Sunday, April 18, 2010

Eastern Orthodoxy Teaches What?

Eastern Orthodoxy Teaches What? (From Todd Friel's Way of the Master Radio, September 20th 2007, hour 1 at about the 15 minute mark.)

Three years ago a protestant friend from HolyCultureRadio told me about the podcast, and she wanted me to check if what Todd said was accurate.
I sent WOTM Radio a modified email of what I told my friend below:

He has somethings right but was wrong in other areas. He doesn't understand what's going on. He is trying to look at it from his Western mindset.

1.) We believe God is both "Transcendent" as well as "Immanent"

Transcendence means God is unknowable for He dwells outside of Time and space and there will always be an aspect of God that will be incomprehensible. This distinction is what we call the Essence vs Energies distinction.

The form of theology that comes from this is what we call "Apophatic Theology" ....God is not this and God is not that.......etc.

Immanence means God is dwelling in time and space. Or that God dwells within Creation itself. This means we will be able to know "something" about God. It means we can know God in some form. This is where Catophatic theology is formed from. It is formed by what we know of God in "time and space".......God is this and God is that......ect.

Some examples of what we can know about God would be such things as "epiphanies", "Divine Revelation", "The Incarnation", Knowing about the Godhead through creation....etc. We know God through His Grace/graces which is Something we would call Divine energies.

Orthodoxy just knows we will never know "ALL" of what God is in His "entirety for we can't know God's Essence". God is Infinite whereas we are finite. This is all we are saying. Knowing God in his true essence is impossible for God is Infinite. No matter what name we give to God we will never be able to describe Him fully. Why? Because He is both understandable as well as incomprehensible all at the same time. So in either form whether apophatic(the negative) or Catophatic(the positive) we believe we can know God in some form. We just believe we can't know Him in all His fullness for God is Infinite.

The ancient Jews knew God but they didn't know God at the level we know God today. The Angels know God but they won't know God in the way we will when we are glorified. Also at the level we know God now is only partial. We will know God at a higher level when we are glorified, but even then we won't know God in his fullness for He is Infinite. We believe that for Eternity we will be knowing more and more about God and learning more and more about Him .....Everyday for Eternity will be like a new day in learning about His Vastness.

I hope I didn't loose you by saying all this. In America and even in Europe, it's not uncommon to find Orthodox who embrace both Catophatic as well as Apophatic way of speaking. Right now I embrace more of Catophaticism because I come from a protestant background.

Alot of the Buddhist converts I know embrace more of the Apophatic way of speaking because it's probably what they are more use to coming from that background.

In some ways, one balances the other. Apophatic theology is stressed more in Orthodoxy because Catophaticism has it's limits in what it can accurately say. Whereas Apophaticism seems more unlimited.

2.) Also the Eastern Christian mindset when it comes to learning is different from the Western Christian mindset. I will use the college example. When it comes to learning, Orthodoxy would be more about Labs than class lectures.

Whereas Western Christianity is more about class lectures than labs.

Eastern Christianity believes that one learns more from hands on experience. Whereas western Christianity believes that one learns more from text books.

Another way of saying this is Eastern Christianity believes that if you want to learn about a Lion it would be best to be locked in a cage with one instead of reading a book about one.

This is what it comes down to. If you "say" you know something.... well how do you know you know it? And how can we know you know it? To us the whole person(mind, body, and soul) must know it. ......Or else you are just lying to yourself as well as to others.

We can see this in 1st John

1 John 3:18
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Most Christians before the printing press had to "Hear" the word of God and memorize it and ponder on it in their hearts. That is how they learned the word of God back then. Eastern Orthodoxy still stresses "hearing" the word of God, because that's the way it's always been for 2,000 years. Now in modern Times we do read the scriptures more......especially converts like myself. But hearing the word of God and pondering on it is almost a lost art in the west.

I believe 1st John 3:18 was saying the samething as James when James wrote about faith plus works. James is really talking about "words" plus works.......or words plus true faith.

In like manner we "know" something not by words alone but by "experiencing" what we say. This is true faith.

3.) In regards to us being gods.....well we were made in God's Image. We are His Images. And as Christians we are united with God's Son as well as With His Holy Spirit. And One day we will be glorified.

So yes we are gods in some sense of the word and we will be gods when we are glorified.

God became man so that man could become divine.

God forever partook of our nature so that we can forever partake of His. Alot of the classic christian greats that I know believed this. It's not talked about much in today's World. It's not Mormonism.....the fact that he said that only showed his ignorance of the topic.

4.) It is true, we are not Pantheists. We are what is called PAN-ENTHEISTS

It goes back to God being both Transcendent as well as Immanent. We believe that All of creation dwells within God.

God holds it all together within Himself.

Colossians 1:17
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

This does not mean that the creation is a part of God. That is another misconception. It just means that creation dwells in God. ...Like a fish dwelling in the Ocean. The fish is not part of the Ocean.....they are two different things. Likewise, creation is different from the Creator. This is why I believe God controls everything......and I mean everything...... And this is also why I understand synergy the way I do.

5.) Our understanding of Justification is tied to our doctrine of theosis. Justification and Sanctification are two sides of the same coin. When you have one you will see the other.

They are really "simultaneous".

In debates people like to put one in front of the other but it doesn't have to be that way. For when you are Justified you are also at that same moment "set aside"

6.) Almost everything in Orthodoxy is filled with Scripture. The same is true with Icons. In many ways it's nothing more than scripture in painted form. If we can have scripture on audio tapes and C.D.'s then why can't we have it in Movies, Paintings, and plays as well?

But I guess you can call it a commentary to scripture because they are Theological in content......They explain alot of passages. So Icons in Eastern Christianity are Theological works. And then you have Icons that are historical works as well.

To learn more about Icons, check out Fr. Jerome's lecture on icons as well as Mother katherine's lecture on icons.

6.) If you look at the rule of St. Vincent of Lerins it is Scripture first and the fathers as a commentary to scripture second. Well it's a bit deeper than that but that's the general rule. Scripture didn't come down to us in a vacuum.

"From the Commonitory of St Vincent of Lerins (4th Century)"

"1. I have continually given the greatest pains and diligence to inquiring,
from the
greatest possible number of men outstanding in holiness and in
doctrine, how I can secure a kind of fixed and, as it were, general and guiding
principle for distinguishing the true Catholic Faith from the degraded
falsehoods of heresy. And the answer that I receive is always to this effect;
that if I wish, or indeed if anyone wishes, to detect the deceits of heretics
that arise and to avoid their snares and to keep healthy and sound in a healthy
faith, we ought, with the Lord's help, to fortify our faith in a twofold manner,
firstly, that is, by the authority of God's Law, then by the tradition of the
Catholic Church.

Also for the most part we don't have statues. The Russians might have some, but for the most part we are statue-less. We mostly have paintings/Icons.

So they were wrong when they said "statues everywhere". If anything it would be paintings on the wall.

Most Protestants in Eastern Europe don't understand that if they are going to do anything like have a T.V. ministry or something like that then they are going to have to have the Orthodox involved.

What they need to do is follow the example of T.B.N. (the Trinity broadcasting Network in Eastern Europe)

People don't understand that every group under the sun are rushing to convert people over there. so I don't have a problem with the Orthodox pushing their weight around in order to preserve Orthodoxy.

However, I don't believe in violence and stuff like that.

You can check the mp3's of these converts below to get a better feel of what we are like from the inside looking out:
Fr. Patrick's Journey, Fr. Guillquest's Journey as well as Fr. Gregory Hogg's should help you understand Orthodoxy a bit better. Orthodxy isn't perfect but it ain't bad either.


David said...


Great post! You said that all very well.

There were two points especially that stood out to me:

Another way of saying this is Eastern Christianity believes that if you want to learn about a Lion it would be best to be locked in a cage with one instead of reading a book about one.

That's an excellent way to phrase it. Western Christians seem to spend a lot of time learning about God while the Eastern Christian focus is to be with God. We're often criticized for not spending enough time reading the Scriptures and, in many ways, this is a valid criticism, but I think that it also misses the point, which is this very important difference between Eastern and Western Christianity (at least since the influence of medieval scholasticism on the West). The Western habits of having pews in their temples (one which some Orthodox in America have picked up, for better or worse) and bringing their Bibles with them to church are particularly revealing. The Western church service has moved away from being a sacramental worship experience to a kind of school/lecture experience. The textbook is brought to class with you (Bible) and you sit to listen to the lecture and take notes. The pulpit is center stage and the majority of the service consists of the "lesson." The Orthodox, on the other hand, generally stand for all or most of the service (even in those temples that now include pews), the "lesson" (homily) is generally very short (10 minutes or less, compared to the 1 1/2 long divine liturgy itself) and often placed at the end of the service -- nearly as an afterthought, not a central part of the service itself, the hands are generally too busy crossing oneself or touching this or that or bowing to the ground to take notes with, and the altar (where the sacramental act takes place) is front and center. Very different mindsets. Your comparison, reading a book about a lion versus being locked in a cage with one, is a great comparison.

People don't understand that every group under the sun are rushing to convert people over there. so I don't have a problem with the Orthodox pushing their weight around in order to preserve Orthodoxy.

I read an article not long ago by a guy from Talbot Seminary who went to the Ukraine in the early 90s as a Protestant missionary. The focus of the article (I might end up doing a post here about it eventually) was trying to warn us naive, soft Western converts about the "real Orthodoxy" -- which he painted as xenophobic and nationalistic, essentially a tribal superstition. I think he missed the irony of his own situation. Here he is, a Baptist from the richest, most prosperous country on earth who has never had to worry about things like starving to death or political reprogramming or the government persecuting your church, and he travels to the Ukraine, a country newly-freed from the strangling grip of a brutal, atheistic regime and assumes he has the right to tell them how to be good Christians. (He wasn't going there to help the efforts of the Orthodox Church -- he was going to make converts for the Baptist church). And he wonders why everywhere he goes he finds people telling him to go home and leave them alone. Hm... Is it really such a surprise that they wouldn't want him and other American Protestant missionaries there? The rush for Eastern Europe by Western missionaries after the collapse of communism was pretty pathetic, in my opinion, and more than a little arrogant. As soon as it was safe, they came to tell those silly Eastern Europeans that the religion so many of them had suffered and died for was really the wrong one. Xenophobia is an ugly thing -- but can we blame them for rejecting these people?

Jnorm888 said...

In regards to the lion in a cage cliche, Yeah, I heard other Orthodox christians say that either in lectures or in books, and so it's not something that really came from me. I love the analogy for it sums up our epistemology pretty well.

About the Talbot Seminary article you read, yeah, feel free to do a post about it. :)

And you are right about the western missionaries going over to eastern europe to convert the newly freed Orthodox. I agree 100%ly! They really don't understand why they are upset and acting the way they are.

Christ is Risen!





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