The Holy Fathers Sure Guide to True Christianity

by By Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim Rose

Remember your instructors, who have spoken
the word of God to you; whose faith follow,
considering the end of their life… Be not led
away with various and strange doctrines.
Hebrews 13:7, 9

NEVER HAS THERE BEEN such an age of false teachers as this pitiful 20th century, so rich in material gadgets and so poor in mind and soul. Every conceivable opinion, even the most absurd, even those hitherto rejected by the universal consent of all civilized peoples—now has its platform and its own “teacher.” A few of these teachers come with demonstration or promise of “spiritual power” and false miracles, as do some occultists and “charismatics;” but most of the contemporary teachers offer no more than a weak concoction of undigested ideas which they received “out of the air,” is it were, or from some modern self-appointed “wise man” (or woman) who knows more than all the ancients merely by living in our “enlightened” modern times. As a result, philosophy has a thousand schools, and “Christianity” a thousand sects. Where is the truth to be found in all this, if indeed it is to be found at all in our most misguided times?
In only one place is there to be found the fount of true teaching, coming from God Himself, not diminished over the centuries but ever fresh, being one and the same in all those who truly teach it, leading those who follow it to eternal salvation. This place is the Orthodox Church of Christ, the fount is the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, and the true teachers of the Divine doctrine that issues forth from this fount are the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church.
Alas! How few Orthodox Christians know this, and know enough to drink from this fount! How many contemporary hierarchs lead their flocks, not on the true pastures of the soul, the Holy Fathers, but along the ruinous paths of modern wise men who promise something “new” and strive only to make Christians forget the true teaching of the Holy Fathers, a teaching which—it is quite true—is entirely out of harmony with the false ideas which govern modern times.
The Orthodox teaching of the Holy Fathers is not something of one age, whether “ancient” or “modern.” It has been transmitted in unbroken succession from the time of Christ and His Apostles to the present day, and there has never been a time when it was necessary to discover a “lost” patristic teaching. Even when many Orthodox Christians have neglected this teaching (as is the case, for example, in our own day), its true representatives were still handing it down to those who hungered to receive it.. There have been great patristic ages, such as the dazzling epoch of the fourth century, and there have been periods of decline in patristic awareness among Orthodox Christians; but there has been no period since the very foundation of Christ’s Church on earth when the patristic tradition was not guiding the Church; there has been no century without Holy Fathers of its own. St. Nicetas Stethatos, disciple and biographer of St. Simeon the New Theologian, has written; “It has been granted by God that from generation to generation there should not cease the preparation by the Holy Spirit of His prophets and friends for the order of His Church.” Continue reading “The Holy Fathers Sure Guide to True Christianity”

Theosis and Our Salvation in Christ

Athanasius the Great summed up the connection between the Incarnation and our salvation in the famous line: God became human, so that we might become god. The doctrine of theosis (deification) sums up the Orthodox understanding of salvation in Christ. It is also the source of friction between Reformed and Orthodox Christians. In this blog posting I will show how the Orthodox understanding of theosis is grounded in Scripture and affirmed in the teachings of the early Church Fathers. In light of the controversial nature of theosis I will be highlighting the Orthodox understanding of theosis through the comparing of paradigm differences between Orthodoxy and the Reformed tradition. I close with a discussion of the practical consequences of the paradigmatic differences.

2 Peter 1:3-4

Many Protestants find the doctrine of theosis dubious despite the fact it is found in Scripture. We read in 2 Peter 1:3-4:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)

This does not mean we participate in God’s essence (ousia). Rather we are transformed into the likeness of Christ through participation in his grace, i.e., divine energies. The footnote commentary in the Orthodox Study Bible for 2 Peter 1:4 reads:

This [Theosis] does not mean we become divine by nature. If we participated in God’s essence, the distinction between God and man would be abolished. What this does mean is that we participate in God’s energy, described by a number of terms in scripture, such as glory, life, love, virtue, and power. We are to become like God by his grace and truly His adopted children, but never becoming God by nature.

The phrase “participate in the divine nature” (NIV) or “partakers of the divine nature” (KJV, OSB) is a translation of: “γένησθε θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως.” [Greek NT] The Greek for “participate” or “share” is κοινωνος (koinonos) which has a range of meanings. It has been used with reference to sharing in glory (1 Peter 5:1), sharing in Christ’s suffering (Philippians 3:10), and fellowship in the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:1). It can have a spiritual/sacramental sense. Participation in a religious service, Christian or otherwise, has definite spiritual consequences. Participation in a pagan sacrifice results in participation with demonic forces (1 Corinthians 10:20) and likewise participation in the Eucharist results in participation in Christ’s body and blood (1 Corinthians 10:16). The emphasis here is on participation, transformation, and experiential change, rather than a judicial declaration of legal status. This distinction is central to the different attitude Orthodox and the Reformed have toward the fullness of salvation in Christ. Continue reading “Theosis and Our Salvation in Christ”

Theosis: Partaking of the Divine Nature

by Mark Shuttleworth

I said, “You are gods,

And all of you are children of the Most High.” (Psalm 82:6)

This is a verse that most Protestants do not underline in their Bibles. What on earth does it mean—“you are gods”? Doesn’t our faith teach that there is only one God, in three Persons? How can human beings be gods?

In the Orthodox Church, this concept is neither new nor startling. It even has a name: theosis. Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with God, and so become like God to such a degree that we participate in the divine nature. Also referred to as deification, divinization, or illumination, it is a concept derived from the New Testament regarding the goal of our relationship with the Triune God. (Theosis and deification may be used interchangeably. We will avoid the term divinization, since it could be misread for divination, which is another thing altogether!) Continue reading “Theosis: Partaking of the Divine Nature”

Week Nine

Nine weeks down, more or less, and this past week was a bit of a milestone for me.  I hit 238.5 on the weekly weigh-in, breaking the 240 lb mark, which was a bit of a personal target for me.  My next personal goal is breaking the 234.5 lb mark, which is the lowest I’ve weighed in the past decade.

A few notes on what I’m doing might be in order here.  My primary source of cardio exercise remains walking.  I try to do at least five miles a day, though some days I don’t hit that target, while other days I go way past it.  Most Saturday mornings my wife and I are up around 530-600 and walking about 7 miles.  On Fridays, I am up around 6 and I do a five mile walk with a thirty pound backpack.  That walk, depending on how I feel, may include a few interval sprints as well, since nothing gets the heartbeat up like a quick jog with some weight.  Bust most of the walk is just done at a quick pace.  I am also doing some body weight exercises, martial arts, and participating in a few random challenges from some of the on-line groups I belong to.

As for food, we continue to primarily eat at home, concentrating on whole foods and lots of vegetables.  When we do eat out, we try to go to places where we can get good quality food (and we are on a bit of a Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern kick here lately) and continue to avoid the sugary drinks, foods, and deserts.  It’s really all about quality.  While I continue to concentrate on calorie counts, I am finding that it is pretty easy to keep myself at my daily goal when I’m not junking it all the time.

One thing I have noticed, and I am reminded of some things I learned as a trainer a long time ago, is the importance of water.  Despite giving up almost everything to drink except a morning coffee, I still find that I do not drink enough water, and this can be a common issue.   Oftentimes going from a SAD style of eating to a sustainable pattern of healthy eating results in a lack of hydration, especially if you are starting to exercise for the first time.  I think there are a couple of reasons for this.  First, an increase in protein requires an increase in water to properly digest and move the product through the gut, and we don’t really think about that.  Low water intake can quickly contribute to constipation in higher protein diets.  Second, it takes a while to get used to drinking water, which does not have the flavors and sugars we are used to and become addicted to.  All that crap in our drinks would cause us to consume more and more, which of course is horrible for us, but still helps us to stay hydrated.  It takes time to readjust and get used to drinking plain water, though once you do it’s hard to go back.  We stopped for lunch the other day and the restaurant only had tap water, which was plenty nasty, and so I had iced tea.  It just didn’t do it, so I ended up eating lunch with only a few sips of tea, then drinking water after we left. It takes a bit of time, but eventually water becomes the go-to drink.

I am very pleased with my progress so far, and on a side note, my wife is also doing extremely well with her weight loss and I am so proud of her.  She has way more health issues than any one person should be stuck with, and good excuses for not being able to loose weight or exercise should she want to, but she is right there keeping up with me.  Amazing and inspirational.  So take it from us – no matter who you are, no matter what your situation is, you can change, you can transform your life.