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The Gospel: An Orthodox Definition

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  • Christopher Orr
    I thought some on this list might find this interesting. Thoughts? Christopher The Gospel: An Orthodox
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 20, 2008
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      I thought some on this list might find this interesting. Thoughts?
      Christopher

      The Gospel: An Orthodox
      Definition<http://www.dosoca.org/files/08%20Assembly/AbbatialEditorialCollection.pdf>

      ...So what is the Gospel? What is the Good News that we have for people? We
      have lots of news for people, and lots of invitations, but they are not
      necessarily very good.

      The Gospel is not that Orthodoxy is the True Religion and all the rest are
      false. The Gospel is not that they can become born-again Russians,
      Ukrainians, Greeks, Syrians, Serbs or what have you. It is not that they can
      come help us pay the mortgage. It is not that they can support our position
      against the Others � like the OCA vs. the Ecumenical Patriarchate, or
      Antioch vs. Jerusalem, or God only knows what. It is not that they can come
      join some enclave of a foreign culture and even be (more or less) accepted.

      The Only Agenda: The Gospel

      If we are really Orthodox, we should be able to preach the Gospel better
      than anyone else, because we have it in an undistorted form. So what is it?

      First and foremost that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, trampling death
      by death and giving life to those in the tombs. It is the message of the
      Resurrection, the victory of Jesus Christ over death and hell. It is the
      Good News that the Kingdom of God is present, here and now, by the grace of
      the Holy Spirit, and you can be baptized into it, commune of its grace, and
      be filled with new life. It is this that we constantly celebrate in church,
      in the services, in the cycles of feasts and fasts. And what does it do for
      us? It heals our souls, and raises us up from despair, and enables us to
      deal with any obstacle that comes in our way.

      The good news of the "Orthodox" Gospel is that we are free from the
      destructive perversions of the Gospel which pervade the religious
      presuppositions of our post-Christian ex-Protestant culture. We don't preach
      that God is a harsh judge waiting to damn us to hell for the least
      transgression. How often do we say in the Liturgy, "For You are a good God
      and the lover of mankind," or "You are a God of mercy and compassion and
      love for mankind." This is Good News. We don't preach that we are
      inescapably predestined to be saved or damned, and there is not a thing we
      can do about it, either way. And we don't preach that being a Christian is
      about going to heaven when we die. What do we say? As St John Chrysostom
      said, "For You have brought us up to heaven and endowed us with your kingdom
      which is to come." Here and now, not just when we're dead. And we don't need
      to forget those who have gone before us, but we have continual remembrance
      of them, because in Christ they are alive with the same life with which we
      also live.

      We celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy, but it needs to be a real celebration
      of the integrity of the Gospel message. The triumph over iconoclasm has an
      essential point of faith: by His Incarnation, Jesus Christ sanctified
      matter. We can paint a picture of God Incarnate, and experience His Presence
      in and through venerating the icon. We can partake of His life by eating the
      bread and wine of His Body and Blood; we are immersed into His life in
      Baptism, anointed with the Holy Spirit in Chrismation, and made part of His
      Body. The world itself, matter, is sanctified by Christ's Coming, and
      becomes a means of communion with God. And we ourselves, in this body, in
      this life, here and now, are sanctified and made holy, partakers of the life
      of God. Salvation is about life here and now, not "fire insurance" for after
      death! In Christ, all things are made new. "For He has brought us up to
      heaven, and endowed us with His Kingdom which is to come." This is Good
      News!

      A Call to Repentance

      So what do we need to do? We need to focus on this life-giving message of
      the Gospel, which is what the Church, its life and services, are about
      anyway. We need to surrender to Christ, and put aside our self-serving
      agendas. Only then can we come together to do the work of Christ: to draw
      all people to Him. We need to learn the Scripture, so that we can live it.
      We need to serve the poor and those in need without regard to who they are
      or whether they are "ours." In short, we need to love our neighbor as our
      self. In other words, it is time that we accepted the responsibility to
      incarnate the message of Christ at all costs. It is time we grew up....

      - From "Where do we Go from
      Here?<http://www.dosoca.org/files/08%20Assembly/AbbatialEditorialCollection.pdf>"
      by Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen), Divine Ascent, No. 10 (Summer 2005)

      In a discussion in the combox of
      <http://anongd.blogspot.com/2008/11/what-are-signals.html?showComment=1227021840000#c5920638427758386496>Is
      God Anonymous?<http://anongd.blogspot.com/2008/11/what-are-signals.html?showComment=1227021840000#c5920638427758386496>I
      said that looking back on the teachings of Martin Luther and the
      church
      that bears his name I saw that he had all the right answers to the wrong
      questions. The obvious follow-up question was then posed: what are the
      'right' questions. I was thankful for the question, because it helped to
      clarify my thoughts. Here is my response:

      I guess it isn't even really questions. The Orthodox answers to the
      questions Luther posed are that we can't be assured of our salvation but can
      be assured of God's love. How? the Gospel act: God became man, suffered an
      innocent death giving up all that He had by His Godhead (sacrificing all his
      power and being) and when all looked lost rose from the dead as our
      Champion, carrying our common human nature in his Person thus raising us up
      with Himself and reopening eternal communion with God, which had been lost
      in the Garden. Actions speak louder than words, and God's actions show (they
      don't just 'tell') He loves us. Judas shows that this love, this salvation
      is not coercive and not enough to 'assure salvation' - we are in the mix,
      too, and we screw everything up.

      So, the change in question is a change out of one's head, away from academic
      questions and theories (quasi-Anselmian atonement) and into the joy of
      Pascha, death overcome, reunion and communion with God Who is Love, which is
      the Gospel. (The Gospel of my youth was defined as the proclamation of a
      debt paid [yawn] on my behalf, not on my resuscitation from spiritual and
      physical death and the start of the process of godlikeness.)

      To put it another way: there is nothing good about the news that the person
      threatening to kill you decided not to. There is something sick and scary
      about a person who will kill his kid so he won't have to kill you. That
      isn't forgiveness, it is the opposite of forgiveness. It is demanding your
      pound of flesh from someone, anyone, at all costs. That is not good news
      (gospel); but ,it is the underlying assumption about God in even the most
      loving, caring, forgiving and gracious of theories regarding the 'how' of
      our salvation.

      What is the Good News? "Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, trampling death
      by death" and "We can partake of His life by eating the bread and wine of
      His Body and Blood; we are immersed into His life in Baptism, anointed with
      the Holy Spirit in Chrismation, and made part of His Body." We now have
      access to what Jesus Christ has and is because we share the one, single,
      common nature of all humanity with him. As Metropolitan Jonah noted in "The
      Orthodox Church in America: Vision, Vocation, Mission,
      Identity<http://www.dosoca.org/files/08%20Assembly/AbbatialEditorialCollection.pdf>"
      (Divine Ascent, No. 11, Lent 2008): "When one is suffering, all suffer
      together. When one member is honored, all rejoice (cf. 1 Corinthians
      12:26)". This is the radical anthropology of the Gospel, an athropology
      foreign to the atomized individualism of the modern world. Only with this
      understanding of humanity is it possible to understand that the Gospel
      message is the fact that God has become man, killed death by death and
      raised Himself and us to the right hand of the Father. Christ is anthrophoros
      - man bearing; we are borne in Christ to where and what He is, by the power
      and presense (grace) of God Himself, which began with the overshadowing of
      the mother of God at Christ's conception and continues with the Spirit's
      continuing incarnation of Christ in the Church.

      The only question mark in our salvation is us. To paraphrase Vladimir Lossky
      paraphrasing St. Maximus Confessor: God saved our nature (ousia), I save my
      person (hypostasis) - with God's help, of course. The spiritual life is the
      constant struggle to be what we already are, more and more. The struggle is
      to become men and women "transparent to God, revealing God, incarnating God,
      and imparting that holiness which is participation in God's very life, which
      lifts us up from the world of sin and corruption." (Metropolitan Jonah, "The
      Orthodox Church in America: Vision, Vocation, Mission,
      Identity<http://www.dosoca.org/files/08%20Assembly/AbbatialEditorialCollection.pdf>",
      Divine Ascent, No. 11, Lent 2008).


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