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Author Topic: Old Believers (again)  (Read 3050 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: November 16, 2008, 06:51:24 PM »

Hello again thread,

I was just reading something that applies somewhat to this, so I thought to post it. The more strict Russian Orthodox Old Believers (although wrongly called “priestless”) believe that the Orthodox Church has indeed lost its episcopacy. In the book, Old Believers in Modern Russia, p.38, there is this line. “The Spasovtsy claimed that all Orthodoxy after Patriarch Nikon was heretical; that the only ‘Great Pastor Archbishop’ was Jesus Christ, Whose episcopacy was eternal; and that believers should shun interaction with other faiths.”  So, as long as there are at least two or three good Christians, the Lord Jesus Christ will always be with them and in their midst.

Forgive, John

 This post has been split from the thread: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,18304.0.html
Do not attempt to derail threads into discussions about Old Ritualists when they clearly have nothing to do with them.
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2008, 12:17:41 AM »

“The Spasovtsy claimed that all Orthodoxy after Patriarch Nikon was heretical; that the only ‘Great Pastor Archbishop’ was Jesus Christ, Whose episcopacy was eternal; and that believers should shun interaction with other faiths.” 

John,

The Spasovtsy (Savior's People) were indeed strict, as you described them earlier in your post - but they were not "mainstream" Bespopovtsy. Rather, they were a somewhat isolationist Siberian sect which assigned no salvific value to religious praxis and declined to engage in theological discussion or disputaton. Their faith in liturgical ritual was so jaded that they did not even re-baptize converts to their ranks (an almost universal practice among Old Believers - even many of the priestless bodies). The rationale for not doing so was that they held it to be unnecessary as salvation was dependent purely on Christ's benevolence.  I suppose that could be argued as supportive of the point raised by the quote.

Many years,

Neil
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2008, 05:47:39 PM »

Greetings Neil,

Thank you for following this thread into previously uncharted territory.

I personally lean more toward those more strict that the Spasovtsy, the Stanniki. I certainly am not interested in living life as the "mainstream" Bespopovtsy, as they compromise left and right.

I say that your use of the word "jaded" does not really address the issues.

The fact that Spasovtsy declined to engage in theological discussion (as you claim) shows that it would be very difficult to make such categorical conclusions as that of their not even re-baptising or their beliefs of salvation dependence.

Your comment shows an interest in the more strict Old Believers, something we both share, something which I hope others will share as well.

But it is not easy to really understand such people unless we live like them, something I am sure that both you and I are far from.

I am curious though, if you would take this conversation off this forum?

It might be helpful, as I am once again one step closer to being banned from yet another Internet forum.

I am asking you to email me privately, if you do not understand, it is in my profile here?

Forgive, John













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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2008, 07:44:59 PM »

I am curious though, if you would take this conversation off this forum?

It might be helpful, as I am once again one step closer to being banned from yet another Internet forum.
So if this has happened before, what might you learn from the experience? What might you do differently this time?
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2008, 08:02:07 PM »


Perhaps it is good to be banned from ungodly forums such as this.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2008, 08:02:55 PM by Hopeful Faithful » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2008, 08:11:09 PM »

Perhaps it is good to be banned from ungodly forums such as this.

"Ungodly?"  Really?  We pray for people here without prejudice, and we discuss our faith in an open and honest manner.  Granted, some of the political discussions can get out of hand, but to broadly accuse our forum of being "ungodly" is a bit much, no?
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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2008, 08:27:43 PM »

God will judge.
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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2008, 08:28:15 PM »

Quote
Perhaps it is good to be banned from ungodly forums such as this.

Oh come on, don't play the martyr. If it's really that awful bad, then leave, for the sake of your soul.
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« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2008, 09:07:50 PM »

God will judge.
Why would He bother since you have already done it for Him by calling us ungodly?:

Perhaps it is good to be banned from ungodly forums such as this.

"O Lord, as Thou canst see, we no longer have any need of Thee since we now judge for ourselves."
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« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2008, 09:36:34 PM »

We all make our choices.
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If any man be ignorant, let him alone be ignorant (at his own peril). 1 Cor. 14:38

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« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2008, 09:46:36 PM »

We all make our choices.

Well, I hope our decision not to ban you will only further reflect our "ungodliness," since only the ungodly show compassion.
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« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2008, 09:58:16 PM »

Time will tell.
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« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2008, 04:32:44 AM »

Thank you for following this thread into previously uncharted territory.

I personally lean more toward those more strict that the Spasovtsy, the Stanniki. I certainly am not interested in living life as the "mainstream" Bespopovtsy, as they compromise left and right.

I say that your use of the word "jaded" does not really address the issues.

The fact that Spasovtsy declined to engage in theological discussion (as you claim) shows that it would be very difficult to make such categorical conclusions as that of their not even re-baptising or their beliefs of salvation dependence.

Your comment shows an interest in the more strict Old Believers, something we both share, something which I hope others will share as well.

But it is not easy to really understand such people unless we live like them, something I am sure that both you and I are far from.

I am curious though, if you would take this conversation off this forum?

It might be helpful, as I am once again one step closer to being banned from yet another Internet forum.

I am asking you to email me privately, if you do not understand, it is in my profile here?

John,

I'm a bit at a loss as to the need to take the discussion off the forum for a couple of reasons.  It seems to me that the issue regarding you being warned, from what I read above, was in regard to interjecting discussion regarding the Old Believers into an unrelated thread and derailing the discussion there or, at least, taking it into a tangential direction (I also sense that this is not the first time it has happened). 

It seems to me that the quick and easy solution to this is initiating a thread or threads particular to Old Believer bodies, beliefs, praxis, whatever, in an appropriate forum here (which has been done for you in the case at hand).  At the same time, desisting from labeling our hosts here as "ungodly" or otherwise hurling anathemas at them would likewise go a long way toward avoiding rancorous exchanges that serve no valid purpose of discussion and would offer you the opportunity to dialogue, discuss, debate, and even educate others regarding Old Believer theology, praxis, etc.  Doing so would seem more spiritually productive, all around, than engaging in argumentation for its own sake.

Back to the points you raised in your reply: 

My use of "jaded" was not intended to be derogatory and was, perhaps, not the best choice of terms - it might have been more appropos to have phrased it "They considered liturgical ritual to be so inefficacious that they did not even re-baptize converts to their ranks (an almost universal practice among Old Believers - even many of the priestless bodies)."

My statement that the Spasovtsy declined to engage in theological discussion or disputation does not contradict my assertion that they declined to re-baptize or that they held salvation to be solely dependent on Christ's benevolence. It's a rare religious body, organized or unorganized, which is able to maintain ignorance outside its ranks of its theology or praxis, no matter how insular. So, concluding that such views would go unknown because they declined to discuss/dispute, etc., is not an inevitably valid conclusion. There are relatively few bodies among the multitude of Old Believer groups (or the even more numerous sects that broke from them or arose contemporaneously with them, but have no real relationship to them) of which "nothing" is known - despite the insularity and secretiveness of many such. 

Frankly, the only ones that come immediately to my mind are the Mormonstvo (the - erroneously named - so-called "Russian Mormons"). A truly amusing illustration of their secretiveness arose from early encounters between representatives of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (the American Mormons) and the Mormonstvo. There was curiosity on both sides and Mormonstvo were interested in learning about the Americans’ beliefs and praxis; the curiousity was mutual, as the Americans were, at the time, convinced that they might have discovered long-lost brethren. A roadblock was encountered when CoJCoLDS members declined to share details of secret Temple ceremonies with their Russian "counterparts".  The Russian response was to immediately invoke corresponding secrecy as to their own praxis - although, in fairness, it isn’t clear that such would have been revealed anyway, given that little to nothing was publicly known about them prior to this (as, for instance, in Russian literature on the body) - nor is much known to this day.

I do share an interest with you in the Old Believers, but mine is not limited to the "more strict" among them (as you term some). I am interested in the Popovtsy, the Begolopopovtsy, and the Bespopovtsy, as well as the Sekstanstvo (both the Dukhovnye Khristiane and Eretiki) and the unrelated contemporaneous movements that I've referenced.  I do agree that there are limits to how well one can understand their beliefs without living among them, being one with them - something that I myself am probably further from than you could ever imagine - being a Byzantine Catholic of a Middle-Eastern Church.  However, that does not mean that one cannot learn about them and achieve some level of understanding (or, in other cases, of absolute puzzlement) as to what they believed, why they believed it, and how they put those beliefs into praxis.  To consider otherwise effectively denies man's ability to study, analyze, and draw conclusions - traits of intellect with which God has seen fit to endow us and, therefore, presumably wishes us to make use of, albeit some things will remain "mysteries" to us unless and until we attain a place in His Presence - and, perhaps, even then.

You indicate that your real interest lies in those "more strict" than the Spasovtsy, and specifically refer to the Stranniki.  There are a dozen or so bodies that I would, collectively, term Beguni-Stranniki, but I'm not certain that all could be seen as "strict".  In common, all were either itinerant and/or isolationist but, beyond that, there were significant differences in many regards. 

A recurring phenomenon observed among many, but not all, Beguni-Stranniki were Domo Khristiane (House Christians), as differentiated from Doroga Khristiane (Road Christians).  The former could be compared in some respects to the conductors who facilitated the Underground Railroad during the time of slavery in America. Certainly, there are some who would argue that the "comforts" these provided would detract from considering the Doroga Khristiane to be all that "strict". 

Others engaged in such bizarre praxis that it is difficult to give serious consideration to their theology.  The Dyrniki (Hole-Worshipers) and Gorizontski (Horizonists) both fall into this category, as do the Hlystohotniky (Christ-Hunters) and Pustinja Zhiteli (Desert-Dwellers).

I would offer that the likelihood for you to live the life of the Stranniki is not going to be a readily achieveable goal. While some few solitary itinerants are still out there, they are few and far between (there was a link several months back to one such holy man) and "organized bodies" of such are even harder to find, given mankind's seemingly insatiable need to push beyond known borders of civilization. The Lykov family, encountered by geologists in the taiga a quarter century ago, and three elderly women in an otherwise abandoned remote village in the Komi Republic in the Urals, found by census-takers some seven or eight years ago, gave proof to the continued existence of some remnant Skritniki (Hiders) - but reality is that such folk are almost extinct - the isolation alone will ultimately assure that.

Finally, I'd note that there is difficulty assessing the "strictness" of all such bodies, simply because the nature of their existence did not lend itself to a cohesive belief and praxis system. Many - the majority, from most accounts - undertook their religious "journies" (no pun intended) as solitaries.  Frequently (and understandably), therefore, their beliefs and praxis were highly individualized - lacking a centralized, defining theology other than an underlying expectation that separation from things worldly was necessary to salvation.

While I do not mean to denigrate your beliefs and the expectations that you have of committing yourself to a "strictness" of Orthodoxy that you perceive necessary to your salvation, I think you must give consideration to the fact that pursuit of such as an individual is both difficult and perhaps even unattainable outside the confines of an organized belief system, whether it be "mainstream" Orthodoxy, Popovtsy, or Bespopovtsy.

Many years,

Neil   
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« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2008, 07:00:03 AM »

Hello Neil,

Your reply looks to me like a book, exactly what I hoped to avoid.

I am not here for endless debates.

Everyone offends, woe to those who start it.

Mainstream people have always been the pharisees.

The few who obey God are often called bizarre, though often called individualized they're not.

Speaking of what is not achievable is evil; with God all things are possible.

Any Old Believer is far more strictly Christian than anyone else.

Old Believer solitaries believe that salvation depends on obedience to God.

Merely studying others only breeds confusion due lack of any real understanding.

The name calling and title giving which you use come from outside the Old Believers.

There are presently many more escapist Old Believers than you think.

It is really not possible to conduct this type of discussion, in this forum, or privately.

In the noise and confusion of today is it any wonder that there is so little left to say?

Most of what you mentioned is a misrepresentation.

Nothing that we need to know is unknown to us.

The several friends I have had the past several years are Old Believers, both men and women. They are from around the world, we have met and they all call me brother. What I say is based upon this present experience of faith and practice, even though at times we each might be thousands of miles apart from each other. Most people are just too happy in their heresies to see things for how they truly are. What should we expect in such a time of massive delusion?

Forgive, John
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« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2008, 07:05:19 AM »


Perhaps it is good to be banned from ungodly forums such as this.
I didn't ask you about what we would do. I asked you what you can do. You can't control anyone's actions but your own. Your actions are your responsibility, and regardless of what others do, you must decide how how you are going to handle conflict when it arises. This passive-aggressive retreat isn't going to help you resolve conflict.

So, again, how are you going to avoid conflict, and how are you going to resolve it when it comes?
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« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2008, 07:27:59 AM »

So, again, how are you going to avoid conflict, and how are you going to resolve it when it comes?

Again, death has always been a good option for those who would desire to become godly people.
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« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2008, 07:36:24 AM »

So, again, how are you going to avoid conflict, and how are you going to resolve it when it comes?

Again, death has always been a good option for godly people.
You get a simple warning--which I myself also have right now--and you're already talking about death? You've got a serious martyr complex, John. You don't need an Internet forum. You need a doctor.
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« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2008, 07:47:15 AM »

You get a simple warning--which I myself also have right now--and you're already talking about death? You've got a serious martyr complex, John. You don't need an Internet forum. You need a doctor.

Please, I am writing about being banned (death in this cyber forum). I am also talking about the not so simple threat that I was given privately from one of the "orthodox" moderators here, towards this end.

But truly, all who would be Christian in the real world should be willing to actually die for the Faith and Practice of Christianity.

So my answer does apply either way.
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« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2008, 07:51:41 AM »

The name calling and title giving which you use come from outside the Old Believers.

John,

In many instances, the term applied to a body of adherents was a descriptor rather than an organizational "name" as we typically think of the latter and many bodies were not sufficiently organized to have acquired a formal name.

The words Agreement, Circle, Compact, Concord, Confession, Consent, Movement, and Persuasion frequently appear in titling - but not generally among the bodies with the more esoteric praxis or theology - those to which you seem most attracted.

Nomenclature observed among the Old Believers can generally be categorized as one of these forms:

Patronymic - names derived from a body's spiritual ancestor or leader

Toponymic - names derived from a place in which a body originated or was headquartered

Ideonymic - names derived from doctrinal precepts, or dogma embraced by a body's adherents

Praxonymic - names descriptive of peculiar (as in "particular" or "unique") religious praxis in which the body's adherents engaged

Exonymic - names, usually in the style of forms 3 or 4 above, but applied to a body by someone other than its own adherents

Each of these contributes its own difficulty to establishing, with certainty, how many distinct sects existed. Since centralized sectarian organization was hampered by communication, geography, and governmental attitudes, it isn't always clear that patronymics applied to sects with identical or similar beliefs didn't represent the same body identified by the names of their respective local leaders (The same body in 2 locales - Group A in Moscow might be called Vladimir's Confession - because Vladimir was their acknowledged leader, while Group A in St Petersburg was termed Yuri's Compact, for the same reason).

The same issue arises in instances involving toponymics - were they distinct entities or merely local congregations of the same body?

In the case of sects styled ideonymically or praxonymically, it is not uncommon to find two or more that are similarly or identically named. Some represent alternative nomenclature - locally-adopted variations, while others are actually separate and distinct entities, a common or shared name (and belief or praxis) notwithstanding.

Other groups in these categories have names that, on their face, suggest gradations of a belief or praxis (e.g., Whisperers and Mutes); sometimes, but not always, such is the case. By way of example, those two are actually unrelated, other than having reasoned - separately - to similar conclusions.

Further complicating the same situation are the exonymically styled sects. Informal names were not infrequently applied to the adherents of various bodies, rather than adopted by them. Some were coined by antagonists or other "outsiders". A number of these originated with Western authors writing "travelogues", popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and created to satisfy a public thirst for information regarding exotic locales. Often presented as ethnographic and cultural studies, sometimes published under the aegis of various learned societies, many focused on the most esoteric aspects of the lands and peoples they examined, a sure means to catch the attention of the reading public and increase sales.

It is the latter names which I suspect you are complaining, as several appear in my post.

Have I used those exonymically styled names - yes; why?  For the simple reason that, to speak of a body, it is the most practical means of identifying them - as it is (rightly or wrongly) the name by which they've become known.  Would it be more practical in speaking of Hole Worshippers to say "those Old Believers who gazed through an empty Eastern-facing opening in the wall of their house church, hoping to see Christ as He returned to Earth's surface"?  Hardly, unless I was writing a catalogue of the sects - and even then, I'd have to append the name by which they are best known.

Quote
Most of what you mentioned is a misrepresentation.

How so?  I suggest you find any of the many texts - English or Russian - on the topic and I doubt that you'll find serious disagreement with most anything I have said.  Please understand that I greatly respect Old Believers, Popovtsy and Bezpopovtsy - but that does not make me blind to the theological eccentricities that are observed among some of them - including several of those which I named.
If you knew me, you'd find that my tolerance level is high and that I strive to maintain respect toward those whose beliefs differ from mine - but that doesn't mean that I have to blindly accept what makes no sense to me, no matter how much I allow for acceptance on faith or the concept of "mystery". Even as to that with which I disagree, you won't find me intentionally or knowingly misrepresenting
it.

I'm uncertain on what basis you have perceived a need or calling to adopt what you term "strict" Old Believer theology or praxis but, given the unlikelihood that you've had occasion to encounter it in real life, I pray that you will study and pray for knowledge and understanding of it in its fullness, before trying to undertake such.

Many years,

Neil
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« Reply #19 on: November 18, 2008, 07:58:02 AM »

Neil,

I am not going in the direction you are with these ideas you speak of.

I am sure that some others understand what I'm really getting at.

I do not have a lot more to offer to you at this point.

I have been studying to pray and obey God for over 20 dedicated years, time will tell how we each do in the end.

The strict Old Believers are those who left Vyg and Leska (and others of similar persuasion) due to prayers (etc.) offered for that Russian snake, Tsar Peter the not so great.

Forgive, John
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« Reply #20 on: November 18, 2008, 08:11:10 AM »

The strict Old Believers are those who left Vyg and Leska due to prayers (etc.) given to Tsar Peter.

John,

Those who left Vyg and Leska, as well as the many others elsewhere who rejected reintroduction of the commemorations, include the majority of the Bezpopovtsy - many more of the "mainstream" Old Believers than anyone would have guessed you to be interested in, given your early exampling of the Spasovtsy and Stranniki as those which you considered "strict".

Be at peace, my brother.

Many years,

Neil
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« Reply #21 on: November 18, 2008, 08:27:59 AM »

Those who left Vyg and Leska, as well as the many others elsewhere who rejected reintroduction of the commemorations, include the majority of the Bezpopovtsy - many more of the "mainstream" Old Believers than anyone would have guessed you to be interested in, given your early exampling of the Spasovtsy and Stranniki as those which you considered "strict".

Be at peace, my brother.

Oh, Neil.

I am careful who I call brother. Your words are anything but peaceful. It is the Roman Catholics, along with *orthodox* unionists, being in their heretical multitudes, that are those who are in the pharisaical "mainstream". The persecuted little flock of all the Old Believers consider each other brothers and have always agreed when defending the Old Faith against the Nikonites. I have never met any Old Believer that thinks the Spasovtsy or Stranniki are unchristian. Your words of, people never having guessed the Old Believers I am interested in, are especially devilish. I never gave any other idea, for all the old believers combined are not a multitude. Though they are more than you have suggested, this much is proven beyond any reasonable doubt. There is really nothing else to say to you.

May the Lord come quickly!

Forgive, John
 You are being placed on Post Moderation (for a two-week duration) for your comment referring to Roman Catholics as "Papists."  You will still be able to post, but your posts will not appear until they are approved by a moderator.  You are also still able to PM freely.  If you think this warning is in error, please PM FrChris.

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« Reply #22 on: November 18, 2008, 08:51:35 AM »

Those who left Vyg and Leska, as well as the many others elsewhere who rejected reintroduction of the commemorations, include the majority of the Bezpopovtsy - many more of the "mainstream" Old Believers than anyone would have guessed you to be interested in, given your early exampling of the Spasovtsy and Stranniki as those which you considered "strict".

Be at peace, my brother.

Neil, I am careful who I call brother.

I'm not, it seems to me to be in line with Christ's teachings.

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Your words are anything but peaceful.

As you wish to believe, John.

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It is the Roman Catholics along with *orthodox* unionists who in their heretical multitudes are "mainstream".
Edited quote to match editing in original post - Cleveland, GM

I meant mainstream in regards to Old Believers as a whole, as I'm sure you are aware. To interpret otherwise is a bit disingenuous.

Quote
The persecuted little flock of all the Old Believers consider each other brothers and have always agreed when defending the Old Faith against the Nikonites.

There is agreement as regards the Nikonian "reforms"; as to other matters, there is some significant continuum spanned in their beliefs, enough so to consider one another heretiki at times.

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I have never met any Old Believer that thinks the Spasovtsy or Stranniki are unchristian.

I never said either of them were unchristian - please don't attribute terms to me that I did not use.  However, I doubt that you'll find many Old Believers with much interest in or knowledge of the Spasovtsy; it was neither a large nor well-known body and among some hundred and a half sects, they are certainly not among the more prominent or best-known.

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Your words of, people never having guessed the Old Believers I am interested in, are especially devilish.

I've had many comments directed at me in my years of posting, but that's a first.

Quote
I never gave any other idea, for all the old believers combined are not a multitude, though they are more than you have suggested, this much is proven beyond any reasonable doubt.

I never speculated as to numbers nor did I ever suggest that the groups which I mentioned specifically constituted the bulk of Old Believers.  Those to which I have referred as "mainstream" unquestionably constitute the largest numbers of faithful. Although the number of eccentric and extremist bodies derived from Old Believers is large, few had large numbers of adherents.  As to why I discussed those which I did, or perceived them as your focus of interest, go back and read your own posts. You brought up the Stranniki and Spasovtsy as examples of those you considered most strict - not the Pomortsy, the Titlists, or any others - but the Stranniki and Spasovtsy. I merely elaborated on those two groups.  As I said previously, the Stranniki in particular represent a "type" - the isolationist and itinerant sects; I elaborated on the thinking that drove such and the forms that it took.

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I really do not have anything else to say to you poor Neil.

That, I suspect, is best for both of us.

Many years,

Neil
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« Reply #23 on: November 18, 2008, 09:12:19 AM »

Well Neil,

The Lord never suggested calling the devils children brothers. It is not honest to say there are many groups of Old Believers. There are only those who are more strict, or those not so strict with desires to be strict. In our modern age there are those people who make some claim to being Old Believers but in truth are not at all, those do not count. I never suggested that you believe the Spasovtsy or Stranniki to be unchristian, but you suggest that there are Old Believers in other groups apart from them, I disagree with that. The hundreds of sects you speak of is error. There is more unity among Old Believers than you know of. All the Old Believers I have spoken with know exactly who the Stranniki are and believe that soon all Old Believers will be identical in every way with the Stranniki, so they are not just a type.  You have indeed speculated as to numbers, you will have to reread your bookish posts again. Your elaboration is skewed into error. The forms that Old Believers take, which you speak of, are outsider delusions. It is all really far more simple than you try to build it and make it to be.

Forgive, John
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HIS Judgment Cometh, And That Right Soon! Mark 13:35

If any man be ignorant, let him alone be ignorant (at his own peril). 1 Cor. 14:38

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« Reply #24 on: November 18, 2008, 02:37:11 PM »

What kind of beliefs does the POMORIAN CHURCH hold? It's my understanding that they are priestless Old Believers. Are they similar to Presbyterians or to Orthodox?
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« Reply #25 on: November 18, 2008, 02:47:22 PM »

What kind of beliefs does the POMORIAN CHURCH hold? It's my understanding that they are priestless Old Believers. Are they similar to Presbyterians or to Orthodox?

Presbyterians?  Don't give "Hopeful Faithful" a heart attack.  Grin
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« Reply #26 on: November 18, 2008, 05:25:17 PM »

What kind of beliefs does the POMORIAN CHURCH hold? It's my understanding that they are priestless Old Believers. Are they similar to Presbyterians or to Orthodox?

The Pomortsy is a sect of priestless (correct me if I'm wrong John) Old Believers. Old Believers broke away from the Russian Church when Patriarch Nikon added many liturgical reforms. They keep the liturgical practices which the Russian Church did before the Nikonian reforms. They aren't even close to Presbyterians.
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« Reply #27 on: November 18, 2008, 06:46:58 PM »

The Old Believers are an extremist sect that broke off over liturgical reforms. Nikon only changed some rituals that were innovations themselves. The biggest change was crossing oneself with three fingers instead of two, but the sign of the cross was different from that in the fourth century, and it may have changed multiple times before that. The schism was mostly fueled by Nikon's brutal methods of enforcing the liturgical reforms. Later came Peter the First, who did a lot of damage to the Russian Orthodox Church, but nothing worth having a schism over (besides, the Raskol had already happened). Sorry for my ambiguity on the issue, unless we all want to discuss what Peter the First did, which for now I don't feel like discussing.

I would probably describe the sect as being a group of extreme Slavophiles, they are very Nationalist, and very radical (from my experience with them on OC.net). Some even think we have been living in the Apocalypse since 1666, and I'm sure everyone here can guess the significance of that date.
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« Reply #28 on: November 18, 2008, 07:02:35 PM »

Actually, if one really wants to learn about the Russian Old Believers, one should read two novels by Pavel Mel'nikov-Pecherskiy (http://az.lib.ru/m/melxnikowpecherskij_p/), "In the Woods" ("В лeсах") and "On the Hills" ("На горах"). This 19th century Russian writer (1819-1883) was himself from a family of Old Believers, and knew their beliefs and rites and lifestyle very well from inside. Both novels are wonderfully written, easy to read, interesting. I hope there are English translations, pity if there aren't.

It's interesting that although the Old Believers were (and are) generally very pious, quiet, non-wordly people, there were nonetheless some terrible, bloody criminals who came from their midst, for example Yemelian Pugachev, a Cossack from the Urals who pretended to be Tsar Peter III and headed a very cruel revolt of peasants in 1773-1774, killing tens of thousands of people, burning whole cities etc. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemelyan_Pugachev). 
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