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Author Topic: Cult of Father Seraphim Rose  (Read 14787 times) Average Rating: 0
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peteprint
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« Reply #45 on: November 03, 2010, 03:08:16 PM »

The following is a quote from Father Ambrose on another thread where a toll-house discussion has been going on since last night:

Re: Fr. Seraphim (Rose) to be a Saint?
« Reply #28 on: Yesterday at 10:57:28 PM »


"According to the toll-house Saints you are going to Hell.  There can be no other destination for those who have not received an Orthodox baptism (and I suspect, sadly with a well-founded suspicion, that those who believe in the toll houses would include the OO as hell-bound.)

Only baptized Orthodox are judged in the toll houses,  The rest of mankind is taken to hell immediately they die and do not go through the torments of the toll houses.  It is very sad for converts with non-Orthodox family and friends.

'Note also,' said the angels, 'that this is the way by which only those who are enlightened by the faith
and by holy baptism can rise and be tested in the stations of torment. The unbelievers do not come here.
Their souls belong to hell even before they part from their bodies. When they die the devils take their souls
with no need to test them. Such souls are their proper prey, and they take them down to the abyss.'
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/theodora.aspx"
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jckstraw72
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« Reply #46 on: November 03, 2010, 03:10:16 PM »

The following is a quote from Father Ambrose on another thread where a toll-house discussion has been going on since last night:

Re: Fr. Seraphim (Rose) to be a Saint?
« Reply #28 on: Yesterday at 10:57:28 PM »


"According to the toll-house Saints you are going to Hell.  There can be no other destination for those who have not received an Orthodox baptism (and I suspect, sadly with a well-founded suspicion, that those who believe in the toll houses would include the OO as hell-bound.)

Only baptized Orthodox are judged in the toll houses,  The rest of mankind is taken to hell immediately they die and do not go through the torments of the toll houses.  It is very sad for converts with non-Orthodox family and friends.

'Note also,' said the angels, 'that this is the way by which only those who are enlightened by the faith
and by holy baptism can rise and be tested in the stations of torment. The unbelievers do not come here.
Their souls belong to hell even before they part from their bodies. When they die the devils take their souls
with no need to test them. Such souls are their proper prey, and they take them down to the abyss.'
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/theodora.aspx"

i suppose some might believe that, i dont understand it to be part and parcel of the toll house teaching though
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peteprint
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« Reply #47 on: November 03, 2010, 03:18:54 PM »

This is all part of the story of St. Theodora's Journey Through the Aerial Toll-Houses:


"When the soul parts from its body and desires to go to its Creator in heaven, the evil spirits prevent the soul and show to it its sins. If the soul has done more good deeds than evil, they cannot keep it; but if the sins outweigh the good deeds, they keep the soul for some time, shut it up in the prison where it cannot know God, and torment it as much as God's power allows them, until that soul, by means of prayers of the Church and good deeds done for its sake by those who are still on earth, should be granted forgiveness.  (Sounds like Purgatory)

"Those who believe in the Holy Trinity and take as frequently as possible the Holy Communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ our Saviour's Body and Blood—such people can rise to heaven directly, with no hindrances, and the holy angels defend them, and the holy saints of God pray for their salvation, since they have lived righteously. No one, however, takes care of the wicked and depraved heretics, who do nothing useful during their lives, and live in disbelief and heresy. The angels can say nothing in their defense.

"When a soul proves to be so sinful and impure before God that it has no hope of salvation, the evil spirits immediately bring it down into the abyss, where their own place of eternal torment is also. There the lost souls are kept until the time of the Lord's Second Coming. Then they will unite with their bodies and will incur torment in the fiery hell together with the devils.

'Note also,' said the angels, 'that this is the way by which only those who are enlightened by the faith and by holy baptism can rise and be tested in the stations of torment. The unbelievers do not come here. Their souls belong to hell even before they part from their bodies. When they die the devils take their souls with no need to test them. Such souls are their proper prey, and they take them down to the abyss.'"

I find all of this troubling from an Orthodox perspective.
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jckstraw72
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« Reply #48 on: November 03, 2010, 03:25:19 PM »

well but the Tale of Theodora is not the origin of the toll houses, they exist in our Saints long before this writing. I have not read this tale myself, but off the top of my head I would say many of the troubling things might not be so troubling when interpreted symbolically in the context of the tradition ...
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« Reply #49 on: November 03, 2010, 04:30:46 PM »

This is all part of the story of St. Theodora's Journey Through the Aerial Toll-Houses:


"When the soul parts from its body and desires to go to its Creator in heaven, the evil spirits prevent the soul and show to it its sins. If the soul has done more good deeds than evil, they cannot keep it; but if the sins outweigh the good deeds, they keep the soul for some time, shut it up in the prison where it cannot know God, and torment it as much as God's power allows them, until that soul, by means of prayers of the Church and good deeds done for its sake by those who are still on earth, should be granted forgiveness.  (Sounds like Purgatory)

"Those who believe in the Holy Trinity and take as frequently as possible the Holy Communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ our Saviour's Body and Blood—such people can rise to heaven directly, with no hindrances, and the holy angels defend them, and the holy saints of God pray for their salvation, since they have lived righteously. No one, however, takes care of the wicked and depraved heretics, who do nothing useful during their lives, and live in disbelief and heresy. The angels can say nothing in their defense.

"When a soul proves to be so sinful and impure before God that it has no hope of salvation, the evil spirits immediately bring it down into the abyss, where their own place of eternal torment is also. There the lost souls are kept until the time of the Lord's Second Coming. Then they will unite with their bodies and will incur torment in the fiery hell together with the devils.

'Note also,' said the angels, 'that this is the way by which only those who are enlightened by the faith and by holy baptism can rise and be tested in the stations of torment. The unbelievers do not come here. Their souls belong to hell even before they part from their bodies. When they die the devils take their souls with no need to test them. Such souls are their proper prey, and they take them down to the abyss.'"

I find all of this troubling from an Orthodox perspective.

The big thing about Purgatory, as I understand it, is not the concept of testing or purification after death. Rather it is purification via actual, material fire, which we reject. But it seems Catholics have largely rejected such a literal understanding as well.
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« Reply #50 on: November 03, 2010, 07:59:03 PM »

The therory of toll houses that I have encountered is different than the one presented here on this thread.

1. Angels escort the soul to heaven.
2. Demons accuse us not judge.
3. It gives no account of the weight of sins versus faith or works. It could be understood that Faith in Christ is sufficient to "pay the toll" all the way to heaven.
4. Since there is no such thing as pergatory it does give a reasonable "mechanism" for judging those who were never baptised or were never exposed to the Christian teachings. If one does not have knowledge of Christ then would they not be judged on works?
« Last Edit: November 03, 2010, 08:01:28 PM by Dart » Logged
peteprint
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« Reply #51 on: November 03, 2010, 09:06:59 PM »

well but the Tale of Theodora is not the origin of the toll houses, they exist in our Saints long before this writing. I have not read this tale myself, but off the top of my head I would say many of the troubling things might not be so troubling when interpreted symbolically in the context of the tradition ...

My understanding has been that the Theodora story is one of the foundational stories used by supporters of the toll-houses.

The problem with symbolic interpretation is that ten people could have ten interpretations.  It then becomes an issue of speculation.  The part of the story where the demons are described as Black Ethiopians, her head being cut off and forced to drink poison, these and the rest could be interpreted so many different ways as to make the story meaningless.

It becomes reminiscent of the Book of Revelations, no one seems to agree on what most of the symbols in the book mean.  If the toll-houses are just symbolic, then in a sense, they don't really exist, anymore than four horsemen of the apocalypse are real individuals riding real horses.

It becomes a matter of theologoumena, not dogma.
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« Reply #52 on: November 03, 2010, 09:14:28 PM »

The therory of toll houses that I have encountered is different than the one presented here on this thread.

1. Angels escort the soul to heaven.
2. Demons accuse us not judge.
3. It gives no account of the weight of sins versus faith or works. It could be understood that Faith in Christ is sufficient to "pay the toll" all the way to heaven.
4. Since there is no such thing as pergatory it does give a reasonable "mechanism" for judging those who were never baptised or were never exposed to the Christian teachings. If one does not have knowledge of Christ then would they not be judged on works?

I would love to believe that non-Christians will be in heaven, I hope that is what happens, but number 4. says that those not baptized or exposed to Christian teachings can get into heaven on works.  Is this the Orthodox position?  I would like to believe it, but I doubt that is what the Church has taught for the past 2000 years.

If your number 3 is correct, then we Orthodox have nothing to fear from the toll-houses, the fact that we have faith in Christ is sufficient to get past them.  Again, I do not think that is the traditional understanding of the toll-house supporters.  My understanding of the toll-house position is that any un-confessed/un-absolved sins cause us to get trapped at the toll-houses.

It would appear that there are widely divergent views on what the toll-houses are, or how they actually work.
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« Reply #53 on: November 03, 2010, 09:16:40 PM »

here's a talk by Fr. Hopko that i think is very good http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdO9jgp2-N0. he says that the toll houses appear in basically every Church Father, but he thinks that the further on you go the more detailed the teaching becomes and sometimes then it becomes problematic, but he still believes that the core teaching is true. even without the Theodora Tale the evidence abounds for the toll houses. they even appear in icons and prayers and hymns of the Church.
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« Reply #54 on: November 03, 2010, 09:39:32 PM »

Yes, this was a good talk, thank you for the link.  Fr. Hopko sees it as an allegory for our being purified before entering heaven.  The classic view of the toll-houses that I have read specifically state that you can be dragged off to hell if you are convicted at one of the toll-houses.  Again, there are many different opinions regarding this subject. 

I copied and pasted the response of one of the video viewers:

"God Himself told St Silouan that the Theotokos NEVER sinned Fr Hopko! Quit saying she did. St Silouan couldn't believe it when he heard it, but he accepted it and believes it now!

And, Christ Himself ascended into Heaven by going UP, through the air. He returns by coming down through the air. Yes, the aerial toll-houses are in the air, where the demons reside and who we must contend with as the Saints teach! And, the 40 days after one's death reveals a literal time frame associated with death!"

These are the types of fanatics that give the toll-house theory a bad name.  It is impossible to reason with such people.  I have great respect for elder Silouan;  did God actually speak to him about the Theotokos?  I have no idea.  As one of the earlier posters (I think on this thread) mentioned, St. John Chrysostom believed that the Theotokos sinned.  Be that as it may, It appears that a belief in the toll-houses is not required for salvation, and can be viewed in many different ways by different people.

As I have heard it taught (which Fr. Hopko talks about in the video, the later, literal view), is a view that I reject.  I am open to his more symbolic interpretation, but the purification part (which I like) does not square with what I have heard from the tollers.
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« Reply #55 on: November 03, 2010, 09:58:49 PM »

he says that the toll houses appear in basically every Church Father,

Everyone makes mistakes.
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« Reply #56 on: November 03, 2010, 10:17:13 PM »


On one hand he is saying that we should remain mostly silent on the state of the soul in the hereafter, and on the other hand he is saying we should be able to define the process of the trials the soul faces after death in some exact uniformity. You can't have it both ways.

Alveus,  it ought to be clear from what I written that I do NOT say we should be "able to define the process of the trials the soul faces after death in some exact uniformity."  I have made it very clear that, IMHO, Christ has not revealed that and we simply do not know. 
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« Reply #57 on: November 03, 2010, 10:20:10 PM »

Did Father Seraphim Rose see the "Toll House" theory as some kind of metaphor?

he absolutely did not see them literally, and he explains that quite extensively in the chapter from his book

He says in "The Soul after Death" that a man who is sufficiently spiritual may see the toll houses, with his physical eyes, in the sky above his head.   That sounds literal to me!
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« Reply #58 on: November 03, 2010, 10:26:00 PM »

Did Father Seraphim Rose see the "Toll House" theory as some kind of metaphor?

he absolutely did not see them literally, and he explains that quite extensively in the chapter from his book

He says in "The Soul after Death" that a man who is sufficiently spiritual may see the toll houses, with his physical eyes, in the sky above his head.   That sounds literal to me!

but the description that that man would then give should not be literally understood. our human language cannot literally describe spiritual realities. Fr. Seraphim begins the chapter by discussing how to properly understand the language.
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« Reply #59 on: November 03, 2010, 10:26:41 PM »

he says that the toll houses appear in basically every Church Father,

Everyone makes mistakes.

are you saying that Fr. Hopko is wrong for saying that, or that all the Fathers are wrong for teaching this?
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« Reply #60 on: November 03, 2010, 10:37:36 PM »

In the December 6, 1984 edition of THE HELLENIC CHRONICLE, Rev Dr Stanley Harakas, then dean of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary, wrote the following answer to a question to the editor concerning Fr Seraphim's book, and the teaching about "aerial toll houses" in general.

Relevant paragraph in blue

Dear Father,

I recently read a book by Rev. Seraphim Rose entitled, The Soul After Death. There were many, many teachings that I read for the first time. My question is: "Are these valid Orthodox interpretations and teachings?" (There follow the four questions listed below, which I will briefly respond to.) (D.S. North Royalton, Ohio)

REV DR HARAKAS' ANSWER:

1. Does the soul linger near the body or earth for the first three days?

Though this is a commonly held opinion among Mediterranean peoples, including the Greek people, it finds no answer in the formal teaching of doctrine in the Orthodox Church. We do not know if such is the case, probably because it is not important that this view be accepted in regard to our salvation. Since there is no clear doctrinal teaching regarding it, there is no reason why we would have to accept it.

2. Is the soul met by angels at the moment of death?

Sometimes poetic and sermonic language used in the Church does indicate this. Again, however, most doctrinal treatments of angelology with which I am familiar, do not support this as a formal teaching of the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, iconography does include the presence of angels at the last judgment, but only sometimes are angels depicted as present at the moment of death. Again, there does not seem to be enough evidence to consider this a doctrinal teaching of the Church.

3. Are prayers and almsgiving able to bring relief to the souls of the deceased?

This is clearly the teaching of the Orthodox Church. We do not know what kind of relief, or to what extent our prayers can help the deceased, for our Church teaches that all progress in our life as persons growing in God's image and likeness ends with our lives in this world, and upon our death. Nevertheless, the unity of the Church, between the Church Militant (the faithful living) and the Church Triumphant (the faithful dead) permits and calls for prayer for our beloved dead.

Some efforts were made during the 17th century to work out a more detailed understanding of the nature of the "help" provided for the dead by our good works and our prayers, but these views have not been widely accepted or taught in our Church. As a result, as one writer puts it, "The exact bounds of this relationship, and the conception of the state of such persons and of their condition before the General Judgment does not seem to be very clear from current Orthodox teaching." What is clear from late Jewish history (2 Maccabees 12:43) was that "a sin offering for the dead" was made, and the earliest liturgical practices of the Church, especially in the earliest Divine Liturgies which we have, and the writings of the Holy Fathers, that "through charitable works, the prayers of the Church, the Holy Eucharist, help and comfort are afforded to those who have died in the faith." (Androutsos, Dogmatike, p.427).

4. And the big question, "What about the toll houses?"

I don't think that it is such a "big question." The idea that when we die we have to go past a number of "toll houses," detaining the soul for testing of the sins which it has committed and requiring payment for them," is certainly a dramatic way of indicating our moral and spiritual responsibility for our lives in this world. However, the overwhelming doctrinal teaching of the Church does not see these statements as anything more than rhetorical devices. "Toll houses" at most, might be called a "theologoumenon" (that is, an optional theological opinion), but for the vast majority of Orthodox teachers of the faith of a the Church, such views are either unknown (not mentioned), acknowledged as having some minor elements of tradition supporting them, but not official doctrine, or, finally, simply erroneous misinterpretations, to be condemned. It is this last opinion that many of Fr Rose's "old calendarist" critics have adopted. I tend to agree with them on this matter.

I would suggest that you rather read the following accounts of the Orthodox teachings regarding eschatology (the doctrine of the last things) rather than this quite controversial book, for an authoritative understanding of the Church's doctrine on the last things. .... A bit polemical, but theologically on target, it appears to me, is Fr Lev Puhalo's (now Archbishop Lazar) The Soul, The Body, and Death. For a rather full and middle of the road, generally accepted perspective, read Constantine Callinicos' Beyond the Grave. For two very short summaries of Orthodox teaching on eschatology, read Bishop Maximos Aghiorgoussis' The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church, pp.166-168, in A Companion to the Greek Orthodox Church and John Karmiris, A Synopsis of the Dogmatic Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church, chapter 11.


http://www.christianforums.com/t64911-4/

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« Reply #61 on: November 03, 2010, 10:39:08 PM »

he says that the toll houses appear in basically every Church Father,

Everyone makes mistakes.

are you saying that Fr. Hopko is wrong for saying that, or that all the Fathers are wrong for teaching this?

Perhaps Fr. Hopko meant something more subtle by the statement, but the idea that "all the Fathers" teach toll houses, if taken literally, is completely absurd.
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« Reply #62 on: November 03, 2010, 10:42:46 PM »

On one hand he is saying that we should remain mostly silent on the state of the soul in the hereafter, and on the other hand he is saying we should be able to define the process of the trials the soul faces after death in some exact uniformity. You can't have it both ways.
Alveus,  it ought to be clear from what I written that I do NOT say we should be "able to define the process of the trials the soul faces after death in some exact uniformity."  I have made it very clear that, IMHO, Christ has not revealed that and we simply do not know.

The least the tollers could do is give us an understanding of their belief/theologoumenon and a universally agreed definition. At the moment the whole thing is so self-contradictory and so nebulous that no Christian can be asked to believe it.

Father, bless.

Again, my point is that you are talking both ways. You say we can't define these things, then you ask us for universal definitions. To counter your point with the same tired example (because it's the best one I have), is it universally agreed what exactly Hell is, so that we can accept or reject it?

You're saying "outline what the toll-houses are" and also saying "we can't outline things after death."
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« Reply #63 on: November 03, 2010, 10:46:21 PM »

he says that the toll houses appear in basically every Church Father,

Everyone makes mistakes.

are you saying that Fr. Hopko is wrong for saying that, or that all the Fathers are wrong for teaching this?

Perhaps Fr. Hopko meant something more subtle by the statement, but the idea that "all the Fathers" teach toll houses, if taken literally, is completely absurd.

well you can listen to the talk, he doesnt ALL, but i think he says nearly all, and perhaps he's speaking hyperbolically, but it gets the point across that its quite a prevalent teaching ...
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« Reply #64 on: November 03, 2010, 10:48:04 PM »

3. Are prayers and almsgiving able to bring relief to the souls of the deceased?

This is clearly the teaching of the Orthodox Church. We do not know what kind of relief, or to what extent our prayers can help the deceased, for our Church teaches that all progress in our life as persons growing in God's image and likeness ends with our lives in this world, and upon our death. Nevertheless, the unity of the Church, between the Church Militant (the faithful living) and the Church Triumphant (the faithful dead) permits and calls for prayer for our beloved dead.

Does she really? Strange, considering that every Orthodox theological book I have read states that theosis is an eternal process, because God is infinite. How else can we move from glory to glory, without eventually becoming God entirely? If the conformity to God's image ceases at death, then the process must be "complete", however that might be possible.

I'm not impressed with this statement.
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« Reply #65 on: November 03, 2010, 10:52:00 PM »

theosis absolutely continues after death, for all eternity ...
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« Reply #66 on: November 03, 2010, 10:53:38 PM »


Again, my point is that you are talking both ways. You say we can't define these things, then you ask us for universal definitions. To counter your point with the same tired example (because it's the best one I have), is it universally agreed what exactly Hell is, so that we can accept or reject it?


You are confounding two different things.  On the one hand, the existence
of hell and its nature..... but the question here is not the nature of the
toll houses but their very existence.


You see, it is almost impossible to tack down with any certainty the
features of this amorphous doctrine. No contemporary toll house proponent
has ever had the courage to say precisely what they believe. They certainly
reject the teaching of the Saints, both St Theodora and St Ignaty
Brianchaninov... Don't you find that odd?... They are decrying the teachings
of the very Saints to whom they also appeal for support in this belief.
Having said that Saint Theodora and Saint Ignaty are wrong in their
teachings,they usually want to advocate a watered down teaching which would
be rejected by the "toll house Saints" themselves including Saint John of
San Francisco.

It's an awful mess, isn't it.

The nitty gritty teaching of the toll houses by the actual toll house
Saints-- Theodora, Theophan the Recluse, Ignaty Brianchaninov --is now held
in contempt and is obviously an embarrasment to nearly all modern-day
tollhouse advocates.

So the "tradition" inspires about as  much confidence as a sinking rubber
dinghy.

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« Reply #67 on: November 03, 2010, 11:01:06 PM »

here's a talk by Fr. Hopko that i think is very good http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdO9jgp2-N0. he says that the toll houses appear in basically every Church Father, but he thinks that the further on you go the more detailed the teaching becomes and sometimes then it becomes problematic, but he still believes that the core teaching is true. even without the Theodora Tale the evidence abounds for the toll houses. they even appear in icons and prayers and hymns of the Church.

it doesn't appear in any Apostolic Father, nor do I recall it in St. Clement of Alexandria, the writings of Dionysius, St. John Chrysostom etc.etc.etc. One can be a faithful Orthodox all one's life and never hear of them as long as you stay off the net.
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« Reply #68 on: November 03, 2010, 11:08:26 PM »

Dear Brother Alveus,

This is a frequent problem with American Orthodox tollers.  They deny the
teaching of the Saints who taught the tollhouses and allegorize it away.
They are reminiscent of Rudolf Bultmann, in the 1950s and 60s, who attacked
and demythologized the doctrines of traditional Christianity.

It is noticeable throughout Fr Seraphim's "The Soul After Death" that he
seems to have a multiple belief disorder.  He wavers between allegorical
tollhouses (and in this he is contradicting the teaching of the recent
Russian Saints) and an adherence to the physical reality of the tollhouses.
At times he adopts the demythologized approach for which you have given
several quotes and at other times he asserts the "traditional" teaching and
especially that of Saint Ignaty Brianchaninov from whom he draws extensively
for his own teaching on the tollhouses.  No allegory here with Saint Ignaty,
no metaphor in sight, but only real tollhouses in the air.

For example, Fr Seraphim quotes the holy bishop writing in his "Homily on Death"
1863,  (Collected Works (vol.3). St Petersburg):

    "When the soul of a Christian, leaving its earthly dwelling,  and begins
to strive through the aerial spaces towards the homeland on high, the demons
stop it, strive to find in it a kinship with themselves, their sinfulness,
their fall, and to drag it down to the hell prepared for the devil and his
angels (Matt. 25:41). They act thus by the right which they have acquired
[sic!].

    "For the testing of souls as they pass through the spaces of the air
there have been established by the dark powers separate judgment places and
guards in a remarkable order. In the layers of the under-heaven, from earth
to heaven itself, stand guarding legions of fallen spirits. Each division is
in charge of a special form of sin and tests the soul in it when the soul
reaches this division. The aerial demonic guards and judgment places are
called in the patristic writing the toll-houses, and the spirits who serve
in them are called tax-collectors."

Does the above constitute a fair definition?   Is this a definition which
toll house believers would accept as Orthodox doctrine?  Is this what they
would like to be taught to the youth in our church schools?

Saint Ignaty's definition raises a whole raft of questions.  Where, for
instance, are we taught in Scripture that the fallen angels are assigned the
right to test and judge human souls after death?  It's a most strange
concept, that they should be entrusted with this work of justice (injustice
really) by the God Who Himself thrust them down onto Hell after their
rebellion against Him.  Where are we told that they have acquired this
right?   And again, where are we told in Scripture that the dark powers have
been given a blessing by the Lord to establish "separate judgement places
and guards."  Who gave this right to them?  Was it the Lord Jesus Christ?
But He Himself tells us that "the Father has given ALL judgement to the
Son."  Where and when did the Son delegate His authority to the demons and
the Father of Lies?  To the most malevolent enemies of the human race?
There are many assertions in Bishop Ignaty's writing
which need further investigation.

The holiness of Saint Ignaty Brianchaninov does not guarantee the truth of
this teaching in this matter.  In fact, we find that another great Russian
Saint, Theophan the Recluse, in "Souls and Angels are not Bodies but Spirits
" strongly rebukes Saint Ignaty and takes him to task for his doctrinal
errors.

Fr Ambrose
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« Reply #69 on: November 03, 2010, 11:10:25 PM »

here's a talk by Fr. Hopko that i think is very good http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdO9jgp2-N0. he says that the toll houses appear in basically every Church Father, but he thinks that the further on you go the more detailed the teaching becomes and sometimes then it becomes problematic, but he still believes that the core teaching is true. even without the Theodora Tale the evidence abounds for the toll houses. they even appear in icons and prayers and hymns of the Church.

it doesn't appear in any Apostolic Father, nor do I recall it in St. Clement of Alexandria, the writings of Dionysius, St. John Chrysostom etc.etc.etc. One can be a faithful Orthodox all one's life and never hear of them as long as you stay off the net.

i think Met. Hierotheos and Nicholas Vassiliades quote St. John Chrysostom, and there's somewhere in Clement where he makes a reference to toll houses, I don't recall what he says about it or if he's even using the term in the same sense, but anyhoo, im not going to try to prove that every Father mentions them. listen to the talk if you want, whether or not Fr. Hopko is exaggerating, his point is obvious.
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« Reply #70 on: November 03, 2010, 11:45:52 PM »

"He says in "The Soul after Death" that a man who is sufficiently spiritual may see the toll houses, with his physical eyes, in the sky above his head.   That sounds literal to me!"

I agree.  Thank you Father for all of your postings on this matter.  It does seem that some advocates of the houses argue for a metaphoric interpretation of the toll-houses while citing as sources those that believed in a literal interpretation of the same.

In all humility, being neither a priest, nor a theologian, I believe that these men, saints and others, are wrong.  I believe it was a false doctrine that entered the Church and has been passed down to others over the centuries.  I am not aware that any of them claimed to have direct knowledge of the existence of these toll-houses, they simply were repeating, what in all innocence, had been passed on to them by others.

That doesn't make them any less saints, just mistaken on this subject.  If I had been taught this by an elder or my priest when entering the Church, I would have assumed it to be true as well.
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« Reply #71 on: November 04, 2010, 12:06:17 AM »

"He says in "The Soul after Death" that a man who is sufficiently spiritual may see the toll houses, with his physical eyes, in the sky above his head.   That sounds literal to me!"

I agree.  Thank you Father for all of your postings on this matter.  It does seem that some advocates of the houses argue for a metaphoric interpretation of the toll-houses while citing as sources those that believed in a literal interpretation of the same.

In all humility, being neither a priest, nor a theologian, I believe that these men, saints and others, are wrong.  I believe it was a false doctrine that entered the Church and has been passed down to others over the centuries.  I am not aware that any of them claimed to have direct knowledge of the existence of these toll-houses, they simply were repeating, what in all innocence, had been passed on to them by others.

That doesn't make them any less saints, just mistaken on this subject.  If I had been taught this by an elder or my priest when entering the Church, I would have assumed it to be true as well.

pp. 66-69 of Soul After Death are quite explicit that toll houses are NOT to be interpreted literally. in fact he outright criticizes the modern man who is overly obsessed with the literal meaning of texts.

"Accept earthly things here as the weakest kind of depiction of heavenly things.' One must picture the toll-houses not in a sense that is crude and sensuous, but - as far as possible for us - in a spiritual sense, and not be tied down to details which, in the various writers and various accounts of the Church herself, are presented in various ways, even though the basic idea of the toll-houses is one and the same" (p. 67)

pg. 69: "in all such cases we may properly understand these images to be figurative or interpretive devices used to express the spiritual reality which the soul faces at that time . . ."

also Fr. Seraphim does not say that a spiritual person will see them PHYSICALLY, that has been added by the poster (Irish Hermit?). it could mean physically, or it could just as easily be talking about spiritual vision.
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« Reply #72 on: November 04, 2010, 12:33:40 AM »

This thread began with a question regarding whether there is any “cult of Fr. Seraphim (Rose)” and the answer is that there is not, though Abp Lazar likes to speak of some kind of “toll house cult” (I don’t recall him referring to a “Fr. Seraphim cult”).  In any case, neither such cult exists but rather the word “cult” is employed in a seemingly aggressive attempt to demonize those with whom the accuser disagrees.

I suppose as we see how quickly a question about Fr. Seraphim results in a debate about the toll houses, we can see one possible reason why Fr. Seraphim has not yet been canonized (the subject of another recent post).  It is strange, however, that this whole “controversy” seems limited to America.  St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, St. Theophan the Recluse, St. John the Wonderworker, St. Justin Popovic and many others spoke about the toll houses in great detail and this did not seem to result in any controversy in Serbia, Russia, or elsewhere.  I have never heard that the canonization of any of these saints was delayed because of concerns over the toll house teaching described by these saints.  I’m not suggesting that Fr. Seraphim’s canonization should be “sped up” (as if my suggesting this would make any difference anyway), I am just pointing this out because I think it is significant that this controversy over the toll houses seems limited to contemporary America (and perhaps one hieromonk in New Zealand).

After reading some of these posts, I did just want to make a few comments on the toll house teaching.  When I read various criticisms of this, I often wonder whether those criticizing Fr. Seraphim on account of the toll house teaching have ever read his book “The Soul After Death”, or whether they have read it carefully.  When the toll house teaching comes up, the critics claim that Fr. Seraphim bases this teaching on the story of Theodora’s passage through the toll-houses which is recorded in the Life of St. Basil the New.  The critics then point out everything that they think is wrong with this Life.  Among the problematic aspects of this Life, it is claimed, man is supposedly judged by demons rather than by God, a Roman Catholic idea of “merits of the saints” is employed whereby the “merits” of St. Basil are used to compensate for the deficiencies in Theodora.  Another criticism of the toll house teaching in general is that it is something “amorphous”, that the accounts are “contradictory”, or “too literal”.  In this thread, for the first time I saw the toll house teaching attacked for suggesting that non-Orthodox will not be saved.  I have never heard an Orthodox Christian claim that it was a heresy to believe that salvation is only to be found in the Church. 

It is surprising when one claims that Fr. Seraphim’s book “The Soul After Death” is based on the Life of St. Basil the New because Fr. Seraphim hardly spends any time on this work.  Regarding this Life, Fr. Seraphim states:

Quote
Fr. Seraphim, The Soul After Death, p. 75

The Orthodox Lives of Saints contain numerous accounts – some of them very vivid – of how the soul passes through the toll-houses after death.  The most detailed account is to be found in the Life of St. Basil the New (March 26), which describes the passage through the toll-houses of Blessed Theodora, as related by her in a vision to a fellow disciple of the Saint, Gregory.  In this account twenty specific toll-houses are mentioned, with the kinds of sins tested in each set forth.  Bishop Ignatius [Brianchaninov] quotes this account at some lenth… This account already exists in an English translation, however (Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave, pp. 69-87), and it contains nothing significant that is not to be found in other Orthodox sources on the toll-houses, so we shall omit it here in order to give some of these other sources.

Some of these other sources Fr. Seraphim uses include the Life of St. Anthony the Great (+356) by St. Athanasius the Great, the writings of St. Ephraim the Syrian (+373), an Homily of St. John Chrysostom (+407) on Patience and Gratitude that is appointed to be read on the seventh Saturday of Pascha and at funeral services, the Homily on Sobriety of St. Hesychius of Jerusalem (5th century) contained in the Philokalia, St. Cyril of Alexandria’s (+444) Homily on the Departure of the Soul which is always included in editions of the Slavonic Psalter (soon to be published in English by Jordanville), Homilies 5 and 17 of St. Isaiah the Recluse (6th century) contained in the Philokalia, the Fourth Book of “the Dialogues” of St. Gregory the Diologist (+604) and his Homilies on the Gospel; as well as the Lives of St. Eustratius the Great Martyr (4th century, Dec. 13), St. Niphon of Constantia in Cyprus (4th century, Dec. 23), St. Macarius the Great (4th century, Jan. 19), St. Symeon the fool for Christ of Emesa (6th century, July 21), Patriarch St. John the Merciful of Alexandria (7th century, Dec. 19), St. Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain (7th century, March 14), St. Columba (+597), St. Boniface (8th century), etc.

So, Fr. Seraphim basically passes over the Life of St. Basil the New, though he does return to address the criticism that St. Basil’s “merits” are used to make up for Theodora’s debts following Roman Catholic teaching.  If someone actually were to read the story of Theodora’s passage, they would see that it is the prayers of St. Basil that help her through the toll houses and not any “excess good deeds” or “excess merits” that St. Basil (who is still alive on earth in the story) can donate to cover Theodora’s debts.  Regarding this subject, Fr. Seraphim rightly states:

Quote
Fr. Seraphim (Rose), The Soul After Death, p. 185:

The “bag of gold” with which the angels “paid the debts” of Blessed Theodora at the toll-houses has often been misunderstood by critics of the Orthodox teaching; it is sometimes mistakenly compared to the Latin notion of the “excess merits” of saints.  Again, such critics are too literal-minded in their reading of Orthodox texts.  Nothing else is referred to here than the prayers of the Church for the reposed, in particular the prayers of a holy man and spiritual father.  The form in which this is described – it should hardly be necessary to say – is metaphorical.

That the “payment” offered to cover the debts of Theodora refers to prayers offered on her behalf rather than to any “excess merits of the saints” is very clear from the story itself.  For instance, the story states:

Quote
St. Theodora’s Journey through the Aerial Toll-Houses
www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/theodora.aspx

“Having said this, [St. Basil] took something out that appeared like a little bag of gold and gave it to the angels with the words:  ‘Here is the treasure of prayers before the Lord for this soul!  As you pass through the torments of the air and the evil spirits begin to torment her, pay her debts with this.’”

Now, in general, for those who often misunderstand the teaching on the toll-houses, it is extremely important to read the section in Fr. Seraphim’s book entitled “How to Understand the Toll-Houses.”  In this section, Fr. Seraphim states:

Quote
Fr. Seraphim (Rose), The Soul After Death, p. 66:

Perhaps no aspect of Orthodox eschatology has been so misunderstood as this phenomenon of the aerial toll-houses…  The modern rationalistic over-emphasis on the “literal” meaning of texts and a “realistic” or this-worldly understanding of the events described in Scripture and in the Lives of Saints – have tended to obscure or even blot out entirely the spiritual meanings and spiritual experiences which are often primary in Orthodox sources….

Before presenting further Bishop Ignatius’ [Brianchaninov] teaching on the aerial toll-houses, let us make note of the cautions of two Orthodox thinkers, one modern and one ancient, for those who enter upon the investigation of other-worldly reality.

In the 19th century, Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow, in his discussion of the state of souls after death, writes:  “One must note that, just as in general in the depictions of the objects of the spiritual world for us who are clothed In flesh, certain features that are more or less sensuous and anthropomorphic are unavoidable – so in particular these features are unavoidably present also in the detailed teaching of the toll-houses which the human soul passes through after the separation from the body.  And therefore one must firmly remember the instruction which the angel made to St. Macarius of Alexandria when he had just begun telling him of the toll-houses: ‘Accept earthly things here as the weakest kind of depiction of heavenly things.’  One must picture the toll-houses not in a sense that is crude and sensuous, but – as far as possible for us – in a spiritual sense, and not be tied down to details which, in the various writers and various accounts of the Church herself, are presented in various ways, even though the basic idea of the toll-houses is one and the same. 

The last sentence of the above paragraph is extremely important.  Many claim that the toll house teaching originated with the Life of St. Basil the New because the word “toll-house” was not employed by all of the earlier Fathers who described the same basic reality – that the soul after its separation from the body goes through a final trial whereby the demons seek to accuse the soul of various sins and hinder its ascent .  Because not every source which refers to this final trial provides the same degree of detail, it is important to understand what the common teaching of the toll-houses is.  It is important to understand what all of the accounts have in common which can be called the “teaching of the Church on the toll-houses”.  Regarding this, Fr. Seraphim states:

Quote
Fr. Seraphim (Rose), The Soul After Death, pp.68-69:

…for now it is sufficient for us to be aware that we must have a cautious and sober approach to all experiences of the other world.  No one aware of Orthodox teaching would say that the toll-houses are not “real,” are not actually experienced by the soul after death.  But we must keep in mind that these experiences occur not in our crudely material world; that both time and space, while obviously present, are quite different from our earthly concepts of time and space; and that accounts of these experiences in earthly language invariably fall short of the reality.  Anyone who is at home in the kind of Orthodox literature which describes after-death reality will normally know how to distinguish between the spiritual realities described there and the incidental details which may sometimes be expressed in symbolic or imaginative language.  Thus, of course, there are no visible “houses” or “booths” in the air where “taxes” are collected, and where there is mention of “scrolls” or writing implements whereby sins are recorded, or “scales” by which virtues are weighed, or “gold” by which “debts” are paid – in all such cases we may properly understand these images to be figurative or interpretive devices used to express the spiritual reality which the soul faces at that time.  Whether the soul actually sees these images at the time, due to its lifelong habit of seeing spiritual reality only through bodily forms, or later can remember the experience only by use of such images, or simply finds it impossible to express what it has experienced in any other way – this is all a very secondary question which does not seem to have been important to the Holy Fathers and writers of saints’ lives who have recorded such experiences.  What is certain is that there is a testing by demons, who appear in a frightful but human form, accuse the newly-departed of sins and literally try to seize the subtle body of the soul, which is grasped firmly by angels; and all this occurs in the air above us and can be seen by those whose eyes are open to spiritual reality. 

Further in the text when Fr. Seraphim quotes St. John the Wonderworker from his Homily on Life After Death, Fr. Seraphim states that “it should be kept in mind that this description of the first two days of death constitutes a general rule which by no means covers all cases.  In fact, most of the examples quoted from Orthodox literature in the course of this book do not fit this rule”…(p.182).  He also states, “The description of the first two days (and of the succeeding days as well) is by no means any kind of dogma; it is merely a ‘model’ which indeed sets forth the most common order of the soul’s experiences after death. “ (p. 183)

Based on what has been quoted above from Fr. Seraphim, I do not at all think he would disagree with Met Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos who summarized the teaching in this way:

Quote
Met Hierotheos (Vlachos) on The Taxing of Souls, from Life After Death:
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/soul_taxing.aspx

The things that we have said so far show just what those customs houses are that are spoken of in the patristic texts. On the one hand, they are the passions of the soul which, because of the non-existence of the body, cannot be satisfied, and therefore stifle the soul. On the other hand, they are the evil demons which have gained mastery over passionate people, and it is natural that after the soul's departure they have greater mastery over them. The righteous people, who during their lives have purified their souls and bodies from passions of the soul and body and have been clothed in the pledge of the Spirit and united with God, escape the power of the customs houses, since the demons have no power over them. The souls of the righteous are led, free and undistracted, towards God, with whom they are united.

So the whole problem is not to be afraid of the customs demons, but as long as we live, to cure our soul and our whole being of passions, to partake of the uncreated grace of God, so that the departure of our soul from our body may be a matter of joy and delight.

For those interested in the question of “Gnostic influence”, Met Hierotheos goes on to say in the same section of his book:

Quote
Met Hierotheos (Vlachos) on The Taxing of Souls, from Life After Death:
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/soul_taxing.aspx

Of course there are some who maintain that such notions as customs houses and aerial spirits have come into Christianity from Gnostic theories and pagan myths which prevailed during that period.

There is no doubt that such views can be found in many Gnostic texts, in pagan ideas which are found in Egyptian and Chaldaean myths. However it must be emphasised that many Fathers adopted the teaching about customs houses, but they cleared it of idolatrous and Gnostic frames of reference and placed it in the ecclesiastical atmosphere. The holy Fathers were not afraid to do such creative work.

It is a fact that the Fathers were working creatively and productively when they took many views and theories from the pagan world, but gave them an ecclesiastical content. It is well known that the Fathers took the teaching about the immortality of the soul, about the ecstasy of man and the dispassion of the soul and body, the teaching about the tripartite soul and many other things from the ancient philosophies, as well as from ancient traditions, but clearly they gave them another content and a different perspective. We cannot discard the teaching about the immortality of the soul just because the ancient philosophers spoke of it. We must look at the content which the holy Fathers gave to it.

Therefore what happened to other topics happened also to the subject of the customs houses. It is true that ancient traditions and heretical views spoke of "rulers of the astral sphere", about "gates of an astral journey", about "aerial spirits", and so forth. We find several of these phrases in the Bible and in patristic texts. As we have mentioned in this chapter, many Fathers of the Church speak of customs houses and aerial spirits, but they have given them different content and different meanings.

In the beginning of chapter 10 of his book, Fr. Seraphim said that the book was “too limited in compass to present the entire Orthodox teaching on the other world and life after death” since his attempt was “the more limited one of presenting enough of this teaching to answer the questions raised by today’s ‘after-death’ experiences, and of pointing readers to the Orthodox texts which contain this teaching.”  With this admission, I would highly recommend Met Hierotheos’ book “Life After Death” precisely as a more comprehensive book addressing the Orthodox teaching on these subjects.
 
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« Reply #73 on: November 04, 2010, 12:44:02 AM »

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St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, St. Theophan the Recluse, St. John the Wonderworker, St. Justin Popovic and many others spoke about the toll houses in great detail and this did not seem to result in any controversy in Serbia, Russia, or elsewhere.

Considering that St. Justin Popovich is my patron saint, and since I have enjoyed his works, I'm curious as to where in his writings he mentioned toll houses?
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« Reply #74 on: November 04, 2010, 12:50:19 AM »

great post Jah777!
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« Reply #75 on: November 04, 2010, 12:55:03 AM »

Considering that St. Justin Popovich is my patron saint, and since I have enjoyed his works, I'm curious as to where in his writings he mentioned toll houses?

Volume 3 of his "Orthodox Dogmatic Theology", pp. 709-726.  This is not yet in English.  St. Herman's in Platina plans to translate and publish this but it could take a few years.
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« Reply #76 on: November 04, 2010, 12:56:36 AM »

Considering that St. Justin Popovich is my patron saint, and since I have enjoyed his works, I'm curious as to where in his writings he mentioned toll houses?

Volume 3 of his "Orthodox Dogmatic Theology", pp. 709-726.  This is not yet in English.  St. Herman's in Platina plans to translate and publish this but it could take a few years.

Thank you, for both pieces of information Smiley
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« Reply #77 on: November 04, 2010, 12:58:53 AM »


St. Justin Popovic and many others spoke about the toll houses in great detail...


Just a correction if I may.  Saint Justin the New (as he is starting to be called in Serbia) did NOT speak about the toll houses in great detail.

In 1932 he published volume 1 of his Dogmatic Theology and in 1935 volume 2 .  There is no mention of the toll houses.

Fr Justin maintained that the toll houses do not form part of the Orthodox Church's dogmatic theology.

However 40 years later, prior to his death in 1979, he put out a third volume of Dogmatic Theology.

In it he simply provides the "Account of Theodora's Journey through the Aerial Toll Houses."

He does NOT speak of the toll houses in great detail.

This third volume has not yet been translated into English.

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« Reply #78 on: November 04, 2010, 08:32:06 AM »

Just a correction if I may.  Saint Justin the New (as he is starting to be called in Serbia) did NOT speak about the toll houses in great detail.

SNIP

...prior to his death in 1979, he put out a third volume of Dogmatic Theology.

In it he simply provides the "Account of Theodora's Journey through the Aerial Toll Houses."

He does NOT speak of the toll houses in great detail.

This third volume has not yet been translated into English.

Yes, I suppose you could say that he in his section on the Particular Judgment related the detailed account of the toll-houses expressed in the journey of Theodora rather than speaking in detail about the toll-houses in his own words.  In addition to the story of Theodora, he starts this section referring to the Homily on the Departure of the Soul by St. Cyril of Alexandria as a God-inspired teaching, and concludes this section with reference to prayers of the Church which also confirm the toll-house teaching.  There is no doubt that he agrees with these detailed accounts, though he may not add his own detailed analysis or discussion.   
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« Reply #79 on: November 04, 2010, 08:55:31 AM »

Just a correction if I may.  Saint Justin the New (as he is starting to be called in Serbia) did NOT speak about the toll houses in great detail.

SNIP

...prior to his death in 1979, he put out a third volume of Dogmatic Theology.

In it he simply provides the "Account of Theodora's Journey through the Aerial Toll Houses."

He does NOT speak of the toll houses in great detail.

This third volume has not yet been translated into English.

Yes, I suppose you could say that he in his section on the Particular Judgment related the detailed account of the toll-houses expressed in the journey of Theodora rather than speaking in detail about the toll-houses in his own words.  In addition to the story of Theodora, he starts this section referring to the Homily on the Departure of the Soul by St. Cyril of Alexandria as a God-inspired teaching, and concludes this section with reference to prayers of the Church which also confirm the toll-house teaching.  There is no doubt that he agrees with these detailed accounts, though he may not add his own detailed analysis or discussion.   

I think it is distressing that he added the "Journey through the Aerial Toll houses" into a work of Dogmatic Theology.

The Theodoran Journey contains several heresies which ought not to be in a book of Orthodoxy theology.

We may only hope that Saint Justin has pointed out the heretical teachings.
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« Reply #80 on: November 04, 2010, 11:38:03 AM »

Just a correction if I may.  Saint Justin the New (as he is starting to be called in Serbia) did NOT speak about the toll houses in great detail.

SNIP

...prior to his death in 1979, he put out a third volume of Dogmatic Theology.

In it he simply provides the "Account of Theodora's Journey through the Aerial Toll Houses."

He does NOT speak of the toll houses in great detail.

This third volume has not yet been translated into English.

Yes, I suppose you could say that he in his section on the Particular Judgment related the detailed account of the toll-houses expressed in the journey of Theodora rather than speaking in detail about the toll-houses in his own words.  In addition to the story of Theodora, he starts this section referring to the Homily on the Departure of the Soul by St. Cyril of Alexandria as a God-inspired teaching, and concludes this section with reference to prayers of the Church which also confirm the toll-house teaching.  There is no doubt that he agrees with these detailed accounts, though he may not add his own detailed analysis or discussion.   

I think it is distressing that he added the "Journey through the Aerial Toll houses" into a work of Dogmatic Theology.

The Theodoran Journey contains several heresies which ought not to be in a book of Orthodoxy theology.

We may only hope that Saint Justin has pointed out the heretical teachings.


ive never read it, but i would assume the heresy comes in the interpretation, just as Scripture can be interpreted heretically.
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« Reply #81 on: November 04, 2010, 01:46:52 PM »


I think it is distressing that he added the "Journey through the Aerial Toll houses" into a work of Dogmatic Theology.

The Theodoran Journey contains several heresies which ought not to be in a book of Orthodoxy theology.

We may only hope that Saint Justin has pointed out the heretical teachings.



As far as I can tell, St. Justin did not claim that any aspect of the story of Blessed Theodora’s journey through the toll-houses is heretical.  He seems to accept it as perfectly Orthodox.  It should not be a surprise that this teaching would appear in a work on Orthodox Dogmatic theology because the teaching seems to have been commonly included in works on Orthodox Dogmatic theology in Pre-Revolutionary Russia, if not elsewhere as well.  For instance, Metropolitan Makary of Moscow included a lengthy section on the toll-houses in his 6-volume work on Orthodox Dogmatic Theology that was published between 1847 and 1853.  He cites the story of Theodora along with a multitude of other sources for this teaching, again without any reservations.  After citing so many sources for this teaching, Metropolitan Makary says:

Quote
Met Makary of Moscow (+1882), Orthodox Dogmatic Theology:

Such continuous, perpetual and ubiquitous use in the Church of the
doctrine of toll-houses, and especially among teachers of the fourth
century, offers indisputable evidence that it has been transmitted to
them from teachers of the prior centuries and is based on apostolic
tradition.

The clairvoyant and greatly respected Archbishop of Andrew of Rockland (ROCOR) encouraged his spiritual children to read the description of the 20 toll-houses described in the passage of Blessed Theodora in preparation for Confession.  Again, it seems that only one deposed deacon from ROCOR who is now a retired Abp in the OCA has spoken against this description as supposedly heretical.  He, the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston that he was affiliated with and which broke away from ROCOR in 1986, and a few others they have been able to convince through their propaganda are among these “critics”.

After reading Abp Lazar’s writings condemning the toll-houses as supposedly “neo-Gnostic”, and the story of Theodora as heretical, I have come to agree all the more with Fr. Seraphim’s response to Abp Lazar’s claims which can be read in the “Answers to a Critic” included in Appendix III of the Soul After Death and which can be read here: 

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/critic.aspx

On this topic, Fr. Seraphim says:
Quote
The account of Theodora's passage through the tollhouses (Lives of Saints, March 26) the critic calls a "heresy-filled tale" (6:8-9, p. 24) based upon a "hallucination" (7:2, p. 14) of someone who, in Old Testament times, "would have justly been taken out and stoned" because he "was in a state of abject spiritual delusion" (6:6-7, p. 28). (Why the critic should be so angry against Theodora's account is not clear; it is only one of many similar accounts and teaches nothing different from them—so much so that I saw no need to quote it above in the chapter on the toll-houses.)

These extreme accusations are personal opinions of the critic which certainly have no evidence behind them. One wonders why he insists on making up his own interpretation of the toll-houses and refuses to understand them as the Church has always understood them; the caricature which he is railing against has never been taught in the Orthodox Church, and one is at a loss to know from what source he has taken his preposterous interpretations.

At the beginning of his response to his “critic”, Fr. Seraphim rightly says:

Quote
After reading these attacks I have not found it necessary to change anything I have written here; I have only added a few paragraphs here and there to make more clear the Orthodox teaching which, I believe, is most unfairly caricatured and misinterpreted in these attacks.

There would be no purpose in making a point-by-point reply to this critic. His Patristic citations hardly ever make the points he thinks they are making, and the only reply to them is to indicate that they have been misapplied. Thus, for example: all the quotes showing that man is composed of both soul and body (7:2, p. 26, etc.)—which no one denies—say nothing whatever against the independent activity of the soul after death, which has so much evidence in its favor as to seem quite beyond "refutation" if one trusts the Orthodox sources; the many places in Scripture and in Patristic texts where death is expressed metaphorically as a "sleep" say nothing whatever of the "literal truth" of this metaphor, which has been taught by only a very few Christian teachers over the centuries and certainly is in disagreement with the Church's accepted teaching; etc. A collection of "proof texts" makes sense only if it actually proves an issue in dispute, not if it talks about something a little different or does not speak clearly and explicitly to the issue.

While on the one hand the critic amasses long lists of often irrelevant quotations, his more usual polemical technique is to dismiss his opponents with a sweeping statement that either has no evidence behind it at all, or else obviously contradicts a good part of the evidence. Thus, if the critic wishes to dispute the possibility of communications from people who have come back to life from the dead, he categorically declares: "These things are simply not possible" (vol. 5, no. 6, p. 25)—despite the fact that Orthodox literature contains numerous such communications; if he wants to deny that demons are seen by men after death, he proclaims: "The fathers teach no such thing" (6:12, p. 24) —despite the numerous Patristic references, for example, to the "toll-houses" encountered after death. If the critic does acknowledge the existence of evidence which disputes his point, he dismisses it with a sweeping accusation: it is all "allegories" or "moral fables" (5:6, p. 26).

The critic is also much addicted to rather cruel ad hominem arguments which attempt to discredit anyone who disagrees with him: "It is interesting that some people, together with the Latins, seem to think that the Scripture need not necessarily be conformed with" (6:12, p. 30)—this is said in a context where he has just "swept away" the teaching of Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, who, at least indirectly, is thus accused of disrespect for the Scriptures. The views of others who disagree with the critic are liable to be smeared with such unflattering epithets as "Origenistic" (6:12, p. 31) or "blasphemous" (5:6, P. 23), and the opponents themselves dismissed as having a "Platonic-Origenistic mind" or as being "under heavy Latin-Scholastic-Hellenistic influence, in a state of spiritual delusion ... or simply abysmally ignorant" (6:12, p. 39).

One heresy claimed by Abp Lazar to be found in the toll-house teaching is the description of how Blessed Theodora’s good works are weighed against her sinful deeds.  To refute this supposed heresy, Abp Lazar quotes St. Mark the Ascetic’s work entitled “On those who think to justify themselves by Works.”  Here, St. Mark is quoted as saying:

Quote
When Scripture says, “He will reward every man according to his works,” do not imagine that works in themselves merit either Hell or the Kingdom.  On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer. 

Abp Lazar then piles on other similar patristic quotes showing that works *alone* cannot save a man, and yet this has nothing to do with the story of Theodora’s journey.  Just because her works are examined does not mean that she is judged on works *alone*.  As a matter of fact, the story shows quite the opposite.  It is made quite clear in her journey through the nineteenth toll-house that true faith is also necessary for salvation:

Quote
Thereafter we came to the torment of heresies, where are punished those reasonings about faith which are not right, and also turning away from the Orthodox confession of faith, and lack of faith, doubts about it, denial of holy things or a negative attitude toward them, and other sins of the kind. I passed this torment without being tested; we were no longer far from the gates of Heaven.

The story also clearly demonstrates that in addition to true faith and good works, she need the prayers of the Church, as shown by the prayers of her spiritual father St. Basil, as well as a clear conscience resulting from a thorough and detailed confession of her sins prior to her repose. 

Another of the supposed heresies contained in this story, according to Abp Lazar, is the “heretical teaching about works and merits”.  Abp Lazar states here that “the very idea that a man can possess an excess of righteousness so as to have ‘riches’ left over is contrary to the very nature of virtue, as we have seen.”  But as I mentioned in the previous post, St. Basil here offers his *prayers* to cover the debts of Blessed Theodora, not some “merits” based on an “excess of righteousness”.  Again, St. Basil states:

Quote
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/theodora.aspx

... [St. Basil] took something out that appeared like a little bag of gold and gave it to the angels with the words: 'Here is the treasure of prayers before the Lord for this soul! As you pass through the torments of the air and the evil spirits begin to torment her, pay her debts with this.'

As Fr. Seraphim indicated, Abp Lazar often piles on patristic quotations which do not at all support his assertions, or the quotes are torn out of context and twisted to apply to a subject for which the quotes are not relevant, or he distorts the toll-house teaching itself so that it is more easily condemnable.  Of course, many people will just see all of the names of various Fathers, all the quotes provided by him and think that Abp Lazar must be making a credible argument since he can provide so many quotes.  However, a more careful examination of the subjects shows that these quotations are not being used or understood properly.  They are rather presented in the cold, dry, academic proof-text fashion of the Protestant Fundamentalists that he so sharply criticizes. 

When I read the book by Fr. Seraphim and the story of Blessed Theodora (which he again does not really discuss or see the need to discuss in his book), I am encouraged to take seriously the struggle against the passions and the need for repentance.  I can see from such accounts how essential it is to live according to Christ’s commandments and to fulfill the vows made at my baptism.  I am humbled as I come to see my sins more clearly in the description of the passions described at each toll-house, and I am encouraged to become much more watchful over my words and deeds.  On the other hand, when I read the criticisms of Abp Lazar I am shocked by the impiety of his speech, how quickly and easily he mocks and ridicules those who have been counted among the glorified saints of the Church.  Such readings give the impression that we do not need such holy saints, or even monasticism, as much as we need smart people like him who can read a lot of books and then explain how silly so many of our saints and Fathers actually were, how dim-witted and foolish they were to believe such strange tales.  When I read these works I am given the same impression as when I read the proud scholars of the “Jesus Seminar” who subject all that is holy beneath their profane reasoning and scoff at the Holy Scriptures and our holy Faith.  They say that thanks to their superior reasoning we can reject St. Paul’s teaching on homosexuality, we can consider our Lord as a mere teacher and prophet rather God the Son and equal to the Father.  Such proud scholars destroy faith and many of them are also either agnostics or atheists on account of the exaltation of their reasoning.  Though this critic of the toll-houses had not gone this far for sure, he seems to convey the same disposition.   

As I said in a previous message, if so many saints are wrong about the toll-houses, I would rather follow them in word and deed into the heavenly kingdom than the outspoken critics of very questionable reputation who have appeared only in the past few decades with their vain and misguided “reform” campaigns.
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« Reply #82 on: November 04, 2010, 06:13:24 PM »


As I said in a previous message, if so many saints are wrong about the toll-houses, I would rather follow them in word and deed into the heavenly kingdom than the outspoken critics of very questionable reputation who have appeared only in the past few decades with their vain and misguided “reform” campaigns.



As I wrote earlier, you do not follow the teachings of the toll-house Saints but a light weight version put together by American converts which eliminates some of the essential (and embarrasing) features of what the toll-house Saints believed and taught.  It is really not quite honest when modern tollers claim to be obedient to the teachings of the toll-house Saints. They aren't, and those of us who see this clearly wonder why they make this assertion.

One practical result of this dichotomy between the older beliefs and the revised 20th and 21st century toll house belief is that the tollers are completely unable to offer a definition of the toll houses.  To do so would make the contradictions with the older teaching immediately apparent.   So they play both sides of the fence - happy to speak of them as an "illustrative metaphor" on some occasions and on other occasions going far beyond that and asserting they are dogma.

Humbug!
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« Reply #83 on: November 04, 2010, 06:45:45 PM »

This third volume has not yet been translated into English.

Where could one procure the first two volumes in English?
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« Reply #84 on: November 04, 2010, 07:13:58 PM »

This third volume has not yet been translated into English.

Where could one procure the first two volumes in English?

Dear Brother Alveus,  I have not seen the English translations.  I imagine an enquiry to Platina would be successful.

Oddly enough, after Mother Maria (Rule) and I finished work on the Prologue in 1979 our next obedience was to have been an English translation of Fr Justin's Dogmatic Theology.  But instead, I was sent back to New Zealand to work as a parish priest and she was entrusted with the practical work of rebuilding Gradac monastery.
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« Reply #85 on: November 04, 2010, 08:54:07 PM »

The statement given by the Holy Synod of the ROCOR regarding the toll-house issue does not sound like a ringing endorsement of the theory.  So much for the claims of some that it has been a universal belief of the Church for centuries:

"Taking all of the forgoing into consideration, the Synod of Bishops resolve: In the deliberations on life after death one must in general keep in mind that it is not pleased the Lord to reveal to us very much aside from the fact that the degree of a soul's blessedness depends on how much a man's life on the earth has been truly Christian, and the degree of a man's posthumous suffering depends upon the degree of sinfulness. To add conjectures to the little that the Lord has been pleased to reveal to us is not beneficial to our salvation, and all disputes in this domain are now especially detrimental, the more so when they become the object of the discussion of people who have not been fully established in the Faith. Acrid polemic apart from the spirit of mutual love turns such an exchange of opinions from a deliberation into an argument about words. The positive preaching of truths of the Church may be profitable, but not disputes in an area which is not subject to our investigation, but which evokes in the unprepared reader false notions on questions of importance to our salvation."

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky (1863-1936), the first Hierarch of ROCOR considered the toll-houses as "something the rustic folk" believe in.

Why is it that the supporters of the theory insist that it is a dogma of the Church when it is obviously not?  I don't dispute that many in the Church believe it to be true, but why the insistence on everyone having to accept it as a universally held belief, which has been proven not to be the case?
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« Reply #86 on: November 04, 2010, 10:16:29 PM »

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky (1863-1936), the first Hierarch of ROCOR considered the toll-houses as "something the rustic folk" believe in.

I'm Rustic !

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8h_v_our_Q
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« Reply #87 on: November 04, 2010, 10:20:05 PM »

Why is it that the supporters of the theory insist that it is a dogma of the Church when it is obviously not? 

Who does this? Where?
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« Reply #88 on: November 04, 2010, 10:26:55 PM »

I always had the impression this was more of a folk belief that the more educated clergy would never talk about.
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« Reply #89 on: November 04, 2010, 10:30:14 PM »

I always had the impression this was more of a folk belief that the more educated clergy would never talk about.

Right, because Metropolitan Hierotheos is such a folksy, poorly educated theologian.
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