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#21 Scott Pierson

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 06:47 PM

Christianity is in a special sense the fulfillment of Judaism, but it is also the fulfillment of paganism.

Christos Jonathan


I believe Clement of Alexandria also held that to be the case.

"Behold the might of the new song! It has made men out of stones, men out of beasts. Those, moreover, that were as dead, not being partakers of the true life, have come to life again, simply by becoming listeners to this song. It also composed the universe into melodious order, and tuned the discord of the elements to harmonious arrangement, so that the whole kosmos might become harmony... and this deathless strain-the support of the whole and and harmony of all - reaching from the center to the circumference, and from the extrmities to the central part, has harmonized this universal frame of things, not according to the Thracian music [of Orpheus] which is like that invented by jubal, but according to the paternal counsel of God"

This brings to mind the Orphic hymn to Apollo that describes Apollo harmonizing the poles of the kosmos with his lyre. Christ being the TRUE Orpheus that the pagan myths foreshadowed in a dim manner.

Edited by Scott Pierson, 07 October 2009 - 07:11 PM.


#22 Scott Pierson

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 07:12 PM

just wanted to put up another Clement of Alexandria quote that is pertinent to the topic. This is from "The Stromata".

"So, then, the barbarian and Hellenic philosophy has torn off a fragment of eternal truth not from the mythology of Dionysius, but from the theology of the ever living Word. And He who brings again together the separate fragments, and makes them one, will without peril , be assured contemplate the perfect Word, the truth."

#23 Michael Astley

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 12:20 PM

An Orthodox friend (a convert from evangelical protestantism) who had read a book making similar claims came to me two and a half years ago. He said that the author claimed that referring to the Mother of God as "Queen of Heaven" stems from pagan practice which was adopted by Christianity, and that this was, of necessity, a bad thig. Reading this thread rang some bells, so I have fished through my e-mails and managed to find my response to him. Here it is:

============

[quote]Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined upon the world the light of knowledge; for thereby, they that worshipped the stars were taught by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee.[/quote]

That’s the tropar from the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. The reason I’ve quoted it is to answer your point about the reference to Our Lady as Queen of Heaven.

Orthodoxy sees the new dispensation - the New Covenant in Christ – as being the fulfilment of all things. As Christ Himself said, ‘This is my Blood of the New and everlasting Covenant’. The old ways are not cast aside but rather are fulfilled – brought to their fruition in Christ. This is one of the major points on which many strains of Protestantism have departed from the Truth of Orthodoxy. It isn’t an obvious difference because it isn’t immediately apparent when you walk into their churches, not like the absence of holy images or incense – but it is a very real difference.

Many of them see Christ as coming to replace the old ways, which are now past and gone. They would perhaps contradict you if you were to phrase it like that but the fact is that the way they conceptualise and the way their beliefs are formulated show that this is what they, deep down, hold to be true.

Thomas Aquinas was a Catholic who got many things wrong, but one thing he got right was in his hymn on the Eucharist – the summit of the Church’s life - Tantum Ergo Sacramentum:

[quote]Therefore we, before Him bending,
This great Sacrament revere;
Types and shadows have their ending
For the newer rite is here.
Faith, our outward sense befriending,
Makes the inward vision clear.[/quote]

By contrast to many Protestants, Orthodox see God’s interaction with His people as showing itself through these “types and shadows”.

The Protestant view of Eden is simply this: God created man perfect, as he was meant to be for all time. Yet, man fell from this state in what we call The Fall. Leaving aside the question of whether or not this is heresy, on the most basic level it is illogical nonsense. If man was perfect, how could he sin?

It is this type of Protestant who rejects the Orthodox concept of theosis. The Orthodox view of Eden, by contrast, is that man was created in God’s image. We draw a distinction between the image of God in man and the likeness of God in man. The image is how we were created – with the potential to grow into the fullness of life with God. The likeness is the realisation of that fullness of life in God, sharing in his glory, his splendour, in the fullness of what man was created to be. Those who have reached the likeness of God we call Saints. It’s right there in the Genesis creation story where nowhere does it say that we were created in God’s likeness:

[quote]Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, according to our likeness…’[/quote] - Genesis 1:26a

Other translations say “after our likeness”. None of them says “in our likeness”. When it comes to the actual act of creation in the following verse, we have:

[quote]So God created mankind in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.[/quote] - Genesis 1:27

You’ll see that there’s no mention of the likeness of God in the actual creation of man.

The Orthodox Church sees the attainment of the likeness of God as a journey, in which God creates us, not in full union with Him, but rather allowing us to grow into a fullness of life with Him through a loving, nurturing relationship. He wants us to “be like God, knowing good and evil”. When, in the story of the Fall in Genesis 3, the serpent promises this to mankind, in the form of Adam and Eve, he was right! Say that to any Protestant and they’ll instantly condemn you as a heretic, but it’s true. The story of the Fall doesn’t show that the serpent was a liar so that we can blame the sin of mankind on him – oh no, we don’t get off that easily! The serpent promised us what we wanted and what was God’s intention for us, but while God’s plan was to gradually reveal more and more of his Truth and Himself to us as we had become more and more mature in a relationship with Him, the serpent said ‘You can have it now, and be as God, knowing good and evil – now’ - it was this that was the serpent's lie. Man’s sin was placing his own will over and above the will of God, and that is the at the heart of the story – man’s innocence was lost, as “they realised that they were naked”.

Back to this journey of mankind into God’s likeness:

The Fathers of the Church have traditionally seen the religions that went before Christ came as revelations of specks of the Truth of Christ – what Thomas Aquinas referred to as “types and shadows” in the hymn quoted above. They were obviously not revealed in their fullness, because man was not yet ready for that but they were still elements of the Truth which were to be fulfilled when the fullness of Truth came: Christ Himself.

Therefore, when we look at the Old Testament, we see God’s interaction with His chosen people, the Jews. With them, He developed a covenantal relationship in a way that He didn’t with other peoples, and so we have a record of His saving works throughout Jewish history, in which we see “types and shadows” of the fullness that was to come with Christ.

In the Western Rite, Thursday just gone was the Feast of Corpus Christi when we praise God for the Holy Eucharist and the Mysteries of His Body and Blood. There is an ancient hymn written for the feast which speaks of some of these “types”, these specks of the Truth that were to be fulfilled in Christ:

[quote]Lo! The new King’s Table gracing,
this new Passover of blessing
hath fulfilled the elder rite.

Now the new the old effaceth,
Truth revealed the shadow chaseth,
day is breaking on the night.

Truth the ancient types fulfilling:
Isaac bound, a victim willing,
Paschal Lamb, its life-blood spilling,
Manna sent in agest past.[/quote]

The manna feeding God’s pilgrims in the wilderness is seen as a type of the Body of Christ. Similarly, Isaac being Sacrificed by a willing and obedient Abraham is seen as a type of Christ’s Sacrifice of Himself on the Cross. The Passover Lamb that was to save the Israelites from the Egyptian death is a type of Christ, the Lamb of God, by the shedding of Whose Blood we, too, are saved from death.

This is just one example, and the Old Testament is riddled with things that we Christians see as being inferior glimpses into the Truth, revealed by god to His people when that was all they could handle.

Most Protestants would have no problem with this, as it is thoroughly Scriptural. In fact, St Matthew, who was a convert from Judaism, makes a point in his Gospel of showing how Christ fulfils the ancient Jewish prophecies. If you look at St Matthew’s Gospel, you will see that, time and time again, he quotes from the prophecies to show how they relate to Christ. He would have been brought upgoing to synagogue and would have known his scripture, and he was writing for a Jewish audience.

Where the Protestants would leave us Orthodox is in our understanding of St John’s Gospel. You see, these types and shadows did not appear in Judaism alone! Yes, it may well be the case that the Jews were God’s chosen people, and their Messiah would be the fulfilment of all things, but “all things” means so much more than just Jewish Scriptures. As Isaiah says:

[quote]The Lord has bared His holy arm before the eyes of all nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.[/quote] - Isaiah 52:10

St John is the person whose Gospel we should be looking at now because he was writing for a Greek (pagan) audience. The people he was writing for had no or little concept of Judaism. They didn’t know the Jewish history of a relationship with God. They did not grow up hearing the prophecies. They didn’t know of a Messiah who would be descended from kings and priests. If you look at St John’s Gospel, he takes this into account. He doesn’t waste time quoting prophecies that his audience would never have heard. He doesn’t waste any ink detailing Christ’s lineage back to the patriarchs of Judaism. He doesn’t even have an account of the Nativity of Christ. He leaves all that to St Matthew and his Jewish audience. No. St John wrote for the Greeks who had their own ideas and had their own revelations from God in the forms of specks of the Truth.

One thing common to the Greek philosophers and even some of the mystery religions that grew up in the Greek empire was the concept that there is a basic, foundational principle – the unspoken idea/word - according to which everything operates – the moon, the stars, the planets on their courses, human birth, life, death – everything. It all had one foundational principle beyond the understanding of man. They may not all have had the concept of God (although many of them did, and based mystery religions on this concept) but the basic groundwork was there. They called this concept logos.

St John shows no shame in drawing on their history and their culture to show them how Christ has come to them as much as He has the Jews. English translations of the Bible render logos as Word, which loses much of the original sense, but to somebody in pre-Christian Greece, whose world-view was that everything was founded on the unchanging and dependable logos, the first chapter of St John must have been mind-blowing. I’ll quote it here without the word logos translated:

[quote]In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Logos became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.[/quote]

I recently bought Bishop Hilarion’s The Mystery of Faith, which is essentially an Orthodox catechism written for non-Orthodox Christians and Orthodox Christians alike. (It relies on the reader already knowing about Christianity so wouldn’t be appropriate for someone new to it all). Near the beginning is a chapter entitled The Search for Faith, in which he explores different ways in which various cultures have had the Truth revealed to them. He cites St Justin Marty (2nd century) referring to the Greek philosophers as the “Christians before Christ”. Quoting from that chapter:

[quote]An early Greek Father, Clement of Alexandria, claimed that philosophy paved the way for Christ in the Greek-speaking world in the same way that the Old Testament prepared the Jewish world for the coming of the Messiah. Some of the Church Fathers came to Christianity through the study of philosophy and many of them thought very highly of it, in particular Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory the Theologian. In the narthexes of ancient Christian churches alongside the martyrs and saints, there would be portraits of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle as forerunners and heralds of the Truth.[/quote]

For example, here’s a quote from Plato’s Timateus:

[quote]All that has come into existence needs a reason for its coming into existence. Of course, the Creator and Father of this universe is hard to seek, and if we find him, we should not tell everyone about him. The cosmos is beautiful, and its Demiurge is good. The cosmos is the finest thing that has come into being, and the Demiurge is the finest of all causes. In being good, he cares for all visible things, which abide not in peace but in disharmonious and disordered movement; he has brought them from disorder into order.[/quote]

In pre-Christian mystery religion, for example, there was a religious cult called Mithraism. The similarities to Christianity are really quite astounding. The god-like figure of this religions was called Mithras. As the story goes, he was born of a rock, or in some sources, of a virgin - in either case it was without the need for sexual relations between biological parents. There is reason to believe that thw date of his birth was celebrated on what would today be the 25th of December (according to some sources). And more astoundingly, the story goes that he commanded that his followers, after his death, to eat his body and drink his blood. Sound familiar?

It is only one of many examples.

Atheists often use this as their reason for being extremely dismissive of Christianity. They say that the early Christians just took bits and pieces from religions that already existed and made up their own.

By way of contrast, many Protestants would probably go into anaphylactic shock to read what I’ve just typed. They see it as pagan, unscriptural, dangerous, and unnecessary. Because many of them don’t understand the concept of theosis and revelation, they do not see the proper place of these precursors to Christ. I have read in the past one protestant view that these mystery religions were Satan’s way of pre-empting Christ’s saving work and deceiving more souls into hell. We can only pray for them and try to show them the truth.

The Orthodox heart, however, should rejoice at hearing these things because for us, it shows that the all-loving God revealed part of the Truth of himself to all people, Jew and Gentile alike, and that the All-Powerful Christ is the beginning and end of all these things – the Alpha and the Omega. These were the tiny specks of the Truth – the types and shadows - before He came to reveal the Truth in its fullness in His New Covenant brought about by his Incarnation, life, death, Resurrection and glorious Ascension. Have a look again at the tropar at the top of this e-mail.

Yes, some of these mystery religions also had female virgin figures who were the mothers or spouses of the gods of the religions. Some of them conceived without sex. Some were depicted as goddesses while others were not. Many of them were turned to in order to intercede with their divine sons. Many Protestants argue that devotions to Our Lady are based on this and that we who do it are simply engaging in pagan practices. They cannot (or will not?) see that this is a precursor to the fullness of Truth in the New Covenant brought about by Christ. By their argument, Christians should also not have Communion, because this, too, appeared in Mithraism and so is just as pagan as devotion to the Mother of God. Christians should not celebrate Christmas because that is when the birth of Mithras was celebrated. Christians should not have sex because that was part of the ritual of some of these religions. Christians should not eat teacakes because raisin cakes were eaten in honour of some of these goddesses. The list could go on for ever. By now, you should be able to see that it is nonsense.

After that very long-winded e-mail, my point is that you mustn’t let these reactionary protestants cloud your judgement. They speak forcefully and let’s face it, they know their bibles better than many of us do, but they speak, sadly, out of a state of being separated from the context where the Bible finds its meaning, which is the Church, and when they try to read the Bible outside the loving and guiding fold of the Church they are bound to be led astray.

St Mark of Ephesus:

[quote]Never, O man, is that which concerns the Church put right through compromises: there is no mean between truth and falsehood. But just as what is outside the light will be necessarily in darkness, so also he who steps away a little from the truth is left subject to falsehood.[/quote]

Mary was raised into the heavenly state where she received the crowning glory of the New dispensation in Christ. Like the other Saints, she has reached the fullness of theosis, sharing in the divine life, glory and splendour of God. Unlike the other Saints, she was the first of all mankind to be given this honour when she was taken, body and soul, into heaven. Therefore, she is rightly called Queen of Heaven in the Orthodox understanding, and we should be able to do so gladly and wholeheartedly without any worry of paganism, while simultaneously praying for our protestant friends who struggle with these things.

I’m sorry for the long e-mail and hope that, having waded through it, you find it to be of some help. The reason that I have written at such length is because this idea of Christ as conquering and fulfilling all things is one of the things that I found most exciting when I came to Orthodoxy. What a wonderful Faith this is!

=================================

In Christ,
Michael

#24 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 02:56 PM

Dear Michael,

Thank you for that post. It, together with Scott's previous, remind of a basic confession of the early (as well as many later) Fathers: namely, that Christ as Logos is the foundation of all that is logikos. To translate logos for the moment as 'truth', the confession that the Truth created the world according to His own truth, infusing it with truth (the 'logos spermatikos' of St Justin), means that all who approach truth are indeed approaching Truth: Christ. As the Fathers took pains to show, what is unique about the Church is not that it is the sole place where truth is found, but that it is the sole place where Truth is known fully, completely, utterly. And while certain practices within which the truth was known in part prior to the incarnation are no longer healthy or tolerable, the Fathers tended to show a reverent respect for them as part of the history which God uses and redeems in Christ.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#25 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 11:04 AM

One of my favourite quotes is something that Gerontas Paisios had said:

The Truth is not an abstract idea or thought. The Truth is a Person. I am the Truth,Christ announced. He did not say,"I came to tell you a few nice things about truth to help you along" He said; I am the Way & the Truth & the Life! (John 14:16)

Edited by M.C. Steenberg, 12 October 2009 - 11:41 AM.
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#26 Owen Jones

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 01:12 PM

Again, the "I" of Christ and the "Way" of Christ are interchangeable. Therefore, the truth is not just a person, but a way.

#27 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 02:29 PM

Dear Owen, you wrote:

Again, the "I" of Christ and the "Way" of Christ are interchangeable. Therefore, the truth is not just a person, but a way.


And this is quite critical. Christians often (rightly) note that truth is not a set of propositions: it is a person. But it is equally as important to stress, as you do, that this person is the way -- that is, Truth is also a way of life. Truth is known not just in coming to know Christ, but in coming to live Christ's life.

... and so the true philosopher is the ascetic.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#28 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 12:29 AM

... and so the true philosopher is the ascetic.


Or perhaps the true philosopher is the martyr? Someone willing to die for the truth, like Christ? Also like St. Justin, the Martyr and Philosopher?

#29 Michael Stickles

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 03:31 AM

Rdr Michael,

Though your description of the Protestant view of non-Jewish "precursors to Christ" mostly matches what I saw during my time in Protestantism, it is not at all universal. I know that I did not believe it, and some years ago was delighted to find a prominent Protestant author who agreed (I've added line breaks to make it easier to read):

I believe that in the huge mass of mythology which has come down to us, a good many different sources are mixed - true history, allegory, ritual, the human delight in story telling, etc. But among these sources I include the supernatural ...

If my religion is erroneous then occurrences of similar motifs in pagan stories are, of course, instances of the same, or a similar error. But if my religion is true, then these stories may well be a preparatio evangelica, a divine hinting in poetic and ritual form at the same central truth which was later focused and (so to speak) historicised in the Incarnation.

To me, who first approached Christianity from a delighted interest in, and reverence for, the best pagan imagination, who loved Balder before Christ and Plato before St. Augustine, the anthropological argument against Christianity has never been formidable. On the contrary, I could not believe Christianity if I were forced to say that there were a thousand religions in the world of which 999 were pure nonsense and the thousandth (fortunately) true. My conversion, very largely, depended on recognizing Christianity as the completion, the actualization, the entelechy, of something that had never been wholly absent from the mind of man.

And I still think that the agnostic argument from similarities between Christianity and paganism works only if you know the answer. If you start by knowing on other grounds that Christianity is false, then the pagan stories may be another nail in its coffin; just as if you started by knowing that there were no such things as crocodiles then the various stories about dragons might help to confirm your disbelief.

- C. S. Lewis, in "Religion Without Dogma?", 1946 (paper read at the Oxford Socratic Club as a reply to the paper "The Grounds of Modern Agnosticism"; published in "God in the Dock")


In Christ,
Michael

#30 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 08:10 AM

A great resource to refer to in this topic is "The Early Church Fathers as Educators" by Elias Matsagouras. There are elements in what he says that capture what I was taught about when I was a little girl, example, the early church did take from 'paganism'so that it could 'fight' paganism ... it seems strange but the author explains it well. I am only one third of the way through this book so I am not sure the overall outcomes of his study. What I do like about this book thus far is how he explains the convergence (and influences) of Greek philosophical trends* and Judaic elements* into the monastic movement of the early church, which was a reaction to the secularisation of the early Church.

The environment of the early church plays a huge part in the personal development of the early church. This community was a combination of voluntary outcasts from the Judaic religion and also the Gentiles and the Pagans; so, all 'grafted' into the Tree of Life and each brought with them their respective cultures and traditions. These christians lived as communities under persecution so this would have forced them to live together and the respective cultures to converge ... there are many classic examples and theories that can support this such as the "Kandili".

----
To give people a "taste"for this book and also use some of this book as information on 'Pagan christianity' I would like to offer excerpts from Chapter I: Educational Activites in the Early Church. It gives a basic gist ...

A. Hellenism-Christianity

The intellectual struggle between Christianity and the classical world that started in Athens with Paul's speech to the Athenians, continued through the next three or more centuries in such cities as Alexandria, where these two great forces confronted each other at that crossroad of history. To the early Church, classical thought was not just the armoury of pagan hostility toward Christianity, it also represented a debate within the very fibre of the Church, since many Christians who possessed a sound classical education wanted to use it for a better understanding of the new faith and paradoxically, even for a defence against pagan attacks.

Thus, the early apologists had to speak Greek, both literally and metaphorically. They were addressing themselves to the Greek world and they had to express the new message in terms understood by their intellectual contemporaries. The rise of Christian theology and of Christian scholards who would attempt to unite Greek philosophy and Christian faith, was one result of this struggle. A brief survey here of the successive phases of this intellectual struggle will be given by presenting some of the representative schools of thought involved in the conflict:

1. Phase 1, Justin Martyr is considered to be th enoblest personality of the early literature, as well as the most important apologist of the second century. He is also deemed to be the originator of Christian philosophy. He tried to build a bridge between Greek philosophy and Christian faith by presenting the idea that Christ, the eternal Logos, had been active in human histroy, teaching and inspiring good and wise men everywhere, Greeks and Jews alike (Justin the Martyr, Apology, II, 13, ANF p193). Thus he wrote that the Platonic writings and the Bible expressed basically the same doctrine of God and the world, ie God is trancendent, nameless, incorporeal, impassible and immutable. Furthermore, Justin praises Plato's teaching about the soul's kinship to God, its free will and the divine origins of the material world. Nevertheless, Justin also held that the Bible is the complete divine revelation, and did not hesitate to reject Greek philosophical ideas that disagreed with Biblical teaching!

One example is his rejection of the Platonic doctrine of the transmigration of the soul. He had a great respect for most philosophers and this may contribute to the understanding of the Scriptural life of reason to be Christians even though they previously had been thought to be atheists and to some degree the Church accepted this idea.

Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Thucydides and other Greek thinkers were portrayed in Church vestibules together with the Old Testament prophets. Two other figures of the Church, Clement of Alexandria and Origen the Christian continued in Justin's line of thought. These two men rendered a service to Christianity by legitimizing philosophy as a tool in the defense of Christian beliefs."
---

The book certainly continues on this topic and expands into the 'golden century' of the Church. An important summary he makes is:

"the early Church thinkers understood Christianity as a religion with ecumenical dimensions and realised that it had to be converted to some extent to the culture and outlook of late antiquity, before it was possible for it to convert the Greco-Roman world. Thus, the Church, while Christianizing the Greek-speaking and Greek-thinking world, itself became Hellenized to some extent. The first step which Christianity took towards Hellenism was the use of the Greek language. This was followed by the adoption of several philosophical ideas from Plato, Aristotle and Stoics, which, under the shield of Christianity often acquired new meanings."

The author continues, and is, IMHO, a striking comment:

"When 'unchristianised' Greek thought entered the Church it led to the creation of heresies."

Yes, Tertullian did write that 'heresies are instigated by philosophy', however, the three Greats showed that if the philosophy was 'christianised' then it only empowered the Church.

Sorry for the length of this post, however, the information was so critical to share and still there is so much that could be shared, however, my fingers are tired from typing it all up!




Footnote
*For instance, Neo-Platonism offered a ready-made system of thought that was in many ways in agreement with the monastic understanding of the reality: it was theocentric, contemplative, with not much appreciation for the tangible. Moreover, Christians of some sort of Stoic and Cynic backgrounds might have been encouraged to renounce bodily pleasures and society. The majority, however, of the monks were simply people seeking union with Christ in His passion and were not contemplative philosophers.
*Judaic elements, such as traditions derived from the Qumran community, possible also the Syrian christians and the monastic life of Egyptian Therapeutes.

#31 Jonathan Hayward

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 04:11 PM

There is a Protestant cottage industry of trying to resurrect the lost ancient Church. And, apart from converts still in catechesis, the Orthodox Church does not have this antiquarian project: it has the reality. To people engaged in the quest to reconstruct the pristine Church, the best advice is, "Leave the shadows you have behind and come and taste the reality. Even, or especially, if the reality you meet does not need projects to reconstruct the ancient Church."

In something of the same fashion, the philo-sophia, the philosophic walk of life, is in very large measure alive in monasticism in a way that is almost dead in university departments of philosophy.

And there is a certain sense in which it can be said that Orthodoxy is "pagan" and neo-paganism isn't: neo-paganism is only a shadow of the spirit of classical paganism, as a Protestant reconstruction is only a shadow of an ancient Church that knew nothing of such secular antiquarianism as a norm. The pagan, like the Protestant, may need to leave aside the very motivations for interest in Orthodoxy to truly join Orthodoxy, but neo-paganism today is hardly comparable to Orthodoxy for preserving the grandeurs that existed in paganism in its grandest days.

Christos Jonathan

#32 Etsi JC Brigid W.

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 12:11 AM

Orthodoxy sees the new dispensation - the New Covenant in Christ – as being the fulfilment of all things. As Christ Himself said, ‘This is my Blood of the New and everlasting Covenant’. The old ways are not cast aside but rather are fulfilled – brought to their fruition in Christ. This is one of the major points on which many strains of Protestantism have departed from the Truth of Orthodoxy. It isn’t an obvious difference because it isn’t immediately apparent when you walk into their churches, not like the absence of holy images or incense – but it is a very real difference.

Many of them see Christ as coming to replace the old ways, which are now past and gone. They would perhaps contradict you if you were to phrase it like that but the fact is that the way they conceptualise and the way their beliefs are formulated show that this is what they, deep down, hold to be true.

As a Protestant (converting), we agreed with this, but the "old" and "fulfilled" was in reference to Judaism of which there are types and shadows of what was to come. On one hand, I ask where you pull in paganism as being included in this equation. On the other hand, I see where early Christian Celts, where at the time there weren't Judaic understanding and exposure, used paganism in just such a way.

BTW, I've been Christmass and Easter free for many years. I can agree with Passover, but also view that as being fulfilled in Communion. So this is a big hurdle for me, even though I am converting.

#33 Owen Jones

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 01:01 AM

The big hurtle is really obedience. That is always the problem. Practicing true obedience in its deeper spiritual sense. There is a great amount of freedom in that.

#34 Ben Johnson

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 01:04 AM

I haven't read the book, but I know atheists like to accuse Christianity of theft. Christmas was stolen from the Roman celebration of solstice, Easter supposedly is derived from aster, although there is another explanation. I suppose if Christmas was held in July the atheists would find an earlier celebration on that day and complain about it. If the LORD can give new meaning to some bread and wine at Passover, certainly the pagan celebrations can be given a new meaning.

#35 Etsi JC Brigid W.

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 02:06 AM

The big hurtle is really obedience. That is always the problem. Practicing true obedience in its deeper spiritual sense. There is a great amount of freedom in that.

I'm not understanding your comment. Where in Scripture are these days commanded? Where are these days commanded by the Church? From talks with Fr, he has not seemed to have an issue with my not participating in Christmass and the fact that I'm not certain where I stand or how far I will go with the idea of Christmass in regards to the Church. My understanding is that it's not a required observance.

In perspective of my stand over the years, I have, in fact, been being obedient to the concept of not calling holy that which Gd has not declared holy, or declaring the unholy holy.

#36 Owen Jones

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 03:29 PM

You are converting to a life of obedience and your priest is wisely giving you time and latitude rather than using force and compulsion.

#37 Etsi JC Brigid W.

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 03:53 PM

You are converting to a life of obedience and your priest is wisely giving you time and latitude rather than using force and compulsion.


So are you claiming that Christmass is a required observance?


I noticed that you didn't touch on any other part of my posts, only on so-called obedience. Conversion requires convincing. One must be convinced that something is right or wrong, particularly when they have held, with good conscience, that something is otherwise than is being presented by those wanting them to convert (and yes, I know you could probably give a flip less if I convert, but I'm speaking more along the lines of my husband and my priest). Therefore, instead of insinuating that I'm not being obedient, especially to something that I have been led to understand is not a required observance but rather something that is open to personal conviction, perhaps you should first approach as to where I am wrong for refusing to call that which is not commanded and was not holy, holy.

#38 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 04:03 PM

Dear Cassiane,

The specific question of what is needed and suitable to you, personally, is something none here can answer - only your spiritual father, the priest of your parish.

But as for the Church, the Feast of the Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (i.e. 'Christmas') is an essential part of the Church's life and worship; without it one does not have Orthodoxy.

But how your priest understands to best bring you into this understanding and practice is, as I say, something deeply personal that we could not (and ought not) pontificate on here. As Owen has said, this is part of the relationship of obedience that is your unique relationship with him.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#39 Etsi JC Brigid W.

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 04:05 PM

Basically, give be the whole enchilada now and let me decide whether I convert or not convert. Don't just say that I have room on certain things, get me to convert, then suddenly tell me that it's not as I had been led to believe. Honesty is prized highly.

#40 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 04:09 PM

Dear Cassiane,

I don't know what more to say! No one is trying to make you to convert: I hope this is the desire growing in your own heart, not the activity of anyone to coerce!

As to the issue: I think my post above says all I can really say. The Feast of the Nativity is a sine qua non of Orthodoxy: without it, one doesn't have Orthodoxy. As also the feast of Pascha, the Resurrection. These are pivotal aspects of the Church's worship in the incarnate Lord.

But, as before, how your priest understands to bring you into a right, peaceful understanding and practice of this is a deeply personal matter. The approach of the Church is not coercion or force!

INXC, Dcn Matthew




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