I am not an expert on Frank Schaeffer and his writings. Years ago I read his book “Sham Pearls for Real Swine” and loved it; or, I should say, loved his railings against fundamentalists and no-nothing sectarian “evangelicals.” I still admire much in his past quest for historic, serious, sacramental, incarnational, and genuine Christianity. I have followed his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy and his writings since, only in a casual way. I do not seek to misquote him or put words in his mouth.
But, I recently watched a video of a three-part lecture series he made in 2005. He is a charming, entertaining, and very funny speaker. He is clever, and even with his public self-effacing comments of sin and failure, He knows “it.” He is also very triumphalistic in his Greek Orthodoxy, as most converts tend to be. He speaks much truth, but from my Lutheran perspective (i.e. the Rule and Norm of all faith being Holy Scripture) he also speaks much that I find error with.
The one thing that “jumped out” at me was his description of how Eastern Orthodoxy views the whole topic of “Salvation.” I agree with some of the words he used: “organic,” a “holy mystery,” and something entirely based on God’s “mercy.”
A confessional Lutheran can understand “organic” in a proper sense—after all; Our Lord’s parables were very organic and earthy in their agricultural metaphors and bodily comparisons. The doctrine of the “mystical union;” the “IN CHRIST” language, the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work through the Sacraments and the Preached Word, are all BOTH declarative and transformative.
The one word, though, that jumped out was “Journey.” Schaeffer said that for the Orthodox, “salvation is a journey; a long walk, along a long way, where we participate in our salvation [“syn-ergia” he said] by our works and obedience.”
And there you are; once again the stumbling block between Saint Paul’s (i.e. God the Holy Spirit) clear teachings on how one is saved (“Salvation”) and a synergistic, cooperative, works-infused mutated version of the “Way” of Christ.
From the Western view, and by that I mean the pure Gospel which Saint Paul and Saint Peter delivered to the Church of the West—first to Rome and then to the Iberian Peninsula, Europe, Scandinavia, and the British/Irish isles—is NOT about cooperating on a journey, but of BEING ON/IN the God/Man Who IS “THE” Journeying One—Himself!
Reading King David’s Psalms and the Epistles to the Romans, Ephesians, and Galatians, the Trinity makes it abundantly clear that Salvation is Christ Crucified for the forgiveness of sin and sins. Salvation is the saving work of Christ both active and passive; both in Law keeping and in blood atoning for guilt and just punishment. The blessed Scriptures teach that this Salvation is “extra nos” (outside of ourselves) and entirely HIS work. The saving of the sinner (of all those who are Christ’s) was objectively wrought by His obedient life and His passion and death on Calvary. The subjective application of Christ’s Salvific Work and Merit is brought also “extra nos” to the sinner/saint through the preached Evangel and the physically-applied Evangel (the Sacrament of Holy + Baptism and the Sacrament of The Altar). This Christ “for us,” is declarative, forensic, juridical, and real. It is all these things because God says so. The Word of the Lord not only “endures forever,” but It does what It says! We are Holy because The Lord says we are—in His washing, absolving, and feeding.
Our lives are a journey IN/with/under/through the Good Shepherd. The sheep are lead, guided, pushed, moved, cajoled, and smacked on the head, by the Shepherd as they traverse through this vail of tears to the great Sheepfold and greenest pastures of Heaven. But we are not journeying toward salvation we are already IN the Pierced and scarred arms of Salvation—The “Saving One.”