12 June 2007

Why am I a Christian?

In the modern era, there are countless religious options available to the American public. Even within the Christian tradition, there are well in excess of fifty-thousand denominations, jurisdictions, and sects. Some claim to be the only source of truth and holiness, others hold different views.

As I draw near to my tenth anniversary of ordination, I have taken some time to reflect on why I am what I am. To that end, today I am looking to share the answers to a question I am often asked: Why am I a Christian?

I am a Christian because of God's grace.
I know that, to many, this seems like a cop-out answer, but it is true. God has given me the good fortune to grow in knowledge and love of his Son. From my grandmother who taught me about Jesus first, to the parish priests who encouraged my faith in my youth, to my friends who, even today, remind me of just how important Christ is in my life, I have been surrounded by God’s grace, expressed through human instruments.

I am a Christian because of my sin.
Sounds like an odd answer, but it’s true. I am not capable of offering a perfect enough prayer, a perfect enough sacrifice, or a perfect enough service to God to offset my sins. I need Jesus Christ. I need his atoning death to become at-one with the Divine. Truly, Christ became one with us that we might become one with him! It is in Christ, not myself, that I find my redemption.

I am a Christian because of my response.
Here is where I depart from my Calvinist (and perhaps Lutheran) friends. As firmly as I believe in the concepts of election and predestination, I also believe in free will. This puts me in the camp of the Orthodox. I am convinced that synergeia is the most complete, biblically-based doctrine concerning the salvation of mankind that one can find. Saint Athanasius says it quite well in is work, “On the Incarnation”:

The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man made after the Image. In order to effect this re-creation, however, He had first to do away with death and corruption. Therefore He assumed a human body, in order that in it death might once and for all be destroyed, and that men might be renewed according to the Image [of God].
Being Saved...
Thus, salvation – “being saved” – refers to the process that St. Athanasius speaks of, being rescued from death and corruption and eternal fire. There is nothing that anyone can do to earn salvation; it is a free gift from God. However, this gift – this relationship – must be accepted by the believer. God will never force someone to love him or to have a relationship with him. To be saved, we must work together with God in a synergeia, uniting our will, efforts, and actions to God, and seeking to conform them more perfectly with his day by day.


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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