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Author Topic: Chastity  (Read 2661 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: May 10, 2007, 01:59:26 PM »

How does chastity work?

Thus far, this is what I've got: Chastity is abstinance before marriage.  It is also lifelong celibacy.
So...how does chastity work in marriage?
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2007, 02:02:03 PM »

People are chaste in marriage by not lusting after their spouse and by not having sex on fasting days or the night before receiving communion. Of course, chastity in marriage also includes not having any sexual relations outside of that marriage  Wink
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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2007, 04:33:19 PM »

Authiodionitist, that's a great question... I thought about it and I also, unfortunately, had some clashes on this issue with one Internet acquaintance of mine, a Ukrainian "Greek" Catholic (Uniate). He says that sex is altogether bad, evil, a "cattle thing," even in marriage, and that sex needs "justification," which is a desire of the couple to conceive children. You are chaste only when you abstain from any sex, but if you cannot, then at least engage in sex ONLY with the purpose to procreate. When I said that this is not what I believe marital sex is all about, he said that I must be a hypocrite... in his opinion, no true Christian can ever say that sex is good, even in marriage. He quoted dozens of pieces from various Holy Fathers of the early Church (especially St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Maximus the Greek), as well as more modern Fathers (Bryanchaninov). I still have "bruises," so to say, from that discussion... It's not fun to be called a hypocrite, but I, honestly, do not know how to argue with that. --George
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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2007, 04:52:06 PM »

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I still have "bruises," so to say, from that discussion... It's not fun to be called a hypocrite, but I, honestly, do not know how to argue with that.

You might want to check out Women and Men in the Early Church: The Full Views of St. John Chrysostom by David Ford. Generally he is correct: up until about a few generations ago, most traditional Christians (not just westerners following Augustine) had dim views of human sexuality--some still do. However, there were some that weren't quite so hard, e.g., Chrysostom openly talks about it being ok to enjoy the sexual act. I'm suprised that he'd bring up Brianchaninov, as he always struck me as a pretty psychologically thoughtful person (e.g., instead of condemning people for chewing tobacco and trying to prohibit it, he said that if people needed to use it, that they should do it in private so as not to tempt others); perhaps he remained faithful to traditional teachings on sexual matters, though. Eve Levin's book on Sex and Society among the Orthodox serbs goes into some of the sexual issues among the Orthodox during the middle ages, though it'd pretty much agree with what your friend said. I don't think I've seen one Church Father who taught that sex didn't need a justification, though there were more justifications than procreation (e.g., fending off lust--something Paul himself mentioned).

Regarding the original question, another form of chastity within marriage is a couple living "as brother and sister"--ie. no intimate contact. Seems like a dangerous idea, though lots of saints in Orthodox history were said to be like that (e.g., St. John of Kronstadt).
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« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2007, 05:02:38 PM »

Thank you for the reference, Asteriktos. --George
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« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2007, 07:37:32 PM »

The position Asteriktos presents is not so much derived from Christian moral theology as it is from the cultural norms, taboos, and superstitions of the day. The very notion of sex needing any justification is firmly based in the notions of property rights from the societies of the day and can only be attributed to Christian moral theology in an accidental way. To speak of restrictions or taboos relating to sex between married couples in a modern Christian context is not merely unrealistic and out of touch, but simply absurd.

With that said, Asteriktos, I can certainly see why it would be in your best intrest to misrepresent the Christian view of sexuality based on the psychological unstable views of a few historic writers, but they are simply not the consensus of the Faithful today; rather, they are merely the opinions of the more radical and unstable elements of past unenlightened societies.
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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2007, 09:18:54 PM »

The position Asteriktos presents is not so much derived from Christian moral theology as it is from the cultural norms, taboos, and superstitions of the day. The very notion of sex needing any justification is firmly based in the notions of property rights from the societies of the day and can only be attributed to Christian moral theology in an accidental way. To speak of restrictions or taboos relating to sex between married couples in a modern Christian context is not merely unrealistic and out of touch, but simply absurd.

With that said, Asteriktos, I can certainly see why it would be in your best intrest to misrepresent the Christian view of sexuality based on the psychological unstable views of a few historic writers, but they are simply not the consensus of the Faithful today; rather, they are merely the opinions of the more radical and unstable elements of past unenlightened societies.

So the early fathers of the Church were radical, unstable, and unenlightened?  The dominant view of sexuality among the early fathers had its roots in stoicism.  The stoics thought that there must be some rational purpose for everything in nature.  They saw procreation as the the natural purpose of sex.  Of course, in a sense they were right.  From a biological point of view, sexual intercourse is for reproduction.  Anything on top of that is, strictly speaking, unnecessary.

The majority opinion among the fathers was that sex was only for procreation.  Sex, in order to preserve fidelity and combat excessive lust, was also permissible but less than ideal.  Sex that was desired for its own sake was regarded as sinful, even between husband and wife.  St. Clement of Alexandria even goes so far as to spell out what sexual positions and practices are licit for married couples (basically one practice, in the the dark, and as quietly as possible while contemplating the glories of creation and the work that God desires to do through procreation). In the early Church, relations during menstration and during pregnancy were punished with canonical penalties, including exclusion from communion.  Incidentally, it seems very likely that the fathers would have condemned the rhythm method (natural family planning) as well as any other kind of birth control.  This is something you often don't hear from the NFP advocates.  However, this was not the only view.

St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom developed a more positive view of sexual relations and the book by Ford has already been mentioned.  There is also a book, can't remember the author, "St. Athanasius and the Glory of Marriage," or something along those lines.  They had a much more positive appreciation of the unitive, spiritual side of sexual relations between husband and wife.

So, I think that most of the fathers, while correct in opposing fornication and adultery and in promoting self control, blew it to some extent on sexuality.  They were too much influenced by Plato and by the Stoics.  This influence has lingered on even to this day.  We need a much more balanced approach today and looking to Syriac fathers like Athanasius might be the way.

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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2007, 09:27:17 PM »

We need a much more balanced approach today and looking to Syriac fathers like Athanasius might be the way.

Egyptian my dear Joe, not Syriac  Wink (St. John Chrysostom perhaps was a Syriac, I'm not sure)
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2007, 09:33:36 PM »

GIC

Quote
With that said, Asteriktos, I can certainly see why it would be in your best intrest to misrepresent the Christian view of sexuality based on the psychological unstable views of a few historic writers, but they are simply not the consensus of the Faithful today

So, you are using the phrase "a few historical writers" to talk about 99.9% of Christian writers through history? Wink Obviously I agree that their morality was based on cultural and earlier philosophical beliefs, with the primary reason being the way marriage worked, and what it's purpose was perceived to be. But I think you'd have a difficult time showing that there is a more genuine Christian view of sexuality that is much different.

Quote
The position Asteriktos presents is not so much derived from Christian moral theology as it is from the cultural norms, taboos, and superstitions of the day.

It'd be more accurate to say that the Church Fathers derived their moral theology from culture, philosophy, etc., and that I am just passing along what they believed. After all, I was not just responding to the original question, but (perhaps doing a disservice to the original poster) I was also responding to the post about what this or that Church Father might have said.
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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2007, 12:36:24 AM »

So the early fathers of the Church were radical, unstable, and unenlightened?  The dominant view of sexuality among the early fathers had its roots in stoicism.  The stoics thought that there must be some rational purpose for everything in nature.  They saw procreation as the the natural purpose of sex.  Of course, in a sense they were right.  From a biological point of view, sexual intercourse is for reproduction.  Anything on top of that is, strictly speaking, unnecessary.

The majority opinion among the fathers was that sex was only for procreation.  Sex, in order to preserve fidelity and combat excessive lust, was also permissible but less than ideal.  Sex that was desired for its own sake was regarded as sinful, even between husband and wife.  St. Clement of Alexandria even goes so far as to spell out what sexual positions and practices are licit for married couples (basically one practice, in the the dark, and as quietly as possible while contemplating the glories of creation and the work that God desires to do through procreation). In the early Church, relations during menstration and during pregnancy were punished with canonical penalties, including exclusion from communion.  Incidentally, it seems very likely that the fathers would have condemned the rhythm method (natural family planning) as well as any other kind of birth control.  This is something you often don't hear from the NFP advocates.  However, this was not the only view.

St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom developed a more positive view of sexual relations and the book by Ford has already been mentioned.  There is also a book, can't remember the author, "St. Athanasius and the Glory of Marriage," or something along those lines.  They had a much more positive appreciation of the unitive, spiritual side of sexual relations between husband and wife.

So, I think that most of the fathers, while correct in opposing fornication and adultery and in promoting self control, blew it to some extent on sexuality.  They were too much influenced by Plato and by the Stoics.  This influence has lingered on even to this day.  We need a much more balanced approach today and looking to Syriac fathers like Athanasius might be the way.

Joe

Joe,

I think the fathers also believed that a man implanted a complete human being into the woman with his "seed." The woman was only viewed as the soil for the seed. It would make sense that the fathers would have a dim view of sex because most of them were monastics constantly battling their own temptations. 

sincerely, Tamara
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2007, 01:32:07 AM »

So, you are using the phrase "a few historical writers" to talk about 99.9% of Christian writers through history? Wink

And relative to the general Christian population, would these writers constitute 'many' or 'a few'? Wink Of course, it must be noted that these people wrote at a considerable disadvantage. They have poor cultural, political, legal, and even biological (as Tamara pointed out) presuppositions with which to deal. But even under these most difficult of conditions, many positive things were written about sex and sexuality. A great compilation of which can be found in Chryssavgis' Love, Sexuality and the Sacrament of Marriage. And he is only one of several modern Orthodox scholars to put the patristic writings in a more appropriate light.

Quote
Obviously I agree that their morality was based on cultural and earlier philosophical beliefs, with the primary reason being the way marriage worked, and what it's purpose was perceived to be. But I think you'd have a difficult time showing that there is a more genuine Christian view of sexuality that is much different.

All morality is ultimately derived from cultural norms and taboos, either as an embracing of them or a reaction against them. One does not pontificate on something beyond their experience and understanding. But I disagree with you that a more Christian view of sexuality differing from this Greco-Roman worldview cannot be found. A derivation of sexual morality from Christian High Theology (strongly influenced by Neo-Platonic Ontological and Existential Philosophy, of course), could lead to a substantially different understanding of sexuality. If sexuality is viewed as a physical manifestation of Love, and even of divine Love in a typological sense, as Chryssavgis argues, it could come to be viewed almost in a sacramental light and infact can be viewed as an extension of the sacrament of marriage (once it's established as a physical manifestation of divine love, even in a typological sense, such a step is almost natural).
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« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2007, 01:46:49 PM »

Thanks to all who replied.

The way I always understood sex in marriage was that it is a holy thing, a gift, actually the biggest gift the husband can give to his wife and the wife to her husband. Of course, there have always been very honorable and holy Christian marriages where sex was not a part, like that of St. John of Kronshtadt that was mentioned in this thread, or of Prof. Charles Staples Lewis (he married when he was already an older man and decided to devote himself entirely to his two stepsons). Still, in the vast majority of cases, sex - desirably fulfilling, mutually orgasmic sex - is such an important part of marriage, and in my understanding it always was something precious, something that strengthens the marital union. It is not merely a means for procreation, like it is in the animal world; and it is not merely an instrument to combat or alleviate lust (masturbation would probably take care of that...). It is, first and foremost, the ultimate gift of love.

So, it was a big and painful blow for me to learn that so many authoriative Holy Fathers viewed sex so differently... I heard some Orthodox people say, if your thinking contradicts the thinking of the Fathers, you better adjust. In this case, it is particularly difficult for me to adjust.

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« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2007, 02:18:05 PM »

Thanks to all who replied.

The way I always understood sex in marriage was that it is a holy thing, a gift, actually the biggest gift the husband can give to his wife and the wife to her husband. Of course, there have always been very honorable and holy Christian marriages where sex was not a part, like that of St. John of Kronshtadt that was mentioned in this thread, or of Prof. Charles Staples Lewis (he married when he was already an older man and decided to devote himself entirely to his two stepsons). Still, in the vast majority of cases, sex - desirably fulfilling, mutually orgasmic sex - is such an important part of marriage, and in my understanding it always was something precious, something that strengthens the marital union. It is not merely a means for procreation, like it is in the animal world; and it is not merely an instrument to combat or alleviate lust (masturbation would probably take care of that...). It is, first and foremost, the ultimate gift of love.

So, it was a big and painful blow for me to learn that so many authoriative Holy Fathers viewed sex so differently... I heard some Orthodox people say, if your thinking contradicts the thinking of the Fathers, you better adjust. In this case, it is particularly difficult for me to adjust.

The fathers are actually quite conflicting on the matter; and are often misrepresented to fit the psychologically unhealthy aversions to sex some people have obtained. I would suggest that there is no valid reason: patristic, theological or otherwise, to 'adjust' your thinking. I would strongly recommend the aforementioned work by Chryssavgis.
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« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2007, 02:29:59 PM »

George,

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I heard some Orthodox people say, if your thinking contradicts the thinking of the Fathers, you better adjust. In this case, it is particularly difficult for me to adjust

While I would disagree with GIC, I'd just add this. Sometimes the Fathers were wrong in their broad (if not unanimous) consensus. Slavery was mostly accepted by the Church Fathers, and some even owned their own slaves (e.g., Gregory the Dialogist). Though there were exceptions, most of Fathers--not to mention canons from councils--took it for granted that slavery was a fact of life, and told slaves to just accept their lot in life and not rebel (as Paul himself also instructs). Obviously no Orthodox Christian today would say "Well look what these people said, obviously it's ok to have slaves as long as we treat them properly!" Similarly, many cases that Church Fathers identified as "demonic possession," we would today recognize as mental illness.

I would agree with GIC on one thing, though: if this is an issue that is giving you a problem, by all means get the book that GIC suggested, along with books by Levin, Noonan, Ford, and other contemporary authors, and the relevant works cited by these people from ancient writers like Gregory of Nyssa, Clement of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Tertullian, etc. (many of which are online for free).
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« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2007, 03:04:31 PM »

Thanks, Greekischristian and Asteriktos. Yes, unfortunately, clashes with guys like that Uniate person are a problem to me, not just in this area but, more generally, in the question of authority, its sources. Sometimes people say something like, well, if you do not believe in the literal accuracy of Genesis, and the Holy Fathers did, then you are not a Christian (or, otherwise, they were not Christian). Or, if you believe that apes evolved into humans, you are not a Christian. Or if you dare to utter that sex is good or that orgasm is a gift of God for you and your wife to enjoy, you are not a Christian (that Uniate guy even said that he smelled sulfur when he learned that I held this opinion). I certainly understand that we all live in this secular world with its numerous "humanistic" distortions of truth, but sometimes I am horrified when I am attacked by alleged defenders of the truth... Anyway, thank you again, I don't want to hijack the topic. Smiley --George
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« Reply #15 on: May 11, 2007, 03:51:54 PM »

While I would disagree with GIC, I'd just add this.

This is somewhat surprising...so you think people should change their entire world view based on a few exscripts of obscure fourth century texts? I would have thought that your standard of evidence was higher than that. Wink

Quote
Sometimes the Fathers were wrong in their broad (if not unanimous) consensus.

Well, here's another place we wouldn't agree, I don't believe in the myth of patristic consensus; the evidence just doesn't support it.

Quote
Slavery was mostly accepted by the Church Fathers, and some even owned their own slaves (e.g., Gregory the Dialogist). Though there were exceptions, most of Fathers--not to mention canons from councils--took it for granted that slavery was a fact of life, and told slaves to just accept their lot in life and not rebel (as Paul himself also instructs). Obviously no Orthodox Christian today would say "Well look what these people said, obviously it's ok to have slaves as long as we treat them properly!".

Well, I believe I could quite successful argue agaisnt (as well as for) slavery using 4th-6th century texts. Infact the very document that legally upheld slavery, the code of justinian, one could argue against it on a philosophical level. (Justinian argued that Slavery was contrary to nature, but tolerated because it was necessary to maintain the social and economic integrety of the Empire.)

Quote
Similarly, many cases that Church Fathers identified as "demonic possession," we would today recognize as mental illness.

Exactly why we read religious authorities for religious matters; and medical authorities for medical matters.

Quote
I would agree with GIC on one thing, though: if this is an issue that is giving you a problem, by all means get the book that GIC suggested, along with books by Levin, Noonan, Ford, and other contemporary authors, and the relevant works cited by these people from ancient writers like Gregory of Nyssa, Clement of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Tertullian, etc. (many of which are online for free).

Yes, read them by all means; but don't sacrifice your common sense when doing so...if something you read is ridiculous or absurd, don't be afraid to say that it is just because Chrysostom wrote it, he wrote some good things, but also a lot of nonsense.
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« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2007, 04:05:48 PM »

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This is somewhat surprising...so you think people should change their entire world view based on a few exscripts of obscure fourth century texts

Not at all... actually those texts had a part in my becoming an atheist. I just think that, if you're gonna do the whole traditional orthodox Christian thing, you might as well try to be consistent, and not not cast obedience and reverence for tradition out any time it puts you in an uncomfortable position, or clashes with contemporary thinking. The ancient writers (including Paul) had specific reasons for what they taught, whether they were right or wrong, or effected more by cultural considerations than theological ones.

If heaven is the ultimate goal, and pursuing theosis/clarity is the immediate aim, then avoiding a lot of sexual contact makes sense within the anthroplogical framework that the Fathers accepted. They also set up a framework for tradition where Christians were supposed to assume that what has been handed down by tradition over time (and among many people) is more likely to be true and pious than your own individual wishes. I don't buy any of that for a second (actually I just made a vid on youtube giving some reasons that I think the Vincentian canon is pretty weak), but I admire consistency, and would rather someone be consistent within their own world view--even if I disagree with those actions or thoughts--than pick and choose based on personal whim. After all, we too are also effected by cultural and subjective personal considerations, not just the people who wrote "obscure fourth century texts" Smiley

But I can understand that you'd want to distort my position, it's certainly a time-tested rhetorical tactic for making your own position stronger. Wink
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« Reply #17 on: May 11, 2007, 04:13:29 PM »

Thanks, Greekischristian and Asteriktos. Yes, unfortunately, clashes with guys like that Uniate person are a problem to me, not just in this area but, more generally, in the question of authority, its sources. Sometimes people say something like, well, if you do not believe in the literal accuracy of Genesis, and the Holy Fathers did, then you are not a Christian (or, otherwise, they were not Christian). Or, if you believe that apes evolved into humans, you are not a Christian. Or if you dare to utter that sex is good or that orgasm is a gift of God for you and your wife to enjoy, you are not a Christian (that Uniate guy even said that he smelled sulfur when he learned that I held this opinion). I certainly understand that we all live in this secular world with its numerous "humanistic" distortions of truth, but sometimes I am horrified when I am attacked by alleged defenders of the truth... Anyway, thank you again, I don't want to hijack the topic. Smiley --George

This is interesting since I know of many fathers, From Clement of Alexandria, to Athanasios, to Augustine that did not literally interpret Genesis...so perhaps your friend does not view them as Christian either. As a priest friend of mine once told me, 'Never trust anyone more pious than Jesus.'
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« Reply #18 on: May 11, 2007, 04:14:17 PM »

Asteriktos, but what exactly is consistency? I guess I am a consistent Christian as long as I consistently believe in what the Niceo-Constantinople Creed says. If I, believing that, also understand that our Holy Tradition is a living thing, that it changes - am I inconsistent? Or do you - and others - think that we must conform to everything Holy Fathers said and wrote, or else we are inconsistent and not Christian? --George
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« Reply #19 on: May 11, 2007, 08:26:10 PM »

I guess it's sort of a subjective judgment as to what actually constitutes being consistent, I guess I'd describe it as being more about methodology, rather than actual conclusions. If you believe certain things about anthropology, ecclesiology, tradition, etc., then it would be inconsistent to follow the path that ignored those beliefs. So, if you believe--as some do--that the Church Fathers had cleansed their nous, reaching a state of clarity and insightfulness that normal people (who had not become as holy) don't have, then you'd have to have some pretty substantial evidence to follow a different path than them.

However, you could disagree with their conclusions and still abide by their basic, foundational teachings. For example, they accepted slavery, but that doesn't mean that modern Christians have to do so. We've come to the point where it's simply impossible to do otherwise than abolish slavery. That's consistent with the Fathers because they weren't saying that some people, at their roots, could be slaves. They were just saying that that was the lot of some in life, that it was just a part of society. As society changes, they almost certainly would have went along with the change on points like this. Sexuality might be a bit of a stickier situation, though. They didn't simply tolerate certain beliefs about sexuality, they consider them truths. That's a hard path to go down though, IMO. Look what happened to me Wink
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« Reply #20 on: May 11, 2007, 09:00:25 PM »

Not at all... actually those texts had a part in my becoming an atheist. I just think that, if you're gonna do the whole traditional orthodox Christian thing, you might as well try to be consistent, and not not cast obedience and reverence for tradition out any time it puts you in an uncomfortable position, or clashes with contemporary thinking.

I may be a theist, but surely you're not accusing ME of being a Traditionalist? Wink

Quote
The ancient writers (including Paul) had specific reasons for what they taught, whether they were right or wrong, or effected more by cultural considerations than theological ones.

They had reasons, and generally they even had well developed arguments. We don't have to disagree with the (mostly neo-platonic) presuppositions to disagree with the details of the Argument. Or we can disagree with the presuppositions if we want, there's nothing dogmatically Christian about neo-platonic philosophy, it's just the basis of traditional Christian thought. Perhaps we could challenge this presupposition today using empiricism or some other philosophy as our foundation, there's nothing inherently unchristian, that is to say unchristlike, about this. The fathers, and even apostles, engaged in intellectual debate, there's no reason we cannot continue that debate. The mere fact that we live a few centuries later does not make un incapable of contributing, infact due to our unique experiences we may be in a better position to debate the issues relating to our faith than they were, human knowledge has increased, not decreased, at time...putting us at a clear advantage. Athanasios, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory the Theologian, etc. were all learned and intelligent men, who knows how they would have formulated their thoughts had they enjoyed the benifit of the corpus of human knowledge we take for granted today. Looking at their thought processes we can only guess at how they would have responded with a better understanding of the world around them, many were them were already remarkably enlightened and progressive for their day.

I don't think the matter is as simple as following ancient codes and canons, rather we must consider the philosophy and reasoning behind those ancient laws and teachings and reevaluate them embracing, not shunning, the knowledge we now enjoy. Nothing is absolute, nothing is above reconsideration, even an Oecumenical Synod can be overturned by a body of equal authority.

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If heaven is the ultimate goal, and pursuing theosis/clarity is the immediate aim, then avoiding a lot of sexual contact makes sense within the anthroplogical framework that the Fathers accepted.

Have you forgot that I'm an advocate of the Biblical Doctrine of Apokatastasis? Grin

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They also set up a framework for tradition where Christians were supposed to assume that what has been handed down by tradition over time (and among many people) is more likely to be true and pious than your own individual wishes.

I disagree, if you read the great fathers, they are great because they do not pontificate, but rather they make skilled arguments which demonstrate a masterful command of language, philosophy, rhetoric, etc. Traditionally tradition was a scholarly and intellectual discussion/debate, the blind acceptance of tradition without critical thought is the product of another era, of the era of captivity and the turkokratia, of a time when we simply did not have means to maintain these debates on any scale. Now that we have entered a new era of freedom and prosperity, we can reopen these ancient debates, we can approach these matters in an intellectual and open-minded fashion as the great fathers did so many centuries ago.

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I don't buy any of that for a second (actually I just made a vid on youtube giving some reasons that I think the Vincentian canon is pretty weak), but I admire consistency, and would rather someone be consistent within their own world view--even if I disagree with those actions or thoughts--than pick and choose based on personal whim. After all, we too are also effected by cultural and subjective personal considerations, not just the people who wrote "obscure fourth century texts" Smiley

I have some inconsistancies here and there, but I dont believe I'm entirely inconsistant, I generally use a similar methodology to arrive at all my conclusions. Atheism and fundamentalism arn't the only two logically consistant positions. Wink

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But I can understand that you'd want to distort my position, it's certainly a time-tested rhetorical tactic for making your own position stronger. Wink

It's how the game is played; to quote the late president Truman, 'If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.' Wink

I guess it's sort of a subjective judgment as to what actually constitutes being consistent, I guess I'd describe it as being more about methodology, rather than actual conclusions. If you believe certain things about anthropology, ecclesiology, tradition, etc., then it would be inconsistent to follow the path that ignored those beliefs. So, if you believe--as some do--that the Church Fathers had cleansed their nous, reaching a state of clarity and insightfulness that normal people (who had not become as holy) don't have, then you'd have to have some pretty substantial evidence to follow a different path than them.

That's an interesting take on the Church Fathers; I always viewed them as philosophers, some better at it than others, intelligent men, no doubt...but so was Nietzsche, and they all have a place. This doesn't mean that any of them are infallible and, as such, they are certainly not above criticism.
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