On occasion I run across Christian writings that embrace the notion of “progressive revelation,” or in other circles, “development of doctrine.” I am aware that the two phrases have different meanings – but there is something of a common thread – a thread that links parts of our modern world. That simple thread is the thought that something new, something not yet known, will be the answer that we’ve not yet had.
I will confess that I think about this when I contemplate the oil crisis – I would like to think I would wake up some morning to a headline that announced the invention of something that solved all of our environmental problems. I do not think that morning will come.
Neither will such a morning or evening come for Christians.
Christ, who is the fullness of Truth, is come. He has made Himself known and through Him we know the Father. From an Orthodox Christian perspective, there is simply nothing new to be known. No refinement of doctrine, no twist even of what we presently know will make any difference.
For the problem that we live with as human beings is not lack of knowledge, as ignorant as we may be. It is not that the knowledge is not there or unavailable, but that we don’t want it. We are pernicious in this matter. If the problem were lack of information – then the problem continues to rest with God and until He comes through with more information, we are excused.
The Fullness of the Truth has been given to us in the God-Man, Jesus Christ. The great difficulty is in becoming a disciple of that God-Man, and taking the lifetime required to know and be conformed to the Truth which has been given us.
As an Orthodox priest it is not unusual to find people interested in Orthodoxy. It is also not unusual to find people who are interested in “doing something like Orthodoxy.” They like some of the things we do and some of the things we say. They do not, however, want to become Orthodox.
I had the privilege yesterday evening during my visit to Kentucky to Chrismate and receive a young woman into the fullness of the Orthodox faith. Once again in my ministry, I stood by as a young woman repeated the words:
This true faith of the Orthodox Church, which I now voluntarily confess and truly hold, that same I will firmly maintain and confess, whole and unchanged, even until my last breath, God helping me. And I will teach and proclaim it, insofar as I am able. And I will strive to fulfill its obligations with zeal and joy, preserving my heart in good deeds and blamelessness. In witness of this, my true and pure-hearted confession, I kiss the Word and Cross of my Savior.
This is the central act of salvation – not in that instant – but in her lifetime. It is recognizing that what we need to know was given long ago, and continues to live among us and abide with us. The question is not “do I need something else?” But rather, “Can I say, ‘Yes,’ to what has been offered to me.” It is why, finally, there is, or should be, little debate within the Orthodox faith. There is much debate in my heart as I struggle to say yes again this moment. But I do not need more information. I need to repent – that’s the hard part.
I would encourage readers to read the short exchange between Scott Lyons and myself (comments 8 and 9) in the comments section. There is as much substance there as in the article itself and may prove of use.