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Author Topic: Prima Scriptura + Holy Spirit + Ante Nicene Fathers as Christian Foundation  (Read 1721 times) Average Rating: 0
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« on: February 07, 2012, 04:20:23 AM »

I have been having a pleasant and interesting discussion with an online Christian friend who rejects Sola Scriptura but also rejects Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I am used to combatting Sola Scriptura Protestantism, but this person holds to a unique position with which I am not too familiar. He also rejects Protestantism. Apparrently he is not part of any organized denomination or Church. He said he is striving to be like the Bareans. I like this guy alot, and I sense a real sincerity about him. My thinking was very similar to his before I became Orthodox, except that I was not as learned he is.

Here is how he essentially explains his position:

"I think prima scriptura would be a good way to explain my position. The idea of sola scrip is logically indefensible. Especially when the term was coined by a preacher/author/expositer/comentator. I believe the brethren, the spirit, the scriptures and divine circumstance all contribute to leading the saints into truth. I use the ANF (Ante Nicene Fathers) as a commentary to resolve questions and as a testimony where they agree in a catholic way. I.E., all the fathers teach the same about atonement, justification, holiness, baptism, etc. They also singularly voice local custom and specific local and regional issues.

My problem primarily is that the faith was once delivered. Our faith aught to mimic the first century, and not the 7th, 8th or 12th. I find things introduced by the counsels that have no relevance or bearing in the apostolic or post apostolic church. I want the faith that was first delivered. In my humble opinion, that witness: rejected the sword, forswore all images, was filled with the holy ghost, performed signs and wonders, was extremely evangelistic, and bought the conversion of the world with their blood. This is what I long to emulate."



So, I'm trying to provide him with an Orthodox response to his views. Basically, what I have reiterated to him thus far is that while I respect and understand his sincere desire to conform to the early Church, our individual understanding of the Christian Faith will never be as accurate as the Teachings and Traditions of the Church as established and clairified by the councils and the wisdom of the fathers. Of course, this becomes sort of circular reasoning, because he views many of the Teachings and Traditions of the Church as invalid and even antithetical to the practices and beliefs of the early Church.

Thanks for any insights and help you can give me.


Selam

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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2012, 04:36:18 AM »

3 quick starters

a) St. Ignatius Letters are in Vol. 1 of the ANF. If you just read the 'shorter versions' (which are probably also the original versions) they are a pretty quick read (especially since you can skip the Epistle to the Romans for these purposes--though you should definitely read it when you have the time). And they are very clear, can't have a Church without the bishop.

b) St. Cyprian's 'On the Unity of the Catholic Church' is in vol. 5. Also a pretty quick read. And again clear that just wandering around by yourself doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to the Faith 'once delivered'. The Church was and always has been corporate. From there you can investigate what happened to the Body over time, but you can't do anything without the Body.

c) 'forswore all images'? Given all the Christian images in the Roman catacombs from the period of the persecutions, there's simply no way to claim that. You can debate degree of usage, but there's no question they existed. Also, Martyrdom of Polycarp (back to vol. 1) attests to the veneration of saint's relics from very, very early. And it's probably a bit down the road from where you need to start with this guy, but veneration of relics and veneration of icons are closely tied together in any theological consideration of either.
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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2012, 04:40:31 AM »

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forswore all images

Your friend is definitely wrong there. The Roman catacombs are full of images, proto-icons, if you like. And ante-Nicene fathers such as Sts Basil the Great and Dionysius the Areopagite mention icons in their writings. St John of Damascus quotes a good number of these early Fathers in his In Defense of the Holy Images.

And what is your friend's position on the Mother of God?
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« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2012, 05:53:31 AM »

Thank you guys. That is very helpful.

I think my friend would say that the veneration of the Theotokos was a later invention/addition not held by the early fathers.

Another reason he rejects Orthodoxy is he doesn't believe there is any New Testament or ANF precedent for the wedding of the state and the Church. How would I answer this?


Selam
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« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2012, 06:49:18 AM »

Quote
I think my friend would say that the veneration of the Theotokos was a later invention/addition not held by the early fathers.

Again, he would be completely wrong on this, if this is what he believes. St Dionysius the Areopagite is often present in icons of the Dormition of the Mother of God. Why? Because he wrote an authoritative treatise on her. I don't have my sources on hand at the moment, but it wouldn't be difficult to find evidence for the veneration of the Mother of God in the early Fathers.
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« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2012, 07:21:05 AM »

As to the relevance of councils -- you could start by trying to have him admit that by explicitly defining the consubstantiality of the Father and Son, the first council was protecting the faith received from the apostles rather than adding some unnecessary accretion to it. From there, it should be easier to understand why later councils were necessary.

Hopefully he's not some "it all went off the rails with the councils" nutjob and is more just expressing a natural suspicion of a group of dudes meeting up to pull some random doctrines out of the unmentionables.
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« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2012, 08:46:04 AM »

Our faith aught to mimic the first century, and not the 7th, 8th or 12th.

Our faith doesn't "mimic" anything but is a living continuation of what was delivered in the first century and has consistently been handed down throughout the 4th, 7th, 8th, 12th, 21st centuries being explained in ways that deal with issues as they arise throughout history in various times and places. One example would be the unanimous pre-Nicene teachings of Ss Polycarp, Ignatius, and Iranaeus (to name a few) concerning the importance of apostolic succesion, authority of the bishops, and their place as the center of Eucharistic unity both within a particular local church under one bishop and among local churches recognized by the mutual acceptance of brother bishops.

Just a thought.
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« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2012, 09:19:30 AM »

It may be best to approach him not head on with the Orthodox POV but from the side, so to speak, with the testimony of heterodox who have seeked the New Testment Church and found it in the Orthodox Church or found unbroken continuity to the present day. Here are two books that may be of help:

The Rev. Peter E. Gillquist, Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith. Conciliar Press, 1989.

Andreas J. Kostenberger and Michael J. Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity.  Crossway Books, 2010.

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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2012, 10:37:32 AM »

I have been having a pleasant and interesting discussion with an online Christian friend who rejects Sola Scriptura but also rejects Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I am used to combatting Sola Scriptura Protestantism, but this person holds to a unique position with which I am not too familiar. He also rejects Protestantism. Apparrently he is not part of any organized denomination or Church. He said he is striving to be like the Bareans. I like this guy alot, and I sense a real sincerity about him. My thinking was very similar to his before I became Orthodox, except that I was not as learned he is.

Here is how he essentially explains his position:

"I think prima scriptura would be a good way to explain my position. The idea of sola scrip is logically indefensible. Especially when the term was coined by a preacher/author/expositer/comentator. I believe the brethren, the spirit, the scriptures and divine circumstance all contribute to leading the saints into truth. I use the ANF (Ante Nicene Fathers) as a commentary to resolve questions and as a testimony where they agree in a catholic way. I.E., all the fathers teach the same about atonement, justification, holiness, baptism, etc. They also singularly voice local custom and specific local and regional issues.

My problem primarily is that the faith was once delivered. Our faith aught to mimic the first century, and not the 7th, 8th or 12th. I find things introduced by the counsels that have no relevance or bearing in the apostolic or post apostolic church. I want the faith that was first delivered. In my humble opinion, that witness: rejected the sword, forswore all images, was filled with the holy ghost, performed signs and wonders, was extremely evangelistic, and bought the conversion of the world with their blood. This is what I long to emulate."



So, I'm trying to provide him with an Orthodox response to his views. Basically, what I have reiterated to him thus far is that while I respect and understand his sincere desire to conform to the early Church, our individual understanding of the Christian Faith will never be as accurate as the Teachings and Traditions of the Church as established and clairified by the councils and the wisdom of the fathers. Of course, this becomes sort of circular reasoning, because he views many of the Teachings and Traditions of the Church as invalid and even antithetical to the practices and beliefs of the early Church.

Thanks for any insights and help you can give me.


Selam


He sounds like he follows David W. Bercot and his Kingdom Christian movement. I use to follow his online ministry way back in the day(from 1997 to 2003). Check out this blog post for more details:

http://ancientchristiandefender.blogspot.com/2010/05/why-dream-died-and-will-keep-dying.html (Why the Dream died, and will keep dying)

As well as this blog from a friend of mine who also use to follow his movement:
http://earlychurchremnant.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2009-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2010-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=5 (Early Church and Remnant Christianity 2009 archives)

His other blog, which also might be of some help is:
http://hesychasticlayman.blogspot.com/ (The Hesychastic Layman )

A good book to get in regards to early christians and images is this:
http://www.amazon.com/Early-Christian-Attitudes-toward-Images/dp/097456186X (Early Christian Attitudes toward Images)


I know alot of people just like your friend. Most of them are alone with no place to really go or fellowship at. Orthodoxy will be a great home for them, but they will have to give up some of their convictions in order to make that jump.

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« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2012, 11:17:25 AM »

Thank you guys. That is very helpful.

I think my friend would say that the veneration of the Theotokos was a later invention/addition not held by the early fathers.

Another reason he rejects Orthodoxy is he doesn't believe there is any New Testament or ANF precedent for the wedding of the state and the Church. How would I answer this?


Selam

A Syrian king converted to christianity long before Constantine. And so there was no ban on royals becoming Christian, even in the pre-Nicene age.

The non-Christian Oxford church history professor talks about this in passing. A video(the whole series use to be on youtube) of it use to be on youtube,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2c_wHpAaLI (Diarmaid MacCulloch's A History of Christianity)


 but you can always buy the kindle book:
http://www.amazon.com/Christianity-First-Three-Thousand-Years/dp/0670021261 (Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years) (the 3 thousand is not a mistake, he starts one thousand years before christianity in talking about Judaism and the Greeks then he moves on to Christianity)


Yes, he is a non-christian and a liberal, but he's different from most other non-christian and liberal Academics. Like everyone he has a bias, but it doesn't always get in the way of the topic he is trying to discuss. And this is what I like about him the most. But yes, I don't like it when he talks about his own personal views and lifestyle and brings them into the discussion.

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« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2012, 12:36:37 PM »

Quote
forswore all images

Your friend is definitely wrong there. The Roman catacombs are full of images, proto-icons, if you like. And ante-Nicene fathers such as Sts Basil the Great and Dionysius the Areopagite mention icons in their writings. St John of Damascus quotes a good number of these early Fathers in his In Defense of the Holy Images.

And what is your friend's position on the Mother of God?

Unfortunately (from Gebre's point of view in this particular discussion) St. Basil the Great is definitely a Post-Nicene Father. And while St. Dionysius the Areopagite is obviously ante-Nicene, modern scholars are pretty unanimous in ascribing his works to a Pseudo-Dionysius who is also firmly dated post-Nicene. Since Gebre's friend does not at this point accept a concept like Holy Tradition, he's unlikely to take references to the Areopagite's writings as any more authoritative than the rest of the Post-Nicene Fathers he's  not considering authorities.

(In addition, I'd actually recommend that Gebre not start with the Theotokos at this point. Don't avoid it if it comes up, but don't push him to start staking out a position. First, because many Protestants (and despite his disavowals, his mindset is clearly coming out of the Protestant tradition), have an irrational emotional reaction to the doctrines of the Theotokos which would mean Gebre would be trying to overcome both intellectual and emotional objections (i.e., twice as hard) rather than just intellectual ones. And second, because even if he succeeds, it doesn't actually move the conversation very far--the guy could acknowledge how wonderful the Theotokos is--but tthat won't get him any closer to accepting councils and bishops and Holy Tradition and the whole question of authority).
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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2012, 12:56:43 PM »

Does he agree with the faith stated in the Nicene Creed?
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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2012, 01:43:44 PM »

Man, I can certainly sympathize with the idea expressed in the initial post. One certainly does want to go back to the primitive period of the church as one's starting point in finding the consensus for interpreting Scriptural faith and practice--this has been a very important criteria for determining the truth from earliest times, and is probably best expressed by Vincent of Lerins.

However, the one big problem with limiting this consensus to the ante-Nicene period is the identity of the CANON itself, since our first list corresponding exactly to our 27 book NT dates to AD 367 which is 4 decades after Nicea.  It thus would be very difficult for one to completely dismiss the consensus of the historical episcopate after Constantine and Nicea while embracing the canon which belongs to that same consensus.  And, as several have correctly pointed out in this thread, this same historic episcopate, which arrived at the consensus regarding the boundaries of the Canon after Nicea, was in existence basically from the beginning (as Eusebius clearly documents).  Therefore it is highly problematic to embark on a lone-ranger Christian journey because of an arbitrary cut off point to where the foundation lies. 

The foundational consensus should at the very least cover the first 4-5 centuries (if one is going to accept the Church's decision regarding the canon), and since Christ promised the gates of hell wouldn not prevail agains the Church, the Holy Spirit's work in guiding the consensus is not limited to even this time period but would thus include later Church decisions/councils/creeds that are consistent with this earlier foundational consensus.
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« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2012, 02:16:07 PM »

Thank you guys. That is very helpful.

I think my friend would say that the veneration of the Theotokos was a later invention/addition not held by the early fathers.

Another reason he rejects Orthodoxy is he doesn't believe there is any New Testament or ANF precedent for the wedding of the state and the Church. How would I answer this?


Selam

He's right, the wedding of state and church first under Constantine was one of the most tragic events in the Churches history, the effects of which have been longstanding (but don't tell him that, it will only puff him up). We should desire to gradually rid the church of such influence, but not all at once.
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« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2012, 02:19:42 PM »

I would say that what he is doing is really no different from the buffet style christianity we see today that is all so common.
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« Reply #15 on: February 07, 2012, 04:10:09 PM »

"I think prima scriptura would be a good way to explain my position. The idea of sola scrip is logically indefensible. Especially when the term was coined by a preacher/author/expositer/comentator. I believe the brethren, the spirit, the scriptures and divine circumstance all contribute to leading the saints into truth. I use the ANF (Ante Nicene Fathers) as a commentary to resolve questions and as a testimony where they agree in a catholic way. I.E., all the fathers teach the same about atonement, justification, holiness, baptism, etc. They also singularly voice local custom and specific local and regional issues.

I was headed to bed when I first read your post, so I typed something hurriedly that I'd like to expand on.

Your friend sounds very similar to where I was in the period before I became Orthodox (one reason I can state that he actually is a Protestant. In that time period, I would have rejected the term as well, but with 20/20 hindsight I can see clearly how my thinking grew out of the general Protestant milieu. Not that it's worth  arguing with him about). And it's based on that experience, that I would strongly recommend that you focus on an element of doctrine he leaves off his list--'The Church'. What is it and how was it structured.

From Acts 2 on, it is very clear that the Apostles did not just go about convincing people to assent to a list of doctrines on "atonement, justification, holiness, baptism, etc". They went about establishing communities. Baptism was for salvation, certainly, but in the Scripture it also inextricably linked to "being added to the Church (Acts 2:47)". St. Cyprian's treatise is good for this. So is simply doing a search in the Pauline epistles for every time St. Paul talks about 'the body of Christ' or the 'one body'.

Once he has (hopefully) grasped that the 'community of believers' is an integral (and non-optional) part of the early Church he wishes to emulate, then the next question is how is that community structured. "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of  the saints." (I Cor 14:33) And again Scripture itself is clear that the apostles took care to appoint 'Overseers' (episcopos) and elders (presbyters) to direct the  Church once they are no longer physically present. St. Ignatius letters were written within a couple of decades of the death of St. John and to the same communities that had personally known the apostle. And they were written by a man who was on the way to his own martyrdom (i.e., he had nothing to gain from what he said, and said it knowing full well he would soon answer for it). And St. Ignatius is very clear about the integral role of the bishop as the head and central point of the community of believers. Without a bishop, there is no Church. (And as Melodist points out, you can follow this logic consistently down through the rest of the ANF. The role of bishop was never something anyone questioned until the 16th century. And the picture St. Ignatius paints is easily found in the Orthodox Church today.

You can combine this by looking to the Council of Jerusalem as a model of how the Church handled doctrinal questions/and or questions that affected more than a single local church. Notable there is that while all the apostles were gathered there, it is quite clearly St. James who is chairing that meeting, and who proclaims the final decision. St. James was the first bishop of Jerusalem; even secular historians who might avoid the word 'bishop' agree that the historical record is quite clear that after the Apostles left Jeruslem on their evangelistic mission, St. James was head of the church there. And so we see even in Scripture the dignity of the office of bishop, in that even while the Twelve were (mostly) still alive, when they met in council, the local bishop was a full participant in the council with them.

And once you accept that bishops, individually within the local church and as a body for the whole church, are the authorities set in place by the apostles, then it doesn't much matter whether you agree with an  individual council or not as time goes on. The bishops were the ones the Apostles appointed to make these decisions--not the individual believer.

It also might be a good idea to spend some time on the Eucharist. The biggest problem here is that there was such total agreement about the Eucharist that there wasn't a lot written about it in the early centuries. Everybody just *knew*. But if you can get past the Protestant error of 'it's just a memorial' to a recognition that something *real* and very sacred is happening with the Lord's Supper, then it becomes kind of inescapable that there must be an 'officiant' through whom that reality is effected. And that leads back to everything St. Ignatius has to say about bishops and how the community around them is united through participation in the Eucharist at which the bishop is the officiant.
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« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2012, 10:57:58 AM »

Great posts!
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« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2012, 02:44:21 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!



My problem primarily is that the faith was once delivered. Our faith aught to mimic the first century, and not the 7th, 8th or 12th. I find things introduced by the counsels that have no relevance or bearing in the apostolic or post apostolic church. I want the faith that was first delivered. In my humble opinion, that witness: rejected the sword, forswore all images, was filled with the holy ghost, performed signs and wonders, was extremely evangelistic, and bought the conversion of the world with their blood. This is what I long to emulate."[/i]
A) The use of images is completely Biblical

B) The ontology of the Church is simple, the Holy Spirit didn't speak exclusively to the first century Church, and then remains quiet for the duration, the Church is an activity of the Holy Spirit.

C) The "Scriptures" weren't canonized until the 4th century, by the Church.  So if folks reject the authority of the Church, they inherently reject the authority of Scriptures.

stay blessed,
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« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2012, 04:07:47 AM »

Thanks to all of you for the wonderful responses. (Please note that the quotations in the posts above are not mine, but my friend's. I don't want people thinking those are my words or my views.)

He has also asked me to post some more questions here, so I will do so soon.


Thank you again.


Selam
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« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2012, 04:12:09 AM »

Thank you guys. That is very helpful.

I think my friend would say that the veneration of the Theotokos was a later invention/addition not held by the early fathers.

Another reason he rejects Orthodoxy is he doesn't believe there is any New Testament or ANF precedent for the wedding of the state and the Church. How would I answer this?


Selam

He's right, the wedding of state and church first under Constantine was one of the most tragic events in the Churches history, the effects of which have been longstanding (but don't tell him that, it will only puff him up). We should desire to gradually rid the church of such influence, but not all at once.


Perhaps, but the wedding of the state and church in Ethiopia has been a wonderful thing, preserving Ethiopia as an island of Christianity in a sea of Islam and preserving her as the only African nation to never be colonized. Of course, this is an entirely separate discussion, but I just wanted to mention that.


Selam
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« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2012, 06:26:41 AM »

I have been having a pleasant and interesting discussion with an online Christian friend who rejects Sola Scriptura but also rejects Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I am used to combatting Sola Scriptura Protestantism, but this person holds to a unique position with which I am not too familiar. He also rejects Protestantism. Apparrently he is not part of any organized denomination or Church. He said he is striving to be like the Bareans. I like this guy alot, and I sense a real sincerity about him. My thinking was very similar to his before I became Orthodox, except that I was not as learned he is.

Here is how he essentially explains his position:

"I think prima scriptura would be a good way to explain my position. The idea of sola scrip is logically indefensible. Especially when the term was coined by a preacher/author/expositer/comentator. I believe the brethren, the spirit, the scriptures and divine circumstance all contribute to leading the saints into truth. I use the ANF (Ante Nicene Fathers) as a commentary to resolve questions and as a testimony where they agree in a catholic way. I.E., all the fathers teach the same about atonement, justification, holiness, baptism, etc. They also singularly voice local custom and specific local and regional issues.

My problem primarily is that the faith was once delivered. Our faith aught to mimic the first century, and not the 7th, 8th or 12th. I find things introduced by the counsels that have no relevance or bearing in the apostolic or post apostolic church. I want the faith that was first delivered. In my humble opinion, that witness: rejected the sword, forswore all images, was filled with the holy ghost, performed signs and wonders, was extremely evangelistic, and bought the conversion of the world with their blood. This is what I long to emulate."



So, I'm trying to provide him with an Orthodox response to his views. Basically, what I have reiterated to him thus far is that while I respect and understand his sincere desire to conform to the early Church, our individual understanding of the Christian Faith will never be as accurate as the Teachings and Traditions of the Church as established and clairified by the councils and the wisdom of the fathers. Of course, this becomes sort of circular reasoning, because he views many of the Teachings and Traditions of the Church as invalid and even antithetical to the practices and beliefs of the early Church.

Thanks for any insights and help you can give me.


Selam


He has no proof that the Apostles "forswore all images."  "Justification, atonement" etc. exposes his protestantism.

As for Church and State, how does he explain St. Paul trying to convert Agrippa the King in Acts.
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« Reply #21 on: February 09, 2012, 10:28:10 AM »

Thank you guys. That is very helpful.

I think my friend would say that the veneration of the Theotokos was a later invention/addition not held by the early fathers.

Another reason he rejects Orthodoxy is he doesn't believe there is any New Testament or ANF precedent for the wedding of the state and the Church. How would I answer this?


Selam

He's right, the wedding of state and church first under Constantine was one of the most tragic events in the Churches history, the effects of which have been longstanding (but don't tell him that, it will only puff him up). We should desire to gradually rid the church of such influence, but not all at once.

I think you should read this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Defending-Constantine-Twilight-Empire-Christendom/dp/0830827226 (Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom)





And this blog review:
http://orthodoxbridge.com/ (Book Review: Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom)





Saint Constantine wasn't really all that bad, especially if you compare him to jewish kings from the Old Testament and later Christian kings like Henry the 8th........etc.
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« Reply #22 on: February 09, 2012, 11:59:16 PM »

Thank you guys. That is very helpful.

I think my friend would say that the veneration of the Theotokos was a later invention/addition not held by the early fathers.

Another reason he rejects Orthodoxy is he doesn't believe there is any New Testament or ANF precedent for the wedding of the state and the Church. How would I answer this?


Selam

He's right, the wedding of state and church first under Constantine was one of the most tragic events in the Churches history, the effects of which have been longstanding (but don't tell him that, it will only puff him up). We should desire to gradually rid the church of such influence, but not all at once.

I think you should read this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Defending-Constantine-Twilight-Empire-Christendom/dp/0830827226 (Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom)





And this blog review:
http://orthodoxbridge.com/ (Book Review: Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom)





Saint Constantine wasn't really all that bad, especially if you compare him to jewish kings from the Old Testament and later Christian kings like Henry the 8th........etc.
Heh, what a day -- a book by a Presbyterian being recommended for Orthodox defense... Though, of course, it would be a Leithart book.
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« Reply #23 on: February 11, 2012, 02:18:10 AM »

Thank you guys. That is very helpful.

I think my friend would say that the veneration of the Theotokos was a later invention/addition not held by the early fathers.

Another reason he rejects Orthodoxy is he doesn't believe there is any New Testament or ANF precedent for the wedding of the state and the Church. How would I answer this?


Selam

He's right, the wedding of state and church first under Constantine was one of the most tragic events in the Churches history, the effects of which have been longstanding (but don't tell him that, it will only puff him up). We should desire to gradually rid the church of such influence, but not all at once.

I think you should read this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Defending-Constantine-Twilight-Empire-Christendom/dp/0830827226 (Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom)





And this blog review:
http://orthodoxbridge.com/ (Book Review: Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom)





Saint Constantine wasn't really all that bad, especially if you compare him to jewish kings from the Old Testament and later Christian kings like Henry the 8th........etc.
Heh, what a day -- a book by a Presbyterian being recommended for Orthodox defense... Though, of course, it would be a Leithart book.

Yup!
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« Reply #24 on: February 11, 2012, 03:44:20 AM »

Some more questions and comments from my friend:

"Primarily, what was expected of a saint subjected to heresy, say an arian bishop and how would the argument of pride and independant protestant thought not be just as valid against him as someone else who feels like the church is holding an apostate position?

Secondly if the high church with its succession is the answer, isn't someone still at the mercy of their own judgement as to what they will and wont accept; since the east recieves 2 councils, coptics 3, greeks 7, anglicans 6 and RCC 21? (I dont know if those numbers are right, im going off of memory, but you get my point.)

And what about rival bishops and patriarchs and popes?

It seems inescapable that a man is left with his reason and conscience to discern right from wrong even as regards the church.

The bearing of the sword and mixture of carnal kingdoms with ALL the high churches is inexcusable in my opinion. I cannot imagine being in a place where I could ever accept anything calling itself the body of the Prince of Peace using the sword of the world. It must be apostate. It goes against every single thing I know of the cross and the Christ.
(I must confess that I have utmost sympathy with his concerns on this particular point. +GMK+)



Selam






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« Reply #25 on: February 11, 2012, 03:27:56 PM »

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« Reply #26 on: February 11, 2012, 03:48:37 PM »

It makes me kind of sad that someone would have the impulse to reject the history of the Church because he isn't comfortable with some of it; or that he isn't comfortable with the implication that what he was taught wasn't right. In school, people used to task, why do we need to know about the past? Because what you don't know can hurt you!  Smiley What if we forget about the truth, and any old thing creeps in, in its place? May the Lord help people who are searching.
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« Reply #27 on: February 11, 2012, 05:56:18 PM »

Some more questions and comments from my friend:

"Primarily, what was expected of a saint subjected to heresy, say an arian bishop and how would the argument of pride and independant protestant thought not be just as valid against him as someone else who feels like the church is holding an apostate position?

I'm not sure I understand the question. Is he asking what happened to a bishop charged with heresy? If a bishop (or priest or deacon) is accused of heresy then a council of bishops would meet to review his teaching. If it was in fact determined to be heretical, then the bishop would be called upon to recant/repent. If he persisted in his false teaching then he would be deposed (the Greek term is literally "laicized" - returned to the laity). That is, he would be removed from office.

Quote
Secondly if the high church with its succession is the answer, isn't someone still at the mercy of their own judgement as to what they will and wont accept; since the east recieves 2 councils, coptics 3, greeks 7, anglicans 6 and RCC 21? (I dont know if those numbers are right, im going off of memory, but you get my point.)

And what about rival bishops and patriarchs and popes?

It seems inescapable that a man is left with his reason and conscience to discern right from wrong even as regards the church.

None of the Churches he lists teaches simple blind obedience. He is correct that there remains an important role for the individual believer to use his reason and practice discernment ("study to show thyselves approved"). Even the RCC, which comes closest with the doctrine of Papal Infallibility fully recognizes that the individual believer must come to an reasonable individual acceptance (or rejection) of that doctrine before moving on to its implications.

Where Traditional/Apostolic Churches differ from the Protestant/modern independent Christian (and Anglicans would actually be on the Protestant side of this equation) on this is twofold: First and foremost, we take seriously Christ's promise that "I will found my Church, and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." This is why my original recommendation was to focus on the doctrine of the Church as found in Scripture and the early Fathers. There have always been and always will be controversies within the Church, whether caused by false teachers, men blinded by ambition, or simple misunderstandings ("we hold this treasure in jars of clay"). And those controversies have led to splits, whether temporary or permanent, where the individual believer must practice discernment to determine which side was right and which wrong. But because of Christ's promise, we know that there will always be a 'right side'. Whatever individuals, or even large groups of individuals, may fall into error, the Holy Spirit will preserve the Church. The duty of the individual believer, and the role of his reason, is to figure out which is the True Church, the one built on the 'foundation of the prophets and Apostles'--not to give up the struggle and go off to build his own foundation.

Secondly, while we definitely acknowledge the role of human reason, we recognize that like everything else about us, human reason is a limited and fallible thing. This is why we rely not only on our own reasoning, but look to the witness of the Fathers as a balance against the degree to which our own preconceptions and preferences are inevitably going to distort our reasoning (modern scientists call this confirmation bias and have repeatedly demonstrated how strong it is). If your opinion cannot be found in the Fathers, then that's all it is 'your opinion', however well reasoned you may think it is. I think it was G.K. Chesterton that made the point that "Tradition is a democracy where the dead get a vote" (thoroughly paraphrased by my faulty memory). Every person comes to the Scriptures with a boatload of personal and cultural preconceptions that affect how they read them. Looking at how holy men of the past, with different preconceptions helps to neutralize that (particularly since a 4th-century Greek speaker's preconceptions are necessarily going to be closer to the 1st-Century authors of the New Testament than those of a 20th-century English speaker).



Quote
The bearing of the sword and mixture of carnal kingdoms with ALL the high churches is inexcusable in my opinion. I cannot imagine being in a place where I could ever accept anything calling itself the body of the Prince of Peace using the sword of the world. It must be apostate. It goes against every single thing I know of the cross and the Christ. (I must confess that I have utmost sympathy with his concerns on this particular point. +GMK+)

Errors have been made. I don't think anyone would dispute that with him. We Orthodox do not believe that any individual is infallible, and it's entirely possible (actually expected) that someone could have been right on many things but wrong on a few. The problem with his view that "It must be apostate" is that, historically, he can only believe that by believing that the true Church vanished off the face of the earth sometime in the 5th century. I do not share the mindset of the Fathers who found themselves able to work within the framework of the secular authorities of Rome (and Persia and Armenia and Ethiopia) establishing a 'State Church' and then acting accordingly, but the fact is it happened. And while there was disagreement about which Church was the true Church and therefore about which should be the State Church, for a millenium there was no group holding any doctrine even vaguely describable as 'Christian' which did not either disappear (i.e., clearly not preserved by the Holy Spirit) or did not manage to work within such a State Church framework.
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« Reply #28 on: February 11, 2012, 06:57:37 PM »

Thanks Witega and everyone else. Very helpful answers.



Selam
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