I met Thomas about a year or two ago through the Orthodox-Convert Group and I have watched him as he has made a journey not too terribly dissimilar from my own. In a moment I will (with his permission) allow his words to speak for himself, but I should like to offer a brief preface.

Often we, who have found ourselves already arrived at our eastern destination, speak of the need for a major paradigmic shift in our thinking in order to embrace ancient Christianity. Indeed there is a good deal of truth in this understanding. We do need to let go of some of our inherited rationalism and individualism. But, this usually doesn't happen right away and is frequently predicated upon a quite rational decision for the need to begin the journey at all. Thomas explains:

Understand that I was a lifelong protestant, virulently anti-
Roman, and had never heard much of orthodoxy. For 10 years I was an
ordained church-of-christ preacher/church planter. During that time,
if I had simply been invited to an orthodox church, every warning
bell and whistle would have gone off in my head: "idolatrous" icons,
priests (violates "priesthood of believer"), vestments (hierarchy -
yuck!), liturgy (vain repetitions), an offensive wall between me and
the Holy of Holies (Iconostasis), etc. etc. In fact, there was
*nothing* initially about orthodox worship that attracted me, and, if
confronted with all these issues at once, I would have blown a few
circuit breakers because everything would have undermined my

As a good evangelical, everything had to be brought back to the
Bible, and to my understanding of how the Bible verses all worked
together. Evangelicalism starts, lives, and ends with a
very "academic" approach to "understanding" how the pieces of
Scripture logicly fit together, without the aid of eccelesiastical

Unfortunately, this "academic" approach lacks a great deal of
intellectual honesty, and when that became apparent, my evangelical
presuppositions and foundations came crashing down. I was introduced
to the *history* of how Biblical canon came together; to the lives
and writings of the earliest saints (Igantius, Polycarp, Clement of
Rome, Ireneaus, and the Didache, to be precise); to the worship forms
used at Iona and Kells, Lindisfarne and Bangor.....people took the
time to "argue" the Bible verses I had carefully ignored ("it seemed
good to the holy spirit and to us....the power to bind and
loose...what you forgive on earth...paul's handkerchief and peter's

Now, I know Orthodoxy is not merely an alternative academic
construction, and to merely argue for orthodoxy based on writings and
Bible verses and historical facts is not a "full" rendering of
Orthodoxy - it's protestantism in robes. :-) But for me, immersed
as i was in a world that only understood intellectual approaches, it
was THE approach that sent my entire theological scaffolding crashing
to the floor. It WAS enough to "deconstruct" me of my
protestantism. Then, the real learning .... the journey TOWARDS
Orthodoxy - began...and at this point I was receptive to the other,
non-academic tools: the mystery and beauty of the faith, piety,
icons, candles, incense, acceptance of things I couldn't figure out,
and lots of "mystery."

So, in terms of my journey, it took academic arm-wrestling to
disengage my protestant presuppositions - and much of that was as a
result of ex-protestants on THIS list who KNEW where my head was
at. Then, once disengaged, I was able to start learning about God all
over again.

Thomas is still apart of his protestant congregation which is itself wrestling with some of the issues revolving around continuity with ancient Christianity. Whether they will follow the growing trend of entire congregations converting remains to be seen....but on a personal level Thomas is well on his way. I really appreciated his relating this story to us on the convert list and I could not have said it better myself, for in a very real way we are all learning about God all over again.

I can recall when I first began to delve into Patrisctics and Orthodox theology I approached a number of Orthodox e-mail Lists expressing my interest in the Eastern Faith and trying to impress folks with all the reading and studying I had been doing. But numerous folks downplayed my studying and really pushed for me to focus on learning about Orthodoxy experientially. It got so bad at one point that I practically screamed out: "Do you people want me to convert or not!" I was like the overly eager student becoming sick of "paint de fence" and "wax de car" - not, as of yet, being awakened to the real learning taking place.

In some ways the paradigmic shift - when it did finally occur - was like awakening from a dream. Reality is different than I remember...but perhaps (you may say) I am dreaming now. If that be so, please observe and heed the "do not disturb" sign.


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