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?