The beauty and tragedy of Christianity

The group I am with teaching in Ethiopia visited an Orthodox Church and monastery yesterday. It was a visit revealing both the beauty and tragedy of Orthodox Christianity. I have studied Orthodox Christianity over the years and have a deep appreciation for the beauty that led to the liturgies they now have. Were it not for the Orthodox Church, we would not have settled major doctrines like the person and deity of Christ, or come up with concepts wrapped in a word like “Trinity.” Continue reading “The beauty and tragedy of Christianity”

The Essence of Christianity — Orthodox Style

The interview in Christianity Today with Bishop Kallistos Ware is an interesting read. Here is the bishop’s take (in a Q&A format) on the essence of Christianity:

If I were to meet you on a train and ask you, “What is the center of the Christian message?,” how would you succinctly put that?

I would answer, “I believe in a God who loves humankind so intensely, so totally, that he chose himself to become human. Therefore, I believe in Jesus Christ as fully and truly God, but also totally and unreservedly one of us, fully human.” And I would say to you, “The love of God is so great that Christ died for us on the cross. But love is stronger than death, and so the death of Jesus was followed by his resurrection. I am a Christian because I believe in the great love of God that led him to become incarnate, to die, and to rise again.” That’s my faith. All of this is made immediate to us through the continuing action of the Holy Spirit.

 

Evangelism — Orthodox and “Evangelical”

I have not been a fan of using church services alone to “evangelize.” A worship service is for…well… worship. It’s FOR Christ. Not us. But that’s just me. Obviously. 😉

This interview with Bishop Kallistos Ware (bishop of the Orthodox Church in England) is a good read. I like this exchange on “evangelism”:

To draw in the unchurched, evangelical churches often strip away things that might be mysterious or strange. But when you invite someone into an Orthodox liturgy, you hit them full-on with strange symbolism and unfamiliar words.

Yes, and let them understand what God gives them to understand. Throw them in at the deep end of the swimming pool and see what happens. That is very much our Orthodox approach. I would not want to offer a watered-down version of Orthodoxy.

The basic rules of Christianity, our relation to Christ, are very simple. Because they are simple they are also often difficult to understand.

On the other hand, we should not be content with a bare minimum. We should offer people the fullness of the faith in all its diversity and depth. I would wish people, when they come to the Orthodox liturgy, not to think that they understand everything the first time. I hope, rather, that they have an experience of mystery, a sense of awe and wonder. If we lose that from our worship, we have lost something very precious.