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Switch to Forum Live View Salvation & Theosis
10 years ago  ::  Dec 14, 2007 - 11:19PM #1
DefenderOfTheFaith
Posts: 23
Hello,

For several years I have been examining the Orthodox faith.  I find it very intriguing.  Yet in my Augustinian/Lutheran mind I sometimes find it difficult to grasp some of the doctrinal concepts.  Theosis and the idea of being saved over a period of time is one of the main points I just don't understand. 

When I read Bible passages like in Phillipians when St. Paul says "Work out your salvation in fear and trembling" I find support for the orthodox docrine of theosis.  Also in St. James I learn that "Faith without works is dead". 

Then, when I hear commonly used Protestant verses such as John 3:16 I once again think that belief is all I need for salvation.   Ephesians 2:8-10 REALLY confuse me with its "not of works lest any man should boast" wordage. 

Can you please explain to me exactly how Orthodox Christians view salvation?  Also, how are the two seemingly contradictory messages reconciled to one another?

Peace be with you all,

Daniel
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10 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2007 - 12:56AM #2
Kerygma
Posts: 798
It is a life-long process... a journey. Liken it to the Israelites leaving Egypt. They are God's chosen being lead to the Promised Land. First they must pass through the Red Sea (our baptism). This is the first step on the way to our salvation. Then they wander in the desert (our pilgrimage here on this earth). They are miraculously fed manna (heavenly bread) from heaven (our holy communion). Throughout this time of wandering they are tempted and they must resist. Those who remain faithful (i.e. Caleb, Joshua) enter the Promised Land. St Paul uses this as an illustration of our salvation.

It is not a static, one-time intellectual assent... an "I believe, Lord" type of thing. There is no support for such a notion as this in antiquity... in the history of Christianity. This is easy-believism and it has no support in the scriptures. Acts 2:38 says, "Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of your sins." It's active. We are "being" saved... not simply "saved".

Ultimately the Lord will determine this. It's not our call but His. He will do what is right in His eyes. Perhaps it is best for you to work out your salvation where you are at present. Perhaps not. The Lord will lead you if you follow Him in obedience and faith.
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10 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2007 - 2:49PM #3
Seraphim
Posts: 504
I would have to agree with Kerygma.   At the core the difference between the two systems is this...one is forensic and juridical in its mindset, the other is therapeutic and transformative. 

Consider John 3:16. For God so loved the world that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish.  The Juridical mind sees the word "believe" and thinks in terms of a one time decision, a moment of ascent to a truth proposition which is presumably followed out by a commitment to live differently.  Salvation is identified with the moment of belief.  The therapeutic mind on the other hand considers the living out of that initial moment of belief, effectively extending it to every subsequent moment, the purposeful engagement of that commitment to be what is salvic, for this living out life in pursuit of the will of God in cooperation with God is the therapy that transforms, and being so transformed to be like Christ is the actual content of salvation.   

Consider the other verse about salvation not being of works lest any man should boast.  First specifically what works?  I believe St. Paul was referencing the works of the Law and the minutia that attended their keeping. He was saying keeping of the rules externally does not save you. They do not earn salvation.  Rather recall in other places he said the Law was given as a teacher.  That is to say the external keeping of the Law had an internal didactic purpose, a purpose that enabled to in this way cooperate with God.  He could not have been talking about works in general  for in other places he says that as God's handiwork we were created for good works in Christ. We cannot be Christlike apart from them. And if the content of salvation is not a juridical counting of brownie points...an issue of merit or demerit however settled, but rather "salus" health, wholeness after the measure, stature, image and likeness of Christ then such works are not separable from what it is to be saved...to be healed...made whole.

Works then do not provide a means of earning salvation, but rather a means of cooperating with God...a therapy by which health and strength is regained and the life of God insinuated, indeed transformed into the life of man and vis versa.  Earning is a merit based consideration. Works for God earn nothing any more than a patient who follows his doctor's orders and takes his medicine earns wellness. Works given and done in synergy with God are salvic because they are by their nature a participation in the life of Him Who is our life. They are the knitting and rooting of our life into His. And thus they are therapeutic and transformative...the path of theosis, divinization...till we come to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ. That is salvation because He is salvation, and it is the acquisition of His life by which and in which we are saved.
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10 years ago  ::  Dec 16, 2007 - 2:29AM #4
Kerygma
Posts: 798
That's pretty heavy theology, Seraphim. I must admit that I barely understand it myself.
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10 years ago  ::  Dec 16, 2007 - 2:29AM #5
Kerygma
Posts: 798
That's pretty heavy theology, Seraphim. I must admit that I barely understand it myself.
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10 years ago  ::  Dec 17, 2007 - 3:51PM #6
DefenderOfTheFaith
Posts: 23
Thank you to all who replied.  I thank you so much for your insight.

Seraphim,

Your post was very deep.  I see the difference in the 2 different thought processes and how they are applied in interpreting scripture.  I now see how it makes sense to think that "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ" would refer to believing over a period of time, not just at the moment you decided it was a good idea to do so. I have a new question in regards to this though.  Wouldn't we have some measure of salvation from the beginning of belief or baptism?  Would it be correct to say at the time of baptism we become one with the church, but over time as we cooperate with the will of God we become "more" saved than before?   I am struggling with the idea that someone, even with all the help in the world and all the therapeutic works one can muster, could become even remotely close to Christ-like.  We all strive for that, sure!  But do we ever really even come within miles of that goal? If we can never get there, then where does that leave a lowly sinner like me? 

Distressed,

Dan
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10 years ago  ::  Dec 18, 2007 - 2:02AM #7
Seraphim
Posts: 504
"Would it be correct to say at the time of baptism we become one with the church, but over time as we cooperate with the will of God we become "more" saved than before? "

Would it be correct to say one light bulb shines brighter than another? Will you get the same amount of light from a clip on halogen book light as you would a huge klieg light? Of course not, but not all the darkness in the universe is not stronger than the tiny gleam of that little book light. Stars vary in their glory and so do the children of the Kingdom.

As for progress, consider an iron bar thrust into the coals. Pull the rod out after a few seconds and the rod will only be warm, keep it in longer and it becomes hot, and if left even longer it will begin glow faintly then more and more until the heat and light that shines from it is indistinguishable from the that of the fire itself.

The deeper our lives are immersed in repentance, in prayer, in the reception of the holy mysteries, in the sacramental life God has provided for us, in love for our neighbor then the deeper and more profound the healing of our souls, the more Christlike we become. 

And as strange as it may seem the more complete the healing the more keenly aware we are of our own shortcomings and sin, our distance from the holiness of God.  Yet such a vision of ourselves is not unto despair, but unto hope...for clearly seeing what we are, where we have come from, how far there is to go we also more clearly see the depths of the love poured out for us and to us and through us, and that is all joy. The fathers of the Church spoke of this as our joyful sorrow or our bright sadness. Moreover the clear perception of this love translates into great love and tenderness towards all whom God loves. Creation is transformed for us into a hymn of praise.

It might help to read the lives of such great souls as St. Silouan the Athonite or Elder Porphyrios to gain some insight into the depths of this kind of life, how it starts, roots, progresses, and how richly it can grow if properly nurtured.

The important thing to remember though about our "therapeutic" cooperation with God is just that...it is cooperation with God. Those works, those deeds on their own while they might be good in a generic sense are not ultimately healing for us. For us to be healed that means receiving the life of Christ via what He has given us. It is that connection, that flow of His life in us that heals and transforms. Apart from Him we do not get this benefit. So stressing over how many "works" it will take or how long is irrelevant. It is the quality and the constancy of that cooperation that matters. And it is all by the will of God. Judas through one of the Twelve and called a friend by the Lord by a single deed lost heaven and the thief by a single kind word became the first to enter paradise with Christ. But the work for most does progress by definite well attested stages that can each last for years, the first of which after faith towards God is purification. Cleansing the dross can take a while....so be patient.
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10 years ago  ::  Dec 20, 2007 - 1:25PM #8
danman916
Posts: 2,627
[QUOTE=Seraphim;141502]I would have to agree with Kerygma.   At the core the difference between the two systems is this...one is forensic and juridical in its mindset, the other is therapeutic and transformative. 

[/QUOTE]

I will agree to a certain extent. Theosis is not unknown in the latin tradition. The distinction is what is stressed, but the two are not contradictory. For my own self, I find that the eastern expression speaks to me more than the more rigidly defined formulations of salvation and grace that was present in the pre-conciliar Church.
The Protestant reformers introduced the concept of imputed justice through filial trust, however, this was rejected by the Catholic Church. In the west, there was a stress on avoidance of mortal sin, as opposed to cooperating with God's grace on the path to holiness (which was described on this thread).
This can lead to a legalistic mind-set. We latin Catholics are often guilty of this. But I think that the post-conciliar Church is returning back to those Eastern concepts in some ways. We need the East, just as they need us in the West.
We are One Church, and we need each other for the true catholicity that Christ willed for His Bride, the Church, so that we can find fullness in that diversity of unity.
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10 years ago  ::  Feb 08, 2008 - 1:53PM #9
iane73
Posts: 50
Intersting enough is that I saw a Disciples of Christ minister on youtube talking extensively about Theosis. I don't know if he completely gets the Orthodox idea behind it though. Maybe he does.
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9 years ago  ::  Aug 15, 2008 - 8:12PM #10
Artforgood
Posts: 11
Daniel:
Salvation is a multi-faceted gem--the pearl of great price. If we look at only one facet we miss out on the whole and become imbalanced or at least rather limited. The east since the Fourth C has looked at the transformative nature of salvation, while the west (Augustine and Luther) has emphasized the juridical/justification through faith alone by grace alone by Christ alone aspect, as that was the aspect that had by the Reformation become dimly recognized or not seen at all. The best Scripture for studying the big picture of what salvation is would be Romans, sometimes called the "Constitution of Christianity" because it presents the doctrines of human sin; divine redemption in Christ as a finished work of payment for sin; the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in us as our present salvation or sanctification; and glorification, as the ultimate achievement of God's great work in us. This is the vision that Luther and the Reformers had. Human nature being what it is, Christian groups tend to emphasize one piece of the big picture over the others. I'm a big believer in the doctrine of salvation from the penalty of sin by the finished work of Christ on the Cross and the absolute assurance of salvation that comes from that. However, we must also "work out our own salvation'" not to earn it of course, because it is already ours, but because that is our calling. You are fortunate in your Lutheran heritage; no church is perfect in its understanding of truth, but Luther had the big picture, and I encourage you to study Romans and avail yourself of the counsel of your church's tradition, along with using your God-given brain, and the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
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