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Author Topic: Proper piety vs fetishism  (Read 403 times) Average Rating: 0
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William
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« on: April 07, 2013, 02:14:21 PM »

Since demons and supernatural evil are a real and an active presence in Orthodox cosmology, where's the line between using the faith (crosses, praying out loud, icons, etc.) properly to prevent this kind of influence and superstition or using the faith as a fetish?
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Apart from moral conduct, all that man thinks himself able to do in order to become acceptable to God is mere superstition and religious folly. - Immanuel Kant
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« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2013, 02:14:52 PM »

Since demons and supernatural evil are a real and an active presence in Orthodox cosmology, where's the line between using the faith (crosses, praying out loud, icons, etc.) properly to prevent this kind of influence and superstition or using the faith as a fetish?

Oh if I had the time . . .
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« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2013, 02:17:20 PM »

Great question, William.  No answer here.
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« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2013, 04:08:35 PM »

What does 'using the faith like a fetish' mean?

Does that mean using physical means to overpower evil without a belief in God (Father, Jesus Christ come in the flesh, crucified and resurrected, and the Holy Spirit)? 
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JamesR
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« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2013, 04:22:34 PM »

One time a bunch of weirdo Assembly of God guys talking about "God the Mother" came to my door and gave me a pamphlet. I threw it in the dumpster and then processed my Icons around my house and sprinkled Holy Water on the door to remove the evilness of their heresy from my apartment.
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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2013, 04:38:58 PM »

Is that an answer/example directed to my question, James? 
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Dionysii
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« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2013, 04:48:45 PM »

Since demons and supernatural evil are a real and an active presence in Orthodox cosmology, where's the line between using the faith (crosses, praying out loud, icons, etc.) properly to prevent this kind of influence and superstition or using the faith as a fetish?

In order to understand the way you seek, may I first suggest appreciating the distinction between theoretical (knowlege) and practical (application)?  

That said, the 'Sould After Death' by Hieromonk Seraphim Rose has an abundance of information on demons and supernatural evil.  
Although I really like that book, I would even more strongly recommend the works of Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos in order to appreciate both aspects of what you seem to ask for.  Metropolitan Hierotheos's book 'Life After Death' concurs totally with Fr. Seraphim Rose's book, and it is more comprehensive or complete - covering important areas for spiritual health that Fr. Seraphim's comparatively more narrowly focused book only touches upon.

'Orthodox Psychotherapy' by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos dynamically explains Christian life.  
'Orthodox Psychotherapy's' sequel is the more recent book 'Spiritual Medicine' that focuses especially upon "using the faith."

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An example of a practical application of Hieromonk Seraphim Rose's book would be to use Blessed Theodora's succinct description of 20 demonic kinds of sin as a guide or mirror for examining one's own sins to prepare for confession.
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Dionysii
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« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2013, 05:02:56 PM »

... where's the line between using the faith (crosses, praying out loud, icons, etc.) properly to prevent this kind of influence and superstition ... ?

My previous answer focused on the first part of your question involving demons.  In case I missed your point, I would add that the Orthodox Church distinguishes between veneration and worship.  The Seventh Oecumenical Synod of 787 A.D. in Nicaea declares:

"To these icons should be given salutation and honorable reverence, not indeed the true worship of faith which pertains to the divine nature alone ... To these shall be offered incense and lights, in honor of them, according to the ancient pious custom.  For the honour which is paid to the icon passes on to that which the icon represents, and he who reveres the icon reveres in it the person who is represented."

- translation found in 'Guide to Byzantine Iconography, Volume One' by Constantine Cavarnos (page 52)
« Last Edit: April 07, 2013, 05:05:40 PM by Dionysii » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2013, 06:23:19 PM »

I am not sure there is a problem in praying out loudly, venerating the cross, venerating icons or other veneration. I don't think there is a problem with making a fetish out of them. If so the Church would not have promoted them and made them dogma (the Seven Ecumenical Council). I mean they are considered means of grace aren't they? Why would the Church made them dogma and part of her practices if there was any risk of falling into the sin of idolatry over them? If this venerations would depend on the conscience of the venerator? I would actually like to have those questions answered. I think the line is when this venerations cease to be used piously, when people push or argue when they are on line for certain processions of veneration. Pushing and arguing are not the most pious things to do.

Though I would say you raised the ball to the net. Do this venerations actually depend on the mind(conscience/thought) of those who venerate them? I mean can people idolatrise by venerating the cross, icons, etc? If so why would the church bring this things that could harm people's souls and make them to commit idolatry in the church?
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Jonathan Gress
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« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2013, 10:14:47 PM »

Pious actions don't have "automatic" results. When you switch on a lamp, provided the lamp is in working order, it will turn on, regardless of whether you believe it will or not, and regardless of the purpose for which you switched it on. Magic works the same way, except that it attempts to manipulate supernatural rather than natural forces, e.g. you use such and such a talisman and utter such and such a spell to get "results". But with both magic and technology, there's the idea that there are laws that can be manipulated for our own use, simply by using the correct method.

When you pray, or use holy oil or holy water, or venerate an icon, in order to accomplish something like healing, we don't believe that the healing will come automatically, since the effectiveness also depends on the faith and intention of the supplicant. Orthodoxy is not magic, any more than it is science.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2013, 10:16:27 PM by Jonathan Gress » Logged
Dionysii
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« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2013, 10:41:48 PM »

Pious actions don't have "automatic" results. When you switch on a lamp, provided the lamp is in working order, it will turn on, regardless of whether you believe it will or not, and regardless of the purpose for which you switched it on. Magic works the same way, except that it attempts to manipulate supernatural rather than natural forces, e.g. you use such and such a talisman and utter such and such a spell to get "results". But with both magic and technology, there's the idea that there are laws that can be manipulated for our own use, simply by using the correct method.

When you pray, or use holy oil or holy water, or venerate an icon, in order to accomplish something like healing, we don't believe that the healing will come automatically, since the effectiveness also depends on the faith and intention of the supplicant. Orthodoxy is not magic, any more than it is science.

I concur with this.

Since we can make an idol out of anything, we might as well concern ourselves with those things which tend to facilitate our salvation. 
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