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.