Seeking Salvation: Part II of a Response to NeoTheologue
Neo wrote, "The clear Apostolic teaching here is that in this period of time which began with Pentecost, God is pouring out His Spirit on any individual who comes to him through faith in Christ, seeking salvation...."
Of course. Nobody is disputing this. However these are loaded terms that beg many questions: what does it actually mean to "come to him through faith in Christ seeking salvation"? Does the individual believer get to define the terms or does he submit in humility to that which God established? What exactly is salvation? Historically, how has the Church understood this seeking and this faith? Etc....
The first thing we would say is that Jesus Christ did not come to establish such a thing as "Christianity." What he did establish was His Church. The word "ecclesia" appears one hundred and ten times in the New Testament, while such words as "Christianity" and similar positive generalities about a vaguely defined collection of "believers" are not found in the Bible at all. In fact, when sincere believers are found who do not have the fullness of the faith, they are *not* considered equal participants in the Faith until they have been properly brought into the one, unified Church (Acts 18:24-26).
Met. John Zizioulas writes about this in his seminal work ("Being as Communion") when he says, "The communion which man seeks with God is to be found in the Church, something which St. Paul calls a great mystery, in which we become members of Christ: of His flesh, and of His bones. (Ephesians 5:30,32) Ecclesial being is bound to the very being of God. From the fact that a human being is a member of the Church, he becomes an "image of God, he takes on God�s way of being; becoming a partaker of the divine nature (1Pet. 1:4). This way of being is not a moral attainment, something that man accomplishes. It is a way of relationship with the world, with other people and with God, an event of communion. That is why it cannot be realized as the achievement of an individual, but only as an ecclesial reality."
This distinction between "Christianity" and "The Church" is a critical concept and reality most western Christians need to understand. The Church is not an insitution made by men, nor is it an idealogy, nor a self-help program, nor a group of people with like-minded personalities, nor even a group of people with individual relationships with Jesus! Sadly this is how most would describe "Christianity" because that has been their only experience. The Orthodox experience and 2000 year teaching is far different.