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?










4 thoughts on “Still Unsure of Orthodoxy

  1. matushkaanna January 15, 2018 / 11:13 pm

    Hi! Just dropping by and thought I’d leave a comment.

    It can be so difficult to understand Orthodoxy through Protestant or Catholic eyes. Everyone I know who has converted has said the same thing: it’s a whole different world; you understand concepts differently and realize that Protestants/Catholics can use the same terms as the Orthodox, but mean different things.

    A quick note regarding salvation: humans were created with free will. If we choose to reject God, then He does not force Himself on us. Salvation is freely available to all *who choose it*. And though someone might have once chosen it, he can still turn around and reject it. It’s not a once and done thing.

    Keep that line of conversation open with your priest! 🙂

  2. Carol January 27, 2018 / 8:29 pm

    Thank you, Matushkaanna,

    You are right. It has been quite a challenge to transition from one world to the next. And thank you for your advice. I will keep the line of communication open to my priest. It is evident that he cares about us all.

  3. S1TK June 13, 2018 / 12:28 pm

    Hi Carol,

    I just wanted to say that we Orthodox do indeed believe in justification by faith, what we don’t believe is justification by faith ALONE. The Scriptures are clear that we are judged by our works because that is the only evidence we will have on whether or not our works are of good fruit or bad fruit. St. Paul himself was genuinely concerned for his own salvation and even warned his fellow Christians to not fall into the complacency of thinking that they couldn’t be cut off since they were merely grafted onto the tree using St Paul’s own example. Jesus Himself gave the parable of the sheeps and goats to explain salvation, which hinged on what people did, not by their alleged belief because their works either condemned them or justified them. I think of it like this as a personal example for myself. I could tell you that I believe in Santa Claus. Then you could ask me, well did you set out cookies for him the night before Christmas? Did you write him a letter telling him what you wanted for Christmas? Did I portray good behavior so that I wouldn’t get coal in my stocking this year? And if my reply to your questions are simply, well no I didn’t do any of those things. Then you would have grounds to question the legitimacy of my belief in Santa Claus because if I did, I would naturally do the things which prove that I believe in him. That is really how faith and works needs to be understood. It’s not one or the other, that would be a tremendous mistake to look at it that way. The Orthodox understand as St. Paul talked about in regards to the faith of Abraham that he was justified by faith. However, we cannot think it is faith alone, because remember even Abraham’s faith showed in his works by his willingness to sacrifice his own son. It is never faith alone, it is always a mixture of faith and works that justify your faith. Keep S1tKing!

  4. Carol August 14, 2018 / 2:47 am

    Thank you, S1TK. That is precisely what I have always believed and it comforts me to realize that I can still believe that. I know there are many differences between Protestants and Orthodox, but I have discovered that there are many basic similarities as well. On many issues, when boiled down, they are saying the same thing. They have much to learn from each other. The Protestants need to be more complete; to enter into a fuller theology, and the Orthodox need to realize what they have and come alive, integrating their theology into their practical lives. Ironically, the Protestants are good at works in their social/political lives. The Orthodox are good at works in their religious lives. I speak generally of course and have only sampled a small section of Orthodox. I have always considered as the Bible says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that life is sacred; a gift from God. I hope to find that belief prevalent in the Orthodox as well. How many times I cross myself means nothing if I do not stand up for the tiny lives God created in the womb, for example. How many times I prostrate means nothing if I can now feel free to drink alcohol to my detriment. What does holiness mean to the Orthodox? I realize that in every “religion” there are those who do not walk the walk, those that are there in name only. Somehow the dichotomy between the the secular and sacred must be breached and all must become sacred. I was hoping to find more of that holiness in the Orthodox people, not just the Orthodox church building. With the privilege of drawing nearer to God in liturgy, beholding his face, we should be privy to the change as well.

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