Glory to God for All Things

The Orthodox Church and Personal Salvation

A priest friend sent me an article from Franklin Graham’s website, describing a revival in the Ukraine. Like others who have gone to Eastern Europe to preach the gospel, there is frequently a mistaken assessment of the Orthodox Church. Graham’s article recognized a holiness present in the Church’s there, but described it as “Old Testament,” and generally likened the Church to “religion” and not the same thing as “personal relationship.” These, of course, are improper descriptions, and in some cases, “cheap shots.”

The “Christian” world, is filled with organized churches – some are Protestant, some are Roman Catholic, soom are Pentecostal, some are Orthodox. Without examining their differences (it is not important for the purposes of this post), there is a commonality that can be found universally. Stated by St. Augustine: “There are some whom God has whom the Church has not, and some whom the Church has whom God has not.” Were Graham to travel to Scotland, Holland, England (I am mentioning countries where Protestant Evangelicalism had some original roots) he would find Church attendance as a tiny fraction of the population and a great need for the acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I state this to say it is not an Eastern European problem, nor an Orthodox problem. It is simply a fact of life in the early 21st century.

We recently had a Franklin Graham crusade in our metro area. I am told that there are flyers being passed out by some associated with the crusade that describe Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches as places to avoid because they do not teach a “personal” relationship with Christ – which, of course, is simply not true.

Do the Orthodox do a good job of preaching and teaching the Gospel wherever it exists? Even in the first century, based on the evidence of St. Paul’s letters, there were churches where the gospel was not being properly proclaimed. Apparently such problems have always existed, and will until our Lord’s return. Could the same be said of Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists and Independent Evangelicals? I know so.

The Orthodox Church does not teach that we are saved by our own works. That would be a Pelagian heresy. Anyone who says we teach this is misinformed. If there are weaknesses in the Orthodox Church then they should be correctly identified and dealt with as one does a brother. We have them. After 70 years of persecution, the Church in the East is emerging into a new-found freedom and into an unstable political world. The restoration of the fullness of the Church will take time – not mischaracterizations. It will take prayer, not Americanization. It will take sacrificial support and not taunting by its wealthy Christian neighbors.

I offer here a short article on “personal” salvation from an earlier post. It is an example of Orthodox writing (mine) on the topic. My writing is but a shallow presentation. There is not time to present the depth of Orthodox teaching on the subject. For such teaching I recommend the current writings of Archimandrite Zacharias, referenced in recent articles, or the writings of Fr. Sophrony, frequently referenced on this blog. May God help all Christians and bless them – despite our shortcomings. May God help the Orthodox Christians of Eastern Europe and beyond to be fully who they are called to be and manifest to the world around them the gospel that has been entrusted to them. And may God bless the Church’s enemies everywhere, and forgive those of us within the Church, myself included, who may be a cause of stumbling for others.

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Perhaps the most difficult theological truth to communicate in the modern world is that of personal existence. Modern English has taken the word person from the realm of theology and changed it into the cheapest coin of the realm. Today it means that which is private, merely individual. As such, it becomes synonymous not with salvation but with our very destruction. Life lived as a mere individual is no life at all but a progressive movement towards death and destruction.

Thus there is always something of a hesitancy when someone asks (in newspeak), “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?” If only we would, it would be truly significant. But in our modern street-wise theology, Christ as personal savior becomes synonymous with Christ as private savior, and as such is no savior at all. For no one and nothing can save the false existence we have created in the privacy of our modern existence. We were not created for such an existence.

In the story of Genesis – the first appearance of the phrase, “It is not good,” is applied to man – in an existence that is private. “It is not good for man to be alone.” We do not exist in the goodness which God has created for us when we exist alone. The most remote hermit of the Christian desert does not live alone, but lives radically for others and to God. Of all men he is the least alone. No one would take on the radical ascesis of the desert for themselves alone: it is an act of radical love.

And thus the personal God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, determined that salvation for humanity could only take place as we lived fully and truly into the existence for which we were and are created: the Church. In the Church we do not exist as mere individuals but as members of the Body of Christ. My life is the life of Christ. What happens to me is essential to what happens to all the members of the Body and what happens to the members of the Body is essential for what happens to me. Their life is my life.

Thus when we approach the cup of Christ’s Body and Blood, we never approach it for our private good but as members of the Body. We are thus enjoined to be in love and charity with our neighbor and to forgive the sins of all – otherwise the cup is not for our salvation but our destruction.

The salvation into which we are Baptized is a new life – no longer defined by the mere existence of myself as an individual – but rather by the radical freedom of love within the Body of Christ. To accept Christ as our “personal” savior, thus can be translated into its traditional Orthodox form: “Do you unite yourself to Christ?” And this question is more fully expounded when we understand that the Christ to whom we unite ourself is a many-membered body.

After the resurrection, Christ appeared to the Apostle Peter. Their dialog must have been the most profound dialog ever to take place between man and God. “Do you love me?” Christ asked Peter. Peter hedged his answer. But Christ responded, “Feed my sheep.” For to love Christ and to feed His sheep are not two things but one. For Peter to finally know this was indeed his personal salvation. It is ours as well. Glory to God.

53 Responses to “The Orthodox Church and Personal Salvation”

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  1. The Scylding says:

    It is truly sad – mischaracterizations and all that. But the emphasis on a certain understanding of the terms “personal relationship” has more to do with modern, rugged individualism and less with actually being a Christ-follower. “What can God do for me?” is asked in the same way as “What savings does Wal-mart offer this week?”. The relationship between man and God has been exploited in the market – using the same methodologies as someone would use to patch-up the relationship between boyfriend and girlfriend. Countless books, seminars etc are being offered – ostensibly to help the Christian, but in reality it is just part of the marketplace.

    But no, what you describe here the “radical freedom of love within the Body of Christ” is not a commodity. It is Life. You cannot buy the blessings of the New Life. You cannot package it into a seminar. You cannot sell the blessings of the Eucharist. That is why the Eucharist is so undervalued in large parts of Christianity. You cannot buy His Real Presence, same as you cannot buy the New community of Love.

    I’m not saying this is what FG was trying to do. But that has become the paradigm within which large parts of the church universal operates. God be merciful…..

  2. fr. bill says:

    Father Stephen,

    Know that your blog is part of my regular spiritual reading and that your writing feeds my faith. Would you object if I recommended you and your blog in my (ECUSA) parish newsletter and perhaps linked to your blog from the parish website? God bless you.

    Fr. Bill in California

  3. Brendan says:

    Father,

    Graham aside, I think the greater testimony to the faith of the East is that after Communism was tossed away the perseverance, faith, and general good health of the Church in those suffering lands surprised everyone.

  4. Beautiful words, Fr. Stephen. You said exactly what I feel about those who would try to go and “save” people in Eastern Europe. I am confident that in at least 90% of cases, they know very little about Orthodoxy except a shallow caricature. I speak from experience, because I used to be one such preacher…until, of course, I began to really study Orthodoxy. Then I realized that Orthodoxy is the truth and joined the Church as soon as I could!

    May God grant that Mr. Graham and other such preachers learn the truth about Orthodoxy. Better yet, may He grant that they join us!

  5. Carl says:

    Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Hosts.

  6. Margaret says:

    I pray that the eyes of American Christians who try to make sure citizens of traditionally Eastern Orthodox countries are “saved” will listen to the answers that God gives to their prayers. If they listen then they will “move on” to other countries (or better yet, join the Orthodox!) So much of the world needs to hear and be encouraged in the Gospel…on to China!

    Just the other day on a Christian radio station here in Tennessee I heard a few words of “encouragement” geared toward young people who think that just because they attend church with their parents they are saved, when they really need to be working on their own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This approach bothered me as it was brief, and is an example of the sloppiness of fellow Christians who want to encourage, but will not take the time to do so other than to hit a few bullet-points.

    Thank you for this posting, Fr. Stephen.

  7. Fr. Bill,

    I would be glad to have such a link and a recommendation. Is it safe for you to do this in ECUSA? May God protect you.

  8. Mary says:

    Keeping a sense of humor about this “too much with us,” to quote Wordsworth, I will share a story that still makes me chuckle because it reveals so much about Orthodox Christians being misunderstood, and right here stateside, not Russia or the Ukraine.

    When my son first went away to college, he was constantly beset by campus evangelists in the budding stage. Seeing the icons in his dorm room always set off a predictable sermon about how the Catholic Church was merely an institutional religion devised by man and not God. It was useless, of course, for my son to try to explain that he was not Roman Catholic but Orthodox. Orthodoxy was not in their world religions lexicon and none of these young preachers had ever heard of it.

    Then began the tract lawnmower running over the same questions, again and gain, “Are you saved? Do you know Jesus as your personal savior?”

    Frustrated, my son called me for advice about how to answer them. I told him not to engage in an argument, but to simply answer, “Yes.”

    “Mom,” he said to me, wearily, “I did that. They don’t believe me.”

  9. You could always say “I eat his flesh and drink his blood – that’s pretty personal” … I wonder how that would go over?

  10. stephen says:

    Thank you Father! It seems easier to spend time “converting” orthodox countries than to work in the countries that are muslim or other non-christian faiths. Orthodoxy has survived for two thousand years, it will survive whatever the world can throw at it. The idea of missions and evangelism came up this week in a meeting at our parish. In trying to develop an outreach without compromising the Orthodox message we came back around to living the truth in each of our lives as the first priority. When the early Church went out evangelizing, the first things they would do was to plant monastaries and parishes. Being a shining light and living the Faith is our call to. I visited St. Anthony’s Monastary in Arizona several weeks ago for a pilgrimage. There I heard that it now is the 2nd most visited site in Arizona next to the Grand Canyon. This is how we are to spread the Good News and the Faith of Orthodoxy. Christ has Risen! Truly he has Risen!

  11. Petra says:

    During a brief stay in the Ukraine, my husband and I stayed with a very nice missionary couple. They were on a long-term mission and had been there over a year already. When we told them our plans to visit the local churches and a monastery, they asked a lot of questions. They knew almost nothing about the Orthodox Church except that there were icons and that it isn’t Roman Catholicism. On top of that, they had been given almost NO training in the Russian language. I was appalled at the lack of cultural preparation provided to them, and they were with a well-known international mission organization! Americanization indeed!

  12. Although I wish our brothers and sisters wouldn’t engage in such ‘mission’ I am not too concerned by their misguided evangelism. For all the fine words and rhetoric, there is little of ‘substance’ that these poor folk are being ‘converted towards’ and as long as there is a firm Orthodox presence surrounding them I wouldn’t be too surprised if this actually leads to many re-entering Orthodoxy, perhaps with their faith freshly renewed. The seed sown in early life is hard to resist and the roots of that culture go down very deep.

  13. Evangelical protestantism, in an Eastern European context, simply appears extremely “American” (and unavoidably so). Some years ago, when I was an Anglican, my parish sponsored a Russian Pentecostal family (who were then listed as a persecuted group by the State Department) and brought them to America. We directed them to the Church of God in our town, the largest Pentecostal Church in the area. They attended for about a month, then started attending the early service at the Episcopal parish where I was Rector. Their explanation was that they did not like what I would call the “happy clappy” atmosphere of the Church of God. Russian Pentecostals are very serious, stand for prayers, and are cultural more like Orthodox than they are like any American Pentecostal. So they attended the early service at an Episcopal Church – which in those days was very far removed from “happy clappy.”

    When my daughter lived in Krasnoyarsk (deep Siberia) one of her college girlfriends said she was going to the Vineyard mission one Sunday and wanted my daughter to accompany here. The Vineyard mission, somewhat sensitive to local culture, had rented an auditorium, and set up large icons, etc. to set the atmosphere. My daughter told her friend, “But you’re Pravoslavnie (Orthodox). Why would you go to a Protestant Church.” The reply said everything. “There is no difference,” she said, “except the Protestants have rock and roll.”

  14. Lucy says:

    Actually, I do think that this kind of personal relationship to the Body of Christ is lived more often in evangelical churches than even they recognize. I’m an OC convert, but in many ways my former EC is still part of my family. I was recently lamenting to a friend (partly in jest) that I can’t seem to escape my old church.

    Now, I think there are dramatic differences and the sacramental and communal aspect of communion vs. the (barely) symbolic is one. But to give credit, no one in my former EC has stopped being my friend because I became Orthodox. Granted, people don’t understand it because they don’t know anything about it and I’m not sure this would be true had I become RC. Because their view of salvation is so much more narrow, they don’t understand the importance of things that they do, even things they’re really good at, like being a family. It has been a struggle for me to connect in my OC, partly because it’s a small and very diverse population, but mostly because of laziness on my own part. But my old EC is a place I’m still fairly involved with. This causes a lot of tension for me. :)

    My experience with evangelicals is that they live in much more “orthodox” ways than they preach. There is a lot of emphasis on that “personal relationship” which I think puts undue pressure on people and leads to lots of guilt and feelings of letting God down. But if you ever need help moving, or need money for groceries or just need a friend or whatever, they are there, even if you’re not part of their church. I went through a health crisis and both churches responded with immense love. My OC church brought meals for over a month and then also during the following Lent. My old EC brought meals for my family for two months, even though I haven’t attended in years.

    I agree completely with what you’re saying about others trying to convert Orthodox in other countries, too. I know I’ve already taken up lots of space, but I have to share this story. Many years ago I was in Russia with a missionary group ministering in the schools. This was right after the Iron Curtain fell – 1992. We had been in Red Square and I had seen the outside of St. Basil’s Cathedral. I had never been to an Orthodox Church and knew very little about it. During a Baptist church service I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to visit the cathedral and she responded with such vitriol that I was taken aback. She asked how I could want to go there, etc. After sitting quietly for a few minutes though, she turned me and said, “God has convicted me about my response to you. If you want to go, I’ll go with you.” We did go eventually. I have no idea what her response was, but mine was that I had just walked into heaven! There was a wake going on and there was a body and chanting and icons going up to the ceiling and candles everywhere and incense and oh.my.word. Clearly, it left an impression. But God’s conviction of my friend also left an impression, both her antagonism towards a religion she saw as false, but also her sensitivity to the reprimand of the Holy Spirit. I view that moment as the beginning of my journey to the OC.

    And like others have said, I think the OC in other countries will be just fine, albeit not without some growing pains, at least as far as evangelization by other Christians is concerned.

    Once again, another thought-inspiring post. :) Thank you.

  15. mrh says:

    There are at least two couples in my parish who were once evangelical missionaries to Orthodox countries. They went to “convert” the Orthodox, and came back Orthodox themselves. I think this should remind us that the right response to such missionaries is simply to pray for them.

  16. In defense of Evangelicals, all that I know are not focused on converting the Orthodox, but rather the non-Churched secular population. I know my own church (which is evangelical Anglican) makes sure that any candidates sent to Eastern Europe are of the mind to work alongside the Orthodox and not against them, and to pursue evangelizing the secularists or the Muslim immigrant populations.

  17. Petra says:

    “They went to “convert” the Orthodox, and came back Orthodox themselves. I think this should remind us that the right response to such missionaries is simply to pray for them.”

    Absolutely! Truly, most missionaries are loving people who are just trying to do the right thing.

  18. Selena says:

    Thank you for this great post. Unfortunately I don’t understand this part:

    “The most remote hermit of the Christian desert does not live alone, but lives radically for others and to God. Of all men he is the least alone. No one would take on the radical ascesis of the desert for themselves alone: it is an act of radical love.”

    Could you please explain that?

  19. Selena,

    It’s quite the same as Christ’s temptations in the wilderness. He did not do this for Himself but for us (as all His life was for us). The Christian hermit would go mad in the desert if what he did was for himself. To know the Christian God, particularly with any depth, is to know all men as well, and to pray for them even with great pain and suffering since so many human beings are in suffering and in great spiritual difficulty. The hermit is making an act of radical sacrifice, giving themselves over completely to God and to all of humanity as they pray ever deeper, know God ever deeper, and all of humanity ever deeper, and praying with an anguish that is generally unknown to us except in fairly discreet settings (as in the prayer for a loved one, etc.).

    The modernization of Christianity has come to value only secular things – thus love can only mean social service (hospitals, etc.) rather than prayer. This modern prejudice does not know the True God and does not know that the world continues in existence, partly through the prayers of a few.

    Were a hermit to enter the desert for selfish reasons, he would soon go mad and the demons would devour him.

  20. BY says:

    Fr. Stephen,
    Will you help me understand this better by giving a simple concrete example of our unity as a Church with Christ and one another? (A kind of social sin butterfly affect.)

    BTW – I just stumbled upon your blog and I’m quite impressed. Thanks for your service.

    In Christ,
    BY

  21. Father Bill in California, You rock!

  22. BY,

    Scripture says that if one suffers we all suffer – though the obvious effect may not be nearly so obvious. The Church only exists as Church in its union with Christ. It is not a social organization or something that exists to promote an idea, but is a living divine/human union. Thus it is called the Body of Christ.

    St. Paul uses the example in 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 of people being sick and even dying through eating and drinking communion “without discerning the Lord’s Body” and in this instance he is referring to the Body, the Church, rather than the Body, as in the consecrated Bread.

    The presence of bitterness and unforgiveness in the midst of the Church is like a poison, destroying relationships and eating like a cancer on the Church. It has been the destruction of more than one community. Just to use one concrete example.

    On the otherhand, the forgiveness we find in Christ and the healing that flows from that forgiveness can act mightily in just the opposite manner, bringing forth life in a community.

    But if a community is plunged into darkness, its knowledge of God will also become darkened and much trouble will flow.

  23. paula says:

    i come from a baptist church in eastern europe and began a personal relationship with God at 12. i grew up in an ortodox predominant environment and my baptist parents taught me to keep an open eye. i had and have a lot of ortodox friends and some i can relate to with christian life topics(not many).but i do agree(and it grieves me a lot) that many evangelical christians don`t understand ortodoxy and attribute it many false believes(or unbelieves…).i like to go to an ortodox church once in a while and i like very much because i really feel God there too!the main problem with ortodoxy in my country though is the immorality in which many priests live and that doesn`t set such a good example for those who go or where going to their churches.another problem is that most ortodox people in my country don`t understand exactly what christian faith is about and live their own way far from God.
    i truly hope that all ortodox in my country will come to the true understanding of the gospel and that evanghelists will stp harrassing them.for my part i will do my best to convince my baptist brothers of the realness of ortodox faith

  24. May God bless you, Paula. May he have mercy on priests who set a poor example. Your patience and goodness of heart is a indeed a blessing. Thank you.

  25. Marceta Nikolina says:

    Dear Father,

    I am not going to write about the subject. I will actually ask you to help me. I need you to pray for a very dear friend of mine that is in the hospital in Croatia in a very critical condition. His name is Igor Vitas, he is Ortodox and he is only 20 years old. Please find few minutes and pray for this young man that needs to do and see so many things still in his life. He needs every help he can get so please ask your friends kindly to pray for Igor and I am sure he will get better. The doctors told us he is in the hands of a God now. He needs as many prays as he can get.

    Please pray for Igor.

    Thank you

    Sincerly

    Marceta Nikolina

  26. I will join my prayers with others for the servant of God Igor.

  27. Lana Balach says:

    I am heading to church this morning and will say prayers and light a candle for him. May God heal him.

  28. Benjamin says:

    I as well will be praying for him.

  29. From the Jerusalem of my heart, I too shall pray.

  30. Marceta Nikolina says:

    Thank you all. Unfortunatelly we lost him. Nevertheless it is very nice to know that there are people like you. God bless you.
    I thank you from the bottom of my hart.

  31. Lana Balach says:

    I am so sorry Marceta. I thought about and prayed for you and Igor many times. Our prayers as just as important now and I will continue to keep him in my prayers. Memory eternal. Vechnaja pomnjet (sorry about the spelling)

  32. marceta nikolina says:

    Thank you Lana

  33. Lana Balach says:

    Marceta,
    I have pasted a poem below that I wrote to comfort a friend who suffered a loss. A reminder that we are never alone….

    For Vera

    Life encompasses death
    And
    Death encompasses life
    How can we possibly know
    Which is the sunset
    And
    Which the horizon?
    Where is the beginning
    And
    Where the end?
    Is the beginning the end?
    But then maybe,
    The end is just the beginning.
    And we,
    So blessed with life
    Live it day to day.
    Sometimes we are lucky enough to remember to pause,
    And savor
    The joy of an unfolding day,
    Peace at the breakfast table,
    A smile,
    A tear,
    The rain,
    The sun,
    The snow,
    The air,
    And ah,
    The wind
    Listen friend,
    God is whispering to you
    You are now between the two
    The beginning,
    The end,
    The sunset,
    The horizon
    But know,
    God encompasses both,
    ALL
    For now, be comforted in His sweet embrace
    Where He also holds
    The beginning that meets the end and the sunset that greets the horizon
    And you will be cradled by all that rests between.

  34. Nina says:

    Igor Vitas died – he was brutally murdered.

  35. Nina,

    All the more reason to pray for him. May his memory be eternal. And to pray for those who love them, that God grant them comfort. And to pray for those who have done such an evil. Lord, have mercy.

  36. Marceta Nikolina says:

    Thank you for your beutiful poem Lana. I have not been visiting the web site for a while. Thank you for your kind words father Stephen. God bless you

  37. John says:

    One can be orthodox and not saved. One can be saved and not orthodox. There any many “elect” out there in the Orthodox and the world who still need to come to Christ, and if elect, they will

  38. Davey says:

    John…chill with the Calvinist “elect” nonsense.

  39. Eric says:

    Thank you for these writings father…particularly the one on “Personal Salvation”. I have been in the Protestant tradition for 40 years and am now a chatacumen and will be baptized the day before Easter. This article put in words what I have had difficulty expressing. Very edifying….thank you again.

  40. JR says:

    But your blog misses the point: Jesus told us that at his return, two will be in the same bed- one is taken (saved, it seems to mean) and one left. Two walk up a hill TOGETHER one is taken the other left. The unity and community that these all shared did not effect their personal destiny.

    Your words about salvation and community are beautiful and important but miss the impact of the question: “What must I do to be saved?”

  41. PJ says:

    JR,

    Personal identity is formed and nurtured by communal identity. The one who is saved is the one who lives his life within the Church’s tradition of prayer, asceticism, and liturgical worship. The one who is not saved — who is left behind (or taken — I’ve encountered differing interpretations) — is the one who dwells outside this rich stream of wisdom. To be Christian is to be part of the Body of Christ. Therefore, Christian life and salvation are necessarily corporate.

  42. Andrew says:

    Well said JR – I am reminded of the old Allinson’s adage that wholesome bread is best with nowt taken out. Put another way. A tree bears like unto it’s kind. Relentless waffle (pun not intended) renders nothing much at all, save grist for the mill.

    It’s what ones does that counts, not what one says.

    Pax, vobsicum.

  43. PJ says:

    Andrew,

    I’m confused as to how your statements relate to what JR said.

  44. Andrew says:

    It’s one of the very strange things about the Kingdom of God, PJ. Events unfold to God’s timetable not man’s.

    The Kingdom is both consuming fire and flood that defines everything when it comes. That’s the point. It’s how we see clearly. The mote (or beam, depending on one’s perspective) is among the first thing to be consumed.

    Thankfully.

    Else we stumble on blindly, unable to leave the cellar of our own making.

    Pax.

  45. PJ says:

    Aren’t you Orthodox, though? It’s hard to understand why you’re sympathetic to JR’s skeptical attitude toward the sanctifying influence of the Church.

  46. Andrew says:

    The soul doesn’t think of itself exactly in terms of the historicity of Church. Having said that, I can’t deny that Orthodoxy is the pillar of truth. I am however technically Catholic. I waffle, forgive me.

  47. PJ,
    No, Andrew is not Orthodox. He has described himself as “technically Catholic”.

    But I do not understand the relationship between his comments and JR’s comments either. JR seems to have had no clue about my use of the word “personal” despite my post’s being almost entirely about the subject. I suppose that I need to improve my skills as a writer. However, I also suspect, that a redefinition of “personal” is so radical for some, for whom the word is so deeply associated with a salvation-scheme, that such a redefinition may be impossible.

    If Andrew understands JR’s comment positively, then he didn’t read or understand the post either.

    Actually, Andrew’s comment (sorry Andrew) doesn’t make sense even by itself. The Addison quote (with a typo) is so obscure that it was lost on me, so I don’t know what it says. The next statements mix metaphors to a point of being unintelligible as well. Perhaps it’s late at night. My writing becomes obscure with the lateness of the hour.

  48. Andrew says:

    My point simply was that God’s grace has no boundaries. We are jugded (by God) on actualities, which is the abiding presence and overriding love of God; not on technicalities. To speak of God’s life in any other way would be to risk invoking a forensic view of the divine, apportioning blame for historic events we have played no part in.

    Viz: To imply that the genocide of Miloševic was even in part caused by failures of the Orthodox Church is as absurd as blaming the Apostle Peter for the abuses of a small minority of Catholic priests while simultaneously ignoring the work amongst those who live below the official breadline (for example) of the Little Sisters of the Poor. This is what I meant by Catholic.

    While I do not deny schism as a historical fact, I do affirm that it can have no bearing on my life, which is governed in as far as I able to bear, by Pascha, that great counsel that utterly overshadows everything.

    (For historical accuracy, Allinson is a brand of British wholemeal bread).

  49. Lauren says:

    Hello, I realize it’s been quite a few years since you wrote this post, but I have just recently become drawn toward the Orthodox Church and have many questions. I was raised baptist in Chattanooga TN, but recentualy haven’t felt satisfied at many “modern” churches. I can’t seem to feel His presence in them anymore. Anyway I want to see if I am understanding what you are saying about the personal relationship. Within the Orthodox Church is it still taught that a person can and should pray privately to God and that everyone can hear from him? But that when we join with Christ we become part of a bigger family and our lives become about serving others and living for God and His glory? And so we gather with others to rejoice in His love and offer up all of our sins in repentance, not just ours but everyone’s? I’m very lost right now and would appriciate some guidance and prayers. Thank you

  50. AM says:

    Father Stephen,
    Thank you for this article and also your responses to people’s comments. Myself and my whole family were Chrismated at Pentecost last year (and my daughter baptized). In the last year (and I’m sure many years to come) we have had many conversations with our Protestant family and friends about Orthodoxy. The most recent was about Salvation and Baptism and when Salvation takes place. The Protestant argument was that it takes place at the moment of repentance and confession of sin. The concern was for all people who were baptized, but not repenting and living in sin, would they still be saved at judgement? And for us to make such a personal faith decision for our child before she can repent and make the decision herself. Are Christians ‘saved’ through Baptism? at what point does Salvation take place? Are we not supposed to ‘work out our Salvation? Could you guide me with scripture on this?

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