The blog post below was by Tony Jones: http://tonyj.net/about/
Here’s the post: The Orthodoxy of Down Syndrome- who decides? http://blog.beliefnet.com/tonyjones/2009/01/the-orthodoxy-of-down-syndrome.html#preview
I felt the need to respond, even thought the conversation was old. The word “Orthodoxy” for non-Orthodox Christians means various things, none of which are exactly what we Orthodox Christians mean. Here is the post: http://blog.beliefnet.com/tonyjones/2009/01/the-orthodoxy-of-down-syndrome.html#preview
My interpretation of his definition of Orthodoxy just from this post would place it in relation to how Protestants understand the saving knowledge of Christ, with the truth about salvation as the central and most essential aspect of “Orthodoxy.” Most Protestants believe that saving faith necessarily involves a cognitive grasp of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us on the Cross, which for most of them would mean understanding and adherence to the substitutionary atonement theory.
Tony, who has a brother with down syndrome, is questioning what the level of cognitive grasp one needs to have to be considered one who believes. He is lowering the bar, though not to the “comatose.”
Another Protestant theologian I have given consideration to in this weblog, Hans Reinders, deals this issue in terms of “who is human?” and includes the profoundly disabled who have no cognitive function to speak of. See http://armsopenwide.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/hans-s-reinders-receiving-the-gift-of-friendship/
If you scroll to the end of the comments, you will find mine, posted on December 28, 2009. I didn’t take days to think it over; I responded quickly. I think my time was limited, and I felt the call to say what I said. I didn’t get into the substitutionary atonement theory; I just pointed out the mystical awareness given not only to infants and all those who have not and will not attain the abstract stage of cognitive development, but also to the unborn St. John the Baptist.
This is grace, and there are two dimensions in regard to God’s grace in this matter that I would identify. There is the uncreated grace given to all who have been endowed with life- to all human beings made in the image of God. And then there is the great grace that flows from the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit, given in baptism and chrismation; this illumination is saving uncreated grace- to be exercised unto life eternal.
(And Orthodox Christians are generally silent on the outcome of the lives of the unbaptized. We run far away from judging anyone’s eternal destiny, for we have been directed to strive toward the goal of enduring to the end ourselves. I speak as the chief of sinners.)
What I principally meant by “the various means the Church has engaged in to rule out heresies, and errant individual Bible interpretations” is that this process of clarifying truth and error for Orthodox Christians centers around a valid episcopy and presybtery- in succession and in profession- able to defend the Faith in word and in council according to the gifts they have been given through ordination, as well as the general priesthood of the laity, who are also involved in the informed giving of the “Amen,” an essential “seal” of these matters. As Father Ted Pulcini has put it, in regard to our personal responsibility for the Christian Tradition,
In Orthodoxy, it is not an authoritative magisterium which safeguards the Faith; it is the faithful themselves! For the faithful to be able to assume this responsibility — and privilege — they must immerse themselves in the life of the Spirit through prayer, sacramental participation, and spiritual training.
This quote is from “What is Orthodoxy?-TO BE AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN Is to experience the Apostolic Faith … ” by the Reverend Dr. Theodore Pulcini, who, by the way, was my thesis advisor and the one who recommended that I undertake this Orthodox Christian disability website: http://www.stmaryorthodoxchurch.org/orthodoxy/whatisorthodoxy.php
And here are two posts which speak to the Orthodox Christian understanding of salvation, in reference to the substitutionary atonement theory:
1. Father Michael Langley Communicatum Idiomatum: Salvation by Participation http://holynativity.blogspot.com/2010/02/communicatio-idiomatum-salvaton-by.html
2. Khorea Frederica Matthewes-Green- The Meaning of Christ’s Suffering http://www.frederica.com/writings/the-meaning-of-christs-suffering.html
And as to the “emerging Church” concerning which Tony Jones is a consultant, here’s another post by Khorea Frederica: Emergent Church and Orthodoxy: http://www.frederica.com/writings/the-emerging-church-and-orthodoxy.html
Actually, its about the Orthodox Church experience, in comparison to the “western” (Protestant and Roman Catholic) varieties of Christianity.