Rest of Kh. Frederica’s interview

…from the original source follows, for interest’s sake (emphases and footnotes mine):



8.) What do you personally find the most challenging about Orthodoxy?

I keep finding that I have so much further to go. Well, to step back, the most challenging thing about Orthodoxy is that it dumps you right out at the place where it’s you and Jesus and nowhere to hide. You have to deal with him. No excuses, no lies — lies come from the evil one. As I continue to use the “workout routine” of the spiritual disciplines, I continue to discover that I am still lying to myself about so many things, I am still afraid, I am still lonely, and stubbornly choosing lonely freedom over loved humility. It’s an endless struggle. I have been practicing the Jesus Prayer for 12 years, and I am still so far from “pray constantly.” It’s not a matter of feeling guilty, but more like recognizing that you are still flabby and out of shape and not ready to run the race. Orthodoxy keeps emphasizing God’s compassion–that’s another thing I noticed early on, that it keeps stressing that God forgives us freely and welcomes us like the father of the Prodigal Son. But I keep holding back. That’s the most challenging thing.

9.) Do you feel the freedom to disagree (agreeably) with certain issues of doctrine within the Orthodox Church? How might you handle this differently now, compared with when you moved in Protestant circles?

I guess as a Protestant, and a graduate of Episcopal seminary, I felt an “appropriate” (ha) pride in my own intellectual vigor. There is a vibrant tradition in Western theology, perhaps from the time of St. Thomas Aquinas, of theological debate. The problem, as one seminary prof explained to me, is that eventually all the possible new ideas have been thought of, so a person who wants to make his name has to advance a theory that is outlandish if not impossible. Anyway, as a Protestant, I not only felt free to disagree, I felt invited to disagree, and taht not disagreeing would be intellectually lazy. It’s a funny thing, hard to express.

In Orthodoxy there’s a different history. It’s more collaborative. It’s as if the expectation is, we all want to grow in Christ–that’s the only goal, there’s no goal of theological exploration for its own sake. So anything anyone expresses is intended to be a contribution to that goal. At its best, when Orthodoxy is functioning well, the good stuff gets picked up and included, and the not-so-good (it’s all well-intentioned; there is no intention of “making a name for myself”) might percolate a while before being discarded. Someone told me early on that, no matter where you dip into Orthodox history, no matter what nation or century, the writings sound teh same; the writing style is the same. Strange but true.* So there is this impulse to collaborate, pull together, to work on this one thing that unites us–rather than an impulse to pull away from the herd and be original and independently brilliant.

There are some things Orthodoxy is united on, and when it comes to those I either agree, or hope to understand better. I can’t think of anything that is a serious problem for me. Before we became Orthodox we believed in women’s ordination, and I still have no problem with women being ordained in other churches, but I recognize tht they aren’t in Orthodoxy. I don’t understand fully. Apparently it has never been controversial, in all 2000 years, which alone tells you something, so there’s no explication. However, Orthodox women saints have been preachers and teachers and theologian, they’ve acted as pastoral counsellors to both men and women, they’ve gone into new nations and single-handedly evangelized the people. I’ve given Sunday-morning sermons from Orthodox pulpits all over the country. So Orthodox women do as lay people a lot of things that might require ordinaiton in a Protestant church. I wrote an essay on this in Beliefnet.com last January: http://www.frederica.com/writings/womens-ordination.html  But not everything in Orthodoxy has that kind of unanimity. There was a time when the church was completely pacifist, and then, after Constantine’s conversion, war was permitted (we don’t believe in Just War, however. War is always tragedy and sin, but sometimes it’s just going to happen.)** I tend to be a pacifist, but I recognize that I can’t prove this viewpoint consistently in the Church. So I’m on the board of teh Orthodox Peace Fellowship and this view is represented there. This is not really the same thing as “disagreeing” but it is navigating an unsettled point. It’s strangely enough another one of those paradigm shifts in the east — the noble responsibility to disagree, the honoring of the rebel, is a (relatively recent?) Western idea that doesn’t occur in the East, because we see ourselves as partners in each other’s process of transformation. Collaboration rather than disagreement.

10.) How might an Orthodox see salvation in a different light than a Protestant Evangelical?

I think I covered a bit of this above–I guess I’d say first that in one sense the view is the same, that is, the moment you believe in Christ you are “saved.” If you died that moment, you would end up in heaven. But most of us don’t die taht moment. We have all this time left over, days and years, in which we must choose moment by moment either to be surrendered to Christ or to withdraw. In Orthodoxy we are always being reminded of the example of Judas, who had every advantage of being in Christ’s presence, Christ even washed his feet, yet he withdrew and fell. If he’d repented again he would have been saved, but he remained locked in his rejection. So we have a strong teaching that it is possible to “lose salvation,” in the sense that you can fall away and reject it later on. This doesnt’ happen suddenly but gradually, as your commitment weakens, one little tempting thought after another. So there is strong emphasis on clinging to the Lord and admitting your weakness, being humble and not proud abt spiritual strength.

There are two senses of “salvation,” then. One is the right-this-instant sense, and another biblical figure that Orthodox regularly recall is the Good Thief (also known as the “Wise Thief”), who was saved apart from any effort of his own by God’s grace, just by calling out to Christ in humility. But another sense would be that day by day you are “growing in” salvation. By God’s grace, on the last day you will endure to the end, and be one of teh saved at his right hand. An Orthodox reply to “Are you saved?” is “I have been saved, I am being saved, I hope to be saved.” 

(*–Maybe because it’s the same Spirit of God behind it all?!  –Leo Peter)

(**–That is to say, one thing rulers and armies do, even ones trying to be Orthodox Christians, is fight wars.  The Orthodox view, sans the West’s Justifiable War Tradition, is merely realism.  At the same time, you may recall, Emperor Constantine wasn’t Baptized until he was near death – spent all that time as a catechumen – in part so that he could do what he felt he should as Emperor, ie, first, military commander [Latin imperator].  But he remains an Orthodox Saint, Holy Emperor Constantine the Great, Equal-to-the-Apostles – blasphemy to my Mennonite and Quaker friends!  But anyone who shed blood used to be barred from receiving Communion for 3 years, and clergy and monastics traditionally still aren’t allowed to shed blood ever.  And often a soldier or ruler who came to feel strongly enough about it resigned, and sometimes entered a monastery.  Many sainted Irish Orthodox princes even gave up the prospect of succeeding to thrones – often a successor [Gaelic tanaiste, tanist] virtually had to prove his worth in factional fighting within the clan or kingdom – in favor of monasticism.  –Leo Peter)

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