How Simple Should Christianity Be?

_44604810_0cfa7112-54f0-4015-a9b0-29f58a4fab29There is a tendency in our modern world to make things as simple as possible. We hide the complexities behind a keyboard (I don’t know how my computer works – or not very well) or we treat things that seem complex as unnecessary obfuscations. This same drive to simplify was very much alive in the 16th century as Christianity underwent reform in many places of the world.

Thomas Cranmer, the English Reformer, railed against the complexity of the service books required for a Roman Catholic Mass and managed to bring everything down to one small book. Every service required by a cleric could be found in the one Prayer Book, which also contained the book of Psalms.

Cranmer’s work was often outdone in other places – some eventually discarding the use of any book but the Bible. Following Martin Luther’s lead, the Scriptures themselves were limited to 66 books (discarding those Old Testament books which did not have a Hebrew original – the so-called “Apocrypha”).

This, of course, is not all of the story of the Reform. At the same time that services were being simplified, there were massive productions of new commentaries and works of theology. Thus there was both a simplification and a new layer of complexity.

As centuries have gone on, the drive to simplify has not disappeared. Frontier preaching in America had little place for complexity and the proclamation of the gospel became quite straight-forward indeed.  A common tool in use throughout various religious movements in post-Guttenburg Europe, was the religious tract. Produced by the thousands and millions, these small summaries of the faith or of a point of doctrine were spread throughout homes and the streets and occasionally played important religious roles in religious movements (I’m not sure how much they do today).

How simple should Christianity be? Should it be reduceable to four spiritual laws or summarized in a paragraph or two? Is John 3:16 the perfect summary of the perfect faith? If you were shipwrecked on an island and could only have one chapter of Scripture, what would you keep?

I would like to suggest several principles that might be of help in thinking about such things.

1. Christianity is not an idea.

2. Christianity is not part of the religious annex of planet earth.

3. Reality cannot be simplified.

On the first point – Christianity is not an idea. I could say that it is also not a philosophy. It is a faith about how things (all things) are and Who God is, and what God has to do with us (or us with Him). It is thus a full account of reality, even though much of that account may remain unspoken. Christianity is either everything or it is nothing.

This leads easily to my second point. Christianity is not part of the religious annex of planet earth – that is, it is not a subset or comparment of something else. Since it is the fullness of reality in its truth – there is not a larger fullness (other than God) in which it may be contained.

My third point – reality cannot be simplied – may sound obvious – but we frequently live in simplified, digitzed, simulacra of the world itself. Given the choice between life on earth as we know it, and life in a holo-deck as pictured in the Star Trek movies and series – many people would gladly choose the holo-deck, some already opting for its current low-tech version in various games and such.

The invitation to another human being to embrace Christ as Lord, God and Savior is thus an invitation not to a religious hobby, but to the truth of the world as it is and as it shall be. Christ reveals reality in its fullness. Thus Christianity can never properly be a diminishing of human life.

Care should be taken never to diminish the faith – to reduce it to something less than all that is (and more). Glory to God for all things.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



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141 responses to “How Simple Should Christianity Be?”

  1. Cheryl Avatar
    Cheryl

    Wonderful post, Father.

    One of my frustrations with Evangelical Protestantism was its constant truncation of ‘the Gospel.’ Especially in my work at an evangelistic summer camp, the “problem” was simplified: “Sin is the problem, Jesus is the solution.” The Gospel reduced to a marketing slogan. Five colored beads on a bracelet, a few Scripture verses thrown in for good measure.

    I feel like Protestantism has lost so much, TOO much. There’s no understanding of what the Incarnation–or sometimes even the Resurrection! the list could go on–has to do with salvation. For most of Evangelical Protestantism, there’s no liturgical calendar, and the feasts besides Christmas and Easter are completely forgotten, and not understood.

    It’s been one of the greatest joys of coming to Orthodoxy for me–finding the place where the “Gospel” isn’t truncated to fit onto a pamphelet, there’s no over-simplification–it’s all here. =] It helps me to see the larger reality I always knew existed, and was searching for. Thanks be to God for His faithfulness.

    Cheryl

  2. fatherstephen Avatar

    I think many Christians – Protestants included – hunger for more than they are given. It is possible, even common, for Orthodoxy to be lived in far less than its fullness. It is a struggle of the heart to want all of Christ and not to reduce Him to a religious figure.

  3. oruaseht Avatar
    oruaseht

    Lutheranism (in my experience) is chock full of Gospel minimalism do to the negative two fold effects of Pietism and Rationalism. As more and more Lutherans begin embracing other Protestant groups, Liturgy and theology have begun to be further reduced and truncated to the least amount of complexity possible and yet still be considered “church.” The “me & Jesus” movement has truly decimated Lutheran ecclesiology.

    The approach one must adopt to appreciate the fullness (and complexity) that Orthodoxy has to offer to Western, Consumerist, “Have it my own way” mindsets (like mine) is that the Church exists to change me – not the other way around. This is an increasingly hard sell in our current environment. However, more and more protestants continue to be dissatisfied with their ecclesial communities and are searching for that fullness (like me). So take heart and be encouraged! Orthodoxy is poised to help many more people enter the fullness of Christ and His Church.

    Christianity must be simple enough that a small child can wade in it, yet at the same time be deep enough that an elephant could drown in it.

  4. Sea of Sin Avatar

    Eliminate mystery, in the real sense of the word and not as a mere place holder, and the door to rationalism is ajar. Virtually everything must be explained before it can be accepted.

  5. Asiaticus Avatar
    Asiaticus

    And behold the wreck of contemporary Romanism. Priests are more “civil servants” of the Papal establishment than anything else with the Bishops as mandarins or worse as the first secretaries of the Vatican II ideological conventicles. The marriage of Romanism and (French) Revolution begot that pretended simplifying monster. One of the most palpable dangers of democracy: over-simplification by ruthless demagogues.

  6. Sea of Sin Avatar

    Ha, funny. I read my own comment above and thought – this too is an over simplification. Things are much more nuanced (hence more complicated) in reality, I am convinced of this. But I believe Father’s point still holds nonetheless.

  7. Asiaticus Avatar
    Asiaticus

    Demagogues and other propagandists would always need to simplify things: Lenin’s and Hitler’s hate-inflamed speeches. Even the General de Gaulle after the War tended to follow this trend howbeit for reasons of national unity and reconstruction. The crowd requires this oversimplification so that its bestial spirit is unleashed whereas the Ecclesia has the indwelling of the Holy Ghost who constantly teaches her and infuses her with the Truth.

  8. Sea of Sin Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    Fr. Andrew Louth has some very interesting things to say about this very topic. In his “Discerning the Mystery” he writes about the scientific method to knowledge (“reduce the subject matter to simple items which could be discerned clearly and distinctly”) developed and popularized during the Enlightenment period. He makes a very strong case that this method to knowledge and approach to truth was not only a break from tradition but that it is indeed the very destruction of the notion of tradition. This method is in full use today.

    This way of attaining knowledge is certainly of great use to the natural sciences, but when applied to theology and faith the results have been disastrous.

  9. Henry Avatar

    I believe we all seek simplicity because we are finite limited beings. Since we can not comprehend reality with the imprecise instrumentation and analysis tools given to us by our Creator, we fashion maps and models of reality. These maps are often very efficient tools. They allow me to plan the most efficient route for an automobile traveling from Poolesville, MD to Oak Ridge, TN. But the highway map generated by Google is not the territory. No map is ever the territory, not even the very inadequate constantly evolving map of the Kingdom of God I hold in my mind at any point in time. Sometimes our limited maps, often created for a specific purpose, are misused and result in all sorts of horrific human behavior. The Reformation and the new set of maps and models it created, if not an altogether good thing, was probably an inevitable thing given the rise of the nation state and mercantile capitalism in the West. I seem to be less certain of my own maps and models than I was thirty years ago.

  10. […] Read more from the original source:  How Simple Should Christianity Be? « Glory to God for All Things […]

  11. Ryan Avatar
    Ryan

    “the Scriptures themselves were limited to 66 books (discarding those Old Testament books which did not have a Hebrew original – the so-called “Apocrypha”).”

    Should read that the scriptures were reduced to the Hebrew books extant in the Masoretic text. The Dead Sea Scrolls have found numerous Hebrew examples of the Deuterocanonicals, while the “additions” to Daniel and Jeremiah seem also to have been Ptolemaic translations from the Hebrew as well. I have yet to hear a good defnse of MT vs LXX. The LXX was, after all, good enough for the Apostles! Thank you for introducing it to us during Catechism.

  12. BJ Buracker Avatar

    Father,

    Great post. As a Protestant, I’ve seen this oversimplification firsthand and even participated in it. It always struck me that if the Gospel can be reduced to 2 or 3 paragraphs, then why did our Father give us 66 (or more) books of the Bible? It almost seems wasteful.

    The motivation I’ve seen for most of it has been a desire to see others “saved.” Within Evangelicalism, there is a wonderful passion for the safety of other people’s souls. Rallies, trips, events, etc. are organized to help other people enter into the Kingdom of God.

    The problem, however, is that this passion ends up trumping everything else. It becomes the only pillar of the church. Thus, sacraments, doctrine, worship styles, ordinations, etc. become secondary. The result, of course, is the oversimplification you discuss. The upside is that many different Christian groups can work together to get people saved. The downside – a big downside – is the loss of doctrine, Scripture, sacraments, and reverence for God.

    I think you nail it by saying such reduction is not even possible. This is great. I will be sharing with others.

    Blessings,

    BJ

  13. BJ Buracker Avatar

    Ryan,

    Which LXX are you talking about? There were many different copies and versions, and not all of them contained the same books. This is one reason the Orthodox canon is different.

    Also, not all the Scripture quotations were Greek in the NT. Some are more likely from a Hebrew text.

    In short, the canonical issues are not as clear cut and easy as either side would like it to be. Church history is very complex.

    Blessings,

    BJ

  14. Sean Avatar
    Sean

    Simplification is a also a modern trend in the way that everything is generalized to help make estimations about marketing. One of the most irritating phrases I have ever heard: ‘the average man/woman’. There is no average man/woman. There is Me, there is You, and Mary and Heather and George etc and we are all unique. In this world, created by God everything is unique, human beings even more so. Simplifying Christianity is, in my eyes, the very same thing like treating two people as an ‘average’ rather than as unique persons.

  15. fatherstephen Avatar

    BJ

    The issues of the Canon were a largely settled matter in the Church. The Reformers lacked the authority to open up again, it seems to me. They abrogated the right of an Ecumenical Council and created an artificial rule for the Canon. Though complexities remain, a number of errors of the Reformation and its aftermath might have been avoided had the LXX texts remained. For instance, there are texts in Wisdom (or another text – I’m away from my references) in which the reasonable role played by a physician is upheld. I think of the number of children in many of our extreme modern sola scriptura churches who could have had reasonable medical care instead of the insistence of their parents that healing must be miraculous, etc.

  16. fatherstephen Avatar

    Sean,

    I wonder if what you are describing also yields an “average God.”?

  17. hilary Avatar
    hilary

    I have a theory (which is still being tested) that if, in the bookstore, there are loads of books about that which you’re struggling with, it’s best to not read any of them and work on your problem yourself. For instance, the “self-help” section sign might rather point you to /your/ self than to any of the books in the aisle. Because if you start reading, you’ll never stop and will likely get more confused and more cluttered before you chuck the books to just focus on you. Then again, if you’d actually read a lot of books before looking at your own problem, maybe a cumulative knowledge of what a bunch of other people have already done will help you. Maybe you can then simplify and “get it” and move on.

    So I look at the bookstore aisles on Christianity and Biblical interpretation and Catholic thought and and and… you can drown for months in these books. In the end, however, faith gets very simple. But I think it only gets simple after it’s been confused and cluttered. Pushing through the cluttered stage is the hardest, and it probably is the point at which some leave the faith out of frustration. Getting bogged down in church politics or history or Biblical hermeneutics or the role of women or the “why”s and “how”s of sacraments…. it takes something to push you off that stuff. And that stuff winds up not mattering at all.

    Faith has to be simple enough for me to rely on it no matter where I am, what I smell, who I see or how much time I’ve got on my hands. On the desert island, all I would be able to rely on is being a child of God. Christianity starts and ends at the cross. You can’t have to study and philosophize and get advanced degrees in this stuff to have faith. I know of nothing more egalitarian than Christianity. The moment the faith is used to rank or exclude people, we have to be suspicious. Flip side: when Christianity is reduced to platitudes and cheap grace, it isn’t faith at all.

    Next to all of the other comments, I realize this one is much less theological. Barely even two cents worth.

  18. fatherstephen Avatar

    Hilary,
    Good comment. I think the simplest thing I do is prayer, and yet potentially that which has the greatest fullness. There is a paradox here that I have not stated. Your thoughts move towards that important point.

  19. Ryan Avatar
    Ryan

    BJ
    All of the sources that I have seen quote the number of “85-95%” of OT quotes in the NT being from the LXX.

    In Christ
    Ryan

  20. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    Fr. Stephen,

    In some way, I feel your message was a simplification itself toward Orthodoxy. And Protestant “Orthodoxy” is much more than the American form! I have myself returned to an Anglican place of Augustinianism. Though, I do follow the regal nature of the Father in the Trinity of God (Eastern). But, having said that, Augustine’s more psychological theory of the Godhead – the Father loving the Son, and the Son the Father, and the bond or person of that love being the Holy Spirit, to be very profound. And the Spirit of God proceeds from the Father, but also thru the Son, at least with the Incarnation and fulness of Redemption.
    Yours,
    Fr. Robert (irishanglican)

  21. kay Avatar
    kay

    A page in the book (“Churches: Explore the symbols, learn the language and discover the history,” Brittain-Catlin, 2008) covering British churches, demonstrates this tendency to find virtue in simplification reflected in archetecture. Opposite a picture of the altar of St. Paul, Bow Common, London, is the heading caption: “The people’s brutalism: a new architecture for a new way of worship.” This caption was NOT meant as an insult. This Catholic church, was described on p.214, with the following: “…the austere nature of the other fittings reinforce rather than distract from the act of communal worship.” The architects, described as a ‘rebellious’ Roman Catholic, a High Church Anglican, along with the vicar, a Marxist,
    produced a cold and industrial interior truly reflecting the “people’s brutalism.”

  22. kay Avatar
    kay

    Sorry – mistyped architecture!

  23. fatherstephen Avatar

    Kay,

    A common drive towards simplification, historically very popular, has been the various forms of iconoclasm. It’s as if there was a fear that all those stars in the universe out there would distract from the glory of the sun, and set about getting rid of stars. Perhaps that’s a silly analogy – it seems apt to me.

  24. fatherstephen Avatar

    irishanglican,

    Not sure of your first point. Didn’t mention Orthodoxy in the post. It’s hard to see how the description of the faith as including everything would be a simplification unless the multiplication of denominations is somehow mistaken to be a greater expression of the fullness of the faith – then I would disagree and I would see your point.

  25. Francis Avatar

    “A Simple and Spiritual Life is the only Life that will survive”…….

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it’s systems of religion, for “the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one” indeed and Truth……. francis

  26. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    fatherstephen,
    Prehaps not, but your somewhat soft attack on Luther and the Reform of the Church, is certainly coming from your place in Orthodoxy. Luther did not like the Apocrypha because of what Rome had done with it. But the Anglican Church has used it more correctly. And as I said, there is much more to the place of Protestant Orthodoxy, historically and theologically. The modern Barth, etc. Not to mention the better Calvin studies in the past several years.
    Fr. R.

  27. fatherstephen Avatar

    irishanglican,

    Thanks for hearing that it was a “soft” attack. I used Cranmer because I am most familiar with his work. Luther was less reductionist than many. But the reductionist impulse remains within all the various branches of reform. It’s presence in the liturgical movement of the 20th century is quite notable. There are good things being done in many places. But it is not the good of an embracement of the fullness of the faith. I do not think that this fullness can be restored by mere study or even intention. It is an inheritance and has to be delivered as a Tradition. I don’t know where anyone would look for that fullness other than Orthodoxy.

    Indeed, there have historically been several significant borrowings by the West from the East that have been true enhancements.

    Protestant Orthodoxy is largely an intellectual position, not a way of life. It is an ideological commitment. I respect it (it’s certainly better than Protestant heterodoxy). Nonetheless, it’s a fairly abstracted matter, in my experience (I studied with some Barthians at Duke).

  28. Romanós Avatar

    I’m not sure why, but reading this post reminded me of something written by Maria Skobtsova, one of my favorite modern saints…

    “It is all clear to me now, either Christianity is fire,
    or there is no such thing.
    I just want to wander through the world, calling,
    ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.’
    And to accept it if people revile me
    and say all manner of evil against me.”

    I do like the Book of Common prayer very much, and it was the mainstay of many generations of pious Christians in the West until recently.

    All in one book? Well, even us Orthodox can almost have it “all in one book” as my copy of the Synekdimos demonstrates. A pretty bulky little volume, still able to be hand-held, and containing just about every service I’m likely to go to (altho it’s 100% Greek).

  29. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    fatherstephen,

    I do understand what you are saying. Indeed the radical reformation with the antibaptists really hurt the church for sure. But when we look at Luther, and then later Calvin, they were seeking to reform the catholic church. And this can only be the legacy of the real reformation, i.e. ‘always reforming’ by both Scripture and the Holy Spirit. The idea that the Scripture reforms and renews the Church, etc. And this can only happen within the whole universal and Catholic Church! We need each other, real historic bodies and people of Christ.

    We have taked about “Tradition” in the past, but even here.. it must be held within the Breath and Word of God. I too would bow to much of the Ecumenical Church Councils, especially Nicaea, Ephesus and Chalcedon. But even here, they are sort of a fence around which we guard certain important truth’s.

    Orthodoxy is rich, historic and beautiful! But often still tied to its ethnic places. No group of Christians can get away from this reality either. We must deal with our history and expression In Christ.

    It appears to me that there is a reform and renew in the Churches of the Reformed, Anglican to Independent. Of course there is no infallibility, just a human and pilgrim church. But seeking to stand under the Scripture and the Lordship of Christ. Hoping and praying for the Spirit of God to touch and lead! (Eph. 2:18) Is not this part of the real ecclesiology and fulness? I would hope that any intellectual Christian thought, that is real and profound, would help to enrich to life of the Church!

    Fr. R.

  30. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    *enrich the life of the Church!

  31. Moretben Avatar
    Moretben

    A concomitant reductionism is that which arises from Latin scholasticism in its relentless quest for the “essences” of things, resulting in what Fr Schmemann called an “alienated theology” of minimal conditions. At the same time, in response to Asiaticus’ observations, Roman Catholicism requires an endlessly-burgeoning load of theoretical apparatus to sustain the impression of “realisability” – or as Hithchock put it, “My theory is good – it’s the facts that are misleading”.

  32. mary k Avatar
    mary k

    Father Stephen,
    Do you accept online donations?

    Thankyou

  33. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    Moretben,

    I have read my share of Fr. Schmemann too, the quote and context would be nice? I am not really Latin, though I do like both Augustine and Tertullian. Sadly the lack of Tertullian in the East (as Augustine) is far too real. I wonder if you have read Eric Osborn’s fine work: Tertullian, first theologian of the West? First paperback edition 2003, Cambridge.

    The part I like very much are Tertullian’s Antitheses in God. Tertullian found paradox and antithesis everywhere. “The two attributes of goodness and justice together make up the proper fullness of the divine being as omnipotent” (Marc. 2.29.1) Second, the world is immature and embraces a conflict of opposites.” Tertullian loved paradox, which was never a mere game however. But the search for truth.

    Fr. R.

  34. fatherstephen Avatar

    Mary K,

    It’s a thoughtful and kind question – but wordpress does not run ads or do donations. St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge TN is the parish I serve (it has a website) and would welcome any donations anyone sends. I am supported by St. Anne and would never want to derive profit from my work online. May God bless your thoughtfulness!

  35. mary k Avatar
    mary k

    Thankyou Father Stephen,

    I found the website but i couldn’t find where to donate.Is there somewhere on the website or do you have a paypal address or other method?

    Thankyou

  36. MichaelPatrick Avatar
    MichaelPatrick

    Irishanglican, let me suggest that the closest one could come to a sum of Schmenann is to say that Christ became our sin and is Himself our food or sustenance until the end. In these simple gifts both His person and His love are revealed to all mankind for the taking.

    He also, I think, would say this is all the theology we need. The act of a saved person is liturgy, or praying and singing, with other Orthodox Christians. This is simple and it is also every thing that matters.

  37. fatherstephen Avatar

    Mary K,

    I’m sorry. I did not quite understand. The parish does not have online donations either. Donations have to be by mail (check) to the parish mailing address:

    St. Anne Orthodox Church
    560 Oak Ridge Turnpike
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

    Bless you.

  38. Pam Avatar
    Pam

    I have been reading all your commentts. You make it seem so hard to be a Christian. What happened to just believing in God and Jesus and all that He has done? I am now afraid to try to find a chuch because it sounds to hard.

  39. fatherstephen Avatar

    Pam,

    Christ in the gospel makes being a Christian sound hard: “Whosoever would be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

    But we do this one day at a time, one step at a time and grace makes it possible.

    There are plenty of places that will speak only of “believing in God and Jesus and all that He has done.” But this can also be a reduction of the Gospel, and a reduction of the fullness of the life God has given to us. It then is, in fact, not actually believing in all that He has done.

    It is not an easy thing to be a Christian – but it’s a sometimes hard thing that is worth doing.

    Marriage is a hard thing – when done well – but worth doing. If simplified into “whatever happened to just loving someone” – it would have the same effect. Marriage is no harder than loving someone – but it’s just that hard.

    Being a Christian is no harder than loving the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength, but it is also just that hard. But it is not something we do alone. God, by His grace, makes it possible for us to do what we could not do ourselves (this is salvation by grace).

    Christ makes it possible for us to have a true, living relationship with God. He also makes it possible for that relationship to be lived.

    I pray God will give you courage.

  40. Pam Avatar
    Pam

    I have been married for 30 plus years. And I do love God with all my hear,all my mind and all my strength. He has gotten me throught breast cancer. I kept hearing Psalm 46-10 the whole time I was going through treatments. But if I have to deal with all the theogoly and “legal” things you are talking about. I just want to be with God and Jesus and He with me.

  41. Dusty Henry Avatar
    Dusty Henry

    Fr. Stephen,

    The Scribes and Pharisees were the ones that complicated everything. Jesus made it simple. Very profound, but simple. As you can see from these posts, when the intulectual elite begin to discuss things many of the rest of us are left out.

    Simple is a relative term. Algebra is simple to me, because I learned it, but not to many others. But what you say is true, none the less.

    But what I think you actually mean is that there is a tentency to make things reasonable. That is the kind of simplification that we can do with out. And what looks to be complicated in Orthodoxy, all the feasts and fasts, and the many prayers, may not actually be.

    “Love God with all your heart and your neibor as your self”, is pretty simple. Is it not? It’s when we try to put this into practice that we complicate things.

    Just admit that Orthodox do make things needlessly complicated, sometimes. And let us eschew religious snobery.

  42. Brantley Thomas Avatar
    Brantley Thomas

    Dusty,

    And yet, St. Paul warns us about following the tradition handed down, keeping the teachings and doctrines, and not associating with those who do not keep them.

    For these things martyrs and confessors suffered and died.

    The issue isn’t that the doctrine must be precise, it’s that more people in this day and age seek to know all the doctrine. I don’t mean that elitist, believe me! (I’ve been warned about reading too many canon’s and such personally.)

    Take today’s Saint, Pimen the Great. Here’s a saying about him:

    “Once, a monk from another country came to the saint to receive his guidance. He began to speak about sublime matters difficult to grasp. The saint turned away from him and was silent. They explained to the bewildered monk that the saint did not like to speak of lofty matters. Then the monk began to ask him about the struggle with passions of soul. The saint turned to him with a joyful face, “Now you have spoken well, and I will answer.” For a long while he provided instruction on how one ought to struggle with the passions and conquer them.”

    To be sure, he chose the simple route there, but he did that within the context of obedience and authority to Christ, and to Christ’s body, the Church.

    I guess what I’m saying is that when some take it on themselves to become their own authority on law and scripture, the door is opened for things that frankly most of us don’t understand. Not because we aren’t smart enough, but because we lack humility and prayer. And I certainly count myself among these.

    Forgive me if I offend.

  43. Pam Avatar
    Pam

    Dusty Henry- I like what you said. Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as your self. God nows we are human beings, and we muck up things, so why make it more complicated ?

  44. DavidD Avatar
    DavidD

    And the question remains, what does it mean to “just want to be with God and Jesus and He with me”? How is this accomplished and experienced? If you are the “sola scriptura” type, where is such a “just be with God and Jesus and He with me” taught in the scriptures?

    Our Lord says in John 14:21, “‘He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.’” The Apostle John writes “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1Jn 5:12)

    So how are we to keep Christ’s commandments and how are we to “have” the Son? Acts 2:42 says of the Apostles “And they were continuing in the teaching of the apostles, and in fellowship (koinonia – communion), and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” And then, again, the Apostle John opens his first epistle with “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have gazed upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life– and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and we declare to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us– that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, in order that you also may have fellowship (koinonia – communion) with us; and indeed our fellowship (konionia – communion) is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1Jn 1:1-3)

    The Christian faith has never been about “just God, Jesus and me” – it has been about apprehending the “eternal life which was with the Father” and was “manifested” to the Apostles, that we might have communion with Him and, in doing so, with each other and all the Saints!

    Please forgive me, a sinner!

  45. DavidD Avatar
    DavidD

    And for those with a reductionist tendency – who determines when the reduction has been enough? On what authority or by what reasoning? Those who have reduced the “non-essentials” of the faith and tended to “reduce” themselves right out of belief in the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection of Christ and the Incarnation. What they have left is a Jesus as “example” and do good to others (though defining what is “good” is often difficult). Once you start stripping away aspects of the Apostolic faith because it is “difficult” or not “simple”, there is nothing to restrain it all being stripped away and you have no real argument against those who do.

  46. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    DavidD

    I am not sure what your ad hoc argument really is? I am certainly no liberal or reductionist either. The better history of the Anglican Communion is both Catholic and Reformed! Via Media…seeking at least a middle way.

    Fr. R.

  47. Brantley Thomas Avatar
    Brantley Thomas

    Irishanglican,

    “seeking at least a middle way” sounds pretty reductionist to me!

    🙂

  48. Pam Avatar
    Pam

    All I know is that I believe in the Bible and in Jesus Christ. And where it says He stands at the door and knocks. I let him in my life. I believed in a personal relationship with God. But now after reading all what you people wrote, I am not so sure I did the right thing.

  49. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    Brantley Thomas

    It might be reductionist to you, since you are perhaps taking the hard line (my term) of Orthodoxy? I have met plenty of this “Orthodox” type…but no thanks! Even Fr. Stephen is not “there”.

    Fr. R.

  50. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    There is a difference between being simple and being simplistic.

  51. coffeezombie Avatar
    coffeezombie

    When I was first introduced to Orthodoxy, what struck me was actually the simplicity of the Liturgy. At least, compared to the other churches I’d visited or been a member of (Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Catholic), it seemed more simple to me.

    I find it interesting that that the constant simplification of the faith in the West has not, actually, made things any more simple, but has made things more and more complex.

    For me, at least, the idea that we never just take someone’s word for truth, but always check them against Scripture and all that led to a sort of constant study. You couldn’t afford to *not* delve into all sorts of doctrines, because if you didn’t you might get led astray.

    Orthodoxy, however, is not so complicated, simply because it’s not reductionist. It is the fullness of the faith, but that fullness is not experienced by understanding everything. Rather, that fullness is experienced by living it. You don’t have to know everything to be Orthodox; you simply come to church. You listen to the services. Ask questions when it seems appropriate. Say daily prayers, and fast according to the schedule of the Church.

    It really is simple enough that a child can do it. An unlearned peasant can become a Saint. It is simple because of its fullness, because it is not reductionist. Orthodoxy is simple because it does not sit around analyzing every little bit of the Faith to make everything fit together right and throw out what doesn’t fit and so on; we simply accept what we receive and run with it.

    Not sure if I put that correctly, but I mean this as an encouragement to Pam. This is, at least, my experience.

  52. Brantley Thomas Avatar
    Brantley Thomas

    Pam,

    The scriptures do indeed say that he who believes in Christ will be saved. And the same scriptures also say that the demons believe and tremble.

    In that context, it seems clear that what you believe is more important than simply believing.

    🙂

    As I’ve said before, forgive me if I offend.

  53. DavidD Avatar
    DavidD

    Fr. R, forgive me if I prefer the “better history” of Orthodoxy, which has preserved the Apostolic faith, that that of Anglicanism.

  54. Stephen Avatar
    Stephen

    Pam, Hearing the Knock at the door and answering is a very important step. There are many steps to get to the finish line. Sometimes along the path we must carry a cross which could be physical, mental or both. All I know is that if it was not for the Church and it’s guidance I would not be able to follow this path and take any steps at all. I would never be able to get outside of my own mind without the help of others. I see all of the things in the Church as tools to help us reach our finally destination.

  55. DavidD Avatar
    DavidD

    Oops, should have read “…to that of Anglicanism”.

  56. Pam Avatar
    Pam

    I am not demon possed, I believe in God. But I do not understand all the thelogy and Laws that you talk about. So I guess thats keeps me out. All these stumbling blocks, that you put up. And its not about what just what I believe, I am the first to admit I DO NOT know it all. At least not until Christ returns.

  57. Brantley Thomas Avatar
    Brantley Thomas

    Irishanglican,

    I meant no offense…truly!

    I don’t mean to sound “hard-line” (first time I’ve been called that, by the way), but is there any other way of reading that statement that doesn’t mean that commonality between traditions is the only thing that counts? And if that’s the case, isn’t that simply a matter of reducing everything down to a least common denominator?

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those “anyone not Orthodox is going to hell” kind of folks. That’s just plain wrong (and sinful). However, there’s also nothing wrong with preserving the fullness of the faith and presenting it as such either.

    Forgive me if I offend.

    (And although I put this on every single post I make and it may seem flippant, I truly mean it each time!)

  58. Brantley Thomas Avatar
    Brantley Thomas

    Pam,

    I never meant to imply that you were demon possessed. Please don’t think this! My point was that the content of what you believe is important, not simply believing.

    And I don’t think that challenging someone to re-think beliefs is a stumbling block. This is what St. Paul did on the aeropagus, what St. Stephen did in Jerusalem, and what virtually every other Apostle and disciple in the New Testament did.

    Beliefs matter! Clearly they mattered to the Apostles.

    *sigh* I think I will gracefully back out of this conversation. I have no stomach for an argument, and I have no wish to be accused of becoming a stumbling block.

    I ask your forgiveness, Pam.

  59. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    DavidD

    That is why “you” have chosen Orthodoxy, but I have not. But, this is also a choice of so-called “traditions”. I believe the Anglican Church to be part of the always needed truth of Scripture…”always reforming” or seeking the reform and renewal of Scripture Itself!

    Fr. R.

  60. Pam Avatar
    Pam

    I have no wish for an argument either. Because I would lose. All I want is a relationship with God, one that I can understand without all the LAWS and thelogy that you all want to put with it.. Sometimes the simlpe things for you are not so simple for other people.

  61. Brantley Thomas Avatar
    Brantley Thomas

    Pam, it’s not “us” with the laws:

    “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
    Matt 5:18

  62. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    Brantley Thomas

    Just about the same argument! Using your logic, I could accuse you of adding to Scripture. But, note I do not. Again, it is more of a traditional thing for many Orthodox. As I have said, ethnic. So many ethnicity elements in much of Orthodoxy. But, what is really biblical and historical? This is a good question to me at least.

    Fr. R.

  63. Sea of Sin Avatar

    I believe the Lord meets us where we are. We should never use that as an excuse (not implying anyone here is).

    To those much is given, much will be required.

  64. Brantley Thomas Avatar
    Brantley Thomas

    Isrishanglican,

    Holy Tradition and scripture are so intertwined that attempting to isolate one will end up distorting both of them.

    Note, for example, that to reconstruct the scriptures, often translators have to work with manuscripts that can sometimes be at odds with each other (such as the Vaticanus and Siniaticus codexes). Sometimes portions of scriptures are deemed to be authentic because they were corroborated by a quote from a Church father.

    To reconstruct a full New Testament therefore requires some reliance on what traditionally was understood.

    So, it begs the question: What are the scriptures? The scriptures are what the Church says were the authentic teaching of the Apostles (and therefore of Christ). They can’t even be reconstructed without this implicit assumption! Tradition is what preserves the scriptures. Not the other way around.

    And I would think that the post-reformation “discoveries” of documents such as the Siniaticus and the Didache would bolster the claim of the Orthodox Church to have full fidelity with the Apostolic faith.

    Just my $0.02. Again, forgive me if I offend.

  65. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    Dear Father, bless! Well, this has gotten quite a thread going!

    To Pam I wanted to say, no sincere attempt to trust Christ is going to be rebuffed by the Lord. Having been a Christian some decades now (though Orthodox only a couple years), I can say the Lord has been faithful to guide me and reveal Himself to me as I have been able to receive from Him (i.e., in a limited way because I am sinful and easily mislead by wrong teaching). I also can say I love the Lord (in some weak and faltering way), but as much as I desire to obey the command, I know I do not yet love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength! Even the greatest Saints in the Orthodox Tradition would say they were only beginners in this respect, though from a human perspective, their lives gave abundant and even miraculous evidence of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (in contrast to mine!). True encounter with God provokes a response of extreme humility. I think of the story of Job in the OT, where Job found all kinds of ways of justifying himself to the Lord until he encountered Him face to face. His response Job 42:1-6 is one of abject humility. This is the mark of someone who truly knows God in an experiential way.

    As Orthodox, we don’t need to understand all the ins and outs of philosophical theology, nor the complications of the Liturgy in order to experience and benefit from the Reality they each point to. We do need to come into real contact with the Reality to which they point, however. We do that with certainty by participating in the life of the Orthodox Church as one of her members. Christ is Present by His Holy Spirit everywhere, so even those outside the Church may encounter Him (as I did even before I became Orthodox), yet His Presence is a constant and certain thing in Orthodox Liturgy. It’s not important to understand all the intricacies of Church history and theology, but it is important and life changing to participate in the life of the Church, and there to encounter Christ in His fullness (i.e. as He truly is, not necessarily as we imagine Him to be).

  66. Stephen Avatar
    Stephen

    Pam, I know of many Orthodox Christians in my own parish, who worry and speak little of theology, dogma and rules. They are faithful and loving and the first to share a meal or their time. These people are committed to Christ and His Church and are not complicated but they do not reduce the faith to a set of principles or ideas either. They are examples of simply living a faith which has been handed down to them. Not everyone is a theologian and needs to grasp technical language and true theologians seem to know God first and speak second. The Church officially only recognizes three individuals as theologians. I have been Orthodox for about three years and do not find it all that complicated. Sure there are a lot of words but they are all repeating the same thing. I am glad for the daily reminders.

  67. Brantley Thomas Avatar
    Brantley Thomas

    Karen and Stephen,

    Thank you for your words of sanity, and a reminder for boneheads like me to tone it down! 🙂

    Pam: What they said!

    The rules and theology are the ideal case…..and none of us have them perfect!

    Have a blessed day!

  68. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    I think I can speak for many historic Anglicans, and one thought and verse comes to mind…”For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil.1:21)

    Indeed to love Christ Jesus is everything, and without this is nothing or negation! If we truly love Him, who loved and loves us, we will be inclusive of our blessed Triune God: the love of the Father for the Son, and the Son for the Father, and the bond or “person” of that love the Holy Spirit! And therein we can love also!

    Thus, to “die” both of ourselves (the I) and then physically, will be final blessings, and then “see” Christ in glory!

    Fr. Robert (Anglican)

  69. Pam Avatar
    Pam

    Stephen, thank -you. I try to be like those people in your church. I wish things could be explained easier, but then we get back to what started this. I have been to the Episcopal church and the Baptist church and they each say the other does it wrong. The Episcopal church says it O.K. to marry same sex couples, other say it is wrong. Why does it have to be so hard to just believe?

  70. Inemesit Emmanuel Avatar

    On the contrary, I think we’ve succeeded in making Christianity very complex. It now means many things to many people. Jesus Himself simplified it- restoration of the relationship between God and man. Check out John 17:3, ” This is eternal life, that they might KNOW thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” If Christianity is Jesus’ creation, we must appreciate why He stepped out of glory to our realm. He said in John 6:38-40;

    For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will
    but the will of him that sent me.

    And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of
    all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but
    should raise it up again at the last day.

    And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one
    which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have
    everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

    Whenever I read the New Testament, I’m at lost as to what to make of the Christianity of this generation. While knowledge of all sorts of things has increased, the conduct of most people who profess Jesus Christ as Lord gives cause for serious concern. I’m not being judgmental. The light that’s in most of us is so dark that the devil’s just smiling to the bank everyday. We make merchandise of men by preaching a perverted gospel that presents God as a means to our ends. Where Jesus emphasized relationship with the Father, we push for self-actualisation. We substitute the gospel with motivational chats that encourage men to pursue gain instead of godliness. We should cry out to God to deliver us from our whoredom instead of wasting our time arguing about irrelevancies.

  71. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    PS>>>I think I can say, I am closer to YOU, “Orthodox”, than you are to me (Anglican Reformed). In that I too love Mary as Theotokos. And follow at least, the Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus and Chalcedon.
    Fr. R.

  72. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    I realize too, as I did before, that this is an Orthodox blog. Thank you for letting me (an older Irishman) come aboard for a bit.

    Blessings,
    Fr. Robert

  73. Brantley Thomas Avatar
    Brantley Thomas

    Irishanglican,

    In that case, let us say: Most Holy Theotokos save us!

    Glory to God for the desire and passion to know Him better, and for the faculties to seek Him, and for the gift of speech to draw us together!

    Fr. Robert: Have a great day!

    In Christ,
    Brantley Thomas

  74. mic Avatar
    mic

    Fr. Stephen,

    i am certain that my question matters to no other but myself, but, is this a repost?

    i didn’t see any reference to it being such, but i am certain that i have read it before.

    peace
    mic-

  75. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    Inemesit Emmanual,

    I (as others) call this sad generation, the land of Postmodernism! We in the West, as you too in the East have been hit hard by this “culture” that seeks to teach the secular world and the Church, but again sadly it leads to nothing and negation!
    As Christ said, shall I found faith on the earth when I return?

    Yours in Christ,
    Fr. R.

  76. Sea of Sin Avatar

    And the most complex statement of the week goes to….. Fr. Robert:
    “I think I can say, I am closer to YOU, “Orthodox”, than you are to me (Anglican Reformed).” 😀 😀

    I have no idea what that means, or how that would be possible. Simple mind that I am. If we stand 3 feet apart, well, that is 3 feet from me to you….and 3 feet from you to me.

  77. Darla Avatar

    Pam, good morning! I have enjoyed reading your posts in this thread. Thank you for your involvement in this discussion — you have much to offer. I am like you. In fact I joked with our Priest recently that if there’s going to be a “test” before we can be baptized in the Orthodox church (we are currently catechumens), I’m going to probably answer, “Father, it’s a great mystery” to many of the questions! (Orthodoxy is big on faith being a mystery).

    But we do have to admit, if we look at the Bible and church history, that faith is more than “just Jesus, God and me,” you know? And for me I had to ask, “Okay, so what? How do I know *what* else?” Like you I saw that many of the beliefs in the different sects of protestantism were diametrically opposed. So where does one go? For me, and my husband, we believe that the Orthodox church is the oldest expression of the Church there is — that the same God who worked through the early church fathers to bring us the Bible also worked through those church fathers to bring us the Church’s Holy Tradition.

    Our faith is no longer just about our *minds* — about understanding, or taking notes, or listening to a sermon and processing it. It involves ALL of us — every part of us. My husband often says, “I’m so thankful now for a church that *requires* something of us” (in a thankful sort of way, not an earning it sort of way). Since we started attending an Orthodox church earlier this year, the Church has become our LIFE — its songs, prayers, cycles and feasts are something to be entered into with our very being. This is so much “more” Christianity than sitting through a weekly service, trying to fit in a quiet time, remembering a Scripture in appropriate situations, etc. I was a Protestant for 23 years and am SO thankful to be on the path (finally) to becoming part of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” church of the New Testament.

  78. Pam Avatar
    Pam

    Darla. Karen, thank -you.. I want to find a church that will help me to get some of this. And to be a part of a church that does not keep trying to change to fit into todays idea of things. I am not sure what the Orthodox church requiments are tho, to go to your church.

  79. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    Sea of Sin

    My point was, that I am in dialogue on your blog (Orthodox), and would appreciate and share your history, more closely than you would mine. For I like Augustine and Tertullian (mentors both for me), but not no doubt for you, etc. Not to mention Sir Calvin!

    Fr. R.
    (PS..I always sign my blogs, so I know I have spoken it. I have had posers to my name, strange I know?

  80. Stephen Avatar
    Stephen

    Pam, you are right. It can seem pretty confusing when there are different beliefs out there that contradict each other. What to believe? They can’t all be right? I can only speak from experience in saying that the Orthodox Church has given me a place to rest and to begin to learn how to approach God. The Church teaches prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a way to transform our lives. This is nothing new and it is quite scriptural. It doesn’t get complicated until we begin to rationalize the commands of Christ and the teachings that have been handed down from the apostles. Fr. Stephen has a post that was helpful to me entitled “What little we know-It is enough” from July 28th. This made sense to me. Anyway I believe that this comment area reveals the weakness of this format. We are dealing with real people in real life situations, many of whom have questions and pains that can not find their answers on a blog. It can help but at some point the discussion must be face to face with someone of cares. May God bless you in your journey. You have my feeble prayers.

  81. Darla Avatar

    Pam, the “requirements” are loving God and wanting to be a part of His body! 🙂

    At the same time, a first visit to an Orthodox church can be a little surprising to some. I highly recommend this article: http://www.antiochian.org/node/16963 …. it’s called “First Visit to an Orthodox Church: 12 Things I wish I’d known.”

    I keep thinking about the “just Jesus, God and me” thought; the idea that this is the most “simple” form of Christianity. Most Christians would also put “and the Bible” in there (in fact you mentioned this above). I think in Orthodoxy, “and the Church” has been irrevocably added (my descriptions are not usually all the way right, please forgive). The Church is God’s body on the earth; it has to be part of our Christian experience, you know? In a profound, powerful way.

  82. Pam Avatar
    Pam

    Stephen, Thank-you So MUCH. I wil try to find that post from July 28th. And I do not believe your prayers are feeble. Prayers are what God hears from us. And I truly hope he hears yours, so that he will help me. I will have to look for a church in my area.

  83. Darla Avatar

    Pam, I made a post, but because it had a link in it, that post is awaiting moderation. So I’ll copy/paste rest of the post here so it’s available now (I have to leave, and didn’t want to leave this hanging). Father Stephen, feel free to delete *this* post when the other one gets posted. Thank you.
    ========

    Pam, the “requirements” are loving God and wanting to be a part of His body! 🙂

    At the same time, a first visit to an Orthodox church can be a little surprising to some. I highly recommend an article called “First Visit to an Orthodox Church: 12 Things I wish I’d known.” You can Google that title, or visit the Antiochian (dot) org website and find it there.

    I keep thinking about the “just Jesus, God and me” thought; the idea that this is the most “simple” form of Christianity. Most Christians would also put “and the Bible” in there (in fact you mentioned this above). I think in Orthodoxy, “and the Church” has been irrevocably added (my descriptions are not usually all the way right, please forgive). The Church is God’s body on the earth; it has to be part of our Christian experience, you know? In a profound, powerful way.

  84. Damaris Avatar
    Damaris

    Irishanglican —

    You mention the “many ethnicities” of the Orthodox church. May I comment in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way that the Anglican church is ethnic, too? English is just as ethnic as Nigerian or Peruvian. Just because we share in a majority ethnicity does not make that ethnicity normative.

    In a sense true Christianity is always foreign; the Kingdom of God is not my country, I’m only in the process of acquiring citizenship. The process is sometimes strange and uncomfortable. If it never were, if my life of faith dovetailed with my culture perfectly, I’d suspect I was on the wrong way.

    We must be certain that the Middle Way is The True Way. The True Way may or may not be the “middle” one at any point in history, as cultural currents swirl in one or another direction around it.

    May God guide us all, sinners that we are.

  85. DavidD Avatar
    DavidD

    “But, note I do not. Again, it is more of a traditional thing for many Orthodox. As I have said, ethnic. So many ethnicity elements in much of Orthodoxy.”

    This is something of strawman – there is nothing “ethnic” that is essential to the faith (see, for example, Sts. Cyril and Methodious or Sts. Innocent and Herman of Alaska) nor is there anything “ethnic” about holding on to Apostolic Tradition.

    I am neither Greek, Slav or any other historically Orthodox ethnicity but God, through His Grace, drew me in to His Church.

    Glory to God for all things!

  86. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    Damaris

    You would be correct, but the Church of England.. thus the Anglican Church has always been historically English or British. I am myself an Irishman born in Dublin (1949 by the way). But I was educated at Manchester and Cambridge.

    If both the American Churches, and we in the UK have not seen the blessings of the evangelical revival, the use of the KJV, plus the Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic movement etc. Then we are simply ignorant! God’s use of Great Britain in Christianity is both history and providence!

    Fr. R.

  87. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    Not to mention the Irish Articles, by James Ussher for a convocation of the Episcopal Church of Ireland, and ratified in 1615. They were replaced 20 years later by the Thirty-Nine Articles.
    Fr. R.

  88. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    DavidD

    No this is no mere “straw” man, I have seen this myself! There are just too many ethnic differences. Roman Orthodox, etc. The French schools, etc. Look what happened to Bulgakov!
    Fr. R.

  89. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    *That should have been Russian Orthodox sorry!

  90. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    MichaelPatrick

    Sorry I missed your thoughts, busy day for me (blogging and e-mails). Thanks for your simple thoughts as to Fr. Suhmenann. But, he can get very deep when he wants (wanted to..RIP, died in the 80’s).

    Fr. R.

  91. Fr. Vasile Tudora Avatar

    Theology is complex. God is simple.

    Theology is complex because it is hard for the created to understand the Uncreated. The Infinite cannot be comprehended by the finite. Therefore in our crooked and fallen minds we try to imagine God in many complicated ways that lead nowhere.

    God is simple because He simply IS, as he revealed to Moses. reaching to this simplicity is only done, as very well pointed out Fr. Stephen through prayer. Only the presence of God achieved through askesis and prayer cuts through the complexity of our fallen reason and reveals the simplicity of God.

    We try to reach God through reason when in fact He simply reveals to us through His very presence

  92. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    Pam, I pray you can find a welcoming Orthodox parish to visit with an understanding Priest (and congregation). That is the best way to learn. Orthodox parishes are not perfect–they are full of sinners as are all churches, but this is the environment we are given in which to work out our salvation no matter where we worship. What the Orthodox Church has to offer is an unbroken link of continuity with the Living Apostolic Tradition in the gospel as it has been lived out, tested and found true by generations of Christians from all times and cultures. You can bet that they won’t be shifting with the winds of contemporary cultural whims, such as embracing same sex “marriage,” etc., any time soon, but likely neither will there be harsh ostracism of sinners struggling with same sex attraction or a singling out of this sin as greater than all others that you might find in some religious circles. In Orthodoxy, as in Scripture, the only unforgivable sin is that of refusing to forgive another.

  93. oruaseht Avatar
    oruaseht

    “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard teaching; who can listen to it?”. . . “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” ~ St. John 6:60, 66-69

  94. fatherstephen Avatar

    Pam and Everyone,

    I have been making hospital visit today and have not had a chance to glance at comments (nor will I have much time this evening as well). Pam, saying yes to Christ is indeed simple and should not be complicated by rules, etc. You are quite correct. But there are many things in any Christian culture that are important. Orthodoxy is 2000 years of Christian living – a very rich inheritance. But for any Orthodox Christian – following Christ is still about following Christ. All of the richness of our inheritance serves that single purpose. In this it is simple. If discussion about many of the aspects of the Christian life makes things seem too complicated then don’t let the discussion distract you from Christ.

    There are things in such discussions that are and can be important – if not for all – then for some. May God keep you and help you to follow Christ.

    Irishanglican,

    We have discussed these matters before. I understand the ideas of sola scriptura and of semper reformanda. I simply do not think that have delivered on their promises and that they are “late comers” to the Christian scene. For instance, why the first four councils and not all seven? And yet accepting Reformation tradition which has no conciliar authority? But I don’t mean to pick an argument – just to say that it is not quite convincing.

    There is a vast reformation occurring today – affecting Anglicans and others in one direction and yet many others in another. Some of those directions would seem to be serious departures from the Christian faith. I pray for all that we be faithful and that God keep us.

  95. irishanglican Avatar
    irishanglican

    fatherstephen,

    Yes, we have been over this ground somewhat before, As I have said, I think I am closer to you Orthodox, than you are to me..Anglican. We do have much in common, thanks be to God! But one of the areas that I just cannot accept in Orthodox doctrine and theology, is your lack of St. Paul’s doctrine of the imputation of sin! Without this, we simply cannot begin to understand the depth of sin, in ourselves, and then this fallen, broken world.

    Yes, quite simply but I hope profoundly, I have returned to an Anglican Augustinian place. And as I have said, with the help of both Augustine and Tertullian for certain (over scripture). As I mentioned, a constant beating on sola scriptura and semper reformanda, really only supports their strength and truth! We really only authenticate any history or theology with the Scripture! Even the Creeds and Councils, are in authority because of the Old & New Covenant…Judeo-Christian revelation. Here, often Orthodoxy is weak theologically because of their lack to understand and use the OT witness and covenant properly. Of course this is my opinion, and not at all a personal attack. I do love much in Orthodoxy as I have expressed!

    Again, thanks to let this older (60 this Oct.) Irish-Anglican read and comment on your Orthodox blog. As I said before, you have good people on-board!

    Blessings,
    Fr. Robert Kelly…

  96. mary k Avatar
    mary k

    Thankyou Father Stephen for your blog.

    I have many questions if anyone could answer.
    I am a catholic by birth but family mainly attended on holidays-easter,Christians etc.To make appearances-that sort of thing.
    Being of croatian background i think my parents as children were taught about angry God that you fear and that would burn disobediant in hell so that is the only memories i have being taught about God as a child-theres a tyrannical God in the sky that you have to be afraid of & do right thing or he’ll punish you with fire.
    I think these teachings influenced my families disinterest in religion & attending church.
    Apart from that my main teachings about jesus/God have come from reading the bible with my sister & reading things online from i guess would be charismatic/non denom/pentacostal type churches & occasionally attending non-denom churches mainly because i need miracles healing for an illness that human/medical means cant help & there is no hope for me-and these are the churches where miracles seem to happen.
    I was attracted to them because in catholicm miracles dont seem to happen or people are told to suffer with Christ but i really really would liked God to take this away from me so i could have normal life so i started reading about those types of churches that have healing nights etc.
    Sorry i’m babbling-my question is can anyone say in simple words why Jesus came,why He had to die,how he became sin etc
    I feel some people dont even know why Jesus came & died-or at least i don’t
    From what i’ve read i could only understand they say because Adam & Eve sinned therefor as blood ancestors we also have ability to sin & God is very angry but because He loves us sent Jesus to be whipped,punished & killed instead of us to appease His wrath because He’s holy & because Jesus did that for us we should accept this gift & believe & repent & if we don’t we are rejecting Jesus in turn making God very angry & then he will put us in the fire to burn(or we put ourselves theres/chose to go there as some Christians would say)
    This doesn’t make sense to me
    Could anyone tell me clearer why Jesus came and had to die etc please?
    I also don’t understand when they say Jesus had to die & shed blood because only with blood-shed can sins be forgiven because Jewish say that blood didn’t have to be shed but that they gave offerings to God of something that meant alot to them as a sacrifice but that shedding blood wasn’t needed for forgiveness so i can’t make it add up.

    Re:Inemesit Emmanuel post
    I am uncomfortable with words like whoredom.I know that word can be used to mean mixing something Godly with something ungodly or “selling out” or something like that but it confuses me & makes me uncomfortable.I’ve heard some Christian women say things like “we shouldnt dress like whores” or ‘thats skanky” etc & i get confused & think to be a Christian do i have to say things like that?I really don’t want to.
    On one hand we’re told to become more like Jesus & be loving,kind & love your neighbour but on the other hand we have words like whoredom.Even in the bible theres words like whore & whoredom so its confusing-are we meant to be loving & caring or are we meant to use words like the above?

    I think Christianity is already too complicated.Maybe the question is how sincere should Christianity be?

  97. fatherstephen Avatar

    Mary K

    Your question is simple – but profound – for it is the very heart of the Christian faith. I will post an answer – but will probably do so as a posted article in the next day or so. It is a most important question.

    My prayers are with you all – and I ask your prayers for me – I am having a very full week locally and would be grateful for the prayers of others.

  98. Stephen W Avatar
    Stephen W

    Mary K, not to belittle your thoughts but my 6 year old daughter has had many of the same questions. She has watched one of her brothers suffer his whole life and wonders why God could not make another way other than death. It is difficult at best, to teach a child how to believe that God answers prayers when the only prayer they have seems to go unanswered. It is often when we encounter the questions of a child or go back to the root questions that we see how inadequate our answers become. I believe, after trying to explain things to my child, that if the answer is not good enough for her than it is not a satisfactory answer at all. Sometimes I think that children are asking the right questions and they are also willing and ready to let their pain be transformed. It is no wonder why

  99. Stephen W Avatar
    Stephen W

    woops… accidentally clicked on submit.

    It is no wonder why Jesus loved the children so much. Just some thoughts from experience.

  100. mary k Avatar
    mary k

    Thankyou Father Stephen and Stephen w

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