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Russia and Evangelical missionaries


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#41 Ryan

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 11:39 AM

I have decided to delete my account from the forum.
Unfortunately my last massage about the danger of Protestantism in Russia was not properly understood and resulted in misunderstanding and accusations.


Relax. If you don't get misunderstood and wrongly accused every now and then, it's not the internet.

#42 Mary

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 01:46 PM

I have decided to delete my account from the forum.
Unfortunately my last massage about the danger of Protestantism in Russia was not properly understood and resulted in misunderstanding and accusations. (It seems to me that brothers on this forum are ready to discuss only those topics that please very much (Russian expression) their ears.

Please forgive me and pray for me.

In Christ,
Oleg A.


Dear Oleg,

every topic pleases some, and displeases others. If something disturbs our peace too much, we don't participate in it, and move on to another discussion. We don't have to delete our accounts every time we're misunderstood.

About protestantism in Russia - I agree with what you say. Protestant missionaries have been rude and obnoxious and think they know it all. I was one of them. But a kind orthodox priest took time to show my protestant missionary friend, the Truth. That friend converted, and three years later, another protestant missionary friend and his family converted because of that first friend, and another three years later, it was time for me and my family to convert - because of both of them. And we're not the first group of protestant missionaries to convert. There have been many before us, and many I've heard of since my own conversion 3 1/2 years ago.

You see, it doesn't matter how dangerous protestants are. If the Church is strong in its teachings, in it's own internal relationships, no one can stand against it, not even pesky protestant missionaries.

I recently invited two Jehovah's witness women into my home, just because it was cold outside, and although I saw their tracts in their hands, and was getting ready to go to church, I asked them to come in for a few minutes to warm up. They came in. Talked a bit. And then they forgot why they came, and ended up asking me a hundred questions about orthodoxy. After a half hour, they wanted to come back again another day, to ask more questions. I told them to come.

Later, I was saddened, to overhear some of my orthodox friends talking rather harshly about these people. To me, they are people. They may be the devil's tools, but they are created in God's image, and that's enough reason for us to have compassion on them, and be willing to show them the truth. If we don't, who will? I don't have the time of day to go out and find people to talk to. They come to my door. How can I turn them away? If they're truly interested, they'll come back, if not they won't. My part is to show hospitality and kindness, and then I'm done. If I slam the door in their faces because I know their teachings are heretical, how will that be helpful to them?

So, if Russians don't have the resources to send missionaries to other countries, why not snag all those lost protestant missionaries who find their way into your country, and show them what orthodoxy truly has?

in Christ,
Mary.

#43 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 03:59 PM

I have decided to delete my account from the forum.
Unfortunately my last massage about the danger of Protestantism in Russia was not properly understood and resulted in misunderstanding and accusations. (It seems to me that brothers on this forum are ready to discuss only those topics that please very much (Russian expression) their ears.

Please forgive me and pray for me.

In Christ,
Oleg A.


You have to do what you have to do, but misunderstandings happen, especially on the Internet. By your own reasoning, better to stay than simply participate in discussions where everyone "pleases your ears".

That being said, this is not a "free-for-all" forum. We do have published guidelines and we do try to provide a focus for our discussions here in this place. If you want to discuss "whatever" you can go to the wild and rollicking "Indiana" list, but I warn you that you will find stronger views and ability to "misunderstand" and even wilder "accusations". There are places that cater to just about every view and it is easy to shop around and find a group that totally agrees with you, but isn't that just another place to discuss topics that are pleasing to your ears? Like many Russian sayings, that one is a double-edged sword that can cut both ways, yes?

If you are feeling particularly misunderstood and accused, then you might want to remember the words of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who said "blessed are you when men curse you, and revile you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven" and thank your accuser for the blessing!

Just a little thought from a bear of little brain. The usual disclaimer applies.

Herman the Pooh

#44 Ben Johnson

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Posted 14 November 2009 - 04:24 AM

Friends,

I was in a discussion with a Protestant friend who was worried about my interest in Orthodoxy. Eventually the discussion meandered and he asked, "Why is it that EO countries (presumably Slavic) are so antagonistic to Western missionaries? (He actually used more mean and scathing words, but that's the jist of it).

Well, since I am interested and sympathetic to Orthodoxy, as well as having a love for Slavic countries, I tried to answer him as best I could. But for many of us who grew up in America and are essentially western in orientation, whether we like it or not, we are often at a loss on how to answer such questions.

If you could give me an Orthodox perspective to this issue, I would appreciate it.

Kindly,
Jacob

The resentment could be that along with missionaries from "regular" protestant Churches come missionaries from Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons and other cults. And then you have Hindus and Buddhists coming in. Also the resentment could be expanded to include our Western culture. They may resent some of the decadence that comes into their countries. I remember when I was a protestant, that I was acquainted somewhat with a couple who traveled to Russia for a short-term mission. As I began to learn about Orthodoxy, I began to wonder, like a previous poster, why the missionaries do not go over as helpers of the Orthodox Church, rather than as "competitors." It could be also that when Western Churches see Eastern European countries, that they see a need to go over and help amend what communism did to the countries. They may not have researched Eastern Europe's history and realized how significant Orthodoxy has been to those countries.

#45 Oleg Anishchenkov

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Posted 14 November 2009 - 06:51 AM

Speaking in Captain Gulliver style (from Swift’s "Gulliver’s Travels") I came ashore from a perilous journey and greatly rejoiced to find my family, my oldest and dearest friends being well off.

(The detailed account of the further events can be found here, starting from the words "And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana Galilee, ..." )

The Wedding Guest List with names and email addresses are always available at http://www.monachos.net.

I would like only to mention a few names (all taken from "Russia and Evangelical missionaries" thread in alphabetical order) - Andrew, Ben Johnson, Eric Peterson, Julia Hayes, Herman Blaydoe, Jacob, J. K. Amra, Father David Moser, Mary, Nathaniel Woon, Nicolaj, Owen Jones, Paul Cowan, Priest Seraphim Holland, Rick Henry, Ryan, Shawn Lazar.



Oleg A.

#46 Oleg Anishchenkov

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Posted 14 November 2009 - 07:11 AM

The resentment could be that along with missionaries from "regular" protestant Churches come missionaries from Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons and other cults.


I can't but agree with you, Ben.

I live in a provincial town of Vyazma (half way between Moscow and the Byelorussian border). What is amazing about Vyazma is that it has so many churches. Before the WW2 there had been 32 churches plus one cathedral! (the population of the town was not more than 30 – 35 thousand). Nazis destroyed all Orthodox shrines here.

Good news – many of the churches and chapels in my town have been restored. Half of them are now functioning. At the same time (and that is bad news) we have got 6 or 7 houses of worship of Jehovah's Witnesses and other cults bearing biblical names.

In Christ,
Oleg A.

#47 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 14 November 2009 - 02:15 PM

I can't but agree with you, Ben.

I live in a provincial town of Vyazma (half way between Moscow and the Byelorussian border). What is amazing about Vyazma is that it has so many churches. Before the WW2 there had been 32 churches plus one cathedral! (the population of the town was not more than 30 – 35 thousand). Nazis destroyed all Orthodox shrines here.

Good news – many of the churches and chapels in my town have been restored. Half of them are now functioning. At the same time (and that is bad news) we have got 6 or 7 houses of worship of Jehovah's Witnesses and other cults bearing biblical names.

In Christ,
Oleg A.


What is happening in Russia is joyous and sad. Joyous that the Church is once again coming into its own after such an incredible persecution that tried to annihilate it completely. The sad part is that so many wolves have come in to attack the flock while it is still recovering. But God saved the Russian Church from the Soviets, He will also save it from the McMissionaries. And God has a sense of humor. I also know of several former Protestant missionaries to Romania who are now Orthodox! If we cannot convert them here, I guess we send them to you and let you do the job....

God be with the Russian people and rebuild His Church there.

Herman

#48 Paul Cowan

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Posted 14 November 2009 - 05:42 PM

As I began to learn about Orthodoxy, I began to wonder, like a previous poster, why the missionaries do not go over as helpers of the Orthodox Church, rather than as "competitors." It could be also that when Western Churches see Eastern European countries, that they see a need to go over and help amend what communism did to the countries. They may not have researched Eastern Europe's history and realized how significant Orthodoxy has been to those countries.


Missionaries go to these countries not to mend communism influence, but to turn the "heathen Orthodox" away from worshipping idols (icons) and to show the wrongs of following Traditions rather than solo scriptura and Marianism. Protestants do not understand Catholocism much less Orthodoxy and think because the have "found Jesus" and "been saved" they know more the Church does. God forbid they should misinterpret the scripture that says to call no man Father. How can they possibly understand our belief system when they have been ingrained with the root word of thier faith; protest? Eastern countries are in stages of recovery from wars and insurrections and abuses of government and "the World Churches". Look what thier recovery involves. Orthodoxy. Not Protestantism. Look how poorly behaved the western countries are and how audacious we are to think our miserable system of religion is superior to the First Church.

May God save us from ourselves.

Paul

#49 Mary

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Posted 14 November 2009 - 07:40 PM

Speaking in Captain Gulliver style (from Swift’s "Gulliver’s Travels") I came ashore from a perilous journey and greatly rejoiced to find my family, my oldest and dearest friends being well off.

Oleg A.


And we are glad to see you safely back, from your perilous journey. =)

I can't but agree with you, Ben.

I live in a provincial town of Vyazma (half way between Moscow and the Byelorussian border). What is amazing about Vyazma is that it has so many churches. Before the WW2 there had been 32 churches plus one cathedral! (the population of the town was not more than 30 – 35 thousand). Nazis destroyed all Orthodox shrines here.

Good news – many of the churches and chapels in my town have been restored. Half of them are now functioning. At the same time (and that is bad news) we have got 6 or 7 houses of worship of Jehovah's Witnesses and other cults bearing biblical names.

In Christ,
Oleg A.


In the parable of the wheat and the tares, both the good and the bad grow side by side, both growing stronger and stronger, till the day of the harvest, when they're all cut down and the tares separated and burned up.

That's what I see when I look around. The bad things are getting worse, and will continue to get worse. But those who are faithful, are also getting stronger, their desire and hunger for God is increasing, and they will find Him, when they seek Him. For those of us who are already in the Church, we shouldn't slack off, just because we're 'in', but we have to work hard, and make sure we're ready to answer anyone at anytime, the reasons for our faith. Shrugging our shoulders and saying "That's how we've always done it," just isn't going to cut it. We need to know why. We need to understand - to the best of our abilities.

After my introduction to the two JW women, a friend told me of a book that was recently printed at St Anthony's monastery - about two JW Greek men, who became orthodox. It was joyful and sad at the same time. Joyful, that they were truly seeking the Truth and found it. Sad, because the reason for their joining JW could've been avoided, if the orthodox church had been able to statisfy their deep spiritual hunger. They were asking questions, and no one, not even a priest, could answer them. There was one orthodox man who was able and willing to answer, but after 6 hrs, when the JW man still had doubts left, the orthodox man gave up on him, got angry, and left. But the seed he planted, eventually sprouted. Thank God.

We need each other. We need to reach out to others - not just strangers, but even our own. I saw my children going from loving the church to hating the church, in the space of 3 years, because there were no other children in the parish we went to. Their parents didn't bring them, except when it was their turn to host coffee hour. We moved to a different parish. There are more families there, who also bring their children to every single service the church has. In just six months, my children have come back to life. When they make plans for what to do on a saturday, they include vigil in the evening, as a part of their day, and dont' complain anymore that they have to stop having fun with their friends, in order to go to church.

The protestants and those from heretical cults, know this already. They make sure they don't lose their children. That's how i grew up. On sundays, the only thing on the calendar was church. And I was happy to go, because all my friends would be there too. It has made me very very sad, that for many orthodox, this is not so.

While I understand the need to protect ourselves and our children from cults and other false teachings, I think part of that protecting process involves equipping them to defend themselves - with sound teaching, and making sure that they feel like a part of the church community - yes, relationships are important. They may seem small and insignificant next to all the prayers and liturgies and so on... but I think everyone should be able to say: "This is were I belong, this is where I am loved" - and for that we truly need each other to care about each other.

When I was in Ethiopia earlier this year, it was during the Dormition fast. I told my family what it was about, and they were interested. They said they'd asked some of the Ethiopian orthodox friends whom they knew, what the fast was about, and they did not know. When someone is interested enough to ask a question about what we're doing, should we not be ready to answer? If we have no answer, they think they are right in believing that we're following man-made traditions. And Jesus had a lot of harsh things to say about those who followed man-made traditions.

From Ben's post - is 'resentment' the right kind of response to have towards protesant and other cult 'missionaries'? It seems to me that resentment of any kind is wrong, because it isn't a fruit of love, is it? Just asking... I have heard of 'rightous anger' - like the kind that Jesus displayed when he chased the money changers out of the temple, and probably when he was preaching all his "Woe-to-you sermons" as well. But I've never heard of 'righteous resentment'.

in Christ,
Mary.

#50 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 15 November 2009 - 11:51 PM

What is happening in Russia is joyous and sad. Joyous that the Church is once again coming into its own after such an incredible persecution that tried to annihilate it completely. The sad part is that so many wolves have come in to attack the flock while it is still recovering. But God saved the Russian Church from the Soviets, He will also save it from the McMissionaries. And God has a sense of humor. I also know of several former Protestant missionaries to Romania who are now Orthodox! If we cannot convert them here, I guess we send them to you and let you do the job....

God be with the Russian people and rebuild His Church there.

Herman


Not only wolves from without but wolves within - careerists and opportunists, wolves wearing the mitre and riasa.

#51 Salaam Yitbarek

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 04:10 PM

That's beautifully put, Mary.

I'm Ethiopian Orthodox, and from what I've seen in Ethiopia, the presence of Evangelical Protestant, and previously Catholic and Lutheran, missionaries has had the positive effect of pushing the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to do its job better in all areas. This includes pastoral work, catechism, cleaning up its act in terms of getting rid of heretical practices, etc.

For example, most Orthodox churches in urban areas now have something akin to cathecism classes every day in the afternoon. Churches and their compounds are full during these classes. We now have marriage preparation classes, something we didn't have in the past. (Well, perhaps we did in the time of the Fathers, but certainly not in the past few centuries.) We are slowly getting rid of the heresy of 'fake marriages', that is, marriage without communion to facilitate divorce! And so on.

I hear the same is true for the Catholic Church in Latin America and perhaps the Orthodox in Eastern Europe and Russia.

So some good is coming out of the missionary incursions.

Of course, the basis of Evangelical Protestantism, or any Protestantism, is flawed. Perhaps this is why mainline Protestantism is in deep decline, on its way to disappearing, and it looks like Evangelical Protestantism will follow it. I would say that the flawed basis of Protestantism is why it cannot stand against the tides of modernity which sweep the West, and are moving on to the rest of the world.

But I agree with Mary that that's not the point. The point is not that Protestantism is wrong, which we all know. The question is, how do we as Orthodox deal with it. If we fix ourselves and do our own jobs well, then there'll be no problem.

Orthodoxy, as far as I understand, values introspection. Consider a favourite quote of mine by Bernard Lewis:

When people realize things are going wrong, there are two questions they can ask. One is, "What did we do wrong?" and the other is, "Who did this to us?" The latter leads to conspiracy theories and paranoia. The first question leads to another line of thinking: "How do we put it right?"


I would have thought that we Orthodox would be the ones asking the first question. Ironically, many social scientists claim that people in Orthodox countries tend to ask the latter question! How has that come to be?

Let us hope that we Orthodox become better Orthodox, and, as Mary says, become the wheat from the tares.

#52 Oleg Anishchenkov

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 12:06 PM

Tank you for your post, Salaam.

The question about the right response towards protestants is very important to me. So I would like to say some words about it, not to make comments but rather to tackle the problem from the other side (since I live on the other side of the Atlantic).

Protestantism is natural for America; the Founding Fathers were practicing protestants. I think there is nothing so special if the family living next door to you is a protestant one.

This is NOT true for Russia or Serbia where protestant missionaries are still birds of passage. They are viewed upon by many as people who bring, apart from their religion, westernization with all its sinful habits, material benefits and “joie de vivre”.

At the same time God has been revealing numerous miracles for Orthodox people. In the vicinity of my city there are two weeping icons now, we have dozens of holy relics in churches of Vyazma.

But protestants ignore this. Their role seems particularly striking when one realizes that here in Russian they act as forerunners of a more dangerous cult (the religion of the future as Fr Seraphim Rose put it!). By trying "to steal" the faithful people protestants are preparing the coming of this new religion.

You wrote, Salaam, that Evangelical protestants, and previously catholic and lutheran missionaries had the positive effect of pushing the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to do its job better in all areas… This sounds strange to me. I have never heard that Orthodox people and their elders (nothing to say about Saint Fathers) in my country had a need for heretics to learn from them how to be more competitive. Far be it from Holy Russia! Far be it from Her!

http://www.rus-sky.c...acles/images/58

#53 Michael Stickles

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 01:53 PM

This sounds strange to me. I have never heard that Orthodox people and their elders (nothing to say about Saint Fathers) in my country had a need for heretics to learn from them how to be more competitive.


I don't know that it's any stranger than this story about Bishop Nonos and Pelagia:

Once the Patriarch of Antioch was sitting with his bishops in the courtyard of the church of Saint Julian. While they were engaged in discussion, they heard an unusual commotion in the street. At that moment a luxurious carriage was passing by outside the church. The courtesan Pelagia was pridefully seated inside. The road sparkled from the brilliance of the jewels which she wore. The air was filled with the scent of her expensive perfumes. The crowd of people cheered her as though they were out of their minds.

The bishops turned their heads aside in disgust, to avoid facing the satanic woman, who had led so many of the young aristocrats of the city into the mire of immorality. Only one, Bishop Nonos, followed her persistently with his gaze, until she disappeared at a turn in the road. Afterwards he turned to the other bishops and said to them with a sorrowful voice:

"Woe to us, brothers in Christ. This woman puts us to great shame. Did you see how much care she takes in dressing her body in order to lure her lovers? While we lazy people-what do we do to adorn our souls to attract the love of our heavenly Bridegroom?"

Saying these things, he prayed with fervor for that sinful soul. And his prayer was heard. Divine Grace restored her and Pelagia came to believe in Christ, repented her sinful life, was baptized by the holy Nonos, and came to a holy end.


I would think that, if Bishop Nonos can look at a prostitute and feel shamed in comparison with her, surely there are things we can learn about ourselves from looking at Protestant missionaries - if we look with the right spirit. From what Salaam said, it sounds like the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is following in the spirit of Bishop Nonos.

In Christ,
Michael

#54 Oleg Anishchenkov

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 03:42 PM

I would think that, if Bishop Nonos can look at a prostitute and feel shamed in comparison with her, surely there are things we can learn about ourselves from looking at Protestant missionaries - if we look with the right spirit. From what Salaam said, it sounds like the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is following in the spirit of Bishop Nonos.

In Christ,
Michael


I know this story, Michael. But I have a question: would Bishop Nonos have felt this shamed if he had met a heretic (the "heretic is the key word here) whose teaching was a threat for the Church?

#55 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 04:49 PM

I know this story, Michael. But I have a question: would Bishop Nonos have felt this shamed if he had met a heretic (the "heretic is the key word here) whose teaching was a threat for the Church?


The "teaching" of a prostitute that pleasure is more important than Faith is a threat as well, don't you think? But the point is not to copy the Protestant missionaries, but to be motivated in our efforts to educate our people and give them the 'weapons' they need to defend against pernicious teachings. You can do this two ways I suppose. One way is to "chase" the Protestants away and try to keep them quiet. The communists and Moslems (and occasionally the Catholics) have tried to do that to us and you see how well that has worked.

I know that Russia is a "different" place, but in America (and evidently in Ethopia) the chosen way is to go "head-to-head" by meeting their proselytizing with Orthodox education, and to lead by example and to remember the words of our Lord Himself who said "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Just assuming that people will be good Orthodox through osmosis doesn't work as well as it used to. Work to make people strong in the Faith and then convert the converters.

At least that makes some sense to this bear of little brain
Herman the Pooh

#56 Michael Stickles

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 05:15 PM

... would Bishop Nonos have felt this shamed if he had met a heretic (the "heretic is the key word here) whose teaching was a threat for the Church?


If that heretic showed a zeal for God that made his own look weak? Or a care in teaching the unlearned that made his own teaching look superficial? Or any of a thousand other things along those lines? I believe - Yes. Absolutely.

I don't mean to suggest that Bishop Nonos wouldn't have opposed the heretical teachings - rather, I have no doubt that he would have. But I also have no doubt that he would also have let the heretic "show" him his own faults, in the same way as he allowed Pelagia to do.

But beyond that, I do think "heretic" is the key word here, but probably not for the same reasons you do. I think that in dealing with modern Protestants, the use of "heretic" is applicable only rarely, is monumentally unuseful most of the time, and can even be counterproductive. As Fr Seraphim Rose once wrote to a catechumen who had asked him for counsel on how to regard non-Orthodox Christians:

The word “heretic” ... is indeed used too frequently nowadays. It has a definite meaning and function, to distinguish new teachings from the Orthodox teaching; but few of the non-Orthodox Christians today are consciously “heretics,” and it really does no good to call them that.


Fr Seraphim wrote at greater length in an article in defense of Fr Dimitry Dudko, a Russian priest who lived under the Communist oppression, and I think there are things there which are applicable to the current topic (I've used underlining to replace italics in the original):

These critics quote certain statements of Fr. Dimitry (in his book Our Hope) which they think deny the uniqueness of Orthodoxy: "We can't look down upon those of other faiths" (p. 19); "rejoice that you're Orthodox, but don't look upon others as if they'd all gone astray. God will judge us all, and we should leave such judgment to Him" (p. 44); "the Catholics also form a church, and we don't call them heretics" (p. 46). In some of these statements there are faults—strictly speaking, for example, Roman Catholics are indeed "heretics," as St. Mark of Ephesus stated them to be. But these statements are addressed to simple people whose main concern is not theological precision, but practical advice: how should we behave towards the non-Orthodox? Fr. Dimitry's replies are pastorally correct, even if theologically sometimes imprecise. For this he cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a "heretic."

In actual fact, however, we in the West have something to learn from Fr. Dimitry's attitude towards the non-Orthodox. Among Western converts to Orthodoxy (to speak of something close to home) there is indeed a temptation to speak too freely of "heresy" and "heretics," and to make the errors of the non-Orthodox an excuse for a certain pharisaic smugness about our own "Orthodoxy." Even when it is worded in a theologically correct manner, this attitude is spiritually wrong and helps to drive away from the Orthodox Church many who would otherwise be attracted to it. Fr. Dimitry's attitude in this case, even if he sometimes expresses it in an imprecise way, is a sound one, both for the avoidance of phariseeism and a certain "sectarian" attitude on the part of his own Orthodox flock, and for the conversion of the non-Orthodox.

... Fr. Dimitry strives to be "strictly Orthodox"; he is respectful towards those of other religions, but he is quite firm that one cannot be "simply a Christian" but must be definite in one's belief—and in his opinion Orthodoxy is the true belief. When he states that "for me Orthodoxy is correct," or "we shouldn't judge those of other faiths," we need not believe that he is denying the objective truth that Orthodoxy is indeed the true Church of Christ; he is simply expressing himself in a humble manner which, especially in Soviet conditions where the people are just awakening to faith as opposed to atheism, is very understandable, sharply distinguishes him from the sectarians who proclaim loudly that everyone else is in error, and helps to make converts to the Orthodox faith. Fr. Dimitry himself has baptised some 5000 adult converts—itself a testimony that he is not "indifferent" as to which faith one should belong to, and that his missionary approach is quite effective!


Missionaries can and do convert to Orthodoxy, but meeting them with harsh polemics is unlikely to achieve that. The attitude Fr Dimitry showed, and the approach Herman describes, are, in my opinion, much more likely to be fruitful.

In Christ,
Michael

#57 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 06:21 PM

It is important though to recognize that the West & Russia are two very different realities.

Here in the West Fr Seraphim's words are exactly correct. Whenever we are serious we wander very rapidly into pharasaism.

In Russia however what to us looks brutal & paranoid is really a result of a different vision- of the need for example of an immediacy in going from point a to b. Of a singleness of vision in regards to what is detrimental. (I have spoken with many younger Russians about this difference between our cultures- what to us seems a high value of tolerance to them seems hypocritical in reality and self-deluded in result. ie if a culture believes in something shouldn't it be an inherent cultural imperative to defend these beliefs? or similarly How can you say you believe in something if you are not willing to act against whatever threatens this?)

Perhaps you could say then that these are two different visions of reality: the 'tolerant' western one and the 'actively protective' Russian one do not transfer easily. Pastorally this needs to be taken into account according to who or what reality you deal with.


Lastly- as to the natural question of why did Fr Dmitri Dudko speak in such a tolerant way then? Well, in many things his views probably would have been uncomfortable for us and intolerant. Also a well known phenomenon of that time was that the state played such an overwhelmingly 'protective' role that those who went somewhat against the grain (dissenters, etc) would often adopt a more familiar western language of tolerance than would be common now.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#58 Mary

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 07:26 PM

It is important though to recognize that the West & Russia are two very different realities.

Here in the West Fr Seraphim's words are exactly correct. Whenever we are serious we wander very rapidly into pharasaism.

In Russia however what to us looks brutal & paranoid is really a result of a different vision- of the need for example of an immediacy in going from point a to b. Of a singleness of vision in regards to what is detrimental. (I have spoken with many younger Russians about this difference between our cultures- what to us seems a high value of tolerance to them seems hypocritical in reality and self-deluded in result. ie if a culture believes in something shouldn't it be an inherent cultural imperative to defend these beliefs? or similarly How can you say you believe in something if you are not willing to act against whatever threatens this?)

Perhaps you could say then that these are two different visions of reality: the 'tolerant' western one and the 'actively protective' Russian one do not transfer easily. Pastorally this needs to be taken into account according to who or what reality you deal with.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


This is helpful, in that I understand where this Russian protectiveness is coming from, and I understand the need for it.

But shouldn't there be some kind of balance between tolerance and protectiveness? I mean, I can be tolerant of those outside the church, because they do not know what they do. However, if they should become orthodox, I would not be able to tolerate their old ways of life and would expect them to have to change how the think and teach and live. I really, really, really love the orthodox church as it is, and can't tolerate anyone who wants to mess with it and change it.

But it still seems to me, that the threat of change is more from the inside than the outside. I'm not sure how things work in Russia though. It's hard for me to grasp that it can be so vastly different that it is more important to be protective than tolerant - especially of those who are outside the church. Isn't there a right way to act against the threats? For instance, for those sheep-stealing protestants, instead of beating them up and chasing them out of the country (which only ends up making them feel like martyrs!) - what if they were invited to first take a look at what orthodoxy teaches, and state for themselves, what they think they can add to it? If anyone truly cared, they'd see that they have nothing to add, and much to gain by becoming orthodox!

But then, what to do with the person who doesn't care? This would require a great deal of those entrusted with the care of their flock. Chasing away a protestant is the easy way out. Equipping the congregation to show love and kindness and not be swayed by the teachings of a protestant... now that is a lot of work.

Oleg's question: "would Bishop Nonos have felt this shamed if he had met a heretic (the "heretic is the key word here) whose teaching was a threat for the Church?"

made me think of some of my protestant friends, who have sacrificed their lives of ease to work among the women of the streets, in some african and south american countries. They make friends with these women (they go to the places where they'd find these women), help them get off the streets, equip them with some kind of skill so they can make a proper living, and then, after having poured all that love on them, they teach them what they know of Christ.

I do not know if Bishop Nonos would be ashamed, but I am. I do not risk my life for Christ. I may know a lot more than they do, but I'm no good to the woman on the street. She will go, where she finds friends and love. She will believe that their Christ is real, because from them, she received kindness, shelter, food, and a means of getting off the street. If what we believe and teach is not backed up by how we live and reach out to others, then what good is all our knowledge?

in Christ,
Mary.

Edited by Mary, 17 November 2009 - 07:53 PM.


#59 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 10:06 PM

Dear Mary,

It is hard for us to get our heads and hearts around this because we do not see how much we have changed in the past century or so.

Belief for us is a choice set among many other possible choices. It is of more or less value to us according to how we relate to what we choose. We may disagree with those who do not hold to our belief. But we are unlikely to believe ourselves fundamentally threatened by other types of belief since we ourselves believe that the possibility of multiple choices is a higher value than belief itself. We as individuals may hold sincerely to a particular form of belief; but we also allow that there are also many other equal choices available. This in turn gives a certain place to what belief means since it no longer as in past ages refers to an absolute truth which the entire community needs to hold to and be marked by. Choice and allowance for choice has come to be our chief marker and what defines us (and what we are prepared to defend) rather than a particular belief.

Belief though used to be an absolute part of what you are. It was inseparable from & a defining marker of being part of a certain community. The only possible option was to defend this community because in a real sense you & the community were all one living being of belief with the Church as its heart at the center. To reject this would have been like a form of suicide, sinful and self-destructive.

Of course though again this is all very hard to understand. After all even self destruction and self mutilation and suicide are seen as 'valid choices'.

The best policy for us then I believe is to live in the reality where God has allowed us, to sympathise with it, and then work with it in the best way possible.

However my main point here has been that something fundamental has changed over the past while. Meanwhile other cultures that appear intolerant preserve more of this past reality than ours does.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#60 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 10:59 PM

Father Raphael, in his last post, does, if I may say so, hit the nail on the head. Half a century ago, England was a Christian country (albeit of the Anglican variety, mostly), and I still find it strange to have to think of myself as a Christian - it was at one time taken for granted that people were Christians here. Not only that, but it was understood - because it did not have to be stated - that this was a country whose culture, morals and outlook had been formed by the Christian faith. This country bent over backwards to be welcoming and tolerant towards those who came here from the 1960s onwards who were not Christian, and, indeed, for the most part, Moslem. At the same time, we saw a growth in secularism, materialism, modernism, and the dilution of the Christian foundations of our society. Only recently has it become apparent that the Christian faith here needs defending, but such has been the progress of those elements in society which oppose it that views which were the norm only thirty or forty years ago are now condemned as rabidly reactionary. In Russia, however, Orthodoxy always was, despite the failings of some Orthodox, an integral part of the very fabric of life in Russia in a way which defined what Russia was and what it meant to be Russian in a much deeper way than could be said of the Church in England. This was so to such an extent that the catastrophe of the Revolution and the 70 years 'Babylonian captivity' could not erase that reality. Instead, Russia gave the Orthodox Church more martyrs than in the whole of Christian history put together. Thus, even if the majority of Russians today are not churchgoers, Russians feel that Orthodoxy defines who they are as a people and defines Russia as a country. Protestant evangelists who seek to turn people in Russia from Orthodoxy to heresy, are accordingly viewed as threats not only to the Orthodox Church but to Russians as they understand themselves to be and Russia as they know it. Russians I know see them as aliens peddling an alien thought.




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