Today, 10:08 AM
Because it's false. Orthodoxy teaches salvation by grace through faith (as the Gospels and Epistles do). Wherever you got your schooling failed you.
Salvation Is Indeed By Grace
At a recent, post-liturgical coffee hour, a catechumen raised a question that has troubled many people who were brought up in a Protestant environment and at some point found themselves drawn to Orthodoxy. “If we are saved by grace, and not by works,” he asked, “why does the Orthodox Church put so much stress on ascetic practice? Why should it be necessary, or even useful, to fast as we do, to make countless prostrations during Great Lent, to stand for hours through long services, and even to give so much money to the Church?” (He was preparing to enter a parish in the Southern Diocese, where tithing is usually considered an important part of personal spiritual discipline.) Then he added, “Aren’t all these things works? And what happens if I don’t do them? Am I cast out of the Kingdom and basically condemned to hell?”
The discussion went on for some time, until the coffee ran out and most people went home. He stayed, though, and continued his questioning with the priest, who later admitted he had the feeling that on some level this catechumen was getting the better of him.
Finally the man pulled out a pocket Bible and opened to Colossians 3. Selecting a few verses to make his point, he read: “Why do you submit to regulations, ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgences of the flesh.”
“Why, then,” he asked, “do the Orthodox submit to such regulations: ‘Do not eat (this or that),’ or ‘Do this, that, and the other thing,’ in order to be a ‘good Christian’? Isn’t it enough to ‘love God and my neighbor as myself’?”
It was a good question. While there’s a perfectly reasonable and satisfactory answer to his objection, it seems worthwhile for all of us to think about these things, in an effort to understand just why ascetic practice and spiritual discipline in general are so important in Christian life.
Our rebellion against God and his will touches every aspect of our existence. “Sin” or “sinfulness” is not just an accumulation of specific acts of disobedience or willfulness that in some way violate the commandments. It is more than the sum total of our individual sins. Those sins are symptomatic of something broader and deeper that virtually defines us, that characterizes our every act and attitude. Sin is a state of being that permeates all aspects of our life, conscious and unconscious, physical as well as spiritual. In fact, the distinction we usually make between what is physical and what is spiritual is artificial and misleading. The human person can only be understood holistically. Our bodily gestures affect our psycho-spiritual disposition, just as our spiritual state can affect our body. Nothing attests to this fact more eloquently than the Orthodox service of Holy Unction, with its emphasis on the forgiveness of sins as integral to the quest for healing.