Still Unsure of Orthodoxy

What a journey!  I have not written anything about this journey for quite a while.  I think it is because I had made up my mind that Orthodoxy is the way to go.  Then something happened to make me question it all again.

 

So the investigative part of the journey began again.

The whole thing may very well have been engineered by God.  I ran across several articles and videos by protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox about justification by faith vs works and the losing one’s salvation.  I had already picked up on this somewhat from the Orthodox perspective, but I think I had just made up my mind to swallow it, thinking that maybe it was just semantics and that they were all really saying the same things.  But I know now that the words said by a protestant may have a different meaning when said by an Orthodox.

From what I have gathered from my research, the Orthodox Church does not believe in Justification by faith alone. Of course, that takes us back to the issues of the Reformation.  However, in an interview, an Orthodox priest said that we come to Christ by faith and are justified initially.  The issue is that we can lose that salvation, that justification.  I have yet to hear the exact criteria set forth to identify at what point we lose that salvation, at what sin, or at what degree of sin, or what state of mind.

It seems that in order to hold to the position that we can lose our salvation, one must necessarily believe that our works justify us, and not our faith.  Galatians 3:6 says “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” A few verses before that in verses 2 and 3, it says “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”

The one event in the Bible that speaks most to this is, the thief on the cross who said ” ‘Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’ And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”   The thief did no works.  He only believed.  Undoubtedly, had he lived, his faith would have manifested itself in works.  True faith has works.  As James says, “though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?”  Of course  not; saying you have faith does not mean you have faith.  That “faith” cannot save.  It is only the kind of faith that evidences itself by works that can save a person.  Yes faith alone can save, but faith is never alone; faith is manifested by works.

“It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Phil 2:13

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6

“For who He did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

“Love never faileth.” I Cor.13:8.

“God is love.”  I John 4:8

So then God never fails.  He will accomplish what He set out to do.  He will conform us to His image.  The good work in us that He started, will be performed.

He will not lose even one sheep of those His Father gave Him. John 6:37-39:  “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 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.”

John 10:28-29: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to  pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”

 

How can anyone say that Christ will lose any of those His Father gives to Him? How can we say that He will fail to keep His covenant?  Of course we will fail, but He will not.

 

Orthodox believe in infant baptism. Now as I understand it, infant baptism is infant regeneration or salvation.  The infant can neither have faith or do works, and yet he is proclaimed saved.  The liturgy after the infant  baptism states, ” It has pleased You to grant rebirth through water and the Spirit to Your newly enlightened servant, and to forgive his/her sins, both voluntary and involuntary….O You who through holy Baptism, have given to your servant remission of sins, and bestowed upon him/her a life of regeneration…  who has regenerated Your newly-baptized servant by water and the Spirit, and granted to him/her remission of his/her sins, .”  and to the child, “You are baptized. You are illumined. You have been chrismated. You are sanctified. You are washed; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son,. and of the Holy Spirit.”

Infant baptism is obviously more that just asking the Holy Spirit to go with the child and protect him/her.  It is salvation, regeneration, sanctification, forgiveness of sins, and rebirth. I do not see this taught in the Scriptures.  And here we have the crux of the matter.  Orthodox will say, “but it is taught in tradition.”  I do not believe that something as important as this would not at least have been mentioned or allowed for in the Scriptures.  James and Galatians speak of faith and of works, not of which the infant is able to have or do.   It does not allow for Infant Baptism/Salvation.

If becoming Orthodox means that I must give up the belief that salvation is eternal; that no one, not even myself can pluck me out of the Father’s hands, I cannot become Orthodox.  If becoming Orthodox means that I must not belief that salvation is by faith alone and yet a faith that is never alone, but always manifests itself by works, and instead believe that, according to Infant Baptism, one can be saved by works alone, since the infant is too young to have understanding and consequently faith, or in fact, since he/she is too young to have faith or to do works, one can be saved by ceremony without having faith or works, than I cannot be Orthodox.

Since it was, according to Orthodox, that the church gave us the Scriptures, than why if they thought is so  important, did they not include writings in the canon of scripture that supported or even mentioned Infant Baptism, or the veneration of icons, or the sign of the Cross, or how many times one had to immersed in order follow the “one baptism” that is actually mentioned in the Scriptures?  And if those who wrote supporting these things wrote other things that were not according to the faith or at least questionable, and that is the reason they were not included in the canon of Scripture, than how deserving are they of any credibility at all?  And by what authority did those who passed on those traditions, pick and choose from the writings those things to be followed, if not according to the authority of the very Scriptures the Church chose to include in the canon?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Listen

Listen to her:

She is really saying that she is afraid.  She is afraid that her independence will be taken away…that decisions will be made for her.  I can remember when it first hit me that she was a person with likes and dislikes that nobody knew about.  I was planning a birthday party for her and someone asked me about her favorite meal.  I could not answer.  I did not know.  Who knew that my mother had a favorite meal?  She never voiced it.  She was always deferring to someone else.  Her person-hood confronted me at that moment and I felt bad…guilty that I had never fully given  complete person-hood to her.  I looked at her with new respect.  She is not here for her children alone.  She has dreams, desires, preferences, and dislikes.  The important thing is she still has all those things and now she is afraid of losing them because her children think they know what is best.

I have tasted a bit of that from my own children and it scared me, so I know how she feels.  Everyone can be forgetful, but if it is in an older person, it is attributed to old age and dementia.  Even if it is old age or dementia, do we have a right to take away their dignity by taking over their affairs, talking down to them, or making a decision without giving them the ultimate say?  I am sure there comes a time when taking over is appropriate.  Great wisdom and gentleness is needed to discern that moment.  A patronizing tone is always inappropriate.

It is hard not to assume that we know best for our children and for our parents.  In the case of our children, we see the trend of their behavior leading them in the wrong direction and toward negative outcomes.  In the case of our parents, our fears for them grow way out of proportion because we do not want to lose them.  In both cases, tend to magnify their weaknesses and rob them of choice.  In the process, we hinder communication and destroy their trust in us.

I have observed that one of the biggest mistakes that doctors and nurses make is to not listen to the patient, but instead assume we know what they are going to say or that we know what they need.  The patient becomes frustrated and shuts down, leaving the problem unsolved or misdiagnosed.

Since my mother is hard of hearing, there are greater difficulties she confronts.  People tend to talk over her or talk around her without talking loudly so she can be a part of the conversation.  Sometimes she just decides not to say anything when Dad’s doctor acts like she is not in the room and instead discusses Dad’s health with my sister. I have sensed her hurt in the car when she cannot hear what we are saying and we forget that she cannot hear.  I know she loves conversation and would love to be a part of whatever is going on.

The older I get the more convinced I am that listening is one of the most valuable virtues.  People want to be heard.  Their defensiveness, rebellion, quietness or stubbornness may give us a clue to that.

One of the most painful events for an older man is when he is to give up his driver’s license.  What a blow to his manhood and his independence!  I have seen the pain in his face.  And something inside of them dies when an older couple must sell everything they have and enter a facility.  It must be excruciating to part with a lifetime of accumulated memories and valuables that mean so much to them, but parting with independence would be even worse.

My mother was a little girl who had dreams like all other little girls.  She was one of many siblings, but wanted to be loved for who she was.  She made mistakes and was not always wise, but who is?  And who doesn’t make mistakes?  Children are so very hard on their parents.   I have watched her work hard all of her life to provide for her children and to do what she thought God wanted her to do.  I watched her give up things so her children could have. I have listened to her pray in her room often.  I watched her suffer with migraines sometimes on a daily basis.  I have seen her kill a snake and gut a chicken.  She was the best cook ever!  She made clothes for us. I watched her sing in church many times. How she loved that!  She taught us all to harmonize and love singing.  She loved people and she could talk to them so easy.  I admired that.  She had so many heartaches in her life and still does and yet she still loves God and hopes in Him.  She was a great Sunday School teacher to the ladies.  I miss her energy.  She was the hub of our home and the creator of our happy environment.  She could talk for hours and hours even into the early morning when her sisters would come to visit, or with her friends.  She was full of life and love and still is.

She still puts her needs on the back shelf.  She doesn’t insist that she goes to the doctor to get her meds adjusted or her teeth fixed.  She knows it is a hardship to take her to get better shoes or fix her hearing aids.  She lets Dad’s needs take the spotlight and worries about his health, his fluid intake and his medications.

I know the hurt she has endured.  Her dreams probably did not turn out the way she thought, but I know that given the choice, she would not have given any of us up.  She would have chosen to love us and to teach us about God.

She has faults.  That is what makes her human.  She is also loved by God and her family.  If there is a way we can honor her, we should do so. If we can still let her choose, we should do so.  If she needs to struggle on her own, to prove she has some independence and dignity left, we should let her.  And when she needs us, we will be there to help her and love her as we respect her desires, her dignity and her life.