Well... I just registered at CBBS... this was going to be my first post but I made myself take five minutes to think before I hit the submit button and realized that it would be taken as inflamatory as the spirit in which I was posting it was inflamatory. I guess I'll try to be more meek.
Convesations with Protestant Sectarians
On September 1, 1927, Father Kyril Zaits had the occasion to be in the Ascension parish on the feast day of St. Simeon Stylites. Every year on this day there was a large gathering of people. Many came by train from distant places and returned home on the evening train.
This time there were many passengers, particularly peasants in the third class coach. There were also members of the local intelligentsia, merchants and several Jewish people to be seen.
The time was after 10 P.M. and some of the passengers were dozing off, while others, on raised bunks, were preparing to sleep. Talking could be heard through-out the entire coach since the compartment was not closed. Suddenly, in the compartment next to mine, some passenger began to speak especially passionately and loudly. General conversation died down and Father Kyril was roused from his dozing.
The speaker, a young man of small stature, began to walk about the coach, inviting everyone to listen to him. Evidently many people became interested.
"I was a great sinner. I did not know what spiritual life was...," said the young passenger, "but now here I am a believer! I heard secret voices calling me to salvation. I was converted and I became a different person. I was saved by dear Jesus. With his own blood he washed away my sins ... I now have no sins ... I am holy ... Christ is my brother, etc."
While he spoke of himself, of his former sins and present holiness (and he spoke much), the public listened in silence and some women turned to the wall in order to doze off. They probably were not listening to such a speech for the first time.
Then however, the sectarian preacher began to touch upon Orthodox dogmas, especially the reverencing of ikons and objections began to be raised by the passengers.
"So you worship the ikon of Simeon Stylites," said the Baptist. "Ikons are unnecessary. This is idol worship! One cannot bow down before pictures! The word of God forbids it ... It is necessary to pray only to dear Jesus ... I was wounded twice, was seriously ill, but I turned to Jesus Christ, prayed and became well without any ikons...".
Objections were heard. One irritated peasant asked the sectarian: "What are you doing here agitating us? I likewise was seriously wounded, but I went to the church, asked our priest to serve a thanksgiving service before the ikon of the Mother of God and I became well."
Thereupon a general discussion began. The sectarian attempted to answer all the objections and began to sprinkle his speech with quotations from the Holy Scripture. His speech became disunited. Texts were introduced out of context and often pointlessly. It seemed that he would achieve a victory of sorts by speaking endlessly.
One could not tell if this eruption of words and playing with Holy Scripture would last long, but the argument had gradually become very heated, so Fr. Kyril, unable to sleep, decided to interject.
The unexpected appearance of a priest at once cooled the sectarian. Everyone became silent.
"You have spoken quite a bit tonight, my friend," began Fr. Kyril, turning to the protestant, "but you have made precious little sense. You have talked around and touched upon some things, but I for one cannot tell what it is that you are getting at. You present yourself as saved and you have tried very hard to convince these people who are believers to accept that. Never-the-less, it is clear that you are at enmity with Orthodox Christianity.
"Please allow me to ask you several clear questions and be so kind as to reply to them clearly, without any misleading eloquence.
"You are quite probably a preacher -- of which confession is of no significance to us at the present. One thing however is clear; you are not in the Church of Christ. Tell us, have you preserved the great spiritual wealth which the Holy Apostles have given to Christ's Church, or have you never thought of this? In fact, have you ever even heard of this wealth?"
The sectarian remained silent.
Father Kyril continued, "Do you have the priesthood? No? But it has been in the Church from Apostolic times. It was passed on by the apostles and it is clearly spoken of in that very Holy Bible which you are now holding in your hands.1
"Have you preserved all the Mysteria (sacraments): baptism, chrismation, repentance, the Holy Eucharist, marraige, holy orders and unction? These things were already established in the times of the apostles and they are spoken of in the holy books of the New Testament.2
"Do you obey the Holy Gospel by honouring the Mother of God?3
"Do you have prayerful intercourse with the Heavenly Church, with the holy apostles whose writings are in your hands right now, with the saints, martyrs, confessors and all the righteous?
"Do you have prayerful intercourse with angels? Do you pray to your guardian angel?
"All this was in the Apostolic Church and all this remains with us in the Orthodox Church.
"Do you have prayerful intercourse with deceased fathers, mothers, grandparents and all those who have reposed in the faith? Do you pray for the dead, or have you forgotten about them so that death for you has proven to be stronger than the love of Christ? Don't you know that they prayed for the dead in the Apostolic Church?
"You do not honour ikons nor do you honour the life-giving Cross of the Lord. And do you sign yourself with the Holy Cross? Do you wear the cross on your breast in accordance with the words of the apostle -- 'bearing the reproach that he bore'.4 All this was known in the Apostolic Church.
"My questions are clear and simple. Answer them. Why are you silent? Well, what is there for you to say when you do not maintain any of this? Can't you see that this is a great spiritual wealth?
"Then tell us," continued Father Kyril, "what do you have? Faith? Yes, you brag of it and call upon these people to believe in Christ. Your invitation, however, is late: all of these people, with the exception of two or three Jews, have believed in Christ for a long time already; they have been in the Church since childhood. Calling upon Orthodox Christians to come to believe in Christ is foolish vanity. We all believe incomparably more strongly than you. We believe so strongly that we preserve all that has been handed down to us and we fulfill all that has been commanded -- you cannot say this of yourselves.
"Call upon the Jews to believe in Christ, go to the heathens, to Mohammedans -- preach there, but not here amongst Orthodox believers.
"You cannot give us faith for we already have it. What can you give? What kind of spiritual treasure? Absolutely nothing. You come to us as a beggar in rags.
"There was, however, something you said which was completely contrary to Christ's teaching: pride and self conceit. We have heard only of your sinlessness, your holiness, about which you bragged and boasted. But this does not deceive us. We remember the words of the Apostle about the Christians of his own time: 'We all sin much'.5
"Could it be that you sectarians, in your lives, are better than the first Christians? The Apostle Paul says of himself, 'It is not to be thought that I have already achieved all this. I have not yet reached perfection, but I press on, hoping to take hold of that for which Christ once took hold of me. My friends, I do not reckon myself to have hold of it yet...'.6
"And you believe that you have surpassed even the Holy Apostle in spiritual perfection? The Apostle calls himself the 'Chief of sinners',7 but you call yourself 'holy'!?
"Don't you see the absurdity of your boasting and on what a dangerous road you're walking?"
The young man was silent. Shortly the train came up to a station and some passengers reluctantly left this late night conversation. When the train began to move again, the priest continued.
"I would like to call your attention to one more thing. You are holding a Bible in your hands. You know and admit that every word in the Bible is the unalterable truth. Good. We Orthodox also acknowledge this. I would say that you are a Baptist, yes? Let us assume that there is an Adventist standing next to you, and over there is a Methodist and next to him a member of another Protestant sect and so on. Let us say that there would be several hundred men gathered here since now Protestant sects number in the hundreds. Each man will be holding a Bible. You all acknowledge the Bible as your only source of faith. You all preach that the Holy Spirit speaks by your lips. Please tell us, then, why you do not all teach the same thing? Why do you Protestants consider one another as being lost? Do you mean to say that the Holy Spirit says one thing to one, and another thing to a second? Did this ever cross your mind?
"Here is a small example for you and it would be good for the rest of you to pay close attention to it also. Let us assume that a jug of crystal clear water was brought here. Each one of us is holding an absolutely clean glass. Let each of us scoop up clear water with his glass from the common vessel. In all glasses there will be seen absolutely identical clean water.
"This young man has a Bible in his hands; this is the source of the purest water. Why is it that when he scoops up water from it, when the Methodist, Adventist, Lutheran and all the rest scoop up water from it, they get unidentical water, unidentical teaching?
"It is very simple. Their glasses are not clean. The glasses are their reason, their weak human minds. Their minds are not clean; they are full of much sophistry and much destructive fantasy. All of this they apply to the most pure water, to God's word. Does one have to be so wise to see that their teachings are muddled, contradictory to one another and unhealthy, just as dirty water is not healthy?"
Father Kyril paused and turned to the Baptist preacher.
"I have finished for the time being. Now you, my friend, have achieved the interest of these fellow-travellers of ours and you may give replies and explanations to all these questions which have been presented to you and we shall all listen."
The preacher did not begin to speak at once. It was necessary for him to come out of a somewhat difficult situation, especially since some passengers were beginning to make unflattering remarks about him among themselves.
Then, without pathos, in a quieter voice, he began:
"You have heard the priest just now speaking about ikons. I will read to you what the Holy Scripture says about ikons."
Thereupon, he began to read slowly from certain verses of the prophetic books -- Isaiah, Jeremiah -- about idols. During the reading the Baptist explained and suggested that here, it was precisely saying that ikons are idols.
When the reading had finished Fr. Kyril spoke up, "We have listened to your reading about idols but there are neither heathens nor idols here. You said you would read about ikons. Very well, then read to us about ikons. Idols don't interest us."
"There is nothing said about ikons in the Bible!" the Baptist retorted.
"Are you really telling the truth?" asked the priest. "I don't believe that you are so ignorant as to not know where ikons are spoken of in the Holy Scripture. You know very well, but you don't want to read it. It doesn't fit into your calculations.
"Very well, I will indicate the place for you. Find the twenty-fifth chapter of the book of Exodus and read it."8
The young man hesistated, but the people began to demand that he read it. Unwillingly, he sought out the indicated place. He began to read slowly, as if thinking of what to say. When he read about the ark of the covenant and the golden cherubims on top of the ark, the priest turned to him with the question:
"Please tell us, the cherubims which Moses made of gold according to God's command, are they not idols according to you?"
"That was in the Old Testament" replied the Protestant. "We are living in the New Testament and we don't need the Old Testament..."
"Is that so?" asked the priest. "But when you wanted to read about idols in order to lead listeners into error, then the Old Testament was necessary. It is a great sin to treat God's word in this manner, and you well know how our Saviour speaks about those who lead others, lesser than they, into error and temptation."
The Baptist, feeling the awkwardness of his position, again began to read something more in reference to idols.
"He always comes back to these idols of his!" Father Kyril said. "Well, if you do not want to accept the testimony of the Old Testament about the Divine descent of holy images, let us turn to the New Testament. Read several of the beginning verses from the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews."9
The sectarian fell silent. We heard no more of his reading and talking. Gradually, the farther passengers began to fall asleep, lulled by the rhythmic clacking of the train's wheels.
1. Deacons: Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 10, 13; etc
Presbyters: Acts 14:23,20:17; Tit. 1:5; 1 Cor. 4:1; 2 Cor. 3:6; etc. Rom. 1:9, 15:15
Bishops: Acts 1:20; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1; etc.
2. See appendix 1.
3. Lk. 1:28; 42, esp. 48.
4. Heb. 13:13. (The cross which Orthodox Christians wear is an ever-present reminder that we must bear persecution, humiliation and suffering for Christ's sake as we read in the "Beatitudes". It is also the symbol of Christ and thus is an open confession that we belong to Him -- it is this open confession of Him that brings about the persecutions we must often bear.)
5. cf. 1 Jn. 1:8, "If we claim to be sinless, we are self-deceived and strangers to the truth."
6. Phil. 3:12-13.
7. 1 Tim. 1:15.
8. Esp. Ex. 25:18-19 (make two golden cherubims of beaten work); 26:2, 31, 32 ("...with ikons of cherubims worked into them." The KJV has "images of cherubim", but the difference between these images and idols is quite clear -- they are ikons.)
9. This reading is introduced specifically to show the difference between "images" as spoken of in the Ten Commandments and ikonographic images such as God commanded Moses to make.