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Re: Wondering about Orthodoxy

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Ephraim
August 21, 2003 07:29PM
Dan,

If I may offer an observation on your post, I think most of what you say has merit in terms of addressing the issue of apostolic succession. However, I think it important to keep this subject in perspective. You allude to corruption in the selection of bishops in Church history. While I cannot defend the Roman Catholic arguments regarding apostolic succession, due to the fact that their doctrine has been heretical since the Great Schism (their claim of papal infallibility is just one clear example that they have gone astray from the true Church), I truly feel differently regarding the Orthodox Church.

No man is infallible, regardless of whom is given as an example of being "blameless." Only in Christ, the only begotten son of God, was there a living man worthy of being deemed infallible. Therefore, as I see it, even though your examples show instances of corruption in the selection of bishops, it by no means gives us good reason to discard the belief that the teachings of the apostles as we know it are incorrect. Why throw the baby out with the bath water? Why condemn the masses for the actions of a few? Should we manage to exceptions only and not the rule? Certainly not.

Additionally, the actions of some men (the exceptions) should not be used in judging whether or not apostolic succession has been broken. Perhaps at some point, it has been temporarily tainted; but such instances should not be intentionally magnified because the instances where bishops have been rightfully ordained far outnumber the ones where they have not. There will always be infiltrations such as the examples you pointed out in the Church; however, it is those who have been faithful in their sacramental service to the Church (the rule) who should be commended for keeping the apostolic teachings true--hence the reason why we still use the word Orthodox.

Moreover, my understanding of the Orthodox Church's point of view is that the oral tradition that you mentioned as being "fallible," is actually where the "infallible" apostolic teachings come from to begin with! Yes, the Church existed for more than 500 years before the Holy book of scripture known as the Bible was assembled! When you are reading the teachings of the apostles in writing, you are hearing the oral traditions that have been faithfully kept for many, many generations. If you believe them, you should have no problem believing the oral traditions. So much of what was written in the past has been lost, but the words in those lost writings still live in our oral tradition.

It is far easier to be skeptical about such an issue than to accept it as the true teachings of the apostles. But if we give in to such skepticism, it is merely a reflection of the state in which our hearts and minds exist. As such, we should not allow our hearts to be hardened by pride or rebelliousness. When we choose to overlook certain facts, or perhaps unintentionally lose perspective on the history of the Church, we tread on the dangerous waters of heresy.

Now, I sense that you are well read, and that you no doubt are very intelligent. Please do not take this message as a hostile one. My only wish for you is that you try and step away from all the "religious conditioning" that you may have been taught already, and make a conscious effort to see the Orthodox Church from a more un-biased viewpoint.

Best wishes and God bless,

R. Ephraim
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Wondering about Orthodoxy

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