Running a marathon or doing the bare minimum

Orthodox frequently criticize Catholicism for emphasizing the “bare minimum expectations” that Catholics must fulfill to be in good standing within the Church and with God. Instead, Christians should be expected to run a marathon and adjust their pace per individual need. To me, this seems dangerously close to Pelagianism as I understand it. Christians initiate the race to their own salvation with the aid of some kind of grace. Now, I know this is not downright Pelagianism because grace is taught but how does this work out with respect to praxis? Orthodox also complain that Catholic praxis influences Catholic doctrine. So, my question is, does Orthodox praxis regarding the path of salvation give the OC a kind of Pelagian ethos? I have to run as hard as I can and experiment with how fast I can run before I develop a healthy Christian spirituality. It almost sounds like only the best of the best can truly finish the race…

I forgot to clarify some things. Orthodoxy does not adhere to Pelagianism because it teaches that man is fallen and also teaches the sacraments are necessary. My argument is that its praxis could lead to a sort of Pelagian mentality though not officially recognized as such. In other words, the OC is not Pelagian in teaching but dangerously veers towards Pelagianism in practice. It can never be outright Pelagianism because partaking of the sacraments is part of its praxis. Perhaps semipelagianism is a better description.

I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Asceticism is heretical? If that’s the case, why not just do away with fasting entirely?

Honestly, I don’t know what your issue is. Paul tells us to run the race to the end and persevere in the faith. Sounds like a Catholic notion to me. :shrug:

But how much is too much and how little is too little. The individual is left to decide that, laying the burden of salvation completely on the believer.

When such asceticism leads to excessive efforts at purging oneself of sin, then yes. Here is an example of what I mean. One of the Desert Fathers, St. Macarius was said to have allowed himself to be bitten by mosquitoes because he felt guilty for killing one. Here is an excerpt from the sayings of the desert fathers.

“Macarius is said to have been bothered by his lack of self-restraint when he took vengeance on a mosquito which had bit him. In order to show his remorse and to learn more self-restraint, he went to a nearby swamp, stripped himself naked, and gave himself to the mosquitoes for a period of six weeks. When he returned it is said that he was so swollen from being bitten that he was only recognized by his voice.”

There are many more examples of extreme asceticism like this. Is it really healthy to emulate men who engaged in such practices?

Neither Catholics nor Orthodox believe you can earn your salvation. Further, it is not a matter of what is the minimum or the maximum. But of giving oneself entirely to Christ. Both recognize our inability to do this on our own and that it can only be accomplished through the Grace of God in Christ Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit.

What each Church does is to give the faithful guidance in order to not conform to the world but be transformed by the renewal of our minds through Christ by His Church.

Both understand what Paul expresses in Romans 12 to be true:

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.**

3 For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another**. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

The Church acts as a medium for us to channel and use our gifts in accordance to the measure of faith given to one another and to the measure of the gifts given to one another.

The problem lies when we think and believe that we can have a “check and balances” acts of merit that tilts the balance of justice in our favor. And I think that is not limited to Catholic and Orthodox. It also shows in other denominations or is completely absent in the believe that some might think that they don’t need to do anything, which will only show a dead faith.

There is rather a significant grey area where we must meet in the middle:

  1. God is not going to force us to run towards the goal.

  2. We can’t run on our own towards the goal.

In the middle we find:

1.5) God gives us the measure of faith and gifts needed to accomplish His purpose and also expects our response to those gifts.

There can never be too much. We are called to submit our lives completely to Christ. In doing so we must persevere to the end through temptations to do otherwise. Conversion is a life long process.

But what about my question regarding landscaping and lent? In that case, I think there is such a thing as doing too much.

I disagree, I don’t think there is a way of doing too much for God. We can give Him our everything but He has still given us more. In answer to your question I want to tell you about an Ask An Apologist question I asked on Ash Wednesday. I’m a dancer and I take a lot of classes on Wednesdays so I was afraid I would pass out if I did not eat. The apologist answering told me that it would be ok in that case to eat more then what is a fast but I needed to find some other way to sacrifice for the Lord. So I defiantly do not think there is a way to do too much but there may be a way to do it differently. I’m not saying not to follow the church’s rules but when it is totally impossible doing something comparable is another way to sacrifice for the Lord.

Well that comforts me. I certainly wouldn’t want to join the RCC only to find out I have to quit my job to practice lent. I still don’t know about the OC. But what about the example of asceticism I offered in the person of St. Macarius of Alexandria? I don’t know his status in the RCC but he is listed as a saint in the OC. And as a saint he is worthy of veneration but surely not for the foolish decision to let himself be eaten alive by mosquitoes for 6 months. That strikes me as over the top.

I used to work in law enforcement. Do you think it would have been safe for me to follow the rules of fasting if I was to work a double shift? Why would it be any different for you, when the tools you are using can become deadly weapons when used improperly or irresponsibly?

If you are able to anticipate the extended hours. Then you have enough knowledge to anticipate and plan accordingly.

Otherwise, why do you think we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation? :smiley:

We need to be reasonable.

If the Law of Moses demonstrated anything is that not one of us is able to truly perfectly follow any set of rules. That doesn’t mean that we are to become complacent and not race towards the goal. On the other hand, if you run harder than what you are able to, you will end up doing more harm than good.

There are always allowances made for extenuating circumstances; the young, the elderly, the sick, pregnant women, etc… You need to do what you can do, however, to make some sort of sacrifice, according to your circumstances.

Who in the Orthodox Church is saying this about Catholics? I for one have never heard it myself. (Unfair) charges of legalism, sure, but never of not “trying hard enough.”

At any rate, this sort of critique stems from insecurity and hypocrisy. It’s very easy to be a lackadaisical Orthodox who does the minimum amount of effort. It’s even easier to point out in others the spiritual shortcomings you ultimately see in yourself.

FWIW, we believe in a synergy of God’s grace and our cooperation with that grace. Of course, the work is done by God, but we participate in our salvation to make our faith alive, as is the apostolic teaching that we both share.

Rubbish. Determination of how much or how little must be applied in our praxis is according to the discernment of our spiritual father, usually our confessor. He is they one who determines what level of asceticism is for the benefit of our soul.

The whole aim of our Christian life is for us to become saints. How can we hope to acheive that aim by doing the bare minimum?

God doesn’t seem to think it was over the top. After all He blessed him with spiritual vision and power over demons plus the gift of healing.

But how is getting bit by mosquitoes as a self inflicted punishment for squishing one commendable? Is it a sin to kill a bug in anger/vengeance for a wrong it has done to you? If so, then how can one live his/her day-to-day life without being constantly burdened by one’s conscience? I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed because of the psychological burden that would place on me!

This story about St. Macarius suggests that he had an inflamed conscience. The slightest pinprick causes pain. It seems like the scrupulosity people with OCD suffer with regard to sin. That’s not healthy; that’s morbid.

You’ve totally misunderstood what I’m getting at. This isn’t me trying to prove myself better because of my insecurity regarding my spiritual infirmity. Folk on this forum have levied the objection. I am trying to understand the mentality of Orthodox and Catholics. As faith communities, they have distinct dispositions. In other words, there is a Catholic ethos and an Orthodox ethos. That means there are characteristics of their adherents that can be generally applied.

Also, try not to use such loaded words with respect to me such as “hypocrisy”, “insecurity”, and “spiritual shortcomings”. such words raise the temperature in the room so to speak and I don’t want this thread to degenerate into a flame war…

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