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Author Topic: Questions about Dr. George H. Bebawi's Teachings  (Read 3754 times) Average Rating: 0
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minasoliman
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« on: September 10, 2012, 10:34:00 AM »

I want to start a thread on some of the things I listen to by Dr. Bebawi.  For those who do not know who he is, Dr. Bebawi was born from an Egyptian Jewish family, but he himself spent most of his youth in disbelief and atheism.  When his grandmother Sarah (who took care of him and was a major influence in his life)  converted into the Coptic Church, he decided to check out the Orthodox faith and was eventually convinced by HH Pope St. Kyrillos VI, and had a cloud of influential fathers around him, including a priest Fr. Mikhail, a monk spiritual adviser Abba Philemon, and a teacher Fr. Matta el Maskeen.

Dr. Bebawi received theological instruction and became a major theological professor in the Coptic Church in the Seminar.  He has also represented the Coptic Church in ecumenical discussions, most notably, the Roman Catholic-OO dialogues.

Unfortunately, during the papacy of HH Pope Shenouda, controversy ensued, especially between him, HH, and HE Metropolitan Bishoy.  In 1997, the Holy Synod declared that Dr. Bebawy "excommunicated himself" for leaving the Coptic Church and joining the Anglican Church.  At that time however, although, he was indeed in the Anglican Church and was a chaplain for some time, was then received by the late HE Metropolitan Anthony of Sorouzh.  Dr. Bebawi unfortunately has also been the victim of character assassinations, but at the same time has also been used in polemical debates as a reason for the Copts' heterodoxy.  He now serves in an EO Church in Indianopolis, teachin aspects of historical Christianity and dogmas, to any Christian.

The purpose of this thread is to discuss some of what might be Dr. Bebawi's controversial teachings based on the lectures he provides in his site, as well as any other sites one might like to share and discuss.  The purpose is to show that while some faults can be seen in the Coptic Church, some fault can also be seen in Dr. Bebawi, whether it be in his "snappy" behavior at times (as he even admits at various lectures), or his controversies that might cause some scandal.  My goal is not necessarily to discredit Dr. Bebawi, as I consider him a great and influential teacher, but I also would like to use a comparison of him to the likes of the great teachers Origen and St. Augustine, that although they have more good to offer, they were not without their problems.

So this is just an introductory post. The next post will be one controversy.
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« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2012, 10:41:18 AM »

Week 4 in Christian Tradition:

http://www.georgebebawi.com/2006/12/the-christian-tradition-i/

"Monotheism is one of the biggest blasphemies to God."

In this lecture, Dr. Bebawi talks about the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity, and how we cannot call Christianity "Monotheistic".  Neither can it be called polytheistic.  He wishes to maintain Christianity simply as the revelation of God through Jesus Christ. He gives reasons why Christianity cannot be strictly considered as "Monotheistic", which can be read here:

http://www.georgebebawi.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/churchhistses4.doc

Of course, in his defense, he has said that the OT prophets used Monotheism as a way to combat the sinful polytheism.  Nevertheless, he is quoted as saying that Monotheism is "blasphemous".  I would like to hear what other EOs and OOs would like to think.
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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2012, 10:49:11 AM »

First of all, in accordance with Egyptian naming conventions, he should be referred to as Dr. George rather than Dr. Bebawi.

Are you sure he is currently EO? I have heard so many different versions of his biography that I stopped counting.

Of course, his choice of words is provocative. But he is right about one thing: It is really not acceptable to present Orthodox Christianity, as if we were monotheist in the same way as Muslims and Jews.

One and three are equally important. The distinction between "one" and "several" is something that exists in creation. But God is not like that. Yes, God is one, but he is one in three hypostases (persons). Yes, god is three, but Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in perfect communion with each other, so that they are one.
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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2012, 11:01:46 AM »

The very term 'monotheism' seems to have been invented in the 18th century (on this, see Jan Assman's book The Price of Monotheism), and it would be anachronism to say that the prophets of the Old Testament were 'monotheist' in the way we understand the word today. If anything they were more concerned with telling people which of the gods is the correct one to worship (what is called 'henotheism') than denying the existence of all other gods.

It is a point that isn't made enough that Christianity is as far from Islamic 'monotheism' as it is from pagan 'polytheism'.

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« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2012, 08:27:54 PM »

It is a point that isn't made enough that Christianity is as far from Islamic 'monotheism' as it is from pagan 'polytheism'.

Exactly. I always felt that the Muslim God is such a cruel character, because he feels so lonely.

Our God is love. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.
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« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2012, 10:29:34 PM »

I always felt that the Muslim God is such a cruel character, because he feels so lonely.


So was God lonely and just needed a Son to make Him feel better?

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« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2012, 10:49:38 PM »

Umm..... there wasn't a time when the Son didn't exist......
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« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2012, 11:00:12 PM »

So was God lonely and just needed a Son to make Him feel better?
No, God always was Father, Son and Holy Spirit in perfect communion with each other.

Satan (the one who presented himself as God to Muhammad) is the lonely guy. And that's why the Islamic monotheism is so evil, it is basically Satan presenting himself as God.
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« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2012, 12:40:15 AM »

So was God lonely and just needed a Son to make Him feel better?
No, God always was Father, Son and Holy Spirit in perfect communion with each other.

Satan (the one who presented himself as God to Muhammad) is the lonely guy. And that's why the Islamic monotheism is so evil, it is basically Satan presenting himself as God.

Interesting.  But couldn't people easily say (and they obviously do) that our God is pretty cruel, particularly in the OT?  Many Muslims believe God (whether it's their interpretation or not) is not cruel, but merciful.

For what it's worth, I'm just trying to hash this out; I'm not disagreeing with you.
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« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2012, 12:41:13 AM »

Umm..... there wasn't a time when the Son didn't exist......

Yes, but there was also a time when people mistakenly took my comment literally.  But thanks for the Sunday School lesson and missing the point of my comment. 

The point would be that while determining that the Muslim God is cruel (because of loneliness) by reading the Quran, the same could be determined from reading about the Christian God in the Old Testament.  The big change would appear to be the Son taking flesh and so on and so forth.  Or, we can simply ignore what appears as cruelty in the OT and call it wrath for the sake of salvation or what not.  But don't think that Muslims don't do the same thing.
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« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2012, 11:16:21 AM »

The OT God is already trinitarian, or to whom does he say "Let us create"? Why does he appear in the form of 3 men to Abraham? etc.
My point refers not to the Incarnation, but to the communion of 3 persons that is in God since all eternity.

Now, the question of God being cruel in the OT, that would need to be discussed on a point-to-point base. What verses were you specifically thinking of?
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« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2012, 11:48:44 AM »

Why does he appear in the form of 3 men to Abraham? etc.
I agree with the rest of your post but I've been taught that the three "men" were actually The Logos and two angels. I was also taught that these were the same angels who went on to visit Lot in Sodom.
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« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2012, 12:10:47 PM »

Why does he appear in the form of 3 men to Abraham? etc.
I agree with the rest of your post but I've been taught that the three "men" were actually The Logos and two angels. I was also taught that these were the same angels who went on to visit Lot in Sodom.
Well, all I can say is  that the text doesnt say God and two angels, but God. Also, St. Andrei Rublyev's Old Testament Trinity icon is quite important for me:


(source: Wikipedia, no copyright because the author of the work died in 1430)
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« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2012, 12:51:15 PM »

Why does he appear in the form of 3 men to Abraham? etc.
I agree with the rest of your post but I've been taught that the three "men" were actually The Logos and two angels. I was also taught that these were the same angels who went on to visit Lot in Sodom.
Well, all I can say is  that the text doesnt say God and two angels, but God. Also, St. Andrei Rublyev's Old Testament Trinity icon is quite important for me:


(source: Wikipedia, no copyright because the author of the work died in 1430)
From what I understand, most church fathers saw this as the Logos with 2 angels.  I understand that there was a church father who saw this as the Trinity, but I have yet to find a reference.
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« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2012, 02:18:46 PM »

The OT God is already trinitarian, or to whom does he say "Let us create"? Why does he appear in the form of 3 men to Abraham? etc.
My point refers not to the Incarnation, but to the communion of 3 persons that is in God since all eternity.

Now, the question of God being cruel in the OT, that would need to be discussed on a point-to-point base. What verses were you specifically thinking of?

I am not arguing against the OT God being already trinitarian.

From where do you derive your knowledge that the God of Islam is cruel?  My point is that there are probably similar ways of reaching the same conclusion about the Christian concept of God.

The OT is full of acts that could be interpreted as cruel.  We choose not to view them this way.  The Quran is similarly filled with acts that could be interpreted as cruel, and many Muslims similarly choose not to view them that way.

Therefore, I believe the following argument, without more development, is fairly unsubstantiated: 

2 factors-Muslim God and Christian God
1 variables-"companionship" and the lack thereof.

                Lonely God of Islam = Cruel
                Not lonely Trinitarian God of Christianity = Content, loving, whatever other positive associations.
                Reason for difference in presence of cruelty (conceding that there is a difference) = loneliness (present or not)
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« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2012, 03:58:08 PM »

From where do you derive your knowledge that the God of Islam is cruel?  My point is that there are probably similar ways of reaching the same conclusion about the Christian concept of God.
Quite simple, the Quran states that God is the creator of evil and that some people are created only for hellfire.
Where do you see such things in the OT?
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« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2012, 04:12:30 PM »

From where do you derive your knowledge that the God of Islam is cruel?  My point is that there are probably similar ways of reaching the same conclusion about the Christian concept of God.
Quite simple, the Quran states that God is the creator of evil and that some people are created only for hellfire.
Where do you see such things in the OT?
Perhaps an Orthodox Christian wouldn't see such things but John Calvin sure did when he examined the OT.
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« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2012, 04:40:37 PM »

Perhaps an Orthodox Christian wouldn't see such things but John Calvin sure did when he examined the OT.
In the Quran, it is literally stated. Also, when I say something about Islamic belief, I refer to the classical mainstream Sunni-Ash'ari doctrine, unless explicitely otherwise stated.

If such things are stated in the OT (and I never saw such a thing), then show me in the OT text please.
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« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2012, 04:59:07 PM »

Perhaps an Orthodox Christian wouldn't see such things but John Calvin sure did when he examined the OT.
In the Quran, it is literally stated. Also, when I say something about Islamic belief, I refer to the classical mainstream Sunni-Ash'ari doctrine, unless explicitely otherwise stated.

If such things are stated in the OT (and I never saw such a thing), then show me in the OT text please.
Like I said, I have no idea how John Calvin came to his conclusion but the fact remains, John Calvin read the OT and concluded that God predestines the majority of humans to eternal damnation and this view is still significant in protestant theology.
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« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2012, 05:27:01 PM »

Excuse me, but I guess all Orthodox Christians would agree that Calvin's doctrines are completely inacceptable and very far from truth. Calvin got his ideas from looking at Old and New Testament btw.

But if anyone wants to state that the Christian God is evil, I invite him to state specific passages of the Bible or Church Fathers, from which he or she makes such a conclusion.
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« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2012, 05:59:50 PM »

When Dr. Bebawi talks about the cruelty of the Muslim concept of God, it's not necessarily the actions God allows that look a lot like OT passages, but he is alluding to the theology.  In Islam, God cannot reside in the heart of man.  God only works through mediators.  It's a Platonic form of God, that God is too pure to work with creation, that only his angels or messengers can give us orders.  According to Dr. Bebawi, Islam is a form of deism, whereas in the Old Testament and in Judaism, God can indeed dwell in the hearts of men.  Because Islam cannot believe in the indwelling of God anywhere in creation, he considers this true cruelty in theology.

The problem I have is simply his choice of words.  Perhaps it would have been better for him to say "true Monotheism" vs. "false Monotheism."
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« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2012, 07:49:34 PM »

Dr. George is a member of the Russian Orthodox church. The Coptic church is often incorrect in the light with which it portrays those who disagree with their heirarchs. Dr. Bebawi is a genius of his time, and a true theologian.

I read an article by a church member (can't seem to find it at the time) which said that "George has joined the Anglican church in Russia." I literally fell on the floor laughing. Hid teachings are sound, and dependable. "Excommunication of the self" is a funny term. This means that the church excommunicated him. The church did this without a trial of him, or his teachings.

Has anyone read this?

This journal is also very interesting. I recommend it. It is worth the read.

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« Reply #22 on: September 12, 2012, 07:57:26 PM »

Week 4 in Christian Tradition:

http://www.georgebebawi.com/2006/12/the-christian-tradition-i/

"Monotheism is one of the biggest blasphemies to God."

In this lecture, Dr. Bebawi talks about the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity, and how we cannot call Christianity "Monotheistic".  Neither can it be called polytheistic.  He wishes to maintain Christianity simply as the revelation of God through Jesus Christ. He gives reasons why Christianity cannot be strictly considered as "Monotheistic", which can be read here:

http://www.georgebebawi.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/churchhistses4.doc

Of course, in his defense, he has said that the OT prophets used Monotheism as a way to combat the sinful polytheism.  Nevertheless, he is quoted as saying that Monotheism is "blasphemous".  I would like to hear what other EOs and OOs would like to think.

I would sort of agree with him. If the term mono-theistic is alright, then there should be no reason why the Coptic church objects to the term Monophysite. We believe in one God of three persons. So, we believe in one hypo-stasis of 2 natures. Then why the distinction between being called Mia-Physite rather than Mono-physite.

We reach a problem. Either Monophysite is a permissible name, comparable to Miaphysite, or, there is a difference between Mono and Mia. The way a friend of mine explained it is that the word Mono means single. Technically, we Christians do not believe in a single God. We believe in a triune God. the fact that something is triune does not contradict the fact that it is one. So, the trinity CAN be triune and one at the same time. However, being triune versus being single is a contradiction. To say that God is single, is to deny that he is triune. Thus, Mono-theism can be considered a heresy.

I hope that made even a little sense. It sure did in my head.

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« Reply #23 on: September 13, 2012, 12:36:33 AM »

Edited out my lengthy, tangential reply to Gorazd.  Suffice it to say that I believe there is ample evidence for cruelty in the Bible (although we do not believe it is cruelty).

But somewhat more on topic, I fail to see how God being triune would affect whether He is cruel or not.  Unless of course, it was an offhand comment/observation that I've taken way too seriously.

Back to the interesting on-topic discussion.
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« Reply #24 on: September 13, 2012, 12:40:04 AM »

I guess Orthodoxy (both OO and EO) is miatheistic, rather than monotheistic. We believe in one God, but that one God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just like miaphysites believe in one nature, but that one nature is divine and human.
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« Reply #25 on: September 13, 2012, 12:49:06 AM »

I guess Orthodoxy (both OO and EO) is miatheistic, rather than monotheistic. We believe in one God, but that one God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just like miaphysites believe in one nature, but that one nature is divine and human.

That is my exact point. God is not three, he is one so we are not polytheistic. God is not single, he is triune, we are not monotheistic. We can call ourselves "miatheistic" but that just gets annoying lol
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« Reply #26 on: September 13, 2012, 12:51:23 AM »

We can call ourselves "miatheistic" but that just gets annoying lol

Agreed!
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« Reply #27 on: September 13, 2012, 08:00:08 PM »

That's a slippery slope.  Miatheism is weak.  Why we say "Miaphysitism" and not "Monophysitism" is to show that there are distinguishable elements of the united hypostasis of Christ, i.e. humanity and divinity, unity of two "physes."  But with Miatheism, one has to say there are elements of a united Godhead, unity of three Gods.  Almost a "Tritheism."  It is why the Church fathers used terms like "persons" or "hypostases" to stay away from any idea that they believe in more than One God.

We shouldn't be afraid of the term "Monotheism."  To Dr. George, Monotheism has three "downfalls:"

1.  A sense of anonymity, i.e. inability to identify God.
2.  A sense of negativity, i.e. negating other "gods" around it.
3.  Soleness does not have a relationship in it, and does not lead to a relationship with us.

However, what Dr. George seems to reject, I seem to accept TO A CERTAIN DEGREE.  Without those three characteristics, to me, we may become "Pantheists," like Hinduism.  But at the same time, we do not want to strictly judge God by these three characteristics as in Deism, or Islamic Monotheism.  Let me take each of his criticisms of Monotheism one by one, and talk about them:

1.  Anonymity:  Dr. George referenced Matthew 26:51, where it is mentioned "one of Jesus's followers" cut the ear off.  Who is this "one"?  Of course, we know through the gospel of John it's St. Peter, but taken with this gospel alone, we don't really know.  It's a sign of anonymity.  Nevertheless, while I agree with Dr. George we are not like Islam at all, where there's no chance of knowing God in His identity, nevertheless, it is a central belief in theology we do not know God by His essence.  Therefore, to a certain degree, God is still anonymous.  Only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit know each other by essence, but we know them by divine grace, and especially even more intimately through the Son Incarnate, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

2.  Negativity:  Dr. George references the Old Testament practice to cure Judaism from the sins of polytheism.  In other words, all other gods are false gods, "I am the Lord your God, ye shall have no other gods besides me."  Of course, later on, right before the incarnation of Christ, it seems the Jews finally had a sense that the other gods do not even exist anyway.  It's understood that Jews went from "Henotheism" to "Monotheism" later in life.  Indeed, if we were to continue to be "Henotheistic," I would agree that this is a sense of negativity.  What good is there to disprove other gods, and yet not talk about your very own God?  So, I sympathize with Dr. George in that keen observation.  Nevertheless, it is not something that we ignore.  Rather than calling it "negativity," I'd rather call it "exclusivity."  And indeed, our God is exclusive.  He is the One True God, and no other gods exist but Him.  He exists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, it is necessary that when mentioning the Trinity as the True God, and Christianity, the True religion, it is in essence implying exclusivity to itself, negating all other religions around it.  When Christ said, "I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.  NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME," Christ in essence has negated anything else but Him, and has made Himself, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, exclusive.  Therefore, I cannot deny this characteristic that bothers Dr. George either.

3.  Relationship:  Dr. George said that God never said "I AM One," rather God said "I AM WHO I AM."  But that really isn't saying much to me.  Yes, I agree, if you put yourself alone, as a sole figure, there is no relationship in you, and you cut yourself from others.  But God said something much more profound than "I AM One."  He described His nature, His eternity.  Christ described His eternity as well, "Before Abraham was, I AM."  This was blasphemy to the Jews, who wished to stone Him, making Himself equal to God in His eternity.  But while they were blind to see Christ as who He is, the Incarnate I AM, they're not incorrect in their thinking that any human being cannot have the same essence as the Godhead.  Therefore, I think this is a valid point even in the Christian understanding of God, for just as we cannot know God in His essence, we also cannot have a relationship with God in His essence.  It is all through grace, and again, in a much more intimate form through the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity.

So in conclusion, what Dr. George is describing as the downfalls of Monotheism is to me, not at all downfalls.  If taken to its extreme, then yes, these would be downfalls.  Nevertheless, they are still essential characteristics of the Godhead, and thus, rightly defining Christian theology as essentially Monotheistic based upon these three characteristics of Monotheism that Dr. George doesn't seem to appreciate.  If it was up to me, this is how I would consider it:

1.  God is indeed anonymous in His essence, but contradictory to Islam, He is known by grace, and revealed in Christ.
2.  God is indeed negating all other religions around Him, but more importantly, our love and faith to God especially by grace and in Christ, becomes exclusive.
3.  God is indeed incommunicable in His essence, but contradictory to Islam, we can partake of His divine nature by grace, and in a much more intimate way through Christ.

In conclusion, I believe it is necessary to say Christianity is indeed Monotheistic, but contradictory to Islam, it is also PanENtheistic.

Now I know it may seem like I "refuted" Dr. George, but actually, more than anything, I simply wanted to show perhaps how semantical he has become in this particular argument.  I think this would be one thing that would be quite hurtful for his reputation for those who especially enjoy assassinating his character.  One can see that his choice of words may be just scratching the surface as to see why people in the Coptic Church had problems with him.  Now, I've listened to enough of Dr. Bebawi's lectures to find him very edifying, and I will repeat this, so that I stand out from others who wish to jump to conclusions and call him a heretic.  Nevertheless, he is not without fault in this, even if the essence of his rejection of Monotheism is not heretical.

There's still more in this same lecture to talk about on this same subject of Monotheism.  For instance, one person asked him, "Well, George, would you say we have 3 Gods then?" And Dr. George's answer shocked me, where he pretty much said and I'm paraphrasing, not really quoting verbatim here, "Unlike other Christians, I'm not afraid to say 3 Gods, but of course this is a poor choice of words.  I'd rather say 3 persons."  

In addition, Dr. George in this same lecture also seems to hold an Augustinian view of the Trinity, which I don't see as erroneous in my humble opinion, but limited.  In essence, for those of you who do not know what the Augustinian view of the Trinity is, it is that the Holy Spirit is the reciprocation of love between the Father and the Son.  In another lecture, Week 5, Dr. George even recommends his students to read St. Augustine's work on the Trinity, as he finds it quite a profound and beautiful summation of the doctrine of the Trinity, which I know will make some "anti-Augustinian" Orthodox cry foul.  Again, I'm not condemning Dr. George of heresy, but his poor choice of wording as well as his choice of literature on the Trinity that is conflicts with many Orthodox Christian's choices of writing.

There is more in this particular lecture, but I'll stop here, as I've written too much.  But these are my worthless opinions on the matter, and I'd appreciate it if anyone tells me what they think, and if I erred anywhere.
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« Reply #28 on: September 13, 2012, 08:05:57 PM »

Dr. George is a member of the Russian Orthodox church. The Coptic church is often incorrect in the light with which it portrays those who disagree with their heirarchs. Dr. Bebawi is a genius of his time, and a true theologian.

I read an article by a church member (can't seem to find it at the time) which said that "George has joined the Anglican church in Russia." I literally fell on the floor laughing. Hid teachings are sound, and dependable. "Excommunication of the self" is a funny term. This means that the church excommunicated him. The church did this without a trial of him, or his teachings.

Has anyone read this?

This journal is also very interesting. I recommend it. It is worth the read.

ReturnOrthodoxy

Yes, but that doesn't mean Dr. George wasn't in communion with the Anglican Church.  It seems like he repeatedly does not deny this in his lectures posted online, and in fact, even says he was a chaplain of the Anglican Church for quite some time, probably before entering the Russian Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #29 on: September 13, 2012, 08:18:12 PM »

I also want to add, in addition to my long post, if I had one question to Dr. George, I would probably ask him, "Aren't you invalidating apophatic theology, and exclusively describing God in terms of cataphatic theology"?
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« Reply #30 on: September 14, 2012, 06:56:43 AM »

Was Dr. George "excommunicated" from the Coptic Church, or did he separate from it himself by joining the Anglicans?
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« Reply #31 on: September 14, 2012, 08:34:35 AM »

Was Dr. George "excommunicated" from the Coptic Church, or did he separate from it himself by joining the Anglicans?
It's one of those funny situations as ReturnOrthodoxy mentioned.  The Holy Synod got together in a grand meeting to sign that Dr. George "excommunicated himself" when joining the Anglican Church. Perhaps they wanted to get together and say that he no longer speaks for the Coptic Church.  Nevertheless the action of the Synod made it look like an official excommunication.
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« Reply #32 on: September 14, 2012, 10:35:15 AM »

Hey, minasoliman,

Let me start by saying thanks for that long reply. It is clear that you are well educated about this matter, and that makes for an easier discussion, since it will not be based solely on the fact that our current synod dislikes him. It is good to be around people who look for the truth themselves.

I certainly cannot justify everything by Dr. George. But I can try to clarify what he means. Also, I will be attending a lecture by him on October 8. He will be in one of my local universities, so I will try to attend, and hopefully ask some questions regarding these matters.

Quote
That's a slippery slope.  Miatheism is weak.  Why we say "Miaphysitism" and not "Monophysitism" is to show that there are distinguishable elements of the united hypostasis of Christ, i.e. humanity and divinity, unity of two "physes."  But with Miatheism, one has to say there are elements of a united Godhead, unity of three Gods.  Almost a "Tritheism."  It is why the Church fathers used terms like "persons" or "hypostases" to stay away from any idea that they believe in more than One God.

And why Dr. George wants to remove monotheism, is because he also wants to distinguish between the elements (persons) of the trinity. I guess he wants to stay away from sabellianism in which all three and nothing more than revelations of the same one. It may also be a rejection of islamic monotheism. It may be an extreme point, but it certainly does not seem like an incorrect one. It seems like Dr. George is used to making extreme statements which, though not incorrect, put people on edge. He doesn't seem to mind that. It then seems to come back to the idea that mono means "single" rather than "one." I have NEVER believed in a single God, but in a triune one. In this case, Dr. George is absolutely correct. Like I said before, we cannot use "one" and "single" interchangeably. He is against calling God "single." I would agree with him.

Quote
Anonymity:  Dr. George referenced Matthew 26:51, where it is mentioned "one of Jesus's followers" cut the ear off.  Who is this "one"?  Of course, we know through the gospel of John it's St. Peter, but taken with this gospel alone, we don't really know.  It's a sign of anonymity.  Nevertheless, while I agree with Dr. George we are not like Islam at all, where there's no chance of knowing God in His identity, nevertheless, it is a central belief in theology we do not know God by His essence.  Therefore, to a certain degree, God is still anonymous.  Only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit know each other by essence, but we know them by divine grace, and especially even more intimately through the Son Incarnate, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. George is simply fighting the Islamic idea of God within the Coptic church here. Dr. George was excommunicated for speaking about theosis. To him, this is to say that the church believes that God is distant. He want to say that God is not unknowable, athough he cannot be encapsulated. It comes back to the idea of theoria, or vision of God. We see him, but not in completion. There is no sense of this in Islam. He is trying to say that God is not distant and neither is he an idea, but he is a real person, who is relational to his children. Maybe he is extreme, but again, his main point is clear, and seems to be agreeable.

Quote
Therefore, it is necessary that when mentioning the Trinity as the True God, and Christianity, the True religion, it is in essence implying exclusivity to itself, negating all other religions around it.  When Christ said, "I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.  NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME," Christ in essence has negated anything else but Him, and has made Himself, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, exclusive.  Therefore, I cannot deny this characteristic that bothers Dr. George either.

Great! But I feel this is a matter of wording. You, in that quote of our savior, have shown that Christ made himself exclusive, rather than tell others that they are following falsehoods. There is nothing wrong with saying that Jesus is the only way, but there is certainly something wrong with saying "Jesus is better then Allah, Baal, and whoever else.) The idea is that they don't even exist. So I would agree with you that the idea is we should retain exclusivity, and I don't think that Dr. George would disagree that we only have one God, and He is the only way to salvation.

Quote
Relationship:  Dr. George said that God never said "I AM One," rather God said "I AM WHO I AM."  But that really isn't saying much to me.  Yes, I agree, if you put yourself alone, as a sole figure, there is no relationship in you, and you cut yourself from others.  But God said something much more profound than "I AM One."  He described His nature, His eternity.  Christ described His eternity as well, "Before Abraham was, I AM."  This was blasphemy to the Jews, who wished to stone Him, making Himself equal to God in His eternity.  But while they were blind to see Christ as who He is, the Incarnate I AM, they're not incorrect in their thinking that any human being cannot have the same essence as the Godhead.  Therefore, I think this is a valid point even in the Christian understanding of God, for just as we cannot know God in His essence, we also cannot have a relationship with God in His essence.  It is all through grace, and again, in a much more intimate form through the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity.

I agree completely, and I don't think Dr. George would disagree with you either. You have not conflicted much of what he says, but have only clarified (thank you for that clarification). So I cannot say Dr. George is wrong, but rather, that as a theologian of the highest degree, he needs someone who understands what he is trying to say (like you). He certainly cannot teach sunday school lol, but he is a great theologian. There are some underlying principles which he assumes his listeners understand, and if they have those underlying views, then what he says s not problematic in the least.

Quote
Now I know it may seem like I "refuted" Dr. George, but actually, more than anything, I simply wanted to show perhaps how semantical he has become in this particular argument.  I think this would be one thing that would be quite hurtful for his reputation for those who especially enjoy assassinating his character.  One can see that his choice of words may be just scratching the surface as to see why people in the Coptic Church had problems with him.  Now, I've listened to enough of Dr. Bebawi's lectures to find him very edifying, and I will repeat this, so that I stand out from others who wish to jump to conclusions and call him a heretic.  Nevertheless, he is not without fault in this, even if the essence of his rejection of Monotheism is not heretical.

Yes, it seems to me that is one fault is his wordiness, and his desire to confuse people who are already against him. Rather than try to explain himself, he would rather get someone else to misunderstand him, then fight that person, and attack him for not understanding properly. This doesn't seem right, but he is by no means a heretic. He is angry, and this anger manifests itself dangerously. But can you blame him? There is not a day in the Coptic church when he is not called a heretic, though he is a genius. That causes anger. The poor man....

Quote
1.  God is indeed anonymous in His essence, but contradictory to Islam, He is known by grace, and revealed in Christ.
2.  God is indeed negating all other religions around Him, but more importantly, our love and faith to God especially by grace and in Christ, becomes exclusive.
3.  God is indeed incommunicable in His essence, but contradictory to Islam, we can partake of His divine nature by grace, and in a much more intimate way through Christ.

I agree. I will try to get  moment with Dr. George, and show him this, and see if we are understanding him correctly.

Regarding the trinity, would you mind finding a link and a time where I can hear this? Not that I don't trust you, just want to hear for myself, and listen to the context and everything.

God Bless,

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« Reply #33 on: September 14, 2012, 10:41:55 AM »

Dr. George is a member of the Russian Orthodox church. The Coptic church is often incorrect in the light with which it portrays those who disagree with their heirarchs. Dr. Bebawi is a genius of his time, and a true theologian.

I read an article by a church member (can't seem to find it at the time) which said that "George has joined the Anglican church in Russia." I literally fell on the floor laughing. Hid teachings are sound, and dependable. "Excommunication of the self" is a funny term. This means that the church excommunicated him. The church did this without a trial of him, or his teachings.

Has anyone read this?

This journal is also very interesting. I recommend it. It is worth the read.

ReturnOrthodoxy

Yes, but that doesn't mean Dr. George wasn't in communion with the Anglican Church.  It seems like he repeatedly does not deny this in his lectures posted online, and in fact, even says he was a chaplain of the Anglican Church for quite some time, probably before entering the Russian Orthodox Church.

Him not denying it, is not confirmation that it is true. Also, he was the chaplain of a school of the Anglican church. But if you read the letter by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, he clarifies this point. In any case, whether he was or was not Anglican, he is currently Russian Orthodox.

In my opinion, the excommunication was not valid because Dr. George was not given a chance to stand before a trial. That is pitiful. It is an act against the canons of the church, but to be honest, the past synod has often acted against the canons, and has eradicated anyone that posed the slightest threat to them. Dr. George was a victim. Still, if you excommunicate a true theologian, calling him a heretic, it doesn't say much about the theologian (he is correct independent of how he is view) but it does day a lot about the person who excommunicated the truth. This doesn't seem nice, I know, but poor George has been treated so poorly, and by his own fathers, that it sent him into a frenzy. We could have had him lead the theology of the Coptic church back to safety, and we let him go, preferring rather to be lead by psuedo-evangelical clergy influenced by Islam.

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« Reply #34 on: September 14, 2012, 10:59:25 AM »

Dr. George was excommunicated for speaking about theosis.
I am really not convinced of this. We know that there is a problem with theosis denial in the Coptic Church. But as I understand it now, the Coptic Church just made it clear that joining or becoming a chaplain in the Anglican Church means separating yourself from the Coptic Church.

Father Matta al-Maskeen, the Coptic campion of Theosis in our time, died in good standing in the Coptic Church, even though his person relation to Pope Shenouda was not the best.
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« Reply #35 on: September 14, 2012, 11:07:34 AM »

Quote from: Gorazd
Father Matta al-Maskeen, the Coptic campion of Theosis in our time, died in good standing in the Coptic Church, even though his person relation to Pope Shenouda was not the best.

No he wasn't! He died one of the most hated men by the synod. The reason why they couldn't touch Abouna Matta was that they knew it would cause a schism if they excommunicated him.

Did you read the two things above I posted. This stuff becomes clear if you read them.

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« Reply #36 on: September 14, 2012, 11:47:19 AM »

"In good standing" means not excommunicated, defrocked, banned from serving or whatever. That does not prevent Fr. Matta from being personally disliked by the, let's say, non-patristic circles in the Coptic Church.

I think Dr. George was not formally condemnded for heresy (or was he?), only for schism. And indeed, the Church of England is not in communion with Oriental Orthodoxy.

I am glad he finally was received into the EO Church though. While I was living in Egypt for a few months, I have met several former Copts who had become EO. They all shared a great love for the Holy Fathers, both those of the early Church and Fr. Matta, and they all wanted to attain theosis. Unfortunately, some of them were quite bitter about the Coptic Church.

Another interesting case is Fr. Athanasios Henein, former rector of the Coptic parish of Athens. As I understand it, he who was defrocked in the Coptic Church, probably by Met. Bishoy, under mysterious circumstances. He went on to join the Church of Greece (EO) and to talk a lot about the "evil monophysitism" in the Coptic Church.
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« Reply #37 on: September 14, 2012, 10:10:52 PM »

Yes, it seems to me that is one fault is his wordiness, and his desire to confuse people who are already against him. Rather than try to explain himself, he would rather get someone else to misunderstand him, then fight that person, and attack him for not understanding properly. This doesn't seem right, but he is by no means a heretic. He is angry, and this anger manifests itself dangerously. But can you blame him? There is not a day in the Coptic church when he is not called a heretic, though he is a genius. That causes anger. The poor man....

I think this sums up it pretty well.  I agree with this.

Quote
Regarding the trinity, would you mind finding a link and a time where I can hear this? Not that I don't trust you, just want to hear for myself, and listen to the context and everything.

The same exact link I provided, and click on the Week 4 lecture.  It's about 2 hours, which I listen to as I'm driving, in 30 min intervals as I'm on my way to work, and coming back.  I know it's too much to listen to, but it's in there.  When I talk about another lecture, I'll link it, but the issue of the Augustinian view of the Trinity or his side note about "3 gods" is in the same exact lecture I'm talking about.

--Mina

PS Which university do you go to that Dr. George is going to visit?
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« Reply #38 on: September 14, 2012, 11:00:04 PM »

Just an added sense of the issue of the word "One" with Dr. George, the Old Testament quote of "the Lord is One", the Hebrew "Akhad" was the same word used in Genesis, where Adam and Eve are two flesh that become "One," or "Akhad."  Therefore, this Akhad was never meant to be sole, but to be a unity.  I find that fascinating, but I wonder if anyone with good Hebrew knowledge can confirm this.

To finish off the Week 4 teachings, the rest of the things he espouses are less controversial.  For instance, he rejects the translation that Christ "became sin."  He said it's more accurate to say he became a "sin offering."  Nevertheless, I'm not sure if this agrees with the Church fathers.  For instance, St. Cyril of Alexandria had to refute one of the Nestorian arguments on the word "became", where Nestorius pretty much said God became man is the same way as it is told He became sin, so as not to confuse divinity and humanity.

Quote from: That Christ is One
B. The Divine Paul writes (they say) of the Son as having BEEN MADE both curse and sin: for he says, Him that knew not sin He made for our sakes sin, and again, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, MADE for our sakes a curse. They say that He was not MADE actual curse and sin, but the holy Scripture is indicating hereby something else: thus they say that And the Word WAS MADE flesh is conceived of by us.

A. And verily as in saying that He WAS MADE a curse and sin, so this that He WAS MADE flesh introduces with it and has in its horizon the conception of what follows thereupon.

B. How say you? for when one says of Him, He that knows not sin has BEEN MADE sin for us, and has bought from the curse of the law also them who were under the law, MADE for their sakes a curse, how should one doubt that this is in the times wherein the Only-Begotten was Incarnate and MADE man?

A. It introduces therefore with the mention of the Incarnation the things too that on account thereof are economically brought upon Him Who underwent the voluntary emptying, as are hunger and weariness. For as He would not have been wearied Whose is all might, neither would He have been said to hunger, Himself the Food and life of all, had He not made His own the body whose nature it is to hunger and be weary: so neither would He ever have been numbered among transgressors (for thus do we say that He WAS MADE sin), He would not have been MADE a curse, enduring the cross for our sakes, had He not been MADE flesh, i. e., been Incarnate and made man, enduring generation like ours in human wise, that I mean through the holy Virgin.

B. I assent, for you deem aright.

A. It is without understanding another respects too to think and to say that the Word was in such sort MADE flesh as He WAS MADE a curse and sin.

B.  What way do you mean?

A. Was He not accursed that He might undo the curse and did not the Father make Him sin that He might end sin?

B. Thus do they too say.

A.   Therefore if it is true, as it is understood by them to mean rightly, that the Word has in such sort been MADE flesh, as He has been MADE both curse and sin; i. e. to the destruction of the flesh; how will He render it incorruptible and indestructible, as having achieved this in His own Flesh first? for He did not leave it to remain mortal and under decay, Adam transmitting to us the punishment for the transgression, but rather as the flesh of the uncorruptible God, Own and His, rendered it superior to death and to decay.

B.  You say well.

Again, I don't think this is a big issue, since whether it says "become sin" or "become sin offering" (2 Cor. 5:21), it's not something I think I disagree with.  But because some in the Coptic Church have upheld strictly to the words of Scripture, this may also have been a reason of dissent.

Around this time he also does not accept the idea that the Father turned away from the Son at the crucifixion, describing it as a 14th-15th century belief.  I think we can all agree with that.  This is a scholastic belief.  Nevertheless, you'd be surprised to see that even Fr. Matta al Maskeen seemed to have believed it too  Shocked :

I got to know the measure of the pain you experienced; the tears, the broken heart, and the fear of what was about to happen. You were forsaken by the Father. It was His will to abandon You, a beloved Son of the Father.

Indeed, I got to know, I was convinced, and the mystery was revealed to me:

Your Father made You bear the full weight of all the sins of mankind, though You were innocent of them all. From the very beginning, in the eternal council chamber of the Father, You accepted the responsibility of bearing them. Because of this, You submitted to the incarnation, and bore it according to Your will and Your Father's will.

It's amazing that such language can get through even in someone who is admired by Dr. George.  It's something that Dr. George has combatted, especially when considering the idea that Christ came and bore the wrath of God, because that itself Dr. George also condemns, and yet Abouna Matta seems to contemplate on it in this prayer essay.

At the same time right after that issue with "became sin", Dr. George said that the word "punishment" is not found anywhere in the New Testament.  Even if true, I would say that punishment is implied, especially in the end times, or in those who lived unrighteous lives, or in His famous "woes" sermon.  How can that be ignored.  It's as if one argues with a Jehovah's Witness, who says that the word "Trinity" is not in the Bible.  Please correct me if I'm wrong here.

Nevertheless, Dr. George makes a very intuitive statement on the theology of salvation in the history of the Church.  He believes that theology in the history of the Church has never really been freed from the politics of its time.  He wishes to remove "punishment" from theology, not at the expense of discipline, since that is a characteristic of love and mercy.  But if you do introduce "punishment," he questions, where do we cross the line?  So, he hammers down the central goal of God in John 3:16, "for God so loved the world."

In any sense, scholasticism has been somewhat embraced by many Copts, which is understandable in the controversy with Dr. George as well.  Dr. George seems to take the "River of Fire" approach to Soteriology, whereas some Copts have taken a strict scholastic approach.  What is really true, in my humble opinion, is a complimentary view of juridical and ontological approaches in God, and not something where it puts both analogies in contradiction to one another.  I think that's another reason why Dr. George had issues with Copts (especially HE Metropolitan Bishoy), where both sides were unable to listen to one another in a dialogue to understand one another.

So this should pretty much cover Week 4 lecture.  I'm open to discussion for a couple of days on this before we move on to Week 5, which I think will be quick.

PS His "3 Gods" reference can be listened to starting 1:42:00.  The Monotheism issue starts at 1:10:00, and the Soteriological talks start at around 50:00 and goes on for about 10 minutes.
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« Reply #39 on: September 15, 2012, 09:26:33 AM »

Just an added sense of the issue of the word "One" with Dr. George, the Old Testament quote of "the Lord is One", the Hebrew "Akhad" was the same word used in Genesis, where Adam and Eve are two flesh that become "One," or "Akhad."  Therefore, this Akhad was never meant to be sole, but to be a unity.  I find that fascinating, but I wonder if anyone with good Hebrew knowledge can confirm this.
Echad is the regular word for one in Hebrew, similar to Greek eis (female form: mia). It can indeed describe a complex unity, for example in Genesis one, evening and morning are described as "one day".

Sole, in the sense of Greek "monos" would be "yachid" in Hebrew.


Quote from: minasoliman
What is really true, in my humble opinion, is a complimentary view of juridical and ontological approaches in God, and not something where it puts both analogies in contradiction to one another.
To some degree, I agree. There are some hints at a juridicial view in the Fathers (maybe we should open another thread to look at them in detail). But we must be careful not to confuse this with Anselmianism. The Fathers never taught that an angry or wrathful God the Father had to be appeased.
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« Reply #40 on: September 15, 2012, 09:34:40 AM »

Just an added sense of the issue of the word "One" with Dr. George, the Old Testament quote of "the Lord is One", the Hebrew "Akhad" was the same word used in Genesis, where Adam and Eve are two flesh that become "One," or "Akhad."  Therefore, this Akhad was never meant to be sole, but to be a unity.  I find that fascinating, but I wonder if anyone with good Hebrew knowledge can confirm this.
Echad is the regular word for one in Hebrew, similar to Greek eis (female form: mia). It can indeed describe a complex unity, for example in Genesis one, evening and morning are described as "one day".

Sole, in the sense of Greek "monos" would be "yachid" in Hebrew.

Interesting.  What is the Jewish concept of God today?  Do they consider God a unity, an "echad", or are they like Islam, a sole entity, a "yachid"?

Quote from: minasoliman
What is really true, in my humble opinion, is a complimentary view of juridical and ontological approaches in God, and not something where it puts both analogies in contradiction to one another.
To some degree, I agree. There are some hints at a juridicial view in the Fathers (maybe we should open another thread to look at them in detail). But we must be careful not to confuse this with Anselmianism. The Fathers never taught that an angry or wrathful God the Father had to be appeased.

Indeed, I don't want to get too deep into this discussion, so I agree, this should be a different thread on its own.  Just wanted to present another side into the possible controversies Dr. George had to deal with when still in the Coptic Church.
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« Reply #41 on: September 15, 2012, 10:07:50 AM »

Interesting.  What is the Jewish concept of God today?  Do they consider God a unity, an "echad", or are they like Islam, a sole entity, a "yachid"?
Well, they use both "echad" (one) and "yachid" to describe God. In fact, during the middle ages, Maimonides (also known as the Rambam or Musa bin Maimum), who was both an Arab philosopher and a Jewish theologian, fixed the 13 principles of Jewish faith, which are widely accepted until today.

Here is the list in English:
http://www.mesora.org/13principles.html
See the second point, he is basically copying the Muslim definition.
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« Reply #42 on: September 15, 2012, 10:59:44 AM »

Very interesting.  This contradicts precisely Dr. George's definition of the Hebrew "One."  I wonder if one RO can bring it up to Dr. George and ask him what he thinks of Maimonides.
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« Reply #43 on: September 15, 2012, 11:03:33 AM »

I will certainly bring it up if I get to go one on one with him.

The question is why would the Jewish understanding of God matter? They are monotheistic. Christ has revealed the Holy Trinity to us in an explicit way.

There is a lot of good discussion here that I want to chyme into, but for now, I have some Organic chemistry to study. Ill be back later.

Pray for me

RO

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« Reply #44 on: September 15, 2012, 06:12:07 PM »

My understanding: Echad just means one. In the OT, of course, we can give numerous examples of that word describing a complex unity. Also Judaism before Christ had a way of speaking about God that was closer to Orthodox Christianity than to later Judaism, which rejected Christ.

The Book of Baruch (in the Septuagint, but rejected by Jews after Chtist) says: "3:35-37 This is our God, and there shall none other be accounted of in comparison of him. He hath found out all the way of knowledge, and hath given it unto Jacob his servant, and to Israel his beloved. Afterward did he shew himself upon earth, and conversed with men." Then, later, Philo of Alexandria spoke of the divine Logos in such an impressive way that St. Jogn the Evangelist used his terminology to spoke about Christ.

But of course, when Christ was rejected (and many Jews accepted him also, let's not forget that), there needed to be some theoretical base for that. And that was a hard monotheism. Explaining this hard monotheism in terms of Muslim philosophy came just right for Maimonides, after all he could also prove thereby that he is a loyal subject to the Muslim rulers, and his religion fits the Muslim definition of the "People of the Book".
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« Reply #45 on: September 20, 2012, 01:36:13 AM »

You guys had a thread about a controversial topic within the Coptic Church without me!

IS OUTRAGE!!! Tongue
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« Reply #46 on: September 20, 2012, 08:58:48 AM »

You guys had a thread about a controversial topic within the Coptic Church without me!

IS OUTRAGE!!! Tongue

Please join the conversation and contribute to it.

Btw, isn't "Is outrage!" an EO expression? It seems to be a rather literal translation of "Это безобразие!"
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« Reply #47 on: September 26, 2012, 09:06:09 PM »

Just want to let you know...we're still only on one lecture, which is week 4...do people still want to continue discussion on this, or move on to other weeks?

PS I already prepared what to write on other weeks, which pretty much comprises of week 5 and week 7, and that's it for these series of lectures
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« Reply #48 on: September 27, 2012, 06:43:32 PM »

minasoliman,

Could you give me the links please?
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« Reply #49 on: September 27, 2012, 07:35:04 PM »

I gave the links the very beginning of this thread:

Week 4 in Christian Tradition:

http://www.georgebebawi.com/2006/12/the-christian-tradition-i/

"Monotheism is one of the biggest blasphemies to God."

In this lecture, Dr. Bebawi talks about the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity, and how we cannot call Christianity "Monotheistic".  Neither can it be called polytheistic.  He wishes to maintain Christianity simply as the revelation of God through Jesus Christ. He gives reasons why Christianity cannot be strictly considered as "Monotheistic", which can be read here:

http://www.georgebebawi.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/churchhistses4.doc

Of course, in his defense, he has said that the OT prophets used Monotheism as a way to combat the sinful polytheism.  Nevertheless, he is quoted as saying that Monotheism is "blasphemous".  I would like to hear what other EOs and OOs would like to think.
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« Reply #50 on: September 27, 2012, 07:44:48 PM »

Sorry, I didnt notice the other weeks also were there.
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« Reply #51 on: September 27, 2012, 08:50:29 PM »

Okay, moving on…

Week 5:

Week 5 was a good lecture, but something caught my attention, and he even admits some Orthodox might not like it.  He talks about how in our relationship, we should turn all images into words, or cure our hearts from images.  All this starts at about an hour and a half.

The word "Abba Father", if you continue to keep those words in your heart without forming an image, you will reside in the heart of God.  Keep the word of God in your heart, and God will keep you in His heart, as Abba Philemon once said.  To form an image of the word is like an idol in the soul.  It's fine to start with a picture but end with a word.  Some simple-minded folks need images, but it won't lead to a deep relationship with God.

He proceeds to talk about the "3 levels of Orthodoxy" in regards to iconology, in which the first two he believes are "blasphemy."

First level is when people practice going to kiss the icon as if it was a real presence of Christ or the saints, and calls it "holy paganism."  He also says the same about statues and the Catholic Church, but then says "maybe it's me and my Semitic mind."

Second level is a little bit better.  He has been begging the Orthodox for more than 35 years, and not many people listen to him.  Icons are nothing more than an arrangement of a holy banquet of the Kingdom with the iconostasis in its head.  If you enter the Church knowing that these images point to the Holy Banquet, you will be fine.  But if you enter the Church to venerate these icons separately, to satisfy your desire to touch, kiss, and light candles, the icons no longer become a useful tool.

He relates a story from Abba Philemon about him lighting a candle in front of an icon.  "Why do you do this" he asks.  Dr. George answers, "because it's a custom."  "Does the Virgin Mary live in darkness needing your miserable light?…A child of God should not worship according to custom; it's a form of paganism. …I don't light candles, the saints don't need candles. … What you are doing is you're making a fool of God and yourself.  The King invites you to His banquet, and you play with these icons, but you do not even look into the face of the King. … If you think this is THE banquet, then you are fooling yourself."

However, Dr. George does love icons, and he has a huge collection of them in his home.  He also has a pictures of a bishop who was martyred he loved and Abba Philemon.  But he doesn't kiss those icons or pictures.  Every time he sees these icons, they become "words."  For the picture of Abba Philemon, the words are what he talked about, his wisdom, his countless rebukes against Dr. George, his spirituality.  His picture is not the center of veneration, but what he said is the center of veneration.

Another Abba Philemon story regarding vestments worn, which are very expensive (according to Dr. George, 5 grand a piece), "They made a fool of you.  Put on these vestments, and you walk like a peacock, and you feel great.  The fabrics give you a sense of greatness, isn't it?  But if you discover the beauty the Holy Spirit gives to your soul, you won't need the fabrics."  That radical understanding is a level of a mature person.  For him, the image became a word.

Most of the time, images more so than words provoke anger, arguments, lusts, etc.

The third level of Orthodoxy, when you see an icon, you know these things are not everlasting, but it's a transient picture that should remind you of eternity, which is more beautiful than any icon painted by an artist.

When Dr. George was married in the Russian Orthodox Church, the choir didn't show up.  Archbishop Anthony Bloom (who was his spiritual guide for 25 years in England) said to him that he was ashamed and sorry that he has to celebrate his wedding without a choir.  So, after the wedding, as a wedding gift, he gave Dr. George an icon of the Theotokos made of Bronze with writings of Church slavonic.  Apparently, it was a 17th Century icon that is very antique and lead others to offer him huge sums of money for it.  Dr. George feeling bad that this might be the wrong icon went to give it back to the Archbishop, and the Archbishop replied,

"Are you a Christian man George?"
"I hope so."
"This icon belongs to my great grandmother, and I had many possessions of my mother's and this icon is the last possession of my mother that I had, and I gave it to you because I love you and I love your wife.  And you know George, when you love someone, you give them the best and not the cheap.  Take it back.  If you don't take it back, don't come to Church anymore.  Because if you don't take it back, you have no real dynamic love in your life."
"I learned a very hard lesson today.  Thank you."
"I gave you this icon because I know how much it can give you in the market.  If you feel you need to sell it one day because you need the money, go ahead.  But when you are finished with it one day, give it to somebody you love."
This icon was given to Dr. George in 1968, and he is not finished with it yet.
Before his death, Archbishop Anthony Bloom gave Dr. George a bottle of perfume that belonged to his mother.  "It probably lost its fragrance," he said, "but take it and share it with your wife.  I know you're a man of vainglory and you like to smell nice.  But as for me, I'm heading towards eternity, to have with me the fragrance of the Holy Spirit."
"Does this mean you reached the 3rd level of Orthodoxy?"
"Yes!"

Therefore, what is eternal should be more important than what is transient.

Now my commentary:

Could this be a form of semi-iconoclasm, where people who kiss icons or light candles are committing paganism?  Are churches without icons considered better than churches with icons according to Dr. George?  When looking at the overall message, it is very worth listening to this message and to learn and benefit from it.  But this radical thought against the customs of kissing icons seems to go against a very important tradition in the Church. 

The rebuke against Dr. George by Abba Philemon is a good rebuke.  If you do not understand the custom that you are doing, and you are just doing this for custom's sake, then indeed, it's paganism.  But to make a sweeping argument and not turn this custom into understanding the symbols behind the custom and what it means for me to kiss an icon or to light a candle, then I think that goes against Orthodox iconology.  And would Dr. George agree that icons are "windows to heaven", where the real presence might be there so long as you receive from their presence a certain blessing?  What about the consecration of icons in the Church by the holy oil?  Is Dr. George insinuating that getting a blessing from icons or consecrating them might be a form of blasphemy as well?

These are issues that need to be clarified or at least his wording needs to be less provocative.  Hence another reason probably why he has become quite controversial in the Church.  Despite all of this, this lecture was quite good and gave good lessons, which is why I needed to listen and quote it in its context here.  Any comments are appreciated.

PS Around an hour and 53 minutes in, he does recommend one to read and to have patience to finish reading St. Augustine's work on the Trinity.

Week 6:

Week 6 was unfortunately cut off, but there was no controversy here.  The general theme is expanding upon the idea of personhood vs individuality, as well as defining the Trinity in terms of self-sacrificial love, as Lover, Beloved, and Love, three-in-one, and that we are called to participate fully in this love, that the Church should be an icon of this love, an icon of the Trinity.  In order to fully know the Trinity, it's not enough to just have ideas about the Trinity, but to immerse in a dialogue of love in the Trinity, to fully know the Trinity.


Week 7:

At around 27th minute:  Can God in his divinity choose not to know?  He admits giving a shock here and say "Yes," God may choose even in His divinity not to know.  "In good Christian theology, God does not know anything about us until we tell him". (John of Damascus).  God can know everything, and has the ability to know everything, but He can choose not to know.  Abba Philemon, "Your biggest mistake George is you think God treats you according to His knowledge.  God treats according to His love, but on the day of Judgment, He will treat you according to His knowledge."

Some people think how can this be, since choosing to not know means God isn't perfect in omniscience?  However, this is a false dichotomy, for God is still perfect even if He chooses not to know.

What do you all think?  Dr. George claims he gets this from St. John of Damascus, which I'd like to know the exact source.  I don't think he said anything wrong, but still, would love to see your input.

Week 8:

Nothing controversial.  But a very interesting lecture, and well worth the listen if you have time.  Here, he gives an introduction to deification and how it differs from New Agism.  He also talks about the dangers and pitfalls of Buddhism and Sufism, and how Christianity avoids those pitfalls.
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« Reply #52 on: September 30, 2012, 03:13:10 PM »

Hey mina,

I’d like to answer your comment regarding week 5:

I would have to say that I respectfully disagree with your analysis. It seems that Dr. Bebawi is right on the money about something which is becoming increasingly clear to me. I don’t think he is by any mens an iconoclast, but, being trained by the legends of Orthodox spirituality, he is speaking about hesychastic prayer in which all images must be removed from the mind. The person of god cannot be limited to a picture in your head, and so, the hesychast attempts to remove all images. For those of us who cannot attain to hesychastic prayer, the icons become a tool for us. The highest form of prayer is hesychastic prayer, and it is imagless. This is perfectly in line with patristic teaching. St. John Climacus says, “A poor man is pure during prayer, but an acquisitive man prays to material images.” (17.4) St. Nilui of Sinai also says, “When you pray, do not imagine God in any form and do not allow your mind to form any image…” As is evident, it is hard for the mind not to form an image when the eye is gazing directly at one. The question is can both mental and pure prayer be brought to perfection? I think yes, and I think that This video answers this question well (start listening at 19:08, though it is an excellent documentary so I recommend the whole shebang!) Dr. George may disagree, but this is hardly a matter of being incorrect, just a matter of opinions. It still does not touch iconoclasm.

What Dr. George speaks about when he mentions “Holy Paganism” is so uterally true that I cannot begin to fathom it. I, a huge fan of icons, have icons covering my room, so I guarantee that I am no iconoclast (and I’m not saying that you are implying that I am). But I walked into church once, and saw a woman kneeling on the floor, kissing a picture over and over and over and over. I looked at the picture, a painting of Christ resurrecting (he had a nice 6 pack, some hardcore pecs, blonde hair, and blue eyes.) I am not judging but I hope that she did not, in her head, assume that Jesus is anything like that. The beauty of Christ is internal, not external. Icons, by means of external methods, are supposed to help us into something internal, not leave us inspecting beautifully laid paint. The problem is with these statues, sometimes they become external shows. They show the Logos as a mere man, and a good looking one at that. Those who know how to use icons understand that the man they see in the picture is a symbolic representation of the incarnate word of God, and that the icon is not meant to be a picture but a spiritual revelation of mystery. Many don’t have this anymore, but delight in placing candles before a picture of Jesus because somehow, this icon is a magic font of healing. That is why, personally, when I began praying with icons, I read heavily about icons, knowing the danger in being lead away by them. When the iconoclasm question happened, the church decided it would elevate the icons so that people would not be able to touch them for a short time. They decided that icons are important but people do not understand, so we must do something. The way I see it, Dr. George is doing that exact thing. He is trying to give a warning to the misuse of imagery.

I think that, in terms of being less provocative, Dr. George is not speaking to children, but to people who, like yourself, can do away with the misunderstandings, and can understand what he truly means. He is not saying that it is blasphemy to consecrate icons. He is an EO. They had a whole ecumenical council for that! Lol

As for Augustine on the trinity, what do you make of that? I would like to hear your thoughts.

Pray for me, a terrible fool

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« Reply #53 on: October 01, 2012, 01:27:12 PM »

Let me requote the controversial part of Dr. George's talk:

Quote
He proceeds to talk about the "3 levels of Orthodoxy" in regards to iconology, in which the first two he believes are "blasphemy."

First level is when people practice going to kiss the icon as if it was a real presence of Christ or the saints, and calls it "holy paganism."  He also says the same about statues and the Catholic Church, but then says "maybe it's me and my Semitic mind."

Let's be honest here.  Isn't the Orthodox Church encouraging a real presence of the saints in these icons, especially if miracles come from these icons?  What about the myrrh-bearing icons both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox share?  Are these holy paganism if this shows some sort of real presence, and allows miracles to be worked when people touch, kiss, or light candles around them?

I accept that there are people with extremely simple minds that might have a borderline paganistic concept of icons.  Nevertheless, isn't there a school of thought were in liturgy, all our senses are enlightened.  Our sense of sight, where we see holy images to point us to eternity, the smell of incense, the music, the readings for our intellect, the taste of the Eucharist, all of which are sense-enlightening.  In this sense, we can say that indeed, these are all necessary tools so that we may learn how to turn, not just images, but also smell, touch, hearing, thoughts towards eternity, towards "a word" as he puts it.  But to call this first level blasphemy, wouldn't it discredit the use of icons in the Church to begin with, the idea that we light candles, and are encouraged to kiss the icons to receive their blessings?

I'm not knocking the forest of his message.  I think it's a great contemplation, but my point is even with adults, you still need to be careful with your usage of words here.  And yes, I'm still not condemning Dr. George.  Absolutely, I don't want to end up misunderstanding him.  But this is just another example where maybe he lead those in the Coptic Church with childish minds to snap right back at him.  And I think there needs to be some wisdom in the way one speaks so that you can allow those with childish minds to grow up gradually to a mature level of thinking that can be ready for more provocative words.

At the same time, it can be misconstrued to think that perhaps it's better to have a Church without icons, so that we may concentrate more on eternity in our minds than on images.
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« Reply #54 on: October 01, 2012, 03:17:48 PM »

I would have to disagree about his understanding of what icons are.

Icons are called "Windows to Heaven" for a reason.

They are more than mere paint on wood.  They resonate with the essence of the saint being depicted on them.

If they meant "nothing" and were not "special" than there would be no issue in tossing them out in the trash.  We don't do that, however.  If we no longer need them, we give them away, or as a last resort destroy them via burning and burying the ashes where nobody walks.

Christ left us His icon - the Icon Made without Hands....and through that icon He worked a miracle of healing King Abgar's body and soul.

We venerate the icons as they are a "window" to that saint.  I truly believe that the individual here's our petitions made before their icons.  We don't love the icon for the wood and paint, but, for the saint that reaches out to us through them.

The faithful realize an icon is a 2-D item, and therefore, realize that the miracles experienced are not from the fibrous material, but, from the holy emanating through that fibrous material.

Apparently this man doesn't realize the true value of icons.  I am amazed he is an EO priest.  How can that be?


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« Reply #55 on: October 01, 2012, 03:37:53 PM »

He's an EO communicant, but not a priest.
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« Reply #56 on: October 01, 2012, 03:39:32 PM »


Oh...thank God! 

So, he's EO, but, doesn't "believe" what the Church teaches about icons...

I'm curious what his priest/bishop think of his theology.
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« Reply #57 on: October 01, 2012, 03:47:55 PM »

Quote
As for Augustine on the trinity, what do you make of that? I would like to hear your thoughts.

Sorry ReturnOrthodoxy, I forgot to answer your question about this.  I honestly don't know.  But considering the fact that many turn to Dr. George as a way of proving Copts are Monophysite heretics, I do like to point this out to show that sometimes Dr. George might in fact disagree with certain "conservative" views of "traditionalist" Orthodox, such as the borderline "heresies" they claim in that book by St. Augustine.  Personally, I think there might be some misunderstandings, but of course, this is my whole point in this thread.  People like Mina Mounir in Egypt and Fr. Athanasius in Greece who like to mention Dr. George as a source of Orthodoxy against the Coptic Church need to know that even Dr. George, as laudable a man he is and respectful in his knowledge and wisdom, is not perfect, and may lead others to think somehow it's solely the Coptic Church's fault for issues like theosis.  The question I am raising, is it JUST theosis that lead Dr. George to leave the Coptic Church?

This is the question I want people to think.  This is just the beginning here.  There are other stories that he shared that makes me wonder, "well, duh!!! it's against canon law...even EOs won't like that".  That's why I feel as much as anything, sometimes, when it comes to higher ups in the issues of our many local Orthodox churches, we have to rule out, maybe there's a clash of egos and provocations.  I'm not saying the Coptic Church doesn't have its problems, but neither doesn't Dr. George.
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« Reply #58 on: October 01, 2012, 04:07:59 PM »


Oh...thank God! 

So, he's EO, but, doesn't "believe" what the Church teaches about icons...

I'm curious what his priest/bishop think of his theology.
Just a bit of a background, besides my original post in this thread, here's another thread concerning his conversion story and the controversies surrounding him:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,38938.0.html
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« Reply #59 on: October 13, 2012, 02:43:24 PM »

I want to take a bit of a break from the lectures shared, since I know many people here might still have more comments to make on the lectures posted.  But I want to share a letter Dr. George made public online here:

http://www.coptology.com/?p=2416

The letter was dated May 14, 2012, and it was sent to His Eminence Metropolitan Bakhomios.  I am very deficient in Arabic, nevertheless, my father was able to translate for me the message of the letter.  I invite anyone here who is excellent in Arabic to translate the letter for us.

Dr. George writes with great humility about his situation, how Dr. George was framed and defrauded into excommunication by the Holy Synod in 1997.  His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy had taken audio recordings of Dr. George, and edited them, burning out the contexts of these audio tapes and making Dr. George sound like a heretic, all of those charges which he denies.  He asked His Holiness Pope Shenouda for 25 years if an investigation be made on these tapes to clear his name, but to no avail, since his letters seemed to have not reached His Holiness to begin with.  He is therefore forced to make this letter public online in case this particular letter does not reach His Eminence Metropolitan Bakhomious.

Dr. George said that these are serious charges that can be brought against His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy in a court of law, but as a Christian, he cannot find himself to get the Egyptian government involved to arrest any cleric, no less a bishop!  He asked rather that the issue remain internal, with a Coptic judge.  And Metropolitan Bishoy did not do this only to him, but to His Grace Bishop Mettias that lead to his suspension and to countless other Copts wronged by this man.

Nevertheless, the main purpose of this letter is about his candidacy for the Papacy.  It would be enough for Dr. George if with all his power, His Eminence Metropolitan Bakhomious, to remove Metropolitan Bishoy from the list of candidates for the Papacy.  It would also be enough if he apologizes to Dr. George, nothing more, nothing less.  But at the very least, for the sake of the future of the Coptic Church, he should NOT be a candidate for the Papacy.

What does this letter mean?  It shows Dr. George actually loves the Coptic Church.  Despite whatever other people may say, issues about Chalcedon specifically, here Dr. George is complaining of ONE MAN in the Coptic Church, no one else, a man who he considers lacks theological education, and is leading many astray.  But I'd be hard-pressed to find anything by Dr. George against the post-Chalcedonian Church.  If anything, this letter also implies a certain plea that his name may be cleared and that he may return to the Coptic Church.  Many people today have called for the Coptic Church to clear Dr. George and to have him return, with apologies from the ridiculous judgments made by His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy.

It is also with much surprise and pleasure to many members of the Coptic Church that Dr. George's prayers and requests were answered.

Quote from: Letter of Dr. George Bebawi to His Eminence Metropolitan Bakhomious, May 14, 2012, On Removing His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy as Candidate for the Papacy
الحبر الجيل نيافة الأنبا باخوميوس

المسيح قام، حقاً قام

هذا هو رجاء كل مسيحي في هذه الحياة الحاضرة والآتية أيضاً؛ لأن لنا رجاء واحد في الرب الواحد.

أعتذر قبل أي شيء آخر عما سوف تقرأه في هذه السطور، ولكن هكذا كانت تسير الأمور، وهكذا أيضاً يجب أن نقف صفاً واحداً مع الحق، ومع شهادة يسوع المسيح “الإله الحق” كما نعترف به في قانون الإيمان.


كنت قد طلبت في خطاب لنيافة الأنبا بيشوي مطران دمياط وكفر الشيخ أن لا يتقدم للترشح لشغل مكان الراحل الكريم الأنبا شنودة الثالث، وذكرت في خطابي الأسباب التي دعتني لمطالبته بعدم الترشح، وها أنا هنا أضع هذه الأسباب تحت بصر نيافتكم وأعضاء المجمع المقدس، طالباً من نيافتكم أن تبذلوا جهدكم لسحب أوراق ترشحه لهذا المنصب:

أولاً:

قام الأنبا بيشوي بعمل مونتاج لشرائط بعض محاضرات الكلية الاكليريكية التي كنت ألقيها بطنطا، وحرَّف ما قلته فيها، وأخرج نصوصاً جديدةً لم ترد على لساني في سياقها الطبيعي، الأمر الذي اعتقد معه البعض أن ما ورد بهذه الشرائط صحيح، وهو أبعد ما يكون عن الصحة. وهو بذلك يكون قد ارتكب تزويراً فاضحاً يكفي لتقديمه لمحكمة الجنايات. وغنيٌ عن البيان أن من يرتكب هذا الفعل لا يجب أن يجلس في مكان الأسقف، فما بال نيافتكم بكرسي الإسكندرية؟ علماً بأن الأمر لم يقتصر على شخصي، بل قام بذات الفعل (التزوير) مع نيافة الأنبا متياس أسقف المحلة الكبرى. ورغم أنني طالبت أكثر من مرة طوال 25 سنة بالتحقيق في هذا الموضوع، وعرض الشرائط على خبير في التسجيلات الصوتية بإشراف قاضِ قبطي إلاَّ أن الطلب لم يجد آذاناً صاغية، وأعتقد أن نيافتكم لا يغيب عنه سبب ذلك.

ثانياً:

إنني التمس منكم – وأنا أعرف عنكم الغيرة والإيمان – أن تقنع الأنبا بيشوي بسحب طلب الترشح والتنازل عن دخول الانتخابات للأسباب التي أوردتها. أمَّا إذا أصر على موقفه، خصوصاً وهو لم يعتذر عما فعله طوال سنوات طويلة، ظَلَمَ فيها الكثيرين من أصحاب الحق … فإنني مضطر لتقديم شكوى للنائب العام.

أنا مسيحي، ولا أقبل أن أجد حقي لدى القضاء المصري، ولكن عندما تتعذر حتى الشكوى، فإنني مضطر كما سبق واضطررت للجوء إلى منصة القضاء المصري طعناً على قرار المجمع المقدس بعزلي من الكنيسة القبطية، أقول إنني مضطر للجوء إلى ذات المنصة التي أنصفتني وانصفت الكثيرين، عندما عزَّ الحصول على الحق في دارٍ من المفترض فيها أنها تعرف الحق المتجسد ربنا يسوع، وأن تعطيه لأصحابه دون أن يضطر أحدهم للجوء إلى تلمُّس هذا الحق خارج الكنيسة. لذلك، فأنا لا زلت أرجو أن يكون في الكنيسة الشاهدة للحق، مَن يعطي كل ذي حق حقه.

لذلك أكتب لكم هذا الخطاب المفتوح – وأنا اعتذر عن ذلك – فقد قيل لي أكثر من مرة إن بعض الخطابات لم تصل الى الأنبا شنودة الثالث؛ ولذلك، وحرصاً على أن لا أضطر للجوء إلى تقديم بلاغ إلى النائب العام ضد هذا الإنسان، لأنني – كمسيحي لا أقبل أن يمسه سوء أو شر رغم ما فعله وهو يعرفه حق المعرفة – فها أنا ألجأ إليكم وأشهدكم عليه.

فإذا نجحت نيافتكم ومعكم الشرفاء من اساقفتنا في إبعاد الأنبا بيشوي، الذي لم يحترم لائحة المجمع المقدس وظل يشغل سكرتارية المجمع المقدس طوال 25 عاماً، فسوف يعم الخير وسوف يذكر التاريخ لكم هذه المأثرة، لأن هذا النوع من البشر لا يجوز له أن يتقدم لينال مسئولية أكبر.

إنني اثق في محبتكم للحق وفي الشهادة الحسنة، ولأنني أعرف ذلك عنكم كتبت هذه السطور بكل ألم؛ لأنني أعرف أنني أضعك في موقف لا أرضاه لنفسي، ولكن الضرورة وشدة وقع ترشح الأنبا بيشوي للانتخابات عليَّ وعلى غيري من الذين مسهم ظلم صارخ منه وبسببه، هذه الضرورة تفرض عليَّ الانتباه والتنبيه إلى مصلحة الكنيسة.

فإذا ما حُذِفَ اسم الأنبا بيشوي من قائمة المرشحين، فسوف اعتبر أن هذا هو ختام هذه الواقعة السمجة الشريرة معاً.

وأنا أرجو أن تعتبر هذا الخطاب – بما ورد فيه من أسباب – طعناً مني على ترشح الأنبا بيشوي لمنصب بطريرك الكنيسة القبطية.

تقبل محبتي واحترامي لشخصكم الكريم، مع طلب بركة صلواتكم.

ابنكم

د. جورج حبيب بباوي
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« Reply #60 on: October 13, 2012, 02:56:02 PM »

^Thanks for this, Mina. Smiley
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