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Author Topic: Free-Will Baptist Confusion  (Read 9344 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.
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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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« 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

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« Reply #45 on: June 01, 2006, 12:55:20 PM »

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.

I think all major Christian confessions agree with you there. Scripture is the primary record of revelation, since it contains the Apostolic account of our Lord's Messianic work, and is therefore profitable for teaching and used extensively in worship.

But one doesn't need to subscribe to sola scriptura in theory or in current usage in order to confess that. If that's what we really mean by sola scriptura, are we actually talking about prima scriptura (or something else entirely)?

Regardless, as Pedro pointed out, any possible definition of Scripture still leaves one with problems of interpretation. If, after accepting the authority of the text, we must subject that text to interpretation (which interpretation is based on various traditions), what, in reality, is our most foundational authority? As Origen put it, what is our first principle? (According to both Faith and Reason, it can't be the Scripture itself).

[Btw, I hope you don't think I am trying to pick on you. If we're going to leave things in the realm of reason, which you indicated is only reasonable, then I usually can't avoid waxing along somewhat demanding lines. I'm truly sorry if that appears confrontational to you. Perhaps because of my former philosophy professors, I'm rather a fan of verbal irony when discussing such things, which in real life I usually employ with raised eyebrows, winks and smiles (one must have a sense of humor about our feeble Socratic attempts to understand the Nature of Things). However, I really don't like emoticons, so please read my words with a bit of requisite oikonomia -- to employ another man-made tradition Wink ].
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« Reply #46 on: June 01, 2006, 01:20:36 PM »

Hi Chris! I feel like I'm talking to myself!  Grin

I'm reading through your links, thanks BTW, and I will reply once I have had time to reflect on them a bit.
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« Reply #47 on: June 01, 2006, 03:19:56 PM »

Hi there Pedro

Hey.   Cool

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Honestly I don't know that anti-incarnationalism is the driving force behind Islam's iconoclasm. Clearly I see anti-incarnationalism in Islam...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, chris addressed the "depicting things in heaven" deal, so the Second Commandment's not so cut-and-dry as it would first seem.  The whole point, though, is that Christ is God, and He was not, during His earthly life, a thing in heaven, yet He was still God.  Now God can be depicted, since humans can be depicted.  It's like a reversal of the OT:

  • OT: God's a spirit, so He's undepictable.  Any attempt to do so is forbidden.
  • NT: Finally, God provides His own image of Himself in Christ.
 

Images can now (and, in proclamation of this event, should and must) be made to fully show forth the reality of the Incarnation.  Each icon of Christ is a reminder of that, as well as the reality of those saints who, though human and material, were filled with and exuded the Holy Spirit and became living, breathing, walking icons of God.  They can be depicted as icons of God as well, having become by Grace what Christ is by nature.

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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.

As has been said, we agree with this idea of prima scriptura.  Yet to go from that to sola scriptura, where it's not only the 'best reveleation' but the 'only revelation,' is premature and uncalled for (even if it is easier, more convenient and 'safer'; it still doesn't make it true).

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

I, like chris, would be interested in hearing your hot-button issues and, after that, seeing if the Orthodox take on them is different than what you were expecting.

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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?

Well, actually, I find apophatic theology to be present in Nicea I, since the doctrine merely affirms that Christ is of the same nature as the Father, yet it doesn't explain how--ie, it doesn't delineate in what way, when, using further philosophical inquiry--this is possible.  It only uses the philosophy just enough to get the point across, then leaves it at mystery.  We know what we can't say, in other words--that Christ is of a different substance than the Father--but we don't (nor do we need to) know how to explain what we do affirm.

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

I admire the objectivity.  What, concerning the parallel of alleged pagan influence on Resurrection w/alleged pagan influence on prayer style do you find offensive?

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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!

That's true; it's not a neat-and-tidy, one-answer system.  Even those of us who adhere to Tradition--Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox--have variants (and therefore are separate communions) with one another. 

I just found that using Tradition--the stuff that everyone agreed on, right from the git-go--was a much more logical way and a much more obviously trustworthy hermeneutic, sight unseen, to approach the NT epistles with, being as it was formed over extensive periods of time by the epistles' authors themselves.  It "narrowed the playing field," so to speak, and almost immediately eliminated most non-liturgical Protestants from the mix (a huge number of them), and from there kept whittling away until, if one were going to take the Tradition as a whole, it was either Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican or Lutheran for me.  The very emphasis on mystery--an emphasis found exclusively in the East today--is, long story short, what pushed me here.

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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.

As has been said, this is the medieval/Rennaissance-era approach to knowing (about) God, used (of course), in the West.  The eastern approach of knowing God through direct encounter via prayer and ascesis, then using reason to describe it, is the traditional way of the first Christians (East and West, originally).  Nevertheless, I would say that logic would dictate which hermeneutic would be more trustworthy regarding Scripture's interpretation, and study of Scripture using said hermeneutic would open up new revelations to you that would be much in harmony with the Christians of the first and second centuries...

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Great points,

Thanks.  Great questions.

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Great attitude.

Right back atcha.  Good to get a respectful, polite, truly inquisitive and open-minded Evangelical on here to discuss for a change.

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You honestly should be a Priest Pedro.

Now where is that head-banging smiley we used to have?  Seriously, I get that a lot.  But thanks for the compliment.
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« Reply #48 on: June 01, 2006, 05:36:46 PM »


Well, chris addressed the "depicting things in heaven" deal, so the Second Commandment's not so cut-and-dry as it would first seem.ÂÂ  The whole point, though, is that Christ is God, and He was not, during His earthly life, a thing in heaven, yet He was still God.ÂÂ  Now God can be depicted, since humans can be depicted.ÂÂ  It's like a reversal of the OT:

  • OT: God's a spirit, so He's undepictable.ÂÂ  Any attempt to do so is forbidden.
  • NT: Finally, God provides His own image of Himself in Christ.
ÂÂ  

Images can now (and, in proclamation of this event, should and must) be made to fully show forth the reality of the Incarnation.ÂÂ  Each icon of Christ is a reminder of that, as well as the reality of those saints who, though human and material, were filled with and exuded the Holy Spirit and became living, breathing, walking icons of God.ÂÂ  They can be depicted as icons of God as well, having become by Grace what Christ is by nature.

So what you guys are saying is that God established the 10 Commandments only to allow us to break them later? Even if I accepted this rationale I don't see any reason to allow the depiction of Angels. Are you saying because we can depict Jesus as God and the Saints that we can now depict 'anything' from Heaven or Hell?

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As has been said, we agree with this idea of prima scriptura.ÂÂ  Yet to go from that to sola scriptura, where it's not only the 'best reveleation' but the 'only revelation,' is premature and uncalled for (even if it is easier, more convenient and 'safer'; it still doesn't make it true).

Well you may call prima scriptura but Protestants call it sola scriptura because ultimately it is the sole source of all that is revealed. Do we need to establish an exegesis? Of course but I honestly believe that such is not beyond our ability to reason logically the intent of scripture.

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I, like chris, would be interested in hearing your hot-button issues and, after that, seeing if the Orthodox take on them is different than what you were expecting.

Cultural rationalizations which allow for the complete disregard of the precepts set in Scripture could very well be a 'hot-button' issue for me. I don't think God changes His mind about these things. I am very concerned about the idea that images and statues are 'now' okay. I kinda grasp your rationale but still I feel it could be a real stretch.

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Well, actually, I find apophatic theology to be present in Nicea I, since the doctrine merely affirms that Christ is of the same nature as the Father, yet it doesn't explain how--ie, it doesn't delineate in what way, when, using further philosophical inquiry--this is possible.ÂÂ  It only uses the philosophy just enough to get the point across, then leaves it at mystery.ÂÂ  We know what we can't say, in other words--that Christ is of a different substance than the Father--but we don't (nor do we need to) know how to explain what we do affirm.

Could they have been wrong? I'm not talking about the Divinity of Christ here but the details? The necessity of 'two-natures' and whatnot? Is this kind of detailed articulation necessary for Salvation? Would God really condemn individuals over stuff like this?

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I admire the objectivity.

I don't know how far my objectivity can go. I'm stretching it to it's limits with this dialogue as it is...

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What, concerning the parallel of alleged pagan influence on Resurrection w/alleged pagan influence on prayer style do you find offensive?

I honestly see Jesus as the Messiah and the Suffering Servant and I chaff at seeing individuals trying to project Him as a pagan "God-Man". Are there parallels? Sure God speaks His truths to everyone in every culture but revelation came through His Son. That is the Fact that we have to deal with. I think it's dangerous to take the pagan prespective as the proper prespective. I think this could have been a reaction toward the Jews by early Gentile Christians.

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That's true; it's not a neat-and-tidy, one-answer system.ÂÂ  Even those of us who adhere to Tradition--Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox--have variants (and therefore are separate communions) with one another.

Yes this is the real problem, who is 'really' right or are 'any' of them right at all?ÂÂ  

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I just found that using Tradition--the stuff that everyone agreed on, right from the git-go--was a much more logical way and a much more obviously trustworthy hermeneutic, sight unseen, to approach the NT epistles with, being as it was formed over extensive periods of time by the epistles' authors themselves.ÂÂ  It "narrowed the playing field," so to speak, and almost immediately eliminated most non-liturgical Protestants from the mix (a huge number of them), and from there kept whittling away until, if one were going to take the Tradition as a whole, it was either Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican or Lutheran for me.ÂÂ  The very emphasis on mystery--an emphasis found exclusively in the East today--is, long story short, what pushed me here.

Ultimately this could also elevate an orthopraxy which might not be necessary or even legitimate.

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As has been said, this is the medieval/Rennaissance-era approach to knowing (about) God, used (of course), in the West.ÂÂ  The eastern approach of knowing God through direct encounter via prayer and ascesis, then using reason to describe it, is the traditional way of the first Christians (East and West, originally).ÂÂ  Nevertheless, I would say that logic would dictate which hermeneutic would be more trustworthy regarding Scripture's interpretation, and study of Scripture using said hermeneutic would open up new revelations to you that would be much in harmony with the Christians of the first and second centuries...

This sounds interesting. Could you give me some more info on 'ascesis'? 

Thanks.
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« Reply #49 on: June 01, 2006, 06:41:41 PM »

So what you guys are saying is that God established the 10 Commandments only to allow us to break them later?

Not break.  Fulfill.  The Second Commandment was written precisely because God at that time was undepictable.  There was no image sufficient to subscribe Him.  Yet when Christ, who "is the image of the invisible God" appeared, the old commandment was set aside for the new commandments brought about by Christ's New Covenant--just as "do not murder" was set aside for "do not hate your neighbor" and "do not commit adultery" for "do not lust in your heart."  These are not breaking the commandments, but rather bringing them into their full purpose in light of Christ.

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Even if I accepted this rationale I don't see any reason to allow the depiction of Angels.

But even God in the Old Testament prescribed that these depictions be made, and even to place said graven images in the Holy of Holies itself!  (Ex. 25:18-22)  Surely no one can argue that God must not have meant the same thing regarding all images if He commanded this to be done five chapters after the Second Commandment.

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Are you saying because we can depict Jesus as God and the Saints that we can now depict 'anything' from Heaven or Hell?

Well, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are not depicted (well, the latter is sometimes depicted as a dove, and unfortunately the former is sometimes scandalously depicted as the bearded old man in white, which is completely un-orthodox), but other than that, yes.

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Well you may call prima scriptura but Protestants call it sola scriptura because ultimately it is the sole source of all that is revealed.


But this is not what you said before.  You said that "Scripture can [be] and is our best revelation of our Lord and Saviour" (emph. mine), not the only one.  Such is the difference between prima and sola, the latter of which you're saying now.  How, then do you see the verse where St. Paul tells the Thessalonians to adhere to traditions both written and spoken?  (2 Thess. 2:15)  To say that the apostles intended their written instructions to be the sole guide for the Church after their departure from this life is to ignore this verse, as well as the writings of those bishops who immediately succeeded the apostles themselves.

Again I'd say that sola scriptura is definitely more comfortable an idea.  But it is not the approach the first Christians say they were taught by the apostles.

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Do we need to establish an exegesis? Of course but I honestly believe that such is not beyond our ability to reason logically the intent of scripture.

Yet here we are, with scores of fragmented Protestant groups, all of which are attempting to derive pure doctrine from intellectually and rationally dissecting the Scriptures through their various exegeses and cultural biases.  We don't seem to be getting closer to unity, but rather further apart.

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Cultural rationalizations which allow for the complete disregard of the precepts set in Scripture could very well be a 'hot-button' issue for me. I don't think God changes His mind about these things. I am very concerned about the idea that images and statues are 'now' okay.

I feel ya.  Just try to look at it in the light of what Christ did with the other commandments.

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Could they have been wrong? I'm not talking about the Divinity of Christ here but the details? The necessity of 'two-natures' and whatnot? Is this kind of detailed articulation necessary for Salvation? Would God really condemn individuals over stuff like this?

Well, the big reason that all those Christological councils were called in the first place wasn't because someone just thought it'd be a nice idea to get all detailed and such just for the sake of being detailed.  There were people who really were preaching damnable heresies which destroyed the very fabric of our salvation.  If Christ is not fully human and fully divine within His one person, then we are not fully redeemed since He hasn't taken on our full humanity and reconciled it to God.

These things, I know, seem trivial when they're examined outside the salvation experience preached in the Orthodox Church, but once you get hit with Incarnational salvation, it all falls into place.  These conciliar decisions may have been detailed, but they can be explained in exquisite simplicity and shown to be glorious guardians of our salvation.

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I don't know how far my objectivity can go. I'm stretching it to it's limits with this dialogue as it is...

LOL  Yeah, I'm surprised you've hung on this long...now you seem to be getting (just a tad!) agitated at the ongoing back-and-forth...need a breather?   Smiley

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I honestly see Jesus as the Messiah and the Suffering Servant and I chaff at seeing individuals trying to project Him as a pagan "God-Man".

Yet the virgin-born child would be called Immanu-El, correct?  God with us.  A God-Man.

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Are there parallels? Sure God speaks His truths to everyone in every culture but revelation came through His Son. That is the Fact that we have to deal with.


Absolutely, and that is what these early Christians did.  Who is Jesus, and how are we saved?  These are the only questions they concerned themselves with in their decisions.

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I think it's dangerous to take the pagan prespective as the proper prespective. I think this could have been a reaction toward the Jews by early Gentile Christians.

Would you mind a slight alteration of your phrase?  The perspective of Christians using pagan terms in radically different contexts to offer a description of what was already believed in order to counter the misunderstandings within said new culture...was the proper perspective.  OK, major alteration, granted, but it seems to me that when these terms were used for so christological a purpose, they cease to lay claim to the term 'pagan.'

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Yes this is the real problem, who is 'really' right or are 'any' of them right at all? 

If none can be trusted to safely preserve correct teaching, can anything we teach today be safely called 'correct'?

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Ultimately this could also elevate an orthopraxy which might not be necessary or even legitimate.

Yet if one particular communion is in fact the pillar and bulwark of the Truth, it would in fact be acceptable for said communion to introduce said practice into the Church, having done such new things as introduce new apostles (Acts 1), initiate the office of deacon (Acts 6), and admit uncircumcised, hellenized, Gentile converts to the Church (Acts 15).

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This sounds interesting. Could you give me some more info on 'ascesis'? 

If you can find a copy in a bookstore (or better yet, a library), Mountain of Silence is an excellent introductory book to, among other things, the use of ascesis (self-denial, spiritual discipline) as an essential part of theosis in the Church.

Oh!  Also check out this (long!) article by Fr. Georges Florovsky: "The Ascetic Ideal and the New Testament."
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« Reply #50 on: June 02, 2006, 12:19:33 PM »

Hi Pedro,

I think you are being 'amazingly' patient with me on this and I appreciate it a lot. I'm going to 'reflect' on what you've been saying and I'm going to take to time to offer a more clear response this weekend.

I can appreciate the Orthodox point of view on these matters but I'm not sure they can be taken as binding tradition or teachings but I will try and present my position with some clarity over the weekend.

Thanks!
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« Reply #51 on: June 02, 2006, 01:36:35 PM »

I just wanted to mention that I've been following this thread and thoroughly enjoying it.  As a former member of Evangelicalism, I can feel the concerns and questions chrisb has in a very tangible way.  And the great thing about this post is that I don't have anything to add to it: too many great points have already.  One thing to say though, many of your objections to Orthodox Tradition are very similiar to those of some Messianic Judaic persons I've known.  Are you familiar with the movement?
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« Reply #52 on: June 02, 2006, 02:22:16 PM »

I just wanted to mention that I've been following this thread and thoroughly enjoying it.ÂÂ  As a former member of Evangelicalism, I can feel the concerns and questions chrisb has in a very tangible way.ÂÂ  And the great thing about this post is that I don't have anything to add to it: too many great points have already.ÂÂ  One thing to say though, many of your objections to Orthodox Tradition are very similiar to those of some Messianic Judaic persons I've known.ÂÂ  Are you familiar with the movement?

Hi DownfallRecords,

Yeah Pedro, Chris and the others appear to be very forthright with their post and pretty sharp characters allround. I'm going to take some time today and maybe tonight and do some prayerful reflection and see if I can frame my concerns in a way that might be constructive for me to handle in a systematic way.

Actually I've never met any Messianic Judaic persons but I have had a great deal of dialogue with Orthodox Jews and Muslims and I'm sure that have left an impression on me. Growing up Baptist we pretty much studied Scripture and left it at that. Baptists exercise a lot of 'freedom' for the individual to interpret Scripture. One of the old sayings I remember is:

In Essentials Unity; In non-Essentials Liberty; and in All Things Love.

Another old saying I heard growing up is:

"When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise."

Growing up we were taught that Christianity is simple and we didn't need a Degree or Doctorate to have a sound relationship with the Lord. Ultimately we are to have 'faith' and 'trust' in Him and that was just about it. 'Rest in Hope for His Coming'.

Orthodox Spirituality seems a product of Greek Philosophers and not a Jewish Carpenter and a few Jewish Fisherman. I think it's a lot more simple and straight forward that what I'm seeing here with 'theosis' and 'ascesis' etc. I don't know. I'm going to respond in length over the weekend and see if I can get my point across in a clear manner.
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« Reply #53 on: June 02, 2006, 02:40:54 PM »

I understand.ÂÂ  Ultimately, the message of Christ is quite simple: "Repent, take up your cross, believe on me and follow me."ÂÂ   I think that in the Orthodox mind, this somewhat complex theology that is birthed from this simplicity is an effort to become "all things to all men" through hundreds of years and hundreds of cultures and mindsets so that "some might be saved".ÂÂ  That being said, the average Christian -Orthodox or not- does not usually share the gospel beginning with the intricacies of the Heyschasm or the theology of Divine Energies, but they begin with "Jesus is Lord and God raised Him from the dead.ÂÂ  Repent and follow Him!"ÂÂ  And so it should be.ÂÂ  But I have never found that the complicated theologies that emerge from the simple gospel message are hinderance to that message, but an amplification, given when needed.ÂÂ  Nor have I found them to conflict with that simple gospel message.ÂÂ  I think that amplication, philosphy and hellenistic thought is already seen in St. Paul; not as a distortion but as an explanation.

At any rate, God bless you and have a good weekend.
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« Reply #54 on: June 02, 2006, 03:00:39 PM »

And of course, the Orthodox Church realizes the Church as "The pillar of truth" and "the fulness of Him who fills all things" as St. Paul wrote, and as the body that "the gates of hell will not overcome" being led by the Spirit that leads it into "all truth", as our Lord declared.ÂÂ  So when certain teachings are accepted by the whole of the Church, as were the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers, these are seen as authorative interpretations of Scripture because the Church is led by the Spirit of Truth.ÂÂ  

What I am really trying to say is that in Catholic and Orthodox Traditions, the Church itself is an article of faith, the Church is something that must be accepted in faith.ÂÂ  Thus, coming from this perspective we have faith in the Church, the body of Christ, and this faith includes trusts in the expression of its Tradition.ÂÂ  If one doesn't come from this perspective, it will be really really hard to look at the facts and reach the same conclusion (not to say that this conversation is worthless-by no means!).

And on a side note, Chrisb, have you visited an Orthodox parish for liturgy?ÂÂ  I am just curious.ÂÂ  It is always a terrible idea to learn a certain tradition outside of a setting of worship.ÂÂ  
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« Reply #55 on: June 02, 2006, 06:45:11 PM »

I think you are being 'amazingly' patient with me on this and I appreciate it a lot.

No prob.  Seriously; you make it easy to be patient.

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I'm going to 'reflect' on what you've been saying and I'm going to take to time to offer a more clear response this weekend.

Sure thing.

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I can appreciate the Orthodox point of view on these matters but I'm not sure they can be taken as binding tradition or teachings but I will try and present my position with some clarity over the weekend.

I'd echo the sentiment of DownfallRecords; if you can find an Orthodox parish where you are, consider attending a vespers service this Saturday or even (if you haven't attended one already and are brave  Wink) a Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning.  Much of what we're saying is really only going to "click" once you participate in the liturgical life of the Church.

Again, I understand what you mean re: the simplicity of the gospel.  I'll repost what I posted here, toward the beginning of this thread, about the simple Orthodox gospel message:

Quote from: Yours Truly
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.
Later edit:
  • God will come again to Earth to reign for all eternity.  Those of us who unite ourselves to Christ and let Him transform us and fill us more and more with His Holy Spirit in this life will feel the presence of God as perfect joy and peace.  Those who do not do so will feel His presence as absolute agony and Hell.

To us, the Palamite hesychistic (sp?) prayer and theotic transfiguration is in perfect (I'll stress that even more: perfect) harmony with the above, even though it's more in-depth and complex and not something your average layman is going to be too terribly familiar with intellectually, even though he'll probably know he should pray the Jesus Prayer and participate in the sacraments of the Church and will therefore take advantage of St. Gregory's practices anyway. 

Likewise, the Baptist doctrines of the security of the believer, the Augsburg Confession and the perspicuity of Scripture, though they be not a part of the basic gospel message as presented by Baptists nor something your average Baptist will be familiar with, are in perfect harmony with that particular "simple message" the Baptists give out, and since your average Baptist probably will read and revere his/her Bible, the overall sense of those Baptist doctrines will be manifested in the life of that believer anyway.

Peace.
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« Reply #56 on: June 02, 2006, 10:23:50 PM »

Hi there Padro, Chris and DownfallRecords and others,

I guess that we can say that Protestantism as a term within Christianity originated in the sixteenth-century Reformation and later focused in the main traditions of Reformed church life (Lutheran, Reformed or Calvinist/Presbyterian and Anglican-Episcopalian; later still other traditions or denominations, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, and many others) in Europe and beyond 'all' asking urgently, "What is the true and holy Church?" in which all asserted: "There is no sure preaching or no other doctrine but that which abides by the Word of God. According to God's command no other doctrine should be preached. Each text of the holy and divine Scriptures should be elucidated and explained by other texts. This Holy Book is in all things necessary for the Christian; it shines clearly in its own light, and is found to enlighten the darkness. We are determined by God's grace and aid to abide by God's Word alone, the holy gospel contained in the biblical books of the Old and New Testaments. This word alone should be preached, and nothing that is contrary to it. It is the only truth. It is the sure rule of all Christian doctrine and conduct. It can never fail or deceive us."

Is there a great deal of diversity among Protestants? Of course there is but we should ask ourselves does man have the right to come to a relationship with His Creator in the manner which he deems appropriate by the gospel? My answer is a very loud and clear 'yes' for...

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Remember, Unity in Essentials, Liberty in Non-Essentials and in all this Love.

What then are the Fundamental Principles which establish this unity in essentials and liberty in non-essentials?

Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone): the justification of God's wisdom and power against papal usurpation and religion of human devising, honoring God's sovereign transcendence and providential predestination.

Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone): redemption as God's free gift accomplished by Christ's saving death and resurrection. This was articulated chiefly in Pauline terms as justification by faith alone, as in the Augsburg Confession: "We cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works or satisfactions, but receive God by grace, for Christ's sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us." Assurance of salvation, or the endurance of such salvation, is grounded in the promise of the gospel and relieved from all pursuit of merit or claim of superiority of place or position “for God does not show favoritism”.

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone): the freedom of Scripture to rule as God's word in the church, disentangled from papal and ecclesiastical authority and tradition. Scripture is the sole access to Chrsitian revelation. Although tradition may aid its interpretation, its true (i.e. spiritual) meaning is its natural (i.e. literal) sense, not an allegorical one in lue of its natural sense.

The Church as the Believing People of God: constituted not by hierarchy, succession, or institution, but by God's election and calling in Christ through the gospel. In the words of the Augsburg Confession, it is "the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel." The sacraments appointed by Christ are two only - baptism and the Lord's Supper - and may be spoken of as "visible words", reflecting the primacy of preaching in Protestant conviction.

The Priesthood of All Believers: the privileged freedom of all the baptized to stand before God in Christ 'without patened human intermediaries' and their calling to be bearers of judgment and grace as "little Christs" to their neighbors. Pastor and preacher differ from otehr Christians by function and appointment, not spiritual status.

The Sanctity of All Callings or Vocations: the rejection of medieval distinctions between secular and sacred or "religious" (i.e. monastic) with the depreciation of the former; and the recognition of all ways of life as divine vocations in their own right. "The works of monks and priest in God's sight are in no way whatever superior to a farmer laboring in the field, or a woman looking after her home". None is intrinsically more Christian than any other - an insight obscured by phrases such as "the holy ministry".

Weighing these principles I find Orthodoxy reaching to the same position of authority as Catholicism over the Body of Believers imposing the same dictates and claiming the same superiority through their traditions, ministry of priests and sacraments, adoration of saints and the claims to superior sanctity through monastic practices over the Body of Believers and although they don't claim the position of One Supreme Tyrant non-the-less impose 'little' Tyrants over the Body of Believers through the same means.

I have read and followed many dialogues here to witness first-hand that your traditions, priests, sacraments and ascetics don't establish the unity such it intended to foster but through Baptist Theology we establish the liberty given to man by God to either walk in faith for continued in the bondage of sin under the guidance of a body of equals in both under His Lordship and through His Word.

Now that might sound critical but it is only a means to establish from what prespective Believers stand when looking at Orthodoxy. I don't even want to get into the fact that your gospel appears to have embraced divinity over atonement. Wasn't that the sin of Adam?
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« Reply #57 on: June 03, 2006, 11:00:13 AM »

This is long.  Sorry.

Is there a great deal of diversity among Protestants? Of course there is but we should ask ourselves does man have the right to come to a relationship with His Creator in the manner which he deems appropriate by the gospel? My answer is a very loud and clear 'yes' for...It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Well, that certainly is one way to interpret that verse, and indeed the way I interpreted it for many years.  I would ask this, however: Is the picture one sees of the first Christians--the ones converted by the apostles and the direct spiritual (and often biological) descendents of those converts--a picture of a "live and let live" mentality characterized by individualized worship style and differences in doctrine as seen in much of Protestantism?  Or is it more communal, with set worship and set authority for doctrine, as seen in the (little c) catholic traditions?  This, I know, does go outside the Bible, but since it is the way in which said Scriptures were immediately received by all those who came in contact with the apostles, it demands our attention.  If St. Paul were truly saying that we had the "right" to do what you're proposing (yet the very concept of individual "rights" didn't come along until enlightenment-era Europe), why would every apostolic community, from the get-go, be incredibly similar in worship and quite particular about being uniform in doctrine?

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Remember, Unity in Essentials, Liberty in Non-Essentials and in all this Love.

Absolutely!  Yet who decides what "essentials" and "non-essentials" are?  ISTM that Protestants who subscribe to the idea that there's one invisible Church (in spite of doctrinal differences) have to make a lot of stuff "non-essential" to still be in some form of unity.  We would say baptism is an essential (many Protestants say this, too, btw), that one receives grace to save his soul from it.  We would say the Eucharist is an essential; that we cannot have life without eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ.  We would say another essential is the belief that salvation is an ongoing, life-long process, that we are being saved rather than having already been saved.  Protestants also disagree on whether or not baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, infant baptism, confession of faith at a known point in time, believers baptism only, communion as more than a symbol, and other things are "essential" or "non-essential."  The two categories are pretty arbitrary, depending only on what group you happen to belong to.  It is a nice idea, don't get me wrong, but it's meant to deal with one particular communion. In the case of St. Augustine, who is traditionally seen as the author of the phrase, it was the universal Church, w/out denominations, and so "essentials" and "non-essentials" were already ecclesiastically decided.

I get, though, that you say that several guiding principles are what are labeled "essential" in Protestantism, yet not all Protestant groups could subscribe to these...and, as I'll be attempting to show, the Orthodox might not be as antagonistic towards all these points as you might think.

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Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone): the justification of God's wisdom and power against papal usurpation and religion of human devising, honoring God's sovereign transcendence and providential predestination.

What does this mean?  Really, what is, objectively speaking, giving glory to God, and what is taking away from that glory?  Is the institution of bishop and priest of human devising, or does it have as its originator Christ Himself?  We would say that, of course, God didn't have to establish a human-run organization to speak for Him on earth, yet since this is what He did (in our opinion), we are indeed bringing Him glory by upholding and honoring said Church, complete with its heirarchs, who have always been the ones charged with rightly dividing the word of truth.

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Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone): redemption as God's free gift accomplished by Christ's saving death and resurrection. This was articulated chiefly in Pauline terms as justification by faith alone, as in the Augsburg Confession: "We cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works or satisfactions, but receive God by grace, for Christ's sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us."

Well, the Orthodox Church could say that we ascribe to sola gratia, but only in the sense that Christ has redeemed all of humanity through His incarnation, and that this redemption, already accomplished through His sovereign grace and mercy, is now to be applied to people individually.  The boldfaced terms intend to call attention to the fact that to claim that you are simply using Pauline terminology to support a system of "merits, works, or satisfactions" is ignoring the earliest centuries of Christianity, where the whole idea of making satisfaction to an angry or offended God is completely unknown.  It should be said that, in opposition to the corrupted version of Tradition that the medieval Roman Church put forth at the time of Augsburg, this statment makes perfect sense when taken in the light of the theological system it came out of--that of merits, of satisfaction, of appeasing God's justice and wrath.  Yet it's beating a dead horse when it comes to Eastern Christianity, for the more ancient of ways to look at this--a way to which Luther himself never really was exposed--was completely devoid of this novel idea, articulated first by Anselm in the 1100s, iirc.  Puts a whole new spin on why Christ died, and the significance of grace and works.

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Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone): the freedom of Scripture to rule as God's word in the church, disentangled from papal and ecclesiastical authority and tradition. Scripture is the sole access to Chrsitian revelation. Although tradition may aid its interpretation, its true (i.e. spiritual) meaning is its natural (i.e. literal) sense, not an allegorical one in lue of its natural sense.

Again, in the face of the corrupted traditions of the Latin Church, this was the Reformers only logical recourse.  Yet they threw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, and ditched the genuine traditions due to lack of example.  The reaction that was and is sola scriptura, however, loses face when it becomes apparant that, as noble an endeavor and idea as finding the "true (spiritual) meaning" of a Scripture is, it's truly an impossible objective, as no one's really been able to determine exactly what that spiritual meaning actually is.

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The Church as the Believing People of God: constituted not by hierarchy, succession, or institution, but by God's election and calling in Christ through the gospel. In the words of the Augsburg Confession, it is "the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel." The sacraments appointed by Christ are two only - baptism and the Lord's Supper - and may be spoken of as "visible words", reflecting the primacy of preaching in Protestant conviction.

As to the first part, yes, the Church is the people of God, though instead of an either/or mentality--NOT by institution BUT by God's calling--we'd say that it's a both/and mentality--BOTH by institution AND by God's calling, as there are some in the true Church who do not truly believe, and such should not see themselves as progressing in salvation solely from being a part of the Church.

As to the boldfaced words: don't tell that to Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians or Methodists!  They would strongly disagree, as they also hold to a priesthood, confirmation (or first communion), marriage, holy unction, last rites, and (in the case of higher-church Anglicans) confession.  That is primarily an idea held by the radical fringe reformers, whose descendants are the Baptists of today, among other groups including the Mennonites and Amish.

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The Priesthood of All Believers: the privileged freedom of all the baptized to stand before God in Christ 'without patened human intermediaries' and their calling to be bearers of judgment and grace as "little Christs" to their neighbors. Pastor and preacher differ from other Christians by function and appointment, not spiritual status.

Absolutely.  You might be surprised that we can say that, but we can.  The (mis)conception that many Protestants have of the priesthood doesn't apply to us.  We can especially agree on the bolded words.

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The Sanctity of All Callings or Vocations: the rejection of medieval distinctions between secular and sacred or "religious" (i.e. monastic) with the depreciation of the former; and the recognition of all ways of life as divine vocations in their own right. "The works of monks and priest in God's sight are in no way whatever superior to a farmer laboring in the field, or a woman looking after her home". None is intrinsically more Christian than any other - an insight obscured by phrases such as "the holy ministry".

Again, absolutely.  The only reason that it's called "the holy priesthood" and my job is not called "Ye holy Spanish Teacher"  Wink  is because Christ, by His very presence in the sacraments, by the initial establishment of the priesthood on the very Kingdom of God itself, it has always been holy, transfigured, brought into the Kingdom.  Our jobs in the world are to do this very thing: to bring our professions before God, as priests, and have them transfigured by the grace of God for His glory.  The former has already had this done to it by the Lord; the latter is being done by the Church members, as we cooperate with Him.

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Weighing these principles I find Orthodoxy reaching to the same position of authority as Catholicism over the Body of Believers imposing the same dictates and claiming the same superiority through their traditions, ministry of priests and sacraments, adoration of saints and the claims to superior sanctity through monastic practices over the Body of Believers and although they don't claim the position of One Supreme Tyrant non-the-less impose 'little' Tyrants over the Body of Believers through the same means.

Has what I've said at least helped you see some of these things in a different light?  That is, that we're not trying to do this to be tyrannical, but rather because we see a much different theological landscape than Protestants, born of a corrupted tradition, do?

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I have read and followed many dialogues here to witness first-hand that your traditions, priests, sacraments and ascetics don't establish the unity such it intended to foster...

Again, attend services.  We would say (with all due respect) that you can't really say that you've witnessed anything about us "first-hand" until you go and experience what this is all about.   We are, in fact, united in worship, in doctrine, in faith and love. 

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...but through Baptist Theology we establish the liberty given to man by God to either walk in faith for continued in the bondage of sin under the guidance of a body of equals in both under His Lordship and through His Word.

I'd like to draw your attention to the boldfaced words.  You had said originally that your theology covered Protestants as a group, in spite of doctrinal differences, and that the liberty espoused by the Scripture was one of individual worship and belief preferences, as per his/her individual "right" before God (again, these ideas of "rights" and "a body of equals" are very much the product of enlightenment- and post-enlightenment-era, western influence).  Now the theology is Baptist only, and the liberty is one of either being freed from the world or continuing in darkness.  Is the former definition what St. Paul meant by "liberty," or this latter one?

You certainly have unity of doctrine within (your particular) Baptist community, but continue to bear in mind that, in spite of unity of (your) essentials, there are other ideas seen in other groups with whom you claim "unity" as so essential that they impede real unity--hence denominations (divisions).  We Orthodox would say we offer the same choice and hope, without making an apology for our essentials.

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Now that might sound critical but it is only a means to establish from what prespective Believers stand when looking at Orthodoxy.


I appreciate the honest criticism, but I hope that what I've written might give you a place to "launch out" from and see the Christian Tradition in a new light that, amazingly (for me, it was, anyway) had existed and thrived for 2,000 years without the influence of rational, enlightenment, egalitarian thinking.

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I don't even want to get into the fact that your gospel appears to have embraced divinity over atonement. Wasn't that the sin of Adam?

Well, we almost got through that post with my understanding everything you said.   Wink  You're gonna have to go into that one in more detail before I can say I understand that criticism...
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« Reply #58 on: June 03, 2006, 11:56:47 AM »

Hello Pedro,

Actually I just picked up a copy of Orthodox Theology: An Introduction by Vladimir Lossky.

Does anyone have this? Within about the first 30 pages it outlines the difference between Orthodoxy and Neo-Platonism. Actually it's quite good.

So the last thing in my post that you didn't understand was 'atonement'. Where is it in Orthodox Theology. It appears to be dismissed. What is the story there?
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« Reply #59 on: June 03, 2006, 12:16:43 PM »

Chris.

GOOD BOOK.  Enjoy it.

Re: Atonement in Orthodox theology...these links say it better than I could:

From Rdr. Timothy Copple:
Blood Sacrifices and Forgiveness (he's a convert from Protestantism, so this is written more to address stuff that we'd have beefs with)

From OrthodoxInfo . com:
What Christ Accomplished on the Cross (he's a monk that (I think!) grew up in the faith, nevertheless he is aware of and addresses many of the differences between the Orthodox view of atonement and that of western confessions)
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« Reply #60 on: June 03, 2006, 08:03:30 PM »

Well, that certainly is one way to interpret that verse, and indeed the way I interpreted it for many years.ÂÂ  I would ask this, however: Is the picture one sees of the first Christians--the ones converted by the apostles and the direct spiritual (and often biological) descendents of those converts--a picture of a "live and let live" mentality characterized by individualized worship style and differences in doctrine as seen in much of Protestantism?ÂÂ  Or is it more communal, with set worship and set authority for doctrine, as seen in the (little c) catholic traditions?ÂÂ  This, I know, does go outside the Bible, but since it is the way in which said Scriptures were immediately received by all those who came in contact with the apostles, it demands our attention.ÂÂ  If St. Paul were truly saying that we had the "right" to do what you're proposing (yet the very concept of individual "rights" didn't come along until enlightenment-era Europe), why would every apostolic community, from the get-go, be incredibly similar in worship and quite particular about being uniform in doctrine?

I don't necessarily equate recognizing one's right or liberty to express one's praise and thanksgiving to one's Saviour and Creator a 'live and let live' mentality but with regards to the need to respect this right or liberty we need not look any further in Scripture than Romans Chapter 14. Seriously take a look at that and then tell me that my local congregation needs to observe some external rule (liturgical, Holy Days, fasting or otherwise). I honestly don't see a case for it at all. Now do I think you are necessarily 'damned' because you do? Of course not! But I see no legitimate rationale to submit to such tradition when Paul is so clear.

Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to amke him stand. - Romans 14:4

Baptist Theology is very big on recognizing an individuals' rights in this most personal and sacred relationship between one and one's Lord and Saviour. Paul holds the same position.

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Absolutely!ÂÂ  Yet who decides what "essentials" and "non-essentials" are?ÂÂ  ISTM that Protestants who subscribe to the idea that there's one invisible Church (in spite of doctrinal differences) have to make a lot of stuff "non-essential" to still be in some form of unity.ÂÂ  We would say baptism is an essential (many Protestants say this, too, btw), that one receives grace to save his soul from it.ÂÂ  We would say the Eucharist is an essential; that we cannot have life without eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ.ÂÂ  We would say another essential is the belief that salvation is an ongoing, life-long process, that we are being saved rather than having already been saved.ÂÂ  Protestants also disagree on whether or not baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, infant baptism, confession of faith at a known point in time, believers baptism only, communion as more than a symbol, and other things are "essential" or "non-essential."ÂÂ  The two categories are pretty arbitrary, depending only on what group you happen to belong to.ÂÂ  It is a nice idea, don't get me wrong, but it's meant to deal with one particular communion. In the case of St. Augustine, who is traditionally seen as the author of the phrase, it was the universal Church, w/out denominations, and so "essentials" and "non-essentials" were already ecclesiastically decided.

The major difference is the different degrees tradition has been shed for a faith completely biblical. When we look simply at Scripture we can see that some traditions are not biblical or are exaggerations of what is actually present in Scripture. Baptism or instance is not as clear cut a vehicle of the Holy Spirit as Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Anglicanism would have one believe. We have many examples of the Holy Spirit entering an individual before or without any association with the act of water Baptism. This is seen first from the precept that underlies its institution. When Jesus commanded the apostles to baptize, he told them first to make disciples and said nothing whatever about infants (Matt. 28:19). In other words, preaching must always precede baptism, for it is by the Word and not the sacrament that disciples are first made. Baptism can be given only when the recipient has responded to the Word in penitence and faith, and it is to be followed at once by a course of more detailed instruction.

That the apostles understood it in this way is evident from the precedents that have come down to us in Acts. One the day of Pentecost, for examples, Peter told the conscience-stricken people to repent and be baptized; he did not mention any special conditions for infants incapable of repentance (Act 2:38). Again, when the Ethiopian eunuch desired baptism, he was told that there could be no hindrance so long as he believed, and it was on confession of faith that Philip baptized him (Acts 8:36-39). Even when whole households were baptized, we are normally told that they first heard the gospel preached and either believed or received an endowment of the Spirit (Acts 10:45; 16:32-33). In any case, no mention is made of any other type of baptism.

The meaning of baptism as developed by Paul in Romans 6 supports this contention. It is in repentance and faith that we are identified with Jesus Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. To infants who cannot hear the Word and make the appropriate response, it thus seems to be meaningless and even misleading to speak of baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ. Confessing believers alone know what this means and can work it out in their lives. In baptism, confessing their penitence and faith, they have really turned their back on the old life and have begun to live the new life of Christ. They alone can look back to a meaningful conversion and accept the challenge that comes with baptism. To introduce any other form of baptism is to open the way to perversion and misconception.

To be sure, there is no direct prohibition of infant baptism in the NT. But in the absence of direction either way it is surely better to carry out the sacrament or ordinance as obviously commanded and practiced than to rely on exegetical or theological inference for a different administration. This is particularly the case in view of the weakness or irrelevance of many of the considerations advanced.

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What does this mean?ÂÂ  Really, what is, objectively speaking, giving glory to God, and what is taking away from that glory?ÂÂ  Is the institution of bishop and priest of human devising, or does it have as its originator Christ Himself?ÂÂ  We would say that, of course, God didn't have to establish a human-run organization to speak for Him on earth, yet since this is what He did (in our opinion), we are indeed bringing Him glory by upholding and honoring said Church, complete with its hierarchs, who have always been the ones charged with rightly dividing the word of truth.

Soli Deo Gloria ultimately is what prohibits us from glorifying anything, at all, except God. No angels, no really nice people, no Mary. The Trinity alone.

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Well, the Orthodox Church could say that we ascribe to sola gratia, but only in the sense that Christ has redeemed all of humanity through His incarnation, and that this redemption, already accomplished through His sovereign grace and mercy, is now to be applied to people individually.ÂÂ  The boldfaced terms intend to call attention to the fact that to claim that you are simply using Pauline terminology to support a system of "merits, works, or satisfactions" is ignoring the earliest centuries of Christianity, where the whole idea of making satisfaction to an angry or offended God is completely unknown.ÂÂ  It should be said that, in opposition to the corrupted version of Tradition that the medieval Roman Church put forth at the time of Augsburg, this statement makes perfect sense when taken in the light of the theological system it came out of--that of merits, of satisfaction, of appeasing God's justice and wrath.ÂÂ  Yet it's beating a dead horse when it comes to Eastern Christianity, for the more ancient of ways to look at this--a way to which Luther himself never really was exposed--was completely devoid of this novel idea, articulated first by Anselm in the 1100s, iirc.ÂÂ  Puts a whole new spin on why Christ died, and the significance of grace and works.

This of all things is what most frightens me concerning Orthodoxy and trends among some Protestant authors preaching a new “atonement-lite” gospel. Paul spoke clearly:

I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things. - 2 Corinthians 11:1-6

Far too many Christians in our day seek a gospel more in keeping with there sensibilities…

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.ÂÂ  - 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Is it appealing to make God Almighty, who destroyed all men except for Noah and his family due to his wrath toward our sin, a loving God without wrath for our sin? Of course it is brother but my gut cries out to me a warning of ‘false gospel’. This is by far the greatest concern that I hold toward Orthodoxy and the direction modern Catholicism has taken. I don’t know. When I read the Scriptures I see a price that was paid. A burden, my burden nailed to the cross and added to it daily. I live in shame for who I am and I don’t see another way into heaven but through His death for me. I don’t see theosis; not for me not here not for anyone who sins. I only see propitiation; His Righteousness for my sin.

Ultimately I continue to live in fear and shame and love has not perfected me but I believe and place my trust in Him and in that trust, hope. Why? Because...

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the golory of God. NOt only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. - Romans 4:25; 5:1-4

I think this is a good place to stop for the moment.


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« Reply #61 on: June 04, 2006, 08:13:43 PM »

And on a side note, Chrisb, have you visited an Orthodox parish for liturgy?

"We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth..."
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« Reply #62 on: June 04, 2006, 10:24:23 PM »

http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7067.asp

This is a very good rightup on infant baptism.
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« Reply #63 on: June 05, 2006, 10:39:24 AM »

Seriously take a look at [Romans Chapter 14] and then tell me that my local congregation needs to observe some external rule (liturgical, Holy Days, fasting or otherwise). I honestly don't see a case for it at all. Now do I think you are necessarily 'damned' because you do? Of course not! But I see no legitimate rationale to submit to such tradition when Paul is so clear.

In terms of individual piety, yeah, you're right.  The Church may have church-wide fasting disciplines (as did the Judaism and early Jewish Christianity of the apostles), but I still have no business judging the guy next to me who's eating a steak on Great and Holy Friday.  But that's individual stuff.  The Church has always left it to the bishops to determine corporate worship and observance.  Two different animals.  Within the larger, corporate disciplines, there is individual personalization if such a thing is needed, but the picture you would paint from Rom. 14 applies not to the Church at large but to individual believers in their own personal lives.

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Baptist Theology is very big on recognizing an individuals' rights in this most personal and sacred relationship between one and one's Lord and Saviour. Paul holds the same position.


True, yet these individual "rights" have limits.  They do not have the "right" to go off and start their own Church if they disagree with Paul.  They do not have the "right" to disrupt the worship service "because the Spirit led them" as an individual to speak in tongues without an interpreter.  There are limits, and the limit of the individual is the corporate worship of the Church.

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The major difference is the different degrees tradition has been shed for a faith completely biblical.

You jump to the conclusion that your faith is completely biblical.  You may use the same terms, but your understanding of them is worlds away from their original meanings.

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Baptism [for] instance is not as clear cut a vehicle of the Holy Spirit as Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Anglicanism would have one believe. We have many examples of the Holy Spirit entering an individual before or without any association with the act of water Baptism.

And in these rare cases baptism was given directly after.  Yet the norm was understood to be that the Holy Spirit was given at baptism.  God, we realize, can do what He will do, and we'll just roll with it, but we know what we're to do if no exceptions arise.

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When Jesus commanded the apostles to baptize, he told them first to make disciples and said nothing whatever about infants (Matt. 28:19).

Arguments from silence don't work, man.  You can't make a case based on what someone didn't say.  I could just as easily say that He didn't say anything about infant baptism because it was just assumed that it would happen.  Neither you nor I have anyway to prove our respective "reading between the lines" because both would be arguments from silence. 

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In other words, preaching must always precede baptism, for it is by the Word and not the sacrament that disciples are first made. Baptism can be given only when the recipient has responded to the Word in penitence and faith, and it is to be followed at once by a course of more detailed instruction.

What, then, of the comparison of baptism with circumcision in Colossians 2:11-12?

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins[c] of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

If circumcision was done to eight-day old boys apart from their consent in order to bring them into the nation of Israel, and baptism is the initiation rite into the Christian Church, it stands to reason that, just as circumcision was not witheld from infants, neither is baptism.  This is backed up not only by St. Paul, who says he baptized whole households, children and slaves included (both of whom were baptized simply because of the faith of the father/master), but also backed up by St. Peter at Pentecost.  It surprised me that you mentioned this:

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Peter told the conscience-stricken people to repent and be baptized; he did not mention any special conditions for infants incapable of repentance (Act 2:38).

Because the verse that immedately follows that one...oh, heck, here they both are:

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Notice a few things here.  The baptism is for remission of sins and the reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit, not just repentance.  But the baptism was not only for the adults who heard him that day, but for their children.  That day.  He gave the imperative that they do it immediately, and included the children in this.  You may want to remember that, in the culture of the apostles' day, both children and slaves (heck, even women!) were considered the property of the man.  As went the man, so went the whole family; individual choice had very little to do with this.  This colors St. Peter's statement, to be sure.

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Again, when the Ethiopian eunuch desired baptism, he was told that there could be no hindrance so long as he believed, and it was on confession of faith that Philip baptized him (Acts 8:36-39).

Absolutely.  It should be said that we Orthodox, in the case of adult conversions, absolutely require that a person make a public statement of faith before being baptized (it's a part of our liturgy of baptism for adults).  Yet we should be careful not to take this example of an adult conversion and use it as the absolute rule for all baptisms, saying that because this instance was one of adult baptism, there should be no other kind.  As I have (hopefully) explained above, the Scriptures do not rule out infant baptism, but rather quite strongly allude to it as a different animal altogether.

I need to go; I'll finish this later.
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« Reply #64 on: June 05, 2006, 01:11:10 PM »

In terms of individual piety, yeah, you're right.ÂÂ  The Church may have church-wide fasting disciplines (as did the Judaism and early Jewish Christianity of the apostles), but I still have no business judging the guy next to me who's eating a steak on Great and Holy Friday.ÂÂ  But that's individual stuff.ÂÂ  The Church has always left it to the bishops to determine corporate worship and observance.ÂÂ  Two different animals.ÂÂ  Within the larger, corporate disciplines, there is individual personalization if such a thing is needed, but the picture you would paint from Rom. 14 applies not to the Church at large but to individual believers in their own personal lives.

As I understand it there is only 'one' official day of fasting in Judaism, the Day of Atonement. Any other fasting was individual and thus no corporate.
 
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True, yet these individual "rights" have limits.ÂÂ  They do not have the "right" to go off and start their own Church if they disagree with Paul.ÂÂ  They do not have the "right" to disrupt the worship service "because the Spirit led them" as an individual to speak in tongues without an interpreter.ÂÂ  There are limits, and the limit of the individual is the corporate worship of the Church.

Could we turn that around and say that corporate demands have limits?

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You jump to the conclusion that your faith is completely biblical.ÂÂ  You may use the same terms, but your understanding of them is worlds away from their original meanings.

I'm not trying to come across as something 'special' here. Not at all. I'm just saying that one can attempt to avoid traditions which either are unbiblical or at the very least give the appearance of being unbiblical which is a problem either way.

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And in these rare cases baptism was given directly after.ÂÂ  Yet the norm was understood to be that the Holy Spirit was given at baptism.ÂÂ  God, we realize, can do what He will do, and we'll just roll with it, but we know what we're to do if no exceptions arise.

Why do you conclude that examples given in Scripture are the 'rare cases'? Shouldn't we assume these Biblical examples set the 'norms' for our faith?

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Arguments from silence don't work, man.ÂÂ  You can't make a case based on what someone didn't say.ÂÂ  I could just as easily say that He didn't say anything about infant baptism because it was just assumed that it would happen.ÂÂ  Neither you nor I have anyway to prove our respective "reading between the lines" because both would be arguments from silence.

I think I have given enough examples to offer a case to be made that we're not making an argument from silence as much as we're making one from the norms given in Scripture.ÂÂ  

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What, then, of the comparison of baptism with circumcision in Colossians 2:11-12?

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins[c] of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Well, I think Paul has made it quite clear that circumcision is 'not' to be understood as some kind of magical entry into God's Covanant without 'faith' so although I agree that there is a parallel between baptism and circumcision I would also argue that baptism, like circumcision, is not to be seen as effectual outside of 'faith'.

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If circumcision was done to eight-day old boys apart from their consent in order to bring them into the nation of Israel, and baptism is the initiation rite into the Christian Church, it stands to reason that, just as circumcision was not witheld from infants, neither is baptism.ÂÂ  This is backed up not only by St. Paul, who says he baptized whole households, children and slaves included (both of whom were baptized simply because of the faith of the father/master), but also backed up by St. Peter at Pentecost.ÂÂ  It surprised me that you mentioned this:

Because the verse that immedately follows that one...oh, heck, here they both are:

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Because this is in the 'name of Jesus Christ' and not 'in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit' aren't you being a little presumptous to assume this is speaking about 'water baptism'? Most Baptist interpret this passage as speaking about the Baptism by the Fire of the Holy Spirit and not by 'water baptism'.

On another topic, by your post above are you suggesting that only 'male jews' entered into the covanant of Abraham and not the 'females' because they didn't get circumsion? This is where your line of reasoning leads when you mistake the 'out signs' with the 'inward signs'.

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Notice a few things here.ÂÂ  The baptism is for remission of sins and the reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit, not just repentance.ÂÂ  But the baptism was not only for the adults who heard him that day, but for their children.ÂÂ  That day.ÂÂ  He gave the imperative that they do it immediately, and included the children in this.ÂÂ  You may want to remember that, in the culture of the apostles' day, both children and slaves (heck, even women!) were considered the property of the man.ÂÂ  As went the man, so went the whole family; individual choice had very little to do with this.ÂÂ  This colors St. Peter's statement, to be sure.

hmmmm... weird but a good point to reflect on. So what you are saying is because the man of the house gets circumsion that the whole family enters into the covanant. If such was the practice then wouldn't make sense that 'only the adult male' of the family was Baptized?

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Absolutely.ÂÂ  It should be said that we Orthodox, in the case of adult conversions, absolutely require that a person make a public statement of faith before being baptized (it's a part of our liturgy of baptism for adults).ÂÂ  Yet we should be careful not to take this example of an adult conversion and use it as the absolute rule for all baptisms, saying that because this instance was one of adult baptism, there should be no other kind.ÂÂ  As I have (hopefully) explained above, the Scriptures do not rule out infant baptism, but rather quite strongly allude to it as a different animal altogether.

That is true as I asserted in the last paragraph of my post.

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I need to go; I'll finish this later.

That is cool take your time I'm not necessarily posing my own views on this matter but offering what I know of Baptism Theology to get your reaction on this things. Coming from a Baptist background these kinds of things need to be addressed to a reasonable conclusion for me.

BTW, My wife and I when to the local Greek Festival and got a chance to tour the Cathedral. It was very nice and the people giving the tour were very knowledge. I also picked up a book For They Shall See God by David Beck. They were nice enough to give me a lot of little brochures on Orthodoxy too.

I will read them. Thanks for your time.

PS: Just remember I'm not here to be hostile I'm just voicing my concerns and seeking answers.  Smiley
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« Reply #65 on: June 05, 2006, 03:51:48 PM »

From your post at the top of this page (pt. 2)

The meaning of baptism as developed by Paul in Romans 6 supports this contention. It is in repentance and faith that we are identified with Jesus Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.

I disagree:

(vv. 3-11, emph mine): 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is through baptism, "the likeness of His death," that we are "united together," not just inner repentance.  The passage states that if we were baptized into Christ, it is to say that we were really baptized into His death.  If we were baptized into His death, we shall also see His resurrection.  He says our old man was crucified with Him.  When?  When we participated in the likeness of His death--baptism.  This takes place in the context of faith, whether that of the individual (in the case of the adult convert) or of the individual's parents/guardians (in the case of infant baptism/circumcision).  So when you said in your most recent post that you would argue "that baptism, like circumcision, is not to be seen as effectual outside of 'faith',"  I would agree, though hasten to restate that the faith of the parents would be the initial faith exercised at the baptism (as w/circumcision), and that the individual's faith would grow to replace the parents' faith as s/he grows in the grace given at baptism.

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To infants who cannot hear the Word and make the appropriate response, it thus seems to be meaningless and even misleading to speak of baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ. Confessing believers alone know what this means and can work it out in their lives.

I suggest the following: You and I have no idea what actually happens in the mystery of baptism.  Just as circumcision united infants to the saving people of God, so baptism does the same, giving them grace to help them work out their salvation from the get-go, since they've already been united to Christ.  If they still choose one day to reject that, then that's their choice, but every grace was given to them to help them regardless.

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Soli Deo Gloria ultimately is what prohibits us from glorifying anything, at all, except God. No angels, no really nice people, no Mary. The Trinity alone.

Yes.  Our Church Fathers stress repeatedly that no one is to be worshipped save the Holy Trinity alone.  What we do to the Theotokos and the saints is not worship, though it may appear to those outside as such.

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This of all things is what most frightens me concerning Orthodoxy and trends among some Protestant authors preaching a new “atonement-lite” gospel.


Quick question: Did you read those two articles on the Orthodox view of the atonement that I posted?

Yeah, this is the hardest thing for many friends of mine to talk with me about, since, as one put it, it's like my trying to convince them that the sky is really red instead of blue.  It was hard for me, too, to even allow for the possibility that this different way of looking at what Christ accomplished on the Cross is actually the proper way of looking at it instead of the satisfaction atonement idea that's everywhere in the West.  I look at it like this now: the western confessions have heard this one particular train of thought, exclusively, for so many centuries that it's become a sort of truism in their minds that's indistinguishable from Christ's crucifixion.  In other words, when the Scriptures talk about the crucifixion, or Christ's death, or Christ's blood, or forgiveness, or sacrifices et al, the western Christian mind is basically trained to see these things in one particular way.  If one reads the earliest Christian writings (written during and directly after the NT), however, one will find that particular way of seeing the Cross markedly absent, and the Orthodox view markedly present.  Is it at all likely that every early Church bishop not only ditched satisfaction atonement right away, but also picked up the idea of Christ's defeat of death and the deification of mankind as an alternative, all at the same time, all over the world?  This is the conclusion that a westerner would have to draw; the alternative is being willing to challenge this most sacred cow, this most assumed view of western Christianity, and say that perhaps our take on it, so woven into our mindset though it may be, is founded on a novel, foreign idea.

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Is it appealing to make God Almighty, who destroyed all men except for Noah and his family due to his wrath toward our sin, a loving God without wrath for our sin? Of course it is brother but my gut cries out to me a warning of ‘false gospel’.


Make no mistake: A God without wrath would not be our God.  Our God has wrath, but we must be careful not to project a human passion of offense onto the way we view God in His wrath.  God will consume the ungodly with His very presence, and it will be the fire of hell to all those who are not united to Christ, but to iniquity.  But to say that God will do this because of some offense that He has taken, because of some insecure feeling of vengeance, because of some demand for repayment due to losses perceived...this is not a God of love.  The love has been lost somewhere if this is God's motive for His wrath.

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When I read the Scriptures I see a price that was paid. A burden, my burden nailed to the cross and added to it daily. I live in shame for who I am and I don’t see another way into heaven but through His death for me...I only see propitiation; His Righteousness for my sin.

This is beautiful.  I agree, though our ideas differ re: to whom/what the price was paid, what the burden was, and what exactly righteousness and sin entail.  Regardless, though, I can read this and, using these words in an Orthodox context, agree wholeheartedly at this glorious statement.

Again, if you haven't already, please read those two articles I posted on the Orthodox view of the atonement.

From your most recent post:

As I understand it there is only 'one' official day of fasting in Judaism, the Day of Atonement. Any other fasting was individual and thus no corporate.

Incorrect.  The Didache (a first-century document which means "the teaching of the twelve" and was considered Scripture for many many decades--centuries, in some places--by some in the Church) says that, in contrast to the unbelieving Jews who fast on Tuesday and Thursday of every week, the Christians should distinguish themselves as another community and fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, which we still do.
 
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Could we turn that around and say that corporate demands have limits?

I would just say that corporate rules are not the same as individual rules.  One should not see something that is ultimately a matter between a man and God (and, we'd also say, his/her spiritual father) as something that must be interfered with by corporate rules, but neither should corporate rules be trumped by an individual who feels s/he is "led by the Spirit" to do something that completely contradicts the experience of Christ that has been experienced by the rest of the people of God throughout the ages.

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I'm not trying to come across as something 'special' here. Not at all. I'm just saying that one can attempt to avoid traditions which either are unbiblical or at the very least give the appearance of being unbiblical which is a problem either way.

Well, unbiblical traditions were accepted in the Church since the beginning.  So are you talking about un-biblical, or anti-biblical?  The former--it's nowhere found in Scripture--was part of the "traditions passed down to you...by word" that the apostle Paul talked about and were to be held to.  The latter--it goes against the Scripture--would be rejected outright by the Church, as Christ rejected the Corban rule of the Pharisees for not honoring mothers and fathers.

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Why do you conclude that examples given in Scripture are the 'rare cases'? Shouldn't we assume these Biblical examples set the 'norms' for our faith?

We should assume nothing.  Rather, we should ask ourselves, are there other places where other practices are mentioned?  I've given you several places in Scripture where infants, apart from their own individual faith, were baptized for the remission of their (anscestral) sin and united to Christ, and I've shown how, in Romans 6, it is stated by St. Paul that water baptism, as the image and likeness of Christ's death and resurrection, is where we die to sin and rise alive again in Christ.  Since St. Paul was speaking to an entire congregation via a general epistle--as opposed to the historical account of individual cases, which is what Acts concerns itself with--it would stand to reason that the rule would be in Romans, the exceptions in Acts.

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Because this is in the 'name of Jesus Christ' and not 'in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit' aren't you being a little presumptous to assume this is speaking about 'water baptism'?

Not at all.  The verse that follows the verse quoted above in Acts 2:41 merely states that "Then those who gladly[g] received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them."  Since we know water baptism is how you are added to the Church, there is absolutely no reason, given the fact that far more often than not post-Pentecostal references to baptism refer to water baptism, to assume that this means Spirit baptism instead of water baptism--instead of the two happening simultaneously, as is the norm preached in Romans and in many instances within Acts itself--is to make to great a leap, imo...seems to be reading too much into the passage in order to justify an already-formed belief against baptismal regeneration.

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On another topic, by your post above are you suggesting that only 'male jews' entered into the covanant of Abraham and not the 'females' because they didn't get circumsion? This is where your line of reasoning leads when you mistake the 'out signs' with the 'inward signs'.

Again, not at all.  Women were considered Jewish by virtue of being in a Jewish family, as was the case with other semetic tribes, hence the radical nature of Ruth and Naomi's relationship, where someone from one tribe became a whole different person by joining up with another family.  Now, however, that "there is neither male nor female," all receive this new circumcision of the washing of regeneration in baptism.

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hmmmm... weird but a good point to reflect on. So what you are saying is because the man of the house gets circumsion that the whole family enters into the covanant. If such was the practice then wouldn't make sense that 'only the adult male' of the family was Baptized?

No, no more than a circumcision of a Jewish father would have replaced his own son's being circumcised.  The father brings all his children to Christ in the waters.

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BTW, My wife and I when to the local Greek Festival and got a chance to tour the Cathedral. It was very nice and the people giving the tour were very knowledge. I also picked up a book For They Shall See God by David Beck. They were nice enough to give me a lot of little brochures on Orthodoxy too.

Cool!  Glad you enjoyed yourself.

Quote
PS: Just remember I'm not here to be hostile I'm just voicing my concerns and seeking answers.  Smiley

Heh, heh...I know.  Not a problem.
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« Reply #66 on: June 05, 2006, 04:01:26 PM »

ChrisB.  I know that you are reading a ton and have been giving many a' link to peruse.  But i'll add one more just in case they decide to add 1 more hour to our 24 hour days, thus giving us an extra hour to waste our minds on theology.

http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/thema_response.aspx

It is a response to the claims made in a Reformed Protestant publication that argued: 1) our theology is Platonistic, and thus pagan; 2) the doctrine of Theosis relegates the Cross of Christ to a "quaint sideshow"; 3) Orthodoxy teaches salvation by works, substituting human effort for Christ's effort; 4) we have subjugated God's revelation (Holy Scripture) to human tradition; 5) we place an undue emphasis on ecclesiastical power and tradition which has turned the Church into a magisterial authority dominated by "ecclesiastics"; 6) our worship is arrogant and pagan.

Anyways, an interesting read. 
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« Reply #67 on: June 05, 2006, 04:39:48 PM »


Ooh, good one.  Looooong, but good.
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« Reply #68 on: June 05, 2006, 05:26:20 PM »

From your post at the top of this page (pt. 2)

I disagree:

It would shock me if you didn't...  Tongue

Quote
(vv. 3-11, emph mine): 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.ÂÂ  5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is through baptism, "the likeness of His death," that we are "united together," not just inner repentance.ÂÂ  The passage states that if we were baptized into Christ, it is to say that we were really baptized into His death.ÂÂ  If we were baptized into His death, we shall also see His resurrection.ÂÂ  He says our old man was crucified with Him.ÂÂ  When?ÂÂ  When we participated in the likeness of His death--baptism.ÂÂ  This takes place in the context of faith, whether that of the individual (in the case of the adult convert) or of the individual's parents/guardians (in the case of infant baptism/circumcision).ÂÂ  So when you said in your most recent post that you would argue "that baptism, like circumcision, is not to be seen as effectual outside of 'faith',"ÂÂ  I would agree, though hasten to restate that the faith of the parents would be the initial faith exercised at the baptism (as w/circumcision), and that the individual's faith would grow to replace the parents' faith as s/he grows in the grace given at baptism.

In light of Paul's discussion of the value of circumsion in his Epistle to the Romans how can you hold this view?

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I suggest the following: You and I have no idea what actually happens in the mystery of baptism.ÂÂ  Just as circumcision united infants to the saving people of God, so baptism does the same, giving them grace to help them work out their salvation from the get-go, since they've already been united to Christ.ÂÂ  If they still choose one day to reject that, then that's their choice, but every grace was given to them to help them regardless.

Again can we agree on what Paul said concerning circumsion? It doesn't appear to hold the same level of power over the recipient as you appear to exercise in your view.

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Yes.ÂÂ  Our Church Fathers stress repeatedly that no one is to be worshipped save the Holy Trinity alone.ÂÂ  What we do to the Theotokos and the saints is not worship, though it may appear to those outside as such.

Yes, I've read the difference between worship/adoration and worship/veneration but you have to admit that these really 'blur' the edges don't they?

Quote
Quick question: Did you read those two articles on the Orthodox view of the atonement that I posted?

eek... Not yet... But I will.

Quote
Yeah, this is the hardest thing for many friends of mine to talk with me about, since, as one put it, it's like my trying to convince them that the sky is really red instead of blue.ÂÂ  It was hard for me, too, to even allow for the possibility that this different way of looking at what Christ accomplished on the Cross is actually the proper way of looking at it instead of the satisfaction atonement idea that's everywhere in the West.ÂÂ  I look at it like this now: the western confessions have heard this one particular train of thought, exclusively, for so many centuries that it's become a sort of truism in their minds that's indistinguishable from Christ's crucifixion.ÂÂ  In other words, when the Scriptures talk about the crucifixion, or Christ's death, or Christ's blood, or forgiveness, or sacrifices et al, the western Christian mind is basically trained to see these things in one particular way.ÂÂ  If one reads the earliest Christian writings (written during and directly after the NT), however, one will find that particular way of seeing the Cross markedly absent, and the Orthodox view markedly present.ÂÂ  Is it at all likely that every early Church bishop not only ditched satisfaction atonement right away, but also picked up the idea of Christ's defeat of death and the deification of mankind as an alternative, all at the same time, all over the world?ÂÂ  This is the conclusion that a westerner would have to draw; the alternative is being willing to challenge this most sacred cow, this most assumed view of western Christianity, and say that perhaps our take on it, so woven into our mindset though it may be, is founded on a novel, foreign idea.

ugh...  Embarrassed
 
Quote
Make no mistake: A God without wrath would not be our God.ÂÂ  Our God has wrath, but we must be careful not to project a human passion of offense onto the way we view God in His wrath.ÂÂ  God will consume the ungodly with His very presence, and it will be the fire of hell to all those who are not united to Christ, but to iniquity.ÂÂ  But to say that God will do this because of some offense that He has taken, because of some insecure feeling of vengeance, because of some demand for repayment due to losses perceived...this is not a God of love.ÂÂ  The love has been lost somewhere if this is God's motive for His wrath.

Was the love lost during the flood? I'm just interested in your reaction...


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From your most recent post:

Incorrect.ÂÂ  The Didache (a first-century document which means "the teaching of the twelve" and was considered Scripture for many many decades--centuries, in some places--by some in the Church) says that, in contrast to the unbelieving Jews who fast on Tuesday and Thursday of every week, the Christians should distinguish themselves as another community and fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, which we still do.

Just as the Pharisees practiced fasting weekly so did the early Church but you'll be hard pressed to find 'any' fasting commanded in the Law outside of the Day of Atonement. It's just not there. This was ultimately a piety movement which was adopted by many as an individual act of piety.
 
Quote
I would just say that corporate rules are not the same as individual rules.ÂÂ  One should not see something that is ultimately a matter between a man and God (and, we'd also say, his/her spiritual father) as something that must be interfered with by corporate rules, but neither should corporate rules be trumped by an individual who feels s/he is "led by the Spirit" to do something that completely contradicts the experience of Christ that has been experienced by the rest of the people of God throughout the ages.

You appear to be saying that worship cannot evolve but it has.

Quote
Well, unbiblical traditions were accepted in the Church since the beginning.ÂÂ  So are you talking about un-biblical, or anti-biblical?ÂÂ  The former--it's nowhere found in Scripture--was part of the "traditions passed down to you...by word" that the apostle Paul talked about and were to be held to.ÂÂ  The latter--it goes against the Scripture--would be rejected outright by the Church, as Christ rejected the Corban rule of the Pharisees for not honoring mothers and fathers.

Ever since the being of the Church pastors, like Paul, have been fighting to keep the tradition pure from adulteration. Should we simply accept a practice because it is old?

Quote
We should assume nothing.ÂÂ  Rather, we should ask ourselves, are there other places where other practices are mentioned?ÂÂ  I've given you several places in Scripture where infants, apart from their own individual faith, were baptized for the remission of their (anscestral) sin and united to Christ, and I've shown how, in Romans 6, it is stated by St. Paul that water baptism, as the image and likeness of Christ's death and resurrection, is where we die to sin and rise alive again in Christ.ÂÂ  Since St. Paul was speaking to an entire congregation via a general epistle--as opposed to the historical account of individual cases, which is what Acts concerns itself with--it would stand to reason that the rule would be in Romans, the exceptions in Acts.

I'll touch on this later. Gotta run.
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« Reply #69 on: June 05, 2006, 06:53:59 PM »

In light of Paul's discussion of the value of circumsion in his Epistle to the Romans how can you hold this view?  [Circumcision] doesn't appear to hold the same level of power over the recipient as you appear to exercise in your view.

Well, a couple of things:

1) I don't hold that circumcision saves in and of itself.  It finds its fulfillment in Christ--specifically, in baptism.  St. Paul said that what the Law couldn't do in that it was weak, Christ did by His grace. 

2) The type of circumcision was only beneficial insofar as it pointed ahead in time to the mystery of baptism in the light of faith in Christ.
 
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Yes, I've read the difference between worship/adoration and worship/veneration but you have to admit that these really 'blur' the edges don't they?

Only when looking at it from the outside with a bias against veneration.  In my experience since becoming Orthodox the distinction is crystal clear.

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eek... Not yet... But I will.

It's cool...might want to put off any further criticism of how the Orthodox view the atonement until you read them, though.

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ugh...  Embarrassed

Ugh, indeed.
 
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Was the love lost during the flood? I'm just interested in your reaction...

I commented on that here to begin with, then here and here in that same thread.  You can just go to the first post and read through the page and a half that follows; the other posts are all in there ('cause, y'know, it's not like you're reading anything else right now!).

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Just as the Pharisees practiced fasting weekly so did the early Church but you'll be hard pressed to find 'any' fasting commanded in the Law outside of the Day of Atonement. It's just not there.

Neither is the Seat of Moses that Christ affirmed in Matt. 23:2; even though it was nowhere in the Tanakh (it was a rabbinic tradition), and even though it was being abused by hypocritical Pharisees, Christ still told the Israelites to follow those in this place of authority which had its origin in extra-biblical tradition.  Christ was not as sola scriptura as some would have us believe.

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This was ultimately a piety movement which was adopted by many as an individual act of piety.


Correction; it was adopted by the entire people of God at that time.  So when you say:

Quote
You appear to be saying that worship cannot evolve but it has.

...you're absolutely right.  We just shouldn't rush to have it evolve; we should err on the side of conservativism unless there is an actual necessity for a change.

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Ever since the being of the Church pastors, like Paul, have been fighting to keep the tradition pure from adulteration. Should we simply accept a practice because it is old?

No, not simply.  But often a tradition is not good because it's old; it's old because it's good.  In other words, it's served the Church well to lead the faithful to union with God for hundreds and hundreds of years; we shouldn't presume that we are to usher in anything new but, as much as is absolutely possible, to make the faith of our fathers our own as well, which means conforming ourselves to the image of Christ that has been traditionally within the Church.
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« Reply #70 on: June 05, 2006, 06:59:29 PM »

Just a couple thoughts on infant baptism.  Firstly, faith must be more than the ability to intellectually assess and consent to facts.  If it were nothing more than this we should expect the most brilliant minds of the world to all be believers.  Saving faith is essentially trust.

I would imagine that if a infant can know its mother's love and find security and safety there it could very well know God's love, even at such a young stage.  The Psalmist writes of knowing God even at his mother's breast.  And didn't John the Baptist leap for joy while he was still in the womb at the presence of Christ?  This is is the very same Christ who ordered that the little children not be hindered in their coming to him.

And again, if baptism is regeneration and adoption and cleansing, as we and the vast witness of the global Church have interpreted it to be, it is also balanced with a sense of salvation being a journey.  Thus the sacrament of baptism is not a magic formula that get ones into Heaven, but it does get one into the family of God in order to begin the personal salvific relationship with God.

My other thought is that this entire thread proves the need for an genuine authoritative interpretation of Scripture.  For indeed we are just throwing proof texts at each other, hoping that the power of Scripture will convince the other of our position.  This is obviously why the ancient Church needed the authority of Ecumenical councils because there are so many different ways to read and apply Scripture, even among those who are genuinely seeking to know and serve Christ (Baptist and Orthodox for example).
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« Reply #71 on: June 05, 2006, 09:29:05 PM »

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Just as the Pharisees practiced fasting weekly so did the early Church but you'll be hard pressed to find 'any' fasting commanded in the Law outside of the Day of Atonement. It's just not there. This was ultimately a piety movement which was adopted by many as an individual act of piety.

"This kind (of the devil) can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:29; cf. Matt. 17:20-21).



Sermon on the mount. That witch we regard as the clearity of the law.

"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They, have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:16-18; cf. Isaiah 58:5).

Fasting was practiced by the Lord Himself. After prayer and fasting for forty days in the wilderness, the Lord victoriously faced the temptations of the devil (Matthew 4:1-­11). The Lord himself asked the disciples to use fasting as an important spiritual weapon to achieve spiritual victories (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29; Luke 2:37).

"Then the disciples of John came to him saying, `Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?' And Jesus said to them, `Can the friends of the Bridegroom mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the Bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.' "
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Excellence of character, then, is a state concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect.
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« Reply #72 on: June 05, 2006, 09:57:48 PM »

Sorry for jumping in. Pedro's fingers must surely be hurting by now. Grin
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Excellence of character, then, is a state concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect.
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« Reply #73 on: June 06, 2006, 11:29:02 AM »

Sorry for jumping in. Pedro's fingers must surely be hurting by now. Grin

Naw, I'm used to this.  Thanks for contributing, though!

(I do, think, though, that chrisb was looking for nation-wide fasting on the part of the entire people of Israel; what Christ mentioned could be taken as individualized piety.)
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