Are You Saved?

In less than 75 pages, Barbara Pappas will introduce you what has been termed “one of North America’s best-kept secrets,”– the ancient Orthodox Christian faith and its living experience of salvation in Christ. Using timeless, solidly Orthodox theology, Barbara Pappas explains that salvation is not a one-time, once-and-for-all event. It is instead a process that, over the course of life, leads the practicing Christian into an ever-deepening awareness of adoption by God through His grace.

“As soon as real faith begins, the believer actually begins to experience God’s kingdom – while still on earth . . . Inching our way upward through the joys and pitfalls of life, the narrow gate into the fullness of the glorious Kingdom of God is our destination. We are put on this road at Baptism, with our eyes fixed on our Savior. The Holy Spirit lovingly nudges us along throughout our lives at a pace determined by our love and faith. The tools provided by the Church help us along the way, with sincere repentance and the Sacrament of Confession renewing us and putting us back on the road when we stray.” — Are You Saved?, pg. 48.

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ARE YOU SAVED? is a question that should be of primary concern to all who have received the gift of life. This work is an effort to provide, in layman’s terms, a sketch of God’s divine plan for His beloved ‘man,’ so that those who seek knowledge of the purpose for life may be guided by His Truth, which remains the same in every time and in every place.

“The message of salvation through the Son of God is for everyone. It is simple and all encompassing. It should be shouted from the rooftops and taught again and again in our homes and churches at every level of human understanding. It should permeate every area of our lives and guide every action and decision.

“The precepts put forth in this work have been taught by the historic Church since Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven to wait for those who love Him. The accompanying prayer is that this telling will help some to understand what Christ has done for us and thus inspire them to make and/or continually renew a serious, life-giving commitment to Him as Lord and Savior. May we all work together to share this life-giving knowledge with all who will listen, and may we all continue to grow in His image to show our faith in and love for Him, in readiness for the holiness of His Kingdom.”

Book Review: Road to the Kingdom
Reviewer: Christian Book Reviews

(Philadelphia, PA United States) – Albert McIlhenny, October 19th, 2005

Are You Saved? The Orthodox Christian Process of Salvation, Fifth Edition

The recent interest in Eastern Orthodox Christianity (with a number of prominent converts) has placed Orthodox Christians in the position of innocent bystanders in battles between Roman Catholic and Protestant apologists. Often mischaracterized by both sides as “Catholics without a pope,” the uniqueness of Orthodox theology has often been overlooked. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the doctrine of salvation where arguments that have raged for centuries in the Western Churches seem alien territory to Christians of the East.

Barbara Pappas has produced a succinct little introduction to the Orthodox understanding of salvation in the little booklet “Are You Saved?” Intended as catechetical material, Pappas seeks to help Orthodox Christians respond effectively to Evangelical challenges to their faith. This booklet is a guide for the Orthodox faithful to communicate in a manner that Evangelicals could find intelligible – even if they vehemently disagree. There is also an added purpose for Pappas as Orthodox Christians in the West who use the Christian media may be unsure of the Orthodox position on issues emphasized by Evangelicals (e.g., the common Evangelical doctrine “once saved, always saved”). While this work is not comprehensive, it is an ideal introductory exposition of the Orthodox doctrine of salvation.

The main part of the booklet is divided into three chapters covering the plan of God, the meaning of salvation, and how we are saved. Each begins with a print of an icon (with a short description and appropriate excerpt from Orthodox liturgical texts), follows with an exposition of the topic and concludes with excerpts from the Church Fathers supporting the exegesis. The reliance on the patristic writers is no surprise and a sense of reverence for the Christian past, an important factor in Orthodox theology, comes through clearly in almost every page.

The basis for Orthodox theology is the Holy Scriptures but these are subject to many interpretations (or misinterpretations) and must be guided by the Tradition of the Church as preserved in the writings of the Church Fathers, the doctrinal decisions of Church Councils, the liturgy, hymns, and icons. It is important to keep in mind that Orthodox theology exhibits a holistic approach rather than the reductionist tendencies of its Western counterparts. The result is an intertwined web of belief as opposed to the axiomatic tree structure of systematic theologies in Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. In this understanding, the battles fracturing Western Christianity are by nature wrongheaded since neither scripture nor tradition (also neither faith nor the works of love) can be treated in isolation from the other.

There are points where the exposition breaks completely with Western Christendom. First, the process is truly synergistic – a cooperative effort between man and God. In the Orthodox view this implies neither the denial of grace (man cannot cooperate without it) nor works righteousness (the cooperation is to grow in faith). The break between justification and sanctification is also rejected as they are considered inseparable parts of the overall plan of salvation. Since God exists outside of time, His grace is poured out at once to us past, present, and future. Declaring salvation an “event” in time is thus a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of grace. Another distinction is the process of conforming to the image of Christ continues in the afterlife. This process of Theosis, the central focus of Orthodox Soteriology, is for all the Church – on earth and in heaven. Interestingly, the Orthodox understand passages Roman Catholics use to support Purgatory (e.g., I Cor 3: 10-15) as referring to Theosis and not a “middle place.” This view (heavily reliant upon the early Church Fathers, the Cappadocians, and the Hesychasts) has been largely unaffected by Western writers such as Tertullian, St. Augustine, and the Scholastics – the dominant theological influences on both the Roman Catholic Church and their Protestant opponents. The effect is far more emphasis on the mystical than the juridical.

Given the difficult subject matter and the brief presentation (63 pages), the final result is quite remarkable. For orthodox Christians trying to respond to Protestant challenges, inquirers into the Orthodox Church seeking to understand exactly what their Church teaches about salvation, and Protestant and Roman Catholic believers trying to discern the differences of the Orthodox view to their own traditions, this book is an invaluable asset and an excellent entry point for a greater understanding of Orthodox theology.


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