Rumors had been rife throughout the OC.net-dom of the a vast new program intended to have fun on OC.net as well as recognize the authors of particularly informative posts. These rumors were confirmed to the crowds milling about under the OC.net administrative balcony, as FrChris was joined by his entire Global Moderating and Moderating staff. As the crowd was wondering the intent of this occasion, FrChris unrolled a sheet of fine llama vellum and spoke:
"We, the Moderators and Global Moderator of OC.net, have to read many, many posts on this site. Some posts are excellent, most are interesting, and some others are a waste of electronic ether.
To help encourage the production of informative posts, we have instituted a Post of the Month program, where various posts enjoyed by us are nominated and voted upon. The winner is the Post of the month, and the author is permitted to use the title Didaskalos tou Genous
, or Teacher of the People.
For January 2008, we have been richly blessed, and so we actually have a tie for this honor. Both Christian Love and GreekisChristian will both have this title for the month of February!
Here are the posts in question:
ChristianLove made on January 12:
Ben, your questions are serious. Many on these boards must be so much stronger in faith than I am, to be able to laugh at the contents of this site, but I found it deplorably slanderous, which is a sin placed among the great sins of the Holy Scriptures. I might be too new to Orthodoxy to do the best job of answering your question, but being that I have been a minister of the Gospel for many years within the nondenominational baptists and charismatic parts of the Church in America, maybe I can offer some minor guidance to you to help a bit on your journey.
I did notice the site administrator also took swipes at 50,000 baptists and also Billy Graham (http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Wolves/billy_graham_exposed.htm ), so it does seem the author is intent on attacking many who are called Christians besides those of the ancient apostolic Orthodox Church of Antioch, Corinth, Phillipi, and all members of the One body of Christ in Heaven and on earth. I hope the website author repents before death, or He will find shock of Christian reality on the other side of death, when He sees believers reverentially honoring those whom Christ honored, such as the one that "for all generations will be called blessed", the one who in Luke 1:41-44 is called The Mother of God, by a holy woman filled with the Holy Spirit, even while Jesus was still in her womb, the Theotokos, The God Bearer. She called on Jesus as God her Savior, so according to the Orthodox Faith, the Theotokos is the humble woman of God who has been exalted to be The Holy Temple of the Living God as well as holds a special place in the Eternal Plan of God that no other human ever has. So, Orthodox Christians are called to honor The Theotokos, Mary, the Mother of God, in one sense that she is the God bearer and the Holy Temple of the Living God, who humbly received God Her Savior into her life and womb (as no other human ever has). It is not because an Orthodox ever follows a blasphemous quadrinity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit and (God-forbid) Mary, as the site tries to slanderously accuse the humble believers following Christ our God. There is no room within Orthodox and original Christian faith of the early church for anyone to make Mary or any other saint an idol equal to God, in any shape or form, and what I remember of reading the wonderful writings from the 7th ecumenical council, by St. John of Damascus, he clearly states how important it is that Christians flee from idolatry, while embracing the reality of Hebrews 11 and 12 through holy represenations (icons), so we never forget that we have a great cloud of witnesses before God and those holy ones who have gone before us, those who are now in the presence of God, worshipping Him, and enjoying the wonderful eternal blessings of His Love, Light and Truth. Godly believers in the Eternal Presence of God, where Perfection reigns, are remembered through holy representations, the icons, and help the faithful to keep the faith as they have, as well as ask Godly believers to intercede on their behalf while in God's Presence. This can only be done because of the One Mediator between God and man who gave His life as a ransom for many. There is no other Mediator like Jesus, cause no one else delivered us from death by His Resurrection and No one else is God The Son. In an evangelical mind, the word mediator and intercessor should be understood interchangeably when they apply, but never is the One Mediator's Perfect work of God through Christ our LORD "replaced" by an interecessory prayer request to any of His Saints, who have also been made perfect by Christ's Perfect Mediation as their Savior.
Ben, I have been preaching what I thought was a Bible-based message for almost 23 years of my Christian walk, in various nondenominational, southern baptist, reformed and charismatic churches. Without knowing it, I had been heavily exposed and influenced often by the writings of Lewis Sperry Chafer, Matthew Henry, Kenneth Wuest, Moody Bible Institute, Dallas Theological Seminary, Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, Charles Spurgeon, G Campbell Morgan, Michael Horton, JI Packer, Francis Schaeffer, and many other popular Christian teachers and authors influencing the way American nonOrthodox often interpret the Bible. In my 3 years studying within a nondenominational seminary, mostly influenced by Lewis Sperry Chafer and 100s of other modern evangelical leaders of the last 200 years, I had never been told that the apostles had personally trained pastors to take charge of protecting the Church against the evil one, and avoiding "private interpretation" of the Bible, by passing along correct understanding of the faith through Oral Paradosis (2 Thess 2:15 "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter".)
I can now better understand Franky Schaeffer's argument that it makes more sense that when there is a major disagreement between the writings of a pastor personally trained by the apostles or his delegated man, versus a writer who tries to privately interpret the Bible 1800+ years removed from the apostles, we should give higher credence and respect to the Christian Bible-based or Christian-Church taught interpretation of the ones who were taught by the apostolically trusted leaders of Christ's One Body. It is not enough to read the scriptures as mormons, and Jehovahs witnesses do, and privately interpret God's Word according to one's modern "tradition", even when we try to cover up our "tradition" that goes against Christ's earlier teachings to the faithful Church. One must understand and follow God's Word according to its Author's intent and The Holy Spirit gave us faithful men, gifted and entrusted by Him, to guide the Bride of Christ, along that Holy path.
My shock in reading the early church writings was that although I was often right on target with early Christians about many theological issues (Christ's eternal deity, The Holy Trinity, Trust in the canon of Scriptures, ...), I have also often been wrong about some of the basic understanding of the Christian faith that the apostles (and those they personally trained and trusted to lead the Church) taught the Church of God.
I was baptized Roman catholic, but even after returning from my time under islamic governance, I could not return to it mainly because priests were unable to address many important doctrines Biblically, like the belief in "intercession of saints", papal infallibility, Mary calling God Her Savior, etc.. I have since had experiential knowledge of the charismatics in several Assemblies of God, Calvary Chapel as well as other nondenominational churches.
The pictures on the site you found present a woman kissing the Cross of Christ as if it is evil idolatry. I can kinda understand why someone with a zealous and fervent desire to avoid all idolatry, might misinterpret that act, but as one who has now "kissed the Christian Cross", I can tell you for certain that there is not even a smallest hint of idolatry in my heart and mind when I kiss the Cross. I do it out of reverence for Christ's Holy Sacrifice and the power of the Cross and the Resurrection that overcame the devil and death to open the door of salvation for all of us. I do it because I humbly bow to the Love of Christ our God, who shed his blood for me that I might be free from the bondages of my sin and am forever thankful for His wondrous and great sacrifice. If I kiss the hand of the priest who is the minister of God, I do it out of respect for His Office, being the humble representative of Christ to us. In the Orthodox faith, my understanding is that the priest is in no way less of a "sinner" than we are, but rather a recipient of God's Grace to represent Christ to the Church during the divine Liturgy and one who can also choose to follow God as His Lord or make the wrong choice like the sons of Eli did. Priests and Bishops are accountable to the Holy Spirit who is the protector of Christ's Church and has at times led His People, the Christian Faithful, to stand up to unfaithful powerful and influential bishops like Bishop Arius. My understanding of all the Christian historical writings so far, is that no Bishop is infallible, whether Roman or Constantinople or Protestant. All of us are accountable to God the Holy Spirit to keep the Orthodox faith, while praying and supporting ministers of Christ, who are faithfully serving God's body so humbly and graciously.
We have only one High Priest, Christ our God, and one Salvation Mediator between man and God, our LORD Jesus, who died for us and was risen from the dead to bring the Hope of Eternal Life to mankind. In 1 Timothy 2:1-8, one sees the context of the passage as very important to reading the scriptures according to the apostolic understanding. In verse 1, The Holy Spirit inspired writer of the letter to Pastor/Bishop Timothy, calls all believers to intercede (lower mediation form :-) ) for one another, pray for one another, and lift up holy hands and pray everywhere.
1I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
In Revelations 5:8, Christians in the presence of God are offering prayers to God and represented by incense in the Holy Temple of God, just as it was in the vision the Prophet Moses received over 1000 years before the one John received.
To pray and intercede for one another is a High and Holy Calling that does not lower Christ's Perfect Mediation Service on our behalf, but rather exalts God's Perfect Sacrifice, since it is by God's gift that Christians with God the Holy Spirit can offer prayers to God in Heaven and on earth, although those in Heaven have a great advantage of beholding God with no worldly distractions.
While this teaching may seem elementary and very basic to those who understood it for much longer than I have, I hope it will provide a small light along your path. As a humble servant of God, who has not officially been baptized and Chrismated into The Orthodox Faith yet, although I have been accepted to become Orthodox soon, I might have made some mistakes in my presentation, but I am providing you with the light I have at the moment with hopes that you would find God's path to His Presence in Christ's Church.
One great resource for me has been the presentations by Bradley Nassif, on http://www.ancientfaithradio.com/podcasts/nassif and Matthew Gallatin's series on impartation and sanctification modes of interpreting the Bible vs. the way the Christian Orthodox Church has always seen the walk of Christian Faithful in his online audio messages entitled virtual righteousness found at http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/pilgrims/P32/ . Many other great Orthodox messages on that site, especially for those of us needing special help in understanding our similarity and differences between Orthodox original Christian way of life and a modern "westernized" version.
And GreekisChristian's post made on January 15:
Questions like these tend to pull the heathens, heretics and sinners out...so I guess it's my turn to weigh in. More often than not I probably just make things worse, but I have a tendency to get in over my head and delve beyond my competence; so here it goes.
I cannot tell you that you are doing the right thing, that this path is some how the correct one, that this struggle of yours is worth it. I do not know with any certainty whether you are pursuing the true faith or simply making a fool out of yourself. These things are for you to decide. It may very well be that your wife and daughter have gotten things right and rightfully thing that you are out of your mind, but if that is the case at least you can be confident that you are not alone...it's collective insantiy.
But I do know at least this much. Christianity is more than the opinions of the fathers, it's more than the decrees of the Oecumenical Synods, it's more than the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition; it transcends all of these things. Christianity is manifested in the Divine Person of Christ who is more than a Man, who is more than the Incarnation, who is more than what he is revealed to be in the Gospels. Christ is the Divine Logos; He is the Word, He is the Reason of the One, the Reason of He that is before the Universe was, the Reason of the Source of all things...a Reason that by neessity and without choice flows forth from these things.
That there is this reason to the Universe, that there is this reason to all things seems to be manifested in the Universe itself. Why does 1 and 1 always seem to make 2? Why do positive EM forces always attract negative EM forces? Why does gravity always seem to always seem to be an attractive and never a repulsive force? Why are chemical bonds so predictable? There is no reason that can be derived from pure logic for these consistencies, yet these consistencies exist. There is a consistency to the universe...there is a logic, a Reason, to the universe. This Consistency is, in and of itself, the essence of Divinity, it allowed for the development of the planets, for the evolution of life, for the development of the human brain, for the advancement of human knowledge from a single spark, from the big bang. From this singular event this Reason allowed the development of everything we can see around us. This Divine Reason seems to me to be even more obvious than the One itself, than the very originator and source of the universe.
Is this Reason worthy of recognition? I certainly believe so, all our understanding of the world would not exist without it. Do our rituals and customs do it justice? Probably not. But though we can never do it justice at least it is recognized in the Christian faith, the Moslems and the Jews only give worship to the One and subjugate the Divine Reason to it, but of what use is the existence of the Universe without the Reason, without the Consistency, behind it? Without this we could never have evolved, without this we would not exist.
Now as to how this consistency, as to how this Divine Reason, relates to the human person of Christ (for those still reading, no, I am not implying Nestorianism, I am simply discussing the human life and aspect of the Divine Person of Christ), I am in no position to argue, I truly do not know. I will confess that there are times when I am unable to pray to Christ...though one blessing I enjoy is that I can always seem to be able to pray to the Theotokos, to the Mother of God, even when I can not bring myself to pray to God himself (I guess that brings a whole new meaning to the prayer 'Most Holy Theotokos, save us'). But the one Faith that recognizes and honours this Divine Reason gives homage to Him as the human manifestation of the same.
Because of this I would argue that you do have a connection with those who have this faith (though perhaps not with those who 'claim' to have it). Every time you speak of a chemical bond you share this faith, every time you speak of a genetic mutaton you share this faith, every time you have a common understanding of a scientific principle with another person you share this faith; for you both believe in consistency, you both believe in the Divine Reason, in the Divine Logos, though some are unwilling or unable to articulate it as such...but they are not to blame for this, I'm sure we can both appreciate why the foreign customs and ancient rituals can do as much to diminish as proclaim this truth. Do now withdraw yourself from these people, try to appreciate their reasoning and logic for what it is, their Science is an exploration of consistency, of the Divine -- their existence in an intelligent form which evolved over the ages is a manifestation of the Divine.
Now if only I could follow my own advice.
(As for Seraphim Rose, I wouldn't bother myself with him if I were you, not only has he never even been glorified by the Church, he died in a state of Schism against her. Most (all?) of the fathers were wrong on at least a few things, Seraphim Rose probably on more than most. His personal opinions were just that, nothing more, they have not been adopted by synods, they have not been proclaimed to be dogma of the Church. Let him be and spend your time on more productive things.)
The crowd, stunned at these developments, suddenly realized the grandeur that was unfolding in front of them, and they responded with a loud cry:AXIOI! AXIOI!AXIOI!