Christ is risen!
I’m writing this post in response to a comment/question posed on the comments thread of my tea bag post. “S”, an Orthodox inquirer, asked about the Orthodox view of “assurance of salvation” in light of questions posed by Evangelicals regarding this issue. (S–did I get that right?) He also asked how this played a role in my conversion.
I am often asked about this, particularly when, in discussions, I talk about having grown up in an “eternal security” tradition. It’s confusing how I could have spent so much energy doubting then, and now, in Orthodoxy, not spend the night pacing the floors.
There’s a phrase in Orthodoxy: “I was saved. I am being saved. And I will be saved.”
I was saved–about 2,000 years ago when the Son of God became man, walked among us, and conquered sin and death on the Cross and a glorious third-day Resurrection.
I am being saved–daily as I trust Him, follow Him, believe in Him and participate in the His life, His Body, the Church.
I will be saved–when I die, I trust His mercy and believe that He will have safely led me home.
One of the greatest differences, surprising to me at first, is this true dependence on the great and rich mercy of God. We truly throw ourselves at His feet. We don’t demand salvation in exchange for praying a prayer, for believing or understanding “four spiritual laws”. As a Protestant, I often felt that we believed “God has to take me, I’ve done X or Y.”
And I always heard that people like the Orthodox believed in “works” to get them to heaven. Well, here was a big news flash to me. Praying the “sinner’s prayer” is an action. It is a work. Along with that, throughout Scripture we are told that it is not just a mere head-nod to a belief system, for “even the demons believe.”
St. James tells us that faith without works is dead. Christ offers us the parable of the sheep and the goats, with the only manifest difference between the two groups is WHAT they did.
I had always struggled with passages like those mentioned above. In my view, Protestant Christianity did not give me all the tools necessary to travel that path safely. It seemed the Bible spelled out more than just a belief, but the churches I was in didn’t go a lot further (at least not in a way that was intelletually cohesive) to explain what it meant.
Orthodoxy made more sense to me. It offered context to passages previously left unexplained (at least not in a satisfying way), and it provided directions for the journey.
I think (and to my more knowledgeable and articulate readers, please help me here) the difference is that Orthodoxy is not merely a “world-view” or a belief. I don’t pray a prayer and then call it a day (salvation-wise). It is a lifestyle. It is “the Way.” I do these things that God has commanded, not because they “earn” me a pass to heaven, but because I am sinful. I am spiritually sick and dying. These things–the Sacraments of the Church, fasting, parting with my money–give me the opportunity to get better. They are prescriptions and therapy for spiritual health, wholeness and eternal life.
And I don’t take them blindly. I don’t accept the Body and Blood of Christ without thought, like a baby bird. I am called to partake in FAITH. I do BELIEVE. I know that I am sinful. I know that without Christ I am a snowball with no chance you know where. I TRUST Him. I put all my HOPE in Him.
If all that doesn’t get me anywhere in the great salvation discussion, I could always show them the pre-communion prayers. They blow away any altar call invitation I ever heard.
S-I hope this answered your question.