An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
For those of you who were following the comment thread, I am beginning the discussion anew here with my answer to what I meant by "So what" in regards to the mystery "god-man" resurrection myths and the undertsanding that Christianity appears to be a blenderized version of Judaic and Hellenistic religious beliefs.
The conclusion is yours to draw.
The presumed conclusion as is typically offered to Christians is that because we perceive a mish-mash of hellenistic and hebraic religions AND that we have seen resurrecting "god-man" myths before that we ought to conclude that Christianity is therefore untrue. Or more specifically that the person of Jesus Christ had become something He Himself never actually was. Frankly I do not see how this neccesarily follows...unless one brings with them certain presuppositions (which can steer us either way - a tendency toward disbelief or a tendency toward belief.)
And so when someone says stuff like Christianity is merely a rehatched "god -man" myth, or some bizarre syncretism of hellenism and whatever, I ask: so what.
If the person of Christ (as God in the flesh) is the cornerpiece of human history, if He is the person that we Orthodox say He is - then we should expect nothing less than to see mythological fingers pointing toward him. Is this an apologetic? Well, only in answer to the argument for which I ask: "So what?"
I do not pretend to have the answers that will "ultimately and logically lead a person" to faith in Christ. I've long since given up on the "scientifc" attempts of "proving" the Bible or the philosophical "proofs" for the existance of God. A friend sends me occassional emails in which he shows some new scientific proof that the creation story is true...I just shrug. By the same token, the study of history has lead me to certain conclusions about Christianity and about the Orthodox Church - leading me away first from evangelical fundamentalism and then from the theological relativism often found in the ECUSA.
There is something about the Orthodox understanding of the beatitude which says: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." While I do not pretend to have a pure heart - far from it...but I do believe that it is in THIS realm (not so much the mind) that we ought to begin the search for God.
Yesterday at a protestant friends house we were sitting down (sitting down?) to pray for dinner and my son nudged me: "Where's the pray thingys?" I didn't quite hear him and asked him what he meant. "The icons?" he said. Well I belayed his question telling him that I'd try and explain later. But it reminded me of the truth I see in the Icons and in the life of the Church. Looking at the fruit of the Church (meaning the lives of her saints) speaks volumes of truth to me that transcend the things of science, textual criticism, and yes - even logic.
The words of Christ (as expressed in the Gospels) rings of profound truth...but more than that..He Himself rings of truth "I am the Truth" He says, and the words in the halo of His icon remind me of this everyday.
Am I decieved? I wrestled with that question a long time ago and at times when I begin to doubt again I find that more often than not (for me, and perhaps me alone) that I do not do so for purely intellectual reasons - but for other more heart-related reasons. The "intellectual" reasons simply offer superficial support to the doubt I grow in my heart. If I am right, that the realm of discovering God is in the heart and not the head, then surely this must be the case?
Of course, none of this precludes the further discussion or historical and philosophical arguments/theories on the existance of God or the truth that I supposed is to be found in the Orthodox Church...rather I hope it gives such discussion some greater context and understanding.
imran, another question... relative to my own journey. before becoming Orthodox, i was collaging from a wide variety of christian and other spiritual/religious sources. a little heidegger, a little thomas merton, a little old time gospel, a little zen, a little catholic liturgy, a little krishnamurti, etc... cutting and pasting elements to keep faith relevant. in the end, however, it felt profoundly self-referential, a dead-end. the hermeneutics of collage necessarily involved so much "me", and my way of interpreting, and so little Other.
i longed for a Way... a holistic way of approaching Christ, as a Person, an experience, a reality. so i took a big step back, spent a year reading, inquiring, and discovered a deep living spiritual fire that has been kept alive in Orthodoxy... a fire of repentance and love for God in the heart. in converting, i feel as if i've become a Christian in the fullest possible sense. my life is simply not the same (Lord, have mercy). i don't know how to say this very well.
all to say... what do you think of the benefits/costs of having to roll your own way, to collage from a variety of sources, VS. surrendering to the commitment of a way, inside a faith tradition?
while moved by Rumi in countless ways... i want to address his poem that places an Either/Or between the water and the vessel.
how can you follow a "pathless" journey and not simply spiral endlessly in the ongoing self-referential limits of your own experience? what or Who can ever break through your own frame of reference?
Your comments are greatly appreciated. I don't think I have any good answers for the dilemma you have presented, so I will keep my mouth shut. I remember Huston Smith saying once that there is great value in picking ONE path, and sticking to it. The path he chose is Christianity (he is a Methodist). He said the danger of being eclectic and taking a little from every religion is that the person who ends up sitting on the throne is St. Ego.
Yes, I feel the desire to follow ONE path. Right now if I were to choose one path it would be Islam. But I am simply not willing right now to commit myself wholly to one path. I suppose I am still in service to St. Ego.
"Those who seek guidance from God, will be guided to their own advantage. But those who go astray, go astray at their own peril. No one will bear another man's burden."