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6 years ago  ::  Jul 21, 2008 - 11:41PM #1
EvanISOT
Posts: 9
I haven't posted here in a long time :-). First I'd like to express my respect for the Orthodox tradition. I'll get straight to my question after a brief explanation: I don't wish to excuse myself, only explain my situation. I'm 19, and I was raised by four very individualistic parents. I have never attended a church regularly, and I'm unbaptized. With as much as I know (having studied Church History a lot), I cannot plead the ignorance of which type maybe some might be redeemed outside the Church, according to the Catholic Church, at least. Either way, I can only plead that I don't know exactly what I believe, and have always fallen down on this subject.

My concern lies solely in the doctrine or general belief in the Church as the ark of salvation. I have such a hard time with this. I understand that in Eastern Orthodoxy, you believe that man is redeemed as a part of a community, not as an individual. That community, of course, is the church. But I have also read acknowledgments from traditional Orthodox writers that by God's divine mercy, some who were not in the Church militant will be found in the Church triumphant...and of course, if I may borrow from Catholicism and assume Orthodoxy teaches likewise, then the reverse may also be true; that corrupt people exist in the Church on earth, and won't be "known" by our Lord on the other side.

So this is my sticky wicket: If my assumptions about Orthodox teaching are correct, that it is possible by God's mercy that some souls outside the Church on earth, will be found in the Church in heaven, and vice versa....then I can't help but think that the very final, deciding factor in a man's redemption, is his individual status before our Lord, and not his being in the community that is the Church.

I know this sounds terribly Evangelical...and I did used to be one, but I hope you will understand that I'm not anymore, but I just can't overcome this mindset, as much as every other aspect of Orthodoxy seems so wonderful to me.  I don't think it would be very honest of me to go to my local Orthodox church, asking for baptism and entrance, when I don't even believe that this is necessary. I know I'm terribly prideful for contradicting 2,000 years of sacred tradition and the church fathers; but I have a very postmodern western mind; so I hope you will not mind tolerating me.

Thank you,
Evan
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6 years ago  ::  Jul 22, 2008 - 1:37PM #2
WitnessNJ
Posts: 144

EvanISOT wrote:

So this is my sticky wicket: If my assumptions about Orthodox teaching are correct, that it is possible by God's mercy that some souls outside the Church on earth, will be found in the Church in heaven, and vice versa....then I can't help but think that the very final, deciding factor in a man's redemption, is his individual status before our Lord, and not his being in the community that is the Church.


  I do not know about your assumptions, but your unstated premise may not be of the orthodox  understanding.  What exactly do you see as  redemption?  To orthodox, redemption is being healed.   
   
  See this link: Man's Fall and Redemption
   
  One aspect of the saving and redeeming action of Christ, therefore, is the destruction of death by Christ's own death. It is the transformation of death itself into an act of life. It is the recreation of Sheol ( the spiritual condition of being dead)  into the paradise of God. Thus, in and through the death of Jesus Christ, death is made to die. In Him, who is the resurrection and the life, man cannot die, but lives forever with God. 
   
  So in our deaths, we will forever live in community with God and His people. But here is where the problem is, and there are many other ways to state it. After we die, we my not be able to change, who knows. So if we don’t like community, if we don’t like living as one, as the three that are God are as one, we may have to live forever in a way that we do not like to live.   The Church, the body of Christ, can help us here. We can change with the help of the church. Christ said that we need to love God and that we need to love others. The community of the Church, can help with both.  It has ways for us to die to our self and live in Christ, right here and now. A taste of the heavenly kingdom in this life is the was to joy in the next.   I believe this is best done in the community that is the Church.
 
Andy

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6 years ago  ::  Jul 23, 2008 - 3:43PM #3
EvanISOT
Posts: 9
Howdy Andy!

Thanks for your advice. I really appreciated what you said about the Church as helping mold us to a more communal mindset; that's a really good point. I agree with you...that as far as my limited logic can carry me, it seems that we won't be able to change on the other side; either that or God won't let us. It does kind of seem that once we get to the judgment, we can't really turn back.

I appreciate what the article said about the Good Samaritan story as the story of our redemption...though I must say, I think a presupposition about the Church being the ark of salvation helps one to appreciate it more, something I don't have right now.

May I digress temporarily while I'm thinking about another question that's important to me? It may be a slightly more trivial issue, but I'm a patriotic American, and I felt slightly uncomfortable when I was briefly visiting a ROCOR Church in my general area. The people were very polite and decent, of course, but there seemed to be an almost one-sided praise and attention to the mother Russia that existed before the Communists destroyed the place. I'm not racist or anything, but I'm also not terribly fond of Russian culture, during the reign of the Tsars or the Communists.

Please don't misunderstand me, I do appreciate Slavonic Christian history very much; I appreciate  the beginning of Christianity in that area, and that the Russian's preserved the Greek Church's ideas. But I don't feel much allegiance at all to any Tsar or otherwise from that culture. I appreciated it in the Catholic Church where they seem to at least be loyal to our country, praying for our soldiers, etc. So I guess my question is, why should I join a Church that seems, besides worshipping our Lord, of course, all to quick to pontificate about mother Russia, while not seeming to at least nod to our own country, which gives them the freedom to function so openly?

Are all Orthodox Churches like this, or have I made an error in my thinking along the way?

Cordially,
Evan
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6 years ago  ::  Jul 24, 2008 - 12:14PM #4
WitnessNJ
Posts: 144

Are all Orthodox Churches like this, or have I made an error in my thinking along the way?

  No, fortunately not all parishes are like that.  In my experience, every parish is different in their ethnic and political leanings.  Orthodoxy came to North America in many  ways, but one major way was through immigration of folks from orthodox lands.  They brought whole a culture with them and the Church was just part of it. (This is not limited to Russians).
   If there is more than one Orthodox Church in your area, try to visit others. It is not just you, many people are bothered by it, even those born into the faith and of the same ethnic group. I do not think this to be a trivial issue. Lots of parishes try hard to attract Orthodox Christians from all ethnic groups, converts, and catechumens, an to be the witness of Orthodox Christianity in America.  Lots of parishes are American.  But  America is still young in comparison to the “old country”, and it will take time.  I belong to an OCA parish, and in the service we pray for this country, its president, and its civil authority.  I just assumed that all parishes do.     
   
   

I appreciate what the article said about the Good Samaritan story as the story of our redemption...though I must say, I think a presupposition about the Church being the ark of salvation helps one to appreciate it more, something I don't have right now.

    To Orthodox Christians, the Church itself is a item of faith. I think that western though sees a Church militant and a Church triumphant, Orthodoxy sees it more as One. We journey to where those two meet.  In our buildings, the mystical is with the physical. We are joining with the saints to worship our God, we are joining the Cherubim and the Seraphim in chanting the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity. We believe that we are taking part in the same worship, not just worshiping the same way.
   
  And for the Church being the ark of salvation, that is living a life in Christ with others that are in Christ, the Church teaches that salvation is being in God’s divine presence.  In its faith in resurrection and eternal life, the Orthodox Church looks not to some "other world" for salvation, but to this very world so loved by God, resurrected and glorified by Him, done with His own divine presence.  So the Church teaches that it is the way, the way that man can truly become himself, to be in the image and likeness of God.
 
Andy

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6 years ago  ::  Jul 24, 2008 - 7:07PM #5
EvanISOT
Posts: 9
Hi Andy,

Thank you for clarifying that. I'd like to point out that I didn't attend that Church for more than a few weeks, and so I'm sure I didn't get the full experience...I was just expressing my opinion that far into it. So you may be right, maybe all parishes are conscientious about that.

I'm going to visit some relatives out of state, so I don't know if I'll be able to communicate via the internet this weekend, so I wanted to let you know I appreciate your time in answering these questions, and I'll definitely meditate on what you wrote.

Just to let you know, when I was visiting the ROCOR Church, the priest asked me at one point if I wanted to be baptized. I was a pretty shy person back then, and not quick to be confrontational or anything of that nature, but I said "no," plain and simple. I can't remember if I explained myself, but the reason I was so blunt was because I knew I wasn't ready to commit myself to the Church...and I understood, that unlike Evangelicalism, baptism is a commitment not only to a lifestyle, but loyalty to the Church as well.

I don't know why I felt the need to share that, but it felt right...maybe you have an observation? Haha, though perhaps not :-).

Hopefully I'll speak to you soon.

Peace,
Evan
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