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"But it's too legalistic and ritualistic! You need to come back to church elsewhere!"


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#1 A. Wright

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 06:50 AM

How can I, patristically (is that a word? Oh well. :)) and "logically" refute the "it's too legalistic/ritualistic" argument? It's recently come up in some family arguments. I think, honestly, that's part of the reason I haven't been able to get into the nearest town for Liturgy or anything. How can I hopefully convince this person their way isn't perfect and allow me out of the house to go somewhere other than their church? Any and all help is appreciated.Yours,A.

#2 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 12:36 PM

Orthodox Christians are not minimalists, we are maximalists. We want all the God we can get. We are greedy for God and are sad that other people aren't. We are not into what suffices, we are into what saves. We want beauty, not brevity.
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Not sure "they" are going to be open to Patristics. You might point them towards Leviticus. God was pretty specific on how He wanted His people to worship. Orthodox worship is based on Temple worship. Then point them towards Revelation and point out how Orthodox worship is modeled on the Apostle John's description of Heavenly worship. Isn't a good thing to worship God the way the angels do?

#3 Thomas Brunson

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 01:48 PM

I would start with prayer asking God to open the mind and heart of this person. You could get an Orthodox prayer book and pray the morning, afternoon and evening prayers. At the end of each set of prayers there is a section where you can ask or say what you want or need to say to God in your own words. As far as legalistic and ritualistic is concerned, we pray and worship in a way that pleases God which came from the original church that began on the day of Pentecost. This church, the Orthodox church came directly from the Apostles which came to them from Jesus and the indwelling and guidance of the Holy Spirit. This ritual and so called legalism is what keeps us praying and worshiping in a way that we know that is pleasing to God because not just any form of prayer or worship is pleasing to God. As Herman said, "isn't it a good thing to worship God the way the angels do?" We have been praying this way for 2,000 years and we will preserve this form of worship from the beginning of the very first day of the Orthodox church into the Kingdom of Heaven. May God Bless You +Thomas

#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 01:58 PM

The "legalistic" issue was one for my parents when I first began inquiring into Orthodoxy. They could not understand how I could possibly be interested in a Church that was like the Orthodox Church. After all, I had spent my youth pushing the limits and boundaries of Christianity to see how far it would bend and resisting every little rule and limitation. And now here I was enamoured of a Church that was nothing but rules and rituals (as they saw it). The answer is, of course, that Orthodoxy is not in any way legalistic. There are no rules that are simply there to be obeyed "because I (God) said so" or "because its right". My family and friends viewed the spiritual world as a kind of courtroom where Christ had freed us from all rules and regulations by His sacrifice on the cross. Orthodoxy, however, did not take that view and put forth the Church as a hospital/rehab facility/health spa where we could be healed of our spiritual illness. Jesus died and rose again to gain my admittance to this hospital and He was the Chief Physician attending to each patient, giving out medicine (the sacraments) as needed and prescribing a regimen of exercises and other activities (the rituals and rules) which would strengthen my weakened soul. This different approach freed me from the hobgoblin of legalism and learning that there was much more of a reason than "its the law" or "because I said so" for doing all these things. They weren't "chains" of enslavement, but they were the means by which I could regain my spiritual health.

Will this convince your family and friends - no. My parents had to see the effect over many years of being Orthodox before they saw the difference and began to accept that this was indeed a good thing (for me). But it does give you a basis for understanding and acting on the "rituals" and "legalism" of the Church and as you live that life, the results will provide for them some evidence that maybe something good is here. In the meantime begin praying to the Mother of God asking her to open the path for you to attend the Orthodox Church. She will take care of you.

Fr David Moser

#5 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 04:50 PM

It has been my experience that the groups that shout "legalistic" and "ritualistic" the loudest are, themselves, quite legalistic and ritualistic. The Evangelical (Baptist) parish I attended for a while--because my then-fiancee wanted me to see how it was, since it was her mother's parish--preached quite a bit about "legalism" and "ritualism". Then they would have an amazing set of behavioral rules that determined whether or not one was "off your walk with Jesus". Since I like beer and even dared to drink one or two in a month, I was 100% "off my walk"--my taste for retsina or whiskey was even more scandalous. There were many other rules that weren't rules, either. Likewise, even though they had no rituals, they managed to do things the same way every Sunday and begin and end prayers in exactly the same way every time they prayed. I saw this in informal prayer, as well. Eventually, my fiancee became Orthodox and we married. That scandalized everyone, since I had tempted her away from them and led her into a "cult" that practices "idolatry and drunkenness"--their words, not mine. This was not a fringe Baptist parish, either, but a popular mainstream Baptist parish down in my part of Texas.

#6 Paul Cowan

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 05:56 PM

Likewise, even though they had no rituals, they managed to do things the same way every Sunday and begin and end prayers in exactly the same way every time they prayed. I saw this in informal prayer, as well.


HAHAHAHA. Yes, I can totally appreciate this. They all start off 'Lord, we just ask....." and for any meals always end with "Bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies and the hands that prepared it." That cracks me up every time I hear it. Not that it's a bad thing to offer prayer for mind you, but WHEN EVERY PERSON IN EVERY SETTING SAYS IT, it's freakin hilarious. I even mentioned this to a few "of them" and now they are listening for it too and I can hear snickers across the room as they are picking up on what is being said.

Don't worry about "the cult" you joined. As long as you 'believe in JESUS' (as the most minimilistic thing) then you just might be ok and get saved one day. At least that's what my family hopes for me. :) hahahahaha I love 'em.

#7 Alexander Ignatiev

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 01:56 PM

The idea that the liturgy or the other divine services of the church, a prayer rule, and many of the other regular features of Orthodox worship are legalistic rituals is like the idea that daily bathing, or brushing your teeth, or cleaning your home are legalistic rituals. Orthopraxy is spiritual maintenance for one's whole being and life. Nobody is going to go weeks or months without brushing their teeth, unless they don't care about the consequences of not brushing.

Some days, you don't want to take a shower, or vacuum the carpet, or unload the dishwasher. But you do it anyway. That's the value of Orthodox worship. Orthodox Christians inculcate in ourselves, through God's grace in prayer and worship, the habit of seeking a Christ-like life. I did not understand these things for many years, as a cradle Orthodox Christian; I often felt that I was condemned to going to church forever without some sort of "religious experience." But there is the greatest value in everything we do as the Church; that is, we do it, even when we don't feel like it, even when we succumb to our passions, even when we resist, even when we groan at the effort of prostrations, even when you bemoan the fact that you can't have that cup of coffee first thing Sunday morning like you do every other day of the week.

It is so hard to show up and do Orthopraxy. It is why there is such great value in it; we are all doing it together, for and with each other. I am blessed to be part of a great parish with a great parish life and community. More than half the parish travels over an hour one way each Sunday to liturgy. I am fortunate enough to have a regular car pool group for that trip. It is a very hard trip on my own, and sometimes, when the other members of my group are not able to come (some of them are older and have serious health problems), I succumb to my sloth and remain at home on Sundays. But through their prayers and their faithfulness, my fellow commuters have helped me desire to attend church more regularly. This is the greatest blessing I've received. And it is all because of that legalistic ritual of weekly attendance at the divine services and regular communion at eucharistic services.

#8 Mike L

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 07:00 PM

I think people fail to see the difference between "Lawfulness" ( the "spirit of the Law") & "Legalism" ( the "letter of the Law"). The Liturgy is modeled after the Lawful worship set out before us in Ancient Israel, and now we do it in "Spirit & Truth", as St. Paul would describe the New Covenant. Nothing "legalistic" about it. The Angels themselves surround the Great White Throne singing "Holy, Holy, Holy God..." The "Law" hasnt been done away with; it has been fulfilled and transformed through the Spirit of the New Covenant & our Lord Jesus Christ. Only the "ordinances that were contrary to us" have been "nailed to the Cross"; otherwise we wouldn't even value the Ten Commandments anymore, which would be quite unorthodox.




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