ENTRY 1210 | DECEMBER
received one reply in response to
last week's post. It was from a longtime close friend and fellow
parishioner at St. Stephen's church.
on faith is not to over think it too much. Back in my Evangelical
days it was always great for me to argue various unanswerable
questions. The sovereignty of God versus the will of man being
one of the most addressed. There were many other issues to task
my mind with and it was fun but it never resolved anything.
After switching to Orthodoxy almost 15 years ago, opening up
a whole new dimension for me, all of these "issues" faded away
and I have hardly even thought about them in recent years.
thinking there are certain things you can say what they are
not, but not what they are. I love that mystery. I don't have
to resolve every issue on a rational basis. Although I will
say that Orthodoxy has answered many questions I had about things
in the Bible that just didn't add up before but make sense now.
The bottom line for me is that my Christian faith has served
me well. Until some one comes up with a better story I'm sticking
with my faith. If nothing else, I believe that I have become
a more loving and kind person over the years and that makes
it worthwhile alone to follow Christ.
Orthodox theologians describe our approach to doctrine as "mystical"
in comparison with the "rational" theology of Roman Catholicism
(especially in the hesychast controversy described in the Catholic
and many Protestantsespecially those who trace their origin
to Luther and Calvin (16th century)consider Catholic theology
far too mystical compared with their more reason-based approach, at
least as they understand "reason." The sacramental approach
to worship and faith is outside the bounds of "reason" as
Calvinists understand it, and many other Protestants like Baptists
and traditional Methodists share that skepticism, but sacraments are
central to Catholic and Orthodox faith and worship and important (if
somewhat less so) to Lutherans and traditional Anglicans.
as I described the Hindu hymn quoted here a few posts back as "nonsense"
for saying there was "neither existence nor nonexistence then,"
my Edwardsian (Calvinist) friend considers my insistence that "freewill"
is a perfectly good word to describe what Eve exercised in the Genesis
account of her choosing to disobey God (Genesis 3) and what Mary did
in the Gospel account of her choosing to co-operate with His plan
of salvation for the human race (Luke 1:38)my friend calls this
use of "freewill" nonsense on the same level as a four-
or even five-sided triangle. But I find no theologians before the
Reformation who had a problem with this use of "freewill,"
so I suspect the Reformers were grasping for straws they could use
as darts to throw at those who didn't accept their Renaissance theology.
is right about our Orthodox emphasis on the mysteries, and as a longtime
Presbyterian minister before my conversion 17 years ago I also greatly
appreciate his description of the role debates about "issues"
played in our former faith communities. And I, like him, do not miss
those issues, though as a journalist I still like to discuss the faith
and various ways of understanding it. And it's also true that we Orthodox
experience God in ways that are not always based in thinking or studying.
But ours is also the Christian communion of the early-church councils
and the often hotly debated and carefully structured creeds (documents
some less formal communions would rather call "statements of
faith"). These documents proved effective in turning back heresies
(false teachings) that threatened the peace of the church and the
world that had been reached by Christianity in their time, and they
continue to be the bedrock of the faith of millions. So we say "both/and"
to reasoned examinations of the faith and mystical experiences and
direct communion with the Creator of the universe.
will take up the topic of the words and general language that sometimes
unites and sometimes divides Christianswords like "freewill"
and two recently coined spin offs from that one, "synergism"
and "monergism" again next time. And though we seem
to be majoring in differences in the current survey of Christian teachings,
the real purpose here is to show and appreciate how much common ground
now I'll close this final Jonal before Christmas by returning to a
metaphor we opened to begin this thread over a month ago. I was amazed
about Jonathan Edwards's equating space, in its infinite and eternal
sense, with God himself (space is God; God is space,
Edwards said). In Orthodoxy our attention is often brought back during
this Feast of Christ's Nativity to icons and hymns saying that in
conceiving the Savior Christ in her womb, "Mary has become 'more
spacious than the heavens,'" because the heavens, all space,
cannot encompass the eternal Creator, but Mary's womb can and did.
This is a great mystery of the incarnation, of God becoming a created
man yet still fully God, tasked with bringing salvation to all the
sheep who've gone astray,
Webmaster Jon Kennedy