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Teaching doctrine in the world we live today October 31, 2011

Posted by daniel ayad in Contemporary issues.
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I recently heard an interesting sermon which spoke about teaching doctrine in the world we live today. The sermon was given by Fr Thomas Hopko who has been an Orthodox priest for a number of decades. He described the approach and methodology that Christians should use to teach doctrine in today’s ever changing world. A loose transcript has been provided below:

When somebody comes up to me now, or emails me (and I get a lot of emails now), I do not immediately answer the question at hand. I say I would gladly discuss what can be discussed…and explain what needs to be explained…..however I would like to ask you to do a few things first. And at this point that unless you do these things that I will tell you right now …I don’t want to talk to you …because it’s a waste of time: it’s a waste of your time, it’s a waste of my time…we are going to get nowhere unless you do these things and you do them seriously …These issues that we are going to discuss are a matter of life and death…..it’s not a trivial matter like winning a medal at the Olympics.   

If you are willing to do these things then we can talk, perhaps even if you do these things we won’t need to talk:  

  1. First of all there you have to have a desire to know- the person has to be willing to count the cost, pay the price and make the sacrifice….it doesn’t just happen. The desire is everything. If a person is not ready to do what they are clearly told to do then he/she will never know the truth.  God does not waste His divine energies on people who are messing around….
  2. You have to be hungry and thirsty – this means there must be prayer. Man is a by definition a creature of prayer. Even if you are doubting you still need to pray …. if you doubt that God exists you can say “to whom it may concern”…or “if you are there” …teach me, guide me.
  3. You must be constantly reading the New Testament – not anything else…you need to read the direct Word of God. I would like you to read through it slowly at least three times. Whatever you do not understand let it go, but whatever you do understand put it into practice.
  4. Go to church – stand there, listen, and if you are having trouble with religion or the liturgy (for example you are sick of hearing the millionth lord have mercy)….just still go.
  5. During this time don’t lie about anything at all, don’t consciously harm anybody, be kind and good to everyone you meet without exception (beginning with the people in your own house) and if possible do something good to someone without telling anyone for an hour or two a week. Also if you have some extra money give that away
  6. During this time unless you’re married don’t have sex at all, none – this includes with yourself, your partner or anybody else. If you have an addiction go to a 12 step meeting.
  7. Don’t get drunk, don’t eat too much, don’t eat unhealthy foods, try to drink and eat less than normal and attempt to fast. Again if you have an addiction go to a 12 step meeting.
  8. During this time learn to sit in silence, not thinking about your troubles, your disagreement on theology….try not to think. You let these types of thoughts go by and then you watch the thoughts that come. Then you turn them over to God.
  9. During this time you try to speak as little as possible – don’t try to make your opinions known, don’t try to teach anybody anything, stop all theological and doctrinal conversations. Learn to listen to other people and become attentive to their presence and needs.  
  10. Find someone that you fully trust – and you tell them everything without editing your thoughts, feelings, dreams, and compulsions. You do not talk in detail about sexual issues, and you do not talk in detail about other people.
  11. Go into detail about your family origin – your father, mother, grandparents, ….admit it and accept.
  12. Do your work and studies to the best of your ability one minute at the time – do these responsibly and diligently.  

These 12 steps are critical to experiencing the spiritual life. There must be personal discipline….because without it we are wasting our time.

This was a loose transcript based on three sermons given by Fr Thomas Hopko in June 2008.

The sermons can be found at:  http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/teaching_doctrine_in_the_world_we_live_in_today_part_three

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