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Bloodshed during councils


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#21 Sacha

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 04:27 AM

That is precisely the problem Michael. Jesus never taught the use of such 'medicine' or 'discipline soberly applied'. Even if you show Chrysostom saying something about meekness, it only reinforces my point that the inconsistency looms large. To insist that there is no inconsistency is not rational and logical, in my view. Although I certainly understand the need to avoid any cognitive dissonance.

Michael Gaddis, author of There is no Crime for those who have Christ addresses your points in the following quote. Here he is answering the claim that Chrysostom never advocated violence:

"I don't wish to get heavily involved in this fascinating if slightly overheated debate -- as a historian, I do not feel I have to come down "for" or "against" John Chrysostom, in some absolute sense, as if we were putting him on some kind of trial. Nor do I wish to take a position regarding the various definitions of anti-semitism that are being debated. However, the statement "Chrysostom never advocated violence" needs to be corrected.

First, the one time when Chrysostom actually was put on trial, the Synod of the Oak in 403. Among the charges preferred by the deacon John:


(2) A monk had on Chrysostom's instructions been beaten, taken into custody, and put in chains along with possessed persons. (19) He had people who were in communion with the whole world shut up in prison by his own decision, and when they died there, he did not even think it fit to give due honor to their remains. (27) He gave a blow with his fist to Memnon in the Church of the Apostles, and while the blood was still flowing from his mouth made him take communion. (Acts of the Synod of the Oak, as preserved in Photius' Bibliotheca, quoted here from the translation appended to J. Kelly's 1995 biography of Chrysostom, "Golden Mouth".)





In all fairness it should be recognized that these were charges brought by John's political opponents, and undoubtedly contain much that is exaggerated or even invented. But according to Theodoret, a source much more sympathetic to John, Chrysostom as bishop got together "certain monks who were fired with divine zeal" and sent them to destroy pagan temples throughout Phoenicia (Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History 5.29). John's own letters 21, 28, 53-55, 69, 123, 126, 175, 221 (written to encourage the same monks, all in PG 52) confirm this story, and also make it clear that this battle against paganism involved considerable physical violence by both sides. Finally let's hear Chrysostom's own words, which he addressed to his Antiochene congregation in 386:

"I desire to ask one favor of you all... which is, that you will correct on my behalf the blasphemers of this city. And should you hear anyone in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so. Smite him on the face, strike his mouth, sanctify thy hand with the blow." [Homilies on the Statues 1.32, quoting from the translation in the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, first series, v.9, p.343]





One of the previous posters (I forget who) cited from Florovsky's book, and in supporting the assertion "Chrysostom never advocated violence" they adduced a quote from a different sermon in which Chrysostom expressed sentiments which would seem to completely contradict the words I quote above -- he speaks of "turning the other cheek", arguing by persuasion and not compulsion, etc. Although expressing opposite attitudes, both quotes are genuine Chrysostom: so which of the two should we consider to be more "authoritative" or "representative" of Christian tradition? That's not a question that can be easily answered."



#22 Olga

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 04:28 AM

Also, note that St. John's first recommendation is verbal chastisment, with physical chastisement the last resort: "And should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so." I think it is clear that he is not, as you seem to think, advocating "gratuitous violence".


Which brings us back to acts of righteous indignation such as St Nicholas of Myra lashing out at Arius, and of Christ driving out the moneychangers from the temple.

#23 Sacha

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 04:39 AM

Which brings us back to acts of righteous indignation such as St Nicholas of Myra lashing out at Arius, and of Christ driving out the moneychangers from the temple.


Olga, Christ drove them out, He did not assault his enemies, unlike Chrysostom and many other Orthodox figures.

#24 Paul Cowan

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 05:48 AM

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’


Luke 22:36 Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. 37 For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’[d] For the things concerning Me have an end.” 38 So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”


Matthew 26:52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.


Romans 13:4 For he [governing authorities] is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.


1 John 4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.


Yes, it is all very confusing. Even from our Lord's very mouth.

#25 Paul Cowan

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 05:50 AM

Olga, Christ drove them out, He did not assault his enemies, unlike Chrysostom and many other Orthodox figures.

John 2:14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.


Yes He did.

#26 Sacha

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 06:12 AM

Paul,

The fact that He mad a whip of cords does not imply that He assaulted anyone. It is incumbent on whoever believes that He assaulted people physically with the whip to prove so from the text. But all the text says is that he made a whip of cords. The use for the whip was to scare the money changers and the animals away from their tables (imagine someone whipping the ground, that would be more than enough to get most, people or beasts to run), same with the overturning of the tables. But as far as physically attacking His enemies/the money changers, that never happened.

In fact, if you persist in believing that indeed took place, then yes, you have all the reason to be confused. Because then Christ would be a case of do what I say and not what I do. Yet we know that He upheld the two greatest commandments which are inseparable: the second of which being to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus loved His neighbors the money changers by driving them away from the temple for their own sake among other reasons. But never did He assault them. If you believe that, you will find yourself in the company of calvinists (see Westboro Baptist church and their views on the cleansing of the temple) and those who believe in penal substitution and a vengeful God.

#27 Sacha

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 06:16 AM

Yes, it is all very confusing. Even from our Lord's very mouth.


Those quotes I do not find confusing at all, and matter of fact I find them even less compelling in supporting a defense of Chrysostom and others who have engaged in violence. The first quote is a classic example of not understanding the Jewishness of Jesus. That is a Jewish idiom, much like "cut off your hand if it causes you to sin". He does not literally mean cut your hand off.. and neither did he literally mean that a son would take up a sword in His name against the father.

Luke 22:38 is a non sequitur again. Nowhere does Jesus saying "It is enough" necessarily imply that He condoned or endorsed violence. Matter of fact, your next quote makes that point incredibly clear. He clearly says put away the sword! What more do you need? What then, do you make of the fact that He healed Malchus after the latter had his ear cut off? Does that sound like a Savior that endorses violence in His name? I think not.

Again, no confusion here.

#28 Rob Bergen

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 07:28 AM

I am confused as to what the argument here is. Some are arguing that Orthodox are violent, some are saying that history is misrepresented, and still others are saying that bloodshed is a regrettable consequence of humanity.

I believe that that problem here goes beyond writing off violence as an Orthodox problem, and beyond violence as a consequence of humanity. The original question asked about violence at the Council of Ephesus, which condemned Nestorius. While there may have only been 200 bishops in attendance, there were sill many in attendance that could not speak, or that had no say in the decision (Athanasius was present, but not yet a Bishop, and had no say). It is highly probable that violence broke out among the many who were in attendance, and not necessarily only by the Bishops.

Have we forgotten the sad state of the Christian religion? The "Crusaders" sacked Constantinople and slaughtered its inhabitants during the Fourth Crusade. The Catholics and Protestants fought bloody battles during the Protestant Reformation in Europe, known as the 30 years war (early to mid 1600's). Also, can we forget the Protestant and Catholic tensions in Ireland, still very much alive to this date? Absolutely no one can claim that their "religion" is free of violence.

Christ sets the example for Christians as the first Adam, but are we capable of following His example? This is a loaded question, and perhaps the answer is yes, that we are capable, but we are unable to due to our tendency to sin rather than choose the right. I think that the theory of Christ physically using violence to drive out the moneychangers form the temple is not a good one. If we are to believe that Christ is the ultimate example of what man should be, it should not, and indeed shall not use violence. On the same token, one must understand the human tendency to err. No church Father is infallible, John Chrysostom was not God. All men make mistakes. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." (1 John)

Violence is typical of human error, pride, anger, vengefulness, etc. There really is nothing to argue about once we realize that Christianity, like all human institutions, is not perfect. It is our best expression towards God through His Son Jesus Christ. It is the worship of Christ as king and messiah, and through Him, God and the Holy Spirit. What we come up with here on earth reflects the teachings of our Lord, but truly, it is not the Eternal Kingdom, but only points towards said Kingdom. There is capacity for human error in forming the liturgy and practice of the Church, though we have faith in trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the teachings of the apostles and of Christ Himself. Perfection is only reached in unity with God.

Is it then practical to debate whether violence was or was not used? For the answer certainly is "yes," it was used. Then the question should ask whether the violence is justified. The answer should be "no." Violence is never justified by the actions of Jesus, or condoned by his words (see penultimate Sermon on the Mount). There is rich tradition of pacifism within the Orthodox church, and among the first Christians until the time of Constantine. Inevitably, we lose sight of what should be as time goes on and on, and this is the effect of history: it becomes reactionary.

Violence is therefore not called for and certainly avoidable. But the temptation to "whack" someone who is in deep disagreement (I use this word with its harshest of connotations) is sometimes easier than the alternative, though harmful in the long run.

In Peace,
Rob

#29 Paul Cowan

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 07:39 AM

I am very happy then you are secure in your lack of confusion. Thats the problem with any proof texting. it means one thing to one person and something else to another. Looking back with today's "lens" to discern what Chrysostom and others were doing 1700 years ago is problematic at best. What was written, what was done, what was intended are not necessarily as clear as we might want them to be today.

Jesus said put away the sword because he says in the next verse that His time had come and darkness has fallen. And He could call a legion of angels. So, why any comment at all about bringing swords? Whether something is literal or hyperbole or parable, doesn't change the fact that the church fathers we respect and take our liturgy from had a reason in their theology to do something, in today's lens, is totally unscriptural.

#30 Kosta

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 08:06 AM

Olga, Christ drove them out, He did not assault his enemies, unlike Chrysostom and many other Orthodox figures.



No Christ did assault those that werent fast enough to get out of the temple, including the animals. There were plenty of merchants who were too slow to react and recieved a few lashes before they got the point. If he just ran around with whips he simply would of been tackled down, beaten and escorted out.

Now as far as St John Chrysostom, he mellowed out as he got older. Most of the criticisms whether about antisemitism (he wasnt even a bishop at the time he wrote about the judaisers) and/or his advocating violence is during his earlier years mostly while in Antioch. It was the same case with Cyril of Alexandria, he was ordained young and was zealous, after Ephesus and possibly because of Ephesus he mellowed out and resorted to writing treatises and apologetic writings instead . His 433a.d. epistle where he reconciles with John is evidence that he no longer took a heavyhanded approach and was willing at compromising.

Secondly your advocacy of an absolute pacifism is new and unique in the affairs of human history, including that of christian history. This mindset is really just a few decades old. Orthodoxy is not a pacifist religion, no religion really is. Orthodox people may strongly disagree on what degree of discipline is appropriate in defending the faith under specific situations at different times and places, but certain kinds of violence depending on circumstance is on the table.

Edited by Olga, 29 November 2011 - 08:27 AM.
fixed quote tags


#31 Kais Alek

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 02:13 PM

Read this.

#32 Sacha

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 03:02 PM

I am very happy then you are secure in your lack of confusion. Thats the problem with any proof texting. it means one thing to one person and something else to another. Looking back with today's "lens" to discern what Chrysostom and others were doing 1700 years ago is problematic at best. What was written, what was done, what was intended are not necessarily as clear as we might want them to be today.

Jesus said put away the sword because he says in the next verse that His time had come and darkness has fallen. And He could call a legion of angels. So, why any comment at all about bringing swords? Whether something is literal or hyperbole or parable, doesn't change the fact that the church fathers we respect and take our liturgy from had a reason in their theology to do something, in today's lens, is totally unscriptural.


As one who is outside the OC, I do not want things to be a certain way and only want the facts. The faith is grounded in the reality of historical facts and the Scriptures make those facts clear. Jesus' teaching on how we should treat our enemies did not contain any provisions or exceptions for cultural setting. This is why I am not a Protestant (like the Calvinists who let Calvin go scot free for murdering Servetus arguing, oh that was just what they did back then) and why I am not Orthodox nor Catholic.

Why the comment about swords? Simply because Peter asked him about it. Jesus had no interest in swords, your own quote from Matt 26:52 makes that very clear.

#33 Sacha

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 03:05 PM

I am confused as to what the argument here is. Some are arguing that Orthodox are violent, some are saying that history is misrepresented, and still others are saying that bloodshed is a regrettable consequence of humanity.

...

Is it then practical to debate whether violence was or was not used? For the answer certainly is "yes," it was used. Then the question should ask whether the violence is justified. The answer should be "no." Violence is never justified by the actions of Jesus, or condoned by his words (see penultimate Sermon on the Mount). There is rich tradition of pacifism within the Orthodox church, and among the first Christians until the time of Constantine. Inevitably, we lose sight of what should be as time goes on and on, and this is the effect of history: it becomes reactionary.

Violence is therefore not called for and certainly avoidable. But the temptation to "whack" someone who is in deep disagreement (I use this word with its harshest of connotations) is sometimes easier than the alternative, though harmful in the long run.

In Peace,
Rob


Thank you Rob, I am finding it quite strange to see this insistence on the idea that Jesus physically assaulted the money changers. As you have pointed out, holding such a belief opens a pandora's box of theological problems.

#34 Sacha

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 03:13 PM

No Christ did assault those that werent fast enough to get out of the temple, including the animals. There were plenty of merchants who were too slow to react and recieved a few lashes before they got the point. If he just ran around with whips he simply would of been tackled down, beaten and escorted out.

Now as far as St John Chrysostom, he mellowed out as he got older. Most of the criticisms whether about antisemitism (he wasnt even a bishop at the time he wrote about the judaisers) and/or his advocating violence is during his earlier years mostly while in Antioch. It was the same case with Cyril of Alexandria, he was ordained young and was zealous, after Ephesus and possibly because of Ephesus he mellowed out and resorted to writing treatises and apologetic writings instead . His 433a.d. epistle where he reconciles with John is evidence that he no longer took a heavyhanded approach and was willing at compromising.

Secondly your advocacy of an absolute pacifism is new and unique in the affairs of human history, including that of christian history. This mindset is really just a few decades old. Orthodoxy is not a pacifist religion, no religion really is. Orthodox people may strongly disagree on what degree of discipline is appropriate in defending the faith under specific situations at different times and places, but certain kinds of violence depending on circumstance is on the table.


What evidence do you have that Christ assaulted the money changers? Can you please share it? I am afraid that simply stating so does not constitute evidence for that belief. Your argument that if He only whipped the ground they would not have left does not make sense in the light of the fact that the Scripture says that they feared Him and feared the people who loved Him.

Re Chrysostom, the 'mellowing' out argument is somewhat of a red herring. Because the problem of violence is still there (see Michael Gaddis' book There is No Crime for those who have Christ and his quote I posted on pg 1 of this thread. I say this not to offend anyone, and hope you would construe the tone of my thoughts as peaceful: I simply cannot reconcile the teaching of Christ with the pass that is given to such violence as exhibited by the highest authority figures of the church, such as Chrysostom.

Edited by Sacha, 29 November 2011 - 03:29 PM.
added to first paragraph


#35 Sacha

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 03:23 PM

I am confused as to what the argument here is. Some are arguing that Orthodox are violent, some are saying that history is misrepresented, and still others are saying that bloodshed is a regrettable consequence of humanity.

...

In Peace,
Rob


Rob, the OP on this thread pointed to the violence against the Nestorians in Ephesus and then said this:

"There are more such cases in other councils. And these are considered holy and guided by the Holy Spirit?!"

This is part of what I am discussing here. I also mention instances of violence in the life of Chrysostom and ask how this could be justified. Of course, I do not expect Orthodox to agree with me, but hopefully we can have a civil conversation about it.

#36 Rob Bergen

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 06:34 PM

Rob, the OP on this thread pointed to the violence against the Nestorians in Ephesus and then said this:

"There are more such cases in other councils. And these are considered holy and guided by the Holy Spirit?!"


Then I would venture to conclude that though all councils are guided by the Spirit of Truth, this does not necessitate that all the men involved adhered to a polite and "holy" demeanor. After all, we are humans, and we tend to succumb to human passions, whereas Christ overcame human passions through the subordination of the human will to his divine will. Surely we are all called to follow the example of Christ, who was the true man. To lay aside our passions is a difficult thing to do, ask any monastic or anchorite.

The question should not be whether or not the councils are legitimized through the human interactions therein, but rather, does the decision (i.e. what we read today as the decision of the councils) of the council "jive" with the work of the Holy Spirit? I would say that they certainly are legitimized on the grounds that their theological development was inspired and indeed became what we call today orthodox (correct) and catholic (universal) in the literal sense of those words.

In Peace,
Rob

#37 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 09:46 PM

Christ 'assaulted'?????

This seems highly inappropriate to me...

#38 Sacha

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 10:38 PM

Then I would venture to conclude that though all councils are guided by the Spirit of Truth, this does not necessitate that all the men involved adhered to a polite and "holy" demeanor. After all, we are humans, and we tend to succumb to human passions, whereas Christ overcame human passions through the subordination of the human will to his divine will. Surely we are all called to follow the example of Christ, who was the true man. To lay aside our passions is a difficult thing to do, ask any monastic or anchorite.

The question should not be whether or not the councils are legitimized through the human interactions therein, but rather, does the decision (i.e. what we read today as the decision of the councils) of the council "jive" with the work of the Holy Spirit? I would say that they certainly are legitimized on the grounds that their theological development was inspired and indeed became what we call today orthodox (correct) and catholic (universal) in the literal sense of those words.

In Peace,
Rob


I think you get to the heart of the issue: does the end justify the means? I respect your belief and conclusion and the beliefs expressed in this thread, even though I cannot accept and understand them. But thank you for sharing your thoughts, I appreciate it.

#39 Ryan

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 10:40 PM

Nowhere does Jesus saying "It is enough" necessarily imply that He condoned or endorsed violence.


In fact it proves that Jesus didn't literally intend his disciples to go buy swords- what would 2 swords be "enough" for?

#40 Sacha

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 10:42 PM

In fact it proves that Jesus didn't literally intend his disciples to go buy swords- what would 2 swords be "enough" for?


Exactly! Agreed. What use is 2 swords against a cohort.




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