May 5, 2010
Any text about God which seeks to form our thinking about God can easily distract a person from God, and this includes Orthodox texts. It is simply more ironic, and sad, when the text which distracts one from God is a text teaching the reader about the dangers of texts distracting one from God.
…Years ago, some ROCOR monks I met at, of all places, the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo (an academic conference), told me that if one really wants to learn Orthodox theology, the first step is to cease to self-consciously attempt to learn Orthodox theology – for such is a dangerous reversal of the right ordo. The first thing to do is to learn how to pray, and if you are not to a point where you are ready to learn that sort of prayer which takes real effort (an actual prayer rule), you might start with doing the dishes for the people you are responsible to love, or trying to speak with kindness, or other similar things basic to living a human life (the idea being that it takes some softness of heart to begin any serious regimen of prayer). It seems rather common (though I know this primarily through literature, thus, I don’t really know it) that when a monk comes to the monastery, he spends years doing rather mundane things before they let him anywhere near theology.
…Without doubt or hesitation I can say that the persons I have known whose lives struck me as the least prayerful were those who cared a great deal about theology as a ‘subject,’ and that includes Orthodox whose beloved secondary literature tells them of the dangers of approaching theology as a ‘subject’ even as these very texts teach this by way of subjectivizing theology. There is such a thing as an addiction to theology as ‘subject,’ and it is ugly, turning the sufferer into a wraith. Becoming Orthodox and reading books about the dangers of approaching theology as ‘subject’ seems to have no bearing on the likelihood of developing such an addiction. Every would be theologian thinks his or her ideas are the safe ones.
This is somewhat similar to what I was trying to say in my post “I’m right and you’re wrong.” I have witnessed certain people who have so much head-knowledge about God and they are quick to let you know it, sometimes even in not-so-nice ways (admittedly, this may take place more often on the internet than in-person). I have seen people who seemingly know a lot about God, and yet I can’t help but wonder if they really actually know God. How can one know so much about God, and yet so clearly lack the fruits of the Spirit? That is what I try to shy away from. Right now I am keeping a lot of my thoughts fairly simplistic, partly because I am a mother of a toddler and I have limited time on my hands, but also because I can see the same fate befalling me.
May 3, 2010
I recently found this website of beautiful photographs of all-things Orthodox: Eastern Orthodoxy Beheld.
I know that the rich/ornate nature of Orthodoxy is off-putting to a lot of to those who are accustomed to much more simple surroundings. My husband and I were definitely a little overwhelmed at first. In fact, in an email to him I had said “Don’t think I could get into this. Maybe I could if I lived in Europe and had an old-world kind of lifestyle.” He replied in agreement, adding that he would be afraid of making a major faux pax.
We came around when we began to understand the basis for such worship. Orthodox services are modeled after heavenly worship – and while I am usually not one to speculate much about what Heaven will be like, I can’t really imagine that it involves plain white walls like you see in many churches.
May 1, 2010
A little ditty from my childhood. Sadly, unorthodox (the “alone” part specifically):
The B-I-B-L-E! Yes, that’s the book for me! I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E!
Elsewhere on the internets I was recently accused of “believing the Bible is true because the Bible says it is true.” This was humorous because some of my Protestant friends accuse me of the opposite; not believing the Bible or believing things that are contrary to the Bible. Sometimes you just can’t win!
But back to that assertion about believing that the Bible is true. For the Protestant I think this would be a pretty tricky question to address. Protestants in general take the view that the Bible is “self-authenticating” which to me personally seems like a pretty meaningless and contrived explanation. For the Orthodox Christian there is another way to address this question:
How could the Church discern what was true Scripture from what was not? The answer is to be found in the fact that the Bible was not the starting-point of the Christian faith, but a resumé of it: not the whole revelation, but a part: not the foundation of the Church, but its product. The Church preceded the Bible; indeed, we would be at a loss to explain the existence of Christians in the early years after Our Lord’s ministry and resurrection if, as many modern Christians insist, the Scriptures are the essential groundwork of the faith! As Fr. Alexander Turner puts it, the “Christian church had been a going concern in full operation, with its established procedures, organization and sacraments” for two decades before the first of the New Testament writings, St. Paul’s epistles, were composed. (The Bible and the Church by C.G. Pallas)
But what about the “many contradictions” that to some suggest the Bible is not reliable? Again, for the Protestant this is tricky, because the Bible is supposed to be inerrant in every sense of the word. For the Orthodox, though:
It is the faith of the Orthodox Church that the Bible, as the divinely-inspired Word of God in the words of men, contains no formal errors or inner contradictions concerning the relationship between God and the world. There may be incidental inaccuracies of a non-essential character in the Bible. But the eternal spiritual and doctrinal message of God, presented in the Bible in many different ways, remains perfectly consistent, authentic, and true. (The Orthodox Faith by Fr. Thomas Hopko)
The Orthodox definitely have a different take on the Bible, but this in no way diminishes the Bible. In my experience as a Protestant, the focus of one’s devotion of God is mostly expressed through reading and studying the Bible (and also through church attendance, where at least half the time is also spent in reading and studying the Bible). In Orthodoxy however, the focus is much more on one’s prayer life and communion with God through the Eucharist. Does the Bible come into play here? Absolutely! But instead of only reading God’s word, we’re also focused on literally experiencing and communing with Him.