From the blog, The Obnoxious Side of Me
Here is the second part of my long and strange spiritual journey. I left off where we had moved to a reformed view of Christianity, and for about 10 years, that was where we were. Some of the aspects of that reformed view changed within that time due to reasons of what particular people taught or what I would read, but overall the main points of faith and belief were there.
Apparently God recently decided I had stayed in that theological perspective long enough and I was ready to start moving down a different theological road in my life, because a little over a year ago, I was moved and challenged again. This time, the call and direction I received is towards something that many might look at and call far more ‘ritualistic’ than any of the previous churches I’ve been in, but in my opinion, it is something that as a whole is so much more beautiful and holy. No, I didn’t join the Roman Catholic Church. I went and joined the Orthodox Church. I think most people have heard it identified as Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Why would I do this?
The whole challenge began with a simple, yet profound question: where does a particular church’s authority come from? Most Protestant churches would claim the Bible as their sole authority for their teaching. However, the Bible can’t be the end all and be all of faith from the time of the Apostles to today, because what we now know and understand as the canon of scripture wasn’t identified and brought together until the late 300’s AD (or CE if you prefer). So, how did the church deliver these teachings to all the different believers in the times prior to the Bible being canonized? Or more importantly, how did all the churches in Palestine, Egypt, and modern day Turkey keep the teachings and faith from the Apostles forward? I did a lot of reading on Church History over those two years, and looking at the lives of those who lived during those times. What came out on the other end of these studies was that the faith and the church were held together through the oral and written teachings of those that were generally known as the church fathers, and were furthered by what was put forth in the councils of the church.
In the Orthodox Church, their teachings are based on what was passed down from the apostles to the churches, and the councils reinforcing those teachings. This (again to me) is the church that has survived intact from the beginning until the present day. It has survived persecution at almost every turn, whether from internal or external forces. Also, if you think about it, we all rely upon or give ourselves over to some other authority than the Bible at some point. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Luther, Calvin, the Popes, or someone other modern (John MacArthur comes to mind, although one could put in almost anyone who is teaching), we look to their perspective and interpretation as a guide for our own understanding.
Once I got to that point, I started to look at what Orthodoxy teaches. As I’ve studied those positions, many of the verses and stories in the Bible have taken on new meanings, and some well known ones have made more sense. This has led to a change in how I’ve viewed many of the different doctrines and issues within the church. Seeing salvation, grace, mercy, even sin through the eastern perspective rather than what is categorized for lack of a better term as western has given me more peace than I have had in a long time.
The worship has taken a bit of an adjustment, as other elements have been introduced that I haven’t experienced before (Mary as the ever-virgin Theotokos, icons, and incense to name a few), but when you hear and read the Orthodox explanation for these and other things, you begin to realize that many things aren’t done simply for the sake of ‘tradition’ (although there are some smaller items that do fall into that category), but have a root in history and theology that make them all the more wonderful.
I will not say at this point that I’ve completed this journey. I have come to understand that my journey won’t be complete until I die. But what I can say at this point is for the first time, I have a sense of anticipation in thinking about where this journey is taking me. In the past, more often than not there was confusion (particularly in the charismatic phase), dread, or a feeling of, ‘now what?’
It will be interesting to see where the future takes me.