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Tag: CS Lewis

Vampires and Iconoclasm

The Gospel for Vampires

Protestants often have a hard time understanding why Orthodoxy objects so vigorously to iconoclasm. How does having or not having pictures inside churches relate to theology?  The answer is that iconoclasm undermines belief in the Incarnation.  Iconoclasm also undermines respect for God’s physical creation.  Church history teaches us about the early heresy of Gnosticism which denied the goodness of creation and for that reason rejected Christ’s humanity.  The doctrine of the Incarnation affirms that the invisible Son of God took on flesh and became man (John 1:14). In his struggle against the early heretics, the Apostle John stressed the tangible nature of Christ’s body. Christ physically entered God’s material creation so that He could be seen, heard, and touched (1 John 1:1).

If Jesus appeared in visible form, then he could be depicted in images.  However if he could not be depicted, then we have here a phenomenon much like vampires who while visible to humans, their reflection does not show in mirrors and who cannot be photographed.  They are real and at the same also unreal.  Vampire illogic is implicit in Reformed iconoclasm.  Jesus’ incarnation was real while he was here on earth, but for them the incarnation in a certain sense ceased because Christ is now in heaven and out of sight.  This gives us the sense that the Incarnation was more like a camera flash going off leaving an afterglow rather than a searchlight that continues to shine for all to see.   Thus, Reformed iconoclasm undermines the doctrine of the Incarnation even if that is not their intent.

Vampire illogic can also be found in the Reformed understanding of the real presence in the Eucharist.  Unlike their Evangelical counterparts who straightforwardly assert that the bread and wine are just symbols, the Reformed understanding is quite convoluted. They assert that there is no transformation of the bread and the wine on the communion table but that the Christians truly feed on Christ’s body and blood in heaven in the Lord’s Supper.  They deny the reality of the real presence, even as they profess to hold to this ancient Christian belief.  Logically speaking, they are neither here nor there.  [See my article “Platonic Dualism in the Reformed Understanding of the Real Presence?”]

Prior to the Protestant Reformation, Christians saw earth and its materiality embedded in the spiritual realm.  This classic worldview lays the foundation for a sacramental understanding of the cosmos.  It also reflects the biblical worldview which saw the whole earth as filled with God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3).  After the Reformation, a positivistic understanding of the cosmos emerged, which saw planet earth as inert matter subject to immutable scientific laws and separate from the spiritual realm.  Heavenly grace while real was to be accessed through an interiorized faith, usually understood as proper understanding of doctrine combined with an emotional reaction to God’s grace, not through participation in the sacraments.  Thus, implicit in Reformed iconoclasm is a secular understanding of reality.

John of Damascus (c. 675 – c. 749) grounds his defense of icons in the sacramental understanding of the cosmos.

We do not adore as gods the figures and images of the saints. For if it was the mere wood of the image that we adored as God, we should likewise adore all wood, and not, as often happens, when the form grows faint, throw the image into the fire. And again, as long as the wood remains in the form of a cross, I adore it on account of Christ who was crucified upon it. When it falls to pieces, I throw them into the fire, just as the man who receives the sealed orders of the king and embraces the seal, looks upon the dust and paper and wax as honourable in their reference to the king’s service, so we Christians, in worshipping the Cross, do not worship the wood for itself, but seeing in it the impress and seal and figure of Christ Himself, crucified through it and on it, we fall down and adore.

Behold, then, matter is honoured, and you dishonour it. What is more insignificant than goat’s hair, or colours, and are not violet and purple and scarlet colours? And the likeness of the cherubim are the work of man’s hand, and the tabernacle itself from first to last was an image. “Look,” said God to Moses, “and make it according to the pattern that was shown thee in the Mount,” (Exodus 25:40) and it was adored by the people of Israel in a circle. And, as to the cherubim, were they not in sight of the people? And did not the people look at the ark, and the lamps, and the table, the golden urn and the staff, and adore? It is not matter which I adore; it is the Lord of matter, becoming matter for my sake, taking up His abode in matter and working out my salvation through matter. For “the Word was made Flesh, and dwelt amongst us.” (John 1:14) It is evident to all that flesh is matter, and that it is created. I reverence and honour matter, and worship Him who has brought about my salvation.  [Emphasis added.]  Source

Here John of Damascus argues that as a result of the Incarnation, God now imparts grace to us through matter, that is, physical stuff like water, oil, wine, bread, wood and colors.  For him there is no separation between spirit and matter; the two while quite different can work together.

Iconoclasm or the denial of the propriety of having images in church is no light matter.  Iconoclasm is heretical because it implicitly denies the tangibility and visibility of Christ’s Incarnation.  Iconoclasm is schismatic and sectarian because it entails the rejection of the Church Catholic represented by the Ecumenical Councils.  Iconoclasm is not the Protestant position given the fact that Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists are accepting of images in churches.  Iconoclasm represents only a particular sector of Protestantism, which makes it sectarian.  It is schismatic because it entails a rejection of the historic Christian practice of having images in places of worship.  To be an iconoclast is to divorce one’s self from the historic Church.

Beware the Iconoclast!

In keeping with the sentiment of the popular, American-cultural holiday known as Halloween we say: Beware the iconoclast!


Icon – St. Sisoes at the Tomb of Alexander the Great

The Gospel for Vampires

The vampire myth fascinates and draws many people to it with good reason – it speaks powerful truths about the human condition.  In our fallen nature, we have become like vampires.  We shun the light, preferring the darkness instead.  We have become unreal, lacking substance.  Lacking vitality in ourselves, we latch on to others drawing vital energies out of them in order to sustain ourselves.

The blood of Christ – our true drink.

The vampire myth should be viewed as a pre-Christian myth that finds fulfillment in the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Missiologist Don Richardson wrote about redemptive analogies.  He explained that within a culture there is usually some practice or concept that can be used to communicate the Gospel.  In the vampire myth, it is the wooden stake driven into the heart of the vampire while he is sleeping in the coffin that destroys the evil vampire.  The vampire’s lust for blood is a type of our hunger for the Eucharist in which we partake of Christ’s body and blood, the true food and drink (John 6:55).  The destruction of the vampire is completed by leaving the corpse exposed to the sunlight (cf. Ephesians 5:8-14).  The wooden stake is a type of the Cross of Christ.  The vampire lying in the coffin is a type of the human soul dead in its sins and awaiting the coming of the light of the everlasting Day (Ephesians 2:1-5). However unlike the myth, in the Christian Gospel the dead soul is born anew and emerges from the coffin a resurrected human being capable of experiencing the joy of eternal life.

Sin makes us unreal.  Athanasius the Great in On the Incarnation wrote about our slide into unreality due to sin:

Man who was created in God’s image and in his possession of reason reflected the very Word Himself, was disappearing, and the work of God was being undone.  . . . .  It was unworthy of the goodness of God that creatures made by Him should be brought to nothing through the deceit wrought upon man by the devil . . . . (§6)  [Emphasis added.]  Source

C.S. Lewis depicted this spiritual insight in The Great Divorce in which disembodied ghosts also end up in heaven.  It is a beautiful place that is so real that the ghosts find it immensely painful to walk on the grass and each leaf is far too heavy for any of the ghosts to lift up.  The way out of this dilemma is for the ghosts to repent, turn to the light, and then to proceed onward and upwards to where they will become more solid and feel less discomfort.

Christ is risen from the dead! Trampling down death by death! And upon those in the tomb bestowing life!

Conversion to Christ involves our dying to sin, our renouncing the dark and entering into the Light of Christ, and our renouncing Evil and turning to God who alone is Good (Mark 10:18).  To become a Christian is to embrace the true myth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came down from heaven, who took on flesh and became man, who suffered a horrific death on the Cross, who was laid in the tomb, and who destroyed Death through his third day Resurrection.  Unlike the popular Platonic myth that after death our spirits go to a happy place  up there called heaven, the Christian myth anticipates the return of Christ, the resurrection of our bodies, a new heaven and a new earth, and the redeemed of the Lord worshiping the Trinity in New Jerusalem.  The River of Life flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb in Revelation 22:1 is a symbolic reference to the Trinity.  The City of God mentioned in verse 2 is a symbol of the Church.  Verse 4 says: “They will see his face” – meaning that the icons of Christ are a promise that we will one day see Christ Himself face to face.


Venerating The Icon of Christ

In order to accept icons one cannot just reject iconoclasm. One could mentally disagree with the Reformed position and view icons appreciatively like one would in a museum setting.  I remember talking with an Episcopalian deaconess who enjoyed painting icons in the traditional Byzantine fashion but balked at the kissing of icons.  According to the Seventh Ecumenical Council, to accept icons means that we venerate icons.  Usually, this takes the form of kissing the icon as a sign of love and respect for the person depicted in the icon.  To kiss an icon is a very tangible, even carnal, act that in a very profound way manifests the reality of the Incarnation.  It is also a very concrete way of showing one’s solidarity with the early Church.  In Orthodoxy we do not just believe in the Incarnation as a theological concept; rather we participate in the reality of the Incarnation through physical actions like getting wet in baptism, being present at the Divine Liturgy, feeding on the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, being anointed with holy oil, kissing the Gospel book, and kissing the icons of Christ and the saints.  Being Orthodox is not just about being theologically correct as it is about becoming real, integrated beings through union with Christ.

Robert Arakaki



St. Athanasius.  On the Incarnation.  St. Vladimir Seminary Press.  Originally published 1944.

St. John of Damascus.  Apologia of St. John Damascene Against Those Who Decry Holy Images. Part II.  Balamand.edu.

Don Richardson.  Eternity in Their Hearts.

CS Lewis.  The Great Divorce.

Robert Arakaki.  2012.  “Platonic Dualism in the Reformed Understanding of the Real Presence?OrthodoxBridge.

Robert Arakaki.  2013.  “Christian Images Before Constantine.” OrthodoxBridge.

Robert Arakaki.  2016.  “Do We Need a Photo ID of Christ?”  OrthodoxBridge.


Why I’m Becoming Orthodox (3 of 3)


Part 3    Why I Became Orthodox – I Always Was

by Matt Ferdelman

Matt Ferdelman

Matt Ferdelman and son


Today’s posting is by Matt Ferdelman.  Welcome Matt! 

Matt Ferdelman is a catechumen at St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church in Dayton, Ohio.

Matt was born into the Pentecostal church where he attended for the first 17 years of his life. In 2008 he began the process of becoming a five-point Calvinist at Apex Community Church in Kettering, OH, where he remained until his conversion to Orthodoxy in November 2014.

After marrying his wife Erin in 2011, he finished his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Accountancy at Wright State University in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Matt now works as a CPA in a small accounting firm downtown, and spends his free time entering deeper into Orthodox theology and life, and playing with his two young boys, ages 2 and 3 months.

This is the third installment of a multi-part series. Part 1Scripture and TraditionPart 2 “Why I Deny Penal Substitutionary Atonement”


images-45The further I dive into Orthodox life, doxology, and theology, the more strongly I get the impression I have always done and believed these things and worshipped in this way. Or, at least, I have always attempted to worship in this way. Orthodoxy for me was like a light switch going on, illuminating parts of my faith which had been dark since the beginning. A candle had been lit and burned, but it not yet become a lamp. With a great many topics of Orthodox theology, as I began to study I realized Orthodoxy said what I had been trying to articulate for years. I see in my past clear signs of God’s work to prepare me for the Orthodox faith, in prayers he placed in my heart and desires that developed within me.

Let me walk you through some of these developments.


Icon - Holy Transfiguration

Icon – Holy Transfiguration

A. Theosis

I remember from my early teen years thinking often on the doctrine of Sanctification. In Sanctification we become more and more like God, forsaking sin and attaining to his level of righteousness. Really, this idea is quite incredible. As time goes on, we start to look more and more like the risen Son. We forsake idols and seek him and, like Moses, our faces begin to shine from the close encounters we have with God. The more sanctified we become, the closer we get to God.

At some point I began to consider the implications and limits of Sanctification. All the teachers I listened to seemed to have this idea that Sanctification ends when you die. After death, we are made perfect and there is no need for us to become more like God. Once the death of our physical body occurs, we are free from sin, which is perfection. I fully believed we would be without sin once we died, but I wasn’t so sure that we would stop becoming like God. I mean, God is infinitely perfect, right? That means he’s not just free from sin. Being free from sin would just be tabula rasa – it would make you a blank slate. But being free from sin is not the same thing as having righteousness. In life we are not called to just stop sinning; we are called from that to the act of love for God and man. If we are to seek to be like God in this life, why not in the next also? I reasoned that God would want us to become more and more like him after we are with him too. Because God is infinite there would never be an end to us becoming like him. There would always be some level of perfection above and beyond the level we had already achieved. One can understand this partially by comparison to technology. Personal computers currently are very powerful machines. They crunch numbers for us, help us communicate with each other, and serve as centers for entertainment. But every month better and technology is developed. Better processors are built. Clearer screens are made. Lighter laptops are tested in the field. There is no foreseeable end to the improvements we could make through technology. Becoming like God is similar in this way.


I thought like this and rigorously checked my logic through most of my teenage years. In my junior year of high school I solidified my claim to this doctrine. At that time I bought my first ipod. When you order from the Apple store, you have the option to inscribe something on the back of your ipod. After much deliberation, I chose these words:

I have been humbled by

The Art of Becoming God

At first, the words felt like blasphemy, but I couldn’t escape the thought that we were meant to become like God, and that we were meant to do so for eternity. Becoming like God forever logically seemed to follow from the doctrine of Sanctification. But I also knew I couldn’t say that we actually became God. That would obviously be heresy. Still, I chose these words to express the mystery to which I joined myself, hoping that its meaning would one day become clear to me … And so it has.

What I did not realize at the time was that I had inadvertently expressed the Orthodox doctrine of Theosis. Theosis for the Orthodox is the very purpose of salvation. Jesus came to earth to take away our sins, free us from death, and build a bridge that we could take to be unified with God. Theosis is that process by which we are unified to God. It is the everlasting deification of man into the likeness of God. The part about this that simply confounds me is that I had never heard the doctrine of Theosis before I had its meaning engraved on my ipod. The only exposure I had to Orthodoxy prior to that was a minimal coverage in history class. At the time I was not drawn to Orthodoxy at all, and only had a vague impression that it was a form of Christianity that had been overly-influenced by Buddhism and had lost the faith. I think I might I have gotten this idea from my history class, but I am not entirely certain. In any case, I had not studied anything about Orthodoxy, and yet their doctrine was engraved upon my life.

The reason I thought my extrapolation on Sanctification might be heresy is because at that time I was not aware of the Essence vs. Energy distinction. God in his Essence is unknowable. But God’s Energies are knowable and we can relate to them. Theosis is the process of unifying ourselves to the Energies of God. To help explain this, think of your relationship with your spouse or a really good friend. You do not know their heart. No one knows a man’s heart except the spirit within that man. But we do know what that person is like based on how they act, what they do, and what they say. We experience their emotions because they express them. The essence of a human is their heart, to which no other human can be united. But their actions are knowable and other humans can relate using actions. In the same way, we can understand God by his actions, his Energies, and seek to become like him in every way possible. We become gods by grace, but not by nature.

If you want to read more on this, check out these two interesting Wikipedia articles: Theosis (Eastern Orthodox theology)  and Essence–Energies distinction.


B. Hell

I find it most interesting that the teachers I was drawn to most in the Protestant church were those that expounded one or more Orthodox-leaning views. At times I was enthralled by teachers that taught doctrines opposed to those of the Orthodox Church but, as time went on, I steadily stopped listening to these preachers, finding the goal of their teaching to be unedifying. The teachers to whom I was most drawn and still am were C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, and N.T. Wright. All these teachers have expressed views of either the atonement or hell which are similar in some regards to Orthodoxy theology.

C.S. Lewis and Timothy Keller espouse views of hell that are quite different from those most often taught in the Protestant church. Both Lewis and Keller have explained that hell is a place locked from the inside. Hell is, in their view, not a prison system to which God sends those whom he dislikes to be tortured for eternity, but a state of mind in which a human chooses some good thing above God. That good thing ultimately cannot satisfy, and yet the human that clings to it keeps looking to that good thing to fulfill his deepest desires. In our own lives we see this in things like the worship of spouses and drugs. When we look to our spouses for our sense of meaning, as a sort of god, we grow impatient when they fail our expectations. We continually desire they replace God in our lives, and we are continually disappointed, since they cannot. Every time they fail some standard we have set, we make another loop in the cycle of expectation and disappointment. This cycle, if left unchecked, can go on for eternity and lead to insanity. Likewise with drug addictions, the addict seeks more and more pleasure from increasingly high doses of substances. Every time a high is reached, chemical changes in the brain make a larger dosage in the future necessary to achieve the same level of euphoria. Eventually, there won’t be enough of that substance on the planet to satiate one’s desire. A infinite cycle has been started. And the only end it to which it leads is dissatisfaction and turmoil.

Ungoliant Attacking the Tree of Life

Ungoliant Attacking the Tree of Life

I am reminded also of the character Ungoliant in J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. For those who have read or watched tales of Middle Earth, Shelob and the spiders of Mirkwood are descendents of Ungoliant. Tolkein, a personal friend of Lewis, describes Ungoliant as a giant venomous spider that teamed up with Melchor, a Satanic archetype, to destroy the tree of life at the center of the city of the Valor. Ungoliant pounced upon the tree and sucked its dry, gorging herself upon its life, but receiving no life thereby. She became so large, in fact, that she frightened the powerful Melchor, who in his might had known little fear prior to that day. Later in the story, Melchor steals three of the most precious gems on earth out of jealousy for their glory. Ungoliant demands he give the diamonds to her that she might consume them. Unwillingly, he delivers two of them into her maw. But even after swallowing such beauty, she is unsatisfied. In the end, Ungoliant prowls the earth, seeking whom she may devour. But her hunger becomes so great that no food or glory or weight on earth can fill her. So, at the last, she consumes herself.

This is the view of hell espoused by Lewis and Keller, and one to which I was drawn as soon as I heard it. It made a lot more sense than the view of hell as a place where God is actively involved in torturing unrepentant sinners. Because, though I tried very hard over many years, and with a sincere heart, I simply couldn’t bring myself to love a god that would do that. Whenever I dwelt on a punitive idea of hell, I could no longer approach God by faith within my heart. I was separated.

What I did not realize at that time was that the view of hell to which I had ascribed through Keller was inconsistent with my belief in Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA). See, if God doesn’t torture anyone for eternity in hell against their will, then he didn’t need to stop himself from doing so by placing all that misery on Jesus at the cross. Jesus’ work saves us from hell. In PSA, Jesus went through hell so we wouldn’t have to. But if hell is not punitive, neither was the cross. Because Orthodoxy denies PSA, it likewise denies a penal view of hell. My beliefs from long ago were inconsistent with PSA, though at the time I did not take my belief about hell and apply it logically to my beliefs concerning the atonement. But God in his mercy helped me in his good timing.

I likewise have been drawn toward the teachings of N.T. Wright for many years. Both he and Keller explain Jesus’ salvific work in a more holistic manner than do the teachings of most others I knew at the time. They both explain salvation as a cosmic restoration of creation – all of it – and a reunification of the created order to God. (Just listen to how many times either of them uses the word “cosmic” in a sermon. It’s quite amusing actually.) Because of this, I was most intrigued to learn N.T. Wright denies Penal Substitutionary Atonement. I was not aware of this until I started studying PSA just a few months ago. But given Wright’s studies on the history of the Church and his cosmic view of salvation, his denial of PSA shouldn’t be surprising.

Now, I know there is some confusion as to what precisely Wright believes. While I have not read extensively on Wright’s musings on the atonement, I did see one video where he explained his view that I believe makes his doctrine clear. In that video the interviewer asked point blank “Do you deny Penal Substitutionary Atonement?” Wright responded by saying “Yes, I believe in Penal Substitutionary Atonement, but I deny the Anselmian view of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.” He then went on to explain that the Jews of Jesus’ time were under punishment from God in the form of Roman rule. Jesus was killed by the Romans using crucifixion, thus bearing the wrath of God toward the Jews and, by extension, everyone who would believe in Jesus. But this view is entirely different from the view of PSA currently held. The Anselmian view explains that Jesus suffered an infinite punishment from the Father at the cross. But Wright’s explanation says Jesus suffered a finite amount of punishment. Really, the idea Wright is expressing is entirely different from what Anselm and Calvin taught and what most Protestants have believed for centuries. Though I do not know his heart, I would guess Wright believes PSA is false, but realizes that if he just comes out and says that point blank, he will lose a great part of his audience, and have less opportunity to help people understand why he denies it. So, for the time being, he has masked part of his belief for the benefit of others.

Interestingly, Wright and Keller appear to hold the opposite sides of the same coin. Wright denies PSA. Keller denies the hell that results from PSA. Yet I have never heard Wright say that he denies a punitive view of hell. Nor have I heard Keller says he denies PSA. To be logically consistent, though, these men must hold to the other’s belief. I look forward to seeing how their theology develops and/or is revealed in the future.


God as Mystery

God as Mystery

C. Mystery

I have always been fascinated by mystery. Whenever I have run across a theological concept that baffles me, I study and study it and soak in its ideas and implications. I can’t get enough of it.  The Trinity, the Hypostatic Union, the Virgin Birth, the Eternity of God, the Omnipresence of God – I ate up these doctrines. After watching the Fellowship of the Ring in my teenage years I started reading Tolkein and Lewis extensively. I have loved all of Tolkein’s works, especially the Silmarillion, and greatly enjoyed Lewis’ Space Trilogy. These books and my love for the unknowable developed in me an appreciation of Mystery. I tried to understand the greatest concepts and ideas I could find. But when I did so I did not begin to think I was something special or that I had attained some level of knowledge beyond my fellow man. Actually, the opposite happened. I realized rather quickly in dwelling on these things in my teenage years that I simply couldn’t get it. My logic could only take me so far. There was an end to reason, and I had reached it. I took the road as far it went. I found myself consistently saying “I don’t know.”

Scripture and other forms of revelation only show us part of the picture of creation and of God’s nature. But even if God had written down for us every scientific detail and description of who he is and what he’s been doing for eternity, we still could not understand. As Jesus said to his disciples “I have many things to tell you, but you are not yet ready for them.” So too no human can ascend to God by his own will and understanding. God doesn’t leave us in the dark on purpose, but is patient, waiting until we are ready to receive more of who he is.

From these musings I realized I couldn’t expect to figure out how God did everything. I could at least understand part of how it worked. But for now I only see through a glass darkly. I do not yet know fully as I have been fully known.

When I began to study Orthodox theology, I soon came across their apophatic approach to explaining who God is. In this method, they say what God is not, as opposed to what He is. So while it is true to say God is love, the Orthodox will often respond by saying it is more accurate to say God is not evil. Speaking of God in positive terms is called cataphatic theology. Speaking of God in negative terms (saying what God is not) is called apophatic theology. This apophatic approach comes from the realization that there is much that has not been revealed to us and that there is much we simply cannot understand. Apophatic theology is a humble acquiescence to the mystery of God’s existence and ways, a form of divine worship in which we bow to the unknowable essence of the I Am.

This mystery is extended by the Orthodox to their understanding of the sacraments. They believe, contrary to Protestant belief, that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus. How does this happen? They don’t have an answer. They recognize that Christ told us Communion was his body and blood, but they don’t know exactly how God accomplishes this. Unlike the Roman Catholic church, they do not hold strictly to the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Likewise, they recognize Baptism is not just a token of one’s faith in Jesus, but a participation in the death and resurrection of our Lord, a Pascha of the future and the past brought into the present.

In all of these things, the Orthodox recognize that we cannot approach God by rationalistic logic. Logic and reason only take us so far. The reduction of the Sacraments by the reformers to mere tokens or symbols was based in part on the Scholastic reasoning that had developed through the Medieval period. Today that rationalism is seen in naturalistic science which seeks to explain the entire created order through observation and reason. Science has provided us with many wonderful things. But naturalistic science assumes the natural, observable world is all that exists. It assumes only the material exists. It cannot, by its own definition, observe or experiment upon other dimensions or modes of being. It is limited. Much of the reductionism applied to the sacraments and the mysteries of God, however, is due to this rationalistic approach.

The Orthodox Church recognizes the mystery of God’s ways and worship him for it. They teach the Theosis of man into the image of God. They proclaim the doctrines to which I have held, though I did so then in an incomplete manner.

In my studies on Orthodoxy I keep finding myself saying “But this is what I always believed.” Orthodoxy is the full revelation of the partial faith I had in some areas and is the explanation to the questions with which I struggled with in others. In fact, the more I think about it the more I begin to see my journey parallel that of Israel. Under Moses, God gave his chosen nation a partial revelation of his will and character. He gave Moses the law to keep the people until the time of full revelation should come and to train them to recognize the Messiah when he appeared. In many ways, this describes my life in the Protestant church. I will be forever grateful to my shepherds there, but from it I did not receive a full revelation of God. There I was first taught how to begin to know God. I began to see his works in all of creation. I learned in part how to worship. I learned in part how to believe and trust him.

But when the fullness of time came God gave to me the fullness of his revelation. When once I understood in part, God in Christ demonstrated to me the entirety of whom he was and the intentions behind his actions. While I used to approach God with uncertainty, now I approach with full confidence in the knowledge of the Son. While I understood God wanted to save humanity, now I see he wishes to restore all things. While I used to offer the sacrifice of guilt, I now offer my very self. While I used to worship in part, now I worship in spirit and in truth. What I knew was like a tutor preparing me for the coming of the Messiah. But when the new comes, the old passes away.

Really, the Orthodox Church is God’s answer to every prayer I have ever prayed – my desire to be like God, my desire to seek him, my desire to know his love, my desire to understand his intentions, my desire to be united with him. In his mercy and perfect timing, he has delivered to me true faith and understanding and enlightenment in the knowledge of his Son, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Now I say with peace that I am not a stranger to God. I know him because he has shown himself to me. He is merciful to those that seek him. I am no longer a sojourner. I am home.