A topic that seems to challenge and arguably make it impossible for any re-unification of the numerous Christian denominations is our disagreements on the assurance of Salvation.
Orthodox and Catholic churches hold the belief that when we die here on earth we do so "In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ". This is different than the common Protestant belief that each person who publicaly proclaims that Christ as personal Savior is born again of the Holy Spirit and thereby becomes eternally secure as a child of God.
I posted previously on my struggles with the emphatic "born again" alone takes you to Heaven, and Dr. Clark Carlton discussed this on his recent Ancient Faith podcast.
An excerpt from the podcast:
"So let's try and sum everything up.
First of all, the Church dogmatically asserts the free will of man. Universalism has been condemned by the Church ultimately because it denies free will to us.
Second, our liturgical hymns as well as the majority (rapport?) of the saints affirm that the last judgment will be final. There will be indeed be those who will be damned for all eternity with no hope of future redemption.
But, third, we also believe dogmatically that the Love of God is stronger than death and Hades itself. Firmly planted in this belief, we (command?) ourselves and our loved ones to the Love of God praying that this Love will be for them light and joy, not judgment and condemnation.
Perhaps then the best advice is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. That is, to attend to ourselves with a view toward the last judgment knowing that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
At the same time however we cast ourselves and those around us wholly upon the mercy and love of God praying for the salvation of all.
As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware put it once, can we affirm definitively that all men will be saved? Certainly not! But we can certainly hope and pray that all will be saved. We can hardly be children of our Heavenly Father and do otherwise. For it is written that God himself does not will that any should perish, but that all should come unto eternal life."
Dr Carlton mentioned the Liturgy, and with the help of Daniel (Dennis) Mathai Semassen I got some directed to some of the parts of the Liturgy of the Indian Orthodox Church that are consistent with this teaching:
- After the Thubden reading, the priest says:
Remember, O Lord, all those whom we have mentioned and those whom we have not mentioned and receive their sacrifices onto the expanses of Your heaven. Bestow on them the joy of salvation and make them worthy of Your help. Strengthen them with Your power and arm them with Your might for You are merciful, and to You we raise glory and praise and to Your Only-begotten Son and to Your Holy Spirit, all holy, good, adorable and life-giving, Who is of one substance with You, now, always and forever.
- Deacon: That there may be full recovery to the sick, rest to the afflicted, release to the prisoners, a return to those who afar, preservation for those who are near, gathering together to those who are scattered, concord and love to those who are at discord, provision and plenty to the hungry, full forgiveness to the sinners, exaltation to the priesthood, virtue to the deacons, peace among the kingdoms of the earth, cessation of wars, rest to the departed and to us forgiveness of transgressions and sins.
- O Lord our God Jesus Christ, Who are worshiped and holy, bless and absolve the priests, Your stewards, the servants of Your Mysteries and all the faithful who have partaken of this sacrifice. Look after the orphans, provide for the widows, feed the poor, satisfy the hungry and preserve, without sin, all those who call upon Your Holy Name everywhere, so that from all, by all and for the sake of all Your Name be glorified and that of Your Father and Your Holy Spirit, now, always and forever.
- Grant, O Lord, Your people and the whole world prosperous times that are filled with riches of pleasantness. Bless the rotation of the years with rain, dew and a variety of good things, and with all kinds, varieties and types of profitable things because You are He Who always helps His creation.
There were more examples from the Liturgy, but this should provide the state of mind all Orthodox Christians should have towards salvation. As mentioned in today's Gospel reading, it is our duty to try and be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48) and be humble (Mathew 18:4), and with humility pray that the Lord also be as merciful to not only ourselves but all mankind.
Regarding our own salvation, to quote from a Catholic Answers Forum article on how to respond when questioned on our belief of salvation,
"Are you saved?" asks the Fundamentalist. The Catholic should reply: "As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:8, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13)."
This Catholic article didn't mention purgatory or St Peter's key, so all's good :)