IC XC NIKA
As a few of you know, I've sent this e-mail to you with my questions. I thank you for answering me, but I have decided to post my questions here, to receive more replys. My intentions are not to make anyone doubt; I'm really stuggling with my questions, and I'm hoping they may be answered. To be honest I would consider myself at best, an agnostic. I'm really stuggling to keep my faith in God (as you'll see in the questions below), and my frustrations have led to times to dispair. Please don't allow this thread to become a place of arguments, because if it does and dies, I'm sure that what is left of my faith will die with it. With that said, I'm hoping my question doesn't led to any harsh feelings towards me.
IC XC NIKA
First, to answer your question, I "found" you at OC.net. I used to post there, under the name "copticorthodoxboy." I could never really type my deepest feelings and thoughts about Orthodoxy there (or any forum), due to the great amount of disrespect that can be shown towards persons. I did, however, befriend many people there. To name them: S_N_Bulkagov, Xaira, Minasoliman, etc. Weather you see me as apart of the Orthodox church, we'll leave for another discussion. I've done some reading in Christolgy (but in no way am I a Christolgist), and have come to a conclusion while reading the Fathers who mainly wrote about Christolgy; they are times were the biggest jerks towards their theological opponents (in particular, St. Cyril of Alexandria). Regardless, whatever your opinion is of me and my church, I'll just state a few things:
1)I'm a convert to Orthodoxy, so my pursuit is for truth, and not to hold to cultural expressions (as happens amoung many Orthodox, who see church as a ethnic center).
2)Through my readings of Cyril, Severus, John of Damascus, I personally believe with an honest heart that both the EO community and the OO community DO proclaim the same Faith. Thus, I'm a "moderate" on this topic, and consider you and all Chalcedonian Orthodox to be completly Orthodox.
3)I, with my light Christological readings, have come to the conclusion that I enjoy reading books written by Fathers who are Fathers in both our churches, and who aren't such strong Christlogists. Isaac of Syria, Gregory of Nyssa and his brother Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrystotom, etc.
4)I'm a huge fan, also, of EO monasticism. To be honest, I find the monasticism practiced within the Coptic church (as of, at this moment) to be very dry and legalistic. I am much more fond of the Russian mystics (espcially Serephim of Sarov), as well as the monastic traditions praciticed by the Athonite monks.
5)I attend both a Coptic parish and a Carpatho-Russian parish; I receive communion within both parishes (and yes, both priests know I'm non-Chalcedonian), and I'm happy to see that at a grassroots level the agreed statments of the 20th century are being acted upon.
Okay, enough said on that topic, now onto my questions.
"An elder was once asked, 'What is a compassionate heart?' He replied: 'It is a heart of fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons and for all that exists. At the recollection and at the sight of them such a person's eyes overflow with tears owing to the vehemence of the compassion which grips his heart; as a result of his deep mercy his heart shrikns and cannot bear to hear of look on any injury or the slightest suffering of anything in creation. This is why he constantly offers up prayer full of tears, even for the irration animals and for the enemies of truth, even for those who harm him, so that they may be protected and find mercy. He even prays for the reptiles as a result of the great compassion which is poured out beyond measure - after the likeness of God - in his heart.'" - St. Isaac of Syria (pg. 29 "Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria).
Jeremiah, I love this quote from our holy Father Isaac. At the same time, I'm in a bit of a pickle. Truly, Christ taught mercy and compassion towards all, espically sinners (as He came to led the sinner to repentance with mercy and compassion). And yet, when I sit and look through the OT, I wonder if God is really a God of love and mercy. When the Israelites escaped from Egypt, they are commanded by Almighty God to kill, indeed slaughter, all living in Canaan (including, of course, the elderly men, women and children; all innocent). Now, of course, Christ being the Second Person of the blessed Trinity, would have been the one to command the slaughter of these innocent persons; and then turns around in the NT, and teaches us to love our enemy unconditionally. So my conclusions are these (all seperate from each other):
1)God is a sadistic schizophrenic-psychopath; who commands "Thou shalt not murder" then turns around around anc commands slaughter of innocence every once and a while. What's stopping Him from commanding me to kill a non-Orthodox Christian?
2)Though the Scriptures are inspired, they are in no way infallible. In other words, perhaps the writter of the slaugther of the Cannanites (as well as Joshua and the army) felt inspired by God to slaughter, and God allowed the slaughter (as he did divorce and remarriage); however, God didn't command the slaughter.
3)This story perhaps never happened, and was a bit of a parable (a long parable), to describe God in story form.
What are your thoughs on this Jeremiah?
"Similarly, Abraham, ordered by the Lord to leave his country and family and the home of his father, at once, so to speak, stripped himself of everything - fatherland, property, relatives, parents - and obeyed the Word of teh Lord. Then he underwent many trials and temptations as when his wife was taken from him or when he, living in an alien land, was subjected to injustices. Yet through all he proved that God alone was his sole love over all things. Then when, through a promise and after many years, he had his only son whom he so very much wanted, he was ordered to sacrifice him with his own hands. Abraham stripped himself and truly went against himself. He showed how by the sacrifice of his only son he loved nothign more than God. If indeed he so generously gave up his own son, how much more, if he had been ordered to surrender all other possessions, or to give them all up in one moment, he would have willingly done it." -Pseudo-Macrarius (pg. 70 "The Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter)
I'm sure you are familiar with the story of God asking for the sacrafice (killing) of Isaac by his father Abraham (which, as we both know, never came to completion). I wonder, however, why God would ask such a thing. In the Torah, He is said to be greatly displeased with other nations that offer their sons and daughters as sacrifices; and yet we are told that He commands Abraham to kill his son. In a time where we hear of a few cases where people have killed their children, because God told them to, I wonder how we are to combat these claims. God, we are told, asked for it once; what's stopping Him from asking again? I mean, Jeremiah, let's say you were married. And your wife says "Jeremiah, to prove your love to me, I ask you to kill our little kitten." I mean, I'm sure Jeremiah, you'd think your wife was nuts, and would most likly decline from doing such an action. Yet, in my little example above, God is the "wife." He commands slaughter and scrafice to prove our love and devotoin towards God. My conclusions are very similar to number 1:
1)God is a sadistic schizophrenic-psychopath; who commands "Thou shalt not be like other nations, that offer their sons and daughters on altars" then turns around around and commands slaughter of Isaac. What's stopping Him from commanding me to kill a my friends, a family member, etc.?
"One must behave affectionately toward oneÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¯ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¿ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â½s neighbors, not showing even a hint of offense. When we turn away from a person or offend him, it is as if a rock settles on our heart. One must try to cheer the spirit of an embarrassed or dejected person with words of love." - Sepephim of Sarov
Now, we may come to conclusion that what God commanded in the OT to no longer be binding (if He did command. After reading Christ's response to the Pharisees in the NT in Matt. Ch. 19, I believe that God allowed misintrerpetations of His words and intent to happen), I wonder why Orthodoxy canonizes persons who clearly break Christ's commands in the NT. In particular, I wonder why Justinian of all persons is canonized. His hands are drenched in the blood of Orthodox Christians in Egypt and Syria. He died defending Julianism. It frustrates me so much, that I'm often quite bitter towards the Orthodox Church. Don't get me wrong, I know that the Christians and Egypt have their hands also in the blood of EO Christians, but I wonder:
1)Are there canons in the Orthodox church that protect the killing of non-Orthodox Christians?
2)If "yes", how are these canons protected in the light of the Fathers and the Gospels?
3)If "no", then why do we canonize those that slaughter innocent life?
"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Propehts. I did not come to destory but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righeousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." - Jesus (Matthew's Gospel, Ch. 5: 17-20).
Jeremiah, how is the Law to be interpreted by an Orthodox Chrisitan? If Christ commanded these things in the past, and then "fulfills" them in the future; how are we to ever know what God truly commands? For example, Christ commands certain things in the OT, and yet clearly breaks them in the NT (or "fulfills" them). Some examples, the true understanding of the Sabbath, in which work is allowed (yet, Christ commands a man to be stoned in the OT for picking up sticks); Treatment of Gentils is of love and compassion (yet it is endless slaughter in the OT); the fulfilled understanding of fasting and prayer, done for God (and yet God strikes one dead in the OT for eatting a little honey); etc. Why does God seem to endlessly contradict himself over and over again. He has such harsh words towards the Pharisees, for their legalism; but the way God is revealed in the OT, one can't but agree that the Pharisees were living by the letter of the Law, which at times it seems God only cares about. Your thoughts?
Are you really only 17 years old?
Oh, I didn't proof read, so I'm sorry for any typos.