Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Some Do and Some Don't -- by Clint

Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius - Orthodox Missionaries

I was recently asked a few questions on this blog (in the comments of a few of the posts about our journey to Orthodoxy) that got me to thinking about some things.

Primarily, I was asked about the people who took the Church History course with me at a Church of Christ university. Of course, that class had a big impact on me in my journey. To refresh your memory, the instructor of that class even told us that he wasn’t trying to convert us to Orthodoxy, he was simply teaching us about what the church was like in the first centuries after the New Testament period.

The question dealt with those other students and their response as opposed to mine. Obviously, I did in fact convert to Orthodoxy, while I assume that the others did not. Why is it that I made that move but they did not? Why did the instructor admit that Orthodoxy is the same today as it was then, at least in the major points, yet remain within the Church of Christ?

The most important answer that I can come up with is that I have no idea why they reacted in the way they did and not convert. Of course, I don’t KNOW that none of them has since become Orthodox, but I have no reason to think that they have, either. The fact is that I have a hard enough time figuring out why I do what I do, without having to worry about other people.

But at another level, I was experiencing the Divine Liturgy on a weekly basis at that time, while I suspect that none of them had EVER heard of the Divine Liturgy before that class. It has often been mentioned that Orthodoxy is experiential. One can read books and study tenets and history until the cows come home, but they will never KNOW Orthodoxy until they experience it on a regular basis. So I think that the fact that I spent time surrounded by Orthodoxy affected the way that the instructor’s words impacted me.

For me, the bigger question is not my fellow students, but the instructor. He was not just taking the class for credit and going through the motions. He was a historian. He spent years immersed in these historical facts and had committed himself to the study of Church History. How could he remain in some protestant sect and eschew the fullness of the faith?

Again, I will fall back on the “I have no idea” answer. Because, simply put, I don’t know why he or anyone else chooses to receive or reject Orthodoxy. Some people reject it because they are never introduced to it. That is why I appreciate people like my new friend Robert James Hargrave, who has committed his life to Orthodox mission work. Some people reject it because they aren’t looking for it and simply overlook it. Some reject it because they don’t understand it and don’t take the time to do so. Some reject it because they have faulty underlying values that cause them to look at it with an improper view. Some folks are just dishonest. Some couldn’t care less what church they are a part of; they simply attend for social or business reasons.

I am sure there are a thousand other reasons why one chooses to reject Orthodoxy. So I am not going to speculate as to why my classmates and instructor remain within the Church of Christ, even after studying Church History. What I will do is praise God that my eyes were opened and that my wife and children are able to worship, along with me, each week within the confines of Holy Orthodoxy. I will offer up prayers for my deceased parents and other relatives who never had the opportunity to hear the truth of Orthodoxy. I will pray for those classmates and former instructor that they will someday have the privilege of partaking of the body and blood of Christ. And finally, I will pray for Orthodox missionaries that they will have unprecedented success in teaching others about the Orthodox Faith.


elizabeth said...

Yeah. That is not an easy one.

Everyone has their own journey...

Reminds me of Jesus telling Peter to not worry about John and if he will die or go right to heaven.

Somehow I feel that there needs to be a balance between knowing that we need to be true and faithful to the Church and not hide it but yet also to trust other's journey and everyone to Christ... Not that I am indirectly infering that your article denies this trust in God or that you are suggesting a lack of freedom within everyone journey.

And I know first hand the pain of seeing one I love deeply not fully understand or go towards the Church that has given me life and has dramatically redirected the understanding of the spiritual life that I must seek to work with God to have...

ultimately we have to trust everyone, including our selves, to God's mercy...

Isabel said...

amen! to that, sister!

John said...

Hi Clint

How's the Faulkner going? Stephen posted a long quote from Dostoevsky. The structure of a couple of his sentences reminded me of Faulkner.

I don't know why your professor, seems it was at ACU, made the statement about converting to Orthodoxy. It would never have crossed my mind to say that. As you indicated, the class was about church history after the close of the NT. The big word there is after. After the close of the NT a lot of things happened. But, they have no bearing on the doctrine of the NT. It seems to me that the Orthodox want to use the fathers like case law. No one has yet shown me a text that authorizes the church to do that. One might possibly make some kind of case law argument from Acts, but not the patristics.

What are your thoughts?


s-p said...

Good words, Clint (and Elizabeth). Who knows the heart of another? Only God who judges all.

s-p said...

Hi John, If I might jump in...I don't see the Orthodox using the Patristics like "case law", but as the living out of the doctrine of the NT. I'm not sure exactly what you meant by patristics having no bearing on the NT, and I guess I'd agree with you in the sense the NT has bearing on the Patristics, and the patristics are the history of how the doctrines of the NT were explicated and applied within the life of the Church. An example would be that the JW's or Way International folks have the NT, but they are shades of Arian, Seballian or Nestorian etc. Why? Because they think the same way those guys did 17 centuries ago, but the Church defeated the false teachings on the basis of Scripture. Why did they pop up again 17 centuries later: ignorance of or disregard for Church history. That is the importance of the Church Fathers...not case histories but living examples of how the Church continued to uphold and teach the apostles' doctrines after the NT times. I Tim. 3:15 says the Church is the pillar and foundation of the Truth (not the Bible...) It is within the Church that the gospel was taught to faithful men who taught others also. We just believe that actually happened. :)

Clint said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.


I won't mention which school it was. I don't think that would be fair to the professor or anyone else involved in the class.

Remember that you are not getting the full conversation and/or setting in my brief comments in this post. The fact is that if you study early Church History, you will see many similarities with modern Orthodoxy. There was a whole conversation in the class about this, which led to his comments.

It seems to me that you are getting the cart before the horse with your need for a scripture from the Bible to authorize using things from Church History (Tradition). I know this has been hashed out in several other places, including Fr. Stephen's blog. I honestly don't have the time nor inclination at this point to get involved in that conversation. Suffice it to say that there are scriptures that authorize using oral tradition (2 Thess 2:15, for one). Considering that the New Testament as we know it today was not compiled as such for several centuries logically points to using Tradition.

Those are my thoughts.

Clint said...

Oh John,

Regarding Dostoevsky and Faulkner...

I think I mentioned before that Faulkner made it a habit to read The Brothers Karamazov each year. So I suspect that much of Dostoevsky's style was incorporated into Faulkner's style.

Honestly, I haven't read much of either lately. Too busy teaching and grading...