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Author Topic: Free-Will Baptist Confusion  (Read 9420 times) Average Rating: 0
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Willie
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« on: May 17, 2006, 12:33:07 PM »

My parents have always been involved in a “Free-Will Baptist” church.  They gave me a taped sermon the other week.  I was disturbed and became frightened for the congregation and them concerning the “truths” that were presented; here are a few of the points I could glean from the tape:

-   you can be saved once and for all with a one-shot recital of the “sinner’s prayer”
-   baptism is not necessary for salvation
-   you cannot be “In Mary” and be saved
-   Christ is looking to the Father constantly, like “a sprinter ready in the starting blocks”, as to when He will be given permission come get His church in the 2nd coming.
-   The pastor speaks of himself “being in shock” at seeing long time congregational members coming forth doubting their salvation
-   The speaker implores the congregation to “act now, or it will be too late” to utter the “sinner’s prayer” of salvation

I am so perplexed at this tape, I do not even know what to say.  Will some of the wise ones out there please help me identify these heresies so I may possible help my parents? 

My parents do not know that I am getting ready to be a catechumen in the AOC (they would not know that that is anyway).  I am afraid that a battle between us is looming and I do feel unarmed to respond when it comes.
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« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2006, 01:10:35 PM »

About the looming battle...

There is plenty to refute these claims and I am sure you will hear good apologetic answers on this board.  But I also would like to share a bit of advice in regards to the relationship between you and your parents.  Remember that love and humility is required in all your debates and explanations, especially with your family!  I have recently converted from a similiar background and oftentimes my zeal for the truth has caused me to become argumentative and prideful.  Remember that sometimes you may be called to keep silent, even when you disagree.  It is a hard thing to be caught between speaking out for the sake of the Orthodox faith and keeping quiet (at times) for the sake of love.  Know that God will provide you plenty of opportunities throughout your life in His Church to share with your family and therefore you don't necessarily need to refute all Protestant theology in one day.

This is advice as much for me as it is for you!  My prayers are with you.
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« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2006, 06:41:01 PM »

I heavily second that post!
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« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2006, 08:43:17 PM »

I don't think that many of these claims would be very difficult to rationally debunk at all:

I mean if salvation is once and for all and can never be lost, what happens to those who abandon the faith or those lead a life of disrepute, who murder and rape and so forth, doesn't scripture describe the end of such as being hell?

Furthermore, the Baptist Faith prescribes to a belief in predestination...if that is the case then what is the use of Christian ministry or even of doing anything good?
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« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2006, 09:02:15 PM »

Free Will baptists are non-predestenarian.

Anastasios
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« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2006, 09:22:19 PM »

THe reply that downfallrecords gave is good advice that will guide you even when you do not have an answer. You will learn, if you haven't already, that the Western tradition (Roman Catholicism and all of its protestant offshoots) of the church seeks to explain everything and to arrive at formulaic answers for all matters. IN the Eastern tradition, many things are left unexplained and up to God. I hope this helps.
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« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2006, 09:22:41 PM »

Free Will baptists are non-predestenarian.

Anastasios
Wouldn't it be oxymoronic to say that Free-Will Baptists ARE predestinarian?  That's kinda like speaking of military intelligence.
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« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2006, 09:51:32 PM »

Wouldn't it be oxymoronic to say that Free-Will Baptists ARE predestinarian?ÂÂ  That's kinda like speaking of military intelligence.

Well of course, but the poster did not seem to know it.

Anastasios
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« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2006, 10:51:00 AM »

As far as some of the specific claims go, Baptists find themselves not only having to ignore the overwhelming weight of 2,000 of Christian practice, but also the very Scriptures themselves

Baptism, for example:ÂÂ  The pastor has said that baptism is not necessary for salvation.ÂÂ  Now, it is certainly possible that God can save someone apart from baptism - He is not limited by any restraints in His ways of salvation.ÂÂ  However, Scripture attests that baptism is the normative entrance into His salvation, the "washing of regeneration" that St. Paul writes of.ÂÂ  It is impossible to get around the Scriptural imperative to be baptized for the remission of sins.ÂÂ  In fact, in my years as a Baptist and as a Non-Denominational Evangelical, we had to dance around and deconstruct and sometimes just plain ignore certain passages of Scripture in order to negate baptism as an act of salvation.ÂÂ  Indeed, even the Reformers, while perhaps lessening baptism's importance to some degree, interpreted Scripture in way that upheld the importance of baptism in salvation and especially as an act of entrance into the Church, which is the the "ark of salvation" itself.

That being said, the pastor's reluctance towards a baptismal salvation does probably come from a good intention: baptism can be wrongly interpreted as a "work", and thus some sort of magic formula that gets one into heaven.ÂÂ  I think in a large part, modern day Evangelicals react not to a true Orthodox doctrine of baptism, but to a misinterpretation of baptism in particular and sacraments in general, as being some sort of magic formula that requires no faith or devotion.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2006, 10:51:41 AM by DownfallRecords » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2006, 01:09:37 PM »

Okay guys, I'm grew up a Free-Will Baptist and continued to exercise much of the perspective so perhaps I can 'shed some light' on some of these teachings....

I'm not trying to 'pick a fight' or anything but I could present the general understanding why they believe what they believe.
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« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2006, 05:02:56 AM »

I'd read Preaching Another Christ by St. Theophan the Recluse. As some have said, the theology isn't very hard to debunk, but St. Theophan really hits some key issues in that book.
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« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2006, 09:39:09 AM »

I dare say that Baptists don't 'teach another Christ'. They may interpret the Scriptures a bit differently but their faith and reliance in our Lord is very admirable. Christianity isn't complex, in my humble opinion. We only make so. Why I really don't know.  Roll Eyes

Seriously if you have any questions concerning Baptist Theology I could explain it.
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« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2006, 10:51:40 AM »

chrisb.

I welcome your response to the items that I outlined in the original post.
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« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2006, 12:55:20 PM »

I dare say that Baptists don't 'teach another Christ'. They may interpret the Scriptures a bit differently but their faith and reliance in our Lord is very admirable.

Well, they certainly preach that the divine Christ is the second Person of the Holy Trinity, so yeah, I'd agree that who He is is not substantially different, but rather how He saves us is indeed quite different...

Quote
Christianity isn't complex, in my humble opinion. We only make so. Why I really don't know.  Roll Eyes

Yeah...academically-enslaved theologians of any Christian confession like to make it so...

I'd agree that, boiled down, the gospel message isn't that complicated.  What's left, though, is a matter of figuring out which group's "simple message" is the correct one.  This can lead to the in-depth debates that folks find "complex" and whatnot.

For us (and this is just my version of it), istm that the Orthodox gospel message is this:

  • God made man to share in His life.
  • Man disobeyed God, and therefore rejected the One who was his life.  Death (mortality) and corruption was the result, causing man to be in bondage to the fear of death.
  • God--who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of God the Son, the latter of whom would take human flesh from her, and God would become a man.
  • When God took on mortal flesh, He renewed it, making it immortal by obeying the commands of the Father, dying, and rising again, forever providing us with a human who could not be held captive by death.
  • We now must unite ourselves to Him in a death like His--baptism in water and the Spirit--and unite our flesh and blood to His flesh and blood--done in the Eucharist--so that, only after having lived life to the very end in obedience to His commands, our bodies and souls will not taste of permanent separation by the grave, but will be raised in glory even as Christ's was.

The Baptist version of this, I assume you'd agree, chrisb, is quite different.  I'd also be interested in hearing your take on the OP.
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« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2006, 02:46:21 PM »

Many protestant believers' concept of salvation as "fire-insurance" that will keep them protected regardless of precautions encourages moral laxity among them. You have to draw the fine line between "working for salvation" and "working toward salvation." None of us Orthodox believers will contend that a good work without redeeming grace of Christ will guarantee our salvation. Focus on acceptance of redeeming grace of Christ as a prerequisite for salvation. Then, talk to them about charities and other good works.ÂÂ  

Can one be saved without baptism? Sure. None of the priests in the Orthodox Church would say you are hell-bound if you haven't been baptised. The thief on the cross was saved without being baptised. Nonetheless, the baptism in the name of Holy Trinity is God's commandment and living tradtion in the Church. Under exceptional circumstances, unbaptised believers can and will be saved. As for the consequences of willful defiance of God's teaching on baptism, may the Lord have mercy.

We honour almost anything that bears the marks of Christ. Every inch of Holy Land is highly venerated yet the one who did bear the word of God remains in obscurity. Theotokos through her life showed us the utmost example of obedience and commitment to our Lord. We venerate her for her faithfulness and obedience. We do not worship her.
ÂÂ  
Well.... Our Lord completely obeyed the Father to His death because the will of the Father is will of the Son. I think your pastor's comment comes close to Arian heresy, which confers different nature on Christ from that of the Father). Orthodox teaching on Jesus is homoousion(of the same nature as the Father)

There is danger both in absolute certainty and dreadful pessimism toward one's salvation. Only our ongoing relationship with our Lord will create in us mutual trust as in any realtionship. As trust builds up, we can gradually attain assurance.

Salvation is the fruit of ongoing, intimate relationship with God, not that of indoctrination.
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« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2006, 04:20:03 PM »

Many protestant believers' concept of salvation as "fire-insurance" that will keep them protected regardless of precautions encourages moral laxity among them.

See, I gotta disagree with that; at least in my experience, the (specifically) Baptist churches I attended growing up were very much against "fire insurance salvation" (I heard many a sermon against such a mentality), and some of the most morally strict and upright folks I've ever known were (and, AFAIK, still are) Baptist.  What is odd to me is the insistence that our works play NO part in our salvation, that NOTHING we do will bring us further along in salvation...yet it still matters if you "live like the devil."

Mostly, to me, the "one-moment-you're-lost-and-the-next-moment-you're-forever-saved" idea just doesn't wash.  I think folks know that sanctification really IS the continuing part of salvation, hence the moral strictness, but they're uncomfortable admitting that we actually have to WORK at our salvation after we first profess faith in Christ.

Quote
You have to draw the fine line between "working for salvation" and "working toward salvation." None of us Orthodox believers will contend that a good work without redeeming grace of Christ will guarantee our salvation.


Quote
There is danger both in absolute certainty and dreadful pessimism toward one's salvation. Only our ongoing relationship with our Lord will create in us mutual trust as in any realtionship. As trust builds up, we can gradually attain assurance.

Salvation is the fruit of ongoing, intimate relationship with God, not that of indoctrination.

Nice.
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« Reply #16 on: May 19, 2006, 07:44:29 PM »

I dare say that Baptists don't 'teach another Christ'. They may interpret the Scriptures a bit differently but their faith and reliance in our Lord is very admirable. Christianity isn't complex, in my humble opinion. We only make so. Why I really don't know.  Roll Eyes

Seriously if you have any questions concerning Baptist Theology I could explain it.

Most of the divisions in Christianity are related to Trinitarian/Incarnational heresy, actually. For example, those who reject theosis do so because they don't truly believe God and man were fully united. Likewise, those who reject the title Theotokos do so because they do not truly believe Jesus was the Son of God at birth. So, I would very much say that the vast majority of non-Orthodox do preach another Christ.
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« Reply #17 on: May 22, 2006, 09:37:11 AM »

Most of the divisions in Christianity are related to Trinitarian/Incarnational heresy, actually. For example, those who reject theosis do so because they don't truly believe God and man were fully united. Likewise, those who reject the title Theotokos do so because they do not truly believe Jesus was the Son of God at birth. So, I would very much say that the vast majority of non-Orthodox do preach another Christ.

Coming from a Baptist and Evangelical background, I would have to disagree with that generalization.  I was always taught that Jesus was fully God and fully man but I was never taught the implications of this: theosis.  And again, I was always taught that Jesus was fully God at birth but we never considered the implications of this: the sanctification of His Mother.  It was almost as if the christological and trinitarian orthodoxy was somewhat arbitrary - it needed to believed, but no one considered the ramifications.  It was believed solely because "the Bible teaches it".
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« Reply #18 on: May 22, 2006, 09:42:04 AM »

Coming from a Baptist and Evangelical background, I would have to disagree with that generalization.ÂÂ  I was always taught that Jesus was fully God and fully man but I was never taught the implications of this: theosis.ÂÂ  And again, I was always taught that Jesus was fully God at birth but we never considered the implications of this: the sanctification of His Mother.ÂÂ  It was almost as if the christological and trinitarian orthodoxy was somewhat arbitrary - it needed to believed, but no one considered the ramifications.ÂÂ  It was believed solely because "the Bible teaches it".

Exactly my experience, as well.  We knew the "what," but not the "therefore..."
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« Reply #19 on: May 22, 2006, 10:45:43 AM »

I personally think 'theosis' is very neat but I believe it happens as we master our passions and learned to obey the commandments. I think this is very Biblical  but I reach the general opinion that because 'theosis' was a philosophical word pulled from pagan philosophy (Neo-Platonism) it simply got rejected by Protestants for more Biblical terminology, namely Sanctification. Also it appears to me that the whole "master/apprentice" or "Guru/aspirant" dynamic also got rejected by Protestants due to the lack of necessity of external instruction outside of the Holy Spirit within as is outlined in Scripture. You have to admit it's remarkably similar to Eastern Religious practices (Hinduism and Buddhism come to mind).

Palamas did a good job of getting hesychism accepted as a norm of Orthodox Spirituality but I have to admit upon reading about them, their head posture (naval gazing), breath exercises and mantra work it appears more the effluence of Yogic and Buddhist Meditation exercises than anything which cames from Semitic Tradition. In fact one of my Orthodox friends entered into Buddhism over the last few years after eleven years in Orthodoxy because of his belief that the spiritual practices of hesychists were syncretic with the East and not a product of Christianity.  Shocked

Now this comes across as very negative in tone on my part but that is not because I'm not very interested in hesychism. As a self-styled Pietist and Contemplative I see the necessity of having a spiritual practice. It's just that I've watched long time Christian friends get into it and end up in Buddhism and Yoga.  Embarrassed

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« Reply #20 on: May 22, 2006, 10:59:08 AM »

Arent the terms free will and baptist total contradictions?  Undecided

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« Reply #21 on: May 22, 2006, 11:05:48 AM »

Arent the terms free will and baptist total contradictions?ÂÂ  Undecided

In which way do you mean?  Huh
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« Reply #22 on: May 22, 2006, 12:13:58 PM »

I personally think 'theosis' is very neat but I believe it happens as we master our passions and learned to obey the commandments. I think this is very BiblicalÂÂ  but I reach the general opinion that because 'theosis' was a philosophical word pulled from pagan philosophy (Neo-Platonism) it simply got rejected by Protestants for more Biblical terminology, namely Sanctification.

Well, actually...the mastering of our passions and obedience to the commandments of Christ is only the first part of theosis (and, incidentally, the only part of most eastern meditative traditions, which may explain why your friend quit hesychism for Eastern, non-Christian religions).ÂÂ  It's called catharsis -- the purification of the soul from the ego, like you said.ÂÂ  The second part is called fotisis -- the enlightenment of the soul by divine grace, which fills the vacuum left by catharsis (the absence of this step in eastern religions is why we reject them; they leave us egoless, but without anything in its place.ÂÂ  Finally, there is theosis -- union with God's will and energies, the destiny of all mankind.ÂÂ  I find that Protestantism, specifically evangelicalism, preaches the need to purify the soul from egotistical passions (catharsis, step one), but doesn't even stress the need for meditation on the name of Christ, aquisition of the Holy Spirit etc. to do this.  So they acknowledge the first step by calling it "sanctification," but don't go about it in the traditional, contemplative way, much less progress to the other two steps. ÂÂ  The fact that you are a Baptist contemplative makes you a rare breed indeed.ÂÂ  No wonder you're interested in Orthodoxy.

Quote
Also it appears to me that the whole "master/apprentice" or "Guru/aspirant" dynamic also got rejected by Protestants due to the lack of necessity of external instruction outside of the Holy Spirit within as is outlined in Scripture. You have to admit it's remarkably similar to Eastern Religious practices (Hinduism and Buddhism come to mind).

Well, the apostles had a "guru" in Christ, and St. Paul told his flocks to follow him, in the way that he followed Christ (I Cor. 11:1).ÂÂ  Where specifically is the prohibition against external instruction outside of the Holy Spirit within?ÂÂ  I see Christ in Matt. 23:2-3 telling the Israelites to follow the Pharisees' instructions (just not their example), since they sat in Moses' Seat.ÂÂ  So not only did Christ affirm a teaching authority in the OT (St. Paul affirmed a teaching authority w/in the Church, btw, in Eph. 4:11-12), but He did it by citing an authority that is found nowhere in Scripture.ÂÂ  We'd say, therefore, that this teacher/student setup is quite Judeo-Christian, and quite biblical, though it does not need to be (and, indeed, is not) strictly biblical, since Christ felt no restraint to use extra-biblical sources to lead and instruct the people.

Quote
Palamas did a good job of getting hesychism accepted as a norm of Orthodox Spirituality but I have to admit upon reading about them, their head posture (naval gazing), breath exercises and mantra work it appears more the effluence of Yogic and Buddhist Meditation exercises than anything which cames from Semitic Tradition.

It certainly would appear to have some similarities externally.ÂÂ  Let me ask you this, though: is it possible that these ancient eastern mystic religions glimpsed a bit of the truth in terms of how to empty oneself of passions, and that the complete truth (all three steps of theosis) was only brought out in the seekers of the Complete Truth?

Another question: Do you have any reason to believe (i.e., have you read anything that claims) that there was any dialogue between Middle Eastern and Far Eastern mystics so as to influence Orthodox spirituality in a "non-semetic" way?
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« Reply #23 on: May 22, 2006, 12:54:30 PM »

Well, actually...the mastering of our passions and obedience to the commandments of Christ is only the first part of theosis (and, incidentally, the only part of most eastern meditative traditions, which may explain why your friend quit hesychism for Eastern, non-Christian religions).ÂÂ  It's called catharsis -- the purification of the soul from the ego, like you said.ÂÂ  The second part is called fotisis -- the enlightenment of the soul by divine grace, which fills the vacuum left by catharsis (the absence of this step in eastern religions is why we reject them; they leave us egoless, but without anything in its place.ÂÂ  Finally, there is theosis -- union with God's will and energies, the destiny of all mankind.ÂÂ  I find that Protestantism, specifically evangelicalism, preaches the need to purify the soul from egotistical passions (catharsis, step one), but doesn't even stress the need for meditation on the name of Christ, aquisition of the Holy Spirit etc. to do this.ÂÂ  So they acknowledge the first step by calling it "sanctification," but don't go about it in the traditional, contemplative way, much less progress to the other two steps. ÂÂ  The fact that you are a Baptist contemplative makes you a rare breed indeed.ÂÂ  No wonder you're interested in Orthodoxy.

Great stuff Pedro, I've not read too much on theosis (i.e. deification) except what little I've gathered from Lossky's works.

Evangelicalism does appear, on the surface, to be 'weak' in such practices but have you ever read The Spiritual Man by Watchman Nee? Very rich stuff and it doesn't tap into Neo-Platonism or Eastern Practices in order to create a vehicle for 'fotisis' or 'theosis' which I might offer as a criticism to Orthodox Spirituality. Please note that I said "might". I'm not here to be critical but to offer what concerns I face as I study Orthodoxy.

Quote
Well, the apostles had a "guru" in Christ, and St. Paul told his flocks to follow him, in the way that he followed Christ (I Cor. 11:1).ÂÂ  Where specifically is the prohibition against external instruction outside of the Holy Spirit within?ÂÂ  I see Christ in Matt. 23:2-3 telling the Israelites to follow the Pharisees' instructions (just not their example), since they sat in Moses' Seat.ÂÂ  So not only did Christ affirm a teaching authority in the OT (St. Paul affirmed a teaching authority w/in the Church, btw, in Eph. 4:11-12), but He did it by citing an authority that is found nowhere in Scripture.ÂÂ  We'd say, therefore, that this teacher/student setup is quite Judeo-Christian, and quite biblical, though it does not need to be (and, indeed, is not) strictly biblical, since Christ felt no restraint to use extra-biblical sources to lead and instruct the people.

This is all very true and I agree. Personally I'm not in the position where I need proof of the need or legitimacy of a spiritual practice in Christianity. I think where I'm at is in trying to recognize Orthodox Spirituality as particularly Semitic or even Biblical. I would point back to Watchman Nee as offering a more Biblical Spirituality but that could also just be a bias on my part.

Quote
It certainly would appear to have some similarities externally.ÂÂ  Let me ask you this, though: is it possible that these ancient eastern mystic religions glimpsed a bit of the truth in terms of how to empty oneself of passions, and that the complete truth (all three steps of theosis) was only brought out in the seekers of the Complete Truth?

Yes, it's possible but noting the proximity of Mount Athos I find this difficult to accept.

Quote
Another question: Do you have any reason to believe (i.e., have you read anything that claims) that there was any dialogue between Middle Eastern and Far Eastern mystics so as to influence Orthodox spirituality in a "non-semetic" way?

Well, I know that Origen has comments concerning Buddhism so I believe the Alexandrian School knew of and had interaction with Buddhist Ideas. With that in mind I find it difficult to argue that by the times of Palamas that thus interactions were not possible and from the evidence of posture, breath practice and repented verse (Mantra) I see no reason to suggest that they didn't have interaction and influence from the East.

I know, in Catholic Contemplative circles, this debate has reached the point where dialogue with Buddhist and interfaith practices have yielded a certain syncretism. I'm not sure such has not created the same state of practice one finds in hesychism as well as Universal Salvation ideas and the like.
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« Reply #24 on: May 23, 2006, 03:12:48 PM »

Evangelicalism does appear, on the surface, to be 'weak' in such practices but have you ever read The Spiritual Man by Watchman Nee? Very rich stuff and it doesn't tap into Neo-Platonism or Eastern Practices in order to create a vehicle for 'fotisis' or 'theosis' which I might offer as a criticism to Orthodox Spirituality. Please note that I said "might". I'm not here to be critical but to offer what concerns I face as I study Orthodoxy.

I've heard of Watchman Nee and that he was a very devout, very persecuted missionary.  Could you summarize what his points are?

Quote from: chrisb
I think where I'm at is in trying to recognize Orthodox Spirituality as particularly Semitic or even Biblical. I would point back to Watchman Nee as offering a more Biblical Spirituality but that could also just be a bias on my part.

I think one of the hardest things for me to accept when I converted to Orthodoxy was that the Church had indeed incorporated Greek philosophical thought into their expressions of doctrine, and that eastern contemplatism had been something that had been borrowed from other eastern philosophies, yet both of these were "baptized," as it were, and glorified or completed through contact with the Holy Trinity.  It was Arius who wanted to stick to strictly biblical terms and whatnot in the First Council of Nicea, but the trinitarians incorporated homousion (and other non-biblical, Greek terms throughout the conciliar period) in order to completely express the idea that they were trying to put across--that the Son was of the same essence as the Father--and biblical terms didn't cut it.

Another thing to consider is that the Old Testament used and quoted by the earliest Christians -- even the apostles themselves! -- was not the Hebrew Masoretic Text, but rather the Greek Septuagint!  So not only did the first believers go outside the Bible to describe what they already knew to be the Church's experience of Christ, but had they stuck to the Bible to do so, the flavor of said description would still have been more hellenic than semetic.

Quote from: Pedro
It certainly would appear to have some similarities externally.  Let me ask you this, though: is it possible that these ancient eastern mystic religions glimpsed a bit of the truth in terms of how to empty oneself of passions, and that the complete truth (all three steps of theosis) was only brought out in the seekers of the Complete Truth?

Quote from: chrisb
Yes, it's possible but noting the proximity of Mount Athos I find this difficult to accept.

I'm a bit confused as to your line of thought here.  What does the physical proximity of Mt. Athos have to do with whether or not Christian monastics incorporated and fulfilled eastern meditative practices?

Quote from: Pedro
Another question: Do you have any reason to believe (i.e., have you read anything that claims) that there was any dialogue between Middle Eastern and Far Eastern mystics so as to influence Orthodox spirituality in a "non-semetic" way?

Quote from: chrisb
Well, I know that Origen has comments concerning Buddhism so I believe the Alexandrian School knew of and had interaction with Buddhist Ideas. With that in mind I find it difficult to argue that by the times of Palamas that thus interactions were not possible and from the evidence of posture, breath practice and repented verse (Mantra) I see no reason to suggest that they didn't have interaction and influence from the East.

I know, in Catholic Contemplative circles, this debate has reached the point where dialogue with Buddhist and interfaith practices have yielded a certain syncretism. I'm not sure such has not created the same state of practice one finds in hesychism as well as Universal Salvation ideas and the like.

I had not considered Origen...haven't read any comments of his re: Buddhism, but I'm weak on Origen anyway, so that's not saying much.   Smiley  If you've read St. Gregory Palamas, you've also read the christocentric reasons behind posture, breath and "mantra"--though we'd vehemently deny that the Jesus Prayer is a mantra; rather it's a specific request addressed each time to a specific Person, whereas a mantra is simply a string of syllables or words addressed to no one but the chanter--and you can see how this is meant to bring us inward and closer, not to our own selves or "everything," but to God who is within us.

There's been a Universal Salvation thread or two here lately--I think you may have contributed to one of them, iirc--but please know that universalism is something that, though it made significant inroads into the Church at one point in time, has since been roundly condemned by the Church on several occasions following this.  It is not an Orthodox teaching.  Likewise, hesychism is not the same as eastern meditations, as the second and third steps of theosis that I mentioned in my last post will make clear; the ramifications of these last two steps, especially when done in a trinitarian mindset, open up an entirely different spiritual landscape than the "embrace nothingness" folks in the Far East.
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« Reply #25 on: May 23, 2006, 04:31:30 PM »

I've heard of Watchman Nee and that he was a very devout, very persecuted missionary.ÂÂ  Could you summarize what his points are?

Here's a short Bio: http://www.watchmannee.org/index.html

Here's His Books online, take a look at The Spiritual Man: http://www.ministrybooks.org/watchman-nee-books.cfm

Personally Watchman Nee has been particular inspirational in my spiritual journey and The Spiritual Man has been particularly inspiring for me as a pietist. I am able to discuss any particular aspect of his work but I don't consider myself an expert only an admirer and practitioner.

Quote
I think one of the hardest things for me to accept when I converted to Orthodoxy was that the Church had indeed incorporated Greek philosophical thought into their expressions of doctrine, and that eastern contemplatism had been something that had been borrowed from other eastern philosophies, yet both of these were "baptized," as it were, and glorified or completed through contact with the Holy Trinity.ÂÂ  It was Arius who wanted to stick to strictly biblical terms and whatnot in the First Council of Nicea, but the trinitarians incorporated homousion (and other non-biblical, Greek terms throughout the conciliar period) in order to completely express the idea that they were trying to put across--that the Son was of the same essence as the Father--and biblical terms didn't cut it.

Another thing to consider is that the Old Testament used and quoted by the earliest Christians -- even the apostles themselves! -- was not the Hebrew Masoretic Text, but rather the Greek Septuagint!ÂÂ  So not only did the first believers go outside the Bible to describe what they already knew to be the Church's experience of Christ, but had they stuck to the Bible to do so, the flavor of said description would still have been more hellenic than semetic.

Yeah these are really good points to bring up. I agree that as Christianity took it's first steps into Gentile Pagan Culture I question how many really got it? In Apostolic Secession one assumes a complete and valid transference of the Confession of Jesus Christ to the Gentile Leaders of the Faith. When we start to see our first 'brothers and sisters' in Christ as Fathers and Mothers we ultimately elevate them above ourselves. I'm not sure such is ultimately a form of idolatry on our part but I struggle with this a lot.

Quote
I'm a bit confused as to your line of thought here.ÂÂ  What does the physical proximity of Mt. Athos have to do with whether or not Christian monastics incorporated and fulfilled eastern meditative practices?

Knowing that Origen and I assume others after him had interaction with the East I don't rule out a certain level of syncretism.

Quote
I had not considered Origen...haven't read any comments of his re: Buddhism, but I'm weak on Origen anyway, so that's not saying much.  ÃƒÆ’‚ Smiley  If you've read St. Gregory Palamas, you've also read the christocentric reasons behind posture, breath and "mantra"--though we'd vehemently deny that the Jesus Prayer is a mantra; rather it's a specific request addressed each time to a specific Person, whereas a mantra is simply a string of syllables or words addressed to no one but the chanter--and you can see how this is meant to bring us inward and closer, not to our own selves or "everything," but to God who is within us.

My issue with Palamas is his late entry into the debate. Ultimately as a servant of tradition what real choice did he have? He was a product of the syncretism in which we are speaking.

Quote
There's been a Universal Salvation thread or two here lately--I think you may have contributed to one of them, iirc--but please know that universalism is something that, though it made significant inroads into the Church at one point in time, has since been roundly condemned by the Church on several occasions following this.ÂÂ  It is not an Orthodox teaching.ÂÂ  Likewise, hesychism is not the same as eastern meditations, as the second and third steps of theosis that I mentioned in my last post will make clear; the ramifications of these last two steps, especially when done in a trinitarian mindset, open up an entirely different spiritual landscape than the "embrace nothingness" folks in the Far East.

Oh yeah I'm not suggesting that we make this one of those topics I only bring it up as further evidence that one could gather the opinion that Buddhism or Hinduism has played a role in undermining critical Christian teachings in those elements of Orthodoxy which have been touched by them.

But like I said I just throwing out my concerns. I'm not certain one way or the other on these matters and I do appreciate your fair and honest dialogue on them. I am not trying to be critical my simply voice my own personal reservations.

Thanks for your help with the weighty issues.
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« Reply #26 on: May 23, 2006, 04:42:15 PM »

Here's a short Bio: http://www.watchmannee.org/index.html

Here's His Books online, take a look at The Spiritual Man: http://www.ministrybooks.org/watchman-nee-books.cfm

Cool!  Thanks...

Quote
I agree that as Christianity took it's first steps into Gentile Pagan Culture I question how many really got it?

I used to, too.  I used to be into the whole Messianic Jewish mov't, MJMI and all those other guys, because I thought, as you seem to, that the semetic mindset was the "pure Christianity" before it got diluted via hellenism.  But one thing that changed my mind was this question: how likely is it that ALL the early Church fathers got so many things wrong...and those things were all "gotten wrong" in EXACTLY the same way?  (i.e., sacraments, priesthood, lack of eternal security, apostolic succession)

Quote
When we start to see our first 'brothers and sisters' in Christ as Fathers and Mothers we ultimately elevate them above ourselves.


Well, St. Paul called himself a father of his flocks, so I don't have too much trouble with using the term for the presiding clergy in our churches...

Quote
Knowing that Origen and I assume others after him had interaction with the East I don't rule out a certain level of syncretism.

Well, right, but that wasn't what I wanted to ask...poorly worded question, sorry...how do you know that just because Athos is geographically close to the Far East (though not all that close), that Christianity didn't baptize and renew said Far Eastern practices?

Quote
My issue with Palamas is his late entry into the debate. Ultimately as a servant of tradition what real choice did he have? He was a product of the syncretism in which we are speaking.


Syncretism does not necessitate corruption, I would say.  Christ heralded a clear departure from Judaism as a system when He was on the Via Dolorosa (Luke 23:32), and St. Paul did the same when he (along with the whole Church in Acts 15) stated that Mosaic Law was no longer necessary to be observed to be a Christian; that the hellenic Jews and Gentiles could proceed as they were, within their gentile culture, as Christians.
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« Reply #27 on: May 23, 2006, 05:16:08 PM »

I used to, too.ÂÂ  I used to be into the whole Messianic Jewish mov't, MJMI and all those other guys, because I thought, as you seem to, that the semetic mindset was the "pure Christianity" before it got diluted via hellenism.ÂÂ  But one thing that changed my mind was this question: how likely is it that ALL the early Church fathers got so many things wrong...and those things were all "gotten wrong" in EXACTLY the same way?ÂÂ  (i.e., sacraments, priesthood, lack of eternal security, apostolic succession)

Oh, I'm not that far out but I get the impression toward the end of your last reply that I hold to a different view of what Christ Fulfilled but that is perhaps another topic.
 
Quote
Well, St. Paul called himself a father of his flocks, so I don't have too much trouble with using the term for the presiding clergy in our churches...

Well that is a good point but he was an Apostle. The recognition of Bishops as equals to the Apostles is a particular Catholic and Orthodox view but I understand the merits of the argument.

Quote
Well, right, but that wasn't what I wanted to ask...poorly worded question, sorry...how do you know that just because Athos is geographically close to the Far East (though not all that close), that Christianity didn't baptize and renew said Far Eastern practices?

This whole renew/baptize language could be dismissed as mere sematics but I understand it is a particular rationale for Orthodoxy but I'm not sure how many people really accept it's merits.

Quote
Syncretism does not necessitate corruption, I would say.ÂÂ  Christ heralded a clear departure from Judaism as a system when He was on the Via Dolorosa (Luke 23:32), and St. Paul did the same when he (along with the whole Church in Acts 15) stated that Mosaic Law was no longer necessary to be observed to be a Christian; that the hellenic Jews and Gentiles could proceed as they were, within their gentile culture, as Christians.

I'm out of time so I'll have to address this later.

Thanks for everything. Great talking to you.
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« Reply #28 on: May 23, 2006, 07:11:25 PM »

I'm out of time so I'll have to address this later.

I feel ya'...I was typing fast and furiously to get out those last couple of replies before going home.   Wink

Thanks for everything. Great talking to you.

You're welcome, and likewise.
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« Reply #29 on: May 25, 2006, 02:13:06 PM »

My issue with Palamas is his late entry into the debate. Ultimately as a servant of tradition what real choice did he have? He was a product of the syncretism in which we are speaking.

Oh yeah I'm not suggesting that we make this one of those topics I only bring it up as further evidence that one could gather the opinion that Buddhism or Hinduism has played a role in undermining critical Christian teachings in those elements of Orthodoxy which have been touched by them.

 Huh In all honesty, this is a very ignorant statement. I don't mean that in an antagonistic way at all. Just descriptive (we all have vast areas of ignorance!). It would be like saying that Finnish borrowed its case system and suffix-building characteristics from Ancient Greek because Finnish, like Ancient Greek, has flexional qualities! (I don't know if that means anything to you, but, trust me, it's ludicrous!)

Palamite thought is very firmly rooted in the tradition of Pseudo-Dionysius, who wrote in the 5th century, and in the writings of St. Maximos the Confessor. In turn, these two are, of course, rooted in the earliest Christian monastic sources and the Christological/Incarnational theology of the Church (with its basis, of course, in the New Testament and, quite strongly, in the 3rd and 4th century).

Even secular scholars recognize this. These are the historical antecedents, theological influences and spiritual traditions that form Palamism. Hardly late and hardly Hindu. (Must I even type that previous sentence!? The metaphysical bases of Palamism and Eastern religions don't even resemble each other!)

Now, sure, both Pseudo-Dionysius and St. Maximos had influences from Hellenic thought, but their vision is PROFOUNDLY Christological. The only scholars I have ever seen who try to re-interpret any of these Christian sources as even complementary (not, mind you, affiliated!) with Buddhism, et al., do so on the basis of perceived similarities -- never on the basis of actual historical evidence. (Not to mention the fact that the two budding scholars I am thinking of can't even read Ancient Greek and don't understand a thing about the Late Antique Mediterranean, and are thus talking out of their you know what!) In other words, their argument is essentially yours: "Certain ideas or practices seem similar to me," NOT, "St. Palamas or Pseudo-Dionysius or St. Maximos took X concept from Buddhism and applied it in this way (and here's the evidence)." Why? Because that is a blatantly unsupportable thesis, and they would be laughed out of the room at even the most slip-shod colloquium of comparative religion scholars.

(Well, maybe not, considering what passes for scholarship at some such colloquia, at least in the Boston area.....but you get the idea!)

Quote
But like I said I just throwing out my concerns. I'm not certain one way or the other on these matters and I do appreciate your fair and honest dialogue on them. I am not trying to be critical my simply voice my own personal reservations.

I dig. I hope I don't come across as cross (I'm not). I once wrote a very cursory paper on Orthodox ascetical practices/Palamism and certain modern branches of Hinduism...perhaps I'll dig it up.
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« Reply #30 on: May 25, 2006, 08:19:22 PM »

Huh In all honesty, this is a very ignorant statement. I don't mean that in an antagonistic way at all. Just descriptive (we all have vast areas of ignorance!). It would be like saying that Finnish borrowed its case system and suffix-building characteristics from Ancient Greek because Finnish, like Ancient Greek, has flexional qualities! (I don't know if that means anything to you, but, trust me, it's ludicrous!)

Palamite thought is very firmly rooted in the tradition of Pseudo-Dionysius, who wrote in the 5th century, and in the writings of St. Maximos the Confessor. In turn, these two are, of course, rooted in the earliest Christian monastic sources and the Christological/Incarnational theology of the Church (with its basis, of course, in the New Testament and, quite strongly, in the 3rd and 4th century).

Even secular scholars recognize this. These are the historical antecedents, theological influences and spiritual traditions that form Palamism. Hardly late and hardly Hindu. (Must I even type that previous sentence!? The metaphysical bases of Palamism and Eastern religions don't even resemble each other!)

Now, sure, both Pseudo-Dionysius and St. Maximos had influences from Hellenic thought, but their vision is PROFOUNDLY Christological. The only scholars I have ever seen who try to re-interpret any of these Christian sources as even complementary (not, mind you, affiliated!) with Buddhism, et al., do so on the basis of perceived similarities -- never on the basis of actual historical evidence. (Not to mention the fact that the two budding scholars I am thinking of can't even read Ancient Greek and don't understand a thing about the Late Antique Mediterranean, and are thus talking out of their you know what!) In other words, their argument is essentially yours: "Certain ideas or practices seem similar to me," NOT, "St. Palamas or Pseudo-Dionysius or St. Maximos took X concept from Buddhism and applied it in this way (and here's the evidence)." Why? Because that is a blatantly unsupportable thesis, and they would be laughed out of the room at even the most slip-shod colloquium of comparative religion scholars.

(Well, maybe not, considering what passes for scholarship at some such colloquia, at least in the Boston area.....but you get the idea!)

In nomine Iesu I offer you peace,

You should know that Catholicism sees some religous practices as prepatory practice to accepting Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Savior. Here is a quote from Faith and Tolerance by Pope Benedict XVI:

The position that Christianity assigns itself in the history of religions is one that was basically expressed long ago: it sees in Jesus Christ the only real salvation of man and, thus, his final salvation. In accordance with this, two attitudes are possible (so to speak) with regard to other religions: one may address them as being provisional and, in this respect, as preparatory to Christianity and, thus, in a certain sense attribute to them a positive value, insofar as they allow themselves to be regarded as precursors. They can of course also be understood as insufficient, anti-Christian, contrary to the truth, as leading people to believe they are saved without ever truly being able to offer salvation.

Peace and God Bless
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« Reply #31 on: May 25, 2006, 11:15:13 PM »

In nomine Iesu I offer you peace,

You should know that Catholicism sees some religious practices as preparatory practice to accepting Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Savior. Here is a quote from Faith and Tolerance by Pope Benedict XVI:

Certainly. Benedict XVI is hardly the first to express such an idea, nor is it an exclusively Roman Catholic one. C.S. Lewis is probably its greatest 20th century proponent.

As I've had to point out on this board before, such is only an explanation for why certain religious practices/doctrines appear similar -- not an argument (and certainly not a proof!) that any given Christian idea or practice was borrowed from religion X. Further, Lewis/Benedict's POV is an explanation that would see any such borrowing (if it's actually a case of borrowing and not just a sui generis similarity) as proof of CHRISTIANITY'S ultimate authority, not its dependence on external principles.

But our friend's misapprehensions about Palamism are equivalent to those of a person who rejects the story of Jesus' resurrection because many ancient religions had myths of a dying and rising god. (At least some of those ancient religions were actually part of the same region and culture as Hellenistic Judaism, something we cannot say for the supposed proximity of Mt. Athos (as if that's the original source of Palamite thought!) to Buddhist Asia, a completely foreign culture and distant land, to which Palamas never traveled and contemporary Christian sources contemned.)
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« Reply #32 on: May 31, 2006, 01:08:18 PM »

Huh In all honesty, this is a very ignorant statement. I don't mean that in an antagonistic way at all. Just descriptive (we all have vast areas of ignorance!). It would be like saying that Finnish borrowed its case system and suffix-building characteristics from Ancient Greek because Finnish, like Ancient Greek, has flexional qualities! (I don't know if that means anything to you, but, trust me, it's ludicrous!)

Palamite thought is very firmly rooted in the tradition of Pseudo-Dionysius, who wrote in the 5th century, and in the writings of St. Maximos the Confessor. In turn, these two are, of course, rooted in the earliest Christian monastic sources and the Christological/Incarnational theology of the Church (with its basis, of course, in the New Testament and, quite strongly, in the 3rd and 4th century).

Grace and Peace pensateomnia,

First I don't take anything that you have said in a negative way but I might not agree with you on it. Pseudo-Dionysius is honestly 'not' something that I would say is particularly Biblical or even rooted in Christian Tradition. In fact, most early Church Fathers mistook it for a much early work by Paul's Dionysius which is way we now call it "pseudo" Dionysius. It was a Neo-Platonist work as I understand it but don't get me wrong I think Platonism was cool but ultimately I could say the same thing about Indian Mythology but I'm not going to integrate it into Christianity nor am I going to suggest that my integration 'baptizes' Indian Mythology into something 'acceptable' for integration into Christianity. I'm going to be honest and say that this is evidence of syncretism and suggest that such might very well preach a different Gospel than what our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ taught to the Apostles.

Frankly it is this kind of thing which cause the whole Protestant Reformation the fear of pollution of the Tradition which grew around the Holy Scriptures as it entered Rome.

Quote
Even secular scholars recognize this. These are the historical antecedents, theological influences and spiritual traditions that form Palamism. Hardly late and hardly Hindu. (Must I even type that previous sentence!? The metaphysical bases of Palamism and Eastern religions don't even resemble each other!)

I'm more into Watchman Nee and Madam Jeanne Guyon whom appear to present a more biblical spirituality than what appears to be present in Palamism and it's pagan syncretism.

Quote
Now, sure, both Pseudo-Dionysius and St. Maximos had influences from Hellenic thought, but their vision is PROFOUNDLY Christological. The only scholars I have ever seen who try to re-interpret any of these Christian sources as even complementary (not, mind you, affiliated!) with Buddhism, et al., do so on the basis of perceived similarities -- never on the basis of actual historical evidence. (Not to mention the fact that the two budding scholars I am thinking of can't even read Ancient Greek and don't understand a thing about the Late Antique Mediterranean, and are thus talking out of their you know what!) In other words, their argument is essentially yours: "Certain ideas or practices seem similar to me," NOT, "St. Palamas or Pseudo-Dionysius or St. Maximos took X concept from Buddhism and applied it in this way (and here's the evidence)." Why? Because that is a blatantly unsupportable thesis, and they would be laughed out of the room at even the most slip-shod colloquium of comparative religion scholars.

Well I think when you recognize that the Alexandrian School had knowledge of Buddhism and that both Eastern Mysticism and Platonism are similar philosophical paths you can see the concern one might have looking at them and seeing the similarities.

What is particularly concerning to me is the body postures and breathing exercises. We don't find this kind of stuff in the Bible but we do find it in Yoga and Buddhism. It is a concern of mine regardless.

Quote
I dig. I hope I don't come across as cross (I'm not). I once wrote a very cursory paper on Orthodox ascetical practices/Palamism and certain modern branches of Hinduism...perhaps I'll dig it up.

No problem. Like I said before I'm only voicing my concerns. I don't desire to allow 'mysticism' to overtake a real encounter with Christian Spirituality. Which is what I seek.

Thanks for putting up with me.
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« Reply #33 on: May 31, 2006, 01:59:11 PM »

Well I think when you recognize that the Alexandrian School had knowledge of Buddhism and that both Eastern Mysticism and Platonism are similar philosophical paths you can see the concern one might have looking at them and seeing the similarities.

Well, if personal "concerns" and perceptions about similarities are to be the measure of truth (as opposed to actual evidence), then I would like to say that I'm "concerned" about the Reformers ideas regarding sola scriptura. This understanding of revelation causes me concern because of its similarity to Islam. After all, Luther and Calvin obviously had knowledge of Islamic sources. Thus, it appears to me that they adopted their emphasis on the written Word of God after considering the obvious truth of Muslim attitudes toward Scripture. Such unacceptable syncretism has no place in the Christian tradition.

---

I mean, really! If you personally want to be concerned about it, that's fine. But it makes no sense to base that concern on fallacious pedigrees and supposed influences. (By the way, have you ever read Palamas?)
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« Reply #34 on: May 31, 2006, 02:34:35 PM »

Well, if personal "concerns" and perceptions about similarities are to be the measure of truth (as opposed to actual evidence), then I would like to say that I'm "concerned" about the Reformers ideas regarding sola scriptura. This understanding of revelation causes me concern because of its similarity to Islam. After all, Luther and Calvin obviously had knowledge of Islamic sources. Thus, it appears to me that they adopted their emphasis on the written Word of God after considering the obvious truth of Muslim attitudes toward Scripture. Such unacceptable syncretism has no place in the Christian tradition.

Well I think it's something to seriously look into. Clearly Islam has played a role in the continued development of Christianity. Iconoclasm anyone? But when we look through the Scriptures what can we draw from it?

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. - 2 Tim. 3:16-17

For many Christians this is why they come to trust Scripture as 'the' source and instruction and not traditions of men or even philosophy.

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I mean, really! If you personally want to be concerned about it, that's fine. But it makes no sense to base that concern on fallacious pedigrees and supposed influences. (By the way, have you ever read Palamas?)

Actually I've read all four translated volumes of the Philokalia which has quite a bit of Palamas and Maximus in it. I just come away from hesychasm which the impression that it was an add on of a pagan philosophic Neo-Platonist system, largely unnecessary, and not particularly Biblical or Semitic which to me means not something that Jesus Christ would have taught to the Apostles. I can appreciate it as a neat system but the more I've delved into it the more I see it as a tradition of men unnecessary for true salvation or even Union with God. You know from the outside Orthodoxy strikes me as very elitist and very high-minded.ÂÂ  Roll Eyes

You appear to be getting more testy and that's not my objective but I am being honest with my opinion on the matter and ultimately that is all I have to share. (By the Way, have you ever read any Watchman Nee or Madame Jeanne Guyon?)
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« Reply #35 on: May 31, 2006, 03:48:12 PM »

Ah...the sola scriptura question.  Here, I think, is the biggest issue that needs to be dealt with to overcome differences between Protestants and Orthodox.

Well I think it's something to seriously look into. Clearly Islam has played a role in the continued development of Christianity.

So, would you say that islamic influence in the continued development of Christianity is a good thing, while the (originally) pagan Greek philosophy which also influenced it is a bad thing?  Attempting to freeze the deposit of faith in a semetic mindset with solely biblical language is a recipe for failure; indeed, many of the theological and christological heresies that have come out of the Church have their basis in attempting to see things only through Scripture and a simpler, logical mindset rather than dealing with the extra-biblical traditions of the Church, as well as opening up to the cultures that followed the NT (with which God obviously knew the Church would come into contact) in order to more precisely explain what was belived by the Church.

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All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. - 2 Tim. 3:16-17

This, I know is why many Christians think Scripture is the sole authority for them.  But Ephesians 4:11-15 lists many teaching offices of the Church for the perfection of the faithful, and nowhere in that list is Scripture mentioned.  St. Paul would not therefore have the Ephesians jettison Scripture, would he?  Likewise, Scripture is profitable for all these things, but not the only thing profitable (not necessarily, anyway).  The man of God may be thoroughly equipped with Scripture, but perhaps it is not only the Scriptures that are doing the equipping.  With the Scriptures, the man of God may go simply from "equipped" to "thoroughly equipped."  Nowhere in this often quoted verse is the Church commanded to adhere only to that which is found in the pages of Scripture. 

Regarding trusting Scripture instead of "traditions of men or even philosophy," I would challenge vehemently the idea that Protestants do not read their own traditions into the Scripture.  Take, for example, the sola scriptura position read into the verse you cited above.  This is a traditional Protestant reading of this verse which is unknown in Christendom until the Reformers began to read it as such.  The question is not "Do we simply read the Bible or do we read the Bible and include our traditions while reading it?"  The question should be, "When we read the Bible, since we must needs read it with some kind of tradition, which tradition shall we use to read it?"  This pagan, Neo-platonic, philosophic system you seem to have a problem with is largely responsible for our formulations of the doctrines of the Trinity and Christology (and by "our" I mean all of "little 'o' orthodox Christendom).  ISTM that this "no input from outside sources" attitude is the foreign one (and an inconsistently abided by one, since the sola scriptura position comes not from Judeo-Christian, biblical influences but islamic ones), and is therefore itself a tradition of men that has introduced things that no one in the early days of Christianity would have understood or accepted.  It is ironic to me that you would be willing to accept a tradition which dates after Palamas, yet reject a much more ancient one, if dates are what you're concerned about.

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You know from the outside Orthodoxy strikes me as very elitist and very high-minded.  Roll Eyes

As can any theological system, if one is inclined to approach it in such a manner.
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« Reply #36 on: May 31, 2006, 04:21:49 PM »

Well I think it's something to seriously look into.

I was being sarcastic. Those statements about Luther and Calvin are patently ridiculous and have no basis in the Reformer's writings or in common sense.

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But when we look through the Scriptures what can we draw from it?

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. - 2 Tim. 3:16-17

Ah. Well then! I better only use the Scripture St. Paul was referring to. Surely he didn't mean his very own epistle?

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For many Christians this is why they come to trust Scripture as 'the' source and instruction and not traditions of men or even philosophy.

Certainly the Scriptures (defined as such by the consensus of the Church!) enjoy a primacy of honor and are indeed profitable -- to use St. Paul's exact words -- for doctrine, instruction, etc. Where, however, does St. Paul (or any one else before Luther) say ONLY Scripture is good for such (much less the only authority)? I don't want this to turn into another battle in the tired old war of proof-texts, since I assume you've witnessed such before. I also assume you know of the several proof-texts that speak about the authority of the Church and the importance of Christian tradition (as opposed, perhaps, to the traditions of the Pharisees).

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Actually I've read all four translated volumes of the Philokalia which has quite a bit of Palamas and Maximus in it. I just come away from hesychasm which the impression that it was an add on of a pagan philosophic Neo-Platonist system, largely unnecessary, and not particularly Biblical or Semitic which to me means not something that Jesus Christ would have taught to the Apostles. I can appreciate it as a neat system but the more I've delved into it the more I see it as a tradition of men unnecessary for true salvation or even Union with God. You know from the outside Orthodoxy strikes me as very elitist and very high-minded.  Roll Eyes

I'm really rather perplexed by this. The authors of the Philokalia, whose whole life revolved around the daily reading of the Scripture and regular participation in communal worship, and who, with this as an assumed background, were expressing their love for Christ and their deep spiritual experiences in the vocabulary of their age, are "elitist" and not "biblical," and, yet, if something does not seem to you, as a 21rst-Century American(?), to be sufficiently influenced by "Semitic" culture (which, during the 1rst century A.D., had considerable Hellenistic influences anyway!), then it cannot possibly be something that is consonant with Jesus' teaching? On what proletarian basis does one adjudicate sufficient levels of (Hellenistic) Semitism? It seems one would have to know an impressive amount about the complexities of ancient Aramaic, Akkadian, Hebrew and possibly Syriac language, religion and culture in order to assess a practice's/belief's credentials as "Semitic". How is such erudition and good-sense accessible to the MTV masses? Or, are we, perhaps, talking about a particular *modern* narrative of what it means to be "Semitic" and "biblical"? Even if we set aside such anachronism, how is this modern re-invention more suitable to the common man, who may not want to become a "Semite" in thinking any more than you may want to appreciate the ways in which Neo-Platonic vocabulary was co-opted, re-interpreted and re-applied to "Semitic" ways of thinking by Christians who loved Christ with great zeal and pure hearts in 8th-century Constantinople?

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You appear to be getting more testy

Sorry to appear such. I'm really not. I know my posts can appear that way (including this one), but it's really just a function of the ambiguities and deceptiveness of the written word (hmmm...what does that tell us about modern attempts to reconstruct ancient "Semitic" mindsets?).

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and that's not my objective but I am being honest with my opinion on the matter and ultimately that is all I have to share. (By the Way, have you ever read any Watchman Nee or Madame Jeanne Guyon?)

Yeah. I had to labor through far too much Watchman during undergrad. Don't get me started! Anyone who depends on John Darby or the Brethren for a "Scriptural" take on matters doctrinal (or spiritual) needs to be baptized in the Spirit a third time!

As for Guyon: She makes a good character for the likes of Thomas Hardy, but I can't say I found her more edifying than, say, the Desert Fathers. Both speak of spiritual suffering and describe the spiritual path with love and sincerity, and yet the Desert Fathers do so in much more compelling and authentic ways. In fact, I'm surprised you lean her direction. Certainly the Desert Fathers are more Semitic (and therefore "biblical") than a mere Frenchie, mais non (seeing as how they ARE Semitic)?
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« Reply #37 on: May 31, 2006, 05:24:31 PM »

I was being sarcastic. Those statements about Luther and Calvin are patently ridiculous and have no basis in the Reformer's writings or in common sense.

Well I've heard that Martin Luther was known to be one of the few theologians of his day to have access to the Quran and I believe he was working on a German translation. Has anyone else heard or read this?

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Ah. Well then! I better only use the Scripture St. Paul was referring to. Surely he didn't mean his very own epistle?

Actually the Apostle Peter recognizes Paul's epistles as Scripture for us. We don't need to question whither Paul's epistles are included since the Biblical record already offers them as such.ÂÂ  Roll Eyes

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. - 2 Peter 3:16-17

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Certainly the Scriptures (defined as such by the consensus of the Church!) enjoy a primacy of honor and are indeed profitable -- to use St. Paul's exact words -- for doctrine, instruction, etc. Where, however, does St. Paul (or any one else before Luther) say ONLY Scripture is good for such (much less the only authority)? I don't want this to turn into another battle in the tired old war of proof-texts, since I assume you've witnessed such before. I also assume you know of the several proof-texts that speak about the authority of the Church and the importance of Christian tradition (as opposed, perhaps, to the traditions of the Pharisees).

That the man of God might be 'prefect' I might add. That has always been really important for Protestantism to recognize when faced with cultural practices that over time enter into sacred tradition to assert itself as part of the deposit of faith. Spirituality has it's place in Christian, I might even say a central place, but I seriously question Orthodoxy elevating Neo-platonism, as it has, as the defacto spiritual vehicle for Christianity.

I believe what makes Protestants remain Protestants is the concern these encounters with tradition brings about in one's faith life. When faced with the sheer questionable enfluences these practices raise one might well be safer simply sticking with what we are told is necessary.

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I'm really rather perplexed by this. The authors of the Philokalia, whose whole life revolved around the daily reading of the Scripture and regular participation in communal worship, and who, with this as an assumed background, were expressing their love for Christ and their deep spiritual experiences in the vocabulary of their age, are "elitist" and not "biblical," and, yet, if something does not seem to you, as a 21rst-Century American(?), to be sufficiently influenced by "Semitic" culture (which, during the 1rst century A.D., had considerable Hellenistic influences anyway!), then it cannot possibly be something that is consonant with Jesus' teaching? On what proletarian basis does one adjudicate sufficient levels of (Hellenistic) Semitism? It seems one would have to know an impressive amount about the complexities of ancient Aramaic, Akkadian, Hebrew and possibly Syriac language, religion and culture in order to assess a practice's/belief's credentials as "Semitic". How is such erudition and good-sense accessible to the MTV masses? Or, are we, perhaps, talking about a particular *modern* narrative of what it means to be "Semitic" and "biblical"? Even if we set aside such anachronism, how is this modern re-invention more suitable to the common man, who may not want to become a "Semite" in thinking any more than you may want to appreciate the ways in which Neo-Platonic vocabulary was co-opted, re-interpreted and re-applied to "Semitic" ways of thinking by Christians who loved Christ with great zeal and pure hearts in 8th-century Constantinople?

Was this a veiled attempt to insult me?

I believe these raise enough questions to be concerned by them. Simple enough I think. I don't have to offer up a clear cut case I simply have to have reasonable doubt. You're defensive attacks don't help me make my way clear of them either.

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Sorry to appear such. I'm really not. I know my posts can appear that way (including this one), but it's really just a function of the ambiguities and deceptiveness of the written word (hmmm...what does that tell us about modern attempts to reconstruct ancient "Semitic" mindsets?).

Seriously I don't think that one needs to reconstruct anything. I believe if we come to the Scriptures with an open heart and an open mind the Spirit will do the rest to guide us.

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Yeah. I had to labor through far too much Watchman during undergrad. Don't get me started! Anyone who depends on John Darby or the Brethren for a "Scriptural" take on matters doctrinal (or spiritual) needs to be baptized in the Spirit a third time!

Ouch! Watchman Nee is awesome! That is my vote. Nuff Said.

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As for Guyon: She makes a good character for the likes of Thomas Hardy, but I can't say I found her more edifying than, say, the Desert Fathers. Both speak of spiritual suffering and describe the spiritual path with love and sincerity, and yet the Desert Fathers do so in much more compelling and authentic ways. In fact, I'm surprised you lean her direction. Certainly the Desert Fathers are more Semitic (and therefore "biblical") than a mere Frenchie, mais non (seeing as how they ARE Semitic)?

Are you really trying to suggest that 'all' of the Desert Fathers were Semitic? Are you really trying to suggest that Hesychasm derived through the Apostles and 'not' from Neo-Platonist Ascetic Practices? Come on now!
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« Reply #38 on: May 31, 2006, 05:49:20 PM »

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« Reply #39 on: May 31, 2006, 05:53:04 PM »

Ah...the sola scriptura question.ÂÂ  Here, I think, is the biggest issue that needs to be dealt with to overcome differences between Protestants and Orthodox.

Yes I agree.

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So, would you say that islamic influence in the continued development of Christianity is a good thing, while the (originally) pagan Greek philosophy which also influenced it is a bad thing?ÂÂ  Attempting to freeze the deposit of faith in a semetic mindset with solely biblical language is a recipe for failure; indeed, many of the theological and christological heresies that have come out of the Church have their basis in attempting to see things only through Scripture and a simpler, logical mindset rather than dealing with the extra-biblical traditions of the Church, as well as opening up to the cultures that followed the NT (with which God obviously knew the Church would come into contact) in order to more precisely explain what was belived by the Church.

I believe in certain areas (idolatry) they have done a much better job at adhering to the 10 Commandments than Christianity has done. Honestly we haven't done that great with pictures and statues etc. I know all the arguments and the councils on this so we don't have to battle this out but I also know that Baptists and many other Fundamental Christian Groups don't have pictures and statues in their houses or their Churches because of the 10 Commandments exhortation to not have them.

So were the have fulfilled the spirit of the law of God I would suggest they might play a positive role in our faith life. Other than that I don't know to much else.

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This, I know is why many Christians think Scripture is the sole authority for them.ÂÂ  But Ephesians 4:11-15 lists many teaching offices of the Church for the perfection of the faithful, and nowhere in that list is Scripture mentioned.ÂÂ  St. Paul would not therefore have the Ephesians jettison Scripture, would he?ÂÂ  Likewise, Scripture is profitable for all these things, but not the only thing profitable (not necessarily, anyway).ÂÂ  The man of God may be thoroughly equipped with Scripture, but perhaps it is not only the Scriptures that are doing the equipping.ÂÂ  With the Scriptures, the man of God may go simply from "equipped" to "thoroughly equipped."ÂÂ  Nowhere in this often quoted verse is the Church commanded to adhere only to that which is found in the pages of Scripture.

Here I agree with you but don't you think it might be 'safer' to stick with Scripture alone? I've been looking at Church History and it's a real train wreck at times. There isn't all that much clarity there. Different groups fighting one another anathamas going back and forth from one group in power and then from another. I don't see the work of the Holy Spirit among them. Do you?ÂÂ  

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Regarding trusting Scripture instead of "traditions of men or even philosophy," I would challenge vehemently the idea that Protestants do not read their own traditions into the Scripture.ÂÂ  Take, for example, the sola scriptura position read into the verse you cited above.

Well before we go down this road let me say that I really appreciate your point of view and I think you've got a really good head on your shoulders but I don't think that Sola Scriptura was or is a doctrine of authority but one of necessity.

I believe devout God fearing individuals looked at the Traditions and Corruption of the Roman Catholic Church and Church History and simply reached the conclusion that we simply can't trust Tradition as it is presented to us. Thus we are left, out of necessity, with a doctrine of Sola Scriptura. When I look at the mingling of pagan practices with Christianity my Protestant alert light just go crazy. I have no other way to explain it.

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This is a traditional Protestant reading of this verse which is unknown in Christendom until the Reformers began to read it as such.ÂÂ  The question is not "Do we simply read the Bible or do we read the Bible and include our traditions while reading it?"ÂÂ  The question should be, "When we read the Bible, since we must needs read it with some kind of tradition, which tradition shall we use to read it?"ÂÂ  This pagan, Neo-platonic, philosophic system you seem to have a problem with is largely responsible for our formulations of the doctrines of the Trinity and Christology (and by "our" I mean all of "little 'o' orthodox Christendom).ÂÂ  ISTM that this "no input from outside sources" attitude is the foreign one (and an inconsistently abided by one, since the sola scriptura position comes not from Judeo-Christian, biblical influences but islamic ones), and is therefore itself a tradition of men that has introduced things that no one in the early days of Christianity would have understood or accepted.ÂÂ  It is ironic to me that you would be willing to accept a tradition which dates after Palamas, yet reject a much more ancient one, if dates are what you're concerned about.

Yeah I think you are talking about our Hermeneutic. Sure we bring a particular Hermeneutic to Scripture but I also believe that that Hermeneutic should use Scripture to interpret Scripture which is the Protestant way of doing things. Philosophies like Neo-Platonism should be left at the door not incorporated into our faith. Doesn't that just scare you? I mean we've been warned by the Apostle Paul and the others about this kind of stuff.
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« Reply #40 on: June 01, 2006, 12:40:21 AM »

I believe in certain areas (idolatry) they have done a much better job at adhering to the 10 Commandments than Christianity has done.

I know you said you know all the arguments re: iconography etc, so I won't make them.  Instead I'll just ask: how do you feel about the rabid anti-incarnationalism espoused by Islam being the driving force behind their iconoclasm?  Does this cast any doubt upon the validity of their influence on iconoclastic Christian confessions?

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Here I agree with you but don't you think it might be 'safer' to stick with Scripture alone? I've been looking at Church History and it's a real train wreck at times. There isn't all that much clarity there. Different groups fighting one another anathamas going back and forth from one group in power and then from another. I don't see the work of the Holy Spirit among them. Do you?

Honestly, if that's the criteria, I don't see sola scriptura as being a 'safe' alternative at all.  I look at the early years of the Reformation--heck, even all the way up to today!--and the protestant millieu is a train wreck all its own, to be honest.  Different groups would burn each other (never mind the Catholics!) at stakes, run each other out of town, etc, for differing interpretations of Scripture regarding such basic things as baptism, free will, communion, keeping or losing salvation, and more.  Churches would split over issues about the millenium, or whether this or that move of the Holy Spirit was supported by Scripture, or whether salvation was one-time or ongoing...all these issues, however, are solved since the beginning of the faith within those groups who take into account the tradition of the Church which was universally agreed upon.  I guess it all depends on what you classify as chaos.  At least if there's one Church a council can be held to settle the debate; with sola scriptura there's no end to it...both sides just need a Bible verse to be on equal footing and keep on going as valid denominations.

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Well before we go down this road let me say that I really appreciate your point of view and I think you've got a really good head on your shoulders

Why, thank you.  Likewise.

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but I don't think that Sola Scriptura was or is a doctrine of authority but one of necessity.  I believe devout God fearing individuals looked at the Traditions and Corruption of the Roman Catholic Church and Church History and simply reached the conclusion that we simply can't trust Tradition as it is presented to us.

I absolutely agree that, when presented with the idea of tradition as it was presented by the medieval Roman Catholic Church, the Reformers reacted in the only sensible way it knew how: by rejecting what they perceived as the tradition of the Church.  Orthodox would say, however, that not only did the Roman Church seriously need some straightening out (hence our sympathy with the first protesters), but the Protestants needed to be exposed to the tradition of the Church as originally lived by the Eastern Fathers and Church.  The fact is, imo, that the often-subtle-seeming differences between eastern and western takes on certain ideas or practices have ramifications that, ultimately, would have made non-issues out of many of the things the Protestants initially were repulsed by.  Unfortunately, this exposure didn't happen until ideas had already solidified and dichotomies already been drawn in the minds of Reformers to where, when they heard something that sounded Roman, they automatically took it to mean the same thing that the Romans meant.

So the pitting of Scripture against Holy Tradition (and a western caricature of it, at that) really is, in our eyes, the greatest strawman argument ever made.  If Protestants could see what the Tradition really originally meant to convey, most if not all of their beefs could be put aside, and Tradition embraced (as it should be) as a perfectly harmonious companion with Holy Scripture.

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When I look at the mingling of pagan practices with Christianity my Protestant alert light just go crazy. I have no other way to explain it.

I understand your concern; truly I do.  Yet, how do you feel (honestly, this isn't an attack; I want to know your honest reaction) about the fact that the Arians in the first Ecumenical Council rejected St. Athanasius' idea of Christ's sharing a divine essence with the Father simply because St. Athanasius' argument centered on an extra-biblical, originally pagan philosophical term, homoousious?  This would most definitely seem to be an incorporation of pagan philosophy with Christian thinking, yet it is the most thorough explanation of what you and I both believe about Christ that is out there; no biblical term is sufficient to describe it.

Another example, if I may (and, again, I'm interested in hearing your reaction to it): How would you feel if someone accused the apostles, due to their geographical proximity to polytheistic Greece and tendency towards hellenic Judaism, of a sort of Judeo-Greco syncretism due to their belief in a dying and resurrecting deity?  As pensateomnia has pointed out elsewhere, Tammuz, Osiris, Mithras, Dionysus and Hades are all myths where the deity dies and is resurrected, yet we would not dare to jump to the conclusion that simply because there exists physical proximity and cultural influence that the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus was not a genuine event, nor that it was not a legitimate continuation of the Jewish tradition (even though Old Testament Judaism barely stressed bodily resurrection at all!).  If, then, we are able to give the apostles the benefit of the doubt concerning this belief, even in the light of their geographical, cultural, linguistic and mythological similarities to certain pagan contemporaries, is it so unrealistic to at least concede the same benefit of the doubt to the Christians who followed them?

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Yeah I think you are talking about our Hermeneutic. Sure we bring a particular Hermeneutic to Scripture but I also believe that that Hermeneutic should use Scripture to interpret Scripture which is the Protestant way of doing things.

Well, I think you're missing something here...using Scripture to interpret Scripture doesn't escape the fact that you are, in fact, using a tradition (or hermeneutic, if you like) to tell you which Scriptures to use to interpret which other Scriptures.  For example, a hermeneutic may, if it is fueled by rationalist, enlightenment ideals, reject outright the possiblity of the mystical real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This causes the words of Christ, "This is My Body" to be automatically read in the same way one might read His words, "I am the Door": in a non-material, merely "spiritual" or invisible, symbolic way.  When one uses this reading to deal with John 6, where Christ says to eat His flesh and drink His blood, the automatically "unclear" verse 54 is seen in the light of the verses before that that simply say to believe in Him (which is automatically seen as an internal, invisible decision in the heart, made rationally by the mind), and the verse after which says that "the Spirit gives life; the flesh profiteth nothing," which fits in quite nicely in a sort of psuedo-gnostic approach many rationalists find attractive.  When all is said and done, however, it's clear that all of this "Scripture-to-Scripture" interpretation has as its fundamental basis certain assumptions that the interpreter may not know s/he is even bringing to the table when s/he works with Scripture!  In reality, said reader of Scripture is, quite unknowingly, using his/her own philosophical traditions to interpret Scripture instead of impartially reading it "as is" (the latter of which can never actually be done, imo).

My question, then, returns: Which set of philosopical assumptions, then, do we adopt in order to even begin reading the Holy Scriptures, since we are bound to do so?  Those of our own, modern age which are separated by the authors of the texts by time, culture and language, or those of the people who were separated by none of these things, who sat at the feet of the authors themselves and were trained by said authors for extensive amounts of time?  My vote is with the latter, obviously.  It just makes good sense to do that.

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Philosophies like Neo-Platonism should be left at the door not incorporated into our faith. Doesn't that just scare you?

Not as much as the western, rationalist, enlightenment syncretism as seen in the teachings of the Reformers!   Wink
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« Reply #41 on: June 01, 2006, 08:32:27 AM »

If Orthodoxy is Neo-Platonist (please read Pelikan's view on this in his first book on the Development of Christian Doctrine) then modern Protestantism (in most of its forms) is at least as neo-Aristotelian.

Both of these accusation carry some truth.  In the first case, the Church Fathers used the way of speech at the time to discuss complex ideas about the nature of existence, but with radical (I mean so radical that it is NOT the same thing) changes.  They did not require others to learn Hebrew and pretend to live as Jews.  That is not only ridiculous, but against Scripture itself!

The fact that Protestant soteriology is partially founded an assumptions used by Aquinas who was using Aristotelian logic, etc., does not mean that Protestantism is now Aristotelian.  I won't even attempt to discuss a difference there, because I will have to spend more time than I have to discuss.
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« Reply #42 on: June 01, 2006, 10:20:13 AM »

Well I've heard that Martin Luther was known to be one of the few theologians of his day to have access to the Quran and I believe he was working on a German translation. Has anyone else heard or read this?

I wouldn't be surprised if Luther had access to a Quran (although I don't know that he did), but even assuming he did and he read it, such would offer absolutely no support to the bizarre claim that Luther (and Calvin) borrowed their ideas about sola scriptura from Islam. Did Luther consider the Quran something upon which he should base his ideas, or did he evince outright contempt for it? Obviously the latter. Although he didn't devote an entire work to excoriating Islam (as he did for Judaism, since he wanted European rulers to purge Europe of Jews), he certainly had no kind words for Mohammed or Islam. In a typical flourish, I believe he called the Prophet a spawn of Satan.

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Actually the Apostle Peter recognizes Paul's epistles as Scripture for us. We don't need to question whither Paul's epistles are included since the Biblical record already offers them as such.ÂÂ  Roll Eyes

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. - 2 Peter 3:16-17

I think Pedro has already raised some questions about this. I would simply add that one must at least have a bit of hesitancy when using 2 Peter as THE basis for a particular doctrinal attitude (unless one's point is simply that attitude X appeared rather early in Christian history). I know most evangelicals fight this one hard, because if the evidence indicates that 2 Peter is pseudoepigraphical (which it does), then a big part of the inerrancy proof-text system suffers a blow.

That aside: 2 Peter 3 has nothing to do with establishing the letters of Paul as Scripture (especially not as many now understand Scripture, i.e. a particular set of writings that are infalliable, inerrant and the "only" source of authority!). Rather, the issue at hand is proper interpretation of the Apostolic account of Jesus' Messianic work. Apparently, some Christians had misinterpreted Paul's eschatology. Accordingly, 2 Peter 3 is not concerned with establishing the authority of the Pauline corpus, but with establishing the authoritative interpretation of that corpus (i.e. the Apostolic one).

But my original point was much simpler than that. Your original prooftext from Paul does not establish Paul's writings as Scripture (nor does it so establish the Four Gospels and Acts -- much less the pastoral epistles or John's Apocalypse). One has to appeal to something else to do that. Ultimately, that something else is the broad consensus of Christians over the first 400 years.

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That the man of God might be 'prefect' I might add. That has always been really important for Protestantism to recognize when faced with cultural practices that over time enter into sacred tradition to assert itself as part of the deposit of faith.

Such as holding a communal gathering on Sunday instead of keeping God's command for the Sabbath? Or celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25, or Easter according to the Paschalion of the Roman Catholic Church? Or holding marriage ceremonies in the Church? Or confessing faith in the "Trinity"? Or, as others have mentioned, exclusively adopting Anselmian ideas about Medieval feudal justice in order to explain the entire sweep of salvation history? (Not that such isn't "scriptural," but it is a particular and limited exegetical tradition, with which many Christians and, in fact, the broad consensus of Jewish interpreters disagree, i.e. not only disagree with applying Messianic prophesies to Jesus, but the general way in which Christians, especially Anselmian Christians, read the Law and Prophets).

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Spirituality has it's place in Christian, I might even say a central place, but I seriously question Orthodoxy elevating Neo-platonism, as it has, as the defacto spiritual vehicle for Christianity.

I believe what makes Protestants remain Protestants is the concern these encounters with tradition brings about in one's faith life.

I agree. Ultimately, I think what makes certain people reject or embrace Orthodoxy is how they personally respond to their encounter with certain traditions. Some people see the spirit of the tradition and its spiritual value, i.e. how it brings their person (and even their entire life) into a deeper relationship with Christ. Others, for a variety of reasons, simply cannot see the interior value and/or they prefer different traditions of exegesis/spirituality/worship, etc.

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When faced with the sheer questionable enfluences these practices raise one might well be safer simply sticking with what we are told is necessary.

That which is "necessary" being determined by specific exegetical, spiritual, political and worship-related traditions.

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Was this a veiled attempt to insult me?

I believe these raise enough questions to be concerned by them. Simple enough I think. I don't have to offer up a clear cut case I simply have to have reasonable doubt. You're defensive attacks don't help me make my way clear of them either.

I don't understand your point. No, it wasn't an attempt at insult. They were real questions designed to begin to point out how one's ideas about what is "biblical" and "Semitic" are usually just that -- one's own ideas (not necessarily what is actually "biblical" or "Semitic"). Everyone, including fundamentalists, have a myriad number of traditions, exegetical biases and theological systems, which they use to determine for themselves what is "biblical" and "Semitic."

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Seriously I don't think that one needs to reconstruct anything. I believe if we come to the Scriptures with an open heart and an open mind the Spirit will do the rest to guide us.

Probably, if we really do come to the Scriptures with such an attitude. Most people, however, come with a whole set of man-made principles and presuppositions, based on education, intellect, spiritual experience, prayer life and, especially, those who train them in theology and exegesis (even if that someone is just their grandma or the street preacher who convicted them). Speaking just from personal experience (seriously!), the only person I have ever met who really, really cleared his mind of all these things and just read the Bible is my godson. He spent about 5 or 6 years going to no Church and literally read his Bible over and over again.

Now, I've seen many serious and God-fearing Protestants become Orthodox and others run the opposite direction, but never have I seen one take so quickly to Orthodoxy as he. He had quite a pure mind.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2006, 12:13:39 PM by pensateomnia » Logged

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« Reply #43 on: June 01, 2006, 11:40:19 AM »

I know you said you know all the arguments re: iconography etc, so I won't make them.ÂÂ  Instead I'll just ask: how do you feel about the rabid anti-incarnationalism espoused by Islam being the driving force behind their iconoclasm?ÂÂ  Does this cast any doubt upon the validity of their influence on iconoclastic Christian confessions?

Hi there Pedro,

Honestly I don't know that anti-incarnationalism is the driving force behind Islam's iconoclasm. Clearly I see anti-incarnationalism in Islam and I see issues with Protestant positions concerning Mary as Theotokos (Mother of God) undermining the Divinity of Jesus but I'm not sure where one 'has' to have iconography and statues of angels at the very least. That does appear to 'break' the Commandment against depicting things of Heaven doesn't it?

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Honestly, if that's the criteria, I don't see sola scriptura as being a 'safe' alternative at all.ÂÂ  I look at the early years of the Reformation--heck, even all the way up to today!--and the protestant millieu is a train wreck all its own, to be honest.ÂÂ  Different groups would burn each other (never mind the Catholics!) at stakes, run each other out of town, etc, for differing interpretations of Scripture regarding such basic things as baptism, free will, communion, keeping or losing salvation, and more.ÂÂ  Churches would split over issues about the millenium, or whether this or that move of the Holy Spirit was supported by Scripture, or whether salvation was one-time or ongoing...all these issues, however, are solved since the beginning of the faith within those groups who take into account the tradition of the Church which was universally agreed upon.ÂÂ  I guess it all depends on what you classify as chaos.ÂÂ  At least if there's one Church a council can be held to settle the debate; with sola scriptura there's no end to it...both sides just need a Bible verse to be on equal footing and keep on going as valid denominations.

Okay, good point. Sola Scriptura isn't a panacea but I do believe a 'good' case can be made that Scripture can and is our best revelation of our Lord and Saviour.

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I absolutely agree that, when presented with the idea of tradition as it was presented by the medieval Roman Catholic Church, the Reformers reacted in the only sensible way it knew how: by rejecting what they perceived as the tradition of the Church.ÂÂ  Orthodox would say, however, that not only did the Roman Church seriously need some straightening out (hence our sympathy with the first protesters), but the Protestants needed to be exposed to the tradition of the Church as originally lived by the Eastern Fathers and Church.ÂÂ  The fact is, imo, that the often-subtle-seeming differences between eastern and western takes on certain ideas or practices have ramifications that, ultimately, would have made non-issues out of many of the things the Protestants initially were repulsed by.ÂÂ  Unfortunately, this exposure didn't happen until ideas had already solidified and dichotomies already been drawn in the minds of Reformers to where, when they heard something that sounded Roman, they automatically took it to mean the same thing that the Romans meant.

Honestly, my friend, I see the same concerns in Orthodoxy. Catholicism and Orthodoxy are sisters in Tradition in my humble opinion. What is harmful to one is harmful to the other. Sure a 1000 years of evolution has produced some uniqueness in character and perspective but I see a lot of add ons in both.

The question is are these add ons 'necessary' and are they effectual?

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So the pitting of Scripture against Holy Tradition (and a western caricature of it, at that) really is, in our eyes, the greatest strawman argument ever made.ÂÂ  If Protestants could see what the Tradition really originally meant to convey, most if not all of their beefs could be put aside, and Tradition embraced (as it should be) as a perfectly harmonious companion with Holy Scripture.

Hmmmm.... I'm not seeing that 'yet' Bro.

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I understand your concern; truly I do.ÂÂ  Yet, how do you feel (honestly, this isn't an attack; I want to know your honest reaction) about the fact that the Arians in the first Ecumenical Council rejected St. Athanasius' idea of Christ's sharing a divine essence with the Father simply because St. Athanasius' argument centered on an extra-biblical, originally pagan philosophical term, homoousious?ÂÂ  This would most definitely seem to be an incorporation of pagan philosophy with Christian thinking, yet it is the most thorough explanation of what you and I both believe about Christ that is out there; no biblical term is sufficient to describe it.

Well on first blush I can see why the issues were so troubling in the first place. It might have been nice if negative theology was a little more popular at this point don't you think? Attempting to articulate these mysteries to such finite formulas appears to be more of a Catholic Tradition than Orthodoxy does it?

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Another example, if I may (and, again, I'm interested in hearing your reaction to it): How would you feel if someone accused the apostles, due to their geographical proximity to polytheistic Greece and tendency towards hellenic Judaism, of a sort of Judeo-Greco syncretism due to their belief in a dying and resurrecting deity?ÂÂ  As pensateomnia has pointed out elsewhere, Tammuz, Osiris, Mithras, Dionysus and Hades are all myths where the deity dies and is resurrected, yet we would not dare to jump to the conclusion that simply because there exists physical proximity and cultural influence that the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus was not a genuine event, nor that it was not a legitimate continuation of the Jewish tradition (even though Old Testament Judaism barely stressed bodily resurrection at all!).ÂÂ  If, then, we are able to give the apostles the benefit of the doubt concerning this belief, even in the light of their geographical, cultural, linguistic and mythological similarities to certain pagan contemporaries, is it so unrealistic to at least concede the same benefit of the doubt to the Christians who followed them?

hmmmm... I find this a bit offensive personally but I see your point. Interesting.

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Well, I think you're missing something here...using Scripture to interpret Scripture doesn't escape the fact that you are, in fact, using a tradition (or hermeneutic, if you like) to tell you which Scriptures to use to interpret which other Scriptures.ÂÂ  For example, a hermeneutic may, if it is fueled by rationalist, enlightenment ideals, reject outright the possiblity of the mystical real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This causes the words of Christ, "This is My Body" to be automatically read in the same way one might read His words, "I am the Door": in a non-material, merely "spiritual" or invisible, symbolic way.ÂÂ  When one uses this reading to deal with John 6, where Christ says to eat His flesh and drink His blood, the automatically "unclear" verse 54 is seen in the light of the verses before that that simply say to believe in Him (which is automatically seen as an internal, invisible decision in the heart, made rationally by the mind), and the verse after which says that "the Spirit gives life; the flesh profiteth nothing," which fits in quite nicely in a sort of psuedo-gnostic approach many rationalists find attractive.ÂÂ  When all is said and done, however, it's clear that all of this "Scripture-to-Scripture" interpretation has as its fundamental basis certain assumptions that the interpreter may not know s/he is even bringing to the table when s/he works with Scripture!ÂÂ  In reality, said reader of Scripture is, quite unknowingly, using his/her own philosophical traditions to interpret Scripture instead of impartially reading it "as is" (the latter of which can never actually be done, imo).

Yes again I agree not every Chain-Referencing System is equal. In fact, each promotes a different agenda. Good point Chief.

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My question, then, returns: Which set of philosopical assumptions, then, do we adopt in order to even begin reading the Holy Scriptures, since we are bound to do so?ÂÂ  Those of our own, modern age which are separated by the authors of the texts by time, culture and language, or those of the people who were separated by none of these things, who sat at the feet of the authors themselves and were trained by said authors for extensive amounts of time?ÂÂ  My vote is with the latter, obviously.ÂÂ  It just makes good sense to do that.

My answer is... I simply don't know! Isn't that the fact of this whole mess we call the State of the Church? Seriously it's a huge mess!

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Not as much as the western, rationalist, enlightenment syncretism as seen in the teachings of the Reformers!  ÃƒÆ’‚ Wink

If reason can determine 'truth' and 'truth' can not contradict 'truth' then I believe a rational approach to be the clearest path to it. If reason can not determine 'truth' then we honestly can discuss much at all even revelation.

Great points, Great attitude. You honestly should be a Priest Pedro. God Bless you!
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Holy Father Patrick, thank you for your help!


« Reply #44 on: June 01, 2006, 12:26:01 PM »

Hey, chrisb! This is the similar sounding chris!

Thought I'd weigh in here with some points that may be of interest to you:

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... but I'm not sure where one 'has' to have iconography and statues of angels at the very least. That does appear to 'break' the Commandment against depicting things of Heaven doesn't it?

Well, of course we can discuss the well-known quotes in Exodus, I believe, where God decreed the form and layout of His Temple, where He indicated that depictions of angels and other figures are important to Him.

Also, depictions of Christ, His saints, and holy things were present not only within Jewish Temples of the Apostolic Times (please google Dura Europa) but also within the Apostolic Church. This is because the early Christians were maintaining the Tradition of Holy Art, and this Tradition is maintained through evidence such as on the walls of the catacombs.

However, folks asking iconoclast questions like yourself have regularly sprung up in Church history. The following quote represents why iconography is affirmed by the church:

http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8025.asp

"Beyond this lay the problem of whether God is representable. Here the Iconoclasts betrayed a deficient understanding of the Incarnation, which is why the Orthodox viewed Iconoclasm as a summation of earlier Christological heresies, and why the controversy was much more than a squabble about pictures. The Iconoclasts argued that any image depicting God in human form either omits His divine nature, since this is infinite and "uncircumscribable" (a fact that neither side questioned), or confuses it with His human nature; and either outcome is impious, since Christ's two natures are both distinct and inseparable (another fact that neither side questioned). To this it was replied that if Christ's two natures were not separated or confused when combined in His person, it makes no sense to say that they can be separated or confused in any image of His person. The image does not contain His natures - to do this it would have to be of the same substance as the prototype - but merely His likeness. It became evident that what the Iconoclasts were arguing against was not the possibility of an image of a person in whom the divine and human natures are combined yet distinct and inseparable, so much as the possibility of the very existence of such a person. They were balking at the paradox of God become Man.

Icon: the Orthodox Definition
The Orthodox stressed the role played by the icon in our salvation. Man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, 27) but allowed that image, and with it the world, to be corrupted. God assumed a fully human nature without ceasing to be fully God and thereby restored the image - not just ethically, through His teachings, but in His whole person, as is proven by His bodily resurrection. An icon of Christ affirms the reality of that reconciliation of the human and the divine and enables us to contemplate the person who is the model for our theosis."


May I suggest you review the results of the 7th Ecumenical Council, which affirmed the value for Iconography? It is available in English from www.ccel.org , Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, volume 14.

Also, St. John of Damascus' work defending iconography would also be an excellent review.

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Okay, good point. Sola Scriptura isn't a panacea but I do believe a 'good' case can be made that Scripture can and is our best revelation of our Lord and Saviour.

No one is saying that Scripture is to be ignored, and we agree with your statement regarding the value of Scripture. The question is: what is the weight of Tradition?

The Orthodox believe that Tradition is the voice of the Spirit leading us to all Truth, which has been promised us by Christ. The Spirit has spoken in the past to us, and to ignore the consistant voice of Tradition is to ignore God.

Pedro then wrote of the Medieval Ropman Catholic church, to which you responded:

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Honestly, my friend, I see the same concerns in Orthodoxy. Catholicism and Orthodoxy are sisters in Tradition in my humble opinion. What is harmful to one is harmful to the other. Sure a 1000 years of evolution has produced some uniqueness in character and perspective but I see a lot of add ons in both.

The question is are these add ons 'necessary' and are they effectual?

What Pedro was saying is that the medieval Roman church does not equal the Orthodox Church. The Reformers rightfully wanted to remove the accretions of the medival Latin church, but because they did not have available the consistant voice of Tradition they removed too much.

What do you believe are 'add ons'? Perhaps this is a different thread topic, but please list what you feel is not essential to salvation.

 I would like to know how closely they matched mine, until I did the research and found that that I was incorrect in my suppositions since I chose to ignore the testimony of the Spirit through the ages.

You then seem to agree that Tradition can be used to interpret Scripture, with which I heartily agree! Then we drop down to...

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My answer is... I simply don't know! Isn't that the fact of this whole mess we call the State of the Church? Seriously it's a huge mess!

You seem to be unsure if Tradition should be used. Well, we Orthodox are not saying that exegesis stopped in the 1200s; what we are saying is that modern techniques of exegesis should be compared to the testimony and understanding of the Church.

Modern exegesis can help us understand the culture and other factors used, but the historical-critical method tends to not increase our understanding of Scriptural testminoy as well as it tears things down. The inevitable result are things like the Jesus Seminar and the Da Vinci Code, where the faith is trampled upon.

Isn't it interesting? The Source of all Life, God, is built up using His Spirit's testimony, while our modern methods only serve to destroy...

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If reason can determine 'truth' and 'truth' can not contradict 'truth' then I believe a rational approach to be the clearest path to it. If reason can not determine 'truth' then we honestly can discuss much at all even revelation.

Here, I think, is the core of the problem: Reason does not lead you to Truth, because as another poster has on his signature line, 'God cannot be grasped, because then He would not be God". This is the heart of the Western approach to God.

It is the Spirit who will lead you to Truth, and then after you experience this touch of God will you then start to develop the Reason to explain it to others. This is why we pray and love: because in doing so we encounter God. From this encounter we grow to understanding a little bit more of Him, all the while knowing He cannot be grasped.



« Last Edit: June 01, 2006, 12:39:36 PM by chris » Logged

"As the sparrow flees from a hawk, so the man seeking humility flees from an argument". St John Climacus
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