Attn Ridgeback

Hello,

I think I may have told my story as to how I became a Christian. Its in the many, many questions thread.

Bascially I was never introduced to the truth of the Gospel until about 1.5 years ago. I was baptized at a Charismatic church, but soon left them, as I just couldnt agree with most of what they were about. I also worry that my baptism there wasnt "legit", if that makes sense. I was also later told that I was baptized as a baby at a Presbyterian church. I dont know how that matters or anything.

I then went to a Lutheran church, but it didnt work out for a few reasons, though I liked the church and the pastor.

I now attend an Evangelical Free Church, part of the EFCA. I like it.

My girlfriend is Catholic and that inspired me to research the Catholic church. I attended once, but as Im sure you know, it was quite different than what I was used to. I really like the organization and the maintainence of order during the service. The apostolic succesion appealed to me as well.

You told me you attend a E. Ortho. church.

Could you give me a 101 course in that church? I read about it on wikipedia.org, but I would love to hear from a "member" on their perspective.

I would appreciate this more than you know. I just so badly want to be a member, an active contributing memeber of one church, and I think your advice can help me to find that church.

edit

Some of my main questions would be how it differs from the churches I have attended thus far?

What Bible does the church read from or suggest?

And also, feel free to ask me for clarification on anything, Im not so good at typing what I intend to mean.

You're the king?

Soy El Rey,



We are in reality pretty new to E. Orthodoxy (EO) and are technically only inquirers at this point although we will soon be catechumens, which is essentially like an engagement  before a marriage.  EO is a very different tradition from all the western ones including even R. Catholicism, even though many Protestants would tend to make comparisons with the two. 



My wife is a long time attender of an E-free church too.  A lot of the people in the parish we attend are actually converts from evangelicalism.  I think that in reality the core parts of belief are not that different in the sense that the Creed is usually shared by all the "orthodox" traditions within Christianity and of course the EO church agrees with all those things (God as Trinity, Christ Risen, 2nd Coming, Virgin Birth, etc).  But I would also add that a lot of the things that appear the same on the surface come with a different understanding. 



Most people who convert from evangelicalism don't entirely reject their past, but rather describe EO as a fuller picture of the truth of Christ and a fuller experience of worshiping God.  I think those descriptions fit my experience pretty well.  Of course I did undergo some radical changes in how I view scripture, history, heaven and hell, salvation, and several other things.  But when they were properly explained they made a lot of sense and seemed to me to actually be in harmony with the wholeness of scripture rather than selected parts.



Rather than trying to explain all the differences, I can direct you to some reading resources that I think you will find very helpful and that have been instrumental in my conversion process.  I think the best thing for a person who is interested in EO to do is read up on it (not so much on the internet though) and attend a parish.  I would personally recommend finding a convert parish with services in English.  Understanding the EO church intellectually is important, but it is the experience of the worship that really counts.   Its like reading books about war vs. actually being in combat.  You can't experience the EO church with just your rational faculty.



If you want some beginning resources let me know and I will provide you with some helpful links.  You are welcome to email me at any time as well.  Shoot me a mma.tv message or leave me your email and I will email you.  I just don't like putting my email on a public board anymore because I was getting spammed so badly I had to change it. 

Here are a few excerpts that sum up some of the core teachings of the EO church:



/o:pThe Nicene/Constant. Creed

/o:p


/o:pI BELIEVE IN ONE GOD, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. /o:p


 /o:pAnd in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light: true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried; And arose again on the third day according to the Scriptures; And ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end. /o:p


 /o:pAnd in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life; Who proceeds from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the prophets. In One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, And the life of the age to come. Amen. /o:p



 /o:p


"I believe in one God": so we affirm at the beginning of the Creed. But then at once we go on to say much more than this. I believe, we continue, in one God who is at the same time three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is in God genuine diversity as well as true unity. The Christian God is not just a unit but a union, not just unity but community. There is in God something analogous to "society". He is not a single person, loving himself alone, not a self-contained monad or "The One". He is triunity: three equal persons, each one dwelling in the other two by virtue of an unceasing movement of mutual love. Amo ergo sum, "I love, therefore I am": the title of Kathleen Raine's poem can serve as a motto for God the Holy Trinity. What Shakespeare says concerning the human love of two may be applied also to the divine love of the eternal Three:

 So they loved, as love in twain,

Had the essence but in one;

Two distinct, division none:

Number there in love was slain.

 The final end of the spiritual Way is that we humans should also become part of this Trinitarian coinherence or perichoresis, being wholly taken up into the circle of love that exists within God. So Christ prayed to his Father on the night before his Crucifixion: "May they all be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, so may they also be one in us" (John 17:21).

Why believe that God is three? Is it not easier to believe simply in the divine unity, as the Jews and the Mohammedans do? Certainly it is easier. The doctrine of the Trinity stands before us as a challenge, as a "crux" in the literal sense: it is, in Vladimir Lossky's words, "a cross for human ways of thought", and it requires from us a radical act of metanoia-not merely a gesture of formal assent, but a true change of mind and heart.

 Why, then, believe in God as Trinity? In the last chapter we found that the two most helpful ways of entry into the divine mystery are to affirm that God is personal and that God is love. Now both these notions imply sharing and reciprocity. First, a "person" is not at all the same as an "individual". Isolated, self-dependent, none of us is an authentic person but merely an individual, a bare unit as recorded in the census. Egocentricity is the death of true personhood. Each becomes a real person only through entering into relation with other persons, through living for them and in them. There can be no man, so it has been rightly said, until there are at least two men in communication. The same is true, secondly, of love. Love cannot exist in isolation, but presupposes the other. Self-love is the negation of love. As Charles Williams shows to such devastating effect in his novel Descent into Hell, self-love is hell; for, carried to its ultimate conclusion, self-love signifies the end of all joy and all meaning. Hell is not other people; hell is myself, cut off from others in self-centeredness.

 

Without question, however, the single most important book involved in my conversion to Holy Orthodoxy was John Zizioulas Being as Communion. This is also probably the most difficult book I have ever read. I had to read the first chapter three times before I even began to understand it. And yet, as I began to get a handle on what Zizioulas was saying, I realized that if he was even partially correct, I could no longer remain a Protestant-much less a free-church Baptist.

 In short, Zizioulas introduced me, for the first time, to the Holy Trinity, in Whose image I had been created. Although Baptists profess faith in the Trinity; when you get right down to it, that belief is not much more than lip-service. The Trinity is rarely mentioned in Baptist churches, except at baptisms, and has absolutely nothing to do with how the church is organized or how Baptists view themselves as persons created in the image of God. In the final analysis, the Trinity is simply the solution to a theological problem: how can Jesus be both God and different from the Father at the same time? The doctrine, as understood by Baptists and most other Protestants has no positive content. If every reference to the Trinity were removed from Baptist hymnals and books, few people would even notice.

 What I learned from Zizioulas is that my own being as well as the being of the Church is inextricably tied up with the being of God Himself-but not simply with the fact that God exists and that I derive my existence from Him. Rather it is tied up with the way God exists, His mode of existence. For the first time I read that God is not an individual. If God exists, it is not because He is Necessary Being, but because He eternally begets His Son and breathes forth His Spirit in an unbroken communion of absolute love and self-giving. To say that God is love (1 John 4:16) is not to describe an attribute of God but to define His very being; it is to affirm that He is the Father Who exists by the total gift of Himself to His Son and His Spirit. In this manner the ancient world heard for the first time that it is communion that makes things be: nothing exists without it, not even God.

 The necessary conclusion from such an understanding of God is that the individual, that ultimate concern of Protestantism, ontologically cannot exist. Individualism is the denial of being, the content of which is love. For the first time in my life, the very foundations of my evangelical faith were shaken to the core. Certainly, I had grown dissatisfied with evangelical worship and had been searching for historical Christianity, but this was different. Now it was my understanding of God and myself that was tumbling down around me. In true Freudian fashion, I had taken my own fragmented, individualistic nature, endowed it with a host of superlative attributes, and called it God. Yet, when the real God-the God of Triune Love-revealed Himself to me and destroyed my idol, I shed no tears. On the contrary, my soul took wings because for the first time in my life Christianity made sense-I do not mean intellectually, but existentially.

 I knew that God had made man to share in His eternal life and that man had blown the project by rebelling against God. God, in turn, sent His Son to fix the mess that man had made and restore to man the possibility of living a full and meaningful life. But why was the Cross so necessary? It seemed like an awful lot of trouble to go to just so that we could romp around on streets of gold for eternity. And was God really going to send billions of people to hell just because they refused to accept His Son into their lives as their personal Lord and Savior? Was the gamble of creation worth all of those souls who would spend an eternity in torment, so that some could find eternal bliss?

 All my life I had been told that sin had left a crimson stain and that nothing but the blood could make me clean again because there is power in the blood. There was nothing I could add because Jesus paid it all, and if I would only trust Him one glad morning I would fly away. I knew all this and believed all this, yet there were questions just under the surface irritating my tidy, little faith. When I got right down to it, the sin of Adam really did not seem to merit the punishment of eternal perdition and the bliss of heaven did not seem worth the price that had to be paid. In other words, hell sounded unreasonable and heaven sounded boring.


/o:p

The problem was that in my evangelical Protestant theology, sin, righteousness, heaven, and hell were all essentially unrelated to my own being. Sin was a stain on my record that the blood of Jesus washed away (if I claimed it!); righteousness was a credit that God placed in my account because of my faith; heaven was a place of bliss where the saved would spend eternity; and hell was a place of torment where those who had rejected Christ would roast forever. All of these things impended on my life, of course, but only tangentially; they really had nothing to do with who I am./o:p


 /o:pI could not help but wonder why Adams/st1:place sin should have such eternal consequences. Could it be that God is so proud and egotistical that His honor could really be offended by the sins of mortal men? What is sin, anyway? Is it the breaking of a law, the transgression of a code of ethics? I was not satisfied with the satisfaction theory of the atonement, and, not being a Lutheran, I was not particularly keen on blaming everything on the insatiable wrath of God. On the other hand, I did not have any real theories of my own. So, I just kept repeating the party line and traveling down that Roman Road/st1:address/st1:street./o:p


I discovered, however, that sin is not the mere breaking of a rule, but is nothing less than the denial of love and, therefore, of life itself. When I discovered the Trinity, I also discovered the true nature of man, for man was created in the image of this God of Triune love. Man was created precisely as a personal being, one who is truly human only when he loves and is loved. Sin-missing the mark-is not a moral shortcoming or a failure to live up to some external code of behavior, but rather the failure to realize life as love and communion. As Christos Yannaras puts it, The fall arises out of man's free decision to reject personal communion with God and restrict himself to the autonomy and self-sufficiency of his own nature. In other words, sin is the free choice of individual autonomy. Irony of ironies: that which I had been touting all of these years as the basis of true religion-the absolute autonomy of the individual-turned out to be the Original Sin!/o:p


 /o:pAn individual is not a person, but rather the antithesis of personhood and the denial of life. From this perspective, sin is repulsive to God not because it offends His honor, but because it is the denial of life itself, which is His gift to man. It is, in the final analysis, the denial of God's image in man and of God Himself. What makes sin so tragic is that it is self-destructive. God hates sin not because of what it does to Him, but because of what it does to man. Sin is not a blotch on my record, but in the words of Fr. Thomas Hopko, an act of metaphysical suicide./o:p


 /o:pHuman beings can be individuals if they choose, with all kinds of relationships. But if they do so chose, to use the language of the Bible, they choose death, and not life; the curse and not the blessing (Deuteronomy 30:19). They destroy themselves in the act of metaphysical suicide in their self-contained and self-interested isolation which is the very image of hell./o:p


 /o:pTo begin to understand the essence of sin is to begin to understand hell as well. I had grown up listening to sermons describing the literal fire and the unmistakably physical nature of the torment. Yet, in Orthodoxy, I found a vision of hell far more terrifying than anything Jonathan Edwards could have concocted. Hell is that state in which men have rendered themselves incapable of receiving and responding to the love of God (or anyone else). To use the words of Dostoyevsky, hell is the suffering of being no longer able to love ... And yet it is impossible to take this spiritual torment from them, for this torment is not external but is within them./o:p


 /o:pHell is, therefore, not so much an external condition of punishment as the inward suffering of self-isolation. When Christ returns in glory and God becomes all in all (1 Cor. 15:28), those who have sealed themselves off in the fortresses of their own egos-those for whom hell is other people-will be faced with the torment of His eternal presence. His very presence will be a judgment and a torment because He is life and love Himself, the ontological antithesis of self-contained individuality. In that Day, there will be no place to hide, no refuge from His burning presence, for our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). In the words of one of the desert Fathers, The fire of hell is the love of God./o:p


 /o:p

/o:pIf the locus of hell is the depth of ones own soul, then the Kingdom/st1:placetype of God/st1:placename/st1:place must begin there as well. Did not Jesus Himself declare, the Kingdom/st1:placetype of God/st1:placename/st1:place is within you? In my younger days that verse always bothered me; it certainly was not one that generated a lot of sermons. It seemed too subjective. And yet, this came from the lips of the Savior Himself. When, however, I embraced the Truth of Orthodoxy and encountered the life-giving Trinity, this verse began to make sense. Heaven is not a cosmic Disneyworld/st1:place, but the state of perfect God-likeness, for which man had originally been created./o:p

This, however, is quite a different picture of heaven than the one usually presented from Baptist pulpits. I have heard 45 minute sermons on heaven, which dealt almost exclusively on the literal streets of gold. God and Christ were mentioned only a couple of times. God built heaven, of course, and Jesus died on the cross so that those who believe in Him could go there. That was it! There was no mention of being changed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18) or of becoming partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). The typical evangelical vision of heaven is that of a giant religious theme-park-Heritage U.S.A./st1:place/st1:country-region with a thyroid condition!/o:p


 /o:pAll of my life, salvation had been presented to me in negative terms: Jesus had saved me from hell and had enabled me to go to this place called heaven. He was the ultimate fire insurance! What joy I found when I discovered the positive side to Christianity. St. Athanasius said that God became man so that man might become like God. God had originally created man in His own image so that man might attain unto His perfect likeness. Christ, Who is the perfect Image of the Father, came not only to repair that which had been damaged by the fall, but to perfect humanity and fulfill the original intent of creation. Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by Him were all things created ... All things were created by Him and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist (Col. 1:15-17)./o:p


 /o:pChrist said that He had come to give abundant life to the world, but what kind of life? Biological existence? Life after death? I learned that the life that Christ came to give is nothing less than the Life of the Holy Trinity-or, more precisely, the Life of the Father, Who lives eternally as love Himself with His Son and His Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself (John 5:25-27). Because the One Who died on the cross was the Son of the Father-Life Himself-and not merely an innocent man, He crushed forever the tyranny of man's self-sufficiency and loosed the bonds of death. Through Christ, man shares in this Life-in-Himself of the Holy Trinity, life realized as an eternal relationship of love. And this is life eternal, that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent (John 17:3)./o:p


 /o:pAfter reading Being as Communion, everything else I had read about Orthodoxy fell into place. No matter what book I read, every author came back to the central theme of Trinitarian love…/o:p


 /o:p…My world was transformed! Or rather, I was learning to see the world through new eyes. I began to realize that the freedom I had defended so vehemently was not freedom at all, but slavery to my own individual whims, to my context, to the necessities of my fragmented nature, and ultimately to death…

The first characteristic of Orthodoxy is the emphatically important truth for spirituality that God is Trinity. The spiritually relevant meaning and implication of this fact, for our purposes, is that reality is ultimately and inescapably interpersonal communion.

 Intimately stemming from the fact that God is Trinity is the second distinctive characteristic of Orthodox Christianity. Christianity is not a religion; it is a Church - the Church, the Kingdom come, God’s people called out of the world unto Him, and the Communion of Saints. That is, Christianity is not my personal and private salvation through Jesus. As the Body of Christ, it is a deifying process of becoming a communion of persons mutually participating in the Uncreated Energies of the Life of the Trinity and increasingly after its Likeness.

That was helpful. I am trying to find a EO church in my neighborhood, but they seem to be few and far between.

btw, I cant email you on this site, you have to be a pro member which Im not.

That was fascinating. One of the best things I've read on here. thanks Ridgeback! I grew up baptist, still staunchly evangelical but much to consider from what you've written.

Soy El Rey,



The EO church is very much a minority in the West and it is not easy to find a parish.  We drive an hour to get to ours.

Hawker,



Yes there is clearly something bigger going on than a few individual converts here and there.  I think that evangelicals in general are studying the ancient church for guidance and that leads a lot of them to eventually embrace Orthodoxy.   I would recommend a Vespers service for your first visit to a parish.   Its also not a bad idea to contact the priest first.   Be prepared for a bit of a culture shock the first few visits but eventually it will all come together.  Also I attended for months and months before I started crossing myself or venerating icons so don't feel pressured to do anything until you are comfortable with it.   I have never been pressured in any way to conform.  Its a go at your own pace kind of thing.



Soy El Rey,



Here are some links off the top of my head:



Websites:/o:p


 /o:p


http://www.philthompson.net/


 /o:p


http://www.frederica.com/display/ShowJournal?moduleId=408991&categoryId=30286


 /o:p


http://www.fatheralexander.org/page6.htm


 /o:p


http://www.oca.org/


 /o:p


 /o:p


Articles:/o:p


 /o:p


http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm


 /o:p


http://aggreen.net/beliefs/heaven_hell.html


 /o:p


http://www.kosovo.net/lives.html


 /o:p


 /o:p


Radio/Podcasts:/o:p


 /o:p


http://www.ancientfaithradio.com/


 /o:p


 /o:p


 /o:p


 /o:p


 /o:p


 /o:p


 /o:p

More links:



/o:pWebsites:


 /o:phttp://www.pelagia.org/htm/index.htm


 /o:phttp://oca.org/OCorthfaith.asp?SID=2


 /o:pLink to links:/o:p


/o:phttp://www.geocities.com/jej89/orthodoxlinks.html




/o:pSpecific Essays:


http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b24.en.life_after_death.07.htm


 /o:pBooks:


 /o:pOrthodoxy: the Narrow Path by Ronald Clausen (free online)


 /o:phttp://members.aol.com/RClau22589/index.html


 /o:pThe Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos Ware (free online)


 /o:phttp://fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/history_timothy_ware_1.htm


 /o:phttp://fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/history_timothy_ware_2.htm


 /o:pThe Mountain/st1:placetype of Silence/st1:placename/st1:place and Gifts of the Desert by Kyriacos Markides


 /o:phttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0385500920/sr=8-1/qid=1145907933/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-3189200-7831833?%5Fencoding=UTF8


 /o:pThirsting for God in a Land/st1:placetype of Shallow/st1:placename/st1:place Wells by Matthew Gallatin


 /o:phttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1888212284/qid=1145908046/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/103-3189200-7831833?s=books&v=glance&n=283155


 /o:pBeing as Communion by John D. Zizioulas


 /o:phttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0881410292/qid=1145908139/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/103-3189200-7831833?s=books&v=glance&n=283155


 /o:pThe Inner/st1:placename Kingdom/st1:placetype/st1:place by Bishop Kallistos Ware


 /o:phttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0881412090/qid=1145908256/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/103-3189200-7831833?s=books&v=glance&n=283155


 /o:p


" I would recommend a Vespers service for your first visit to a parish. Its also not a bad idea to contact the priest first. Be prepared for a bit of a culture shock the first few visits but eventually it will all come together. "

What is a Vespers? Why the culture shock?

I would hazard a guess that vespers is very similar between the Orthodox and Catholics...here's a Catholic description of vespers:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15381a.htm

Soy El Rey,



In short, Vespers is basically a prayer service.   I haven't even been to all the different service types, but the main types you will see every week are Vespers and the Divine Liturgy, which is the main Sunday service where the Eucharist is served.  Essentially it is akin to Catholic mass.



Depending on your background, there is a certain degree of culture shock because Orthodox worship is pretty different from evangelical church.  First, you will not notice much socializing going on.  Its not that people aren't friendly, but during times of worship they are more focused on the service than chatting so if you go to a service and feel ignored don't take it personally.   Secondly, if you are not use to a liturgical service it will also seem strange.  There is a lot of repetition that will have an odd sound to it, especially if you have never experienced liturgical worship before.  When a chanter says "Lord have mercy" several times in a row fast it just seems odd.  But eventually you will get it if you keep coming.  Orthodox worship is very hands on so Orthodox cross themselves frequently, bow frequently and even prostrate at some times.  You might feel a little strange just standing or sitting there while all this is going on but trust me when I say nobody is watching you.  The veneration of icons is very strange at first too.  After awhile you realize that most of that is a Western issue with everything short of a handshake meaning worship whereas in reality in most cultures bowing and kissing have been signs for respect. 

I found an EO church about 10 miles away, I think I will check it out.

The only problem I have consitently had is the fact that I have a small child, who is very ramunctious (sp?). The Catholic church I went to and the Lutheran had no childcare. She cant sit still at a Evangelical service, I dont see it happening at a EO. What are your thoughts on that?