Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Confession

The year 2009 will probably be the biggest life-changing year in my existence. I experienced a great personal shock as my life was changed dramatically: I was laid off from a full-time job, ran out of money, had problems finding employment, forced to move back home with my parents at the age of 25, had my car totaled in a wreck, was forced by circumstance to take a part-time job in a lesser position, and (months later, in 2010) forced to put down a family pet of thirteen years. At times my faith was greatly tested; I remember laying on the floor of my apartment, staring up, thinking to myself the words of the Psalmist, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" I tried opening up to some people, who could only give me the platitude of "keep the faith." At times I felt very alone and very desperate.

How often, though, our faith is tested as gold through fire (cf. 1 Pet 1:7). Now as the smoke settles from the events in my life, I believe my faith has grown immensely, so that the faith held by the boy riding that elevator to his apartment, realizing that he had no income, is greater in the boy typing on this laptop. My theology has grown, and my knowledge of God has grown. I credit this to no one except God and God alone. Soli Deo gloria, the Reformers said. The reason I still believe and have remained strong is because every time I wished to throw myself back into the flames of hell from which I was saved, God grabbed my shoulders and kept me steady. In the process, however, I have come to look back on the early stages of my conversion, and I have not liked what I saw.

For so long, I attempted to justify myself. I mean that in the most literal sense. Although I turned to God for support, it was not by His will that I submitted. I thought that by outward action I could prove a living faith rested within me. By adding to my prayer routine, with acts such as bowing or sleeping on the floor at night, I thought I could make my spirituality grow. I was on the shoulders of men I considered holy, and I sought to follow their example. Yet come sundown, I was nothing more than a fraud. I was one of the whitewashed tombs to which our Lord compared the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23:27).

I often prayed to God for help, but it was in the sense of, "Give me a boost, I can take it from here." I didn't fully realize that in order to succeed you needed God with you all the way - not partially, not simply at the beginning, but all the way to the end. Likewise, I thought that in little ways I could learn to please God, not realizing that in doing so I was simply asking God for a favor (cf. Rom 4:4-5). There is a sovereignty of God which a Christian believer cannot deny, and the minute we believe, even for an instant, that we can go on in our own strength, we are being deceived by the evil one and we are separating ourselves from Christ.

Worst yet, I was ashamed of the gospel. I would go and talk about it with religious friends, but out and about I was ashamed of it. I rarely spoke on it, I rarely evangelized to people, and when I encountered people of the world I tended to tone down my religious feelings. In particular around family, the very people I should have been striving to help, I felt myself remain silent when I should have spoken. I was the apathetic Christian and a hypocrite, conforming to the church when I was in the church and conforming to the world when I was in the world.

Some have accused my recent theological changes as being based on ambition. If this were true, I most certainly would have remained where I was. I had plenty of supporters, both in person and online. I had people regularly complimenting me, saying how smart I was and that I'd make a good church leader. In truth, maybe I rode on that. Maybe it felt good. It made me feel justified in my faith, and ultimately it was this earthly praise that became the treasure I was storing up. My ears hungered for the wasteful food of praise, and they were being fed. Now that much of it is gone, my heart is cleared. I was being allowed to speak and to educate, making me feel a bit like Paul, who spoke of advancing quickly in Judaism beyond many of his own age (Gal 1:14). My recent moves have no doubt sunk me lower than I was before in terms of stature and respect, but that I do not mind. Paul too suffered in stature and respect, and continued to do so for most his life...but he did so with endurance based on the God whom he loved.

It has also been made clear on who my true friends were. I can now see who among my friends were a Judas (betraying me at the moment of desperation), a Peter (faithful to a point), or a John (being present at my greatest moment of suffering). It's been suggested by some that I lost my salvation, while others were quick with the insults, cynicism, and ad hominems. It has been painful in many respects, but I cannot turn back based on the pressure of man.

Now, as I prepare to go to seminary, I ready myself for a service to Christ, having been sharpened by the purest iron (cf. Prov 27:17). Am I perfect? No. I'll continue growing, as everyone does. No one stops growing until the day the Lord takes them into their arms. However, as I said before, my faith has grown immensely, all to the glory of God and by the grace of God alone. I pray that in His mercy He may continue to guide me, and that I may be a tool for the will of no one but His. Amen.

32 comments:

  1. forced to move back home with my parents at the age of 25

    LOL! I'll soon turn 27, and I've never left my parents' house, let alone had a job! :-)


    At times my faith was greatly rested

    I think you meant "tested".


    thinking to myself the words of the Psalmist, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" ... At times I felt very alone and very desperate.

    Join the club! :-)


    I had people regularly complimenting me, saying how smart I was

    You're still smart. Nothing's changed.

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  2. Ack, thanks for the correction of the typo there. *fixed*

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  3. Thank you for the post, Tony. It does take a great deal of humility (not trying to puff you up, honest) to admit these things. A lot of people need to see what you saw in order to grow spiritually. Just know that I have been praying for you, even when you were a Muslim, and I always will. God has given me a true friend in you and I appreciate your willingness to listen to me at the times when I feel like I need to mope.

    The only thing I am saddened by is that you will be so far away. But God, and our Lord Jesus Christ knows that if we never get the chance to see each other again in this life, we will certainly rejoice together in the presence of the Holy Lamb who was slain for us to redeem us from every tribe, nation, and tongue.

    Solo Deo Gloria, Solus Christus, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura

    Steven

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  4. "Solo Deo Gloria, Solus Christus, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura"

    Heresy from the get go.

    http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/metphil_heterodox.aspx

    ""Some have accused my recent theological changes as being based on ambition. If this were true, I most certainly would have remained where I was. I had plenty of supporters, both in person and online. I had people regularly complimenting me, saying how smart I was and that I'd make a good church leader. In truth, maybe I rode on that. "" Judas and the rest of the drama...

    You know what you are Mr. Cucolo, you are not a leader, nor a servant, nor a follower... You are clean cut politician. Because you never show your friends the other side of the medallion, you twist the reality and feed them your side of the story. They won't know how you demanded things from the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and when you didn't get these things you demanded, how you turned your back to Her. Textbook throwing a fit case! And now you get on here, write a drama, and give yourself a pat on the back, feel good about yourself, accusing the hierarchical chain the Holy Orthodox Church with lies. The truth of the matter is The Metropolitan of Atlanta was running after you along with the priest of the parish you belonged to. They tried very hard to channel you to the good things, but it seems that you did not understand well our church and our hierarchy. I was disappointed but mostly relieved by your behavior: I was disappointed because you did not realize that in priesthood there is glory but also sacrifice. It is not to my surprise that you spin this around here and dare to say "I most certainly would have remained where I was." Such meaningless nonsense! Why didn't you then? Moreover, you did not let those people who fought for a recommendation for you know about your change of mind so as to prevent them to talk again to the Metropolitan on your behalf. I am relieved because Metropolitan had asked to guarantee that you were a good, involved Orthodox Christian, and that you would make a good priest. Oh boy would I ever imagine what would happen if "you" would go forward and then take the Holy Cross Seminary as a regular school and the priesthood/chaplaincy as an ordinary carrier?

    I would not have posted this, as I do not have much interest in your ambitions, however my wife alerted me that another drama was posted. I know you will go ahead and delete this as you would always do anyway as you can not take criticism for your shortcomings. I guess that has something to do with tolerance.

    I hope and I pray that you will find your "ways" and those ways will make you happy. Just tell people the truth!

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  5. John (aka Bushmaster78FS), you said:

    And now you get on here, write a drama, and give yourself a pat on the back, feel good about yourself, accusing the hierarchical chain the Holy Orthodox Church with lies.

    Writing a drama? I'm sorry, but that's an emotional argument. Feel good about myself? Hardly. And "accusing the hierarchical chain [of] the Holy Orthodox Church with lies"? Where in this entire post did I do so? No where did I even hint at the Orthodox Church. I believe anyone who reads this with an unbiased mind will see that the only finger pointing I lodged was against myself.

    It is not to my surprise that you spin this around here and dare to say "I most certainly would have remained where I was." Such meaningless nonsense! Why didn't you then?

    If you had continued talking to me, I would have explained. The fact is, the minute I said one thing which you did not like you broke off all relations with me. You stuck to one assumption about me (calling me ambitious, which is entirely untrue) and didn't even give me a chance to explain myself further. You took me off as a friend on Facebook, refused my several friend invitations, and when you began attacking me on this blog and I asked that you take it to email or at least listen to my reasoning, you simply broke into ad hominems, sarcasm, and insults.

    Many more Orthodox that I know have talked to me, and even if they still disagree with me have at least come to a better understanding of why I did not stay. I am still willing to talk to you about this, but every time I have offered you simply respond with accusations of appealing to emotion and leave it at that. "Tell people the truth"? I have. I'm willing to tell you the truth, but you react harshly at the mere hint of it. That, my friend, has something to do with tolerance.

    If I am wrong, and you truly "do not have much interest" in what I do here, then leave it at that. God sees into each of our hearts, and He knows our real ambitions and desires. If you do want to continue talking about it, I'm willing to talk about in any way you want to, via phone, email or even FB. I only ask that you listen.

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  6. Your entire "confession" is based on appeal to emotion hence the responses. You didn't mention the Church? Go back and read the part about "where you were" and "your supporters"... Subtle but obvious, there is a time-line in this story which belongs to that period. What reasoning do you have for me that I have not seen in these blog posts over time? What excuse am I going to hear to come to a better understanding of you hopping from one religion to another? As usual, you accuse, display that you can't take criticism, and attack back to minimize your opponent's credibility, for that, kudos to you, you must be still posting on CAF... I stuck to one thing (which was the main thing), imagine if I didn't stick to that one thing, were you going to tell me how good learned you are in theology and knowledge of God? I mean, I'd be appalled if you actually tried to convince me of theological grounds of your departure! Personal grounds? We all read about your life here, we all have gone through bad times... Sometimes we suck it up and drive on.

    So what is it that you are willing to talk to me about that you did not already expose here? If you were not dying to start some kind of formal theological education, you would have remained where you were? If there were fundamental errors in your view, why did you make those people go the extra mile and work for you? Do me a favor, please tell your story as to why you left the Church on The Ancient Way forum, if you have nothing to hide from me via FB, then you won't mind doing so before many other Orthodox. If it was pressing personal reasons that you walked out of the Church, shoot me an email.

    I was once a part of that la-la land where we called all "good" and said "God sees into each of our hearts" doesn't matter what you are, where you are... Next thing, we were going to do away with hell. I am glad God sees your heart man! He also sees that for whatever is in there, you turned your back to Him. So from this point on, whatever makes your boat float...

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  7. John, you said:

    You didn't mention the Church? Go back and read the part about "where you were" and "your supporters"...Subtle but obvious...

    Please inform me how that is an "obvious" example of "accusing the hierarchical chain the Holy Orthodox Church with lies," especially since that quotation referred more to laymen than clergymen. Also, notice where I placed the fault: on myself, not the Orthodox Church. Anyone thinking I wrote this to skewer the Orthodoxy Church is, I'm sorry to say, simply reading into things.

    As usual, you accuse, display that you can't take criticism, and attack back to minimize your opponent's credibility...

    Accuse? Attack back? How am I attacking back? Can't take criticism? I have talked to several Orthodox on this affair and entered into dialogue regarding it. Many of them have been fairly calm conversations, or at the very least of a good nature. If you mean I have not responded to many of your own attacks, it is because I did not wish to enter into bickering which, unfortunately, many of them were becoming.

    I stuck to one thing (which was the main thing)...

    John, you did not. I posted a lengthy response to you, you quoted a small section and simply said, "I have no words to say to you." After that, you refused to listen. You cut off social ties, and whenever I tried to initiate conversation you became accusative.

    Do me a favor, please tell your story as to why you left the Church on The Ancient Way forum, if you have nothing to hide from me via FB, then you won't mind doing so before many other Orthodox.

    I wouldn't mind, although I also do not understand what that would do (I didn't even know about the forum, unless you're referring to the Orthodox section of that one forum you always told me about).

    I was once a part of that la-la land where we called all "good" and said "God sees into each of our hearts" doesn't matter what you are, where you are...Next thing, we were going to do away with hell.

    I'm sorry, but that's a strawman. That wasn't what I meant about God understanding our hearts and emotions. I even reiterated in an earlier blog post that universalism is a heresy. What I meant by that is not us who judges the hearts of men, but God - as the apostle Paul wrote: "and he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit..." (Rom 8:27; ESV) - and hence we are not to judge harshly, as our Lord warned: "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37; ESV).

    I am glad God sees your heart man! He also sees that for whatever is in there, you turned your back to Him.

    Turned my back to Him? I have not ceased praying to Christ, and I never would. He has been far too good for me to abandon Him. I do not see how a man who declares soli Deo gloria could be turning his back on God. If you wish to call the belief that all glory belongs to God alone a "heresy," then I fully embrace that heresy.

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  8. As usual you have dissected my message and gave it your own spin Mr. Cucolo. How sad! If you are so bent on explaining me your decisions, I have already given you the opportunity, go ahead and do it. I know what I know about you from very credible sources, there are tons of people that leave the Church every year, not a problem, people are responsible for their own salvation, though I am intrigued with your dishonesty in doing so. I am not going to engage you when you pick and choose what you want from my messages and point your finger back at me, "I didn't do this, I didn't do that, where did I do that, show me" ... It takes two to bicker and I am sick an tired to see laying the blame on me for not "understanding" you. This is not an online debate you are holding at CAF with muslims.

    Unless it was all fake, you have appeared to stick to the truth the Holy Orthodox Church taught and preserved through Early Church Fathers, and then you attempted to explain the reasons you have left the Church to me on FB with material that was strictly against what they taught. How much of the reformist junk you post on your blog is actually being taught or approved by the Church? What is your credibility when you preach God's word to me by quoting Scriptures left and right? Good to know, muslims also quote Scriptures. You think you know the scriptures just by quoting the verses. But you do not understand the spirit of the verses. Like other pharisees and scribes that were quoting the Old Testament. When Satan tempts human beings by telling them that they have no need of a hierarch or someone to tell them what to do, they are disillusioned and are thrown into the fire. Truth is only in Orthodoxy. The rest of the so-called Christians "have a distorted truth" if they had the truth and believed in Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Light they would have followed Him. But He tells us exactly how we are supposed to follow Him - Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23. You have broken my principles and you whine and moan about why I do not keep you in my social circle. This is something I would decide upon and no, you do not have a place in it. So stop complaining about it publicly and hold me responsible.

    If that argument was only a straw-man... It would have probably explained why you constantly post messages on your blog about how sorry you feel for yourself, How God has been good to you, and your irrelevant spiritual state. You keep throwing obscure remarks that I somehow should know about, unfortunately I do not follow your blog.

    My offer still stands, instead of "bickering" here in your words, you can come to the place I have mentioned and explain the theological reasons why you have abandoned the Church. If the reasons were personal, you can shoot me an email. If your ego needs to be satisfied, you can continue to dissect my posts and select what you want to argue about... How ironic that a so-called student of Early Church Fathers can not realize that five solas were never in their teachings and based on that FACT, yes you are DEEP in heresy just like the reformists you are following. We pray that you get out of your ego and childish stubbornness.

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  9. As usual you have dissected my message and gave it your own spin Mr. Cucolo. How sad!

    If I have spun anything, show me how, and I will recant.

    It takes two to bicker and I am sick an tired to see laying the blame on me for not "understanding" you.

    John, with all due respect, you've kept saying things like "I have nothing to say with you," and "I'm through with you," and "I have no time for this"...but then you keep coming back to respond. I am not forcing you to comment on my blog. If you want to go on with your life, go on. No one is forcing you to stay.

    What is your credibility when you preach God's word to me by quoting Scriptures left and right? Good to know, muslims also quote Scriptures. You think you know the scriptures just by quoting the verses. But you do not understand the spirit of the verses.

    If I've misquoted scripture, show me how. I recall one time asking you to do so, and you responded essentially with, "I can quote verses to prove you wrong, but I choose not to!"

    When Satan tempts human beings by telling them that they have no need of a hierarch or someone to tell them what to do, they are disillusioned and are thrown into the fire.

    Where have I condemned leadership in a church? I support leadership in a church. There are many chaplains I know that have given me advice and told me to look at life or theology a certain way that has merit, and friends that have done likewise. I don't support individualism.

    The rest of the so-called Christians "have a distorted truth" if they had the truth and believed in Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Light they would have followed Him. But He tells us exactly how we are supposed to follow Him - Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23.

    Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23 has Christ commanding us to take up our cross and follow Him...I don't see how that means non-Orthodox have a "distorted truth," given that virtually every sound non-Orthodox Christian believes that with their heart.

    If that argument was only a straw-man... It would have probably explained why you constantly post messages on your blog about how sorry you feel for yourself, How God has been good to you, and your irrelevant spiritual state.

    I really don't understand how those two are connected - the strawman I pointed out and the point you are now trying to make. And if it's bad for a Christian to talk about their lowly state and how God has been good to them...well, there are plenty of humble Christians living in sin then.

    ...yes you are DEEP in heresy just like the reformists you are following. We pray that you get out of your ego and childish stubbornness.

    John, with all due respect, I think the casual reader will see that only one person here has acted childish.

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  10. Thanks for proving my point. You are not interested in explaining anything but making excuses. What is your spin? Instead of addressing the issue at hand, instead of explaining the "why"s you complain I don't let you explain, you focus on "who", you focus on yourself.... You continually dodge questions... Yes, I have said it ONCE that "I had nothing to say", to a person, who had decided to abandon the ONE TRUE CHURCH conveniently when he didn't get his ways with it, had the clergy work for it, and attempted to explain it away with heretical statements from reformists. Yes I have said it to him who constantly complained about why I have cut my social ties with him but who previously left us in the dark about his theological deviance. Yes, I've said it when he proclaimed the Orthodox Christians at a certain Orthodox parish he wished to get his seminary recommendation through, were ALL DEAD to him. Lord have mercy! Yes I've said it I have no time for this as that person repeatedly pointed fingers and asked back for proof where he went wrong. Your biggest mistake, including your online debates at certain forums, you treat your opponents as they are stupid. And then you preach humility here.

    This is the last time I am asking the same question you keep avoiding. Here is your chance you resent that I have not given to you. Gather your entire theological book collection and face the Early Church Fathers with your reformist five solas. Come and explain why you have abandoned Christ's One and Only Communion. If your reasons are not theological, and they are personal, shoot me an email. I am sure "your" casual readers see how you continually dodge this and pick and choose what to oppose from my posts...

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  11. What is your spin? Instead of addressing the issue at hand, instead of explaining the "why"s you complain I don't let you explain, you focus on "who", you focus on yourself...

    Uh...what?

    Yes, I have said it ONCE that "I had nothing to say", to a person, who had decided to abandon the ONE TRUE CHURCH conveniently when he didn't get his ways with it, had the clergy work for it, and attempted to explain it away with heretical statements from reformists.

    John, this is all assumption. You haven't provided any evidence that I left Orthodoxy because I didn't "get my ways with it." That's hardly the point. "Explain it away with heretical statements from reformists"? Aside from the fact that you have yet to show how "glory to God alone" is a heresy (I'm pretty certain Paul would be on my side with this one) I haven't tried to explain anything away.

    Yes I have said it to him who constantly complained about why I have cut my social ties with him but who previously left us in the dark about his theological deviance.

    I did not leave you in the dark. I was honest when you asked questions. Yes, I'll admit I became rather quiet, but I was to a lot of people because I was going through a stage of depression. However, when people asked me direct questions, I didn't beat around the bush.

    Yes, I've said it when he proclaimed the Orthodox Christians at a certain Orthodox parish he wished to get his seminary recommendation through, were ALL DEAD to him.

    I never said that. Quote me where I said that, and I'll recant. All I said was that I could not go to the church any more because I felt it was spiritually dead.

    I must admit, John, that I find it strange that the man who often stood next to me and spent the entire liturgy judging every parishioner in there like the Pharisee in our Lord's parable, and at times made comments like, "That makes me want to leave the church," and "I'm thinking about trying out the Russian church, what do you think," now stands here and berates me for pointing out the shortcomings of that same community.

    Your biggest mistake, including your online debates at certain forums, you treat your opponents as they are stupid. And then you preach humility here.

    Stupid? Where have I done so? No, I have never treated my opponents as being stupid. If anything, I simply called for greater intellectual honesty because I respected them. At times I asked Muslim opponents to be honest and sensible because I knew deep down inside they knew the truth. Stupid? Lord have mercy, no. There have even been times in the past where I was complimented by those on the opposing side for being calm and respectful whereas my opponent was emotional and short.

    This is the last time I am asking the same question you keep avoiding. Here is your chance you resent that I have not given to you. Gather your entire theological book collection and face the Early Church Fathers with your reformist five solas. Come and explain why you have abandoned Christ's One and Only Communion. If your reasons are not theological, and they are personal, shoot me an email.

    John, you are tempting me, and quite honestly I think in your current state it would do no good. If you want, however, I will send you a note tomorrow via FB regarding my issues.

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  12. Uh...what? Read it again. Maybe it will come to you. You need to realize that you are still beating around the bush. Are you reading what I have been writing? Or are you entirely hell-bent on being on the defense for your actions? You have not left us in the dark! Very well! That must be why we are assuming! Or maybe you missed the bit where I mentioned I have received information about you from other sources. What evidence do you honestly want? I still have the original FB nonsense you have sent where you have accused Orthodox Church being a CULT!!! If you are not familiar with what heresy means, how it works and how it spreads, that is not my problem. Maybe you should dig your books a little more instead of trying to plaster a smart comment to everything I post. Arius, Origen, all those quoted Scriptures as well. What is your difference?

    "I never said that. Quote me where I said that, and I'll recant."

    ...And for that you are a liar. I don't need you to recant, I know who you are. You have texted me that bit on the night of Pascha. Your common tu quoque retort won't work here because regardless how ignorant our parishioners might be, they are still Orthodox faithful. And I stand by them. Guess what, that yiayia might not be so hi-speed in theology you brag about but she still partakes from the one and true Eucharist, which you have denied. While you know very well how I am not too familiar and/or interested in the Russian tradition, I am not sure where you got that gem of information... But I am not going to take your immature argumentative bait and demand a quote. I know what I have said and I know what I have not.

    I don't think you are in a position to comment on my current state. I am sure if you tried a bit harder you would find proper Biblical passages for not doing so. Please stop wasting my time. You have complained that I didn't give you the opportunity to explain yourself, here is your chance. I have already told you that I did not wish to engage you on FB unless your decisions for your deviation were entirely personal, your family was smothering you, you were depressed etc etc... But you have decided this because you have read a bit on Luther, then I want that explanation on a theological open forum where I designated. I am not interested in emotional responses if you are being tempted or not...

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  13. Uh...what? Read it again. Maybe it will come to you.

    It doesn't, I'm afraid. Please explain it to me.

    I still have the original FB nonsense you have sent where you have accused Orthodox Church being a CULT!!

    No, sir, I did not directly call it a cult. I said your attitude regarding it and your opinion about my leaving/disagreeing with it was similar to a cult.

    If you are not familiar with what heresy means, how it works and how it spreads, that is not my problem.

    Actually it is, because if you are going to tell me that "all glory to God alone" is a heresy, I'd like to know how. You made the bold claim, now please explain it to everyone.

    Arius, Origen, all those quoted Scriptures as well. What is your difference?

    The difference is I am quoting it in context. If I have misquoted scripture, show me how. Name-dropping heretics is not a response. Godly men quoted scripture as well. Should we place Athanasius on the same level as Arius? I would think not. Again, if you think I've misquoted scripture, please show me how.

    While you know very well how I am not too familiar and/or interested in the Russian tradition, I am not sure where you got that gem of information... But I am not going to take your immature argumentative bait and demand a quote. I know what I have said and I know what I have not.

    You did say it. No, I don't have a recording of it, nevertheless I remember you saying that because afterward I started looking into the Russian parish. Furthermore, you did spend a large part of the liturgy judging everyone around us. If you recall, your wife and yourself sat at the front so you wouldn't be distracted. Again, you did all that, then thought it strange that I wanted to leave the parish.

    Guess what, that yiayia might not be so hi-speed in theology you brag about but she still partakes from the one and true Eucharist, which you have denied.

    If I know who you are referring to, she also partook in the teachings of heretics. In any case, so it is the church association of the Eucharist rather than the sanctity of the person taking it? Paul would have much to say about that, judging from 1 Cor 11:27-30. The fact is, I've heard of Baptist churches that treated their communion with greater reverence than the majority of that parish did.

    Is every parish perfect? No. Is every person perfect? Certainly not. But to suggest that a person is justified simply because the Eucharist they are taking is an Orthodox one is a very unscriptural view on the matter. It reminds me a bit of an Orthodox woman who told me hypocrites were still Christian simply because they were baptized.

    I don't think you are in a position to comment on my current state. I am sure if you tried a bit harder you would find proper Biblical passages for not doing so.

    That's a rather ironic statement, given that earlier in this conversation I suggested that very thing with scripture, and you accused me of falling into universalism. In any case, I'm not trying to comment on your current state, but the fact is when I left the parish you suddenly became a defender of the church which I never heard you say a good thing about while you were there.

    I am not interested in emotional responses if you are being tempted or not...

    John, you've been answering almost everything with "that's an emotional argument!" Quite frankly, I myself no longer have an interest in continuing this conversation when the same responses are being given to me ad nauseum. I have the very strong feeling that even if I bled my heart out to you, you would simply say, "That's an emotional response," followed by accusations of heresy, ambition, and a slew of other slanders. Quite honestly, I don't know whether you want me back or you are simply relieving stress.

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  14. John,

    Greetings. In an earlier comment you pointed me to this link: Orthodox Info, to prove the "heresy" of the Reformation Solas. It seems, that from reading your own thoughts on the subject, that you are under the assumption that all non-Orthodox are not true Christians and therefore, go to Hell at death. However, according to the link you provided (Orthodoxy's own website) that is false. Consider this quote from that page given by them. Pay special attention to the bold portion:

    The Holy Orthodox Church is the repository of the divinely revealed Truth in all its fullness and fidelity to apostolic Tradition. Hence, he who leaves the Church, who intentionally and consciously falls away from it, joins the ranks of its opponents and becomes a renegade as regards apostolic Tradition. The Church dreadfully anathematized such renegades, in accordance with the words of the Saviour Himself (Matt. 18:17) and of the Apostle Paul (Gal. 1:8-9), threatening them with e ternal damnation and calling them to return to the Orthodox fold. It is self evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members, of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e. those who knowingly pervert the truth... They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox

    It is clear then by Orthodoxy's own admission that those who do not belong to the Orthodox church, including myself, should not be branded as heretics without proper cause (i.e, denying Christ's Divinity, virgin birth, resurrection, etc.) Note also, the Reformation stemmed from a break-off of the Roman Catholic church, not the Orthodox church.

    Blessings to you,
    Steven

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  15. You are still wasting my time. Are you going to take up on my offer and explain yourself like you complained you could not, or are you going to continue to nitpick on my messages, dissecting them to make yourself look good?

    Steven, I am not under any assumption however it seems to me that you are, based on what I have written in so little here. What you have extracted out of that article in bold does not mean that the Church approves your theology. You are still a heterodox, however Church doesn't intend to pass judgment as to one's salvation in a general sense when she doesn't have that authority. It doesn't matter where you broke off from, the Church still refers to Luther as an heretic, and guess what, you guys are preaching him. The Church opposes the 5 solas, guess what, you just quoted it. Two outcomes, either you are teaching heresy, or the Church is wrong. I have not seen any of you proved the Church wrong. I have already pointed out a proper place for this debate Mr. Cucolo wants to engage, but I don't think that it is going to work as he is too much involved in saving face...

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  16. Steven, as far as I know, you have never been an Orthodox Christian, however, this is Mr. Cucolo...

    The Holy Orthodox Church is the repository of the divinely revealed Truth in all its fullness and fidelity to apostolic Tradition. Hence, he who leaves the Church, who intentionally and consciously falls away from it, joins the ranks of its opponents and becomes a renegade as regards apostolic Tradition. The Church dreadfully anathematized such renegades, in accordance with the words of the Savior Himself (Matt. 18:17) and of the Apostle Paul (Gal. 1:8-9), threatening them with eternal damnation and calling them to return to the Orthodox fold.

    This was not a joyride. As in the past the Church has done, she gave the opportunity for those deviants to explain themselves. Mr. Cucolo in my view is afraid to do so among Orthodox. That is why this nonsense is continuing here.

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  17. You are still wasting my time.

    Again, no one is making you stay here. You are coming on your own accord.

    Are you going to take up on my offer and explain yourself like you complained you could not, or are you going to continue to nitpick on my messages, dissecting them to make yourself look good?

    I'm not "dissecting them" to make myself "look good". However, no I am not going to explain myself to a random internet forum. You are trying to set me in a little box according to your rules, when this could have been resolved between two friends. You didn't like my counteroffer, have rejected all attempts in the past, and now dangle an ultimatum in front of me, calling any attempt to avoid it beating around the bush. I have explained myself to many other friends, most of them Orthodox, and I have made my case made. Groups of Orthodox have already heard me - it was only you who refused to listen.

    [Directed to Steven] It doesn't matter where you broke off from, the Church still refers to Luther as an heretic, and guess what, you guys are preaching him.

    The article which you cited in your OP and which Steven now just quoted in context clearly says that even Lutherans (they specifically named them) cannot be considered heretics. Your argument is therefore not with Steven, but with OCIC.

    [Directed to Steven] The Church opposes the 5 solas, guess what, you just quoted it.

    Again, you have yet to show how soli Deo gratia is a heresy. You also have yet to show how I was "accusing the hierarchical chain the Holy Orthodox Church with lies," which you stated in your OP. Both of those are pretty bold claims which you have yet to substantiate.

    This was not a joyride. As in the past the Church has done, she gave the opportunity for those deviants to explain themselves. Mr. Cucolo in my view is afraid to do so among Orthodox. That is why this nonsense is continuing here.

    I already have, and have the emails to prove it. Quite frankly, I find it (to again use the term) ironic that you are calling the Orthodox Church a hearing ear when you did not even bother to let me explain myself when I first told you.

    The "nonsense" is because you are allowing your emotions to get a hold of yourself. Indeed, whenever you repeat the claim "You're using emotional arguments!" the immediate word that comes to mind is projection. You get upset when people quote scripture (then refuse to show how they distorted it), make bold claims (then can't back them up), make demands of people, accuse them of beating around the bush because they won't accept your demands, and call every non-Orthodox a heretic even when an Orthodox website you cited disagrees with you.

    I repeat that I do not consider the Orthodox Church a cult, however the way you are acting can only remind me of how cult members treat those who leave the fold. John, the way you act, it seems to me that you did not fall in love with a God...you fell in love with a church.

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  18. John,
    My point in saying what was said had nothing to do with Tony. The fact that you claim non-Orthodox as a heretic and then cite a source that expresses a contrary view (sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members, of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics) shows the inconsistencies in your own argument. You quote the first part in your response dealing with those who leave the church but seem to ignore the latter half. Is this selected reading or are you just interested in your own opinions?

    Steven, I am not under any assumption however it seems to me that you are, based on what I have written in so little here.

    If this is the case I will ask the question directly: Do non-Orthodox go to Hell if they do not ever in their lifetime join the Orthodox church?

    I also found it quite interesting that the article began with Romans 9:16 which is used often by Reformers verse to teach Reformed doctrine. But maybe it's because I don't understand "the Spirit" of the verse, as you so often say. In the context used, I see no difference in how the Orthodox quote it as the Reformers do.

    Again, thank you and God bless.

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  19. "You are trying to set me in a little box according to your rules, when this could have been resolved ... etc etc"

    How ironic, you have been doing the same here. It is not a random internet forum, it is a place where Orthodox theologians frequent. I like your charge, "it was only me who refused to listen"... I am not refusing to listen, I am going to listen to it with more Orthodox friends by me for credibility purposes... Did you not say "I only ask that you listen"? Why do you feel that you will do this in your own terms? What is the big deal if you are right and God has grabbed your shoulders? It takes two to tango. Your friend has NOT quoted the article in context and you know that. The article specifically makes a statement for those who has never joined the Orthodox Church, this is where those Lutherans, Catholics, etc are involved. Does that include you Mr. Cucolo? You have joined the Church and you have abandoned it. How are you going to justify this and dig your way out of it? It seems to me that your friend is worried about his own neck, which is fine. As the article states, the Church doesn't pass judgment on those people in terms of salvation and Blessed Theophan the Recluse has a statement for it... Interesting enough, you demand that I show you how ONE of the solas is a heresy... Why so selective Mr. Cucolo? Why are you trying to establish an argument for the win? The entire set of solas is, and the author of it is a heretic, in both EOC and RCC. You know that too! And that was my argument. If you have actually read my arguments here instead of hastily attempting to respond to them, you would have seen that I did not pick a single one and dwelt on it. So I have yet to show how you soli Deo gratia is a heresy. Why? Because you like to create your own arguments and demand that I answer them? You started this and asked me how this one is a heresy "because" you abide by it. I don't think you are getting the picture here or you are deliberately leading your own argument. Would it suffice to say that you are not a heretic just because you declare a single sola? Refer to that article again. If that doesn't suffice, that website has tons of information for the Protestant inquirer.

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  20. As far as I am concerned, you are happy in your own made up world. No objections to that. You can not challenge the theological stance of the Church you have abandoned, therefore you give me the run around here by constantly referring to the past that I have not given you the opportunity to do so, even to a point to qualify and equate me to a Church official that I had to hear your defense. Too bad you are not mature enough in your stance to accept my offer to explain yourself. Still stuck on who is emotional about what, you are giving this entire thing your own spin. In case you have not noticed, you have NO authority to either quote scripture nor interpret it. Why would I get on that bandwagon because you want me to? I can't back my statements? The biggest statement I made about your state is backed up by that article. You also misrepresent and distort facts, as I have explained your friend the Church's stance about the heterodox, you have taken it as I have called every heterodox a heretic. You know what, worry about yourself, you have excommunicated yourself from the one true Church. Unfortunately, in your zeal, you have lost it and now you are accusing me of things based on your corrupt understanding. On a different note, I am doing the same thing you have been trying here, denying you the opportunity to establish your own rules. You repeatedly misrepresent facts about the past, rely on "IF" statements, and attack back. Let's assume for a second that my "criticism" and denunciation of your behavior was purely based on attacks. Is this how you respond, by attacking back? Oh I know, the question is coming, "where did I attack, show me?" Read your own posts with a conscious heart, I am sure God will show you that you are absolutely clean in this matter. Last but not least, your punch lines are getting weaker by the minute. The way I act? To deny you your own rules and demand an explanation? The criticize our denunciation of the Divine Truth that is in the Orthodox Church? What did you expect? A pat on the back? I fell in love with the Church? That is correct. Something you have failed to grasp.

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  21. Steven, what you are doing is also considered the same, why do you ignore the first part of your quote and focus on the second part? Can you establish the context? How about the entire article? How is this quote for you?

    "The Greek word for "heresy" is derived from the word for "choice" and hence inherently implies conscious, willful rejection or opposition to the Divine Truth manifest in the Orthodox Church."

    That is again, Tony Cucolo. It seems to me that you are also selecting what you like out of the entire article, ignoring the rest. Your quote continues;

    "They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy."

    I, as an individual, can not answer your "direct" question. That authority does not lie with individuals. As the article states, the Church does NOT hold you responsible, as you have never been there. That doesn't apply to Mr. Cucolo. I can understand you feel you are obliged to promote Mr. Cucolo and give him unconditional support... Any good friend does, unfortunately this doesn't mean either of you is correct. The author is not trying to form a general opinion for the Orthodox inquirer, or among the Orthodox faithful that the Church condemns people to eternal damnation, however sometimes according to the teachings and the canons of the Church, you have to put 2 and 2 together. I already explained to you as to why. Entire point of the article is that we don't call the shots, but you desire that I do. If you are not informed about what the Church teaches, you can investigate that website further. So the article quoted the Scriptures, that made Reformist claims true? Is that your line of reasoning? We read the same Scriptures Steven.

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  22. John, I'm sending you a message via FB, one I actually prepared a long time ago but never got around to sending. It will explain things a bit more in context. I know you won't like this, but for me this hasn't been an issue between myself and the church (seeing as how I have already spoken to groups of Orthodox already) but between myself and you, an old friend of whom I enjoyed the company and miss the brotherhood.

    It should be coming tonight. God bless.

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  23. I am in receipt of your message, I will read and consider it.

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  24. John,
    Steven, what you are doing is also considered the same, why do you ignore the first part of your quote and focus on the second part? Can you establish the context? How about the entire article? How is this quote for you?

    "The Greek word for "heresy" is derived from the word for "choice" and hence inherently implies conscious, willful rejection or opposition to the Divine Truth manifest in the Orthodox Church."


    I have not ignored the first part of the quote, I simply pointed to the answer given in the question. The question that provoked the article was, "Can the Heterodx be saved? to which the answer was yes. That is what I pointed out. You were the one who pointed me to the link and I read it and responded with what the article said. Sorry, but no ignoring the context here. I simply pointed you to your own source.

    As far as the "heresy" goes, the rejection of truth is a rejection of Christ and His teachings not that of a single church.

    I, as an individual, can not answer your "direct" question. That authority does not lie with individuals. As the article states, the Church does NOT hold you responsible, as you have never been there.

    My direct question was do you believe that, not the church.
    . . .continued in the next comment

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  25. . The author is not trying to form a general opinion for the Orthodox inquirer, or among the Orthodox faithful that the Church condemns people to eternal damnation, however sometimes according to the teachings and the canons of the Church, you have to put 2 and 2 together. I already explained to you as to why. Entire point of the article is that we don't call the shots, but you desire that I do.

    Actually, the entire point of the article was if those outside the Orthodox church would be saved, hence the name. From the answer given one would have to conclude that they will be saved as long as they are in Christ.

    sometimes according to the teachings and the canons of the Church, you have to put 2 and 2 together.

    So, should the 2 and 2 I put together conclude that any non-Orthodox goes to Hell? If this is the "official" teaching of the church why post something contrary to that teaching on the official website?

    I can understand you feel you are obliged to promote Mr. Cucolo and give him unconditional support... Any good friend does, unfortunately this doesn't mean either of you is correct.

    1. I am not trying to defend Tony. He is able to that on his own.
    2. My initial response was about the article you pointed me to and nothing further.
    3. Please explain how we are wrong. And don't use the "The church is the final authority" plea. Show us, or at least me, from Scripture, not tradition and biased opinions how we are wrong.
    4. The church is not the final authority in these matters, Christ, the Head of the church is. He has never relinquished this privilege to anyone one person or organization (i.e, the Orthodox, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc.)
    5. Your loyalties seem to lie more with an organization that with Christ. Are you in love with theology or the God of theology? Brother, I am not trying to be harsh, but it really seems like that from your responses. Please don't be offended by that question.


    So the article quoted the Scriptures, that made Reformist claims true? Is that your line of reasoning? We read the same Scriptures Steven.

    I certainly never stated that the article made Reformists claims true. I found it interesting that the Scripture used is in line with Solus Christus and Solo Deo Gloria For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Rom. 9:15-16). That same verse has been the cry of the Reformers since they broke away from Catholic church. My point in pointing that out was that it is how the answer began; with a Scripture reference that shows God's sovereignty in salvation—and God's alone! It was never intended to imply that Orthodoxy taught what Reformers taught.

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  26. "The question that provoked the article was, "Can the Heterodx be saved? to which the answer was yes"...

    No, the answer is "we don't know." This is what Blessed Recluse emphasizes... He also finishes with "should one, being Orthodox and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a different faith, he will lose his soul forever." This is putting 2 and 2 together. When I quoted your punch line in your post to him, my intent was not to address you, you took it upon yourself, which is fine by me. If you were not ignoring the context then why did you cut your quote at exactly "or members, of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics..."? Because it continues to elaborate further by who these "sincere" Christians are. That is not ignoring the context?+

    Historically speaking, how did you come into the possession of Christ's teachings? Were they revealed to you? Maybe you should acknowledge Church's role in what has become faith more often, because that is a historical fact. There was one and only Church we get His teachings from.

    Do I believe you are going to hell for not knowing the only Divine Truth that is manifest in the Orthodox Church? I am not God, Steven.

    Article bears the original question which deals with those who are not even baptized, then it shapes into those who are in non-Orthodox communions... The Church, with her knowledge of Scriptures and Holy Tradition can not conclude in simplistic terms that "if one is in Christ, they are good to go" How do we know that one is in Christ to begin with? I do not agree with your conclusions from this article, honestly I do not know how you arrive them, but I would like to understand it as being a heterodox perspective. You have not been in the Church, therefore you do not have our perspective.

    Putting the two together doesn't necessarily mean that there are declarations of eternal condemnation, I think you need to stop giving this twist. The Church does not know your fate, nor do I. We can have canons that show and teach that the Orthodox Church is the ONLY TRUE Church that has preserved Christian faith, this doesn't mean you are hell-bound. If you would like to read into it in such manner, I can't help you. Further, that is NOT an official website for the Orthodox Church, you would have to search for Archdiocese websites.

    http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7051

    Scriptures are the greatest piece of Holy Tradition the early Church that has delivered to you. Why in the world that you demand that I quote Scripture to you? The Church predates those Scriptures and I am sure you know that. That said, Church always held Christ as the head, (hence Orthodox rejecting Papal Supremacy)and the Church was the only authority Christ has established on Earth. He did not leave you the choice of free interpretation of Christian faith. Therefore those who commit to this are wrong. As Fr. Alex Schmemann says "The true orthodox way of thought has always been historical, has always included the past, but has never been enslaved by it. . . [for] the strength of the Church is not in the past, present, or future, but in Christ. My loyalties lie with God, as much as I am a terrible sinner, this means that I will preserve and abide by the Church He has established through the Saints and martyrs on the day of Pentecost.

    Certainly you are free to believe whatever you understand from that article to justify your own theological stance. Yes the Orthodox will definitely acknowledge God's sovereignty in such matters but that would not remove Church's role in His plan of salvation as He is the ONE who established her. If you are basing your salvation on entirely one verse and subsequent reformist teachings that have stemmed from it, you are sadly mistaken.

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  27. John, I originally quoted the entire paragraph, so no, I did not ignore context. I cut it off at 'members of other non-Orthodox confessions becuause you seemed intent on relying on the first part of the answer for your opinion without reading it in its entirety. The article never stated that they did not know for sure whether but that they had been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited. . .".

    Just for information & so you don't accuse me again of the same thing, I have stopped the quote there which it goes on to the end to talk about the Orthodox worrying about their own sins. The article calls them born and raised. Take it how you wish, but those terms are used in context of Salvation.

    The Church, with her knowledge of Scriptures and Holy Tradition can not conclude in simplistic terms that "if one is in Christ, they are good to go.

    Neither does Protestantism. Saying that Jesus is Lord with the lips means absolutely nothing (Mt 7:21-23). I never expressed that all we had to do was say, "Lord, Lord." Repentance &anmp; Faith (a living Faith) is how one enters the Kingdom.

    Putting the two together doesn't necessarily mean that there are declarations of eternal condemnation, I think you need to stop giving this twist. The Church does not know your fate, nor do I.

    John, you've completely misunderstood what I asked. I asked your personal opinion about it . You responded with saying the church didn't know the fates of the heterodox, which was fine. I asked your opinion again (not the church's but yours) and you responded the same way. I am not implying the Church teaches that, what I was doing was pointing out that if the church did that then why would it post something contrary on their website; or at least something where the wording could be considered contrary.

    Putting the two together doesn't necessarily mean that there are declarations of eternal condemnation, I think you need to stop giving this twist. The Church does not know your fate, nor do I.

    Because Scripture, not mere opinion or even church tradition is used to show heresy, which is what you have accused me of. Also, how do you think the church fathers settled issues like these? Did they merely say, "The church says such and such?" or did they quote and use Scripture. You know very well the answer to that.

    If you are basing your salvation on entirely one verse and subsequent reformist teachings that have stemmed from it, you are sadly mistaken.

    My Salvation is based wholly on the completed work of Christ on the cross: τετελεσται (It is finished!) was His cry upon the cross. My hope is centered on nothing more than His shed blood & the Holy Spirit which sealed me the day He caused me to be born again into a Living Hope.

    Anyway John, thank you for your interaction, although I never intended it to be carried this far. God bless.

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  28. I am sure you will appreciate the links I have provided, it gets more into what we believe, Orthodox Info also names our differences from Protestants. We do not think alike. Thank you and God Bless.

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  29. I often prayed to God for help, but it was in the sense of, "Give me a boost, I can take it from here." I didn't fully realize that in order to succeed you needed God with you all the way - not partially, not simply at the beginning, but all the way to the end.


    That's basically like saying you wanted a lover so she could help you experience love, and teach you how to love, after which you could ditch her, and go on loving all alone on your own.. or something to that extent.. Anyway, it's simply absurd.

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  30. I agree it's absurd, and that's an interesting way of putting it :)

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  31. Wow. I'm sorry that you have to go through so much tumoil in leaving a church. I'm not exactly sure what your friend was trying to accomplish by denigrating you, but if it was out of love in hopes of winning you back to the Orthodox Church, it is an epic fail.

    I am glad you've made the change you have blessing to you and a prayer for this new direction.

    Chris

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  32. Tony-Allen,

    Oddly enough I arrived at your blog through the chat between you and Lucian re: Jonathan Edwards sermon "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God." Odd how folks meet in cyberspace these days. BTW, that sermon was in the high school English textbook but I never taught on it.

    Anyway, I have taken note of your departure from the Orthodox Church and while I am sorry that you have made this decision, it is not my place to be severe with you. I don't know your reasons, but I don't doubt that you believe you have good ones.

    Oddly enough, I attended a Reformed Church for ten years and could never go back to such a place. It was through an in depth seeking and searching that I was led out of Reformational Evangelical Protestantism and into the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church. Such a decision was not made lightly and deliberatied upon for several years. Many nights I would pray and cry to Christ my Savior as I came to understand that I could no longer be a Protestant.

    Those Protestants who do know of my conversion to the Orthodox faith tried to prevent me from making such a decision. Warnings were issued and some folks were harsher than others. Some said I would not be worshipping the same Jesus as they. Others said the Orthdox worship a false Christ. Others have not supported my decision but would not consider me a heretic. All to say, various reactions from different folks, depending on their understanding of what it means to be a genuine follower of Christ.

    As to the faithlessness or behavior of particular members of any church tradition, one must remember that the abuse of something does not justify the dissolution and/or abandonment thereof. I saw all kinds of CRAZY stuff in Protestant Evangelicalism but such things never caused me to reject Christ and His teachings. They did, however, lead me into the Orthodox Church.

    May Jesus Christ be merciful to both of us as we journey on life's difficult paths.

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