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Orthodoxy and Pentecostal/Charismatic teaching


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#1 Stephen Hayes

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 07:59 AM

Why should the 'higher gifts' only be possible for monastics? And I am sure there is many threads on this, I will read them or reread them later... but if some Spirit was moving these Orthodox Christians including Fr Eusebius Stephanou, (whom I am not familiar with), what Spirit was it if not the Holy Spirit?? If there is one thing that I really really wish to understand after years of confusion, that is what exactly is 'prelest' and how does it differ from the Real...


I think it would be better to start a new thread on this topic, as it is not closely related to the original question.

I was at one time on Fr Eusebius Stephanou's mailing list, and received several newsletters from him, so I am aware of what he teaches. And the problem is not the presence of spiritual gifts, or that the higher gifts should be exercised only by monastics. The problem is that Fr Eusebius uses a Pentecostal, rather than an Orthodox pneumatology to interpret spiritual gifts. Many non-Pentecostal bodies that experienced the charismatic renewal of the 1960s-1980s tended to do this, and it often clashed with the pneumatology of their own groups, so it did not just affect Orthodox. But it really is a separate question from this one.

#2 Rick H.

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 01:28 PM

If a new thread is started I wonder what this means:

The problem is that Fr Eusebius uses a Pentecostal, rather than an Orthodox pneumatology to interpret spiritual gifts.



. . . as well as this:

Many non-Pentecostal bodies that experienced the charismatic renewal of the 1960s-1980s tended to do this, and it often clashed with the pneumatology of their own groups . . .


I am familiar with these groups and I don't understand how these statements have any meaning.

#3 Kosta

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 05:41 AM

Basically it means he believes in speaking in gibberish tongues, something the Fathers knew nothing of. And that miraculous healing is temporary, the 'healed' arthritis will come back in a few days.

#4 Stephen Hayes

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 06:38 AM

If a new thread is started I wonder what this means:


"Pneumatology" means the theology of the work of the Holy Spirit.

#5 Rick H.

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 04:07 PM

I understand what the word pneumatology means, I don't understand how you are using it in your writing.

Are you able to put some meat on these bones? For example, what are you trying to say here:?

. . . 'non-Pentecostal bodies pneumatology clashed with their own groups (pneumatology)'

What does this mean exactly?

#6 Jeremy Troy

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 01:07 AM

I imagine that he means something like this:

Charismatic bodies, and non-Charismatic bodies that have been affected by the Charismatic movement, have beliefs about the ways in which is Holy Spirit operates that are totally foreign to Orthodox theology. In the Orthodox Church we know that the sacrament of laying on of hands, through which the Holy Spirit is imparted, has been preserved in the Holy Chrism. Charismatics, on the other hand, claim that this sacrament had been lost and has only now been restored through a literal placing of hands on a person's body during prayer. As Orthodox Christians, we know that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is first of all an experience of peace, not anything like the wild demonstrations that the Charismatics claim to be manifestations of that spirit. An example of this peace can be seen in St. Seraphim of Sarov's Conversation with Motovilov. There is nothing more contrary to Orthodox belief about the gifts of the Holy Spirit than something like 'holy laughter'. Perhaps most importantly, Orthodox Christians are told to be in a constant state of discernment. If ever anything out of the ordinary happens to us, we are told right away to go to our priest, confess our sins and tell him about what happened. Then we are to do as he says, and put whatever happened out of our mind. This is because we are keenly aware that there is another spirit, who can emulate any number of miracles, and all of whose time is devoted to deceiving us. We are not only told not to seek out miraculous occurrences, but we are told to flee from them if they happen. Charismatics, on the other hand, are told never to question the validity of their experiences. Not only do they never stop to ask whether their experiences are from the Holy Spirit, but in many groups the question is considered blasphemy. It should be clear, then, that no Orthodox Christian can participate in the Charismatic movement without sacrificing nearly all of his Church's theology regarding the Holy Spirit.

Jeremy

#7 Rick H.

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 01:46 AM

Many non-Pentecostal bodies that experienced the charismatic renewal of the 1960s-1980s tended to do this, and it often clashed with the pneumatology of their own groups, so it did not just affect Orthodox. But it really is a separate question from this one.


Who are some these "non-Pentecostal bodies" that are being spoken of?

Who are "their own groups?"

#8 Stephen Hayes

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 10:13 AM

I understand what the word pneumatology means, I don't understand how you are using it in your writing.

Are you able to put some meat on these bones? For example, what are you trying to say here:?

. . . 'non-Pentecostal bodies pneumatology clashed with their own groups (pneumatology)'

What does this mean exactly?


I was replying to a message on another topic, and suggested that the person I was replying to start a separate topic, and replied briefly. Someone moved my reply to make it the start of a new topic, which took it out of context, and I certainly would not have written it like that if I was starting a new topic myself, since it was made in the context of the other discussion.

The point I was making was that in his writings Fathe Eusebius Stephanou bases much of what he says on Pentecostal pneumatology, not Orthodox pneumatology. Many of the non-Pentecostal denominations that were affected by the charismatic movement of the 1970s and 1980s did something similar -- Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Roman Catholics -- they interpreted what was happening in terms of Pentecostal pneumatology, rather than, Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran or Roman Catholic pneumatology.

There may have been some excuse for Western bodies to do such a thing, but there was far less excuse for an Orthodox priest like Fr Eusebius to do so.

Western theology, since the introduction of the filioque, has tended to play down or neglect the role of the Holy Spirit. They retained some teaching about the Holy Spirit, but it was unrelated to their practice. They could read about things in the scriptures that were not part of their experience of the church.

Then at the end of the 19th century the Pentecostal movement sprang up. People spoke in strange tongues, people were healed after prayer, people prophesied. These things caught on and became fashionable. They had no clairvoyant spiritual elders to determine what was of God and what was not. They had several different (and clashing) strands of 19th century Protestant theology to help them interpret what was happening -- including Dispensationalism, which said that such things could not happen because they were only intended by God for the period when the canon of scripture was incomplete. so Pentecostal pneumatology was a raction against a distortion which was therefore iself distorted. Many of the Pentecostals adopted dispensationalist eschatology, though, which came to be known as premillennial and pretribulational. Orthodoxy recognises no such scheme, which it regards as chiliasm, which Orthodoxy rejects.

Pentecostal pneumatology varies, because there are thousands of different Pentecostal denominations, but most of them teach that there is an experience of "baptism in the Holy Spirit" which they see as separate from what they describe as "water baptism", and that the initial evidence for the "baptism in the Holy Spirit" is "speaking in tongues" -- in other words, if you don't speak in tongues, you haven't been "baptized in the Holy Spirit" and you are therefore a second-class Christian, and lack what they call "the full gospel" or "the four-square gospel".

In Fr Eusebius Stephanou's writings it is clear that he has bought into this pneumatology, and he teaches it in such a way that implies that Orthodox pneumatology is somehow deficient without it. So the Orthodox Church as a whole does not accept the teaching of Fr Eusebius Stephanou and does not regard it as Orthodox.

Unlike Western, and especially Protestant bodies, manifestations of the Holy Spirit (such as those mentioned in I Cor 4-11), and spiritual gifts (such as those mentioned in Ephesians 4:12-16) have never disappeared from the Orthodox Church. So the Orthodox Church has never had the urge to develop a theology to account for their absence (like Dispensationalism) or to account for their sudden reappearance (like the Pentecostal modifications of dispensationalism).

In the Orthodox Church the "higher gifts" are not "possible only to monastics" as the person I was replying to (Jan Sunkvist) suggests. But those who manifest such gifts tend to enter monasteries, often on the advice of their spiritual fathers, perhaps precisely because they (or their spiritual fathers) are aware of the danger of prelest, and that monasteries are the best places to test such gifts to see whether they are of God or not. And thousands of people came to see clairvoyant spiritual elders like St Seraphim of Sarov, because they had the "higher gifts" that St Paul refers to as "the word of wisdom", "the word of knowledge" and "prophecy" in I Co 12:8-10. It is not impossible for these gifts to appear outside monasteries, but it is much easier for them and for those who manifest them (or think they do) to go off the rails. That is why there are so many different Pentecostal sects, because for some, especially in the charismatic renewal movement, the highest spiritual gift is novelty. So you get self-proclaimed "apostles" and "prophets" saying that "God is doing a new thing" and of course he is doing it through them. And that is how most of todays Neopentecostal sects started.

Some Pentecostals and charismatics have been concerned about this indiscipline, and have tried to restore some discipline. So the "Fort Lauderdale Five" (you can Google for them) came up with notions of "shepherding" and "covering". They lacked apostolic succession so they had to had to come up with something that filled the gap, so they started a succession that started with themselves, self-proclaimed apostles who offered "covering" to others. If one of them asks me what "covering" I have, I say I am covered by the omphorion of my bishop, whose "covering" goes back to the real apostles who gathered on the day of Pentecost to receive the Holy Spirit in AD 33. But, having lost the real thing, they felt impelled to concoct a man-made substitute, which itself went off the rails.

So these are some of the ways in which I think Fr Eusebius Stephanou has gone wrong, and his teaching is not accepted by most Orthodox Christians, or any Orthodox bishop that I know of.

I hope that clarifies things a bit.

#9 Rick H.

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 07:44 PM

I see exactly what you mean now, thanks. Yes, the 'non-Pentecostal body' you mention above (aka The Roman Catholic Church) is a good example. I thought that was just bizarre when that started there and I was very suprised to see entire churches become charismatic RCC's.

The pamphlets I saw from Father E. seemed to me to be more along the lines of the kind of thing that was taught by those like R.A. Torrey and Oswald Chambers in terms of the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" (or the second baptisim void of toungues). As the men whom Torre and Chambers influenced into our present day, like Charles Stanley teach a similar thing in terms of being "Spirit-filled" much akin to the "Holiness" teachings associated with the second baptism.

I did not see any literature from Father E. that was akin to what Pentecostal and especially Assembly of God Churches and others consider "being zapped" and "speaking in tounges" . . .was this a part of this teaching too, or was he more along the lines of the teachings of the above men I mentioned?

#10 Stephen Hayes

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 08:42 AM

The pamphlets I saw from Father E. seemed to me to be more along the lines of the kind of thing that was taught by those like R.A. Torrey and Oswald Chambers in terms of the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" (or the second baptisim void of toungues). As the men whom Torre and Chambers influenced into our present day, like Charles Stanley teach a similar thing in terms of being "Spirit-filled" much akin to the "Holiness" teachings associated with the second baptism.

I did not see any literature from Father E. that was akin to what Pentecostal and especially Assembly of God Churches and others consider "being zapped" and "speaking in tounges" . . .was this a part of this teaching too, or was he more along the lines of the teachings of the above men I mentioned?


Yes, Fr Eusebius's teaching does, in some respects, resemble that of 19th-century Evangelicals who taught about "power in the blood". But the Holiness Movement was one of the precursors of the Pentecostal movement, and they taught that "baptism in the Holy Spirit" made you holy -- instant theosis, as it were. No ascesis, no podvig, no spiritual struggle. Just Zap! - Instant Godliness.

Some Pentecostal denominations that had holiness roots thus taught a three-stage way of salvation -- repentance and accepting Christ (being born again), the second one was being made holy, and the third, baptism in the Holy Spirit (with speaking in tongues as the "initial evidence"). Others omitted the second stage. The book to read on this is The Pentecostals by Walter Hollenweger.

The charismatic renewal movement, which appeared in non-Pentecostal denominations in the mid-20th century was slightly different. Some were influenced by Pentecostals, others not. An Anglican movement in Zululand that I researched, the IViyo loFakazi bakaKristu (the Band of Witnesses for Christ) started with two priests who were concerend about the spiritual shallowness in their parishes. The adapted the rule of life for followers of an Anglican religious order (The Fraternity of the Resurrection), where people promised to pray every day, read their bibles, prepare properly for communion, go to confession and bring at least one person to Christ every year). As they began doing this, spiritual gifts began manifesting themselves. People who were prayed for were healed, some (but not all) spoke in tongues. A women's monastery grew from 10 members to 50 in the space of 10 years. There was little Pentecostal influence. But similar things happened all over the world, some independently, some sparked off by reading books and listening to tapes produced by people living in other places. Some Orthodox were influenced by it too, and some, like Fr Eusebius, borrowed from Pentecostal/Evangelical theology to explain it. Eventually this led also the the formation of Neopentecostal denominations.

I know of several Orthodox Christians who joined such denominations for a time. They found that the Orthodox Church was like a ladder with the bottom four rungs missing, and many diaspora parishes taught a truncated Orthodoxy based on a kind of ethnic nostalgia for the homeland. These people joined Neopentecostal denominations, climbed up four rungs, and found there was nowhere further to go. They ONLY had the bottom four rungs, which they climbed again and again (See Hebrews chapter 6). And many of these then recalled things in Orthodoxy that they had not understood, and began to catch a glimmering of what had been there all along, but they had not seen it, so they returned.

#11 Father David Moser

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 03:05 PM

The pamphlets I saw from Father E. seemed to me to be more along the lines of the kind of thing that was taught by those like R.A. Torrey and Oswald Chambers in terms of the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" (or the second baptisim void of toungues). As the men whom Torre and Chambers influenced into our present day, like Charles Stanley teach a similar thing in terms of being "Spirit-filled" much akin to the "Holiness" teachings associated with the second baptism.

I did not see any literature from Father E. that was akin to what Pentecostal and especially Assembly of God Churches and others consider "being zapped" and "speaking in tounges" . . .was this a part of this teaching too, or was he more along the lines of the teachings of the above men I mentioned?


I don't know what Fr E teaches today - he has changed his position somewhat and eliminated some of the more extreme pentecostal views due to threats from the heirarchy that if he did not "change his ways" he would be defrocked and thrown out of the Greek Church. Be assured though that he did teach these things about "being zapped" (the call it "slain in the Spirit") and speaking in tongues and such back in the day and I know because I was there at the Logos Center in Ft Wayne, IN. circa 1976.

Fr David Moser

#12 Rick H.

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 08:30 PM

That's good to know, and good for the Greek Orthodox Church.

I don't think I really have the time or energy to develop this much, but for those who are familiar with some of the teaching above I wrote about . . . has it ever occurred to you that those from Torrey to Stanley have something that the Orthodox do not in terms of teaching about Yielding and Surrendering and Abiding and things of this nature that are either spoken of as passive things or sometimes the middle-voice seems to indicate this is something we do for ourselves but in the end it is to strike a passive pose.

For those that know what I'm talking about here . . . has it ever occurred to you that just as some of these groups mentioned in this thread (void of tongues) and their teaching may seem to have the first four rungs on the ladder but then nowhere else to go after that, or as Anna Stickles and I have discussed here before that some of these groups and teachings, including Oswald Chambers, seem to have "half the story" . . . is it possible that this is what is attractive to so many Orthodox and 'non-pentecostals,' sorry I still like that one :) . . .

. . . and in this sense there is a teaching that is true to the Christian Way but not one that is taught within Orthodoxy (with it's focus on the active and the struggling and the striving seemingly to the exclusion of the abiding life or whatever you want to call it. There are so many names for these teachings, I think I am forgetting them now.

This is not really fair because unless one is familiar with these groups and knows what they teach, what I'm talking about it will be impossible for one to interact with my post. When Anna first started here I recognized a familiarity in her with this subject, and I broached this subject with her. Possibly we have other new blood here that is in a position to weigh-in on this question.

#13 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 10:58 PM

I have no experience with any of the groups mentioned.

I would like to ask though, whether the 'readiness' to receive the Holy Spirit may not be the real issue. In other words, is it not possible that the 'Spirit' received in these non-Orthodox Groups is the Holy Spirit, and not something negative, but that the fruits never grow to full fruition because one is not prepared in a sense of humility and means/tools to fight the spiritual battle so that what is received is not simply stolen by the devil. Does this make sense to anyone?

#14 Rick H.

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 11:15 PM

That makes a lot of sense just exactly as you have stated it, although humility is definitely a prerequisite in this teaching with these particular groups.

Yes, positioning (repentance and humility and yielding and surrendering) oneself to receive the Holy Spirit is what it is all about in these teachings. It is a very attractive thing to see it in person in individuals in these groups, as well as in the writing of those from the past.

#15 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 04:23 AM

If what I wrote in the last post is true (and I was asking, not stating because I don't know if it's true or not), this 'surrendering' has many levels the body (hatha yoga attempts this directly through the receptivity of the body), mind (silence and meditation/attentiveness), but perhaps most importantly the heart. The problem though is that humility is in essence a far trickier thing than we intellectually give it credit for. In this sense, I believe Christianity is the only ultimate way, as it requires a surrender of the 'heart', from the nous so to speak, to the only One who truly has the power over the devil, so that the Holy Spirit can truly dwell within, in the essence of the person, and not just peripherally, ie the way which produces psychophysical benefits/effects, and opens one up for demonic temptations which the person is not prepared to battle.

#16 H. Smith

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Posted 26 August 2015 - 11:20 PM

Dear Jeremy,

I tend to agree with you when you wrote:

I imagine that he means something like this:

There is nothing more contrary to Orthodox belief about the gifts of the Holy Spirit than something like 'holy laughter'. Perhaps most importantly, Orthodox Christians are told to be in a constant state of discernment. If ever anything out of the ordinary happens to us, we are told right away to go to our priest, confess our sins and tell him about what happened. Then we are to do as he says, and put whatever happened out of our mind. This is because we are keenly aware that there is another spirit, who can emulate any number of miracles, and all of whose time is devoted to deceiving us. We are not only told not to seek out miraculous occurrences, but we are told to flee from them if they happen. Charismatics, on the other hand, are told never to question the validity of their experiences.



To me, the "holy laughter" sounds strange. I guess that a person could be happy about some miracles of a divine presence, and then laugh due to enjoyment. It says in the Bible that David danced when he saw the Ark of the Covenant brought towards him. But the holy laughter still seems strange to me in a way that is hard to explain. It seems to me that it could easily be due to a psychological or mental cause more than some kind of miraculous one. Fr. Seraphim's view was that the speaking in tongues among charismatics was often spurred on by intentional psychological prompting. Can someone explain better this uncomfortable feeling about the "holy laughter" and why it seems more like a psychological issue?

Is it really true though that the charismatics reject any discernment? It's not uncommon for them to act out casting out demons. On the other hand, is it really true that Christianity teaches that we should flee from miracles?

The main reason that I bring this topic up is that it seems like the experiences that the charismatics describe sound a lot like the experiences of the first century Christians, like miracles, healings, and detailed visions. In the case of the modern charismatics, I think that they are probably usually experiencing psychological phenomena or making thing up even in a few cases. But that makes a problem for me, because then when I think about the first century Christians it makes me think that they were making things up too.

To give an example of the similarity that I see to the charismatics:

"St. Paul advocates desiring spiritual gifts (1 Co. 12:30-31): 'Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.' (1 Co 14:1): 'Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts'" http://self.gutenber...smatic_movement


This sounds much different from the idea of fleeing from the miracles and more like the charismatics.

Another Orthodox charismatic claims:

The commonness of the supernatural gifts extends to the church fathers. St. Justin Martyr wrote an apologetic to Typhro the Jew: "If you want proof that the Spirit of God, who was with your people and left you to come to us, come into our assemblies and there you will see Him cast out demons, heal the sick, and hear Him speak in tongues and prophesy." http://seraphimorthodoxyreligionfuture.blogspot.com/



But rather than confirming for me the validity of the charismatic movement, this suggests to me unfortunately that the first century Christians may have been like the charismatics in having a psychological issue when they are speaking in tongues, having visions, prophesying, etc. I love God and Jesus and find the New Testament inspiring, and find that Orthodoxy retains the theology and basic rituals of the early Christians. But I have a lot of uncertainty over whether the main miracles actually occurred, and one of the main sources for this uncertainty is that the first Christians could have been the kind of charismatic people who we find in the modern movements today, at least in terms of their mentality and psychology. I am not sure what to do about this, although I do pray about it.

Edited by H. Smith, 26 August 2015 - 11:22 PM.


#17 Father David Moser

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 01:52 PM

Those same gifts of which we read in the NT are still active and in evidence in the Church today.  They are not as widespread or frequently seen as in the past because the Church today is not up to the same spiritual level as in the NT.  The gifts are still manifest in those who are prepared for them - its just that the vast majority of us in the Church are far from the spiritual level that we must be to use those gifts.

 

On a less specific note, it seems that those in the charismatic sects have a particular view of the NT Church which is not consistent with the Orthodox teaching of what the Church was like.  The letters of the Apostle Paul some of the events recorded in the Acts of the Apostles are interpreted in such as way as to create a view of the Church which is highly inaccurate but which supports the charismatic prayer meeting style.  If one buys into that interpretation then it seems obvious that the NT Church was full of people that were manifesting supernatural gits from the moment of their baptism.  Not necessarily so!  In the Acts we see the descent of the HS on the Apostles and then also the reception of the Centurion.  Off the top of my head those are the only recordings of "Tongues" in the Acts.  The Apostles had just spent 3 years in the presence of the God/man Jesus Christ and had been shaped and molded by that experience.  Their spiritual state was one of high readiness due to their close contact with God incarnate.  The Centurion was also in an exalted state of spiritual preparedness which was implied by his many spiritual labors even in ignorance of the Truth.  In the letters of the Apostle Paul, he speaks mostly of the desire for the gifts, not the actual presence of the gifts themselves.  It was that desire that he was seeking to discipline and redirect.  The actual number of those persons who manifested the gifts is not mentioned and was likely small.  This is not unlike the Church today.  There are many who desire gifts and let that desire take them in places that are spiritually harmful or at least ineffective.  But there are few who actually manifest these gifts and the number is growing fewer over time (due to the growing coldness of our hearts) as we can deduce from the very statements of the saints themselves.  There are lots of people saying the Jesus prayer on their own and doing all kinds of self willed ascetic acts (that sounds weird just saying it) in an attempt to be like the spiritual elders who have attained a state of the vision of God and who manifest these spiritual gifts.  If the Apostle Paul were to write to us about this today, I think that someone reading his letters 2000 years hence might get the impression that the Church in the twentieth century was full of spirit bearing elders and that the vision of the Divine Light was a common occurrence because he would have written to try to curb and discipline the desire of those who want what they do not have to lead them into a path which will actually produce that kind of spiritual state.  The charismatics - not unlike western Christians of other persuasions - have created an inaccurate picture of the NT Church to support their own teachings rather than submit and conform themselves to the Tradition which preserves  the accurate picture. Thus to base one's argument for such things on a false basis is itself delusion.

 

And one more side note - the charismatics do not practice any kind of true spiritual discrimination.  I base that on my own personal experience: been there, done that, got the T-shirt and thank God He saved me from my own foolishness.

 

 

Fr David Moser



#18 Anna Stickles

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 01:52 PM

Dear Mr. Smith,

 

These are a lot of good questions and something that, coming from an Evangelical from a somewhat Pentecostal background myself I have been working through as an Orthodox Christian.

 

Two things come up in regards false spirituality - one is as you say mistaking the psychological phenomenon for something spiritual, but this itself is usually a symptom of the second and primary problem which is spiritual pride and the accompanying delusion or prelest.

 

This does not negate real miracles, real spiritual perception and knowledge, etc. but rather calls for discernment. One of the primary means of discernment is if the person doing the miracles is humble and simple, or is showing off; if they are meek and obedient, or harsh, insensitive, and self-willed. 

 

I really can't claim to have a very good discernment, I think this takes a long time, but one thing that has helped a lot is reading the lives and writings of the saints, and then comparing this to what we see in the Pentecostal movement. The books by and about the newly canonized St Paisios of Athos are a good start. His writings are really helpful to start to develop and Orthodox sense of virtue and so start to see how this differs from Pentecostal ideas of spirituality.

 

There are stories in the desert fathers that are helpful too, since a false spirituality has been around since the beginning and how to recognize it is part of the training of monastics. There is a story about one of the first stylites. When he first started living up on a pole the fathers were very skeptical. They thought that he was engaging in a new proud kind of excessive asceticism. So some of those in authority went to him and rebuked him and told him to come down as a test. When he immediately and meekly listened to them instead of being stubborn and disdainful they accepted that what he was doing was from God and told him he could continue on his pillar. 

 

Likewise with miracles. There is a recognition in the spiritual literature that Satan, and to some extent natural human abilities can do very many things that seem spectacular, and even that God sometimes will work through those who do not belong to Him according to His own purposes,  but the determination as to whether God is truly present in a given saint's life and work is more wholistic then this.

 

Maybe St Matrona of Moscow's story would be a good place to start. Here is a post I wrote, dealing with false miracles vs true miracles, and there is a link in the post to an article about the life and miracles of St Matrona. Besides this and those about Elder Paisios, the biographies of the Optina elders or the original book about Fr Arseny are something else to look into. These all have first person accounts of miracles.  After reading these one starts to get the feel for how the presence of the Kingdom is different from the false spirituality we can see in the Pentecostal movement.



#19 Anna Stickles

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 03:00 PM

I don't know if this will be helpful, but I got into a discussion with a Pentecostal and this was part of my reply to his contentions about the Holy Spirit's work in the individual Christian as the defining truth of Christianity whereas in Orthodoxy we say that the Church recognizes what is of her own - this goes for miracles and spiritual revelation, not just doctrine.


What it means to be a truly Apostolic church
There are a couple of points that you bring up. The first is that a truly Apostolic church should have power and perfection. One should be seeing miracles and perfected people. This I perfectly agree with and one can find this in Orthodoxy, all one has to do is read the lives of the saints. You might be interested in reading the lives of some of the modern day Orthodox saints. These really impacted me as I started to check into Orthodoxy. They also challenged me because in reading these stories I was confronted with how much of my own concept of perfection was culturally formed rather than truly formed from the Gospels and the image of Christ that they give us. The miracles and the clairvoyance such that, like Christ, these saints could see into people’s hearts did not phase me, but the level of selflessness, of
sacrificial love and humility was astounding to the point of at first even being offensive. In this I had to start to take stock of the state of my own soul and my own preconceptions of what sanctity is – but this too I think is a mark of the true Apostolic church. It does not leave us content with ourselves, but challenges us toward deeper repentance and transformation.  If this is not present, then I don’t think a tradition can be truly Apostolic.  
 

These saints are almost always also ascetics, which is something that you mention that Paul speaks against. But how the Orthodox tradition understands this is that there is a false asceticism and a genuine one, and Paul is speaking against a false and unhealthy practice of asceticism that is driven by human pride rather than led by divine grace, but for now I will lay this aside, and ask your patience, since I think it better if we cover the other main point in your response first.
 

A Church based or individualistic faith
 

I had said, “The Bible teaches that the Church is one Body not a loose organization of free individuals trying to find the truth on their own” which you did not agree with. You then go on to point out your own position, which you lay out very clearly -  which is that faith is individualistic and that the Holy Spirit enlightens each person individually. This is where our main area of disagreement lies, so lets take a look at it more in depth.  I would say that the Holy Spirit alone (or the Holy Spirit plus the Scriptures) is just as untenable as sola scriptura.  If all we needed was the Holy Spirit, then all of us would agree with each other and there would be no more error. 
 

First of all we can each lay out support for our position from Scripture. You have mentioned many verses all teach is that the Holy Spirit can and does teach each person individually. I won’t disagree with that. J Without this internal help we are all ultimately lost.
 

You mention two options – Christ teaching the pope or Christ teaching each man himself. These are the main options most people are familiar with in Western
Christianity, but lets look at the early church. My experience and understanding from my reading of the patristic writers is that Christ is in the Church interpenetrating the whole. Christ does not give absolute authority either to the individual or the hierarchy, but works in both in harmony each supporting and balancing out the other.
 

He has set up a system of checks and balances to protect against false teaching that we can see working out in church history, and also a particular structure and way of life based on obedience and humility. These may not lead to complete perfection in this fallen world, still haunted as it is  by the consequences of sin and Satan’s attempts to derail things,  but it restrains the forces of sin and corruption, both corporately and individually. 
 

How do we differentiate the teaching of the Holy Spirit from a false teaching? Anyone can pick out various Bible verses and try to prove a particular position and say their position is right because they are enlightened by the Holy Spirit. I think it is important to recognize that our individual interpretations of the Bible always contain assumptions from our own experience, tradition, and culture. This is why the Orthodox Church calls us to be formed in its own experience of the Christian life, its own culture and tradition, which itself has been formed under the guidance of the Christ and the Holy Spirit at work in the saints.
 

When we look at the life of the early church how were differences in opinion about the faith approached? How did the early church deal with disputes when certain people received teaching from the Holy Spirit that contradicted the culture and truth that they had been brought up in and which seemed so natural and right?

 

We see this in the book of Acts. It was completely natural and unquestioned that Jews were the people of God and salvation came through following the legal principles of the Law.  Christ though was forming His Body on entirely different principles. This was a new life, and a new heavenly and universal kingdom.  First we see that Christ gave a personal revelation to Peter when he sent him to the Cornelius.   Later Christ expanded this revelation in what he was teaching Paul – Not only, did Christ grant the Gentiles repentance unto life and make them members of the Church,  but also the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised and follow the Law to receive this life.  However, in both cases neither man trusts entirely in their own revelation but takes it back to the Church where it is confirmed by a council of elders. (Acts 11, Acts 15). If even Peter and Paul submitted their own personal revelation to the Body of the Church through a council then how much more those who do not have the same perfection? 
 

We can also ask how did the early church approach errors that were creeping into the Church? St Ireneaus of Lyons (~180 AD) when he spoke against gnostics who appealed to their own special enlightenment to support their interpretation of the Scripture, appealed to the unbroken succession of bishops as indication of the validity of the faith that he taught.
 

If Jesus wanted to teach all men himself why have the Church and its ministries in the first place? How do you explain Paul’s instructions to Timothy? II Tim 2:2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  If  the Spirit alone working in men’s hearts was the way to perfection and truth, then where is the agreement between the different people who have tried this? Where, as you so rightly point out above, is the power in the people trying this method- the miracles and holiness? Where is the humility, where is the oneness of mind and heart? Is this method turning out perfect people or perfect unity of the faith?

 

What I see in the early Church and continuing in Orthodoxy up to the present is that the Holy Spirit teaches and abides in both the bishops and the members of the Church and as each submits to one another in love, and each fulfills their ministry in good faith, in cooperation with Christ and the Holy Spirit at work in their heart, then the Body works the way it should and the Holy Spirit is freed to work more fully in the hearts of men.  Paul addresses this fully in Ephesians chapter 4.



#20 H. Smith

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Posted 13 November 2015 - 06:16 AM

Fr. David!

 

Thank you for your reply.

You noted about the gifts: "They are not as widespread or frequently seen as in the past because the Church today is not up to the same spiritual level as in the NT.  The gifts are still manifest in those who are prepared for them".

 

The Church fathers of the 4th-5th centuries AD wrote that the gifts had already undergone Cessation. It seems that they stopped being common after the time of the Montanists (2nd century AD). However, in the Bible we read about there being plenty of doubt, even in the first century. Was there really so much less faith among Christians in the 3rd century, when they were undergoing persecution still? How could the spiritual level be so much dimmer in the time of the Church fathers, considering that this era saw the ecumenical councils, which we consider practically infallible due to the Spirit's strength? It is hard to think that a comparable number of equally faithful Christians couldn't be found in the 3rd-4th centuries, considering that the Christians' flock had multiplied by that time, even allowing for a greater number of doubters.

 

I think you are right when you say: "In the Acts we see the descent of the HS on the Apostles and then also the reception of the Centurion. Off the top of my head those are the only recordings of "Tongues" in the Acts."

So I don't know how common speaking in tongues was among the apostolic Christians. Mark 16 describes it as a sign that would follow the Christians, and Paul told the Corinthians that he spoke in tongues more than any of them, which presumably means glossolalia. St John Chrysostom proposed that in those apostolic times it was normal for Christians to immediately begin glossolalia after baptism ("Whoever was baptized he straightway spake with tongues and not with tongues only, but many also prophesied"), although I suppose he could have been mistaken about that.

 

You commented about Paul's letters: "The actual number of those persons who manifested the gifts is not mentioned and was likely small. This is not unlike the Church today." In 1 Cor 14, Paul says:

How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.

It sounds like every one of the Corinthians gathered claimed to have one or all of these "gifts".

 

If on the other hand the gifts were comparably as rare then as they were centuries later, then it is hard to see why the Church Fathers would have described the gifts as undergoing "Cessation".

 

You write:

 

There are lots of people saying the Jesus prayer on their own and doing all kinds of self willed ascetic acts in an attempt to be like the spiritual elders who have attained a state
of the vision of God and who manifest these spiritual gifts.  If the Apostle Paul were to write to us about this today, I think that someone reading his letters 2000 years hence might get the impression that the Church in the twentieth century was full of spirit bearing elders and that the vision of the Divine Light was a common occurrence because he would have written to try to curb and discipline the desire of those who want what they do not have to lead them into a path which will actually produce that kind of spiritual state.

 

I actually don't know how common miracles like visions and healings are in our churches and monasteries. I think that they occasionally happen. But even with all the accounts of spirit bearing elders it is hard for me to say the gifts are widespread among, or regular for the monastics. In Paul's letter to the Corinthians, it sounds like the visions and speaking in tongues are a regular occurance whenever they regularly meet, as he says, "when ye come together, every one of you hath..."

 

The other thing is that he doesn't seem to curb the desire for gifts per se, but rather he orders them to prophesy/use glossolalia 2 or 3 persons at a time because otherwise it creates a "mad"-looking disorder that Paul objected to.

 

The weakness though with the Charismatic perception is that it is hard to generalize about the whole Church based on what was happening in Corinth. Acts presents it as if all the apostles (70?) experienced polyglotism at Pentecost. Based on St Paul's own miracles, it seems as if being a strong believer would probably invite the gifts. And the Church fathers write as if there had been a drastic reduction in the gifts by their time. But it seems hard to say more than that definitively, doesn't it?

 

Finally, sure, I can sense, like you said, that modern Pentecostals do not practice serious discernment.






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