(Dateline OC.net Palace) The crowds who had been camping out for nearly five months awaiting any word on their new Didaskalos tou Genous
were finally rewarded, when out onto the balcony of the palace/brewpub strode five
fellow members; but alas, they were sorely disappointed when the emcees turned out to be the lowly Global Moderators. However, the GMs were able to begin their announcements before the crowd had time to get their rotten fruit out of their fanny-packs, and the crowd was greeted with:
"Today we have found the missing ballot cards, and are pleased to announce the Post of the Month winners for the last 1/3 of the year. Please accord all due honor and praise upon:
May's winner: Hgais
I agree: It is a difference between those who know biology and those who don't. Not to be disrespectful, but there is some truth to it, at least with regards to a lot of the Protestant YEC's. Much of their dissent has more to do with the exact understanding of evolution in Darwin's time and nothing more; this leaves out a lot of information, especially the understanding that evolution doesn't have to take a very, very, very long time to happen. It is possible to species to change radically in a short period of time (geological time, of course). Darwin didn't realize this at the time, but I'm sure he would have no problem with being corrected.
In essence, our understanding of the theory of evolution is quite different than it was in Darwin's time, and, most likely, it will continue to develop. Part of the issue on both sides is the assumption that it is a constant; there is no change in the theory, nor should there be. A true scientist, on the other hand, would assert that change is necessary to bring a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying the whole process, and said understanding doesn't necessarily become "complete" at a specific point in time. Indeed, the nature of a posteriori knowledge is such that there is a certain lack of complete certainty at certain points. Hume, I suppose, was partly right in that regard, but this is not to say I agree with everything the man said (Kant is far superior, in my honest opinion).
I work with a number of Protestant Evangelicals on a weekly basis, and I have heard many of these anti-"evolutionist" arguments, albeit not particularly deep. I think that theological "depth" is part of the problem. Much of the YEC and OEC in the United States at least do not have a particularly deep understanding of Genesis, and a number have mostly rested their ideas on the strange fear that evolution will prove God false (which, I think, is mostly an unconscious one). That is not to say there are some highly respected individuals who hold either view, nor is it to say it is entirely wrong theologically speaking. There are a number of ways the "days" (yom) of Creation were understood throughout history, and all ought to be respected. I guess my main point is that one's method of interpretation should not be based on fear -- conscious or unconscious -- but rather a pure attempt at actually interpreting the text through Patristic writings and the Tradition of the Church. I think a number of the issues that have been raised in Western Protestantism with regards to the theory of evolution have more to do with crappy methods of interpretation, and less to do with actual religious issues.
On both sides, however, there is a huge epistemological problem looming off in the distance, which is the question of what we can really know about the pre-Fall world. I think this should be recognized more than it usually is.
But, hey, that's just me.
June's winner: Heorhij
I have a rather complicated feelings about this topic.
Yes, of course, of course I appreciate the converts' education, awareness, knowledge of the Christian theology, Orthodox and Heterodox, their largely good orientation in what the Church believes as it is written in the Bible and patristic sources.
On the other hand, I still, in spite of years of thinking about it and wrestling over the "issues" of faith as an active participant of one Ukrainian religious forum (and, more recently, this forum), tend to believe that there isn't much (or even, there isn't anything) worth "knowing" (as far as our faith is concerned), beyong the Niceo-Constantinople Creed. Everything "knowable" is there. What is beyond it or, rather, what is complementing it and filling it with life and vibrancy - is not "knowable" through reading or meditating or devotions, but "experienceable."
Fathers... oh well. They wrote a lot. They argued with each other and there is something in their writings that seems to completely contradict the writings of their fellow Fathers. What is there in their writings I can and should and must learn, beyond the Creed and beyond what I irrationally, "sense-ably" experience during the Divine Liturgy? I don't know...
Their teaching about the Fall - no. I can't learn it from them as long as they talk - and they seem to do talk, unanimously - about the passing of something (maybe not "sin" but the susceptibility to sin, or "sinfulness") - down the generations. I don't believe in this. I can't. Just like I can't make myself believe that there ever existed this "first human couple" - it is nonsense from the point of view of the rational human knowledge as it exists now.
Their eschatology? Perhaps, but I never got it yet even in the first approximation, because it is so murky and irrational. Essence and energies, oh yeah.
Their ethics? No. Their view on marriage and human sexuality (as expressed even in marriage) is alien and unacceptable to me. Other aspects of ethics? The Sermon on the Mount covers it, quite exhaustively...
So... I am not sure I WANT to "study" "our faith." I mean, I will do it, I actually like it (I am a bookish person), and I admire converts with good pious upbringing who are used to these studies. But I am not sure that this is the ultimate goal or even a plus. Again, I believe in what I experience when I stand and listen to my parish priest chant, when I see the icons, when I smell the incense, when I, shaking and trembling all over, go to that Chalice and receive the King of All. I don't care how this or that Father expressed "our holy Orthodox Faith" in those parts of it that are about the fall of the human race and salvation - I just know by experience that I sinned and continue to sin (while maybe all other human beings are perfect for all I know!), and that I am lost in my sin without, well... this, all this. I am lost without this chanting, without these icons, without this incense, without this priest, without this mystical Body and Blood of Christ, Who is God and man, fully God like God and fully man like myself (except sin). It is only through this chanting, this incense, these icons, this priest's kind, simple words, and through this Chalice that I come to realization that every single next day and hour of my life I have to try living in such a way that no dirt, no mud, no filth mars this "icon of the living God" in me.
That's all I "know" and will know, and nothing of this I got through my home upbringing or Bible classes or devotions or systematic studies of patristics, and I somehow doubt that I will get a lot more if I add the classes and the devotions and the studies of patristics to what I already have and to what I get, keep getting, every single time I attend the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.
I am sorry for this long and incoherent rant, but I just felt like I had to say what I said.
July's winner: Catherine
I am coming into this discussion late, but regarding the OP. .
This issue is not essential for salvation, so I don't get too worked up. This is how I feel about it all. . It's an incredibly unimportant debate, in my opinion, because the argument cannot change what has happened already. The only way it can have importance is if I am an ideologue of some kind who has put some huge stake in evolution being either correct or false; however if that is the case then I submit holding to either a pro- or anti- evolutionary ideology is a bigger problem in itself than whether said ideology is right or not. You will by now no doubt have picked up on my aversion of ideologies (whether secular or religious). I believe it is the resistance to the dehumanizing nature of ideologies - and their ability to drive a man to cognative dissonance and madness - that is important. I would say, the teachings of the Orthodox Church and "evolution" are not at loggerheads with each other. I take Genesis seriously, and I would argue that all Christians should. However to take a piece of writing seriously is not the same as to take it literally, of course; in some cases to take a piece of writing literally would be the least serious and considered way to read it. Thi is my understanding: The idea that the Church should make a definite pronouncement on the issue is to totally misunderstand what the Church's role, in my opinion. There is no imperative for the Church to make definitive statements about either scientific theories or philisophies. Evolution is not a subject for doctrines, dogma, or canon law. Neither should the Church make any pronouncement from the Scriptural aspect: i.e. by saying either Genesis Ch. 1 must be taken literally, or that it must not. Again, to think that she should is to mistake what the Church is, and who she has always been. The Church's primary role is not to offer strict interpretations of the Bible. No exposition of the Orthodox Faith starts with "Genesis means this..." and ends with "Revelation means that...."; the Scriptures are part of the deposit of the Faith, not its foundation: the foundation is the person of Christ. And so, Orthodox Expositions of the Faith proceed logically by answering the questions: Who is God? Who is man? How are we saved? Who is Christ? What is the Church? and so on. Scripture is drawn upon to answer these questions, and this is precisely how Holy Scripture should be read - as a revelation in answer to the pertinent questions. Dogmatic definitions on the meaning of individual books, chapters, or verses of the Bible thus restricts its proper reading. The only time when specific readings should be insisted upon is where a contrary interpretation would lead to a specific heresy. A literal reading of Genesis does not lead to a heretical view of God, but nor does a non-literal reading. Thus no definitive statement is needed.
August's winners: Northern Pines & Schultz
From the liturgy:
"For favorable weather, an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and temperate seasons, let us pray to the Lord."
If what you say is true, then why should we even bother petitioning God for particular weather?
That's kind of like asking the question, "If God knows what we need and is good for us, why pray?" I've heard plenty of skeptics and Christians alike ask that and similar questions. "If we are to ask God's will be done in our prayers, why pray for anything since God's will will be done weather we pray or not?" The problem with such thinking in my mind, is that it brings prayer down to something quite shallow....we ask and God gives. It turns God into a our genie in a bottle. Prayer is far more than just asking for God to give us stuff. (even if it be good stuff like crops) Prayer is about personal growth, growing closer to God, in other words Theosis. Asking for abundance of crops, while a good prayer, isn't always about the "stuff" but about us "asking" and praying to God. There is something deeper going on with such prayers that has little to do with getting God to give us stuff, but such prayers are reminders that we are totally reliant on God to sustain the earth and are reliant on Him for our very existence. Without God willing the universe to exist, the whole thing would collapse upon itself and we'd all cease to exist.
I never said or meant to imply not to pray for a drought to cease, or a forest fire to cease, because indeed God does work miracles. St. Herman prayed that a Native Alaskan village not get flooded out, and it did not. I also believe God works and intervenes and I believe I've seen it in my life. God does work miracles, I affirm this. But miracles that help people and "divine retribution" are similar, but quite different things.
Just because a drought comes and crops fail, or I get sick doesn't mean God is angry at the nation, the countryside, the state or the land, or me personally...that's Paganistic in thinking. How many Romans, when watching the sacking of Rome in the 4th and 5th centuries felt the world was coming to an end? Most. St. Augustine even had to write the first 3rd of The City of God to refute the belief that the fall of Rome was a "sign" Rome needed to return to worshipping it's own gods. Explicitely stating that all throughout history bad things have happened to both good people and bad people.
Yes there are a few examples in the OT, of God intervening and "punishing people" directly, but they were VERY different circumstances than what we're talking about presently. And in all cases, they were worked by prophets who had already proven to the entire nation they were sent by God. And there was always a prior warning in order to give people a chance to repent. I see nothing that fits those criteria in the Tornado in MN.
What of the Great Flood? Are you saying that such a thing "just happened"? The Holy Scriptures have many interpretations of weather and their significance.
who's the prophet that predicted a Tornado would plow through MN to warn the ELCA to repent BEFORE the Tornado happened? After all that IS the OT requirement for a prophet to be considered a true prophet.
Genesis 1:14 - Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons"
And they are for signs and seasons. Signs that there is a cosmic order beyond our reality. They are signs in the earth that God is everywhere filling all things. I agree! But I see these signs, or try to, the way St. Paul taught, even in the every day things. A flower blooms, it declares the glory of the Creator. The sun rises and sets, the waters rise and fall with the tides, and yes, the Tsunami, the Volcanic erruption, (all part of the natural cycles and rythms of the earth) and the earthquake due to plate techtonics are ALL signs that there is a beauty and unity in the creation, by the Creator...the heavens declare the Glory of God and firmament shows His handiwork. Does this mean God cannot "STOP" a Volcano...of course not. God made the sun "stand still" at one point in history. God can do anything He wants.
The difference is I just don't see an angry God judging denominations, peoples, and other religions in these things events. The signs are to declare His glory, majesty, Kingship...and they do just that, without the need to see God as a Zeus like entity who is throwing lightening bolts down from heaven. Our God is far bigger than the pettiness of the Pagan myths of old.
What about cleromancy, or the casting of lots, as found throughout the Holy Scriptures? This was a form of divination. What of the Urim and Thummim, stored in the High Priest's breastplate as a means for answering certain questions? What of the interpretation of omens for kings by many of the Holy Prophets of God? The Holy Orthodox Elders continue to do this for their respective countries. In imperial Russia, some starets would interpret ill omens for the czars in weather and political developments.
Casting of lots has nothing to do with the subject at hand. And divination was completely forbidden in the Law of Moses. I'm not sure what you're refering to. As for some Orthodox Elders, yes they did interpret things...and many times they were very wrong in their interpretations. This doesn't mean they weren't holy people, but holy people, even saints can get things wrong.
You can interprate [sic] weather events to mean anything you want it to mean from a religious perspective.We already covered this. You are correct. But I am disagreeing with you that we should not even attempt to interpret events in the light of God's involvement in our world.
Insofar as our interpretation would be something to increase faith (rather than an attempt to strike fear) into the hearts of people, or in some cases lead people to repentance, or an interpretation was made that would benefit the Church, humanity and the world in the long run, I agree with you. My main point though is how do YOU know that YOUR interpretation of a weather event is the correct one? 10 people might interprete the same event 10 different ways, and there is no way of knowing which version, if any is the correct one. Very much the way Protestants all interprete the Bible on their own void of Holy Tradition. 10 denominations gives 10 different interpretations. And no one knows which is "correct" or if any of them are correct. This is my point, without some authority in place to say which interpretation of said weather event is "correct" it's all just personal and private opinion. Hearkening back to the OT, the "authority" put in place again is Deuteronomy 18:21-22. And all these modern day "prophets" who interprete events do so AFTER the fact. Not before. as in the case of the Prophets of old.
So do you rather hold a cyclical view of history? Strange, considering that the entirety of Christianity has always understood time on a linear path.
Time is linear, human history (by that I mean human society) is not. You made this quite clear that this is your belief as well in your respect for ancient peoples and societies. This is all I meant, and my point, which I guess wasn't clear was that the proof of this is that all the 21st century trappings you mentioned were quite common in the 1st century. Obviously we are not getting "better and better" as time goes on, nor are we getting worse and worse (as you seemed to imply) but we just keep making the same mistakes as well as improvements over and over again. Albeit at different times and at different levels, but as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun. This is what I meant by human history not being linear. Cosmic history, world history and Time of course are linear.
I understand that you are frustrated by interpretations of events which seem outrageous to you, but you are wanting Christians to stop looking for the hand of God in our world; to give up the paradigmatic framework that He loves us enough to be involved.
You're assuming that I'm a Deist because I don't think God "sends" storms to kill people, or in this case damage people's homes and lives even though they aren't even Lutherans. And by not agreeing with such interpretations I'm saying God is not "involved"....but to me, the idea that God is involved in denominational disputes, punishing people for their "wickedness" and other such things is just really strange. (where is the proof of this?) And Why is God not judging the Orthodox Church for it's corruption along with the ELCA?
When Hurricane Katrina struck, I believe an Orthodox Church was destroyed...how would you interprete that? Was God angry at the Orthodox Church? Or was that just collateral damage for his punishment of all the other "wickedness" we were told about by John Hagee? Indeed everyone is entitled to their own opinions and interpretations, but sometimes these intepretations put forth only damage people emotionally, not help them.
Along these lines I'll ask, what happens when you get sick? Is it because God is mad at you? I've been battling 2 chronic illness for 3 years now...did I have these because God was PO'd at me? I was born with a blood clotting disorder, was it because God was angry at me before I was born, or maybe angry at my parents?
Even the Apostles asked Jesus such a question, "this man was born blind? Who sinned, him or His parents?" Jesus answer was that, "neither him nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the works of God might be made manifest." Jesus seems to completely refute the common (though not universal) belief at the time that if someone was sick, ill, blind, etc, it was because of some wickedness.
He also did so with a story about a tower falling down and killing some people in a natural disaster. His response was (and I paraphrase here) "don't worry about their sins, only worry about your sins". in other words DON'T try to figure out why some people die in a natural disaster, or are born sick, blind, etc....don't worry about figuring out what "sins" they did to "cause" such things, only worry about your own faults.
I mean take many fathers of the Church and how they intepreted such events, natural and historical. And many of them interpreted this or that, and many were seriously wrong. Most of the Church fathers said the Jews would NEVER return to Palestine and have a nation again because God was punishing them. I presume most Christians believed this and for 1900 years it "seemed" to be true....and yet given enough time, this "intepretation" was proven to be completely false. It doesn't mean the Fathers were not saints or not holy, but if saints can be horribly wrong about something, what makes you or me, or that guy who wrote that blog assume he is any wiser than the saints of old? They were certain the Jews would never "return to Palestine", because God was punishing them, and yet they've been proven wrong. So the intepretation of history has to be reworked.
I will grant that your interpretation is certainly a valid way to see the tornado, but the way you posed your unequivocal "yes" makes it sound as if you think it's necessary to believe your interpretation true, that it's not possible to disagree. How is it not possible to disagree?
Of course you can disagree. You are disagreeing and that's fine. The problem I have is who are we to tell someone "God judged them" by sending a storm, sickness, or whatever else? Anyone can claim to be a prophet after the fact. But no one predicted a Tornado would be sent to judge the ELCA BEFORE the fact. So I remain skeptical.
Of course, you're free to hold that opinion, or any opinion you see fit. And that's fine. I have no problem with people holding different opinions, but when it seemingly borders on repudiating an entire denomination and thus the people within that denomination, I have a bit of a problem. Most of my friends are ELCA Lutherans, and so maybe this is just to close and personal for me.
With that said let me clarify, I most certainly do believe God intervenes and our prayers and intercessions and "wrestling with God" helps God "repent" as Moses did with God.....and yet, these are all cases of HELPING or protecting other people, not destroying Churches, houses and the like. But as I said I may just be too close to the issue.
In Peace, NP
One thing you have to learn and understand about Orthodoxy is that no one, not even the most saintly of elders, expects you to change overnight. Indeed, the most saintly humans who ever lived know more than anyone how long and how difficult it takes to achieve theosis. The first thing one must do is accept the reality of sin in all its forms. A person who has a slight sniffle is still sick and may get sicker; the immune system is fighting off the "small" illness and may grow weak and unable to combat a larger infection. So the same it is with sin. We may delude ourselves into thinking that we are only committing the proverbial "white lie" but, like with many things, we end up just desensitizing ourselves to the reality of sin and suddenly find ourselves unable to resist the so-called more serious sins.
It pays to remember there is a marked difference in objectively recognizing what is sinful in life and actually applying that realization to our own lives. I, for one, know I struggle continually with gluttony, lust and sloth and more often than not I succumb to their wiles. 99% of the time I know what I am doing and I chose to do it (cf Romans 7:15). That realization is one that can easily lead to despair, but it can also easily lead to the realization that one needs a Saviour and that Saviour is Jesus Christ.
Since you are fond of using Roman Catholic terminology and understanding, let me put it to you this way re: confession of one's sins. I was always taught (in Catholic school) that if something is bothering your conscience, even if in the slightest way, it's "confessible". For most people the categories of "mortal" and "venial" sin are a guide for the priest as he dispenses penance. As one develops a relationship with one's father-confessor, he will be able to determine if you are merely being humble about the state of your soul or if you are falling into scrupulosity. I certainly echo the advice of others here: talk to your priest about it.
At the same time, know that other people are engaged in a deathly struggle with gluttony and, for them, it may be the difference between eternal life and eternal damnation. ALL sin is dangerous, even stealing a quarter from someone with a million dollars. Remember, the Commandment reads an unqualified "Thou shalt not STEAL".
And as the crowd thundered the cry of AXIOI! AXIOI! AXIOI!
, they forgot about pelting the GMs with fruit, who were able to get away safely.