Luther Was Wrong: Ecclesiology​

Therefore he who would find Christ must first find the Church.
-Martin Luther, “Sermon for Early Christmas Day Service,” Wartburg Postil

Intro – A Question of Ecclesiology

Around the time of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord in 2016, I found myself in the midst of a discussion being asked a very weird question. I was sitting at the kitchen table across from my stepsister-in-law, who attends a non-denominational evangelical group, and we were chatting about Orthodoxy when she asked something along the lines of, “So you don’t believe that if a pastor is reading/studying the Bible and having revelations from God, that he’d be in the Church?”

This caused me to pause a second as I composed myself before I answered, as this is a delicate topic—not just when speaking with Protestants, but with converts from Protestantism, and even with many cradle Orthodox as well.

The definition that the Church is composed of all those who believe in Christ is a recent invention of Martin Luther and an idea that, if false, has far-reaching implications for salvation; therefore, the fact that Luther was wrong is of paramount importance.

Finding and Defining ‘the Church’

The origins of the Orthodox Christian Church can be traced in history from it’s “founding” at Pentecost; furthermore, one can begin to see the blueprint with Christ’s words to St. Peter in Matthew 16:18, “κἀγὼ δέ σοι λέγω ὅτι σὺ εἶ Πέτρος, καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, καὶ πύλαι ᾅδου οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς.” Following the Lord’s Great Commission and Ascension to the right hand of the Father, the Apostles went out and grew the Church by founding the Apostolic Sees, all of which are still in existence to the present day.

In all parishes which grew from the Apostolic Sees one will hear chanted or read the Symbol of Faith that Orthodox Christians have been reciting for over 1600 years, in which we confess not only the belief that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic, but also “an affirmation of belief which is not found in modern Protestant confessions: belief in the Church. In the Nicene Creed, the [Orthodox] Church confesses belief . . . in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Thus for the ancient Church, the Church Herself was an object of faith and a subject of credal affirmation. The early Church confessed belief in the Church Herself, even as She confessed belief in God,” as Clark Carlton relates in The Way. Further to the point, up until relatively recent times everyone (Orthodox, schismatics, heretics etc.) believed that outside the Church there was no salvation, membership being attained via baptism (with membership being distinct from salvation, but baptism necessary for salvation), that their church was the Church, and the relationship between the Church and others was one of schism, heresy, a combination of both, or excommunication/anathema. Nonetheless, there was a distinct belief that the Church was a visible body of believers of whom you could go to receive initiation.

The quickest way to find out whether or not the particular group you are attending is the same Church spread by the Apostles is to go back through history. I’ll use two examples: the group my stepsister-in-law attends, and the group I nominally grew-up in.

My stepsister-in-law attends Southland Church in Steinbach, MB; it doesn’t go back very far, and visiting their website doesn’t yield any information about it’s founding nor even where their leaders were educated or by what authority they do what they do. From the article I linked in the Intro we learn a little bit more about their pastor but still nothing substantial about their origins other than that it was already in existence in 1996, and since Steinbach was only founded in 1874 we have a time frame—though I highly doubt they existed for too long prior to 1996; regardless, we can trace the beginnings of their beliefs due to them being a “Non-Denominational Evangelical” group.

First we must realise that the phrase “Non-Denominational Evangelical” is a misnomer as well as an oxymoron; “Non-Denominationalism” (or “Nondenominational Protestantism”) meaning that the Non-Denominational group is independent in almost all matters, including dogma, whereas “Evangelicalism” is a trans-denominational movement within Protestantism (e.g., the Evangelical Lutheran and Evangelical Mennonite denominations).

The keen reader will by now be asking how a religious group can be without a denomination and yet be Evangelical since Evangelicalism is within denominations of Protestantism? The answer to such duplicity is easily found when we look at the origins of “Non-Denominationalism,” which are sketchy to trace but lead, of course, to the aftermath of the Radical Reformation, as the traditional Anglican priest Fr. Jonathan A. Mitchican wrote,

If an [North] American church calls itself “non-denominational,” nine times out of ten what that means is Baptist. Altar calls and appeals to personal conversion replace the sacraments as the means of grace. Baptism is a symbol of one’s personal conversion, nothing more, and it is only appropriate for adults. 

“Evangelicalism” on the other hand is much more clear, originating in the 18th century in Britain and it’s American colonies amongst descendants of the Radical Reformation, then eventually spreading to those descendants of the earlier Protestant Reformation.

My second example is the Blumenort Evangelical Mennonite Church in Blumenort, MB, the religion I grew up in, at least nominally. The history of this group is hard to follow, full of migration, name changes, and schism, but to the best of my knowledge, the origins of this group come from Mennonites in the Netherlands splitting into Frisian Mennonites and Flemish Mennonites in 1566.  On 1 September 1801 Klaas Reimer was elected minister of the Flemish Danzig Mennonite religion and eventually ended up in the Molotschna Mennonite settlement in southern Russia, wherein 1814 he and some followers broke away from the Flemish Mennonites and founded the Kleine Gemeinde. After immigrating to Canada the Kleine Gemeinde in Manitoba changed their name to Evangelical Mennonite Church in 1952, which in 1960 was changed to Evangelical Mennonite Conference.

As we can see from the above two examples, neither of them can be traced to any of the Apostolic Sees. Compounded to this is the obvious fact that the two groups previously mentioned are in fact two and not one, the dogmatic differences being obvious when one realizes that the current lead pastor of Southland is a former Mennonite Brethren (another Mennonite schismatic group founded in 1860 in the Molotschna settlement).

So far we have been shown that the Church is singular and not plural (just as St. Paul teaches in Ephesians 4:4-6), that the oneness of the Church has always been proclaimed and believed, it’s history traceable through the Apostolic Sees and thus can be seen and found.

The question obviously arises then as to what exactly ‘the Church’ is; the answer being found in Colossians 1:18 and Ephesians 1:22-23 where we are told that the Church is the Body of Christ. With this answer it is obvious why it matters whether or not one belongs to the Church of the Apostles as opposed to the ideology of Martin Luther, Menno Simon, Klaas Reimer, or Ray Duerksen: because if you don’t belong to the Apostolic Church, you are not apart of the Body of Christ.

Luther’s Redefinition

The historic belief in the oneness, catholicity and Apostolic authority of the Church can be clearly seen amongst the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, especially St. Ignatius of Antioch’s (himself a student of St. John the Apostle) Epistle to the Smyrnaeans; this, coupled with the fact that traditional Protestants accepted the authority of the Ecumenical Councils one has to wonder when the modern Protestant misunderstanding of the Church diverged from the historic understanding of the Orthodox Church, and for this it would be best to begin where the Protestants began: the Roman Catholic heresy.

As stated above, up until relatively recent times everyone (Orthodox, schismatics, heretics etc.) believed that outside the Church there was no salvation, membership being attained via baptism (with membership being distinct from salvation, but baptism necessary for salvation), that their church was the Church, and the relationship between the Church and others was one of schism, heresy, a combination of both, or excommunication/anathema. So in 1054 when the Roman Patriarchate separated from the Pentarchy it still considered itself apart of the Church, and eventually as ‘the Church.’

This was the idea believed by Martin Luther when he began his protest against the Roman Catholic heresy: he had no plan to found a new ‘Church/church’ (which was impossible, since the Church is one, as he confessed in the Papist distortion of the Symbol of Faith), but rather to correct what he perceived were errors the Roman Catholic religion was making; therefore, when he was excommunicated on January 3rd, 1521 he found himself—despite his alleged belief in Sola fide—without the possibility of salvation.

It did not take Luther long to find a way around the situation he found himself in. Following his excommunication, while he was hiding out at the Wartburg Castle between May 1521 and March 1522, he redefined not just what the Church was (the Apostolic Body of Christ now became “the company of believing people”) but also where it could be found (“where his [Christ’s] believers are” as opposed to where the Apostolic Sees are). This word-play ensured for himself the possibility of salvation because he continued to believe—as all had, and as he himself continued to preach after his excommunication via his Wartburg Postil (1922)—that “outside of the [Catholic] church there is no truth, no Christ, no salvation.”

Clark Carlton, in the second volume of his catechism series, The Way, makes Luther’s redefinition very clear,

Martin Luther did not voluntarily leave the Roman Catholic Church; he was excommunicated. Once he found himself on the outside looking in, however, he was forced to rethink the very definition of the Church.

Because Luther had been excommunicated by the institutional Church, he immediately took aim at the very idea of the Church as an institution:

For this self-authenticating Church, Luther would substitute a Church composed of those who hear and accept God’s Word. He even held that the term “kirche should be discarded . . . [and] replaced by the word gemeinde [community, congregation] [now, doesn’t that word look familiar?-Thomas S.],” the idea being that the authoritative institution would give way to a group of Christians who gather themselves about the Word.

More than a thousand years before Luther’s Reformation, St. Augustine had said, “For my part, I should not believe the Gospel except as moved by the authority of the catholic Church” For him, as for the other Fathers of the early Church, the truth of the Gospel was confirmed by the living experience of the Church which is Christ’s very Body upon earth, animated by the Holy Spirit. Luther, however, turned St. Augustine’s theology of the Church on its head. For him, it is the Word—that is, the Gospel of grace and sola fide, not the actual text of the Bible—that validates the Church.

In order to justify his distinction between the true Church and an earthly institution, Luther invoked the distinction made by St. Augustine between the visible and invisible Church. Augustine developed his theory in response to the Donatist heresy, which was plaguing the Church in North Africa. The Donatists argued that the validity of the sacraments—indeed the very legitimacy of the Church herself—was dependent upon the moral purity of the clergy. Thus those leaders who had lapsed under persecution had, according to the Donatists, polluted the whole Church. The Donatists thus created their own, “pure” church. St. Augustine argued that the holiness and legitimacy of the Church was due to the holiness of Christ, not the holiness of Her several members. His famous statement that there may be some in the Church who are not truly in the Church and some outside who will ultimately be revealed as being truly in the Church was meant to safeguard the legitimacy of the historical, catholic Church—in opposition to the claims of the Donatist counter-church.

Once again, however, Luther turned St. Augustine’s theology upside down [here in the text Carlton gives a relevant footnote for us: “Jaroslav Pelikan, who is himself a Lutheran [at the time The Way was published, 1997, he was. The late Pelikan, however, converted to Orthodox Christianity in 1998] and the editor of the English edition of Luther’s Collected Works, emphasizes this point: “This definition of the church as the ‘number of the predestined’ was to figure prominently in the polemics of the late Middle Ages and the Reformation against the institutional [Roman] church, but in Augustine’s theology it had precisely the opposite function.” Emergence, p. 303.”]. Whereas Augustine sought to safeguard the unity of the empirical Church, Luther used the distinction in order to degrade the concept of the empirical Church and emphasize instead the non-historical, invisible Church (. . .)

Because one mark of the Church is the validity of its saving knowledge, it becomes extremely important for Luther to distinguish between the true Church of the Word and the Church of mere outward form. Using the Augustinian formula of invisible Church as opposed to visible Church, the great Reformer is able to claim that “the essence, life, and nature of Christendom is not a bodily assembly but an assembly of hearts in one faith.” It would be difficult to imagine a more docetic view of the Church [here in the text Carlton gives another relevant footnote for us: “Lee, p. 57. Docetism is the heresy that the Word of God did not truly take upon Himself human flesh. Therefore, his humanity is in appearance only, not in reality. Thus, according to Lee, this idea of Luther’s discarnates the Church as the Docetists tried to discarnate Christ.”].

There is a considerable degree of irony here, however. For, when Luther was confronted with the reality of the religion he described in theory, he reacted against it vehemently. Luther was not only vexed by the Roman Catholic Church that had excommunicated him, but also by Anabaptists, who insisted on putting into practice the idea that the Church was a community gathered by the Word.

In many respects the Anabaptists were simply trying to live according to the theological principles by which Luther justified his revolt against the Roman Church. Their complaint with Luther, as Philip Lee observes, was that he was inconsistent.

Luther redefined what “the Church” was to him, and his definition of the ‘invisible Church of those who hear and accept God’s Word’ has stayed with us to the present day, bringing us all the way through history from Germany to the question asked by my step-sister-in-law in present-day Manitoba, Canada, and thus has lead us back to what started this blog entry in the first place: would a pastor reading/studying the Bible and having revelations from God be in the Church?

Modern Confusion Due to Multiculturalism and the Heresy of Ecumenism

The reason why a question such as the one which leads to this blog post could even be asked after all the history has been sought through is due to multiculturalism (at least in Canada; cultural pluralism in the USA) and the heresy of the Ecumenical Movement. The many ways that this is clearly seen are diverse—through mixed marriages, converts, and even cradle Orthodox being secularised—yet all lead to the same confusion in correct ecclesiology.

The problem with multiculturalism when it comes to religion is that most (all?) cultures have some religion connected to them, the culture being more the reason for the perpetuation of the religion—especially when (eventually) most of those within a culture no longer believe in the culture’s dominant religion, which is why when people ‘switch churches’ it’s rarely very ‘far’ from where they started: Mennonites and Baptists become Evangelicals and/or Non-Denominationalists; Lutherans and Anglicans become Catholics; Catholics become Orthodox, Lutheran, or Anglican; Orthodox become Catholics etc.. A good example: I know a man who confesses the truth of Orthodoxy, but being Italian and Catholic, won’t convert—because he is Italian! The point being that culture reinforces one’s earliest religion through the food, the religious music, and the memories of going to services with one’s grandmother so on and so forth: it’s sentimental. And for most, that’s enough to stay put.

Most of us living today no doubt have grown up in the shadow of the Ecumenical Movement, with the Movement’s origins in the early twentieth-century it had already taken root and begun to spread by the time most of us reading this were even conceived. The problem with Ecumenism—and where its link to multiculturalism is most visible—arises when we see mixed marriages within the Church, as well as when we receive converts from amongst the heterodox; due to the Ecumenical Movement the zeitgeist—or our “Sitz im Leben,” if you will—that is indoctrinated upon all who are unaware of the theology behind the impetus of the Ecumenical Movement makes it next to impossible to extricate ones mind from the dominant worldview, which is that we all worship the same God (Muslims too), that the issue of salvation outside the Church is a non-issue because we are all in the Church, and dogma in unimportant because unity is what matters most.

The most difficult topic to deal with that arises from mixed-marriages and the reception of converts from amongst the heterodox ultimately ends up being the very issues which result in Ecumenism being seen for the heresy that it is: ecclesiology and soteriology. The theology upon which Ecumenism stands on, and of which most are unaware, is in Protestant missiology. From this cornerstone, the ‘invisible church’ ecclesiology of the Reformers ironically becomes ‘visible’ through the redefinition of ‘the Church’ detailed above, the redefinition of which is so important to the heterodox as it was for Luther because outside ‘the Church’ there is no salvation. This directly leads us to soteriology as it concerns those who form mixed-marriages and heterodox converts, both of whom will obviously have family and friends who by the historical and Orthodox Christian definition would be outside the Church; however, with the inextricably linked ecclesiology and soteriology at the root of Ecumenism they’re all good, bro—provided they at least belong to what we used to refer to as the ‘Judeo-Christian tradition,’ but now politically correct and ecumenically proper call ‘Abrahamic religions.’

Outro – A Matter of Soteriology

What initially started out as a question of ecclesiology is, as I hope has been made clear, actually a matter of soteriology. The ecclesiology of Martin Luther was an afterthought to his soteriology, and ultimately so—because when he redefined the soteriology of the Roman Catholic religion he was still in that religion of which he believed to be ‘the Church,’ one, holy, catholic (‘Christian’ in German), and Apostolic. While he was still in communion with Rome his understanding of what ‘the Church’ was had not had to be reconsidered, because his ecclesiology was the same as Rome’s; however, following his excommunication ecclesiology became a pressing issue of utmost importance for his soteriology, because as he himself has said: to find Christ one must find the Church first.

It is the reality of living in the historical fall-out of such theological difficulties that most converts to Orthodoxy don’t realize, and of which most of whom are looked to for guidance don’t as well, such as cradle Orthodox and clergy. Ultimately such a cavalier attitude about the Church comes down to the difference between the Orthodox Christian Church’s affirmation of Her belief in Herself consistently through two millenniums, and the Protestant uncertain ecclesiology which has lead to all the fragmentation we see today of which they sweep aside with the axiom “unity in diversity.”

But then, as we let this sink in, perhaps we come to think that if Luther’s ecclesiology was (and is) such a hastily assembled house of cards, maybe his soteriology before his excommunication was built upon sand and not upon the rock? The implications of such a question are far-reaching and nothing short of spiritually devastating if true.

Postface & Further Reading

This false ecclesiology can be seen implemented timeline of the Reformation.

The Reformation is over. Protestants won. So why are we still here?

[The three below can be found here]

Metropolitan PHILARET of blessed memory, former First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, from his First Sorrowful Epistle

Perhaps somebody will say that times have changed, and heresies now are not so malicious and destructive as in the days of the Ecumenical Councils. But are those Protestants who renounce the veneration of the Theotokos and the Saints, who do not recognize the grace of the hierarchy,—or the Roman Catholics, who have invented new errors,—are they nearer to the Orthodox Church than the Arians or Semi-Arians?

Let us grant that modern preachers of heresy are not so belligerent towards the Orthodox Church as the ancient ones were. However, that is not because their doctrines are nearer to Orthodox teaching, but because Protestantism and Ecumenism have built up in them the conviction that there is no One and True Church on earth, but only communities of men who are in varying degrees of error. Such a doctrine kills any zeal in professing what they take to be the truth, and therefore modern heretics appear to be less obdurate than the ancient ones. But such indifference to truth is in many respects worse than the capacity to be zealous in defense of an error mistaken for truth. Pilate, who said “What is truth?” could not be converted; but Saul, the persecutor of Christianity, became the Apostle Paul. That is why we read in the Book of Revelation the menacing words to the Angel of the Church of Laodicea: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (iii. 15-16).

From “An Open Letter to the Orthodox Hierarchy”, by Fr. Michael Azkoul

Of course, the heresy of the Papists and Protestants is a clear affirmation of the Orthodox Church as the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” as declared the Council of Constantinople (1672), the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs (1848), the Council of Constantinople (1872), the Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895, the Holy Russian Synod of 1904, and the memorable words of [the] Patriarch of Constantinople, Joachim II, “Our desire is that all heretics shall come to the bosom of the Orthodox Church of Christ which alone is able to give them salvation …” (in Chrestos Androutsos, The Basis for Union… Constantinople, 1905, p. 36).”

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIV, No. 2&3, 26

[In response to a question from a student at St. Vladimir’s Seminary …] Second, let us see what a “contemporary” Father of the Church—one who was awarded an honorary doctorate by your seminary, incidentally—has to say, in keeping with the true consensus of our Orthodox Patristic tradition, about the heterodox. In his essay, “Attributes of the Church” (Orthodox Life, Vol. XXXI, No. 1 [Jan.-Feb. 1981], p. 29), the Blessed Archimandrite Justin (Popovich) writes:

From time to time, heretics and schismatics have cut themselves off and have fallen away from the One and indivisible Church of Christ, whereby they ceased to be members of the Church and parts of Her Theanthropic Body. The first to fall away thus were the Gnostics, then the Arians, then the Macedonians, then the Monophysites, then the Iconoclasts, then the Roman Catholics, then the Protestants, then the Uniates, and so on—all the members of the legion of heretics and schismatics.

[Please reach out to me if you see any errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, dogma, and theology. Thank you.] 

That Which Has Been Believed Everywhere, Always And By All: The Perpetual Virginity of the Theotokos

Ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ καὶ τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς.
-GNT-PT Πράξεις 2·42

“The Fathers formed dogmas on the basis of their experiences of theosis, and not after philosophical reflection on what is mentioned in the Bible.”
-Protopresbyter John Romanides, Patristic Theology

It is common for people raised with a Western φρόνημα to look to Scripture in search of a counter to why heterodox faith traditions don’t believe certain tenets of the Orthodox Christian Faith. This is even more compounded when said people do not know Koine Greek and instead are forced to use Protestant translations of the Scriptures into English (which is itself a Protestant language, which further adds to the problem of arriving at a correct hermeneutic).

The problem boils down to one thing: the approach is wrong. Orthodox Christians have never derived any dogma from Scripture; Scripture is the written record of the dogma which existed prior to it being written down. In the history of the Orthodox Church, it was always heresies that based their teachings on a novel extraction of portions of Scripture. We can see this with Gnosticism’s eisegesis of Scripture (q.v., St. Irenaeus), the Roman Catholic heresy of the filioque from St. John 20:22, Martin Luther’s novel doctrine eisegeted out of the Latin of Romans 1:16-17 (yes, novel. This why Philip Melanchthon had to strike out at the Church Fathers: this (new) doctrine is absent from them; therefore they were in error and Luther a prophet) and complicated further with his addition of “allein” in his German translation from the Koine Greek Textus Receptus. The sad irony in all this is that Luther himself believed in the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos, which is the topic of this post.

Failing to find Scriptural support in an English translation of Scripture for one’s ἀπολογία, one is forced into choosing a branch of theology as a hermeneutic. The thing is that no ἀπολογία is needed for the approach is off. For example, the Church has always believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. When has She not? Even Luther knew this, and he knew it not from Scripture but from <<τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει>> (GNT-PT Ἰούδα 3), for it was “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” (Vincentian Canon).

It is sometimes said as an argument against the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos that it is not found in Scripture; hence the teaching was arrived at via a typological exegesis of the Septuagint; the problem with this is twofold. 1., it is indeed found in Scripture (even the great Greek grammarian, Baptist A.T. Robertson was mistaken on this—but this was because he fell into the fallacy that doctrine is built from Scripture rather than Scripture being the written record of a part of the Faith). And 2., as I have already stated, the teaching is not based upon arguments from Scripture, thus whether or not it is “found” in Scripture doesn’t even matter. This last point will become very clear when we get to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Colbert below.

To elaborate upon No. 1., in the New Testament it isn’t explicit, but it is definitely clear in the Greek: καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν ἕως οὗ ἔτεκε τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐκάλεσε τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν. (Most?) Protestants look to ἕως and commit an exegetical fallacy by usually saying something like “ἕως means ‘until'” (C.S. Lewis would lose his shirt over this), and then also forget all the other uses of ἕως where it is very clear that it does not refer to a terminus, for example, Matthew 20:28 διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ᾿ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος. Ἀμήν. At the end of the aeon Christ leaves us? Further, in Matthew 1:25 above ἐγίνωσκεν is in the imperfect active indicative, so past continuous, not simple past (aorist). To quote Zerwick, “ἐ-γίνωσκεν impf of duration: ἕως would require constative aor. (§253) if indicating termination of action” (Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1974), 2).

Also, many Greek and even Latin Fathers are clear on the grammar, see for example Sts. Chrysostom & Jerome. Going by an English translation, then yes typology definitely makes the perpetual virginity more clear; however, in the Greek vis-à-vis Greek, it is clear.

To elaborate on No. 2. I quote St. Vincent of Lerins,

(1) I have continually given the greatest pains and diligence to inquiring, from the greatest possible number of men outstanding in holiness and in doctrine, how I can secure a kind of fixed and, as it were, general and guiding principle for distinguishing the true Catholic Faith from the degraded falsehoods of heresy. And the answer that I receive is always to this effect; that if I wish, or indeed if anyone wishes, to detect the deceits of heretics that arise and to avoid their snares and to keep healthy and sound in a healthy faith, we ought, with the Lord’s help, to fortify our faith in a twofold manner, firstly, that is, by the authority of God’s Law, then by the tradition of the Catholic Church.

(2) Here, it may be, someone will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and is in itself abundantly sufficient, what need is there to join to it the interpretation of the Church? The answer is that because of the very depth of Scripture all men do not place one identical interpretation upon it. The statements of the same writer are explained by different men in different ways, so much so that it seems almost possible to extract from it as many opinions as there are men. Novatian expounds in one way, Sabellius in another, Donatus in another, Arius, Eunomius and Macedonius in another, Photinus, Apollinaris and Priscillian in another, Jovinian, Pelagius and Caelestius in another, and latterly Nestorius in another. Therefore, because of the intricacies of error, which is so multiform, there is great need for the laying down of a rule for the exposition of Prophets and Apostles in accordance with the standard of the interpretation of the Church Catholic.

(3) Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly ‘Catholic,’ as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality [i.e. oecumenicity], antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.

(4) What then will the Catholic Christian do, if a small part of the Church has cut itself off from the communion of the universal Faith? The answer is sure. He will prefer the healthiness of the whole body to the morbid and corrupt limb. But what if some novel contagion try to infect the whole Church, and not merely a tiny part of it? Then he will take care to cleave to antiquity, which cannot now be led astray by any deceit of novelty. What if in antiquity itself two or three men, or it may be a city, or even a whole province be detected in error? Then he will take the greatest care to prefer the decrees of the ancient General Councils, if there are such, to the irresponsible ignorance of a few men. But what if some error arises regarding which nothing of this sort is to be found? Then he must do his best to compare the opinions of the Fathers and inquire their meaning, provided always that, though they belonged to diverse times and places, they yet continued in the faith and communion of the one Catholic Church; and let them be teachers approved and outstanding. And whatever he shall find to have been held, approved and taught, not by one or two only but by all equally and with one consent, openly, frequently, and persistently, let him take this as to be held by him without the slightest hesitation.

The Chuch Fathers didn’t believe what they believed because they extracted it second hand from intellectual grappling of Scripture. To be sure, my point is that the belief in the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos is not derived from Scripture, rather it is known experientially by all baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians through the Holy Tradition, guided by the Holy Ghost in the Church. Just to be clear, I’m not arguing against typology as a hermeneutic, in fact, I think it is great. But by the same token, we need to keep in mind that the Fathers actually knew the language in which their writings and those of our Scriptures were written in—Greek and Latin.

This issue reminds me of a video I saw recently where Ricky Gervais and Stephen Colbert go head-to-head on religion. I have no clue who Ricky Gervais is other than that he is an atheist who shows up in memes on social media, but he said something here that is relevant to my point. He said that if all the holy books were destroyed, in a thousand years they wouldn’t come back as the same texts. This, of course, is only a problem for Protestants and atheists; for Gervais the reason why is explicit in the video, and for Protestants because their dogma is based upon various Reformers eisegesis of a specific “holy book.” Remove the book, and all you have is a dead false prophet.

For us in the Orthodox Church, however, you would have to remove all of us who make up the Church: we who live Tradition guided by the Holy Ghost. This truth is so well known that even throughout history this is exactly what has been attempted: in the Roman Empire, by the Muslim Turks, by the Bolsheviks, and now in our own times by legislating Postmodernism’s anti-Logos ideology via identity politics, and through sharia creep via “social justice.”

Further Reading

The Ever-Virginity of the Mother of God By Fr. John Hainsworth

The Eastern/Greek Orthodox Bible, “Appendix E: Mark 6:3—The ‘Brothers’ of the Lord”

An Orthodox Hermeneutic by Fr. Stephen Freeman

Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament: An Essential Resource for Exegesis by Murray J. Harris, “Chapter 24. Notable Uses of Selected “Improper” Prepositions, E. ῞Εως οὗ–Matthew 1:25,” pp. 262-263

Defending the Vincentian Canon “Everywhere, Always, and By All” — A Response to Outlaw Presbyterianism by Robert Arakaki

A Protestant Defense of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity By Brantly Millegan

Interview with Charles Lee Irons: Syntax, Exegesis, and Forthcoming

Mary’s Virginity and its Perpetuity in Biblical Typology By Rdr. Isaac G.

Why is Mary Considered Ever-Virgin?

Toll Houses

I had an old post about this topic, where I began to compile all references to this subject. I’ll post the whole thing here:

Aerial Toll Houses (3rd Version, as of Friday 11 March AD 2016)

Here is a list of people that I have found through my own studies–and not from reading what someone else read–who believe the toll houses to be either literal and/or figurative/metaphorical:

circa 580-662 – St. Maximus the Confessor – L

“The Logos . . . reduce[d] to impotence the hostile powers that fill the intermediary region between heaven and earth . . . ” –On the Lord’s Prayer (circa 628-630

circa 7th century – St. Theodoros the Great Ascetic  – L & F

b1815-d1894 – St. Theophan the Recluse – L

b1896-d1966 – St. John (Maximovitch) the Wonderworker – L

b1897/1898-d1959 – Elder Joseph the Hesychast – L

b1934-d1982 – Fr. Seraphim Rose – L & F

The Soul After Death by Fr. Seraphim Rose

b1934-d2015 – Fr. Thomas Hopko –  Allegory of a reality?

“Toll Houses: After Death Reality of Heresy?” (audio & transcript)

present day – Metropolitan Kallistos Ware – L & F

present day – Rdr. Thomas Sandberg – L & F

Upon release of The Departure of the Soul According to the Teaching of the Orthodox Church I thought for sure the topic was closed, and all the Ecumenists, converts, and academic theologians would surely take a pause and reevaluate their error, especially in light of the endorsements of many Bishops.

I, of course, was wrong. Instead, those above have enough pride to say it is those exact same Bishops who endorse the book who are wrong. Such is the case with Paul Ladouceur’s book review posted on the Ancient Faith blog “Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy,” entitled Orthodox Theologies of the Afterlife: Review of “The Departure of the Soul.” Two things are of interest here with this book review, 1. Ladoucer—this is not meant to be an ad hominem attack on him—is an Ecumenist and academic theologian. 2. Ancient Faith, under whose umbrella the review is posted, also sells the book in question, which should give one pause.

I’m not going to go through his review and dissect his errors, of which there are many, as I’m sure the more astute readers will be commenting in the comment section, giving Fr. Damick much to defend Ladouceur over. Instead, I will point my readers to a much better and honest review of the book written by Fr. Lawrence Farley on his Ancient Faith blog “No Other Foundation” and published on June 11th, 2017, entitled Book Review: The Departure of the Soul; also, read the comments therein.

In closing, I would like to point out to my readers that Paul Ladouceur is employed by the Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College, which “was established with the blessing of His Grace Irénée, Bishop of Ottawa and Canada, Orthodox Church in America.” This is important because as far as I know Ladouceur is a member of the OCA, and His Grace Irénée’s endorsement of the book Ladouceur essentially calls heretical for it’s “ecclesiology” can be found on page 19 of the book in question.

Smile For the Picture

I feel as though it’s always “been a difficult couple of weeks,” and it has left me worrying about the future of the Church. Very common talk appears to be towards the secular understanding of human sexuality at the expense of the Orthodox understanding, shorter services, doing away with Koine Greek, American Leftist politics, Ecumenism, and cremation. All towards the acceptance of the aforementioned, a complete rejecting of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (and much other Scripture and patristic references) and a bold trust in the fallen Self-girded together with the unvoiced heresy of modernism—the belief that the Church is in error and one’s thoughts are not.

The thought that one’s thoughts are actually one’s own and not the result of the demonic’s zeitgeist-societal programming from the day of birth never occurs to most people, and why would it? Their φρόνημα is not that of the Church, and the whole concept of co-crucifixion with Christ in order to metamorphose and recapitulate the fallen Self is absent; it is no longer ‘come as you are but don’t leave as you came.’ It is now ‘come as you are and remain the same, the Church will change and legitimise my sins.’

The problem with moving the boundary, with the liberal application of οἰκονομία, is that what is οἰκονομία now becomes the new standard of ἀκρίβεια later, and this has been progressively happening since the legalisation of Orthodox Christianity in the 4th century, and to all those who doubt this I point you to Chapter 7 of Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, and this here and here.

Now here is a nice song to cheer you up

Descent-of-Modernists-268x300

Evolution & Theodicy​

Last night I came across a recently posted question in the Eastern Orthodox Biblical & Theological Discussion group on Facebook. For the most part, the question remained unanswered, devolving into those who hold a black-and-white understanding of Scripture and the Fathers’ hermeneutics of Scripture vs. those who face no fear in approaching higher levels of comprehension. Or, as St. Paul wrote in Κορινθίους ά 3·1-3 (GNT-EPT),

“ΚΑΙ ἐγώ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἠδυνήθην ὑμῖν λαλῆσαι ὡς πνευματικοῖς, ἀλλ᾿ ὡς σαρκικοῖς, ὡς νηπίοις ἐν Χριστῷ.

γάλα ὑμᾶς ἐπότισα καὶ οὐ βρῶμα. οὔπω γὰρ ἠδύνασθε. ἀλλ᾿ οὔτε ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε· ἔτι γὰρ σαρκικοί ἐστε. ὅπου γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις καὶ διχοστασίαι, οὐχὶ σαρκικοί ἐστε καὶ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον περιπατεῖτε;”

Or as he wrote in Ἑβραίους 5·12-14 (GNT-EPT)

“καὶ γὰρ ὀφείλοντες εἶναι διδάσκαλοι διὰ τὸν χρόνον, πάλιν χρείαν ἔχετε τοῦ διδάσκειν ὑμᾶς τίνα τὰ στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογίων τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ γεγόνατε χρείαν ἔχοντες γάλακτος καὶ οὐ στερεᾶς τροφῆς. πᾶς γὰρ ὁ μετέχων γάλακτος ἄπειρος λόγου δικαιοσύνης· νήπιος γάρ ἐστι· τελείων δέ ἐστιν ἡ στερεὰ τροφή, τῶν διὰ τὴν ἕξιν τὰ αἰσθητήρια γεγυμνασμένα ἐχόντων πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ.”

I encourage those who might object to my position to read the Patristic comments on the above and to keep in mind regarding the topic of this post that science and our Faith were not mutually exclusive.

The question was, “I have a question for this group, does the Eastern Orthodox teaching on evil and ancestral sin require the belief in or the existence of an historical Adam and Eve as the parents of all people alive today?” It brought to mind a picture I saw on Instagram last year:

One of the better arguments out there.  #Atheist #Godless #GodisNotGreat #GodlessUtopia #Islam #GodisDead #GodIsNotDead #Jesus #Mohammed #Christian #Atheism #RichardDawkins #SamHarris #ChristopherHitchens #AlbertEinstein #StephenHawking #CarlSagan #NeildeGrasseTyson #TheThinkingAtheist #Bible #Koran #Science #Skepticism #NoGod #AntiReligion #Humanist #Scientist #Quran #Torah
To actually answer the Facebook question, no; furthermore, there is a flaw in the arguments presented above with the quote and Instagram post. I believe the argument(s) contain a formal fallacy of affirming the disjunct; the crux of the argument—and the heart of the question—is that it was necessary for Christ to incarnate, which is to place on God our fallen human view of the situation, i.e., action/reaction. But we know that God does nothing out of necessity, and from this premise, you will find among some Orthodox theologians and Church Fathers the belief that the incarnation was to happen all along and that it wasn’t necessitated by the Fall.
Further Reading

The Light Shineth in Darkness: Dualism

On our way home the other day from Waterton Lakes National Park in South-Western Alberta my wife and I stopped in the village of Storthoaks, Saskatchewan to see what one of my best friends was doing there.

It turns out he decided that he was done living where he had been living, packed up very few belongings and left. Ended up Saskatchewan, fell into helping a guy do some work on a house, was going to get some money from there and then proceed to go to wherever it is that he decides to go to, leaving me to wonder just when I’m ever going to see him again.

During our long and various discussion(s) he mentioned something to the effect that the world was balanced, the whole dark/light dualism that we hear about from lapsed-Western Catholics/Protestants who upon leaving the West travel so far East they pass over the Eastern Orthodox Church and find themselves diving head-first into Oriental paganism. I mentioned that in Star Wars that may be the case, but in Christianity there is only Light, to which he countered quoting John 1:5, “the light shines in the darkness.”

I could see the faulty exegesis of his here; put unfairly simple, the verse mentions both light and darkness; hence you have yin/yang; he even mentioned the Tao somewhere along the line that afternoon. So let’s look at the correct understanding of John 1:5 for a moment as a preface to a long quote addressing duality specifically which I’ll end this post with.

John 1:5 in the Patriarchal Text reads: καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. On this verse, the great Greek grammarian and Southern Baptist A.T. Robertson wrote:

5. Shineth (phainei). Linear present active indicative of phainō, old verb from phaō, to shine (phaos, phōs). “The light keeps on giving light.” In the darkness (en tēi skotiāi). Late word for the common skotos (kin to skia, shadow). An evident allusion to the darkness brought on by sin. In 2 Peter 2:17 we have ho zophos tou skotou (the blackness of darkness). The Logos, the only real moral light, keeps on shining both in the Pre-incarnate state and after the Incarnation. John is fond of skotia (skotos) for moral darkness from sin and phōs (phōtizō, phainō) for the light that is in Christ alone. In 1 John 2:8 he proclaims that “the darkness is passing by and the true light is already shining.” The Gnostics often employed these words and John takes them and puts them in the proper place. Apprehended it not (auto ou katelaben). Second aorist active indicative of katalambanō, old verb to lay hold of, to seize. This very phrase occurs in John 12:35 (hina mē skotia humas katalabēi) “that darkness overtake you not,” the metaphor of night following day and in 1 Thess. 5:4 the same idiom (hina katalabēi) is used of day overtaking one as a thief. This is the view of Origen and appears also in 2Macc. 8:18. The same word appears in Aleph D in John 6:17 katelabe de autous hē skotia (“but darkness overtook them,” came down on them). Hence, in spite of the Vulgate comprehenderunt, “overtook” or “overcame” seems to be the idea here. The light kept on shining in spite of the darkness that was worse than a London fog as the Old Testament and archaeological discoveries in Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Crete, Asia Minor show.

A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2001), paragraph 5880.

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and from the so-called “paleo-orthodox” Protestant compilation of Patristic comments edited by United Methodist Thomas C. Owen:

1:5a The Light Shines in the Darkness

THE LIGHT AND GIVER OF LIGHT. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: The most wise Evangelist now expands the thought expressed above. . . . Not only is the Word of God indeed truly light, but he is also the giver of light to all whom he infuses with the light of understanding. COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 1.7.

A BLIND PERSON CANNOT SEE THE SUN’S LIGHT. AUGUSTINE: But perhaps the foolish hearts cannot receive that light because they are so encumbered with sins that they cannot see it. Let them not on that account think that the light is in any way absent, because they are not able to see it. For they, because of their sins, are darkness. . . . For suppose, as in the case of a blind person placed in the sun, the sun is present to him, but he is absent from the sun. This is how every foolish person, every unjust person, every irreligious person is blind in heart. Wisdom is present, but it is present to a blind person and is absent from his eyes; not because it is absent from him but because he is absent from it. What then is he to do? Let him become pure, that he may be able to see God. TRACTATES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 1.19.

DARKNESS IS NOT AN IRREVOCABLE PART OF OUR NATURE. ORIGEN: People are not [darkness] by nature, since Paul says, “For we were once darkness but now are light in the Lord,” and this is especially the case if we are now called saints and spiritual. Just as Paul, although he was darkness, became capable of becoming light in the Lord, so may anyone who was once darkness. COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 2.134.

CHRIST OVERCOMES OUR PRISON OF DARKNESS. ISAAC OF NINEVEH: Let us not be troubled when we are plunged into darkness, especially if we are not the cause of it ourselves. For this darkness is brought about by divine providence for reasons that are known only to God. Our soul becomes suffocated and placed, as it were, in the middle of a storm system. Even if someone tries to approach Scripture—or whatever he approaches, it is only darkness on darkness that he finds instead that causes him to give up. How often is it that he is not even allowed to approach. He is totally incapable of believing that any other possibilities are out there that might give him some peace again. It is an hour filled with despair and fear! The soul is utterly deprived of hope in God and the consolation of faith. It is entirely filled with doubt and fear.

But those who have been tested by the distress of such an hour know that in the end it is followed by a change. God never leaves the soul for a whole day in such a state, otherwise it would lose life and all Christian hope. . . . Rather, he allows it to emerge very soon from the darkness. Blessed is he who endures such temptations. For, as the Fathers say, great will be the stability and the strength to which he will come after that. This struggle will not be over all at once, however; neither will grace come and dwell in the soul completely at once, but gradually. After grace, the trial returns. Sometimes there is temptation, sometimes consolation. . . . We do not expect complete deliverance from it here, nor do we expect complete consolation. ASCETICAL HOMILY 48.

1:5b Darkness Does Not Overcome Light

DARKNESS DOES NOT PREVENT LIGHT FROM BEING SEEN. AMBROSE: The person who supposes that he is protected by the darkness is vain, since he cannot escape the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness grasped it not. Accordingly, he is discovered like a fugitive and a wicked hireling and is recognized before he can conceal himself. For all things are known to the Lord before he seeks them out, not only past events but also those that are to come. THE PRAYER OF JOB AND DAVID 1.3.6.

THE LIGHT IS CHASED BY THE DARKNESS. GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS: The light shines in darkness, in this life and in the flesh, and is chased by the darkness but is not overtaken by it. By this I mean the adverse power leaping up in its shamelessness against the visible Adam but encountering God and being defeated—in order that we, putting away the darkness, may draw near to the Light and may then become perfect Light, the children of perfect Light. ON THE HOLY LIGHTS, ORATION 39.2.

DARKNESS GOES ON THE OFFENSIVE. ORIGEN: Christ, because of the benefit that follows for humankind, took our darkness on himself that by his power he might destroy our death and completely destroy the darkness in our soul so that what Isaiah said might be fulfilled: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.”

This light, indeed, that was made in the Word, which also is life, “shines in the darkness” of our souls. It has come to stay where the world rulers of this darkness live. They by wrestling with the human race struggle to subject those who do not stand firm in every manner to darkness. He comes that, when they have been enlightened, they may be called children of light. And this light shines in the darkness and is pursued by it, but it is not overcome. . . .

The darkness pursued this light, as is clear from what our Savior and his children suffer. The darkness fighting against the children of light wanted to chase the light away. However, if “God is for us,” no one will be able to be “against us.” . . .

Now there are two ways that the darkness did not overcome the light. The darkness is either left very far behind it and, because it is slow, cannot keep up with the swiftness of the flight of light even to a limited extent, or, perhaps the light wanted to set an ambush for the darkness and awaited its approach and when the darkness drew near the light it was destroyed. COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 2.166–70.

DARKNESS CANNOT COMPREHEND THE LIGHT. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: “Darkness” is what John calls the nature that lacks illumination, that is, the whole originate nature. . . . For such a nature produces nothing on its own. Instead, it receives its whole being and well-being, such as it is, from its creator. This is why Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” And since, along with the rest, it receives its light from God, not possessing it on its own, it receives it. But that which does not have light of itself cannot be called anything but “darkness.” The fact that “the Light shines in darkness” is a credible demonstration (in fact, one following from very necessity) that the creation is “darkness” while the Word of God is “Light.” For if the nature of things originate receives the Word of God by participation, as Light, or as of Light, it receives it then since it is inherently darkness, and the Son “shines in it” as “the light” shines in “darkness,” even though the darkness has no idea of the light’s existence. For this, I suppose, is the meaning of “the darkness did not comprehend it.” For the Word of God shines upon all things that are receptive to his radiance and illumines without exception things that have a nature that is receptive to being illumined. But [the Word of God] is unknown by “the darkness.” For that which is the rational nature upon earth, I mean humanity, “served the creature more than the Creator: it did not comprehend the Light,” for it did not know the Creator, the fountain of wisdom, the beginning of understanding, the root of sense. Nevertheless, because of his love for humankind, things originate possess the light and are provided with the power of perception implanted concurrently with their passing into being. COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 1.7.

THIS PROLOGUE SHOULD BE ENGRAVED IN GOLD IN EVERY CHURCH. AUGUSTINE: The old saint Simplicianus, afterwards bishop of Milan, used to tell me that a certain Platonist was in the habit of saying that this opening passage of the holy Gospel, entitled “According to John,” should be written in letters of gold and hung up in all churches in the most conspicuous place. CITY OF GOD 10.29.

Joel C. Elowsky, ed., John 1-10, ACCS 4a; ICCS/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 26-28.

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It is evident then that the darkness St. John wrote about is not a thing in its suchness (Tathātā), not the yin part of the yin-yang symbol. But rather the darkness that St. John is referring to “indicates both spiritual ignorance and satanic opposition to the light,” as notes in The Orthodox Study Bible put it.

Showing that my friend’s exegesis was wrong doesn’t mean that his proposition wasn’t correct; however, it is in fact incorrect. And the following from the Anglican C.S. Lewis demonstrates this clearly,

A universe that contains much that is obviously bad and apparently meaningless, but containing creatures like ourselves who know that it is bad and meaningless. There are only two views that face all the facts. One is the Christian view that this is a good world that has gone wrong, but still retains the memory of what it ought to have been. The other is the view called Dualism. Dualism means the belief that there are two equal and independent powers at the back of every thing, one of them good and the other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight out an endless war. I personally think that next to Christianity Dualism is the manliest and most sensible creed on the market. But it has a catch in it.

The two powers, or spirits, or gods–the good one and the bad one–are supposed to be quite independent. They both existed from all eternity. Neither of them made the other, neither of them has any more right than the other to call itself God. Each presumably thinks it is good and thinks the other bad. One of them likes hatred and cruelty, the other likes love and mercy, and each backs its own view. Now what do we mean when we call one of them the Good Power and the other the Bad Power? Either we are merely saying that we happen to prefer the one to the other–like preferring beer to cider–or else we are saying that, whatever the two powers think about it, and whichever we humans, at the moment, happen to like, one of them is actually wrong, actually mistaken, in regarding itself as good. Now if we mean merely that we happen to prefer the first, then we must give up talking about good and evil at all. For good means what you ought to prefer quite regardless of what you happen to like at any given moment. If ‘being good’ meant simply joining the side you happened to fancy, for no real reason, then good would not deserve to be called good. So we must mean that one of the two powers is actually wrong and the other actually right.

But the moment you say that, you are putting into the universe a third thing in addition to the two Powers: some law or standard or rule of good which one of the powers conforms to and the other fails to conform to. But since the two powers are judged by this standard, then this standard, or the Being who made this standard, is farther back and higher up than either of them, and He will be the real God. In fact, what we meant by calling them good and bad turns out to be that one of them is in a right relation to the real ultimate God and the other in a wrong relation to Him.

The same point can be made in a different way. If Dualism is true, then the bad Power must be a being who likes badness for its own sake. But in reality we have no experience of anyone liking badness just because it is bad. The nearest we can get to it is in cruelty. But in real life people are cruel for one of two reasons–either because they are sadists, that is, because they have a sexual perversion which makes cruelty a cause of sensual pleasure to them, or else for the sake of something they are going to get out of it–money, or power, or safety. But pleasure, money, power, and safety are all, as far as they go, good things. The badness consists in pursuing them by the wrong method, or in the wrong way, or too much. I do not mean, of course, that the people who do this are not desperately wicked. I do mean that wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong, way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong–only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him. In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled. We called sadism a sexual perversion; but you must first have the idea of a normal sexuality before you can talk of its being perverted; and you can see which is the perversion, because you can explain the perverted from the normal, and cannot explain the normal from the perverted. It follows that this Bad Power, who is supposed to be on an equal footing with the Good Power, and to love badness in the same way as the Good Power loves goodness, is a mere bogy. In order to be bad he must have good things to want and then to pursue in the wrong way: he must have impulses which were originally good in order to be able to pervert them. But if he is bad he cannot supply himself either with good things to desire or with good impulses to pervert. He must be getting both from the Good Power. And if so, then he is not independent. He is part of the Good Power’s world. he was made either by the Good Power or by some power above them both.

Put it more simply still. To be bad, he must exist and have intelligence and will. But existence, intelligence and will are in themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power: even to be bad he must borrow or steal from his opponent. And do you now beg to see why Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angel? That is not a mere story for the children. It is a real recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness. All the things which enable a bad man to be effectively bad are in themselves good things-resolution, cleverness, good looks, existence itself. That is why Dualism, in a strict sense, will not work.

But I freely admit that real Christianity (as distinct from Christianity-and-water) goes much nearer to Dualism than people think. One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe–a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel. (source)

Further listening: AFR – Christ the Eternal Tao

Culture of Death

25 March 1995 – Evangelium Vitae, Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II – “In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today’s social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable “culture of death.””

29 April 2017 – Wiktionary, culture of death

24 May 2017 – St. Louis Roman Catholic Archbishop Resists Law Requiring Catholics to Hire Abortion Activists: ‘We will not comply’ – “The passage of this bill is not a milestone of our city’s success. It is, rather, a marker of our city’s embrace of the culture of death.”

30 June 2017 – The Vatican’s Statement on UK Baby Condemned to Die is Frightening –

“So we must watch as a little boy, not old enough yet to be a toddler, dies “with dignity,” at the hands of a court system with no business making such a decision, and with the meek and tacit approval of a church that, once upon a time, fully understood the stakes of precious human life but now speaks only of “complexity.”
This issue is not complex. Nor is the culture of death that underlines it. We should be afraid of what is to come next.”

July 2 update to the above: Pope Francis backs parents in UK’s Charlie Gard drama

2 July 2017 – Human Exceptionalism: Life and Dignity with Wesley J. Smith, Three Culture of Death Tipping Points

Saturday Morning Sex-Talk

Dr. Roy Ciampa on 1 Corinthians 7:1

This is a really interesting video about an important topic that is really rarely discussed in the Orthodox Church (“there is no sex in the Church”), and this video deals with Greek! We must keep in mind, however, that as great as academia is, “the Orthodox explanation and understanding of Holy Scripture must always proceed from the writings of the saints.”¹

This teaching comes from Canon 19 of the Œcumenical Πενθέκτη Σύνοδος of 692, as we read in τὸ Πηδάλιον (note: the only free copy in Greek can be found at the Internet Archive, but is the 1886 edition and does not contain the Canons from the Œcumenical Πενθέκτη Σύνοδος of 692; the physical Greek copy I have in my seminary room is in Toronto and not here with me in Manitoba. As far as my searches showed me, The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae® does not contain it. Accordance Bible Software has the Anglican English translation (which is currently on sale as part of their Father’s Day “Focus on the Fathers” sale), which I believe is the same translation found here, obviously lacking Accordance’s researching/searching/linking κ.τ.λ. abilities. And finally an Orthodox English translation and Greek of the version I have in my seminary room can be bought for Noet Scholarly Tools and Logos Bible Software (apparently this Greek is a different 1886 edition), where the Greek of Canon 19 below is from (notes removed)):

ΚΑΝΩΝ ΙΘʹ

   Ὅτι δεῖ τοὺς τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν Προεστῶτας, ἐν πάσῃ μὲν ἡμέρᾳ, ἐξαιρέτως δὲ ἐν ταῖς Κυριακαῖς πάντα τὸν Κλῆρον, καὶ τὸν λαὸν ἐκδιδάσκειν τοὺς τῆς εὐσεβείας λόγους ἐκ τῆς Θείας Γραφῆς ἀναλεγομένους τὰ τῆς ἀληθείας νοήματά τε καὶ κρίματα, καὶ μὴ παρεκβαίνοντας τοὺς ἤδη τεθέντας ὅρους, ἢ τὴν ἐκ τῶν Θεοφόρων Πατέρων παράδοσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ εἰ γραφικὸς ἀνακινηθείη λόγος, μὴ ἄλλως τοῦτον ἑρμηνευέτωσαν, ἢ, ὡς ἂν οἱ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας φωστῆρες καὶ διδάσκαλοι διὰ τῶν οἰκείων συγγραμμάτων παρέθεντο, καὶ μᾶλλον ἐν τούτοις εὐδοκιμείτωσαν, ἢ λόγους οἰκείους συντάττοντες, ἵνα μή, ἔστιν ὅτε, πρὸς τοῦτο ἀπόρως ἔχοντες, ἀποπίπτοιεν τοῦ προσήκοντος. Διὰ γὰρ τῆς τῶν προειρημένων Πατέρων διδασκαλίας, οἱ λαοὶ ἐν γνώσει γινόμενοι τῶν τε σπουδαίων καὶ αἱρετῶν, καὶ τῶν ἀσυμφόρων καὶ ἀποβλήτων, τὸν βίον μεταρρυθμίζουσι πρὸς τὸ βέλτιον, καὶ τῷ τῆς ἀγνοίας οὐχ ἁλίσκονται πάθει, ἀλλὰ προσέχοντες τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, ἑαυτοὺς πρὸς τὸ μὴ κακῶς παθεῖν παραθήγουσι, καὶ φόβῳ τῶν ἐπηρτημένων τιμωριῶν, τὴν σωτηρίαν ἑαυτοῖς ἐξεργάζονται.²

 

 

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¹The Departure of the Soul According to the Teaching of the Orthodox Church: A Patristic Anthology, Master Reference Edition (Florence, AZ: St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, 2017), 60.

²Agapios, Orthodox Eastern Church, and Nicodemus. (1886). The Rudder: Greek Text (p. 195). Athēnai: Vlastou Ch. Varvarrētou.

“Oriental Orthodoxy,” Part I: Chalcedonian Orthodoxy and Non-Chalcedonian Heterodoxy

In The Triads St. Gregory Palamas made a reference to the Christological decree of the Council of Chalcedon (451),

If then this light, which shone from the Saviour on the Mountain, is a natural symbol, it is not so in respect of both the natures in Him, for the natural characteristics of each nature are different.

This is very telling, as 1.) it affirms Chalcedon, and 2.) shows the historicity of the Orthodox Church’s orthodox Christology as defined at the Fourth Ecumenical Council–very telling indeed, especially in our present-day when both of the preceding points are under attack, and not just by heretics, but by many Orthodox as well.


The Spread of Heresy


This could be seen last year when the blog Orthodoxy & Heterodoxy published a brilliant, insightful and historically accurate post by guest author Nicholas Marinides, Ph.D., entitled Chalcedonian Orthodoxy and Non-Chalcedonian Heterodoxy. Not only did Fr. Andrew Damick opt to add an ‘Editorial Note’ preceding the ‘Comments’ section, but the post has since been updated with links to two follow-up posts which I have not yet had the time to read, due to training jiu-jitsu and being a full-time seminarian in a different province than my long-suffering wife.


The post itself obviously is not what I’m referring to when I wrote above ‘this could be seen last year,’ but the comments section, as those who are not embracing the Monophysite/Miaphysite heresies with open arms could easily guess. Indicative of the mindset of those posting in the comments against Dr. Marinides is the fact that a couple Orthodox Theological Academies embrace the same mindset, as I will show in a “Prequel” in this series.


Ephesians 4:15


I sent a link to the blog post to my Spiritual Father, as he (in addition to being a Professor of Pastoral Theology in a seminary) is in an unusual position as he not only has his M.A.Th. from one of the pro-Miaphysite Orthodox Theological Academies but is also a Lecturer at the other. His response?

 This is good

Speaking the truth in love

And he is exactly right. The comments posted in response to Dr. Marinides’ post are crazy, and quite telling actually about what shapes people’s minds; they also reveal a historical anachronism in that Monophysitism ‘became’ Miaphysitism which ‘became’ Oriental Orthodoxy, Dr. Marinides even touched on that slightly. That’s one of the worst arguments really, that what the Miaphysites believe now is not what they believed then… OK, then either they have invented a new heresy from the old heresy, or they are in fact Orthodox. When I read stuff such as The Nature of Christ by Shenouda III, to me, it’s pretty clear they are Monophysites renaming themselves Miaphysites (ironically both terms meaning ‘one nature’), and so Monophysitism was condemned at Chalcedon and Miaphysitism was condemned in the 8th anathema in the 8th session of the 5th Ecumenical Council: 

“VIII. IF anyone uses the expression “of two natures,” confessing that a union was made of the Godhead and of the humanity, or the expression “the one nature made flesh of God the Word,” and shall not so understand those expressions as the holy Fathers have taught, to wit: that of the divine and human nature there was made an hypostatic union, whereof is one Christ; but from these expressions shall try to introduce one nature or substance [made by a mixture] of the Godhead and manhood of Christ; let him be anathema. For in teaching that the only-begotten Word was united hypostatically [to humanity] we do not mean to say that there was made a mutual confusion of natures, but rather each [nature] remaining what it was, we understand that the Word was united to the flesh. Wherefore there is one Christ, both God and man, consubstantial with the Father as touching his Godhead, and consubstantial with us as touching his manhood. Therefore they are equally condemned and anathematized by the Church of God, who divide or part the mystery of the divine dispensation of Christ, or who introduce confusion into that mystery.”

Case closed, right? This is where I’m not so sure, as Ecumenists and academic theologians push this issue one is forced to admit the Monophysites and Miaphysites are in error, or that the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Ecumenical Councils are in error, as after Chalcedon they each sequentially confirm the previous Council. This relates to whether or not the case is closed by an appeal to history: up until the 11th century all of Christendom (excluding heretical groups) accepted the 8th Ecumenical Council, with the Patriarchate of Rome after falling into schism rejecting it and so they had their own #8 later, but all of Orthodoxy continued to count 8 Ecumenical Councils all the way up until the 19th century, —thereafterfor reasons best explained by the late Fr. Romanides—it was incorrectly removed from our Ecclesiastical history, which is precisely what will happen to the 7th, 6th, 5th, and 4th: we will become Miaphysites. Little by little, step by step, the road to Tartarus is paved with good intentions…

Holy Saturday 1579: The Miracle of the Holy Fire

The above is really unsettling, and the whole situation confusing, to those who attempt to fight the good fight, to keep the faith—but don’t lose heart, we have a miracle showing us the way in which we should proceed: the miracle of the Holy Fire, which as of this writing has already been granted to the Chalcedonian Orthodox faithful who gathered at the Holy Sepulchre today.

Every time heretics have tried to obtain the Holy Fire they have failed. Three such attempts are known, and it is the one in 1579 that concerns us in this post:

Once the Armenians (monophysites – ed.) paid the Turks, who then occupied the Holy Land, in order to obtain permission for their Patriarch to enter the Holy Sepulchre, the Orthodox Patriarch was standing sorrowfully with his flock at the exit of the church, near the left column, when the Holy Light split this column vertically and flashed near the Orthodox Patriarch.

A Muslim Muezzin, called Tounom, who saw the miraculous event from an adjacent mosque, immediately abandoned the Muslim religion and became an Orthodox Christian. This event took place in 1579 under Sultan Mourad IV, when the Patriarch of Jerusalem was Sophrony IV.

Keep this in mind when in a few hours we ourselves receive the light from the flame of the sleepless lamp on the Holy Altar in our parishes, lighting our Paschal candles from it as we receive the light from the unwaning light, and glorify Christ Who is risen from the dead. Recall at that moment when the Holy Light split the column, lighting the candle of the Chalcedonian Orthodox Patriarch Sophrony IV, and not the candle of the Miaphysite Patriarch.