Faith or Faithless?

I have recently been perplexed by the realities of the current society. I’m going to venture out into the maze of discussions on the COVID19 pandemic.

It is tough to be an American in normal times, much more difficult is to be an Orthodox Christian and be an American. Being an American ties us to the belief that I am self-directed in society. Not anarchy by any means but our government is only in power by the consent of the governed. Without consent of the people, there is no government. This is also tied to the limits we placed on that government in our written Constitution.

Many people have come to the erroneous belief that the only way to decide what is within the bounds of the Constitution is through the Courts, the Supreme Court to be exact. Imagine how stupid this sounds, ask the Federal Government if the Federal Government has exceeded its authority. When addressing tyranny it’s effectively asking nicely to the tyrant if he’s being a tyrant.

Today we are dealing with State Governors that have taken power that neither the US Constitution nor the State Constitution of their respective states allows. This is covered over by an explanation that it’s about safety of the public. Reality is, in my opinion, much different.

The Constitution was not written for the elite judges or lawyers to be the exclusive interpreters of its truth. We are talking about people approximately 150 +/- years from breaking the glass ceiling of Biblical interpretation. In 1611 the King of England had commissioned the complete English translation of the Bible. This brought on much of the rebellion known as the Protestant Reformation because each person could read the scriptures for themselves and didn’t need to rely on the reading from clergy. People with that same mindset wrote our Constitution, not to be dependent on the legal elites to read and interpret, rather for each person, each citizen to read and interpret.

In our current environment, fear and panic has clouded the minds of the people and as such people have been willing to cede their power to the government under the guise of safety.

Now let me tie in the life of an Orthodox Christian. The Church does not operate as a democracy, taking votes every time there are major policy changes. The Church operates, in effect, as a theocracy with the Bishops as the pastors, guiding the people. The priests operate the local parish under the direction of the bishop. The priest gets to operate the parish as he understands the directions he has from the bishop.

The Orthodox Christian has a life of submission, not blind submission, but obedience to his pastor through the priest of the local parish. This has never been as big of a challenge as it is today.

The United States is a unique country in the history of the world. Not a monarchy, not an empire, but rather a representative republic with a written Constitution to limit the powers of government. The authority of government is to be limited by the consent of the governed within the bounds of the Constitution. This creates a challenge as the actions of the various levels of government are presumed to be Constitutional unless challenged and resisted. Ultimately those challenges result in court battles and after months or even years they result in a ruling by the US Supreme Court.

This happened during the period of FDR who chose to seize all privately held gold in the USA. Regardless of the reasons and the arguments, it finally made its way to the Supreme Court which ruled that any gold items with intrinsic value, coins, jewelry etc. could not be taken and had to be returned. This is but one example.

During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus which was not able to be heard until after his assassination. The Supreme Court clearly declared that action to be unconstitutional.

These examples happened but the battles were lengthy. Today we are experiencing a similar injustice by various levels of government. State governors, county and city governments have, for the first time, closed businesses and CHURCHES over a virus pandemic. A panic, fueled by misleading the public and with the cooperation of the mass media has made even the Church to run in fear. Never before had anyone tried, nor would anyone believe that the government would close churches.

Even several jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church were closed and are only beginning to open back up under limits that the government is giving. This is absurd, foolish and dare I say faithless. Never in the history of the Church have I found the Church afraid of a virus to the point of such faithless actions. Fear has gripped the leadership, and therefore, the people are afraid, and all seem to be like children, not adults.

In September 1968 a pandemic swept across the world, the virus is known by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as H3N2 and in that year worldwide 1,000,000 people died, 100,000 Americans died. The population of the USA was just over 200,000,000 people. Today our population is over 320,000,000 and this newest pandemic is no more deadly. The people most at risk today are those over 60 with immune system problems that weaken them. Virtually no people are at risk of death by the current virus under the age of 50 yet the people are afraid.

The people are afraid because the leadership they look to for guidance is faithless and fearful. The leadership of the Church is running in fear and submitting to an oppressive government instead of standing up as a protectorate if the people. With the resources of the Church, which have been provided by the people, the Church could expedite this issue before the Courts. Do they take their rightful place? No they cower in fear instead of protecting their people. They make special announcements and directives that “the person that cut up the bread, washed his hands and the utensils beforehand (like he didn’t before?) and they place pieces of bread in plastic bags. They require everyone to wear masks to enter worship, how absurd.

There are signup accounts online and only a limited number of people are allowed to sign up to go to worship. Why? My opinion? IN LIABILITY LAWYERS WE TRUST. That’s my take. By having a positive request form where parishioners must REQUEST a space to worship, no one who might contract the virus can sue the Church. Faithlessness. Foolishness.

Masks in order to worship? The “experts” cannot even agree, often even the same expert will be on both sides of this topic I the past three months. Masks are useless in public settings. Yes, medical personnel use masks to prevent cross-contamination, but they don’t take them off, they don’t touch them. Once they touch the mask, in a clinical setting, they replace it. Same with gloves. To touch the mask with an ungloved hand contaminates the mask with whatever the hand has touched.

I have to say that I am ashamed of the leadership of any Orthodox clergy that have succumbed to this fear and panic over a virus. The faithlessness that is exhibited by these men is not Christian and certainly not Orthodox.

I will never wear a mask to attend Divine Liturgy. As long as this fear and faithlessness grips the leadership of the Church, I will stay away.

Some have chosen to justify their actions by quoting scripture so let’s look at that, shall we? “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.” Romans 13:1-3 NKJV

This scripture on the surface looks like a good justification but recall that our country is unique. We are not an empire, as Rome was, so there are no “rulers” over us. Our government’s authority is from the CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED not intrinsic to the government.

Here is one to consider: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” I John 4:18 NKJV

Or maybe Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:6-7 NKJV

Perhaps clergy in the various jurisdictions should remember that their God-given authority came to them by the laying on of hands, the conferring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit through bishops, not liability lawyers.

I have lived long enough to realize that this virus is likely to be the same as the pandemic of 1968, which I also lived through. We still do not have a vaccine nor a cure for that one in 52 years. Are we going to see the Church cower in fear forever because of this virus?

The “experts” are claiming that they might have a vaccine by the end of this year. People are talking like they don’t want to return to normal life until that happens. How foolish can we be? Businesses must resume, THE CHURCH must return to its ministry and come out from the fear. Perhaps this scripture is to the Church: “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.”” II Corinthians 6:11-18 NKJV

The experts have also recently admitted that even if they develop a vaccine, it is likely to not be more than 50% effective. That’s similar to other vaccines for viruses. After all, we do not have a vaccine for the common cold. Each year there’s a flu vaccine but we know it’s for the flu that was common last year and the viruses continue genetic drift or mutation.

It is a fool that stays inside his home and refuses to do business because of some fear that a predator might harm him. People that are mature cannot be subject to fear and the leadership of the Church must cast off the faithlessness they have accepted or be discarded by those who are faithful to God.

Denominational Polygamy

How many Churches did Jesus start?
“When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”  Matthew 16:13-18 NKJV

Jesus said he was going to build HIS Church, He only allowed one Church in this sentence. He did not say he was going to build His “Churches” He said he would build His Church. 

I’ll take a side step just to handle a quick topic on the side here so I don’t need to do it again for a while. 

In the passage above I see that Jesus used two different words for “Rock” determined by gender. I’m not a linguist and many are welcome to disagree with my explanation. The word PETROS translated as Peter in some linguists’ view denotes a small stone, moveable and insecure. This would make sense to me. 

The word PETRA translated by some linguists as a large, foundational stone, immovable and could indicate that Jesus is referring to the Testimony of the Apostles, “You are the Christ, the Son of God” which could indicate Jesus was referring to that testimony as the foundation of the Church. 

This is the understanding to which I subscribe. I realize many will disagree with me, in particular Roman Catholics who would want Peter to be shown as the primary head of the Church, but I’m more inclined toward the Testimony of the Apostles being the foundation based on History not simply a declaration of belief. The History of the Church shows that the foundation was on the Testimony of the Apostles of Jesus being the Christ not founded on a single man. So for this and further discussions, I will be approaching this subject from that perspective. I am not infallible but I have spent some time in research and made this conclusion personally. 

Jesus built ONE Church. Let’s look at the descriptions of the Church and how they apply in this topic of discussion. 

In 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 1, Ephesians 4, Colossians 1, and in Romans 12, Saint Paul referred to the Church as the Body of Christ. He identified us as members of His Body and interdependent on each other. That was one clear description of the Church. 

In the book of Revelation, the figurative language in chapters 21 & 22 refer to the Church as the BRIDE. 

There have been many who try to explain that the Church is some invisible group that includes anyone that believes in Jesus. This is leaving us open to any heresy that might come along. If the Church is invisible then how can the Body of Christ be invisible? Jesus was visible, he was seen by many, at one time over 500 saw him after His resurrection. He was clearly visible so His Body needs to be visible. 

If the Church is the Bride of Christ, is he polygamous? Does he have multiple wives? If His Church is His Bride, there can only be one Bride. So what of all these denominations? What do we do with them?

The Church was founded by Jesus, as I have explained, on the foundation of the Testimony that Jesus is the Christ. The promise of Jesus is clear, “the Gates of Hades will not prevail against it” meaning the Church. 

Jesus is God. If we have not understood that before, we must conclude that from multiple declarations He made. He forgave sin, only God can forgive sin. He stated that He was one in essence and being with the Father. The great theologian St. John in the first chapter of John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:1 NKJV so we know Jesus is God. 

At the first Ecumenical Council, the debate between the heretic Arius and the Church was about whether Jesus, God the Son, was of the same substance as the Father or just a similar substance. That is why the Creed says that the Lord Jesus Christ was “begotten not made, of one essence with the Father, light of light, true God of true God” so as far as Jesus is concerned we know that He is God. 

Since Jesus is God we know that he is incapable of lying. All the way back to Moses, in the book of Numbers we find, ““God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19 NKJV. So since Jesus is God and cannot lie when he said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 NKJV that at no time in the history of the Church could that happen. 

The denominations that were created during and since the Reformation are not the Church. There are over 50,000 religious organizations that claim to be Christian in the USA. There are religions that are formed based on one concept or one verse in the New Testament. I have known preachers to form entire movements based solely on a verse. In the 1960s a preacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma preached from the verse where Jesus talked about faith the size of a mustard seed. From that he built a movement, mailings, fundraisers, give-aways, rewards for donations. This went for years, “seed-faith giving” was his tag line. 

Another preacher also in the Tulsa area built a movement and followers for decades over his belief that God was speaking to him when he found a verse that said, “I would that you shall prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” 

There are older denominations that formed in the 16th century such as the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and those that grew out of the reformation but came along later such as the various forms of Baptists. There are religious groups that make a point of saying they’re not denominations, or that they’re independent. This crowd of religions is made up of groups that do not agree, many don’t accept the others, but they each claim to be the Body of Christ under some sort of invisible church kind of thing. 

If all the denominations were actually part of the Body of Christ, if they were the Bride of Christ then Christ has a multitude of Brides, a form of denominational polygamy. If they’re part of the Body of Christ then Jesus has tens of thousands of bodies. If all these religions are truly receiving revelation from God then God tells Joe one thing and tells Jim something completely different. This leads to the conclusion that Jesus only founded one Church. The Church that Jesus built has never gone away, never needed reforming, never needed restoring, she’s still the Church. The denominations, regardless of the good intentions of the people, are trying to replace the Bride but cannot. There are many that pretend but cannot be the Bride. 

So then, as with anything we learn, we must make a choice. Do I ignore the truth because it is not convenient? Do I reject the truth because “in my opinion” it’s not correct? Or do I seriously examine the evidence and openly question my own beliefs because God can always be proven truthful. 

So what value is there in the choice of religion?

In the course of this life, we are faced with choices. Each time we are confronted by truth, there are choices to be made. We learn about Christ in the Gospel, we must make a choice. We find out that the Ancient Christian Church exists, we must make a choice. We find out that the Christian Church, founded by Jesus on the testimony of the Apostles, teaches the Apostles’ doctrine and it is different from what we were taught at whatever religious group we have been part of, we have a choice to make. 

We do not have the luxury of creating our own doctrine. We do not change the teachings of the Church to conform to society. We accept the teachings of the Church as they are delivered to us. We do not use the Church and her teachings for our convenience like a cafeteria, picking out what we like and leaving what is difficult or that we don’t like. 

The differences between the Church and new religions are not superficial. It is often a matter of substance not simply style. The word “Orthodox” is a compound Greek word that means correct teaching. The correct way to teach anything, a skill, for instance, is the orthodox way to teach that skill. With the Orthodox Church we have the original Church, built by Jesus on the foundation of the testimony of the Apostles. So for this discussion we will be looking at the Orthodox Church and the Heterodox churches. The heterodox, multitude of teachings, are born out of some other point than the original Church. 

For this discussion the heterodox religions will be differentiated from the Orthodox Christian Church. The Christian Church was founded on the testimony of the Apostles that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said he would build his Church on that testimony and that the gates of Hades would not prevail against it.  

In 1054ad the Roman pope (archbishop) separated his local churches from the majority of the Christian Church in a Great Schism that left the Easter Church and creating what we know of as the Roman Catholic Church. The heresy that Rome committed in this action began a long road of heresies that brought about the reformers in the 1500s. 

Martin Luther, a German friar and monk, being distressed by the heresies involving the sale of indulgences (permission to sin) by his Roman Bishops rebelled. He ultimately translated the New Testament into German so that his followers did not need a teacher to read it to them in Latin and tell them of its content. The translation process was clearly corrupted but I’ll deal with that in the future because that one event would take an entire article. 

The Protestant Reformation was predicated on the belief that the entire Ancient Church had fallen into apostasy simply because the reformers were either ignorant of the Eastern Church or they presumed the Eastern Church was identical to the Roman Church. For that belief to be true, for the Church to have descended into apostasy, the promise of Jesus, “I will build my Church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” would have to be false. Since Jesus is God, proven by his life, death and resurrection, He cannot lie. So the basic belief that the Church needed to be reformed was false invalidating the Reformation and its foundational doctrines. 

The doctrines created and put forth by Martin Luther, known as the Three Solae, were the foundation of the Protestant Reformation. They were Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and Sola Gratia which meant Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, and Grace Alone. These doctrines were not original in the Church and Luther built his movement on them. The other Reformers also adopted these doctrines and to this day, 500 years later, the Protestant religions continue to teach these misleading large groups of people and building other teachings on top of them. 

Scripture Alone means simply that only what the individual finds in the Bible is valid for doctrine. This is misleading because the reality is that it is “only what I find and interpret from scripture” is valid. This makes the individual the final arbiter of truth. It also brings about an attitude that allows the individual to judge religious groups by his own personal interpretation of the Bible. This was evident even at the beginning of the Reformation. Huldrych Zwingli and Martin Luther disagreed on what the scriptures taught concerning the Eucharist. Luther read the scriptures and saw the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, that the elements were mysteriously transformed by God into the Body and Blood of Christ. Zwingli however, read the same scriptures and rejected the interpretation by Luther and saw Communion as a simple memorial service in the church. 

The idea of Scripture Alone also makes it impossible for the true history of the Church from 33-386ad to be understood. While the writings that finally made up the New Testament were in existence, there were many others also passed around in the local churches. The doctrine of the Church, however, was passed down from the Apostles to the Bishops in an unbroken line of succession. If the Church had been dependent on Scripture she would not have been able to overcome the persecution of the first three centuries and still evangelize the world. 

In the Church, doctrine was not created by the bishops or the people, it was passed down by the Apostles. Historically the Church followed “The Apostles Doctrine” and so no new doctrine was necessary after the Apostles completed their service to God in the Church. 

So what value is there in our choice of religion? In a previous article, we looked at the fact that God will save those whom HE chooses, and we cannot presume to declare who will be saved and who will not be saved. We know that salvation is the end result when we are saved from Hell in the final judgement. So why should I be in the Ancient Church? Why can I not choose to be in a church where I am “comfortable” where the music makes me “feel God” and where I enjoy the people? 

Once we have seen the truth and know that the Ancient Christian Church exists, we are responsible to that truth; Not to man, but to God. Once we were ignorant of our own sin, but then someone came along and told us the truth. We learned that we had fallen short of God’s plan and at that point we were responsible for that knowledge. To ignore the facts once we learn them makes us responsible to God for those facts. Millions of people are completely ignorant about the Orthodox Christian Church, but not you. You know that the Church exists. 

“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” Hebrews 2:1-4 NKJV

You can believe anything in this world, the world is filled with religions. There are tens-of-thousands of religions that call themselves “Christian” and they range from the simple to the extremely complicated. There are community churches where many common songs are sung, and a person preaches whatever is important to them at the time. There are churches with catchy names, preachers with catchy titles and tag lines for their sermons each time they speak. There are churches that the preacher has no title, he is just called “pastor” or “minister” and others where there are husband and wife teams that are called “pastors” or even where they’re called “Doctor” but really what value is the choice?

Some will say, “I feel the Spirit when I go to that church” or “They minister to me at that church” but what are we saying? We are saying that I’m following my feelings. I get excited when I’m there because the music makes me happy. It reminds me of happy times, I’m reminded of how God loves me or something else. Does this have value? Is the way I feel what matters?  

This church has a youth group and it keeps my teenagers occupied and they talk about God. They want to go there, there is good influence for the kids etc. etc. but what value is there in this if what the children learn only makes them want to hang out with a different group? Are they changed in their attitudes at home? Are the different? Or are they simply emotionally moved and that wears off they’re the same person with the same focus? 

Does it matter what church I choose? If God will, in His sovereign action, choose who He saves and who He rejects, does it matter what religion I choose?

To ask that is similar to the question St. Paul asked to the Romans. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Romans 6:1 NKJV

If God chooses in the final judgement, why does it matter where I go to church?  

What God are you serving? There’s a point that we must ask ourselves what God we serve. Doesn’t everyone worship the same God? They use the same words.  

Many religions use the same words, they often pray the same kinds of prayers, but they often mean very different things. One religion talks about the “Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” but they teach that the Father is a flesh and bone, created being that has attained to be a god. That same religion talks of the Son also as a created being of flesh and bone and that the Son is truly the physical brother of Lucifer. That religion speaks of the Holy Spirit as simply a wind, an affect of God’s presence. 

The Ancient Christian Church, the Orthodox Christian Church teaches the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, as Jesus and the Apostles taught. The first Council of the Church in 325ad was called because there was a well known preacher that preached Jesus was a created being. The Greek words that were at the heart of that controversy were homoousios and homoiousios. This might seem confusing but really it’s the difference between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit being the same substance – homoousios or just similar substance – homoiousios. Many heresies grew up in the Church over how to understand God. Many people that call themselves Christians today bristle at the thought of calling Jesus God. They don’t mind the term “Son of God” but to understand that there is only one God as in: ““Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” Deuteronomy 6:4 NKJV and connect it to Jesus saying: “I and My Father are one.” John 10:30 NKJV and Jesus using the word that indicated he was one in essence and being with the Father, is difficult. 

If the church I go to has the wrong God, no matter what else they say, having the wrong God matters. If the religion that I have chosen has the wrong God in the beginning, all the good that the religion does is really for nothing. They can have social welfare efforts that they fund, they can have food pantries, they can have magnificent places of worship, all meaningless, all vanity if their God is really just another god of their own design. 

Many people who call themselves Christian have told me, “The God I believe in won’t send anyone to hell” or something like that. As if just judgement is somehow wrong and judging God by human standards is somehow correct. This would indicate that the god they worship is a god of their own design and making. 

The Orthodox Christian Church is not some denomination, some sect, that has divided from others during the Reformation, it is the original Church, founded and built by Jesus on the testimony of the Apostles and the one Church that even through centuries of persecution has not been defeated by the gates of Hades. She has endured from the first century and while she has had forces from inside and outside trying to destroy her, she is still here, preaching the truth. She has resisted the forces of heresy in the attempts to rob Jesus of his divinity, demote the Holy Spirit to some lesser force, the heresies of Gnosticism and Nestorianism even the heresies of the modern day with Moralistic Therapeudic Deism becoming the latest. The message of the Orthodox (right teaching) Christian Church remains constant. 

The choice of religion is not simply a choice between white bread and wheat bread. They are not equals. The choice of religion, once we have heard of the truth, becomes the choice of an adult. Choosing for instance, to study the scriptures guided by our own vain imaginations, hoping to “get it right” or studying the scriptures guided by the Fathers of the Church who wrote to us many books to guide us. The Fathers’ sermons were written for us to learn from. Reading the scriptures guided by the Fathers gives us greater understanding.

Choose your religion wisely, seek the narrow path, seek the narrow gate where you take up your own cross and follow Jesus. Find the truth of the Gospel where you can be baptized into Christ and put on Christ, where you can die to sin daily, where you seek a life where you are crucified daily to the passions and sin that can delay you and seek the fulfillment in serving the God who created you. The Only True Living God who created all things visible and invisible. 

Is there salvation apart from The Church?

Is there salvation apart from The Church?
Many people like to claim they are “saved”. Often times they ask others if THEY are “saved”. 
I think it is at least worth the examination following my article HERE. With the organism of the Church, being historically traceable to the Apostles in the first century, many people who are hung up on their “organization” or mine, they will respond with offense. “You’re saying unless I’m in your “organization” I’m not “saved”. This really isn’t the conclusion to be made so let’s look at Salvation. 
Salvation from what?  
What are we “saved” from? Is there a simple answer to this question? Is there a universal answer to this question. Let’s look first at the Scriptures for an answer.
In Luke 7 when Jesus was visiting the house and table of a Pharisee, a woman who was known as a prostitute, judging from the context, came in and crying tears of repentance bathed the Lord’s feet with her tears and wiped them off with her hair. She kissed his feet in love as she cried tears of repentance. He declared that her sins, that were many, were forgiven. Jesus also told her that her faith had saved her. 
In Acts chapters 10 and 11 is the story of Cornelius who was known as a devout man, who prayed to God and gave alms to the people. He was told to send for St. Peter, was told where to find him, and was told that Peter would tell him what he needed to know. Peter was going to tell him how to receive remission of sins. 
In Acts chapter 16 when Paul and Silas were beaten and put in prison, an earthquake caused all the jail doors to be opened. The Jailer, fearing punishment almost committed suicide until Paul called out to him to reassure him that everyone was still in their cell. The jailer asked them,“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:30 NKJV. 
Each of these times, the response was to tell the listeners about Jesus, the good news about Jesus resurrection and forgiveness or remission of sins with believing and baptism. 
On the Day of Pentecost 33ad, when Peter was preaching, those listeners that were devout were affected to the point that they also inquired about what THEY must do. Peter was clear, believe and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 
The Church, founded on the testimony of the Apostles, built by Jesus,the same Church that the gates of Hades cannot prevail against, has been the primary place where this Salvation can be found. We enter the journey toward salvation there, not that we have obtained it or can presume to “be saved” but we begin with belief and baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, making us part of the Body of Christ, builds us up. Our goal is to become like Christ, what we call Theosis. We grow, mature, learn, experience God in our lives and in our worship. 
Salvation is the end result of this life. We certainly are not saved from the weakness of our humanity, we are still human. We are not saved from ever sinning again because we still sin and need forgiveness. It’s part of our growth to learn how to avoid sin and we do get better but as long as we are here, we are not complete. So we have not obtained salvation and we still have the option to turn and walk away.  
The main question above, is there Salvation apart from the Church? I cannot say for certain, I do know that within the Church, all that is necessary for salvation ultimately is provided. Will everyone in the Church be saved in the end? It is clear that not everyone will be simply because not everyone is truly growing. There are people that come into the Church and subsequently leave the Church. There are those who are raised in the Church and in a lifetime never learn or commit themselves to the goal of becoming like Christ. Some people seem to be trusting the fact that they were raised in the Church and think that no matter how selfish, or sinful they are, they are safe. So then, while everything necessary for salvation is available in the Church, not everyone in the Church will be saved in the end. 
Take the parable of the ten virgins. Five were wise, five were foolish. The wise virgins had abundant supplies of oil for their lamps, while the foolish virgins did not. The Fathers taught us that the oil was symbolic of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. Those with plenty, we’re living in such a way as to be continuously supplied, filled up with the Holy Spirit. Those who were foolish were not. When the Bridegroom arrived, those without oil tried to rush out and acquire oil. Those with plenty of oil were welcomed into the marriage and the doors were closed. Some will “make it” while others will be excluded. 
God is sovereign over all, and to try to presume who will be saved and who will not is just as sinful. I cannot say at any moment that “I know that I will be saved” anymore than I can say another will not be saved. It’s up to God. I cannot say that someone cannot be saved if they are in that other group, or this other group over here, all I CAN say is that everything necessary for our ultimate salvation is provided in the Church. 
The idea of salvation being acquired at a specific instance, through the recitation of a prayer, the declaration of repentance, a profession of faith is an idea that was born out of the reformation. The Church did not teach that from the beginning. Today we see it in evangelistic services, there’s an altar call, an invitation of sorts, and people are guided in what they should do according to whatever religious group is conducting the meeting. This ultimately requires the religious person to lead the new converts in a prayer with certain elements, recognizing the convert is a sinner, being sorry, apologetic, repenting (changing direction) and choosing not to sin, and the new convert is declared “saved” or they’re told they are able to claim that. 
People will look at that date as when they were “saved” and are told that never changes. Often the “new” wears off, the excitement dies down, the person goes back to their life and nothing really changes. Their life does not become like Christ, the sins of their life stay with them, so nothing is seen or heard from them again. They might go to church infrequently, Christmas, Easter etc. but in reality nothing ever changed. 
So CAN someone be saved in the end that was not part of the Church, that ancient, original Church? I believe that is up to God and He will save those who HE judges and decides are worthy. I cannot presume to claim that no one OUTSIDE the Church will not be saved. 
Will everyone INSIDE the Church be saved? Clearly that would also be a presumption that I cannot make. There are those who, while they are sitting at the Lord’s table never eat and starve to death.  
Because there is no guarantee, many will use this as an excuse to say, “I will stay in my religion because no one can say that God CANNOT save me here.” This is flawed thinking since the light has shown to the Church. It is God’s plan that men come to the knowledge of the truth and are saved. The Church has the truth, spoken by Jesus, taught by the Apostles, passed down through an unbroken succession of the bishops from the first century to the modern day. To ignore the truth and continue in the same religion, while everyone has the right to do that, it opens us up to the results, the consequences of ignoring this great truth. 

What is “the Church” an organism or an organization?

This is rhetorical but necessary for this discussion to begin.

Often when I’m discussing matters of the Church with Protestants, the responses center around “your church” or “my church” which only serves to confuse the discussion.

When Jesus was with his disciples and traveling to Jerusalem, Matthew 16, he asked them for their testimony of who He was and told them on that testimony he would build his Church.

So what is this Church? Is it an organism or an organization. In the dictionary under the word “organism” we find the following:




1. a form of life composed of mutually interdependent parts that maintain various vital processes.

2. a form of life considered as an entity; an animal, plant, fungus, protistan, or moneran.

3. any organized body or system conceived of as analogous to a living being: the governmental organism.

4. any complex thing or system having properties and functions determined not only by the properties and relations of its individual parts, but by the character of the whole that they compose and by the relations of the parts to the whole.

These definitions are truly applicable to the Church in many ways. The Holy Scriptures refer to the Church as a BODY.

In 1 Corinthians 12 St. Paul uses the body to describe the Church. Each member, having been baptized into Christ as members of one body. The members of the body, he continues, cannot reject each other. They are interdependent as the hand cannot reject the foot because they are part of one body.

Saint Paul to the Galatians said:

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

Galatians 3:27 NKJV

Saint Paul concludes his teaching in 1 Corinthians 12 like this:

“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.”

I Corinthians 12:27 NKJV

So why is it that the Church is described as a body? The BODY of Christ. I think it’s obvious by the definitions above that the members are interdependent, while they are individuals and entered the Church as individuals, once baptized they have “put on Christ” and are no longer individuals and independent but are part of the whole and interdependent on all others in the BODY.

When we come to the Church, we hear and respond to the Gospel, as in Acts 2:37 “Men and brethren, what shall we do?””

Acts 2:37b NKJV

We believe and we are baptized for the remission of our sins, yes my friend, from the beginning of the Church the baptism was for the remission or forgiveness of our sins. The Apostles preached it from the beginning of the Church. It is an unmistakable, irreplaceable step in our forgiveness of our sin.

This begins our journey and makes us part of the BODY of Christ. This body, the Church, is identifiable by certain characteristics:

1. The Body is a SINGLE entity. There are not thousands of “Bodies” there is one Body.

2. There isn’t a living Church and a dead Church, there is only “The Church”.

3. The Church is universal, it is catholic, not the ROMAN Catholic Church, but the true universal Church. We see in Revelation 15 that there is a temple in Heaven, so the Church is worshiping in Heaven. Jesus is described in the book of Hebrews as our High Priest in Heaven. Those who have died before us are worshipping in Heaven as we are here so we all are one Body.

4. The Church is visible, there are no invisible Christians. As Jesus rose from the dead visibly, so His Body is visible.

5. The Church, in all of its parts, believes and teaches the same things. The teachings of the Apostles has not changed from the beginning. We are certain that the Church is consistent throughout time. The Church does not change doctrine because society changes.

Now let us examine the many other religions which make the claim of being Christian. Do they have a beginning point sometime in recent history? Do we know who began the religion? Even those who claim that they AREN’T a religion, we know they are. Do they teach all that was taught by the Ancient Church?

I’m not going to belabor this point, I’ll simply look at the movements from which many came.

The Reformation: started in the 16th Century from a desire to reform the Roman church which had been in heresy and Schism from the Church since 1054. Marked by belief that the ORIGINAL church had descended into heresy and needed to be reformed. The unspoken belief here is that when Jesus said in Matthew 16 that he would build His Church and the Gates of Hades would not prevail against it that Jesus somehow lied or “got it wrong”.

Since Jesus is God, and “God is not a man that he should lie” Numbers 23:19, the idea that the Gates of Hades prevailed and the Church fell into apostasy or error and needed reforming is simply false. So those who believe the reformation began the Church again or correctly are simply living in error and need to find the True Church.

There is a movement began in the American Plains known as the “Restoration Movement” also with a similar error, that they needed to RESTORE the true church. This was spearheaded by a man named Campbell. It gave rise to “The Christian Churches and Churches of Christ” and other such similar groups. Some in that group deny the Holy Trinity, some do not. Some baptize in the Name of Jesus not in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as Jesus instructed.

There are many divisions from those two movements where Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have grown out.

Looking at these groups, many would argue that they are “good” people and that’s not the issue. The real issue is are they in the Body of Christ?

If the Body of Christ began on the Day of Pentecost in 33ad, and has continued to teach the same things the Apostles taught, if we are not joined with them the conclusion is that we are NOT part of the Body of Christ.

Now somewhere in the 16th century, during the Reformation, the teaching of Salvation being an occurrence at some measurable point in time, “I was saved on June 1st” for instance, then people began to think of being outside the Body of Christ as a state of not being “saved”. This tends to have people unable or unwilling to accept the teaching that there is but one Body of Christ. Their response is similar to, “if I’m not a member of YOUR church then you say I’m not ‘SAVED’ which to them makes sense, but again it is rooted in false teaching not truth.

Since we are to be saved FROM something, death, Hell etc. claiming to be SAVED now seems a bit presumptuous. Regardless of the mental gymnastics you try to do, following the Apostles teachings as they passed them down to the Church will prevent such presumption; it can also prevent taking offense from these truths as they are being explained.

So the first question, the title question, is the Church an organism or an organization. The answer is that the Church founded by Jesus on the Testimony of the Apostles is a living organism. Yes there’s some organization that it possesses to pay the light bill, the maintenance of the structures etc. but the CHURCH is a living ORGANISM. If I want to be part of the Church, I must be made one with the Body of Christ. I don’t do this by filling out a membership card, I must be Baptized into Christ.

If you are part of an organization that tells you that the Body of Christ is comprised of people from all different organizations calling themselves Christian, you need to examine what you have been taught. The Church, no matter where you find it, teaches the same things, it’s not going to change with the times.

I welcome discussion and questions

Blessing Israel

   Many times I have heard people claim that Israel was “God’s chosen people” and they would claim “God will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel” and it is almost always put out there as some Axiom among evangelical Christians. It’s important that the issue is viewed clearly, honestly, openly.    The basis for this initially comes from a passage in Genesis. “Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” Genesis 12:1-3 NKJV

   The common belief is that Israel is “God’s chosen people” and that comes from ““For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” Deuteronomy 7:6 NKJV

   So I feel interested, compelled to see where this really goes. What is the truth? Where does this really go when I don’t make a hasty conclusion?

   Who are God’s people NOW? Who is Israel NOW? Are God’s chosen people a people that are Godly?  

   The country that we know as Israel today is not a religious nation. It is a secular country. There is no Temple where God chose to put His Name. One of the hallmarks of Israel being special was that they built a temple where God chose to put His Name. He was known to reside with Israel while they obeyed his Laws. No other country could be successful against them while God was with them. That did not last. 

   The times where Israel was rebellious, where they abandoned God, they were carried off to captivity. 

   Today’s world does look at Israel as somehow different. I’m thinking there is more sober ways of looking at the country of Israel. As an ethnic identity, the belief that Jews have in their own separateness, is special. It holds them together and gives them a point of contact that they have convinced themselves that they’re special. It gives them a fervor in their military operations. They have created an ultimate spy organization, known round the world as vicious and completely fanatical. That idea of Israel being “God’s chosen people” really is a call for fanatical action. 

   Paul was clear that the important thing is not the genetic connection to Israel but that only those who are Spiritually Israel. “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Romans 2:28-29 NKJV

   Looking at the New Testament scriptures we are identified as a NEW nation. Saint Peter said, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” I Peter 2:9-10 NKJV

   Looking at this, we see that Christians are the Holy Nation. Christians are “the people of God” not some nation established under man’s laws. So when people want to claim Israel as God’s chosen people they should consider a few things. The nation of Israel is not a religious nation. The modern nation of Israel is not one established by God’s hand but they were established by the United Nations in 1948, the hand of man. They are not a holy nation, they don’t follow God’s law. While using the name they are as far from God as possible. They’re not a just government and do mistreat those foreigners living among them in violation of the Law of God given by Moses. 

   The modern nation of Israel is not living a Godly life. They mistreat those foreigners that live among them. They were established by man and not God. 

   To support the modern nation of Israel is like supporting every other nation. They are not something special, as Zionists would declare. The modern nation of Israel is just like every other nation that has won wars to establish the nation’s right to exist. They do not have the right to exist because they’re something special in God’s mind, they’re just like any other country. 

   To extend any other importance to Israel is misguided at best and at worst outright heresy. 

I’ll Pray for You

I’ll pray for you. How often have we heard that? Sometimes, we ask our friends to pray for us. We are going through a crisis, a health scare, a financial difficulty, a job search, we ask for prayer. The commitment to pray from our friends is appropriate. We want to hear that they are committing to that action. It makes us feel better to know we have their support. 
Other times we hear it and it isn’t the same. I have been told this by people at the end of a discussion. A discussion that was a disagreement. The statement rings hollow, maybe even hypocritical, we disagree on something and the other person says, “I’ll pray for you.” Why would they say that? Often it is because others are going to hear or read this statement. It makes them appear to be “the spiritual one” in the discussion. What is it really? What did Jesus say about prayer?

““And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matthew 6:5-6 NKJV

Jesus cautioned his disciples NOT to make a show of their prayers. He identified those that prayed on the street corners as hypocrites because they were doing it to be seen. He instructed his disciples, of whom we say we are, to pray secretly. 

Recently, I had a discussion with a young man about how we interacted. The insistence that he kept adding me to groups associated with his religion. He had on more than one occasion told me that I needed to “meet Jesus” and how he had implied that I could only do so if I went to this young man’s church. This conclusion of his got me thinking. He was making this invitation in a discussion under his control. It was his social media discussion thread. 

The habit expressed by this young man’s interaction with me was simple. He only had such discussions where he could control what others saw. If he didn’t like what I said, or could not adequately respond to what I said, the comments I made would be deleted. This made him appear to have all the answers. He did this in an open discussion forum only. 

I created a closed group, where only members of the group could view what was said between members. This would create a place where each member stands along. Discussion becomes therefore, one of exchange of ideas instead of self-promotion. We would not be able to advertise our strengths, nor the weaknesses of the other. This young man rejected this forum. I was left to conclude that either he was unwilling to discuss ideas unless he could showcase the discussions to friends, he was unwilling to have discussions that he could not control and delete whatever he chose to delete, or that I was not debating and discussing with only him. 

I thought, perhaps, our discussions were viewed by his friends and he was getting a sort of clandestine assistance from others. Perhaps I was really debating with a group of several people with only this young guy as the face that I saw. 

The last discussion we had, after he continuously had deleted my responses, I called him on it. I pointed out how he was doing this. Why would I mention it to him? Truth. Sometimes truth requires that someone be called out when they are doing things to appear something bigger then they really are. 

Then he said, “I’ll pray for you” which really rang as hypocritical. It seemed pharisaical in how it was delivered. Why would he say that? I had not requested prayer. I did not have a need for which I had requested prayer. No, he was making a show, declaring out in public (for it was only public to his friends) that he was so spiritual that he was going to pray for me. His desire to pray for me was clearly because I disagreed with his behavior and his actions to delete my responses. 

Let’s look again at the passage from the beginning. 

““And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matthew 6:5-6 NKJV

If you are going to pray for someone that has not requested it, what should you do. How should we approach it. If we want to pray that God reveals something to someone which we know then how should we pray? My conclusion would be, IN SECRET not as some public pronouncement. If we are agonizing about someone with which we disagree, deciding to pray for them is rewarding but not as a public pronouncement but in secret. Jesus made it clear that “your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” so pray secretly. 

If You see that I’m in need of prayer, then by all means pray for me. Pray in ur daily prayers for me as often as you wish. You never need to tell me publicly “I’m praying for you” because then the reward for that spiritual effort is robbed from you. By all means pray for me but let God reward you by how he answers those prayers, openly. 

How does what I believe apply to my life?

In Orthodoxy we often overlook this question. We overlook it for a variety of reasons. We are not a group that is legalistic and formula based. We don’t look at our lives in a manner like some who would say “If I do “this” then “that” will follow.” Life with God is not a formula. As I have presented before, the entire “instantaneous salvation” with its “assurance of salvation” teaching and the “sinner’s prayer” at the altar call is relatively new as far as doctrine is concerned. 
In Orthodoxy, we participate in the divine mysteries of God from Confession, both in our daily prayer life and with our spiritual father to guide us, to baptism because as we are taught and we celebrate in song, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ”. We step further to receiving Communion, which for us is not a simple memorial but rather we receive the Immaculate Body and Precious Blood of Christ our True God. We don’t attempt to explain HOW the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, we simply accept that since he said it, it happens. It is translated into the Body and Blood of our Lord. 

These are participatory actions. We don’t baptize people as some response to them declaring their belief, but rather it is all participation in the Divine Life of Christ. We put on Christ in baptism and as such we are buried with Him in that baptism so that as He was raised back to life, we can be raised to walk in a newness of life. We know that baptism itself was never discounted in the early Church. Before anyone tries to bring it up, the thief on the cross next to Jesus does not count as his “Baptism” was his sweat and his own blood and not the same as our Baptism, a Baptism of his suffering. So let’s not try to mangle the truth with minutiae. 

When we participate in the Mysteries of the Church, we are participating directly in the Divine Life of God. We are joined with him. When we pray in our daily prayer rule, a prayer rule we can follow in discipline, we participate in God’s divine nature. 

When we take upon us a simple prayer which we can use anytime our mind is idle, such as the “Jesus Prayer” we are able to defeat temptation and cause demons to flee because this is spiritual battle. Many who read these essays and articles of mine may be asking, “What is the “Jesus Prayer” that you mentioned?” The Jesus Prayer is a simple prayer, similar to the prayer prayed by the Publican in the parable of “the Publican and the Pharisee” which Jesus taught in Luke 18:10-14 specifically the tax collector prayed in humility, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” and so in our daily walk we incorporate the Jesus prayer which similarly says, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

This is arguably the most powerful sentence that can be prayed by the Christian. When temptation confronts is, like in traffic when someone thoughtlessly cuts us off, we can pray this prayer. When some other temptation arises, we can pray this prayer. As long as we are repenting, we are humbly seeking God. Saint Hesychios taught us to utilize this prayer to do spiritual warfare against our enemies because by seeking forgiveness we are continually keeping ourselves participating in that divine nature we desire. 

The Holy Mysteries are important to that participation. We are seeking Theosis, to become God-like, to be Christ like in our daily walk. There are not going to be wrote answers to challenges which we face. I cannot say that anytime I face (whatever problem) I should always say or do (solutions listed in book). Every challenge I face or that you face will be answered by how deeply we are experiencing God’s energy in our lives. We learn as we grow. 

The Mysteries of the Church are not simply rituals to be followed. From the outside looking in on us the Holy Mysteries look like dry or dull rituals. They are rituals, to be certain, but rituals are not bad in themselves. When we baptize a child or an adult convert, we are fulfilling not only the command of the Lord but we are taking that person, whether infant or adult into the presence of God, burying them with Christ in Baptism and raising them up out of that death to sin, into a new life that they must learn. When we follow that baptism with Chrismation, a term many are not familiar with, we anoint them with Holy Chrism and usher in the Holy Spirit as an anointing influence in this new life. We are marking this person as one of God’s people, bringing them into the Body of Christ. Allowing them to begin this life with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is Worshipped and Glorified, He who spake by the prophets. 

The Mysteries, such as Communion also “appear” like a ritual, however when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, it is transformative. It brings with it forgiveness, regeneration, healing of soul and body. It’s not simply a memorial as some would teach, it matters that we continue the practices passed down from the Apostles since this IS the Apostolic Church.

These are universally understood truths. The Catholic nature of the Church, that universality of application of truth and practice is not understood simply by understanding that definition. The secular definition of “Catholic” is certainly part of it but the spiritual application of the word “Catholic” would follow that the Church is whole, complete, lacking in nothing. That’s why the local parish, each local parish is whole and complete, lacking in nothing, and is also part of the larger Catholic Church. This is not to connect the Orthodox to the Roman Church, as we know we have no connection. That is a discussion for a different time. Suffice it to say that we are talking about the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” and the truths we teach are not ethnic, or nationalized, regionalized, but are truly known to be universally applied making us one, complete, lacking in nothing Church. One Body of Christ speaking the same thing as we were instructed by Saint Paul. 

Formula does not apply to God. It cannot apply to God. God is not a created being and therefore, logic and formulae do not apply. I cannot say, “If I do (this) then (that) will be the result. God deals with each of us where we are. We are participants of the Energy not the Essence of God, by our belief, our baptism puts on Christ, our prayer builds us as Christ-like but it is fluid. God works in us, as the Scripture says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13 NKJV

The uncreated God cannot be reduced to formulas. It’s not a recipe that we each follow. It’s a relationship that we develop, not alone but in keeping with the established teachings of the Apostles passed down to those overseers they ordained. Worthy men who could teach others also. Those men were not perfect in themselves but we see, looking at their lives, in the history of the Church, they all spoke the same. They all taught the same truths. 

The uncreated God cannot be reduced to formulas. If your idea of God can be reduced to formulas that guide your counseling then you have created your own god. A while back I discussed this kind of religion, where each person has created God in his own image. The attitude of “I don’t believe THAT” whatever “THAT” might be. The groups that will call anyone that declares the phrase “Jesus is Lord” as a member of some unseen Body of Christ. If Jesus was visible, I must accept that His Body is also visible. It’s not made up of people that believe differently but they all believe what the Apostles taught. It’s not made up of people that believe new doctrine but Apostolic teaching. 

So what does it mean? In my last article, I explored “Salvation” and how that’s the end result of this Theosis that we seek. It is the result of the Final Judgement, not the result of us following a formula, reciting a prayer which looks much like an incantation. So it isn’t that I’m declaring that “You aren’t saved” it’s simply that I’m trying to show you the way to find Theosis. The path to God is not a formula but an open door. The path is narrow, it’s not a big wide highway to God. It is odd that in the twentieth century there were songs in popular culture about a highway to Hell and a stairway to Heaven. I wonder if that’s a way that people understood it at the time. Jesus did say that narrow is the way and narrow is the gate that leads to God. So if you look around and find a crowd, maybe you should question why. Why are there a bunch of mega-churches with these new doctrines?  

I cannot tell you that you CANNOT ultimately be saved while following the heterodox belief systems, who God chooses to allow salvation is for Him to decide. I CAN tell you that the Body of Christ is visible and has been since the Day of Pentecost in 33ad. I CAN say that the Jesus which is preached by the ancient Church, that Church that produced the New Testament, that Church that gave us The Creed, the Jesus preached by this Church said, “Upon this Rock (referring to the testimony of the Apostles) I will build my Church and the Gates of Hades will not prevail against it. That Church never needed reformation, restoration, or otherwise rescued from apostasy. If you are in a church that teaches you that at any time since 33ad the Church lost her way and needed to be reformed, that church is preaching a different Jesus. That church that teaches you that the ancient Church was lost and needed to be redirected is really teaching that the Gates of Hades prevailed against the Church that Jesus built on the Apostles’ testimony. If they’re teaching you this, they are saying that Jesus lied. They’re also teaching you that man’s will is greater then the power of God and the Holy Spirit was powerless to prevent this.  

So then, to return to the beginning and the title question, How does what I believe apply to my life? What do I do? What about evangelism? Should I not be concerned with the salvation of others?  

If I grow in Theosis, become more like Christ, in love, in compassion, in knowledge then the Holy Spirit will be working in me. My life will be as a beacon and others will be drawn to me. My primary job, function, desire is to be like Christ. Jesus saves people, not me. I need to concentrate on getting close to Him and being like him. 

One more thing that I think needs to be addressed. This subject will soon get its own article because the subject is too broad to be handled quickly but here is a taste. Many heterodox make a big topic of having a “Personal” relationship with God. It is often said they ask if you have received Jesus as your “Personal Lord and Savior” and these questions tend to chain into others. So in the context I have started let me address these kinds of questions. 

I have two sons, they are adults with family lives. Neither of them has ever ask me for a “Personal Relationship” and for good reason, it’s a meaningless request. Of course we have a personal relationship because they’re my sons. A son never needs to question his relationship with his father, at least not a son in a healthy family. This is also true of an immortal soul, we know that we have a personal relationship with God by virtue of our creation. We don’t need to ask. There are references that people declare “My Lord and My God” but nowhere in scripture are we instructed to seek such a “personal” as in ownership of a relationship. 

The Orthodox are said to “bristle” at the question and some think it is because we are not comfortable with the question. The most likely reason some think we bristle at the question is because it really isn’t Orthodox. We were born of water in baptism and the Spirit through Chrismation when we were received into the Body of Christ. The immortal soul cannot ask for what it knows exists. We are children of God and that relationship exists. 

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we begin it, not MY Father but OUR Father because our relationship to the communal family is where we focus. When we pray we sometimes mingle the community with us singularly but that’s not the same thing that is stressed by the heterodox when they ask us about a personal relationship with God. 

I find it odd that those people who stress such ideas and fads, never find a scripture reference that declares that we must seek this relationship. The people that say that “if it is not in scripture then it is not a valid teaching” yet there’s no place in scripture that even THAT is stated. If it is important for our life, shouldn’t it be there?

Important teachings that are clearly stated, believe and be baptized for the remission of your sins. Jesus said, “Unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood you have no part of me.” So communion is shown as necessary, not simply a memorial. When Jesus gave bread and wine to his disciples at their last supper He told them it was his body and blood. It became clear to them that this is what He was teaching them and it became part of what they taught the Church. 

So now we see that each person in the Church has a clear mission, to become Christ-like, Theosis. Each person is not tasked with immediately going out as an evangelist, but their theosis will bring others to Christ. They don’t need to “save others” by going out into the street “witnessing” because Jesus takes care of bringing others. Their primary focus is to build their knowledge and draw closer to God. Walking in their daily life, exercising under the direction of the people God has placed in their life. This “exercising” isn’t physical as in running etc. it is learning to pray, fast, study, experiencing God in the Divine Liturgy. Orthodox life is experiential in nature, it isn’t static but dynamic, it isn’t abstract. 

Orthodox worship is different then most are aware of. Is there “ritual”? Yes. Man is designed for ritual, a prescribed method or pattern in worship. Sometimes people recoil from “ritual” as if the word has some negative connotation. Ritual gives us a pattern so that we can experience God. The Church has been liturgical from the beginning, many books have been written to address this and it follows the fact that all religion before was also liturgical. The disciples were Jews and had a pattern in their history of how to worship. The ritual of pattern gives us a foundation. In times of doubt, stress, even in times of plenty we have a foundation.  

As the newly enlightened people, those who are building their knowledge and experience with God, grow, they learn first the basic Liturgical patterns. Later we all focus on what is needed for our own lives. We apply what we are taught to our lives and we grow. Theosis is becoming like Christ, we don’t get to experience God’s Nature or Essence but we experience His Energy in action in our lives. Each of us is gifted in different ways. Just like the early Church, there are spiritual gifts that build up the Church. How terrible would it be if our church offices only had Pastors and Teachers? There needs to be managers, administrators, people who can budget and handle different business items as well. Just like God provided to Moses when he was building the Tabernacle in the wilderness, God provided craftsmen to do all the special things needed. 

Are You Saved?

This question is one of the Protestant Evangelical questions that often starts conversations. I know it has been for decades even when I was an evangelical. To the Protestant Evangelical the belief in a “Salvation” that is instantaneous and tied to a moment in time is essential.

My friends in that community are often put off by the teaching of the ancient Church. Many times their answer is “If that’s what you believe then in your eyes I’m not saved.” That conclusion often leads them to be instantly offended. Let’s look at that belief.

The idea of an instantaneous salvation began with Martin Luther. It was not taught before the reformation. The teaching was firmly rooted in Luther’s doctrine of Sola Scriptura which said that Scripture Alone was the basis for all teaching.

First to understand is that the New Testament was collected and canonized in 386-389ad clearly 356 years after the Church began. The Church did not wait to teach until there was a New Testament, as a matter of fact the Book of Acts, history of the beginning of the Church says: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

Acts 2:41-42 NKJV

It’s notable that in these two verses that after Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost, those who received his words (nothing says receive Jesus) those people were baptized and they continued in the Apostles’ doctrine fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers. The focus I am putting on the Apostles’ doctrine is intentional. There is no place where St. Luke (writer of the book of Acts) defines this phrase. We simply know they were taught and continued in that teaching, that doctrine.

The areas where the Apostles went, they preached this Gospel and baptized. The local churches needed overseers and the overseers (otherwise called bishops) were ordained to care for and teach the local churches. Timothy and Titus had been left behind by St. Paul with instructions to take all that he had taught them by word or example and teach faithful men who could teach others. These are two that we know about because he referred to this task. If St. Paul used that plan in those two places, I think it is safe to conclude the other Apostles either did it themselves or had others serve that function for them. After all, the twelve were special, we are certain, but there is the reference to the seventy that also were sent out by Jesus. History tells us they also went out preaching and founding new local churches also. Zebedee the father of James and John, who also was referred to in history as Aristobulus took a group of disciples to the area now known as the British Isles.

The Church was seriously concerned and the apostles made sure to tell the local churches that all of the people spoke and believed the same thing. The letters from St Paul were ways that he redirected the local churches when they strayed from his teachings. He made sure to tell the Corinthians: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

I Corinthians 1:10 NKJV

The Apostles were not allowing divisions, denominations or other separations in the local churches so that the Church could be ONE. Jesus prayed for his disciples before the crucifixion that they would be one. So divisions were not tolerated and teaching was uniform throughout the Church.

As the Church grew, many more local churches grew up and the organization of the Church solidified around the local bishops. History shows us that as the local churches grew up, administration of the overall Church was organized. Why do I mention this? Because many in the modern world want to disregard the organized Church in the ancient world. Saint Paul mentioned various spiritual gifts in his letter to the Romans and still others in his letter to the Corinthians. In his letter to the Romans he made specific mention to a gift of administration or government (depending on who translates the passage) and it is clear that God gifted some to do organization.

If we look to ancient Israel, when Moses was being given the task of creating a Tabernacle (a temporary place for worship) and God told him there were already people gifted to accomplish each task, metallurgy or fabric or anything else. If God took care to provide artisans for the image in the desert for those people, it is clear that since the Apostle Paul noted there was a gift of administration, that the organization of the Church, and by extension the local churches, was similarly provided for.

The growth of the Church, the adding of local churches, continued into the beginning of the fourth century. After Christianity was made legal, and Constantine made it the official religion of his empire, a new division cropped up. A preacher named Arius decided that he could interpret teachings his own unique way. He began teaching that since Jesus was begotten of the Father, there was a time in eternity where Jesus didn’t exist so Jesus was a created being. This caused great division among local churches and distressed the whole Church. The only way to settle this division was to bring all the bishops together in a council to examine the issue. This was the pattern shown by the twelve apostles in the early church when they examined a seeming division between Paul and Peter.

The Council of Nicea brought the bishops of the Church from all over to examine and expound on the teachings of the Church. They each were afforded time to declare what they had been taught from the beginning and basically compare notes. The teaching of Arius was deemed to be heresy, and refuted, and all who had taught it were afforded the opportunity to submit to the teaching of the Apostles or be expelled as heretics. The year this happened was 325ad and the council wrote the first two sections of the Creed and sent it out to all local churches to be taught to everyone so that the Church could “speak the same thing” and uniformity in doctrine was possible. NOTE: they still had not collected the entire New Testament and many local churches did not have most of the writings of the New Testament that we have today

In 381ad another Council was called this time meeting in Constantinople to address a new teaching that was dividing and confusing the Church. The teaching about the Holy Spirit that claimed He was not God, not the same as the Father and the Son in essence and being. Some were saying the Holy Spirit was simply the effect of God being around. So the bishops, once again compared notes, expounded what they had been taught from the beginning. The last parts of the Creed were written. The group of the Church leaders finalized the Creed so that the written doctrine of the whole Church was clear, then they committed that none of it could be changed. The consensus was that anyone changing any of the Creed was to be accursed and labeled a heretic. This would mean that they could not be part of the Church as a whole. The local churches all agreed and taught this Creed. Finally the overall Church had doctrine that conformed to what had been taught and passed down from the Apostles.

The last action of the Council of Constantinople was to commission a committee or board of scholars to examine all writings that claimed to be scripture. All of these writings were examined for three years and compared to what the Church taught and thus some were found to not be consistent with the knowledge of the Church. Only those books that were consistent with previously established revelation were kept as scripture. From that collection, we have the New Testament. This was then canonized as the New Testament Scriptures and disseminated to the whole Church.

So what happened? Why did some people abandon centuries of unity to create doctrine of their own? In the 16th century, Martin Luther came along. He was part of the Roman Church. They had separated from the rest of the ancient Church in 1054ad and shortly thereafter started changing the teaching all had been following. They changed the Creed, many argued then and some argue now the change was minor but it was not minor and the Great Schism became part of history. Jumping forward and Luther was trying to reform the Roman Church. He decided that he would translate the New Testament into German for his German parish. This way he got to decide what books were included and also could use his translation to make sure the German translation fit his own doctrine. Kind of stacking the deck and do it was on.

One of those convenient teachings was one that said that only SCRIPTURE could be used for doctrine. A kind of idolatry that makes the written book superior to everything and everyone. If it’s not found in the pages of the New Testament then it’s just not valid. Odd but that teaching itself is not found anywhere in the New Testament. People rolled with it anyway. Then, there came another Luther-created doctrine, instantaneous salvation. If someone professed faith in Christ they were declared “Saved”. It is real convenient since the ancient Church never taught that.

In the ancient Church, someone heard and believed the Gospel and they were baptized and chrismated being received into the Church. The newly enlightened person would begin to learn and participate in the sacraments of the Church, the chief among them is communion. Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ for forgiveness of sin and healing of soul and body. The Christian would then seek to grow and become continuously more like Christ, a process the Church came to refer to as Theosis. Salvation was the end result when at the Final Judgement the Christian would hear Christ say, “Welcome, my good and faithful servant”

Luther came up with this idea that if someone professed faith and said the right things they could be declared “Saved” making it an instantaneous event.

Following that reasoning, modern Evangelical Protestants have evolved over the past few decades to a point that it goes something like this. A person feels guilt for being a sinner, they’re told they need to be saved, they respond in some fashion and are then told they must receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. They are often led through a prayer often called “The Sinner’s Prayer” and afterward they’re told that they’re “Saved”. So the result of reciting this incantation means they’re saved and often they’re told that all sins they committed in the past and any that they will commit in the future have now been forgiven. Nice neat package.

Well, to those who want to be part of the Body of Christ I want to tell you, it’s not reciting a prayer like an incantation. It’s not going to happen in an instant. You aren’t saved until the end when Jesus welcomes you into that salvation. You aren’t saved now.

Here, now, today you can choose to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Christian Church and begin to become more like Christ. You can begin Theosis. You will be part of the Body of Christ.

I cannot tell you that in the end you WILL or WILL NOT be saved by your religion. I can identify whether a religious belief is or is not Orthodox. To be Orthodox, something has to fit the definition of that word. Orthodox is a compound Greek word meaning right teaching. So correct teaching makes some religions Orthodox and others not Orthodox. It’s not just another school of thought or theology that is equal to others. There are multiple schools of theology and thought that are equal. For all intents and purposes that group would be called heterodox which would be multiple teaching. If you are thinking that the thousands of religious teachings that call themselves Christian are equal then that is heterodox thought. The baptists of various flavors and the charismatics of various flavors and the Pentecostals of various flavors all accepting each other as Christians are a group of heterodox churches. Can you still “make it” in the end? I cannot presume to tell you that. No one can because who God chooses to save in the final analysis is exclusively in His prerogative. Anytime someone claims to be “saved” they are presuming on God’s exclusive prerogative to decide.

So what CAN be said? I know that the best place to find the path to Theosis is the Body of Christ. This is not some invisible group as some would claim that is made up of “all true believers in all churches and denominations” it is a defined, visible, and easy to find Church. The Church says the same thing no matter what ethnicity you find it, no matter what nation you are in, that’s what is meant by the word CATHOLIC. Catholic means UNIVERSAL. Catholic is not a trademark of the Roman Church. While in the USA it seems like it. The Creed is clear when it says: “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.”

Jesus established His Church. It’s not mine, it’s not created by a specific man, it is Christ’s Church. If you want the full experience of God, you can be part of it. It is genuine.

So if you get offended in this, that’s really something you should examine in yourself. I am often told, “I can go to God directly, I don’t need a priest.” Well everyone can, you’re not special. However, I can also fulfill the scripture that says “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you can be healed.”

Theosis is not about concentrating on a few singular ideas and fulfilling those and forgetting the others, it is about concentrating on the whole counsel of God. Letting Him work on each area of your life and making you a little more like Him every day.

Christian Hinduism?

There is a belief among the Protestant believers that as long as someone declares that “Jesus is Lord” they are part of “The Church” the “Body of Christ”. There’s no real common doctrine and no real historical roots tying the modern evangelicals to the Apostles. 

The Church that Jesus built was founded on the confession of the Apostles that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” and he only referred to ONE Church. That Church was a defined entity, a group of people, yes, not a specific building, but definitely a physical organism that PEOPLE could find. God knows the heart so HE doesn’t need a physical description to find the Church. MAN needs the Church, not an organization per se but a physical entity with definitions of what makes up the Church. How does anyone know what the Church is? What does the Church believe? What of Salvation? Is Salvation only available through the Church? Are we able to know about all these other groups that call themselves Christians?
Well, let’s first realize that the Church existed for 356 years before there was a defined New Testament to refer to. There were books and letters that were shared and read in the Church, but there wasn’t a collection like we have today that people knew was Holy Scripture. That itself made it necessary for the Church to make some definitions, list parameters of what a Christian is. At the time, early fourth century, there was a preacher that was traveling around preaching something different. He was preaching that Jesus, being begotten of the Father, was a created being. If that were true then Jesus couldn’t be God. 

After considering the input from all the teachers and bishops of the Church, the first part of the Creed was composed. It defined the belief about the Father and the Son. The first council of the Church closed with instructions to take this Creed and make certain that everyone in the Church was aware of and agreed to it. This was so that everyone in the local churches spoke the same, believed the same, and communicated it abroad. 

A couple of decades past when someone began trying to teach about the Holy Spirit. The exact teaching is unimportant to this current discussion but the solution was another council where the leaders of the Church gathered again. They considered carefully all the teachings and once again identified the teaching that was correct and common among the local churches. They then composed the completion of the Creed. 

Now they had a defined list of teachings, passed down from the Apostles, taught across the known world by the local churches, defining the Christian Church. This completed Creed now was prescribed to be read and recited and taught to everyone in the Church. It was not optional, if someone was to be part of the Church, THIS was the belief that they must hold. To do anything else was to be outside the Church. 

In the Creed, there was the definition of the Church, that there was ONE Church. Yes it was made up of many local churches but they all believed the same thing, that was defined in the Creed. 

The Church was HOLY. The people being made Holy, sanctified by God, set apart by God, the Church was HOLY. 
The Church was CATHOLIC. Today many recoil from that word but there is nothing connecting the word “catholic” in the Creed and the group that today call themselves the Roman Catholic Church. That individual group divided itself from the Church in 1054ad and bears little resemblance to or even the same doctrine to the original. The word “catholic” means universal. It was to clarify that the Church and her doctrine applied to anyone in any land. No culture was unable to receive forgiveness and redemption in Christ. The teachings of the Church would not exclude anyone who repented and wanted forgiveness. Jesus had overcome death by death and anyone who willingly came to Him could be received into the Church. 
The Church was defined as APOSTOLIC. The Church foundation was the testimony of the Apostles. Jesus had told the Apostles that he would build his Church and that the “Gates of Hades” would not prevail against the Church. 

So now the Church had a defined description of what she believed. This was a foundational document. It was not until eight years later that Church Leaders collected a catalog of the books contained in the New Testament and began publishing that to the local churches. To be clear, without the Creed in its original form, calling oneself a Christian is a false statement. 
So we have, within the Creed the specific definition of a Christian. We have a definition of the Church, ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH. A single entity, visibly definable, (ONE) a church that is sanctified, set apart by God (HOLY) a church that is universally applicable, it fits into any country or culture (CATHOLIC) and it is founded on the testimony of the Apostles (APOSTOLIC). 

Now, fast forward to today. Some people have many different definitions of a Christian. Interesting we also have many in the heterodox community, the many teachings of the Protestant or evangelical religions, who first cling to the teaching known as Sola Scriptura or Scripture Alone. This teaching originated with Martin Luther. He was an interesting study, a Roman Catholic Priest that wanted to reform Rome. He translated the Scriptures into German for his followers in Germany. He actually got to decide what books he would include in his Bible, and he even chose how some words and phrases were translated that fit into his doctrinal statements. So he came up with this idea that ONLY scripture could be used for Doctrine but there’s no place in the Holy Scriptures that this teaching is taught. 

Today we have many different groups that call themselves “Christians” without definition. If you are with them long enough you can find out that each individual is their own church. They each are the leader of their own religion. They each take a verse or a passage and they read it and then THEY decide what “God is saying TO ME” in that passage. Each person is like the Roman Pope, they just decide that they speak for God. There is no authority, no community that can decide, each person is his own arbiter of what God says.  

So what do we have? We have 30,000-50,000 churches in the USA and each person in those churches is deciding for himself or herself what God is saying. Then they are joining together only because they might agree on some points that the group thinks is important. They “fellowship” with other groups around holidays or other special events because, even though these others don’t agree on the “important” Doctrine they DO declare that Jesus is Lord. As long as they do that, we are able to worship together. 

If the Church is truly a single entity, should it speak the same in whatever group I find it? If it is founded on the testimony of the Apostles, following the Apostles teaching, won’t that teaching be universal? If as we are able to read, the Church is the “body of Christ” then how is it that Joe can leave this church he grew up in, move down the street and found a NEW church and BOTH of them be the “Body of Christ”?

Well I have presented many questions that need to be tied together. The New Testament was canonized, meaning the table of contents was finally decided in 389ad. The Church had begun in 33ad and had spread out over much of the known world. The Church had passed all teachings down both verbally and in written form for 356 years before beginning to get the New Testament disseminated to all the people. When the New Testament was disseminated the Church began to interpret scripture in the life and Liturgy of the Church. The teachings in the Church were already there, the icons, the stories and how to interpret these truths was already part of the Church. This made it a simple idea, a logical or reasonable plan to interpret the Holy Scriptures through the “Lens” if you will, of the life of the Church. 

So within the Ancient Church we see that the biggest reason that each person was not defining what God was saying is the simple truth that the life and Liturgy of the Church was the lens by which everyone read and understood the Holy Scriptures. 

If we could all define God our own way, as is common with heterodox religions, then Christianity would be nothing more than a different form of Hinduism where each person has his own god and everything is equal. With that in mind there would be no real reason to attend ANY Church. There’s nothing sacred, nothing of importance and if one doesn’t attend there’s no consequences. However, the Church is diminished by loss of community. There is no strength unless it is a community, (Jesus and US, not Jesus and ME). That is what was always understood by St. Paul’s encouragement that we not neglect the gathering together. We need the community the communion of the people from the common cup where the Body and Blood of Christ is granted to us and He abides in us as he promised and we then can abide in him.