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Pagan Christianity


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#81 Fred B.

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 03:40 PM

Sacha,
I'm in the process of reading through the thread you started on propitiation/atonement. Thank you for that discussion, and for your comments here. I find both to be very humbling. I think what you wrote in the following quote makes sense of the apparent contradictions:

I've come to the conclusion that all of the metaphors used by St Paul to describe the atonement are not meant to be pressed into a neat pattern that we can over analyze intellectually as much as they are meant to create in the depths of our soul a sense of awe and wonder at the depth of God's grace and love for us. I suspect that is why St Paul used so many metaphors, so that he wouldn't leave anyone out who would come to true experiential knowledge in the heart of God's love, justice and might through one of those word pictures. If I may add, the one metaphor of the atonement that I think dominates St Paul's writing, on the whole, is the idea of heroic rescuer calling on us to participate in his victory. Christ, rescuing us from the powers of evil, so that we can share in his suffering and victory.


The work that Christ accomplished on the cross is perhaps the deepest and most mystical event in history, and we as humans struggle to understand something that is truly beyond our understanding and beyond the capacity of our language to communicate. We do the best we can, and in the process create some degree of confusion.

#82 Sacha

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 04:10 PM

Hi Fred,

I think that if you read the thread closely, you will find two very different views of the atonement from Orthodox posters (I am not in that group). This difference is reflected further in the opposition, from within Orthodox circles to Bishop Kalomiros' teaching in the 'The River of Fire'. We have seen Fr Steenberg for example, clearly refute Kalomiros' views on this forum (see Fr Hopko and the Wrath of God thread). So these are the contradictions I am pointing to. Whether you are inclined to see in my understanding (that you quoted above) a means to resolve this contradictions or not (I am glad that you do, en passant), the fact remains that the contradictions are there and are present in the discussion over doctrines of high importance like the atonement.

Which brings me back to my earlier point. I agree with you that contradictions in the Protestant church are rife, and they stem from the circular reasoning applied to private Biblical interpretations. However, I remain unconvinced that similar problems do not exist in the Orthodox church.

#83 Sacha

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 04:15 PM

I also have to add that what I said (quoted above) on St Paul's metaphors should not be understood as meaning that I endorse penal substitution, or the idea that God had to punish Christ into order for us to receive forgiveness. This is the idea that some Orthodox posters are sympathetic to, based on their understanding of certain church Fathers which they quote later on in that thread.

#84 Sacha

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 04:40 PM

Thanks for your reply. I appreciate it.

I wouldn't say I've deemphasized tradition. In Orthodox Church, Met. Kallistos Ware intimates that there is no real way to disconnect the Holy Spirit from Holy Tradition.

But aside from this detail, your concern is a real one to you, so I won't brush it aside carelessly.

Many groups claim things that aren't true. We are fallen and, even in the OC, priests and bishops have claimed things that aren't true, but which are in due course dealt with.

According to the OC, the Holy Spirit is "everywhere and fillest all things." No Orthodox would deny that the Holy Spirit works even in the lives of the most explicit anti-Christian, for, God loves us all. So we can say that, in a sense, the Holy Spirit is active in the world in general to lead us to salvation.

But notice: It doesn't follow from this that, since the Holy Spirit is at work in everyone's lives toward their salvation, whatever they claim will be true. Arius said that the Son was created even while the Holy Spirit was at work in his life in some way, always toward his salvation.

Here's my point: The Holy Spirit does not contradict itself. If group X and Y claim that their teachings are the result of their having the Holy Spirit, and X teaches doctrine D, and Y teaches not D, then we have a problem: Either the Holy Spirit contradicts itself, or only one of those groups is teaching a doctrine according to the Holy Spirit, or neither of them are.

Let's use your example. Pentecostals/Baptists would say that their doctrine of Sola Scriptura accords with what the Holy Spirit has revealed. However, the OC would say, no, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura does not accord with what the Holy Spirit has revealed.

Either the Holy Spirit contradicts itself, and so it teaches falsity, or only one of those two, Pentecostals/Baptists or the OC, is teaching a doctrine according to the Holy Spirit, or neither of them are.

Supposing we are correct in our assessment here, how then would you decide who teaches a doctrine that is genuinely the result of the work of the Holy Spirit? And on the basis of what criteria?

I hope I've engaged you in some meaningful way.


Hi Rick,

Thank you for your thoughts, kindly shared. I'll address your main point stated here:

Here's my point: The Holy Spirit does not contradict itself. If group X and Y claim that their teachings are the result of their having the Holy Spirit, and X teaches doctrine D, and Y teaches not D, then we have a problem: Either the Holy Spirit contradicts itself, or only one of those groups is teaching a doctrine according to the Holy Spirit, or neither of them are

.

The problem, as I see it, is not about the Holy Spirit 'contradicting' Himself, but rather with the vessels which are supposed to receive the Holy Spirit and be guided by Him. I think that Christ's church has prevailed not because of the absolute purity of these vessels, but instead has prevailed despite the impurities. From my point of view, I believe that the birds of the air have nested themselves in the mustard seed tree's branches, resulting in division and contradictions.

I can understand how this can lead to the objection "So what hope is there then?" To which I can only say, I only know my sins, and can only pray the Jesus prayer. My prayer is that Christ would find faith in me when He returns. I do not claim to know anything or have definitive answers for others. My understanding of my own theology is that it is both weak and deeply fallible. I have no objections to others criticizing me for this admission, in fact, I respect the criticism.

#85 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 06:08 PM

Dear Sacha,

I was wondering whether you thought of the birds of the air as meaning divisions ect... or whether you had heard it some from someone else. Saint Cryil says that the bird of the air are us who compared to God are like sparrows who are small compared to God and flee to the tree for refuge.

Which is funny for in my neighbours back garden there is a tree with ivy, or some other plant I'm not sure, anyway just after my dinner I saw when any danger goes by all the sparrows fly from my garden and theirs and hid in the tree.

The Blessed Theophylact explains the birds of the air as being those who are lofty in knowledge who were Greek philosophers but have come to know the God through the Gospel having found this tree to perch on.



Sure there are going to be contradictions between people, even priests, as the in the tread you spoke of but that does not mean that the Orthodox Church as a whole does not know the answer. It just means there are a few different opinions about the place just beacuse someone is Orthodox it does not mean they speak for the Church.

There have always been misunderstandings about what the Church teaches and people try to understand what the Fathers wrote and find it hard and even hard to explain what they have understood to others or even to understand what others are saying. But the Church is not a set of theological dogmas but the living breathing body of Christ which he established and promised the gates of hades would not prevail against.

#86 Sacha

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 07:07 PM

I don't understand the birds of the air in the parable of the mustard seed in the way you shared above for two reasons: first, right after that parable, Jesus speaks of the yeast that causes the dough to rise, yeast is symbolic of sin. Notice that it is the woman who introduces the yeast, and the yeast is foreign to the dough. To me, the two parables are one and same. The birds of the air are foreign to the mustard tree, but they find their way in. Have you ever seen a mustard tree in Israel? It does not grow tall, and is bushy. Secondly, note the other place where Jesus uses the phrase 'birds of the air' in a parable, i.e., in the parable of the sower. The connotation is clearly negative there as well.

#87 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 08:26 PM

I think you are right in saying the the two parables are one and the same at least about the same thing. Leaven is not normally symbolic of sin but of teaching and therefore in some cases the teaching of the Pharisees ect.., this if mixed with the flour imparts is properties and spoils the bread. But in this case of the Kingdom of God which also imparts its properties to the flour.

The Holy Fathers teach this in both,

The Apostles going forth into the world imparting the Gospel amongst the people as leaven mixes with the flour imparting its properties into the flour causing the bread to rise.

And again as the leaven mixes with the flour imparting its properties into the flour so 'the word of God operates in us in a similar manner: for when admitted within us, it makes us holy and without blame, and pervading our mind and heart, it renders us spiritual, that as Paul says, "Our whole body and spirit and soul may be "kept blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." -Saint Cyril

#88 Rick

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 08:49 AM

Hi Rick,

Thank you for your thoughts, kindly shared. I'll address your main point stated here:

.

The problem, as I see it, is not about the Holy Spirit 'contradicting' Himself, but rather with the vessels which are supposed to receive the Holy Spirit and be guided by Him. I think that Christ's church has prevailed not because of the absolute purity of these vessels, but instead has prevailed despite the impurities. From my point of view, I believe that the birds of the air have nested themselves in the mustard seed tree's branches, resulting in division and contradictions.

I can understand how this can lead to the objection "So what hope is there then?" To which I can only say, I only know my sins, and can only pray the Jesus prayer. My prayer is that Christ would find faith in me when He returns. I do not claim to know anything or have definitive answers for others. My understanding of my own theology is that it is both weak and deeply fallible. I have no objections to others criticizing me for this admission, in fact, I respect the criticism.


Thanks for this. That is my prayer as well. I don't have all the answers either. I appreciate your kindness. I'm trying to understand your position on these things, so this helps.

You said:

The problem, as I see it, is not about the Holy Spirit 'contradicting' Himself, but rather with the vessels which are supposed to receive the Holy Spirit and be guided by Him.

I think what you are getting at is this: The problem is not so much that the Holy Spirit contradicts itself as much as it is that groups who claim to have the Holy Spirit do.

Perhaps I didn't make my point clearly enough or was confusing, since you are saying precisely what I was saying. Let me modify what I said a bit, which I'll indicate with an underline.

If group X and Y claim that their teachings are the result of their having the Holy Spirit, and X teaches doctrine D, and Y teaches not D, then we have a problem: Only one of those groups is teaching a doctrine according to the Holy Spirit, or neither of them are, since we know for a fact that the Holy Spirit does not contradict itself.

How is this relevant?

It forces us to answer the following question:

Can the Holy Spirit instruct a group X toward teaching doctrine 'D', and then, at the same time, instruct another group Y toward teaching the doctrine 'not D'?

Sorry if this sounds pedantic. I hope the above is lucid enough.

You said:

I think that Christ's church has prevailed not because of the absolute purity of these vessels, but instead has prevailed despite the impurities.

If by "Christ's church" you mean the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, then what you say is exactly what the OC believes, given its long history of battling heresies coming from within, even. If this is what you mean, then why not join "Christ's church"? This is a rhetorical question.

Full disclosure: The general argument I'm making is that there is only One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. If this is true, no argument of circularity is possible.

Respectfully and in Christ's love.

#89 Fred B.

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 01:46 PM

Looking through some threads for discussion of "infallibility", it seems there is ample disagreement on that subject as well! Perhaps it would be good to restart one of those threads, or create a new one?

My limited understanding of "infallibility" in Orthodoxy is that it is a bit different than both the "infallibility" of ex cathedra papal decrees, and the Bible . It seems to mainly apply to doctrinal statements of Ecumenical Councils, not individuals, and also seems to be a quality acknowledged by future councils, not the council making the doctrinal statements. In other words, it is not up to a particular council to make a doctrinal statement and then declare it infallible, but rather any council's statements are evaluated by the church as a whole over time, and retrospectively declared infallible or not, if it all. To my mind, this avoids the circularity that generally accompanies declarations of "infallibility". Again, that is my very limited understanding, and I have much to learn.

#90 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 03:43 PM

It is my position that people throw that word "infallibility" around like it means something. I don't think it really does. It is, at best, its own circular argument, and at worst, a singular oxymoron. I would contend that in an Orthodox context, it is superfluous. Councils are not deemed "infallible", they are merely confirmed by the Church as correct.

Some people seem to need the security blanket of "infallibility". I call it a false sense of security. There have been fallible councils, there have been fallible bishops, there have been fallible saints. There are even very fallible poohs (hard to imagine, but there you are ...)

The Holy Spirit guides a very fallible people. Bit of a conundrum I suppose. I think it worth noting that absolutely NO SINGLE THING "infallibly" guides the Church. There are 7 to 9 councils (depending on how you count them), patristics, Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition, synodal councils, prophets, saints, and of course the hymnody and worship of the Church, that all work together, synergistically through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to keep those recalcitrant and stiff-necked people on the straight path, thorugh we try to stray time and time again.

Call that "infallibility" if it helps you sleep at night, but I really just don't see the need.

Herman the somewhat fallible Pooh (but then again, I could be wrong ...)

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 24 March 2011 - 08:51 PM.


#91 Andrew Prather

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 04:52 PM

I haven't read everything, but you could bring up that Barna has no credibility in the scholarly field whatsoever and his biblical scholarship is rather lacking. Viola is the same way.

#92 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 08:59 PM

The majority of the "paganism" claims originated in the 19th century work of a quack/pseudoscholar Evangelical minister named Hislop. Many Evangelicals and their ilk swallowed Hislop's stuff hook, line, and sinker. It wasn't until nearly a century and a half afterward that someone actually investigated Hislop's claims. Ralf Woodrow, after uncritically accepting Hislop for years, finally took up a challenge to prove all the allegations. Out of that challenge came The Babylon Connection?, which debunked Hislop very well. The response to this remarkable honesty was for Woodrow to be rejected by a large portion of modern Evangelicals. I would suggest finding a copy of The Babylon Connection? as a place to start.

#93 Fred B.

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 04:15 PM

Thank you, Bryan, I will check out The Babylon Connection.

#94 Adrian

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 04:50 PM

Ask him to read this link, the Appendix with Appologetics:
http://www.monachos....-in-few-minutes

#95 Kevin G.

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 05:34 PM

I've only skimmed the thread, and I figure the original poster has probably been answered to his satisfaction, but for anyone else who comes across this book, a local OCA priest here in Vancouver has written a 7 part response to Barna and Viola's book. (I've linked to each post because, while Fr. Farley does a good job of dealing with the issues, his inter-post linking leaves something to be desired).

Part One: The Red Book

Part Two: The Red Book on Church Buildings

Part Three: The Red Book on Liturgical Services

Part Four: The Red Book on Sermons

Part Five: The Red Book on Pastors

Part Six: The Red Book on Vestments

Part Seven: The Red Book on Sacraments

Blessings,
Kevin




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