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Concerning false perceptions of grace


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#61 Rick H.

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 02:31 PM

Wow, what a blockbuster of a post Jason. Thanks!


I would agree that it would be delusion, always and in every case, to attach the grace of God to any method or any physical or psychological technique. In other words, to say that certain techniques or practices lead one to the experience of God, or produce the experience of the grace of God, would be a complete delusion. However, I would not say that it is impossible for God to use anything in particular to draw a person to Himself.


This is so balanced and so perfect.

Yes, we cannot rule out these things spoken of in this thread in above posts and say that God cannot use them to draw a person to Himself. We can lay down general principles based on Church teachings, but that is as far as we can go.

And, yes again[!] It would be "complete delusion" to attach the grace of God to any method or technique Orthodox or other!

Very well stated.

I wish I had time to respond to more of what you wrote. Maybe later.

Edited by Rick H., 16 May 2011 - 03:01 PM.
spelling of word general, still not sure if I go it right


#62 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 03:55 PM

And, yes again[!] It would be "complete delusion" to attach the grace of God to any method or technique Orthodox or other!


God is not mechanical. God is not the sort of "say the magic woid and the boid comes down". God is not the prisoner of our "techniques". Nothing is garaunteed. God acts as He chooses. And I don't see Anna saying different.

HOWEVER, I don't see this as any sort of license to endorse those activities that have not been endorsed by the CHURCH as spiritually beneficial. Nepsis seems rather important to the discussion as Jason has pointed out.

All things are legal, but not all things are beneficial. Therefore I see no need for anyone, particularly in this forum, to go out on a limb to endorse things that the Church has not put forth as beneficial. If one has not read it, The Gurus, the Young Man and Elder Paisios has something pertinent to say on the subject (as has been mentioned elsewhere in similar threads I believe).

Yogi is my uncle.

Herman the Pooh

#63 Rick H.

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 04:07 PM

God is not mechanical. God is not the sort of "say the magic woid and the boid comes down". God is not the prisoner of our "techniques". Nothing is garaunteed. God acts as He chooses. And I don't see Anna saying different.


I think we are all in full agreement with this. I don't see Anna saying anything different either (didn't know this was an issue)?


HOWEVER, I don't see this as any sort of license to endorse those activities that have not been endorsed by the CHURCH as spiritually beneficial.


Definitely no license, and I appreciate Jason's fuller answer too.

All things are legal, but not all things are beneficial. Therefore I see no need for anyone, particularly in this forum, to go out on a limb to endorse things that the Church has not put forth as beneficial. If one has not read it, The Gurus, the Young Man and Elder Paisios has something pertinent to say on the subject (as has been mentioned elsewhere in similar threads I believe).


What is a limb for one is wide platform for another. It has to do with different coaches and different players Pooh. I'll have to bring you up to speed on this some day! Yes, we have run this circle before in other threads including the Gurus book.

I can't believe I got sucked back into this . . . Thanks Christina! At the end of the day and these kind of conversations I seem to just end up wishing I would have just tried to figure out "Why a Duck?" instead. Herman, would you believe I had a large yellow book when I was in the 6th grade titled "Why a Duck?" I wonder if you have seen it? I should introduce some of that book here before I bow out!

#64 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 04:20 PM

As an avid tree-climbing pooh (a sub-species), I have found that some limbs are treacherous and should be tested before putting one's whole weight on them, and even then a firm grasp on a sturdy and trusted handhold is never inappropriate (let the reader understand).

Herman the Pooh

#65 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 05:07 PM

At the end of the day and these kind of conversations I seem to just end up wishing I would have just tried to figure out "Why a Duck?" instead. Herman, would you believe I had a large yellow book when I was in the 6th grade titled "Why a Duck?" I wonder if you have seen it? I should introduce some of that book here before I bow out!


What is Why a Duck?? I just keep seeing some Daffy Duck cartoon in my head.

#66 Rick H.

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 05:17 PM

What is Why a Duck?? I just keep seeing some Daffy Duck cartoon in my head.


You will probably be sorry that you asked Daniel. Actually, I know for a fact that Herman could answer much better than I, butI will answer your question by saying as clearly as I possibly can, No it's viaduct!


Now, a good response to this is "The next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you, will ya?

You are on your own now Daniel, although I suspect you have had enough! :0)

It's a Groucho thing.

I should have left it to Herman.

#67 Anna Stickles

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 05:56 PM

Rick, I think you are interpreting my post in a black and white way when in reality I am seeing things in shades of gray. Jason gives me a great segue into a way to explain what I am trying to say more clearly.

Augustine in Bk 10 ch 14 says “The education of the human race, represented by the people of God, has advanced, like that of an individual, through certain epochs, or, as it were, ages, so that it might gradually rise from earthly to heavenly things, and from the visible to the invisible. “ (reading the rest of this will make the context much more clear which is why I gave the link)

This theme of our individual journey being a microcosm of the journey of the human race in history is something often seen in the patristic literature, as is the advance from the visible to the invisible. And there is also an understanding that within each age is a unique administration/dispensation of grace. This is true both historically and individually. This is the paradigm from which St Paul draws out his plan of salvation in Romans. He starts with the “pagan age” if we may call it that in which God makes himself know through creation and our conscience. (Rom 1-2) The godly in these ages, as Jason notes, give thanks to their creator and render to Him worship according to that dispensation. But as Jason also notes above, as St Paul notes, the temptation here is to let the creation become an idol.

Then he talks about circumcision and the law (ch 2-5) We are told of Abraham, who lived what God required of man in this pagan dispensation as perfectly as was possible and, so from Abraham came Isaac and Israel, and from Israel came the nation of Israel and a new administration of grace, a new age wherein God revealed himself more fully and more personally, and which foreshadowed Christ more perfectly.

The Israelites were promised all the blessings of the law, but also had greater responsibility. It’s like the difference between the infant who simply lives in their parents’ presence and under their care without real understanding, and the child who has now been given rules to live by as they become more active and responsible members of the household, but without yet being full adults.

But the while the Law was a tutor to educate, and material blessings were promised (see the rest of ch 14 from City of God) the administration of grace under the law still did not have the power to “crucify our body of sin.. so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." Rom 6:5-6. It was a more external grace, not the law of God written on the heart.

The perfection of Israel's dispensation was found in Mary of whom Christ was born and of whom came the Church starting a new administration of grace. As St Paul says Eph 3: 7. “ I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery(sacrament) , which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is only in the administration of the mystery, the sacrament, in Christ that we have the adoption of sons, the remission of sins, the purification of the heart, and in general the fullness of our redemption. And this is what St Paul moves into in ch 6-8 of Romans. He talks about being baptized into Christ, dying with Him in order to be raised with Him and the spiritual struggle for freedom from sin, and moving into the “law of the Spirit of Life” and being set free from the law of sin and death. But we see once again that where there is more grace and a closer relationship there is more responsibility. The Christian is responsible not just for an external obedience to the law, but for the internal struggle to bring the soul into obedience to God.

Therefore, in my posts above, I am not trying to say one can’t experience God in a sunrise, but I am trying to say that this is not the type of experience of God or manifestation of grace that is characteristic of those who are living in the Church, ie the Christian dispensation of grace. It is the type of experience of God that Paul talks about in ch 1-2 of Rom and indicative of this level of relationship with God.

So I in the end, seeing God in the sunrise and giving thanks is fine for the pagan, or the child, or one who is just coming to God. But for us, let us run the race that is set before us and grow up in all things into Christ who is our head. Let us allow God to move us through the ages of grace in our own individual life, recognizing the lack of grace and the imperfection in each of these ages, while neither denigrating nor denying God’s true working in them.

#68 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 06:16 PM

I goggled it and Groucho and it seems it is a comedy film. I don't know one goes on an Orthodox forum and end up learning every thing from old comedy films to how to cook fish and food from everywhere from Greece to Texas. ;)

#69 Father David Moser

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 06:51 PM

What is Why a Duck?? I just keep seeing some Daffy Duck cartoon in my head.


I goggled it and Groucho and it seems it is a comedy film. I don't know one goes on an Orthodox forum and end up learning every thing from old comedy films to how to cook fish and food from everywhere from Greece to Texas. ;)


It is indeed the first Marx brothers film. (Cocoanuts) The pun is on the word "viaduct". In a scene in which Groucho and Chico are discussing a map, Groucho mentions the presence of a viaduct between the mainland and a peninsula. Chico, who is playing the role of an immigrant with poor English skills, replies "Why a duck?" This leads into a long schtick positing the existence of "Why a chickens?," "Why a horses?," and so forth. (from wikipedia).

Fr David

#70 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 07:04 PM

Bless Father,

Thank you. I had to read that a great number of times before I understood the vi (why) a (a) duct (duck).

#71 Rick H.

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 07:39 PM

Therefore, in my posts above, I am not trying to say one can’t experience God in a sunrise, but I am trying to say that this is not the type of experience of God or manifestation of grace that is characteristic of those who are living in the Church, ie the Christian dispensation of grace. It is the type of experience of God that Paul talks about in ch 1-2 of Rom and indicative of this level of relationship with God.

So I in the end, seeing God in the sunrise and giving thanks is fine for the pagan, or the child, or one who is just coming to God. But for us, let us run the race that is set before us and grow up in all things into Christ who is our head. Let us allow God to move us through the ages of grace in our own individual life, recognizing the lack of grace and the imperfection in each of these ages, while neither denigrating nor denying God’s true working in them.


Anna, I'm glad I don't live any closer to you than I do so I don't have to listen to you scream :0) LOL . . . but, the older I get the less use I have for such parallels of our journeys like Augustine's above. Evangelicalism is chock full of these as well as 3 step plans, 7 step plans, and so on.

Actually, to me, these are the black and white presentations for black and white thinkers, as if this is the way it works for all of us. Even the 3 step plan in Orthodoxy for that matter as we discussed in the Markides book once before doesn't stand up to scrutiny as a formula or a system that works for all Orthodox when it is considered at any length.

I haven't read the whole work that you have cited but I imagine such things as the sun rising example is provided as what some consider to be "Natural Revelation" . . . but, without really even getting into Augustine's work any deeper, it's not like this is the final word on the subject really is it?

For example, Anna, do you remember Maria Mahoney and her thread "Contemplation of the Divine Logos." This was one of the best threads that has ever been on More Nachos. In this thread we looked at the Fathers writing on the Logos/logoi and saw that to experience God through the created material, the cosmos, and each other as created beings was definitely not for Beginners (let alone Pagans). And, I guess I don't want to go off on that, but there was some super and inspiring information shared in that thread that would not harmonize at all with what I am seeing from Augustine above, not at all.

In many ways I am starting to conclude that this subject may just be like many others in terms of 'who one wants to appeal to in order to make a point." Do you know what I mean Anna? I have some shelves full of books that most fundamentalists and evangelicals would love to have . . . I wish I didn't have them, I'm too lazy to list them on Ebay, but the point is on most topics I can write a sermon or I can write a paper or I can write a post and say just about whatever I want to say on a given topic and then know which book to go to in order to get someone to back me up.

Maybe when it comes right down to it, with our topic here, this is what we are dealing with here one person can appeal to Augustine and another can appeal to Maximos and so on. The one who appeals to Augustine can say he represents the consensus paturnum or however it's spelled and the one who appeals to Maximos can say he speaks for Orthodoxy on the matter.

I'm so ignorant about Orthodoxy it's not funny, but if I had to bet the farm I'd go with Maximos and what he has written about experiencing and about contemplating God though the flower or the plant or the sunrise or whatever natural/created thing one can think of (which is again not for beginners or pagans). I'm trying to remember what was written about a cosmic liturgy in Maria's thread, there was some really good stuff there even though the cookies were not put on the bottom shelf for the kiddies in that thread it was worth the effort. This was not a thread for black and white thinkers!

So, I dunno, where are we with this. I think Herman, the guy in the Pooh suit up in the tree, is trying to say we should go where others have gone before us and rely on them, take their hand to help each of us on our climb(s) . . . and who would take issue with this?

Daniel is now up to speed on Why a Duck? courtesy of Father David.

Paul is in Texas running from an imaginary group of his fellow Texans in monster trucks.

And, I am just kind of tired now thinking about 4 ozs. of strong espresso, 12 ozs, of milk, 1 tbl carmel, 1 tbl vanilla, and 1 tbl chocolate . . .

Peace to the readers

#72 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 08:41 PM

4 ozs. of strong espresso, 12 ozs, of milk, 1 tbl carmel, 1 tbl vanilla, and 1 tbl chocolate . . .

That sounds nice I haven't had any coffee for ages I think I try to remember to have some one day I think I will add cream and less strong coffee though.

#73 Nina

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 12:55 AM

I think I will add cream


You will add grace to your coffee. :) ;)

#74 Jason Hunt

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 03:35 AM

Today I read the below quote from St. Ambrose of Optina and I would like to add it to this thread because it is relevant to the subject and it reiterates many of the principles that we have discussed here. St. Ambrose here speaks about the consolations which people may experience who do not yet have a firm foundation in humility, and who have not progressed sufficiently in the uprooting of the passions through prolonged struggle. Such premature consolations, he indicates, are not necessarily “evil,” but if we accept them or trust in them, we will fall into delusion, mistaking such consolations for the true spiritual consolation from God which is granted only to the soul that is cleansed of the passions. Like Fr. Sophrony of Essex in the quote provided previously, St. Ambrose of Optina explains that accepting the premature consolations may cut us off from ever experiencing the true spiritual consolations that come from God. To safeguard ourselves against delusion (prelest), we should pay no attention to consolations; humble ourselves when consolations come; consider always that we are great sinners and not worthy of such experiences; and expose all of our experiences, thoughts, and deeds to our spiritual fathers.

Elder Ambrose of Optina
By Fr. Sergius Chetverikov

pp.216-218

“Respected A. came to the Monastery with an entirely good disposition and the desire to ‘seek Jesus,’ that is, to acquire His love. This is very good and noble, but it needs to have a firm foundation: for love is tested by opposition.

“Because of her fervency and purity of soul, she will soon experience consoling and pleasing feelings. This will give her hope in acquiring Jesus and His love. But these feelings are very dangerous and close to prelest, for without her having first warred with the passions, without coming to know her weaknesses and humbling herself, they are not reliable nor consoling feelings. Let them come when they do, but she must not accept them or be deceived by them, but rather consider herself unworthy. St. Isaac the Syrian writes in his second homily: ‘The activity of taking up the cross is twofold, in conformity with the duality of our nature, which is divided into two parts. The first is patient endurance of the tribulations of the flesh, which is accomplished by the activity of the soul’s incensive part and this is called righteous activity. The second is to be found in the subtle workings of the intellect, in steady divine rumination, in unfailing constancy of prayer, and in other such practices…. Every man who, before training completely in the first part, proceeds to that second activity, though it be not out of sloth but out of passionate longing for its sweetness, has God’s wrath come upon him, because he did not first mortify his members which are upon the earth, that is, he did not heal the infirmity of his thoughts by patient endurance of the labor which belongs to the shame of the cross. For he dared to imagine in his mind the cross’s glory,’ (that is, consolations), which are given only after the soul is cleansed from the passions, and humility is settled in the heart; then it will not be dangerous. Therefore we propose that you take care to caution her should she begin to have feelings of delight, that she should not rely on them and not consider them to be anything great; they will soon leave her. If on the other hand she is deceived by them and accepts them out of time, she will soon be deprived; and when it is time she will not receive them, like a careless and foolish husbandman who, when he sees a blossom growing plucks it as though it were fruit – he will never have any fruit. Many have suffered along this path and have gone astray. Instead of humility they had a high opinion of themselves, seeking exultation. In the words of the same St. Isaac: ‘The prayer of one who does not consider himself sinful is not well-pleasing to God.’ Remind her that divine love is tested by adversity: various passions will rise up with which she must struggle, and for him who possesses humble wisdom even the struggle can be uplifting. But against him who has a high opinion of himself and relies on his consoling feelings, a greater warfare is allowed, so that he would be humbled by an awareness of his weakness. Defeat is unbearable to such people and makes them fainthearted – and that is a sign of their pride. One must beware of prelest, which is multiform. Either by deceiving her with false sanctity it will blind the eyes of her soul, or, if after a burst of joyful and consoling movements she is deprived of them, she will fall into various kinds of passions. But if you work with her gradually and steadily lead her, working meticulously, then something good can come of her in time. Tell her to read more active patristic teachings: Abba Dorotheos, St. John of the Ladder, and St. Symeon the New Theologian; and have her reveal all of her words, deeds, thoughts and actions to you. For what is revealed is light, and what is not revealed is darkness.”



#75 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 05:27 PM

St. Ambrose of Optina describes the Evanglicals of my acquaintance to perfection. They are all about "consoling and pleasing feeling"--and if you are beset by the Passions, it means you're "off your walk with Jayzus" and you will remain "off your walk" until you are once again only subject to "consoling and pleasant feeling". It seems that Evangelicals have reduced Christianity to just another form of pleasure seeking, as edifying and valuable as any other hedonistic lifestyle.

#76 Owen Jones

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 01:13 PM

Thank you for a fantastic quote, Jason.

#77 Michael Demin

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 05:45 PM

I'd like to add what I personally answer to "signs of grace". I say: I do not have a vision of my sins countless like sea sand, so I did not even start to repent (St. Peter of Damascus). And they disappear. A real sign of grace for me (if it is that, I am not sure, but more likely than others) is the absense of any signs of grace if a person had those signs before.




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