"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17

Comparative Theology - Journey from Protestantism Q&A

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Comparative Theology - Journey from Protestantism Q&A Transcription


Christos Annisti; Chirst is risen!


Nice to have you all back here for our Comparative Theology series.

What we are talking about in these next few weeks, is the different types of witness that we can live as Orthodox Christians, and I think, a lot of us live in uh... We live in a very diverse culture with a lot of different belief systems... If everyone can, as quick as we can, find our seats, because it is getting a little distractive...

...with a lot of different belief systems, and it is important to know why you believe what you believe, because sometimes, a different perspective of a faith could make you question as to, "What do I do what I do? This one appeals to me in a different way, this one appeals to my emotions, this one appeals to my intellect, this one appeals to my..."

It is important for us to understand our Orthodox theology, so, here we are, round two, we have Thelo and Anastacia, with us once again, they are converts into Orthodoxy from the Protestant faith, and so, we are blessed to hear their perspective of (...) what they found in Orthodoxy, and what their perspective was that maybe was enlightened, or changed, or perceived in a new way.

We are blessed to have them, so let's give them our attention.


This time it is going to be a question and answer type of session, so they can respond from the different perspective that we might have, or that we might have growing up in a western type of Theology culture. Sometimes even our (...) system gets challenged in this way.

We want to welcome them, and have them sit down.



Abouna, since this is the question and answer with an audience, can we turn the lights on?


Yeah, sure!

Do you want to turn the lights on... in the back...



This is a question and answer, so I would like to be able to see, and connect with people asking questions.

For those who were here: last week we gave kind of a brief rundown of our story of how we moved into Orthodoxy.

We didn't really go into... I think, why Coptic Orthodoxy, but just Orthodoxy generally, so this week we are going to fill the questions that people may have...

Can you get all the lights on?


ABOUNA (whispering to Thelo)

Why don't you wear this (microphone), so they can pass this one around to (the people asking) questions.


THELO and ANASTACIA (whispering back)

Or we can just share that one... We can just go back and fourth...


ABOUNA (Still whispering)

Okay, go ahead...


THELO (to Abouna)

You choose the questioners...



To Thelo: Okay!

To the audience:

If any of you guys have questions, because we want to do Answers and Questions, as to why we do what we do... we have the first question here, and if we could get as many questions as possible, but let's try to be as brief as we can.



I will try Abouna, buuuut... I am who I am, and the questions are wide open.



Hi Thelo, see, you have mentioned (how ) you came to Coptic Orthodoxy, but didn't really say why not Greek or Russian, or any other Orthodox faith. If you could talk about that...



Alright; it was the Kofta! It was amazing! (laughs)

No, seriously; once we had determined that Orthodoxy was the faith handed down from the Apostles, then it became very clear to us, as Americans, we can choose flavor, because we are not really born into or bound to any of the traditions. So, just taking a quick survey of what was out there; the Russians seemed to have the best scholarship. They really  have some brilliant theologians, from what I saw, but I could, buy their books, and access that theology, which I did, and it was very important theology.

The Greeks seemed to be kind of ethnocentric (Anastacia says "Meaning...", like give the meaning of Ethnocentric) centered around the culture, primarily (she is my translator)...

There was an Antiochian church near us, that had been an entire Protestant parish, that converted together, and the pastor had became a priest, and they would have been the ones we would have connected with the most directly, and been familiar to us. But the Coptic church seemed to have the most clear reflection to the early church that we were reading about and had been seeing for many years in the New Testament; The spirit of it seemed to match that early Christian New Testament spirit; the spirit of humility. It is called an ethos, just the... the culture seemed to really reflect this deep religious culture, and it was no surprise, because what was that early Christian community? It was a persecuted Middle-Eastern religious minority. That's how the church was born, and it seemed to have been preserved that way.

Actually, instead of choosing the church we liked the most, that matched us the most, it was kind of a choice to the most opposite from us, because it had the most of what we lacked the most. And, here's we going around talking, it seems like the reverse may have been true as well, so, we thank God, we have something to offer back, but we are here to draw from the Copts, what they have, which means, it can be a fully Arabic liturgy on a weekday in lent, with some of the elder women, and elder men that are maybe infirm or can't walk anymore, whatever, and just the ending in their presence at that liturgy, have a very significant impact in things that can't be taught intellectually, but be absorbed just by being in their presence.



Good! The next question?



Otherwise, I am going to ask questions in the meantime.



Don't be shy, and it can be a question on anything to do with any of these things.



What was kind of the most difficult thing to get over, by joining the Coptic church?



Learning to make Kofta (laughs)

No, I know all roads lead to Kofta, right?

We were... there were multiple "whens", I think that we kind of touched them last week, but the intercession of the saints, the veneration of St. Mary, the ever virginity of St.Mary, the confession to a priest, and icons. I think that those were the biggest troubles that we had.



I think that it is important that when we ask questions, in any of these questions, to distinguish between Coptic and Orthodox; they are not synonyms. So, when someone asks me, so... this was an answer to what was the most difficult thing as a Protestant approaching Orthodoxy, which is a completely different than an American approaching Coptic, meaning, a particular flavor and brand, so I think that is a distinction that I'd like to hear in the questions, so I know which one to answer.



Of course, if anyone wants me to impart on any of those, you can ask more specifically. We have a blonde girl here who has a question.



Distinguishing between Orthodoxy and specifically Coptic; I was in here last Sunday with a friend of mine... shared the clip from your presentation last Sunday... I come from a non-denominational background, and I was trying to understand better; you have commented on kind of the three... I guess, three truths, if you will, that you had to adjust to I guess, that means, salvation by works, and the Eucharist and infant Baptism, and I was wondering... because I feel like I get different answers depending on who I speak to, and it is not clear to me if salvation by works, if that's necessarily in the Coptic tradition, or if it is more Orthodoxy, or if it works in both.



I am going to let Thelo take these, but I am going to give you an example that I always give to my Protestant friends; I currently work in a Protestant ministry, so I speak fluent Protestant, and I come from forty years of Protestantism.


The salvation by works is... whenever I sit with students from local University, and I walk them through the Liturgy, there is always that understanding that we believe that we can be saved by our works, and I always point out to them; listen to how many times we say KiryEleison, listen to how many times we say Lord have Mercy,  if we thought, by any means, that because of our long prayers, because of our three hour liturgies, because of our fasting, that we got this, you know, "I am good, I am in", then why would we be saying "According to your mercy Lord, not according to our sins", we are throwing ourselves on the mercy of God.

The way I usually explain the relationship is that, it is the marriage where the bride is Christ, and that, when I got this ring, that didn't mean that I can just say "Yay, I got the ring, so now I can do whatever I want". Neither does it mean do I come home every day, and I am concerned that my husband is going to leave me, and I say, "I love you husband, please don't divorce me, please don't leave me", so it is neither in. But every day I am protecting my marriage. I have to make wise decisions to protect my marriage. Every day I am saving that marriage, because... Just because I got the ring, doesn't mean, I can't, in my foolishness, and I don't just mean accidental mistakes; but that... I could destroy that marriage, or there wouldn't come a time when Thelo wouldn't draw a line in that, but it would take quite a bit. So, again like, that is an analogy that I give: every day I am doing works on my marriage, but my marriage is by no means about works.



Now, in order to understand... probably most people here would hear a question like that, and not even... it doesn't click, this question of salvation by works. You know but it is actually important to understand the history behind any thought, any proposition, belief system, and see how it came to be what it is.

If we are going to be very honest, Protestantism, though it does has a view that "Yes, we are Biblically centered", I believe that it is truly the heart's desire and intent, the truth is, it wasn't somebody who picked up a book on an island, and never heard anything about this faith, red it and came to all these conclusions; It was born out of something else that was already existent, and that was Roman Catholicism.

In Roman Catholicism, the critic from many, was that... there was this idea that I can just participate in the practices; I can show up to liturgy, partake of communion, do whatever the religious rights, and by those activities, I am going to be saved. Well, obviously, if ... hopefully you realize that is not true, that is not right! This is something that you will see in... forgive me, in the Coptic church, in Orthodox churches, in Lutheran churches, in Presbyterian churches... In any church where generation after generation grows up in it, you can just get caught up in the robotic activities, and not have any truly heartfelt connection to it, and pursue of God on individual basis.

So, what happens is, this concept of works that were calling these things, gets, its Protestants protested against this wrong belief, that just by participating in these practices, you are going to be... you and God are going to be good! Well, we know Jesus went around, pretty much laying around into people for this, and warning them, that, just as if you say "Well, we have Mark for our father, that started our church", and somebody will say, "We have Abraham as our father", He says, this is not going to do it! But we obey the law, yeah, but your heart is a hundred miles from God. So, the Protestants' response was, "Faith alone", it was your faith, you individual belief in God, that mattered, not the activities. Now, initially, Luther... there was a belief in the sacraments, now, immediately is this, each branch of the schism started growing, it got further and further from that, but the basic idea is that..., the idea of these works, and your personal faith, became separated into two categories, which is called being (...). That is the problem. The question is it works that saves or faith, is predicated on the separation of those two, and that is wrong. That is clearly fundamentally wrong!  The very idea of faith, when you look at (...), it is a dynamic ongoing reality. It is not a static thing, it is not a commodity that you attain, and possess, it is... there is so much in that word: Faithfulness, is part of that very concept of faith. What you do, it based on what you believe. Your personal pursuits, your beliefs, your participation in sacraments, all of these things fall under the proper heading of faith. So, when we say faith or works, ... Works fall under the heading of Faith! Why are you separating out these things that properly belong to it, and make it its own category?


And then, infant baptism, it wasn't one of the three; it was baptism itself, as a sacrament, versus just an outward sign. And what she was talking about was; we were just looking at; what did the early Christians believe, and there were a few key points that didn't match, the way we were taught, because you have this personal individual belief now, because... separated away from this other context, and so, when you do that, and you pull it over here, then, the kind of sacramental mindset gets broken apart, that there is the visual sacrament, but it is just an outward symbol, and what really matters is the inward thing that happens within you, because of the emphasis on this personal and individual faith.

Does this make sense to people?



ABOUNA (Question)

We go back to answer also some of the challenges with the Saints; How do you, as Protestants reconcile this understanding that a Saint is not our mediator between us and God, but they are like... How should we as Orthodox, number one, respond to somebody who says "You guys worship the Saints", how did you overcome that challenge?



That is a good question, and it was not easily overcame, and believe it or not, it was a Protestant book that helped me over that hurdle.


First of all (...) now I understand it; we ask each other to pray for each other. I would come to you very easily, and say "Pray for me". But if I can come to you, and say "Pray for me", why would I go to a dead person, and say "Pray for me", right? That just didn't make sense in my old mindset.

Now, understanding when Christ overcame death, and he let the captives in his train, there really isn't "Dead" anymore. There is The Church, there is The Church triumphant, there is The Church militant. There is the church that is here, there is the church that is over there, but it is one Church.

When I said, it was a Protestant book that helped me overcome this; it headed by... Showing of hands; Has anyone ever heard the book, or seen the movie "Heaven is for real"? Okay; That book really moved me, because if you recall, the little boy who died, and then came back, he were only three at the time, he had no doctrinal dog in the fight, and the things that he saw, and the things that he experienced, and he saw his daddy in a closet praying and crying, and he saw his mommy in a hall, on the phone, and he was with Jesus, and he was asking Jesus to please help his daddy, and help his mommy. Well, this is the first time that I am saying, here is a three years old saying this, and I started to see the lack of separation, and yes, I would still ask you as my sister and brother to pray for me, but someone who already is with The Christ, doesn't have the weaknesses and the struggles and the limitations in their prayers and intercessions. So, we can have both and. Why just ask you to pray for me, when I can ask them to pray for me? Now, I don't believe that they are the ones actually answering my prayers, I believe that it is God and His mercy that does that.

These was really the things that, surprisingly helped me get over this.



Now, the intercession of the Saints iconography, quite a number of these all fell into place under one category, and that was the Incarnation. Once that was really understood, as the church understands it, everything else kind of, just fell in to place.

The idea is, in uniting, and the whole point in salvation history, in God uniting humanity to Himself. It removes all these separations, and creates, one... something kind of like... one large organism, that is joined, that is all interconnected, and (...)  20:17 is the proper term, which is interpenetration of person into one another.

The spiritual realm, we get this idea of thinking of it geographically, like, they are up there somewhere, but it is not geographical; it is dimensional. And we are interfacing with that spiritual realm right now! We interfacing with it, but we don't see it. When we begin 20:50 (...) and I believe (...), when we say "Hail to you, hail to you", and we go through this list of Saints, what we are doing is; there is worship session in progress in Heaven, always, and we are coming to join with that worship session, as this physical church, limited by these dimensional plans, and we are joining with those who are unlimited in a higher dimensional plans. So, what we are saying, when we start that "Hail to you, Hail to you", we are greeting them! Like when we walk in the church, and greet one another with the holly kiss, we are giving an honorable greeting, just as the Angels gave an honorable greeting to St. Mary at the Annunciation, we (too) are giving an honorable greeting to those who are already at the throne, worshipping God, and we are joining them in that worship.

But, see, this requires an understanding of what reincarnation meant, that these dividing walls between us and God, were removed, and the dividing walls between one another, as people, as humans, were removed, and that includes those who have gone before us, who are there in His presence, fully witnessing Him and us, we are together! So, all of these things that I had considered separating human expression versus divine, which would be icons, in the unity of God and man in Christ, the problem, I learned... and I came to love humanity for the first time, because the problem wasn't the human; Man versus God, the Human versus Spiritual; the problem was humanity without God. It is not humanity or flesh that was ever the problem! It was the missing part of humanity, when we cut ourselves off from God. So, once we were restored to God, human expression in art form, in all these different ways... once God enters humanity, becomes proper human expression of worship, and that is a good thing! It is good to be human now, because God is in us, and the expressions that before we had identified as just human... I mean, keep in mind, in the Old Testament..., the sacrificial system, and all those things, they were already in place! They were already there in the pagan world; God utilized those human expressions to convey things to humanity.

Humanity is not bad.



My question was; you had mentioned last week about your... How confession was a little bit hard for your to resolve in your mind, so I wanted you to kind of discuss a little bit about how... how... you know, what do you think about it now, and what helped you to see it... like the importance of a Priest and the sacraments.



Sure, sure!

Last week I had mentioned that confession was really difficult for me, because there is one mediator between man and God, and that is Christ Jesus alone, so from my previous learning, my previous understanding, it was... to take confession to a priest, or to give confession to a priest, would be to put a man between me and Christ, and to say that what Jesus did on the cross was not sufficient for me to go directly to God.

So, let me first unpack the misunderstanding that ever in our church, they would say, you can't go directly to God. They are constantly are encouraging our prayers; as a matter of fact, we have a book of prayers, we were supposed to pray every day, and so, they are definitely constantly wanting us before God. But still, there is a problem, and the answer was... the simplest answer... there was one of those things... God, it was so simple! I heard one of our Priests say "There is only one mediator between God and man, and that is Christ Jesus, but there are intercessors", so, that is what a priest is, he is an intercessor; he intercedes on our behalf, he is not the mediator, he is not the one that died on the cross for us. We do, again, pray for one another, but a priest has a special Chrismation on him, and a special responsibility on him, and authority, and... Chrismation is kind of a hard thing to unpack, but... he is a special guy, let's say that, and he is a physical representation of Christ for us, because...

You may not need this, and I am saying this honestly, but I need it. I need somebody that is Physical here, that he is telling me that God has forgiven my sins. I also need somebody that is physical to tell me, what do I do.

If anybody here is not of the Coptic faith, I want to delineate a little bit to how our confession is different than the Roman Catholicism confession; Ours is not a punitive where there is a crime and a punishment, where we committed sin and therefore the punishment, or the payment has to be x-number of "Our Father's", x-number of "Hail Marie's", and then you pay off that sin.

Ours is... I would be sitting with my priest, and then I would say , you know, "I am struggling with judging this woman at work", and he will say , well, "Every time you see her, pray that God pours out blessing on her". So, this one is holistic, and it is healing, it is... and then I can come back, and I can say, this worked, or this didn't work, and it is his job to help, heal that wound, and to heal that relationship between me and God.



I would add just one personal note, that for the person who has the objection in the first place, I would ask that person, "Look in word, and take some time and contemplate; is this really a theological objection? Is this really an offense that,.. you know... "I want to go to the higher; How dare you put in the lower in the way?", or is there something in us of our pride that we don't want to deal with?" And here is the example... I am not going to be graphic, but I am going to say; there are sins men do privately, and women have things that they say to other women, or do privately, that if you knew your priest was sitting right next to you, visibly, your priest was right there, you wouldn't do those! You would have never done that with your priest next to you, Ever, and you would never think of it! Well, so where is this idea, "Oh, but it is higher to just go to God"... but you do it with God next to you... we do it, the things we do, with God next to us! We say things to each other, or may treat another person or spouse a certain way, with God next to us, that we would never think of doing with Abouna next to us! Why is that? Because in reality, we have a weakness. We have a brokenness that makes us dull to the reality of the presence of God. (Therefore) the priest's presence is a sensitivity, because we are sharply aware (that) our priest is present with us. So, I would ask us to kind of search and ask, "Why is it that I wouldn't want to say in front of a priest? Is it my pride and my embarrassment? Because if this was as higher as it should be, with God, (then) why is it we do things in front of Him all the time that we would never do in front of a priest, or a pastor (for that matter's sake)?



There is also a question over this... 



I think it is the one on that side...



So, you spoke about why you chose the Coptic church in specific, but I am just wondering; is there something that you think that the Coptic church is lacking, like in comparison to other Orthodox faiths, even non-denominational churches? Is there something in the Coptic culture that is like a stumbling block, that you see, like... for someone who is coming and looking into the Coptic faith?



The thing that I have noticed is that... that is a good question, by the way... The thing that I have noticed is... a lack of understanding of our own faith. We get all the time "How come you guys know so much, and you have been in the church five years, and I have grown up in the church, and I don't know this?" Well, this is because, when we entered in, we looked at the price tag, and it was a really really a high price tag, so we had to decide, this is something that we really wanted to do. So, we were forced to study it, but, it is a two-part thing that when you don't know your own faith, or when we don't know our own faith, we can't share  it with others. When we don't know our own faith, we are not even getting the richness of it for ourselves. You know, I talked about it before, and this is something that everybody knows, the red carpet, and how it represents the blood of Christ and the blood of the Saints. Just that alone, if you were to drift off,... I know none of us drift off when Abouna is talking, ever, but if you were to drift off, just contemplating on the carpet alone, knowing it representing the blood of the Christ, and the blood of the Saints, "this is the foundation of the church", you could contemplate on that for how long? Let alone how rich this entire liturgy and this entire faith is..., that is what I would wish for our Coptic people to learn about our faith.


Speaking in general terms, actually, I could answer this in another way; "Is there anything lacking in the Coptic church", and I would answer, "Not one single minuscule thing is missing in the church". It may be sitting on a shelf, collecting dust, and it is not getting used, but it is there! And if you look around, there maybe somebody who is taking it off the shelf and using it, but generally it is not being used.

My point is, it is all here, you are just not necessarily taking it and doing it and using it. The fact that we were talking about, you know, connecting and sharing your faith missional, that is not like... "Oh, this is one way to do Christianity", that is the essence of Christianity, it is missional! Sharing your faith with others! So, it is here! Just, pick it up and start using it!



Okay, another question? Yes?



There is another over here, he's been waiting for quite a while...



I have two questions if you don't mind. One is that, in any church or religion, you get now and then a new movement, like "The end is near, the world is bad, we have to follow a leader and do something". How, do you counter that? How do you deal with it (if you have seen it before).

May I ask the second question, or wait?



Go ahead, ask both (please).



Okay, the second question is simply; How many different versions of repentance have you seen, and what are the main ones?



How many different versions of repentance have I seen? Okay, I will let Thelo...



How many different interpretations of the life of repentance, or the process of repentance itself between the different churches are out there.



Okay, I will take the first question about the end, Escathology; it is the study of event and times. During lent, I had four different people who were close to me pass away. So, with that, it is telling me, is that it is always the end of times. It is always... We don't know if on our way home we are going to be hit by a car. We can study... this is... I am going to go completely... from my own personal opinion; we can study the book of Revelations, we can study the other books of The Bible, we can study in Mathew, where the signs of the end of the times are given, but, everything that we need, has already been given to us in the Sacraments. Everything that we need,... we just need to be living doing... living faithfully on a day to day basis, with what we already have. I wouldn't get too caught up in... is Jesus coming soon, because you might be going to Him sooner than He is coming back to you.

I am sorry if that was a soft answer, but that is really how I feel about it...



Whenever there is the buzz going on about... you know, people reading the (...) 34:20 and watching the news and saying "This is it"... I think your question was self-answering. We have been through this before, about the (...) 34:30 times. So, with any question I would say, "What did people before say?" and just settle there.

When Christ comes, you are going to know, because, what do we say in the Creed? (OBS: The Nicene Creed. Transcriber.) "He is coming again in His glory", to do what? "To judge the living and the dead". So, according to what the whole church settled upon, after a little bit of discussion, and remained settled upon, since the early centuries, is when he comes..., oh, you're not going to miss it, don't worry! It is not going to be... You will know it, and it is the end, and the judgment happens! But I think Anastacia's point is the bigger one! You might meet Him today. You should be prepared for that, because you could meet Him today, and that is not Him coming, that could be you going. That is the bigger point.


Forms of repentance... within the different churches, you mean, or within...






Honestly, again, I go back to what does that church says. See, I am going under the presumption that Jesus Christ accomplished his goal. That's my starting point, and if he accomplished his goal, then he joined humanity to his divinity, and he said, where you will find the spirit that he were sending to dwell in humanity, so the unification of humanity with divinity by the spirit of God, he said where would it be? In the churches, that the apostles established! He said "Look there, there it is?" So, what I do, is I look at history, and say, "What did they say?" If I see something coming through, that is held by all, that developes, maybe early, but then it sustained and affirmed by all, and stays that way, throughout, if that is not the spirit of God speaking in His people, what makes me think I am going to have a larger share of the spirit of God, than some total of  every Christians, for you know, thousand, twelve hundred, whatever year period, all of them put together, I am going to have a bigger share in it, than they did? So, I am going to start just by listening to them; What did they say about repentance? What did they say? That is virtually... every question I encounter, that is my starting point.



Then we had a question over here... yes?



Yes... I would like for you to elaborate a little bit on the Orthodox concept of Heaven and Hell, because I think it is very different from the Protestant version, and then, that goes to mission, because the starting point of the Protestant mission is, "Do you realize that you are going to Hell? You've got an eternal soul, and it is going to spend an eternity in Hell, unless you do this, and say this prayer. So, my fear is that we are starting to "Protestantise" our understanding,  especially of what Hell is.



Okay, probably we are going have enough time for your question and maybe one or two after this, so if our answers are too short, we can take it afterward.


It is really is sticky wicked, because from what I read about Hell in Orthodoxy, there is a number of different views, so I would feel more comfortable if you (elaborated on) this a little bit more.



Honestly, the various pictures and views of Heaven and Hell, are questions about an existence on multi-dimensions that we don't even have access to. We don't know what it is to live in this added dimensional spiritual reality, so any language that it is going to be given to us, is going to be analogical language... Analogy...



Can I... Let me jump in real quick...

When we are talking about extra dimensions or multi dimensional, you know, outside of the three dimensions that we live in, plus time being the fourth dimension, let me give you a quick example as to what the difference that one dimension would make, okay:

As if you were in a two dimensional world, and we would call this Flatland; everything is flat; then somebody from Flatland is to come to our Three-Dimensional world, and he sees this microphone, and he sees a cylinder, now he goes back to Flatland, and he talks about this shape that is a circle, but is also a straight line. Everybody in Flatland would say, "This is a contradiction! You cannot have a flat line and a circle at the same time!" Yet this character from Flatland would say, "Yet it exists!", and for us in the Three-Dimensional world, it is not mysterious it is not mystical, and it is not mind-bending, it is simply a cylinder. So, if you can imagine the difference of adding three more, four more, five more dimensions, what that might do in the concept of what we are talking about with Hell.



The definition of Heaven and Hell, being just an analogies to the best we can grasp, there are some different views that are given... "Theolagum" is the honest term, there are kind of different concepts and perspectives given of what that is, but I think more important is the other part of your question, which is, "You are going to hell, unless you ... you know, accept Jesus", and it is based in "In the name of Jesus you are saved" but, that very concept "In the name of Jesus", is taken in the very wooden and literal way, meaning "This actual name", but we understand that to be more like, "All things that are Christ", is what saves us. So, we as Orthodox believe that the judgment is ultimately about, how you responded to the light that you have. So if you are pursuing God, to the best of your abilities, you are interacting with God. As a matter of fact, if you are just rationally thinking, and existing, you are interacting with God. It is just a matter of how much closer are you are moving in that interaction towards God, and are you on a course... My step-Abouna, since my Abouna is out of town, is an engineer who says, "I am not concerned about your vector, it is your trajectory that concerns me. It is not where you are, it is where you are going". So, I think this is the bigger difference, that we understand; if your trajectory, if your movement is continuously toward God, this is the thing, and even before you enter into the church, or enter into Christ, you are already responding to Him, that is how you got there, that is how you came to the door, and that is how you got to the Baptistery, so, you are already responding to God, and the Christ to the best of your ability, or you can be within the Church, and not be responding, and moving away, it is a matter of movement, it is relational and dynamic, it is not a two-category model. In Orthodoxy, it is a movement model, toward or away from.



That is a theme that is... it is not clear... okay, hold on one second, we have our resident theologian...



This is my Godfather (...) a Theologian.



Luke 17 is very clear: The Kingdom of God is within you. That ties back to the notion of incarnation. Specially speaking, dimensionally speaking, the Kingdom of Heaven, or Hell, is not forty-two acres by sixty-six, because God is everywhere. If you put Hell outside of God, then there is something bigger that holds God and Hell, so it is not a space, it is a state of being. What is the state of being? Who is the being? God! So, if God is now one with humanity, then, God is in men, and this is the Kingdom of Heaven, where you are united eternally in Him. If you, sincerely give a good explanation, he says, "If we are all in one room, and there is one source of light, if your eyes are good, you are going to look at the light, and realize that everyone is sitting around you, and you can shake hands, and talk to everyone, but if your eyes are diseased), the light is not going anywhere. The light will still be in the room, but you are going to close your eyes, because you cannot (stand to look at) the light. And so you are going to imprison yourself in your own imaginary world, about what other people are doing. So, you are going to close your eyes, or turn your back to the light, because you cannot stand (to look at) it. Does this change my location? No, I am still in the presence of light, but my state of being is that I have encapsulated myself, into my own reality, and I have put myself in Hades! That is why, St. Gregory of Nicaea, the women in his church went to him, and said, "So, what you are saying is that, when we are in heaven, we are going to see our kids in Hades, but we are not going to feel enough love to go and free them?" He started laughing at them, and he said, "Do you think that you have more love than God?"

Actually, the imagery that he gave is, those who are in Hades, Christ is kneeling down next to them, and pulling on their garb, and saying, "Hey, I love you! I love you! Can you reciprocate love?" And that is hell: that you are not able to reciprocate love, you are unable to open your eyes and perceive light. It is not (a physical place).



And in all these things, it is always important to remember, even this is analogy. Everything is analogy, because we don't have direct access to that state of existence and being, to be able to even perceive it completely, much less to communicate it. It is analogous to our understanding, and this is the best imagery a person can use to convey it.



I have a question with regard to our children and our friends that...



Can you raise your hand (please), where are you?



I am here...



Okay, Hi!



...that have actually gone to the Protestants' side. How do we win them back?

What do we do? What do we say? A lot of times we find ourselves at a loss. Other than saying: "This is the church where we grew up, you need to come back". Aside from education, what else do we say? How do we convince them? How do we win them back?



Okay, and this is our last question, thank you for that.

(My children also are Protestants), and I remember when I converted to Orthodoxy, they said, "What are you doing,  converting from Christianity to Christianity? What is the difference?" I think that there is the big question: What is the difference? I go back to my response to this young lady: We need to first... None understands our faith. Actually that is probably the second thing we need to do, the first thing is trust God and pray. That is the first thing we need to do, is trust God and pray, and... It is not a panic situation... Then we need to learn our own faith and as we learn our own faith, then we share what are those differences, and why are they important.

Did you have something in mind?



Real quickly: if there are Protestants in the room, that are hearing some of these things, I would ask you very humbly... I know there are things that are not going to get conveyed properly, because of how short we have to give the answers, so if you felt in any way offended by anything that we have said, we want to say (Anastacia: come to us!) please come and ask us (Anastacia: Please, please, please!) for clarification, and we can help (Anastacia: Yeah!).


Now, as far as your question... More importantly, not just about the ones who have gone, but what about the ones who might go... There is one thing that I have kind of pointed out to people, that I think is of value: There is a lot of people who have left Orthodoxy, and gone to Protestantism, because it is more compelling, interactive, personal, there is much more experience, all these personal interaction reasons.

There are a number of Protestants who have left and entered Orthodoxy, because they married this gorgeous Egyptian woman, and so they had to get baptized to get married.

There are actually a list of very prominent and important Protestant Theologians and Scholars, very notable ones, and one just happened, that have converted to Orthodoxy.

But I have challenged countless times to many very close Protestant friends: "Show me the Orthodoxy Theologian or Scholar who have converted out", and I am yet to see one single person who that converted out, once they were scholars and theologians!

What I am drawing from that is; if we train our children in our own faith properly, thoroughly, and exhaustively, there is no new information they are going to encounter.

Everyone of us Protestants converts who came in through study, it is the exact same story. We got introduced to Church history, because we were so Biblically centered and... Again, commendation to people who spend that much time studying the Bible, it is wonderful! But it is so solely focused on the Bible, we never even encountered Church history, and when we do, and we start asking questions, and moving that road, everyone of us that I have encountered, that have converted to Orthodoxy through studying, the new information was Church History. But to an Orthodox, who really knows his faith, there is no new information that you can introduce.



Alright, Abouna, we are about five minutes over, so, I thank you for your patience... Yes.



Stand up and pray for those who have to go, obviously you can go and get your kids. We'll keep some of these chairs up here in the front, and you guys can sit and continue to answer...



We'll be here as long as you want us to.




Transcribed by jeanounou (December 2017)