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Friday, April 12 2002

Sainthood

Yesterday's excursion into martyrdom as a topic raised the question of sainthood, and I feel I've been learning more about that topic (if not of its implications for my own behavior) and am ready to try out some of my thoughts.

For most of my life, as a Protestant, there was not much to say about sainthood. Everyone who believed in Christ for his or her salvation was a saint. The Apostle Paul was officially interpreted as saying so (by addressing the church as "the saints in Thessalonica" or Ephesus or whichever congregation he was writing to. To be saved is to be "a saint." That's all there was to it. But the rub was that it never was all there was to it, no matter how much I wanted to believe it so. Truth be told, Protestants are all over the map with this doctrine of sainthood. Because even the "once-saved-always-saved" Baptists and Calvinists have their issues with the other side of the salvation coin: sanctification. As a Protestant it never dawned on me but it has, forcefully, in these post-Prostestant years: to be "sanctified" (filled with awe with the holiness of God or become into the likeness of God; made holy) to use the Protestant word, is the same thing as to be "sainted" or saintly in old Orthodoxy.

We went round and round on the doctrines of "once saved always saved," eternal security, election, and irresistible grace in seminary (they're all facets of the same gem). One of my favorite theology prof's favorite sayings was, "you pay your nickle and you take your choice" when you choose between believing that once you've committed your life to Christ you're secure in His grip and believing, conversely, that giving in to one temptation can undo your salvation and make it necessary to start all over again. Baptists and Presbyterians favor the first proposition; Methodists (or Wesleyans), Holiness folk and Pentecostal and the many denominations between those bookends favor the latter.

My choosing to become Orthodox had little to do with such questions. All I had to be persuaded of was that it was a true church and that it had never left its original faith in any substantive way. If that is true, I'll deal with all the other doctrines as I came to understand them better over the years. Ironically, both emphases on salvation are found in Orthodox spiritual writing, but at the same time both extremes are avoided, as they are in the writings of the evangelical Anglican, C. S. Lewis. Orthodox see salvation as a lifelong process, more like the Wesleyans. "I've been saved, I am being saved, and I believe that by the grace of God I'll be saved in the world to come" is a frequently used way of summarizing the Orthodox concept.

Sanctification is called theosis or growing into the likeness of Christ. Most who start it never achieve it in this life, and those who do are the special role-model saints the Orthdox commemorate in hymns and prayers of commemoration, though they also allow that in a less special sense, all who are members of Christ are saints. Orthodox never say they know for a certainty where they stand in God's eyes, because to profess such knowledge is probably the height of pride and therefore a dangerous sin. On the other hand, they don't speak of "losing their salvation," unless someone in an extreme case (perhaps the one-time seminary student Josef Stalin) openly renounces his earlier profession of faith. In the monasteries, which are dedicated to fulltime pursuit of holiness, the favorite way of putting it is, "in the monastery we fall down and we get up. We fall down and get up."

It's a much bigger topic than I expected, but probably too "arcane" to develop much more. Let me know if you have thoughts on whether it's worth revisiting.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

State mottos (concluded)

South Dakota: Closer Than North Dakota
Tennessee: The Educashun State
Texas: Si' Hablo Ing'les (Yes, I Speak English)
Utah: Our Jesus Is Better Than Your's
Vermont: Yep
Virginia: Who Says Government Stiffs And Slackjaw Yokels Don't Mix?
Washington: Help! We're Overrun By Nerds And Slackers!
Washington, D.C.: Wanna Be Mayor?
West Virginia: One Big Happy Family... Really!
Wisconsin: Come Cut The Cheese
Wyoming: Where Men Are Men ... and the sheep are scared!

—Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for the day

It's never good for the person who's driving to fall asleep at the wheel. Whether it's someone driving a car, or a family, or a business, an organization, a ministry...when you're supposed to be driving and
you're sleeping instead, people can get hurt, damage can be done, and lives
can be disrupted.

Whether you realize it or not, you may very well be in the driver's seat. You certainly are responsible for the wheel if you have children, or employees, or people looking to you, or if you're in a position of responsibility or influence. And you can't afford to fall asleep at the wheel.

—Ron Hutchcraft
Sent by Jim Martin

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