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« on: May 25, 2004, 01:13:40 AM »

Ecumenism and the Ecclesiology of Saint Cyprian of Carthage

by Fr. Daniel Degyansky (OCA)



Saint Cyprian of Carthage developed with fearless consistency a doctrine of the complete absence of Grace in every sect which had separated itself from the True Church. His doctrine is one of the basic foundation blocks of Orthodox ecclesiology and it stands in direct opposition to the presuppositions of the ecumenical movement. Moreover, his warnings about the enemies of the Church have traditionally guided Orthodox in their response to those outside Her fold:

    Not only must we beware of what is open and manifest, but also what deceives by the craft of subtle fraud. And what can be more crafty, or what more subtle, than for this enemy...to devise a new fraud, and under the very title of the Christian name to deceive the incautious. [139]

Saint Cyprian’s warnings about enemies of the Church who call themselves "Christians" in order to destroy the Faith can be applied to many of those who support unity through the contemporary ecumenical movement. The fact that such application is seldom made gives us evidence of just how far contemporary ecumenism has removed some Orthodox from the criterion of truth that is their Faith.

The essence of Saint Cyprian’s reasoning lay "in the conviction that the sacraments are established in the Church." That is to say, they are effected and can be effected only in the Church, in communion and in communality. Therefore, every violation of communality and unity in itself leads immediately beyond the last barrier into some decisive outside. To Saint Cyprian every schism was a departure out of the Church, out of that sanctified and holy land "where alone rises the baptismal spring, the waters of salvation." [140] Saint Cyprian was adamant in his position with regard to the Church’s rejection of the validity of an heretical sacrament:

    For it is no small and insignificant matter which is conceded to heretics, when their baptism is recognized by us; since thence springs the whole origin of faith and the saving access to the hope of life eternal. And the divine condescension for purifying and quickening the servants of God. For if any one could be baptized among heretics, certainly he could also obtain remission of sins. If he attained remission of sins, he was also sanctified.[141]

Saint Cyprian felt that if the True Church recognizes the sacraments of those outside of Her realm, She gives credibility to heretics and schismatics:

    For if they shall see that it is determined and decreed by our judgement and sentence, that the baptism wherewith they are there baptized is considered just and legitimately in possession of the Church also, and the other gifts of the Church; nor will there be any reason for their coming to us, when, as they have baptism, they seem also to have the rest. But further, when they know that there is no baptism without, and that no remission of sins can be given outside of the Church, they more eagerly and readily hasten to us, and implore the gifts and benefits of the Church, our Mother, assured that they can in no wise attain to the true promise of divine grace unless they first come to the Truth of the Church.[142]

The teaching of Saint Cyprian on the Gracelessness of those outside the True Church is directly related to his teaching on unity and communality: "Therefore, we ought to consider their faith who believe without, whether in respect of the same faith they can obtain by grace, for if we and the heretics have one faith, we may also have one grace." [143] Strictly speaking, the theological premises of Saint Cyprian’s teaching have never been rejected. At the same time, neither has the Orthodox Church ever unequivocally applied Saint Cyprian’s conclusions. In fact, the First Canon of Saint Basil, if carefully analyzed, suggests that the issue of schism and heresy is more complex, in practical terms, than the theory of Saint Cyprian would suggest. Thus the canonical norms of the Orthodox Church do not state that schismatics are in all circumstances without Grace. Ecumenists have used Saint Basil’s position, at times, to defend their activities (though in the course of deviation from correct Orthodox teaching, it must be noted, many Orthodox ecumenists have come to believe that "schism" and "heresy" are terms without meaning, except when they can be used to berate those Orthodox who oppose the ecumenical movement). In fact, however, the ecclesiological teachings of Saint Cyprian complement and stand side by side with those of Saint Basil, since they are unified by the function of "economy," by which the theoretical exactness of Saint Cyprian’s teaching is rendered effective in the oikonomia of practical application.

Thus, there are those who quite wrongly think that the Church has in some instances acknowledged that the sacraments of   sectarians, and even of heretics, are valid. They wrongly assume that the Church admits that sacraments can be celebrated outside of the strict canonical limits of the Church—a perilous assumption, indeed. The Church, for example, may under extraordinary circumstances accept adherents from sects, and even from heresies, not by way of Baptism, but rather by Chrismation or even by their simple profession of our Orthodox Faith. But in so doing, She does not recognize, as some theologians incorrectly assert, what is outside Her domain; rather, by "economy," the Church, being the Pan-Mystery, as Archimandrite Justin expresses it, creates Grace where there was no Grace, filling the empty form of a mystery (sacrament) unknown to Her. At the same time, before the emergence of whole bodies of Christians separated from the historical Orthodox Church, there were times when those who had lapsed in their Faith even for a generation were received back into the Church without being Baptized. But here, too, it was the correct form of their empty mysteries which the Church accepted, not the validity of their sacraments. By "economy," then, the primacy of the Church was extended beyond Herself to create Grace in what was done outside Her boundaries. But in so doing, in no way whatsoever did She accept what was beyond Her boundaries. She acted beyond the Canons, but not in violation of them:

    As a mystical organism, as the sacramental Body of Christ, the Church cannot be adequately described in canonical terms or categories alone. It is impossible to state or discern the true limits of the Church simply by canonical signs or marks.... In her sacramental, mysterious existence the Church surpasses canonical measurements. For that reason a canonical cleavage does not immediately signify mystical impoverishment and desolation. All that Saint Cyprian said about the unity of the Church and the sacraments can be and must be accepted. But it is not necessary, as he did, to draw the final boundary around the body of the Church by canonical points alone.[144 ]

Saint Augustine of Hippo, espousing opinions clearly outside the consensus of the Church Fathers, wrote that within the sects and divisions of Christianity the "union of peace" had been broken and torn asunder, but in their mysteries the "unity of the Spirit" had not been terminated. This shows, as Father Florovsky observes, "the unique paradox of sectarian existence: the sect remains united with the Church in the grace of the sacraments, and this becomes a condemnation once love and communal mutuality have withered." [145] Thus, Saint Augustine directly affirmed "that in the sacraments of sectarians, the Church is active; some she engenders of herself, others she engenders outside, of her maid-servant, and schismatic baptism is valid for this very reason, that it is performed by the Church." [146] According to Saint Augustine, then, "the Holy and Sanctifying Spirit still breathes in the sects, but in the stubbornness and powerlessness of schism healing is not accomplished." [147]

Ecumenists have used Saint Augustine’s thought to confirm that there are valid sacraments outside the Orthodox Church. By the same token, those opposed to ecumenism have concluded from the same thought that the rites of the schismatics are not sacraments, but a blasphemous caricature thereof. Some Orthodox conservatives affirm, indeed, that salvation can be found only within the confines of the Orthodox Church, thus arguing that all schismatics are condemned to damnation. The conclusions of the ecumenists are absolutely incorrect. The Orthodox Church accepts no sacrament outside of Her boundaries except, again, as empty forms. Moreover, Saint Augustine is writing about the undivided Christianity of an age which knew nothing of the hundreds of sects which constitute the Christian world of our day, many of them so far removed from the historical Church and Her rich doctrines that only by their belief in Christ can they be defined as Christians. It is an act of intellectual dishonesty to use his  words about sects and heresies in the ancient Church as though they applied clearly to contemporary times. Nor, as we have pointed out, is the thinking of Saint Augustine about the validity of the sacraments of heretics and sectarians in agreement with the Patristic consensus or internally consistent.

At the same time, it is wrong for "conservatives" to interpret the words of Saint Augustine in such a way as to suggest that the Orthodox Church compromises the Providence of God. The Church has always affirmed the dominance of love within the confines of Her exclusive claims that  only in Her bosom does salvation rest. Because of God’s love, the Orthodox Church can at once proclaim that salvation is possible only for Orthodox Christians and, at the same time, refuse to compromise Divine Providence by condemning all others to damnation. And because of the love which prompts the Church in Her mission, She at times reaches out in the spirit of "economy" to fill with Her exclusive Grace the empty forms of non-Orthodox religious acts. In so doing, however, the Orthodox Church never, until the advent of ecumenism, acknowledged the validity of any sacrament outside Her boundaries.

In many ways, the Orthodox Church cannot accept the precepts of modern ecumenism because they also violate the spiritual teachings of the Fathers about personal integrity as a foundation for ecclesiastical validity. In the fourth century, Saint Ephraim the Syrian said, "Pride does not permit a man to accept the teachings handed down by Tradition." [148] The Orthodox tend to see separation and disunity in Christianity not as the result of a tragic process of mutual alienation, but of pride and sin. Thus, the second major schism in Christianity, the Great Schism of 1054, can be seen in the following way:

    By the anathema against papism the Church proclaimed that the pope and his followers abandoned the Church, lost the Truth (which is Christ), and were submerged in the depths of error from which Christ came to free them. Their teachings were declared a delusion of the Evil One, and a poison to the souls of men, and any communication with them makes us like them by cutting us off from the Grace of God, from His Holy Church, and estranges us from the path of salvation, placing us rather on the road to perdition.[149]

The root causes of heresy and schism, then, are the intransigence and sin of prideful men. Heresy and schism do not just happen; they are caused. They rise out of spiritual delusion, spiritual disease, and alienation from the ways of God and His Church. Deviation from Orthodox Truth in the form of ecumenical activities has had a negative effect on the Church, as though to prove that schism and heresy are not the products of misunderstanding, but of the willful deviation of wrong believers from the True Church. For instance, Orthodox theologians have come to reject the Canons of the Church, so that they can justify their ecumenism. Thus the late Archpriest John Meyendorff, a well-known spokesman for Orthodox in America, dismisses the Canons which forbid joint prayer with heretics as archaic and no longer applicable to the Church. He claims that these Canons were intended to apply to prayer with conscious apostates from the True Church, "and not sincere Christians who never personally left it." [150] Thus individual responsibility for wrong belief becomes an inessential part of Christian confession—a novel idea, indeed. By the same token, not a few Orthodox theologians and Hierarchs are beginning to see a place for Orthodoxy in the ecumenical "branch theory."

While claiming to love the Orthodox Faith, they violate their promises at Ordination to defend the Truth and instead openly state that the Orthodox Church is just as guilty of divisiveness as the heretics and schismatics who separated themselves from the Church of their own free will. Again, to hold such views or to participate in ecumenical activities which champion such ideas is to deny the existence of the True Church and Christ’s earthly presence. Thus one who participates in such ecumenism perforce denies Christ.[151] Ecumenism, in short, has led many Orthodox to deny the very existence of Christ as we Orthodox understand Him.
Endnotes

139. St. Cyprian of Carthage, The Unity of the Church (Mahopac, NY: Kursk-Root Icon Hermitage, n.d.), p. 3.

140. Florovsky, Ecumenism I , p. 36.

141. St. Cyprian of Carthage, "Epistle to Jubianus," in Vol. 5 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, MI:Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), p. 382.

142. Ibid., p. 385.

143. Ibid., p. 380.

144. Florovsky, Ecumenism I , p. 37.

145. Ibid., p. 42.

146. Ibid., p. 41-42.

147. Ibid., p. 42.

148. "Stolen Doctrines," The Orthodox Christian Witness, Vol. 19, No. 29 (17/30 March 1986), p. 3.

149. Alexander Kalomiros, "The Anathema of 1054" (Seattle: St. Nectarios Educational Series, No. 69).

150. Meyendorff, Witness, p. 46.

151. Lev [Archbishop Lazar] Puhalo, "Can One be an Ecumenist without Denying Christ?," Orthodox Life, Vol. 24, No. 3 (May-June 1974), p. 33.

From Orthodox Christianity and the Spirit of Contemporary Ecumenism, by Fr. Daniel Degyansky. (Etna: CA, The Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1997 [1992]), pp. 76-83. Fr. Daniel is a Priest in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
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« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2004, 07:33:52 AM »

How then do we apply Rom.10:9-13 in this context? ( " 9.  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
 10.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
 11.  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
 12.  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
 13.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." )

Shiloah , asking this as a serious question. I am not asking from Protestantism. Presently I am attending an OCA parish dedicated to St.Cyprian.
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2004, 07:42:22 AM »

Bogo,

tomorrow I will go overseas til June 9 and I really had hoped to get an answer to my question in reply to your post about the Ecclesiology of St.Cyprian. I attend an OCA parish dedicated to St.Cyprian.  

The world would be a better place if there was an orthodox church in every village, but it was not the orthodox priests, but the methodist and baptist circuit riders for instance in the United States who felt compelled to take the Gospel from village to village. Now all the people who have committed their life to Christ because "they were pricked in their heart" (Acts 2:37) and they repented and got baptized, don't you think the Lord will consider the intentions of their heart, or do you really think He'll send them straight to hell because they did not find an Orthodox church?

Yes, I am aware that all the denominations are but splits from a split from a split from the latin church, and ultimately the latin church is a split from the original apostolic orthodox Church. But why have this despising attitude towards all non-orthodox believers and consider them wayward renegades and their faith a work of the devil?

To me they are still on the way, (- not that we have arrived yet either) and if Jesus could sit with sinners and fellowship with the outcasts of society with the result that they loved Him and followed Him - why can't we do the same? Isn't every non-Orthodox human being made by the same Creator of Heaven and Earth as you and I? Aren't we all made in His image and owe respect to each other, or in whose image do you think they were created?

In John 6:45 I hear Jesus say "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."  It is the Father Who draws a soul to Jesus. And the Father by the unlimited power/energy of the Holy Spirit, can do it in whatever way He choses without our approval. Just consider John 3:8.

I would like to invite you and all the readers here to consider 1.Cor.3:3-11 and not to limit God but to be thankful for every soul that loves the Lord and to pray for all who are struggling to follow Him.

"  For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
 4.  For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
 5.  Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
 6.  I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
 7.  So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
 8.  Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
 9.  For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
 10.  According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
 11.  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Shiloah who loves her Savior and mankind
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« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2004, 07:57:18 AM »

As far as I know, Shiloah, any number of Protestants, and Catholics, may be our brothers and sisters.  Unless I am mistaken, I don't think Joe would deny that.  I know that the Holy Spirit has been at work in my life from the beginning, and has led me to Orthodoxy, sometimes through, and sometimes in spite of, the Protestant churches I've been in.  

But the question is that of whether the Orthodox Church should welcome Protestant or Catholic churches into communion without their becoming Orthodox churches.  That must not happen, because it would compromise Holy Tradition.  To do so would be to validate their heresies.  That would not be a loving thing to do.

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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2004, 08:40:21 AM »

I know that the Holy Spirit has been at work in my life from the beginning, and has led me to Orthodoxy, sometimes through, and sometimes in spite of, the Protestant churches I've been in.  

Same here, and thanks for posting. I understand the point about the communion. What makes me think, though, is the many wonderful healings and miracles that have occured in those other denominational churches related to the Holy Communion.
And again, it is just that, the Holy Eucharist and the Liturgy that I have missed in other churches and that makes me want to be part of the OCA for life.

In my mind I often stand before the Savior (before the big icon in our church) and I have a lot of questions. And He is full of grace and mercy and His love is what comforts me. :inlove:

Shiloah
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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2004, 09:47:36 AM »

Saint Cyprian of Carthage developed with fearless consistency a doctrine of the complete absence of Grace in every sect which had separated itself from the True Church.

What is here called "fearless consistency" I call "limitlessly arrogant parochialism".
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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2004, 09:56:17 AM »

What is here called "fearless consistency" I call "limitlessly arrogant parochialism".


Perhaps knowing what others would call it is what makes it fearless.
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« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2004, 10:02:47 AM »

What is here called "fearless consistency" I call "limitlessly arrogant parochialism".


But of course this would have to be your opinion, Keble, wouldn't it?

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« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2004, 10:31:16 AM »

"SAINT CYPRIAN Doctor of the Church, Bishop of Carthage and Martyr (GÇá258). "

Once again, we are taking writings from eons ago and possibly applying to one specific type of heresy and casting it as a net over all non-Orthodox Christiandom.

YOU CANT DO THAT! You don't know the context.

I have no problem with applying writings relating to the SPIRIT and how to live your life as a Chrsitian, but taking writings that were written to PROBABLY address a specific heresy that we do not know the details of, that is something else entirely.

Just WHAT form of Protestantism do you think he was writing about in the early to mid 200's?
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« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2004, 10:43:24 AM »

Perhaps knowing what others would call it is what makes it fearless.

I wonder what Jesus would call it?

Any Christian who lays claim to (is arrogant about) an issue without being able to  back it up with Scripture and/or the Traditional Writings of the Church opens the door to schismatic discussion.

I think the article Bogo posted is a very good article. What saddens me in it is the attitude . For instance I quote
"The teaching of Saint Cyprian on the Gracelessness of those outside the True Church is directly related to his teaching on unity and communality: "Therefore, we ought to consider their faith who believe without, whether in respect of the same faith they can obtain by grace, for if we and the heretics have one faith, we may also have one grace." [143]

God is above our judgmental thinking. He can give grace even if "we and the heretics" do not have the same faith, meaning they and us differ about certain subjects.

As ambassadors of reconcilition our task is not to judge what others believe but to bring the Gospel to those who do not know it yet. When they get reconciled with God, through repentance and baptism, healing and re-covery (of what was lost) can set in, and it is God's grace that will allow them to grow and make progress in Him.

We should not condemn anybody for not being orthodox, but rather thank the Lord for His providential work in them, and focus on what we have in common rather than what separates us. Smiley

Shiloah, thankful for every fearless poster here
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« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2004, 11:05:35 AM »

We should not condemn anybody for not being orthodox,...

What I always find interesting about those Orthodox who are so convinced (and I am NOT speaking of anyone in particular here) that "there is no salvation outside of the Orthodox Church", if they TRULY believe this, then THEY ARE IN DEEP DOO-DOO when they go before the Lord and he asks them "If you KNEW this, then why did you not spend your life trying to bring them to Me. That WAS YOUR CHARGE. YOU are MORE guilty than they because you KNEW THE TRUTH And yet you TURNED YOUR BACK to them"

Think about that.

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« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2004, 11:28:16 AM »

St Cyprian's teachings were not accepted by the Orthodox Church at large. My reading of Trullo Canon 2 indicates that they accepted his beliefs but as local opinions. Others might read that canon differently though.
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« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2004, 12:06:21 PM »

St. Cyprian's writtings can really be misused, and treated as if his teachings are 100% official Orthodox teaching and always have been. I have seen this in groups like ROAC, who use, or I should say misuse, his writtings to condemn "World Orthodoxy" for recieving converts into the Church by Chrismation only, rather than baptism. I think we have a problem when Orthodox Christians start using a Saint's writtings as if they were the infallible word of God, to condemn fellow Orthodox Chrisrtians. But I'm not even Orthodox (yet Wink) so what do I know?
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« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2004, 12:51:48 PM »

I wonder what Jesus would call it?


Well, after all, He did say "salvation is of the Jews".

As for your first post in this thread, I"m not sure how to answer. It seems as though you were addressing me for an answer when in fact you should be asking St. Cyprian.  Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2004, 01:02:39 PM »

What I always find interesting about those Orthodox who are so convinced (and I am NOT speaking of anyone in particular here) that "there is no salvation outside of the Orthodox Church", if they TRULY believe this, then THEY ARE IN DEEP DOO-DOO when they go before the Lord and he asks them "If you KNEW this, then why did you not spend your life trying to bring them to Me. That WAS YOUR CHARGE. YOU are MORE guilty than they because you KNEW THE TRUTH And yet you TURNED YOUR BACK to them"

Think about that.



Yes, I think a lot about that and I am glad you mention it here publicly, TomE.

Thank you and all the other posters. You have made my day. I had gotten kind of intimidated and thought it was a big No-No - at least on this forum -  to take a stand for non-orthodox. But I see there are some outspoken people here who have some sense.
I know what a controlling spirit feels like in church and I also know the great light and love of the orthodox teachings, and the peace that comes from the heart of our Savior. Everytime we go against His heart something inside of me cringes and I know something is wrong but can't always put it into words.

Bless you all,
shiloah
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« Reply #15 on: May 26, 2004, 01:10:01 PM »

Ah Bogo, aren't you glad now to get this sticky topic off your hands? Grin

Yes, I would like to hear what St.Cyprian would have to say about that today.

And thanks for mentioning what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well.

Can you recommend a book where the orthodox teaching is presented crystal clear and not contaminated with  "our Orthodoxy better than yours" theology?

Shiloah
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"God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" 2.Cor.4:6

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« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2004, 01:40:15 PM »

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What I always find interesting about those Orthodox who are so convinced (and I am NOT speaking of anyone in particular here) that "there is no salvation outside of the Orthodox Church", if they TRULY believe this, then THEY ARE IN DEEP DOO-DOO when they go before the Lord and he asks them "If you KNEW this, then why did you not spend your life trying to bring them to Me. That WAS YOUR CHARGE. YOU are MORE guilty than they because you KNEW THE TRUTH And yet you TURNED YOUR BACK to them"

I agree. I also don't understand this kind of attitude by some in Orthodoxy. If they are so sure there is no grace to be found anywhere else, why wouldn't they be out there just as much as the Evangelicals & the JW/Moromon cultist convincing everyone why they need to repent and be baptised into the "true" faith of Christ which is found in Orthodoxy. I mean, isn't that what Paul and the other apostles did so adamantly & with such authority in the gospels???

I hate to say it, but some of the critics of Orthodoxy are correct in some of thier observations about this attitude. This is what drives many searching evangelicals into the arms of Roman Catholicism when they encounter such arrogance from some in Orthodoxy. I had this same experience at one point with Orthodoxy initially and turned my back from it & started looking into Roman Catholicism. I decided though to give Orthodoxy another chance because I was convinced that it was the true church of christ & that's when I discovered the Antiochains who had such a gracious spirit towards me and they were an example of real christian charity.

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« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2004, 08:38:29 PM »

Ben,

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St. Cyprian's writtings can really be misused, and treated as if his teachings are 100% official Orthodox teaching and always have been. I have seen this in groups like ROAC, who use, or I should say misuse, his writtings to condemn "World Orthodoxy" for recieving converts into the Church by Chrismation only, rather than baptism. I think we have a problem when Orthodox Christians start using a Saint's writtings as if they were the infallible word of God, to condemn fellow Orthodox Chrisrtians. But I'm not even Orthodox (yet ) so what do I know?

I think ROAC (and the Old Calendarists, and apparently still ROCOR as well) has an issue not with the reality of receiving people by economy, but with the following...

- receiving persons by "economy" who have not been baptized in a fashion that remotely resembles an Orthodox Baptism under any circumstances

- the practice of "economy" in such a way as to infer that heterodox sacraments are the same as Orthodox sacraments, and that the reception of converts by "economy" (say, by repentence and Chrismation) is somehow a tacit affirmation that the heterodox have mysteriological (sacramental) grace.

The latter is the primary reason why ROCOR stopped receiving converts by "economy", despite the fact that pre-revolutionary Russian service books do allow for this in the case of converts from certain heterodox bodies.  It also explains why Greek practice has gone back and forth, depending on the circumstances (and why presently, Greek Old Calendarists only receive converts from western heterodox groups by Baptism.)

The Orthodox view is that the Holy Mysteries are parts of the Church, and that you cannot rend them from the Church and expect them to be "valid".  The Church is the Body of Christ - as such, when She Baptizes, it is Christ Who Baptizes.  When Her Priests celebrate the Divine Liturgy, in reality it is Christ Who does such, acting as both Priest and Victim, feeding His flock on His very Body and Blood.

If someone is received via "economy", the reality is that what was previously simply exterior is being energized and given content.  It is not a tacit acceptance that the grace of the mysteries exists apart from the Church, despite what some now opine.

However if there is no advantage to be found in such lenient reception of converts, then the default would be to Baptize them outright.  Either way, it is their reception into the Church, on the Church's terms, which is giving them the life of grace.

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« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2004, 08:47:01 PM »

Augustine of Hippo, et all

Using Augustine of Hippo as an authority when he disagrees with the consensus of the Fathers is a dangerous practice, particularly since there is alot in his teachings which contradicts the patristic consensus - keeping in mind he also supported filioque-ism, an error which spread far and wide in the west precisely because Augustine was eventually taken as a religious authority amongst the Latins.

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« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2004, 09:17:08 PM »

Shiloah,

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9.  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11.  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12.  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I will not pretend to know who God saves.  Given that there are those who are considered martyrs by the Church who died as catechumen, who had received "grace before grace", it is something which can only be met with silence.

What is not debatable, however, is that the grace of the Holy Mysteries, is unique to the Church of Christ.  Unlike in Catholicism, it is only in the most grave of circumstances that one can speak of there being a "non-Priestly" Baptism (a layman baptizing someone), and in such cases the person Baptizing in an emergency has to be at the very least, an Orthodox Christian (where as the RC's teach that even an atheist can baptize someone.)  In Orthodoxy, "sacramental validity" is linked at the hip to ecclessial context.

With that said, I suppose one can speculate whether or not there are those in formerly Orthodox communions, who have not assimilated a heresy, or are ignorant/inculpable of the separation of say, their chief heirarch from the unity of the Orthodox Church.  I've heard the analogy made between schisms/heresies and a tree limb that is hacked off from a tree - for a time it will maintain it's form and even signs of life (it may even blossom).  Eventually however it will totally dry up, and eventually decay and lose even it's form.  Perhaps that "decay" can be seen as being like the assimilation of heresy and antagonism towards the genuine Church of Christ, spreading through the severed branch.

The problem of course with such speculations, is that there is no way of making such judgements.  Ultimatly, one can only make judgements along canonical lines - those who are within the Church, and those who are not (as determined by the Church's dogmas, and the holy canons.)  That is what determines the Church's posture towards a group which is known to have severed itself in some way from Her.

In principle, St.Cyprian (and it is not only his thought - it's reflected in the Apostolic Canons, and in the writing of other Fathers, both ancient and more recent) is correct - schism and bare headed heresy, in separating people from the Church, do deprive them of the "grace of the Church."  It is in this light, that one can understand those "intolerant, mean spirited, extremists" who speak of heresies and schisms as being "graceless."

OTOH, there is a difference between "mysteriological grace", and the providential grace of God which He extends in various ways to all creatures, even to the most self decidedly wretched.  All in some way experience the grace of God - so the saying that heresies are "graceless" should not be understood to mean such people are not cared for by God in any way, or that He is not leading these people to Himself.  How they respond to that, is obviously between them and God and is something no one should pretend to have any insight about.

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The world would be a better place if there was an orthodox church in every village, but it was not the orthodox priests, but the methodist and baptist circuit riders for instance in the United States who felt compelled to take the Gospel from village to village. Now all the people who have committed their life to Christ because "they were pricked in their heart" (Acts 2:37) and they repented and got baptized, don't you think the Lord will consider the intentions of their heart, or do you really think He'll send them straight to hell because they did not find an Orthodox church?

Honestly, I don't think "anything" about them.  Not in the sense that I don't care, but I do not pretend to know their fate.

However, I do know that the "Gospel" they received, in some very basic ways even, is not the one taught by the Church.  I'm not doubting the sincerity of these people, or pretending to know their fate - but then again, I don't doubt the sincerity of lots of people, infidels and pagans included.

I also know that particularly in the case of the Baptists, their "baptisms" do not even resemble Orthodox Baptisms.  Under any circumstances, they'd have to be given an Orthodox Baptism, no matter how "lenient" a Bishop decided to be in their case, since sacramental economy can only occur if their previous "baptism" at least resembled an Orthodox, Trinitarian Baptism.

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But why have this despising attitude towards all non-orthodox believers and consider them wayward renegades and their faith a work of the devil?

I don't think it's "loving" to assume anyone alien to the Church is on anything but shaky ground, at best.  Particularly when our venerable Holy Fathers say quite clearly that the Church is the "Ark of Salvation", comparing it to the Ark of Noah at the time of the great Deluge.

I don't think it's "despising" to want people to come to the truth, since all schisms and heresies have their origin in the works of the devil.

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To me they are still on the way,

Perhaps, perhaps not.  We'll never know that unless they are received into the Church.  Though you're right, this itself is not a "guarantee" of anything, but only the beginning.

However, I find it odd that people can speak with (proper, I might add) sobriety about the challenges faced by a Baptized, Orthodox Christian in the struggle to save their soul, yet entertain all sorts of optimism (or at least speak positively) of heresies and schisms.   If such people really are sincere, it makes their situation all the more heart rending.

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Same here, and thanks for posting. I understand the point about the communion. What makes me think, though, is the many wonderful healings and miracles that have occured in those other denominational churches related to the Holy Communion.

In the strictest sense, all that is outside of the Church is "anathema".  I mean that in the strict sense though - as in "held up" to God for judgement.  We can already see it is outside of the Church - so we now present it before God, and He will decide.

Does God work miracles for those outside of the Church?  Obviously, He knows. But also, does the devil do things with the appearance of being miracles?  Unfortunatly, he does, and many righteous ascetics have encountered such things - things which ostensibly had the appearances of being genuine miracles, which turned out to be vicious deceptions by man's greatest enemy.

Let us say God does miraculously heal someone outside of the Church.  Whose benefit is this?  That of an Orthodox Christian, or for the person who receives this gift?

Either way, such phenomenon should not cause one to be confused about the reality of the Church, Her teachings, and Her unity.  Particularly since it is quite apparent that the anti-Christ DOES do things precisely to create this confusion.  This is precisely why St.Paul said that even if an angel (yes, a bone fide angel) were to come down from the Heavens and attempt to teach us some new doctrine, we should turn our backs on him.

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« Reply #20 on: May 30, 2004, 11:25:42 PM »

The following is food for thought for Seraphim and others.  I do not necessarily believe everything I wrote in the comments but I am arguing one strain of thought used by Orthodox today so I can see what Seraphim and others have to say.
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First Canonical Epistle of St Basil (later excerpted as Basil Canon 1) [edition & translation: De Farrari]

Now regarding your inquiry about the Cathari, mention has already been made, and rightly have you called to mind that we should follow the custom existing in each region, because those who once rendered a decision in their regard held divergent views about their baptism.* But the baptism of the Pepuzeni seems to me to have no sanction, and I have wondered how this escaped Dionysius, versed as he was in the canons. For the ancients decided to accept that baptism which in no wise deviates from the faith.** Accordingly, they employed the names: heresies, schisms, and illegal congregations; heresies, those who are completely, broken off and, as regards the faith itself, alienated; schisms, those at variance with one another for certain ecclesiastical reasons and questions that admit of a remedy; illegal congregations, assemblies brought into being by insubordinate presbyters or bishops, and by uninstructed laymen. For example, if someone who has been apprehended in error has been forbidden the exercise of his office and has not submitted to the canons, but has unjustly arrogated to himself the episcopal and priestly functions, and certain people, abandoning the Catholic Church, have gone along with him, such an affair is illegal congregation. And schism is to be at variance regarding penance with those belonging to the Church. And heresies are, for example, those of the Manichaeans, of the Valentinians, of the Marcionites, and of these very Pepuzeni***; for here at once regarding faith in God itself disagreement exists. The ancients, accordingly, decided to reject completely the baptism of heretics, but to accept that of schismatics on the ground that they were still of the Church****; and as to those in illegal congregations, to join these again to the Church after they had been improved by adequate repentance and change of heart; hence they often received into the same rank, whenever they have repented, even those in orders who have gone off with the insubordinate. Now the Pepuzeni are clearly heretical, for they have blasphemed against the Holy Ghost, unlawfully and shamelessly giving the name of Paraclete to Montanus and Priscilla. Therefore, either on the ground that they are making men partakers of the divine nature, are they to be condemned, or on the ground that they are mocking the Holy Ghost by comparing Him to man, and thus are liable to everlasting punishment because blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is without forgiveness. Therefore what reason is there in our having sanctioned the baptism of these who, baptize in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of Montanus or Priscilla? For those have not been baptized who have been baptized in the names which have not been handed down to us.***** Hence, even if this has escaped the notice of the great Dionysius, we, on the other hand, must not maintain the imitation of the error. For the absurdity of the thing is quite evident of itself, and clear to all whoever share at all, even slightly, in the power of reason.

The Cathari themselves also belong to the number of schismatics. Still, however, it seemed best to the ancients - I refer to Cyprian and our own Firmilianus - to subject all these - Cathari, and Encratites, and Hydroparastatae to one vote of condemnation, because the beginning of this separation arose through schism, and those who had broken away from the Church no longer had in them the grace of the Holy Spirit******; for the imparting of it failed because of the severance of continuity. For those who separated first had ordination from the fathers, and through the imposition of their hands possessed the spiritual gift, but those who had been cut off, becoming laymen, possessed the power neither of baptizing nor of ordaining, being able no longer to impart to others the grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves had fallen away. Therefore, they commanded those who had been baptized by them, as baptized by laymen, to come to the Church and be purified by the true baptism of the Church. But since on the whole it has seemed best to some of those in Asia that, for the sake of the discipline of the majority, their baptism be accepted, let it be accepted.+

We must, however, observe the wicked action of the Encratites, for in order to render themselves unacceptable to the Church they have attempted for the future to forestall the matter by practicing a peculiar baptism of their own, whereby they have violated even their own practice.++ Accordingly I think that, since nothing has been clearly established regarding them, it is proper for us to reject their baptism+++, and if anyone has received it from them, to baptize him on his entering the Church. If, however, this shall prove to be injurious to the general discipline, we must resort again to custom, and must follow the fathers who have dispensed legislation that pertains to us. For I entertain some fear lest, while we desire to make the people cautious about baptizing, we may by the severity of our decision stand in the way of those who are being saved. But if they maintain our baptism, let this not disturb us. For we are not under obligation to return them the favor, but to observe the canons scrupulously. And on every ground let it be decreed that those who come from their baptism be anointed, to wit, in the presence of the faithful, and thus approach the mysteries. But I know that we have received the brethren Izois and Saturninus into episcopal rank, who were of that party. Therefore we can no longer separate from the Church those who have joined their company, since through the acceptance of the bishops we have published a kind of canon of communion, with them.

* If they held divergent views then that must mean some accepted their baptism as a baptism.
** In other words, if you had a faith in what baptism was and does (i.e. the right form and intent) even if you are heterodox, it counts.
*** All of whom denied the Trinity as we know it.
**** The line separating “in” and “out” is not so clear.
***** But if they had been baptized in the right formula it would have counted.
****** People love to misread this part. He is not saying this is what the Church teaches, he is saying this is what CYPRIAN teaches.
+ Clearly accepting their baptism.
++ Encratites did not baptize in a Trinitarian formula.
+++ If we can reject their baptism and thus speculate on whether it counted, we could have stated it counted (if they had performed it correctly); in other words, the main concern is whether it was done correctly.
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« Reply #21 on: January 26, 2005, 11:45:48 AM »

Hello to all..I am new here and have read this post and would like to say a few things. I must agree with Tom S on the subject of "If your an outsider" so to speak , your salvation is near impossible. I am not a baptised Orthodox ,however ,I had spent much time at one point in my life at Kursk Icon Hermitage in Mahopac ,NY. My Fiance at the time{ we are no longer together} was a true Orthodox and introduced me to this place.I began going every Sunday and sometimes on Saturdays and also experienced the wonderful Pascha ceremonies that lasted all night long.Wonderful people I must say , especially Archpriest Konstantin Fedoroff.He was one of the few who knew I was a complete "outsider" but accepted me for who I was.I knew nothing of the faith at the time but I was still warmly accepted by him.I learned lots of wonderful things there and miss it dearly.I do believe it is the truth , as I have seen great things happen here and felt a wonderful presence of the lord.My only confusion with the Orthodox faith is that it seems to be a tightly wound community that keeps to themselves ,within a world in it's own. If in fact this faith is the truth , why is it that if you are not born into Orthodoxy you are looked upon as an "alien" instead of being welcomed and loved , as God loves us ALL and not just ones of the Orthodox faith? It has been a long time since I have been to Mahopac NY however ,I would not feel at all comfortable going without my friend from long ago.It seems to me that the Orthodox firmly believe God's only attention is given to the person's and Churche's of this religion.Perhaps it is my own insecurities but I thought I'd post this since I read something similiar in a previous post.May God bless you all....
« Last Edit: January 26, 2005, 12:10:02 PM by James P » Logged

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« Reply #22 on: January 26, 2005, 01:08:43 PM »

My feelings towards this issue has been that the Orthodox Church should engage in talk with all those outside the Holy Church. How else are we to do what we can to bring them to The Truth if we don't lead by word and example? I feel that we are called to be present in all things pertaining to Christ, to show others The Way....
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« Reply #23 on: January 26, 2005, 03:38:52 PM »

Nicely said Columba
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« Reply #24 on: January 26, 2005, 06:16:16 PM »

Wow.  A lot of food for thought here.  Thanks to everyone for posting their views.  Thanks for the article, Bogo.  Very thought provoking.  The thing that I find interesting, is that the author of the article does seem to be trying to find a "middle way," and although I don't think I agree with all of his arguments, it still gives one pause to stop and think.....
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