Why People Become Orthodox

lchrism.jpg

Now this is indeed a presumptious title for a post – as if there were only one reason that people convert to the Orthodox faith. There are certainly many reasons, nuanced by the various personalities that come. And do they ever come!

I was asked in Minneapolis, “What sort of Evangelism Events do you have at St. Anne?” I had to confess that other than making ourselves accessible and somewhat “convert friendly” our only method is, “We answer the phone.” (And without a secretary that is not always certain.)

I could also say in a manner that avoids the topic, that people come for a variety of reasons. This is true but indeed avoids much of the obvious.

Several things of note among the many converts we have at St. Anne:

1. They believe the Orthodox faith to be the truth.

This is the reason I have stated for my own conversion. After every conversation, argument, etc. After every article and book, the simple fact is that I believe the Orthodox faith, including its ecclesiology to be the truth. I am willing to defend my acceptance of that, but the only defence that matters is the one I shall have to give on Judgement Day, and I believe that I will sit before a judge who Himself is the head of the Orthodox Church. The serious question will be: “What have you done with the faith I gave you?”

2. We looked at the other “options” and found them wanting.

Many Orthodox converts have looked elsewhere first. Perhaps even hoping that elsewhere would answer their questions and supercede the necessity of becoming Orthodox. But I think for those who become Orthodox, elsewhere just did not do the trick. There is a neatness and tidiness, for instance, about Roman Catholic ecclesiology. In fact, I think it’s so tidy that it is man’s invention and not God’s. But you can argue with me about that some other time. I can hardly think of a situation in which God has been so tidy elsewhere. Why should it only be ecclesiology?

3. “Deep calls unto deep” (Psalm 42:7)

There is an indescribable element of the heart in Orthodoxy. Despite many of its obstacles, individuals find themselves drawn here as the only answer to the depths of their heart. Everything else is rationalized, modernized, clinicalized. Orthodoxy, almost because of its strange rationality is the only thing that answers that deeper call. This has certainly been true of my own journey.

4. The tidiness and the untidiness. There is a “tidiness” in Orthodox faith and belief, and yet that same security and assurance is coupled with an untidy approach (we call it “economia”) without which it would be impossible to know salvation (other than in a highly sterilized world of annulments and legal dispensations).

5. The saints. There are marvelous saints in many places and yet the lives and teachings of many of the Orthodox saints, including the ones of the past century, seem to say, “This is home, come here.”

6. God told me to do this. (No comment needed)

7. Are there other reasons? Send me a note and tell us.

Comments

  1. says

    My reason is that at the end — I had been brought up Catholic, then was Lutheran for 13 years — it was simply the only place left where I could talk to God. Everywhere else, God’s voice was drowned out either by people celebrating themselves as the People of God, or by the demands of social activism; but in the stillness of Orthodox prayer, I was finally able to hear His “voice” again. And at long last, I could finally worship Him “in spirit and in truth.”

  2. says

    Perhaps this fits under “We looked at the other options and found them wanting”, but it’s closely related to your answer to the evangelism question:

    The Orthodox remembered our name. Seriously! We tried a number of different churches when we moved to the Twin Cities, of various modes and sizes…and got sick of introducing ourselves to the same people for several weeks in a row. When we finally visited the Orthodox parish we now attend, not only did the members introduce themselves, but invited us to sing in the choir, AND THEN, remembered us when we returned the following week.

    As I’ve continued to fall in love with the Church I am discovering that all of those reasons apply to me.

    Great post, thanks!

  3. says

    After making several bad decisions in my life, I began to recognize that it doesn’t really matter what I think. I’m not the best judge of what is right or wrong. I need the Church.

  4. Marie says

    As a newly illumined former Roman Catholic I believe that the Orthodox Church truly gives God the “right Worship”. After attending the Novus Ordo Mass for years I must say that attending the DL again(I had attended before) was like a breath of fresh air. It was as if my soul had been suffocating in the Novus Ordo mass all those years. And I have attended many Catholic Masses that were celebrated by very holy priests.(one of whom is up for Beatification)The Divine Liturgy is the right way to give God glory
    as we should…it puts us in the right position before God
    Almighty..little creature in awe of their Creator and in such immense need of Him. I am so happy to be breathing again in that atmosphere of the grandeur of God. The lengthy services also allow a person time to leave the world behind so they can slowly enter into God’s time and soak in His presence, like a sponge soaking in the depth of the theology of our faith that is sung over and over again, working and kneading our hearts like dough to firmly implant HIs truth within us.
    Thank God we were led to the Orthodox Church.
    And thanks for this great post!

  5. Jason says

    A couple of weeks ago my wife and I said good-bye to our evangelical church of the past ten years and have become catechumens of the Orthodox Church. Essentially, we summarized our departure as such: we’re not leaving because Evangelicals are necessarily doing anything wrong, we’re leaving because of what they’re missing when compared to the wider Christian heritage.

  6. says

    As someone who is still in the process of becoming Orthodox, perhaps I’m not yet qualified to mention my reasons…but then, isn’t everyone always in the midst of that process? My overarching reason for desiring to be Orthodox is exactly what G.K. Chesterton said about his own conversion:

    “I have kept my truths,” he wrote, “but I have discovered, not that they were not truths, but simply that they were not mine. When I fancied that I stood alone I was really in the ridiculous position of being backed up by all Christendom. It may be, Heaven forgive me, that I did try to be original; but I only succeeded in inventing all by myself an inferior copy of the existing traditions of civilized religion…I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.”

    This is the heart of my attraction to Orthodoxy: not only that it’s true, but it’s the truth that I have always wanted. Selfish, probably, but there it is. I’ve heard truth before. But there were always pieces that didn’t fit, and deep down I would try to change them in my mind to a picture that was more like what I wanted truth to be. That was, of course, a terrible heresy on my part. But imagine my astonishment when I discovered my own secret heresies, carefully hidden all these years, now displayed clearly and fiercely under the bright banner of Orthodoxy.

  7. says

    I converted because it was my last ditch effort to remain a Christian. If it had not been for Orthodoxy, I would have abandoned Christianity altogether. I had simply become exhausted trying to fit my life into a theological system dominated by a lifestyle that didn’t christianize everyday life.

    Simply put, Orthodox was finally a theology large enough to dignify the human soul.

    Plus, I couldn’t forget the beauty. I tried, I didn’t want to be Orthodox. I simply had no other choice.

    B

  8. cp says

    I came very recently to the Orthodox Church for all of the reasons listed here – and for many more reasons than these.

    A big thing, though, was my inability to find an adequate answer to the question of how I could continue to NOT be Orthodox (a question I had avoided asking myself for far too long).

  9. Adam says

    Father, bless!

    This post, and that picture especially, bring back many memories. You chrismated me at Saint Anne’s on Holy Saturday almost one year ago. Thanks for this post.

    I enjoy your blog immensely and check it almost every day. Keep me in your prayers.

  10. Fatherstephen says

    I’m am enjoying reading these accounts, and hearing the echoes of my own heart. Barnabas – “how could I not be Orthodox.” Yes indeed.

  11. says

    My reasons include all or most of the above. Some who want only “objective” truth may find some of the reasons I am becoming Orthodox to be too subjective for them, but as St. Paul (and Popeye the Sailorman) said, by the grace of God “I am what I am.” And, like Barnabas Powell above, my situation and options were coming perilously close to either Orthodoxy or no Christianity at all.

  12. James the Thickheaded says

    As a newly illumined flickering 5-watt bulb, I’ll throw my two bits in to say that I am here as the result of a realization that my life had moved on to the point where I wanted a real turnaround in my relationship to God. Fact is, I wanted to repent of not loving God the way he is, but how I wanted him to be – as if I had turned the tables of the image/likeness thing around the wrong way.

    Given the heterodoxity of our and all ages, in retrospect I wonder whether in some respects my resistance was in part God’s way of protecting me from ideas I knew weren’t in right…but I was just too slothful and comfortable to do anything about it. Surely he didn’t intend that. But at last things accumulated to the point where my failures and resistances had finally cracked this tough nut completely. I knew then that I wanted to actually have a relationship with the true God – as he is – the Living God as he revealed himself, and I knew I had failed to build this on my own in the church where I had spent my life. The good folks there seem to have taken a different tack then I needed, and while surely the goal is the same, I felt the approach increasingly wasn’t even going to open the door to the medicine cabinet I felt I needed to find.

    Yep. One look in the mirror told me I needed the strongest prescription antiobiotic known (and unknown) – not the placebo. And while I feared there might be some toxic side effects, I guess at last I was ready to risk it: I felt driven to a church with sacramental confession, and that tends to limit the options. I found this initially among the close cousins of the Anglican diaspora. But the more I read, the more I wanted to put back not just SOME of the pieces, but ALL of the pieces. And I wanted them all back together, and to find a place the breathed life into all the funny things we don’t understand anymore… to give them life and let them speak for themselves, and see if they could help sustain me in my new approach to God.

    Oh, and I wanted to understand the Mary thing, the saints, and all the other biz. I wanted a place where the arguments about the faith ceased, and the struggle to live it was real. Not just God (and worship), and not just service, but service to God. And the more I read and prayed the Magnificat, the more clarified. So whether or not anyone agrees with her welcoming me on this, I think that thanks to the Theotokos and St. James, I gave this a shot. My parish, my priest, and some other priests as well – both Orthodox and not – then helped me wriggle through the door on to the flypaper where I’m stuck.

    And it is through the heart of these personal relationships with God, and all his friends in the “support group”, the Body of Christ, that I found the “change over” a lot easier. And yet it wasn’t easy, but almost incredibly insane in that it just overwhelms almost everything and every moment… that much is at hazard in the process. But the pieces do fit together, and the settling does begin. I think the focus on the whole is what makes this possible – we take the whole faith, not just parts – just as we are called to be whole rather than offering just small pieces of ourselves – as I had done before. Nada, or whole enchilada. And in the end, as demanding as this sounds, it is easier.

    So for a guy who’s come all the way through from the real theologians, Merton and the mystics (Eckhart) where I started through all the rest of the contemporary theologians and back again, it’s been a long road for some weary hobbit feet. It’s good to be home. Funny that the word “orthodox” kept coming up: Tom Oden, GK Chesterton, and the Bishop Ware. Even Seinfeld’s re-run chipped in with his episode (“funny hats”) coincident with my first parish visit.

    And while there is joy in landing, there is still some sadness for the opportunities lost…. and for those left behind. But oddly, it is somehow a completion of the koan of one’s life to fit all the pieces, the snippets of what was done where, and see how they might seem to have randomly driven the process…but then again… maybe it wasn’t so random :) ..and I could go on, and have, but the part of the converison process that does need to end is precisely this self-absorption. Thankfully!!! Instead, my struggle now is to move into the background, and focus on praying for and celebrating whomever God sends us next.

  13. Jeff Lee says

    Can I just say “ditto” to everything? I’ve been Orthodox for almost a year now, after spending over 12 years struggling against it. Pride kept me away. Exhaustion brought me in. Its just too difficult (okay, impossible) to be Orthodox when you’re not in the Orthodox Church.

    The final step (as a recovering AngloCatholic) was admitting that maybe I had been wrong in all those Catechumenate classes – handing out Orthodox books, teaching Orthodox disciplines, and claiming that you could have all that and remain outside the Orthodox Church. Rather silly sounding now, but pride can make one silly.

  14. says

    Here are a few of the reasons. 1. The Orthodox understand true worship and the importance of The Liturgy. 2. Instead of rationalizing everything to death we Orthodox acknowledge that there are things we simply don’t understand and leave it at that. 3. Church history and relying on the collective wisdom of the Church Fathers instead of sola scriptura. 4. The Church is settled in what it believes and accepts. Aynone coming from a Lutheran or Episcopalian persuasion knows exactly what I mean. 5. Working out our faith through, prayer, fasting, etc. I love the church cycles and feast and inherent tradition. I know where I am from day to day and week to week. It is the Ark of our salvation. 6. Orthodox Christians. Self explanatory.

  15. says

    I like Barnabas’s reply. For me, Orthodoxy was the only place where everything came together. I followed the sola scriptura road to its end and finally decided I couldn’t do this for myself. Orthodoxy was not the first alternative that I tried, but it was the first one that refused to be my choice. It would not be merely something that worked for me–an answer to my questions. It was *the* answer, whether I was looking for it or not. I’d found it because I’d started asking the right questions, but it had been there all along. In the same way it satisfied my longings for real worship, real community, and a faith that would never let my head get bored, but would force me to engage the rest of my person.

    With Evangelicalism, I felt like someone who’s learned the trick behind a magic show. I couldn’t go back to find faith, objective reality, or wonder. Orthodoxy gave me back all of those things and more.

  16. Alyssa says

    I concur with all of the above and would add that a big part of Orthodoxy’s draw for me was its answer to sin…that transformation is not only possible, but even expected.

    I have only very recently been received into the Church, so I find myself lacking for the best way to say this as I am still processing. I think it boils down to a point in my life several years ago where I found myself asking “So, I’ve been a Christian for the past 15 years–How am I any different now than I was when I first became a Christian back in high school? Why am I still struggling with the same sins I was dealing with 10 or 20 years ago?” In Orthodoxy, I find hope and practical direction and the sacraments to help me along in a way I did not as a protestant.

    If this has not been too confusing, there is probably someone lurking out there who can explain this better than I…

  17. Erik says

    The quotation from Dostoevsky in the previous post is as good a description of why I converted as I can think of. [In times of suffering and solitude] “one thirsts like ‘parched grass’ for faith and finds it precisely because truth shines in misfortune.” I was in a bad way — the walking wounded, and in the Church, the DL, I experienced the presence of Christ, His arms outstretched on the cross, offering love and healing. Looking back, I want to say that Christ was never so close to me as when I was really suffering. But I don’t think that’s exactly right. Christ was and is always near, and I was too blind to see Him. Suffering helped me to see (a little more clearly). Orthodoxy as a way of life offers a lifetime of treatment for my still very impaired eyesight. Now, “I see men like trees, walking,” but over the course of my life in the Church, I hope, with God’s grace, I will have my sight fully restored. Where is there a better hospital?

  18. says

    Among the myriad reasons I became Orthodox, three stand out, with the first two being the most immediate in coming to mind:

    1) God got my attention on January 9, 2005 during the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of Theophany when Fr. Stephen uttered a singular word that had been racking my brain for two weeks or so: “undone.” On the way to church that day, I had asked God to show me why I couldn’t get this word out of my head, no matter what i tried. I trusted He knew why it was there, and that He would reveal why. The very moment I heard Fr. Stephen speak it in his homily, tears leapt to my eyes and I wanted to fall down in an overwhelming sense of unworthiness. It was the only time I can ever remember feeling the presence of God in such a way. The memory still gives me chills and fills my eyes with tears on occasion.

    2) Forgiveness Vespers. For years, I have talked about how important love is to living the Christian life. The first time I attended Forgiveness Vespers, my heart was broken as I saw the parish forgive one another, and I heard the Shepherd’s voice say, “This is love among people. This is real. This is healing. This is what you’ve been talking about for so long.” I was amazed. Any church that would do that as a discipline within the church year, I had to be a part of it.

    3) The Pascha Service. It really struck me how much of a celebration it is, and not just a standard service with special parts or songs or whatever. The entire thing is special, and it is all in response to the resurrection of our King. It’s not a production, but it’s honest celebration and glorification of Christ. What more could you want for Easter? (And that’s not even mentioning the glorious feast that followed…which also surpassed everything I had ever come to know as A Southern Baptist. :D )

    These experiences made it impossible to look at the Church and say that it’s not True, which I would have had to done in order to deny that Orthodoxy is what it says it is. All of it, though hard to overcome in some instances, simply became irrefutable.

  19. says

    The best short description I could possibly give is that in Orthodoxy I found a God that is actually good. Or in other words I found the God who is actually God. It now seems so obvious. Reading George MacDonald’s righteous thundering against the Calvinist caricature of God is what sprung me loose from my previous moorings. After that what a poor sitting duck I was! Just waiting for the first person or essay to come along and tell me that the perfect, loving Father that must be at the heart of it all has been there all along in the Orthodox Church. All praise be to God.

  20. says

    Father, bless,

    I think the answer is all of the above. For me, aspects of all of it worked for me. Every time I heard where Orthodoxy differed with Western Christianity, especially the Roman Church I was most familiar with, I found I agreed with Orthodoxy.

  21. Alice C. Linsley says

    One of the questions I asked myself was: “Where is the Church that the Apostles would recognize?” In pursuing an answer to that question, Orthodoxy found me. An Orthodox stranger who had read something I wrote posted a comment in which he told me about St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Church in Lexington. I started attending services there a year ago and was chrismated on February 18, a glorious day! God is so good and I am so undeserving, but profoundly grateful.

  22. says

    I spent a decade evading Orthodoxy. My journey started in my late teens on an Evangelical missions trip to Russia, where I had blessed encounters with monks and icons, and came home full of questions. I attended Orthodox services and was an inquirer through my late 20s. But I was afraid of the Church. Then my wife, after 5 years of trying and praying and hoping to have children, had a miscarriage in the second trimester of her first pregnancy. Relatively speaking this is not so much to suffer, but it was the most we had ever suffered. Shortly after, we moved from the place that we lived, and in our new location we started to attend various churches. The first service that we attended at an Orthodox church in our new town was the Akathist to the Theotokos, Joy of all who sorrow. I left that service with no more inner ecclesial conflict. There was nothing more to say or think.

    I am one sinner who will die an Orthodox Christian, by the grace of God.

  23. says

    I’m not even a catechumen yet, but I’ll throw in the three things that initially attracted me and kept me coming back. About three years ago at my evangelical high school I was starting to long for a life completely sold out to Christ, but didn’t really know what to do. Then I learned of the desert fathers, and fell in love with them, though of course loving the desert fathers and imitating them are completely different things, and I’m pretty bad with the imitating. Anyways, at this time I didn’t realize that the desert fathers were Orthodox (I assumed they were evangelical like me), but I wanted what they had. Then my first trip to an Orthodox church two years later I saw a sign taped to the door of the church. It read something like, “Welcome! Come in and pray!” And I was like, “Wow, these people mean business.” When I attended my second Orthodox service, this time at the Orthodox chaplaincy of my university, the few people there seemed surprised to see me. After they got over their surprise, they were very friendly, but I was impressed that they didn’t seem concerned with trying to sell me Orthodoxy, or otherwise try to get me to sign up and join their group, as had been my experience with other Christian groups on campus. So yes, Orthodoxy seems to be calling. I struggle with it, but for better or worse I am at the point where I’d rather struggle through an Orthodox service than attend an evangelical one.

  24. says

    Two things stand out, really. First, after many years of involvement in my evangelical church, I could not shake the idea that there simply had to be more. In my heart of hearts, I knew we were often just “playing church.” In your previous post on Dostoevsky, you stated that “the ‘thinness’ of Protestant thought and practice do not contain enough of heaven to serve as a sufficient antidote in our modern world.” That’s it in a nutshell. And the second point, well, Alyssa said it best in her post–“Why am I still struggling with the same sins I was dealing with 10 or 20 years ago? In Orthodoxy, I find hope and practical direction and the sacraments to help me along in a way I did not as a protestant.” Exactly so. I’ll still be struggling to the end, but now there is real hope, and transformation is more than just a theoretical concept.

  25. says

    “Actually, I signed up for the fasting.”

    THAT’S the funniest thing I’ve heard all day! I’m doing a Lenten retreat tomorrow in Beaumont, Texas … believe me, I’m stealing that line!

    :)

  26. says

    I joined because I liked the hats…

    Just kidding. I was simply an agnostic who was, thank God, eventually too weak to resist Christ. Nothing spectacular.

  27. says

    Father bless,

    Man, I know I’m FARRR to sappy, but I love each and every one of you. Dear Father Stephen, thank you for this post. This is so edifying for me, to hear all of you, to once again affirm what wonders God hath wrought.
    My return to the Holy Orthodox Faith(in my perception happened about 4 years ago, but of course with the way our gracious Lord reckons it, the story is alot different) and the journey included much torment, much of it self produced, but when I attended that Pascha Liturgy, by brothers and sisters, what can I say? I was home.
    Father, maybe you’re aware of some of the debates occuring on some of the other sites between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics. Sometimes I can become so despondent when I listen to their arguments and I forget to some extent how special this Faith is, but then all of a sudden an Ochlophobist response chimes in, a Perry response, cannons of truth, and it helps me tremendously. This has helped me. Thank you so much, all of you. May all come to be healed, this is certainly my prayer. May we exude the sweet aroma of our Lord through lives increasingly surrendered to His sublime, wondrous will.

    In fellowship and in Christ,

    Sophocles

  28. says

    I was baptised Orthodox as an infant, but my family was nominal. I lived a pride filled life with no God where I was the smartest one around. About 5 years ago, I went through an ordeal that brought me alot of pain and anguish and I went looking for God. I listened to alot of Christian radio and I found a few good preachers, who I would tell me brother about. At this time he was coming back to the Church. He said I should check out Orthodoxy, it’s a little bit different. Although I was a baptised Orthodox Christian, I remember thinking: How much different could it be? So I did a search and found Ancient Faith Radio, I turned on a sermon by Father Patrick Henry Reardon, and I was hooked. The theology is so beautiful and thick, it could make a meal. (And it does, I’m sure the ascetics will tell us)

    I never knew how thirsty I was.

  29. Don Bradley says

    Some became Orthodox because they liked the iconography; some because they read a thousand history and theology books; some were born into an Orthodox family; some because they were fleeing other decaying Christian institutions; some because the worship awed them; some because they were getting married; some because a friend influenced them; and some because they had tried everything else first. None is better than the others. You’re here. All are spectacular because God the Holy Spirit used various means to put you here personally.

  30. Ezekiel says

    Father, Bless!

    In my own journey from Lutheranism (a pastor for over three decades), central question was “Where is the Church?” In fact, “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” was a phrase that, it seems, drove me to one extent or another from seminary days. As I saw Lutheranism imploding over the years, and as we continued to confess that phrase, I and a number of others sought the Church.

    To make a longer story short, I discovered that the Church of that phrase from the Creed has and does exist! And I found that Holy Mother Church takes seriously the words of St. Paul to St. Timothy, “Guard the deposit of truth!”

    We give thanks to God that our Lord has brought us home!

    Ezekiel+

  31. Michelle says

    Barnabas Powell said it better than I ever could have. It was Orthodoxy or nothing for me. I would settle for nothing less than the complete truth. Sure there are always other reasons too, and everyone else seemed to hit on them as well.

    I think I knew it was Orthodoxy (beyond a doubt) when I came very late to Divine Liturgy one Sunday when I was still an inquirer. I walked into the Narthex and I knew that I was in a holy place and God’s presence was so strong I was torn between fleeing or falling down. I knew then that my search was over.

  32. says

    House blessings because I now have a reason to spring clean!
    Christ is in our midst,
    the handmaid,
    Mary-Leah
    PS
    Better get finished, Fr.Anthony will be here at 11:30

  33. Jack says

    On a negative note, Filipinas in immodest clothes dancing to a praise and worship song blasting out of a boom box set up on the altar of a church that looked suspiciously like a bunker.

  34. says

    My reasons (though I’ve been Orthodox for 20 years now) are similar to those mentioned by others above. But perhaps there is something to add.

    After studying Western theology at two universities, I was dissatisfied with the divisions between what one may call the pietists and the social activists. Each denounced the position of the other, and I wanted to say that both were right, and both were wrong as long as they excluded the other.

    I then went on a two-week course on Orthodox theology for non-Orthodox theological students. It was a week of lectures at Bossey in Switzerland, and Holy Week and Pascha at St Sergius in Paris, where the Paschal homily of St John Chrysostom (and the 45 minutes of kissing that preceded it) blew my mind — it was also before Western denominations started getting physical at “the kiss of peace”.

    I then read For the life of the world by Fr Alexander Schmemann, and that sorted out my pietists and social activists question. He said everything I had been trying to say and then some.

    I stuck with the Anglicans for another 15 years, but realised that the Anglican train was on another track, going in a different direction from Orthodoxy, and the longer I stayed on it, the further I would get from Orthodoxy, so I jumped.

  35. says

    Okay, so the house is blessed and so is the barn and all the animals and we spent some time with some friends and our priest and *before* Holy Orthodoxy; well, I had never known anything like that. Sanctified. Now I am satisfied and happy to be a Christian.
    But as to why we became Orthodox as opposed to something else?
    I was raised, nominally, in the ECUSA, when we were forced by circumstances in life to come back from the secular life we were living, I needed Liturgy like the air I breathe, my husband wasn’t raised with it being brought up in the Evangelical churches. Where do the High Church and the low church/no church crowd meet? I had been exposed to a nominally Orthodox Greek family in High School, once we had stepped foot in the door, smelled the incense, we were home. My husband knows Truth when he sees it, feels it hears it. He is dyslexic and never really reads unless he has to, so picking up a book about Orthodoxy was out for him, he had to experience it. And after years of never going to church, never wanting to go to church and coming out of the Baptist church, he was happy and was finally baptized a Christian. Glory to God. For me, I think we were moved by time, circumstance and the spirit; I can see the hand of God, gently moving us to where we are.
    Christ is in our midst!
    the handmaid,
    Mary-Leah

  36. says

    Father, If I may…

    If you were to ask most of our congregation (St. Athanasius http://athanasiusoca.org/) – particularly after the first 35 or so, why they first came, they would say, they came because they heard about it.

    I don’t mean that there was any kind of formal special evangelism from the church… I mean individuals talking about stuff that has excited them to people around them – the same reason we talk about sports or movies or first loves…

    Now, why did they stay… well, I think that is deep calling to deep, and no place else to go, and a ton of other reasons – some of which includes some specific ministries of the church that builds community, some because the personalities and peopel being truly gifted at loving others, partly good to a succession (can 2 count as a succession?) of priests.

    Just my $0.02.

    David/Pe+er

  37. Tom says

    What a wonderful question! Thank you Father. The stories are very inspiring. Sadly, due to present circumstance (hopefully temporary) I am still outside looking in. If I may change the topic slightly. I thoroughly enjoyed you witness at the Faith of Our Fathers workshop in Detroit. I’ve been listening to the presentations on Ancient Faith Radio. So there ar a couple of cheap plugs, one for AFR and one for you Father. You story of walking to the Baptist Church as a child and later being driven to the Episcopal Church reminded me of the old story that when the West was being settled the Baptists walked in. The Methodists came on horseback. And the Episcopalians waited for the Pullman car!

    God bless you Father!

  38. Frances says

    This is probably a subheading under “Deep calls to deep,” but some people convert because the first time they encounter Orthodoxy they suddenly feel that they have come home. For example, as a young man, Bp. Kallistos Ware walked into a Russian Orthodox Church in London and felt, all at once, that he was “home.” Similarly, Fr. John Breck, a Protestant theology student at the time, attended his first Orthodox service at St. Sergius’ Institute in Paris and, as he puts it: “In the beauty of that place, I knew I had come home.”

    My own homecoming was somewhat different. AFter a lifetime of not feeling completely comfortable in liturgical Protestant churches, yet also being unable to enter the Roman Catholic Church because I could not accept certain of her doctrines, I finally read a book which laid out the beliefs of the Orthodox Church. The date was September 11, 2003, and the impact on me was even more powerful than the impact of that earlier September 11. As I read the book, I kept saying to myself in stunned disbelief: “I’m ORTHODOX! That explains everything; it explains why I’ve never felt at home anywhere else. I’ve been Orthodox all my adult life, but didn’t know it!”

    The rest is history; I was chrismated on Palm Sunday last year.

  39. Fatherstephen says

    I am deeply moved by these various stories, and rejoice that I stand amidst so great a cloud of witnesses! May God keep all of you and preserve you in your journey to His kingdom.

  40. Mary Bethany says

    For me, it was “a little child shall lead them”. My youngest daughter, just out of college, began attending Orthodox services. I was concerned for her soul, afraid that she was being drawn away from the reformation truths of her upbringing to something “catholic” and cultic. So we began long discussions, and as she explained some of the doctrines, I responded, “I believe that”. It was all the more mind blowing for me, because after a lifetime of various protestant denominations, each lacking or distorting a doctrine, I had formulated a theology from study and walking with God. Now, I was finding that I believed a paler, less-than, form of Orthodoxy. I had told my husband for years that I would not join another church, I would attend, support, and so forth, but I was not putting my name on another dotted line that I just couldn’t truly believe. I began to read. First the prayer book, and like Father Stephen, was deeply moved and comforted by the Akathist Hymn to our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact I copied it to my computer in stanzas, searched for icons for each and then printed and hung it in the sunday school class room for the college class I was teaching … in the Baptist Church. I found that I couldn’t be eclectic. After reading “Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells”, I asked myself the dangerous question, “what if it’s true?” What if God cares what I believe, and how He is worshipped, and has given us the Church-not man created, but God created- and I don’t get to “choose” which church I like or create my own? Because if it is true, then the discussion is over. It doesn’t matter if I like it, or agree with it, or if it tears up other aspects of my comfortable life in order to bring it to compliance. If it is true, I am responsible for it and to it. I began attending services. At first just vespers, and then I’d go to church with my husband on Sunday morning. But all the way home I’d hear from him a critique on the service, the music, the sermon, and I’d think. I could have gone to Divine Liturgy. Finally, my husband told me to go “down there” if I belived it to be the truth. He wasn’t happy about it, but he wasn’t happy with his church either. So, I began attending
    Sunday mornings. It was a tension filled year, but more and more I knew that there was no where else for me to be, and I couldn’t even begin to think of returning to a protestant church, even to make my husband happy with me, as much as I love him and want him to be happy. I was Chrismated Christmas Eve, and surprisingly, our life at home eased a little. It was more of realizing that the commitment was real for me, not something I was doing to be different, or rebellious, and that my love for him was if anything even deeper. In Orthodoxy I find a faith that demands a depth of faith, commitment, worship that answers the depth of my need for those things, it indeed is deep calling to deep and even deeper. Far from being the “spiritual” one I felt I was as a protestant, I feel like I’m toe deep on the edge of an ocean. It is both exciting and intimidating, but it is captivating.
    Remember me in your prayers

  41. Mildred says

    If anyone asks why I converted, I say : “Because I think it closer to the Apostles.”

  42. Fatherstephen says

    Mildred is one of the great names of Orthodox Britain, like so many common names among the English. Perhaps someday we will see the reestablishment of a sizable Orthodox presence in the islands many of us call our ancestral homes.

  43. says

    For me it’s all of the above. The fullness of the faith is found in Orthodoxy. I could have sworn Father Stephen used the word “fullness” somewhere, but maybe it’s a throwback to my first 40 years as a Roman Catholic. After I married “outside” the Church and so couldn’t receive the sacraments, it wasn’t so full anymore.

    As for the handsome young man pictured above, I can’t tell you why he became Orthodox with me. I can tell you he has sinned less than anyone reading this, definitely far less than yours truly, his father. He has never struck anyone in anger or otherwise. How many 20 year old boys to men can say that? He did take the Lord’s name in vain once, at 3 years old. But that’s an admittedly somewhat amusing story for another time.

  44. Mike says

    I love these stories, I have been inquiring and actually attended DL a few times in 2006. My wife and I come from a nondenominational background, no liturgical background at all.

    My wife came once to DL and was so turned off by the incense, chanting, lack of singing from the congregation, etc, that she refuses to go back. Now I feel like a rudderless ship, because I hate going to church with her, and she feels likewise. Our compromise has been not going to church at all. I am riddled with guilt that I am keeping my family from church, but then I think, should I be guilty?

    It’s confusing. And I have to admit, it scared me the first time I went. I might as well have been in a Jewish temple. But something made me go back anyway.

    My wife won’t even read the Facing East Book, or the Thirsting for God book. she just says it’s not her cup of tea.

    I am envious of you couples and single people who converted seamlessly.

  45. says

    Mike, these things, I am certain, are matters of the heart, which only God can bring about. I would,as much as possible, maintain unity in the household. Be sure to pray together as family. You will not be able to make such large changes with the communion that comes from common prayer. That and patience, and I can tell you many stories that are similar to yours who are now part of my congregation. May God bless you and your wife!

  46. Mike says

    thank you Fatherstephen, I will continue to be patient with my wife. It is hard to gradually become Orthodox, but I will just have to attend DL occasionally and continue to study and pray. Maybe even attend church with my wife to maintain the family.

    I will seek the counsel of the local Father when I visit the Greek parish of my friend for Pascha service.

    Thanks again.

  47. Damaris says

    Ironically, I began to explore Orthodoxy as a result of something our (denomination-known-as-Christian) church asked my husband and me to do. In an attempt to improve progress toward spiritual maturity, the pastor put together a committee of two other couples and us to write an outline or portrait of the mature Christian — it would serve as a goal and model for teachers. We were happy to help, because we felt that the church was weak in spiritual growth. But I began to feel very uncomfortable as we worked: hadn’t this all been done before over the last 2000 years? Am I really the best person to do this, given that Athanasius, John Chrysostom, etc., had already weighed in on the topic? Aren’t we just reinventing the wheel? I began to research and read to find the true apostolic church, where the wheel, as it were, was given by God and not being made up in our own feeble images.

    I have begun attending a wonderful Orthodox church when I can, and like many others here, I feel like I’m coming home — to something larger than myself and worthy of right worship.

    And although it’s been almost a year since the pastor asked us to produce the guidelines, they have yet to be used, as the church dashes off on another tangent.

  48. Antony (NOT a Saint, and not so Great) says

    Father Bless,

    I know I’m getting in on the comments bandwagon quite late here, and that this is going to be a long reply, but here goes. I have to tell you that I was raised in a Methodist (really somewhat unchurched) home in the middle of the Protestant “bible belt”. My mother was raised Orthodox, the daughter of Russian immigrants. They went to the Methodist mission church in Iowa because they could get food and clothing assistance there. I never realized why our household felt so different from those of my friends at the holidays and when we would have company. As I became an adult, I was miffed by the lack of finding any women who I dated whose families were as warm, close, and unconditional as the families I grew up around. Interestingly, looking back, many of my parents’ friends were Greeks and Italians (read Orthodox and Old School Catholics). I’ve been a seeker of my spiritual home for many years, and been through most of the mainstream Protestant flavors. The only ones that came close were Lutherans and Episcopal, but something was still amiss. I have a nephew who is devoutly Orhtodox (his father is Greek), and who through many long discussions helped me grow in my ability to approach the Church of my heritage with an open mind. What an epiphany (in the truest sense) when I first visited the Antiochian church in OKC. I made eye contact with the Priest, Fr. Constantin, during the Liturgy and his look was one of recognition and greeting. After the service when greeting him, he said to me “You look familiar”. I assured him I’d never been there, and never met him before but that it was mutual. The feeling of having come home was astounding in the people I met there over the next several months. Personal, work related changes pulled me away before I could begin Cathechesis in earnest, and I remain an inquirer today, but remain commited to finding a confessor and a parish to call home. I have spent this evening in reading and prayer, preparing to visit a new parish in my new hometown in the morning. I think my best answer to “why” for me would be, “to start living in the home that I was raised to live in.”

  49. Sharon says

    Wow, what great posts…I am just starting this journey, but it has a sense of inevitability to it already. The “deep calls to deep” answer is the heart of my reason for wanting to join the Orthodox church, although there is so much else as well! But, mainly, I have this strong ache, hunger…to join this body. There is something alive, real, a sense of the home, here, that I have all my life been searching for .

    Still have so much to sort through, but it is this strong sense that keeps me searching along this path.

  50. michael says

    Coming home seems to be a common theme. I also feel that. I had not been to church since the early 60’s. My wife had been looking into the church for a year or so, so I went. Next week I join and become Baptized. It really is coming home, hope I can prove up to it. Father Steven’s site and blogs were a great help in making up my mind. I’m looking forward to the journey even though I’m in my mid 60’s.

  51. Hartmut says

    Once you have eaten in the best restaurant you can imagine, why then still go to a fast food stall ? ;-)

    I encounterd fullness, abundance, depth, vastness, love, freedom.
    I found the way back home.

    I entered an Orthodox Church for the first time almost 30 years ago and immediately was overwhelmed. At that time I studied theology (ev-luth) and with a friend in holydays I attended an international work camp in Poland. A new Orth. Church was build there. One year later I came back by myself and visited a friend there (himself student of orth. theology. It was the christmas season. O, how I loved and enjoyed the services in church!
    But I remained an ev. christian and became a pastor.
    Repeatedly there were encounters with the Orth. Church – I loved it, but still remained an ev. christian.
    After 20 years of work as an ev. pastor I retired early because of health problems. But there were internal problems (problems within my heart) with my church, too. There was a lack of a living spirituality. I was looking for a spirituality that would suit me (in this way I named it that time).
    I followed detours and wrong tracks.
    Then the Theotokos helped me back onto my feet. For a long time I especially loved the icons of the Mother of God. I felt a lack of this in my life. I began to read books concerning the Mother of God. Roman cath. books first. Then a book concerning the Mother of God in the proclamation of Christ in the orth. church year. That hit me, overcame me. I began to attend orthodox services, I read, studied, heart as much as I could via internet, I became a catechumen in what is now my parish here.
    On May, 4th (my birthday) I will be chrismated (if God wills).

    In Orthodoxy I encountered God. In this Church he is living. Not as a mere knowledge but as a expierience. more then all this is convincing me.
    To leave the Orthodox Curch would mean to leave Christ.

  52. Karen C says

    I will say to those popping over from The PuritanBoard, welcome! Especially to those of you wondering why former Reformed and/or Evangelical Protestants would become Orthodox, please take some time to peruse Fr. Stephen’s blog and also Ancient Faith Radio (www.ancientfaithradio.com). I think you may find out that, on closer inspection, the Orthodox gospel may not be as perverted as you think. I would respectfully suggest you entertain at least the possibility that it is the forensic notion in the West that has actually created a distortion in the gospel, but which you have been taught is normative biblical Christianity, so for you the real thing looks like heresy. Orthodoxy is not a confession; it is a living Reality. Indeed, like the Person of Christ, Whom she expresses Orthodoxy does not resolve neatly into tidy, logical, juridical, doctrinal or confessional statements. It takes time and patience to begin to rightly understand, and then—again, just like getting to know Jesus—the more you learn, the more you realize how vast is the fullness of Truth and how deep is your own ignorance. At least that has been my experience as a former Evangelical.

    I became Orthodox because of the more coherent understanding of the meaning of Christ’s Incarnation (Orthodox shorthand for the entire economy of God’s work for our salvation through Christ from Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary to His Ascension) and of the mercy of God that I found here, and also for most of the reasons listed above. I would also like to point out that there is no body of Christians, nor has there ever been one even in the NT, without significant problems and sin within. Otherwise most of the epistles would have never been penned! That there may be imposters, hypocrites, purely nominal believers, and sinners aplenty within her fold is no good reason to reject the Orthodox claim to be unique in her direct and full historic, organic, and dogmatic continuity with the Apostolic Church of the NT.

    Here are a couple of links for those who are interested in pursuing an Orthodox understanding of the meaning of the Atonement further: At http://www.home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/AT7.HTM an apologetic for an Orthodox understanding of the Atonement by Evangelical professor of philosophy at Messiah College, Robin Collins, and a brief comparison of Eastern and Western Christian understandings of the meaning of Christ’s suffering by Orthodox speaker and writer Frederica Mathews-Green at http://www.frederica.com/writings/the-meaning-of-christs-suffering.html.

  53. Cepik says

    I wonder,

    Maybe I have really believed Orthodox all of my life but am just now realizing it? Maybe that is why there is the constant pull, fascination, or interest. Regardless how much I try to resist, it is there and so I follow.

  54. rpm says

    I find myself in a situation approaching that of Mike’s. While I am and have been orthodox, my wife, due to familial influences (protestant turned pentecostal) has pentecostal leanings. While there is no hostility, I would like to be equipped when questions arise about the biblical support of issues such as the veneration of Mary and the Saints, prayers for the departed, need for intercession, relevance of icons…etc.
    I do not try to enforce my form of expression at home, partly because I am presently unequipped to answer convincingly and partly because I know that Orthodoxy speaks for itself to those who seek to learn of it. I would greatly appreciate if point me to some resources in this context.

  55. Mary says

    Thank you. Joining Orthodoxy as a convert is lonely sometimes as our church is many generations orthodox and not my racial, ethnic or language group. It hasn’t made a difference at all…but it is so nice to know there are other recent converts! It’s so fun to read about you! I became Orthodox because God told me to. I had no idea why. Then my father fed me…and all I want is to kiss the cross and my father’s hand a million zillion times. Nothing prepared me for the Love of God, and nothing prepared me for how purely much love God would give me for my father confessor who helps me all the time to become a baby human being by cleaning me up from sin and feeding me real LOVE. How could I have known? Thank you Holy Trinity God, Blessed Theotokos, angels, Saints, and my father. I am 8 months old.

  56. says

    Simply put. . .

    It was the only church that doesn’t want to condemn my problems, but to serve as my physician. . .

    Too many churches are concerned with preaching against sin, but how many can be called “hospitals for souls”

    When I became a catechumen last week, and Fr. Gregory prayed the Prayers of Exorcism over me, I felt a feeling that was a confirmation as though my soul breathed a sigh of “I have finally found my home.”

  57. Fr Paul says

    I was raised by parents who were spiritualist mediums, became “born again” in 1974 and for more than 20 years served the pentecostal and then charismatic movements as faithfully as I was able. In that short time I saw what I knew as fundamental Christianity being changed into anything people wanted it to. It quickly resembled the theology I had been taught by my parents; answers to prayer were something to be claimed rather than gifts from God, and God became anything you wanted Him to be.

    I think it dawned on me that the reformation had given three things to the western world in the 1500s: (1) They permanently removed the power of the precious life-giving body and blood of our Lord and replaced it with a placebo (2) they created a culture of permanent dissatisfaction that requires constant marketing through guest speakers and innovation and (3) they created such a culture of anti-Catholicism that their descendants would never want to go back to the fold.

    I decided that if the Church which our Lord founded with His Apostles still existed, if it still served God the same as the Apostles did and if it held to the Scriptures then I would have no option but to become a part of it.

    I didn’t like everything I saw, in fact I struggled with much of it but I had resolved to be honest. Each problem I had was addressed completely and clearly and in 1999 I was accepted as a catechumen at St Nicholas Orthodox Church in Johannesburg South Africa.

    I am now in Auckland, New Zealand, and am deeply grateful for God’s mercy.

    Fr Paul

  58. Moretben says

    Two things in particular brought me to see that Orthodoxy is true:

    – the experience of Roman Catholicism.
    – this blog.

  59. Fr Paul says

    In Sept last year RPM asked some questions and i wondered, Father, if I might say something? Since I came to the Faith from a Protestant background and still discuss much with Protestant friends, I may have something that could throw some light. On the issue of ikons, I struggled a little with the simple acceptance of the Church’s ruling on this, and so it made some sense to me this way: My wife and daughters left for New Zealand some 6 weeks before i did. I had a photograph of them and kissed them each night before sleeping. What was I doing? Was I worshiping dead pieces of paper? No- that picture represented my relationship with them and the honour I showed them did not detract at all from the honour and worship I give to God. One problem with western thinking is that we fail to distinguish between varying degrees of respect. On one side the scale I can have respect and dislike, then i can have respect and affection, or I can have great respect (as I may have for the State President) and honour that I would show to the State President’s mother. The respect I show to her does not detract from the respect I have for him- in fact it is exactly the opposite. He would be offended if I showed his mother little or no respect.

    My son played tennis and on his wall were posters of Andre Agussi. Did he worship Andre? Hardly. But the picture reminded him constantly of the type of player he one day hoped to be.

    Now to pray in our minds to God is difficult because we pray to an image we have of God. The problem is that this is a false image. However, the image of Christ is the most true image that there is of God, for Christ was God Incarnate. The Jews never had a problem with pictures. The problem they had was that the Christians proclaimed that the invisible, eternal, immortal God could be seen and touched and took on human flesh. So their problem was not with pictures of Biblical stories or of spiritual heroes, but of the visible image of God Almighty.

    I hope this helps with our western minds, may God help us to patiently begin reaping that white harvest.

    Fr Paul

  60. Kate Susan Willens says

    I am still at the early stages of my encounter with Orthodoxy. I agree with and delight in nearly everything that has been said so well by others. Thank you. I would like to add that my relationship with Jesus Christ had been deepening, and when I was exposed to Orthodox services (after I had initially thought that it was the Catholic faith to which I was being relentlessly drawn) it was as if this place inside me (my heart) really resonated with the deep way that I felt I could encounter Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the Divine Liturgy. And again in the writings of Fathers of the Church. There is something about the Truth of Jesus that really resounds for me in this Church (that’s an understatement).
    Also, I love how people in the church seem so “normal” and wholesome, real. I also love how the Sacred is treasured, and the way It responds in the Divine Liturgy in ways that reach out and almost literally touch people on the inside. And I love the chant, even though it’s hard to understand what’s been sung. Still, the music lifts the word from just being prosaic, and become a kind of sacred, poetic song that can cross the membrane of the daily-life soul.
    It’s Thanksgiving. I am so utterly grateful to find myself here. May God be praised.
    One more thing. On a personal note I am Jewish, have been involved with Buddhist thought and practice over the past few years. While I have a very deep respect for the Buddhist path as well, I came to a place in my life where I had to be doing a practice in which God could be worshipped and related to. And though I haven’t nailed the mystery of Christ to my own mental cross of conceptual “answers” — in other words, though I still don’t fully understand who Christ is, I inwardly “knew” that this Christ had to be one with this God. And Jesus with Christ. So here I am — in love. Kate Willens

  61. James the Brother says

    Kate,

    Thanks for you post, it was a real blessing for me this morning. The gentleness with which you expressed your feelings serves as affirmation to us who are delighting in our trip to Orthodoxy. I came into the church in June of this year on Pentecost Sunday. Additionally I had never seen this post so it was a double treat.

    I wish you well on your journey and in your life.

    I am confident someone has mentioned the book, Surprised by Christ, by Father James Berstein. But just in case not, I just did. Given your Jewish roots you might find appreciate it. I certainly did.

    God bless you.

  62. Kate Susan Willens says

    Dear James,

    I just wanted to thank you for your kind post, and for the referral to Father Bernstein’s book.

    God bless you on your journey, and best wishes, Kate

  63. +gregory menke says

    Praise Jesus Christ, I am also a convert from the baptist religion. I have seen the light and have found the true Faith, Glory to God, i am a Orthodox clergy though not under scoba but follow the teachings and the 7 ecumenical councils and doctrine and traditions of the faith. I was charismated Greek Orthodox. i now belong to Ukrainian Orthodox Faith. Blessings for a great website. May God richly bless you. Are there not any converts since Novemember of 2009, i don’t see any comments or blogs since the last one in November. God bless you Father. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God have mercy on us sinners. I am the Lord’s humble and sinful servant +gregory

  64. Miriam (Cheryl) says

    I converted from a Protestant background, I was very passionate about my faith. Bible courses at a Christian college (ironically, especially teaching about OT theology, Jewish synagogue visits, the doctrine of atonement/Resurrection and exploring the larger meaning of the “Kingdom of God”–before it had always meant “heaven somewhere up there after you die”) caused a hunger in me to find a church that actually believed everything that had revitalized my faith and made me come alive.

    Then I found Orthodoxy and found all I ever wanted. I had stumbling blocks with the Theotokos (I had been indoctrinated against any real discussion of Mary and ESPECIALLY praying to her) and saints, and liturgy, but once I realized that not only was Sola Scriptura an impossible myth, but that I actually trusted Tradition, the Church Fathers, and the Church, the rest kind of fell into place.

    Oh, and the great humility I’ve found among Orthodox people, and their Christlikeness. And this blog (thank you, Fr. Stephen), which was a large part of why I grew to trust Tradition/the Church.

    Miriam

  65. Christian says

    I was baptized roman catholic as a baby I did my communion and conformation done to then by the age of 17 find my self not believing in a god to then searching for something started with dark magic then to light to study the Quran and the Torah and then it came in 1997 when I personally accepted Christ Jesus as my GOD n salvation since then a lot has happened in my life I even became ordained as a pastor and know I find myself knocking on the door of Orthodoxy I have read a few books along with the Septuagint I’ve watched and heard all sorts of compelling things that have brought me’ to were I am today and I ask what do I have to do to become orthodox I also work on Sundays so it’s difficult to go to a orthodox church near me’ what should I do?
    Yah Bless!

  66. Lina says

    I became Orthodox because this is where God led me when I prayed, “Lead me Lord.” Father God knows best!

  67. EunSung Kim says

    I am currently going through the RCIA process at local Catholic Parish. I am a son of Korean Methodist pastor, and raised with an emphasis on prayer, fasting and holiness.

    I am currently at a Methodist Seminary where I am learning at Introduction to Orthodoxy by a Orthodox priest that began his journey as an Evangelical Christian.

    I find myself in theology and spiritual practice to be already Orthodox. I felt originally drawn to the Catholic Church, because of monastic spirituality, especially of the Trappists. I have already started the RCIA process, and I do not know if I should explore Orthodox Church or not. I am going to begin with the Divine Liturgy.

    I don’t have a specific questions per se, but ask for your prayers and prayers of others for my discernment.

    Peace,
    EunSung

  68. Genevieve says

    After reading the bible cover to cover, taking on a “Case for Christ/Faith”, then researching Church history, and discovering the “new” developments in protestant doctrine and feeling duped, I began to look for a church that wasn’t started by a man, but by God himself through the God-man, Jesus Christ. Then I came to the Church with the hope that I would feel the same thing I felt 15 years earlier when I went with a friend to the Greek Church. God was there, I just felt it. So, to me, if this wasn’t Truth, then I was becoming atheist. To my surprise the well of Truth was much deeper than I had imagined. When I became a catechumen, I could not stop crying because I KNEW, I had found the True Church.

    Now 4 years later, there is so much more to learn about Divine wisdom. The hardest, and most recent lesson has been letting go of the “non-leagalistic” legalism that I held on to. It really is all in the Grace of God, and trusting God enough to be open to Him. It is beyond what any Calvinist or Charismatic could imagine.

    Grace is no longer something I try to create in fellowship, capture in prayer and “God” moments, and limited to “forgiveness”. As the Holy Spirit… It just is. The rules are not rules, but guides (a rudder), the path to God that say “Come, this Way. This is proven to show you the Glory of God. Come and see. Lay your burden’s here. Come and see that the Lord is good.” Which is why the Greek work for Grace is so beautiful “Charisma”. It’s something that defies definition, it’s the prodical son, it’s the lost coin, it’s lost sheep and every parable Jesus ever taught, and it’s like learning it first hand. I am so grateful to be a part of this Living Church, grafted into the Vine, and falling on my knees in awe that God loves so much. It is stability and growth, and I am amazed to see the growth of fellow Christians who walk in the Light, and are some of the most humble people I have ever met.

  69. Mary says

    I”m not quite there yet,but leaning hard. For me it must be God’s call.
    I do think folks need to lean off the bashing of other Christians, though. It is extremely distasteful. Reading Frederica Mathewes Green book actually turned me off with it’s obnoxious superiority. I’m only now coming around again, but it would be helpful if parishioners didn’t immediately tell me how Orthodoxy is superior too…and others are wrong. coming from converts it seems to be based on bad experience and Protestants natural disdain for anything RC, and from ethnic cradles a lack of understanding and distrust of anything Western.That does not make me want to return to either parish.

    I won’t convert until I’m sure it’s God’s will; that God wants me to meet Him here, not because I’m convinced by arguments that Orthodoxy is superior to every other group out there.The true faith argument does little for me,personally. Nor is that important. God’s will is what’s most important.

    I’ve heard other near converts make the same complaint of being told how inferior their faith is,etc. Orthodox would do better to lay off the comparisons unless folks specifically ask for them. It’s tiresome and obnoxious.

  70. James says

    Fr. Stephen,
    Thank you for your podcasts on AFR and for this blog! Your insights are very thought provoking and inspiring. My route to the Orthodox Church was very circuitous. Growing up in the late 1960’s I left an evangelical church and followed the “hippie” movement, and was fascinated by eastern mysticism and consciousness raising, even joined a modern day gnostic cult for several years. Though nothing ever satisfied my spiritual hunger- it was never something that truly satisfied my heart. Then, by God’s grace I found the Church! The depth of the prayers, the beauty of the Liturgy, the “common sense” of it’s theology, but especially the Presence of God!I knew I was home.The Church offers what every heart longs for- Jesus Christ!

  71. Paul says

    I am a cradle Orthodox – growing up in Russia, there was not much else. So, when I moved to the US, I discarded Orthodoxy as “that old Russian stuff”. So it happened that I ended up working for Protestant churches – Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian… And after about 20 years of absorbing all that Reform theology like a sponge, I came to a conclusion that this Christianity is just a hogwash. None of it was making sense, nothing connected, and every inquiry dead-ended with “This is what we, Protestants, believe.” It was by God’s providence that I “discovered” the “other” Christianity. I started going to a local Orthodox church, and learning and understanding came with such a force, I could barely stand on my feet. What unimaginable vistas opened to me! The prospective is breathtaking! And what was I thinking all these years? After all, I have had the true faith all along. Probably, I needed that spiritual detour for some reason.
    I often ask the converts, “So why Orthodoxy” – the answer is pretty much the same: “I wanted my world to make sense.” And I agree.

  72. Luis says

    You say there is no comment needed to your reason that God told you to become Orthodox. To me, that demands comment. How and in what words, where did he tell you (personal letter, the Bible, vision)? Please do comment.

  73. says

    Luis,

    I was Orthodox 4.5 years when this article was originally published. I can honestly say that all of the listed reasons applied to me when I found Orthodoxy; & that even includes #6: “God told me to do this.” Yes, Fr. Stephen is correct in that “God told me to do this” needs no further comment…at least not to those that have undergone the journey into the Orthodox Church anyway.

    I cannot speak for Fr. Stephen, rather only from my own experience which is echoed in many of the above posters. Yes, God told me to do this; not through “words” from a “personal letter, the Bible or vision”; but rather through the leading & guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, both with & in God the Father & God the Son. Not 3 “gods”, but one God–the Holy Trinity indescribably united in a divine communion of indescribable Love. Thus, God is not limited only to mere words of “personal letter, the Bible or vision” in His communication with us.

    The 1st time I entered our small mission parish I knew that I was home & that God had been leading me to that home all of my life. It was a very circuitous route through many religious systems within what passes for “Christianity” as well as through Judaism. Since becoming Orthodox my life, both past & present–both good & bad, has become understandable in that now I frequently comprehend God’s involvement, both past & present–both good & bad.

    Also, for the 1st time, the Orthodox Church has revealed to me & led me to the “good God who lovest mankind” as the prayers of the Church proclaim, who can be & is to be experienced through union with Him. This union is deeper & beyond than mere words. For the Orthodox no explanation is necessary; for the non-Orthodox no explanation is possible.

  74. Luis says

    Thank you, Rhonda, for responding. I can only say in response to your last statement that if that is true, you can speak to no one, neither to the non-Orthodox, who cannot or will not understand, nor to the Orthodox to whom no words are necessary. You have absolutely no witness. You are an island unto yourself. You have no language but your own.

    I have been living for almost 60 years and have been a follower of Christ for almost 50. Why has God never told me to become Orthodox? Does he not care about me? I have read his word extensively over the years and have come into contact with Orthodoxy a few times in the course of those years, but never has “the leading & guidance of the Holy Spirit” told me to become Orthodox. Rather, His leading and guidance has done exactly the opposite. I have investigated orthodoxy, but God’s word always points me in the opposite direction.

    I would like to humbly suggest that since those who hear the calling to become Orthodox are only those who have “undergone the journey into the Orthodox Church”, they are only those who have been brainwashed. I don’t mean to be unkind by saying that, but I can think of no other way to say it. I love my Orthodox friends more than I can say, but I fear they have gone through a journey that has brainwashed them because they were looking for something they hadn’t found elsewhere due to the deceitfulness and cunning of Satan.

  75. fatherstephen says

    Luis,
    Obviously you didn’t really have any questions – just a need to tell some “brainwashed” people how wrong they are.

    Your description of yourself and your decades as a Christian simply says: “I’m a Protestant.” You are not reading the Scriptures in their proper context, but in the context that Protestantism has invented. For a thousand years there was nothing but Orthodoxy – apparently God did His saving work without Protestants. And there was still another 500 years before they came along. If you have a genuine question, feel free to post it. If you just need to tell us how wrong we are, then you can keep your thoughts to yourself. What you know as a Protestant I knew long ago and came to the conclusion it was wrong. May God keep you.

  76. Dino says

    Luis,
    Rhonda’s statement: “For the Orthodox no explanation is necessary; for the non-Orthodox no explanation is possible”, certainly doesn’t mean that she “has no language but her own”. There is far more than words and arguments to bearing witness. What do you make of Saint Anthony the Great who turned the desert into a city with the example of his life for instance?
    If I may, what is your Faith (denomination) that you “love your Orthodox friends more than you can say, but you fear they have gone through a journey that has brainwashed them”?! If that were correct, that would mean that Christianity was deluded for its first 1000 years!!

  77. PJ says

    Luis,

    I am not Orthodox, but I have no problem admitting that Orthodoxy has a strong claim to the title of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church — the Body and Bride of Christ. It has for two thousand years maintained the ancient faith under the most brutal and terrible yokes and persecutions. During that time, it has produced untold saints — men and women from whose faces shone the light of Christ (literally!). It has erected churches of breathtaking beauty and penned hymns and prayers that lift the soul to the seventh heaven. Its sages have opened the Scriptures and taught the path of true prayer to countless souls. That any Christian can deny that he owes an unquantifiable debt to the Orthodox is beyond me.

  78. Theodossia says

    Amen Father… What you went through, my husband and I went through too… If we are brainwashed, then I really thank God for this… I was lost and now I am found… I am home, Glory to God!!!

  79. Luis says

    Mr. Stephen, thank you for you reply, which was really no reply at all. I did indeed have a question and I was sincere in seeking an answer. I do not understand why your reason #6 needed no comment. It was a very bold statement, a statement, by the way, which anyone can give as a reason for anything. I like to see such statements backed up with something more substantive. I do appreciate Rhonda taking the time and thought to provide an answer for you. And I do not intend to be mean and hateful when I suggested brainwashing, but that is sincerely what it sounded like to me — and I have had very bad experiences with such. I do not relish telling people they are wrong and I did not tell her that. I was merely expressing the thoughts that came to me after reading her comments.

    You said to me: “Your description of yourself and your decades as a Christian simply says: ‘I’m a Protestant.’ You are not reading the Scriptures in their proper context, but in the context that Protestantism has invented.” I have no idea why you would come to that conclusion by the things I said. I am not a Protestant, nor have I ever been. I’m sure the Protestants have some good things to say, as do the Orthodox and others. I am willing to listen to what they or you have to say, but I will certainly take what the clear word of God says over anything any man has to say. Traditions are nice, but I will be ruled only by word of God as revealed to us through his holy prophets and his son, Jesus. So, if those words tell me to become Orthodox, I will certainly do it.

  80. Dino says

    Luis,
    respectfully, although you said you are not Protestant, you still managed to not answer my question on what denomination you are, I am very curious!

  81. Dino says

    Concerning Orthodoxy, keep in mind that the “word of God as revealed to us through his holy prophets and his son, Jesus” was agreed on and recorded through the Early Church which is one and the same in unbroken historical unity to the Orthodox Church. For hundreds of years the Church existed with “tradition” handed down from the Apostles, and then the Apostolic Fathers without the New Testament which was agreed on much later. I assume you must know that… Unless someone has some other Testament, the actual NT canon is a later addition to what many call “nice Traditions”.

  82. fatherstephen says

    Luis,
    My comment on #6 – is simply because there’s not much to say to someone when they say, “God told me to…” It’s more or less impossible to argue with, even if you think they’re nuts.

    Your definition of yourself as “I take the clear word of God over anything man has to say,” is a Protestant idea. It’s not new to you. That you think the Bible is the Word of God, and the primary authority for everything, without interpretation “by men” or “tradition,” is, again, a Protestant idea. That you think the Bible is “clear” means that you’re not even aware of the fact that you and everyone in the whole world reads everything through some sort of lens of interpretation. As an Orthodox Christian, I know what the “lens” is through which I read, and why that lens is true and appropriate. Most Protestants I’ve met who say the things you do, sound a lot of like, share fairly similar ideas, and have been “brainwashed” by some aspect of pop culture into thinking that by reading their Bible they have God’s authority for what they think. There are about 38,000 kinds of Protestants. If you’re not one of them, then there are 38,001 kinds of Protestants. You may not think you’re one of them – but that itself is a Protestant idea. Perhaps you don’t go to Church. If you don’t then you’re not obeying the Scriptures.

    Be all that as it may…

  83. mary benton says

    Luis –

    I am not Orthodox – and I do not experience God telling me to become Orthodox. But I do experience God “telling” me to learn from the Orthodox (which I am). That is why I continue to visit and comment here.

    I do not experience my Orthodox friends on this blog telling me I am wrong for not being one of them – nor do I feel any inclination to tell them that they are wrong for following God through Orthodoxy. I celebrate our shared faith and ponder any encountered differences.

    I am puzzled by your question – i.e. why you feel the need to ask it. Perhaps you could share with us a bit more about why you are reading this post and what you hope to learn or share…

  84. Michael Bauman says

    This post was made before I found the site. It is good food for thought. Of course, becoming Orthodox is not a one time event, it is life long task of submitting oneself to the love of Christ in service, humility and repentance.

    Why would anyone want to do that except God calls them to follow Him in some fashion or other unique to each person.

    I was received into the Church in 1987 but that was the culmination of 20 years of trying to figure out not only where Jesus wanted me, but why He wanted me.

    I’d investigated the theology and history of the Church and found it attractive and appreciated the Liturgical approach.

    Then one day, I walked into an Orthodox Church that I had been by probably 1000 times in my life and never cared. I looked up behind the altar and saw Mary, arms wide spread welcoming me to come and be with her son. Astounding.

    During the Great Entrance where the priest processes through the congregation to deliver the bread and wine to the altar for consecration, the overwhelming sense I got was that the priest/Jesus Christ were walking together through the gathering of His people.

    Still, I had questions. Each one was asked and answered but still I didn’t know for sure. Then one Sunday I sat in a different pew than normal. In that parish the holy bread was distributed when folks went up to receive communion. One of the elder ladies saw me standing there after she had gone to partake. We’d never spoken up to that time, but she handed me a piece of the Holy Bread. That’s why I decided to commit.

    Why stay? Stuff happens, feelings are hurt, people do things that are simply wrong all expression of our sinfulness.

    Ultimately it is because I want union with Jesus Christ and I experience it in the Church as I have never even come close to experiencing it anywhere else. That and I know that I would not survive outside the Church. The Church is life by the grace of the Holy Spirit. We celebrate that life and participate in it everytime we pray, everytime we worship together, in every small act of kindness, in fasting, in repentance.

    The Holy Scripture begins to make sense. Despite all the stuff that is not of God, His order is manifest. Order of mind, heart and soul. As we come closer to Christ, we are restored to ourselves in wholeness.

    It is the Holy Scripture come alive and we are immersed in it all the time reading it, praying it, singing it, acting on it. It is the renewing of who we are by the living presence of the Word. Everyting is made new. The Kingdom of God made manifest.

    Of course, my addiction to sin continues but it does lessen over time. In the Church I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling praying that our Lord gives the increase, relying on His grace to be sufficient where I am not. Lifted up by the prayers and devotion of others like the paralytic whose friends brought Him to Christ. I am not alone, I am not isolated in the ravening darkness of the world.

    The Orthodox Church is unique. While one can approach her from a primarily rational point of view, to enter and become a member and continue as a member requires much more. Ontological union with Christ is the goal as He became man and will always be fully man and fully God; so too are we called into Him.

    If someone does not want that deep intimacy and interpenetrating love, there is no need to be a part of His Church. If one longs for such union, even from far away, there is no other place that will statisfy.

    If I knew Luis, I think I’d go to his house some Sunday, pick him up and take him with me so that he could see and not just think.

  85. Steve says

    Luis if I may. The Orthodox Church is the Church in which Pascha is actually preserved as Tradition. This is to say very much indeed, when you consider the alternatives.

  86. says

    Luis,

    I was not answering for Fr. Stephen & I clearly stated such. I was answering your limited parameters of “personal letter, the Bible or vision” as far as God communicating Himself, His will, to us.

    You mention brainwashing & I am glad. I have seen brainwashing & its horrible effects; I have had friends & family fall prey to heretical cults. I was 13 when the Jonestown massacre swept through the media headlines. Far too many such incidents have happened since & far more remain unknown to most.

    But for me what is even more sad & insidious is the brainwashing that is virtually unidentified, unknown &/or ignored, which Fr. Stephen & others have mentioned; the brainwashing that is hidden within our culture, both secular & religious (though nowdays there is not much difference)…the cult of Man is God & the resulting self-worship.

    That brainwashing has produced a churchless Christianity, a bodiless Body of Christ & now even a Christ-less Christianity. The Church, the Body of Christ, & even God have turned these very mystical realities into mere metaphysical, philosophical concepts to be bandied about & disected through logic & reason alone. Fr. Stephen elsewhere has written about this under a variety of headings: Christian Atheism, secular Christianity, Christian secularism…

    That brainwashing says that the Bible is the clear word of God that anyone & everyone is capable of correctly understanding for themselves. That brainwashing has mutilated Holy Scripture, reducing it from being “God’s word” to “my Bible”.

    The Holy Scriptures were written by the Church for the Church & are only properly understood within that context, that community. Remove the Church as was done under the Protestant Reformation, & Holy Scripture–the pinnacle of Orthodox Tradition for millenia–becomes a vain & empty idol, which it did in just 500 years, useful only for 2 things–either further abuse & brainwashing or continued logical & philosophical debate.

  87. Luis says

    Dino asked, “…answer my question on what denomination you are, I am very curious!”

    I try hard not to be of any denomination. God and Jesus tell us through the apostles Peter and Paul, that we must strive to be unified in mind (1 Pet. 3:8, Rom. 12:16, Phil. 2:2). Separating out into denominations does not encourage becoming one-minded, but multiple-minded. However, we are also told that there is value in divisions and factions (1 Cor. 11:18-19) in that truth might be recognized. So, there is a reason for denominations, but I aggressively avoid identifying with one.

  88. says

    Correction from:

    The Church, the Body of Christ, & even God have turned these very mystical realities into mere metaphysical, philosophical concepts to be bandied about & disected through logic & reason alone.

    Correct to:

    That brainwashing has taken the Church, the Body of Christ, & even God & have turned these very mystical realities into mere metaphysical, philosophical concepts to be bandied about & disected through logic & reason alone.

  89. Luis says

    Sounds like you are saying traditions are primary and scripture is secondary. I think I’ll stick with sola scriptura.

  90. Steve says

    Or, I should say:

    The Orthodox Church is the Church in which Pascha is actually preserved as living Tradition.

  91. Dino says

    Luis,
    Respectfully, It is Scripture, is it not, that warns against Sola Scriptura itself!?

    “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”(2 Peter 3:16)

    “Stand firm then, brothers and sisters, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” 2Thessalonians 2:15

  92. Michael Bauman says

    Luis, I am puzzled. The Orthodox Church is an incredible feast of Theophany of which the Holy Scripture is a central and immensely important part, the key. Yet you choose to partake of only that part of the feast and only after it has been ripped up and despoiled by those who do not understand it.

    You are engaging in a common rationalism of either/or when you oppose Holy Tradition and the Bible. The Bible is unknowable outside the Tradidion and the Tradition is meaningless without the Bible. The Bible is both part of Holy Tradition and its cornerstone. Neither has life without the living presence of the Holy Trinity in a community of belief, service and worship.

    As the Incarnation results in the hypostatic union of God and man (both/and) so it is with much else in the Christian life.

    Context is everything. As Fr. Stephen oft reminds us and Rhonda also mentions, the Holy Scripture’s proper context is the Church which gave it birth in the first place through the life of the Holy Spirit active in the Church.

    Holy Tradition is the entire deposit of that Life from Creation to the present moment given to God’s people through out the ages.

    Jesus Christ is fully man. IMO the “alone” doctrines are a futile attempt to remove man from the divine/human union to which we are called. They isolate man from the living community of faith to which we are called and which is our birthright. If one follows Jesus Christ alone, Faith alone, and Scripture alone, he is left alone.

    There is more in heaven and earth, Luis, than is dreamt of in your philosophy. I entreat you not to close down your heart and soul to the magnificently wonderous gift that is life within the Church. Even if you never come to the Church, raise up your eyes to heaven from whence cometh our help open to His grace in unpredictable and uncontrolable ways.

  93. Michael Bauman says

    Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. John 6:53

  94. Luis says

    Mr. Stephen, I’m not so sure that the idea of taking “the clear word of God over anything man has to say” originated in the 1500s. Of course, I realize it is not new to me. I have no original thoughts. There seem to be some pretty clear directives from God about that: Deut. 4:2, 12:32, Prov. 30:6, Matt. 15:9, Col. 2:8, Rev. 22.18-19, and others.

    Yes, I know we all bring our experiences (“some sort of lens of interpretation”) to the word of God and that is part of the magnificence and power of it. It’s what makes it such a powerful lamp to MY feet and MY path, Psa. 119:105. Scripture makes sense in different ways to different people, but never should in contradictory ways. I’m glad you see a lot of unity of thought among “Protestants”. There is hope that such unity will prevail, but alas we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world.

    Thank you for being concerned about whether I “go to Church.” I do and am thankful to God for making it important and possible.

    But you are wrong to think that I am a Protestant as that term is generally applied in our world. Certainly I protest against some things as the Protestants protested against some things, even as the Orthodox protested against some things, resulting in the Great Schism. So I am no more a Protestant than you or the Catholic Pope are.

  95. Luis says

    I am reading this blog because I did a search about why people become Orthodox, and I asked because in my mind, reason #6 begged for an explanation.

  96. says

    Luis,

    No such dichotomy (primary/secondary) exists within Orthodoxy regards Tradition & Holy Scripture. This is again Protestant thinking. While you may deny being a Protestant, your mindset & understanding definitely are formed & influenced by Protestant thought.

    Remember, the Church wrote the Bible, the Bible did not write the Church; thus the Bible is the book of the Church & for those in the Church. It was never meant to be understood or interpreted outside of that community.

    The Orthodox greatly revere Holy Scripture. The Gospels are kept on the altar. The Gospels & Epistles (the NT other than the Gospels) are read & taught every Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is actually comprised of 2 parts with the 1st commonly called the Liturgy of the Word in which Holy Scripture is read & taught to the faithful. Orthodox services are replete with Psalms, OT readings & Scriptural references. The Orthodox even ordains “Readers” who are gifted at reading the Holy Scriptures & songs of the Church.

    Holy Scripture is the pinnacle of Tradition & it is the result of Tradition. The canon of the books of Holy Scripture came from Tradition. Tradition determined which books were to be included in the canon as well as which books were not included. There is nothing in the living Tradition of the Church that conflicts with Holy Scripture. In turn, living Tradition is what provides us with a safety net around Holy Scripture regards interpretation & understanding.

    As stated previously, remove the Church–Tradition–& you remove that safety net. You end up with the old addage “And Judas hanged himself”…”Go thou & do likewise.

  97. Luis says

    Thank you, Michael, for such a thoughtful, loving and caring answer. I must say, it is inspiring. God bless you.

  98. Marjaana says

    Luis,

    This might sound simplistic, but

    Imagine there were a carpenter who made a beautiful piece of furniture with scrolls and inlays and compartments you would only find after examining the piece very carefully. He then taught 12 other people how to make that same piece of furniture. Then he went away. The people he had personally taught taught other people to make the same piece, by both showing how to make it and allowing them to practice doing it. After a while, people who had seen the piece started making copies, but often, for one reason or another didn’t get it quite right, made adjustments and errors. So the people taught by the original 12, and those taught directly by them, got together to write the instructions down and those instructions spread throughout the world in several different translations. At the same time they kept teaching others, by showing and doing, and those others showed others, who showed others, etc.

    Wouldn’t you rather have both the instructions AND the workshop rather than only the translated instructions?

    The ability to participate in the “workshop” is one of the many reasons I am Orthodox.

    Marjaana

  99. Michael Bauman says

    Marjaana, you hit on an essential part of the faith: it is handed on (traditioned) and even with great attention to detail the written instructions are not as complete as learning from a master. That is what making disciples is all about.

    It also reminds me of the missionaries in Alaska who brought Christ to the indigenous populations by listening to the stories and traditions of the people and then telling the in word and deed the rest of the story.

    The Church is a workshop. I’m still an apprentice but I value the opportunity to learn from those wiser, more practiced and more mature in the faith.

  100. Steve says

    Separating out into denominations does not encourage becoming one-minded, but multiple-minded. However, we are also told that there is value in divisions and factions (1 Cor. 11:18-19) in that truth might be recognized. So, there is a reason for denominations, but I aggressively avoid identifying with one.

    Icons and the liturgy are the means by which Christ imparts his life into the world. This is never subject to private interpretation, rather it is the eternal revelation of the love of the divine persons manifest at Christ’s Pascha, which is in a classification of its own.

  101. Karen says

    Luis, thanks for sticking with the conversation. I am one who meandered the whole spectrum of the Western Christian landscape (from “oasis” to “oasis”) nearly my whole life–for more than 45 years–before I “discovered” Orthodoxy. As an Evangelical, Bible-believing Christian, I wouldn’t have wanted to identify myself with any one denomination either, since my experience spanned from Methodist to Baptist and a couple in between during those four decades. I had even occasionally fellowshipped with some Roman Catholic brethren in a prayer and praise group setting. There were things I appreciated (and still appreciate) about every church I was a part of and I recognized (and still recognize) a kindred spirit in every sincere Christian who is seeking to follow Jesus Christ, regardless of their affiliation.

    Having discovered its riches rather late in life, I have often asked myself why God didn’t allow me to encounter Orthodoxy and become Orthodox in my youth! It seems to me I would have been able to avoid some wrong turns, some falls into sin, and some dead ends that way. The answer, I believe, is that God works out His plan in a way that doesn’t violate the free will of all His creatures, and He worked, and is working, in and through my life in a way He could not otherwise have done had I become Orthodox earlier. Also, when I was young, historical realities being what they are, the Orthodox Church in this country was much more limited than it is now. There were very few, if any, English-speaking congregations where I could have understood the Liturgy and come to understand the Orthodox faith. At the same time, there remains a good bit of Orthodoxy in the other Christian traditions (though I believe they lack the fullness), and God has always worked, and continues to work, within and in spite of the human limitations and realities of this fallen world.

  102. Luis says

    Thank you, Karen, for sharing your story with me. I do find some things about Orthodoxy appealing. I am getting a better understanding about why people become Orthodox, though for me, there are such insurmountable road blocks to taking that path, that, short of a directive from God, I will never go there.

  103. fatherstephen says

    Luis,
    I’m glad you turned out to be an honest conversation – sometimes I get comments here that are simply looking to attack. I’m sorry that I took your first comment in that manner.

    I also understand your last comment, “insurmountable road blocks.” At one point in my life that would have certainly be true for me. Orthodoxy is something of a history story. It’s the story of what happened to the original Church. It didn’t disappear, it didn’t change. It was faithful. It suffered great persecutions. It endured terrible challenges from heresies. It protected itself by answering the false teachings of the heretics. One action it took, was to “close the canon” of Scripture – to declare what books were received by the Church as authentic and reliable as Scripture. It also produced summaries of the faith, such as the Nicene Creed, which clearly stated things such as the doctrine of the Trinity.

    In time there came a split between the Orthodox and what today would be called the Roman Catholics. Orthodox said that the Pope had changed certain things about the faith that they could not accept (including his claims to a unique authority). That split came in 1054. But the Orthodox continued their Church life in the same manner they had always kept it. They endured new persecutions – this time by the growing power of the Muslims. Untold thousands upon thousands were martyred, outnumbering those killed by the Romans in the early years. But the Orthodox remained.

    In the West (the area of Western Europe governed by the Pope) there arose the Protestants – Catholic Christians who disagreed with certain teachings of the Catholic Church. Those groups were few to start with, but today number some 38,000. Still the Orthodox continued doing what they had always done. In the modern period and even greater peril arose – the Communists. Millions upon millions of Orthodox were martyred by the Communists who sought to completely destroy the Church. But communism fell and the Church began to recover. And it was the same Church it had always been.

    Looked at from outside – it looks very different from Catholicism. It looks very different from various Protestantisms. But what you are seeing, is the same Church that has existed from the beginning. It has endured persecution, both physical and intellectual. And yet it remains. If it seems foreign or different, it’s not because Orthodoxy has changed. Everything else has changed. Orthodoxy is what Christianity “looked” like (and still does among the Orthodox). Learning about Orthodoxy is not learning about something foreign – it’s learning about where you came from – where the faith came from and about those who have bravely preserved it for 2000 years.

    I was raised in a simple Baptist home in the Southern United States. Most of Orthodoxy would have frightened me when I was a child. But what I was taught was simply ignorant of the fullness of the Christian faith.

    I hope you’ll stick around and share in the conversation. Many of us made this journey because, in the end, it turned out to be home.

  104. mary benton says

    Fr. Stephen,

    I love the way you give synopses of history. Could you at some time write more about the schism between the Orthodox and the RC? (Or if you have already done so, direct me to the post.)I know I am not your only Catholic reader and it would be helpful to understand more how/why our churches became divided.

    I know you may want to refer me to a book but, frankly, I do not do well at reading lengthy historical accounts. (That is why I like your summaries!) For some reason, history in large doses makes me sleepy :-)

  105. Steve says

    Luis,

    An “insurmountable road block” (“the problem”) may well be a Transfiguration Mount (“the solution”) in disguise. Orthodoxy takes a another view of “directives”:

    As we have seen, the fact that man is in God’s image means among other things that he possesses free will. God wanted a son, not a slave […] Orthodoxy uses the term cooperation or synergy (synergeia) […] “We are fellow-workers (synergoi) with God” (1 Cor. 3:9) […] The incorporation of man into Christ and his union with God require the cooperation of two unequal, but equally necessary forces: divine grace and human will. The supreme example of synergy is the Mother of God.

    [M]any brought up in the Augustinian tradition — particularly Calvinists — have viewed the Orthodox idea of ‘synergy’ with some suspicion. Does it not ascribe too much to man’s free will, and too little to God? Yet in reality the Orthodox teaching is very straightforward. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in” (Rev. 3:20). God knocks, but waits for man to open the door — He does not break it down.
    Excerpted from Met. Kallistos Ware’s The Orthodox Church

    This post could easily have been titled Why Orthodox become People

  106. Steve says

    Luis,

    Here’s a gem from the wellsprings of Met. Kallistos Ware:

    Not everything received from the past is of equal value, nor is everything received from the past necessarily true. As one of the bishops remarked at the Council of Carthage in 257:‘The Lord said, “I am truth.” He did not say, I am custom’ (The Opinions of the Birhops On the Baptizing of Heretics, 30). There is a difference between ‘Tradition’ and ‘traditions:’ many traditions which the past has handed down are human and accidental — pious opinions (or worse), but not a true part of the one Tradition, the essential Christian message.

    The point being made here is that truth is incarnational and cannot be detached from the person of Jesus Christ, who is of course pre-eternally co-equal with both Father and Spirit, One God.

    Notwithstanding this, Tradition, though it indeed consists of holy “outward signs”, is lived within the delightful paradise (“garden”) of the womb of the Holy Virgin:

    True Orthodox fidelity to the past must always be a creative fidelity; for true Orthodoxy can never rest satisfied with a barren ‘theology of repetition,’ which, parrot-like, repeats accepted formulae without striving to understand what lies behind them.

    To reduce anything to “denominationalism” is to substitute true personhood with something else:

    Not only non-Orthodox but many Orthodox writers have adopted this way of speaking, treating Scripture and Tradition as two different things, two distinct sources of the Christian faith. But in reality there is only one source, since Scripture exists within Tradition. To separate and contrast the two is to impoverish the idea of both alike.

    In brief: Tradition is encapsulated in the holy commandments to love God and neighbour. This is synergy.