that this view of the Incarnate Word of God, the Logos, Jesus Christ, paralleled the early Christian view of the written Word of God, the Bible. The written Word of God reflects not only the divine thought, but a human contribution as well. The Word of God conveys truth to us as written by men, conveying the thoughts, personalities, and even limitations and weaknesses of the writers-inspired by God, to be sure. This means that the human element in the Bible is not overwhelmed so as to be lost in the ocean of the divine. It became clearer to me that as Christ Himself was born, grew, and matured, so also did the written Word of God, the Bible. It did not come down whole-plop-from heaven, but was of human origin as well as divine. The Apostles did not merely inscribe the Scriptures as would a robot or a zombie, but freely cooperated with the will of God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

A QUESTION OF AUTHORITY

...The New Testament is about real churches, not ethereal ones. Could I now accept the fact that God spoke authoritatively, not only through the Bible, but through His Church as well-the very Church which had produced, protected, and actively preserved the Scriptures I held so dear?

THE CHURCH OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

...As Paul writes, the Body is "the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). The Church is the Living Body of the Incarnate Lord. The Apostle does not say that the New Testament is the pillar and ground of the truth. The Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth because the New Testament was built upon her life in God. In short, she wrote it! She is an integral part of the gospel message, and it is within the Church that the New Testament was written and preserved.

WHICH CAME FIRST?

What confronted me at this point was the bottom line question: Which came first, the Church or the New Testament? I knew that the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ, had called the Apostles, who in turn formed the nucleus of the Christian Church. I knew that the Eternal Word of God therefore preceded the Church and gave birth to the Church. When the Church heard the Incarnate Word of God and committed His Word to writing, she thereby participated with God in giving birth to the written Word, the New Testament. Thus it was the Church which gave birth to and preceded the New Testament. To the question, "Which came first, the Church or the New Testament?" the answer, both biblically and historically, is crystal clear. Someone might protest, "Does it really make any difference which came first? After all, the Bible contains everything that we need for salvation." The Bible is adequate for salvation in the sense that it contains the foundational material needed to establish us on the correct path. On the other hand, it is wrong to consider the Bible as being self-sufficient and self-interpreting. The Bible is meant to be read and understood by the illumination of God's Holy Spirit within the life of the Church. Did not the Lord Himself tell His disciples, just prior to His crucifixion, "When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come" (John 16:13)? He also said, "I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). Our Lord did not leave us with only a book to guide us. He left us with His Church. The Holy Spirit within the Church teaches us, and His teaching complements Scripture. How foolish to believe that God's full illumination ceased after the New Testament books were written and did not resume until the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, or-to take this argument to its logical conclusion-until the very moment when 1, myself, started reading the Bible. Either the Holy Spirit was in the Church throughout the centuries following the New Testament period, leading, teaching, and illuminating her in her understanding of the gospel message, or the Church has been left a spiritual orphan, with individual Christians independently interpreting-and often "authoritatively" teaching the same Scripture in radically different ways. Such chaos cannot be the will of God, "for God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33).

http://www.protomartyr.org/first.html
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Old 06-15-2014, 10:43 AM   #53
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Great and informative link ICA.

One comment after reading it:

Christians killing Christians, or killing anyone, prove that they aren't Christians at all.

Thanks ICA.
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Old 06-15-2014, 11:53 PM   #54
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Awareness, thank you. I agree with you.

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Christians killing Christians, or killing anyone, prove that they aren't Christians at all.
The only exception is when Christians defend their own lives or lives of their friends, relatives, and neighbors. To kill is still a sin. But sometimes of two evils Christians have to choose the less. (Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13) Anyway, that does not excuse any warmongers even if they are Popes, priests, pastors, ministers, or avid churchgoers.

One of my best friends is Irish. He was born in Belfast, in a Catholic family. He was a schoolboy when they had violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants. These two groups were killing each other day and night. One of his classmates was shot dead by a stray bullet. Probably, it was time when my friend started to lose his faith. And now he is looking for any proof to support his anticlerical and anti-religious views. So he knows a lot about crusaders, bad priests, child molestation, dead Irish orphans, and other negative things.

I don’t want to advocate any evil-doers, be they Catholic, Protestant or Eastern Orthodox. But from my point of view, the Church is neither a business corporation nor a hierarchical organization of clergy. On the one hand, as a building, it’s the place where the Holy Spirit dwells richly. A church is the physical place of continuous communion with God. On the other hand, God’s Spirit dwells in every Christian and all Christian believers are the temple of the living God. This means we are all members of Christ: "of His flesh, and of His bones." (Ephesians 5:30) In other words, it’s Christ and every faithful Christian who are the Church. When we see child molestation, sex scandals, power abuse, etc., they are not sins of the Church. They are man’s sins against the Church.

What can we do? Our responsibility is to be faithful to the Lord, not to take part in the sins and always fight for the truth. Christ is the head of the Church. He will deal with evil-doers. They can stand in the church or even take some clerical positions but evil-doers don’t belong to the Church. They can’t enter the kingdom of God. As for us, we should know where the church ends and where the “anti-church” starts. The church ends where the evil starts. It’s absence of God’s Spirit and denial of Christ and His message. Remember Judas? He was one of the 12 but he betrayed his Savior. People like Judas may enter and live in the church but they don’t belong to her not now, not ever (unless they repent and be forgiven). Therefore, it does not make sense to judge the Church by Judas and his followers. We should not be focused on their sins. We have our own sins. Our task is to be members of His Church, live with Christ and through Him restore our union with God.

To me, the Church is a mystical thing. On the earth, we can see only visible part of it. It is the smallest and the lowest part of the Church. The biggest and the most real part of it is in heaven, with Jesus, apostles, saints and all good and faithful Christians who lived before us. Christians are members of the Church that is not limited by the earth and our material world. It is here on earth, but mainly in Heaven and always in eternity.

Therefore, I believe we should not take sins against Christ’s message and transgressions against God’s law for the sins of Christianity. We don’t judge Christ’s life and His church by Judas and his followers. They are not the sins of the Church but the sins against her.
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Old 06-16-2014, 02:02 PM   #55
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. . . On the one hand, as a building, it’s the place where the Holy Spirit dwells richly. A church is the physical place of continuous communion with God. . . .
While you do continue on to discuss the church as the mystical, spiritual thing that it truly is, these two sentences stand out as a misunderstanding of the importance and/or place of any building. It could be strictly your own slip in terminology. I would hope that it is not some kind of official position of the EO.

The building is nothing in itself. Unlike the Temple in the OT, or the tabernacle that came before it, God's presence on earth has not been bound to physical places in that kind way for the Christian era. Church, as spoken of in the NT, is never a place. It is not a building. Yes, we all make reference to the building down on such and such a corner as a church, yet that is not a church as mentioned in the Bible. There is nothing telling us that the Spirit dwells in such a building. Or that the building is defined as a continual place of communion with God.

If it is true, then the earliest churches had no such place as they too often has no fixed place of meeting outside of someone's house, which means that the place mostly stood as a residence with periodic use as a place to meet. It is even quite possible that those who lived in the particular house were nothing more than participants/members, and would not even have stood as the elders or deacons of the group. In any case, it is likely that it was not available for other members to simply walk into at will for the purpose of finding the presence of the Spirit or having some special communion with God.
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Old 06-16-2014, 11:48 PM   #56
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While you do continue on to discuss the church as the mystical, spiritual thing that it truly is, these two sentences stand out as a misunderstanding of the importance and/or place of any building. It could be strictly your own slip in terminology. I would hope that it is not some kind of official position of the EO.

The building is nothing in itself. Unlike the Temple in the OT, or the tabernacle that came before it, God's presence on earth has not been bound to physical places in that kind way for the Christian era. Church, as spoken of in the NT, is never a place. It is not a building. Yes, we all make reference to the building down on such and such a corner as a church, yet that is not a church as mentioned in the Bible. There is nothing telling us that the Spirit dwells in such a building. Or that the building is defined as a continual place of communion with God.

If it is true, then the earliest churches had no such place as they too often has no fixed place of meeting outside of someone's house, which means that the place mostly stood as a residence with periodic use as a place to meet. It is even quite possible that those who lived in the particular house were nothing more than participants/members, and would not even have stood as the elders or deacons of the group. In any case, it is likely that it was not available for other members to simply walk into at will for the purpose of finding the presence of the Spirit or having some special communion with
God.
Maybe it was my misunderstanding, or maybe Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christians see their churches in different ways. The EO view is ancient, mystical, and sacral. The Protestant view is modern, pragmatic, and utilitarian. I believe it doesn't matter whose position is right or wrong. Besides, we are talking about different churches, cultures, outlooks, understandings, and experiences. Personally, I prefer the EO viewpoint. It's closer to my world outlook and is based on my experience which is always subjective, of course. Anyway, you are right. Church buildings are nothing much without believers, since "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them". (Matthew 18:20)

An Eastern Orthodox Church building is neither a theater hall, nor a stadium, nor an office, nor an apartment. It is a sacred place, “house of God” or “temple of God”, related to the Old Testament meaning of the word. In the New Testament meaning, "We are the temple of the living God..." (II Cor. 6:16) It is exactly this conviction and experience that Orthodox Church architecture wishes to convey. And from my personal experience, I do feel some invisible presence if I pray, with tears of repentance in my eyes, during the Divine Liturgy. This doesn't happen all the time but it does. And I have never experienced this feeling at any hall of the LRC. They are not sacred places but buildings with doors and windows. So I agree with you: "There is nothing telling us that the Spirit dwells in such a building. Or that the building is defined as a continual place of communion with God." That's what I feel about the LRC halls when I am there during the Lord's Table.

It might surprise you to learn that the proper word for an Orthodox Church building is called a "temple." This is partly because the Eucharistic worship of the Orthodox Church is modeled after the Temple in Jerusalem but with Christ crucified and risen, of course, replacing the animal sacrifices that were offered there. By temple we also mean Christ's Body in which the fullness of the Godhead dwelled in the visibility of the temple.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH-TEMPLE?

When you walk into an Orthodox church, or ‘temple’ as it frequently is called, it is very obvious that you are not in an auditorium or meeting hall. You are in the Temple of God on earth—His House— where you have a foretaste of being in God’s Presence in His Kingdom. Everything that surrounds you is supposed to evoke the Presence of God, and make the invisible — visible, the non-tangible — tangible. In the temple or church building design and in every aspect of its decoration, everything should be as beautiful as possible. Why? Because Beauty is a characteristic of God’s Nature — we worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness—and God is the Creator and Source of all Beauty. God is beautiful! Heaven is beautiful! Being in God’s Presence is beautiful! The Orthodox church building—the temple— makes the invisible divine realm and its beauty— visible. Also, to create Beauty is in itself a holy act, because it is a way of imitating and participating in God’s activity. In a prayer at the end of the Divine Liturgy, the priest says, “Sanctify those who love the beauty of Thy House.” This is why Orthodox churches are rather ornate and highly decorated, in order to be as beautiful as possible.

WHAT OTHER CONCEPTS INFLUENCE ORTHODOX CHURCH DESIGN?

Another important concept behind Orthodox church architectural design and decoration, its icons and its whole liturgical life of Divine Services—most especially the Divine Liturgy—is the basic principle of “correspondence.” What this means is that the patterns of the things on earth correspond to the patterns or prototypes in God’s Kingdom in heaven. Naturally, of course, God is invisible and so is the heavenly realm. However, since the physical world reflects and corresponds to the divine world—because God the Holy Trinity created the world and all its creatures—the divine love and goodness expresses and manifests itself in the physical world. Therefore, we humans, who are created in the Divine Image and Likeness, but who are creatures of flesh as well as of spirit, can encounter the Divine in both physical and spiritual ways.

The single most important concept behind Divine Worship is that what we do in God’s Temple on earth reflects — or corresponds to — divine worship before God’s heavenly throne. This is really obvious in various descriptions of heavenly worship in the Bible, especially in the Apocalypse (or Revelation) and in Hebrews. (This will be explained in greater detail in other volumes in this series, when the Divine Services will be explained.) This concept of correspondence in the Christian Church is directly inherited from the Old Testament and the Jewish Temple and its predecessor, the Tabernacle of Moses. When Moses encountered the Lord God on Mt. Sinai, the Lord told Moses how to construct the Tabernacle so that it would correspond to the pattern of the heavenly Tabernacle. Another way of expressing this idea is that the heavenly, divine Tabernacle and worship provide the prototypes of the visible temple and worship on earth. The Christian church inherits many of these Old Testament patterns, including the three-fold division of the temple, and the ancient precept that a temple is a place of sacrifice to God.

WHAT ARE THE THREE PARTS OF AN ORTHODOX CHURCH?

Following the pattern of the ancient Jewish Temple and Tabernacle of Moses, the Orthodox church building is divided into three parts, customarily called in English the “sanctuary,” “nave” and “narthex” (using the terminology of Western church architecture).

In conclusion, we have sought to briefly describe in this program why the Orthodox church temple looks the way it does, and to explain how the church building is in essence the Temple of God on earth—His House—where He reveals Himself to us, unites us with Himself, and where people have a foretaste of being in God’s Presence in His Kingdom. The Orthodox church temple is a holy place where God makes His Presence known on earth, and where His people offer Divine worship, joining with the angels and saints who continually worship around God’s heavenly throne.

http://www.stinnocentchurch.com/Arti...eriesVol2.html

Orthodox Christians understand their churches to be portals or sacred pathways to the Kingdom of God. Every Orthodox church is designed to symbolize the human journey to union with God. To carry this message, Orthodox churches are divided into three parts: the narthex, where the faithful enter the church and cross into the heavenly kingdom; the nave, where the faithful gather for worship; and the sanctuary, or the altar area, which, like the Holy of Holies in King Solomon's temple in Jerusalem, is divided by a wall from the main area of worship and restricted to the clergy and the altar servers.

Orthodox liturgical symbolism can seem very complex to outsiders, but Orthodox churches convey the human journey toward redemption in two ways. The first is horizontal -- believers enter the church and move toward the Kingdom of God -- as they approach the altar, where the body and blood of Christ are consecrated and where God resides as in the Temple in Jerusalem. The second is vertical -- from the dome of the church downward symbolizing God's desire to act unilaterally to redeem fallen humanity and his overwhelming love for the world. Many of the most important events in an Orthodox Christian's life - baptism, the reception of the Eucharist, marriage, and the funeral take place at the intersection of these two planes - under the dome and just in front of the Royal Doors of the altar. Dominating the dome is the icon of Christ the Pantocrator - the Ruler of the Universe.

Thus, it can be seen that the Orthodox Church there is an elaborate system of symbols involving every part of the church building and its decorations. Icons, frescoes, and mosaics are not mere ornaments designed to make the church look nice, but have a theological and liturgical function to fulfill. The icons throughout the church serve as the point where heaven and earth meet; and as the congregation, surrounded by the figures of Christ, the angels, and the saints, prays these visible images remind the faithful of the invisible presence of the whole company of heaven at the Liturgy. The faithful can feel that the walls of the church open out upon eternity, and in this way, they realize that their Liturgy on earth is one and the same with the great Liturgy of heaven. The beauty and splendor visible within the
church, together with the rich ceremonial drama that unfolds during Orthodox worship, attempt to convey to the believer not only a sense of being in God's House, but also of symbolically experiencing "Heaven on Earth".

http://www.stgeorgecathedral.org/exp...ns/church.html

The interior of the Orthodox Church building is particularly styled to give the experience of the unity of all things in God. It is not constructed to reproduce the upper room of the Last Supper, nor to be simply a meeting hall for men whose life exists solely within the bounds of this earth. The church building is patterned after the image of God’s Kingdom in the Book of Revelation. Before us is the altar table on which Christ is enthroned, both as the Word of God in the Gospels and as the Lamb of God in the eucharistic sacrifice. Around the table are the angels and saints, the servants of the Word and the Lamb who glorify him - and through him, God the Father - in the perpetual adoration inspired by the Holy Spirit. The faithful Christians on earth who already belong to that holy assembly ”...fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” (Ephesians 2:19) enter into the eternal worship of God’s Kingdom in the Church. Thus, in Orthodox practice the vestibule symbolizes this world. The nave is the place of the Church understood as the assembly and people of God. The altar area, called the sanctuary or the holy place, stands for the Kingdom of God.

http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodo...hurch-building

The house of God is a holy place, the place of the special dwelling of the Almighty, the place upon which God’s eyes are fixed continually and His ears are open constantly to the prayers and humble supplications of His faithful people. Each consecrated church temple is a literal beacon and beachhead of the Kingdom of God in this fallen world. The people of God are His temple and dwelling place, as is the church temple itself. Hence the church temple is the true atmosphere and milieu for the gathering of God’s people, our true home while on earth, and the place par excellence for the administration of the holy mysteries.

http://www.saintandrew.net/ourchurchtemple.html

Orthodox Christians consider the Liturgy to be 'Heaven on Earth' and try to experience this reality in many ways. Bright and colorful vestments are worn by the Clergy, in order to symbolize and make real the beauty of Heaven. Clouds of incense fill the Sanctuary and spread throughout the church as the deacons cense the icons and the congregation, signifying the elevation of their prayers to God's throne (Revelation 8: 3-5). Hundreds of candles are lit by worshippers in front of the icons, to remind themselves of Christ's light and of the warmth of God's love. The faithful move freely in the church, feeling at home in God's House. They frequently make the sign of the cross when they pray, to remind themselves both of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and of their own cross in life. They usually stand or kneel rather than sit in prayer. They frequently make prostration before the icons and their neighbors, to express their deep sense of respect for God and people, seeking forgiveness for their sins. They try to attain perfect reconciliation with God their Father and pray for the salvation of the world around them. And they seek to discover the presence of God everywhere.

http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/liturgy.htm

IN THE LITERAL meaning of the word, the Church is the "assembly," in Greek, ekklesia, fromekkaleo, meaning "to gather." In this meaning it was used in the Old Testament also the Hebrew (kahal).

In the New Testament, this name has an incomparably deeper and more mystical meaning which is difficult to embrace in a short verbal formula. The character of the Church of Christ is best explained by the Biblical images to which the Church is likened.

The New Testament Church is the new planting of God, the garden of God, the vineyard of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, by His earthly life, His death on the Cross and His Resurrection, introduced into humanity new grace-giving powers, a new life which is capable of great fruitfulness. These powers we have in the Holy Church which is His Body.

http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/pomaz_church.aspx

"We are the temple of the living God...." (II Corinthians 6:16). This is what the construction of an Orthodox Church tries to communicate. Every part of what we see, what we do and what happens during church services (called, the Liturgy) is part of the "temple of the living God".

As you approach an Orthodox Church, you will notice that it is quite different from Western church buildings. The exterior of an Orthodox Church building will usually have one or more domes, often topped by a cupola. Unlike the pointed steeples of Western churches, which point to God far away in the Heavens, the dome is an all-embracing ceiling, revealing that in the Kingdom of God and in the Church, "Christ unites all things in himself, things in Heaven and things on earth" (Ephesians 1:10), and that in Him we are all "filled with all the fullness of God". (Ephesians 3:19). This symbolizes that the physical Church and the heavenly Church are visibly and invisibly unified. There is no distinction between the two, not even death.

The general interior of the Orthodox Church building is designed to convey the unity of the universe in God. It is not simply a meeting hall for people whose lives exist solely within the bounds of this earth. The church building is patterned after the image of God's Kingdom and it is meant only for prayer and union with the Divine. This concept of sacred geographical space was accepted by the apostles and practiced by them. Their reverence and prayers in the Temple of Jerusalem, as well as holy activities within synagogues have been recorded in the Bible. They understood the holy significance of sacred rituals and holy places. And this concept has continued ever since their times. As the Orthodox church teaches, one main goal of the Christian is to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Since the Orthodox Church has always lived this mystical link between Heaven and earth, everything experienced in the Church is in response to this reality, pointing us to this reality. The Church building, the ordering of the Divine services, their actions, movements, images, smells, prayers and readings, they all act to lead us into God's throne room, granting access to the inaccessible.

http://www.onearthasinheaven.com/Introduction2.html

A church, or temple, is a building consecrated to God and intended for divine worship. The Lord is invisibly present in the church and receives our prayers there; as He said: "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). Since "the powers of heaven invisibly serve with us" in the church, it may be considered a bit of heaven on earth or an island of the kingdom of heaven.

Drawn by the grace of God, believers have always striven to frequent the church. As the righteous psalmist said of old, "O Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwelleth. ... I was glad because of them that said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord" (Psalms 26:8 [LXX 25:7]; 122:1 [LXX 121:1]).

The arrangement of an Orthodox church is based on centuries-old tradition, going back to the first tent-temple, the tabernacle, which was erected by the Prophet Moses some 1500 years before Christ.

The Old Testament Temple and its various liturgical items — the altar, the seven-branched candelabrum, the censer, the priestly vestments and other objects — were all made in accordance with divine revelation. As the Lord said to Moses, "According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it¼ And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was showed thee in the mount" (referring to Mount Sinai; Exodus 25:9; 26:30).

Approximately 500 years later, King Solomon replaced the movable Tabernacle (the tent-temple) with a magnificent stone temple in the city of Jerusalem. During its consecration, a mystical cloud descended from the sky and filled the temple, and the Lord said to Solomon: "I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put My name there for ever; and Mine eyes and Mine heart shall be there perpetually" (see 1 [3] Kings 8-9 and 2 Chronicles [2 Paralipomenon] 6-7).

Over the course of centuries, from the reign of King Solomon till the time of Jesus Christ, the Temple of Jerusalem was the center of religious life for the entire Jewish people.

Our Lord Jesus Christ visited and prayed in this temple, which had been destroyed and then rebuilt. He demanded that the Jews respect the Temple, citing the words of the Prophet Isaiah, "Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people," and He drove from the temple those that conducted themselves in an unworthy manner (Isaiah 56:7; Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:16-17; John 2:13-20).

After the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles continued to frequent the Old Testament Temple and pray in it, following Christ’s example (Acts 2:46). At the same time they began augmenting the Temple services with special Christian prayers and sacraments. Specifically, on Sunday ("the Lord’s Day") the Apostles and the first Christians would gather in the homes of the faithful, or sometimes in buildings designated as houses of prayer (oikoi). Here they would pray, read the Holy Scriptures, "break bread" (celebrate the Liturgy) and partake of Holy Communion. This is how the first house-churches developed (cf. Acts 5:42; 12:12; 20:8; Col. 4:15). Later, during the persecutions carried out by the pagan rulers, Christians used to gather in the catacombs (underground rooms), where they would celebrate the Liturgy at the graves of the martyrs.

During the first three centuries of Christianity, because of the relentless persecutions, Christian church buildings were rare. Only after the proclamation of religious freedom by Emperor Constantine the Great in 313 did Christian churches begin to appear everywhere.

The Liturgy is the most important Divine service in our Orthodox Church, because during it is accomplished the great Mystery of the Eucharist or Holy Communion, which was established by our Lord Jesus Christ at the Mystical Supper; its essence being that through the action of the Grace of the Holy Spirit our offerings of bread and wine become the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus.

http://www.fatheralexander.org/bookl...temple.htm#n21
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Old 06-17-2014, 02:14 AM   #57
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I have many friends who are atheists. They are very nice people, but there is some emptiness, void in their lives. They also feel that but don’t realize why. When we talk about God, they always use their logic, philosophy, and reasoning to prove that there is no God. And then I don’t have much to say. Once on a Christian radio station, I heard this piece of advice, “When people say that there is no God, don’t argue with them. They are right. They speak from their experience. They are too preoccupied with other things and they don’t want God to enter their hearts, therefore God doesn’t exist for them.” A few days ago I read an article that supports the same idea of not arguing with atheists. I’d like to share a few excerpts:

How can you prove that God exists?

http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/proof.htm

Personally, I never engage in arguments with atheists etc. It is waste of time and energy, sometimes doing more harm than good through exciting passions. The point is this:

Atheists argue from reason/intellect. We argue from life, living experience, from the heart moulded by daily life and prayer. So we have two completely different approaches. It could even be said that the fact that for us there is NO rational proof of the existence of God is proof that He exists. For us, He is Creator and we are creation. How can you expect the created human reason to understand the Creator, when our knowledge (so-called science/scientia) of the Creation is still minute, even though it increases daily? If we could understand God, it would be proof that He is a manmade myth. Only the real God is beyond human reason, meta-rational (though not irrational).

As you know, this whole concept of proving God’s existence really begins in the late eleventh century, with the rationalism of Anselm of Canterbury, ‘the father of scholasticism’. So their view is rationalistic, ours is experiential. The curious thing is that atheists and ‘anselmians’ alike argue in exactly the same way, with the same tool of the reason, putting themselves outside the universal and instinctive approach to religion through the millennia, which is ‘there must be something out there’. Anselm and his followers (rationalists, atheists or otherwise) represent an Edenic fall from knowledge, an abandonment of the eternal and immortal knowledge experienced through and imparted to the heart, in favour of the tiny, limited reason. (‘There are more things in heaven and earth…’).

Atheism is irrational, because if you can’t prove that God exists, you can’t disprove it either. Atheists do not argue from theological reasons (they cannot know what real theology is, because they do not pray and, as it is said, only those who pray are theologians), they argue from psychological or sociological reasons. Thus, the man who was molested as a child by some pedophile dressed as a priest is an ‘atheist’ for psychological reasons. The Spanish or Russian peasant who became an ‘atheist’ 80 or 100 years ago because he saw some hypocritical and hard-hearted bandit dressed as a priest, taking the Church’s money and spending it on himself, is an ‘atheist’ for sociological reasons. I remember someone 40 years ago saying to me that ‘religion is a medieval con-trick’. I still thoroughly agree with him, providing that we qualify it with three words - religion ‘in his experience’ is a medieval con-trick. But, of course, this was not religion lived and experienced; he was talking about religion deformed into a manmade institution, which, of course, is not religion at all.

So, I would simply answer as below to modern, brainwashed, British children who ask the inherently atheist question ‘How can we prove that God exists’ (and it is atheist, because it presupposes that He does not exist, because throughout history, except in modern Western civilisation, everyone has always, automatically believed that God exists - the only Areopagitic question was the identity of that God):

It is impossible to prove that God exists or does not exist, because God the Creator is beyond the petty rational proofs of the creation. Live your life a little, experience, and then you will decide.

Of course, it is also true that if we continue to live in impurity and therefore will have no experience, then we will not find faith in God. (‘Seek and ye shall find’). Atheism can be defined as the result of not having a way of life according to the commandments – loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves. And love means a way of life, it is not some purely passive, verbal agreement about ‘sentimental’ love. In other words, our perception of God depends on our way of life.

Only the pure in heart shall see God and it is the dogmas of the Church, which were revealed to the Fathers, i.e. to those who are pure in heart. And what are the dogmas of the Church? They are the revelations of God about Himself, given to man to express in human language. For behold, Thou hast loved truth; the hidden and secret things of Thy wisdom hast Thou revealed to me (Ps. 50, 8).

The reason is the tool of pagans, inherited from pagan (so-called ‘classical’) Rome and Greece. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote so harshly of ‘the Greeks’ (‘unto the Greeks foolishness’). Philosophy is what happens when people stoppraying to God (i.e, doing theology, theologising) and startplaying with God (with the idea/hobby of) God. Philosophy is the history of the Western Middle Ages (1000-1500). Secularism is the history of the Western Modern Ages (1500-2000). Atheism is the history of the post-Modern Ages (2000-).

In a word, if you ask a false question, you cannot get a right answer because the way the question (does God exist) is posed, actually excludes the right answer. We Orthodox Christians, members of the Church of Christ, do not so much believe in God, we know Him and He lives in our hearts like a flame, sometimes flickering according to our human weaknesses, sometimes burning brightly, according to our repentance.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips
November 2010

http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/proof.htm
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Old 06-17-2014, 09:19 AM   #58
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How can you prove that God exists?

http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/proof.htm
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Even the animals sense the presence of good or evil. We can say therefore that animals believe in God.
That one got a laugh out of me.

Atheists and theists have the same problem. Neither can empirically prove their point.
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Old 06-17-2014, 11:00 PM   #59
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That one got a laugh out of me.
I agree. That was non sequitur. I can admit that dogs can sense good and evil, friend and foe, but this doesn't prove that they believe in God.
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Old 06-18-2014, 01:56 AM   #60
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"Prayer is by nature a dialog and a union with God. Its effect is to hold the world together. It achieves a reconciliation with God." St. John Climacus

I have found five English translations of the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian. I like this prayer but I can't choose the best English version, since English is not my native language. Brother Harold and brother Mike, could you help me, please?

As Ephrem wrote solely in Syriac, it is almost certain that the prayer was not written by him. However, the Prayer of Saint Ephrem appears to belong to the large body of Greek penitential and ascetic literature that was composed in Ephrem's name during the century after his death in 373. (Wiki)

Translation #1

O Lord and Master of my life, grant not unto me a spirit of idleness, of discouragement, of lust for power, and of vain speaking.
But bestow upon me, Thy servant, the spirit of chastity, of meekness, of patience, and of love.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant that I may perceive my own transgressions, and judge not my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

Translation #2

O Lord and Master of my life, Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, meekness of mind, patience and love to Thy servant.
Yea O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

Translation #3

O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust for power and idle talk.
But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity (integrity), humility, patience and love.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Translation # 4

O LORD, Master of my life, grant that I may not be infected with the spirit of slothfulness and inquisitiveness, with the spirit of ambition and vain talking.
Grant instead to me, your servant, the spirit of purity and of humility, the spirit of patience and neighborly love.
O Lord and King, grant me the grace of being aware of my sins and of not thinking evil of those of my brethren. For you are blessed, now and ever, and forever. Amen.

Translation # 5

O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not.
But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.
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Old 06-21-2014, 07:45 AM   #61
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"Prayer is by nature a dialog and a union with God. Its effect is to hold the world together. It achieves a reconciliation with God." St. John Climacus
I pray all day, like breathing. Couldn't get on without it.

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I have found five English translations of the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian. I like this prayer but I can't choose the best English version, since English is not my native language. Brother Harold and brother Mike, could you help me, please?
Well I say, six of one, half a dozen of another.

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Originally Posted by Prayer
O Lord and Master of my life, grant not unto me a spirit of idleness, of discouragement, of lust for power, and of vain speaking.
But bestow upon me, Thy servant, the spirit of chastity, of meekness, of patience, and of love.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant that I may perceive my own transgressions, and judge not my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.
In other words, make me a supernatural being.

Or possibly not even a real prayer. But a prayer->sermon ... like so many prayers spoken in public, and in church meetings.
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Old 06-21-2014, 09:05 AM   #62
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Thanks, Awareness.

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In other words, make me a supernatural being.
In other words, make me like Christ.

The words become prayer when, speaking to the Lord, our words come from our heart and we understand every word we say, i.e. our mind and heart receive the content of the prayers that we read.

I like what St Theophan the Recluse said about prayer:

"The work of prayer is the first work in Christian life.

Let me recall a wise custom of the ancient Holy Fathers: when greeting each other, they did not ask about health or anything else, but rather about prayer, saying "How is your prayer?" The activity of prayer was considered by them to a be a sign of the spiritual life, and they called it the breath of the spirit. If the body has breath, it lives; if breathing stops, life comes to an end. So it is with the spirit.

If there is prayer, the soul lives; without prayer, there is no spiritual life.

However, not every act of prayer is prayer. Standing at home before your icons, or here in church, and venerating them is not yet prayer, but the "equipment" of prayer. Reading prayers either by heart or from a book, or hearing someone else read them is not yet prayer, but only a tool or method for obtaining and awakening prayer.

Prayer itself is the piercing of our hearts by pious feelings towards God, one after another – feelings of humility, submission, gratitude, doxology, forgiveness, heart-felt prostration, brokenness, conformity to the will of God, etc. All of our effort should be directed so that during our prayers, these feelings and feelings like them should fill our souls, so that the heart would not be empty when the lips are reading the prayers, or when the ears hear and the body bows in prostrations, but that there would be some qualitative feeling, some striving toward God.

When these feelings are present, our praying is prayer, and when they are absent, it is not yet prayer."
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Old 06-25-2014, 09:03 AM   #63
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A New Born Baby is not a Sinner.
“Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.” Psalm 119:73

“Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee: for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13, 14

“Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?” Job 31:15

“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee”. Jer. 1:5

“Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us and not we ourselves”. Psalm 100:3

“Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? “Mal. 2:10

IT IS GOD WHO FASHIONS EACH OF US IN OUR MOTHERS WOMBS. Are we to understand from these passages that God fashions men into sinners in their mother’s womb?

We are all created upright.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Gen.1:26,27

Ye are gods; and all of you are the children of the most High. Psalm 82:6

For in the image of God made he man. Gen. 9:6

Man is the image and glory of God. I Cor. 11:7

Men are made after the similitude of God. James 3:9

The Lord formeth the spirit of man within him. Zech. 12:1

The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. Job 33:4

He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. Acts 17:25

We are the offspring of God. Acts 17:29

I am the root and the offspring of David. Rev. 22:16

Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. Eccl. 7:29

What is Sin?
Sin is by definition, individual in nature, being either a violation of
transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4)

Sin is a violation of our conscience (Romans 14:23).

“Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:1415).

A BABY IS NOT A SINNER.

Since a baby does not even know his right hand from his left (Jonah 4:11), how
can he/she commit sin by not doing what he/she is incapable of doing?

Our sins are a result of our own lust and desires, not because of the sin of Adam.

Our spirit came from God and will return to Him (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the
righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him”
(Ezekiel 18:20).

18:3-4, Jesus declared, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the
kingdom of heaven.

“For such(children) is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 19:14,

“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to
come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:3-4, Jesus declared,

“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the
kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as the little child, the
same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

“Little Children” are Sinful according to Pentecostals and Roman Catholics.

So why did Jesus tell us to be like them inorder to “enter the kingdom of heaven”?
Jesus would not ask us to be more like a sinner in order to go to heaven.

Children are innocent of sin until they are able to reach a certain level of maturity.
Sorry to come so late into an interesting discussion. I obviously agree with all the words above, which come from the holy scriptures. But I notice that the holy scriptures also say,

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Psalm 51

And these two concepts do not contradict each other. Both, to me, are equally true, and therefore are an essential part of the human journey, or experience.
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Old 06-25-2014, 09:10 AM   #64
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I heard these word combination “Apostolic Fathers” long time ago. But I had no idea who they were and why they were called not only “apostolic” but also “fathers.” Only today, while listening to an audio lecture, I heard about the Apostolic Fathers again. The lecturer recommended new Christians to read the books of the Apostolic Fathers after the Holy Bible. I had to google those names and that's what I found:

The Apostolic Fathers were a group of early Christian leaders believed to know the Apostles personally. The term also refers to the collection of Christian writings attributed to these men from the late first century C.E. and the first half of the second century C.E. The authors are traditionally acknowledged as leaders in the early church whose writings were not included in the New Testament biblical canon. Evidence exists that some of these works were once bound as part of the New Testament scriptures. However, several of the works are actually anonymous, and their attributions have been challenged by recent scholarship.

The term “Apostolic Fathers,” has been used since the seventeenth century to emphasize that these authors were thought of as being of the generation that had personal contact with the Apostles. Thus they provide a link between the Apostles who knew Jesus of Nazareth and the later generation of Christian apologists and defenders of orthodox authority known as the Church Fathers.
Study of the Apostolic Fathers has yielded important insights into the formation of the early Christian tradition, the emergence of the bishop's office, the development of a concept of Christian scriptures, and the emergence of "proto-orthodox" Christian theology.

The list of Apostolic Fathers has varied. Official inclusion is based strictly on church tradition, but literary criticism resulted in the removal of some writings formerly considered as second century.

The most common lists of these writings usually include most or all of the following:
The Epistle to Diognetus
The First Epistle of Clement
The Second Epistle of Clement
The Didache
The Epistle of Barnabas
Seven short Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch (the longer forms of these Epistles, and those beyond the seven, are widely considered later emendations and forgeries)
The Epistle of Polycarp
The Martyrdom of Polycarp
The Shepherd of Hermas

More:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolic_Fathers

Apostolic Fathers by Jack N. Sparks
http://www.amazon.com/Apostolic-Fath.../dp/0840756615

Book Review:

"These writings give a glimpse of what the early church believed and what was important to them, and the faith that was passed on from the Apostles to them and to us as modern Christians. The early Christians believed the sacraments such as Baptism and the Eucharist were critical and the norm, as well as the importance of the Bishop, and Presbyters and unity in the Body of Christ".
Two points, quickly: one is that reading these Apostolic Fathers, and other books like the Philokalia, show me the unbroken string of witnesses stretching back to the apostles themselves. I am often like Martha, bustling about with my "Christian service", when I should be like Mary, sitting at the feet of the Master. These witnesses are those who sit at the feet of the Master. So they invite you to join them, and gaze at the Master's face, and hear his voice. The do not replace the Master's voice, but they point you to the right direction. It is a powerful experience to touch the animating Spirit that gave these men their voices.

Secondly, when the Great Schism occurred, many of these voices were lost to the West. So when Martin Luther and others broke away from Roman Catholicism, and returned to the scriptures for truth, they often didn't have the Fathers to help them. People like Calvin and Melanchthon fashioned their doctrine from the Word, but they did so, bereft (or, absent) the guidance of the ancient ones' wisdom. And that was a loss. A very big loss. Also, people like Watchman Nee also tried to "come back to the Bible" absent the testimonies of the past. I know they say Nee read a lot, but I suspect his Protestant heritage narrowed his reading quite a bit. It would be interesting to see how much of the Fathers made it into his thinking.

The benefit, the blessing, from the voices of the past is incalculable. It is only second, in my estimation, to the Word itself. It does not replace the Word. It doesn't give me new doctrines, teachings, or interpretations. It is rather a vision of men who have been caught, and devoted to, the vision of Christ who has called them. And they have done so, in fellowship with those who came before. I cannot "prove" the importance of this idea, but I believe it, somehow. It is very much "the testimony of the Church" as real as the testimony of those who gather today on Sunday mornings and break the bread and drink the wine.

Unfortunately my writing is very poor. I cannot do justice to the blessing that is in these works.
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Old 06-25-2014, 11:15 PM   #65
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Sorry to come so late into an interesting discussion.
Aron, you are more than welcome to join the discussion. I am not your equal. I don't have your knowledge and analytical skills. But at least I will be able to gain your insights.

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But I notice that the holy scriptures also say,

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Psalm 51
Aron, this translation of the Psalm comes from the Masoretic text, used by the KJV, the RSV, NKJV, NRSV, and virtually all Western Bibles, English or otherwise. The Masoretic text has never been the accepted norm for the EOC, which has traditionally used the Septuagint (which is older than the Masoretic text). The emphasis of these Western editions is that: 1) in sin and/or guilt my mother conceived me; and 2) I was born guilty / in sin; etc. Although this is typical of the theology of Western Christendom, it is highly foreign to the theology of Eastern Christendom.

In the Septuagint, "sin" is in the plural form: "in sins did my mother bear me".

I found two English translations from the Bible that they use in the Eastern Orthodox Church:

1) “For behold, I was conceived in transgressions, And in sins my mother bore me.”

2) In the the Greek Septuagint Bible, it’s Psalm 51:

“For, behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother conceive me.”

I also checked the Bible in Russian and the Bible in Slavonic, they are literal translations of the Greek Septuagint Bible. (The Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew Bible and some related texts into Koine Greek. The title and its Roman numeral acronym LXX refer to the legendary seventy Jewish scholars who completed the translation as early as the late 2nd century BCE. As the primary Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is also called the Greek Old Testament. This translation is quoted in the New Testament, particularly in the Pauline epistles, and also by the Apostolic Fathers and later Greek Church Fathers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septuagint )

There are a few interpretations of the verse in the EOC. They are a bit different but I don't think they contradict each other.

We are responsible for the sins that we commit, not the sins of our forefathers and not the sins of our first parents. Orthodox refer instead to "ancestral sin," by which we mean our participation in the disobedience of the first Adam as inherited through death. It is a curse that the Law exposed in the inability of humans to fulfill the Mosaic Covenant. It is a curse which has been redeemed by Christ. [Galatians 3:13].

Some western commentators criticize the Orthodox understanding at this point by reminding us that,. according to Psalm 50(51):5 "behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." (NKJV: Masoretic text). As stated, this is capable of being interpreted either in the "western" manner or in the Orthodox manner. However, the Septuagint (LXX) version of the Psalm translated into English reads: "Behold I was brought forth in iniquities, and in sins (plural) did my mother conceive me." This makes it quite clear that sin is endemic to the human condition from birth to death. It says nothing about transmission, let alone transmission by sex. We must assume that the Jewish scholars in Alexandria knew what they were doing when they translated the Hebrew text into Greek. The Orthodox Church certainly accepts their scholarship and, importantly, there is nothing in Judaism then or now that comes anywhere close to the Christian west's understanding of original sin which is rather important if one wants to understand St. Paul's teaching on Adam and Christ the New Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. After all, St. Paul like our Lord, was a Jew by birth and by training, adept in the Law.

This, then, is the characteristic understanding of the Fall in the Orthodox Church: sin generated by the corruption of death. In the post-Orthodox, post Christian west however, many people see death as both the natural created state of man and an unacceptable reality. This mental bind is also not Orthodox. Death, being the curse of Eden, is an unnatural enemy, neither designed into Creation by God nor desired by Him. Death, as the ultimate threat causes people to flee from their brothers, their sisters and their God in a selfish pursuit of earthly things as if these will put off the evil day. "Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die," as the saying goes. This is the real death, the death of the spirit from whence death itself has cast a longer and longer shadow over the God-less secularism of western materialism.

http://www.antiochian-orthodox.co.uk...alvation1a.htm

'Conceived in iniquity' refers to the Fall. We are born tainted with iniquity i.e. original sin, but not original guilt. Of course, procreation and childbirth are not sinful, just our 'spiritual genes'. God's original intention was not so that we were born through lust and sex. It's a deviation from God's plan. But after the Fall of man, our nature became corrupt and was condemned to death. We are to born through conception, inheriting the sinful/corrupted nature of Adam's body. But it’s not a personal sin of a new born baby. And it’s not his hereditary guilt. It's rather an ancestral sin, a decease, the bondage of corruption, and the condemnation of death.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria (296–298 – 2 May 373) writes in his Commentary on the Psalms (Ps. 50:5): The original intention of God was for us to generate not by marriage and corruption. But the transgression of the commandment introduced marriage on account of the lawless act of Adam, that is, the rejection of the law given him by God. Therefore all of those born of Adam are “conceived in iniquities,” having fallen under the condemnation of the forefather.

The Orthodox Study Bible gives another interpretation: "Behold I was brought forth in iniquities and in sins [plural] did my mother conceive me." Far from seeing conception and childbirth as sinful in themselves, or as a means of passing on Adam's guilt, this passage tells us every action in this fallen world is accomplished by sinful people in sinful circumstances.

'Sinful people and sinful circumstances' applies in general to people and their actions in this world. But not to the conceived embryo/baby, since he is still pure. The only thing that we know about an embryo/baby is that they eventually inherit 'decay and death'. Each of us is born of sinful parents, into a world of sinners, affected by sin and its effects. This is what the psalm seems to be saying. Unlike the Masoretic rendering, there is no firm indication in the Septuagint that we are born already sinners, bearing the guilt of sin committed before our conception.

Probably, the main difference between the EO doctrine and the Western doctrines, is that in the Eastern Orthodox Church the inheritance of ancestral sin does not mean inheritance of the guilt of the ancestral sin, but rather of the consequences of sin, which are decay and death. Does the EO understanding contradict the Western understanding of the original sin? If we consider the guilt, I believe it does. For example, if we take a baby who inherited AIDS from his parents, the baby inherits the disease, but not the guilt, since he is not responsible for it. He is not accountable for the sin/infection because he was not even created yet. Therefore, he was not born guilty. Nevertheless, he was conceived in iniquities, and in sins his mother bore him.

To say the truth, I don't know which text is more "pure": the Masoretic text or the Septuagint. Aron, have you ever pondered over this? It would be interesting to know your opinion.
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Old 06-26-2014, 02:16 AM   #66
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Originally Posted by aron View Post
Two points, quickly: one is that reading these Apostolic Fathers, and other books like the Philokalia, show me the unbroken string of witnesses stretching back to the apostles themselves. I am often like Martha, bustling about with my "Christian service", when I should be like Mary, sitting at the feet of the Master. These witnesses are those who sit at the feet of the Master. So they invite you to join them, and gaze at the Master's face, and hear his voice. The do not replace the Master's voice, but they point you to the right direction. It is a powerful experience to touch the animating Spirit that gave these men their voices.

Secondly, when the Great Schism occurred, many of these voices were lost to the West. So when Martin Luther and others broke away from Roman Catholicism, and returned to the scriptures for truth, they often didn't have the Fathers to help them. People like Calvin and Melanchthon fashioned their doctrine from the Word, but they did so, bereft (or, absent) the guidance of the ancient ones' wisdom. And that was a loss. A very big loss. Also, people like Watchman Nee also tried to "come back to the Bible" absent the testimonies of the past. I know they say Nee read a lot, but I suspect his Protestant heritage narrowed his reading quite a bit. It would be interesting to see how much of the Fathers made it into his thinking.

The benefit, the blessing, from the voices of the past is incalculable. It is only second, in my estimation, to the Word itself. It does not replace the Word. It doesn't give me new doctrines, teachings, or interpretations. It is rather a vision of men who have been caught, and devoted to, the vision of Christ who has called them. And they have done so, in fellowship with those who came before. I cannot "prove" the importance of this idea, but I believe it, somehow. It is very much "the testimony of the Church" as real as the testimony of those who gather today on Sunday mornings and break the bread and drink the wine.

Unfortunately my writing is very poor. I cannot do justice to the blessing that is in these works.
Aron, thank you for your insight which you expressed brilliantly. I absolutely agree with you.

Christianity and Christian theology didn't start with Luther in the 16th century. Moreover, in the ancient times, Rome was not the center of Christian theology. The theological centers were Alexandria and Antioch (two Greek speaking cities). The Catechetical School of Alexandria was the oldest catechetical school in the world.

The Church Fathers were the keepers of the tradition. They compiled the Bible and they knew how to interpret it. Moreover, they knew what a spiritual life supposed to be and they lived that life which lead them towards Christ. And they still show that direction to us. As you said, "They do not replace the Master's voice, but they point you to the right direction."

Some people say that the Church Fathers contradicted each other. Actually, it is partly true. There is a remarkable similarity between the Fathers on many questions, but not on everything. But even the apostle Paul didn't always agree with the apostle Peter. I want to share two quotes from discussions on differences in the Church Fathers' teachings:

First off, the Fathers do not define the Church, the Church defines the Fathers. Or rather, it is the Holy Spirit, acting through ALL the parts of the Body of Christ, to maintain the Apostolic Witness. We are a conciliatory church, we look to the Consensus Patrum. Where the Fathers DO agree helps define the Church but it is not the sole criteria. However, these particular individuals, by their witness and their lives as well as their writings, are certainly worthy to look to for a "valued opinion".

Some of the "differences" are not really different at all but merely a view from another cultural perspective, that must be looked at within the framework that spawned it. And some things are merely pious personal opinion or conjecture and one saint's conjecture might well differ from another's and both can still be within the pale of Orthodoxy, that is, not necessarily a doctrinal matter, just two different ways of looking at a subject.

http://www.monachos.net/conversation...t-agree-claim/

Another quote from a comment:

Their [the Church Fatherss] theology certainly is the most authoritative and trustworthy in the Church, but they are not the only people we listen to for theology, if only because most clergy are actually preaching their own sermons and not just reading ones from the Fathers. People are still “doing” theology (if I may) even now, and there are of course also many historical theological writers who have influenced the Church’s theology but are not canonized or considered to be Fathers.

I did not deny or even suggest that the Fathers all contradict each other. That said, there are certainly cases where they do, and those cases are not always minor. The apokatastasis of St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Isaac of Syria comes to mind, which is definitely not the teaching of the Church; likewise, the chiliasm of St. Irenaeus of Lyons. And St. Cyprian of Carthage and St. Augustine definitely do not have the same teaching on ecclesiology, especially regarding what it means for the reception of converts (on this, St. Augustine’s theology is essentially the one reflected in the Church’s historical praxis). And there are methodological contradictions, too. For every saint who decries the learning of the world as all demonic and unworthy of the Christian life you have a St. Basil the Great, who wrote an entire treatise on how to sift through pagan literature for the benefit of Christian young men.

I most certainly agree that there is a remarkable unanimity among the Fathers. But it is not total, and I also wasn’t just talking about the Fathers. And it should be remembered that not everything they’ve said has been declared by the Church to be truly de fide. And that’s okay. The historical record here is too varied to allow for any kind of fundamentalism in this regard. There is nothing wrong with every saint having his own perspective on how to express the one experience of salvation, even if it doesn’t match up with the perspectives of other saints.


http://orthodoxyandheterodoxy.org/20...in-the-church/
Is Orthodoxy the Same Everywhere?: Understanding Theological Controversy Within the Church
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Old 06-26-2014, 05:01 AM   #67
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To say the truth, I don't know which text is more "pure": the Masoretic text or the Septuagint. Aron, have you ever pondered over this? It would be interesting to know your opinion.
My opinion is that the Septuagint (LXX) is preferred. My understanding is that it was made from the original Hebrew text, and was in wide circulation in Christ's day. Most of the NT quotations, both in the gospels and Acts and epistles, are close to the LXX. My understanding is that the Masoretic was taken from the LXX, not the original Hebrew, which was lost.

So why the discrepancies between the two versions? Some say that it was a deliberate corruption introduced by Hebrews who didn't like the way that the LXX was used by the Christian believers. So the "virgin" who conceived in Isaiah's prophecy was changed to a "young woman" in the Masoretic. Etc. I don't know whether this idea has any truth to it. All I know is that the LXX conforms better to the NT useage, and thereby is to be preferred, and therefore I find it regrettable that most English translations use the Masoretic.

But it is not an issue that I am passionate about. The Church has used both for centuries so I just have to live with that.

But it is good to check the two translations, like you did with Psalm 51. That may save the reader from making errors by mis-reading the verse in a way that the original author may not have intended.
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Old 06-26-2014, 05:19 AM   #68
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Thank you, Aron.

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My understanding is that the Masoretic was taken from the LXX, not the original Hebrew, which was lost.
I heard this phrase from an EO priest: "This is the case when the translation is older than the original." I.e. the LXX is older than the Jewish Bible that they use in Judaism.
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Old 06-26-2014, 05:46 AM   #69
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Christianity and Christian theology didn't start with Luther in the 16th century. Moreover, in the ancient times, Rome was not the center of Christian theology. The theological centers were Alexandria and Antioch (two Greek speaking cities). The Catechetical School of Alexandria was the oldest catechetical school in the world.

The Church Fathers were the keepers of the tradition. They compiled the Bible and they knew how to interpret it. Moreover, they knew what a spiritual life supposed to be and they lived that life which lead them towards Christ. And they still show that direction to us. As you said, "They do not replace the Master's voice, but they point you to the right direction."
Think about Martha and Mary for one moment. Both were women, who in the patricentric world were in much lesser status. Women were barely above the social and legal status of slaves. Yet they both figure prominently in the gospel record. Why? Because the Father's love came to them, just as much as to anyone else. They were not "second class". The Father loves his children. He does not care if you are male or female, black or white, old or young or rich or poor. His love is delighted to reach you. In the person of Jesus Christ the Father's love has come back to us all.

So there were Martha and Mary in Luke 10, and one was troubled by many things, and the other was not troubled, but gazing at the Master's face, and hearing his voice. So if we look at Martha's face, as she works, probably she is frowning. Mary's face is probably tranquil; she is beholding and reflecting the glory that has come to earth, that is in front of her being demonstrated in the person of Jesus of Galilee.

My point is this: we often are troubled, even when we try to "serve" God. Our activities consume us. We are threatened by problems, and failure seems close. But if you look at the ancient writers, often they are just gazing at Christ. You may not see the Word, per se, as much as you see the face of one who is gazing continually at the Word. To me this is a great encouragement. You do not have to agree with all that they write; much of it may be experience and opinion. And today, I also have my opinions, and experiences. But I recognize in these writings, the experiences of those who gaze at Christ. So I love to sit with the Fathers. From Polycarp and Irenaeus on down; they are sharing precious experiences of sitting at the Master's feet.

I grew up in the Protestant tradition. My thinking was that the RCC was horribly corrupt, and the EO (e.g. Greek and Russian) were strange, and foreign, even bizarre. To us they were alien cultures. So we mostly avoided and ignored them. But years after leaving the Local Church, I discovered the Fathers. I cannot tell what joy it brought to my heart. It was like finding your own family, at long last.

I think there was a great loss when the Great Schism occurred between East and West. I don't know the details, nor do I care at this point. But I believe in my heart that something precious was lost. And when I read the Fathers I began to re-connect to this precious thread of common experience.

I am not trying to lift one group over another, but believe that these voices from the past are there for us, to guide us, encourage us, and comfort our hearts. Secondly, I ask you to consider the schisms that have followed the Protestant Reformation. Look at all the groups that have sprung up, each trying to "recover" some defect, either perceived or real, in the Protestant experience. And these perceived lacks may be associated with the fact that the Reformers were trying to find meaningful Christian experience through "sola scriptora", i.e. scripture alone, without the wisdom of the ancient Fathers to guide them.

So you got, in no particular order of importance, the Anabapists, the Puritans, the Unitarians, the Shakers, the Quakers, the the Brethren, the Mormons, the Jehovahs Witnesses, the Christian Scientists, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Local Church movement of Lee, and so on. All of these groups were trying to "recover" or "restore" the tattered fabric of the Christian testimony and faith. All of them, perhaps, reacting at least somewhat to lacks within Protestant Christianity as they experienced it and saw it.

Now, as I said, I grew up Protestant, and thereby look at everything as a Protestant; I simply don't know any other perspective. So I try to keep that in front of me. Even though the Eastern Christian traditions and practices often seem strange, and I don't plan on "joining" them, still I have found the ancient Fathers of the Eastern tradition, and I am grateful. These voices, to me, are the voices of the sheep who have gone on before me, who have followed the Master home.

"Our Father, who art in heaven..." There is nothing, in this world, except to return home to our Father in heaven. Why ignore the voices of those who have gone before you? Luther and Calvin, due to the RCC split with the East several centuries before them, did not have these voices nearby to guide them. But we have them available; why ignore them? Why should we act as if they don't exist, and disregard the hard-won blessing of Christian experience?
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Old 06-26-2014, 05:48 AM   #70
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I heard this phrase from an EO priest: "This is the case when the translation is older than the original." I.e. the LXX is older than the Jewish Bible that they use in Judaism.
Yes I believe the LXX is the oldest extant (i.e. original) text. I am not too clear on the Dead Sea Scrolls, though. Certainly the LXX was the older version, before the DSS were discovered in the 1950s.

I am not sure why KJV and other English translations used the Masoretic. I don't know much of the details of the history of the texts and translations.
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Old 06-26-2014, 06:35 AM   #71
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Yes I believe the LXX is the oldest extant (i.e. original) text. I am not too clear on the Dead Sea Scrolls, though. Certainly the LXX was the older version, before the DSS were discovered in the 1950s.

I am not sure why KJV and other English translations used the Masoretic. I don't know much of the details of the history of the texts and translations.
I did a small research:

"After the Protestant Reformation, Protestant scholars in an effort to discredit the Roman Catholic Church abandoned reliance on the Septuagint and began using only Jewish versions of their Scriptures for translating the scriptures into modern languages. The Masoretic Text which became the official version of the Jewish Scriptures was finalized between the 7th-10th Centuries AD, and thus is not an older text than the Septuagint but a more recent text. The Masoretic text does correspond closely to Hebrew/Aramaic texts from the 2nd Century AD but differs at points from the Septuagint, sometimes significantly.

As I was reading Robert Charles Hill’s translation of ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM’S COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS Vol. 2 (pp 343-344), I came across two footnotes of his that actually lend credence to the importance of the Septuagint (LXX) for our knowledge of the Old Testament. Both of these footnotes were in regard to Psalm 145.

“…though our (Masoretic) Hebrew text has one verse (13) missing, which the LXX supplies, an inclusion confirmed by the Hebrew manuscripts discovered at the Dead Sea.”

“This is the verse occurring in the LXX and a Hebrew ms found at Qumran; it is not in the Masoretic Hebrew text of this alphabetic psalm at the point where we would expect a verse beginning with the letter nun….”

http://www.oodegr.com/english/ag_gra...Septuagint.htm

"The Protestant Reformers’ emphasis on original languages (coming out of their Renaissance heritage) led most of the Reformers to insist on using the Old Testament canon available to them in Hebrew, which had become standard among the Jews (the Masoretic text). During the late Middle Ages, the Germans and Englishmen who began to translate the Bible into “the language of the people” were ignorant of the importance of the LXX (or in some cases even completely ignorant of its existence). They assumed that the Hebrew Masoretic text used by the European Jews of their day was more authentic than the Latin Vulgate, which in their mind was tainted by its association with the Latin Church based in Rome."

http://www.orthodoxstudybible.com/articles/who_decides/

Here is a longer and more informative article but the website settings do not allow me to copy the text:

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010...canonical.html
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Old 06-26-2014, 07:42 AM   #72
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Think about Martha and Mary for one moment. Both were women, who in the patricentric world were in much lesser status. Women were barely above the social and legal status of slaves. Yet they both figure prominently in the gospel record. Why? Because the Father's love came to them, just as much as to anyone else. They were not "second class". The Father loves his children. He does not care if you are male or female, black or white, old or young or rich or poor. His love is delighted to reach you. In the person of Jesus Christ the Father's love has come back to us all.
I am recalling a lecture of an EO priest who talked about John 4:4-42. The verses say about Jesus' conversation with a Samaritan woman who came to get water from a well. Usually, discussing the verses, they talk about the living water and worship the Father in spirit and in truth. But the priest looked at the story from another angle. He said, "If you met the woman in real life, what would you think of her? Would you like to have a conversation with her? Would you pay her respect?"

The woman was an outcast, marked as immoral, living openly with the fifth in a series of men. However, Jesus didn't condemn her. He didn't judge her, but talked to her with great respect. He found her worthy of His love in spite of her bankrupt life. So if God found her worthy and talked to her with love and respect, that's how we should treat people around us. (Unfortunately, I am still far from this ideal).
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:09 AM   #73
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My point is this: we often are troubled, even when we try to "serve" God. Our activities consume us. We are threatened by problems, and failure seems close. But if you look at the ancient writers, often they are just gazing at Christ. You may not see the Word, per se, as much as you see the face of one who is gazing continually at the Word. To me this is a great encouragement.
I want to share Fr George Florovsky's words (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Florovsky ) that Kallistos Ware quoted in his book "The Orthodox Way":

The Church gives us not a system, but a key; not a plan of God’s City, but the means of entering it. Perhaps someone will lose his way because he has no plan. But all that he will see, he will see without a mediator, he will see it directly, it will be real for him; while he who has studied only the plan risks remaining outside and not really finding anything.

I can be mistaken but I feel that WL and WN's theology is not about the key to the kingdom of God. It's about the plan. You may have the plan but if you don't have the key, there is a chance that you will not be able to enter the kingdom. WN and WL teach us doctrines, theories and speculations, but Christian life is not about doctrines about God. Christian life is a spiritual journey towards God. You may have right or wrong interpretations of the Bible but the main point is to have the keys to the kingdom, i.e. to live spiritual life in the right way. And that's what the Fathers show us.

I will quote Kallistos Ware's book again:

One of the best known of the Desert Fathers of fourth-century Egypt, St Sarapion the Sindonite, travelled once on pilgrimage to Rome. Here he was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Sceptical about her way of life — for he was himself a great wanderer — Sarapion called on her and asked: ‘Why are you sitting here?’ To this she replied: ‘I am not sitting. I am on a journey.’

I am not sitting. I am on a journey. Every Christian may apply these words to himself or herself. To be a Christian is to be a traveller. Our situation, say the Greek Fathers, is like that of the Israelite people in the desert of Sinai: we live in tents, not houses, for spiritually we are always on the move. We are on a journey through the inward space of the heart, a journey not measured by the hours of our watch or the days of the calendar, for it is a journey out of time into eternity.

One of the most ancient names for Christianity is simply ‘the Way’. ‘About that time’, it is said in the Acts of the Apostles, ‘there arose no little stir concerning the Way’ (19:23); Felix, the Roman governor of Caesarea, had ‘a rather accurate knowledge of the Way’ (24:22). It is a name that emphasizes the practical character of the Christian faith. Christianity is more than a theory about the universe, more than teachings written down on paper; it is a path along which we journey — in the deepest and richest sense, the way of life.


http://www.golden-ship.ru/_ld/18/183...RTHODOX_WA.htm
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:47 AM   #74
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“…though our (Masoretic) Hebrew text has one verse (13) missing, which the LXX supplies, an inclusion confirmed by the Hebrew manuscripts discovered at the Dead Sea.”

“This is the verse occurring in the LXX and a Hebrew ms found at Qumran; it is not in the Masoretic Hebrew text of this alphabetic psalm at the point where we would expect a verse beginning with the letter nun….”
I think I remember reading that the Qumran texts lined up more with the LXX. But they were not identical in all respects (the details of which I am not sure). So it is probably not simply a case, wherever there is discrepancy, of "LXX good, Masoretic bad." But I still prefer the LXX for reasons we have covered already.


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"The Protestant Reformers’ emphasis on original languages (coming out of their Renaissance heritage) led most of the Reformers to insist on using the Old Testament canon available to them in Hebrew, which had become standard among the Jews (the Masoretic text). During the late Middle Ages, the Germans and Englishmen who began to translate the Bible into “the language of the people” were ignorant of the importance of the LXX (or in some cases even completely ignorant of its existence). They assumed that the Hebrew Masoretic text used by the European Jews of their day was more authentic than the Latin Vulgate, which in their mind was tainted by its association with the Latin Church based in Rome."
It's an interesting story, to be sure. I don't know the details of it at all. I didn't realize that the Vulgate was derived from the LXX. I thought the Catholic OT bible, at least the current one, was from the Masoretic. And though I prefer the LXX, I am not one of those conspiracy theorists that think, like the KJV-only people, that every version except one "pure" strain is hopelessly corrupted. Our history is what it is, and we don't always see everything.
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:32 PM   #75
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I thought the Catholic OT bible, at least the current one, was from the Masoretic.
I found this article:

"When Jerome started preparation of a new Vulgate translation of the Bible into Latin, he started with the Septuagint, checking it against the newer Hebrew Masoretic Text, he discovered many significant differences. Encouraged by his Jewish friends who provided him the Masoretic with their insistence of its perfect accuracy, Jerome at last broke with all church tradition to translate the Old Testament not from the age-old Greek but from his new find, the Masoretic. The Psalms in the Masoretic differ particularly from the Septuagint, although the Latin Mass still used the Psalms from the older Greek versions. Indeed, all the other early Christian translations of the Old Testament were done from the Greek version and Church fathers such as Origen remarked on how Jewish religionists differed in both the interpretation of the Old Testament and how over time the Jewish text grew different from the Christian in wording.

The writers of the New Testament, also written in Greek, quoted from the old Greek versions exclusively. This is significant since the new Masoretic text prominently diverged in those passages which prophesied Christ. Thus even when Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian and other translations from the Greek appeared, Greek versions continued to be used by the Greek-speaking portion of the Christian Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church still prefers to use LXX as the basis for translating the Old Testament into other languages, and the Greek Orthodox Church (which has no need for translation) continues to use it in its liturgy even today. Many modern Catholic translations of the Bible, while using the Masoretic text as their basis, employ the Septuagint to decide between different possible translations of the newer Hebrew text whenever the latter is unclear, undeniably corrupt, or ambiguous.

Recent Aramaic findings among the Dead Sea Scrolls read most closely with the LXX, and not with the Masoretic text. For example Deuteronomy 32:8-9, both the LXX and the Aramaic agree that the patron of the people of Jacob is lower in status than the Most High. This suggests that the older LXX may be more accurate than the newer Masoretic text which was given to Jerome."

http://www.bibliahebraica.com/the_texts/septuagint.htm
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:26 PM   #76
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Prayer of Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow (1867)

My Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee.
Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs.
Thou lovest me more than I am able to love Thee.
O Father, grant unto me, Thy servant, all which I cannot ask.
For a cross I dare not ask, nor for consolation;
I dare only to stand in Thy presence.
My heart is open to Thee.
Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware.
Behold and lift me up!
In Thy presence I stand,
awed and silenced by Thy will and Thy judgments,
into which my mind cannot penetrate.
To Thee I offer myself as a sacrifice.
No other desire is mine but to fulfill Thy will.
Teach me how to pray.
Do Thyself pray within me.
Amen.

Morning Prayer of the Optina Elders

Translation #1

Grant unto me, O Lord, that with peace of mind I may face all that this new day is to bring.
Grant unto me to dedicate myself completely to Thy Holy Will.
For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things.
Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy Holy Will.
Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say.
When things unforeseen occur, let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee.
Teach me to behave sincerely and rationally toward every member of my family, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to none.
Bestow upon me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day, and to bear my part in all its passing events.
Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love.
Amen

Translation #2

O Lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings to me with spiritual tranquility. Grant that I may fully surrender myself to Thy holy Will.
At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things. Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to Thy holy Will.
Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is sent down from Thee.
Grant that I may deal straightforwardly and wisely with every member of my family, neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone.
O Lord, grant me the strength to endure the fatigue of the coming day and all the events that take place during it. Direct my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love.
Amen.

Translation #3

O Lord, grant unto me that with Thy peace
I may greet all that this day is to bring.
Grant unto me grace to surrender myself
completely to Thy holy will.
In every hour of this day instruct and guide
me in all things. Whatever tidings I may
receive during this day, do Thou teach
me to accept tranquilly in the firm belief
that Thy holy will governs all.
Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in
all I do and say. When unforeseen things
occur, let me not forget that all is sent by
Thee.
Teach me to behave sincerely and reasonably
toward everyone, that I may bring
confusion and sorrow to no one.
Bestow on me, O Lord, strength to endure the
fatigue of the day and to bear my part
in its events.
Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to
believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive and
to love. Amen
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Old 08-04-2014, 10:40 AM   #77
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Russian Orthodox Chant: the Cherubikon, Cherubic Hymn or Chant. The hymn symbolically incorporates those present at the liturgy into the presence of the angels gathered around God's throne.

I love this moment when I am at the Liturgy. It’s solemn and glorious and gives a feeling as if angels are presenting at the worship.

Performers: Festal Choir of St. Elizabeth Monastery, Minsk, Belarus
Conductor: Nun Irina (Denisova)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8FO2rk_sWk
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Old 08-04-2014, 11:22 AM   #78
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One more beautiful Russian Orthodox Chant:

The Polyeleos ("much oil" or, by connotation, "much mercy") is a festive portion of the All-Night Vigil service as observed on higher-ranking feast days in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Polyeleos consists of Psalms 134 and 135 (Septuagint numbering; King James Version: Psalms 135 and 136), which are solemnly chanted in a festive melody, with refrains Alleluia chanted between each verse. The refrain for Psalm 134 is "Alleluia.". The refrain for Psalm 135 is "Alleluia, alleluia. For His mercy endureth forever. Alleluia." This repeated chanting of the word "mercy" is another reason for the chanting of these psalms to be called Polyeleos. (from Wikipedia)

Performers: Festal Choir of St. Elizabeth Monastery, Minsk, Belarus
Conductor: Nun Irina (Denisova)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUOD22Dicjg

PS English version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coQw0qM5Cxs
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Old 08-05-2014, 03:20 PM   #79
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One more beautiful Russian Orthodox Chant:

The Polyeleos ("much oil" or, by connotation, "much mercy") is a festive portion of the All-Night Vigil service as observed on higher-ranking feast days in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Polyeleos consists of Psalms 134 and 135 (Septuagint numbering; King James Version: Psalms 135 and 136), which are solemnly chanted in a festive melody, with refrains Alleluia chanted between each verse. The refrain for Psalm 134 is "Alleluia.". The refrain for Psalm 135 is "Alleluia, alleluia. For His mercy endureth forever. Alleluia." This repeated chanting of the word "mercy" is another reason for the chanting of these psalms to be called Polyeleos. (from Wikipedia)

Performers: Festal Choir of St. Elizabeth Monastery, Minsk, Belarus
Conductor: Nun Irina (Denisova)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUOD22Dicjg

PS English version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coQw0qM5Cxs
These chapters contain reasons for Lee to dismiss parts of the Psalms:

Psa 136:17 to him who struck down great kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa 136:18 and killed mighty kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa 136:19 Sihon, king of the Amorites, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa 136:20 and Og, king of Bashan, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa 136:21 and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa 136:22 a heritage to Israel his servant, for his steadfast love endures forever.


By this take God's steadfast love doesn't extend to anyone but the Jews.

God gives them their land as a heritage, but they have to go in and "take" the land (not much of a gift), and kill everything that breatheth:

Deu_20:16 But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
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Old 08-06-2014, 10:26 AM   #80
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By this take God's steadfast love doesn't extend to anyone but the Jews.
In the EOC, we believe that after Christ, the Covenant of God, the Covenant of Abraham and Moses became open to gentiles, i.e. us Christians. Therefore, the Church is Israel and Christians are true Israelites, since most of the Jews rejected Jesus Christ. The Church is built on the foundation of one God, one Christ, one Israel, one Covenant, and those who reject any Revelation of this Covenant, or its oneness, do not participate in this Covenant and place themselves outside of the Church. The Orthodox Church does not claim to replace the Old Israel precisely because the New Israel (i.e. the Church) is nothing else but that very Israel of Abraham, Moses and the prophets, but already opened (revealed) to those non-Jews who believe in Christ.

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The emergence of the Christian church was conceived by its early Apologists as being the inheritor of this heritage from the Old Testament. The church is in continuity with the Israel of God. The church Fathers made this clear in their writings and the Orthodox Christian Church maintains the position that the church is the people of God and the new Israel. Father Georges Florovsky made this clear in the following statement:

The first followers of Jesus in the "days of His flesh," were not isolated individuals engaged in their private quest for truth. They were Israelites regular members of an established and instituted Community of the "Chosen People" of God ... Indeed; a "Church" already existed when Jesus began His ministry. It was Israel, the People of the Covenant... The existing Covenant was the constant background of His preaching. The Sermon on the Mount was addressed not to an occasional crowd of accidental listeners, but rather to an "inner circle" of those who were already following Jesus . . . "The Little Flock" that the community which Jesus had gathered around Himself was, in fact, the faithful "Remnant" of Israel, a reconstituted People of God. . Each person had to respond individually by an act of personal faith. This personal commitment of faith, however, incorporated the believer into the Community. And this remained forever the pattern of Christian existence: one should believe and confess, and then he is baptized, baptized into the Body.

The New Covenant continued the Hebrew understanding of the people of God in its own terminology and perception. The Christians looked on the people of God as the "saints" and "holy people." That is, Jesus' disciples, or the Church corporately conceived, were thought of as the gedoshin, "hoi hagioi," the saints and gedosh, "ho hagios," the holy ones."

The term "hagioi" was used in the early church to designate those who followed Jesus or all the Christians. The terms "saints" or "holy ones" came to designate a universal community, one that was not distinguished according to race or nationality or class or sex, as explicitly stated in the letters of St. Paul. Paul writes, "There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus."' The term "holy people of God" designates the church. The church is open to all, transcending all barriers between Jews and gentiles.

A contemporary scholar makes the following observation of the New Testament understanding of Israel as the people of God. He states:

For Matthew, Israel has been replaced by another people, coming from all Gentile peoples: Matt. 8:11-13; 21:43; 27:15-26.

Paul grants Israel, as the people of God, a general amnesty, as the whole of Israel after a temporary rejection shall be saved at the end of times: Romans 11.

The Gospel of John shows that throughout the history of Israel there were always two groups among the people; these were separated through the coming of the Messiah-Jesus. Only one of the groups is and has been Israel, and this group is found in the Church.

The church is the Israel of God, "nor a new Israel, but the one and only people of God, Israel in a new Face of history, namely, that of Jesus."

The church is all encompassing and provides divine revelation and salvation to all people and races. One interpreter of St. Paul makes the point that; "In Jesus there is a new universalism, not a bare transposition from Israel to the Church. "

There is a relation of Church (Ekklesia) and the people of God as perceived by the New Testament documents. However, the Church of God (He Ekklesia tou Theou) is also an eschatological community and exists to gather all peoples and nations under the rule of God in recognition of Christ as the Messiah.

http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith9285
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Old 08-06-2014, 10:41 AM   #81
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Probably, Lee was influenced by John Nelson Darby. In case if you are interested in the topic:

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The Rev. Jerry Fallwell, a leading Fundamentalist, once wrote: “If this nation wants her fields to remain white with grain, her scientific achievements to remain notable, and her freedom to remain intact, America must continue to stand with Israel” (Listen America; New York, 1980, p. 98).

Fallwell and the others who demand unconditional support for Israel consider the modern Jewish State a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. They are heavily influenced by dispensationalism, a method of Bible interpretation which became popular through the writings of John Nelson Darby (died 1882). Darby, a one time cleric of the Church of England, joined the Plymouth Brethren in 1831 and developed a complicated system of Biblical interpretation that divides God’s saving action into individual eras or dispensations. This scheme influenced thousands of American Protestants through the Niagara Bible Conference of 1895 and the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible by Cyrus Ingerson Scofield the next year.

Dispensationalism makes a strong distinction between the promises made to the Jews before Christ and the reality of the Church after Pentecost. Thus dispensationalists teach that God’s promises to the Jews were not fulfilled through the Church but remained unfulfilled during the Church age. They consider the Church a new and separate creation by God with its own separate agenda, not the heir to the promises made by God to ancient Israel. Therefore, it is natural that the dispensationalists should see the founding of the modern state of Israel as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.

Dispensationalists interpret the words, phrases, and sentences of the Bible in a very literalistic manner. Thus they reject or fail to see the importance of an ancient and almost universal principle of Biblical interpretation known as typology. Typology is the method of Biblical understanding which seeks the spiritual meaning of the historical events described in the Old Testament.

Fundamental to the typological method of Biblical interpretation as practiced by the early and later Fathers is the belief that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment and completion of the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament. For example, the near sacrifice of Isaac points towards the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The ark that saved Noah and his family from the Flood is a type of the Church which saves the faithful from sin and death. The burning bush is seen as a type of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who bore God in the flesh, yet was not consumed by the presence of the divinity within her womb.

The typological method is not just the invention of the Fathers, but is based firmly on the New Testament. Our Lord Himself used the example of Jonah as a type of the three days that He would spend in the tomb (Matthew 12:40). He also compared the lifting up of the serpent by Moses to his own ascent of the cross (John 3:14). Saint Paul considered the passing through the Red Sea as a type for baptism (I Corinthians 10:1-2). Saint Peter even uses the term “antitype” to compare the ark with baptism (I Peter 3:20-21). Thus the typological method of interpretation is firmly grounded in the Holy Scriptures.

According to the typological method, God’s promises to Abraham and his descendents were fulfilled through Christ and His Church. One Orthodox scholar has written: “In Christ, then, the covenant with Israel was fulfilled, transformed, and transcended. After the coming of the Messiah—the Incarnation of God the Son—only those who are ‘built into Christ’ are counted among the people of God. In Christ, the old Israel is superseded by the Christian Church, the new Israel, the body of Christ; the old covenant is completed in the new covenant in and through Jesus Christ” (George Cronk, The Message of the Bible; St. Vladimir Seminary Press; 1982, p. 80).

This interpretation of the covenant with Abraham and his descendents as fulfilled through Christ and His Church is firmly grounded in the witness of the New Testament. In the parable of the Vineyard Owner, our Lord uses the unfaithful tenants of a vineyard to illustrate this point. The owner, representing God, sent his servants, representing the prophets, and finally his son and heir, representing Christ, to collect his rent. The tenants, who represent the Jews, ignored the request for the rent and killed both the servants and the son of the owner of the vineyard. At the end of the parable our Lord said, “Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:1-9). In other words, those who faithfully believe in Him will inherit the status that Israel had before it rejected the Messiah.

Saint Paul wrote, “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham . . . if you are Christ’s then you are of Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:7-9). Indeed, Saint Paul called the body of believers “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Saint Peter illustrated this point by applying terms used to describe Israel in the Old Testament when he wrote, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” (I Peter 2:9).

Thus, according to the New Testament, the standard against which all doctrine and Biblical interpretations must be tested, God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendents has been fulfilled through Christ and His followers, not through a secular state, for Christ said, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

It is true that there are some Old Testament prophecies that speak of a restoration of Israel following the destruction of Israel by Assyria and of Judah by Babylon. For example, Isaiah wrote, “It shall come to pass that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left” (Isaiah 11:11). Jeremiah prophesied, “For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers” (Jeremiah 16:15). Micah said, “I will surely gather the remnant of Israel” (Micah 12:12).

Indeed, God did restore Israel. The book of Ezra tells how Cyrus, the King of Persia who had conquered Babylon, allowed the Jews to return from exile and to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. Significantly the beginning of Ezra states that the events recorded are in fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1). Thus the Old Testament prophecies cited in support of the modern state of Israel were fulfilled long ago when the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity.

The time has come for Christians to carefully reevaluate an attitude towards modern Israel which is based on faulty premises. Both Church history and the Holy Scriptures teach clearly that Christ and His Church are the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Saint Paul tells us that those who follow Christ in faith are the true children of Abraham and heirs to the promises made by God to the Old Testament patriarch. The prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel have already been fulfilled and should not be applied carte-blanche to the modern state of Israel.

http://www.antiochian.org/Orthodox_C...New_Israel.htm
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Old 08-06-2014, 11:02 AM   #82
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God gives them their land as a heritage, but they have to go in and "take" the land (not much of a gift), and kill everything that breatheth:

Deu_20:16 But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
Since we know that God is love and "thou shall not kill", wish we also knew the entire story so that not to put our own meaning to certain pieces of the Bible. As we don't know the reasons why God judged those people in that way, we can only guess that their sins and corruption were so bad that wiping off those nations was the only right judgment. But it's only a guess. I don't know the entire story and I can't know God's reasons.

One more article about it:

http://www.gotquestions.org/God-killing.html
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Old 08-06-2014, 01:44 PM   #83
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Since we know that God is love and "thou shall not kill", wish we also knew the entire story so that not to put our own meaning to certain pieces of the Bible. As we don't know the reasons why God judged those people in that way, we can only guess that their sins and corruption were so bad that wiping off those nations was the only right judgment. But it's only a guess. I don't know the entire story and I can't know God's reasons.

One more article about it:

http://www.gotquestions.org/God-killing.html
The article is just a bunch of rationalizations, trying to explain the impossible, and trying to make killing to take the land "given" to them a light matter.

So Deut 20:16 doesn't say "kill" everything that breatheth, it just says, "thou shalt save alive nothing." Which is still killing, murdering, to take someone else's land, plain and simple.
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Old 08-07-2014, 10:41 AM   #84
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The article is just a bunch of rationalizations, trying to explain the impossible, and trying to make killing to take the land "given" to them a light matter.

So Deut 20:16 doesn't say "kill" everything that breatheth, it just says, "thou shalt save alive nothing." Which is still killing, murdering, to take someone else's land, plain and simple.
BTW, it was a Protestant explanation.

Well, it's not that the EO explanation is better. I am just unaware of it, except the idea of extreme sins and corruption of those people.
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Old 08-08-2014, 10:25 AM   #85
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BTW, it was a Protestant explanation.

Well, it's not that the EO explanation is better. I am just unaware of it, except the idea of extreme sins and corruption of those people.
We don't know. When Moses sent the 12 spies in they found Nephilim. Why they weren't destroyed by the flood we don't know.

So maybe the Israelite's were killing Nephilim when killing the Canaanites. That's the way the story is told, by the victors.
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Old 09-03-2014, 09:52 PM   #86
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"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FH64PgQ_H80

This video may just qualify as a modern-day retelling of our Lord’s famous parable about the widow’s mite. Watch it and reflect on these words from Scripture:

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God,but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” ( Luke 21:1-4)

In a society of abundance, what does true generosity mean?
http://myocn.net/widows-mite-without...ideo-says-lot/
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Old 09-05-2014, 01:09 AM   #87
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Just want to share some excerpts from “Orthodox Christian Theosis and Deification in the New Religious Movements” by Rev. Dn. Dr. Brendan Pelphrey

Earlier this century, Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky wrote concerning the role of theosis in Orthodox Christian spirituality:

“God made Himself man, that man might become God.” These powerful words...are again found in the writings of St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Gregory of Nyssa. The Fathers and Orthodox theologians have repeated them in every century with the same emphasis, wishing to sum up in this striking sentence the very essence of Christianity: an ineffable descent of God to the ultimate limit of our fallen human condition, even unto death—a descent of God which opens to men a path of ascent, the unlimited vistas of the union of created beings with the Divinity.

Today, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, following the tradition of the early Christian fathers, describes salvation in Jesus Christ as theosis. The Greek term has no real equivalent in the English language. It means to be filled with God, to take on the divine likeness, to live fully in Christ who is one with the Father. Thus it means to become one with God. The doctrine of theosis is apostolic and scriptural. A well-known reference in the New Testament is 2 Peter 1:3:

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.”

Protestant Christians sometimes object that the passage in 2 Peter does not mean what it says, because it is impossible for human beings to share the divine nature. Orthodox Christians, however, are always puzzled by such statements because in its original Greek the passage is very clear. It cannot mean anything else. Other passages in the New Testament offer a parallel to the statement in 2 Peter and can help us understand how early Christians thought of theosis. St. Paul speaks, for example, of human nature being changed into the likeness of Christ, that is, receiving the glory of God:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

The word “glory” (doxa) denotes radiance but also means appearance or face. Thus Paul’s meaning is that those who behold the glory of God’s face, as Moses did, take on the divine radiance just as Moses himself shone with the bright light of God’s glory. Similarly, the believer in Christ is transfigured into His divine likeness, and this transformation is the real purpose and destiny of human beings. By becoming human God has transformed humanity and made it to partake of the divine nature. In a parallel passage Paul explains that it is the divine purpose for human beings to be glorified (edojxasen, edoxasen):

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

From a Protestant perspective this passage seems to be concerned primarily with predestination and justification. Some Protestant traditions interpret the term “predestined” to mean that God determines who will be saved and who will be damned (the doctrine of “double predestination” in some Reformed theology), while other traditions understand the word more in terms of divine purpose for all humanity, even though not all persons are in fact justified by faith (Lutheran theology). In either case, justification itself is understood to mean the work of Christ on the cross, in which Christ paid the debt of sin by suffering death on behalf of human beings (substitutionary atonement). Those who repent of sin and accept the vicarious suffering of Christ on their behalf are “justified.” The term “justify” therefore has the sense of “to declare (as if) righteous,” for the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers. This general doctrinal position may be traced to the writings of Anselm of Canterbury, who introduced it as an innovation in Christian thought in the eleventh century.

From an Eastern Orthodox perspective justification involves more than being accounted righteous because of a settled debt. Salvation in Christ is, first of all, the defeat of death. Death has been at work in humanity since Adam; therefore, the salvation of humankind necessarily involves the liberation of humanity from death and the overcoming of death in humanity. What saves us is not only the cross of Christ, but first of all the nativity of the eternal Logos in flesh, his baptism on our behalf (in which, Orthodox hymns say, the waters were cleansed and re-created as Jesus entered into them), his descent into Hades to defeat death, his resurrection, his ascension. In the theology of the early Church, God became human in order to change humanity from within, uniting humanity forever to God.

Celebrating the Nativity in hymns, St. Ephrem the Syrian, writing in the fourth century, depicts salvation as the Logos “clothing” himself with created flesh, the flesh of Adam. Christ puts on Adam, and after defeating death in Hades ascends into the heavens in the flesh. The flesh of Adam is therefore deified in Christ.

Salvation is the lifting of human nature out of the context of sin and death, and into the context of eternal life. But salvation also necessarily involves the appropriation of God’s grace by human beings, those who identify with Christ in baptism and become his followers. In the Romans passage cited above, the Greek term usually rendered “justified,” literally means “straightened out” or “made straight (righteous).” Orthodox agree with Protestant Christians that at baptism the believer is identified with Christ and declared righteous. But the “second birth” of the believer at baptism is the beginning of spiritual life, not the end of it—just as natural birth is only the beginning of life in the flesh. Justification involves more than birth; it is the growth of the believer into the fullness of life in Christ.

The Orthodox understanding of justification can be understood in terms of an event narrated in the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus straightens the woman who for eighteen years had been bent over by an illness (Luke 13:10-17). Jesus tells her that she has been loosed from the spirit of infirmity. The evangelist contrasts the spirit of infirmity with the Holy Spirit, noting that in the Holy Spirit there is liberty. Thus, justification in Christ literally means being straightened out and given a new life, in the liberty of the Holy Spirit. Human beings, weighed down and distorted by sin, are set free in the Spirit of God. They receive new life and, through the grace that God gives continually, literally take on a new appearance. They begin to look like Christ, in whom we find divinity and therefore, genuine humanity.

From a Protestant perspective the Orthodox interpretation appears to conflate justification in Christ with sanctification, the subsequent work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. From an Orthodox perspective Protestants here misunderstand the fundamental meaning of salvation, dividing justification from sanctification as if there were two distinct operations, and understanding salvation as if it were a purely legal operation. As in the other biblical languages of Hebrew and Latin, the Greek, “I save,” is not a legal term. It means to heal, make whole, rescue, preserve, restore. It does not mean “to reckon as if one were whole,” “to reckon as though healed,” “to reckoned as if restored.” This distinction would be vitally important in a hospital or on a battlefield, and Orthodox regard it as even more vital with regard to spiritual life and death.

To say this does not subtract from the central role of divine grace in salvation. Orthodoxy has always regarded that we are saved (healed) through the grace of God, not through our own efforts (Ephesians 2:8). But at the same time salvation requires our cooperation. Redemption from sin is like being healed of a mortal illness. The physician’s care is necessary, surgery removes the evil growth, medication destroys the infection, but nevertheless healing is, finally, a process of the body itself. The patient must take the medicine; he or she must cooperate with the physician and want to get well; the body must repair its cells and organs. In Christianity the Physician is Christ, the surgery is repentance, the sterilizing is baptism, the medication is chrismation initially and the divine Eucharist often, the daily exercise is obedience to Christ’s command to love, exercised in prayer. In this connection Ignatius, writing at the dawn of the second century, refers to the Eucharist as “the medicine of immortality, and the antidote which wards off death but yields continuous life in union with Jesus Christ.”

Such healing is an operation of love, because love is the nature of God. Love cannot be forced or imposed. Human beings must receive love and nurture it by our actions and our decisions. This is what Orthodox call synergy, literally “working together.” The meaning is not that we can add anything to God’s free gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins, but that we accept and receive it by faith, and then act upon what God has done in our lives. Examples of our cooperation, then, are to receive baptism, to repent of sins, to cultivate prayer and inner peace by deciding not to engage in immoral and godless behavior, to read the Holy Scriptures, to participate in the sacraments of the Church. These create the environment in which theosis is possible and can be actualized.

Without inner discipline and peace, sinful human beings cannot provide a dwelling-place for God. The dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit is called the nous by the fathers: literally “mind,” but much more accurately translated as “heart” because it denotes the spiritual mind, the dwelling-place of God in us. The unspiritual person allows the heart to atrophy until, in some, it is altogether dead. But for those who seek the Lord, who call on His name and walk according to His will, their lives are transformed and they become children of light. Growing in grace, such persons take on the likeness of Christ in their daily lives. This is what Orthodox call theosis, to be God-filled.

Orthodox Christianity therefore understands salvation in Christ to be the restoration and completion of human nature. Adam fell into the power of death; Christ, the New Adam, overcame the power of death for all humanity. To be sure there are many ramifications of this theme, and Eastern Church fathers from the very beginning understood the mystery of salvation as encompassing many different elements: that Christ is the perfect sacrifice for sins, drawing to a close the Jewish sacrifices; that Christ is the ransom for many; that Christ has loosed the slave from bondage; that Christ is like bait on a hook, catching the sea-monster (Satan) by allowing himself to be crucified and descending into Hades. Swallowing up Christ, the sea-monster of the Deep finds the uncreated Logos clothed in humanity, and vomits Him up just as the fish vomited up Jonah. All these images are very early employed by Christian writers such as Justin, Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa and so on. But the overwhelming single image employed by the fathers is one of “justifying”—setting straight, or restoring—humanity.

Nor is humanity merely restored to the state of Adam. Adam was made in the “image and likeness” of God. Orthodoxy distinguishes between “image” and “likeness.” The divine image is found in all human beings, and represents our God-given human potential. It is never fully erased, even if it is heavily obscured by sin. But to have the likeness of God is to actualize human potential, to look like Christ. We obtain this only in Christ, as we are joined to Him in His Body, the Church. We have it through a life of faith, in the Holy Spirit.

The Orthodox claim is therefore that the grace of God is given to human beings in very real ways, so that through faith and self-discipline the Christian begins to take on the likeness of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit mentioned by St. Paul in Galatians 4:22-23 is observable and practical. Those who receive the Holy Spirit actually undergo a transformation of life. Nor is this transformation limited to one’s lifetime. Orthodox Christians claim—and it is a claim based on experience, even in our own time—that the lives of saints are so transformed that even their flesh and bones become vessels of grace.

An important example of a dimension of early Christian teaching which is central to understanding theosis is the Orthodox distinction between divine essence and divine energies. Eastern Christianity is apophatic: that is, the fathers see the essence of God as absolutely unknowable. In this view the mystery of the Divine Being, which is the Trinity, cannot be understood or in any way imagined or experienced by a created being. The divine energies, on the other hand, are the movement of God to humanity and may be experienced directly by human beings in the graces (charismata) of the Holy Spirit. The uncreated light seen by the Hesychasts is divine energy. So is the Christian experience of salvation and sanctification. While it is God Himself who comes to us, it is the energies of God which we can receive and experience, because we are not God but creatures in God.

In this light, it is nowhere argued by the Church fathers that human beings become “gods” in their own right, because it is impossible to share the divine essence. We cannot be God. Nor could we, of ourselves, become “gods.” But in Christ human beings share the divine energies of God and in that sense become God-filled. Nor, as I have said, is theosis an experiential reality for everyone who claims to be Christian. Rather, the extent to which we live by the Holy Spirit, in meekness and submission to Christ and in His will, is the extent to which we develop a home for the Holy Spirit at the center of our lives, and our lives are transformed. The heart of this way of life is continual repentance, even the shedding of tears for our sins, and the recognition that whatever we are, we are not God, whose mercy we need. This is why Orthodox continually pray the Jesus-prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

In summary, the theological background to the doctrine of theosis is the doctrine, taught by the Church since the beginning, that God the Word became human in order to transfigure humanity. In this context Palamas makes the startling and radical statement that in Christ it is possible to take on all the characteristics of the Logos, who was not a creature but was unoriginate, pure, holy, obedient of the Father, to eternal life. The emphasis here is upon the nature of Christ, not upon the believer. Christ, Palamas says, is not a creature or angel or a deified human, as certain heresies would teach (today such heresies include Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons). Rather, he is God in flesh; and being God, He is without beginning. It is only because he is truly God that he can lift us out of the well of sin. In this context, Palamas says that the believer can share the nature of God the Son, who is “unoriginate.”

Reading passages such as this out of context, some students—at least a few who are currently posting on the internet—have concluded that Palamas means the believer becomes an uncreated god. This is not Palamas’ meaning, since it would be impossible to become uncreated in any case. Palamas is saying that by grace human beings can partake of the energies of God, though as creatures we cannot receive the essence of God. The love of God is without-beginning; it is this love which we receive from God and share by divine grace. It is in the context of Orthodox liturgical life and assumptions about essence/energies—and solely in this context—that the great writers like St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Maximos the Confessor or St. Gregory Palamas can argue that human beings “become” divine. Now it will be possible to compare other teachings of deification which are popular today.

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Old 09-05-2014, 01:20 AM   #88
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More excerpts from “Orthodox Christian Theosis and Deification in the New Religious Movements” by Rev. Dn. Dr. Brendan Pelphrey

Deification: the opposite of theosis

For Christians of any background, the idea of wanting to be God—or even to be “like” God—is dangerously wrong. The First Commandment says that only God is god, and there can be no other (Exodus 20:2-3). At the same time, there is a genuine Christian tradition called theosis, “sharing the divine nature,” which is relatively little-known today in the West. While it may be thought of as a process, it is not the process of “becoming” which the Master advocates; nor is it compatible with the idea of “discovering the god within.” Nevertheless, it asserts that it is possible for human beings to take on the divine nature, and by becoming divine, to become truly human for the first time. This teaching is not only part of the Christian tradition, but it may be said to be the most important part. It is the substance of the Christian faith and the very thing which Christians have historically meant by “salvation.”

It is important to understand from the start that there are real differences between Christian theosis and deification as it appears in the new religious movements. Many new religious movements claim that their teachings about deification are compatible with Christianity. However, to make this claim is fundamentally to misunderstand Christian faith. Some religious movements recognize this, and say that their doctrine of deification is derived from early Christianity, that is, from esoteric teachings which were later “suppressed by the Church.” What is really meant are doctrines of various Gnostic sects of the second and third centuries, whose teachings were always regarded as heretical by the Church and which are still rejected by Orthodoxy. In fact, some of the earliest Christian texts known, outside the New Testament itself, contain the idea of theosis but also vigorously oppose Gnostic doctrines of deification. The two concepts are perhaps related to one another as a mirror image is related to the real object, or the right hand is related to the left hand. At first glance they look alike, even identical, but if we look more closely we will see that they are opposite at every point.

In a sense it seems natural for human beings to desire to be divine. This desire lies behind all religious movements. Indeed, Christians believe that God has given us the desire to know divinity, because the purpose of God in creation itself was for humanity to be in communion with God. However, there is a perversion at work in the human psyche. The fall into sin is the desire not to know God, but to be “like” God. Deep within every human being is the desire to manipulate God and to have the power of God for ourselves. This desire drives us to occupy ourselves with myths of the gods, to make offerings to various divinities and to seek religious answers, especially in the hope of improving our own condition and our lot. We seek immortality in a world which is constantly passing away. In its strongest form this desire is not really to worship God, but to be God.

The desire to be deified is the whole point of the biblical story of the temptation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Like disciples of New Age thinking today, Eve wanted simply to realize her hidden potential to be divine. She was instructed by the serpent how to go about it: by eating the forbidden fruit (following an esoteric “natural” diet?), becoming enlightened, knowing and understanding all things.

Of course the Hebrew story does not mean that Eve ate a literal fruit, but that she desired to experience the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, that is, knowing all things. The story illustrates a process of attempting to gain secret knowledge (gnosis, the origin of the term Gnosticism). Eve would discover her hidden powers, powers which God had failed to reveal to her. Perhaps (is this what the serpent wanted her to believe?) these powers had not been revealed to her before because God wanted to keep her subservient, both to Himself and to Adam, her husband. Or perhaps it was merely an oversight on God’s part, since the will of a truly loving God would naturally be for all human beings to be fully “realized,” and therefore, divine. Thus the desire to know all things, as God knows all things, is portrayed as the highest human aspiration—something good and holy, something God-like, which even God would approve. Unfortunately, it is the serpent who has portrayed divine realization this way; for God Himself had warned Adam and Eve not to attempt to know all things.

In the Christian tradition the story of Eve’s fall illustrates exactly what is not theosis. To seek to be divine ourselves prevents us from truly knowing God. Thus the desire for deification, which may be understood as natural and even as the highest of all human aspirations, the basis of all religious quests, is itself evil. Eve found that the fruit of her desire was not to draw closer to God but to be driven away from the Creator. The reason is that if we are gods unto ourselves, we have no need for any other God. The result is inevitably death, because our nature as creatures is that, whether we like it or not, we are utterly dependent upon God for all that we have and are, including life itself.

Christianity teaches that human beings were intended to share the divine nature from the beginning. This was the purpose of creation itself: we were made in the “image and likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26). Why, then, were Adam and Eve commanded not to share in the knowledge of good and evil? The answer lies in the fact that we are not gods, but created beings. The phrase “good and evil” means “everything.” But human beings cannot know everything, all that God knows, because we are created.

At the same time, the nature of God is love (1 John 4:16). It is possible to receive divine Love, God’s own nature, just as it is possible to receive life from the Author of Life. We can experience the love which is given by God and which is identical with the Being of God. Thus, in the beginning humanity was not commanded to refrain from the “tree of life” but only from the attempt to know all things, as if we were gods.

The sharing of divine nature which is Love, as God’s image and likeness, does not make us “like” God, which would imply that we remain separate from God and somehow equal to God. Rather, it draws us into God in a mystery of co-inherence. God desires to live intimately with us, to dwell within us, and for us to live in God. Moreover, we are to be living pictures (Greek eikone, icons) of God, in the flesh. Nevertheless we are not God, and God is not identical with ourselves. Furthermore, our sharing the divine nature is not something which can be accomplished from our side, but from God’s side alone. It is initiated by God and is created in us by the Spirit of God.

The Christian doctrine of the fall into sin asserts that the apparently natural desire to be divine is in fact not natural, but a perversion of human nature. It appears natural because from the beginning of time, humanity has been twisted by the desire to replace God, to be gods unto ourselves. Human beings were intended to be creatures who live in the image and likeness of God, sharing the love-nature of God, but not seeking to replace God as our only Father.

Summary: ten points of contrast

If God or divine nature is above-thought and above-being, and if the divine nature cannot be known to (or in) the material world, then several corollaries follow. These corollaries have all appeared historically in non-Christian religions. Even though they appear to contradict one another, they often coexist within the same religious framework. They are as follows:

God cannot be known in the material world, or to material beings. (Some systems conclude, therefore, that practically speaking, there is no God.)

God exists, but God cannot be known under ordinary circumstances. To know God one must become all “spirit,” either through a discipline or through acquisition of secret knowledge (gnosis).

God (or the divine spirit) is hidden within ourselves and is the only true reality. This inner Self must be discovered carefully through personal development. Therefore…

We ourselves are God.

It is sometimes asserted that Christian theosis is the same as the doctrine of deification as taught by the new religious movements, and essentially the same as Gnostic deification, Hindu Advaita monism, even the Buddhist experience of the Third Body of the Buddha. Such identifications should not be made too quickly. Certainly within New Age, a key point is the assumption that human beings have a divine nature hidden deep within; however, the material world is a hindrance to the realization of this inner divinity, which is essentially spiritual. Historic Gnosticism, the original “New Age,” shared this perspective and taught that Jesus was one of the avatars of divinity (the embodiment of the Logos, one of the Aeons), who came to earth to help humanity realize its inner potential to be divine. It should now be clear that theosis as taught by the Church fathers is entirely different. That is why such early writers as Irenaeus and Justin Martyr wrote so strongly against Gnostic doctrines of deification. Some points of difference may be summarized as follows:

In the Christian tradition God is the Creator and we are creatures of God. God is not “within” us in the sense that we ourselves are divine or take the place of God or are gods. God is never identical with ourselves. Rather, we bear in our flesh the Image of God, and by grace, may grow into the divine Likeness, which is Christ.

The material world, including the human body, is not illusory, but quite real. It is not evil or an impediment to knowledge of God. Rather, it was created by God in order to have a relationship with God and to participate in God. The process of theosis is a transformation of life in the flesh, and is visible in flesh itself: for example, in the light which was visible at the Transfiguration of Christ, transforming even his clothing; and in the miraculous signs which accompany the relics of certain saints.

Christians agree that the essence of God cannot be understood or experienced by any creature. Nevertheless, it is possible to know God personally and intimately in this life. This immediate knowledge of God is made possible by the Incarnation, in which God became flesh in order to redeem flesh.

Knowledge of God is not esoteric or “secret” knowledge available only to some initiates, but is given freely to the whole world. It is ours through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on those who receive Christ and are willing to follow Him.

Theosis is the result of God’s own initiative. It is ours through trust (faith) and by participation in the life of the Church. It is not a matter of our own achievement, since it is not within the power of human beings to rise even to full humanity. Therefore, it is not a matter of techniques of meditation or psycho-physical exercises, but of being receptive to the grace of God which is in Christ, and is ours in the sacramental life of the Church.

To be transfigured into the divine image is to become more human, that is, to grow into the fullness of humanity. The transfigured person is, therefore, drawn closer both to God and to the world itself. This occurs in this life, and is evident in our relationship with others and with nature itself. By contrast, in the new religious movements deification ultimately means rejection of the world and withdrawal from the material plane.

The Christian experience of drawing closer to God and being transformed by God (theosis) is humbling and is always accompanied by repentance. The fathers speak of the gift of tears as one of the chief signs of true spiritual transformation. One becomes conscious of being “the least of all and the servant of all.” In the new religious movements, on the other hand, the experience of deification raises up the Self as divine and even all-powerful. The promise is often made that the true disciple can gain power over others and over the world itself. The aim and purpose of deification is to elevate the self and to become a Master.

The Christian experience of theosis is to be drawn into the Love which is the Trinity. Here there is a mirroring in the self of the mystery of the Trinity. In the Trinity, the divine Persons are not confused or mixed with one another; similarly, there is no confusion between the person of faith, and the Creator. We are not God, but we are made one with God. The doctrine of deification, on the other hand, is that there is a merging or union between the self and the divine nature so that there is no “other” at all, no essential difference between self and God, or self and the Absolute (in Buddhist terms, the dharmakaya or Third Body of the Buddha). There is an experience of being “one” with the universe; all enlightened beings are One. By contrast, in Christianity all disciples are unique, with differing gifts. There is a synergy of persons, but not an identity.

Christians locate theosis in Christ. To say this is not enough, since many religious movements speak of “the Christ” or “the Christ-spirit.” Usually Christ is said to be a spirit who has reincarnated in all the great Masters through history. Christians, however, are not concerned with an appearance of God (the “Christ-spirit”) on earth, but with the incarnation of God on earth, which is unique and historical, not an appearance but actual flesh and blood.

Christian theosis takes place through participation in the sacramental life of the Church. Those who truly love Christ love the Church, his own Body. It is, furthermore, the Church of history, with real bishops, priests, deacons, people—not every sect which calls itself “Church.” Any promised “deification” which turns one away from the historic “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” Church, is not deification but a false promise.

For Christians, then, theosis describes the life in Christ. It is humbling, turning us outward in love and joy towards God and towards the world which God has made. It is the gift of life itself. For those who would seek deification on their own, looking inside the human spirit to find the divine, it is important to recall the mysterious words of a Psalm of Asaph: God said, “you are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless you shall die like men” (Psalm 82:6). The goal of the Christian is to die to self, so that we might live in Christ.

http://www.dialogcentret.dk/index.ph...tent&Itemid=37
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Old 09-05-2014, 01:59 AM   #89
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Well, enough about theosis. I just wanted to clarify the EOC views.

Brothers and sisters in the LRC always like to repeat that God hates religion. Personally, I find nothing wrong with religion (even "organized religion") and the word itself. It's sanctimoniousness, hypocrisy, and empty ritual that make religion fall short. So, what is religion?

I want to share a few excerpts from professor Alexei Osipov's book "The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason", published in English and Russian. (Osipov is a well known Russian Orthodox theologian, professor and lecturer from Moscow Orthodox Theological Seminary). They sell the book at Amazon but I am reading its digital version since the author uploaded it to his website:

There are several different points of view about the derivation of the word “religion” (from the Latin word religio, meaning conscientiousness, piety, reverence, religion, holiness, service to God). Thus, Cicero, the famous Roman orator, writer, and political activist of the first century B.C. considered that this word came from the Latin verb relegere (meaning, to gather again, to re-consider, to set aside for a particular use), with a connotative meaning of “showing reverence” or “relating to something with particular attention or respect.” Proceeding from this, Cicero sees the very existence of religion as reverence before the higher powers, before the Divinity. This thought of Cicero’s assuredly shows that piety is one of the most important elements of religion, without which religiosity becomes sanctimoniousness, hypocrisy, and empty ritual; and belief in God becomes no more than cold, lifeless doctrine. At the same time, we cannot agree with the statement that reverence toward something mysterious, even toward God, comprises the essence of religion. No matter how great and necessary piety is to religion, it is nevertheless only one of the feelings present in man’s religious relationship to God, and does not express its essence.

The famous Western Christian writer and orator Lactantious (†330) considered that the term “religion” comes from the Latin verb “religare,” which means “to bind, to join.” Therefore he defines religion as a union of piety between man and God. “With this condition,” he writes, “we are born in order to show a just and dutiful submission to the Lord Who has given us being; to know only Him, to follow only Him. Being bound by this union of piety, we find ourselves in union with God, from which religion has received its name. ‘Religion’ comes from the union of piety by which God has bound man with Himself….”

Lactantious’ definition reveals the very essence of religion—a living union of man’s spirit with God, which takes place within the secret chambers of the human heart.

Blessed Augustine (†430) similarly understood the essence of religion, although he considered that the word “religion” comes from the verb “religare” meaning “to come together,” and that religion itself indicates a coming together, the renewal of a once lost union between man and God. “Seeking this,” he writes, “or rather, seeking out again (from which apparently it has received the name ‘religion’), we yearn towards Him with love, so that once we attain it, we will be at peace.”

Thus, the etymology of the world “religion” points to its two basic meanings: unity and reverence, which explain religion as a mystical spiritual union: a living, reverent unification of man with God."

Sergei Bulgakov (†1944), the great Russian thinker and later theologian, expressed this thought in the following words:

"Religion is [a process of] acquiring the knowledge of God, and the experience of a connection with God."

---

To me, the book has a bit strange title but here is how the publisher explains it: "This book fills the order of a needed genre: Christian Apologetics for intellectual seekers and products of the Age of Reason. The author believes that, “It is natural for a Christian to know ‘the certainty of those things, wherein he has been instructed’ (cf. Lk. 1:4). But, as the Apostle Peter writes, you should be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (1 Pet. 3:15).”

http://goo.gl/pDXcWU (Alexei Osipov "The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason")
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Old 09-05-2014, 02:01 AM   #90
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Joke:

God was sitting in heaven one day when a scientist said to Him, “God, we don’t need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing – in other words, we can now do what you did in the beginning.”

“Oh, is that so? Explain…” replies God. “Well,” says the scientist, “we can take dust and form it into the likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man.”

“Well, that’s very interesting… show Me.”

So the scientist bends down to pick up some dust. “Wait, wait, wait…” interrupts God, “That's my dust. Where is yours?”


Quote:

"We are all essentially superfluous, and no one needs us but God".
Metropolitan Benjamin (Fedchenkov)
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Old 09-05-2014, 02:40 AM   #91
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Prof. Alexei Osipov on contradictions in Gospels (from his book "God"):

There are contradictions in Gospels.

This objection comes from unawareness that Gospel has two sides. One is where external circumstances of the earthly life of Jesus Christ are described. This is where the authors of the New Testament report about what they saw themselves or heard about from others. It is possible to find here some inaccuracy in the presentation of facts and contradictions in the narration of one and the same event by different authors (e.g. one or two possessed with devils who met Jesus Christ – Mt. 8:28 and Mk.5:1; or how many times cock crew when Apostle Peter denied knowing Christ – Mt.26:75 and Mk 14:72). Such discrepancy is usual when different people describe one event. Moreover, the existence of this kind of discrepancies confirm the authenticity of the witness of the authors of the Gospels and show the respectful attitude of all who copied these texts. It would have not been difficult to correlate the texts or even remove these contradictions.

The other side of the of the Gospel provides for the basis of the Christian confession and is its primary source. It comprises the teaching about God, about Christ, about commandments and about other truths of faith and life. This teaching contains no contradictions. For Christianity, this is Divine Revelation. The Gospel’s teaching cannot be looked upon as yet another religious philosophic system that can be discussed from the point of view of our logic and frame of mind. Our logic and assumptions are not applicable to that sphere of life. Christianity has a number of objective arguments witnessing to its Divine origin...

http://goo.gl/GI4hCJ
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Old 11-12-2014, 08:41 PM   #92
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I was reading some articles on the Local Church controversies and was much surprised to meet these four names: Joseph Richard Ballew, Jack Sparks, Jon Braun, and Peter Gillquist.

"In the summer of 1976 Peter Gillquist, the presiding NCAO apostle, became the head of the new books division at Thomas Nelson Publishers (Nelson), a respected Bible publisher. The first book Gillquist commissioned was The Mindbenders by Jack Sparks. Sparks was listed as the putative author but the chapter on the local churches was written by Braun, who, although he had never met with the local churches, blamed Watchman Nee and Witness Lee for his negative experience with Gene Edwards."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_Church_controversies

In 1977 The Mindbenders, a book authored by Jack Sparks, published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., accused Witness Lee and The Local Churches of being a cult and of being heretical in their beliefs. Both before and after publication of their first edition, Nelson received many letters from The Local Churches and their members protesting the falsity of the chapter concerning them. Notwithstanding these letters, Nelson published an expanded second edition in 1979. In 1980 Local Churches brought suit against Thomas Nelson and the author for libel.

In 1980 local churches in California, Georgia, Ohio, and Texas and several individuals filed suits against Thomas Nelson, Inc., Jack N. Sparks, Jon Edward Braun, Joseph Richard Ballew, Peter Gillquist, et al over the publication of The Mindbenders: A Look at Current Cults by Jack Sparks. These suits were later consolidated into a single litigation, which was resolved when Thomas Nelson, Inc., published a retraction in major newspapers throughout the United States.

http://www.thebereans.net/forum2/showthread.php?t=33935

BTW, here is the book:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Mindbender.../dp/0840756143

I think I am going to get it one day, but I don't know how to explain to my wife, who is still an active member in the LRC, that Richard Ballew, Jack Sparks, Jon Braun, and Peter Gillquist share the same Orthodox Christian Faith with me. So, these four names are well known in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. (Unfortunately, Richard Ballew, Jack Sparks, and Peter Gillquist fell asleep in the Lord years ago).

BTW, Jack Sparks also compiled the writings of the Apostolic Fathers:

http://www.amazon.com/Apostolic-Fath.../dp/0840756615
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Old 10-06-2015, 07:29 AM   #93
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The Desert Fathers were early Christian hermits, ascetics, and monks who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt beginning around the third century AD. The Apophthegmata Patrum is a collection of the writings of some of the early desert monks and nuns, representing the Divine Wisdom they received, still in print as Sayings of the Desert Fathers. The most well known was Anthony the Great, who moved to the desert in 270–271 and became known as both the father and founder of desert monasticism. (Wikipedia)

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

If you are not tempted, you have no hope; if you are not tempted, it is because you are sinning.

A brother at Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses (330–405) was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to say to him, 'Come, for everyone is waiting' for you.' So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said to him, 'What is this, Father?' The old man said to them, 'My sins ran out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.' When they heard that they said no more to the brother but forgave him.

When asked why he [St. Moses] was not grieved by the sinfulness of others, he responded that when one has a corpse in their own house, they do not grieve over the corpse in the home of another.

If the monk does not think in his heart that he is a sinner, God will not hear him. A brother asked, ‘What does that mean, to think in his heart that he is a sinner?’ Then Abba Moses said, When someone is occupied with his own faults, he does not see those of his neighbor.

If we are on the watch to see our own faults, we shall not see those of our neighbor…To die to one’s neighbor is this: To bear your own faults and not to pay attention to anyone else wondering whether they are good or bad. Do no harm to anyone, do not think anything bad in your heart towards anyone, do not scorn the man who does evil…Do not rail against anyone, but rather say, ‘God knows each one.’ Do not agree with him who slanders, do not rejoice at his slander, and do not hate him who slanders his neighbor.

A devout prince, upon hearing of the mortification of St. Moses Murin [the Black], went with his retinue into the desert to see him. Informing Moses that the prince was coming to his monastery, Moses quickly ran out and began to flee and to hide somewhere, but he unexpectedly encountered the high-ranking visitors. “Where is the cell of Abba Moses?” the servants of the prince asked not suspecting that this was Moses himself. Moses opened his mouth and said: “What do you want him for? He is an ignorant old man, very untruthful and completely impure in life.” Hearing this, the visitors were astonished and continued on. When they arrived at the cell of Moses, they inquired about the elder and the monks said that he was not there. Then they began to relate what a monk on the road had said about Moses. The monks were saddened and asked them: “How did he look, this old man, who spoke to you mocking words about this holy man?” and when they said that he was very dark in the face, tall and in a miserable garment; the monks cried out loudly: “but that was indeed the Abba Moses!” By this incident, the prince benefited greatly spiritually and, rejoicing, returned to his home.

Blessed Macarius (c. 300 – 391) said, "This is the truth, if a monk regards contempt as praise, poverty as riches, and hunger as a feast, he will never die."

To those who visited him, St Sisoes (†429 AD) first of all always taught humility, as the most necessary virtue. When one of the monks asked how he might attain to a constant remembrance of God, St Sisoës remarked, "That is no great thing, my son, but it is a great thing to regard yourself as inferior to everyone else. This leads to the acquisition of humility." Thus, while he never lost sight of the divine presence, it was ever accompanied with the consciousness of his own nothingness and misery.

When St Sisoës lay upon his deathbed, the disciples surrounding the Elder saw that his face shone like the sun. They asked the dying man what he saw. Abba Sisoës replied that he saw StAnthony, the Prophets, and the Apostles. His face increased in brightness, and he spoke with someone. The monks asked, "With whom are you speaking, Father?" He said that angels had come for his soul, and he was entreating them to give him a little more time for repentance. The monks said, "You have no need for repentance, Father" St Sisoës said with great humility, "I do not think that I have even begun to repent." After these words the face of the holy abba shone so brightly that the brethren were not able to look upon him. St Sisoës told them that he saw the Lord Himself. Then there was a flash like lightning, and a fragrant odor, and Abba Sisoës departed to the Heavenly Kingdom.

Somebody asked Anthony (c. 251 – 356) , 'What shall I do in order to please God?' He replied, 'Do what I tell you, which is this: wherever you go, keep God in mind; whatever you do, follow the example of Holy Scripture; wherever you are, stay there and do not move away in a hurry. If you keep to these guide-lines, you will be saved.
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Old 10-16-2015, 02:25 AM   #94
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Are there any arguments to prove that the Eastern Orthodox Church is the Church of the Bible that preserves the fullness of Christian faith? What are the differences between the EOC and the LRC when they have similar claims?

From my point of view, Witness Lee’s claims are based on his own opinion. The claims of the EOC have facts which can be proved with the Holy Bible, dogmatically and historically. (I am sorry, I will use my copy and paste approach to cite some other authors).

1 The Founder and the Church history.

The founder of the Local Church is not God but a Chinese man named Witness Lee. (He could be Russian, German or American – it does not matter. What matters is that the founder of the LRC was a mere mortal). Origin: 1927 So, it’s not the Church of Jesus Christ, but the church of her founder, Witness Lee, who had no historical connection to the Church of the Bible which was founded in 33 A.D.

The Orthodox Church is the first Christian Church, the Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ at the day of Pentecost in the year 33 A.D. and described in the pages of the New Testament. Her history can be traced in unbroken continuity all the way back to Christ and His Twelve Apostles.

Writings of the early Christians (the Apostolic Fathers and the Church Fathers) support this bold claim because they describe the faith, doctrines and practices of the early Church which are similar to the Orthodox faith. (Many of the writings were lost because of the early Christian persecutions but those that exists prove that the EOC shares the faith of early Christians. For example, The Didache (mid to late first century) says that early Christians fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays – Eastern Orthodox fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, too. The Church Fathers believed in the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine – the EOC holds to the same faith. (BTW, Luther shared the same believe about the Real Presence. WL rejected it)).

One of the first historians of the Church was Eusebius (AD 260/265 – 339/340), the bishop of Caesarea. His book The Church History was a 4th-century pioneer work giving a chronological account of the development of Early Christianity from the 1st century to the 4th century.

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.toc.html
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2501.htm

In "The Church History", Eusebius describes the history of the Church of the Bible which is the history of the Orthodox Church.

The Canon of Scripture is another matter to consider. Who gave us the biblical canon? Luther? Witness Lee? Or was it the “fallen” and “pagan” Church?.. Prior to the late 4th century, there was no united canon, and that the Church had continued in the faith, united, even without having a canon, because they had the teachings of the apostles and those the apostles trusted, guiding them and guarding them in the faith, and keeping them from heresy.

Saint Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296–298 – 2 May 373) was the first person to identify the same 27 books of the New Testament that are in use today. Up until then, various similar lists of works to be read in churches were in use. Athanasius compiled the list to resolve questions about such texts as The Epistle of Barnabas. Because Athanasius's canon is the closest canon of any of the Church Fathers to the canon used by Protestant churches today, many Protestants point to Athanasius as the father of the canon. (BTW, if the Church was fallen and pagan in the 4th century, why did WL use the Scriptures that the “pagan” Church leaders (like St Athanasius) had confirmed to be the New Testament? If the Church was fallen and pagan, then Witness Lee should have “recovered” another canon. Why did he use the New Testament of the "fallen" Church? In the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ never asked anyone to write down books about His life and teachings. The Apostle Paul never asked anyone to include his letters in the biblical canon and make it a part of the Scriptures. When the Lord or the apostles mentioned the Scriptures, they meant the Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) only. The New Testament didn’t exist that time. It could not be a part of the Scriptures. Centuries later, it was the Church that made decision to create the new Canon of Scripture).

The LRC is based on one man's opinion about the Bible and the Christian faith. WL changed his doctrines. In Taiwan, he had one views. In America, he had others. It means he had no criterion of truth. The Orthodox Church has this criterion. It is the consensus of the Church Fathers. The Orthodox Church never changed the Faith in the last 2000 years. The EO doctrines stem from early church teachings and councils. (It takes a lot of time and effort but it’s possible to check it. Just read the Nicene Creed, decisions of the first seven Ecumenical Councils, and writings of early Christians).

In a thread, a brother mentioned “the Eastern Orthodox who "stayed the ancient path", even after modern highways were built”. From the Eastern Orthodox view, the modern “highways” were false roads build by those who had no idea about the ancient Christian faith. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings”. (Hebrews 13:8-9). The followers of the highways builders are reaping the fruits now: This is an article I read last week: “Eva Brunne, the world's first openly lesbian bishop in the Lutheran Church, has called for a church in Stockholm, Sweden, to remove all signs of the cross, and instead build an Islamic prayer room in order to welcome Muslims.

2 Apostolic succession

The LC doesn't trace her roots from the apostles. It is the church of a man who proclaimed himself an apostle. On what basis? Can this organization be the true church? What do we mean when we say "church"?

We Orthodox Christians mean by Church the Body through which Jesus is present and active in the world today. It was founded by Christ through the apostles and has maintained a living, historical connection with the apostles through the ordination of its clergy. The fact that the bishop who ordains an Orthodox priest today can trace his ordination historically all the way back to the apostles and through them to Christ is a guarantee that the Orthodox Church was not founded by someone called Joe Smith a few centuries ago but by Christ Himself and traces its existence historically back to Jesus. We call this "apostolic succession". It means that our Church is the authentic and genuine Church or Body of Christ in the world today. It continues to teach not one man's interpretation of the faith but the complete deposit of faith as it was handed down to the Apostles by Jesus.

In the Nicene Creed of faith our Church is described as the "One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church": "One" because there can only be one true Church with one head Who is Christ. "Holy" because the church seeks to sanctify and transfigure its members through the Sacraments. "Catholic" because the Church is universal and has members in all parts of the world. The word "Catholic" comes from a Greek word katholikos (kath-oh-lee-KOHS) which means world-wide or universal. '"Apostolic" because its teachings are based on the foundations laid by the Apostles from whom our Church derives its teachings and authority without break or change.

One cannot be Orthodox and reject the teachings of the fathers. True, the fathers on occasion have contradicted each other, but that is why we look at the common consensus of their teachings, and especially the Ecumenical Councils. The Eastern Orthodox Church adheres to the teaching set forth in the Creed that the Church of Christ is one.

Let’s see what the Fathers wrote about Apostolic Succession:

Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35-107), a student of John the Apostle. In the Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Ignatius wrote about three degrees ministry:

"See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop."

Writing about AD 94, Clement of Rome states that the apostles appointed successors to continue their work where they had planted churches and for these in their turn to do the same because they foresaw the risk of discord. He uses both 'bishop' and 'presbyter' to refer to these men.

Hegesippus (180?) and Irenaeus (180) introduce explicitly the idea of the bishop's succession in office as a guarantee of the truth of what he preached in that it could be traced back to the apostles, and they produced succession lists to back this up.

WL and his followers had no apostolic succession. They and their teaching have nothing to do with the historical Church.

3 Biblical argument.

WL believed that the historical Church became pagan and fallen. Orthodox Christians don’t share his views. The historical Church which is the Eastern Orthodox Church, founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, has never been pagan or fallen. (There is no such event or a Council when the entire Church in Jerusalem, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch changed Her doctrines and faith. Certain local churches like the church of Rome fell off from communion with other Orthodox churches but the entire universal Orthodox Church still keeps the union). As the Body of Christ and the sole vessel of salvation, as the pillar and foundation of truth, the Church never divided itself nor disappeared, but always, over the entire history of Christianity, taught the pure teaching of the Gospel in the abundance of the grace-filled gifts of the Holy Spirit.

If WL’s words about “the fallen Christianity”are true, then it means that the gates of Hades has overcome the Church (Matthew 16:18) and Christ has not fulfilled his promise. BTW, it was not the only promise that He gave us. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” (John 14:16) “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”. (John 14:26)

Where was the Holy Spirit prior to Luther, pardon, Witness Lee? Where had been Christ till 1517 or 1927? Was He with His Church or somewhere else? Wasn’t it the Lord Who said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. (Matthew 28:20) What about the apostles? Does it mean that Christ chose wrong people to lead His Church? And the apostles were so incompetent that they were not able to leave good disciples? And what about the Apostle Paul who said, “to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Ephesians 3:21) It was the same apostle who called the church the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15) and wrote: “...just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

In other words, if one believes that the Holy Spirit made a pause till 1517 (or 1927), or the Church had been fallen, paganized or messed up... till he or someone else recovered it, then he must admit that the Lord and the Apostle Paul were liars.

The invisible church theory doesn’t work. It contradicts the Bible. Council of Jerusalem (or Apostolic Conference) in Acts 15:6-31 was visible enough to make decisions for the whole Church.

The Lord’s words in Matthew 18:16-17 also contradict the idea of the invisible universal church: “But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” The English word “church” means “ekklesia” in Greek. In the times of the New Testament “ekklesia” meant "assembly." The word could not be referred to a never assembled group, and the invisible church has never assembled.

Another proof is Ephesians 5:23 where the Apostle Paul says, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church (ekklesia), his body, of which he is the Savior.” And, of course, Christ’s words to Peter support it more than anything else: And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18). The Lord speaks about one church (ekklesia), not many churches or assemblies.

Some more examples:

Acts 8:1: “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church (ekklesia) in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” As we can see, it was a visible church, assembly, because you can’t persecute something which is invisible.

Ephesians 4:4–6 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

If the Body is one, why is there so many churches, with different doctrines and teachings? Can one head have numerous bodies? “Is Christ divided?”(1 Corinthians 1:13)

Jesus says in John 10:16 “...there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” As we all know, the modern Christian world has no union. So, it’s impossible to call so many different churches one flock. For example, there are Protestants who call same sex relationship a sin, and there are Protestant churches that anoint lesbian bishops who are married to lesbian priests.

When the Lord said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:20), He said it to his disciples. It was the words to His church, to His ekklesia, and not to self-styled assemblies and self-styled lesbian bishops and self-styled apostles like Witness Lee.

One of the main differences between the EOC and the LRC (together with other Protestant and neo-protestant churches) is that the historical Church (Orthodox Church) is not based on the Bible. Rather, the Bible is a product of the Church. (NB The Church is based ON CHRIST). For the first few centuries of the Christian era, no one could have put his hands on a single volume called "The Bible." In fact, there was no one put his hands on a single volume called "The Bible." In fact, there was no agreement regarding which "books" of Scripture were to be considered accurate and correct, or canonical. The Church’s holy prophets and Apostles wrote the books contained in the Bible. The Church determined which books were authoritative and belonged in Holy Scripture. The Church preserved and passed on the texts of these Scriptural books.

So, these are a few arguments to support the position of the EOC. When I share them with my wife, who is an active member of the LRC, she ignores them. She knows nothing about the Church history, nothing about writings of early Christians, nothing about the Apostolic and Church Fathers, nothing about the Creed, nothing about “the Church History” by Eusebius, nothing about the EOC (except icons which she calls idols) but she believes that the LRC is the body of Christ. What are her arguments? Because Witness Lee said so. What was his argument? I don’t know. I believe his views were based on his own personal opinion, not on facts. Personally, I believe it's only Our Lord Jesus Christ can say who of us belong to His Body. But historically and dogmatically, the LRC has nothing to do with the Church of the Bible.

I am sorry, if I offended someone. But I do believe that the EOC is the historical church, the Church of the Bible, which has never been fallen. Some people (laymen, priests, bishops, and even local Orthodox churches like the church of Rome) can fall away from the truth, but not the entire Church. Otherwise, it would contradict the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

I want to finish my post by the Lord’s words from John 17:19-21: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

God bless.
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Old 12-21-2015, 07:23 PM   #95
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This might not really fit here, but tonight my family watched the Nativity Story video. My enjoyment of this video is no different than the enjoyment by early Christians of the iconography of the saints and holy family. As I watched the video I did not worship the actors, but I did give praise to my God who guided and protected the holy family...and I'm a Protestant.
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Old 04-27-2016, 12:45 AM   #96
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Thank you Hern.

Yesterday I quarreled with my wife about icons. She is still an active member of the LC. And I am tired of telling her that icons are not idols. No matter what I say, she ignores every argument.

Icons Are Not Idols

http://www.ocf.net/icons-are-not-idols/

Is Venerating Icons Idolatry?

http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/icon_bowing.aspx

No Graven Image: Icons and Their Proper Use

http://www.antiochian.org/content/no...eir-proper-use

BTW, the last article was written by Fr. Jack N. Sparks, Ph.D. He also wrote "The Mindbenders", a book published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., which accused The Local Churches of being heretical in their beliefs.
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Old 04-27-2016, 12:53 AM   #97
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I just started reading The Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark.

The book was written in about the year 1100 A.D. by Blessed Theophylact who was one of the most famous Byzantine biblical scholars. What a difference between this patristically based commentaries and WL's footnotes!
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Old 04-29-2016, 02:17 AM   #98
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"Glory to God for All Things" is only blog that I read on a regular basis. Just want to share one of St. Anthony's quotes from a recent post where Fr Stephen Freeman tried to answer: “Why did Christ have to die on the Cross?”

"God is good and is not controlled by passions. He does not change. Now someone who thinks it reasonable and true to affirm that God does not change, may well ask how, in that case, it is possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good and showing mercy to those who honor Him, and as turning away from the wicked and being angry with sinners. To this it must be answered that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure. It is not right that the Divinity feel pleasure or displeasure from human conditions. He is good, and He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good through resembling God, are united to Him, but if we become evil through not resembling God, we are separated from Him. By living in holiness we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked we make Him our enemy. It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us and expose us to demons who torture us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him to change, but that through our actions and our turning to the Divinity, we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God’s goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind."

It's not only the post that is worth reading but also the comments:

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory...rist-life-man/

As a continuation, here is another excellent post made by Fr Stephen Freeman:

Good News – Your Debt is Being Cancelled

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory...ebt-cancelled/

These two posts show a significant difference between Protestant and Eastern Orthodox understanding of the Lord's death, Resurrection and atonement theory.

Everyone reads the same Bible. How come there is such a huge difference in its interpretation? The point is that Protestant understanding of Scripture is based on someone's personal interpretation (be it a pastor, professor of theology or me myself), whereas Eastern Orthodox interpretation is based on the consensus of the Church Fathers.
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Old 05-04-2016, 12:03 AM   #99
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This is another Orthodox blog that I read from time to time: Orthodox Road. Rediscovering the beauty of ancient Christianity.

Here are some of my favorite posts:

What Orthodoxy Is: http://www.orthodoxroad.com/what-orthodoxy-is/
What Orthodoxy Isn’t: http://www.orthodoxroad.com/what-orthodoxy-isnt/

My Journey into The Ancient Church, Part 1

http://www.orthodoxroad.com/my-journ...cient-faith-1/

My Journey into The Ancient Church, Part 2

http://www.orthodoxroad.com/my-journ...church-part-2/

Scripture vs. Tradition

http://www.orthodoxroad.com/scripture-vs-tradition/

Things I Wish I’d Known Before Attending. A guide for your first venture to an Eastern Orthodox Church

http://www.orthodoxroad.com/things-i...ore-attending/
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Old 07-14-2016, 08:37 PM   #100
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I want to share an interesting article about the difference between Eastern Christian (Orthodox) and Western Christian (Roman Catholic and Protestant) theology and their views on God.

The River of Fire – by a Greek Orthodox theologian Dr. Alexander Kalomiros

Here is an excerpt:

"What is the Western dogma of salvation? Did not God kill God in order to satisfy His pride, which the Westerners euphemistically call justice? And is it not by this infinite satisfaction that He deigns to accept the salvation of some of us?

What is salvation for Western theology? Is it not salvation from the wrath of God?

Do you see, then, that Western theology teaches that our real danger and our real enemy is our Creator and God? Salvation, for Westerners, is to be saved from the hands of God!

How can one love such a God? How can we have faith in someone we detest? Faith in its deeper essence is a product of love, therefore, it would be our desire that one who threatens us not even exist, especially when this threat is eternal...

This paganistic conception of God’s justice which demands infinite sacrifices in order to be appeased clearly makes God our real enemy and the cause of all our misfortunes. Moreover, it is a justice which is not at all just since it punishes and demands satisfaction from persons which were not at all responsible for the sin of their forefathers. In other words, what Westerners call justice ought rather to be called resentment and vengeance of the worst kind. Even Christ’s love and sacrifice loses its significance and logic in this schizoid notion of a God who kills God in order to satisfy the so-called justice of God.

Does this conception of justice have anything to do with the justice that God revealed to us? Does the phrase “justice of God” have this meaning in the Old and New Testaments?

The word DIKAIWSUNH,“justice”, is a translation of the Hebraic word tsedaka. This word means “the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation”. It is parallel and almost synonymous to the other Hebraic word, hesed which means “mercy”, “compassion”, “love”, and to the word, emeth which means “fidelity”, “truth”. This, as you see, gives a completely other dimension to what we usually conceive as justice. This is how the Church understood God’s justice. This is what the Fathers of the Church taught of it. “How can you call God just”, writes Saint Isaac the Syrian, “when you read the passage on the wage given to the workers? ‘Friend, I do thee no wrong; I will give unto this last even as unto thee who worked for me from the first hour. Is thine eye evil, because I am good?'” “How can a man call God just”, continues Saint Isaac, “when he comes across the passage on the prodigal son, who wasted his wealth in riotous living, and yet only for the contrition which he showed, the father ran and fell upon his neck, and gave him authority over all his wealth? None other but His very Son said these things concerning Him lest we doubt it, and thus He bare witness concerning Him. Where, then, is God’s justice, for whilst we were sinners, Christ died for us!”

So we see that God is not just, with the human meaning of this word, but we see that His justice means His goodness and love, which are given in an unjust manner, that is, God always gives without taking anything in return, and He gives to persons like us who are not worthy of receiving. That is why Saint Isaac teaches us: “Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in the things concerning you. And if David calls Him just and upright, His Son revealed to us that He is good and kind. ‘He is good,’ He says, ‘to the evil and impious'”.

God is good, loving, and kind toward those who disregard, disobey, and ignore Him. He never returns evil for evil, He never takes vengeance. His punishments are loving means of correction, as long as anything can be corrected and healed in this life. They never extend to eternity. He created everything good.

“God did not create death”, continues Saint Basil, “but we brought it upon ourselves”. “Not at all, however, did He hinder the dissolution… so that He would not make the infirmity immortal in us”. As Saint Irenaeus puts it: “Separation from God is death, separation from light is darkness… and it is not the light which brings upon them the punishment of blindness”.

So in the language of the Holy Scriptures, “just” means good and loving. We speak of the just men of the Old Testament. That does not mean that they were good judges but that they were kind and God-loving people. When we say that God is just, we do not mean that He is a good judge Who knows how to punish men equitably according to the gravity of their crimes, but on the contrary, we mean that He is kind and loving, forgiving all transgressions and disobediences, and that He wants to save us by all means, and never requites evil for evil."

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory...ire-kalomiros/

PS Orthodox view of Salvation - Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WosgwLekgn8

PPS St John Maximovich: “The more consciously and persistently a man strives toward God in his life, the greater will be his joy when he hears: ‘Come unto Me, ye blessed.’ And conversely: the same words will call the fire of horror and torture on those who did not desire Him, who fled and fought or blasphemed Him during their lifetime!"
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Old 04-09-2017, 05:30 PM   #101
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Another news about Hank Hanegraaff:

Hendrik "Hank" Hanegraaff (born 1950) also known as the Bible Answer Man is an American author, radio talk-show host and advocate of evangelical Christianity. He is an outspoken figure within the Christian countercult movement where he has established a reputation for his criticisms of non-Christian religions, new religious movements or cults and heresies within conservative Christianity. He is also a preterist apologist on doctrinal and cultural issues.

On April 9, 2017 (Palm Sunday) Hanegraff and his wife left Protestantism and entered the Orthodox Church through Chrismation. This happened at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

During the late 1980s, Hanegraaff became associated with Walter Martin at the Christian Research Institute (CRI), the conservative Protestant countercult and apologetic ministry which Martin founded in 1960. (Wikipedia)

Hank Hanegraaff, The Bible Answer Man on Orthodoxy. The Bible Answer Man recently answered a question about Eastern Orthodoxy and Theosis:

http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2017/0...n-and-theosis/
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Old 04-11-2017, 01:12 PM   #102
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Hank Hanegraaff, The Bible Answer Man on Orthodoxy. The Bible Answer Man recently answered a question about Eastern Orthodoxy and Theosis:
ICA,

I will not try to belittle or scoff at your choice of church.

But Hank was never a reasonable replacement for Walter Martin as the Bible Answer Man. He has waffled on too many things and apparently been available for hire. No matter how true or sincere this particular recording may be, the problem is that the messenger can be the problem.

I can't listen to Hank and take him seriously. I will be expecting falsehoods and half-truths based on who bought him this time. Doesn't matter if he is dead serious and saying what he really believes. His voice is of one who has no real conviction.
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Old 04-12-2017, 10:59 PM   #103
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ICA,

I will not try to belittle or scoff at your choice of church.

But Hank was never a reasonable replacement for Walter Martin as the Bible Answer Man. He has waffled on too many things and apparently been available for hire. No matter how true or sincere this particular recording may be, the problem is that the messenger can be the problem.

I can't listen to Hank and take him seriously. I will be expecting falsehoods and half-truths based on who bought him this time. Doesn't matter if he is dead serious and saying what he really believes. His voice is of one who has no real conviction.
OBW,

Thank you for your reply. I don't know much about HH. The first time I heard about him was when in the LRC, they showed me a new issue of the CRI journal with "We were wrong" on the cover. The second time was a few days ago when I heard about his conversion. I wonder what HH thinks of the LRC now.

Anyway, people change. He can die in repentance and we can die judging him.

Personally, I liked his testimony:

http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/b...qa-590881.html
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