When I get curious about a topic, I dive into it full force. With Father Phil, I was getting conversations and books to ponder. But I needed more, I was devouring things faster than Father Phil and I were able to meet.
I did not enjoy podcasts prior to this. I had tried a few before, but they never held my interest.
One podcast came to my attention that I fell in love with and listened to on my hour long drives to and from work.
It was a series by Father Andrew Stephen Damick. I was still struggling with the idea of Orthodoxy being the (true church). At one of the services I had attended, an elderly Greek woman who found out I was considering joining said to me, “You’ll love it when you realize that we have the true church.”
Her words were initially received as arrogant. Who was she to say what the ‘true church’ was?
I’ve since come to realize what she meant. I was used to churches claiming this title and meaning that every other church was going to hell. However, Orthodoxy as the “true church” simply points to the fact that this is the church that truly can point back to its apostolic succession as well as the original teachings of the early church fathers.
Orthodoxy takes no stance on the salvation of other churches. My favorite saying I’ve heard is, “We know where the church is, but not where it isn’t.” Meaning that Orthodoxy can point to a parish and say, ‘There is the church!’ But they do not limit where the Spirit of God can be found. There are undoubtedly many Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, etc. who are bound for heaven, just as there are undoubtedly many Orthodox who will never arrive.
This was one thing that I learned from Father Andrew’s series “Orthodoxy vs. Heterodoxy.” In this series, Father Andrew takes a painstakingly detailed survey of the world’s religions and compares them to Orthodoxy. This series has since been published as a book, and Father Andrew is also currently doing an updated version of the series.
This podcast convinced me to go back to the roots of Christianity and look for what occurred during the formative years of the church.
I read through the seven ecumenical councils. I read letters from early church fathers like Clement and Ignatius.
Another point that Father Andrew made that really got to me was that (and this is paraphrased heavily by me) there are two stances you can take with the formation of doctrine. Either we know more today about Christ than the Apostles did, or we know less.
Look at the formation of doctrine from the Catholic Church, it has changed over the course of centuries. “A Catholic in good standing a hundred years ago, would be excommunicated from the church today,” points out Father Andrew. The pope being infallible is one such doctrine that has changed.
Or we can take the Orthodox point of view which always points back to the church fathers. In my two years exploring the church, I’ve never heard Father Phil say, “This is what I think the Bible means.” Instead he says, “The early church fathers say…” and then he provides source material.
Orthodoxy looks backwards to find the truth.
In most churches I have attended, there is not this reliance on the historical church. It struck me how often we read, listen to, and support men who rely totally on their own study of the Bible. I’m not saying that these men are leading people down the wrong path or to hell. But it does take a lot of faith to say, “Yes, this person has it right, I will believe them.” Why do we see so much division today? Who’s right? The Catholics or the Lutherans? Baptists or Calvinists? Anglicans or Evangelicals? Each one eventually goes back to one man who said, “This is what is true.”
Orthodoxy however points back to the apostles or the early church fathers. This foundation has been unmoved in 2000 years.
I know this is a bit of a rabbit trail, but I will leave it simply because this is the thought process that Father Andrew generated within me. His podcast called me to seriously consider what I believe and why. What was my basis for believing one pastor? His call to believe the Church touched a chord in my soul.
If you have not taken time to listen to his podcast, or read his book, I highly recommend them.