An Orthodox priest critiques protestants for not being Protestant enough. Kind of. At least, it almost sounds like the first line of Martin Luther’s famous 95 Theses:
- # When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
The difference seems to be that the Orthodox church teaches that the way to maintaining a life of repentance is to maintain some level of doubt about your final state. Not repenting much today? It’s because you’re turning a little less toward heaven, a little more toward hell.
He contrasts this with a typical Protestant concept of salvation of something that was accomplished with a little act, or a little ascent. I signed that card 35 years ago, and so I am a Christian. Of course, that isn’t a Protestant teaching at all, but a lot of Protestants don’t know it.
Friend, if you are a Christian, your final state is sure:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It’s hardly fair to say that none of those things can derail me from salvation, but that I can derail myself! “My capacity for sin is greater than His ability to save.” It just doesn’t stand. He is the one who saves, among other things by putting repentance in my heart.
I will agree with Fr. Stephen in this: it’s a lot easier to confess to general sin, than to specific sins, no matter what the setting. And a life that isn’t marked by perpetual repentance is a life heading away from heaven. But my confidence is in Christ, and not in my repentance meter:
AS virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“Now his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”
Like a bad dad watching his baby’s birth through the contraction monitor, it misses the whole point.