Water in Unexpected Places

In my various reading, I came upon the following prayer:

O my plenteously-merciful and all-merciful God, Lord Jesus Christ, through Thy great love Thou didst come down and become incarnate so that Thou mightest save all.  And again, O Saviour, save me by Thy grace, I pray Thee.  For if Thou shouldst save me for my works, this would not be grace or a gift, but rather a duty; yea, Thou Who art great in compassion and ineffable in mercy.  For he that believeth in Me, Thou hast said, O my Christ, shall live and never see death.  If, then, faith in Thee saveth the desperate, behold, I believe, save me, for Thou art my God and Creator.  Let faith instead of works be imputed to me, O my God, for Thou wilt find no works that could justify me.  But may my faith suffice instead of all works, may it answer for, may it acquit me, may it make me a partaker of Thine eternal glory.  And let Satan not seize me and boast, O Word, that he hath torn me from Thy hand and fold.  But whether I desire it or not, save me, O Christ my Savior, forestall me quickly, quickly, for I perish.  Thou art my God from my mother’s womb.  Vouchsafe me, O Lord, to love Thee now as fervently as I once loved sin itself, and also to work for Thee without idleness, diligently, as I worked before for deceptive Satan.  But supremely shall I work for Thee, my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

Now, what do you think?  Does a person who prays this way believe in salvation by works?

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15 Responses to Water in Unexpected Places

  1. Mike Bull says:

    How could any person say such words but by the Spirit of grace?

  2. Jim Reitman says:

    Sounds like a “performance” of Eph 2:8-10.

    How about turning this into a contest, Tim? The person(s) who come(s) closest to identifying the religious tradition behind this prayer get(s) a free copy of my book?

  3. Tim Nichols says:

    Sounds like a marvelous idea, Jim. Let’s say one guess per person, and run it for two weeks or until someone gets it right, whichever comes first. That sound good to you?

    (Oh, and there is one person — you know who you are — who can’t weigh in on this one, because it really would be cheating.)

  4. Jim says:

    I was stunned as I read this and thought it was something you came up with when doing some hermeneutical reading of some old text…this came from some religious “tradition?” How interesting! (paused here to go look) As I saw the comments I know now that it was not you. So I looked it up and this prayer (I believe) is from the “Prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ” by Saint Basil.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia has this, “Bishop of Caesarea, and one of the most distinguished Doctors of the Church. Born probably 329; died 1 January, 379. He ranks after Athanasius as a defender of the Oriental Church against the heresies of the fourth century. With his friend Gregory of Nazianzus and his brother Gregory of Nyssa, he makes up the trio known as “The Three Cappadocians”, far outclassing the other two in practical genius and actual achievement.”

    I found this also in an on-line prayer book of the Russian orthodox church. Which was cited from the “Jordanville” Prayerbook.

    Jim

  5. Jim Reitman says:

    Uhhh…sure, Tim, sounds good to me.

    Once the winner is announced, supply the address, and I’ll get it in the mail next business day. Kill two birds with one stone: Pimp your blog and reduce my inventory!

  6. Tim Nichols says:

    Well, it’s official — Jim takes the prize. As he said, the prayer is preserved in daily practice by the Russian Orthodox Church. That certainly challenges a few closely held FG prejudices, doesn’t it?

  7. Zoe says:

    Some years ago, we had the opportunity to visit an old Church of England church in a small village near where I grew up. Being in another country and thus far from our own church, we attended the Sunday morning Communion Service. We expected some fairly loose theology (and were not disappointed!) and a hefty dose of C of E ritual, but were grateful for the opportunity to be there. Imagine our delight when all of the furniture in this 1200s stone church was succintly decorated in the clearest, best explained diagram of the trinity (in latin of course) I have ever seen. What a gem.
    It is good to see a discerning open mindedness – thanks for sharing this, Tim

  8. Tim Nichols says:

    Zoe,

    Thank you for another great example. I find myself growing very tired of the idea that “narrow gate” means that there will be about 15 people in heaven, with its smug and wicked little corollary that — of course — I know them all. God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. Apparently we think Jesus failed.

  9. Drew says:

    The problem isn’t the prayer. The problem is that a good number of lost people can pray a prayer like that without believing that God will actually answer it.

    And the idea that the Orthodox are legalistic isn’t a prejudice; it’s a verifiable fact. You can generally find the legalism explicitly listed on their websites. And most of the Orthodox even go out of their way to deny the substitutionary atonement. I’m sure you can find regenerated individuals even among the Mormons, but it’s no “prejudice” to call the Mormons legalistic or generally destined for hell.

  10. Tim Nichols says:

    Drew,

    That one stung a bit, hey?

    Of course lost people can pray that prayer without believing that God will answer it…just like they can pray any other prayer the same way, or walk an aisle or throw a stick on the fire or sign a card or….

    People can ruin anything. People can contradict themselves all day long. The glory of finding this prayer, there, is that in order for those people to be legalistic, they do in fact have to contradict themselves. Which means that they have a gospel witness before them, and they willingly propagate it. The gospel is the power of God for salvation, and where I see it being propagated, I believe — on biblical grounds — that it will accomplish something. Don’t you?

    The FG prejudice is that there can’t be a real gospel witness there, because those people are legalistic. Well, apparently there can.
    And of course, when we say “Those people are legalistic,” what we really mean is “Those people are legalistic [in ways that are unacceptable to us].” We are not without our own set of pet legalisms, are we? (Shall I enumerate a few, to make the point?) Happily, God still uses us. If it’s treasonous to suggest that He does the same beyond the boundaries of our own insular group, well…”If this be treason, let us make the most of it.”

    Please don’t take from this that I’m drifting eastward. I have significant quarrels with the Eastern church, and I don’t see myself joining their ranks. But I also don’t need to demonize them in order to feel good about being where I am.

    As to denying the substitutionary atonement — you’ll find that belief with Romanides, et al., and it’s heavily employed by Eastern apologists who are trying to convert westerners to their tradition, which is why you see so much of it on the Web. But you’ll find dissenting voices with (I think) a much more honest view of Eastern theological history. You might start here.

  11. Jim Reitman says:

    Amen, Tim. Kind of exemplifies the point of your latest post, Oh wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us…

  12. Drew says:

    I’m sure the Mormons and the Catholics have access to gospel of John or the book of Romans, but that doesn’t mean that as a whole, they’re going to get saved. The Bible does *not* teach that wherever the gospel is available in written form, people will get saved. The Pharisees had plenty of access to the scriptures, but most of them did not get saved. It’s not particularly relevant if there’s a gospel witness that everyone ignores or distorts.

    //And of course, when we say “Those people are legalistic,: what we really mean is “Those people are legalistic [in ways that are unacceptable to us].”//

    No, what “we” really mean is that the church overwhelmingly ascribes to conditional security and the Moral Exemplar theory of atonement. The blog post you cited barely even touches on the issue of substitutionary atonement, so I don’t consider that a disproof of my statement.

    And your words don’t particularly “sting” whatsoever. I just find it silly that you’re going out of your way to condemn evangelicals for their condemnation of a corrupt group. In my view, rather than condemning the Orthodox too severely, people generally focus on Catholic corruption and generally ignore the problems of Orthodoxy. And for whatever your motivation, that’s a problem you’re now fostering.

  13. Tim Nichols says:

    Drew,

    The Eastern church has severe problems, and I’ve never said otherwise. But it’s not my job to reform the Eastern church; I’m not part of it. I’m an evangelical, and reformation begins at home. It does precious little good to harp on the flaws of other groups and stroke ourselves for being so beautifully right. We should not hate other people’s sins more than our own; we should not be more wary of their temptations than we are of ours. The other way around, actually. So I speak to our flaws, not because they’re worse, but because they’re ours.

    “The Bible does *not* teach that wherever the gospel is available in written form, people will get saved. “

    The Bible does say that God’s word does not return to Him void, but it prospers in the thing for which He sent it. Which would seem to include people getting saved, I should think. Do you disagree?

    “The Pharisees had plenty of access to the scriptures, but most of them did not get saved. It’s not particularly relevant if there’s a gospel witness that everyone ignores or distorts.”

    Actually, it would seem that out of the groups that opposed Jesus, rather a large number did get saved, as you’ll recall. Despite various religious leaders’ persistent efforts to distort or suppress the gospel witness, it appears to be quite difficult to get “everyone” on board. Again, the gospel is the power of God for salvation, for believers and unbelievers alike.

    To put it another way: Dude, don’t be so crabby and ungrateful. Finding a solid gospel witness in an Eastern prayer book is a good thing, and like all good things, ought to be cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving. If you think the Eastern church is a warren of apostasy, then you ought to be that much more thankful that God has preserved a witness there. Doesn’t mean there aren’t other problems — but come on, man, the majority of evangelicals believe in conditional security. It’s not like the problems are unique to the East. Relax enough to thank God for the things that are good.

    (Re. that blog post — it’s about imputation, which is the root of the substitutionary atonement. It’s related.)

  14. Drew says:

    I realize that on your blog you can technically say whatever you want, but how am I being crabby and ungrateful for pointing out the error of your allegation? Of course it’s not your job to reform the Eastern Church. But it’s not your job to denigrate your own people, either. If you’re going to put people down then you ought at least to pick something that you can legitimately criticize, and not something like people’s rightful “prejudices” against the Eastern false doctrines.

    The post you cited seemed to be entirely about original sin, rather than about justification. Although I’m sure there are Orthodox people who understand the gospel, I have yet to come across anyone who seemed to. From what I understand, Basil was one of the church fathers who was pretty wholesome in terms of soteriology, but my guess is that the Orthodox prayer book has plenty of other contributers besides just him. Anyway, it’s generally a piece of cake to find a good gospel witness; all you have to do is show someone a few relevant Bible verses, which all Christians agree constitute the word of God. But if they’re hearing contradictory information from their teachers, they’ll typically just explain away whatever gospel presentation they come across in written form.

    And I don’t think it’s true that a majority of evangelicals believe in conditional security. Anyway, if someone believes that then I wouldn’t particularly call him evangelical.

  15. Tim Nichols says:

    Drew,

    I don’t mind at all that you disagree with me. Sometimes I’m wrong, and it’s good to have people around who will speak up. But in your zeal to talk about what the Eastern church gets wrong, you seem to pass very lightly over the fact that they’ve got something right, here — through this prayer, God has preserved a gospel witness in that church. That’s a big deal, and you want to say that it’s not. That’s what seems (to me) crabby and ungrateful.

    “But it’s not your job to denigrate your own people, either. If you’re going to put people down then you ought at least to pick something that you can legitimately criticize, and not something like people’s rightful “prejudices” against the Eastern false doctrines.”
    Where did I object to evangelicals taking on Eastern false doctrines? I do it myself when the situation calls for it. What I object to is evangelicals blithely consigning the entire Eastern tradition to hell, which betrays an ignorance of the tradition and an ignorance of where we came from to start with. St. Basil’s prayer, written when it was and to this day part of the daily morning prayers in a Russian prayer book, neatly hits both those points, which is why I used it. (Also because it’s edifying.) Are there wicked pharisees, reeking of brimstone, in the Eastern church? Most assuredly. Are there fragrant saints who love and serve Jesus? Of course. I’ve met both, in their tradition and in ours.

    The post is about original sin, and how it is, or is not, imputed — Romanides’ reformulation (or denial, if you prefer) of that doctrine is the basis for the Eastern denial of substitutionary atonement. Conversely, a demonstration that the Eastern tradition holds to original sin cuts the whole edifice off at the knees. (Also, FWIW, ‘Moral Exemplar’ doesn’t seem to me to adequately describe even someone as radical as Romanides. I’ve never met or read an Eastern churchman who would not affirm that Jesus bore our sins, and that He died our death. That’s more than just moral example.)
    Re. conditional security — it occurs to me that I’m including most Arminians and Reformed in that group, which perhaps accounts for the difference in our respective assessments.

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