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Faith in Christ's Divinity and Incarnation: Its burden, doubts, and the path to faith

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#1 H. Smith

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 05:52 AM

I love Christianity and the Church, and the Church asks us to believe that Christ is divine and incarnated in the Virgin Mary. The world can be a very difficult, dark, and harsh place with suffering, and Christianity gives us inspiration and hope of salvation and of resurrection. Christ asks us to believe in Him, which I take to mean to put our trust in Him, not so much His divinity or incarnation. Yet the Bible gives many indications that Christ should be considered divine and incarnate of the Virgin Mary. And not only divine, but the second person of the Trinity, the Logos. I would like to be together with God, as our concept of communion lays out. And a nice, well known clergyman said in a sermon that we should accept the Nicene Creed if we are to take communion.

 

And yet this puts me in a difficult place, because of my doubts. I believe that God exists, because of love, energy, life, and righteousness. I also believe that Jesus lived and think that it's more likely than not that souls survive death. And I know that the Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would be killed and resurrect.

 

Yet for me, unfortunately, a key part of the Nicene Creed is a mystery: that Christ was God and the Fathers divine, only begotten son who incarnated of the Virgin Mary. If I were to make a guess, it would be an extremely weak one, and it would be that this did not happen, because it is such an extremely rare, unusual occurance for humans. Nonetheless, this occurance is not something I can seriously reject either, because I did not live then to see what was happening.

 

When I grew up in the church, this was notsomething I seriously disputed, although I often had some uncertainty about it. Then when I was about 19, I read Mark's gospel 12-13 times to memorize it. One thing that stuck out at me was the separation between John the Baptist, his disciples, and Jesus and His disciples. This made me think that Jesus was not the Messiah, or else John would have recognized this and joined Jesus' disciples. Years later I found a book on John the Baptist by Fr. Semion Vishnyakov that dealt with this issue in a skillful way, but nonetheless, it was the beginning of serious doubts for me.

 

Then when I received a secondary education, my mind became much more critical, which is necessary for higher education, and a normally helpful, very healthy and positive thing. In fact, I don't want to lose or reduce my ability for critical thinking, because there are times when people are abused and suffering, and critical thinking can notice that so that you can come to their aid.

 

When I learned of the importance of believing the Nicene Creed's teachings, I began to study them. I picked one of the simplest elements that I did not have a belief about - the prophecies of Christ's resurrection. I spent a few years studying them and made a website about it on rakovskii.livejournal.com I have come to believe strongly that the Messiah's killing and resurrection were prophesied. And yet, I fear that I am not willing or able to spend the same, long time studying each of the remaining tenets to reach an opinion. The studying was so enjoyable and I loved it, but I am at the point where I worry that I don't have the time or energy for it.

 

The reasons people give for believing in Christ's incarnation and divinity include that the Bible predicted it and it describes it happening. In my opinion, the Bible really does say both of those things, and I don't reject the occurance of miracles, but I feel very uncertain that the events in the Bible occurred the way that they are said to.

 

I understand the logic behind the Incarnation and about the Trinity, and I don't exclude that the Incarnation could happen. I know that God can do anything. People have experienced what to them are strong appearances of Christ or the Theotokos, and they describe their experience of Christ in a divine way. Another fact is that the disciples were very sincere in their faith and thus were able to undergo persecution for it. The Evangelicals usually would say that one should pray sincerely and then the Holy Spirit should come upon the person and give him or her a very strong moment of belief, after which the person is one of faith.

 

Unfortunately, I could go through each and give counterarguments to show that they are not conclusive proof. Having an apparition does not mean that other claims related to it are true and claims of miracles can be found in other religions. But actually I would much prefer for the Incarnation and His Sonship in the Trinity to be true. My difficulty is rather in thinking that this extremely, otherwise unlikely event in history actually occurred. I don't want to force or hypnotize myself to think something that is not. Isn't it better if I recognize reality, whether I prefer it or not?

 

Some good advice that I have heard, and that I have taken are to pray about this important matter, and to go to communion prayerfully. I intend to continue occasionally thinking about this question and cannot break with the Church or its teachings based on what I know. I am also glad that I can talk with people on this forum about it. It's a difficult and unwanted impasse for me. I would much prefer to be confident in my faith and sincere when I pray the Creed and other songs about Christ-God.

 

Thank you for listening to me. God Bless.



#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 07:05 AM

Perhaps you are looking for Christ in your mind. Look for Him in your heart. In the first line of your post, you seem to separate Christ and 'Christianity and the Church'. Christ IS the Church. If you love the Church, you love Christ. But love is in the heart, not the mind. After Luke and Cleopas had met the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus, and Christ explained everything to them, they said, 'did not our heart burn within us?'



#3 H. Smith

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 04:22 PM

Dear Andreas,

 

Thank you for writing!

 

You are right that I am looking in my mind, although I do involve the hear. If it is just a matter of my heart, then it is simple and I love Jesus.

 

At the intellectual level, the nous, it's a mystery to me whether He is a Second Person of the Trinity born of a Virgin or not, and unfortunately my guess if I had to make one would be that he isn't.

 

It is easy to think in poetic, metaphorical, emotional, or "heart" terms about these concepts, like to think that in a poetic sense, Christ is the Church. But that is not what you mean.

 

Sure, I feel serious inspiration in my heart at times when I think about Christianity.



#4 Phoebe K.

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 05:13 PM

the intellect you are referring to is not the nous but rather the mind, in the helicastic tradition of the Church the heart is associated with the nous.  The emotions being a thing of the mind too not the heart or Nous.

 

My advice to you would be to say again what is a long tradition in the Church, "One who is a theologian prays truly and the one who prays truly is a theologian".  

 

No amount of theological arguments can inlightan such things, but rather prayer.  On my Journey to Faith I had many misgivings but the Lord reviled the Truth to me as I was willing to come to him and ask him to show me the truth.  My suggestion is that you take your worry, misgivings and questions and come tot he Lord in Prayer and Ask him to inlitan you trusting that he will and as long as you faith dose not waver that he will answer you than he will in his own way, not how you expect but he will show himself to you, as you can perceive to draw you into Truth  for he is Truth.

 

Phoebe



#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 05:33 PM

At the intellectual level, the nous, it's a mystery to me whether He is a Second Person of the Trinity born of a Virgin or not, and unfortunately my guess if I had to make one would be that he isn't.

 

It is easy to think in poetic, metaphorical, emotional, or "heart" terms about these concepts, like to think that in a poetic sense, Christ is the Church. But that is not what you mean.
 


Phoebe is right - the nous is not the mind. Of course the Trinity is a mystery: what is sometimes a stumbling block for westerners is the mystery of it all. But there's no need to guess: we have the revelation of the truth from God and His Church. If Christ is not God and the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, we are the saddest of people. But the testimony of countless Orthodox faithful over two millennia is that this is true. If God could create the universe and all that is in it, do you not think He could be Incarnate of the Ever-Virgin Theotokos? Not difficult for Him.

 

The heart is not the place of mere emotions or of metaphors: it is the inner chamber of our being where is the image of God in which we are made and where we may encounter God.

 

Learn to think with your heart.



#6 H. Smith

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 06:15 PM

the intellect you are referring to is not the nous but rather the mind, in the helicastic tradition of the Church the heart is associated with the nous.  The emotions being a thing of the mind too not the heart or Nous.

 

My advice to you would be to say again what is a long tradition in the Church, "One who is a theologian prays truly and the one who prays truly is a theologian".  

 

No amount of theological arguments can inlightan such things, but rather prayer.  On my Journey to Faith I had many misgivings but the Lord reviled the Truth to me as I was willing to come to him and ask him to show me the truth.  My suggestion is that you take your worry, misgivings and questions and come tot he Lord in Prayer and Ask him to inlitan you trusting that he will and as long as you faith dose not waver that he will answer you than he will in his own way, not how you expect but he will show himself to you, as you can perceive to draw you into Truth  for he is Truth.

 

Phoebe

Dear Phoebe,

 

Thank you for writing. For me, it would help to move me along if I would have a good idea of whether the Incarnation and Divinity were true or not, rather than being stuck, although knowing it were true is much more appealing than otherwise. Also, you are right that prayer is good advice.

 

No amount of theological arguments can inlightan such things, but rather prayer.

For me, rational arguments were the key for me to realize that the Old Testament prophesied the Messiah's death and resurrection with Isaiah 53, etc. Yes, the topic is widely contested, but the Christian viewpoint is actually right in interperting the text. Textual interpretation methods can be used to decipher it. I wish that Christ's incarnation was like that. People's preferences bias their readings of the Old testament prophecies, but if you use textual analysis correctly and critically, the Christian reading is the one that you find.

 

as long as you faith dose not waver that he will answer you than he will in his own way, not how you expect but he will show himself to you

I can ask God in faith to reveal His Truth about Christ to me. This is something people often do. Perhaps I must pray harder about this. I am worried that I don't have the time or energy to put in the same work I did when it came to the ancient prophecies. However, I don't have much faith, sadly, that he will timely give me the answer, since He often doesn't do what we at the moment prefer. It is up to Him whether He wants to do that, as it is said "Thy Will be done."


Edited by H. Smith, 19 June 2014 - 06:17 PM.


#7 H. Smith

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 07:04 PM


Phoebe is right - the nous is not the mind. Of course the Trinity is a mystery: what is sometimes a stumbling block for westerners is the mystery of it all. But there's no need to guess: we have the revelation of the truth from God and His Church. If Christ is not God and the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, we are the saddest of people. But the testimony of countless Orthodox faithful over two millennia is that this is true. If God could create the universe and all that is in it, do you not think He could be Incarnate of the Ever-Virgin Theotokos? Not difficult for Him.

 

The heart is not the place of mere emotions or of metaphors: it is the inner chamber of our being where is the image of God in which we are made and where we may encounter God.

 

Learn to think with your heart.

 

Andreas,

 

Thank you for writing and helping me to think about this. For me, the Trinity is not such a logical mental problem. I understand the concept of one God having three elements, "persons" or aspects, and indications of this are in the Old Testament. It talks about His Spirit, His Wisdom, and He speaks and gives a Word.

 

And yes, the Church has had revelations about God going back thousands of years to the ancient Israelites, whose righteous are included. If Christ is not God, we are not so sad, because at least we had belief in God. Ours would not be the only false religion. And yes, we have multitudes of Orthodox who testify to the inner, spiritual "truth" of Christianity, which makes it very appealing and suggests much in its favor. But unfortunately other religions claim their truth too, and even if theirs is easier to ignore, and our inspiration and confidence in it, accompanied by healings is real, then it is still not a total proof that it is factually true, unfortunately.

 

Also, you are right that if He wanted to, God could be Incarnate of the virgin Mary. There are many unexpected scientific anomalies, and the Incarnation could be one of them. But with a detailed understanding of the process of reproduction in humans, shows that this is incredibly unlikely, unfortunately.

 

The heart is not the place of mere emotions or of metaphors: it is the inner chamber of our being where is the image of God in which we are made and where we may encounter God.


Learn to think with your heart.

The heart also "thinks" in its own way. And to a major degree I do think with it, and my positive hopes are something that make Christian faith very attractive.

 

However, if I merely follow my inspiration and what appeals to me, although this may be wonderful for the creative process, it doesn't mean that it is a proven fact. I may wish very much for a certain fact to be true, and it may inspire and appeal to me, but it doesn't make it so, and unfortunately we are asked to have faith in a specific, incredibly unlikely occurrance.

 

I might wish very much to believe that i will win the lottery, and many people play it thinking that they will, but unfortunately they don't. For some people, believing in whatever they want to is easy, but for me it is not as easy as it is for some people, and in fact I don't want to believe facts based mostly on my desires, inspiration, longings, and what others say.


Edited by H. Smith, 19 June 2014 - 07:06 PM.


#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 06:05 AM

If Christ is not God, we are not so sad, because at least we had belief in God. Ours would not be the only false religion.

 

An Orthodox Christian cannot say this because it goes against the Creed. If Christ is not God, there is no salvation. The Orthodox Christian faith is not a religion.

 

 But unfortunately other religions claim their truth too, and even if theirs is easier to ignore, and our inspiration and confidence in it, accompanied by healings is real, then it is still not a total proof that it is factually true, unfortunately.

 

What sets the Orthodox Christian faith apart from religions is that no religion has the revelations to which I have referred (NT as well as OT).

 

There are many unexpected scientific anomalies, and the Incarnation could be one of them. But with a detailed understanding of the process of reproduction in humans, shows that this is incredibly unlikely, unfortunately.

 

Again, this goes against the Creed. Of course the incarnation of Christ from the Mother of God is not an 'unexpected scientific anomaly' - God forbid! It is a mystery but none the less real for that. Read the service texts of the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. God is not limited by His Creation and He overturns the natural laws He created as He wills.


Edited by Andreas Moran, 20 June 2014 - 06:06 AM.


#9 Antonios

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 08:21 AM

Also, you are right that if He wanted to, God could be Incarnate of the virgin Mary. There are many unexpected scientific anomalies, and the Incarnation could be one of them. But with a detailed understanding of the process of reproduction in humans, shows that this is incredibly unlikely, unfortunately.

 


Hi H. Smith!  I am not sure what you mean by 'detailed understanding'...  As well as what you mean by 'incredibly unlikely' when you are referring to the power of God. 

 

 For some people, believing in whatever they want to is easy, but for me it is not as easy as it is for some people, and in fact I don't want to believe facts based mostly on my desires, inspiration, longings, and what others say.

 

And this, my brother, is the root of your problem.  What is it then that you want to base your facts on?  What your logical mind thinks? 

 

If we make our mind our authority (which is what you are doing in this thread), then we soon fall into to disbelief and doubt.   For this reason Christ built the Church on faith and explained how it is in our hearts where we find the Kingdom of Heaven. 

 

Trying to know God with our minds does not always bring us closer to Him.  Often times, if causes our willful estrangement from Him, for we limit Him to our own minds and make God a mere creature since by our human notions of standards we judge Him Who is divine.

 

God is observed in the mind but is known in the heart.  God may be approached in the mind but abides in the heart.  And what kind of heart?  A humble heart and repentant one.  Such a heart, King David says, God will not despise.  Part of our humility is in our obedience to Christ and His Body in the world, namely, the Church of believers who have carried down the deposit of faith and have willingly sacrificed their lives as a witness to the world for the love of God and of the world. 

 

We become members of His Body not through our innovative, creative, or logical arguments, but by our repentance, humility, love and obedience towards God.  This too includes God the Holy Spirit working within the members of the Church.   What the Church, this community of believers, have jealously defined as the fundamentals of the Christian faith is not up for debate, to be treated as an old theory disproven by scientific discovery,   It is a revealed truth, made possible only by the will of God.

 

In fact, it is those who take such an approached to faith as Christ commanded that we find more faith and less doubt and given the assurance of the truth not in our minds or in our passionate nous, but rather in our hearts, where Christ stands and knocks and sees if we have enough faith to open the door.


Edited by Antonios, 20 June 2014 - 08:27 AM.


#10 H. Smith

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 04:00 AM

An Orthodox Christian cannot say this because it goes against the Creed.


Again, this goes against the Creed. Of course the incarnation of Christ from the Mother of God is not an 'unexpected scientific anomaly' - God forbid! It is a mystery but none the less real for that. Read the service texts of the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. God is not limited by His Creation and He overturns the natural laws He created as He wills.

Dear Andreas,

 

Hello! Yes, I agree that God overturns the natural laws as He wills, and just because something is a mystery does not make it unreal. And yet nonetheless, Andreas, unfortunately my doubt comes from how unusual and miraculous the virgin birth would be. I am looking for a way to resolve this issue, but perhaps only faith or some intervention can resolve it.



#11 Olga

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 08:05 AM

FWIW, my formal education and working life has been in scientific disciplines, including health sciences. Yet a good scientific education not only teaches that we have come to know a great deal about the world around us and the workings of living organisms, but it also exposes just how much we truly don't know. Far from diminishing faith in what God can do, my experience has only highlighted the gulf between human and divine achievement and knowledge.



#12 Kosta

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 09:22 AM

Yet for me, unfortunately, a key part of the Nicene Creed is a mystery: that Christ was God and the Fathers divine, only begotten son who incarnated of the Virgin Mary. If I were to make a guess, it would be an extremely weak one, and it would be that this did not happen, because it is such an extremely rare, unusual occurance for humans. Nonetheless, this occurance is not something I can seriously reject either, because I did not live then to see what was happening.

 

The reasons people give for believing in Christ's incarnation and divinity include that the Bible predicted it and it describes it happening. In my opinion, the Bible really does say both of those things, and I don't reject the occurance of miracles, but I feel very uncertain that the events in the Bible occurred the way that they are said to.

 

Unfortunately, I could go through each and give counterarguments to show that they are not conclusive proof. Having an apparition does not mean that other claims related to it are true and claims of miracles can be found in other religions. But actually I would much prefer for the Incarnation and His Sonship in the Trinity to be true. My difficulty is rather in thinking that this extremely, otherwise unlikely event in history actually occurred. I don't want to force or hypnotize myself to think something that is not. Isn't it better if I recognize reality, whether I prefer it or not?

 

Some good advice that I have heard, and that I have taken are to pray about this important matter, and to go to communion prayerfully. I intend to continue occasionally thinking about this question and cannot break with the Church or its teachings based on what I know. I am also glad that I can talk with people on this forum about it. It's a difficult and unwanted impasse for me. I would much prefer to be confident in my faith and sincere when I pray the Creed and other songs about Christ-God.

 

Thank you for listening to me. God Bless.

 

 

There is no evidence that if you walked with Christ 2000 years ago you would believe he was either a prophet or messiah or God-man, you may have as some did, but others did not.  And many had to literally see and feel the risen Christ to believe. Jesus own brother James never believed in him while Christ was alive, his belief came about in some post ressurection epiphany..  It comes from the living tradition of the Church as a whole.  The prophecies and miracles and historical occurences were understood through hindsight.  When Christ was accused of saying he will destroy the temple, his apostles saw it as pointing to the ressurection of His body. But when the temple was indeed destroyed in 70 AD, the sayings of Christ pointed toward divine judgment.

 

The virgin birth may seem incredulous but was not a strange unknown thing 2000 years ago., Thats precisely why many kings claimed or were thought by the people to have been born of a virgin it was a commonly held concept. Just like the concept that kings and royalty have a kind of divinity bestowed upon them which is quite universal..  What would have been strange is conjuring this up in a vacuum. Christianity simply seized this and exclusively pointed to Christ alone as fulfilling these types. Christianity was successful  in doing away with these beliefs, all foreshadowed  Christ, And yet the circumstantial evidence does point to Christ being born of  an unknown paternal lineage. It also fits into the soteriology of Mary being the New Eve and Christ the new Adam unlike the kings of old.


Edited by Kosta, 23 June 2014 - 09:32 AM.


#13 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 10:37 AM

If Christ was not incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, He could not be the Son of God, could He? And if He were not the Son of God, He could not assume human nature, could He? And if He did not assume human nature, He could not save mankind, could He?

 

As Kosta, says, God did prepare people's mind for the things He did, and virgin birth is a common feature in ancient mythologies and even among South American cultures. Parthenogenesis does occur naturally in a number of lower life forms.

 

To add to what Olga says, I recall that Sir Isaac Newton said, ' do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me'. 


Edited by Andreas Moran, 23 June 2014 - 10:38 AM.


#14 Georgianna

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 10:53 AM

...unfortunately my doubt comes from how unusual and miraculous the virgin birth would be. I am looking for a way to resolve this issue, but perhaps only faith or some intervention can resolve it.

 

Perhaps you may find some help from the words of Elder Paisios:

 

- Geronda, what is the place of reason and logic in the spiritual life?


Which logic are you talking about?  If you mean secular logic, then this kind of logic1  has no place at all in the spiritual life.  Angels and Saints, enter through our windows, we can see them, talk with them, and then they leave… There is no way that one can explain this logically.  Today, increased knowledge and trust in logic has, unfortunately, shaken our faith to its foundation and filled our souls with question marks and doubts.  This is why we don’t have miracles anymore, because a miracle cannot be explained logically, it can only be experienced.  But faith in God will bring down divine power and overturn all human expectations.  It will perform miracles, resurrect the dead and astonish science.  From the outside, all things pertaining to the spiritual life seem upside down.  Indeed, the mysteries of God will be impossible to know and will appear strange and contrary to nature as long as we don’t overturn our secular mindset and see everything with spiritual eyes. ...


Logic is very harmful when we use it to scrutinize the divine, the mysteries and the miracles. ...

 

- Geronda, when a spiritual person is confronting temptation, can’t they make use of logic?


In that case, they should do what is humanly possible, and where something is not in their power, they should leave it to God.  There are some people, who will try to grasp everything only with their mind … If we try to solve problems using nothing else but our logic, we will end up quite confused.  In each and every one of our actions, God must take the lead.  Everything we do, we must do trust in God, for otherwise we will be full of anxiety, our mind will get overwhelmed and our soul will be miserable.

 

1  When the Elder refers to logic and reproaches it, he does not mean by this term the gift of reason with which God has honoured human beings, but rather rationalism, or as he calls it “afflicted reason,” the logic that is void of faith in God, rejects divine providence and denies the possibility of miracles.


-“Rationalism in Our Times” p 244-245, 246

 

There was a person who would periodically experience a sudden flood of blasphemous thoughts which questioned various aspects of the Creed and faith in general  – usually during daily prayers or Holy Services. ... “What if” this? “How can” that? … When attempting to engage and disprove these thoughts in order to “throw them out,” it only worsened and seeds of doubt were trying to take root.   Eventually, the person reached a point of utter helplessness in fighting the doubts any longer.  At that point, the person completely stopped trying to fight in the same “logical” manner.  Heeding the guidance of the Church Fathers, the person turned with all the strength of heart and soul and cried out to the Lord, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)  This was not just once, but anytime the thoughts would rise up.  The battle changed drastically and eventually peace came to the heart. 

 

You are in my most unworthy prayers.



#15 Georgianna

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 11:01 AM

FWIW, my formal education and working life has been in scientific disciplines, including health sciences. Yet a good scientific education not only teaches that we have come to know a great deal about the world around us and the workings of living organisms, but it also exposes just how much we truly don't know. Far from diminishing faith in what God can do, my experience has only highlighted the gulf between human and divine achievement and knowledge.

 

This is reminiscent of what Elder Paisios said:

Natural knowledge helps us acquire spiritual knowledge.  But when man remains at the level of natural knowledge, he is confined to nature and does not reach Heaven.  In other words, he remains on the earthly paradise, which was watered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, enjoying beautiful nature with all its animals, but does not ascend to the heavenly Paradise to rejoice with the Angels and Saints.  But in order to reach the heavenly Paradise, we need to have faith in the Landlord of Paradise, to love Him, realize how sinful we are, and be humbled.  In this way, we will come to know Him, to converse with Him in prayer, and praise Him for His help but also for the ways in which He is testing us.
- "Let Us Sanctify Knowledge" p 232-233


#16 H. Smith

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 03:58 PM

Hi H. Smith!  I am not sure what you mean by 'detailed understanding'...  As well as what you mean by 'incredibly unlikely' when you are referring to the power of God. 

 

 

And this, my brother, is the root of your problem.  What is it then that you want to base your facts on?  What your logical mind thinks? 

 

Dear Antonios,

 

Thank you for writing back and explaining your way of thinking.

 

There are articles on the internet explaining the processes involved if a virgin birth were to occur, showing how rare this would be in nature. For example:

 

Could a human naturally be produced by virgin birth? In theory, yes, if a number of biochemical events occur by chance or genetic defect in close succession and the egg doesn't complete meiosis (when an egg does this, it loses half of its genetic material to make room for the paternal DNA in the sperm. But without the sperm, each half of the divided egg would
come up short on genetic material). The chances of all that happening are almost zero. But even if nature found a way, we run into genomic imprinting again, so we wouldn't wind up with a viable embryo.  http://mentalfloss.c...y-virgin-births

 

When I said that something is incredibly unlikely, I was not referring to God's power, but the normal likelihood that this would occur. I don't rule out that God could accomplish a virgin birth, and my opinion is that God exists and can do anything. But due to the unlikelihood of its normal occurence, to decide whether this happened or not, I look for the facts on which to base my decision.

 

A person's siblings for example, could, without my knowing, learn to become pilots and charter a private flight to Kenya a half year from now, where they could hunt wild animals and live in huts for another two months. Then they could hike Mount Everest and reach the South Pole- all in the space of a year. However, while they have that ability, it would be rather unlikely that they would do this, and if one of my sibling's honest, close friends told me it, I would doubt them. I am not equating the Incarnation with such a feat, but rather to say that simply because God has an ability does not mean He exercizes it, and there is still room for doubt where it would normally be very unlikely for Him to do so.

 

The prophets had more reliability than my sibling's friends, and yet they also wrote about mythical-sounding things that I seriously doubt. The Old Testament was not meant as a science textbook. Were Old Testament science to be a foundation for belief in Christianity, it would be weakened. The apostles are very sympathetic figures, and that they underwent persecution shows their confidence. And yet I am doubtful whether that overcomes the burden presented by the normal extreme unlikelihood of a virgin birth.

 

What I would base my facts on would be the information available. The Turin Shroud is something I am seriously skeptical about, and yet it has the possibility of showing that the resurrection was a real, supernatural event. The prophecies and the apostles' words, thinking, and lives are more information. Another piece of information is how extremely unlikely the virgin birth would be, if it were not practically impossible.

 

You suggest that I should base my opinion on what is in my heart, rather than in terms of rationality. For me, the story of Christ, including God coming to earth through the incarnation, is very inspiring and emotionally appealing. And yet I recognize that simply because something is appealing and inspiring does not make it factually true. Merely beause I strongly prefer that something be true does not make it so.

 

You comment: "If we make our mind our authority (which is what you are doing in this thread), then we soon fall into to disbelief and doubt."

I want to make mercy and love a guide. There is very much suffering in the world. And yet the mind's authority does not mean one must doubt what is real. Descartes and other Christian philosophers like Kant made proofs for God's existence. And after analyzing the Old Testament, I came to a logical conclusion that it predicts the Messiah's killing and resurrection.



#17 H. Smith

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 04:03 PM

There is no evidence that if you walked with Christ 2000 years ago you would believe he was either a prophet or messiah or God-man, you may have as some did, but others did not.  And many had to literally see and feel the risen Christ to believe. Jesus own brother James never believed in him while Christ was alive, his belief came about in some post ressurection epiphany..  It comes from the living tradition of the Church as a whole.  The prophecies and miracles and historical occurences were understood through hindsight.  When Christ was accused of saying he will destroy the temple, his apostles saw it as pointing to the ressurection of His body. But when the temple was indeed destroyed in 70 AD, the sayings of Christ pointed toward divine judgment.

kosta,

 

Christ should have been recognizable as someone in the Old Testament tradition of prophets due to His closeness to John the Baptist. And was James' belief merely based on an epiphany? What about the stories about Christ appearing and eating food to show that He was alive? Granted, the post-resurrection stories seem more ephemeral than the stories from His normal teaching period, thus causing more doubt in my mind, unfortunately.


Edited by H. Smith, 23 June 2014 - 04:04 PM.


#18 H. Smith

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 04:08 PM

If Christ was not incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, He could not be the Son of God, could He? And if He were not the Son of God, He could not assume human nature, could He? And if He did not assume human nature, He could not save mankind, could He?

Andreas,

 

You have a good way of thinking about the logic behind this. However, I don't rule out that God could find some other way to save mankind, as He is all-powerful.

 

To add to what Olga says, I recall that Sir Isaac Newton said, ' do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me'.

That is so true.


Edited by H. Smith, 23 June 2014 - 04:08 PM.


#19 H. Smith

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 08:44 PM

Thanks also for writing, Georgianna.



#20 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 08:57 PM

However, I don't rule out that God could find some other way to save mankind, as He is all-powerful.

 

But He didn't, did he? I think he knows what He is doing.







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