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Author Topic: AUGUSTINE AND HIS HERESIES AND DUALIST LEANINGS PROMOTED BY "AGAIN"  (Read 4356 times) Average Rating: 0
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Nathaniel
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« on: October 21, 2007, 03:20:29 AM »

Ya'sou!

My name is Nathaniel and I was chrismated over twenty years ago. Questions of NT origins--who says these are the correct books?--as well as of doctrine and worship, and most importantly, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE NT CHURCH? led me to become Eastern Orthodox.

When I left Protestantism behind, I left it behind completely. I have become very sensitive, as a result, to the heaviness of spirit, darkness of mind, and just plain *blech* I experience when reading Saint Augustine. I understand he belongs to the undivided Church, but I also understand he is a western saint and the single greatest influence on the western church(es). I also know his theology was roundly condemned by the Eastern Orthodox Church For which I praise the Holy Trinity.

I have encountered quite a number of times now the "Evangelical Orthodox" in the pages of AGAIN magazine presenting Augustine as someone worthy of the attention of the Eastern Orthodox faithful. Having been an Augustinian, I reject that notion with vehemence. His Manichean dualism is evident in not just his many statements but the "feel" of his writings. Latin also tremendously distorted Eastern ideas.

Though I am not "hyper-Orthodox" I feel empathetic with them when I read pro-Augustinian materials presented by Orthodox sources, such as AGAIN magazine. The fall issue carried an article written by a John Stamps, a fellow convert, who is in love with Augustinian thought and is brimming over with it. He eagerly desires to share the darkness of Augustine with the Eastern Church.

I sent a detailed rebuttal to AGAIN magazine and apparently they will print my rebuttal along with the replies of John Stamps, and my counter-replies, albeit in a shortened form.

I present here the original email I sent to AGAIN magazine.

Greetings

I must take strong exception to the article When Tradition Fractures by John Stamps in the Fall issue of AGAIN. The Christian East is not the least bit impoverished for not having been influenced appreciably by Augustine. It doesn't matter that he was a great man by Western standards and was so influential. Most of his influence was negative.

I see this article as a sort of easy-it-does-it attempt at a Trojan Horse strategy for introducing the cancer of Augustinian thought to the Christian East. If we begin to read and study the more "innocuous" writings of Augustine as Stamps recommends, this will lead to studying his other works, which will act as the same cancer they have acted as in the Western Church.

I couldn't care less, as John Stamps points out, that Karl Jasper considers Augustine "the first modern man." That does not sound like a good recommendation to me. I converted to Eastern Orthodoxy because I was sick unto death of the Western church, dominated as it is by an omnipresent Augustinian influence, and the rotten fruit it has borne and continues to bear!

I "came to terms" with Augustine by seeing his teachings for what they are by the fruit they bear, and I jettisoned them and embraced the True Church, the Eastern Church. John Stamps agrees with Augustinians we cannot understand ourselves if we do not understand Augustine. Nonsense. I understand myself far better now that I have excised the cancerous growth of Augustine from my mind and spirit and have embraced Eastern Orthodoxy.

It is the Christian West, not the East, that needs to "come to terms" with Augustine, for only them will they see the cause and cure of their gnawing spiritual cancer. I am addressing you Mr. Stamps specifically because you wrote this article praising and endorsing Augustine.

You need to realize that although the man Augustine is indeed a "saint in good standing"as you put it with the Christian East, his theology was roundly condemned by the Eastern Church!

No Mr. Stamps, the "real problem we Orthodox have with St. Augustine" is NOT "so much his theology as our sheer lack of spiritual acquaintance with him." The real problem we Orthodox have with Augustine is the rotten fruit his teachings and influence have borne in the Western church. That is why his theology was condemned.

You speak disparagingly of the Eastern Orthodox disinterest in an "intellectual synthesis of East and West" as if the East is somehow impoverished and lacking by not being preoccupied with arid intellectuality as the Western church is. You, sir, should have fully converted to Orthodoxy in spirit, not just in mind. You praise those in the Eastern Church who have kept trying to sneak Augustine in through the back door, and you close your article with a warning that unless we incorporate Augustine into our worship we shall remain hopelessly unacquainted with Augustine "in any way that truly matters." Well, GOOD! May the Lord Christ preserve us from the fate of the Christian West and from well-meaning fifth columnists. There is no way that acquaintance with Augustine matters to the Orthodox Church. We posses the Fullness of the Faith, not the West. How dare you, as well as many others, attempt to put lipstick on the pig of Augustinianism and take it to the Orthodox ball!

You need to turn your back, once and for all, on your Augustinian Protestantism and embrace Eastern Orthodoxy and truly become an Orthodox. Forget your political aspirations of East/West reunion on any other terms than Orthodoxia and Orthopraxis.

Nathaniel


John Stamps responded by calling me "hyper-Orthodox" "self-righteous" and some other personal attacks. I stuck to my questions. Stamps twice said that He has many problems with Augustine's false teachings which are "many and very serious" yet he is still enamored of Augustine and wishes to spread the darkness of Augustine to the East.

Your thoughs?

Nathaniel
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« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2007, 05:37:11 AM »

While I disagree with Augustine on many points (heck, I'm a Universalist...that doesn't quite fit in with Augustine's eschatology) I don't see why we need to dismiss him completely. He had some good writings, his confessions were generally good and I quite enjoyed his commentary on Genesis 1 at the end (cleary it was strongly influenced by the Alexandrian school of thought).

There is always disagreement amongst the Fathers, be it between Gregory of Nyssa and Basil or  Chrysostom and Augustine; but they are still all worthy of being read. As long as one does not mistake patristic texts for dogma, there shouldn't be any problems.

Oh, and welcome to the forum. Wink
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« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2007, 10:11:01 AM »

Well, my friend, you can't be surprised at being called a self-righteous Hyperdox when you go around accusing other EO of not being "true" Orthodox and referring to them as a "fifth column" for Protestantism.
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« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2007, 10:54:30 AM »

Your thoughs?
You won't find much sympathy with us, Nathaniel, for this forum just doesn't seem to attract many hyper-Orthodox (though we do have a few here).


A few principles I think might be good to follow in assessing Augustine's legacy:
  • Don't blame Augustine for what the West has done with his teachings.
  • Don't project your hatred of the West onto Augustine.
  • Understand that Augustine is merely one of many Fathers; you would do well to read him within the context of his many contemporaries and the whole of our Patristic tradition and not focus so much on Augustine, whether this be to make him the foundation of your apologetic or to spend too much of your energy seeking reason to condemn him as a heretic.



Something else you might want to do to gauge our opinions of Augustine, considering how new you are to the forum: read the many threads that have already been started to discuss Augustine.  I offer the following as examples:

Augustine and Anselm

Blessed Augustine of Hippo

The Place of Saint Augustine in the Orthodox Church

Blessed Augustine

Augustinianism (this from a harshly critical Old Believer perspective)

Did Augustine Split The Church?

Blessed Augustine is such a popular/controversial figure that I'm sure you can find many more threads on his legacy just by performing a search for the string "Augustine".  (Thank you, Robert and Anastasios for fixing the forum search function! Grin)
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« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2007, 12:53:55 PM »

I must take strong exception to the article When Tradition Fractures by John Stamps in the Fall issue of AGAIN. The Christian East is not the least bit impoverished for not having been influenced appreciably by Augustine. It doesn't matter that he was a great man by Western standards and was so influential. Most of his influence was negative.
If indeed *most* of his influence came from his understanding and teaching of Original sin and many other teachings, then perhaps your assertion could be true.  I believe that the Eastern church has indeed, condemned much of Augustine's understanding, as is summarized in Fr. John Romanides' book The Ancestral Sin.  "Hindered by the paradigms of post-Augustinian thought, Western Christianity has rarely understood these doctrines (creation ex nihilo, the destiny of man, Adam's sin and fall, the origin of death, soteriology and God's relations withthe world) that predate by several centuries the commonly held juridical ideas of original sin and atonement."
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« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2007, 03:40:16 PM »

I feel no hatred Peter (I have felt hatred in my life, so I know what hatred is. Thankfully, hatred departed from me when I was born again in 1973.) but thank you for judging my heart anyway. I do feel deeply concerned and will continue to feel that way.

NJM
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« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2007, 04:02:00 PM »

Ummm......should I point that AGAIN magazine was founded by the Evangelical Orthodox??

Besides what does it really matter what St. Augustine thought on theology.......its what the collective church mind believes that takes precedence.
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« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2007, 04:29:49 PM »

Well, my friend, you can't be surprised at being called a self-righteous Hyperdox when you go around accusing other EO of not being "true" Orthodox and referring to them as a "fifth column" for Protestantism.

Well, my friend, in my reply you will see (if it gets printed in AGAIN and its a magazine that you read) that I apologized for the self-righteous tone. As for fifth columnists, they exist. I did not say he is a fifth columnist for Protesantism. If anything, he is simply enamored of Augustine, a man whose Manichean roots are still evident.

In my replies to John Stamps I asked him to enlighten me as regards himself rather than let me try to understand him via an online guessing game. Specifically, I asked him:

What is it, exactly, that the Eastern Orthodox Church lacks that Augustine supplies?

Have you not found what you sought in the Eastern Orthodox Church?

Is the Eastern Orthodox Church the Church, whole and undivided, or is it simply a branch of the Church? I simplr a branch, why did you join the EO Church rather than the RCC since you're clearly enamored of Augustine?

NJM

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« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2007, 04:46:38 PM »

Quote
What is it, exactly, that the Eastern Orthodox Church lacks that Augustine supplies?

Considering that he is a father within our Church, you are making a false dichotomy. 

On a personal level, his Confessions were the first work of any Christian literature that I had ever read, and was ultimately what lit the Christian spark in me. 
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« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2007, 04:51:52 PM »

I specifically asked what the EASTERN Church "lacks" that Augustine (WESTERN Church) supplies. That is not a "false dichotomy." The two, once one, are poles apart inwardly.
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« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

I believe what Nectarios is saying is that since Augustine is a Father of the Eastern Church as well as the Western, you cannot make a distinction between "him" and "us"--he is part of us. He is different from, say, Arius, who was declared a heretic, or the Buddha, who never was Christian to begin with.
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« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2007, 05:02:49 PM »

"While I disagree with Augustine on many points (heck, I'm a Universalist...that doesn't quite fit in with Augustine's eschatology.
Oh, and welcome to the forum. Wink"


Thank you Greek Christian for the welcome. It's much appreciated. It's the Hope of Universal Salvation--the possibility not the certainty--that was an important factor among many in drawing me to the Eastern Orthodox Church and not the Western Church. The Western church with it's literalist approach to interpeting "hell" ala Augustine and his sick ideas that one of the greatest joys of heaven will be in watching the writhing agonies of the damned is just one of many lunatic aspects of Augustine. I love that many Eastern Fathers say that the "fires of hell" are the Love of God. For those who have prepared for the experience their entire life, the Love of God is Heaven. For those who have not, it is "hell."

I have been part of a Greek Orthodox parish for nearly 21 years in which the priests---graduates of Roman institutions--clearly have Augustinian views on most everything.

Since you too share a Universalist hope, I rejoice. I have a fascinating PDF that you would enjoy reading. I do not agree with it entirely, but the biblical indicators are fascinating. Email me at SaintZodiakos at aol dot com and I will email the PDF to you.

In Christ,
Nathaniel
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« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2007, 05:23:52 PM »

I love that many Eastern Fathers say that the "fires of hell" are the Love of God. For those who have prepared for the experience their entire life, the Love of God is Heaven. For those who have not, it is "hell."
I heard my priest say that just this morning.

This is a subject that has caused much controversy, and I would echo Peter in saying that St. Augustine (and he is an Orthodox saint) is not responsible for what the West has done with his teachings. Many holy people's words, including those of our Saviour, have been used in a manner other than that for which they were intended.

That said, keep the faith. I believe you are right to question what John Stamps has said, but be careful not to judge him as being "Western." My priest went to a Lutheran seminary, but he is certainly fully Orthodox. He still holds to the truths that he preached as a Lutheran priest, but he has given up the things which he found to be false. I imagine it's similar with your priests.

Welcome to the forum; if your first thread is any indication, we're in for some good discussion around here.
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« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2007, 06:01:04 PM »

I know John Stamps well because he is one of the founders of my parish. He is a very fair, warm, and intelligent man. Why have you brought your argument with him here? I may let him know you are here so he can answer your accusations for himself.

Tamara Hanna Northway

(I am not a former evangelical in case you are wondering.)

Here is the link to the article for those of you who haven't read it:

http://conciliarpress.pinnaclecart.com/index.php?p=page&page_id=again_stamps_augustine
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« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2007, 08:58:02 PM »

Please do Tamara. He cut off the discussion.

You will find I am not very PC about anything.
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« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2007, 09:02:47 PM »

I feel no hatred Peter (I have felt hatred in my life, so I know what hatred is. Thankfully, hatred departed from me when I was born again in 1973.) but thank you for judging my heart anyway. I do feel deeply concerned and will continue to feel that way.

NJM
Speaking as one who received very harsh censure a few years ago, and deservedly so, for chastising my own priest in an email, I have to ask you this question.  What authority did you have to scold John Stamps as severely as you did?  The tone of your letter to Mr. Stamps does communicate a very stridently self-righteous attitude, whether this is true of your character or not.  Considering also that he probably didn't even know you when you wrote the email, I can understand his harsh reaction.  "Who is this anonymous yahoo who thinks he can chew me out like this?  What qualifications does he have to exercise this kind of authority over me?  I don't even know who he is."  Sinful response on his part?  I don't know.  My pastor was certainly justified to respond as angrily as he did to my nasty email, so I will not judge Mr. Stamps's response to your email as unjustified.

I'm with Tamara on this.  Rather than try to enlist us at OC.net to take up your defense in your dispute with John Stamps, which in one sense is gossip, either continue your argument with him apart from anyone else, invite him here to debate you in this public forum, or keep silent.
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« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2007, 09:07:26 PM »

Rather than try to enlist us at OC.net to take up your defense in your dispute with John Stamps, which in one sense is gossip, either continue your argument with him apart from anyone else, invite him here to debate you in a public forum, or keep silent.
Hear hear!
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« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2007, 09:40:43 PM »

Dear Nathaniel and anyone else who may have concerns about the article. Below is a reply a former Roman Catholic, ex-military man, who has been Orthodox for over thirty years wrote to another nervous fellow Orthodox Christian in regard to the article.

Read the article again, this time, paying close attention to his statement:

"We Orthodox ignore St. Augustine to our own spiritual peril. We need to understand him, if only to understand why we think the way we do, so that we don't trip over our own mental furniture."

While we Orthodox do not accept everything that Blessed Augustine wrote, we do agree with him on some points. AND, for those of us who live in the West, our witness to the heterodox is better armed when we understand this one man who is a major influence on the thought and practice of virtually all heterodox. Is it not better to engage the heterodox from a position of knowledge than one of ignorance?

Fr John Meyendorf and I discussed Augustine at very great length many years ago when I was a catechumen. He identified the strengths and weaknesses, so to speak, from an Orthodox perspective, in the writings of Augustine, and what Fr John had to say about it made my journey from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy much more complete.

Hopefully, your post was more than just knee-jerk anti-Papism, or perhaps even knee jerk anti-Evangelical Orthodoxism. I see no effort on the part of the author to Augustinianize the Orthodox Church. In the main, we tend to have only a little bit of knowledge of Augustine, and as the old saying goes:

"A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing"

My Orthodoxy is not threatened by this article, and neither should yours.
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« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2007, 09:47:22 PM »

This has been quite fascinating. It would be interesting to know how many who have responded are cradle Orthodox and how many are converts like myself. Having partaken of the confusion and grotesque distortions of Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism---especially the teachings spouted by Augustine--I deeply appreciate the sanity and spirituality of the Eastern Church. I spent a couple of years "tasting" the Roman church, and it's not very palatable at all. I bring this up because perhaps many here are cradle Orthodox who have never actually read much of Augustine beyond quotations or a few paragraphs here and there. I'm puzzled that anyone who has immersed themselves in Augustinian thought, then found the Eastern Orthodox Church, would cling to Augustinian theology.

Deeply puzzled, considering the blazing Light of the Eastern Church versus the relative gloominess of Augustine. He never did completely shake the influence of Manicheanism.

However, I am simply a layman, and the Eastern Orthodox Church is God's Church, not my own. If it is God's Will that Augustinian thought pervade the Eastern Church, who am I to stand in the way of God?Huh LOL. In that case, Orthodox who champion Augustinian thought are Heroes for the Truth and I am merely an obstacle. If the Eastern Church should become saturated with Augustinian thought within my lifetime, I would accept it as God's Will, but I would not return to studying Augustine for myself.

According to Augustine:

One of the greatest joys of Heaven will consist of watching the torments of the damned.

Hell is literally a place of fiery torments. The fire is not a metaphor.

One is predestined to either Heaven or hell.

Each of us is born bearing the actual guilt of the Adams sin.  (In the NT and EO it is DEATH that passed thru Adam to us, mortality has come to us via Adam, not the guilt of Adam's sin.)

We are born with a sinful nature. (The EO Truth is, we are born with mortality at work within us; sin did not change our nature. It remains human nature. We were cut off from the "Tree of Life"---God--our nature did not change. We simply began to die. Being cut off from God, moral and ethical "rot" set in, just as if you had plucked an apple from a tree. The apple is still an apple, but cut off from it's source of life, death begins to work in the apple, and within days one may observe the results in the form of rot. Death manifests as rot in an apple, it manifests as sin in we humans. This is a good illustration of the human condition. It's stayed with me courtesy of Father Peter Staviski, the Russian Orthodox priest who catechized and chrismated me.)

At any rate, as I said, may God's Will be done just as we pray in the Our Father. I am not very PC in religion or politics. My economic/political/social views would probably shock many of you here, because now you have the idea that I am a conservative. That only holds true in the realm of Spirituality, and even then I do not really agree with an all-male priesthood and episcopacy.   Shocked

I was raised by a rageaholic atheist father who was very physically abusive, and an agnostic mother who is now RC, as is my oldest sister. I became a Jehovah's Witness at age 15 and remained involved until a few months after my 19th birthday. (I'm now 54) I then became an evangelical Christian in the "Jesus Movement." I even wrote a book about my experiences as a JW, but as I read the rules of this board it would be against them to mention the title.

Having run the gauntlet of Western thought, the East is a marvelous home.

Nowhere did I say that Augustinian thought is worthless. It isn't. One can find some very attractive features, especially to a Westerner such as myself. However, I simply do not understand the attraction to Augustine, who is someone whose theology has generally been rejected by the EO Church. I especially do not understand the attraction when the riches of the Eastern Fathers beckon! I have only scratched the surface in the nearly 21 years I have been Eastern Orthodox. May God grant me at least another 21 years to partake of such sweet nectar! I have been healed of so much inside since becoming Orthodox. God has proven Himself to be very good.

In Christ,
Nathaniel
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« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2007, 09:55:19 PM »

Nathaniel,

You are aware that Orthodox and Eastern are not necessarily synonymous titles?  One can be Eastern without being Orthodox--just ask any Eastern Rite Catholic; and one can be Orthodox without being Eastern--what say you of the Western Rite Orthodox?  Whereas it is true that the Orthodox Church alone possesses the fullness of saving grace, the Eastern churches alone do not.
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« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2007, 09:58:04 PM »

Dear Nathaniel and anyone else who may have concerns about the article. Below is a reply a former Roman Catholic, ex-military man, who has been Orthodox for over thirty years wrote to another nervous fellow Orthodox Christian in regard to the article.

Dear Tamara

I feel that God is well able to take care of His Church. That said, He tends to work through people rather than directly. When He worls directly, we call that a miracle.

I'm not your enemy Tamara. The matters you bring up were discussed in the give-and-take (such as it was) between myself, John Stamps, Father Zell, and an editor named Doug.

I am inclined, at this point based on the reactions here, to cease concerning myself with such matters. Not that they do not matter, because they do. Rather, because life is short, I am very ill, and I have entered the "home stretch." There are other matters to exercise my attention, and they mainly consist of being of service to my current parish: an Antiochian parish of the Evangelical Orthodox variety, with many cradle Orthodox members as well!  Cheesy

God's richest blessings to each of you.

Nathaniel
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« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2007, 09:58:21 PM »

I specifically asked what the EASTERN Church "lacks" that Augustine (WESTERN Church) supplies. That is not a "false dichotomy." The two, once one, are poles apart inwardly.

Yet, St. Augustine lived and wrote in an era when there was simply one united Church.  People like Fr. Seraphim Rose have demonstrated very well that the spirit of many Western Church fathers wad identical to their brothers in the East (he focused mostly on ascetic fathers in what is today France). 

I'd really be curious as to how much of St. Augustine's works you have read yourself, rather than caricatures of him.  He wasn't a fundamentalist, Calvinist or anything else you are accusing him of - rather, he was a member of the Catholic Church.  Until you can show me an ecumenical council that has condemned him, you are slandering a saint and a church father. 

I'd really be interested if you can even read Latin and Greek.  You make these sweeping generalizations of the early Western Church, yet it seems to me that you don't really have the slightest of idea what you are talking about.  Many of the early Latin fathers and especially liturgical texts are as brilliant and inspired as their Oriental counterparts.
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« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2007, 10:00:02 PM »

Nathaniel,

You are aware that Orthodox and Eastern are not necessarily synonymous titles?  One can be Eastern without being Orthodox--just ask any Eastern Rite Catholic; and one can be Orthodox without being Eastern--what say you of the Western Rite Orthodox?  Whereas it is true that the Orthodox Church alone possesses the fullness of saving grace, the Eastern churches alone do not.

Thank you for the enlightenment Peter, for I was not aware of this! God grant you many years.

Blessings Divine to you,
NJM
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« Reply #23 on: October 21, 2007, 10:07:55 PM »

Whereas it is true that the Orthodox Church alone possesses the fullness of saving grace, the Eastern churches alone do not.
[nitpicking]Well, actually, technically they do, since the meaning of "Catholic" includes the fact that each and every local Church under an Orthodox Bishop contains the fullness of the entire Church. So each Eastern Orthodox Church contains the fullness of Grace, and each Western Orthodox Church also contains the fullness of Grace.[/nitpicking]
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« Reply #24 on: October 21, 2007, 10:11:24 PM »

Dear Peter

I mentioned the "debate" simply to have something to talk about with everyone here, not to enlist support. Besides, I did not expect much in the way of support or agreement, but I did expect some fine discussion and debate. Such has proven to be the case. You might understand me a bit better if you realize I am a former Buddhist priest, one of the founders of the Hongaku Jodo sect of Pure Land Buddhism, now retired, and I now and then forget I am merely a layman. I spoke of the article as any of you  might bring up an article for discussion. The only difference being that I did not confine my questions to a message board, but wrote directly to the magazine and hence to the author of the article.

Divine blessings to you Peter. Thank you for your participation.

Nathaniel
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« Reply #25 on: October 21, 2007, 10:11:27 PM »

[nitpicking]Well, actually, technically they do, since the meaning of "Catholic" includes the fact that each and every local Church under an Orthodox Bishop contains the fullness of the entire Church. So each Eastern Orthodox Church contains the fullness of Grace, and each Western Orthodox Church also contains the fullness of Grace.[/nitpicking]
chuckle, chuckle, chuckle Cheesy
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« Reply #26 on: October 21, 2007, 10:17:12 PM »

Nektarios, may we all attain to "the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ." Thank you for the kind welcome, and I now bid each of you adieu. I have a wife to pay attention to, and a parish to thank God for, and a doctoral dissertation to complete. Pray for me that I live long enough to complete it!  Smiley

Blessings of Christ to you,
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« Reply #27 on: October 21, 2007, 10:37:49 PM »

At any rate, as I said, may God's Will be done just as we pray in the Our Father. I am not very PC in religion or politics. My economic/political/social views would probably shock many of you here, because now you have the idea that I am a conservative. That only holds true in the realm of Spirituality, and even then I do not really agree with an all-male priesthood and episcopacy.   Shocked

Well, we have a politics board if you're interested, send Fr. Chris a message if you want access. But if you think we're hostile here, consider yourself warned. Wink

Back to the topic at hand, there is only really a problem if you take some strange approach of attributing a degree of infallibility or even absolute dogmatic authority to the fathers; sure, Augustine said some things with which most here would probably disagree, and he said other things with which I'm sure we would all agree. Read him for what he was, an influential theologian of his day, but you need not take every detail or even the spirit of his work as though it were dogma.
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« Reply #28 on: October 22, 2007, 12:28:36 AM »

Dear Nektarios

As to Koine Greek, I am at this point still a beginner. I gave most of my linguistic attention to Sanskrit and Pali (a close cognate of Sanskrit and the actual language of the historical Buddha). Do you read Sanskrit or Pali? My Latin is confined to probably a hundred words or so. Hence, I have only read Augustine in translation. I was part of a college outreach program called Reference Point near the University of Michigan, Flint campus. Saint Augustine was our main topic of group study (the "inner circle" anyway) for the five years--from age 20 to 25--that I was involved. During this time we studied all of the writings of Augustine that were available in English translation. I became quite enamored of Augustine and immersed myself in his writings. Something I would not repeat if I had my youth to live over.

Again, thank all of you for your participation. To those who boast of hostility, it is not a good way to be on a permanent basis (This comment is not directed to you, Nektarios). I can feel its extremely negative effects on me for just the short period of time I again brought up the subject of AGAIN (pun obviously intended). To exist in such a state of mind and spirit on a daily basis would destroy me, and I suspect it is destroying the one who boasted of being hostile. I rarely venture onto message boards for this very reason. The anonymity of the web seems to bring out the worst.

This has been true of me as regards the article by John Stamps in AGAIN, so...

After reading and considering the responses here, I emailed Father Zell and Doug (I cannot recall his last name) at Conciliar Press and apologized for my emails, and asked for the email address of John Stamps so that I may apologize to him as well. (I had his email address, but my mailbox is set up to delete read mail after two days unless I save it to my computer or to AOL)

Now I really must depart and return to the real world where my real wife and real friends and real life await. (Except on those three nights when I watch Bionic Woman, Mythbusters, and Ghost Hunters and immerse myself in unreality.)

Enjoy the Eastern Orthodox Church, for it is even deeper spiritually than Zen Buddhism or Pure Land Buddhism, and that is certainly saying something. BTW, you might wish to read the latest revision of Bishop Ware's book The Orthodox Way. He speaks of "thusness" very much as a Zen Buddhist would, and he quotes several times, in a positive light, Gnostic Gospels. Is this a good development? Only time will tell, but I think so. Overall the book is much improved.

Ya'sou   Wink

NJM

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« Reply #29 on: October 22, 2007, 12:55:04 AM »

Dear Tamara

I feel that God is well able to take care of His Church. That said, He tends to work through people rather than directly. When He worls directly, we call that a miracle.

I'm not your enemy Tamara. The matters you bring up were discussed in the give-and-take (such as it was) between myself, John Stamps, Father Zell, and an editor named Doug.

I am inclined, at this point based on the reactions here, to cease concerning myself with such matters. Not that they do not matter, because they do. Rather, because life is short, I am very ill, and I have entered the "home stretch." There are other matters to exercise my attention, and they mainly consist of being of service to my current parish: an Antiochian parish of the Evangelical Orthodox variety, with many cradle Orthodox members as well!  Cheesy

God's richest blessings to each of you.

Nathaniel
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Inserted [ /quote] tag to make post easier to read

Nathaniel,

I never said you were the enemy but you did seem a bit panicked by what you read. I read the article and do not feel in the least threatened by what John wrote. As someone who grew up among ethnic Orthodox of the Antiochian variety, I was never exposed to Augustine. I am at a disadvantage when I meet inquirers who come to the parish I now attend because my middle-eastern Orthodox ancestry is very eastern as you have described. I am therefore, unable to answer the questions or concerns of someone who comes from a western theological background. Ignorance is not bliss.

sincerely, Tamara
 
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« Reply #30 on: October 22, 2007, 01:44:13 AM »

I gave most of my linguistic attention to Sanskrit and Pali (a close cognate of Sanskrit and the actual language of the historical Buddha). Do you read Sanskrit or Pali?

And what does this have to do with the price of tea in China?  I've haven't claimed the deficiency of the literature, culture and spirituality of an entire set of cultures that flow forth from Sanskrit.  Since my interest in Buddhism (and no interest at all in Hinduism) is more superficial than anything else, there has been no need for me to actually learn classical Indian languages. 

Quote
My Latin is confined to probably a hundred words or so. Hence, I have only read Augustine in translation. I was part of a college outreach program called Reference Point near the University of Michigan, Flint campus. Saint Augustine was our main topic of group study (the "inner circle" anyway) for the five years--from age 20 to 25--that I was involved. During this time we studied all of the writings of Augustine that were available in English translation. I became quite enamored of Augustine and immersed myself in his writings. Something I would not repeat if I had my youth to live over.

If you are going claim there is some great spiritual and literary deficiency in Western Christendom (and that there always was such a deficiency from the perspective of the Eastern Church), one would assume you have some facility to handle and study the cultures and literatures involved.  Unless this group Orthodox, or had a similar outlook as Orthodoxy (some Roman Catholics, traditional Anglicans etc), it is hardly fair to blame St. Augustine - would you blame the Holy Scriptures for those who misinterpret them?  Most of the things for which St. Augustine is condemned are later additions to his writings (such as predestination).  If his particular style isn't to your liking, fine.  Nobody is forcing you to read him - just don't demonize a beloved church father for many Orthodox Christians. 

Quote
The anonymity of the web seems to bring out the worst.

Yeah.  People who would go to a community of a particular religion, attack a venerated person of that religion and then wonder why people were a bit miffed.

Quote
Enjoy the Eastern Orthodox Church, for it is even deeper spiritually than Zen Buddhism or Pure Land Buddhism, and that is certainly saying something. BTW, you might wish to read the latest revision of Bishop Ware's book The Orthodox Way. He speaks of "thusness" very much as a Zen Buddhist would, and he quotes several times, in a positive light, Gnostic Gospels. Is this a good development? Only time will tell, but I think so. Overall the book is much improved.

Why are you lecturing us on what we should read to understand Orthodoxy? 

Quote
Ya'sou   Wink

Perhaps you should stick to Sanskrit and Pali; Greek doesn't seem to be your forte.
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« Reply #31 on: October 22, 2007, 02:50:00 AM »

I thought the article on Augustine was very interesting. I am a convert to Orthodoxy from an Anglo-Catholic background;however, I was never a big Augustine fan. I always liked the eastern spirituality better even when I was a western Christian. The part of the article that struck me was the positive attitude St. John of San Francisco and Fr. Seraphim Rose had towards Augustine. These men are giant of the faith in my eyes. If they believed there was something we could gain from Augustine, I am open to hear what they have to say. 
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« Reply #32 on: October 24, 2007, 11:24:42 PM »


We are born with a sinful nature. (The EO Truth is, we are born with mortality at work within us; sin did not change our nature. It remains human nature. We were cut off from the "Tree of Life"---God--our nature did not change. We simply began to die. Being cut off from God, moral and ethical "rot" set in, just as if you had plucked an apple from a tree. The apple is still an apple, but cut off from it's source of life, death begins to work in the apple, and within days one may observe the results in the form of rot. Death manifests as rot in an apple, it manifests as sin in we humans. This is a good illustration of the human condition. It's stayed with me courtesy of Father Peter Staviski, the Russian Orthodox priest who catechized and chrismated me.)

 

Fr. Peter Staviski provided a very good illustration indeed!
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« Reply #33 on: October 24, 2007, 11:30:12 PM »



  Most of the things for which St. Augustine is condemned are later additions to his writings (such as predestination). 

Can this be verified? I too spent time as a Calvinist (perhaps I should say "did time" for that period felt very imprisoning) and Augustine was cited left and right on predestination.

Are you sure about this or is there some revisionism going on by someone or some school of thought regarding Augustine?

Nektarios, I am asking this sincerely, so  please don't jump down my throat, okay?
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« Reply #34 on: October 24, 2007, 11:39:21 PM »

Let's also keep in mind here that later studies have shown that Pelagius probably espoused some form of ancestral sin in his understanding of humanity's condition in relation to Adam's sin. He was perhaps not as articulate about it as he could or should have been and as a Celt had an innate sense of the goodness of the created world, including human beings, which further complicated his position and ability to define/defend it. He was also a popular preacher who was a Celt in Rome.

Augustine sure vilified Pelagius for all time! Do we know that Augustine fully understood the prior patrisitic understanding of ancestral sin? Did Pelagius, or was he representing it in a secondary manner because of the Eastern Church influence on the Celtic Church, but unaware of specific fathers' writings? Or were two steams of thought within the Church, one more Eastern and ontological and one more Western and more juridical on a collision course? Could this have been an early fault line in the later Great Schism?

More recent studies make many to believe that Pelagius was a typical Celtic Christian, more influenced by the Christian East than by Rome. I would dare say that church politics caused the Church to sometimes miss the boat, both on who were made saints and who was not. Not alot and not all the time; but there have been some very tawdry episodes and sometimes in terms of the historical record, to the victor goes the spoils. This is certainly the case with Pelagius, who perhaps never would have been made a saint, but who also likely does not deserve the vilification of "Pelagianism." And unfortunately, Augustine is to blame for this.

Hopefully, in heaven they are embracing like the icon of St. Peter and Paul.

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« Reply #35 on: October 25, 2007, 02:11:52 AM »

Can this be verified? I too spent time as a Calvinist (perhaps I should say "did time" for that period felt very imprisoning) and Augustine was cited left and right on predestination.

Are you sure about this or is there some revisionism going on by someone or some school of thought regarding Augustine?

Nektarios, I am asking this sincerely, so  please don't jump down my throat, okay?

For that matter, St. Paul is heavily quoted to justify Calvinism yet none of us here would dream of accusing St. Paul of being a Calvinist. 

I guess a lot of it has to do with context.  I read Augustine as a Catholic (I grew up Catholic and have never had any predestination "roots" so to speak) and never understood him to be promoting predestination.  The analogy given was a spectator at a chariot race would see a racer falling in a turn before it happened, but he did nothing to cause it.    But, I don't think he should be read in a vacuum (for that matter, no church father should be).  When put together with other church fathers they make up for whatever defects he has.  For the average Orthodox person, like myself, I think his most useful writing is his Confessions.

When I think of Christianity and the concept of repentance and conversion, this will still always come to mind first for me:
Quote
Great art thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is thy power, and infinite is thy wisdom." And man desires to praise thee, for he is a part of thy creation; he bears his mortality about with him and carries the evidence of his sin and the proof that thou dost resist the proud. Still he desires to praise thee, this man who is only a small part of thy creation. Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.


I hope that wasn't jumping down anybody's throat (I'm not sure what that was all about Huh ).
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« Reply #36 on: October 26, 2007, 06:45:11 PM »

If Father Seraphim Rose and St. John of San Francisco saw value in the writings of Augustine, I think we should at least be open to the possibility there could be something in his works that is worth reading.
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« Reply #37 on: October 27, 2007, 11:07:28 AM »

Nektarios
you can be a bit vehement at times, not always in a bad way, mind you
You usually make some good points, however and your posts are often informative
-Bro A
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« Reply #38 on: October 27, 2007, 11:55:31 AM »

If Father Seraphim Rose and St. John of San Francisco saw value in the writings of Augustine, I think we should at least be open to the possibility there could be something in his works that is worth reading.

Absolutely!  Though many on this board and elsewhere in the Orthodox world will often claim that Fr. Seraphim's writings are controversial and to be taken cum salis grano, there is much that he saw in Augustine, aside from his written works on free will, predestination, salvation, ancestral sin, grace, etc. that truly emphasize that this man was a man of God who took up his own cross and embraced the life of repentance.  Very few fathers of the church emphasized in their respective writings the value and need of the repentant life as did Augustine.  We must also realize that it was the West who misusued and misconstrued his writings.  Let's not blame Augustine because other people messed him up. 

to me, this is akin to hating Richard Wagner's music because Wagner was such a favorite of Hitler.
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« Reply #39 on: October 27, 2007, 04:15:37 PM »

Absolutely!  Though many on this board and elsewhere in the Orthodox world will often claim that Fr. Seraphim's writings are controversial and to be taken cum salis grano, there is much that he saw in Augustine, aside from his written works on free will, predestination, salvation, ancestral sin, grace, etc. that truly emphasize that this man was a man of God who took up his own cross and embraced the life of repentance.  Very few fathers of the church emphasized in their respective writings the value and need of the repentant life as did Augustine.  We must also realize that it was the West who misusued and misconstrued his writings.  Let's not blame Augustine because other people messed him up. 

to me, this is akin to hating Richard Wagner's music because Wagner was such a favorite of Hitler.
I like what you're trying to express with your analogy, but I'm not sure the analogy you present is really the best possible, for I am not aware that Hitler twisted Wagner's music to make it something different.  Maybe a better analogy would be to think of what Wagner did to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, essentially slowing down the final movement to the point of giving the finale a somewhat different sound from what Beethoven himself intended.
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« Reply #40 on: October 27, 2007, 05:25:12 PM »

I like what you're trying to express with your analogy, but I'm not sure the analogy you present is really the best possible, for I am not aware that Hitler twisted Wagner's music to make it something different.  Maybe a better analogy would be to think of what Wagner did to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, essentially slowing down the final movement to the point of giving the finale a somewhat different sound from what Beethoven himself intended.

Of course, the analogy of Western Christians to Hitler isn't exactly ideal either, but I get the point.  Wink
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« Reply #41 on: October 27, 2007, 06:01:38 PM »

I like what you're trying to express with your analogy, but I'm not sure the analogy you present is really the best possible, for I am not aware that Hitler twisted Wagner's music to make it something different.  Maybe a better analogy would be to think of what Wagner did to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, essentially slowing down the final movement to the point of giving the finale a somewhat different sound from what Beethoven himself intended.

I don't really know of any actual textual tampering in the West with Augustine's works.  Hence that really isn't a good analogy.  It is more along the line that given a textual copora as large was what Augustine wrote, it is possible to use quotations from it to justify nearly any position one could dream off.  Whereas Hitler used a work to form part of the cultural / mythological justifications for a political ideology that arose largely after Wagner had died much like texts of Augustine's were used to justify a religious ideology which didn't exist during his lifetime. 

Thanks for bringing up Wagner... reminded me to put my Wagner playlist on.   
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« Reply #42 on: October 27, 2007, 11:30:17 PM »

Of course, the analogy of Western Christians to Hitler isn't exactly ideal either, but I get the point.  Wink

Of course, lubeltri, that was not my intention. 

Thanks for bringing up Wagner... reminded me to put my Wagner playlist on.   

You're welcome.  I've been playing Parsifal for the past few days.  Hands down Wagner's best, though not most famous, work.
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« Reply #43 on: October 29, 2007, 01:13:05 PM »

BTW, you might wish to read the latest revision of Bishop Ware's book The Orthodox Way. He speaks of "thusness" very much as a Zen Buddhist would, and he quotes several times, in a positive light, Gnostic Gospels. Is this a good development? Only time will tell, but I think so. Overall the book is much improved. 

Hmm, how didn't I catch this the first time?  Half of our feasts of the Theotokos (Her conception, birth, presentation, and dormition) are based on accounts from Gnostic and Apocryphal Gospels.  The Church knows when and how to use them (just like, say, the writings of Origen, for example).  I wouldn't make this a "knock" on Metropolitan Kallistos' book, unless you're willing to knock a lot of saints as well.
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« Reply #44 on: October 29, 2007, 04:32:42 PM »

I've heard it said recently--can't recall where; it's been a looooong day of teaching--that the tragedy of Augustinian thought for Protestants of Calvinist bents is that they accepted his theology of invisible Church while rejecting his theology of institutional, Catholic Church.  You're left with seeking out all the "true" Christians, with no real need at all for "the Institution."
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