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Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Within its understanding of theology, the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church strongly asserts that salvation requires a triple formulation of Faith (πίστιν), Works (ἔργα), and Knowledge (ἐπίγνωσις). Protestantism has a long history of affirming its incomplete doctrine of Sola fide (i.e., faith alone is all that is required). In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he states, “For by grace (χάριτι) you have been saved through faith (πίστεως); and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (2:8).” Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for such theology to be utilized outside of its original context. This manifests a certain theological premise without further essential consideration. Later, in verse 10, St. Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (ἔργοις), which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” By this elaboration, it is clear that while salvation is attained via Grace (a free, unmerited gift from God) through Faith, man is not saved by the good Works he performs, but rather for the good Works he chooses to undertake.
In the Book of James, the Brother of Jesus writes, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith (πίστιν) but he has no works (ἔργα)? Can that faith (πίστις) save him (2:14)?” And later in verse 26, St. James writes, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith (πίστις) without works (ἔργων ) is dead.” What is demonstrated here is a clear continuation of the thoughts of St. Paul above. Salvation is freely given by Grace through one’s Faith, but true Faith is unattainable without the good Works that produce it.
Finally, in the Second Book of St. Peter, the apostle writes, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge (ἐπιγνώσεως) of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (1:3-4).” And then in verses 5-7, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith (πίστει) supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge (γνῶσιν), and in your knowledge (γνώσει), self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” St. Peter forms a perfect synopsis of the Faith, Works, and Knowledge theology that our sacred tradition maintains. It can only be through the divinization of humanity (i.e., theosis) that humanity is truly saved; furthermore, theosis can only be achieved through a strong Faith, reflected by the good Works that produce it, and accomplished by a direct Knowledge merited via a first-hand relationship with God.
It is also important that we provide a final word about ἐπίγνωσις (transliterated to epignosis) [see 2Peter 1:3]. The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church wishes to distinguish itself from the contemporary Gnostic community that uses the word “gnosis” as a means to reflect the esoteric liberation and enlightenment of some ancient Christian theology. While our own theological interpretations strongly support the need to understand what ancient Gnostics taught and believed, our tradition should not be confused with Gnosticism as either an ancient or modern system. Ancient Gnosticism had a very strong propensity to assume that this soteriological Knowledge was only available to a certain elite. Our tradition, however, teaches that while this Knowledge may not be accessible to all, it is available to all who apply themselves through a praxis of Faith and Works. We attempt to emphasize this difference by use of the word “epignosis” rather than “gnosis”. Epignosis carries the Greek prefix “epi” which means a certain ‘fitting upon’ through a specific form of contact. This prefix then intensifies the word gnosis by emphasizing that true gnosis occurs via an appropriate, proper, yet direct, experiential relationship with God. In other words, true gnosis is a specific type of experience that only occurs given a specific approach. This is the fundamental mystery of God that our tradition teaches and protects. Exoterically, such an epignosis is facilitated through the administration and reception of the Sacrament of Eucharist and the eventual theosis that is produced by this Sacrament. Esoterically, however, it occurs beyond praxis, beyond tradition, and beyond any application of the will.
All my blessings,
Patriarch Nicholas III in mundo +Bryan D. Ouellette, Ph.D.
Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church
Holy Nicholean Catholic Church
Holy Monastic Order En Deus