As many of my friends know, there have been some interesting developments in my faith life recently, and some of you might be curious to know how things are working out. In short, after years as a Baptist, I decided to join the Anglican Church. I am now finding in the Orthodox Church what I was looking for in Anglicanism, and fully intend on joining it. Now for the long version...
As a Baptist, I found a few positive things in my denomination which I could take comfort in. While learning about Church history, even from my Catholic high school, I learned that infant baptism was avoided during a certain period in the early church. Baptists distinguished themselves in history by championing freedom of conscience and not slaughtering other Christians during the Medieval period.
However, there is one issue in particular which was difficult for me to reconcile with the Baptists. Baylor would often send out emails to Religion majors, offering internships and volunteer opportunities at Baptist churches. Whenever I would check out a church's statement of beliefs, it would nearly always include a doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. As a person who rejects that the letter of the Bible is entirely without any sort of error, I saw a bleak future in attempting to be a Baptist minister. Statements I have heard about Scripture that I agree with are that it is truth with a capital T, and that it is inerrant in what it teaches.
The church of my childhood is Anglican, I was already confirmed in it, and some of my favorite Christian thinkers are Anglican. After visiting my old church a few times, I found that I loved the liturgy. None of the beliefs I held would cause the Anglican Church to turn me away from ministry. Anglicanism also had a Church structure that I considered to have a historical legitimacy, while excluding certain Roman Catholic doctrines which I held to be later, illegitimate additions (I will probably elaborate on this in a future post). After a year or so of thought and prayer, I decided to turn Anglican.
After seriously committing to the Anglican Church, it did not take long for me to encounter the heavy liberalism. On an official level, the Episcopalian Church is pro choice, denies that homosexual acts are sinful, and embraces ordination of women. While attending a few services composed mostly of people who embraced these views, I rejected that this is how the Church is supposed to look. I hate making statements without backing them up with reasoning, but I want to keep things somewhat concise in this post. In short, these stances destroyed the historical legitimacy I had given the Anglican Church credit for. As the title of this blog suggests, I don't believe in fresh truth. I also reject doctrines 13 and 17 of the Anglican "Articles of Religion," meaning I could not even appeal to old Anglicanism for relief.
I have often been curious about the Orthodox Church, but mostly uninformed about it. A few months ago, I went to an interdenominational debate, and was surprisingly drawn to what the Orthodox priest said. The more I researched them, the more I liked them. In short, they have a historical legitimacy that Protestants lack, and lack many of the Roman Catholic doctrines that I believe to be illegitimate additions. I find all of their doctrines reasonable and pleasant to meditate on. I have learned Church history from my Catholic High School, as well as my Baptist University. Learning about Church history from an Eastern perspective makes me consider my former education to be seriously lacking. I also haven't felt this excited about reading since I first started reading the gospels.
Something that gave me great distress as a Protestant is that any Protestant needs to pretty much accept that he or she is wrong in some important area of doctrine. I could never even fully agree with the denominations I was part of. In a temporal sense, I was left to my own devices to discover truth. Considering all of the Christians who have a range of disagreeing doctrines and have a greater spiritual and intellectual life than myself, it seemed impossible that I could find the full truth as to what God intends for Christians to believe, and how He intends for me to live as a Christian. This led to some of the most deeply felt prayers in my life, as I asked God to guide me in the truth, whatever it was. FYI, I wasn't necessarily concerned with my salvation at this point, I just wanted to please God to the best of my ability. This was a great concern because I believed that if there is a true set of doctrines that God intends for Christians to live by, then it must be somehow accessible. If it is accessible, then it is my duty to access it. I was in a dilemma, since I do not accept Papal authority, and since Protestantism makes the true holistic set of doctrines inaccessible by its divisive nature. The idea that I might actually be in a Church which contains entirely correct doctrines and functions properly at a basic level is very exciting as I look to Orthodoxy.
To provide an image for the aspect of my life that I just discussed, it's as if I was hiking up a misty mountain (bear with me, I've been watching Lord of the Rings). I knew I was on the right mountain, but had trouble reaching the peak due to hindered visibility. On occasion, it appeared that I may have reached the peak, but thanks to the mist, I could not see if there wasn't a higher point. After much travel, I finally see a clearing and breach the firmament above the mist. I see what appears to be the peak before me, and pick up my pace. I reach it, stepping on the very highest point. I look around in every direction and see nothing other than this peak breaching through the mist and clouds.