Outside of an occasional reference, I have avoided much in the way of my personal "conversion story" on these pages. First of all, it's too soon. Like one of my history professors said about the study of the Vietnam War: "It's not history yet." A certain time has to pass to reflect, and put events in proper perspective. Second, the fact that a person believes differently than before naturally infers that they believe their current belief to be superior. To feel the need to automatically defend the decision perhaps suggests more of a need to convince yourself than others. Finally, unless approached with care, such efforts can come across as triumphalist, which destroys any good that was intended.
That being said, I feel compelled, nevertheless, to toss a pebble or two in the direction of my old religious affiliation, the Churches of Christ. I owe much to these churches. Ultimately, they primed me for the fullness of Orthodoxy. I seriously doubt if I would have become Orthodox, save for my Church of Christ background.
But as a close friend and former preacher (Tim) told me recently, "you were never a good fit." And I suppose he was right. I always felt ill at ease with a number of things, not the least being much of our terminology. Our language seemed to convey the idea that we worshipped scripture itself, rather than He to whom scripture testified. I vividly recall the matriarch of our little church always saying that "we had to get back to the word," as she would peck on the cover of her Bible with her finger. Scripture--the word, if you will--was emphasized repeatedly--the Word, not so much. This summer, my wife and I were travelling in Arkansas. As my wife remains a faithful Church of Christ member(and Orthodox churches being as scarce as hen's teeth in Arkansas), we attended a worship service at an upscale Little Rock congregation. I followed along as the preacher gave an edifying talk taken from the Parable of the Prodigal. Amazingly, the name of Jesus Christ was not mentioned once--not a single time--not even in the "invitation" afterwards. It was all as dry as toast.
This seems so strange to me now, for in Orthodoxy, our worship is absolutely saturated in scripture, while at the same time it is Christocentric to a degree that I could have never imaged before. What led to this reflection on my part was (as always, it seems) an article in the paper. I actually read all the little ads in the Dallas Morning News Religion section. One of the Church of Christ advertisements got to me a bit. This particular congregatin set it out as plain as can be:
The Church and the Bible
Some people believe the Church gave us the Bible; that at some time in history religious leaders pronounced the 27 books of the New Testament inspired by God. Prior to this pronouncement, they think the books of the Bible were merely human writings. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The church did not give us the bible, the word of God gave us the church. God's word is the seed of the kingdom (Luke 8:11). It carries its own authority. All humans can do is recognize what is already inherently true about Scripture--that it is the inspired, authoritative word of the living God.
Join us Thursday at 7:00 PM for a workshop on how the Old and New Testaments have been preserved for us.
To me, this little statement encapsulates the worship of scripture. And it is just so misguided--wrong--on so many different theological and historical levels that one really doesn't know where to begin. Any thoughts?