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Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Christians?

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  • Bradley Varvil
    Randy, You re not boring me at all. Before my nascent attempts to explore the Eastern Church a year or so ago, I was aware that there was much that made
    Message 1 of 72 , Jul 8, 2009
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      You're not boring me at all. Before my nascent attempts to explore the
      Eastern Church a year or so ago, I was aware that there was much that made
      conversation difficult... not least of which was a significant difference in
      the way the West and East even begin to think about the faith. Your
      descriptions are not tedious in the least, but I confess, they nearly drive
      me to despair.

      In all my dealings with Christians of the West, we at least begin with a
      common lexicon, and probably a similar conceptual basis. I wonder,
      sometimes, if I can even put my brain into the structure of thought that I
      hear expressed by those I chat with in the East.

      There are a few of the Greek Fathers I've not yet read, and I intend to do
      that over the next year. I have and greatly enjoy my Orthodox Study Bible,
      which I find very approachable (and exceptionally Christo-centric in
      commentary... which is a goal of Lutheran hermenuetics, as well.) I will
      endeavor to study and dialogue with patience, knowing that what I am
      attempting to study is more difficult to learn without immersion.

      As for defining the Church, thanks specifically for you observations on this
      point. I find it difficult to wrap my brain around a definition which
      defies definition... but that is what we are often left with, when we ponder
      the mysteries of God. Despite the Lutheran (and to a greater extent Roman
      scholasticism's) proclivities to rationally define things that are mostly
      beyond the pale of human cognition, I think the Lutheran attempt to define
      the Church is only to place some kind of rational markers around the
      boundaries of what the mystery of the Church really is. Lutherans never
      professed that the Church is only invisible-- but we did have to emphasize
      the invisible mystery of the Church within our time and controversies...
      much as I imagine Chrysostom had to do as he was sent off into abandonment
      and eventual martyrdom.

      I agree, though-- we can talk all day about what we think marks or composes
      the Church, but in the end analysis, She just IS. There is a sense of the
      ongoing miraculous in both Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Romanism that
      intrigues me, and is often minimized by the rationalistic reductionism of
      Protestantism. I have seen God do wonderous and miraculous things in the
      lives of His people, but I confess, I would love to see a weeping an icon
      before I die...

      Grace and peace to you,

      On Tue, Jul 7, 2009 at 8:53 PM, randall hay <stortford@...> wrote:

      > Reading some of these latest posts, I think we need to be careful not to
      > set up our own theological straw-men. It's easy to exaggerate views of the
      > Atonement, but look what Cyril of Jerusalem says:
      > "If Phineas, when he waxed zealous and slew the evil-doer, staved the wrath
      > of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a
      > ransom, put away the wrath which is against mankind?" (Catechetical
      > Lectures13.2)
      > This is in the first surviving catechism of the Church. It does not
      > represent a dominant theme in Orthodox theology, of course, but it does make
      > an effort to explain the mystery of Christ's work on the Cross and is echoed
      > by other Fathers.
      > Brad, I'll take a stab at these questions.
      > The situation in the West at the time of Reformation was quite different
      > from the situation in the East.
      > In East, Orthodoxy was engaged in its perennial struggle to maintain
      > its life under Moslem domination....its dogmas, teachings and life had
      > stood and would stand. In the West, RC had drifted farther and farther away
      > from the original
      > theology, and held its own supposedly-ecumenical councils for centuries
      > without the East.
      > It was an impossible situation for Luther.
      > What was he to do? You're right that he was not trying to start his own
      > denomination with his own last name attached to it. RC was obviously
      > entrenched in a faulty theology; then after Luther got things rolling with
      > "sola Scriptura" Zwingli and Calvin and the Anabaptists came along and began
      > rejecting more and more foundational Biblical teachings such as the real
      > presence in the Eucharist, baptismal regeneration, etc. What had seemed so
      > certain (that Sola Scriptura would eliminate all the errors and unite true
      > believers) was shown to be an illusion....within Luther's lifetime. How
      > difficult that must have been for him.
      > In this context, having friends in different parties; would you say they
      > were all damned? No, you would come up with an idea like an invisible church
      > with its own "marks."
      > *
      > In Orthodoxy we don't really talk about marks of the church. It would be
      > like asking someone what are the marks of America.
      > What would you say? Speaking English? Three branches of government?
      > Competing cable TV networks? Baseball and apple pie? You can state examples,
      > but it's an ontological thing that examples don't really do justice to the
      > whole.
      > The same as being in the original Church. You can cite the continued
      > government from the apostles, the theology, the worship, etc, but really the
      > Church just IS, and everything fits. You know when you're there, just that
      > same as you know when you're in America.
      > But Orthodoxy does stand unique in dogma, worship and piety and so I'll
      > give you some examples of differences that have never been bridged by Rome
      > or Protestantism...
      > Anthropology comes to mind offhand, as we have been discussing. The
      > existence of the nous, the biblical understanding of the "heart," the
      > passions, theosis....and the piety that goes along with the anthropology.
      > Healing and a lot of what has been defaulted to secular "psychology" has
      > always been part of our spirituality.
      > ---Wondrous changes take place when somebody comes into the Church. You see
      > their face literally change over time, and the negative aspects of the
      > personality begin to fade as the virtues grow. You see your family members
      > and friends transformed around you. (Of course, sincerity is a prerequisite.
      > As you point out, being physically present for services doesn't
      > automatically deify you.)
      > I have one pal who grew up in what I think was a very painful home life. At
      > any rate, he was very gloomy and somber, prone to brooding and fears; I
      > never ever saw him really laugh a belly laugh, till about a year ago. Now
      > every Sunday, three years after his baptism, I hear that ho-ho-ho. You see
      > such transformations again and again.
      > You see the gifts of the Spirit in more wondrous ways, too. You meet those
      > who read your heart and thoughts....and are the humblest people. Yous see
      > the bones of dead people, like those of Elishah the prophet (II Kings 13),
      > fragrant and working miracles. You see icons weep.
      > Where else is the Jesus Prayer practiced and taught, and hesychasm
      > generally? Where else are the services lenghty enough to fully engage the
      > heart, and adorned with music that so beautifully helps bring the prayers to
      > the heart? What other communion has developed its own profound form of
      > visual art, or tonsures everyone (not just monastics) and directs them into
      > the ascetic life? Where is there such reverent worship?
      > Of course all these things are founded on dogma: the patristic/biblical
      > view of the free will, image and likeness of God are crucial, as well as the
      > Transfiguarion, the divine energies and so on....
      > ---I could multiply such examples endlessly, but I don't want to bore you
      > to tears. And I don't mean to disparage communions outside Orthodoxy, since
      > obviously God has worked in them....but there is something of a different
      > quality that you see here.
      > In fact, it's so different it takes a very long time to begin absorbing
      > even some of the crucial differences. I became Orthodox because I liked the
      > reverence in the services, and the cool stencilling on the walls. I not only
      > didn't know what Orthodox piety was, I didn't even know it HAD ITS OWN till
      > I'd been chrismated for over a year! (I wonder if any of our Orthodox
      > participants can top that one.)
      > It takes a while to internalize the dogma and these various aspects of
      > Orthodoxy....it's no good trying to learn it all beforehand. Since the
      > Church is ontological, not a mental construct, you really have to be there
      > to experience and begin to absorb it.
      > It's good to try to understand these things and paint icons or whatever
      > outside Orthodoxy, but importing bits and pieces isn't the same. You can
      > bring Budweiser and HGTV and baseball and a Supreme Court into Borneo,
      > likewise, but it still won't be America.
      > ---I feel like I'm rambling, and it's getting late. I appreciate your
      > questions...hopefully we can continue.
      > In Christ,
      > R.
      > ________________________________
      > From: Bradley Varvil <bvarvil@...<bvarvil%40lutheranorthodox.com>
      > >
      > To: LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com<LutheransLookingEast%40yahoogroups.com>
      > Sent: Tuesday, July 7, 2009 11:26:12 AM
      > Subject: Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Christians?
      > Randy,
      > Thanks for your insights. Perhaps as points of clarification, you could
      > offer a few more.
      > You seem to be hinting about the definition of the Church as Body of
      > Christ,
      > which I think any confessional Lutheran would appreciate. Where you might
      > be able to help educate me on the Orthodox perspective, is in the
      > definition
      > of that One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Ecclesia.
      > The Augsburg Confession attempts to find a definition within the context of
      > rampant Western corruption in the Church. The German Christians who rallied
      > around that Confession were not seeking seperation from the Western Church,
      > nor from the broader Church, neither by Sacraments, nor church polity, nor
      > even by canon per se. In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, one finds
      > great willingness to remain within the Sacramental, Episcopal, and
      > Canonical
      > structure of the Church Catholic (at least from a concilliar perspective,
      > rathern than an ultra-montanist or Romanist perspective. ) With the lack of
      > charity the Reformation elicited from both sides (perhaps from many sides
      > considering the other Reformers,) positions and argumentation became
      > calcified in the polemics and passions of the age.
      > For example, when I allow myself to consider the Lutheran expression of
      > Christianity at it's best, most hoped for goal, to wit, a reform movement
      > within the Church Catholic toward focus on Christ rather than man, I can
      > see
      > that happily coexisting within the theology of the Ecumenical Councils and
      > the first 1000 years of the undivided Church. That common faith,
      > ecclesiology, and piety is a potential within Lutheran communions, though
      > one might argue quite validly that such potential has rarely been realized.
      > In that context of corruption and reform, however, I cannot help but see
      > the
      > Church as defined in the terms of the faithful gathered around Scripture
      > and
      > Sacrament; the physical and visible identifiers of the Church are very
      > real,
      > but they reflect a deeper spiritual reality. Hence the Fathers and the
      > Lutheran Reformers might both say that the One Church will indeed remain
      > forever, united to Christ by grace through faith and working out salvation
      > in love toward God and neighbor, but that anyone who would hope upon purely
      > their physical association with the visible Church as guarantee of
      > salvation
      > apart from a living faith in Christ which works itself out in love (be they
      > lay, monk, deacon, priest, bishop, or pope) hopes in vain. The great
      > dragnet of the Church calls all to Her bosom, but the Holy Angels of God
      > will sift the evil from the righteous, so that the goats and the sheep may
      > be placed at the left and right hands of Christ for Judgment. The reality
      > is fundamentally spiritual, which is expressed physically.. . as our God is
      > desirous to redeem both body and soul, and all creation. The Holy Church
      > really conveys grace and forgiveness and salvation through the Divine means
      > of Word and Sacrament, but we likewise note with the Fathers that the road
      > to hell is lined with the skulls of faithless priests and bishops.
      > How might the Orthodox understand the Church differently in her definition?
      > Grace and peace to you,
      > Brad
      > On Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 8:29 PM, randall hay <stortford@sbcglobal .net>
      > wrote:
      > >
      > >
      > > Rev. Brad, as you suggest there has never been a utopian church, because
      > > the Church is made up of sinners...which is a good thing for me!
      > >
      > > Many types of pernicious sins were present in the Church even during the
      > NT
      > > period, as anyone can see at glance at the epistles. Unfortunately, some
      > > people forget this when they open their Bibles, and expect outward and
      > > inward perfection from other people. In my experience this has absolutely
      > > disastrous consequences for their spiritual lives.
      > >
      > > By the same token, however, Christ has one body, against which the gates
      > of
      > > hell will not stand.
      > > The government of the Church didn't change when the apostles died; they
      > > consecrated bishops, who continued the succession. There was never a
      > change
      > > in dogma; if you rejected it you were by definition outside the Church.
      > > Everyone in the church was governed by the same canons regulating church
      > > life, discipline etc.
      > >
      > > ---I never really understood the significance of dogma till it hit me
      > that
      > > all dogma in Orthodoxy is about our deification, our union with Christ.
      > If
      > > any piece of it is rejected, our being "filled with His fulness" cannot
      > > happen. That includes all seven ecumenical councils. No Christian body
      > that
      > > rejects Orthodox dogma has ever held fast to the patristic/Biblical
      > > understanding of deification. ..or the piety that fosters it.
      > >
      > > That's why people would be martyred over things like monothelitism. It
      > > wasn't just about some theological teaching; it was about our life in
      > > Christ, our salvation and our hope.
      > >
      > > Anyhow, the thought never occurred to anyone that you could hold
      > different
      > > beliefs and be under different government and different canons and have
      > > different sacraments and be considered part of the Church. There were
      > > debates and discussions and conflicts and back-and-forth and politics
      > over
      > > who WAS the church....but the idea that there is an invisible church
      > didn't
      > > arise till the 16th century.
      > >
      > > So we Orthodox don't damn other Christians, and we often admire them
      > quite
      > > a lot; but by the same token there is a peculiar joy in finding that the
      > > original church is still there, unchanged... and that you yourself are in
      > it!
      > >
      > > In Christ,
      > >
      > > R.
      > >
      > > ____________ _________ _________ __
      > > From: Bradley Varvil <bvarvil@lutheranort hodox.com<bvarvil%40lutheran
      > orthodox. com>
      > > >
      > > To: LutheransLookingEas t@yahoogroups. com<LutheransLookingEa
      > st%40yahoogroups .com>
      > > Sent: Monday, July 6, 2009 10:01:39 AM
      > > Subject: Re: [LutheransLookingEa st] Christians?
      > >
      > >
      > > Subdeacon Randy,
      > >
      > > Many thanks-- that does help. As one who has worked inter-denominationa
      > lly
      > > for many years, one of the basic truths I've encountered, is that one can
      > > never fully predict where the Spirit of God will manifest Himself... or
      > > perhaps, more precisely, where He won't manifest Himself. As a Lutheran
      > > Christian, I recognize that God will certainly be where He promises to be
      > > most explicitly, in the preaching and the hearing of His Holy Scriptures,
      > > and in the faithful administration of His Holy Sacraments. But as we find
      > > the physical expressions of the Church today in vast dissarray, it seems
      > > that the Spirit of God has kept for Himself faithful remnants in many
      > > communions.. . and continues to manifest Himself there to those who call
      > on
      > > Him in faith, hoping upon His grace.
      > >
      > > On a personal level, I gave up searching for a perfect or utopian
      > Christian
      > > communion quite a number of years ago... I don't think such things exist
      > on
      > > this side of eternity. But I have continued, though battered and bruised
      > by
      > > the ongoing experience, to seek where Christ's Church is most fully
      > > manifest-- and to work personally to make it more manifest where the Lord
      > > has planted me. I've also found that such searches seem better suited to
      > > avoiding the polemicists of respective traditions, my own being a case in
      > > point. Thus began and ensues my study of the Eastern Church.
      > >
      > > Grace and peace be with you, brother,
      > > Rev. Brad
      > >
      > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      > >
      > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > --
      > Chaplain (CPT) Brad Varvil
      > Federal Way Team Leader
      > WA Brigade, 5th Division
      > United States Core of Chaplains
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

      Chaplain (CPT) Brad Varvil
      Federal Way Team Leader
      WA Brigade, 5th Division
      United States Core of Chaplains

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • randall hay
      Actually I was thinking of laity here....I can still picture the kids lined up. Not a universal practice, of course....in fact I thought it was because they
      Message 72 of 72 , Jul 24, 2009
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        Actually I was thinking of laity here....I can still picture the kids lined up. Not a universal practice, of course....in fact I thought it was because they needed to get to Sunday school first; but then someone explained it to me.

        From: Christopher Orr <xcjorr@...>
        To: LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Friday, July 24, 2009 8:41:04 AM
        Subject: Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Re: Christians?

        I think the children first thing may have started more as a health concern -
        let the kids take communion from the spoon before all the dirty adults.

        In fact, when you visit a monastery communion is usually done in order of
        'rank' and 'seniority'. So, monastic priests would commune first (in order
        of their ordination date), then married priests, then monastic deacons, then
        married deacons, then the lower orders of clergy (subdeacons, readers,
        chanters) then laity from eldest to youngest (sometimes men first, then
        women, though I have never actually seen this). It would not be uncommon,
        however, even in an ordered situation such as this for clergy and people to
        defer to others as the first shall be last and the last first.


        On Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 11:31 PM, randall hay <stortford@sbcglobal .net>wrote:

        > I think others have at least alluded to the fact that Orthodox catechesis
        > is more than just learning; it's participation in the body of Christ. Yes,
        > learning in some degree is necessary, insofar as we may be capable (and it
        > is for the rest of our lives, by the way); but participation in the life of
        > the Church is necessary too.
        > Some people's interest is lukewarm, or perhaps I should say not quite ripe.
        > They don't come regularly to worship God in the company of their brothers
        > and sisters....and so their catechumenate is likely to be lengthy.
        > Those who come regularly, showing that they are earnest in their love for
        > God and are genuinely concerned about their brethren, are likely to be
        > received sooner. Sincere worship of the Trinity and love of the brethren is
        > the heart of the faith, after all, and our eternal vocation in the world to
        > come; not something peripheral.
        > I may be mistaken, but the tide seems to me to be turning more toward
        > reception of converts by baptism. Being Catholic or Methodist isn't what it
        > used to be, after all.
        > A member of our parish, for example, got a degree from a local RC
        > university; in one class a professor suggested that the students pray to God
        > the Mother.
        > I was in a coffee shop recently and I heard what seemed to be two
        > non-denominational Protestants discussing the Trinity. Neither had a clue on
        > the subject. One, who probably did believe in the Holy Trinity, was saying
        > he didn't; the other simply had no idea what the term signified.
        > Fifty years ago we could be sure a RC baptism was in the name of of the
        > Father, Son and Holy Spirit....and your average Protestant likewise.
        > Nowadays it's so uncertain, bishops seem to be increasingly inclined toward
        > re-baptism.
        > (Policy, by the way, is set by the bishop; the priest may make the
        > decision, but it's based on what his bishop decides.)
        > I might mention that you may notice children lining up to commune before
        > adults...this is a practice in some parishes, expressing Christ's teaching
        > that we need to become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
        > ---For your first visits, remember that it is best to just watch and try to
        > soak in what's happening, without worrying about what to do or where to look
        > in the service book....as a priest commented to me as I began serving behind
        > the altar as a subdeacon, become "all eye."
        > R.
        > ____________ _________ _________ __
        > From: Kimberly Sparling <belleartmom@ gmail.com <belleartmom% 40gmail.com> >
        > To: LutheransLookingEas t@yahoogroups. com<LutheransLookingEa st%40yahoogroups .com>
        > Sent: Thursday, July 23, 2009 10:00:46 AM
        > Subject: Re: [LutheransLookingEa st] Re: Christians?
        > On Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 8:10 AM, Rosemarie Lieffring <
        > rose.lieffring@ gmail.com> wrote:
        > > When I had come to the point that I was examining Lutheranism and
        > > considering going elsewhere I told myself there was absolutely NO reason
        > to
        > > leave Lutheranism unless there was something theologically wrong with it.
        > > After all...my husband is Lutheran, my children were raised in Lutheran
        > > schools, all of my good friends were Lutheran, I had completed about 24
        > > hours of college coursework in Lutheran ministry...I wasn't going to
        > reject
        > > all of that for superficial reasons, no matter how nice the incense
        > > smelled.
        > >
        > > But infant communion was where the rubber met the road for me. It was the
        > > chink in the armor. I saw the LCMS position as theological error. Later
        > > there were other things but infant communion and in particular the CTCR's
        > > response to the South Wisconsin District's proposal on infant communion
        > was
        > > sufficient for me to see a foundational problem.
        > >
        > > (By that time both of my boys had been confirmed and I still don't have
        > > grand kids so it wasn't a personal issue in our home.)
        > >
        > > In the end though every convert's story and jumping off points are
        > > different
        > > so as they say...YMMV.- ----R
        > >
        > > On Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 8:48 AM, nrinne <Nrinne@excite. com> wrote:
        > >
        > > >
        > >
        > This is something I have been wondering about. I am reading all the books I
        > can on Orthodoxy Christianity, and this weekend our family is going to
        > visit
        > an Antiochan Orthodox church on Saturday.
        > One thing that occurred to me was, If my dh and I join (eventually) , do my
        > kids go through something similar to confirmation? We have an almost 21yo
        > who has developmental disabilities and will live with us indefinitely; a
        > 9yo
        > son and twin girls age 7 1/2. Currently at the LCMS my 21 takes communion,
        > and I have been trying to explain to the younger ones why they can't take
        > communion yet. Would that all change if we converted?
        > God Bless and thank you all for this list!
        > Kim S.
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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