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A Defense of the Doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son  (Yes, this is about women's ordination.)

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"Buckle Your Seabelts": Can a Woman Celebrate Holy Communion as a Priest? (Video), Fr. William Mouser

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Father is Head at the Table: Male Eucharistic Headship and Primary Spiritual Leadership, Ray Sutton

FIFNA Bishops Stand Firm Against Ordination of Women

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Homo Hierarchicus and Ecclesial Order, Brian Horne

How Ordaining Women Harms Ministry to Men, C.R. Wiley

Let's Stop Making Women Presbyters, J.I. Packer

Liturgy and Interchangeable Sexes, Peter J. Leithart

Male-Only Ordination is Natural: Why the Church is a Model of Reality, Steven Wedgeworth

Ordaining Women as Deacons: A Reappraisal of the Anglican Mission in America's Policy, John Rodgers

Priestesses in Plano, Robert Hart

Priestesses in the Church?, C.S. Lewis

Priesthood and Masculinity, Stephen DeYoung

Reasons for Questioning Women’s Ordination in the Light of Scripture, Rodney Whitacre

Streams of the River: Articles Outlining the Arguments Against the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood ,

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William Witt's Articles on Women's Ordination (Old Jamestown Church archive)

Women Priests?, Eric Mascall

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Saturday
Aug112012

How an Orthodox Christian Understands Her Salvation

"Are You Saved?"

Text of the narrative, by Molly Sabourin.  Emphases are mine:

I was originally saved over two thousand years ago when God the Son took on human flesh and offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for all of mankind, defeating the power of sin by suffering on the Cross and destroying death through His miraculous Resurrection. I am being saved daily through my intentional decisions to follow Jesus’ example within each situation that I find myself, viewing paradise not as just a someday destination but as the everyday experience of self-denial, of being filled, through the Eucharist, obedience, and love for others, with Christ. I will, (Lord have mercy), be saved at the Great and final Judgement when I give an account for a lifetime of actions, when it becomes clear whether or not I cooperated with the grace so generously bestowed upon me. Who of us, having been blessed beyond all comprehension, should feel the need to insure that regardless of our choices a reward will be ours free and clear? Who of us dare to sit idle with our assurances, interpreting the conditions of the Bridegroom’s invitation while our lamps for illumining the darkness run out of oil?

My individual salvation is being worked out with fear and trembling through the unique responsibilities God deemed best to set before me. Based upon the model of the publican who beat his breast and begged for leniency, I am careful to not assume I have a handle on the spiritual state of others. I would do best, rather, to stay focused on my own flagrant shortcomings, reverencing both friends and enemies, all of whom were created in God’s image, as living icons of Christ Jesus. I share my faith, yes, but not out of obligation; a soul that’s found its meaning cannot help but be a witness to such joy. My ongoing testimony is presented through acts of service, in accordance with Christ’s commandment to love God by loving your neighbor. I pray ceaselessly for the courage to fight the good fight, staying faithful until my very last breath upon this earth.

Now, this statement is illustrative because of both what it says and what it doesn't say.  Let's start with the latter.  Aside from a vague reference at the beginning of the narrative about how the incarnation and ministry of Christ conquered sin and death, there is absolutely no mention of the operative and cooperative grace of God, which is a huge theme in the New Testament, as well as in later Augustinian theology.  The New Testament in many places affirms that salvation does not come from self-exertion, but from the grace of God alone.  That is to say, even man's decision to accept Christ and remain in Him comes about only by the grace of God.  I'll not cite all the numerous verses here.  Anyone familiar with the New Testament knows what I'm talking about.   But I will quote one, since it's one to which Mrs. Sabourin alludes in her narrative, quite out of context: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Phil. 2:11-12)

For Mrs. Sabourin and all too many of her fellow Orthodox Christians, however, salvation is a matter of self-exertion, as the bolded emphases in her narrative indicate.  In typical Orthodox fashion it's loud on theosis but virtually silent on atonement.  And that point is driven home by the statement  that there is no assurance that anyone will be ultimately saved:  "Who of us, having been blessed beyond all comprehension, should feel the need to insure that regardless of our choices a reward will be ours free and clear? Who of us dare to sit idle with our assurances, interpreting the conditions of the Bridegroom’s invitation while our lamps for illumining the darkness run out of oil?"  Of course, setting aside the caricature that assurance = antinomianism, the denial of assurance is something we encounter from all Semipelagian and Arminian types, whether they be Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican or Protestant.  But once again, this flies in the face of significant portions of Holy Writ that tell us we can rejoice in the assurance that what God began in us, He will bring to completion.

None of this implies antinomianism; we do make real choices and the New Testament does employ the language of contingency in certain passages that pertain to salvation.  But these data should be viewed alongside of the predestinarian data, and the whole soteriological framework presented in the New Testament should be looked at as an example of compatibilism

There is no compatibilism in Orthodox thinking, however.   At the end of the day, despite the almost grudging lip service Orthodoxy theology gives to the necessity of grace, it's all about human willpower.  No wonder Mrs. Sabourin isn't very sanguine about assurance.  Man, left to himself and his "free will", which on the basis of empirical observation turns out to be not very free at all, doesn't have the greatest of prospects.  "Staying faithful until my very last breath upon this earth."  Or not, as the case may be.

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Reader Comments (5)

Thanks for posting this. I spent almost five years reading the church fathers and Eastern Orthodoxy--sympathetically, mind you--but I couldn't get past all the issues you address in the above.

I am quite horrified at the thought of salvation resting on mainly me, since I know how weak and flighty I am.

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBaroque Norseman

True about the eastern fathers have a different view. But what is interesting is the century after Augustine the issue was the nature of Christ not sin in the eastern empire. What I found interesting is theosis may have a connection to God's appoint emperor. A late antiquity statue refers to the Byzantine Emperor Justin the second as Divius the old Latin term used in connection with the deification of emperor's in pagan Rome particularly after their death. So, maybe this is another reason why the Eastern Church puts an emphasis theosis.. They were influence by their culture. We in the west ignored the emperor part of Byzantium even if the law states that God gave the priesthood to priest and the government to the ruler according to the Justinian Code in Byzantium there is still a stronger connection between church and state that development out of the Roman Empire.

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergood point

Well, Baroque Norseman, I commend you. I spent several years reading about Orthodoxy, and then spent *13 years IN the Orthodox Church* before I came to my senses. I won't bore you with all the reasons why I justified my conversion and my 13-year stay. All I will say is that I thank God for bringing me back around to what I always really believed about God's grace, and therefore OUT of the Orthodox Church. Not that I don't view the Orthodox Church as a sister church with many exemplary Christians in it, mind you. It's just that I think its soteriology is exceedingly deficient. "Are You Saved?" The real Orthodox answer to that question must be "no" for every Christian, for in Orthodox theology salvation only occurs (maybe) at death, and in some circles, only after the soul successfully navigates through the "Toll Houses." Give me what Jesus and the apostles said about the question, not what a bunch of crazy voluntarist monks on some "holy mountain" said centuries later.

August 13, 2012 | Registered CommenterEmbryo Parson

Here are a few Bible Verses in defense of the "Are You Saved?" video and the theology of the Church Fathers.

Luke 13:24 "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."

Phil. 3:10-12 "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus."

Mat. 7:21 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

Also, the Bible actually says "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." (James 2:24) Faith only goes so far. The demons believe in God and that Christ is God, but they are not saved. Do you think the demons were given grace to believe. Certainly not. The devout Orthodox Christian takes very seriously the words of Christ: "take up your cross daily, and follow me." It would be difficult to prove that such a self-less life comes about without any effort of ones will. But the Christian is able to do this by the grace of God. Nothing else.

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJacob

None of those verses, taken together or separately, establish the point you want to make. Look up "non sequitur." I would also recommend D.A. Carson's book Exegetical Fallacies.

April 25, 2013 | Registered CommenterEmbryo Parson

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