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Author Topic: Issues Surrounding Dr. George Bebawi  (Read 4525 times) Average Rating: 0
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Severian
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« on: August 09, 2012, 01:57:10 AM »

Could someone please give me a concise summary as to what issues occurred between Dr. Bebawi and the Church in the 80s? What is his current status with the Church? Are his views Orthodox?

Here is a translation of some warnings he published about emerging heresies within the (Coptic) Orthodox Church of Alexandria:

-----------------------------------------------------–-----------------------------

http://tasbeha.org/content/community/index.php/topic,13611.msg158688.html#msg158688

+++


First: Whoever says that the Church is not the Body of Christ, but that it is a social institution or a society of believers only; then he denies his birth from water and Spirit and has returned to his first birth from Adam that is dominated by death.

Second: Whoever says that the phrase and name “Body of Christ” is an analogy or symbol that has no significance to the divine life; then he has divided the Head from the Body, that is, he has divided Christ from the Church, and as such no longer has hope in the new life that has conquered death.

Third: Whoever denies the holiness of the Church, and that it is the gift of God the Father in the Son through the Holy Spirit, because the Church, that is, the Body of Jesus who was christened by the Holy Spirit so that we may be christened in Him, as St. Athanasius said (Contra Arianus, 2:37-38); then he denies the economy of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection as the foundations of the Church, and has divided the Spirit of God the Father from the Son, thus losing eternal life.

Fourth: Whoever says that he communes of the Body and Blood of the Lord without his divinity has fallen into the condemnation of the anathemas listed in the Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.), and has become a partner with Nestorius.

Fifth: Whoever denies the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, upon the believers, and teaches the lie that this is a descent of grace only; then he has divided his participation with the Trinity and has lost his eternal inheritance, and even his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 8:11).

Sixth: Whoever teaches that the Mysteries are from the clergy and that they are its source rather than its servants only; then he has denied the priesthood of the Lord Jesus, and he has lost the power and work of the one Mediator and one Lord, Jesus Christ, who alone offers us to the service of the Mysteries that he distributes by himself.

Seventh: Whoever thinks that the holiness of a person is rooted in the episcopate or priesthood, or that the holiness of the bishop or the priest is the reason for him remaining holy; then he has denied his baptism and the chrism, and his participation in the one, holy, and catholic body of the Church.

Eighth: Whoever thinks that the bishop or priest, etc., are the mediators between himself and the Saviour Jesus Christ our Lord; then he has fallen far from the grace that comes from and is given by the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

Ninth: Whoever says that the Patriarch is the head of the Church, or says so in theory; then he as denied the leadership of Christ, the head, from whom grows every member of the body (Col. 2:19), and he no longer has eternal hope in God, because he has made something instituted upon humans and not upon the Lord the salvation of the Church and the redemption of whoever believes in him.

Tenth: Whoever thinks that the Lord paid the price of sins on the Cross, and that the Father has punished him and lighted on him the fire of divine justice, has by this tasted the bitterness of straying away from the Apostolic teachings that the disciple of the Lord taught saying: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). He has lost the fountain of salvation, the Cross, the seal of baptism and chrismation, because he has not been sealed by a seal of punishment and retribution from the Son, but by the seal of righteousness, love, forgiveness, and renewal.

Eleventh: Whoever imagines that the Lord died to unite justice with mercy, and that “eternal sins” required an eternal redemption; then he has by this given sin a divine attribute, which is the attribute of eternality, and made a god out of sin and sinners. By this he loses the powerful work of Christ crucified, for with him we are crucified, die, and resurrect, as the Apostle of the Lord says in Rom. 6:1-8. By our death in him, we also rise to newness of life, and whoever denies the power of the Cross denies the glory of the Resurrection.

Twelfth: Whoever denies that we are partakers of the divine nature (1 Pet. 2:4), and that this is partaking in immortality, adoption, resurrection, and inheritance of the Kingdom; then he he has denied the the divinity of the Lord, who has given us from his immortality, his sonship, his resurrection, and has promised that we will be on the right hand of the Father in his Second Appearance.

I have not written here any anathemas, but warnings. I hope that what is said will not be lost in the uproar of the mob -- but those who are enlightened, will know of the seriousness of what I wrote.

May God the Father forgive us all and make us steadfast in grace, for he alone can protect the Church of Egypt, the Body of his Only-Begotten Son, for he is the redeemer of this Body, which is his Body.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2012, 02:02:29 AM by Severian » Logged

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -Jesus Christ (Cf. St. John 16:33)
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« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2012, 04:38:09 AM »

George Bebawi was excommunicated from the Coptic Church back in 2007- although I've read a report (in Arabic, here http://www.coptstoday.com/Copts-News/Detail.php?Id=13945) that this excommunication either has been or is about to be lifted. In the 1980's Dr. Bebawi had joined the Russian Orthodox Church, and from there went on to become an Anglican. I have no idea what church he is currently a member of.

That said, most of the theological points he makes here would be mainstream in (Eastern) Orthodoxy, as well as likely within the non-Coptic Oriental Orthodox churches, although some of his ecclesiological points here could certainly be read as having a Protestant intent, depending on how generously you read them.

Points four (the question of consuming divinity in the Eucharist) and twelve (the question of if we are partakers of the divine nature) are particularly interesting, because these two points were strongly rejected by the late Pope Shenouda III in a collection of pamphlets against the concept of theosis that were collected into a volume entitled "Contemporary Heresies". In any case, Pope Shenouda's take on this particular question, in which he relied heavily on the Islamic concepts of "shirk" and "tahrif" in arguing against Dr. Bebawi and Matta al-Maskin, goes a long way in demonstrating that contemporary Coptic theology is in many ways profoundly different from contemporary (Eastern) Orthodox theology. I'm personally inclined to agree with Dr. Bebawi that Pope Shenouda's basic concern-- emphasizing the absolute impossibility of ontological communion between God and humanity, put him much closer to the theology of Nestorius than to St. Cyrill. In any case, if more information about that controversy had been available in languages other than Arabic, I kind of doubt that (Eastern) Orthodox would be as sympathetic to Coptic theology as they tend to be....
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Severian
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« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2012, 04:51:31 AM »

^Issues regarding the late Patriarch of Alexandria and Theosis have been discussed before in detail. No need to hash it out here again. Anyway, we DO NOT EAT the Divinity when we consume the Eucharist. We consume the body and blood of Jesus Christ which is hypostatically united to the Divine nature. It is this unity between the two natures (Divine and human) which makes the flesh and blood life-giving. Divinity is intangible and inedible, to say we consume the Divinity itself is Synousianism. In any case, Pope Shenouda, like all Orthodox Patriarchs (not sure how it works out in the Byzantine Churches), has no more theological power than any other (Oriental) Orthodox Bishop around the world. So, even if what you were saying is true, I do not think the views of one Archbishop reflect as to whether or not modern Orthodox theology is different from Byzantine theology.

From this point forward, I would only like OOs and non-polemecist EOs to respond. I do not want this thread to get hijacked and sent to the private fora.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2012, 04:55:42 AM by Severian » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2012, 04:56:58 AM »

In both Byzantine and Roman Catholic theology, we do partake of Christ's divinity in the Eucharist, so this is a major difference between Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian theology...

 In any case, the formal excommunication of Dr. Bebwawi was the closest the Synod of Coptic Church came to formally approving of Pope Shenouda's theology, though it is notable that they did not condemn followers of Matta al-Maskin, who agree with Dr. Bebawi and disagree with Pope Shenouda on the points dealing with the Eucharist and theosis... If the report about a rehabilitation of Dr. Bebawi is true, this is further evidence that contemporary Coptic thinking on these questions is very much in a state of flux.
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Severian
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« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2012, 05:00:09 AM »

^I am not denying that the Eucharist is a means by which we "partake of the Divine nature." What I am denying is that the Divine essence is tangible and edible. The Divine essence is incorporeal in property.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2012, 05:12:30 AM by Severian » Logged

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -Jesus Christ (Cf. St. John 16:33)
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« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2012, 05:03:18 AM »

^I am not denying that the Eucharist is a means by which we "partake of the Divine nature." What I am denying is that the Divine essence is tangible and edible. The Divine essence is incorporeal in property.
To provide a quote from St. Cyril of Alexandria:

"When we eat, we are not consuming the Godhead—perish the awful thought—but the Word's own flesh, which has been made life-giving because it is the flesh of him who lives because of the Father." [Contra Nestorium 4. 5 (ACO 1. 1. 6. 85)]
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« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2012, 05:18:54 AM »

Ah, ok... well I don't think anyone anywhere is arguing that divinity is tangible.... (Although, interestingly enough, these is a 10th century Copto-Arabic text, edited by some American scholars and just published by Dar el-Machreq in Beirut under the title "A Disputation over a Fragment of the Cross" that explains the incarnation as precisely the divine nature 'hardening' into matter, like ice freezing. The text was surprisingly popular for several centuries, given the number of extant manuscripts, despite its atrociously simplistic, basically Eutychian, theology).

Pope Shenouda's argument on this point about the Eucharist, at least as articulated in "Contemporary Heresies" is that we are only "partakers of the divine nature" in a metaphorical sense, by receiving grace. For him, in the Eucharist we only partake of Christ's body, and to partake of anything divine would be, in his words, "shirk". That is, his concern is to preclude any notion of divine-human communion on an ontological level. For the life of me, I can't figure out how he could square this with St. Cyrill's Christology-- I recall once seeing Met. Bishoy flat-out reject communicatio idiomatum when making a similar point, but it'd take me some time to dig up the references....
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Severian
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« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2012, 05:29:23 AM »

^I would like to read this text for myself. If you are somehow trying to imply that we ever, at any point in time, adhered to Synousiast theology, then that is incorrect. All of our Fathers rejected any sort of change between the Divinity and humanity. I am not questioning your honesty, but I do think it is possible you are reading the text with an incomplete understanding of our Christology and thus perhaps misunderstanding the author's intention. In any case, to say that the Divinity changed over to flesh in the Incarnation is certainly disgusting heresy indeed, one which all our Fathers condemned.

As per Pope Shenouda and Met. Bishoy, IDK. But, I do not think their views necessarily reflect the Church's. For issues like these, you should read medieval OO writers as an authoritative source.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2012, 05:31:05 AM by Severian » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2012, 05:56:56 AM »

I'm not saying that the text is representative of 'official', just that it was surprisingly popular in perhaps less-educated circles, including in the monasteries where it was copied. Speaking purely out of an interest in the social history of theology, texts like this are interesting not as information about official Orthodoxies, but for what they reveal about how theological questions were being asked by everyday people. What's interesting about this particular text is that it shows that on a popular level questions about the relationship between Christ's body and divinity (and thus necessarily between the Eucharist and divinity) are recurrent in Coptic discourse, from the time when they were discussed in popular catachetical texts of varying quality, to now when they're being discussed in internet message boards.

The reference for the text I mentioned is:  Stephen J. Davis, Bilal Orfali and Samuel Noble, A Disputation over a Fragment of the Cross: A Medieval Arabic Text from the History of Christian-Muslim-Jewish Relations in Egypt (Orient Chrétien, vol. 10), Beirut: Dar el-Machreq, 2012 .

Davis' excellent book Coptic Christology in Practice has a great deal to say about how Coptic Eucharistic practice relates to Christology, going up to the early 2000's.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2012, 06:03:18 AM by Samn! » Logged
Severian
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« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2012, 06:07:37 AM »

^Sorry for misreading you. Thank you very much for your very interesting contributions to this thread.
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« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2012, 07:12:29 AM »

In both Byzantine and Roman Catholic theology, we do partake of Christ's divinity in the Eucharist, so this is a major difference between Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian theology...

We partake of the divine energies of God when we consume His deified Flesh and Blood, but to posit the notion that we partake of God's essence in the Eucharist would be heresy, not to mention illogical since the idea of partaking in something utterly transcendent and unknowable is a nonsensical notion.
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Severian
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« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2012, 07:15:07 AM »

In both Byzantine and Roman Catholic theology, we do partake of Christ's divinity in the Eucharist, so this is a major difference between Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian theology...

We partake of the divine energies of God when we consume His deified Flesh and Blood, but to posit the notion that we partake of God's essence in the Eucharist would be heresy, not to mention illogical since the idea of partaking in something utterly transcendent and unknowable is a nonsensical notion.
Yep. Which was what I was getting at. I do not think the official EO/OO views of the Eucharist contradict in this regard.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2012, 07:16:11 AM by Severian » Logged

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -Jesus Christ (Cf. St. John 16:33)
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« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2012, 06:20:43 PM »

.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 06:29:02 PM by Severian » Logged

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -Jesus Christ (Cf. St. John 16:33)
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« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2012, 06:48:15 PM »

Does anyone have details about the "excommunication" of Dr. George, or his supposed joining or the Moscow Patirarchate (EO) and/or the Anglican Church?

I have heard a lot of contradictory statements on that issue...
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