Thursday, 19 April 2012

Orthodoxy and Salvation: Baptism and our natural progression in faith.

First a disclaimer: Any person saying that they know the exact requirements of salvation is not Orthodox, since Orthodoxy does not teach this, it teaches what the Apostles passed down to us and this is the closest we know to the Truth since these men were the Apostles of the truth himself. All I am doing in this piece is analysing a comparison between the Symbolic Baptism and Sola Fide of protestanism to orthodox Sacramental and Spiritual progression.
Many see faith alone as enough for Salvation, due to the cross, but Orthdoxy sees salvation as a process rather than a single event, which starts with Baptism.
A simple Scriptural example of this would be the Book of Acts where even though the Apostles have received the spirit and the gifts of it have been passed out to all there (including Gentiles), they still insisted that all must be baptised to receive salvation.  Rather than purely believing and having faith, an active role in the Sacramental life of the Church is a part of the process of Salvation.
For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” (Acts 10:46-48)
So these people had received gifts from the spirit and certainly had Desire for Baptism since they were believers, but still required Baptism for their Salvation. Christ even stated this when he said “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16) He did into say simply faith, or faith and willingness but Faith and Baptism.
I find one problem with Western Theologies such as those arising with Protestantism and the rise of New Catholicism is this idea of Sacraments as simply symbolic and no more.  Baptism is reduced to being dunked into water and it being a symbol of renewal rather than the Sacramental act which the Apostles demanded of all during their time.  It is important to state that this pushing away from Sacramental Theology during the Reformation also applied to Communion and Marriage and to deny the importance of Baptism in Salvation Is akin to denying the Healing and Grace received through communion or sanctity of a Christian marriage.
Christ did not command "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20) as a symbol, or say “Make them love me, give a few symbolic Gestures and leave it at that” he specifically told the disciples to get them baptized and have them obey the Teachings, which included Baptism. We even see this in the Didache (1st Century text containing the Teachings of the Apostles.) Baptism has been of HUGE importance since the time of Christ and this is the way of it. Christ taught it, his apostles taught it. I do not see why they would lie.
This was of course instituted  on Christ but became a requirement for all Pentecost. Pope Shenouda states that "we should understand that the way the thief was saved is irrelevant for the Christian era since neither the Church nor the Christian Priesthood had yet been established" when we look at rare cases pre-pentecost, such as St Dismas the Good Thief.
Another concept some will have a problem with is Faith and Works. Many, when they hear of faith and works see “Faith + Works= Salvation” as though faith and works are seperate. I personally see more of a “Faith (naturally leading to) works = Salvation” since no work which is not through Love can achieve anything substantial. The Timothy quote is not the only biblical mention of this. It is a large issue so I will not go into massive detail just now. Paul in Cor.3 says:

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
So indeed faith is Christ is vital. Yet he also states that:
The fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
Faith which produces works is needed and the Orthodox do not deny that these works come through Faith. Saint John Cassian calls this Synergy of Faith and Works.  Salvation is laid in the life of Christ as our foundation. However, our works for him don't earn us salvation, but neither are they unimportant. There is a reward, and that reward according to the Fathers is communion with Him more fully and completely. This is why Christ says:

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." (Jn 14:21)
"If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me. (Jn 14:23-24)
If you love Christ you will do good works, if you do not have the faith you will not. So Works come through true faith whether you do them with the goal of Salvation or through pure love. I see the statement of “Works are not needed for Salvation” as a moot point and see doing good as something a Christians should never even try to get out of. If you love Christ you WILL do good deeds anyway.  This is the Orthodox view of Faith and Works.

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