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Salvation as a process


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#1 Michael Du.

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 03:19 AM

Hi,

Titus 3:4-7 states the following: "But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life"

There are many other verses in Scripture that also seem to say that a a believer is saved or justified by faith in Christ (i.e. Romans 10:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-10, etc.). My question is, why do Orthodox seem to not be convinced of their salvation, and are frequently saying that they are being saved? I recently asked one Orthodox clergy if he had assurance of salvation, and he said that he didn't know if he would be saved.

I know we should not be prideful or presumptuous; yet, Christ said that if we believe in his name we have (not will have) eternal life (John 5:24), and that those who are in Christ have no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Often the Apostle Paul speaks in present terms that we have been justified (not that we will be justified in the future).

I don't have a problem with Orthodox praxis; however, should it not be done as a result of salvation, as opposed to trying to get salvation? Please help me understand this, because sometimes it seems that the Orthodox are trying to earn their salvation.

Thanks for your help.

#2 Rick H.

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 10:58 AM

"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."

I John 5:13

#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 11:39 AM

This has been discussed in several threads already. You have to look at ALL of Holy Scripture, not simply cherry-pick one or two verses out of context. Text without context is pretext.

Nothing in the verses presented describes "salvation" as a one time thing. You might want to read the Holy Apostle Paul who talks about working out salvation in "fear and trembling", and his comments about running the race until completion and to keep fighting the good fight, things that indicate more than merely reciting a prayer or making an altar call. You need to be a little more specific about what "faith in Christ" means as well. It means more than a mere oral acknowledgement. Besides "talking the talk", you have to "walk the walk". If you stop walking, you don't get anywhere.

Nobody is saying that Salvation comes from anywhere except through Christ. Christ's gift will not be taken away. But we are free to give it away or throw it away or "lose" it at any time. Remember the parable of the seeds?

Like Father says, accepting the gift is one thing. Keeping it and using it is something else. We are not simply "once saved always saved". It does not work like that. I like the analogy that we are drowning in an ocean of sin. Christ has thrown us the life-line and will pull us in, all we have to do is "hold on". But we can "let go" at any time. He will not take that life-line away, it is always there no matter what we do, but we still have to hold on to it. Our hands are not glued to it, it requires effort on our part. We don't "earn" it, but we must cooperate, we must hold on while Christ does the heavy lifting. Is that so hard to understand?

Herman the holdin' on Pooh

#4 Anna Stickles

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 12:50 PM

Herman, what a nice analogy.

Michael,

Another way to see this is that in the Orthodox tradition salvation is by grace - it is by the grace we receive at our baptism, and continue to receive through our sacramental participation in the Church. As noted, it is not a "confession of faith" or even our own belief by which we are saved.

Even in the Protestant tradition, it is understood that a confession of faith is an outgrowth of something God has already done in the heart, not an action itself that saves one, but in the PC the working of God is much more centered in the individual because it is separated from the Mysteries of the Church.

In Orthodoxy the ground of the transformation of our lives rests not first in something God has done in our heart as an independent reality, but first in our participation in the Mysteries, our participation in Christ.

Therefore for the Orthodox our dependence and assurance of salvation does not rest even upon our own faith, it rests in what Christ has done and is doing, and how we participate in this through our membership in the Church. When an Orthodox says that they are not sure they are saved, this actually is not a lack of faith. It means we are not depending on our own strength or anything in ourselves, therefore we are not confident that we will be faithful to the end - but at the same time there is assurance through continued participation in the Church of God's ultimate mercy and love being active in our lives.

This is really hard to communicate without having experienced this. It is a shift that happens when a Protestant convert comes into Orthodoxy and start participating in the mysteries.

#5 Rick H.

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 01:20 PM

My question is, why do Orthodox seem to not be convinced of their salvation, and are frequently saying that they are being saved?




This has been discussed in several threads already.



I'm not sure that I have read anything about why some Orthodox are not convinced about their salvation.

It was helpful for me to learn the different definitions of "Salvation" in 'protestantism' and 'orthodoxy', and I think there is some good writing about this here.

When you say please help me to understand, Michael, possibly to understand how Orthodox use the word Salvation would be a good place to start.

#6 Mark Harris

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 01:41 PM

Herman, I wish I had your mind! Thank you always for your insight.

I read this yesterday if you have the time to read this speach there is a piece on Salvation of the Soul . http://journeytoorth.../#axzz1bJ5NpUDd

#7 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 01:46 PM

We have an entire sub-forum called Economy, History, and Salvation devoted to this topic. Here is one thread: "Knowing" we are saved. Another thread worth a look is Do we choose God?

There are several others as well. It is very much an oversimplification to say that "Orthodox are not convinced of their salvation" so I am not surprised you have not read much about it. That is simply not a correct statement. We are certainly convinced that salvation is ours, IF we truly want it and are willing to "grasp" it. There is no doubt in God's promise, but merely some modicum of humility and nepsis in not being overly confident in our own ability to "hold on". We still have to finish the race, we still have to fight the good fight. We are simply acknowledging that we are not there yet.

And of course there is the whole topic of "theosis" which is also pertinent and discussed in several threads as well. Use the SEARCH feature if really interested.

Herman the still fightin' Pooh

#8 Rick H.

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 01:49 PM

"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."

I John 5:13


I wonder if anyone has any patristic commentary on this verse which speaks of this letter of the Apostle John? I agree with Herman about context. And, I also agree with those that say you can make a case for either Calvinism or Arminianism or a middle road with the scriptures. In fact, I have read posts here by Orthodox Church members that clearly demonstrate either a Calvinistic leaning or an Arminian leaning in their Orthodoxy.

For that matter, what you are saying is not hard to understand Herman. Michael says, "Please help me to understand," and you give him the rope in the ocean analogy and say "Is that so hard to understand."

But, for the enquirer or seeker the real question is 'can you please help me to understand how you can see it that way.' In the end, when most try to look at the big picture or the whole picture of soteriology in the Scriptures a person will:

1.) Believe what they are taught
2.) Believe what they want to believe
3.) Believe what seems right to them

In the Scriptures we see examples of predestination and free will, we see individual conversions, and these are explained different ways by different schools of thought.

I have given up debating soteriology for the sake of debating soteriology . . . but, when I think someone is saying something like, 'can you please help me to understand how you can see it that way' then this is a different matter.

In this case, there may still be disagreement in the end, but at least there will be a higher degree of understanding and a clearer communication with less room allowed for misperceptions.

For the one who truly seeks to understand, we should not speak with our finger on the trigger, or even in the trigger guard . . . we should respond with clarity, but also compassion--less concerned with being a kind of internet champion.

#9 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 02:09 PM

Anna Stickles wrote:

Another way to see this is that in the Orthodox tradition salvation is by grace - it is by the grace we receive at our baptism, and continue to receive through our sacramental participation in the Church. As noted, it is not a "confession of faith" or even our own belief by which we are saved.

...but in the PC the working of God is much more centered in the individual because it is separated from the Mysteries of the Church.


This is exactly the point for us. It's very important to understand that when we hear the phrase "faith by works alone" we hear this as meaning that the person accomplishes his/her salvation mainly through his own individual action or acknowledgment of Christ.

In Orthodoxy however salvation is always an ongoing process accomplished through Christ's Body which is the Church. Therefore effort on our part is required because life in the Church is a continual reaching out for Christ and which results in growth through Christ's grace. It isn't something accomplished in one action of word or deed only. Nor is it the result of an individual action or assent since all grace comes only through Christ.

As for 'trying to earn' salvation- this is a risk that comes with belief in Christ. It isn't exclusive to Orthodoxy since all Christians attempt to reach out to Christ in one way or another. And they do this to achieve or find salvation. As soon as result comes in (ie we hope for salvation as the result of doing something) the risk or temptation is always present of approaching God in a mercenary way.

That though is why humility is always necessary in the process of salvation. We know that salvation is not actually attained due to our efforts but only through our meager efforts. And even then we have no idea that this will necessarily lead to our salvation. For if it did then we would fall back into that mercenary relationship with God we just warned about. The humble attitude of that priest then is the only correct one. Effort is always necessary, but humble effort so that we grow in an awareness that salvation comes not from us but from Christ.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#10 Rick H.

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 02:15 PM

While there is a difference, for sure, between protestant and orthodox beliefs and methods . . . is it possible that Michael could obtain at least a *toehold* by starting with the idea that "salvation" in Orthodoxy is more like "sanctification" in 'protestantism?'

#11 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 03:24 PM

OF COURSE Scripture can be bent and twisted and misinterpreted and proof-texted to justify just about any position you want to and certainly has! That is why Holy Scripture is only the STARTING POINT and not the sum total of the Revelation of Christ. This is why Holy Scripture can only be properly understood in an Orthodox context, within the worshipping community of the Church. It cannot simply be read and memorized, it has to be LIVED and EXPERIENCED. We must TASTE and SEE that the Lord is Good, not just read about it.

A person must ENCOUNTER Christ and not simply read about Him. Until that happens we can debate and debunk and argue and "dialogue" from now until the Second Coming, but that is NOT what will convince.

Rather than go down the exact same trail as has been gone down before, I still think it best, if a person is genuinely interested in learning rather than simply trying to proselytize, to review what has already been said on the subject before asking the same questions and getting the same answers. If Michael still has questions or confusion, we can then concentrate on those, rather than simply rehashing information that already exists.

Is there a problem with this approach?

Herman the wondrin' Pooh

#12 Anna Stickles

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 05:06 PM

While there is a difference, for sure, between protestant and orthodox beliefs and methods . . . is it possible that Michael could obtain at least a *toehold* by starting with the idea that "salvation" in Orthodoxy is more like "sanctification" in 'protestantism?'


Yes, this is a good place to start. In fact if we take out what is normally meant in the PC by "salvation" altogether, and just stick with the fact that our salvation is our sanctification we have a very good start.

#13 Anna Stickles

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 05:11 PM

This is exactly the point for us. It's very important to understand that when we hear the phrase "faith by works alone" we hear this as meaning that the person accomplishes his/her salvation mainly through his own individual action or acknowledgment of Christ.


By "we" in this sentence you are not referring to Orthodox are you, but those of us brought up in Protestant traditions and still struggling toward a right Orthodox understanding?

#14 Anna Stickles

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 06:00 PM

In the end, when most try to look at the big picture or the whole picture of soteriology in the Scriptures a person will:
1.) Believe what they are taught
2.) Believe what they want to believe
3.) Believe what seems right to them


You left out the one that is at the heart of Orthodox hermenuetics. Believing what we have lived in truth.

Soteriology in the Orthodox church has its starting place in the actual experience of our being saved.

Believing what we are taught is a good place to start. In fact it is where we all start. As children we all believe what we are taught and this is a virtue. What is then supposed to happen is that as we grow up our experience should bear out what we have been taught.

If we have been taught wrong and our move toward God is true and right then our beliefs will gradually shift in the right direction, although there may be some areas that never quite clear up all the way.

If we have been taught right and are moving rightly then gradually what we have been taught and experience will merge and become one.

If we have been taught right, but choose to move in the wrong direction then we will gradually reject what we have been taught, although people often hold on to bits and pieces of Truth according to their inner inclination. People then may start to make up new beliefs to fit their own inner state. and even start teaching it to others. This is how something like atheism gets started. But then we start over again. The child brought up as an atheist is not stuck there. They also as they grow up move according to how God is working with them toward Himself and Truth.

I think we can all relate to those like Michael who are asking questions and the fact that in the middle of this whole process things are often in confusion, like someone that keeps looking at a landscape and what they thought was a tree they suddenly realize is a person, like when Jesus healed the one blind man. But this is ok and natural. I think most of us here have been, and currently are, in the middle of this situation of living in a continually shifting landscape. But its just a matter of maintaining hope that things will settle, but also maintaining the humility to realize that they will settle in God's time according to our spiritual growth in conjunction with our studies.

This is really where we come to appreciate the Church. We don't have to have it all clear, our faith does not have to be stable, our heart and mind do not have to be right, in order to still find some inner peace and assurance in our relationship with God, since even when we are not doing well in our own efforts toward salvation, there is still that basic security of being in the Body of Christ and knowing we are still connected to the Vine.

#15 Michael Du.

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 06:11 PM

Thanks for everyone's comments. I am interested in Orthodoxy and moving closer to it, so I am just trying to understand certain things from an Orthodox perspective, because at times there are still stumbling blocks for me. For me, even though I feel the pull towards Orthodoxy, it has been a difficult process. In the end, sometimes it seems to be a leap of faith to accept one position over the other, and there is a fear that I will be making a mistake. Anyways, I appreciate everyone's thoughts and I will take a look at the other posts.

#16 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 09:33 PM

By "we" in this sentence you are not referring to Orthodox are you, but those of us brought up in Protestant traditions and still struggling toward a right Orthodox understanding?


Sorry about that- I mean that the Orthodox hear the Protestant statement 'by faith alone' as actually being something which the individual accomplishes through his/her own actions.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#17 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 08:12 PM

Michael, perhaps one way to begin thinking about justification by faith vs. salvation as process is to ask, What theological/religious problem in the 16th century was "justification by faith" designed to solve? With regards to Luther, I think the answer is clear: the despair and terror of his heart generated by the dominant understanding of the conditionality of God's love, enshrined in the Latin penitential system. Justification by faith resolved this problem by summoning the sinner to cast all of his trust on the unmerited mercy of Christ. Despair and terror are driven out of the heart by the grace of God, received in faith. The essential problem was a defective understanding of who God is and how he deals with sinners. Luther can thus be understood as recovering a clear and powerful vision of the unmerited grace of God, communicated to believers through the proclamation of the gospel.

Now consider what happens if you understand, right from the beginning, that God simply is unconditional love. We do not need to earn this love. We do not need to persuade God to have mercy upon us. There are no propitiatory transactions for us to perform. God simply is the One who pours out his deifying life and grace upon us through the sacramental mysteries of the Church. As the priest prays in the Divine Liturgy: "For a good God art Thou and the lover of mankind, and to Thee do we send up glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto the ages of ages." If we are clear about who God is, right from the beginning, then everything is changed. Now salvation is a matter of personal appropriation, through repentance, prayer, and good works, of God's gift of life and grace. Salvation is process because our historical life is process; but it is a process that is enveloped and undergirded by God's unconditional love given to us in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. We are truly saved by faith, but faith here is understood, in all of its biblical richness, as comprehending everything that it means to live our present lives in the Holy Trinity. Faith is more than belief, more than trust, more than works, more than repentance, more than sanctification, though it includes all of this and more: faith is personal relationship to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. This relationship is not our achievement; it is God's achievement, established through gospel, baptism, and holy eucharist. And thus after partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, the congregation sings: "We have seen the true light; we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us."

Fr Aidan+

Edited by Aidan Kimel, 22 October 2011 - 09:11 PM.


#18 Michael Du.

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 09:00 PM

Michael, perhaps one way to begin thinking about justification by faith vs. salvation as process is to ask, What theological/religious problem in the 16th century was "justification by faith" designed to solve? With regards to Luther, I think the answer is clear: the despair and terror of his heart generated by the dominant understanding, enshrined in the Latin penitential system, of the conditionality of God's love. Justification by faith resolved this problem by summoning the sinner to cast all of his trust on the unmerited mercy of Christ. Despair and terror are driven out of the heart by the grace of God, received in faith. The essential problem was a defective understanding of who God is and how he deals with sinners. Luther can thus be understood as recovering a clear and powerful vision of the unmerited grace of God, communicated to believers through the proclamation of the gospel.

Now consider what happens if you understand, right from the beginning, that God simply is unconditional love. We do not need to earn this love. We do not need to persuade God to have mercy upon us. There are no propitiatory transactions for us to perform. God simply is the One who pours out his deifying life and grace upon us through the sacramental mysteries of the Church. As the priest prays in the Divine Liturgy: "For a good God art Thou and the lover of mankind, and to Thee do we send up glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto the ages of ages." If we are clear about who God is, right from the beginning, then everything is changed. Now salvation is a matter of personal appropriation, through repentance, prayer, and good works, of God's gift of life and grace. Salvation is process because our historical life is process; but it is a process that is enveloped and undergirded by God's unconditional love given to us in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. We are truly saved by faith, but faith here is understood, in all of its biblical richness, as comprehending everything that it means to live our present lives in the Holy Trinity. Faith is more than belief, more than trust, more than works, more than repentance, more than sanctification, though it includes all of this and more: faith is personal relationship to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. This relationship is not our achievement; it is God's achievement, established through gospel, baptism, and holy eucharist. And thus after partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, the congregation sings: "We have seen the true light; we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us."

Fr Aidan+


Thanks for your answer. There is a mystery to salvation, but I like how you emphasize having a correct understanding of God's unconditional love from the very outset.

#19 Rick H.

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Posted 23 October 2011 - 03:09 PM

The essential problem was a defective understanding of who God is and how he deals with sinners. Luther can thus be understood as recovering a clear and powerful vision of the unmerited grace of God, communicated to believers through the proclamation of the gospel.

We are truly saved by faith . . . faith is personal relationship to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.



This is really the question: is salvation unconditional? Or, is it conditional? If it is conditional, what must we do in order to be rightly related? Close circle, end scene.

#20 Anna Stickles

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Posted 23 October 2011 - 07:50 PM

Nowhere in Fr Aiden's post does it talk about unconditional salvation, only about God's unconditional love. And he does talk about what we need to be rightly related - prayer, repentance and good works - not as a way to appease God and win his favor, but rather as a way to soften the human heart putting it in a disposition to receive what is being offered.

It is in the latter that so often our vision fails. We hear the message of all the good things God is offering and think - who, really believing that God has all this good in store for us, would reject it? Thus, outside of the Church, so often we hear the message preached that all that is needed to be saved is faith -meaning mental belief that God has something good in it for us.

But then for anyone who truly tries to live the Christian life, the rubber hits the road and we realize that we can relate to Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew, we can relate to Saul who took things into his own hands rather then obey God's prophet when things started looking hopeless, we can relate to the Rich Young Ruler who chose his riches over Christ. We realize how many ways we actually reject God's unconditional offer of transforming the human heart -from bitterness of affection, from anger to peace, from greed to generosity. We start to be able to relate to St Andrew's Canon that we sing in Lent.

But if we never start to confront these things but just go merrily along thinking that we love God and are happily saved, then how can this be anything but delusion?

If Luther was struggling with despair over whether or not he could be saved, it was because in his love for God he was truly struggling to obey the Gospel and had confronted these basic truths about what lives in the human heart. God said to St Silouan, "Keep your mind in hell and despair not." Can "not-despairing" be meaningful at all if we have not first experienced the fact that we are in hell?

But so often today, people start with the unconditional love of God and simply assume they are going to be saved. They never get to the point that Luther did, realizing at the very core of their being that they are not able to save themselves and that in fact they are not worthy of being saved and that in fact they are inveterate rebels.

It is one thing to believe in God's unconditional love from the very outset, but this is not yet to be saved, nor to be in a right relationship with God. Salvation is to experience the fact that we are indeed in need unconditional love, because apart from this there is no other hope. Then the assumption that one had from the outset is proved in fact, and faith becomes sight.




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