When we started our Post of the Month award in 2008 (well, technically in 2007, but we never publicly announced the winner), the mods also tossed around the idea of selecting one of the Posts of the Month as Post of the Year. Well, on Orthodox time (3+ years later), we've decided to create this award, and to have it be voted on by you, the users. So in the next day or so we'll be parading out polls for Post of the Year for the years 2008, 2009, and 2010. Go ahead and vote for your favorite; there will be 1 vote per user, no changing, and the results will not be visible until the Poll closes 15 days from now.
The nominees for Post of the Year 2009 are:1
In esscence the term would apply to any in a given household. Thus, generally speaking, it coud include infants IF they were present in the home. However, to substantiate that one must be able to PROVE infants were in fact present. Besides, the context being that of baptism, which is directly connected Scripturally with a personal declaration of faith in Christ, limits the application of household here to only those in a given household who were personally capable of making such a declaration. In short -- believer's baptism provides' the context for understanding the application of household. To reason otherwise is to undo the statment of Scripture by adding to and broadening it. Indeed, contradicting it. I'm sorry, what is your source for this? Do you speak Liturgical Greek? My husband does (fluently, as well as modern Greek-- in fact he has won awards for his translation and is currently consulting on some works that will be coming out of a monastery in Greece in the near future). The term was used to denote ENTIRE families. Now no, this doesn't mean that there absolutely WAS an infant or child in every household, but what are the chances that of all the households mentioned, there were NO children? Slim to none. We do not need to prove that infants were present. As the term includes infants, you need to prove that they were NOT present. You also need to prove that this was not a practice of the NT church.
The term is not limited by Scripture, YOU are limiting it with YOUR interpretation of Scripture. You realize that this is going to be a circular argument? By binding yourself to the exact words of Scripture and refusing to acknowledge any other source (be it a source within the Church or a "secular" historical source), we are going to keep coming around to the same place. That is, with your reply of "but the Scriptures don't specifically say infants!"
"Believer's Baptism" does not provide the context. YOU are forcing a context which proves your point. Not the same thing.
I did not say children should never be baptized. In only insist that they be of sufficient mental ability to make a personal and true declaration of faith in Christ. Why do you insist this when the Early Church did not? Just curious.
The age need not be given of baptismal candidates since due to the fact that baptism is expressly stated to be for believers the practice assumes each candidate of sufficient "age" able to believe for themselves -- child or no. That's funny, I said the age need not be given! Why? Because infant baptism was done from the beginning. It is incumbent upon you to prove that it wasn't.
Oh, and the other reason is because infants can and do believe. See below where I discuss my nephew and niece. Not that they're some paragon of Christianity, and though I may tell you I think they're the smartest kids in the world, I know they're not able to understand God fully (being 3 and 1), but they most definitely love and have faith in Him! I think their example will do just fine.
We are specifically told that baptism is needed for salvation. Why would that be, if the rite of baptism itself had no saving power? Romans 6:4 makes it clear:
-The saving power of Christ's presence in Holy Baptism (too long a point to explain here, it can be found in the article I posted above)Disagree with the premise. Can Christ save in or through baptism? I suppose. Can and does Christ save prior to baptism? Yep. So, does salvation wait for baptism? Nope.
"Romans 6:4 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
The emphasis is on God and what HE does for us. This is a fundamental difference between us. And really, I think we will not be able to come to any kind of meeting of the minds until we agree on this: that Baptism is more than just a commitment we make to God. It is something GOD does for us. Baptism bears witness to God's action of choosing us to be members of His body. Christ was not baptized because He needed to commit Himself to God. He accomplished seven things by being baptized, not one of which was "to commit Himself to God" or any other such affirmation of His own faith (as stated in the Orthodox Study Bible):
1. He affirmed John the Baptist's Ministry
2. He was revealed by the Father and the Holy Spirit to be the Christ, God's beloved Son
3. HE IDENTIFIED HIMSELF WITH HIS PEOPLE BY DESCENDING INTO THE WATERS WITH THEM
4. He prefigured His own death, giving baptism its ultimate meaning
5. He entered the waters, sanctifying the water itself (again--- sanctifying matter-- this is what I said in the Eucharist thread)
6. He fulfilled the many types given in the OT, as when Moses led the people from bondage through the red sea, etc.
7. HE OPENED HEAVEN TO A WORLD SEPARATED FROM GOD THROUGH SIN.
I stress numbers 3 and 7 because, indeed, baptism is a sign of God's action, of what HE does for US. Yes, as adults being baptized, we must have faith and repentance, but OUR FAITH AND REPENTANCE OR LACK THEREOF DOES NOT, CANNOT, WILL NOT EVER TRUMP THE GRACE OF GOD AND WHAT HE DOES FOR US. As my Grammy used to occasionally say, "Not everything is about you." God forbid we just accept what God does, rather than trying to shove ourselves into the middle of His action and His plan, eh?
Hence baptism is more a corollary of salvation, a witness to the inner work of saving grace and faith already present in those who have believed. Show me where it says corollary, please. All I have seen is where Christ tells us it is REQUIRED (John 3). It is not a witness to US and OUR faith, it is a witness of GOD's work, GOD's action, GOD's grace. Again, it ain't all about us.
-The Old Testament symbols of Salvation and Baptism include infants (such as circumcision-- again, can be read above)Indeed! Like as they were those born of the flesh, believers are those born again of the Spirit.
Their circumscision was literal and pertained to literal birth (infants, etc.) -- ours is metaphorical, spiritual and pertains only to those who have spiritually been reborn. You stumble here with Nicodemus. As paul expressed to the Cornthians concerning "birth from the grave" so to we can discern application here... There is a natural and there is a spiritual. Albeit that which is spiritual is not first, but that which is natural. Afterward that which is spiritual. Hence, only spiritual infants have a right to the waters of baptism.
I'm sorry, explain to me how it is that you think I stumble with Nicodemus?
I think, rather, that you stumble with Paul, who tells us VERY clearly in Colossians:
"11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins[c] of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. "
He directly likens Baptism to Chrismation, calling it the "circumcision of Christ." He is clear that Baptism is the new circumcision. He does not make one different from another. So if, indeed, Baptism is the circumcision of Christ, then how can one object to giving that to infants? YOU may make this faulty distinction, but HE doesn't.
As well, we see two direct pre-figurements in the Old Testament of baptism. Lest we descend into Marcianism (discarding of the OT altogether), we are bound to recognize them, the first one most especially.
The first is Moses and the red sea. We must recognize this pre-figurement, as the Apostle specifically tells us to in 1Corinthians 10:1-4. He specifically says that they were "baptized into Moses." Did Moses leave the infants and children in Egypt? I daresay he didn't. ALL were baptized into Moses. And if Paul saw that the baptism of infants was a problem, he would have surely taken that opportunity to tell us! Surely he would have stopped right then and mentioned that we should not baptize infants, since he was giving this specifically as an example. If there was a place where the example differed from what was intended, he would have told us.
The second is Noah and the Ark. And we know his whole family was there.
I basically just parroted what was said in the article I posted, adding my opinion here and there. But since you didn't want to read the article, it left me no choice. No problem. I enjoyed it.
Are you telling me that when John the Baptist leapt in his mother's womb at the sound of the Theotokos' voice (she who carried his savior), that he DIDN'T recognize?!? What, exactly, is it that you think he DID recognize? You think he was just dancing at the sound of her pretty voice? NO! He recognized that HIS SAVIOR WAS NEAR, THAT HIS SALVATION WAS IN FRONT OF HIM! It had nothing to do with the Theotokos. Her purpose has always been only in relation to Christ. And what is Christ's purpose? Well, if we really have to go that basic, there's a problem. This is a terribly legalistic and un-believing argument you are trying to present here. John's divine purpose was TO RECOGNIZE THE SALVATION OF CHRIST! It was the entire purpose of his existence... to pave the way for Him who came after, yet before him. He did this even from the womb! Are you telling me he DIDN'T? whoa.
-Faith as relationship of love and trust not limited to the mind-- The OT and NT examples of infants recognizing salvation and having faithI'm sorry, but you'll have to show me explicit Scriptural explanation that infants either recognized salvation or personally placed faith in salvation while in infancy. I see where God recognized infants, and graced them with divine purpose even form the womb. I see where confirmation of that purpose may be demonstrated by the infant, even pre-born, as in the case of John the baptist. But that is a far cry from infants actually understanding and applying saving faith in the person and work of Christ.
Now, perhaps if they came from the womb actually speaking intelligently I would be inclined to consider such an exaggeration.Yes, because, of course, the Bible was written for infants, right. So it must instruct them specifically to get to the church and be baptized, else they won't be recognized as Christians! Don't be ridiculous! It is you who are exaggerating, my friend. Exaggerating your own importance (I don't mean your importance personally, I mean as a human being) in God's plan-- He does the work in Baptism.
Wrong! Here I will just quote the article for you, rather than parrot it.
-The fact that the command of "believer's baptism" was one intended for adults, because the Bible was not written for infants- and the distinction between adult believers and infant- one needs to repent, the other does not (again, can be read above)And yet, by defintion, one CANNOT be a believer if they have not repented!
Larry Christenson, in his pamphlet "What About Baptism", quotes Edmund Schlink (author of The Doctrine of Baptism) as stating that the rejection of infant baptism was based on the secular philosophy of the sixteenth century which assured man's individuality, and was not the result of a new Scriptural inquiry:
"'Belier was seen in rationalistic and volitional terms, as an act of the mind and the will. 'Because an infant cannot think or decide, it cannot have faith, and therefore should not be baptized.' To this day. that is the only argument raised against the validity of infant baptism. One tosses off the sentence as though it were self-evident truth: 'A child can't believe.' But that 'truth,' upon examination, is neither self-evident, nor is it Biblical."
As Christenson goes on to say, faith is not merely a product of reason but relation. It is a relationship of love and trust, a relationship which is not limited to the mind. Some Scriptures which support the possibility of an "infant faith" are these:
"Yet Thou are He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breast." (Psalm 22:9)
"And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea." (Mark 9:42)
"For behold, when the sound of your greeting [Theotokos] reached my ears [Elizabeth], the baby [John the Baptist] leaped in my womb for joy." (Luke 1:44)
Over and over again I am told that is incorrect to allow infants to be baptized because the Scriptural order is to first believe, and then to be baptized (Mark 16:16). The error in this thinking is not that it is incorrect to have an adult believe before he is baptized, but that one cannot apply a command intended for adults to infants. The Bible was not written to infants and is therefore not going to direct them to do anything. They are under the care of their parents who can hear, understand, and believe. Additionally, there is an important distinction to be made between baptizing an infant and an adult believer-one has the need to repent, the other does not.
There are times when an argument from silence is perfectly valid. This is one. As in the example I gave above-- Paul gives us examples that we are to follow. If he meant for us to except children, he would have specified that.
-The fact that "infant baptism" was probably not recorded because the Gospel writers didn't see a need- it was rather obviousArguing from silence here. If you could give me a strong enough reason to entertain the Biblical validity for infant baptism (such as showing infants having sufficient reason and mental faculty to accept and place faith in Christ as Lord and Savior) then I might would entertain the notion as haing a semb lance of relevance. Otherwise, well, I cannot.
As far as infants having faith in Christ, see above. What other possible reason can you give (and PROVE!) for why John the Baptist leapt in his mother's womb? Why would the Gospel have mentioned it? Because he recognized that His Lord and Savior was near! Not because he loved Mary's voice!
And what exactly does, "these little ones who have faith" mean, anyway?
And what about coming to Christ as a child? Matthew 18:3: "And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." What did he mean? We should grow physically younger? Nonsense! We are to come to him as a child-- with trust, loyalty, total dependence, and FAITH EVEN THOUGH WE DON'T UNDERSTAND! Apparently Christ thought children could have faith despite a lack of intellectual knowledge (they had knowledge of love and experience of faith). Why don't you?
My heart and my experience tells me infants can have faith as well. My little nephew, Nicholas and my niece, Emma both as babies, recognized Christ and His work and love. I can tell you all kinds of stories of how they recognized Christ and His love- literally! Wanting to kiss the icons for no apparent reason, pointing at them and laughing, hugging them (I know that they didn't learn that from their parents or anyone else-- we kiss icons, but I can't recall ever hugging one in front of them-- not that it's bad, we just haven't done it). I can tell you that they converse with angels, but I'm sure you'll brush it aside as hogwash, since it doesn't explicitly say in the Bible that babies can recognize angels, even though we know this to be true through experience. My nephew, Nicholas, is now three and a half. He can't possibly understand God fully, but he sure does love Him, and he sure does have faith in Him! You can't tell me that babies and children don't understand and expect me to buy it. Ridiculous!
-The entire LIST of questions that are put forward in the second half of the article posted above (I'm not going to retype here, even though I've already been redundant by typing all the other points)I appreciate the referece to the article. I am sure I wil enjoy perusing it, and others in the future. However, I did not come here to dilaog with an article, but with other particpants. Simply stated, I want to know what you think in your words, and engage you with mine. I want to interact with you, a being, and not with lifeless articles. Reference them, quote bite size excerpts from them, fine. Otherwise I will probably (as here) just skip right over them and keep on going.
Okay, then. I guess I'll have to ask them myself. I'll just waste my time parroting here again, since you don't want to just scroll up and read them. I reference it because I would really like to hear the answers to the questions. That is discussion.
1. If infant baptism is a later invention, when did it begin and who began it? Where did it originate?
2. Why are there no protests against the validity of infant baptism from anyone in the early Church?
3. Where is anything found in Scripture that expressly forbids the baptism of infants or children?
4. How is it that God established a covenantal, corporate relationship with the tribes of Israel in the Old Testament, but you interpret the New Testament as abolishing the faith of an entire household with the father at its head in favor of a solely individualistic faith?
5. Where does Scripture prescribe any age for baptism?
6. Even if there were a special age when someone's faith reached "maturity," how could one discern that? Doesn't faith always mature? When is faith mature enough for baptism and when is it not? Who can judge?
7. Where in Scripture does it say that children are free from the effects of the Fall simply because they are not old enough to believe? (Even creation is under the curse of mankind's fall - Romans 8:19-21).
8. What about the many Biblical meanings and early Christian understandings of baptism other than the one defining it as a visible sign of inward repentance, meanings such as the sacrament of regeneration (Titus 3:5), a grafting into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), a passage from the reign of Satan into Christ's authority (Romans 6:17), the expression of the manifestation of God (Luke 3:21,22), an admission into God's covenant (Colossians 2:11), the Lord's act of adoption and our putting on of Christ (Galatians 3:26,27)? Why should these things be taken away from the small child of a Christian family?
9. If it was the norm to baptize children at a later age, why is there no evidence in Scripture or early Church history of instruction given to parents on how to help their adolescent children prepare for baptism?
10. If it is granted that baptism is for the remission of sins, why would the Church ever want to give baptism to infants if there were nothing in the infants which needed remission? Would not the grace of baptism, in this context, seem superfluous?
11. In essence, laying aside all the polemics and prejudices and academic intricacies, what Scriptural principle is being violated if a child is baptized and matures in his faith?
Some of these, I feel sure, will be answered in the course of discussion. Do me a favor, though, and if they are not answered in the rest of the discussion, answer them.
Metaphor appreciated! On the other hand, all that has become of your refusal to read the article and respond is that it has forced me to parrot it and take up time and space doing so. Your refusal to read it does not mean that I don't want answers to the questions and points made. It just means that, even though you think it's saving time to skip it, it's actually just wasting time. No offense, just being honest.
BTW just FYI, personally, when I post articles and quotes like that, it is not because I am trying to provoke or to dodge questions or anything. It is because whoever wrote the article says exactly what I would like to say clearly and succinctly. I figure it's better to just post the article (and reference it, of course) than to try and say the same things, as we know it can take me a long time to say what they can say quite fast. I do it simply to not waste others' time. I apologize if people don't like it when I post articles. I rather enjoyed that particular one, though.
I understand, really. However, quotes of that length tend to stifle conversation (IMO). So do original comments and posts normally. But in your case, I have so come to enjoy your written expression of thought, your passion in engaging the subject, not to mention your tact and personability, that I find myself willing, even eager in most cases, to savor YOUR words. I can handle snippets of quotes from others added therewith for taste, but not much else. To use a metaphor that may have meaning to a chef -- I don't want a warmed over "meal" someone else prepared. I want your own unique fresh presentation of the dish.
Also, I think the article on the original website was moved. So to make sure I clearly reference my source, I will post the new web address below:
Sakran MM (February):
We can't pretend that we're in 16th century Moscow or 11th century Constantinople. The Church is not stagnant. With that said, it's not revisionism I'm advocating - if anything, those that only communion once, twice, or four times a year are the revisionists. Communing this infrequently demands extensive preparation, like a one-week fast.
Just because the Russian or Serbian church has been fasting a week before communion for three or four centuries doesn't make it right! How in the world does fasting from meat for a week, a 3-4 minute confession, then saying a few prayers, make you worthy of communion? As if anything makes you worthy! This kind of thing is "yia-yia-ology"...old women passing this kind of thing on to their kids without having any clue why the church does it, other than that's what their yia-yia taught them.
If you noticed in my original post, I don't advocate minimalist preparation. Yes, fasting is essential. Prayer is essential. But you absolutely cannot separate communion from normal life. Communion is meant to sanctify life, not separate us from it.
In terms of Eucharistic participation, until the 4th cent., the presupposition was that all baptized Christians were worthy to receive communion, and everybody would receive unless they were under penitential restriction. Just read the text of the liturgy - it presupposes that everyone present will commune. It's the saddest thing in the world when the priest brings the chalice out, and no one approaches.
After the 4th century, the above supposition is turned on its head, and the Christian was seen as unworthy to receive communion; this was especially strong in monastic circles.
I can't speak for what every single individual Christian was doing in Antioch, Moscow, or Constantinople for that matter. But what I can say is that this excessive kind of preparation is linked directly to the reasons which I gave before. It's a result of people beginning to see communion as simply a means of individual grace and sanctification instead of linking directly with corporate membership in the Church as understood in the New Testament.
This kind of thinking isn't "Schmemannite" or "modern." This line of thinking is in continuation with the tradition of the Church, the text of the liturgy, and the Holy Fathers. The abuse is abstaining from communion all year, fasting for a week and going to a 3 minute confession, declaring yourself worthy to commune, then going back to your original unworthy state 2 seconds later. This is not what Christ intended. This is not what the liturgy presupposes. Read the texts of it.
True preparation is continual Christian life. Excessive preparation leads one to spiritual pride, thinking that what they do makes them worthy, rather than simply the mercy of God. Prepare for communion - yes. Do so with spiritual pride - no.
No, that icon should not be venerated. It is simply a polemical propaganda piece, promoting a particular ecclesiopolitical ideology. Some food for thought:4
Iconography is, above all else, concerned with the revelation of God in Trinity: of the incarnation of the Son and Word of God which has allowed the sanctification of fallen creation (matter), including humanity (made in the image of God)**; of the signs and wonders of the Divine revelation in both the Old and New Testament periods; and, in its portrayal of the saints, their transfiguration from mere men and women into those who have attained deification, a "oneness with God" and full participation of the heavenly life with God and in God, through the conduct of their earthly lives and their steadfast witness to the true faith. They have become true icons and reflections of the Divine. The word godly is most apt to describe them.
(** St John of Damascus sums this up beautifully: "Of old, the incorporeal and uncircumscribed God was not depicted at all. But now that God has appeared in the flesh and lived among men, I make an image of God who can be seen. I do not worship matter, but I worship the Creator of matter, who through matter effected my salvation. I will not cease to venerate the matter through which my salvation has been effected.")
Secondly, in the same way that the saints have obliterated their passions to give themselves completely to God, icons must also reflect this dispassionate quality. Obvious displays of human emotions, even a “positive” one such as laughter, are considered to be manifestations of human passion, and therefore have no place in iconography. Christ’s kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18: 36), therefore the portrayal of saints in their spiritually transformed state must be dispassionate. This also applies to church singing and reading; the singers and readers are there to glorify God and serve the church by their efforts, not to self-aggrandise. Even the display of sorrow in the face of a saint or the Mother of God should be kept subtle, with the emotion conveyed with the eyes, not through histrionics.
Thirdly, there must be complete agreement between scripture, liturgical content (which represents the distillation of the doctrinal, dogmatic and theological position of the Church), and the pictorial content of an icon for any icon to be deemed canonical.
Hence there is no place for ugliness, anger, enmity, and other negative emotions in iconography. The purpose of an icon is to draw us closer to God. Of course, there are specific examples of didactic icons, such as Last Judgement and Ladder of Divine Ascent which feature fearsome dragon-like creatures swallowing unrepentant evildoers. The Resurrection icon shows the personification of sin and death bound in chains in the abyss. It may be said, therefore, if there is room for such portrayals in these canonical icons, then why object to the presence of the figures in the Ark of Salvation image?
I offer this reply: An icon is a material, tangible expression of the incarnate God. The iconographic portrayal of the saints as icons of Christ, then, should reflect the sanctity, dispassion and boundless compassionate mercy of Christ to those who repent of their sins. Do we not pray to the saints and the Mother of God to intercede on our behalf? Are we not exhorted to pray for our enemies, to love them, and not to hate them? Of all scripture passages on this theme, Matt. 5: 43-48 is perhaps the most useful and succinct:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
We are also assured that God is Love, and that His love and mercy are available to all who seek Him in true faith. There are petitions in various Orthodox litanies which ask for the repentance and return to the true faith of sinners, apostates, and, yes, enemies. One which immediately comes to mind is "Let us pray for those who love us, and those who hate us", a petition in the litany sung towards the end of the Great Compline services of Great Lent where the Canon of St Andrew of Crete is sung.
There is the question of the iconographic portrayal of prophets and saints who denounced kings and princes. Such scenes are found in the smaller panels of a "life" icon of a saint or prophet (an icon which has a large central panel of the saint or prophet, surrounded by a series of smaller panels showing scenes of his or her life). Keeping to the dispassionate nature of icons, these scenes of rebuke of kings and princes (such as in icons of Prophet Elijah, and any number of OT and NT saints and righteous ones) show the saint standing before the errant ruler with a hand raised in rebuke, but nothing more. It is also significant that such scenes, almost without exception, are never used as icons in their own right.
it is not surprising that certain schismatic groups have favoured this so-called Ark of Salvation image as it reflects their particular ideology. This image suggests that those who are not Orthodox are somehow beyond repentance and redemption. Can we really agree with this as Orthodox Christians? The persecuting Pharisee Saul openly boasted of his zeal and success in persecuting Christians, yet, by the grace of God, became one of the Princes of the Apostles, a pillar of Orthodoxy. There are also innumerable converts to the Orthodox faith who have come from every religious background imaginable, including atheism, paganism and communism; many who have become saints, in times of old, and in our present day. The grace of God knows no bounds.
Iconography, as I have said before, must never be used for political or ideological purposes. To portray the non-Orthodox as a whole as being irredeemable and in league with demonic and evil forces to destroy Orthodoxy is a shameful debasement of iconography. I am reminded of a reply to a convert to Orthodoxy as to how he came to the conclusion that the Orthodox faith was the true faith: "The Soviet Union was capable of destroying anything. Yet, despite its immense power and resources, it could not destroy the Orthodox Church. So that was good enough for me." The gates of hell cannot prevail, indeed ...
Ian Lazarus (April):
"You can't make an omlette without breaking some eggs"5
Forgive me. I have been sitting on the fence reading these threads for far to long without saying a word. The past few weeks have seen so much bad blood fly between people that are supposed to be brothers, and it saddens me when people are calling eachother imperialists and schismatics in a time when we are supposed to be looking inward at our own failures.
This is a time of trial for us all. The crudstorm that has been released in the past few weeks is heartrending, but not totally unpredictable. Eventually, it comes to this: how do we define liberty and unity in the Orthodox Church?
Some have defined it as a link to the old Patriarchs, particulalrly Constantinople, is what makes us Orthodox.
Some have defined it as the jurisdisction of the local Bishop as what does.
Some have defined it as strict adhearance to the cannons.
Some have defined it as the voice of the people.
I cannot speak for any of you, but I have believed since I converted and still believe that ALL are important...and then again, that none are.
Yes, the ties to the ancient sees and BROTHERHOOD with them, not subserviance to them, makes us Orthodox.
Yes, the local Bishop is a representative of Christ to his jurisdiction, along with the clergy and laity, within the tradition, makes us Orthodox.
Yes, understanding of the cannons and their practice is venerable and WITHIN the Holy Spirits call, and with the united understanding that some cannons are for some ages, and some are eternal, makes us Orthodox.
Yes, the people, under the Guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Sacred Scripture, and the Sacred Tradition, speaking in a united voice make us Orthodox.
But what truly make us Orthodox is FOLLOWING AND LIVING IN JESUS CHRIST AND GUIDENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, as the apostles taught us, wherein Saints are made, Martyrs Glorified, and new generations come to the alter to recieve Christ Jesus' Body and Blood that we migh perfect our imperfect selves.
Mayhaps the solution I propose is one that will be unpopular, or seem oversimplistic. I am not a great orator or analyst. At this point, in many senses, I simply grow tired of the rehasing of old wars, as this new upheaval seems to bring on. There have been moments when my faith in the Church has been shaken, and anger and sorrow filled my heart. There may be yet days when this happens. But I will be nowhere else because I believe in Jesus Christ, and I know that this is the way to worship him in the fullest. Thats why Im here. To better serve, and Pray.
And so, my proposal is simple. We pray. It may be a far stretch, but mayhaps what is needed is to ask God His opinion in His own Church, that he migh clear out imperfect minds and do what we humans are oft unwilling to: Listen. Accept. Be Obedient. Love one another. And forgive.
In this land (US), we are Americans. But we are all still learning what that means after all these years. We know it means to be free, but that there is a price for freedom: Vigilance. Elsewise, we fall back into slavery. It is not culture, though we have our own, but common beliefs that hold us as a nation. We hold common beliefs in Orthodoxy too. God will conquer all with Love. God loves us all. We attempt to give purselves to Him fully and without reservation in our worship. If we fall into sin, and do not get back up, we fall into slavery as well. We must turn to Him to made, redeemed and sustains us to make things right. For He knows everything about us.
Maybe its time for our bishops, ALL our bishops, to get together, pray, talk, and ask for forgiveness, of God and of eachother. We've seen too many wars over jurisdictionalism. Whatever the solition, we cannot remain as we are. But above all, it must be God-pleasing. Change is comeing. And with it, a whirlwind of consequences. Let us pray for perfect guidence from He who is Perfect.
Of course, thats just my opinion.
Forgive me, a sinner.
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.6
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.
I have a rather complicated feelings about this topic.7
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.
I am coming into this discussion late, but regarding the OP. .8
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.
Northern Pines (August):
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