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Says Who? (Apologia Pt 1)

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Written by Basil on 04/24/2004 6:16 PM. Filed under:

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Many people look at the world around us and believe that there must be a God. Usually this is an intuitive response to the beauty of the world: a magnificent sunset, a stream proceeding endlessly to a green horizon, a starry sky of diamonds against the black velvet of night — experiences that leave us speechless, sure that someone must be responsible for it all. Sometimes, these experiences are coupled with a philosophical investigation of the idea of God’s existence, and one of the many proofs for God’s existence adds further support to belief.

However, we cannot induce from these things what kind of creator God is. Is he good or bad? For us or against us? In the end, we cannot even know that God is a creator separate from what we see around us. As proof, one need only look at the vast multiplicity of religions in the world. So many people, searching for the reasons for their lives. If one were to judge truth in religious belief from this multiplicity of religions, one would be tempted to conclude that truth in religion was an illusion — all religious beliefs are equally fantastic and unbelievable.

The only way we could know for certain anything about God is if he told us himself. He would need to reveal himself to us. Christians believe that this is exactly what has happened. The name for Christian Scripture is the Bible; it records God’s revelation to us. Beginning with our first parents — given the names Adam and Eve in Scripture — God has patiently revealed himself little by little. Everything has been done “in the fulness of time”: when human society was ready and the moment was right for the fulfillment of his plan.

In a comment on my post A Charge to Keep I Have, Pete asks,

This discussion seems to be… yet another argument about whether the Orthodox church is the only true church…. Does every issue have to become this? I’m not asking from a position of cynicism (yet)—I sincerely want to know whether it?s possible to have real dialogue… about other issues without reference to the Orthodox/“Heterodox? issue.

Karl brings it down to the real issue in response:

[A]ll truth claims eventually come to their core: by what authority does one claim that [X] is true? In regards to Orthodox vs Heterodox discussions of ANYTHING, [the] issue must at some point touch on the Authority Issue. Otherwise we just shout Scripture verses, or philosophical syllogisms, or whatnot back and forth totally befuddled as to why the other person ?just doesn?t get it.?

From our POV, this is a waste of time. We might as well get to the real issue: How do you know that what you believe is true?

The New Testament Scriptures testify to the life of Jesus Christ, whom Orthodox Christians believe to be God. The Orthodox believe that the Incarnation of God is the ultimate authority for all questions. “Incarnation” is a word from Latin meaning “enfleshment.” For Orthodox Christians, Jesus Christ was not merely a man, but God enfleshed as a man.

None of the books of the Bible were written by Jesus. There is no evidence, in fact, that he was even interested in leaving any teachings or instructions in writing at all. His actions — as recorded by the writers of the gospels, the books of the Bible that describe his life — seem to indicate that he was more interested in forming a community of which he is the head. Christians call this community the Church.

Just before his ascent into heaven, Jesus left his authority with a group of twelve hand-picked men called Apostles. These men had lived with Jesus for three years and were intimately familiar with his teachings. In addition, on Pentecost they were filled with the Holy Spirit, who enabled them to recall and teach what they had learned with power and authority. The Holy Spirit also brought them together and constituted them into a new reality, the Church, which Orthodox Christians believe is one with Jesus Christ, its head and founder.

This is why St. Paul considers the Church to be “the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

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5 Responses to “Says Who? (Apologia Pt 1)”

  1. pete Says:

    official notice:

    i will no longer be commenting on matters of theological import. i am weary from the endless theological arguments i have spent too much time engaging in, both online and at seminary. neither forum has proven particularly helpful or satisfying to me or anyone i have discussed with, as far as i can tell. there is always a counter argument, always a “fundamentally different worldview” comment, always a disconnect, hardly ever any agreement, and i personally have not become a more humble, more loving, more prayerful, more kind, or otherwise more Christ-like person as a result of any of it. i have grown to know more about what people think about theological issues, which is a fine thing for other reasons, but i have not grown closer to God for all of the discussion. without that, what’s the point of any of this? so…feel free to quote me again if you want to, but this is, truly, my last response.

  2. basil Says:

    I quoted you because it is such an appropriate question. I hope you didn’t feel baited by it. The question of authority and revelation is pivotal to any explanation of the Christian faith. I put it first for just such a reason. Note the revised title.

  3. James Says:

    I think that you asked a very valid question at that time. When discussing things with Roman Catholics I run into the same issue. They believe what they believe, which is often different than what I as an Orthodox Christian believe, and they believe their doctrines to be true because they are taught by what they consider “the true church.”

    I have found that I can discuss/argue things with them all day and all night, but it all comes down to authority. They say the pope has the authority to declare dogma without consulting anyone else and that councils they held after the 11th Century are authoritative. I say he doesn’t and they aren’t. In talking to the local Baptist or Methodist minister I’ll run into the same issue with the Bible. They will say that many of my doctrines are wrong because their interpretation of the Scipture says this or that.

    So, what is the point of theological “discussion”? I think that’s a better question. More importantly I think, am I in a position to discuss the Orthodox faith authoritatively with anyone? The answer is a definite, “No!” All I end up doing is making people angry, and that’s no good.

    There are people out there who have left the Orthodox Church and will be happy to tell us all what they see as erroneous about the Orthodox Church. I’ve seen some of their writings and can safely say I believe it’s full of misconceptions and misunderstandings. Did these people ever attend a catechism or adult study class? Did they ever talk to a priest or theologian? The point is, though that the ex-Orthodox people and Karl could scream at each other all day it wouldn’t do any good. What is dialogue? What does it really look like and what is its true aim?

    Pete, I could tell you all about why I think the Orthodox Church is the best ecclesiastical expression in existance, but if I make you feel like I’m judging you, which I’m sure I have in the past, then what good have I done?

    All these are just rambling musings by the way … your mileage may vary.

  4. pete Says:

    i appreciate what you’re trying to say. please appreciate what i’m trying to say: i’m tired. i’m just tired. and i’m done with this issue, for all the reasons you mention below, and others.

  5. Karl Thienes Says:

    “The point is, though that the ex-Orthodox people and Karl could scream at each other all day it wouldn’t’ do any good…”

    Well, I for one haven’t been screaming. And the point Basil quoted me as saying was not given in a spirit of divisiveness. It is simply something to think about.