AM I SAVED?
Therapeutic Tradition of the Church
Most of us have been asked the question, “are you saved?”, at least once in our life. Having its origin in the Protestant soteriology (doctrine of salvation), this question has clearly become part of our American cultural lexicon. The question is often asked by Evangelical Christians as a way of establishing whether we are fellow “born again” Christians, and therefore fellow believers.
Being able to answer in the affirmative clearly gives the “born again” Christian a sense of security. That one believes a single moment that a declaration of Jesus Christ as one’s savior, guarantees eternal life, would be comforting. Yet for the Orthodox Christian, the question can be disconcerting, even awkward, for we would never presume to think of ourselves as “saved”. We could say we are saved, being saved, and hope to be saved, but we would never be so presumptuous as to declare we are saved.Like our evangelical friends, we Orthodox Christians understood Christ’s death on the cross was accomplished for our salvation, and that salvation is a gift. We know that we are not saved by our works, and that we, “having been justified by faith (Romans 5:1)”, and are totally dependent on God’s mercy for our salvation. Yet we have a parting of the ways when it comes to the theology of redemption.As Orthodox Christians the moment we declare our faith in Christ, is the moment we begin our journey. The Holy Spirit imparts the gift of grace, and we begin to participate in the divine energies of God, that we might be transformed and made whole.
Only in Orthodoxy do we find a “therapeutic treatment” tradition. Like the Ancient Church, we believe that an intellectual acceptance of Christ as our Savior is only the beginning of a life journey into the Heart of God. At the moment we declare Christ as our savior, the therapy begins, and we are drawn into the hospital of the soul (the Church), wherein we begin the transformation that leads to deification. The analogous “treatment” of our personality begins at the moment of our declaration, but is completed only with our cooperation with God’s grace.
The Holy Scriptures make it clear that faith comes by hearing the Word and by experiencing “theoria” (the vision of God). We accept Christ in the beginning by hearing the Word and seek Him out in order to be healed. The attainment of theoria, saves man. Because evangelicals believe the acceptance of Christ saves man, the Orthodox concept of a “therapeutic tradition”, is foreign to them.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we see the image of Christ who cures the wounded man by leading him to the Inn, which is the Church. Christ is the physician who cures, and the cure takes place within the hospital, which is the Church. We can not say that we are saved, for we have been given this life wherein we are to cooperate with God’s grace, and be transformed into His likeness, that we might be capable of spending eternity in His Divine Presence, without being burned.
With love in Christ,
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“Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but much more now in my absence,) with fear and trembling work out your salvation. For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will. And do ye all things without murmurings and hesitations; That you may be blameless, and sincere children of God, without reproof, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
— Philippians 2:12-15 (Douay-Reims 1899 American edition).
The Very Reverend Igumen Abbot Tryphon is the spiritual leader at All Merciful Saviour monastery located on Vashon Island in Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington State. The monastery is within the canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The monastery’s widely acclaimed and popular Facebook page can be found here. Abbot Tryphon’s popular blog can be accessed here.