I read a beautiful Paschal reflection by Fr Ted Bobosh. His reflection reminded me of how God has shaped me to view life through a few crucial lenses.
First, salvation, as experienced personally, is the entire process of God rescuing me from sin and death and restoring me as his image-bearer. In other words, salvation is the actual process of being transformed into Christ’s likeness. As such, “forgiveness of sins” is the doorway to salvation, but not salvation itself. Forgiveness is a necessary aspect of a far larger process of renewal, restoration and transformation. Therefore, I don’t possess salvation. Rather, I’m on a journey of salvation, a journey toward becoming like Christ in his life and likeness.
Second, God is saving his entire creation. There is a global dimension to salvation. The promised New Creation is this creation renewed and overflowing with God’s glory. The New Creation was inaugurated at Jesus’ resurrection and God is actively restoring his creation, primarily through the renewal of creation’s stewards — the human race.
Third, Jesus’ very being and life saves us. God’s salvific activity cannot be pinpointed to just one event in Jesus’ life. All of the events save us. He saves us through his birth, his circumcision, his baptism, his ministry, his miracles, his teaching, his crucifixion, his resurrection, his ascension, his return, his ongoing kingship, and all the bits in between.
Fr Stephen Freeman summarizes nicely, “The Incarnation of Christ and the whole of His work – suffering, death, burial, descent among the dead, resurrection, ascension – serve the same singular purpose – to deliver all of creation (including humanity) from its bonds and establish it in the freedom for which it was created – manifest in Christ’s own resurrection.”
The convergence of these lenses bring the world into pin-sharp focus for me and have helped me to shed much of the delusion from my past.
5 thoughts on “The Lenses Through Which I See”
Jason, in your experience, what, if any, is the difference b/t an Orthodox vision of salvation and an Anabaptist one? As two traditions that emerged apart or in rejection of Christendom, they seem to bear some similarities, but you might have some additional perspective here.
JR, I don’t know very much about Anabaptist soteriology. But I think I can speak a bit on Orthodox soteriology which can then be compared and contrasted with Anabaptist soteriology.
First, Orthodox view salvation as a deification. This doesn’t mean that Orthodox believe we will become gods. Rather it means God’s grace conforms us to his presence and the divine presence itself transforms our very nature. In this light, Orthodox soteriology is viewed as a therapeutic process of renewing and realigning the complex inner functions of the human self, from which the world’s renewal flows.
Second, at the heart of Orthodox soteriology is the Incarnation. To paraphrase St Athanasius, “God became man so that man could become like God.” Sin is not primarily a legal transgression requiring retribution. Rather, sin has brought death and the healing of this malady requires communion with divine life.
Third, salvation is “worked out” as an ongoing synergistic cooperation between the Christian and God. While God carries the lion’s share of this partnership, we also hold a great responsibility. The Christian is to nurture ongoing repentance through an ascetical life and participation in the life of the Orthodox Church through which God’s grace then works its transformation of the human nature.
Fourth, Orthodox soteriology is conjoined with its ecclesiology. God’s life is mediated to humans through His Body. There is no salvation without the Church. The Church is the full embodiment of Christ’s life and we commune with Christ through the Church. Therefore, the process of deification requires every aspect of the Church — its sacraments, liturgy, icons, feasts, prayers, teachings of the Father, Tradition, ascetical practices, hierarchy, and communion with and intercessions of the Saints (both with those on earth and with those that have passed).
Really helpful, thanks Jason. To press in a bit more (trying to learn here!) what then constitues mission for those of the Orthodox faith? Or, to ask it another way, is there a missional shape to Orthodox ecclesiology? How do these friends think and talk about cultural engagement?
This is a tougher question for me to answer, due mostly to my limited experience in Orthodoxy. I think ultimately, the goal of Orthodox mission is to bring people into the life of the Orthodox Church, wherein lies the life of Christ and thus salvation.
From my experience, the Orthodox view of mission seems similar to the traditional view of mission in most Protestant churches. In other words, “missions” and “missionary” tend to have a narrow definition as cross-cultural engagement. In recent years, the definition of “missions” and “missionary” have broadened to incorporate “internal,” “home,” or “domestic” missions. But generally, missions tend to be program-based components of a parish or diocese. So, the basic mission strategy focuses on establishing Eucharistic communities and developing indigenous church leaders.
In my experience so far, the discussion of cultural engagement has been very limited. It usually involves inviting people to the liturgy, living as a Christian community, and utilizing basic personal strategies of living and sharing one’s faith.
Administratively, local parishes and dioceses in the United States are extensions of their mother churches from other countries. There is no American Orthodox Church. So the Orthodox Church in the US is split into about twelve ethnic jurisdictions — Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, etc — usually emphasizing the preservation of and outreach to the respective cultures.
Local parishes formed by or containing a number of converts from Evangelicalism (such as the one I attend) exist within one of the ethnic jurisdictions I mentioned. Because of the Evangelical influence, they may emphasize a greater engagement with culture. However, it seems to be primarily program-based and emulate what you would find in the average Evangelical Church.
And yet, I see so much potential in Orthodoxy to support an incarnational approach to mission and a fresh engagement of cultural.
This was basically my sense. Would definitely be interesting to explore a connection b/t core components of Orthodox theology an some of the missional ecclesiology that has emerged in a rejection of the Christendom assumptions that have never encumbered (at least in the same was as Western Protestantism) our Eastern brothers and sisters.