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.
Have literally taken the same path though i have not requested for my family’s catechism to begin yet (still officially just visiting). The reasons that brought me to this point are different but the multiple churches path is virtually identical.
I feel like I have found a hidden jewel in the Orthodox Church and my wife feels the same but is nervous about losing the security of the Calvinistic church we are members of. She is ready though.
God bless and good luck John
Fr. John says
be sure to let us know how you can help you.
John in Kerry says
As a convert from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy from a very Roman Catholic Irish background, I found that the transition to Orthodoxy not only rekindled my faith, but almost immediately I felt like I was ‘coming home’. I was astonished to find that the unease I had felt about Roman Catholicism in so many ways was articulated as a reasoned spiritual critique by Orthodoxy. I feel truly blessed, and am more aware now of the Orthodox heritage of Ireland and Britain as exemplified by our 4th and 5th Century monastic heritage still very much part of Ireland’s historic landscape.
Probably the most remarkable of all Christian monasteries in all countries, the sixth century Skellig Michael remains largely intact with its original buildings.
Now, there is a very considerable account of its present state and investigation into how the monastery worked, done by a group of young historians at:
It is well worth the visiting. Read it through completely, where there is an illustration, click for the enlargement – it will in many cases be rewarding. It explains as little else does, the writings that remain and the spirit of Celtic monasticism throughout the British Isles of the first millennium.
As a scholarly work, this paper, together with its illustrations and analyses, is set within the framework of the origins of Christian monasticism in the Egyptian desert.
This is the same path I took. The family that raised me is still steeped in Sola Scriptura and Calvanistic theology.
I was raised fundamentalist, then pentacostal, then reformed, then nondenominational in a small reformed style church.
Orthodoxy is a fresh of breath air. It is everything I knew to be true in the ancient faith once delivered.
Orthodoxy makes sense historically and Orthodoxy makes sense spiritually.
Fr. John says
Welcome home, Seraphim.
Good explanation , John, very helpful. I particularly like how you address those who claim the Bible is their only source of authority. THe Bible didn’t appear out of a vacuum, “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2Peter 1:21b). The NT writers were members of the Church. As no prophecy was of private interpretation (or origin) neither was, and is, it’s application.
I have only just discovered this site and reading all these ‘coming home’ stories from around the world has been a blessing. It may seem seem ironic to you that even those of us born into and brought up in the Orthodox church could have no idea what we have until we have also gone on our own little journeys, sometimes quite far away from the historic church! This has been the case in our circle and community where a sense of growth and renaissance has come out of baptised Orthodox Christians coming back to what has always been ‘home’.
Thanks so much for sharing.
Joseph Wheeler says
Thank you for your message. I’m on the same journey and finding similar results.
I have yet to formally join the Orthodox Church mostly because I’m trying to figure out if I would be more comfortable in a Greek or Antiochian parish. Where I live does not offer a lot of choices, and I don’t know if there are big differences between them. Still learning!
Thank you again.
So, previous articles here have made special mention of having to accept the role fo the Theotokos and that it was a big change. But I have heard Orthodox priests say that the role of the Theotokos is less than that of Mary in the Catholic church. So what’s the deal?
Fr. John says
The Orthodox consider the Theotokos to be the great example, not the great exception. We probably venerate her more highly than Roman Catholics, but this could be simply because our practical theology has not been boiled down to the mass, and the rosary, but as part of the full experience of the Church of the ages.
I guess I should have been more clear. I heard an Orthodox Priest say that Roman Catholics place MORE emphasis on mary than the Orthodox do.
I have done some reading, and I think in part, he was referring to concepts of ‘Immaculate Conception’.