A lot of Eastern Orthodox seem to be universalists.
#1
I admit to not knowing anything more than a superficial surface glance at Eastern spirituality, but I have some online friends who are part of that religion.

And a lot of them are universalists, adamant that atheists (even if not baptised) have a chance for repentance after their death, based on the idea that Christ descended into the actual hell, conquored death, and saved everyone.

Is this just something peculiar or does this opinion represent the old Church Fathers better?

As an aside to my knowledge getting to Heaven actually seems far harder under through Eastern eyes than Western ones. The latter merely requires you die in a state of grace, and God does the rest in purgatory, in Eastern views it seems to be theosis or bust. No purgatory to provide what you didn't accomplish on Earth.
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#2
This idea doesn't fit with "Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour." (Matt 25:13)
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#3
Theosis is just the process of deification.  It begins in this life, and continues in the next.  Purgatory can be understood as a part of that.

I don't know if this is what the Orthodox meant, but there is a common theolegoumena in the East that everyone goes to be with God.  Not everyone goes to heaven as would be thought of in the west.  But everyone is in the presence of God.  To those who obeyed God's will and loved him, they are engulfed in the flames of God's love, and to them it is paradise.  To those who hated God, they too are engulfed in the flames of God's love, but to them it is torment.  So, in a sense, it is universalism because everyone ends up in the same place, but each person's experience of it is different.
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#4
This is a complicated question.  It is true that some Church fathers held a view tending toward universalism -- most notably, Gregory of Nyssa.  So there is an element of that in Orthodoxy. 

Perhaps the simplest explanation for what you've mentioned is to note that Orthodoxy is unabashedly semi-Pelagian in its theology.  This has led to some speculation from Orthodox that those outside the Church can be saved.  This is sometimes expressed by the phrase, "We know where the Church, but we do not know where the Church is not."  While other Orthodox argue vigorously against this, the semi-Pelagian tendency shows itself in a non-limited understanding of a works-based theosis.  In practice, I hope you can see how this might lead to a sort of universalism.

And, as you pointed out, there is not a clear teaching in Orthodoxy as to what happens after death.  The idea of prayer for the dead, not tempered by the scholastic understanding of purgatory, has led to the idea that there is salvation to be obtained after death.  To understand how they come to this idea, it might help to know that the Orthodox believe that everyone who dies goes to the same "place."  And that the final resting place of all men is not settled until after the Second Coming of Christ.  That being the case, they see prayer for the dead as possibly changing the final resting "place" for the dead.  And there are some stories of Orthodox saints who have attested to this happening.

I would like to address your concluding statement about the difficulty of salvation.  I definitely understand where you're coming from, but I wonder if it isn't a matter of your perception.  And frankly, the difficulty of salvation in both the east and west is going to be different depending on which priest you ask.  Yes, we believe that those that die in the state of grace are saved, but that is perhaps not as easy as we might first take it to be.  In the east, theosis is the goal, but it is rather unclear who will be saved -- it isn't as if those not obtaining theosis are damned.  As I mentioned above, it is unclear who precisely is damned.  So it is good that there is a lack of legalism with regard to the state of the soul, but it is also very difficult to have any conception of where one stands. 
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#5
What is the difference between pelagianism and semi-pelagianism?
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#6
(01-11-2016, 10:58 AM)Melkite Wrote: What is the difference between pelagianism and semi-pelagianism?

Pelagianism is the idea that man can save himself apart from God.

Semi-pelagianism is the idea that man can save himself in cooperation with God, through his own efforts.
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#7
Thank you for the response emy_law, it was a complex question and reviewing it I find I could have made multiple posts about it. On the hardness of salvation I was only offering that because it puzzled me that so many of my eastern friends seemed to say that everyone would be saved, or at least get the opportunity to be saved (and personally expected them to be saved), etc... these two things didn't square.

With regards to hardness of salvation, in Western Catholicism it seems a confusing mess to me with saints ranging from the Desert Fathers who claimed that the narrow path to salvation included even the tiniest of thoughts being under your control, to other saintly teachers who claimed that a good heart and three hail maries each morning and evening would suffice.

The little I knew of Eastern christianity made it seem harder. Theosis seems to be the goal, but their saints write as if this could only be attained here. Now. In this life or bust.

So, since their saints considered salvation unbelievably, extremely hard. That just made it even harder for me to see why any eastern orthodox would be a universalist.

I didn't know that they believed you could attain theosis after your death.
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#8
It is unclear to me whether theosis equates to salvation in Orthodoxy, which seems to be an assumption underlying the question. 

In the west, we have an analogous teaching, but it is rarely taught.  We believe that being in a state of grace at death means that one is saved.  But, we also have a teaching that one's holiness merits a relatively better position in heaven than those lacking such merits.  So, to the extent that one has attained theosis in this life, one is closer to God in some sense in heaven.  It is likely that this is the teaching that the saints are focused on when they are discussing the spiritual struggle in this life -- doing the bare minimum is not enough for the saints when God himself is the prize. 

It is probably also worth mentioning that the universalist tendency has infected the west in the sense that modern man, including traditional Catholics, probably take a less expansive view of what constitutes mortal sin than our predecessors in the faith.  In other words, we see the conditions for mortal sin as making these sins more difficult to commit.  In former times, it is probably the case that these conditions were not seen in such a restrictive way. 

Finally, there is in the west more of a dichotomy between the monastic life and the lay life than there is in the east.  In the east, the "rules" apply to everyone equally -- the fasting, the spiritual exercises, et cetera.  In the west, we have accepted the idea that the monks partake to a greater degree in the spiritual struggle, so that there seem to be different ideas of perfection and salvation for monks and for laity.  This would appear to me to be a flaw that needs reform, but we live in a time where that reform does not seek to make the laity more engaged in the spiritual life so that they are raised up, but the current reform seeks to make the monks more like the laity -- a reduction in the difficulty of the spiritual struggle. 
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#9
(01-11-2016, 11:48 AM)ermy_law Wrote: It is unclear to me whether theosis equates to salvation in Orthodoxy, which seems to be an assumption underlying the question.

Reading up on salvation... that's all I could find.

Quote:It is probably also worth mentioning that the universalist tendency has infected the west in the sense that modern man, including traditional Catholics, probably take a less expansive view of what constitutes mortal sin than our predecessors in the faith.

The typical example of that would be whether masturbation is a mortal sin, asked constantly by the 90% of male Catholics who have a serious problem with it, despite doing everything the Church asked them to do to overcome and being promised all the graces needed all the way. At this point in time I have a really, really hard time believing that this is a mortal sin. If it is, then quite frankly I feel I've experienced the promises of the Church broken.

Hence I'm one of those who believe that masturbation, in some cases is not a mortal sin.

But even taking that into account, that would not be universalism. Because this presumes a person who wants to be free of sin, who wants to be holy but just falls often. The vast majority of people are not like that.

The discussion about the hardness of salvation wasn't one I was interested in. I was just pointing out a dichotomy between what their saints seemed to say, and what was popularly believed by eastern orthodox clergy and lay people.

Quote:Finally, there is in the west more of a dichotomy between the monastic life and the lay life than there is in the east.  In the east, the "rules" apply to everyone equally -- the fasting, the spiritual exercises, et cetera.

I didn't know this was how it worked... but I also know this isn't actually the case either. A lay person in the eastern orthodox church talks to his pastor and they agree on what the person is obligated to follow... I think that's my impression of how its supposed to work.
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#10
(01-11-2016, 11:40 AM)Leonhard Wrote: Thank you for the response emy_law, it was a complex question and reviewing it I find I could have made multiple posts about it. On the hardness of salvation I was only offering that because it puzzled me that so many of my eastern friends seemed to say that everyone would be saved, or at least get the opportunity to be saved (and personally expected them to be saved), etc... these two things didn't square.

I'm confused, does Western Catholicism teach that not everyone will even get the opportunity to be saved?
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