An Unnecessary Salvation

One of the oddest thoughts to have crept its way into the Christian mind is the notion of what is “necessary to salvation.” The simple questions within the New Testament, “What must we do to be saved?” quickly become the stuff of bumper-stickers and a reduced version of Christianity unable to sustain a genuine spiritual life.

In my seminary years (Anglican), I had a professor who stated that he did not believe in angels. I was puzzled and asked him why. “Because they are not necessary. Anything an angel can do can be done by the Holy Spirit.” And there you have it. Only things that are necessary need to be posited as existing. It explains the apparent disappearance of the unicorn.

Here in Appalachia it is not unusual to be told, “All I need is Jesus and the King James Bible.” Of course the least-common-denominator version of Christianity is not only handy and compact, it also leaves untouched the entire remainder of a secular existence. My pickup truck, my gun, the fifth of liquor under the seat, my anger and love of reality TV have nothing to do with Jesus and my Bible. It is a very convenient version of the Two-Storey Universe.

Anglicanism (as did many other versions of Protestantism) enshrined some of this sentiment in the Oath of Ordination required of its clergy. In this they swore that they believed the “Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to contain all things necessary to salvation.” In the hands of more extreme Reformers, this notion became a slogan with which to eliminate everything from Christianity other than those things that could be found in the Scriptures. A white-washed (literally) Christianity, devoid of ceremony and with only a hint of sacrament was the result. It is easily the primary culprit in the creation of secularism. All the “unnecessary stuff” is removed from Christianity, leaving the world with huge collections of unchristian, “neutral” things. This instinct and principle is both contrary to the Scriptures themselves as well as destructive of the very nature of the Christian faith.

A contrary principle can be seen in the affirmation: “All things work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” The same thought can be found in 1 Corinthians:

For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come– all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1Co 3:21-23)

What is this “all things”? It is precisely what it sounds like – everything that is. Our salvation won’t fit on a bumper-sticker inasmuch as it includes everything that is: everything is working together towards the restoration of our communion with God. God has created nothing that is excluded from this work. Our own efforts to narrow the scope of our salvation to a few verses of Scripture, snatched from here and there, are exercises in gross misunderstanding.

That Christianity in its classical form has always had an instinct for “all things,” is evidenced in the use of “all things” within its services and sacraments. And when those uses are examined, what is uncovered is a “seamless garment” of salvation. Nothing is “by the way.” I have made the statement from time to time with catechumens in my parish that we could begin with the smallest thing, a simple blade of grass, and go from there to give a full account of the entirety of the gospel. It could also be said that if an account of the gospel excludes even so much as a blade of grass, then it has been seriously misunderstood.

There is no imagined version of Christianity within the New Testament that exists outside the Church. Anyone who says that they have a “relationship with Jesus” and do not need the Church is in deep delusion. There is no such Jesus.

A not inaccurate polemic against this reductionist form of Christianity is to describe it as an increasing Islamification of the faith. I have written before of the influence of Islam on the notion of Sola Scriptura. Christianity, viewed as essentially an act of submission to God through Christ, is not Christianity. It is a Christianized Islam. It’s useful. It need have none of the problems concomitant with a genuine historical Church. It is quite portable and can be kept entirely private, offering no disturbance to the structures and agreements of the secular world. Individual Christians are never a problem for the world. It’s only when two or three of them gather together that they become dangerous.

The Church is the beginning and foretaste of the “all things” that are our salvation. Salvation, when understood properly, cannot be tied to an isolated verse. For example:

He who believes and is baptized will be saved; (Mar 16:16)

This in no way is meant to say that simply belief and baptism are sufficient unto themselves for salvation. “As many as are baptized into Christ are baptized into His death,” St. Paul says, “and raised in the likeness of His resurrection.” Additionally, “…by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…”  (1Co 12:13) Baptism is not an isolated event, or an act of magic. It is the gateway into the death and resurrection of Christ, while the Church is nothing other than the death and resurrection of Christ through time. And, in time, we shall see that everything was always the Church, from the first pronouncement, “Let there be light.”

And so we are told that God:

[has] made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth– in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, (Eph 1:9-11)

Salvation is “all things.” And in this good life, all things are necessary. He has made nothing without purpose.


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.



63 responses to “An Unnecessary Salvation”

  1. Grant Hudson Avatar
    Grant Hudson

    ‘It’s only when two or three of them gather together that they become dangerous’ made me laugh.

    This blog is a wonderful thing. I hope to be able to point more people in its direction soon.

    Glory to God for All Things.

  2. JHE Avatar

    I cannot express how this post answers the longing of my non- orthodox soul. Glory to God.

  3. newenglandsun Avatar

    In regards to the necessity of the unicorn, it is VERY important to remember that the unicorn is STILL the national animal of Scotland under the protection of the cross of St Andrew and hence is entirely Christian.

  4. Agata Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    What a profound post.
    I have a wonderful new friend who is looking into Orthodoxy but unsure about committing to the Church (the necessity of Church really). I have been praying for the right words when we talk and here they all are… Thank you!

  5. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I have this strange thought that unicorns, leprechauns and all the managerie of our imagination will be in the Kingdom with us. If only for the fun of it.

  6. Randy Evans Avatar

    But Father, we are darned good ‘mericans, and we live to market and consume as you have often pointed out. So of course we need slogans and easily swallowed sound bites of our “faith” so other consumers will buy what we’re sellin’ and join us against all the secular bad guys out there. “All things are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” — hmmmm — not sure we can figure out how to make that palatable to our focus groups. Dang.

  7. Isaac Avatar

    Another Great article, Father. Thank you for writing it.

    Is there a typo in this sentence from the fifth paragraph?

    “Our salvation won’t fit on a bumper-sticker inasmuch as it everything that is, working together towards the restoration of our communion with God.”

  8. Allen Long Avatar
    Allen Long

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen! God uses your writing to help correct 60 +years of non-Orthodox mind-sets.

  9. Byron Avatar

    It’s difficult to think that even my sin is something He works through. How to be thankful for that? I only want to be relieved of what I see as constant failure. It is very hard to think in terms of thankfulness that even my own sin provides a further possibility of trusting and glorifying God. I have been burdened with some things for so long that I do not know how to be thankful that God yet can work through them. Am I viewing this completely wrong, Father?

  10. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    There is, I think, a level of deep relinquishment involved in acknowledging that the good God saves us through our sin. What makes it so hard is simply our shame. And learning, little by little, to bear “a little shame,” is the slow lesson of a broken and contrite heart. If He did not save us through our sin, no one could be saved.

  11. Red Avatar

    Very common. “let me get this God stuff wrapped up so I can get on to more important things”. It remind me of this sad book.

  12. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    It looked good when I wrote it, but I’ve improved it. My wife caught several problems as well. Rush to print, live to repent.

  13. JCL Avatar

    What you’re describing is called “least effort” (aka, path of least resistance).
    It’s reflected in our shallow understanding of many things, including one another, like “muricans.” Thinking in labels takes off the cognitive load, as my old sociology professor once said. These labels (from new narratives and sound bites to bumper stickers) are sold, bought and traded about at a high price. It’s always “the other guy” who can be rubber-stamped, never me. It’s the other guy who is simple and backward and wrong-thinking, not special, deep-thinking me.

  14. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Thank you for your deep thoughts.

  15. JCL Avatar

    I meant to add I find your statement “It is a Christianized Islam” to be overly reductionist itself.

  16. JCL Avatar

    I hope you noted my sarcasm. And I apologize if I offended.

  17. Fr. Thomas Avatar
    Fr. Thomas


    As others have said, “a profound post.”

    I love, dare I say it, the paradox of the “inclusivity” and “exclusivity” of the gospel.

    More things and people than I could ever imagine have worked together for my salvation. What is more, it is not “my” salvation, but “ours.” Your working out of salvation is an aspect of mine and vice versa. That is awesome aspect of “all things” it seems to me.

  18. tess Avatar

    Father Stephen,

    You bless my heart to no end by echoing my secret belief in the presence of unicorns in the Kingdom!

    Glory to God! 🙂

  19. Nicholas Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Griswold

    Excellent Article Father. Thank you.

  20. Dean Avatar

    Thank you Father for these excellent last few posts. Speaking of few things necessary for our salvation….I imagine that we could live a good long while on a diet of only beans, potatoes, and oranges. But it would grow to be monotonous in short time. I didn’t “need” to get married 50 years ago, but how very poor my life would have been without my wife and children enriching it. And of course most of us could continue with a litany of ways our lives have been blessed by people and things not “necessary ” to life. I’m reminded of what Thomas Howard wrote in his book Evangelical is not Enough. He said our faith cannot be a bare bones faith. It needs to be fleshed out. And that’s exactly what Orthodoxy has done for me through the years. I knew there was more to the faith before I encountered the fullness of faith. And Orthodoxy with the full panoply of faith has dressed my once bare bones belief with the Theotokos, icons of the saints, the saints of all ages, the eucharist, and the list could continue. Thank God that all of creation can be included in some way in the ridiculous vastness and richness of God’s kingdom.

  21. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Mostly, it felt like a cheap shot. It’s also possible to criticize someone for criticizing. A Christianized Islam, is I think, not reductionist, but with some historical precedent. Fr. Tom Hopko was the first to put me onto the historical connection between Medieval Sola Scriptura and Islamic thought. They are connected. They obviously operate in different cultures – but they share a common impetus and reach similar conclusions.

    If it pushes things a bit far, then it is a splash of cold water in the face of a Christian complacency that long ago went too far.

  22. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I am reminded of the quote by Tom Waits: “The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.”

  23. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    JCL: sorry to disabuse you but all of our souls are Orthodox even if we don’t yet realize it. I cannot otherwise explain the “homecoming” that frequently is felt and seen the first time entering an Orthodox Church. Or later as the faith is unfolded for us: the up-welling of recognition not of something new but of something forgotten or buried.

  24. Anna Avatar

    Father Stephen,
    Would you please expand on this thought
    “Christianity, viewed as essentially an act of submission to God through Christ, is not Christianity. It is a Christianized Islam. “

  25. newenglandsun Avatar

    Numbers 23:22 – God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
    Isaiah 34:7 – And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.

  26. Seraphim2478 Avatar

    Thank you Fr. For another great post. I really enjoy your blog. It is so unspeakable how utterly rich we are in Orthodoxy, “Of Christ in whom are all the riches…” all creation groans and travails, and yet all creation praises God….hmmm sounds like us… Maybe this is why we feel such an afinity for all these “unecessary things”, these things are being saved us, and we can’t be saved without them!

  27. Arnold Karr Avatar
    Arnold Karr

    Baptists will argue that anyone who makes a profession of faith and later “falls away” is either still saved or never was truly saved. A.A.s will sometimes say essentially the same thing about relapsers — they never were “really sober” in the first place. How does your assertion that everything will have always been “the Church” differ? What would lead anyone to believe that to be the case, other than a willingness to accept someone’s word for it?

  28. Pete Avatar


    “And, in time, we shall see that everything was always the Church, from the first pronouncement, “Let there be light.”

    I love how you tied in your key points with the scriptures in Eph 1: 9-11. It says it all right there. Our “origins” are rooted in our future. Before the epiclesis the resurrection and Christ’s glorious second coming are expressed as past events. This is the “full” expression of he who was slain from the foundation of the world, meaning the Lamb of God. The future beckons back to its past.

    The Church shares in all of this; The Church was from the foundation of the world (see Eph 1:4), having her origin in Christ. The Eucharist being the true (ultimate) gift fills all of creation; not limited to creation (time-space) but is rooted in the uncreated. Any time-space context starts to be seen very, very differently.

    All of the time/space creation is constituted by the one central event of the resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ. This constitutes everything; absolutely everything.

    I.e., Time – Always, now; Space – unto ages of ages – this we speak of as the Kingdom as having ‘dominion’, meaning by inference something of reigning as a principal element – something other than only time.

    We are rooted in our telos now; having our origins in our future, being destined by our primordial past. The fullness of the first Adam fully transformed by the second Adam is the “gathering” unto him that St.Paul spoke. All of creation has been “gathered up” eucharistically. Truly He fills all in all.

    Father, I really think you are aiding greatly in bringing us back to the patristic teaching. Thank you for this.

  29. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I make it a policy never to argue with Baptists. Their assumptions viz. Scripture, etc., are simply not worth arguing with.

    Well, I already think that everything is the Church, and that this is the proper understanding of the Church. However, not everything is reconciled to being the Church. I take this to be the meaning of Scripture.

  30. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    In Islam, the primary act of faith is the act of submission (the word “Islam” means submission). It is yield and recognizing the raw authority (sovereignty of Allah). It is not love of God, but submission to God. Many Christians have turned the “accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior” into a similar act of submission. That simply making that action, makes you a Christian, and everything else is some added extra. This reduces the dynamic of Christianity into an exact parallel to Islam. That is my meaning.

    In Orthodox Christianity, the question put to us at Baptism is: “Do you unite yourself to Christ?” This is a union with His death and resurrection and all that He is. It is not narrow but large. It is, in fact, everything.

  31. Karen Avatar

    Father, I find it interesting you describe the most severely reductionist (and iconoclast) version of Protestant faith as “Christianized Islam” and not as “Islamicized Christianity.” Gives one pause… but I think the former is indeed the reality.

  32. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Get into a discussion with a serious 5 point Calvinist. It is definitely the former.

  33. Nicholas Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Griswold

    Father Bless,
    I had never thought of Calvinism in this way, but as I mull your words over I am coming to agree with you. It explains the hatred I have seen in staunch adherents and it explains their blindness to the contradictions in their faith. It also explains why many have fallen away from close adherence to the points of Calvinism.
    I have some friends who belong to a staunchly conservative Presbyterian church. In discussing faith I made the assumption that they adhered to their Statements of Faith as members of the conservative side of Presbyterianism. They informed me straight away that nobody accepted those principles anymore (the Five Points) and that their faith was different. At best one could describe their belief structure as 3/4 point Calvinism.
    They may not see the connection of Calvinism as you have described it, but they do see the faults and the contradictions between the revealed nature of God and the harshness of the God depicted in the Five Points.

  34. Anna Avatar

    Thank you father Stephen.
    I now see what you mean, Christianity is alot more than just submission.
    Yet don’t you think there is a major element of humility/submission to the omnipotent creator to being christian as well?

  35. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Yes. There’s an important difference, however. Essential to the practice of Christianity is voluntary self-emptying, the voluntary bearing of a little shame. You can only enter into the Cross voluntarily. And, importantly, God has emptied Himself first and made it safe. The imposition of submission does not make for humility, it makes for a toxic, bitter life.

    Having said that, God is a good God. And even within Islam, there are those who practice their faith in a much more healthy way. Indeed, the influence of Christianity has been profound in some places. Sufism, for example. God is at work everywhere, and even rescues heretics from their own worst intentions, many times. So, I do not mean to paint with an absolute brush.

  36. Alice C. Linsley Avatar

    Scripture remains a primary authority for all Christians. Are all things necessary for salvation contained there? Yes, in as much as Scripture delivers in a written form the Holy Tradition concerning the Christ, the only begotten of the Father. Without Scripture we would have no divine liturgy, nor most of the homilies of the Fathers.

  37. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Here is how I think of it: The Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation. But that statement should be understood to be saying that all things are in the Scriptures, rather than that “if I can’t find it in there, it doesn’t matter.” If you can’t find it in the Scriptures, then you haven’t studied them well enough. Either all things are there, or they are of far lesser value than people think. All things are there.

  38. JCL Avatar

    Michael: You accidentally directed your post to me (re: “disabuse [you] of a notion”).

    Fr. Freeman, I researched the genesis of “Christianized Islam” discussion before posting my brief comment. My only conclusion is that it is an intentionally provocative label – your reply backed that up.

  39. Tullius Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    I am almost overwhelmed trying to process all the new ways you’ve challenged me to think over the past year or so. Because I come from a protestant background, my friends, relatives, and coworkers make me startling aware of the dramatic shift my thinking (and living) has taken since becoming a catechumen of the Orthodox Church.

    I sometimes wish you would write something like a “Top Ten” list of worldview considerations for non-Orthodox Christians, so I could pass it on to those whom I struggle to help “see” through the Stygian fog of modernity/secularism/nominalism, etc.

    Recently, I’ve been dumbfounded in making myself even minimally comprehensible to the so-called literal, young-earth creationist reading of Genesis. Doesn’t matter how many poetic markers, allegorical clues, narrative parallels–heck, even scientific probabilities–that you provide. They posture as the stalwart guardians of the truth, impervious to the “lies” of our fallen world. Perhaps it is better that I just let it go, and embrace Hopko’s maxim never to try to convince anyone of anything.

  40. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Yes. I suppose it is, intentionally provocative. Is that a bad thing?

  41. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Indeed, we finally have to let it go. Primarily because they are not holding “it.” The holding is itself symptomatic of something they do not yet see. I’m sure that beam is in my own eye as well.

  42. Alice C. Linsley Avatar

    Father, “if I can’t find it in there, it doesn’t matter” would be the Protestant sola scriptura and that is an error.

  43. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Yes, Orthodoxy would say, “If I can’t find it in there, then I have a problem with me.”

  44. JCL Avatar

    Fr. Freeman, Nope, nothing wrong with it. So many words crying for attention in an overcrowded world. Sometimes, it seems, all we have are words. To injure, to uplift, to rile, to edify, to inspire. What is another label?

  45. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    To teach. Since most of my readers are looking to understand Orthodoxy, cultural Christianity, etc., the lines have to be drawn in bold so that the “coin” drops. I think if it was a drum that was beat incessantly, then that might be problematic. Of course, having ministered to souls over the course of 35 years who were deeply damaged by the kind of thing I’ve described as Islamicized Christianity, I do not mind being bold on occasion.

  46. Robert Avatar

    Fr Freeman,

    Boldness is needed, in love. More power to you, don’t stop!

    IMO Islamicized Christianity is the gateway to atheism, I have seen it time and again. Such ‘Christianity’, if we can call it that, is a gross distortion; at one point or another, people see it for what it is, they reject it and atheism is the ‘logical’ next step. It’s playing out, all around us.

  47. Nicholas Avatar

    “Indeed, the influence of Christianity has been profound in some places. Sufism, for example.”

    I’m glad you mentioned Sufism! I’ve learned a lot about Christ from the Sufi poets.

  48. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    JCL: one clear way in which Protestantism is akin to Islam is in their iconoclasm. Protestants are not currently as violent about it as Islam but the sentiment is strikingly similar.

    Iconoclasm is a denial of the Incarnation.

  49. Jane Avatar

    As a new convert, I am running into a lot of difficulty with relatives and some friends who are choosing to take offense to the change on the grounds that, if I think the Church is necessary for salvation (which they read on my parish’s website and seized fervently irate hold of), I must not think they are “really saved”. Since to them being “unsaved” basically means being rejected by God this becomes the ground for much insult and indignation.

    I don’t even know where to begin in attempting to clarify!

  50. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Yes, it is a problem. I would perhaps think a conversation about what they mean by salvation and what the Orthodox mean by it would be a good approach. Look up the many ways “save,” “saved” and “salvation” are used in the NT and make a list of its various meanings. They will respect that, perhaps.

  51. Nicholas Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Griswold

    A perfect example is a congregation whose church name begins with a W. Their behavior seems very similar to some of the behavior I have seen in Muslims. I watched a video a week ago in which a large group of Islamic males beat a woman to death in Afghanistan over an alleged desecration of a Koran. I also watch this American congregation in action as they disrupted a military funeral. There wasn’t much difference in the level of hate.

  52. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Nicholas, you are correct. A key similarity is the law as the controlling principal. Fred Phelps was a successful lawyer before he founded his cult of personality. It is in no way a congregation however, it is simply a family cult. It is neither Christian nor Baptist.

    One of our tasks is to redefine what Christianity really is.

    There are a lot of fakes out there claiming the name.

    I would also say there is a vast difference between submission to the will of Allah and willingly entering into the love of Christ. “Submission” can be used to describe both but they are vastly different.

  53. Nicholas Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Griswold

    I entirely agree that we need to separate the wheat from the chaff as far as who is and who isn’t really a Christian. I find the Nicene Creed is a great starting place. So many of these TV fakes and ones I have net who have their own pastor cult churches are eliminated by this creed as they often deny the Divinity of Christ and/or the Person-hood of the Holy Spirit.
    One of the reasons that I follow Father Stephen’s blog is to learn how he presents these tough statements and not start a fist fight. He laid the line down with the comment of “Christianized Islam” and made it sound almost like a compliment. I seem to always starts fights.

  54. Justin Avatar

    It is worth noting that the bifurcated categories of necessary/unnecessary are only possible within a worldview of death, not one of Life. In the dead 2 story view, the upper floor is “necessary,” the lower one “unnecessary.” [If you’re an Atheist, flip that].
    It is no surprise that this discussion should arise within the context of Icons. Lets take them as a prime example. In Life (one story) the Saint is the Icon is the Saint. Inseparable (which is to say, Alive). Communion of Saints/Icons/Saints. Then comes secularism/modernism (death), two stories – Saints upstairs, Icons downstairs. Now, what can a downstairs Icon have to do with an upstairs Saint? What can “communion of saints” possibly mean in a bifurcated double floor unreality? It now becomes possible to miss the Saint in favor of the icon, which now becomes naught but a window to the second story heaven, mediator/magic portal to the second floor (making present down here what is depicted up there), etc. Icons thus become an optional “unnecessary” nicety at best – directing one’s thoughts upward (which can be done without anything at all from down here, much less an icon), a damnable distraction from the second floor reality at worst. And Iconoclasm is (still)born, suckling from the cold dead placenta of the bifurcated cosmos.

    Let’s back up to when the Icon was still, ahem, “just” a tree. The question “Is this tree necessary to the forest?” is a death raven, which can find no talon-hold (much less nest) in the ocean of a heart extending into two armloads of forest fruit. Nay, that raven’s dung only clogs the rocky outcrop of a head terminating in a palm full of ax.
    Questions of necessity cannot emerge without an itchy trigger finger.
    It has never occurred to anyone lacking an eye full of infanticide to wonder when Life begins.

    As an interesting aside, it is worth briefly noting the intersection between “necessary” and Existence. I’ll start with something obvious – for something to be “unnecessary,” it must exist.
    But what must one first believe about Existence in order to label something Existing as “unnecessary”? Well, to begin with, one cannot actually believe in Existence, one must instead believe in existence. There is One who revealed Himself to Moses by the name “I Exist,” of Whom it is written “In Him ALL THINGS Exist.” All things Exist because He Exists. To Exist is to be permeated with His Life. Thus, to claim that anything at all (“all things”) is “unnecessary,” is to claim that His Life is unnecessary, that He Himself is unnecessary.
    Nothing exists. Everything Exists. Glory to God for…ALL THINGS.

  55. Lina Avatar

    Fr. Freeman,

    Speaking of baptism, where and how did the notion start that baptism gives one ‘rights’ in the Church? This idea seems to be a false teaching of what baptism does, and I have been curious as to how it developed.

  56. Richard Avatar

    In Revelation, God expresses hatred for the deeds and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The word seems to connote “victory over the laity” or “conquerors of the people”, and refers to layers of ecclesiastical government “lording it” over the flock. In light of 1Pet.5, is this the reason some are drawn to what a recent pope (Benedict?) dismissed as a “primitive” Christianity?

  57. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I have no idea. It’s also a very speculative interpretation of Nicolaitans that is by no means substantiated. It could, in fact, just be a reference to a person whose name is attached to a heresy…this is the most common interpretation that I have seen in the early fathers.

  58. Nicholas Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Griswold

    Richard and Father Stephen,
    From my cursory look into this I found that it is thought to be a movement founded by or inspired by someone named Nicholas (various culprits are named as possibilities) and that the sect seemed to be Gnostic and given over to licentiousness. The various interpretations of the name seem to apply to the name of the founder/inspiration of this sect which was apparently very short lived.

  59. Dee of St Herman's Avatar
    Dee of St Herman’s

    Father Stephen, Thank you again for helping us to look at these concepts carefully. A loved one of mine recently asked me why I am a catechumen to Orthodoxy and why I do I have to go through this process. My answer was that my whole life has been a process of becoming “saved” even when I wasn’t aware of it at the time and the process will not end with baptism. I might have confused them further as my answers tend to be inadequate. I have attempted to explain to them through science, but that too leaves them confused.

    Pete’s and Justin’s words are very edifying. Admittedly, sometimes the discussion goes “over my head” as well, though I think I get the gist of it. It takes many re-readings and thinking carefully.

    I particularly grateful for Pete’s words about space/time. In retrospect it is easy for me to see how my studies/work in that area in chemistry and physics helped to bring me to a similar understanding of Christ’s Death and Resurrection and the Life of the Church extending with Christ “before all worlds”. (this is my interpretation of Pete’s words) Similarly my spiritual father has also mentioned that these things have been created before all time for my (and our) salvation.–very thought provoking.

    Justin’s words are very poetic and sometimes I struggle to understand. But I believe I get the idea of the Icon in the Tree–though just barely. BTW who is the Saint in the tree shown in the picture?

    Last, my spiritual father mentioned to me before I became a catechumen that my act should be considered a type of preparation to become “married” to the Church and to Christ. (and a far cry from the idea of submission)

    This gave me pause, I’ve been married for almost 30 years and I definitely had no idea what I was getting into for the long term when I was 30 years old. Now at 61 years do I really know what I’m “getting into” as I “marry” the Orthodox Church? I don’t, which is possibly why my beloved ones are a little anxious. Sometimes I’m anxious too. I am leaving the old “world view” behind and there is a struggle in the process and the anxiety of leaving the familiar, and at the same time of entering the familiar, of what was known in the heart but not consciously understood.

    I am very grateful for this post because it has helped me to appreciate the wrong turns and sin in my life as part of my process to become united to Christ.

  60. Alex Volkov Avatar
    Alex Volkov

    Dee of St Herman’s, the Saint in the picture is St. Tikhon of Kaluga:

    God bless you.

  61. Bill Avatar

    Father Stephen, you wrote:
    Christianity, viewed as essentially an act of submission to God through Christ, is not Christianity. It is a Christianized Islam.

    Thats what I always thought it was. So, what is Christianity?

  62. Dee of St Herman's Avatar
    Dee of St Herman’s

    Thank you Alex for your response and links!

    It was a delight to become acquainted with St. Tikhon.

  63. Justin Avatar

    “Men and beasts wilt Thou save, O Lord. How Thou hast multiplied Thy mercy, O God!” Ps 35 (LXX).

    “…and beasts..” The whole creation groans for salvation, even the many beasts among the Ninevites who cannot tell their right hand from their left.

    How manifold are Thy works, O Lord! In Wisdom hast Thou made them all!

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