Crisis of Faith

Elipe

Pelican
But how do you reconcile that with God's desire for us to "love" and forgive? If modern man's ideas about love are like a Disney movie, then how do we figure out how it should be?
I admit, I posted that late at night when I was tired and not thinking too clearly, so I might have come across a bit more heavy-handed than I meant to. But I think one of the main takeaways should be that when we have questions like these you asked above, our first instinct should be to look to the Bible and look at how God expresses that love and forgiveness by example, because God does things for us by example so that we can understand how things are to be properly applied. I think one of the points I was hammering on in my post was to look to God as proof that love and pacifism are not two sides of the same coin. But at the same time, God also demonstrates great patience, mercy, and restraint.

We are to love and forgive our brothers not seven times, but seventy-seven times. But to forgive, there must also be repentance. If there is no repentance, then forgiveness is meaningless. Even Jesus Himself said in Matthew 18:15-17 that there should be a church "four strikes" protocol in which an unrepentant brother is first gently addressed, then approached with one or a few mediator(s), then brought before the church general assembly, and finally cast out into the realm of Satan until he repents.

So we see that while love has a long-suffering, abiding forbearance aspect to it, there also comes a time when discipline must be applied to that love. It isn't just forgiving a person instantly the moment they sin, because that is encouraging and enabling sin. It is being open to accepting one's repentance at any time, and obviously the sincerity of the repentance will have to be judged on a case-by-case basis because we are not God and therefore cannot see into a man's heart, but the point remains that repentance is essential to forgiveness.

But love is also something that must consider a balance of some sort: the love you have for your fellow brothers in Christ must be balanced carefully with the love that you have toward unbelievers. Unbelievers certainly require our attention as the Lord and His choruses of angels sing with joy when a lost sheep is found, but what many Christians also struggle with in these modern days is balancing that with the needs of their own brothers and sisters, as Jesus told us that we are a greater type of family than our blood families, and Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:8 that anyone who doesn't provide for their family, especially those of his household, denies the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

I've mentioned before my disgust with Western Churchanity and how it is the one club in the world that hates you for joining it because its benefits are only used for those outside the church, and often as a weapon against those in the church.

But anyway, that love for one's family also means protecting them, and that means a willingness to stand up and fight for them. The Church should be forming networks of defense, both in the physical and spiritual senses. When I say the Church should be violent, I don't mean that we should be like barbarians that raid and pillage (sorry feds, no excitement for you today). I mean that we should exercise restraint, but also ensure that we are willing to do what must be done in defense, and give our enemies a reason to prefer when we exercise that restraint.

Of course, sometimes that protection can come without fighting at all, and when that can be done, that is probably to be preferred. But in other circumstances, sometimes one's hands also become forced. The Church should not be ashamed of being prepared.

As I wrote to another poster, I struggle with feelings of disgust and anger when I look around our fallen world and I just have such a hard time feeling love or forgiveness or even humility. In fact it's the opposite. Am I wrong to feel this? Maybe it's just pride? I don't know. Are we just supposed to be patient and wait it out as everything falls apart? Should we fight back? And if so, how? I'm just not sure what to do or what church will best guide me.
These are somewhat sticky questions because on the one hand, we should certainly continue to love the world and be humble, but on the other hand, I can't really fault you because it's perfectly normal to look at clown world and turn away in disgust and wonder if this is what God asked us to love and minister. As for whether to stand by and wait for everything to fall apart or to take a stand, that too is uncertain but that doesn't mean we should be left unprepared. We should form networks within the Church and along the various denominational boundaries, and the answer to these questions will emerge more organically.
 
If you are referring to the Orthodox Catholic Church vs the Oriental communion (Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, etc.), the latter isn't Orthodox.

Yes, I was referring to this. From an outside perspective, it looks like different Orthodox "branches" claiming they're the "one church" and the others are schismatic. If correct, this has lead me to believe Orthodox Christians have an unhealthy focus on ideological and legalistic purity rather than faith or grace as a means of salvation.
 

DanielH

Pelican
Orthodox
Yes, I was referring to this. From an outside perspective, it looks like different Orthodox "branches" claiming they're the "one church" and the others are schismatic. If correct, this has lead me to believe Orthodox Christians have an unhealthy focus on ideological and legalistic purity rather than faith or grace as a means of salvation.
Well it's an unfortunate case with the Oriental Communion, to overly simplify it, their ancestors, due to political and genuine theological reasons, wouldn't ratify the Council of Chalcedon and schismed with the Church something like 1600 years ago. Now the Orientals will deny they have those same errant beliefs from 1600 years ago, and say they have the same faith as the Orthodox Catholic Church, to which I, and many other Orthodox ask, why not then just join us and ratify those councils you agree with anyways? Maybe this will happen soon, an Oriental delegation is meeting with the Moscow Patriarchate this year.

It does look silly to outsiders and we need to be careful not to err to the right as Fr. Seraphim Rose would say, but the strict requirement for maintaining an unchanging theology, with jurisdictions checking others, is one of the reasons the Orthodox Church has been resistant to various reforms of the past several hundred years.

I think the fact that there are so many denominations now really confuses the situation. When you have errors to the left, with transgender bishops in some churches or complete lack of sacraments in others, and errors to the right where some claim a new translation of a Church service is a sign of apostasy, smaller differences in Churches like the Orthodox Catholic Church and the Oriental communion seem really silly, but going back 1500 years, those differences would have seemed quite serious.
 

Pantheon

Sparrow
Orthodox
Can you help me understand this in relation to Ephesians 2:8-9? Was Paul wrong in saying we are saved through grace and not "working for it?"
I don't think so. I'm not well versed in theology but my understanding is that we are always saved through grace and never really deserve it ourselves, but we can certainly work towards it in becoming more Christlike. Saints for example are individuals who reach a state of 'Heaven' or theosis in this life, even before dying. That is, they reach a state of knowing rather than mere belief.



 

Mike Contro Rossi

Pigeon
Orthodox
Thank you so much for posting this. I am a bit startled frankly that you and another poster have somehow touched on topics I hadn't even directly mentioned. Maybe you are being guided by God, I can't say. Or maybe you just picked up on some subtext of what I was addressing.
I think one of my biggest struggles is that I want or need to find a church that is in alignment with who I want to be. I don't know if this makes sense. What you said, really all of it, rings true to me. But how do you reconcile that with God's desire for us to "love" and forgive? If modern man's ideas about love are like a Disney movie, then how do we figure out how it should be? As I wrote to another poster, I struggle with feelings of disgust and anger when I look around our fallen world and I just have such a hard time feeling love or forgiveness or even humility. In fact it's the opposite. Am I wrong to feel this? Maybe it's just pride? I don't know. Are we just supposed to be patient and wait it out as everything falls apart? Should we fight back? And if so, how? I'm just not sure what to do or what church will best guide me.
God defines what actual love is in the Scriptures, "If you love Me, obey My Commandments." Yes. God is Love, and His Laws represent that.
 

EgoDeath

Robin
Yes, I was referring to this. From an outside perspective, it looks like different Orthodox "branches" claiming they're the "one church" and the others are schismatic. If correct, this has lead me to believe Orthodox Christians have an unhealthy focus on ideological and legalistic purity rather than faith or grace as a means of salvation.
I think that's what the doc guy who debated witcoff recently was trying to point at, with the priestly class, in Judaism its legalistic like that, as you say. Which leads to a shitty society in and of itself, in Christianity, the individual's development and spiritual flourishing is what is central in contrast which manifest itself as a far more humane and constructive society. I don't remember exactly how emj put it, but that's the type of society one would want to live in.

In secular terms, not this matriarchal nanny state tyranny. It's like that Franklin quote says; those who would sacrifice a little bit of liberty for security deserve neither and will get neither. (paraphrase).

"secular" Jewish ideologies be damned.
 

The Beast1

Peacock
Gold Member
I apologize if this is the wrong place to post this but I am looking for some guidance and figured this was as good a place to start as any.

I am having a crisis of faith. I wrote a lengthy and convoluted forum post, but I deleted that and decided instead to just start with two subjects that give me a great deal of trouble. If you have any insight, I would appreciate it. Here we go:

The problem of One True Church:

I have trouble reconciling God being a God of Justice yet simultaneously there is only one true church, and people who reject that Church will be condemned.
People being what they are, we are very subject to the environment we grew up in. If you were raised Catholic, it is likely you will believe in the Catholic church. Not always, but this is frequently the case. And this is the case whether the culture is Middle eastern, where one is likely to be Muslim, or Far Eastern, where one is likely to be Buddhist, etc.
So how can it be “just” for those people not of the one true church to be condemned? Even if they do by chance meet a missionary some day, is it really to be expected that they will just set aside the religion they grew up with and embrace this new and no doubt foreign religion? I mean, what are the odds of that realistically happening? Not very good.
Yet these people are condemned, or so the church teaches.
And even if a person were to say, “okay Christianity is the way to go”, good luck picking the right church. There are over 200 Christian denominations. And I am pretty sure that to many churches the other 199+ are heretics.
Yet how is a person to know? How can it reasonably be expected that a person could pick the right one?
Maybe you will say, “God will guide you.” Well then what of the billions of people that picked the wrong church? Why did God not guide them?
Again, how could it be just for one’s eternal fate to be determined by what seems like an almost arbitrary choice?

To further confuse things, there are plenty of good, holy, humble, devout non-Christians. These are people who are far more dedicated to living the truth of their faith than many Christians I know. Yet the “misguided” Buddhist, Muslim, etc. who commits himself to prayer and fasting and living a good life, he is the condemned one? Again, how is that just?

To make things worse, everything is shrouded in mystery. If there are some rules I need to live by to not be punished, how can it be just to shroud those rules in mystery?
In our civic society the rules are very clear as well as the punishment for breaking them. I can ask any judge or lawyer and get a pretty good idea of what the law is and the consequences of breaking the law.
Not so with matters of faith.
Even if I pick two denominations-- Catholic and Orthodox-- which have many similar beliefs, and I ask, for example, “May I divorce my wife?” I get two different answers. Which is it? How can I know who is right? Other than generally abiding by the Golden Rule-- which most faiths agree on-- how can I be sure about the details of how God wants me to live?

Problem two: The Church’s violent past

A lot of Christians would be dismayed, perhaps even incredulous, to learn of the Church’s violent history. For me, in particular, the story of what happened to Hypatia, is very tough to reconcile with the Christian God being a god of love. There is a strong case to be made that without the use of violence, the Church would never have come to prominence. And let’s be honest, if a person is willing to kill for their religion, odds are, they are saying their prayers at night. They are likely very devout. And if they are, why didn’t God in some way communicate to them that the whole murdering thing is a bad idea? Or was God okay with it? How could He be if He is a God of love?
You might say, those were just people who were misguided, who fell from the right path. Well, okay, but God has to know how that looks. Not exactly good press. Matthew tells us “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” So then do I blame just those people who did the bad deeds, or do I see it as a sign that the church is not the true one? Aren’t these brutal and violent acts the “fruit” of the church?

Anyway. These are two big sticking points for me. There are more, but I was hoping maybe some of you have dealt with these same issues and had some insights to share. Any feedback is appreciated. Thank you for reading.
You are concerning yourself with questions and worries that are unnecessary.
"Is it the one true church"
What does your heart tell you? Do you feel Jesus' presence? Does the church you belong to satisfy the longing of your soul? Do you feel secure in knowing that your soul will be saved after death?

If you answered anything but a yes then go to a different church. You need to not worry about these things. Your relationship with Christ and the holy spirit will tell you if you have found your place. Don't let wayward missionaries convince you otherwise.

Church's violent past.
Have you actually looked into the highly political death of Hypatia? The Wikipedia article appears like she was caught in the crossfire. Jews were expelled because of a revolt they did, she was politically popular but neutral, and Cyril was going around demanding loyalty. Then some rumors were started about Hypatia claiming she was a sorcerer.

Hypatia was then dragged into a former pagan temple that was converted into a church, stripped naked, beaten, and murdered by a "group" of Christians led by a lector named Peter (oddly specific name).

Why would Christians murder a pagan inside a church? Why not just kill her in the street?

Do you not see the symbolism here?

If anything the whole story comes off as classic Jewish misdirection. Kill a popular pagan lady in a church. I wouldn't be surprised if a gang of Jews disguised as Christians murdered her to inflame pagans against Christians on the empire. They had their property stolen and were kicked out. Why not pit both of your enemies against one another in the process?

As for other violent history:
You need to go back and read the Bible. Jesus says to treat others the way you want to be treated. Apply this rule to a other person. If someone attacks you, you are clear to defend yourself and push back. Especially if they attack first.
 
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Greg DB

Chicken
Every man must make a discernment. You could turn the question on its head: should we who chose the Orthodox Faith not be adequately rewarded, if it's the one true church?


I was born into a Muslim culture on my father's side, but still came to Orthodoxy despite having no tangible relationship to it. I don't think God condems you just because you belong to another religion. God will recognize anyone with a good heart. But ultimately, it's up to each individual to decide if they want to go to Heaven. Maybe some of the people you recognize Christ after death, if not in this life? Personally, I believe Christ the Logos is a universal reality and may work on men's hearts lest they know it or not, even if they belong to other religions. Far Eastern religions like Hinduism generally have a positive view of Christ, and certainly don't deny his divinity.

The actual workings of the Spirit may not be as formal as you may think or as theology puts it in theory.


Yes but those are human faults, there is only one God.


Orthodoxy doesn't teach that you go to heaven as soon as you "pick" the right church, or confess the "right" belief. Rather you must work for it, and the Orthodox Church provides the most favorable and pure conditions to reach the goal of salvation. That's how I see it, but it doesn't mean God's grace doesn't reach elsewhere.


Maybe some things are best left to God? I believe questions like this are healthy signs of an open mind and I've had them myself but then again too much questioning like this tends to produce enndless skepticism.


Well, the great thing about Christianity is that in the end you get to make the choice. Only God knows the rest. There is a school called Perennialism which states there is in fact an underlying metaphysical unity to traditional revealed religions, which doesn't translate into theological unity. Theology is based on historical revelation while metaphysics is about eternal principles. This means there can be metaphysical unity even if their is theological disparity. If you read medieval Muslim and Christian theologians, you will see they talk about one God with the same characteristics (a God that is immutable, fundamentally simple, his essence equaling his existence etc).



Violence is human nature and people will always find something to fight about. Christianity and Islam helped create coherent and civil societies for the most part, and also introduced the concept of morality. You really think we would fare better as Barbarians? One of the reasons China is a greater global threat than America is because they lack Christian morality.
Regarding the last paragraph I would counter several points: Islam’s doctrines are completely incoherent (ex: Quran commands muslims to judge the revelations of mohammed by verifying it with the Torah and Gospel, both of which contradict Mohammed’s revelations [Quran]), and Islam is incapable of creating civil societies. Islam via Allah’s divine command calls for violent conquest and brutal subjugation of non muslims so that Mohammedans can instill an Islamic state with sharia as the law of the land. Only after the implementation of sharia does “peace” come. Further, Islam did not introduce any moral concepts or teachings; it just plagiarized teachings from the Christian New and Old Testaments. The only thing new Islam brought was specifically calling for the violent subjugation of Jews, Christians and other non muslims, permitting marriage, divorce, and intercourse with prepubescent girls, and the abolition of adoption, just to name a few.

Regarding the last sentence, humanity would fare better as barbarians than as muslims. Barbarians may be open to the Christian message. Islam is vehemently against it.
 

Pantheon

Sparrow
Orthodox
Regarding the last paragraph I would counter several points: Islam’s doctrines are completely incoherent (ex: Quran commands muslims to judge the revelations of mohammed by verifying it with the Torah and Gospel, both of which contradict Mohammed’s revelations [Quran]), and Islam is incapable of creating civil societies. Islam via Allah’s divine command calls for violent conquest and brutal subjugation of non muslims so that Mohammedans can instill an Islamic state with sharia as the law of the land. Only after the implementation of sharia does “peace” come. Further, Islam did not introduce any moral concepts or teachings; it just plagiarized teachings from the Christian New and Old Testaments. The only thing new Islam brought was specifically calling for the violent subjugation of Jews, Christians and other non muslims, permitting marriage, divorce, and intercourse with prepubescent girls, and the abolition of adoption, just to name a few.

Regarding the last sentence, humanity would fare better as barbarians than as muslims. Barbarians may be open to the Christian message. Islam is vehemently against it.

The problem I have with this sort of critique is that it seems to lack a fundamental respect for religion. Islam might not be perfect but it's not true that it has not created civil societies. The burden of proof is on your side, because there is no empirical evidence that irreligious, godless societies have lasted for long. Without a common religious monotheism and language, the Middle East would be even more clannish and wartorn. The point is that Islam, like Christianity, has united more than it has divided. And as I said, once you adopt a sacred worldview you will no longer feel any desire to slander any religion in the way you do. I don't believe history is the result of purely random darwinian power-struggles and I believe there is a teleology to historical events so I can't rule out God has a purpose with religions like Judaism and Islam even if I don't subscibe to them. God can bring good out of anything. At the end of the world, Christ will put all pieces together.
 

Greg DB

Chicken
The problem I have with this sort of critique is that it seems to lack a fundamental respect for religion. Islam might not be perfect but it's not true that it has not created civil societies. The burden of proof is on your side, because there is no empirical evidence that irreligious, godless societies have lasted for long. Without a common religious monotheism and language, the Middle East would be even more clannish and wartorn. The point is that Islam, like Christianity, has united more than it has divided. And as I said, once you adopt a sacred worldview you will no longer feel any desire to slander any religion in the way you do. I don't believe history is the result of purely random darwinian power-struggles and I believe there is a teleology to historical events so I can't rule out God has a purpose with religions like Judaism and Islam even if I don't subscibe to them. God can bring good out of anything. At the end of the world, Christ will put all pieces together.
Amen to the last sentence, the rest is divorced from historical (and current) reality.
 

Python

Chicken
Was Paul wrong in saying we are saved through grace and not "working for it?"
The solution to this question is to take a look at what people should work for if they want to gain salvation. God gives the grace of salvation to those whose aim it is to be born again by the Spirit as it is outlined in Joh. 3, 3 when Jesus says to Nicodemus: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God". Jesus also says to Nicodemus: “[FONT=Arial, sans-serif]Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what w[/FONT][FONT=Arial, sans-serif]e know, and bear witness to what we have s[/FONT][FONT=Arial, sans-serif]een, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do [/FONT][FONT=Arial, sans-serif]not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?[/FONT][FONT=Arial, sans-serif]“ (Joh. 3, 11-12) Being born again by the Spirit happens by receiving the heavenly testimony. The will to receive it equals a work that is credited to the one receiving it as righteousness..[/FONT]
 
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