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Being convinced

FatherHLL

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At what point is the "need for others to convince us" sinfully selfish?  At what point is the following attitude, whether spoken or unspoken, unacceptable:  "if you are not articulate enough to spell it out to me and to detect all my inconsistencies, then I will not believe"? 
 

sainthieu

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Hmmm. I was under the impression that we come to belief by the grace of God, and not because we are convinced by the force of any reasoned argument that might be made to us. Reasoned argument does not engender belief because so many elements of belief defy reason. Belief is a mysterious process.

The only way I might convince you to believe--if you don't--is to be the exemplar of God's will. If I were emanating overwhelming goodness and love, that might convince you. Before I became a Christian, I read a lot of things, and spoke to a lot of people, but I was most impressed by the presence of true believers: I could see the beauty of God in them. So, I'd imagine that the answer to your question is 'always'--if I understand your question. Please forgive me if I don't.
 

FatherHLL

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Yes.  The reason I posted this was because, not only on the forum, but outside of it, I have encountered recently that old "it is your job to convince me" bit.  At what point do we take responsibility for our own salvation?  Is it the forum's job to convince others of Orthodoxy's truth?  Is this convincing (or lack thereof) a reason to adhere to or reject Orthodoxy?  Our reasoning and especially our emotions are deceptive.  They can lead us into dark places.  However, as St. Paul says, we are also to "win some" over to truth.  But again, is our failing as humans to cover every subtlety of fallen human demand an excuse for them not to adhere to Orthodoxy?  There is even one thread where a person states that they now (because of the forum, even after having experienced Orthodox parish life in a positive light) are questioning whether or not to enter into an Orthodox parish again because of what was written here.  This is emotionalism at is worst, in my opinion. 
 

LizaSymonenko

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Father, you are correct.

We have to take responsibility for our own salvation, not blame it on others, or depend on others to "save" us.

When in grade school, did we blame the teacher if we failed to grasp some mathematical concept, even though it was explained to us?  Sometimes, we just don't "get" it.  It's definitely not the teacher's fault, especially if others were able to grasp the concept from his/her teachings.

At that point, it is up to us.  We either, blame the teacher and fail the class....or, we get a tutor, we find a book that teaches the concept in another way that we can understand.  It is up to us to pursue the issue.  We need to sit and read and study and spend sleepless nights over the book, until we finally "get" it.  "Understanding" doesn't come easily.  We need to work at it.

Father, we count on You to teach us, to give us examples, to lead us....however, You cannot save us, if we are not willing.

 

yeshuaisiam

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I'll chime in here.

It's because people truly THINK.

Consider, how bizarre and strange things seem to an outsider.

Crossing one's self - what good does that do?
Bowing, then crossing, and bowing again... What does that do?
Veneration to paint on wood - eh?

It is bizarre when somebody (an outsider) sees this.

"Bread and wine become THE ACTUAL body & blood", but still tastes like bread and wine.  Tastes nothing like meat & blood.
So somebody states "yes convince me because many facts point to a head game" "and many things could be symbolic" (insert protestant arguments here).

Is it the job of a presbyter to evangelize?  Perhaps, perhaps not.... I guess it would depend on circumstances and where they are.

But I think it's a good idea to help others as best as possible.

From the scripture above - What if a Christian believes but has never seen the Eucharist?  They are blessed because if they saw the Eucharist then they have seen him.

So on my personal note, I am a very confused Christian in some ways, very devout in others, and can't figure other stuff out.  People like me need help and convincing of stuff.

God Bless.
 
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yeshuaisiam said:
So on my personal note, I am a very confused Christian in some ways, very devout in others, and can't figure other stuff out.  People like me need help and convincing of stuff.
And that's okay. I bet there are lots of people here who struggle with particular aspects of the Church's teaching and have not yet been fully able to conform their own minds to the mind of the Church. I know this is my experience.

Orthodoxy gives us room to be confused about the teachings of the Church, so long as we do not take our own personal opinions and substitute them for the teachings of the Church, attacking those very teachings.

What's important is accepting the authority of the Church.
 

Asteriktos

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I don't think anyone is obligated to answer questions, but if you can help someone out then I think it's good to do so. I ask questions. Some trivial, some important. People often answer. And so I have worked through many difficulties over the last 5 years because people were willing to answer my questions. I wouldn't demand that they answer, but it sure has helped! And by dealing graciously and honestly with me as people have, I have also learnt along the way even when I wasn't asking questions, and I've learnt not to "live in my head" and worry so much about being convinced about this or that. But if no one had answered any of my questions from the start, would I have stuck around and learnt all that I have? Possibly not.
 

LizaSymonenko

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Oh, I agree! 

We should always try our best to answer questions.  We should even evangelize when the opportunity arises.

However, if the person on the receiving end is not "open" to your teachings, demands that you "convince" them, pokes holes at everything, etc, I don't believe that you are responsible for them believing or not.  That's their choice.

We need to do everything we can to teach, to preach, to inform, to love, exemplify Orthodoxy to them, etc....but, we are not responsible for their lack of belief.  You can only do so much...and if they still aren't "getting" it, send them to someone else, who may have a different approach, and might be able to reach them - or not.

"For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. "  (John 17: 8 )


 

FatherHLL

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Thank you Liza.  Yes, most of these things I am speaking of are not directed at me or at priests in particular.  For example, on the forum, it seems to be "you (plural, i.e. posters) must convince me or I will not believe."  In another venue this past week, a godfather was told by his (young adult now) godchild that "no one is able to give me a convincing argument" for free will and therefore will not come back to church (!!!).  This shocks me.  Really?  My or your continuing in Church is depedent on whether someone can give us a "convincing" argument (again this is subjective, as some will not be convinced by Moses or by Christ Himself, as the Lord also said)?  This is complete nonsense.  In all cases there are limitations, as has already been pointed out on this thread (i.e. there are people simply not opened to believe, there are others who constantly shoot holes in the boat to try and sink it, etc.).  No for me in particular, it is my job to teach the faith.  But certainly it is not the average person's job to bring up arguments until a hard case is "convinced."



LizaSymonenko said:
Father, you are correct.

We have to take responsibility for our own salvation, not blame it on others, or depend on others to "save" us.

When in grade school, did we blame the teacher if we failed to grasp some mathematical concept, even though it was explained to us?  Sometimes, we just don't "get" it.  It's definitely not the teacher's fault, especially if others were able to grasp the concept from his/her teachings.

At that point, it is up to us.  We either, blame the teacher and fail the class....or, we get a tutor, we find a book that teaches the concept in another way that we can understand.  It is up to us to pursue the issue.  We need to sit and read and study and spend sleepless nights over the book, until we finally "get" it.  "Understanding" doesn't come easily.  We need to work at it.

Father, we count on You to teach us, to give us examples, to lead us....however, You cannot save us, if we are not willing.
 

FatherHLL

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Bingo.  And this is ultimately what I am going with this.  We are not to rely on our own understanding.  If we are solid on various points but a few are not understood, at what point do we simply say "God is smarter than I am, I will trust Him as He speaks in the Church."  It seems to me that the root of the problem is not a matter of questions not being answered, but a problem with authority (eg a problem with the fact that something, in this case the Church, has more authority than individual understanding and interpretation). 

akimori makoto said:
yeshuaisiam said:
So on my personal note, I am a very confused Christian in some ways, very devout in others, and can't figure other stuff out.  People like me need help and convincing of stuff.
And that's okay. I bet there are lots of people here who struggle with particular aspects of the Church's teaching and have not yet been fully able to conform their own minds to the mind of the Church. I know this is my experience.

Orthodoxy gives us room to be confused about the teachings of the Church, so long as we do not take our own personal opinions and substitute them for the teachings of the Church, attacking those very teachings.

What's important is accepting the authority of the Church.
 

FatherHLL

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Ultimately, it boils down to this:  either the Church has the authority to teach you or it doesn't.  This does not rely on laity or even clergy's ability to "argue so that you are convinced" of the "logic" behind it.  If you never accept that the Church has the God-given authority to teach you, then arguing over any point of doctrine and belief is pointless. 

yeshuaisiam said:
I'll chime in here.
It's because people truly THINK.
Consider, how bizarre and strange things seem to an outsider.
Crossing one's self - what good does that do?
Bowing, then crossing, and bowing again... What does that do?
Veneration to paint on wood - eh?
It is bizarre when somebody (an outsider) sees this.
"Bread and wine become THE ACTUAL body & blood", but still tastes like bread and wine.  Tastes nothing like meat & blood.
So somebody states "yes convince me because many facts point to a head game" "and many things could be symbolic" (insert protestant arguments here).
Is it the job of a presbyter to evangelize?  Perhaps, perhaps not.... I guess it would depend on circumstances and where they are.
But I think it's a good idea to help others as best as possible.
From the scripture above - What if a Christian believes but has never seen the Eucharist?  They are blessed because if they saw the Eucharist then they have seen him.  So on my personal note, I am a very confused Christian in some ways, very devout in others, and can't figure other stuff out.  People like me need help and convincing of stuff.God Bless.
 

Asteriktos

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Father,

Perhaps I am misunderstanding you. But I would ask, is it not difficult to determine sometimes who is sincerely struggling, and who is just looking for an excuse to leave? I've been asking skeptical questions on this forum since late 2005, and I've been Orthodox on and off since that time. After such a length of time has gone by would be easy to say "He's obviously never going to come around". Yet I've made progress, and I'm still trying. Admittedly, I've learned that I need to not be convinced, but rather transformed... but for many years, it was just about "resolving issues," which was I think synonymous with your "being convinced". Some of us just need a lot of work!  :angel: I agreed whole heartedly with what LizaSymonenko has said, for example:

"We need to do everything we can to teach, to preach, to inform, to love, exemplify Orthodoxy to them, etc....but, we are not responsible for their lack of belief.  You can only do so much...and if they still aren't "getting" it, send them to someone else, who may have a different approach, and might be able to reach them - or not."

Would you also agree with this? I ask because, though I could be wrong, you seem to be saying something different...?
 

FatherHLL

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You are probably in part understanding me correctly and in part misunderstanding me.  I agree with Liza's assessment.  I think it is more than determining the sincerely struggling vs. those looking for an excuse to leave (although you are correct, this is a huge part of it, but only part of it).  Another part is that it is our responsibility not to perpetually put obstacles up before our progression as persons in the truth.  Yes, I know your back and forth on the forum in the past and your struggles.  But might I say that your posts the last few months in general have been very balanced.  I was moreso referring to developments in recent weeks that are in increasing numbers, both on forums and off the forums, where there have been implicit or explicit "ultimatums" hinging on someone's ability to argue or on someone's sensitivity to how people say things or what is said or what is left unsaid.  If one was out on a ledge and said to the only cop or bystander in earshot, "unless you convince me, I am jumping."  Is the bystander responsible for the jumper jumping if the argument was not convincing enough?  It is diabolical when the responsibility is unjustly and mercilessly put on another person like that.  Are the godparents' that I mentioned earlier responsible for their godchild's "jumping" from the faith?  No, yet doubtless, because the responsibility for the lack of faith on the part of the godchild was "shifted to them" by the godchild, they will feel guilty for the rest of their lives that somehow they failed.  It is diabolical. 


Asteriktos said:
Father,

Perhaps I am misunderstanding you. But I would ask, is it not difficult to determine sometimes who is sincerely struggling, and who is just looking for an excuse to leave? I've been asking skeptical questions on this forum since late 2005, and I've been Orthodox on and off since that time. After such a length of time has gone by would be easy to say "He's obviously never going to come around". Yet I've made progress, and I'm still trying. Admittedly, I've learned that I need to not be convinced, but rather transformed... but for many years, it was just about "resolving issues," which was I think synonymous with your "being convinced". Some of us just need a lot of work!  :angel: I agreed whole heartedly with what LizaSymonenko has said, for example:

"We need to do everything we can to teach, to preach, to inform, to love, exemplify Orthodoxy to them, etc....but, we are not responsible for their lack of belief.  You can only do so much...and if they still aren't "getting" it, send them to someone else, who may have a different approach, and might be able to reach them - or not."

Would you also agree with this? I ask because, though I could be wrong, you seem to be saying something different...?
 
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