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Orthodox Perspective: Is Salvation by faith alone or by works?

Discussion in 'Denomination Specific Theology' started by MMXX, Jan 25, 2021.

  1. MMXX

    MMXX This Space for Rent

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    In the 3 minute video Father Spyridon says at the end:

    "Salvation is a free gift BUT we must work and repent in order to enable ourselves to receive God's grace."

    That seems like a contradiction, so I'm hoping those who are Orthodox can sort it out for me.

    A youtube comment talked about there being a difference between the Western understanding of words like "Grace" compared to the Orthodox meaning.
     
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  2. Phronema

    Phronema Well-Known Member Supporter

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  3. MMXX

    MMXX This Space for Rent

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  4. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    That video was confusing.
     
  5. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    The thing about EO is that it's an old tradition that sticks with old answers. Theology naturally develops over time. As we encounter new heresies our theology develops to more specifically answer new questions. This is how we got to all the ecumenical formulations of the Trinity.

    EO simply stopped doing this after a while and so a lot of their theology surrounding salvation, faith, works, grace, etc is simply undeveloped. That's why it's so vague and confusing.

    Roman Catholic theology is more developed, but it's not Biblical. Reformed theology is developed, specific, and more biblical IMHO.
     
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  6. MMXX

    MMXX This Space for Rent

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    This presentation of the Orthodox view of salvation brought tears to my eyes:

     
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  7. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    It’s a nice illustration. There’s nothing about it that’s incompatible with the Reformed view. In fact, both of his illustrations (the Protestant and the EO) are compatible with each other. They are not mutually exclusive.
     
  8. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    I find it neither vague nor confusing, although I might be the person to comment considering I myself am often regarded as both vague and confusing, as anyone who has had to hear me preach will attest.

    I most especially do not find it undeveloped; au contraire, I would say it represents, along with Roman Catholicism and the Reformed tradition, one of the three most intellectually developed areas of Christendom. I would say that it is also more cohesive than, for example, Anglicanism, which I love, but which I feel at times is unable or unwilling to try and offer a firm answer to certain hard questions owing to the broad church, latitudinarian, via media aspect leading to multiple rival theological traditions based on the different levels of churchmanship. By the way, I love Anglicanism, which should be known to anyone who knows me, and am considering becoming one, and I would also argue one appeal of Anglicanism compared to some denominations is the different levels of churchmanship provide a certain level of intellectual freedom if one nests oneself comfortably at the desired elevation within the most resplendent clerestories of Canterbury Cathedral, York Minster or St. Paul’s.

    With regards to what was said by Fr. Spyridon, who is not I would note an intellectual Orthodox theologian like John Zizoulas, Fr. Georges Florovsky, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware or Fr. John Behr, but rather a humble monastic, it seems what he is saying could be read very clearly, in fact more clearly one might argue, using as a basis an interpretation of the Epistle of James. E.g. “faith without works is dead.” What might alienate some Western Christian viewers is that Fr. Spyridon does not cite the scriptural basis for what he is saying in chapter and verse but rather interacts with this scripture organically relying on the tradition of his faith to provide an interpretive framework.

    However, if one is well-versed enough to know approximately what he is referring to, the Orthodox Study Bible does a very good job of providing a thorough exegesis (the best Reformed equivalent I think is the King James Study Bible, although the reformed really pioneered this idea with the interpretive glosses in the Geneva Bible, which to some extent the Anglican KJV reacted against by refusing to provide in its original form interpretive commentary like the Geneva or Challoner Douai-Rheims).
     
  9. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    I agree with this entirely.
     
  10. GreekOrthodox

    GreekOrthodox Psalti Chrysostom

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    We're not undeveloped but we approach theology differently than the west. Western theology uses what is called cataphatic theology for most of its theological statements. These are positive statements that God is "X", the Eucharist is "Y", Baptism is "Z". Orthodoxy prefers to use apophatic statements or negative ones that God is not "X", the Eucharist is not "Y", yada, yada, yada. For us, the moment we try to define something as a positive statement, we assume that we KNOW God and God, is unknowable in his essence. Instead, we say that God is reveals Himself and all that we can know is what he reveals. "We do not know what God is. God Himself does not know what He is because He is not anything [i.e., "not any created thing"]. Literally God is not, because He transcends being." John Scotus Erigena
     
  11. Lawrence87

    Lawrence87 Member

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    My ignorant and probably incredibly flawed analogy is as follows:

    Beliefs incur certain actions. If I say to you that I think democracy is the greatest system of governance in history, you might infer from this that I participate in this system with the act of voting. If, when asked if I vote, my response was to say 'nah I don't see any point in it' then you might legitimately question my belief in democracy. It's easy to say we believe things, but our actions betray what we really believe.

    Thus, works are the actions that we are called to make as a consequence of our faith. Works are the expression of belief in action. For instance Christ calls us to love our neighbour. If we aren't trying to do this in our actions, and struggling to put it into practise in our lives, how can we say that we really believe in Him?
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2021
  12. MMXX

    MMXX This Space for Rent

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    That's the best analogy/definition I've read., "Works" is a somewhat vague term to me. But "actions" I get.
     
  13. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

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    From a Lutheran POV nothing in this sounds problematic. Indeed I don't think there's anything disagreeable. Luther himself speaks of the impossibility of separating faith from works, because faith does good works, it can't help but do them. What Lutheranism says--and says very strongly--is that the Law (what God commands) is not Gospel, and the Gospel (what God has promised and gives us freely) is not Law. Thus there must always be a firm and hard distinction between the two.

    What that means is that we can never attribute saving power to our works, as though the works we do contribute to our standing and place before God; rather our place before God is solely God's work and grace. Which is why we speak of our justification, our righteousness before God, as a passive righteousness, a righteousness that comes from God, given to us as a gift. Specifically it is Christ's righteousness. When it comes to our good works, this is instead understood as an active righteousness, and not a righteousness before God (in order to gain reward or earn favor from Him by our own merit), but the active righteousness before the world.

    To put it another way, God isn't the One who needs our good works, it's our neighbor who does. Faith in action through good works isn't to our benefit before God, but for the benefit of others. The reason we should feed the hungry isn't that in doing so God will award us brownie points, or give us extra ticks on the scoreboard to aid us through Judgment and toward life everlasting--but because there are hungry people who need food, and it is God's good command that the hungry be fed, that the poor, the orphan, and the widow be taken care of.

    By making this distinction we avoid the pitfall of the Opinio Legis ("Opinion of the Law"), the notion that I can through my own strength, power, and effort attain righteousness and holiness deserving of eternal reward; and instead confess that it is from God alone that we have what we have. That we are, in the nakedness of our sin and mortal flesh beggars before God, and that Christ alone reconciles us to God and unites us together with Himself and thus brings us into communion with Him, His Father, and the Holy Spirit (noting that it isn't Christ alone apart from the Father and the Spirit, but like all things as it pertains to God's works, it is a Trinitarian activity; rather it is Christ alone apart from our fallen and frail efforts and attempts at merit).

    Faith alone, in Lutheranism, isn't "Salvation means subscribing to this set of theological propositions and adhering to them by mental assent"; but rather that faith is God's gift through His own gracious activity through the Means of His Word and Sacraments, through which we are given new sight to behold God in Christ, ears to hear God's word and Gospel, new hearts to love the Lord our God. To cleave to Christ, trusting Him, and that it is here in this faith that we are new creatures in Jesus Christ, and thus are justified before God. Which is why Lutheranism says faith is the new birth (in distinction to other theories in which some argue faith precedes regeneration, or those that say regeneration precedes faith).

    All of this, obviously, is quite firmly from within the language of the Western theological tradition, hence the language of justification, merit, etc. And there will always be at least some lack of cross traction between the Western and Eastern traditions, simply because our languages of theology are frequently quite different.

    -CryptoLutheran
     
  14. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    I’ve always felt the Lutheran Law/Gospel dichotomy is a false dichotomy, unsupported by Scripture, and that the Law, correctly understood, that is to say, as explained by our Savior, as opposed to the Mosaic Torah as explained by the Talmud, is part of the Gospel message.

    The other problem with the extreme dichotomy between Law and Gospel imposed by Luther is it devalues sacrifice and denies the sacrificial reality of the Eucharist, which before Luther was believed by everyone, everywhere, to be a rational and bloodless sacrifice. My favorite part of the Eastern Orthodox liturgy is when the celebrant intones “Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee, on behalf of All and for All.”
     
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