Monday, December 10, 2012

True Mission Work: Why There are Few True Converts

Peter France, a BBC reporter who did a weekly program on religion for 12 years, asked Abbot Amphilichios of The Monastery of St. John the Evangelist on Patmos a question in an interview (briefly paraphrased here):

"We are a modern tribe of people who reject Christianity, not because we know too little but because we know too much. We know the human mind and the conscious and unconscious and we know religious emotionalism, that it is all void of reality, we find your philosophical arguments for the existence of a God unconvincing, linguistics and archeology show your Bible is flawed, science shows no need for a Creator... so we reject your "Truth" because of our truths. What would you say to us if you were a missionary to our tribe?"

The Abbot simply smiled and said, "I would not say anything to you. I would simply live with you. And I would love you."

St. Isaac the Syrian said, "God is reality. The person whose mind has become aware of God does not even possess a tongue with which to speak, but God resides in the heart in great serenity. He experiences no stirring of zeal or argumentativeness, nor is he stirred by anger. He cannot even be aroused concerning the faith."

Perhaps it because of the lack of true love that there are so few true missionaries and few true converts to any modern "faith" (including my own).  After seeing and hearing the Bible and its commentators quoted and proof texted for over 40 years I've come to the conclusion that intellectual conversion is easy compared to being drawn to Love, and being demanded by it to a life of true love.  And those who cannot learn love truly will move on to the next syllogism of their new faith and missionize accordingly because it is, in the end, easy.

H/T Fr. Silouan

17 comments:

Mr. Mcgranor said...

There is no such thing as positive feelings; making happiness as gospel. This love you speak of is carnal and worldly. Such has no place in Christianity, as the postmodern would like.

s-p said...

Mr. McGranor, I don't see anywhere that anyone mentioned "positive feelings" or "happiness". The love of God goes to a cross for one's neighbor and enemy. I didn't think that needed to be explicated, but perhaps I was wrong.

elizabeth said...

thank you so much for this; I passed it along to one of my friends! :) blessed Advent and Christmas to you, in case I don't say so later! :)

Karl El-Koura said...

Amen, Steve. This reminds me of the famous Chesterton about Christianity: that it hasn't been tried and found wanting, but found difficult and left untried.

James the Thickheaded said...

Peter France's book is a great read... and yes, he does become Orthodox. Glad someone else enjoys his writing. He's of course the reverse where the wife converts first. Thanks for the post!

Christie Meierz said...

"We are a modern tribe of people who reject Christianity, not because we know too little but because we know too much."

When I was in high school back in the 70's, one of my teachers tried to convince me that the 10 plagues of Egypt weren't miracles at all, but merely a natural progression natural events. I've never been able to look at miracles the same way again. :-/

Christie Meierz said...

^-- natural progression OF natural events. (no edit button?)

s-p said...

Yeah Christie, I've read several books over the decades that shook my "faith" in the Bible. In the end (at least at this stage of my life) I'm not as concerned with the Bible as I am with the Bible's influence on whether or not I am reflecting the love of God to my neighbor. Even if I doubt the Biblical miracles (which I don't anymore, though I tend to doubt modern miracles), but my neighbor cannot doubt my love for him. As Mark Twain once said, "It's not the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that give me problems, it's the parts I DO understand."

Anonymous said...

love the Mark Twain quote. funny. i like your blog. don't get a big head -i'm not very important ;) -michael in stockton

Sophocles said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent.

Emily H. said...

I love that the reporter was asking about Father Amphilochios' "techniques for enlightening unbelievers" but Father Amphilochios answered with, simply, love and not techniques.

kayemigart said...

Thanks for sharing this. One so often hears the intellectualizing of Christianity from people who have hearts in the "love means never having to say you're sorry" mode.

It's hard to love, even when we ask for the Lord's help.

Gary said...

Thanks, Steve. I loved the Abbot's response.

Anastasia said...

Abbot Amphilochios Tsoukas is now our Archbishop. (New Zealand and the Pacific islands). He continues to love people. And we love him. People meet him and are drawn to Christ because of the love that His Eminence gives. He has nice eyes :)

Anastasia said...

To Mr McGranor, the man who said this has driven red cross vehicles into wartorn areas. His brand of love is not feel good happiness but gutsy. He acts a bit like one would imagine Jesus acting in any given circumstance.

Jack said...

Christie--maybe some of the Plagues of Egypt could be a natural sequence of events, but not all of them were.

In any case, I believe that God usually works through normal physical laws he himself set up. Part of the miracle is how the Hebrews saw God's hands in what seemed like ordinary events.

Mr. Mcgranor said...

Excellent, Anastasia. I am out of place anyway... After reading numerous weblogs regarding the postmodern problem in Protestantism--i was on a roll, so to speak. However consider my comment general commentary within an over-all understanding of reason in faith, against the prevailing 'feeling' and inordinate subjective state; where imagining and want become faith and piety.