Monday, July 18, 2011

A Conversion Story (but not the one you think).....

A telephone call from a friend today prompted me to write this post. He asked me if I would mind sharing our story of how we became Orthodox in more detail. We'll eventually do that over lunch. But it occurred to me that while I have shared that story from the standpoint of a dissatisfied WELS Lutheran HERE, the WELS to Orthodox story doesn't really tell the whole story, or even most of it. Which is to say, by the time we became WELS Lutherans, my wife and I were probably 90% Orthodox already, though many of our fellow Lutherans, particularly in that WELS parish, were not even close to that number. The purpose of this post is to detail our conversion over 10 years ago to Lutheranism and how the 10 years that followed ultimately led us to Orthodoxy. While I have touched on the former very briefly HERE, what follows is a fuller explanation of that conversion and how it ultimately led us to the Orthodox Church.

My wife and I were both raised Southern Baptist. We were married in a small Baptist Church in Bremen, Georgia, the same one in which I was raised. We were both nominally Baptist at best -- we essentially went to Church on rare occasion and did not particularly pay attention to what our Church taught. You could say we were "Baptist by birth" but not really by doctrine. This was especially true when it came to such things as moderate drinking or listening to certain secular music. But it was what we knew, and it was where we were raised, and so we stayed Baptist for a time. While I was in law school, we attended a large Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, and two things really bothered us. First, we seemed to only hear about what a great person the Pastor was -- liquor had never passed his lips (yes, that exact phrase was actually used from the pulpit), he didn't go out on the gambling boats, etc. Second, related to the first, we kept hearing how we just had to believe more and we too could eradicate terrible sins such as moderate drinking and recreational but non habitual gambling from our lives. It wasn't long before we became tired of hearing this week in and week out, and we quit going to Church altogether. It turns out Church with a bunch of Law and not much Gospel is not very edifying for sinners. Especially when the "Law" in question is made up out of pietist wholecloth.

This was not how we were raised, mind you. There are plenty of Baptist Churches out there that will speak the Gospel in some sense or another. The Church my parents attend is a good example of this. It is a non-sacramental Gospel. It lacks historicity and Patristic understandings of salvation. But at the very minimum you will usually get an acknowledgement that the Pastor and parishioners are sinners in need of salvation. The alter call is for people to not only dedicate their lives to Christ, but in fact to confess their sinfulness and need for the Savior. We just never got that where we attended.

After I graduated law school and began practicing law, a friend of mine went with me to New Orleans for the SHOT show. This is a firearms trade show, and my friend and I knew each other from the shooting community. He was a Lutheran pastor. We talked about Church while we were there, but on the way back he asked some hard questions. He was also a former Baptist, so he knew the language. We discussed infant baptism, the Lord's Supper, and all the other typical areas of distinction between Lutherans and Baptists, but two stuck out to me particularly. First, he asked me if I was a good person. I told him I try to be. He asked how often I went to Church, whether I truly loved God and kept His Commandments, etc. I had to confess I did not do any of these things nearly well enough to please God. Then, second, he told me about John Chapter 20, where Jesus said "receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Then he absolved me. I had been told I was forgiven before. But that day, I believed it.


We ended up at a fine LCMS parish just around the corner from our house, and the Pastor literally lived in our neighborhood. I attended a Vespers service, and to be honest I was creeped out at first. The people were nice, but everyone chanted the service a capella, and the music was weird and medieval. But then they dove right into a Bible study (it was kind of a hybrid Vespers where we sang the first part of Vespers, had a Bible study, then sang the end of Vespers). I spoke to the Pastor for a long time that night, then went home and told my wife about it. She wanted to go the following Sunday.


Sunday was a different story. The Liturgy hooked us from the get go. There was an organ, and a choir, and the building was full, and the loudest people there were the ones who could sing. It was amazing. Very early in the service was a corporate confession of sins. The entire congregation spoke a general confession, and the Pastor faced the altar saying it with us. Then he turned around and pronounced the Absolution. I looked at my wife and we nodded. Here was a place for sinners like us. The Liturgy itself was beautiful, if still a bit off putting -- keep in mind we were raised on the very "Protestant light" worship style we eventually came to dislike. But the real key was how much Scripture there was in the service. It seemed as if every single portion of the Liturgy was pulled directly from the Scriptures, and then when you'd had enough of that, there were readings -- 3 of them -- and a sermon that focused on the readings! We began attending a Sunday School class on the Liturgy, and we attended Wednesday night Vespers and began to learn the Lutheran Confessions and the Scriptures that were so richly cited therein. We attended that Church for nearly 5 years before deciding we needed to move closer to family.


When we arrived in Georgia, we began attending an LCMS Church near our home. That parish used TLH as the hymnal, so it was by appearance more traditional than the one we came from (which used Lutheran Worship at the time). But our very first meeting with the Pastor raised red flags. We were told they were trying out contemporary worship there. My wife and I probably did not react as charitably as we should have. We had left this type of freestyle worship to become Lutheran. And we had been taught, rightly I still believe, that Lutherans maintain the historic forms of the Western Mass. But this Pastor had determined, for whatever reason, that guitar based, upbeat songs should be used, and began incorporating them in the Liturgy more and more frequently. This, in and of itself, is not so bad, but the songs used a more lightweight Protestant theology -- a lot about us and what we do, and very little about Jesus and what He has done. I once remarked to him that this use went against the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi (as we pray, so we believe), and he said "I don't believe that (lex orandi, lex credendi) is true." This came to a head when he started a Liturgy shortly after Easter with a "hymn" called "Let Our Hearts Burn Within Us." The LCMS has blessedly removed it from their website, but you can listen to it HERE. Suffice it to say, it was sappy, emotion-driven and hardly weighty in theology. It reminded me of the quote by Hank Hill "you're not making Christianity better, you're making rock and roll worse!" It was the embodiment of everything we thought was wrong with where this parish was headed. We never went back to that Church. It shut its doors a couple of years later after declining attendance took its toll. I'm convinced to this day that they had a vibrant Lutheran Church that they turned into a generic evangelical Protestant Church, and in the process ran off all the Lutherans. And as I've said a million times, Lutherans are horrible at doing evangelical style worship. It's like watching a polka band cover a hip hop song. It just doesn't work.


So from there, we joined a great WELS parish, and made a ton of good friends and generally had a very nice time. But there were gnawing issues. We missed the higher view of the Liturgy at our old parish, and we didn't like the fact that the Sacrament was only offered every other week, and never on Christmas or Easter or any other time visitors were likely to be present. The lectionary was sometimes eschewed, and more often when it was not, the sermon text was not from the day's readings, so we were getting a lot of sermons that did not deal with the readings of the day even when those readings were used. The piety of that parish was somewhat more "low Church" than what we were used to, so our oldest daughter fell out of the habit of making the sign of the cross and paying attention during the Liturgy. We still said our nightly prayers, but beyond that there was very little real catechesis going on that they couldn't get at a local Methodist or Baptist Church. A large part of that is my fault -- I was not particularly excited about the more Protestantized nature of the parish and did not take great pleasure in teaching my kids a historic catholic faith that wasn't really reflected outwardly in that parish. So I didn't. I take full responsibility for that. Another issue was that my wife no longer wanted to go to Church. Whereas I was content to "just go" and receive the Sacraments, she was concerned about herself and our children and how the lack of a strong piety and historic catholicity were affecting her and them. Eventually, she prompted me to look elsewhere.


She wanted another Lutheran parish. Unfortunately, pickins' are slim in these parts, and we had exhausted the best we had. If this parish where we loved the Pastor and had a lot of good friends who loved us and our children, and which was conservative and not too "evangelical" in style -- if this wasn't what we were looking for, any other Lutheran parish in the area was realistically going to be less so. I began considering our options and I saw three: Roman Catholicism, High Church Anglicanism, or Orthodoxy. High Church Anglicanism wasn't a real option. There were no parishes near us that fit that bill. That left two, and while as Lutherans, Rome was not as good an option as Orthodoxy, in the end there was an Antiochian Orthodox Church near our home, so we visited there first out of sheer convenience.

The rest, as they say, is history. We saw in that parish exactly the living, dynamic, historic, Gospel-centered Sacramental faith being lived out by the parishioners that caused us to become Lutheran to begin with. While no one would enter our parish and confuse it with a Lutheran parish, I have to say that the similarities are far greater than the differences. And the differences have turned out to be great blessings.

14 comments:

MRM,ESQ said...

Thanks David...I must say that I don't blame you for wanting out of the Southern Baptist church you left for Lutheranism. It sounds like a nightmare. I've had the displeasure of visiting some of those in the past. I reluctantly refer to myself as an evangelical Protestant, but prefer to refer to myself as a Christian. We are fortunate at out present church that is strives to stress the sinfulness of all of us, and the need for redemption. Of course, we perform immersion baptism for older children and adults, and I'm going to take a look at the infant baptism issue. I see no inherent problem with it, but believe it requires some form of ratification later in life as a believer.

We have attended watered-down evangelical churches in the past, and ours is a Southern Baptist church in the most limited sense of the word. We attended several times before we knew that it was affiliated with the SBC, but having attended Southern Baptist churches with my parents for years, I can say that this one is the best mix of whatever it is I like than any I've attended previously. I appreciate that our church empahsizes serving within the church, which is something I've found lacking in other churches I've attended. They also make an effort to provide opportunities for service, which is great.

I like what you said about the false dichotomy of faith and works. I've many times heard it said that Catholics believe you are saved by works rather than faith. I'm not sure that's what they say at all, actually, but I'm quite certain the Bible says that faith without works is dead...kind of makes it a distinction without a difference. That is, to say that you are saved by faith, not works, but that works are the fruit of true faith, you necessarily mean that faith and works are related, and are necessary. The works won't save you...neither will faith that does not have the fruit of works. I guess people have fought wars over this stuff, so I don't guess its going away.

Its also the first church I've freely joined without doing so with my parents. There may be better alternatives out there, and I feel compelled to do some research into the early church to determine how I feel about what they did vs. what we do. I appreciate your insights here. Its refreshing to know that others take these issues as seriously as I do.

David Garner said...

Interesting issue -- faith versus works. I think we would phrase it this way. We are saved by grace. Full stop. We are not saved "by faith" nor are we saved "by works." Faith is the means by which we receive grace (or, probably better, the means by which we lay hold of the means of grace -- as my Lutheran Pastor used to say "we are saved through faith -- faith in these (points to fount, altar, pulpit, etc.)") Works are those things we are saved in order to do. As one Orthodox I read put it, "you are not saved by good works, but you will not be saved without them either."

We view faith and works as two sides of the same coin. Neither being the cause of salvation, but both being "required" in the sense that there is a necessity that both exist in order for salvation to come about. Grace comes through faith and manifests itself in good works.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed your conversion story and blog site in general. Thank you.

Our experiences are somewhat similar. I was raised Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and have great love for my Lutheran roots. I married an Orthodox woman in the Antiochian Orthodox Church and baptized my oldest there. I have great admiration and respect for Orthodoxy.

My wife and I have attended a Southern Baptist church for over 5+ years. (Long story how I ended up there.) I am not a Southern Baptist. Although I know many fine Southern Baptist Christians, I just disagree with many of their core beliefs (e.g., adult baptism only, symbolic view of the Lord's supper, the rapture, etc.) I plan to leave and yearn for a sacramental church. Similar to you, I see only three alternatives: traditional Lutheranism (getting hard to find these days), Orthodoxy (where English is the primary language spoken), or one of these breakaway Anglican churches.

I too live in the south and finding a liturgical Lutheran church nearby is difficult. There is a Greek Orthodox church somewhat nearby but the ethnic emphasis is troublesome. I don't know where my spiritual journey will end but I pray that God will grant me wisdom and discernment.

Again, thank you for your wonderful blog. God bless!

James

David Garner said...

Thank you for the kind words, James. I pray God give you wisdom and discernment as well, and that your journey gets less turbulent as it goes along.

Greek Churches are interesting. I've visited two, and both were wonderful, but they can be very nationalistic at times and often quite ethnically centered. I wouldn't let that steer you away necessarily -- we learned to love Sauerbraten and dark beer as Lutherans, and I do love Greek food! But it is certainly something to be aware of.

Jim said...

David,
great story! I was LCMS for ten years and all my children were baptized in the Lutheran church...I am now an evangelical protestant heading towards Eastern Orthodoxy and I found the years I was with the Lutherans, I was always hoping they would manifest more catholic ways but they, like your second parish took on "worship lite". My former parish I am sorry to say is dying out with thier members...

Unknown said...

Dear Mr. Garner: I was fascinated by your “Conversion Story”, particularly because it comes from a layman. It is rare that a layman shows as much discernment as you have. That’s from one layman to another; and I say that with the full conviction that “we have nothing that we have not received.”

A recent posting on Rev. Peters’ “Pastoral Meanderings” touched on a related theme in a posting entitled, “We did not know if we were in heaven or on earth...”
I want to repost my comment to that posting, since, I think, it touches on what is most important in our worship. I don’t want you to think that, I, as a Lutheran, somehow resent the fact that you have left the Lutheran fold and joined Orthodoxy. Based on what you describe, I am genuinely delighted that you found spiritual satisfaction in a church, which doctrinally is in the mainstream of Christianity. My concern is simply to note what the most important part of our faith is – the “Pearl of Great Price”, if you will. So here is what I wrote:

It is true that the ultimate truths are revealed to us only by the Holy Spirit, but there are some truths which even the heathen can figure out – which is why Luther loved Aristotle’s logic and hated his metaphysics. This is what Petronius wrote sometime before committing suicide at the time of Nero, “Beauty and wisdom are seldom found together.”

Petronius’ saying is particularly a propos to the message of Vladimir’s emissaries because they described an experience from Hagia Sophia. Two of Vladimir’s sons were the first martyrs of the new church, killed by a third, so that apparently some of the finer points of the new religion had not taken root yet. It is a long and complicated history, but cutting to the quick: I do not know whether the Gospel was brought to Kievan Rus together with the “beauty”, or whether it was lost later. During the next 1000 years it was hard to find it in the Russian Orthodox Church in spite of the fact that the liturgy is filled with it. The problem is that it was never proclaimed or lived by the leaders of the church (with rare exceptions), so the words in the liturgy became an empty ritual.

It has been proposed that the horrors of the Soviet regime were not the result of the sins of the people, as the last few Patriarchs have insisted, but God destroying the church that had become unfaithful. Revelations 13:3 and 4 brought this to my mind, “One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it’?"

My point is that within the Church it’s all about the proclamation of the Gospel. Those whom the Holy Spirit moves to love that Gospel are likely to love the liturgy as well, because it puts them in touch with the saints of all time, the communion of saints, if you will. But it’s a cart and horse thing; putting the wrong one in front results in disaster. The church in Russia is a prime example, although a similar case could be made for Germany in the early twentieth century.

But to show that the Holy Spirit works His will apart from man’s doing, even contrary to the traditions we inherit, the founders of the Orthodox Church in America, Fathers Meyendorff and Schmemann, were deeply devoted to the proclamation of the Gospel.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

David Garner said...

George, thank you for your thoughts and perspective. The history of Orthodoxy in Russia is, of course, varied (as, frankly, is most of the history of the Church writ large), and we would all be foolish to ignore the dangers inherent in any faith tradition, since all must be carried out by sinners. I am not an authority on Russian Orthodoxy by any means, but I will offer for what it's worth that I always saw the downfall of the Czarist regime and the rise of the Bolsheviks as an indictment of the co-mingling of Church and State. Not that a Christian theocracy cannot work of necessity, but rather that it is a more dangerous form of government, since power corrupts, and co-mingling the Church of suffering and martyrdom with the power and privilege of the State is likely to have some negative results. Power corrupting also tends to obscure the Gospel, since the focus shifts from Christ to power. The Papacy in the middle ages is a testament to this in the Western Church.

Regarding the Gospel being proclaimed, I read someone recently -- I think it might have been on an Orthodox message board -- who said something like "if we all lived out the Sacramental life and really believed the Gospel, the whole world would be Christian. That there are people in the world who reject Christ is our fault, not His." That may strike a Lutheran as works-righteous (it probably would have struck me that way a few years ago), but I think the point was not that we'd better get to work so more people will believe, but rather that WE don't believe, and WE need to repent, because our failure to live up to that which Christ would have for us is nothing less than lack of faith and if we don't believe, why should anyone else? If we really believed He saved us from sin, death and hell, we would act like it. Since we don't, we demonstrate our unbelief and should repent.

Jim said...

Yes, mixing of church and state is always a bad idea!

Unknown said...

Dear David: thank you for your very gracious response. You stunned me when you wrote, “I always saw the downfall of the Czarist regime and the rise of the Bolsheviks as an indictment of the co-mingling of Church and State” because this comes very close to what I believe, but I have never heard anyone else say this, and it first occurred to me more than 30 years ago. In the early eighties, after a Church of England service at the British embassy in Moscow, I mentioned this view to the visiting cleric, and he looked around to make sure he was not alone and then slowly backed away.

From what I understand, there is an Orthodox doctrine of the Elect, so I would be somewhat skeptical of conditions under which the whole world would become Christian. After all, I think both Orthodox and Lutherans believe that ultimately conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. Rev. H. R. Curtis (LCMS) recently published a paper on this subject entitled, “Freed From the Shopkeeper's Prison.” It can be found on the blog, “Gottesdienst”, but you may have to go back a little, because it was presented in May of this year. It raises some interesting questions.

But the matter of our believing and repenting is of great concern to me. As I understand it, we have faith as a gift from God which we received in baptism. Among Lutherans you rarely hear of a difference between the “repentance” one undergoes in conversion (or Baptism), and the “repentance” that Christians feel as part of their ongoing sinfulness. The problem is that most of us recognize our imperfections, but even as St. Paul complains, how do we go about improving? Is it just a matter of buckling down and deciding we will do better? I suspect that part of the answer lies in what the recently deceased Rev. John Stott wrote, “Certainly we must never conceive ‘salvation’ in purely negative terms, as if it consisted only of our rescue from sin, guilt, wrath and death. We thank God that it is all these things. But it also includes the positive blessing of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, indwell, liberate and transform us.” (John R. W. Stott, Baptism and Fullness. The Work of the Holy Spirit today. Inter Varsity Press, P. 25, 26.) Among Lutherans, we rarely mention the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His work and gifts. But I suspect the key lies in accessing that resource.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

David Garner said...

From what I understand, there is an Orthodox doctrine of the Elect, so I would be somewhat skeptical of conditions under which the whole world would become Christian. After all, I think both Orthodox and Lutherans believe that ultimately conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.

I'll check out the Gottestdienst article by Pastor Curtis. I was a subscriber to their periodical for a number of years. There is an Orthodox doctrine of election, but it doesn't operate along the same lines as the Lutheran understanding. That's a whole other blog post in and of itself. We do absolutely believe conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit, but we also acknowledge our participation in conversion, meaning our response is a necessity. Not in a meritorious sense, but in a "we're not Manicheans," I'm not an automaton, sense. We don't believe God forces us to believe in Him. We also don't believe we are capable of believing in Him without the Holy Spirit working faith in us.

I would also note that we don't make strict dividing lines about pre-conversion or post-conversion in the scheme of salvation. We tend to view "salvation" as encompassing both justification and sanctification, with the latter being more what is in mind when one says something like "if we truly believed the Gospel the whole world would be saved." Such a statement is along the lines of "if you had the faith of a mustard seed...." We believe it to be true that if we lived out the Sacramental life as God would have us do, everyone would be drawn to the Christian faith and be saved. We also fully believe that because of our sinfulness, we will never actually do that.

But the matter of our believing and repenting is of great concern to me. As I understand it, we have faith as a gift from God which we received in baptism. Among Lutherans you rarely hear of a difference between the “repentance” one undergoes in conversion (or Baptism), and the “repentance” that Christians feel as part of their ongoing sinfulness. The problem is that most of us recognize our imperfections, but even as St. Paul complains, how do we go about improving? Is it just a matter of buckling down and deciding we will do better? I suspect that part of the answer lies in what the recently deceased Rev. John Stott wrote, “Certainly we must never conceive ‘salvation’ in purely negative terms, as if it consisted only of our rescue from sin, guilt, wrath and death. We thank God that it is all these things. But it also includes the positive blessing of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, indwell, liberate and transform us.” (John R. W. Stott, Baptism and Fullness. The Work of the Holy Spirit today. Inter Varsity Press, P. 25, 26.) Among Lutherans, we rarely mention the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His work and gifts. But I suspect the key lies in accessing that resource.

I was quite fortunate for many years to be in a Lutheran Church where this was stressed. Not in a pietistic way, but in a "Christ has forgiven you -- now go live in that forgiveness, free to do good works knowing nothing depends on them" way. Orthodoxy is like that, but we don't really put a lot of emphasis on the "nothing depends on them" part because it's more assumed among us due to our ontological view of salvation.

Unknown said...

Dear David: As I understand it, our differences are more of emphasis than substance – and maybe form. As a Lutheran, the idea of “participation” in conversion is not one I am comfortable with, but once a person is, in fact, converted does what he believes happened in the process make a real difference? But when you write, “we don't make strict dividing lines about pre-conversion or post-conversion in the scheme of salvation”, I become a little concerned. Why? Strangely enough, for somewhat the same reason that the practice (as opposed to Confessional teaching) of the Lutheran Church troubles me in this regard. In looking at various statements of Orthodox belief, for instance, I found more concern with how Baptism is done, than what happens in Baptism. I believe, in accordance with Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions that the Lord, the Holy Spirit, comes to dwell in every child of God. To me, that is about as sharp a dividing line as you can think of: before, no Holy Spirit and therefore an enemy of God, after, the Holy Spirit indwelling and a child of God (so similar to Elisha’s treatment of Naaman in 2 Kings 5). I know that the Orthodox Church believes in several functions of the Holy Spirit in which Lutherans do not believe, but I find it difficult to understand why neither Church thinks that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is of utmost importance. Wasn’t this part of the wonderful gift promised by the Apostle Peter on Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven and you will (will!) receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”?

With regard to justification and sanctification being part of the same process, I remember Fr. Schmemann’s comment in his diary, “How I hate their ‘justicia’!” which I assume was directed more against the Roman Church than the Lutheran. I suppose the reason we are so concerned about making a clear distinction here is that we are so aware of the chasm between the converted and the unconverted. Nevertheless, we Lutherans often resort to the terrors of the law in urging our people to greater sanctity, forgetting our own teaching about how the indwelling of the Holy Spirit changes the very nature of the converted.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

David Garner said...

George,

Re: the pre-conversion, post-conversion issue, it's not that we don't recognize a difference. It's that the difference, to us, is insignificant. We're not guarding against a systematic teaching of merits, so we don't really need to preserve our theology from works-based notions of what we call "salvation" (which is what you would call "justification plus sanctification"). For us, we acknowledge that all of salvation is God's gift, and we freely participate in that salvation (which in the sense we mean it you would call "sanctification" but want to exclude from "justification"). Also, "justification" really is a more juridical term than we typically prefer to use anyway, though Orthodox thinkers do use it, particularly in discussions with non-Orthodox. I wrote a pretty long blog post about the different views here:

http://forheisgoodandlovesmankind.blogspot.com/2011/02/on-justificationpart-deux.html

I would also add that I think in some places the Lutheran understanding and the Orthodox understanding of soteriology diverge widely. But I think we end up in essentially the same place. Which is to say, we Orthodox do not believe God saves us because we do enough good works to please Him, and I don't think Lutherans believe that a regenerate Christian is unable to participate in doing good works that please God. It is at the front end -- the original sin, total corruption, "I cannot by my own reason or strength believe..." part -- that we have some pretty serious divergence, but I think a whole lot of that is semantic and I think a whole lot more is what each side would consider wrong philosophical presumptions on the other side. The bondage of the human will contrasted against the Monothelite controversy is a good example of this.

Rgarding Baptism, I would say that we absolutely view this in light of what God does in and through it. Yes we insist upon immersion, but there is oikonomia in that (I saw a young girl Baptized by pouring because she was terrified and crying, and we were all received by Chrismation even though we were Baptized in the same manner). For the Orthodox, the blessings of Baptism are extolled frequently, in our prayers and in the Liturgy and in our hymnody. I'd be curious as to what you are reading that seems to contradict that.

Unknown said...

I probably did not investigate deeply enough. I just googled “orthodox teaching about Baptism”, and I got the impression that the proper actions were more important than what happens in Baptism.

For instance, from “The Catechism of the Moscow Metropolitan Filaret.” “287. WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT IN THE HOLY ACT OF BAPTISM?

The most important thing in the holy act of Baptism is the threefold immersion into water while saying, “The servant of God (name) is baptized in the name of the Father. Amen. And the Son. Amen. And the Holy Spirit. Amen””

But I have now looked a little deeper, for instance the writings of Cyril of Jerusalem, who writes quite extensively about the rebirth of the child of God in the waters of Baptism. Sorry, I was wrong.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

David Garner said...

No need to apologize -- I was just curious what was out there that seemed to concentrate on form over substance.

St. Filaret's catechism goes into a bit more detail on what Baptism is and why it is done. Not as much as I would prefer, but it deals with new birth, faith, reception of the Holy Spirit, etc.

Bishop Hilarion's catechism does a good job of detailing our view of Baptism:

"The sacrament of Baptism is the door into the Church, the Kingdom of grace. It is with Baptism that Christian life begins. Baptism is the frontier that separates the members of Christ’s Body from those who are outside it. In Baptism the human person is arrayed in Christ, following the words of St Paul which are sung as the newly-baptized is led around the baptismal font: For as many of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ’ (Gal.3:27). In Baptism the human person dies to his sinful life and rises again to new spiritual life."