Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Are you saved? - an Orthodox Christian answer


just joe said...

awesome! I liked it.

Brian Emmet said...

So how do the Orthodox think about "the assurance of salvation"? Is our hope sure and certain, or contingent upon our living up to our side of the New Covenant (if that's the right way to put it), or is this a question that the Orthodox feel is wrongly put or not ours to know?

just joe said...

I am only speculating here until Steve, David or John respond, but perhaps there is a hint in the video when the narrator says "I was saved 2000 years ago..." and I believe that there is a refernce to God's love for all of humanity leading to Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

It reminded me a little of Robert Farrar Capon's "Catholicity" of the effects of the atonement.

When you come to think about it, the old Campus Crusade and Evangelism Explosion style sinner's prayer after intellectual assent to a series of propositions was just a little strange from almost any biblical perspective. I personally resonated with the approach communicated in this video....

steve H said...

This is one of the areas where the Eastern churches and the Western churches differ. The Western churches (especially Protestants), drawing largely from Augustine, see "salvation" as essentially a legal state--God declares us "Not Guilty" and "Justifies" us solely by grace through faith in Jesus. The Roman church has more similarity to the Protestants than to Eastern churches, but (insofar as I understand it) put the point of salvation at baptism and focus on continuing good standing with the "Church."

The Eastern churches see salvation more in relational terms. The relationship with God is opened fully through baptism in water and chrismation (baptism in Spirit) -- even baptized infants participate in the Eucharist with no waiting for confirmation. To them talk of being saved outside of continuing in fellowship with God and faithful obedience makes no sense.

The Eastern churches believe that Augustine missed it due to a misinterpretation in the Latin of Romans 5:12. If you read the footnotes on Romans in the Orthodox Study Bible, you will see their position. Jordan Bajis also discusses it in "Common Ground." I'm not proficient to fully explain all the difference, but I will say the Eastern perspective makes sense to me based on the presuppositions they start with.

That being said, I'm still pretty strongly formed in the "western" view. But I think there's a both/and to the whole debate rather than an either/or.

By the way, if you watch that whole video and then see the related videos that stream across the bottom, there is a series called "Orthodox Answers to Protestant Confusion" that is enlightening to their way of thinking about the church, Scripture, and Tradition.

Brian Emmet said...

I also liked what I heard; the only point at which I had a question had to do with their understanding of the connection between obedience and (ultimate) salvation... but it also didn't seem that there was that much real difference between the Orthodox understanding and "the perseverance of the saints." Thanks for finding this, Joseph, and Steven, thank you for your as always clear and insightful comments.

just joe said...

I think there are also some significant differences between Catholic and Protestant views of how salvation works ... and even differences within Protestantism itself (holiness vs. SBC vs Anglican for example). Just the fact that faithful Christians can adhere to a variety of subtle or not so subtle differences in their theology of salvation is a significant point to consider itself.

John M. said...

I'm just glad Jesus saves!

Regarding the video, it's hard to imagine anyone taking issue with what was said. Complacency can be a stumbling block within any tradition. In the "Western" or "Augustinian" concept of salvation one can take his security and "fire insurance" for granted and presume on God's grace and mecy. In the "Eastern" or sacramental concept one can rely on the sacrements and church attendance for salvation rather then living in active relationship with God.

The focus of the video seemed healthy no matter what one's theological perspective. Arguing fine points and "legalities" are fine in academia and by those of us who enjoy theological musings. But one who lives life as described in the video will be a tree that bears good fruit. Ultimately, I believe, that the Lord looks on our heart, not our theology.

One other thought. This discussion brings to mind Scot McKnight's slim book, "A Community Called Atonement". I think Brian has read it. Highly recommended.

Michael said...

I enjoyed this too.
I just finished reading "Light from the Christian East" An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition. The author is James R. Payton Jr. It is worth the read. I had not anything on Orthodox faith.
Steve, the points you make about the law Payton points out in the beginning of his book. One thing that struck me while reading, was the Orthodox insistence on holding on to the mystery of God. Orthodoxy saw there was a limitation to what could be comprehended or reasoned through to certainty. Salvation and how we are saved was one of them. I am no expert, and I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express.

One more thought,I wonder what Belcher and his third way would say to the Orthodox faith. It seems to me that some of the reactions to traditional evangelicalism, that the emergent church has tried to address, the Orthodox, at least in their theology and doctrine, have held onto.

BTW Joseph or whoever brought it up, I have started to read Capon's book on the Parables of the Kingdom. Great insight and very helpful. Thanks

david said...

michael, i read "light from the christian east" on recommendation from either steve or john (i can't remember which). because the EO tend to leave room for some mystery in their faith - i find their theology fairly simple and easy to understand.

a friend recently told me about this podcast that describes the differences between orthodox and non-orthodox doctrine. it's been interesting.

John M. said...

I thought "Light From the Christian East" was a helpful book in understanding the difference between the Eastern and the Western Church, and between Orthodoxy and Protestantism.

A couple years ago Joseph and I tried to dialogue about that book but when we tried to discuss "Light from the East", we could only generate the heat of personal opinions. We finally decided to quit so we could remain friends... :)

I would still recommend it Joseph...

just joe said...

hi Michael and David.

I probably will read it John, after I finish my dissertation, along with several others that you and Steve have recommended. That is not, however, why we had conflict ... i asked you for a summary of the book and instead you started trying sell me on an opinion or point of view that I have not had a chance to investigate for myself. And you would not let it go.

John M. said...

Hey Joseph! It wasn't my intent to sell you on anything. The purpose and focus of the book as I understand it is to irenically shed "light" on Eastern thelogy as contrasted with Western-Reformation theology. As a protestant, formed in a Western tradition and mindset, Payton takes the premise that there are many ways for the West to learn and benefit from the East. He assumes that the reader is familiar with Western theology, so he doesn't detail it nor try to balance his presentaion. Therefore much of his material puts forth the Eastern perspective and points out the differences and, in some cases, contradictions with the Western perspective.

I honestly tried to summarize what I was reading, and thought I was doing that. But I allowed what felt to me like your "defense" of Western theology to throw me into a posture of defending the Eastern perspective. I should not have done that, and when I saw that you were (again how I perceived it) missing my thrust of attempting to summarize what I was reading, and instead taking it as my personal "defense" of Orthodoxy, I should have stopped. Instead I pressed on and kept taking another run at it, and we ended up just debating and butting heads.

I certainly don't want to start the debate again, and, perhaps should not have mentioned our previous conversation. My impressiion based on your more recent posts and comments is that you're warming more toward exploring the Eastern perspective... that's why I recommended it again.

Btw, I deeply appreciate much of Orthodox theology, with some exceptions, of course, but I struggle with a lot of their practice and structure. I suppose that they would say similar things about much of protestantism. Living up to our words and beliefs... ah, what a challenge!

just joe said...

it would be foolish and presumptious of me to "defend" western Catholic theology (of which I know very little) against Eastern Othodox theology (of which I know absolutely nothing). However, you are right -- lets not start that conversation over again.

John M. said...

Agreed! Hey everyone, what else are we going to talk about?

Laurel Long said...

Who exactly, in our culture, is contemplating the question of salvation? Please tell me?
I am anguished that no one even has the spiritual aptitude to consider the possibility or opportunity of salvation. The old "four spiritual laws" at least created a spiritual format for such a conversation.
Yes, its me. I have been working at our local college since June and have little to no time to engage you all. I have missed your thoughtful conversations. I have though continued my reading on the Reformation, its causes and related topics by Tuchman and Durant.
The video was pleasant but very uncomfortably "Middle Age."

John M. said...

Hey Laurel! Good to hear from you. Missed you on the blog. What is your job at the college? Seems that folks in the current culture are focused on spiritual "fulfillment" and wholeness. I'm not sure many people have any sense of needing to be "saved" from or to anything.

just joe said...

true. I have the sense that young adults are not aware of 'sin' as a moral category, and not concerned about life after death ... whatever sense of 'lostness' they have is in the context of employment, relationships or education.

It seems that for such people, the process of 'being saved' is a very gradual one of growing awareness of God.

Last night I tricked our god-party by asking what they thought about the verse that says "don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?" and then after about an hour discussion of the singular verse, I read the context of the chapter to them.

All of them have been hit over the head with that verse with regard to smoking or drinking but none of them knew that it was talking about sexuality.

One girl who has clearly been growing spiritually borrowed my copy of The Message and read into the next chapter, obviously feeding a deep spiritual hunger within her. She started out two years ago as a sort of a non-descript deist who believed in some generic infinite cloud of energy … and now she is reading the bible and getting revelation from the Holy Spirit. I would say she is ‘being saved’

I loved the way that Eugene Peterson translated the second half of 1 Cor. 6.

16-20There's more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, "The two become one." Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never "become one."

Put this way, all of my young neo-pagan friends agreed that they want much more than just ‘skin on skin’ and that sex often leaves them feeling more lonely than ever. So … for them … from their point of view ... salvation is finding true commitment and intimacy in a wonderful lifetime relationship.