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Hello - Danage - 07-03-2008
I am officially an Arian Catholic (although I no longer believe in Arian Catholicism) and I am, by my beliefs, a Biblical Unitarian (not to be confused with Unitarian Universalists).
My spiritual journey is thus:
Baptism (soon after birth) to October 2005 - Protestant (Methodist)
October 2005 to 25th December 2005 - Biblical Unitarian (unknowingly)
25th December 2005 to November 2007 - I had Western Orthodox (Shepardic) Jewish beliefs
November 2007 to 3rd December 2007 - Biblical Unitarian (knowingly)
3rd December 2007 to 3rd January 2008 - Arian Catholic (by beliefs)
3rd January 2008 onwards - Biblical Unitarian (but still officially an Arian Catholic)
I have written a book on Historicism, and I believe that it is the correct way of interpreting the prophecies of the Books of Daniel, Revelation and Ezekiel (more specifically Ezekiel 38-39). I had previously written a book on Jewish eschatology, on Jewish Futurism, but I no longer believe in it.
I also believe in the five solas, the building blocks of the Reformation first proposed by Martin Luther.
I am open-minded to the possibility of Biblical Unitarianism being wrong.
My first question: where in the Bible does it say we may pray to the saints?
My second question, if I may: where are the Bible references to the (Blessed) Trinity?
Thank you in advance for your replies, and I hope I am allowed to be here, not being Oriental Orthodox and all.
- John Charmley - 08-03-2008
first, let me welcome you here. The Fellowship is open to all who enquire about the beliefs and practice of the Church.
Your questions start from a premise which Orthodox Christians do not accept - namely that something has to be mentioned in the Scriptures to be 'allowed'; that is to ignore the fact that the Scriptures themselves arose out of the life and practice of the early Church; unlike Islam there was no holy book upon which the Church was founded. Indeed, you might ask yourself the question of how Christians worshipped before the canon of Scripture as we have it now was established. In the answer to that lies the answer to your question about praying to Saints. The early Church, from the beginning, prayed to martyrs and to the dead Apostles - and we continue this practice. This is because the Church exists not just visibly but invisibly; we are one with those who have gone before us. The Church has always sanctioned this practice; who are we to deny something that our forefathers have always done? Too often modern western Christianity seems to think it can throw out tradition; it is one reason for the sorry state it finds itself in in so many places.
In terms of the Trinity, it is very hard to read St. John without encountering it; indeed, St. John wrote his Gospel and Epistles to warn against just the sort of thing which Arius would later try to argue. Christ bade the disciples to baptise in the Name of the father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The Trinity as a doctrine was hammered out in the long dispute with the Arians; the Church decided, definitively, that Arius was an heretic. That remains its position.
Of course, and thankfully, no one is now compelled to believe anything; but those who wish to pick and choose which aspects of the Faith they will accept and those they will not, will, I hope, recognise that that is not the practice of Orthodoxy.
Thank you - Danage - 09-03-2008
Thank you for the welcome and your explanations.
Am I right in saying that Oriental Orthodoxy places tradition on an equal footing with Scripture?
hello - kirk yacoub - 10-03-2008
Firstly, in Orthodoxy Tradition is very important because it comes from Scripture. Whatever is not in Scripture but is part of Tradition comes from
the Apostles and the Church Fathers who based themselves on Scripture.
When I have time I'll find a good article on the web that explains this.
Regarding the Trinity, when we pray we begin with: "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one true God." We are baptized, married, buried, blessed, exorcised, fed the Holy Sacraments all in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is strongly emphasised that we worship the Triune God. It is vitally important, therefore, to explain to those who come towards Christianity, either from another faith, a pseudo-faith, or no faith at all, what the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is, and how it is rooted on the Bible.
The first two verses of Genesis tell us that God has His Spirit; in Genesis2:17 God breathes the breath of life into the man fashioned from clay "and man became a living soul." That is why, in the Creed, we call the Holy Spirit "the Lord, the giver of life to all." In Psalm51 David begs,
"Take not thy holy spirit from me," indicating that God's Spirit has a vital relationship with mankind. In chapters 11 and 61 of Isaiah we read of the Holy Spirit's role in the work of the prophesied Messiah. In Joel2:28 we read of the astonishing power and gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit in God's promised act of salvation.
The New Testament is explicit that Jesus, as Son of God, was not an ordinary man who, because of particular spiritual goodness, was anointed Messiah at baptism, but that He is the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before the universe was even created.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God," says the first verse of St John's Gospel, adding, "The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made." In St Paul's Letter to the Hebrews we read: "God... hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir to all things, by whom also he made
the worlds."(1:1-2) Again in St John's Gospel: "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." (1:14).
According to Scripture, therefore, Christ is the Incarnation of God's Word, by whom the universe was made. St Matthew and St Luke tell us how the Word took flesh in the Virgin's womb, announced by the Archangel Gabriel.
"The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke1:35); "the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." (Matthew1:20).
Jesus referred to God as His Heavenly Father, not by right of adoption, but by the fact of His having been engendered by God before all worlds as the Word, then entering human history by becoming Incarnate in Mary's womb.
"All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father, and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him." (Luke10:22)
"He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," said Christ (John14:9) and,
"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but of the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works."
The relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit is clearly shown in Scripture. At His baptism Christ emerges from the waters and the dove which is the Holy Spirit descends upon Him, and the voice of God the Father announces: "THis is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
In John14:16-20 we read that Christ promises His disciples that He will pray to the Father to send another Comforter, "even the Spirit of truth", and this promise was fulfilled at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came "as of a mighty rushing of wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost..."
Note Christ's words in John14:18: "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you." Therefore, when the Holy Spirit comes, Christ comes, and when Christ comes, God the Father is also with us.
Such is the Scriptural basis for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. It is to the glory of the Church Fathers that they took all the explicit strands available in the Bible and formulated the doctrine of the Holy Trinity which corresponds to the living voice of Scripture and responds to the quetions: Who is Christ? What is the Holy Spirit? This had to be done because the Church is like Noah's Ark upon a raging sea. Doctrine seeks to explain the Truth of Christianity so that the Church itself and its members is defended against the weird and wonderful inventions of the human imagination and intellectual pride which could lead us astray down the wide path towards destruction.
- John Charmley - 10-03-2008
Quote:Am I right in saying that Oriental Orthodoxy places tradition on an equal footing with Scripture?As Kirk explains this is to posit a dichotomy which we would hold does not exist; tradition and scripture are parts of what we receive from the early Church - they are not separate things to be placed on an equal footing; like the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, they are of one essence; in this instance they are the word of God as we have received it.
We know, from St. John, that not all of the things which Our Lord said have been written down. The early Gnostics sought to pervert the teachings of Our Lord by claiming that their odd ideas were in some way linked to this oral tradition; but the early Church rejected their claims. It rejected them because they did not agree with what Scripture taught, nor yet with the traditions held by the Churches founded by the Apostles (I use the plural here simply to designate that there were Churches in various cities, all of which were part of the One Undivided Church.
Our understanding of the Trinity is based, as Kirk shows, firmly upon Scripture. We are told to baptise in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Certainly there early Church puzzled over how it was that Christ could pray to God and yet be one with God; even as it did over how the Comforter came from the Father via the Son. We know the story of the Arian controversy, and we know what settled view the Church came to. That view was entirely in accord with the Scriptures. There is no question here of Tradition being something that we equate with Scripture; the two come to us as part of the same phenomena - the word of God as revealed to us, His creation.
Can we, the created, understand everything the Creator did and does? No, of course not. The moment we feel we have comprehended the wholeness of God, whatever it is we think we have got, it is not God; He is beyond us. What we can understand is what He has taught us.
But we hold it foolishness to think that, unaided, we can understand the fullness of the word of God. We, of course, are sinners, and our sinful will may incline us toward the prideful view that our view is as good as anyone else's; but that is the sin of pride at work. We have, at best, a flickering candle, but in the Church we have a vaster illumination, where, by the lights of the Fathers and by the Church we can read more fully.
Sometimes people say that as a conservative Church we reject the insights of the western renaissance and of western biblical scholarship; this is not so. We take these things on board, but we are humble enough to acknowledge that man is not the measure of all things. We are pygmies, but we stand on the shoulders of giants, and we do not reject those things which our forefathers have left to us.
Re: hello - Danage - 10-03-2008
kirk yacoub Wrote:Dear Danage,
Thank you for the welcome and your input.
John 14:9 has definately got me thinking.
I, unlike the apostate Radical Biblical Unitarians (and unlike most Arian Catholics (of which I am one, officially)) and the even more apostate Unitarian Universalists (who are practically Bah?'?s, for they so besmirch the name of Christianity they never deserve such a label, if one is ever applied, for no true prophets (of which Muhammed (pbuh), Bah?'u'll?h, Zoroaster/Zarathushtra, Buddha, and all other false prophets) were ever called outside Israel, and not all true Israelite, Judean and Jewish prophets are equal, for Jesus Christ is the most infallible prophet), see Christ as being the Son of G-d, as clearly referenced in the Scriptures and I also believe in Jesus' role in Creation and in his pre-existence as backed up by Micah 5:2.
I also don't deny that we can understand Scripture completely, but I do believe we can understand a lot of it. I also reject liberalism and am a very strong conservative (as in my morals are very grounded in Biblical law). I also embrace Western thought but see it as being fallible, for only G-d is infallible (not some Bishop in Rome (the Roman Catholic Pope)).
Does Oriental Orthodoxy (am I right in saying you are Oriental Orthodox?) hold to the doctrine of hell? I do not, for it is not an action of a loving G-d, and I do not believe it is backed up by Scripture.
Do Oriental Orthodox believe in Historicism, Preterism, Futurism or Idealism?
Do the Oriental Orthodox, like the Eastern Orthodox (officially), and Arian Catholics (as I am myself meant to keep, but am not so sure how) keep to the Saturday Sabbath? From what I have read on the website you do not, but I am not so sure.
- John Charmley - 11-03-2008
You'll find in the discussion thread here one on Hell, in which I hope you'll find an interesting and Christian discussion of the idea. It is there in the Scriptures, so we cannot deny it; what it might be is another matter, on which the Church gives guidance. For myself I am attracted by the ideas of St. Isaac the Syrian, who sees hell as a self-imposed alienation from God's love; if we have free will, as we do, then we have that freedom too.
Quote:Do Oriental Orthodox believe in Historicism, Preterism, Futurism or Idealism?We engage little, if at all with these mainly protestant ideas; we are a conservative Church, holding to what our forefathers held. Most of the speculation that goes on over these ideas serves simply to fuel argument. I have never seen a discssion of them which encouraged an atmosphere of prayer.
We keep a Sunday sabbath.
- Danage - 11-03-2008
John Charmley Wrote:Dear Danage,
Thank you for your reply.
Preterism and Futurism are Roman Catholic ideas that came out of the Counter-Reformation, but you are right in saying that Historicism is a Protestant idea, although it is not well known to this day.
I do not deny the existance of Hell, but I believe it to be annihilation of the (mortal) soul, for only G-d is truly immortal.
I also believe that the Holy Spirit is the power of G-d, which emanates out of the Father.
Does the Oriental Orthodox Church venerate saints and bow to icons?
Does the Oriental Orthodox Church believe that only through the Oriental Orthodox Church are people saved?
Am I right in saying that the leader of the Oriental Orthodox Church is a Pope in Alexandria who is the spiritual successor of St Mark the Apostle?
Do you have a leader in Great Britain, of the British Orthodox Church, like an Archbishop (the Arian Catholic Church has an Archbishop of York as the visible head, for example, although I no longer champion their cause)?
Does the British Orthodox Church also base itself on the Biblical heirarchy of Deacons, Priests and Bishops?
- John Charmley - 11-03-2008
We do indeed venerate Saints - and icons.
We believe that only God knows who is saved. We see the Church as a spiritual hospital - and would think that the Oriental Orthodox Church is the hospital in which the best spiritual healing is to be had. We would think it presumptuous to pronounce on what God will do; we know where the Church is not - but who shall set the limits to it save God Himself?
The Oriental Orthodox Church consists of a family of Churches and, like all Orthodox Churches, has no single leader. The Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria is led by His Holiness, Pope Shenouda III, who is indeed the successor of St. Mark the beholder of God. Our own leader in the BOC is Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury, who is a member of the Coptic Holy Synod.
All our worship and practice is based on Holy Scripture, and we do indeed have the ministry of deacons, priests and bishops.
Hope that helps.
- Danage - 25-03-2008
John Charmley Wrote:Dear Danage,
Thank you. You are a lot more understanding than the Roman Catholics who only said I was a heretic and that was all they could say. I have a great problem with the Roman Catholic Church by the way. The Popes claims of infallibility are most heretical, for, as you said, all Patriarchs are equals.
Heresy - John Charmley - 26-03-2008
Of course, from the Orthodox point of view Arianism is a heresy. It is not, however, an unintelligent one and has been believed by many pious people, and even though I - and more importantly the Church - would hold that what they believe is incorrect, one gets no where in a dialogue by crying 'heretic' at people.
The Church has good reasons for holding the view it takes on the divinity of Our Lord, and the best way of dealing with those who take an Arian view is to ask them to read what the Fathers wrote; if that fails to convince them, then so be it. But we should never weary in trying to guide people to the Truth.
Re: Heresy - Danage - 27-03-2008
John Charmley Wrote:Dear danage,
Thank you for your explanation and your understanding in this.
I'll certainly read your sources, but I believe the only way to truly understand a church is to be on the inside, i.e. to attend that church. For example, in my search for Truth I looked at all denominations that didn't believe in the Trinity or Binity.
One of these churches was the Mormon Church. To understand it I went to their church, read the Book of Mormon, but thankfully rejected it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the most weird church of all, believing in a plurality of gods, when the Bible clearly states that G-d is one, and there is no other.
Trinity - John Charmley - 27-03-2008
We probably do well to remember that any time we think we 'understand' who God is, we probably don't; He is incomprehensible and Infinite; we cannot comprehend the Infinite. What He needs us to understand of Him He has revealed to us through Our Lord Jesus Christ and through the Church He founded; that very same Church which pronounced on the scriptural canon, and which has pronounced on the Trinity.
Of course, on both these things there is, and has been, great discussion and debate, and some, there are, who have decided they know better than the Church founded by Christ. Well, the sin of man was ever pride. Many are those who, in the darkness, think the feeble light from their own flickering candle provides all the spiritual and intellectual discernment they need to apprehend the Truth; truly it is only within the greater illumination provided within His Church that the fullness of the Faith - and thus the greatest illumination - is to be found. This is just one of the many reasons why the BOC is a Church which believes in evangelization.
hello - kirk yacoub - 28-03-2008
Quite a way back in this thread I gave you several quotations from Scripture which show that the Bible does present us with a Triune God.
So, please add to them the following:
In the Gospel of St John8v58 Christ says, "Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." Then in John10v30 he says, "I and my Father are one." On both occasions the religious zealots wanted to stone Jesus to death for the blasphemy of claiming to be God.
Famously Thomas doubted that Christ had risen from the dead and demanded that he needed tangible proofs. In John20v26-29 we read that when Christ appeared to the disciples again, this time with Thomas present, Thomas was invited by Christ to put his fingers into our Saviour's wounds. Immediately Thomas rejected all need of that, saying to Christ:
"My Lord and my God." Did Jesus reject this clear statement of worship?
No, instead he responded with: "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
St Paul, in his letter to Colossians wrote of Christ: "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."(2v9)
I suggest that you gather all the given quotations together, meditate on them and pray for guidance.
- John Charmley - 28-03-2008
Kirk's advice is good.
Of course Arius was able to cite scripture in support of his beliefs; if the citation of something from scripture according to one's own interpretation was the criterion of right belief then there would be almost as many Churches as there are people, with every man his own Pope (oops, just looked at how many Churches there are and it seems like that's almost right!)
It is not the citing of Scripture that matters, it is the right reading of it. Christ founded a Church and He told it that not even the Gates of Hell would prevail against it. That Church was where His Word was rightly divined; it was, indeed, out of that Church that the canon of Scripture emerged, and it was from that place that the Orthodox Fathers wrote to edify the faithful.
If a man chooses not to accept the word of that Church but instead sets up his intellectual pride as the arbiter of Truth, what warrant has he for his beliefs? If he is outside that Church, how does he know that what he holds is the True Gospel as delivered by Jesus Christ to His Church?
The Bible is not an instruction manual; indeed in the early Church catechumens were only allowed access to it via their instructors; the Church knew well how easily heresy could take hold. Indeed there are many who would hold that St. John's Gospel and his epistles were inspired by the need to combat heretical teaching. If you read the Bible without the illumination of the Church which pronounced it canonical then you read it by the light of your own sinful self and by whatever light is available. Read it in the full illumination of His Church and you read the book as it is meant to be read.
The real heresy is the Protestant belief that one can get hold of part of the Divine Revelation - the Bible - and read it without the rest of that revelation - Holy Tradition. Read half a story and you get half the Truth - at best.
No one here hurls cries of 'heresy' at any one. Whoever changed his mind because someone shouted 'heretic' at him? Our task as Orthodox Christians is to bear witness to the Revealed Truth as we have received it. There is always sadness when we see those who have only a part of it; there is more sadness when we see they have got hold of the wrong end of that part of it. But all we can do is to pray for illumination, and to offer paths that might lead to it.