St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Wednesday, November 05, 2003 ::

Tough Inquirer Questions

"If Orthodoxy is so great, why haven't I heard of it?"

"If the Orthodox Church has preserved the fullness of the Faith, why are there so many good people not a part of it?"

"If I see so much fruit in other faiths, how can the Orthodox claim to be the true faith?"

These are kinds of questions I've gotten so many times from so many different people, I'm really curious to know how others have dealt with this particular line of thought in conversation and/or come to grips with these questions themselves. Briefly, it is obvious there are several problems with the above questions.

First, they deny the path that God has created for us to follow is a narrow one, and render the implications of Matt. 7:13-14 functionally obsolete. Second, they relegate the truth of Jesus' words in John 21:22 to everyone except the questioner, which is exaclty the opposite of Jesus' point. Third, there is a basic philosophical error embedded within the heart of these questions. I call it the "Peak-a-boo Syndrome." It comes down to this:

--Whatever I do not see does not really exist or is not or can not be really true--

Thus, if I or my loved ones have not found Orthodoxy, it

A. Does not really exist (i.e. "The Church was destroyed by Constantine and can be rebuilt and recreated by [fill in the blank movement du jour]) or
B. Can be defined in terms of whatever I'm doing at the moment. ("I believe in the Nicene Creed, just like the Orthodox, even though I mean someting totaly different by the words. But I'm just as much a Nicean Christian as the Orthodox.")

When confronted with this line of thought, sometimes I try to delve into the false assumptions that the questions are based on (for example, debunking the kind of soteriology that sends people to hell for being innocently ignorant). Some people find the answer of "We know where the Church is, not where it isn't" the perfect way of answering these questions. In other cases I just point out that the answer they want is meaningless if one fails to realize that no matter what was in the past or in other people's lives, the person asking the question is facing Orthodoxy NOW. Each case, each person asking these questions needs to hear different facets of the answer.

I have used a wide variety of approaches in trying to answer these questions in the past, but have always remained ultimately stumped as to why this particular line of thought is so pervasive and important to some people. For me, it is a very foreign way of judging truth claims.

So now I ask you, dear reader: Have you ever been asked any of the first three questions I listed at the start of this post? How did you handle the situation? Have you ever asked these questions yourself? What resolution did you come to?

Update: James has a few answers.

:: Karl :: 8:44:00 AM [Link] ::

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