If I seem to avoid Church arguments on this blog site, there is a reason. For one, debates between Orthodox and Roman Catholics (or Orthodox and others) are interminable and unresolvable on the level of the internet. Most of us are arguing about things in abstract and are thus engaging in useless arguments. Secondly, it really is not the point. I believe the Orthodox faith and hold it to be the truth. But I did not reach that conclusion through argumentation but by a very different route. I believe in a “good God who loves mankind,” to quote from the blessing so often given in Orthodox services. Thus I have no fear that God is seeking to make any of us pass a special test or is purposely making salvation to be a difficult thing.
Instead, I believe most profoundly from my own personal experience, as well as nearly 30 years of pastoring people, that we stand on the edge of an existential abyss. It is God alone who sustains us and He alone is the Lord and giver of life. Apart from God we not only can do nothing – we verge on becoming nothing (though God in His goodness does not begrudge us our existence and thus does not take even that from us). But in our lives we often are standing in relationships and situations which place us in opposition to God and thus in opposition to our own existence – and this opposition is frequently at the point of criticality.
Repentance is the turning away from the madness of our flirtation with non-existence and turning to the true and living God, the Father of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. Repentance and life in communion with God are not in themselves difficult – but being loosed from our death-wish and our drive towards a depersonalized and meontic hell – can be difficult in the extreme.
Thus, most of my writing is aimed towards the goal of our salvation in the Truth. I do not mind if Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists or Animists (or Atheists) are saved. In accordance with the will of God, I would that all men be saved, thus I do not begrudge anyone any amount of the truth they may perceive. But I believe that the fullness of Truth and the fullness of our existence are made known to us only in the incarnate God-Man, Christ Jesus, and that the fullness of His teaching and Life are found ultimately only in the historic and living Orthodox faith.
But that itself is only the means or a description of what I believe God has done for us – the goal is union with God in Christ – to be drawn away from the abyss of self-destruction and to be united to the Good God and become ourselves the lovers of mankind.
Thus much of my writing is pointed towards prayer, towards forgiveness, towards a greater understanding of our culture and how we are drawn away from the Good God. Those who read this blog or listen to my podcasts (which are generally taken from this blog), will know that I hold in the highest regard my deceased father-in-law, who was a Baptist deacon, and whom I number among the most faithful and extraordinary Christians I have had the good pleasure to know. This is not a question of ecumenism, but simply of knowing a friend of God when I meet him. Those who refuse to recognize such friends are in serious delusion and are not perceiving the world in the manner vouchsafed us in the lives of the Saints.
Readers will also note that I have no ecumenical speculation in my writings. I seek only to be a faithful, and increasingly simple, Orthodox priest. God has not set me in a position to make decisions about matters ecumenical. He has set me in a place to pray for all as though they were my own self and to understand that I am the worst of all sinners. But in that, He has called me to be a faithful Orthodox priest. I have made solemn vows and promises to God and been set with very specific responsibilities that I dare not ignore and I never want to become so clever that I can see my way around any of those promises and responsibilities.
But everything – all that is – is rightly centered and focused in God. There are a million distractions to be found in the world of religion – each of which is not God. Only those things that draw me to God are of use to me or anyone else through me on any given day. Only if I give myself to God will I be of use to anyone else. And only if this ministry draws people to the true and living God will it have been in the least bit useful.
I have been blessed in the past year (almost two) to have received many encouraging notes and emails that make me believe that some small part of what I hope is actually being fulfilled and the time that I spend in this form of ministry is, in fact, of God.
But I quote Fr. Thomas Hopko, who in retirement seems more focused than ever on the simple message that we should “remember, it’s all really about God.”