09 July 2008

Do Orthodox want non-Orthodox to convert?

In a word, yes. And why not? If we are convinced that "We have seen the true Light; we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true Faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, Who has saved us"--how could we not want others to see that same light, receive that same Spirit and find that same faith?

Truth is not divided, or relative. So St. Paul frequented the synagogues, after his conversion; he traveled to the Gentiles; he sought out rich and poor, slave and free, man and woman. The Church and her message are for all people alike, and the stakes are high. She rejects the Anglican "branch theory" and the protestant "invisible church." She judges no individual, but she can and must judge the bodies to which they belong.

The issue is urgent, as we see western Christendom give way to relativism. It is one thing to be mistaken that something is the truth when it is not; it is another thing entirely to say that truth no longer matters, and to live in existential communion with falsehood. The former have hope; the latter have none.

How we share this truth is important: the message shapes the life of its messengers.

If we do not seek our own repentance and faith, we have nothing to share. That is why St. Seraphim said, "Acquire the spirit of inner peace, and thousands around you will be saved."

But it is also true that if we withhold speaking until we think we "get it," then we will never speak at all. We carry the treasure of the Gospel in clay pots. We must make it our aim to be "all things to all people, so that by all means we might save some."

We must also be willing to speak, as winsomely as possible, to those in error with the nature of that error. Khomiakov did so in a marvelous and prophetic way to the western confessions, as did Dostoyevsky and, more recently, Fr. John Romanides. St. Ambrose of Optina wrote a tract against Lutheranism. Every council, every father fought the good fight of faith, and suffered willingly rather than deny the truth.

There is a synergy between the work of the Holy Spirit, and the works and words of God's people. So St. Paul says, "we are co-workers with God" precisely in the context of speaking the truth for others' conversion.

May the Lord convert me, an unworthy sinner, and bring me to the glory of his Kingdom!

Mone me si erro.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Sure we do.

But we don't descend to gimmicks or ruses to do it, such as saying one thing and meaning something else.

(Khomiakov or Romanides *winsome*??)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

It does seem to be a problem for some in Lutheran circles to understand what we're saying, however...and I find that odd (I refer to the whole "we don't know" wrt individuals' salvation). I think that the influence of Augustine is so deep and so broad to the western way of speaking that it is hard to shift out of it.

Personally, I find Khomiakov very winsome. I remember reading him years ago, even as a Lutheran, and thinking: "Wow. He nailed it."

Romanides--well, you may have me there.

Fr. G

Fr. Jon M. Ellingworth said...

After 1000 plus years (maybe even 1800!) the orthodox church is finally interested in converting the heathen. Interestingly, it seems to be apostate Lutherans who are leading the charge. Perhaps it is the irrelevancy of "orthodoxy" in the U.S. particularly (slightly less relevant than confessional Lutheranism)that is the spirit of this missionary zeal. Go get 'em you winsome men!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Welcome, Fr. Jon. Actually the Orthodox have been busy evangelizing throughout our history. There were Cyril and Methodius, apostles to the Slavs (Russia is the largest Orthodox country, after all), the missionaries to China and their converts slaughtered in the Boxer Rebellion, St. Herman of Alaska, St. Raphael of Brooklyn, St. Alexis Toth... and we mustn't forget that great first-century Orthodox missionary, the apostate Jew St. Paul... :-)

In any case, thanks for checking in.

Anonymous said...

As a convert, I'm grateful for the authentic witness of the Orthodox Church.

JoshuaJames78 said...
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