Frederica Mathewes-Green interview, and a review (sort of)

The interview, conducted by email by a magazine, is mostly reproduced by another blogger here, though he re-posted it in installments, so start with Number One at the bottom of the page and work your way back up.

I might offer for clarification, first, that there have been several more-or-less intensive missionary periods in Orthodox Church history:

  1. the first thousand years or so, spreading north and west across Europe and North Africa, Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland (a tiny bit), south through Ethiopia, east into India, and north and east through the Balkans, the Caucasus, Moravia, and European Russia (though we lost a chunk of all this to the Assyrian Church of the East historically known as “Nestorian,” the Oriental Churches called Non-Chalcedonian, Islam, the fall of the Patriarchate of Rome from Orthodoxy, the Crusades and Uniatism and “mission” by the Latin and Protestant Churches among our people, the Westernization of the Russian intelligentsia from the 1700s [which paved the way for Soviet Communism and 60 million Martyrs], and the Greek-Turkish-Cypriot and Israeli-Arab conflicts of the 20th century);
  2. from around the 1700s through the 1910s, making headway among the Native peoples of Siberia and Alaska, as well as in China, Japan, and Korea, and well over 100,000 Heterodox Christians in the U.S. and Canada;
  3. since the 1940s with new missions in East, West, and South Africa, since the 1970s-80s throughout the Western world, and since the 1990s from India around to Hong Kong and Taiwan;
  4. 3a. and of course special mention goes to what’s been called the biggest religious revival in history, in the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe, especially Orthodoxy, since the 1980s-90s, even in the face of well-financed and internationally-backed “missions” from the Latins and Protestants beyond their historical positions in those countries, from other Western sects with questioned connections to Christianity, and in the face of Western materialism, secularism, skepticism, agnosticism, atheism, etc.  (Remember that Orthodox there experienced Communism as yet another bad idea from the West!)

I would also add that Orthodoxy’s Number One concern from the devil is temptation to sin and away from God.

I haven’t read the Markides books Khouria Frederica mentions, but I’ve heard some concerns even about the first one, so maybe don’t even take that one as totally “gospel,” so to speak: helpful perhaps, but limited.

I am struck by her description of Divine Energy:

‘An example is the {New Testament} Greek word “energeia,” energy, which appears all through St Paul, eg, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for God is energizing in you, both to will and to energize for his good pleasure.” But there was no Latin equivalent, so when Jerome made his translation he used “opus,” work. A sculptor creates a statue and that is his opus, but it is separate from him; he’s not “energizing” within it. So you see that this creates a very different sense of whether and how God is present….’

Wow.

Speaking of mission, here’s her interesting approach!: “I guess if I could just persuade people that they don’t know what Orthodoxy is, I’d consider it a good start.”  LOL!  [Have I LOL’ed in this blog before?!]  Seriously, it does point to what I believe is one part of converting, at least for some of us Westerners – UNlearning much of what we’ve been told Christianity, God, Christ, the Scriptures, religion, faith, salvation, etc., are all about.  (With six years of graduate religious studies under my belt, I just might have to go to seminary, even if I never become a priest, just to unlearn all that other stuff!!)

Also, we converts shouldn’t get a big head about “teaching {ethnic Orthodox} about {their} own faith, things {they} never knew.”  Let’s remember they’ve probably forgotten more, historically, than we’ll ever “know”!  Actually this dynamic is nothing new – it happens in many outfits, and was a big reason why in the Early Church the Catechumenate was a public event, not just a few appointments at the rectory.  Every Lent the whole parish walked through the last leg of the process with the candidates, leading up to their Baptisms at Pascha, year after year, keeping their own Faith fresh, in a real sense The Church “ever old, ever new.”  If most Orthodox haven’t been personally involved with ‘official’ evangelization down through the centuries, this might be kind of new to them, “but in the beginning it was not so.”  Thus, the Diaspora, as well as the Revival in Eastern Europe, may be a blessing, as well as a challenge, to the Church.

Finally, a more complete way to express the Orthodox approach to Scripture in contrast to the modern Western approach might be to include the fact that we seek to learn how the men and women who put together the Scriptures, perceived them – those who were taught about them by the Lord while He was physically on Earth, and by the Spirit of God later, the o/Orthodox Fathers and Mothers of the Church since the Apostles … rather than just a bunch of kids with their freshly-minted Ph.D.’s!  There’s a problem here: The typical modern approach to the (first-millennium) Patristics is to feel they were uninformed, ignorant, bigoted, credulous, too homiletic or “pious,” shallow, etc.  This is a version of what I call the Caveman Hypothesis: that anyone before, say, the Enlightenment (so-called), was of little more value than cavemen in helping us understand their own times, documents, thoughts, experiences, etc.  It’s kind of like “Higher Criticism” vs. THE PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE, and sometimes even Christ Himself!!!  Now, I’ve learned alot from HC over the years, but in Orthodoxy the Fathers – living and reposed – come first, because in the first place Christianity isn’t philosophy or archeology, but how to get my butt saved!

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