The Unity of the Faith

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It is said proverbially in Orthodoxy that “one who prays is a theologian and a theologian is one who prays.” This intends fully to say that an unlettered peasant may be a greater theologian than someone who holds many degrees and can offer page after page of published articles. There is only one reason this is so: theology is about God as reality and not God as a concept. Subtlety was an ascription given of the serpent, not applied particularly to God. That which is difficult about God is in the human heart. We find God difficult to know or understand because our hearts are hard. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

When I look back over the last day or so and discussions where I know I do not belong (the nuances of the Papal role in the local Church as understood by Roman Catholic Theology) I do not wish to go there again and refrain from it in this posting. There are Orthodox theologians who are called to have these conversations – I am not one of them.

I have had my years of study and can speak knowledgably about a few things – but when I write (as I have a couple of times in my postings on this blog) that I am an “ignorant man,” I speak of something that I long to be in a certain sense. There are many things I want to know and to know well, but only if they serve the greater possibility of knowing God. Many times such knowledge does not well serve such an end.

I see that love gets strained very quickly in learned conversations – even between people whom I know and love. Our learning crushes our patience and lays heavily on our hearts. We need not renounce it, but carry it about us like a miner carrying nitroglycerin. Useful stuff – but it will blow you up.

The faith of Christ is not many things – but one thing – Christ Himself – which is why it has and can have a unity. Our subtlety melts away in the face of Him whose simplicity confounds the wise.

What I wish to urge on myself and on others around me is the simplicity of Christ which comes to us as simplicity of heart. To love God, to love our enemies, to forgive all by the resurrection – these very simple things anyone can do (by grace) and having done them, they will be saved. Glory to God for all things.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


Comments

14 responses to “The Unity of the Faith”

  1. Kevin P. Edgecomb Avatar

    Our learning crushes our patience and lays heavily on our hearts.

    Thanks for that, Father. It’s something I struggle with. I find myself too easily reading and writing instead of praying, though it used to be the other way around. There is an impatience associated with headiness that I’ve become impatient with, if that makes any sense, particularly that on my own part. It’s supportive to be reminded of the necessity to subsist in “Him whose simplicity confounds the wise.”

  2. […] “Theology is about God as reality and not God as a concept. Subtlety was an ascription given of the serpent, not applied particularly to God. That which is difficult about God is in the human heart. We find God difficult to know or understand because our hearts are hard. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” [ “Teologia se referă la Dumnezeul cel Viu iar Dumnezeu nu este un concept, o idee. Subtilitatea/rafinamentul a fost o caracteristică pusă pe seama şarpelui/a diavolului şi ea nu a fost atribuită lui Dumnezeu de către Scriptură. Dificultatea de a-L înţelege pe Dumnezeu ţine de inima noastră. Noi trăim greutatea de a-L înţelege pe Dumnezeu pentru că inimile noastre sunt reci, sunt dure. Ne trebuie ceea ce ne-a spus Domnul, adică: Fericiţi sunt cei curaţi cu inima căci aceia vor vedea pe Dumnezeu]. […]

  3. […] Jul 12th, 2007 by kevinburt In light of discussions here regarding some frequently explosive topics, I thought Father Stephen had a pertinent posting yesterday on his blog.  He commented recently about how most comments on blogs are made on ideas over which we are more prone to argue, rather than over simple ideas on which our salvation actually depends.  What he says makes me realize the degree of folly that it is for me to try to explain Theosis, or Sacerdotalism, or Apostolic Succession.  I certainly find my hands full simply trying to take part in my own theosis, without trying to explain it to others (especially since I have no formal theological training).   It reminds me to quote myself less, and the Fathers, more.  Anyway, here is the beginning of Fr Stephen’s post: It is said proverbially in Orthodoxy that “one who prays is a theologian and a theologian is one who prays.” This intends fully to say that an unlettered peasant may be a greater theologian than someone who holds many degrees and can offer page after page of published articles. There is only one reason this is so:   Continue reading “The Unity of the Faith” […]

  4. Mark Avatar

    I hope your resumed posting indicates you’re recuperating from the plague – whatever the CDF said, and however defective we may be, we remember all of you in our prayers during this joyous time!

  5. Fr John Bostwick Avatar
    Fr John Bostwick

    Father, I am grateful for that thoughtful and calm tone of your reflections. As a Catholic I’ve never felt any lack of courtesy on your part. There are differences of perspective for both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches on these matters. If there were not, we would be in communion. It’s unfortunate that the CDF document uses language which is bound to offend other Christians. I know it is a technical language that makes sense within a certain framework, but for folks looking in, the language seems arrogant.

    I am happy to see your main point in this particular post “Theology is about God as reality and not God as a concept”. i struggle to help my students understand that theology is not (simply) a matter of the head but an engagement with the living God.
    Fr John

  6. fatherstephen Avatar

    We all inherited the landscape in which we live. I’ve often thought about the fact that the pluriform character of Christianity, which has made a joke of Christ’s teachings in many ways, remains the landscape in which we must come to know God. 100 years ago there is simply no way, more or less, that as an American I would have become Orthodox. I am grateful for the opportunity today. But though the landscape has changed and thus increased confusion, God has not changed. And He is found as always, by asking, seeking and knocking. Thank God that the Fathers are not mere culutral artifacts but spoke of the God whom they knew, and thus serve as true signposts. I appreciate prayers. I served Vespers last night and am still on very measured rations today. I crawl to the wedding if need be!

  7. […] Fr. Stephen Freeman: The Unity of the Faith […]

  8. David Avatar
    David

    Father, though I am refraining from posting these days (I’m currently making myself a burden over that Kevin Burt’s blog), I wish to say with absolute clarity that you have shown me Christ in all you have done with this blog. Both in times when you have shown great patience with me personally, but also when I was just watching you loving others.

    Much separates us, much of which shouldn’t. But Christ will always make us one.

    Until ALL are one.

  9. stephen Avatar
    stephen

    Father, What a beautiful blog. What drew me to the Orthodox faith was that it was not relient on knowing it all or quoting it all though that is not necessarly bad, but that the faith is a living faith, one not to be lived as an abstract but one that is attainable, one that can be lived and we are given helps along the way, we are not to depend on ourselves but that there is a community of the church and the saints to draw from in our daily struggles. As your masthead states “Glory to God for ALL things”

  10. […] The Unity of the Faith [image] It is said proverbially in Orthodoxy that “one who prays is a theologian and a theologian is one who […] […]

  11. Pastor Andrew Avatar
    Pastor Andrew

    Great post, I loved it. Your words are true! We have the same type of vision at our church. It is to Love God, Love People, and Change the World. I would love to have you come by my blog. It is full of very simple things. http://www.pastorandrew.wordpress.com.

  12. fatherstephen Avatar

    I do not have a vision to change the world – though I thank you for the compliment. Changing the world is a modern idea, born of political nonsense. Just obeying the commandments in the small things that make up our lives. We leave the outcome to God. Changing the world can turn you into an activist or even a Methodist. I’ll be sure to drop by though. Thanks for the note! 🙂

  13. Pastor Andrew Avatar
    Pastor Andrew

    The idea of changing the world is what you just said. Becoming who Christ has called us to be changes the world in some way. Thanks for the reply!

  14. fatherstephen Avatar

    Pastor Andrew,

    Now I’ll say Amen.

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