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A Generous Orthodoxy
16-08-2007, 09:02 AM,
a generous orthodoxy
Dear John, Rick and anyone else who's reading,
I can't help thinking that, ultimately, it isn't God who judges us, but it is we
who judge ourselves. As is quite obvious, God has done and is doing everything
to save us from our selves, only stopping short of coercion. St Silouan the Athonite seemed to regard the presence in Hell of anyone as a direct consequence of our inability to pray hard enough for others. If, even with the Church praying for the souls of those who have departed this life not only of believers, but also non-believers, there are those who seem destined to be judged negatively, this shows that free will still exists with the departed soul. We should not think that, after death, seeing what eternity is like without God, any and everyone will immediately repent. Just look at the example of Lucifer! Pride and arrogance are the stumbling blocks to the opening up of the heart.

Kirk Yacoub
16-08-2007, 01:35 PM,
Dear Kirk,

Yes, indeed, and you are quite correct in saying that God has done everything for us save coerced us - and as a Just God He cannot go outside His own moral laws. How sad though that we are so determined on sin.

There are serious questions here, though, about non-believers and heretics. I love St. Isaac's writings, but he does seem to me to be essentially a universalist; this is a position to which I suspect I naturally incline, but it is one that the Church does not teach - as Origen found!

That was one reason that I raised the question of judgement as part of this discussion, because even in passages such as the Sermon on the Mount where His love for us shines through, Our Saviour is quite clear that there will be a judgement.

And again, on things such as doctrine and dogma, the Fathers laboured so long and fought so hard for Orthodoxy that it must matter what one believes - as well as how one manifests that belief in life. Again, our modern western mindset is to take the view that tolerance is all, and provided people are OK and 'good' that is enough; but that does not seem to be the teaching of the Church.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
17-08-2007, 04:21 PM,
Dear Kirk, Dear John,

Maybe you guys say this over there as well, but as we say over here, this thread is "pretty cool." We are able to effortlessly move from topic to topic under the umbrella of a Generous Orthodoxy, and as we consider the love of God, the judgment of God--the mercy of God, and now the eschaton there is a very good dynamic present, one that I appreciate very much.

I fully agree with your suggestion, Kirk, that to the degree that we judge ourselves God judges us. I don't have time to dig it out and develop it now; but, there is a passage in Romans 1 that demonstrates this (especially when looked at in the Greek). To the degree that we turn to God or turn away from Him, to this degree, God turns to us. But, to be fair, there are just as many verses in the Holy Writ that suggest a predetermination or an election, as there are verses that suggest that salvation is conditional and based on our belief or unbelief. So what are you going to do? What is one to do with this? When I was in seminary, I used to argue more on the side of free-will. I attended a hyper Calvinistic school. After some classes were over for the day, in the halls, I can remember on more than one occasion the upperclassmen coming up to me and saying, "Man, what are you doing in this school?" But, back then, I was happy to present my verses and argue the traditional Weslyan type of soteriology as if I was right and all who disagreed with me were wrong. During these days, the Calvinist's were happy to break out there verses and parrot things from there 'side' as well. Usually, in the end, there was nothing but the end. I would be branded/labeled and Arminian, a Pelagian, or a semi-Pelagian, and I would return the favor to 'them.' But, at the end of the day, it was all just a big charade, a play that had been acted out many many times before there and elsewhere, one that would be acted out again and again. In fact, it was at that school that St. John Cassian was held up as a heretic of the semi-Pelagian order, and used as the wrong view as contrasted to St. Augustine. And, it was there that I learned to love Cassian and saw that he held to the same view that I did, which was one of a middle way, a Royal Path.

I wonder if any here are familiar with the Royal Path as presented in Orthodoxy? Possibly, this would be a good avenue for us to explore and research and learn more of. From my limited exposure to the Royal Path as expounded by various Orthodox writers the Royal Path is perfectly parallel to a Generous Orthodoxy--if not the very same path! Discretion is a huge element here.

But, like soteriology, eschatology can be viewed from different places and planes. But, in the end, at the end of the day, what can we be dogmatic about? Well, one response to this question is, 'we can be dogmatic about exactly the same things that the Church and the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church is dogmatic about!!! Yes sir I heard that, you tell em Bobby Ray! I heard that--that ain't no lie!

Umm . . . okay. Or, we could take the view as quoted from Bishop Ware's book "The Inner Kingdom" in the last chapter titled "Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All?" where another is quoted as saying (as I remember it): "The one who does not believe in a universalism through Christ is as a dumb ox; however, the one who teaches it is as a dumb [censored]."

Or, we could take one or the other views on each side of the isle.

As, for me, I have a leaning towards the above quote. But, the Church does not teach a universalism through Christ, as John has said, so neither would I presume to do such a thing in any fashion. However, there is a theology of hope, that says none of us know for sure what is meant when God says in the End, all things will be created new. Just as I do not know of any who presume to understand fully the process of Salvation, there is a common way of knowing involved here that again, I think, takes us back in our journey to the Royal Path. I do know some folks who can be very dogmatic and very loud about their own personal beliefs as it relates to the doctrine of salvation the doctrine of the end times, and chances are so do you! Especially, when these folks are gathered together with other like minded folks, things can really get fired up (viz. I heard that, that ain't no lie, if it ain't broke don't fix it!). But, all that mob mentality aside, that epistemology and state of being aside . . . who would presume to know the ways of God, the depths and the riches, the wisdom or the knowledge of God as it relates to such things as the love of God, the judgment of God, and the mercy of God! Who is this one?

I would like to suggest that this is the same one who does not walk the way of the Royal Path. This is the same one who thinks 'he has known the mind of the Lord and has become His counselor as if he has first given to the Lord that it might be paid back to him again.' And, it appears I am ending on a negative note today, but that's okay. Sometimes the "happy--clappy" really does just miss the mark in such discussions, and indeed is not an aid to the transforming and renewing of the mind, but a seductive sedative that renders one incapable of 'proving what is good and acceptable and perfect.' I am a big fan of the Greek word dokimaso or the infinitive dokimazien. In the former this translates, "I prove, I examine, I try, I test" in the latter "to prove, to examine, to test, etc." This word is all over the New Testament. We are commanded to dokimazien. You are commanded to prove what the will of God is and I am commanded to prove what the will of God is, and this is by means of a transformed mind, a renewing of your mind through a personal relationship with Christ--the path of Christ. Whereby we know that from Him and through Him and to Him are all things--He is the All in All. And, knowing there is a mood that starts to come into view that is anti-Christian, it is anti-Christ. And, this is something that we are commanded to recognize by testing the spirit of what is said. (I John 4:1). We are to dokimazein for ourselves, we are to be sober and alert--vigilant. We are not to succumb to the spirit of this world regardless of the clothing it presents itself to us in. Regardless of the building or the decor, we are not to be conformed to this world. So there is a balance to be sure, one I think can be spoken of in terms of the Royal Path of Orthodoxy or as we are now, a Generous Orthodoxy.

And, we are still dancing around the edges of a more clear view of what we are talking about as it relates to the previously mentioned eros and agape discussion which God willing we will move towards in the near future.

In Christ,

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;

Thessalonians 5:21
18-08-2007, 12:23 PM,
A Generous Orthodoxy
Dear Rick,

An interesting and thoughtful post, which gives us much to think about as we develop this theme with its various facets.

Quote:I wonder if any here are familiar with the Royal Path as presented in Orthodoxy?
I am not familiar with the term and would love to know more about it.

It is clear from Acts that from the very beginning there have always been those in the Church whose zeal for the Lord outstripped their remembrance of their own sinfulness, and whose 'Martha-ish' tendencies sometimes failed to take sufficient account of the command to love one another.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem used to distinguish between 'overt heretical teaching' and 'varied theological errors in reflection', and was always slow to decide that he was in the presence of the former.

As people we like to think we are 'right', and some of us can argue the hind leg off the donkey before admitting that we are, in fact, plain wrong. The various fractures in the Church since 451 have left a whole number of competing claims, and those Churches which can claim Apostolicity often lay claim to the fulness of the Orthodox faith along with it. It is often said that they cannot all be right; it is not altogether clear why they might not all have a point.

As my recent posts have perhaps shown, I have been in dialogue with and reading Roman Catholic literature. This is partly because one reads so many things about what it is 'they' believe, often from the same people who tell others what we Oriental Orthodox 'believe' and get it badly wrong.

Their teaching is in many senses more developed than ours, and something like Purgatory clearly derives from a particular reading of some scriptural texts, some comments in the Fathers, and a need to elaborate on what cannot, in fact, be known for certain. It is far from certain that many of those arguing about the filioque are actually arguing from the same premises, or even about the same thing: the Economy of the Trinity can hardly be something a creaturely mind could grasp, surely? Then there's the stuff about the Pope, where frankly they have been making it up since ancient times, and continue to argue black is white in the face of historical evidence that would fell a bull-elephant; their pre Vatican I position was closer to being something one could argue over, and recent pronouncements by their Pope suggest an uneasiness with the fullest pretensions of the Magisterium; but I would expect to see a legless donkey before I see an admission of error.

Yet, with all these differences and their nuances, it is hard not to see in the Roman Church the western branch (to use my old Anglican terminology) of the ancient undivided Church. It does not surprise me that dialogue between the Vatican and the Oriental Orthodox family of Churches is relatively fruitful; we have much in common - and probably much we could teach each other - they would certainly benefit from thinking about theosis and being less scholastic in some of their formulations - and we might benefit from some of its theological insights.

Yet that 'mob-mentality' you mentioned can lead some Orthodox to very unChristian comments about Rome - and to some Romans being very unChristian about the Orthodox. Meanwhile in the west an aggressive secularism gathers force in one corner, and an expansionist Islam in another; elsewhere Christianity is seen most publicly in Evangelical caricature or as a bunch of squabbling bigots. Some witness to the Christ who died for us.

There has, of course, always been a tendency within the Faith to treat the idea of developing our inner life in Christ as though it meant a withdrawal from this secular world, but as St. Cyril of Jerusalem reminds us, Christology and the Sacraments are of a piece in the Christian life, so the inner and the outer are part of the greater whole. We are assimilated into Christ through the sacraments as means of salvation; He came that He might make us one with God through physical means which provide access to Christ, and to God through Christ.

I have seen, on another forum where you and I have been know to hang out, comments to the effect that the poster was glad that Orthodoxy did not do evangelism; that makes me sad. If it wants to sit in its small corner and pretend that cultivating its soul is what the Lord died on the Cross for, and why He was resurrected, then it is not His Church. One of my many reasons for being a member of the BOC is that it does not believe this.

This could be caricatured as a syncretic appeal to solidarity on the lowest common denominator, but that is not what is being advocated. It may be that it is along that 'Royal Road' that the path to reconciliation and mission lie for for the historic Churches.

Abba Seraphim's recent paper on Scripture and Tradition (which I hope we can have to the website) contains so much wisdom on these subjects.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
23-08-2007, 12:44 PM,
Dear John,

I wonder if "Legless Donkeys" or "On Flying Pigs" would make a good title or sub-title for something? Smile And, when you say:

Quote:This is partly because one reads so many things about what it is 'they' believe, often from the same people who tell others what we Oriental Orthodox 'believe' and get it badly wrong.

I think we see a model of a problem that exists universally in the Church, and in other world faith traditions as well. When I was an Evangelical, I would meet new people from other Christian denominations and the non-denominational and pretty close to 100% of the time as I would share my 'knowledge' of their assembly and they would share their 'knowledge' of my assembly, we would both find that we had it 'badly wrong' in some key areas! Between hearsay and literature that is so heavily biased, it is easy to see why things are like they are, and why there are such donkeys and pigs as above.

Last night, I stayed up past my bedtime and watched a two hour special on PBS on "The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain." I did notice at the beginning of the show that the major contributors to this production all had Arabic names, and there was some top notch history presented here, I think. But, the way the commentary and drama was mixed with the talking heads/experts, at the end of the program I was almost persuaded that we would all be better off if there was a liberal Islam (which allowed much room for religious tolerance and diversity) in power world-wide. The show clearly demonstrated that when either a Puritanical Christianity or Islam was the ruling force, all others were persecuted, books were burned, treasures were lost, creativity and intellectual endeavors languished. But, when a liberal Islam was in power, Christians, Jews, and Muslims (and all) lived in peace and harmony--the Muslim, Jew, and Christian scholars and artists/craftsmen worked side by side thinking, translating, writing, creating . . . it was a concrete utopia during this time in Islamic Spain--a model for all! So who wouldn't want history to repeat itself here in this way? We all worship together and work together and live together in peace and harmony under a liberal Islam. But, I wonder what this same production would have looked like if it was funded primarily by those with Hebrew names, or those with Christian names?

And, yes, as you imply we do like to think that 'we' are right and 'they' are wrong (whoever the 'we' and the 'they' is--it doesn't matter. Even within other faith traditions and systems, based on my reading, in different Buddhist traditions, for example, there are the same things going on there, the same dynamics, models, and disinformation going on there (viz. the thinking that 'you are *not* a True Buddhist, but 'we' are True Buddhists!). It's just nutty, everyone wants to be right. Regardless of an individualism or community mindset, people want to think that 'they' have it right. Ironically though, I think in all of this regardless of which system or non-system is being promoted and defended (to the point of donkeys loosing legs and pigs flying about) what we see is nothing but a rank particularism at the end of the day, in this type of 'knowing.'

And, it doesn't really matter when one is caught up in all of this does it? It doesn't really matter whether one is caught up in debates about Vatican I or Vatican II, it doesn't matter if it is Orthodoxy or orthodoxy, or Buddhism or buddhism, or on down the line. As long as one is caught up in disinformation, based primarily on the motive to have it right and be right for the sake of being right, what is the difference between fiction and this way of 'knowing' and 'being?' What does this way of living have to do with Truth? I can see no correlation between the driving force of these competing systems for Christian living or any other type of living, as it relates to Truth as Love.

And, possibly this is why St. Cyril of Jerusalem was slow to condemn teaching as being overtly heretical when it was possible that there were errors in reflection at play. Yes, discretion/discerment. To be completely honest, the only writing from St. Cyril that I have read is from what you have quoted him here and elsewhere John; but, it seems from what I have read that the wise St. Cyril models something very rare in our day. It appears he models and sees the imperativeness of speaking the Truth in Love.

Because, how can there be any reconciliation or anything other than an artificial unity at best, where the Truth is not spoken in Love?

And, there are different ways to look at what is being said here, especially in the modern day that we live in today; however, from where I sit, as it relates to solidarity of any kind, Truth in Love is the Highest Common Denominator without which there is no generousity/charity of any kind but only a self-seeking/serving and selfish particularism regardless of what color the robe one wears, or what shape the medallion is around one's neck, or what food and drink is on the table. Without Love what we wear, eat and drink is nothing. Without Love we are nothing--we are no 'thing' and no 'where' but in a bad sense.

And, we did not get to a conversation directly contrasting Agape and Eros, or the "Royal Road" today. But, that's okay. God willing there will be another day. All in God's timing.

In Christ,
23-08-2007, 05:54 PM,
Dear Rick,

Yes, without love, as St. Paul reminds us, there is nothing.

I am struck by the way some people seem to need to explain away what St. Paul means by saying it is a different love to the one we feel. Is it that different, or just fuller because it is His.

It was His love that made Him want to save us, and St. Isaac tells us that Calvary was to show how much and deeply He love us, His children by adoption. Well, as we can only know the Father through the Son, why use the two words at all if they do not help us know something we cannot otherwise grasp; His love for us is like that of a Father for a Son; it is not the same, it is 'like'; that's as much as our feeble intellect can grasp - and all we need to know when you think about it.

If we could live in love with our neighbour, would the world not be a better place? So what do we do when faced with evident error - 'Christ was a nice chap who taught some really groovy stuff, but don't lay that guilt trip on me' sort of thing?

Well, really, what can we do? We can chat with whomsoever and put of point of view, but no more. We don't, thank God, live any longer in a society in the west where the Church can get the Monarch to get the instruments of state control to burn heretics.

Who pronounces on error for the Orthodox? For the Copts it is the Holy Synod. But what if something it says conflicts with the previous teaching of the Church, or with what other Oriental Orthodox confess? Who speaks for the EO? The Athonite monks have been known to be extremely uncharitable about the EP; is that OK then? Who says?

Whether we hold to a relativistic view of things or not, we live in a society that does, and our quarrels as Christians can make us look like nothing more than a bunch of bigots arguing over the number of angels who dance on a pinhead. We, of course, know we are not - but we can see, looking about us, how much influence the Faith now has on a society which it helped to shape.

The great Anglican Church is a shadow of its former self - a female American 'bishop' talking about how salvation can be found 'most anywhere, not just in Christianity; and I'm sure she speaks for many in this society. What is our response? No, lady, just to those in the Church? Which 'Church would that be then?' The Orthodox one. 'Which Orthodox one?' We can get off talking about where the Church is not but not where it is - by which time no one is listening.

We've tried conflict, oh, how we as Christians have tried that one. Would a bit of love in a Generous Orthodoxy be out of the question? Confusedhock:

Watch for those low flying porcine creatures.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
04-12-2007, 10:15 PM,
Quote:Watch for those low flying porcine creatures.

Dear John, Dear All,

As we might consider the subject of a Generous Orthodoxy by way of Christ's priestly prayer in John 17, it occurs to me that I might be coming at this whole question of unity and being one in Christ exactly backwards.

While for quite sometime I have thought that the possibility of a top down solution to the various dilemmas that surround this question is to be equated to the saying 'when pigs fly,' and in this sense the priestly prayer of Christ will manifest itself only as an eschatological event, I would like to suggest now that this is not the case. Or in an attempt to distil this down a bit, if I would ask, "Who is the Church?" and we could all agree that the Church is the Body of Christ, then we could also say that those who comprise the one Body of Christ are those who are one with Christ just as He is one with the Father.

And, from here I think we would necessarily move to a consideration of a mystical bond which would have to consider the Kingdom of God which is in the here and now, the inner kingdom. Although it is common for certain individual groups to lay claim to this ground, and to sit in the seat of the gate keeper, this inner kingdom is not restricted to any one tradition or any one Orthodox culture. In this sense this common ground is what defines a Generous Orthodoxy which does not seek to ignore the prayer of Christ that we would all be one in Him.

And, what I am stumbling toward here John is along the lines of something I read in one of your posts on this website in another thread. You said something about how folks sometimes comment that they don't do enough (possibly speaking of a local visible body or a particular Orthodox group), and then you followed that up with something like we need to realize that the 'they' are you and I.

Whereby, I am considering today that entrance into the domain of Christ, our King, simply cannot be blocked by anyone regardless of their particular Orthodoxy. For example, if I say I am an Eastern Orthodox and all of you Oriental Orthodox are apostate and can by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven . . . at the end of the day, so what? Or, let me kick this up a notch or two, for another example, if a Bishop somewhere in my tradition would say the same thing, again, so what? Or, turn it around if you like, vice-versa, the same result so what? Any OO reading this EO fist shaking and ground stomping would rightly just move on, possibly a bit annoyed for having wasted time, but still there would most likely be a simple moving beyond this in a continuation of a working out of one's salvation for oneself--a continued aspiration for communion and union with God on the Path of Christ in the inner Kingdom. There would be a continuation of the walk of faith in the commandments of God in the hope of abiding in Christ on an increased basis.

In this sense, it occurs to me now that the priestly prayer is being fulfilled in the here and now, it is being realized at the present by those who are able to transcend the fist shaking and the rhetoric of those who would divide what Orthodoxy by its very nature and boundaries is designed to Unite. And, further along these lines, and somewhat ironically as we might consider some who would seek to end all conversations eventually by exclaiming that it is all so mystical that it cannot be understood by those who do not have eyes to see and ears to hear, this is really the case, in the end, as it relates to a common ground for those who are disciples of Christ, for those who abide in Him and He in them.

So, while I am not changing my mind about the possibility of a top down solution to the problem here, I think I am saying that in some ways there is no problem or this unity that is spoken of in John 17 is not to be viewed exclusively as an eschatological event whereby the likelihood of it happening in the here and now is akin to when porcine creatures fly. And, while it might appear that I am the one who has decided to close his eyes and put his fingers in his ears and hum a few bars of something, this is not the case. For any who do not have their heads stuck in the sand, it is very easy to see the rank particularism and true division that does exist within the body of Christ. But, in this seeming call for a transcendence of all divisions in Christ, with the eyes wide open, there is a tandem call for a loving response to those who cannot see or will not see this common ground which does exist in the now, in the present.

But, again, even with this approach (viz. not an eschatological event, but here today, and now this very minute), again I think that we are right back to the question of authority and the question love. As stated earlier, love is the supreme ontological predicate of the Trinity and as they are One we are to also be One. So our response to those, even those in positions of authority, is a marker. We are not responsible for the response of others to a pointing to a common ground in which Christ is at the center; but, we are responsible for ourselves. But, again love is an indicator and a boundary marker according to the Book of First John.

And, also, I would wonder at this point just as my examples above show that at the end of the day there is a moving beyond what would seek to bring division in the Body of Christ, how are even some individual councils within Orthodoxy exempt from this same thing? Because particularism is particularism regardless of what Community it would divide (or be used by others as a vehicle of division).

But, then again, who even wants to think like this let alone hear such thinking presented? Most folks find security and have their felt needs met within the systems to which they subscribe and prescribe. Most folks are just trying to get by each day, one day at a time and really just don't want anyone to rock the boat. To which it occurs to me that when Peter got up and stepped out of the boat that one day with his gaze fixed on Jesus, he didn't realize his goal completely . . . things didn't go exactly as he had hoped they would, but at least he was willing to get out of the boat. Sometimes the actions of Peter draw a smile as they are presented from the pulpits on Sundays, but I am not so sure that we don't need to see more Peters in our day, although I'm not so sure that we don't see a few here in this discussion community.

In Christ,
07-12-2007, 04:42 PM,
Generous Orthodoxy
Dear Rick,

We are in your debt for this reflection.

I suppose that all eras have their bugbears, and for those of us of a conservative disposition the modern habit of indifferentism perhaps bulks so large that we fail to differentiate between an ecumenism derived from it and one derived from another - and orthodox - place.

Your post reminded me to that comment of Jacob Bar Hebraeus from The Dove cited here by Kirk, but which bears repeating:
Quote:When I had given much thought and pondered on the matter, I became convinced that these quarrels of Christians among themselves are not a matter of factual substance, but rather one of words and terms. For they all confess Christ Our Lord to be perfect God and perfect human, without any commingling, mixing, or confusion of the natures. This bipinnate 'likeness' ( Phil. 2:6-7) is termed by one party a 'nature', by another 'a hypostasis' and by yet another a 'person'. Thus I saw all the Christian communities, with their different Christological positions, as possessing a single common ground that is without any difference. Accordingly I totally eradicated any hatred from the depths of my heart, and I completely renounced disputing with anyone over confessional matters

That, I think, is pretty close to what you're saying here. Bar Hebraeus is not saying that the differences do not matter, he is saying that they are not what we think they are: we are all confessing the same Risen Christ, the same Trinitarian God, the same soteriology and the same salvation. Sometimes I wonder whether those sitting so stiffly on guard outside their Church proclaiming it to be THE one do not have something in common with the Roman guards outside the empty tomb? To think we can confine the Risen Lord is a little like thinking we can define Him exactly. Look where 'strictly speaking' got Nestorius!

All that said, and I am sure there will be many who see the holes in it, we come up against our old obstacle, St. Cyprian's ecclesiology and the well-honed language of boundaries; even to question this is, in the eyes of some, to come close to heresy. On this basis we end up with an EO and an OO rather than an OC, although both might quietly say they allow of the adjective out of politeness to the other bunch of schismatic heretics!

The original Protestant Churches thought, after all, that they were escaping from the accretions of the centuries and getting back to some form of primitive and Apostolic purity; but what Orthodoxy shows, surely, is that they went about it like some modern 'restorers' who strip away not only modern additions but also huge parts of the original?

To continue the analogy, Orthodoxy is, in this sense, like a more sensitive restorer who respects the original and does not think he can improve upon it. We do not entertain the notion that there was some perversion of original Christianity because we know our Church is the continuation of the one founded by Christ Himself; we read the Scriptures by its lights, not presuming to rely solely upon our own reason or that of others, but rather upon that of the God-inspired Fathers within God's Church.

But here the question of authority bulks as large for us as it did in the early Church; it was not for nothing that the Fathers of the first two hundred years were most exercised by this question. Some things change not, and they, like us, were faced with a multitude of folk claiming exclusive or gnostic revelation. Indeed, as we know, the canon itself was defined by the Church to ensure that books claiming Apostolicity should not be able to deceive (were that possible) the faithful. But authority was also needed to guard against false belief, and on that issue the great division of 451 took place; both sides firmly believed (as the official position remains) that they had held onto right belief. Naturally there are those who decry all attempts to show this as a misunderstanding in the words used by the Orthodox Information Centre, as signs of an:
Quote:ecumenical ideology, which seeks to gloss over the fundamental and abiding differences which distinguish the heterodox confessions from the Orthodox Faith. All too often, such differences are now conveniently dismissed as merely long-standing miscommunications of alternative, yet equally valid, terminological emphases. This perfunctory approach has been eagerly employed by Orthodox modernists in their theological dialogues with the so-called "Oriental Orthodox" churches.

In this sense we cannot proceed on our own, as we are not stray sheep; we have a bishop who is our shepherd, and we cannot take the Protestant line that shall find our own way there. But that said, we are also bound by a covenant of love, and were we bitterest enemies, we should be charged with loving each other; as we are brothers in Christ we know what He thinks about those who profess to love Him whilst hating their own brother!

Our own tradition guides us, as ever, aright. St. Irenaeus, in his treatise ?Against the Heresies (III, 24), told us that
Quote: ?Wherever the Church is, God?s spirit is too: and wherever God?s Spirit is, there is the Church and every Grace; for the Spirit is Truth.

Perhaps we need to ponder on our own tradition and to find the building blocks for the bridge of union within it?

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
11-12-2007, 02:24 PM,
Dear John,

Thanks very much for the above. When Kirk first posted this quote it got my attention; however, as you place it up again, and I look at it again, I have to think yes this is IT:

Quote:1.) When I had given much thought and pondered on the matter, I became convinced that these quarrels of Christians among themselves are not a matter of factual substance, but rather one of words and terms.

2.) For they all confess Christ Our Lord to be perfect God and perfect human, without any commingling, mixing, or confusion of the natures.

3.) This bipinnate 'likeness' ( Phil. 2:6-7) is termed by one party a 'nature', by another 'a hypostasis' and by yet another a 'person'. Thus I saw all the Christian communities, with their different Christological positions, as possessing a single common ground that is without any difference.

4.) Accordingly I totally eradicated any hatred from the depths of my heart, and I completely renounced disputing with anyone over confessional matters

Or, in other words, while seeing the autobiographical nature of this passage, even in his tenses we observe the mechanics of a transcendence of all divisions in Christ. All division is spoken of in the present tense, but his view of this division is one of looking back on it, it is in the past, he has moved beyond all of this in favor of a common ground as indicated by Christ in the priestly prayer of John 17. And, yes John, as you say:

Bar Hebraeus is not saying that the differences do not matter, he is saying that they are not what we think they are: we are all confessing the same Risen Christ, the same Trinitarian God, the same soteriology and the same salvation.

Whereby there is a systematic keeping of the gate, but not a system engineered for the purpose of keeping souls out! And, not a gate manned by those who are indifferent to the plight of the pilgrim who may pass by, but in the case of Bar Hebreaus, a gate manned by the passionate follower of Christ who has a zeal for the inner life, for the true life in the Spirit of Christ.

So yes John, this is exactly what I am saying. I feel a strong bond with this man that I have never heard of until he has been presented here. These first three points above resonate with me. I would like to invite others to look at his first three points again . . . boom-boom-boom; but, this fourth point is where the rubber meets the road, isn't it?

We may read and nod our heads in agreement with the first three points above, but what about that fourth?

I think I have come to the conclusion that one cannot truly stand on the common ground of which is spoken of unless one has genuinely moved beyond all of the muck that seems to surround this ground. While I think there are those who have seemingly never not known any other place since their conversion, for most of us, there is a slogging process on the path to the kingdom that involves' much 'thought' and 'pondering' and in the End a 'renunciation.'

And, as consider that this seems to carry with it a moving from a passion for Christ to a somewhat more apathetic condition, or ironically a kind of indifferentism in and of itself, and I wonder exactly what this mode and way of living would look like, what it would sound like, I honestly begin to question the validity of all of this at times.

But, then I see very clearly the same Spirit which was at work in the Apostle Paul at work in Bar Hebreaus, and I see and feel the power of his message in the above four clear and concise statements, and I know that this is IT. Just as St. Paul was not indifferent or apathetic by any means, and just as he moved beyond all divisions and immature views such as the one's held in Corinth in his day . . . Bar Hebreaus displays the same Spirit of Life which allows no room for division regardless of the individual teachers or wordsmiths. As Bar Hebreaus points the way to this common ground he dismisses the various gate keepers and their closed gates in favor of the One Who is the door, the One Whom was sent by the God of the Hebrews Who with open and outstretched arms called over and over to them to 'betach' in Him, to trust in Him. And, this I would like to suggest is where we may find a boundary of sorts as it relates to some of the mucky systems and ways that border the common ground of which Bar Hebreaus writes. Regardless of what adjective is chosen to modify one's Orthodoxy, if its circle does not intersect somewhere with this common ground of which is spoken of,it is no Orthodoxy, it is at best an ignorant orthodoxy, at worst a path outside of Christ for the one who places his faith in a system instead of a Person.

So what about that fourth point? Do we believe what we say, and does what we say align with what we do? Or, to put it another way is our knowing in harmony with our being--does our being model our way of knowing? And, again even a quick look at the life of the Apostle Paul (or Christ in the Garden) will show that when we believe what we say, and when we find our being in our knowing this does not always mean that life will be rosey and sweet. However, simply put, I think Bar Hebreaus covers much ground in a short span when he demonstrates that if there is no such thing as a Common Ground then there is no such thing as a Generous Orthodoxy as the Unity and Oneness spoken of by Christ. And, we read of this priestly prayer of Christ was prayed just after He taught in John that it is the one's who keep His commandments and Love Him who abide in Him and He in them whereby both He and the Father will abide with these. Who would deny this Unity that is spoken of here, or possibly the better question for today is who would confine this Unity to their particular group? These are the ones that Bar Hebreaus addresses above, these are the ones that St. Paul wrote to, and these are the ones that Christ has prayed for 2000 years ago.

What does this transcending of all divisions in Christ look like? What does a Generous Orthodoxy look like where the rubber meets the road? I think it is starting to come into view now with help from Kirk and John via the Spirit of Life, for which I am very grateful.

In Christ,
12-12-2007, 05:47 PM,
Rubber and road
Dear Rick,

It is all ablaze here as we pass the 1000th post mark with speed!

Peter's recent post on Orthodoxy and the Incarnation is a fascinating counter-point to this discussion, and the two are feeding into each other in a fascinating way; I'd love to get your take on Peter's last post.

I love your formulation thus:
Quote:a gate manned by the passionate follower of Christ who has a zeal for the inner life, for the true life in the Spirit of Christ.
is that not where the rubber and the road really do meet? It is not a gate where all may enter regardless; it is one where all who believe on Him shall knock. However hard we may find it in our relativistic society, we accept, as Christians, that there is an Absolute Truth and that He is Christ; there is an absolute Law, and that is God's.

In St. John 8:3-8 we have a perfect example of God's justice. He judges, and it is surely we who are being judged when we attempt to take God's prerogative? His judgement is that she should live and repent; that is what we are being told to do.

How then can we condemn our Christian brothers and sisters unless, and until, we know that the Gospel they are preaching is not that of the Lord? As we are told in Mark 16:15-16:
Quote:"And he said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned"
Just as in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul tells the Church there:
Quote:"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, and in which you stand; by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received; that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures."

But we need to be sure that others are not preaching another Gospel - which means we have to be firm in our own tradition and know that it is preaching the True Gospel.

We so often focus upon the implications of this is a negative sense, but in ecumenical dialogue could it not be a strength? If we ask the hard question:
- do we think the EO are preaching a perversion of the Gospel?
- do we think the RCC preaches a perversion of the Gospel?
- do we think the Anglicans preach a perversion of the Gospel?
- do we think this of the protestant Churches?

When we talk of the fullness of the Faith being found within Our Church, is that the same as saying the other Churches preach a false Gospel? If it is then clearly ecumenical dialogue is pointless - and we enter into the thought-world of those who see such a dialogue as heresy. BUT do we know enough of what others really hold to say that?

Does a belief in Papal Infallibility mean the Gospel is a false one? Or does it mean that the RCC has inflated ideas of the importance of Rome, which may show a want of humility ... but? Purgatory? A false Gospel or not? The Immaculate Conception seems to me a key yest here, as at one level it could indeed look like the preaching of a false gospel; but do we know how the RCC reads this and does that amount to a false Gospel?

More questions, I fear, than answers. But perhaps the framework within which the question lie is wrong?

You ask:
Quote:What does this transcending of all divisions in Christ look like?
and perhaps we do get glimpses of it here and there.

But Peter is right, we need to understand our own tradition, and to know it is rooted in the preaching of the right Gospel. If, as the Apostolic Churches claim, they all have succession to the Apostles there ought to be a common Gospel being preached; is there?

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
13-12-2007, 10:03 AM,
a generous orthodoxy
John's latest post raises interesting points.
Firstly, the RC belief in the Immaculate Conception is not based on a false Gospel, but rather it is based on a misconception (pardon the intentional pun!) of a part of the Gospel, namely believing that Mary was conceived in a manner similar to Christ, whereas she was conceived in a manner similar to Old Testament patriarchs' wives.
It is possible to say that Anglicans preach a perversion of the Gospel just as it is also possible to say that Anglicans preach a correct Gospel because Anglicans are allowed to believe whatever thay want. It is perfectly possible, for example, for one Anglican to deny the Virgin Birth of Christ, whilst another accepts it.
The EO do not preach a false Gospel. The problem is that many of them practise a perversion of the Gospel in their attitude to other Christians.
As to "protestants", the name is too wide to acquire a precise answer. Do we mean the TV Evangelists in the USA who support wars, confuse, perhaps deliberately, the term 'faith' with 'belief' and attempt to use the Apocalypse of St John as a form of Nostradamus' prophecies? Clearly they are preaching a perversion.
Ecumenism is a reaching out to all Christians based on Christ's Commandments. Differences, perversions, misconceptions can only be truly exposed in an atmosphere of love and prayer, otherwise it becomes just another polemical, intellectual exercise which will only cause further strife and division.

Kirk Yacoub
13-12-2007, 11:18 AM,
Dear Kirk,

when you write:
Quote:Ecumenism is a reaching out to all Christians based on Christ's Commandments. Differences, perversions, misconceptions can only be truly exposed in an atmosphere of love and prayer, otherwise it becomes just another polemical, intellectual exercise which will only cause further strife and division.
you touch on the heart of the matter.

If we start off rooted in suspicion and self-righteousness we shall end in strife and suspicion. If we manifest negative feelings towards our fellow Christians, even perhaps denying them that title, then how shall we love God whom we have not seen? If we do not love Him, how can we call ourselves Christians?

One would not want to proceed by a reductionist method, as some Protestants have: that is by saying: 'what are the essentials of the Faith? Do we agree of them, fine then, we are all one!' That would be to reduce the Faith to a set of propositions: and yet there is an irreducible minimum in terms of confessing the Nicene Creed. But here, as so often, I feel the want of a language of Christian amity, which can acknowledge difference and yet recognise the Risen Lord.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
13-12-2007, 01:34 PM,
Dear John,

As you have said, 'inspiring' is the word!

The last few posts in these two threads (yours, Peter's, and Kirk's), when taken as a tandem Truth are 'fascinating' and present in a such a clear and concise way what I have never seen done before (even in voluminous works). From where I sit, I am fully persuaded that there is very high degree of divine revelation/illumination to be found here in this place as it relates to knowing and being (and language). In short, I am incited to riot this morning in a good way and am having trouble focusing at the present based on my reading here. Yes, as well, as you have said, 'ablaze' is the word!

As far as, my take on Peter's post that you mention above, I have read Peter's follow up posts noting a sort of evolution there which is most pleasing, and presents the big picture in terms of a very heavenly balance. As Peter wrote so well:

Quote:So there is a right use of emotion, a right use of the intellect, and a right use of the spirit, and I wonder if these are often inverted in our experience? So that we become emotional or intellectual in our faith rather than being spiritual, and using the intellect and emotion under the guidance and control of the spirit for spiritual ends?

this brings into harmony both sides of the coin, if you will allow me to say it this way.

And, as you have said above:

Quote:I feel the want of a language of Christian amity, which can acknowledge difference and yet recognize the Risen Lord.

I am further driven to distraction as it relates to a consideration of a Language of Love as it relates to what is being shared at the present.

But, for now, and not for the want of words, I think it is best if I just say thank you and God bless you and the others here for being willing tools in the hands of God.

I think once again we see there are blessings for those who endure!

In Christ
13-12-2007, 01:46 PM,
Dear Kirk,

I have a bad habit of making people blush at times; however, I feel compelled to say that after reading your last post (and in consideration of your other writings), you often touch on the heart of the matter and model a heavenly balance while speaking the language spoken of above. As well, it becomes increasingly easy to see why John has chosen the direction that he has, and you spark a desire within me to seek to remedy the problem of my vast ignorance of your faith tradition. In short, thanks for playing your part, we are all blessed as a result.

In Christ,
17-02-2008, 07:18 PM,
To believe on Him?
Dear Rick,

I am going to see if this can tempt us to go on with this discussion,

In the spirit of the comment made earlier about reductionism, I have been corresponding with an Episcopalian who is from one of the 'continuing Churches' and he, like many Anglicans, argues for an essential deposit of Faith which has to be believed, but won't be terribly drawn on what that is save that it is to 'believe on Him.'

In our relativistic society that is very tempting. How easy and delightful to be thought that welcoming - and how much the opposite of those narrow-minded 'Fundys'. And yet, and yet, where does that rubber meet the road?

My correspondent is dubious of what he calls 'theologising', and I, resisting the temptation to say that as an ex-Anglican I can see bad reasons for that, have responded by asking him how he can escape it. His response, fairly enough, is that it is not necessary to have a PhD is theology in order to be saved. That is, as I say, fair enough, but it does not deal with the question of how we can be sure that we are following the Gospel of the Lord.

This, I have suggested to him, is why it is so important to be in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church of God; in it I do not need to know wall the fullness of the Faith, just that it is here, that I have access to it if I need it, and that those set above me as Pastors and Shepherds know the Way. He responds by asking whether I am suggesting one does not need to think about the Faith, just to blindly follow the Shepherd?

That's a good question. I have just suggested to him that this is a caricature. No one can be within the OC and not have the Scriptures and true learning preached every Sunday; so there is no question of 'blindness'. But outside of that Church, who can be sure?

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

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