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Author Topic: Wisdom Lost??  (Read 876 times) Average Rating: 0
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DennyB
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« on: April 20, 2012, 06:08:45 PM »

I was musing today,or day dreaming if you want to call it that,after reading some of Chrysostom's works. During my "musings", one word popped into my head,it was the word "Wisdom". When I think about the last few years in my search for both the truth,and the claims of the Orthodox Church. I find myself very thankful and humbled by the discovery of the vast treasures of  Early Church writings,and the lives of those early Saints. I asked myself the question in light of modern day Evangelicalism. Did wisdom come to an end with the death of the last Apostle??  It would seem so, according to some Evangelicals!!! and it wasn't resurrected until men like Huss,Wycliff,and Luther came along, it seems looking at the current landscape of the so called "Word of God" preaching,wisdom seems in short supply. It's more about novelty and entertainment these days.
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2012, 10:23:18 PM »

“…it seems looking at the current landscape of the so called "Word of God" preaching,wisdom seems in short supply. It's more about novelty and entertainment these days.”

Sadly, that does seem true – worship seems to have become more of a spectator sport than a participatory transcendence.  Part of the problem may be that many of today’s Christians were raised in front of the television and are oriented toward being fed novelty and entertainment.  I think it’s difficult to change deeply engrained habits that have roots that go all the way back to infancy – especially when there is no concerted effort to do so.  What may make it a doubly difficult problem is that many of the adults with these bad habits are being ordained into the ministry and truly believe that they are serving God by morphing worship into entertainment.

“Did wisdom come to an end with the death of the last Apostle??  It would seem so, according to some Evangelicals!!! and it wasn't resurrected until men like Huss,Wycliff,and Luther came along”

That’s not entirely accurate – many mistakenly think that it was resurrected by Augustine. Wink  I’d guess that much of this is situational in that they’ve never been taught about the existence of writings from the Church fathers, or any other writings pre-Reformation other than Scripture.  I think it’s more of a general educational problem than a problem with just Evangelicals - after all, I’ve spoken to Eastern Orthodox Christians who were actually appalled to hear that Jesus was a Jew.   They definitely weren’t taught, but maybe the larger, core problem is that they haven’t sincerely sought.  
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« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2012, 07:14:32 AM »

I've met no one who would suggest that the faith was lost after John and before Luther, either they suggest there were true believers just not known to anyone or just say the fathers have been misunderstood. Strange thing is many evangelicals and protestants would consider what Luther taught concerning things like the sacraments and mary abomindable.
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2012, 07:25:44 AM »

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that modern day Evangelicals
have a hard time making a distinction  between individual wisdom
And the "collective wisdom" that God grants to those who seek after him, but
I would assume if personal liberty and freedom is the norm than the
Humility to seek this "collective wisdom" especially concerning the Fathers, is
lost!
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2012, 12:38:14 PM »

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that modern day Evangelicals
have a hard time making a distinction  between individual wisdom
And the "collective wisdom" that God grants to those who seek after him, but
I would assume if personal liberty and freedom is the norm than the
Humility to seek this "collective wisdom" especially concerning the Fathers, is
lost!

Probably because they gain most all their wisdom by study and logic, not through Worship in community.  Just a thought
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DennyB
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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2012, 01:39:24 PM »

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that modern day Evangelicals
have a hard time making a distinction  between individual wisdom
And the "collective wisdom" that God grants to those who seek after him, but
I would assume if personal liberty and freedom is the norm than the
Humility to seek this "collective wisdom" especially concerning the Fathers, is
lost!

Probably because they gain most all their wisdom by study and logic, not through Worship in community.  Just a thought

Yes indeed!!! That is why I find much encouragement from reading the Fathers,and about the lives of past Saints.

Living in modern American culture,wisdom seems to be a very rare commodity.
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David Young
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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2012, 04:27:30 AM »

I asked myself the question in light of modern day Evangelicalism. Did wisdom come to an end with the death of the last Apostle??  It would seem so, according to some Evangelicals!!! and it wasn't resurrected until men like Huss,Wycliff,and Luther came along ... It's more about novelty and entertainment these days.

You are muddling two different things: the traditional Evangelical perception of the subapostolic age and beyond (i.e. of church history); and the 21st-century craze for novelty prevalent in some strands of Evangelicalism. The second is of no pressing interest to me, as it has not really affected (or infected) our church here in Wrexham to any distressing degree; but I agree that the first raises some puzzling and perplexing questions and needs to be addressed.

First, a scripture, Judges 2.7-10: "The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work which the Lord had done... And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done." Two questions: (1) Is this the usual pattern, or even always the pattern? (2) Is the church founded by the apostles upon Christ an exception?

(1) In my perception it is the usual pattern - maybe always the pattern. Throughout the OT there were times of spiritual revival, when the people turned earnestly to God, followed by times of decline in spirituality. In the NT we constantly read in the epistles and in Revelation of churches beginning to slide away and needing to be called back. In church history I see the same pattern time and again. Thinking for a moment only of movements of God's Spirit in Britain, what has happened to Wesleyan Methodism in the past, say, 200 years? to Calvinistic Methodism (mainly prevalent in Wales rather than England)? To the churches established by the Primitive Methodists from the 1830s onwards in my own home county? Why did the General Baptists, established here in 1612, nearly all slide into Unitarianism by the end of the next century (though some, praise God, pulled themselves together and started afresh)? Looking abroad, what has happened to the Moravians? the Waldensians? None of them, as a body (I do not mean no individual believers), retains its initial beliefs or fervour. All have gone into spiritual decline, and I believe (not surprisingly) numerical decline. So: OT, NT, church history - over and over again a move of God's Spirit which lasts for a generation or two, sometimes longer, then a cooling off.

(2) Was the early church an exception to this pattern? Firstly, it seems clear that there have always been men raised up to call the church back from decline: to name just a very few, here in Britain one might think of Ælfric, Archbp Wulfstan, Wycliffe, Wesley and many others; abroad, what about Savonarola, Francis of Assisi, Luther, and again many others? The stream of devotion and fervour has never permanently died out. In turning from the NT to the post-apostolic writings, it is plain that one is breathing a different atmosphere: the central concerns and emphases are different; new ideas spring up, others are sidelined. Did the church gradually lose its early fervour ("I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first")? Or did it grow and develop always according to the wishes of God?

The Evangelical perception is that, over time and the generations, the church slid away from its early fervour and from holding as central the things which are indeed central. I get the impression that the Orthodox perception is the opposite.

Of course there was always wise, edifying, Christ-centred writing, and one can progress through the Fathers to the mediæval church and on to the present, and find a rich seam of nourishment. Few would deny that, I hope. But even if you Orthodox are not persuaded by our perception of church history, you ought at least to grant it respect as a view which can be humbly and sincerely held, not inconsistent with every possible interpretation of scripture or history.
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DennyB
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« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2012, 06:01:11 AM »

I asked myself the question in light of modern day Evangelicalism. Did wisdom come to an end with the death of the last Apostle??  It would seem so, according to some Evangelicals!!! and it wasn't resurrected until men like Huss,Wycliff,and Luther came along ... It's more about novelty and entertainment these days.

You are muddling two different things: the traditional Evangelical perception of the subapostolic age and beyond (i.e. of church history); and the 21st-century craze for novelty prevalent in some strands of Evangelicalism. The second is of no pressing interest to me, as it has not really affected (or infected) our church here in Wrexham to any distressing degree; but I agree that the first raises some puzzling and perplexing questions and needs to be addressed.

First, a scripture, Judges 2.7-10: "The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work which the Lord had done... And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done." Two questions: (1) Is this the usual pattern, or even always the pattern? (2) Is the church founded by the apostles upon Christ an exception?

(1) In my perception it is the usual pattern - maybe always the pattern. Throughout the OT there were times of spiritual revival, when the people turned earnestly to God, followed by times of decline in spirituality. In the NT we constantly read in the epistles and in Revelation of churches beginning to slide away and needing to be called back. In church history I see the same pattern time and again. Thinking for a moment only of movements of God's Spirit in Britain, what has happened to Wesleyan Methodism in the past, say, 200 years? to Calvinistic Methodism (mainly prevalent in Wales rather than England)? To the churches established by the Primitive Methodists from the 1830s onwards in my own home county? Why did the General Baptists, established here in 1612, nearly all slide into Unitarianism by the end of the next century (though some, praise God, pulled themselves together and started afresh)? Looking abroad, what has happened to the Moravians? the Waldensians? None of them, as a body (I do not mean no individual believers), retains its initial beliefs or fervour. All have gone into spiritual decline, and I believe (not surprisingly) numerical decline. So: OT, NT, church history - over and over again a move of God's Spirit which lasts for a generation or two, sometimes longer, then a cooling off.

(2) Was the early church an exception to this pattern? Firstly, it seems clear that there have always been men raised up to call the church back from decline: to name just a very few, here in Britain one might think of Ælfric, Archbp Wulfstan, Wycliffe, Wesley and many others; abroad, what about Savonarola, Francis of Assisi, Luther, and again many others? The stream of devotion and fervour has never permanently died out. In turning from the NT to the post-apostolic writings, it is plain that one is breathing a different atmosphere: the central concerns and emphases are different; new ideas spring up, others are sidelined. Did the church gradually lose its early fervour ("I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first")? Or did it grow and develop always according to the wishes of God?

The Evangelical perception is that, over time and the generations, the church slid away from its early fervour and from holding as central the things which are indeed central. I get the impression that the Orthodox perception is the opposite.

Of course there was always wise, edifying, Christ-centred writing, and one can progress through the Fathers to the mediæval church and on to the present, and find a rich seam of nourishment. Few would deny that, I hope. But even if you Orthodox are not persuaded by our perception of church history, you ought at least to grant it respect as a view which can be humbly and sincerely held, not inconsistent with every possible interpretation of scripture or history.


I realize to a certain degree, I can't lay blame entirely on Western Protestantism,because of their centuries of isolation from the East. Whether you would call it ignorance,language barriers,etc. They simply worked with what they had available. But I have always been puzzled by the fact that there have been those who see the light,who see the validity of Orthodoxy,and yet choose to remain where they are. Why?? maybe it's the fact that to submit to Orthodoxy means they must SUBMIT!!,and they don't like the idea of having a spiritual life with physical strings attached, whether it be sacramental strings,the strings of authority,and accountability to a physical Church.  But isn't this what sets Christianity appart from other religious systems?
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« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2012, 07:49:12 AM »

I have always been puzzled by the fact that there have been those who see the light,who see the validity of Orthodoxy, and yet choose to remain where they are. Why?

I think it depends on what you understand by "see the light... validity of Orthodoxy". Validity first: valid as what? They probably do not see it as having a valid claim to be the only true church, but maybe they see much within it that is truly Christian, spiritual, holy, that is valid as Christian, and they (to change the metaphor) are happy to feed their minds and souls on Orthodox writings, and to view Orthodox believers as their true brethren, without coming to believe that Orthodoxy is the only place where true believers and true Christianity are found. I have little - nay, no - doubt that some of the Orthodox whom I have read or spoken to are my brethren and sisters in Christ, that their experience of him, nurtured within Orthodoxy, is as valid as mine. It in no way makes me feel I should separate from the Baptist church where I am in membership.

So second, see the light: I see light in Orthodoxy rather than the light of Orthodoxy, but I reckon that what I see is the light of God's Spirit. I see it also in some Wesleyan, Pietist, Cistercian writings, etc.

Once you abandon - or never embrace - the concept of an "only true church", finding Christ in people and writings of other denominations presents no problems. Why do I choose to stay where I am? Well, as a stranger moving to the town some 35 years ago, I could choose where to worship without breaking any prior loyalty. As it happens, the church we chose is probably the spiritually most thriving in the town; as it also happens, I am a Baptist by persuasion, and it is a Baptist church. There are good reasons for staying, whilst continuing to enjoy fellowship with other real Christians in other denominations.

I hope that goes some way to solving your puzzlement.
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« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2012, 11:29:08 AM »

Did wisdom come to an end with the death of the last Apostle??  It would seem so, according to some Evangelicals!!! and it wasn't resurrected until men like Huss,Wycliff,and Luther came along, it seems looking at the current landscape of the so called "Word of God" preaching,wisdom seems in short supply.

I'd venture to suggest that most Evangelicals don't think about Jan Hus or John Wycliffe very often, if at all, and would probably be a bit surprised by some of the "protestant" teachings of Martin Luther.
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« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2012, 11:43:23 AM »

most Evangelicals don't think about Jan Hus or John Wycliffe very often,

You are right, but Wycliffe is better known, perhaps because of the things named after him (Wycliffe Bible Translators especially).
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« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2012, 12:28:35 PM »

The Evangelical perception is that, over time and the generations, the church slid away from its early fervour and from holding as central the things which are indeed central. I get the impression that the Orthodox perception is the opposite.

Orthodoxy would agree with you that the cycle of fervor-->complacency--> decadence/apathy/apostasy --> renewal is fairly universal, not only to humans in communities but in the individual as well. Where we would differ from the rest of your analysis is, I think, twofold:

1) Your identification of Protestant factionalism with the "men raised up to call the church back from decline". When God raised up a prophet for Israel, that prophet summoned the nation as a whole back to the ancient covenant, to the one faith; he did not start another faction within that faith. When Christ came, He did not come to a Judaism divided into Gideonites, Elijists, Isaians, and Branch Davidians. First-century Judaism had its schools--but none of them traced back to the actual Prophets, all of whom taught the same message. And indeed, even when you move from Israel to the Church, the first names on your list (Aelfric and Wulfstan--and the list could be expanded greatly if you went beyond England) called the people *back* to their fervor within One Church, One Faith. If you look at the whole history of the Church prior the Reformation (or perhaps the Great Schism, since Orthodoxy would argue that Rome having already split off from the true Church is part of what changed the context for the reformers who evenutally came along), those 'reformers' who reinvigorate the faithful and restore the faith always did so within the the context of one church, one faith--the only ones who set up congregations of their own were the heretics (Montanists, Arians, Nestorians) who had failed to get their heresies received into the Church.

2) You completely skip over the role of the Holy Spirit. Yes, there was a standard pattern in the OT. And yes, humans are still humans so that pattern appears again in the Church. But did the descent of the Holy Spirit change *nothing*? That is, Orthodoxy recognizes that the pattern occurs--but we trust in the Holy Spirit that no matter how badly humans fall into their old patterns, He will preserve the Church. (Indeed, I'm not even sure that this is unique to the NT. In the depths of his despair over Israel's apostasy, God told Elijah: "I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him").
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« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2012, 12:47:23 PM »

most Evangelicals don't think about Jan Hus or John Wycliffe very often,

You are right, but Wycliffe is better known, perhaps because of the things named after him (Wycliffe Bible Translators especially).

Touche.
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« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2012, 01:24:32 PM »

that prophet summoned the nation as a whole back to the ancient covenant, to the one faith; he did not start another faction within that faith.

I don't think any of the men I mention wanted to start a new faction: they (or their followers in a later generation) were expelled from the church they loved.

Quote
You completely skip over the role of the Holy Spirit.

Not really: I said I see these men and their work as moves of the Spirit. He 'bloweth where he listeth', and the query is whether such movements appear by divine initiative in different places, at different times, and are always followed by decline. I suspect the question of why is something of a mystery; certainly I do not feel I have a firm hold on or understanding of an answer.
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« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2012, 03:09:33 PM »

that prophet summoned the nation as a whole back to the ancient covenant, to the one faith; he did not start another faction within that faith.

I don't think any of the men I mention wanted to start a new faction: they (or their followers in a later generation) were expelled from the church they loved.

Quote
You completely skip over the role of the Holy Spirit.

Not really: I said I see these men and their work as moves of the Spirit. He 'bloweth where he listeth', and the query is whether such movements appear by divine initiative in different places, at different times, and are always followed by decline. I suspect the question of why is something of a mystery; certainly I do not feel I have a firm hold on or understanding of an answer.

Perhaps I did expound my original points sufficiently, but neither of these answers is really responsive to the points I made.
Yes, (most of) the Protestant Reformers didn't set out to found their own faction and when the split came it was at least as much a matter of being forced out as of leaving voluntarily. But that doesn't change the fact that that was *not* the pattern with the Old Testament Prophets or figures like Aelfric and Wulfstan. None of them ended up voluntarily or involuntarily setting up a separate faction that can be tracked back to them. If you are going to try to link the Reformation leaders to the ancient prophets, you really need to explain why--if the underlying pattern is the same, and the Holy Spirit doing the 'raising up' is the same, the results are so radically different.

Which also ties to my second point--I didn't mean to say that you ignored the Holy Spirit entirely (and I realize now that my phrasing was misleading on that point), but that you ignored the *Descent of the Holy Spirit*. That is, you are arguing that the pattern discernable in God's relationship with the old Israel continues to repeat with the New Israel. But in between the two, the Messiah came, God walked Incarnate among us, and the Holy Spirit descended and indwelt in the members of the new Israel, particularly its leaders the Apostles, in a way He had never done under the Old Dispensation. One would think that would have an impact on whether the Church simply repeates the old patterns of Israel or not--Orthodoxy certainly believes it does, your paradigm seems to assume it does not.
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« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2012, 03:51:03 PM »

As usual, David Young gives an entirely too thoughtful and well crafted reply to an OP which has all the markings going nowhere and rehashing the SOS.

Thankfully, witega is around offer thoughtful response.

I hope folks don't snipe with cutting snippets of David Young's reply and piling on one sentence or two.


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« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2012, 04:54:58 PM »

I just noticed that I left out a 'not' in my last response--I think the whole makes more sense when it begins:
"Perhaps I did not expound my original points sufficiently ..."
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« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2012, 03:06:45 AM »

you really need to explain why--if the underlying pattern is the same, and the Holy Spirit doing the 'raising up' is the same, the results are so radically different...

my second point... the *Descent of the Holy Spirit*.

Your two questions, though not the same, are related. In re the second, I do not feel competent to explain the difference between the relationship OT believers had with God through the Spirit, and the relationship NT believers have with God through the same Spirit, though I agree wholeheartedly that they are different. The Spirit now indwells all God's children, both individually and, no doubt in a different sense, the whole church as the Body of Christ. But I do not feel able to relate this to the pattern we are discussing of renewal and decline. So to your first point...

There seem to be three explanations which could be advanced as to why this pattern of renewal and decline (clearly observable in the OT) continues through church history to the present day, despite Pentecost:

1) These movements are not real Christian churches, being separated from Orthodoxy, and that is why they cannot sustain themselves. Obviously, I don't go along with that one, but it could be advanced as the reason.

2) As the wind or Spirit "bloweth where it listeth", it is God's chosen modus operandi to send times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, in diverse times and places, but not constantly in all times and places where his church exists. Sometimes it is brief - witness the 1904-5 Revival in Wales - sometimes prolonged - withness the early Moravian and Methodist movements (or movement, if you link them). But it is always withdrawn in God's time, and his followers are left to live a more 'usual' life of devotion and obedience, often in situations of great spiritual dearth - witness the Communist or Moslem environments of recent years.

3) Man loses his first love, cools off, and abandons his fervour, as seems to have been happening in the early chapters of Revelation. If man would sustain his spiritual ardour, God would sustain the renewal and expansion of his church.

Now I cannot say which of the latter two is correct, or whether there is a fourth which I have not thought of. If I did know, and were eloquent in speech or writing, I suspect men would flock to me to find the answer and revitalise their languishing churches! But I suspect the true explanation, as far as man can penetrate the mind and ways of God, is a combination of the second and third points; that God does indeed send these times of refreshing, but also withdraws them and looks for a different sort of submission from his church by which the Christian remains devout and faithful despite the most advserse of surrounding circumstances.

Embedded in your posts is the question of why some who are raised up (as I see it) have success, some seemingly fail and are rejected or even slain by their own people (prophets, Savonarola, Cranmer, and many other martyrs), and some start new factions. I do not think there is in fact a radical difference in the 'prophets' (not the word I would choose for them) or their intentions; rather, I think that in different times and places their one shared aim attracts a different response.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 03:09:06 AM by David Young » Logged

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