Author Topic: Theological Intellectualism, Criticism, Institutionalization, Pietism,Zealotism  (Read 3563 times)

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Offline IoanC

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I wish to share the experience of Elder Sofian Boghiu from his work for the Orthodox Christian association of students in Romania. I am not sure if this fits here or in the Faith section, especially because such posts which are written in the spirit of service and seriousness seem to generate lengthy destructive discussions over irrelevant and personal elements that are clearly not appropriate in such topics (if at all). So, I will place this one here this time in case it will happen again.

Theological Intellectualism

Without denying the necessity of a cultural preparation of the student of theology, this rationalistic vision that proposes to know the Christian teaching and does not have as starting point the direct co-working of the believer with the divine grace, but only some information, can be named theological intellectualism. This is a tendency that all of us who obtain a lot of spiritual knowledge get unavoidably and, unfortunately, it remains on a purely cerebral level because we don't try to assimilate it through experience.

Theological intellectualism is a temptation -- very hard to avoid -- of the very academic theological system of almost all times and that is why it can affect negatively the life of the youth of the Church.

Source, my blog:

Is Our Criticism Useful?

In order to see if our criticism is pleasing or not to God it is necessary, firstly, to see its fruits. When our insistent criticism produces restlessness (around us or within us) and not correction, it is very possible that it is not according to the will of God, and only has its source in our own conceit.

Sometimes it is natural to critically debate a problem, offering solutions with love as well. Yet, criticism produces a useless restlessness, if through it we understand a tensioned attitude that millimetrically discovers the evil around us, in society, in the life of The Church, but doesn't associate it with our own imperfections. Meaning we are not conscious of the fact that the main causes of the evil that weighs on us are our own sins.

Source, my blog:

Institutionalization -- An Analyis

(...) trying to have activities of a spiritual character that had a well calculated deployment and finality, it sometimes happened that we would reach an institutionalization of a western type that dissolved the very youthful liveliness and the personal relationships. Meaning there was a tendency towards perfect organization as far as missionary work in the medium of students, but there was sometimes an involuntary neglect of the very spiritual problems of the one near us.

Institutionalization is one the most profound deceptions that can make ill almost every aspiration towards preaching the faith on a collective level. It is clothed in multiple facets of which we only remind of the promotion of quantity against spiritual quality, as well the use of worldly thinking and means primarily, in order to combat the evil around, when in most cases the priority (or even exclusivity) must be had by the weapons of the Spirit.

On another side, in order to retain spontaneity in the life of the association (ASCOR) and avoid institutionalization and activism, it would sometimes slip into another extreme: annoying disorganization, lack of precise initiative and responsibilities.  \

Source, my blog:

Pietism -- An Analysis

(...) during the practical missionary work, I have observed that pietism is also characterized by at least one of the following features: individualism, incapacity of seizing the essential and scatteredness within a sentimentalism that is unrealistic, ignorant, superstitious and sweetish.

We can say that we are pietists when we observe in our religious lives other symptoms such as: vain stubbornness, airs of <authentic> life, simulation of communion, the spirit of contradiction, the obsession with details, confusion of values and plans (in the sense of not classifying a problem correctly), spiritual artificiality due to the abuse of spiritual terms and advice, chronic suspicion, formalism of church gestures, disorientation and lack of coherence, well camouflaged lack of sincerity, spiritual instability (that makes us easily manipulable by the very ones who don't live in the orthodox spirit), missionary activism -- or to the contrary, passivity -- without discernment, superficiality, contradictory and contorted style, sweetish things and superstitions of every nuance, self-sufficient ignorance united with appreciation of self, lack of understanding of how love must be braided with firmness and inability to see a problem in its entirety. Usually, pietists remain with a fixed idea that they cannot change years on end.

We have stopped with insistence at some of the traits of pietism because of the harmfulness that they can have upon the Christian life of today, not only within the frame of missionary organizations. Pietist thinking can also be a reverse of the ideological and impersonal dimension of modern society, being the illness of the soul of the man who wishes to have a religious life, but to whom it is not yet clear what that means.

From a realistic perspective, we can say that the majority of persons who discover The Church and wish to get close to it will go through a stage characterized by pietism in their spiritual becoming; it can be clothed in various forms, from the ones that easier to notice to the ones that are profoundly pathological, of a sectarian type.

Source, my blog:

Zealotism -- An Analysis
Regarding the problem of zealotism, it is necessary to remember a little the moment when the crucifixion of The Savior was decided. Pontius Pilate put before the multitude of Jews the following alternative: to free The Lord, Jesus Chris or Barabas, the one who had been imprisoned together with some other anarchists <who had committed murder in their revolt> (Mark 15, 7). The berserk Jews preferred that Barabas was free -- the one who, in the expectation of the Messiah, was defending the old Law with a weapon in his hand -- in the place of The One who was even <the fulfillment of the law> (Romans, 13;10). The zealotistic blindness pushed the Jews so far then that they shouted the most frightening words: "His blood be upon us and our children!".

Why did I give this example? Because there is a category of Christians who walk along this zealotistic line of a militant puritanism, yet, without having right judgment, they put the sword of the law and justice before love, therefore causing their zeal towards the faith to be confiscated by the devil who ultimately turns it against The Lord, Jesus Christ. The same happened in the case of Barabas and other co-nationals who -- following the letter of the law and not the spirit of love -- they did not recognize The Messiah whom they had been expecting with febrility for so long.

Zealots are active and well intentioned. They want to defend Christianity, but because of their exalted, anarchic, tensioned, rushed and frozen in cliches style, they make things worse. Through their uncalculated actions they awaken very categorical adverse reactions and in this way they end up bringing disservices to The Church which they want to serve.

They generally promote an attitude that favors the focusing on the external to the detriment of the internal, this state being visible in their wish to make positive changes around them primarily, and not in their own souls. Believers having such a zealotistic thinking are always ready to give lessons to those whom they meet, because they "know" how to approach any subject anyway.

Zealots observe very easily where others make mistakes, but harder where they make mistakes themselves. As well, they are not conscious of the fact that exaggeration and any kind of terribilism are forms of lying to yourself (in addition, they are convinced that all the verdicts that they pass in almost any problem are "very sure", "definitive" and "fully knowledgeable"). Even though they can support with insistence certain theological, historical or other kinds of truths, not being attentive to the spiritual dimension of life, they actually come to produce division or arguments.

Usually, zealots don't understand and especially don't feel profoundly the fact that the Christian must first be interested in justice through the love and will of God, and not the justice according to the human mind or the social or church reform. In some cases, they do not carefully analyze if the sacrifice that they are willing to make for the common good is truly founded upon obedience to God, if it is truly pleasing to God.

Zealotism is a superficial reaction (that can easily catch young people) that has appeared after the realization of the visible growth of malefic activities in the contemporary world. The problem that we should meditate on is actually resumed to the following question: is orthodox militance the same thing as the spiritual way of The Holy Fathers? In other words, is the agitated exposure of the social and church failings the same thing as the assumption of the evil in the world as having its main source my own sins?

In conclusion, we detect within ourselves zealotistic tendencies in at least three cases:

1. When we take upon ourselves with a noisy vanity things that are greater than we can carry;

2. When we make the confusion between being active and determined in virtue of certain moral-civic principles, and having a firm work for and in Christ.

3. When we ostentatiously approach the problems of faith, but we lack gentleness and modesty that have their source in pure prayer.
It is very hard to slip into this temptation when you are young, full of ardor and dynamism, but you lack the brake of right measure. Yet, what we know for sure is that sincere prayer and good will, humility and love, guided by a spiritual father through confession are sure shields in defeating this enemy of salvation. 

Source, my blog:

Offline Gunnarr

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Thanks for bringing to english many of these writings from this romanian elder

There are many great elders in Romania from the past years
I am a demonic servant! Beware!

Offline IoanC

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Another one from the same work:

There Is No Christianity Without a Mystical Life

What is to be done when my spiritual father, who doesn't practice the prayer of the mind, considers that it is not necessary that young people practice it, urging them towards a social Christianity, not a mystical Christianity?

For me, there is no Christian life that is not at the same time mystical, meaning mysterious, related to God. I don't know of a true Christian who is not at the same time mystical. I am referring to a Christian who is receives the Mysteries of The Church and goes to confession, who sanctifies his inner life.

There is a mystical state, mysterious, hidden: "But you, when you pray -- says The Savior --, go into your room and when you have closed the door, pray to your Father who is in secret". How can you pray without thinking about this heavenly Father who is hidden somewhere and sees your inner state? How can you be laical, worldly, only earthly, without this spirit who, if it's not in us, then this very perfected machine -- our body -- is nothing, it melts and is eaten by the wild animals.

It's such that in every one of us there is a mysterious, mystical center. From this center spring all our personal relations: love, kindness, mercy, humility, good manners, all are related to this mystical center within us where God and His Kingdom live.

It's such that I don't how a Christian life would look like without prayer, without this mystical center, this place of God within us.

Social life?! The pagans, too, had a social life; they would be occupied only with this horizontal of existence. However, Jesus Christ also tells us that word in the sermon on the mountain:  "But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6, 33). Therefore, I don't think there is a barrier in the way of working towards the social life, if you have this inexhaustible spring within you, due to the presence of God.

Source, my blog:
« Last Edit: February 14, 2014, 09:41:19 AM by IoanC »

Offline Justin Kolodziej

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thanks...I fear I would merely become a zealot and not really Orthodox if I attempted to convert  :(