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Persecution of the heretics


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#21 Vitalis

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 05:26 AM

Imminent danger posed by the enemy.

No, no this battle was one of the first that St. Dimitrius started to liberate Russia. The whole point of those multiple battles was to get rid of Tatars.

but our killing and slaying them

I don't know if this is the same passage but here is what St. Joseph writes:

Let us say about other words of the same great Church teacher, St. John Chrysostom: "we should not kill the heretics, since if we would kill the heretics, the universe would be engaged in a never-ending war". The hierarch says this about the bishops, priests, monks and all the clergy, but not about princes and earthly judges. If he would be talking about the kings, princes, and judges, then he would say that it is not appropriate for the kings, princes, and judges to kill heretics. He, on the contrary, says: "If we would kill the heretics". This clearly shows that he is talking about the bishops, priests, monks, and lower clergy, since he himself was first part of the lower clergy and a monk, then a priest, and then a bishop. This is why he says on the behalf of all: "If we would kill the heretics, the universe would be engaged in a never-ending war", - but this is not at all said about kings or princes or judges"

Well, I am sure in time you will able to confirm them. I don't think St. Joseph the wonder-worker is a lying babbler. I hope you don't either. I just think it's weird that we as worldly men are right in our thoughts and a great ascetic that was glorified isn't.

By killing anyone, we destroy a living icon

And when we were liberating Holy Rus we were not killing a living icon? Plus as written in one of the articles...how do you think Byzantium and Rus' came to be? The whole point of those two empires was to spread Orthodoxy by expanding. Such expansions often required killing.

St. Athanasius to that says that heresy is the worse out of all the sins. Well...St. John would argue that schism is worse but you get the idea.

Now I guess, I should finally state my own thoughts on this.

I am not so much in favor of execution but I do think that at his time it was necessary. However, I do think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with persecuting heretics. Moreover, it would be an appropriate thing to do.

#22 Yuri Zharikov

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 05:38 AM

Unfortunately I do not have any reference material handy, but I believe it is fairly well established that of the two historiographies about the relationships between Sts Joseph and Nilus, it is the later, XIX c, secularised one (Kostomarov and others) that makes bitter opponents of them. The proper Church tradition sees the two saints as rather complementing each other:
“И ты, Иосифе, Волоцкая похвало, и Ниле нестяжателю, на воде покойне и на злаце воздержания ученик ваших стада мудре упасли есте, и ныне с ними молитеся о чтущих память вашу”.
"And you, Joseph, the praise and Volotsk and Nilus, the non-possessor, on the peaceful water and pastures of abstinence have wisely shepherded the flocks of your disciples, and now with them pray for those who venerate your memory" Song 6, Trop. 4 of the Canon to all Russian Saints.

#23 Vitalis

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 05:45 AM

Exactly, Yuri. That article I linked before also proves this historically. However, it is true that the two saints were quite different in their methods of theosis. Then again, it does not mean they contradict each other.

#24 Misha

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 07:42 AM

Let us say about other words of the same great Church teacher, St. John Chrysostom: "we should not kill the heretics, since if we would kill the heretics, the universe would be engaged in a never-ending war". The hierarch says this about the bishops, priests, monks and all the clergy, but not about princes and earthly judges. If he would be talking about the kings, princes, and judges, then he would say that it is not appropriate for the kings, princes, and judges to kill heretics. He, on the contrary, says: "If we would kill the heretics". This clearly shows that he is talking about the bishops, priests, monks, and lower clergy, since he himself was first part of the lower clergy and a monk, then a priest, and then a bishop. This is why he says on the behalf of all: "If we would kill the heretics, the universe would be engaged in a never-ending war", - but this is not at all said about kings or princes or judges"


I m sorry dear brothers but this is a misinterpretation of st.John's writings!
I have studied a lot about the hesychastic movement derived from the Great Cappadocs fathers,st.John Chrysostom,st.Symeon the New Theologian,st Gregory Palamas,st Paisius Velichkofsky,st Nicodemus of Mt Athos and the ,so called "kollyvades".

This tradition ,which is the heart of the orthodox church, denies to harm anyone!Killing ,even in war, leads to heavy ecclesiastical punishments.
If a priest kills in war then he can't serve liturgy anymore and if a layman does the same then he can't take Holy Communion for 3 yrs.

St John Chrysostom's saying has been recently repeated by a wise,non-christian man,the great Mahatma Ghandhi:
"Eye for an eye and soon the whole world will be blind"

#25 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 09:37 AM

Two issues have become confused here: persecution of heretics and defence of the homeland. It is worth recalling that St Dmitri Donskoi was only given a blessing by St Sergius to proceed against the Tataro-Mongols when he had assured St Sergius that all attempts to negotiate peace had failed.

#26 Misha

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 10:29 AM

During the 1000 yrs of the Eastern Roman Empire many emperors considered the Orthodox Church as "heretic" and persecuted the orthodox christians.
So did the pagans emperors of Rome some centuries before
We venerate thousands of holy martyrs who gave their lives because they insisted to what the official state considered as "heresy"..
If we apply the same cruel methods and persecute or execute the "heretics" what do we differ from them?
Holy Inquisition was a horrible period of humankind's history and now we want to justify its crimes?Or ,even worse,do we suggest to repeat it in an "orthodox" version?
and this is the will of God or....?

"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it"(John 8,44)

#27 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 12:26 PM

Generally speaking, I have found that killing people in large numbers, even for the "right" reasons, can be rather problematic. For one thing, it is very hard to keep under control, and before you know it, you have people going around and killing for no reason at all and this gets very messy. It can be very hard to stop. Not to mention the disruptions in services, because suddenly you find out that those same heretics were doing essential jobs. Next thing you know, the busses aren't running or you can't get a decent cut of meat (the butchers are all dead or out killing people). Professionals seem to get eliminated in disproportionate numbers as well. Suddenly there are no accountants or lawyers or doctors or machinists and the plants start closing. You can't even bury all the bodies because all the grave diggers and funeral directors have left the country! It can be very bad for business and the economy, not to mention when the tourism falls off.

So, regardless of what the good saint says, I say that persecution of anybody, for any reason, is generally a very bad idea and really should be avoided as much as possible. We should not persecute Moslems, or Hindus, Buddhists, or even Methodists, but instead show them forgiveness and love. More importantly we work to educate our own, giving them the tools necessary to resist the wiles of pernicious heresy. (2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.)

Fear is a very, very clumsy tool. It is the 18 lb sledgehammer when all you really need is a chip hammer. Any time you resort to violence it is a failure. You failed to achieve by other means.

Christ our Lord was not a violent man. Even when He said to carry a sword, He never advocated its proactive use.

States have difficult decisions to make. Sometimes even violence must be used to keep the peace. But I think it is a tool that is often brought out too soon, before other tools have been tried, simply because it is easy to swing a big hammer. The other tools require more finesse and skill. But then again, big hammers also require more skill than I think some people appreciate, otherwise there is simply too much collateral damage in the process. Again, it really upsets the tourists and makes for a bad image in the world press. Suddenly other nations start pointing fingers or worse, missiles, at your borders and they start treating your people like you are treating theirs and again, it just gets very messy.

So no, I cannot agree with the original premise that persecution of "heretics" (did we ever successfully define that word by the way?) is ever justified, especially for Orthodox Christians. I am deserving of death much more so than anybody else out there, certainly more than any poor misguided heretic, and yet God allows me to live. Again, I can only feel the need to share the favor with those around me, even Methodists.

Don't persecute. Really, just don't do it. Persecutions lead to very hard feelings which lead to violence which leads to killing which results in all those things I was talking about earlier. Help even those who believe differently than you do, Samaritans though they be. If you feel the need to persecute someone, come see me. I could use the blessing.

Your servant,
Herman (a former Methodist)

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 02 May 2008 - 12:42 PM.
Added some more inane thoughts


#28 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 12:41 PM

When Elder Paisios was at St Catherine's, Sinai, the little money he earned from his handiwork he gave to the local Berber muslims.

Generally speaking, I have found that killing people in large numbers, even for the "right" reasons, can be rather problematic. For one thing, it is very hard to keep under control, and before you know it, you have people going around and killing for no reason at all and this gets very messy. It can be very hard to stop. Not to mention the disruptions in services, because suddenly you find out that those same heretics were doing essential jobs. Next thing you know, the busses aren't running or you can't get a decent cut of meat (the butchers are all dead or out killing people). Professionals seem to get eliminated in disproportionate numbers as well. Suddenly there are no accountants or lawyers or doctors or machinists and the plants start closing. You can't even bury all the bodies because all the grave diggers and funeral directors have left the country! It can be very bad for business and the economy, not to mention when the tourism falls off.


Not messy if you use cruise missiles from a very safe distance and F 15s and F 117s from a great height as was done to Serbia in 1999. The arms manufacturers make money, and then your businessmen can get the contracts for reconstruction of the damage caused. Same in Iraq. Some of your own men get killed but, in the words of Donald Rumsfeld, 'hey - stuff happens!'

#29 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 12:49 PM

No, again you indirectly prove my point. Violence is a very clumsy tool, often used too soon, as your reaction proves.

I don't justify or deny mistakes that have been made. But this is NOT a political forum. If you must, I suggest we take this outside, sir.

#30 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 12:52 PM

Nowhere does A. A. Milne describe Pooh and Eeyore 'taking it outside'! But you surely didn't support what was done to Serbia, did you?

#31 Misha

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 01:13 PM

St Isaac the Syrian has written a chapter (no 58)about the "false zeal".
After a lot of search i m really happy to have some parts translated in english:

Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.
Be crucified, but do not crucify others.
Be slandered, but do not slander others.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.
Suffer with the sick.
Be afflicted with sinners.
Exult with those who repent.
Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.
Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.
Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.
Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.
And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their placedo not destroy their character.

Edited by Fr Raphael Vereshack, 02 May 2008 - 01:27 PM.
corrected formatting & reduced font size


#32 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 01:21 PM

Thanks for that, Misha.

#33 Matthew Namee

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 01:23 PM

I am not so much in favor of execution but I do think that at his time it was necessary. However, I do think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with persecuting heretics. Moreover, it would be an appropriate thing to do.

It saddens me to hear such a thing. In the early days of the Church, when the Roman Empire was still pagan, non-Christians respected and were attracted to Christianity because its people were different -- virtuous, good, pious, sober, honest. Showing love towards others is the only way to soften their hearts and convert them to the true faith.

But let us say that we had a blessed, institutionalized persecution. What then? We would, as Herman suggests, have immediate logistical problems. How do you determine that someone is a heretic? Are all heretics to be persecuted, or only those who speak heresy openly? How do we prevent lynch mobs and other forms of chaos? Then there is the question of the heretics themselves. It is clear to me from history that, when people are persecuted or oppressed, they become more firm in their beliefs. We have inspiring examples of this in Orthodox history, but the same would be true of heretics. If they are persecuted, they will not honestly convert but instead will become even more intractable.

But what if they do convert? This is another serious problem. How do you know that they are truly converting because they believe in the Orthodox faith? It seems likely that many, if not most, who would convert would do so to avoid penalties. This, too, has been common in history. One example is that of the Cathari of France, who, persecuted by the papal inquisition, either became even firmer in their faith or "converted" to Roman Catholicism while in fact remaining Cathari. I'm sure there are examples of this in the Orthodox world as well.

I am of the firm belief that God is quite capable of killing (or hindering) whomever he wishes. My job is not to harm anyone "on God's behalf," as it were, but instead to live a God-fearing, Orthodox life myself. Did not St. Seraphim say that if one acquires the spirit of peace, thousands around him will be saved? We cannot convert the hearts of heretics, or retain our own vulnerable people, by violence and force. We can only seek to imitate Christ and hope by our example to have a positive effect on others.

#34 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 03:48 PM

Indeed, we (Orthodox Christianity) are living proof that persecution DOES NOT WORK!

Persecution is not a solution, it is a problem.

Don't do it. Really. Not even a little, even to Methodists.

Herman

#35 Vitalis

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 04:00 PM

It saddens me to hear such a thing


Does is sadden you that jewdizers converted many souls? The heresy was spreading at a very high pace. If not the persecution, many many souls would have fallen into this heresy. Unfortunately many did fall. Does the fact that those people are burning in hell fire for that sadden you a little? No? If Muslims would come to your house and started to convert your whole family? Would you sit there and watch? No, I am guessing you would try to kick them out of your house! They probably would not go willingly Would you say "Oh well!" and just go and watch TV? This is what St. Anthony the Great called "compassionate more than needed". When secular authorities persecuted the followers of Arias, Nestorius, and others none of the fathers felt sad enough to stop the persecutions. How about the Old Testament saints? Things like that are only sad for humanists. Do you curse Sts. Joshua, Moses,and Elijah for what they did? Pay in mind, that I am not saying that in an Orthodox Christian country all heretics must be persecuted, but only those, as St. Joseph says, that go around and spreading their filth. The quote from St. Isaac is very good. However, it does not refer to heretics. " Be crucified, but do not crucify others" when those who need to be crucified don't go around making others abandon Christ. "Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly." How about Apostles John, Peter, and Paul? Or how about when St. Nicholas ordered to destroy pagan temples? What about Saints that publically anathematized heretics. By the way, anathematizing someone at that time was basically condemning people to eternal hell. That is way more harsh that just killing a person's physical body. St. Anthony the Great did that and so did many others.

When the Apostle says: "if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" What do we do to justify that our priests have long hair? We say, the apostle talks about lay people. Same way St. Joseph uses what St. John said. It is a shame to grow long hair for lay people, but it is not for the chosen ones. Same way a Christian emperor "beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil", authority that was given to him by God, which not every person possess.

No, dear brother, what you are suggesting is false zeal of compassion, zeal not according to knowledge. St. Joseph was truly compassionate, he could not bare the fact that many souls would be led into hellfire.

Read St. John's 23rd homily on Romans and Homily 21.

Edited by Vitalis, 02 May 2008 - 04:32 PM.


#36 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 04:16 PM

Dear Rdr Vitalis,

Excuse me, but I think you are confused. We should leave the things that belong to Caesar alone. You are confusing the Church and the civil authority. They are not the same thing, and I am increasingly convinced by attitudes like yours that they should not be.

If the Judaizers were FORCING people to convert, or terrorizing the people, that is something else entirely, it becomes a civil matter rather than a Church matter.

As I said, you and I are living proof that persecution does not work. That which is persecuted only become stronger. It goes underground, the roots grow bigger and more extensive, spreading out and then popping up where you least expect it. The more you cut off the leaves, the more the roots grow, until at some point you just can't keep up with it.

It is the job of the emperor to wield the weapon of fear, not you. And I pray to God that the authorities do so in a God-fearing and compassionate manner and only as a last resort where other methods have failed. You and I are not Emperors, or civil authority, nor are we bishops, and I hope that you do not see yourself as some sort of spiritual enforcer, a religious police like the Moslems have. If so, I will not persecute you, but I will oppose you in every non-violent manner possible.

Besides, persecution is such hard work and interrupts nap time, and it is time for my nap. Oh Bother!

Herman the Pooh

#37 Moses Ibrahim

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 04:42 PM

The Holy Prophet Elijah ordered the death of those 50 baal worshippers. Sure it would have been better not to have killed them, but nonetheless he did. It would be better not to kill anyone today, but if it is the only option it would be better to kill one and save many. We have the oppurtunity to exile people to many places (jails in almost every city) so it would be better to send heretics there (but we don't live in an Orthodox Empire anymore). So, I guess it would be fairly impossible to have heretics killed now except with God's help. End of my imaginative story.

#38 Matthew Namee

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 04:49 PM

If Muslims would come to your house and started to convert your whole family? Would you sit there and watch? No, I am guessing you would try to kick them out of your house! They probably would not go willingly Would you say "Oh well!" and just go and watch TV?

If Muslims came to my house and started to attempt to convert my family, I would feel confident that my family would not be swayed by their efforts. My family is firm in their Orthodox faith and can tell the difference between right and wrong. This is precisely my point. If the Church properly educates its people, if the people are Orthodox in truth and not only in name, then the sophistries of heretics will have no effect. If your people are being converted to heresy, you've got a deeper problem than the proselytizing heretics. The success of heretics reveals the weaknesses that exist in the Church. We can combat them by shoring up these weaknesses, not by persecuting those who are exploiting them.

Also, examples from the Old Testament are irrelevant. The Old Testament prophets had to preserve Israel so as to make the birth of the Theotokos and the subsequent incarnation of the Lord possible. In addition, all the departed before Christ went to Hades, where they later had the opportunity to follow Christ. The nature of the afterlife has changed since the resurrection, and capital punishment has likewise taken on new consequences. All has changed with the coming of Christ.

Rdr. Vitalis, it is clear that you have already made up your mind on this issue. In your initial post, you wrote,

I wanted to find out what people generally think of this. For now I have a general mixed view on this.

Yet you seem uninterested in views which differ from your own predetermined position (which can hardly be described as "mixed"). This will be my last post on this thread, as it seems unlikely that further discussion will bear good fruit.

#39 Michael Stickles

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 04:54 PM

Does is sadden you that jewdizers converted many souls? The heresy was spreading at a very high pace. If not the persecution, many many souls would have fallen into this heresy. Unfortunately many did fall. Does the fact that those people are burning in hell fire for that? No? If Muslims would come to your house and started to convert your whole family? Would you sit there and watch? No, I am guessing you would try to kick them out of your house! They probably would not go willingly Would you say "Oh well!" and just go and watch TV? This is what St. Anthony the Great called "compassionate more than needed".


I would most certainly kick them out of my house, forthwith and posthaste. This, however, is not persecution, it is defense of my home and my family. If, however, I then followed them to their homes, smashed their cars and burned their books, that would be persecution. And that I see no warrant for.

In all of the readings I've done in the fathers since this thread began, outside of St. Joseph I have seen no call for any greater "persecutions" than these: to remove heretics from positions of influence in the Church; to excommunicate those who will not repent; and to call upon the secular authorities to forbid them to meet and to proselytize (I second Herman's comments regarding the spheres of Caesar and the Church). Perhaps that reflects my choice of fathers to read, and which writings are available to me. But their testimony seems consistent to me so far.

Read St. John's 23rd homily on Romans and Homily 21.


I have, and I'm not sure how those are supposed to bolster the case supporting persecution of heretics; to my mind Homily 21 in particular does the opposite.

A final thought - not too long ago I read a comment by a more modern elder (sorry - I cannot remember who or where, and have had abnormally great difficulty in locating the quote), who commented on instances where many Orthodox were being converted to evangelical Protestant denominations by outreach programs in traditionally Orthodox countries. His comment was to deplore, not so much the heterodox outreach, but rather the lack of grounding in the faith which had been given to those who wound up leaving the Church. He felt that if they had been truly taught their faith, most would not have left. That seems to me a better preventative than persecution, especially in our highly literate age.

In Christ,
Mike

#40 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 04:58 PM

I agree with Matthew and Mike wholeheartedly.

But perhaps this is a language problem? I suggest Rdr Vitalis look up the word "persecution". Otherwise his line of reasoning is really not so different than that used by the Taliban and Al Qaida to justify strapping bombs on to children and the mentally deficient and killing hordes of innocent "heretics".

If a group of people are disturbing the peace and causing acts of violence, then let the civil authorities take whatever action is necessary to stop it and the Church should certainly demand they do so. And if that group happens to be misguided Orthodox Christians, may God open their eyes.

What is heresy? (honestly this is a rhetorical question). If five people answer, I guarantee we will see at least six different answers. And if we start naming SPECIFIC heresies and then pointing out specific heretics...can't you even begin to see the difficulty?




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