Salvation of Christians Outside the Orthodox Church

by Fr. Seraphim Rose

Orthodoxy is the Church founded by Christ for the salvation of mankind, and therefore we should guard with our life the purity of its teaching and our own faithfulness to it. In the Orthodox Church alone is grace given through the sacraments (most other churches don’t even claim to have sacraments in any serious sense). The Orthodox Church alone is the Body of Christ, and if salvation is difficult enough within the Orthodox Church, how much more difficult must it be outside the Church!

However, it is not for us to define the state of those who are outside the Orthodox Church. If God wishes to grant salvation to some who are Christians in the best way they know, but without ever knowing the Orthodox Church—that is up to Him, not us. But when He does this, it is outside the normal way that He established for salvation—which is in the Church, as a part of the Body of Christ. I myself can accept the experience of Protestants being ‘born again’ in Christ; I have met people who have changed their lives entirely through meeting Christ, and I cannot deny their experience just because they are not Orthodox. I call these people “subjective” or “beginning” Christians. But until they are united to the Orthodox Church they cannot have the fullness of Christianity, they cannot be objectively Christian as belonging to the Body of Christ and receiving the grace of the sacraments.

I think this is why there are so many sects among them—they begin the Christian life with a genuine conversion to Christ, but they cannot continue the Christian life in the right way until they are united to the Orthodox Church, and they therefore substitute their own opinions and subjective experiences for the Church’s teaching and sacraments.

About those Christians who are outside the Orthodox Church, therefore, I would say: they do not yet have the full truth—perhaps it just hasn’t been revealed to them yet, or perhaps it is our fault for not living and teaching the Orthodox Faith in a way they can understand. With such people we cannot be one in the Faith, but there is no reason why we should regard them as totally estranged or as equal to pagans (although we should not be hostile to pagans either—they also haven’t yet seen the truth!). It is true that many of the non-Orthodox hymns contain a teaching or at least an emphasis that is wrong—especially the idea that when one is “saved” he does not need to do anything more because Christ has done it all. This idea prevents people from seeing the truth of Orthodoxy which emphasizes the idea of struggling for one’s salvation even after Christ has given it to us, as St. Paul says:

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” [Phil. 2:12].

But almost all of the religious Christmas carols are all right, and they are sung by Orthodox Christians in America (some of them in even the strictest monasteries!).

The word “heretic” is indeed used too frequently nowadays. It has a definite meaning and function, to distinguish new teachings from the Orthodox teaching; but few of the non-Orthodox Christians today are consciously “heretics,” and it really does no good to call them that.

In the end, I think, Fr. Dimitry Dudko’s attitude is the correct one: We should view the non-Orthodox as people to whom Orthodoxy has not yet been revealed, as people who are potentially Orthodox (if only we ourselves would give them a better example!). There is no reason why we cannot call them Christians and be on good terms with them, recognize that we have at least our faith in Christ in common, and live in peace especially with our own families. St. Innocent’s attitude to the Roman Catholics in California is a good example for us. A harsh, polemical attitude is called for only when the non-Orthodox are trying to take away our flocks or change our teaching.

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The Self-Liquidation of Christianity

by Fr. Seraphim Rose

The striking phrase, “God is dead,” is the poetical expression of modern unbelief.

Much is expressed in this phrase that is not to be found in the more prosaic expressions of modern atheism and agnosticism. A vivid contrast is established between a previous age when men believed in God and based their life and institutions upon Him, and a new age for whose inhabitants, supposedly, this once all-illuminating sun has been blotted out, and life and society must be given a new orientation.

The phrase, itself apparently coined by Nietzsche almost a century ago, was for long used to express the views of a comparatively few enemies of Christianity, chiefly “existentialists”; but recently it has caused controversy by being accepted in radical Protestant circles, and not it has become a concern of common journalism and the mass media. Clearly a responsive chord has been struck in Western society at large; the public interest in the “death of God” has made this phenomenon one of the signs of the times.

To understand what this sign means, one must know its historical context. By its very nature it is a negation–a reaction against the otherworldly Christian world view which emphasizes asceticism and the “unseen warfare” against the devil and the world in order to obtain eternal joy through communion with God in the Kingdom of Heaven. The founders of the new philosophy declared the Christian God “dead” and proclaimed man a god in His place. This view is merely the latest stage of the modern battle against Christianity which has resulted today in the virtually universal triumph of unbelief.

sroseThe contemporary controversy, however, centers about a new and unusual phenomenon, however, centers about a new and unusual phenomenon: it is now “Christians” who are the unbelievers. Yet in a sense this too is the logical culmination of an historical process that began in the West with the schism of the Church of Rome. Separated over nine centuries from the Church of Christ, Western Christendom has possessed only a steadily-evaporating residue of the genuine Christianity preserved by Holy Orthodoxy.

Today the process is nearly complete and large numbers of Catholics and Protestants are hardly to be distinguished from unbelievers; and if they still call themselves “Christians,” it can only be because for them Christianity itself has been turned into the opposite: worldly belief. One may observe in this what one Orthodox thinker has called, “The self liquidation of Christianity”: Christianity undermined from within by its own representatives who demand that it conform itself entirely to the world.

seraphim-roseA strange parallel to this new “theology” has become common of late in the “liturgical” life of the West. Widespread publicity was given earlier this year [1966] to a “rock-and-roll” service in the Old South church in Boston, in which teenagers were allowed to dance in the aisles of the church to the accompaniment of raucous popular music. In Catholic churches “jazz masses” become more and more frequent. The ostensible intention of those responsible for these phenomena is the same as that of the radical “theologians”: to make religion more “real” to contemporary men. They thereby admit what is obvious to Orthodox observers: that religious life is largely dead in Western Christendom; but they unwittingly reveal even more: unable to distinguish between church and dancehall, between Christ and the world, they reveal God is dead in their own hearts and only worldly excitement is capable of evoking a response in themselves and their “post-Christian” flocks.

to what does all this, finally point? Our Lord, when prophesying the advent of Antichrist, spoke of the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place (St Matt 24:15); and St Paul speaks of the very enemy of God sitting in God’s temple and being worshipped in place of God (II Thes. 2:4)– and this will occur, according to St John Chrysostom,

“in every Church.”

Does not this “Christian atheism,” do not these blasphemous “worship services,” does not the acceptance of even the most unseemly vulgar manifestations in what men still consider holy places, already prepare the way for this end and give one even a foretaste of it?

For Western Christendom God is indeed dead, and its leaders only prepare for the advent of the enemy of God, Antichrist. But Orthodox Christians know the living God and dwell within the saving enclosure of His True Church. It is here, in faithful and fervent following of the unchanging Orthodox path — and not in the dazzling “ecumenical” union with the new unbelievers that is pursued by Orthodox modernists — that our salvation is to be found.

s-rose

-Eugene (Fr Seraphim) Rose, Orthodox Word, No. 9, Jul/Aug, 1966.

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How To Deal With Non-Orthodox Christians

 

This is the simple, loving answer – the Orthodox answer to dealing with non-Orthodox.

by Fr. Seraphim Rose

fr seraphim rose 2In the end, I think, Father Dimitry Dudko’s attitude is the correct one:

We should view the non-Orthodox as people to whom Orthodoxy has not yet been revealed, as people who are potentially Orthodox (if only we ourselves would give them a better example!).

There is no reason why we cannot call them Christians and be on good terms with them, recognize that we have at least our faith in Christ in common, and live in peace especially with our own families. St. Innocent’s attitude to the Roman Catholics in California is a good example for us.

A harsh, polemical attitude is called for only when the non-Orthodox are trying to take away our flocks or change our teachings.

(Quoted in Not of This World: The Life and Teaching of Fr. Seraphim Rose, pp. 757-758).

 

How To Deal With Non-Orthodox Christians

 

On Spiritual Deception

deception

by Fr. Seraphim Rose

The concept of prelest, a key one in Orthodox ascetical teaching, is completely absent in the Protestant-Catholic world which produced the “charismatic” movement; and this fact explains why such an obvious deception can gain such a hold over nominally “Christian” circles, and also why a “prophet” like Nicholas Berdyaev who comes from an Orthodox background should regard it as absolutely essential that in the “new age of the Holy Spirit”

“There will be no more of the ascetic world-view.”

The reason is obvious: the Orthodox ascetic world-view gives the only means by which men, having received the Holy Spirit at their Baptism and Chrismation, may truly continue to acquire the Holy Spirit in their lives; and it teaches how to distinguish and guard oneself against spiritual deception. The “new spirituality” of which Berdyaev dreamed and which the “charismatic revival” actually practices, has an entirely different foundation and is seen to be a fraud in the light of the Orthodox ascetical teaching. Therefore, there is not room for both conceptions in the same spiritual universe: to accept the “new spirituality” of the “charismatic revival” one must reject Orthodox Christianity; and conversely, to remain an Orthodox Christian, one must reject the “charismatic revival,” which is a counterfeit of Orthodoxy.

To make this quite clear, in what follows we shall give the teaching of the Orthodox Church on spiritual deception chiefly as found in the 19th-century summation of this teaching made by Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, himself an Orthodox Father of modern times, in volume one of his collected works.

fr seraphim rose 2There are two basic forms of prelest or spiritual deception. The first and more spectacular form occurs when a person strives for a high spiritual state or spiritual visions without having been purified of passions and relying on his own judgment. To such a one the devil grants great “visions.” There are many such examples in the Lives of Saints, one of the primary textbooks of Orthodox ascetical teaching. Thus St. Nicetas, Bishop of Novgorod (Jan. 31), entered on the solitary life unprepared and against the counsel of his abbot, and soon he heard a voice praying with him.

Then “the Lord” spoke to him and sent an “angel” to pray in his place and to instruct him to read books instead of praying, and to teach those who came to him. This he did, always seeing the “angel” near him praying, and the people were astonished at his spiritual wisdom and the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” which he seemed to possess, including “prophecies” which were always fulfilled. The deceit was uncovered only when the fathers of the monastery found out about his aversion for the New Testament (although the Old Testament, which he had never read, he could quote by heart), and by their prayers he was brought to repentance, his “miracles” ceased, and later he attained to genuine sanctity.

Again, St. Isaac of the Kiev Caves (Feb. 14) saw a great light and “Christ” appeared to him with “angels”; when Isaac, without making the sign of the Cross, bowed down before “Christ,” the demons gained power over him and, after dancing wildly with him, left him all but dead. He also later attained genuine sanctity.

There are many similar cases when “Christ” and “angels” appeared to ascetics and granted astonishing powers and “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” which often led the deluded ascetic finally to insanity or suicide.

But there is another more common, less spectacular form of spiritual deception, which offers to its victims not great visions but just exalted “religious feelings.” This occurs, as Bishop Ignatius has written,

“when the heart desires and strives for the enjoyment of holy and divine feelings while it is still completely unfit for them. Everyone who does not have a contrite spirit, who recognizes any kind of merit or worth in himself, who does not hold unwaveringly the teaching of the Orthodox Church but on some tradition or other has thought out his own arbitrary judgment or has followed a non-Orthodox teaching – is in this state of deception.”

The Roman Catholic Church has whole spiritual manuals written by people in this state; such is Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ.

Bishop Ignatius says of it:

“There reigns in this book and breathes from its pages the unction of the evil spirit, flattering the reader, intoxicating him… The book conducts the reader directly to communion with God, without previous purification by repentance… From it carnal people enter into rapture from a delight and intoxication attained without difficulty, without self-renunciation, without repentance, without crucifixion of the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24), with flattery of their fallen state.”

And the result, as I.M. Kontzevitch, the great transmitter of patristic teaching, has written, is that

“the ascetic, striving to kindle in his heart love for God while neglecting repentance, exerts himself to attain a feeling of delight, of ecstasy, and as a result he attains precisely the opposite: ‘he enters into communion with satan and becomes infected with hatred for the Holy Spirit’ (Bishop Ignatius).”

And this is the actual state in which the followers of the “charismatic revival,” even without suspecting it, find themselves. This may be seen most clearly by examining their experiences and views, point by point, against the teaching of the Orthodox Fathers as set forth by Bishop Ignatius.

HT

 

Speaking in Tongues

eyes

by Fr. Seraphim Rose

If we look at the writings of the “charismatic revival,” we shall find that this movement closely resembles many sectarian movements of the past in basing itself primarily or even entirely on one rather bizarre doctrinal emphasis or religious practice. The only difference is that the emphasis now is placed on a specific point which no sectarians in the past regarded as so central: speaking in tongues.

According to the constitution of various Pentecostal sects, “The Baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues” (Sherrill, p. 79). And not only is this the first sign of conversion to a Pentecostal sect or orientation: according to the best Pentecostal authorities, this practice must be continued or the “Spirit” may be lost. Writes David Du Plessis:

“The practice of praying in tongues should continue and increase in the lives of those who are baptized in the Spirit, otherwise they may find that the other manifestations of the Spirit come seldom or stop altogether” (Du Plessis, p. 89).

Many testify, as does one Protestant, that tongues

“have now become an essential accompaniment of my devotional life” (Lillie, p. 50).

And a Roman Catholic book on the subject, more cautiously, says that of the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” tongues

“is often but not always the first received. For many it is thus a threshold through which one passes into the realm of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit” (Ranaghan, p. 19).

fr seraphim rose 2Here already one may note an overemphasis that is certainly not present in the New Testament, where speaking in tongues has a decidedly minor significance, serving as a sign of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and on two other occasions (Acts 10 and 19). After the first or perhaps the second century there is no record of it in any Orthodox source, and it is not recorded as occurring even among the great Fathers of the Egyptian desert, who were so filled with the Spirit of God that they performed numerous astonishing miracles, including raising the dead.

The Orthodox attitude to genuine speaking in tongues, then, may be summed up in the words of Blessed Augustine (Homilies on John, VI:10):

“In the earliest times “the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believed, and they spake with tongues” which they had not learned, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.”These were signs adapted to the time. For it was fitting that there be this sign of the Holy Spirit in all tongues to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That was done for a sign, and it passed away.”

And as if to answer contemporary Pentecostals with their strange emphasis on this point, Augustine continues:

“Is it now expected that they upon whom hands are laid, should speak with tongues? Or when we imposed our hand upon these children, did each of you wait to see whether they would speak with tongues? And when he saw that they did not speak with tongues, was any of you so perverse of heart as to say, ‘These have not received the Holy Spirit’?”

Modern Pentecostals, to justify their use of tongues, refer most of all to St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (chs. 12-14). But St. Paul wrote this passage precisely because ‘tongues’ had become a source of disorder in the Church of Corinth; and even while he does not forbid them, he decidedly minimizes their significance. This passage, therefore, far from encouraging any modern revival of “tongues,” should on the contrary discourage it‹especially when one discovers (as Pentecostals themselves admit) that there are other sources of speaking in tongues besides the Holy Spirit! As Orthodox Christians we already know that speaking in tongues as a true gift of the Holy Spirit cannot appear among those outside the Church of Christ; but let us look more closely at this modern phenomenon and see if it possesses characteristics that might reveal from what source it does come.

If we are already made suspicious by the exaggerated importance accorded to “tongues” by modern Pentecostals, we should be completely awakened about them when we examine the circumstances in which they occur.

Far from being given freely and spontaneously, without man’s interference – as are the true gifts of the Holy Spirit- speaking in tongues can be caused to occur quite predictably by a regular technique of concentrated group “prayer” accompanied by psychologically suggestive Protestant hymns (“He comes! He comes!”), culminating in a “laying on of hands,” and sometimes involving such purely physical efforts as repeating a given phrase over and over again (Koch, p. 24), or just making sounds with the mouth.

One person admits that, like many others, after speaking in tongues,

“I often did mouth nonsense syllables in an effort to start the flow of prayer-in-tongues” (Sherrill, p. 127);

and such efforts, far from being discouraged, are actually advocated by Pentecostals.

“Making sounds with the mouth is not ‘speaking-in-tongues,’ but it may signify an honest act of faith, which the Holy Spirit will honor by giving that person the power to speak in another language” (Harper, p. 11).

Another Protestant pastor says:

“The initial hurdle to speaking in tongues, it seems, is simply the realization that you must ‘speak forth’…The first syllables and words may sound strange to your ear… They may be halting and inarticulate. You may have the thought that you are just making it up. But as you continue to speak in faith… the Spirit will shape for you a language of prayer and praise” (Christenson, p. 130).

A Jesuit “theologian” tells how he put such advice into practice:

“After breakfast I felt almost physically drawn to the chapel where I sat down to pray. Following Jim’s description of his own reception of the gift of tongues, I began to say quietly to myself “la, la, la, la.” To my immense consternation there ensued a rapid movement of tongue and lips accompanied by a tremendous feeling of inner devotion” (Gelpi, p. 1).

Can any sober Orthodox Christian possibly confuse these dangerous psychic games with the gifts of the Holy Spirit?!

There is clearly nothing whatever Christian, nothing spiritual here in the least. This is the realm, rather, of psychic mechanisms which can be set in operation by means of definite psychological or physical techniques, and “speaking in tongues” would seem to occupy a key role as a kind of “trigger” in this realm. In any case, it certainly bears no resemblance whatever to the spiritual gift described in the New Testament, and if anything is much closer to shaministic “speaking in tongues” as practiced in primitive religions, where the shaman or witch doctor has a regular technique for going into a trance and then giving a message to or from a “god” in a tongue he has not learned.

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