Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Orthodox Way and Learning to Embrace Mystery (Guest Post by Angela Hull)

Today in the third installment of The Books that Read Us series, Angela Hull introduces us to Kallistos Ware. Enjoy her post!

I grew up in the church. My parents were evangelical pastors for the first 20 years of my life and I spent the majority of my childhood wandering the halls and chapels of the churches they led. My parents faithfully taught my brothers and me about God’s love and care for us. I have gone through the normal trials of life and seasons of doubt and anger, but have never wavered in my belief in God’s existence.

Once I entered adulthood, I became increasingly interested in theology. I spent many years reading the writings of the founders and leaders of my denomination. I do want to say that I love the denomination I grew up in. It was the foundation of love for God and service to mankind that has shaped my life. But as I dug deeper into theology, I began to see a difference in my own beliefs compared to the doctrine of my church.

Feeling frustrated and honestly a little disillusioned, I spoke to a friend of mine who is an adjunct professor at a Christian university. One of the things I was struggling with was the idea that the Bible is our only source of Christian doctrine (Sola Scriptura). My friend recommended that I read an article by an Eastern Orthodox priest named Kallistos Ware called “How To Read Your Bible”. This one article began a journey that has changed my life and theology in ways I never imagined.

Mystery was not often emphasized in the world I grew up in. So much of the modern Protestant world is tied up in the search for certainty and I was no exception to this. We never spoke of the Desert Fathers or the lives of the saints, as so much of their lives were clouded in mystical experiences. As I began to look further into Orthodoxy, I saw how interconnected mysticism and faith were. I was amazed at the consistency of teaching and practice throughout the centuries of the church – all this, yet still an environment of wonder, beauty, and awe was vibrant. I had to know more!

The Orthodox Way was the impetus for real change in my life. Kallistos Ware methodically explains the basic theology of the Orthodox Church. As dry as that may sound, I guarantee you it is nothing of the sort. I was moved by the beautiful writing that enveloped me. I would only read a chapter at a time. The theology was so deep and so meaningful that I needed time to process. I spent many long hours reflecting on the Orthodox way of understanding faith. I began to see God in a new way – mysterious, full of uncreated energies, part of a communion in the Trinity that I did not really understand. Certain teachings I had never understood began to become clearer. Accentuated with writings of the saints, Ware gave me a new insight to a faith that I had been a part of my entire life.

Understanding theology and living that theology out are two very different things. As I continued to read The Orthodox Way, I realized that I could not simply agree with this theology and keep on living as I did. I had to experience it in the flesh. I began attending an Orthodox parish in my neighborhood. This was a culture shock to say the least. Coming from the modern evangelical world to this ancient way of faith took some adjusting. I didn’t always understand what was happening, but I felt continually drawn in. I took a class with my wonderful and incredibly intelligent priest that went over the teachings of the church, opening my eyes to ancient truths and connections I had never known. My priest taught (and continues to teach) me the practical way to live it out day by day, an in-depth and lengthy process of holiness. Orthodoxy is a different rhythm of life and it’s all encompassing. Not all of the teachings were easy for me, and honestly some still remain difficult. But with the help of my priest and the beautiful Orthodox people who I’ve met, I have committed to ways of the Orthodox. I have embraced the centuries of teachings, the lives of the saints, the beauty of baptism and communion. Daily I confess my sins, repent, and ask God for His mercy. Every day, I am thankful for the journey that has led me to a deeper, more real faith than I have ever known.

Angela has a regular day job selling insurance, but her real passions lie in theology and pop culture. She could talk endlessly about the talent of Daniel Day-Lewis and the importance of feminism in entertainment. She also loves to dance, although she’s terrible at it. She lives in Michigan and plans to build a tiny house in the near future. She blogs about movies here and here.

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