Celebrating Our Diversity Now Project Documentary

Readers of this blog will recall that back in February I was one of four representatives of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada) at a multi-city Youth Interfaith Initiative hosted by the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church’s Canadian Diocese and funded by the Colonial Government of Canada. I just got back from camping and hiking in Grasslands, Waterton Lakes, Banff, and Jasper National Parks and am still catching up on my emails; I have been asked to share the documentary of the event on my website and social media. So here it is.

The documentary can be viewed here.

Thoughts?

Celebrating Our Diversity Now Project Documentary Trailer​

Readers of this blog will recall that back in February I was one of four representatives of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada) at a multi-city Youth Interfaith Initiative hosted by the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church’s Canadian Diocese and funded by the Colonial Government of Canada. I just got back from camping and hiking in Grasslands, Waterton Lakes, Banff, and Jasper National Parks and am catching up on my emails, and so it turns out I have been asked to share the trailer on my website and social media of the documentary of the event. So here it is.

The trailer can be viewed here.

Thoughts?

David Bentley Hart’s “The New Testament: A Translation” & The Tyndale House Greek New Testament

Of the four most important books published in 2017, three of them are Christian, and of those three two are in Modern English, and one is in Koine Greek. Furthermore, of those three Christian books, two of them are the New Testament. In Greek, we have The Tyndale House Greek New Testament, and in English David Bentley Hart’s The New Testament: A Translation published by Yale. (For those interested, the other books of the four are The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, and Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink.)

One would think that a new edition of the Greek New Testament would be of real interest and impact for Greek nerds, but the months following the release of both have seen unfold a unique situation. Outside of Evangelical Textual Criticism, Exegetical Tools, B-Greek, Textkit, and Nerdy Language Majors it would appear that the scholars, critics, and the rest of the world are either silent about it, don’t care about it, or don’t know about it. Indeed, no Orthodox Christian—clergy, laity, or scholar—has even mentioned it to my knowledge.

On the other hand, DBH’s translation has been addressed by all the groups mentioned or alluded to: clergy, laity, scholars, many of the internet groups and websites previously mentioned—both Orthodox and heterodox—have been talking about this translation. And with everything I’ve been reading, the discussion over this translation has brought out a fantastic amount of discussion concerning Koine Greek, exegesis, hermeneutics, textual criticism, dogma κ.τ.λ.

This isn’t to fault the people behind the THGNT. I own a physical copy and a copy in Accordance too and was reading St. James’ Epistle from the physical Bible on my flight back to Toronto from Winnipeg after Christmas. So I think its great (even though I am a Byzantine Textform proponent). But I think what most people are really looking forward to is the textual commentary that will accompany it, and the audio version read aloud by monks from the Orthodox Christian Monastery of the Transfiguration, Nafpaktos, in proper Greek pronunciation via BibleMesh (well, at least I am looking forward to both).

So due to the amount of relevant Greek material DBH’s translation has brought about I figured I would list here all the reviews, articles, and podcasts I have read and listened to. If any of my readers have found any that I don’t have listed here, please feel free to mention them in the comments or email me the link, and I will post new reviews as I finish reading them.

As for my own thoughts on the translation, which  have been asked, I relayed them on Instagram and other than a couple grammatical errors, my thoughts remain the same (so far):

“I think it is incredibly interesting, especially once one really understands what he is and is not attempting to do with his translation. Most reviewers fail to understand, and it shows. I had pre-ordered it on Amazon after reading an excerpt from the preface or intro that appealed to my love of Greek, and at first, as I read it I thought the translation was only of any real value if you know Koine Greek. As I read more, the vividness and oddity of the Greek were really brought forth in the English, so much so I bought my wife a copy for Xmas. It is definitely not for Liturgical use, but that wasn’t his intent. My only criticism so far is that he used the NA28/UBS5 as his Greek text, though he does note Majority Text differences.”

To elaborate, the most disappointing thing about reading the reviews and articles is that they mostly fail to understand what Hart is doing and devise straw man attacks against him due to their misunderstanding. And Hart’s Orthodox opponents sadden me the most, especially when they call his translation into question and then resort to non-Orthodox scholars, translations, and commentaries to support their point—the same point from the same non-Orthodox scholars, translations, and commentaries which were the cause for the translation effort in the first place!

The most depressing thing, however, indeed must be that the Orthodox and heterodox alike seem to take a major issue, not with ἀποκατάστασις, but instead push back against him when it comes to moneyThe lady doth protest too much, methinks… It reminds me of a story my Bishop told us seminarians during breakfast one morning. A priest and a doctor were out for a walk one day, talking about this and that, lost in conversation when they neared the edge of a cliff. The priest fell and was holding onto the crumbling edge, fingers slowly losing their grip. The doctor yelled to the priest, “Give me your hand, Father!” The priest, unfortuantely, lost his grip and fell to his death. The doctor ran to the priest’s home to tell the presvytera the awful news. She answered the door and broke down in tears as the story was retold, the doctor recounting to her “I said to him, “Give me your hand!”” The presvytera looked up and said to the poor doctor, “Oh, you should’ve said “Take my hand,” instead.”

In case it escapes you, the moral of the story is that priests want to take and not give, they love money. And if the reviews of Hart’s translation are anything to go by, it appears money and the defence of having and acquiring it is one issue that Protestants and Orthodox are united on, amongst the laity, and sadly even more so among the clergy.

******

23/31 October 2017 – The Tears and Laughter of the New Testament: Why David Bentley Hart’s Translation is a Glorious Failure By Wesley Hill

29 December 2017 – The Hart Idiosyncratic Version – Fr. John Whiteford

15 January 2018 – The New Testament in the strange words of David Bentley Hart – N.T. Wright

8 February 2018 – A Wild and Indecent Book – Garry Wills

David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox scholar of religion, and a philosopher, writer and cultural commentator. He is an fellow/associate at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, and has held positions at the University of Virginia, Duke University, and Providence College. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and attends a Greek Orthodox parish.

The Anathemas of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Lent 2018 Edition

Tonight, here in Toronto, we Chalcedonian Orthodox Christians celebrated the Annual Sunday of Orthodoxy Pan-Orthodox Vespers in the Anglican Chapel of Trinity College. Those familiar with the Orthodox program at Trinity College will understand the set-up, and those who don’t are encouraged to check out their website. For me, as I was there at the beautiful location, I found it a bit ironic to find ourselves there celebrating the Triumph of Orthodoxy over heresy and all… But it was a very nice service and a good time. If we look at the situation honestly, the fact that the Orthodox presence at a major North American University is growing is nothing but a good thing. What we are to do about the Monophysite slice of the Trinity College pie is a tale for another day, and has been touched upon elsewhere.

I. Synodikon of the Sunday of Orthodoxy

Ecumenical Patriarchate

1082?

Metaphysical and religious truths could validly originate only in the Christian revelation. This is the reason that Plato and the Neoplatonists were always looked at with suspicion in conservative–and particularly monastic–circles of the Byzantine Church: Indeed, in any form of Platonic thought, no understanding of reality was possible without metaphysical, that is, in fact, theological presuppositions foreign to Christianity.

     It is not astonishing, therefore, to find out that every year, on the first Sunday of Lent–also known as the “Sunday of Orthodoxy”–all Byzantine Orthodox churches resounded with formal and repeated anathemas against “those who follow the foolish opinions of the Hellenic disciplines” and particularly against those “who considered the ideas of Plato [the ‘Divine Ideas’ or ‘Forms’ -T.S.] as truly existing or believe (with Aristotle) in the eternity of matter.* These anathemas were first issued in the eleventh century on the occasion of the condemnation of the philosopher John Italos, but their inclusion in the liturgical Synodikon of the Sunday of Orthodoxy gave them permanent significance. -Fr. John Meyendorff, “Introduction,” Gregory Palamas: The Triads, The Classics of Western Spirituality, pp. 10-11, 115

*J. Gouillard, ” Le Synodikon de l’Orthodoxie. Edition et commentaire”, Centre de recherche d’histoire et de civilisation byzantines. Travaux et mémoires 2 (Paris, 1967), p. 59; also Triodion (Athens, ed. Phos, 1958), p. 160.

II. The Anathemas of the Sunday of Orthodoxy

Saint Petersburg

1902

(Jordanville Edition 1967)

III. Anathema Against Ecumenism

ROCOR

1983

IV. The Anathemas of the Sunday of Orthodoxy

ROCOR

2000

VI. Defending the Synodikon by Fr. Lawrence Farley

OCA

16 March 2016

Interfaith Diversity

“εἰ πορεύσονται δύο ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ καθόλου ἐὰν μὴ γνωρίσωσιν ἑαυτούς;”
-Ἀμώς 3·3 Rahlfs-Hanhart LXX

The week of February 5-9th 2018 I was one of four representatives of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada) at a multi-city Youth Interfaith Initiative hosted by the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church’s Canadian Diocese and funded by the Colonial Government of Canada.

On Tuesday, February 6th, I and the other Youth representatives from the Greek Orthodox got to speak a bit. When it came to my turn, I introduced myself: I’m a second-year seminarian, a convert, married etc. and I chose to say what I felt was ultimately lacking in representation at this interfaith dialogue: Christ. Below is basically what I said.

As an Indigenous person, a Métis (as is my wife), I hear a lot about social justice in the media and the academic side of Indigenous issues. But I don’t care about “social justice.” As a Métis raised by a single mother of four, I do not care about social justice. And what is the point of interfaith dialogue? If it is just to alleviate suffering, then this is where dogmatic differences come into play. I believe that water seeks its own level, that teaching a man to fish feeds him better than giving him fish for a day.

How does that connect to Christianity? Well, Orthodox Christianity doesn’t teach you to escape suffering like Buddhism does. It trains you to endure suffering, to endure the days you don’t catch any fish, or when someone steals your fish, or when you go hungry because you gave your fish to someone else. The problem with interfaith dialogue is that our end goal is ultimately not the same because our path and destinations are different. Orthodox Christianity teaches that the point of all of this is θέωσις, to become by grace what God is by nature. Not the eliminating of suffering, the metamorphosing of suffering and our union with Christ. To be with Christ, that is the direction.

* * * * * * *

 

“As it is impossible for two people to share a journey at the same time, he is saying, unless indicating to each other where and why they are traveling, or for a lion to roar if there is no prey, or for a bird to fall without a hunter, or for all the other things mentioned, so it is impossible for any punishment to be imposed without God willing it. He calls punishment “evil,” note, by use of a general custom: we are accustomed to use “troubles” of diseases, chastisements, untimely deaths, famines, wars, and the like, not because they are troublesome by nature but because they are troublesome to human beings and the source of distress and grief.”
-Blessed Theodoret of Cyr, Commentary of Amos 3.6–8*

* * * * * * *

Further Reading/Watching:
Celebrating Our Diversity Now
“Celebrating Our Diversity Now” Youth Interfaith Project
“Celebrating Our Diversity Now” Interfaith Event in Toronto, 5-9 February, 2018, (Shoghakat TV)
“Celebrating Our Diversity Now” Interfaith Event in Toronto, 5-9 February, 2018, (New Horizon TV)
Celebrating Our Diversity Now – TorontoAlbumsCelebrating Our Diversity Now – Toronto 78 Photos
Youth Interfaith Gathering organized by the Armenian Diocese in Toronto

 

 

*Ferreiro, Alberto and Thomas C. Oden, eds. The Twelve Prophets. Vol. 14 of Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. ICCS/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

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?

Early Lutherans and the Greek Church – Fr. John W. Fenton

[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?

Early Lutherans and the Greek Church – Fr. John W. Fenton

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