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Judging when doctrine or practice reflects or is a corruption of the Apostolic Faith


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#1 Anna Stickles

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 09:48 PM

Over the last few months there has been a number of questions raised about the veneration of icons, the complexity of the liturgy, transubstantiation, certain types of theological reflection or ways of approaching questions about the faith, etc, with questions arising about what is true to and what is a corruption of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith.

The specific question I would like to address in this thread then is what criteria do we use to judge whether or not errors and corruption have entered into the faith? How do we discern what is true Apostolic Christianity and what is a corruption of it? And also, who is qualified to make this judgment?

Obviously throughout her history the Church has had to protect herself against all kinds of heresies. Also we know that our practice is not exactly the same as it was in the past and certain doctrines have been articulated in much more detail –how in the end is it determined what is heresy and what is not, what is in keeping with apostolic Christianity and what is a distortion?

#2 Anna Stickles

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 11:28 PM

Thursday we are not only celebrating the Ascension, but also we commemorate St. Vincent of Lerins and I think his writings are a good place to start this thread.

St Vincent saw the Church as an organic whole with an inner essence and integrity which all else must faithfully reflect and from which all progress must come for it to remain true to itself. He says (CH 23), “Progress means that each thing grows within itself, whereas alteration implies that one thing is transformed into another. The growth of religion in the soul should be like the growth of the body, which in the course of a year develops and unfolds, yet remains the same as it was.”

The Church then must be nurturing this type of growth, and to do this She must reflect within her doctrine and practice this essential simplicity*(see note below).

St Vincent continues “…it is logically correct that the beginning and the end be in agreement, that we reap from the planting of the wheat of doctrine the harvest of the wheat of dogma. In this way none of the characteristics of the seed is changed, although something evolved from those first seeds and has now expanded under careful cultivation. What may be added is merely appearance, beauty, and distinction, but the proper nature of each kind remains.”

Here again we see an analogy attempting to communicate to us this idea of faithfulness to her own inner essence. This doctrine is consistent with a view of the Church as an organism not an institution, and as such she grows and unfolds in the same way as any other created being that God has made. We are told in Orthodox doctrine that Adam, even though he was made perfect, without blemish, was also made with the capacity to grow in this perfection. God implanted His image and Adam was meant to grow in likeness. The Church as the Body of Christ is the new Adam.

This is a very different approach then using historical records to try to find out what are historically verifiable practices and beliefs of the early Church and then limiting what is valid practice or doctrine to these things in a mechanical and exterior way.

This is also a very different approach from trying to look and see which things have been believed by all Christians across all time (C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity”). It is even different from an approach to the Orthodox Fathers that tries to correlate various doctrines on an analytical level– the kind of comparative theology one tends to see a lot in the commentators.

In fact this approach to understanding how the Church can and should judge herself, itself reflects and is faithful to the inner integrity we are talking about here, while these other approaches are something foreign to who she is.

If we want to understand the various controversies in history or changes in liturgical practices, if we want to talk about the uniqueness of Orthodoxy, if we want to answer ecumenists who want union with the other traditions, I think this is really where we have to start.

In the end true Christianity is found when the corruption and the conflict caused by contrary thoughts existing in the same body is gone because everything foreign and mutually contradictory has been expelled and the perfection of all parts is according to the wholeness and simplicity God created in the first place.

*(simplicity in Orthodox understanding has been explained to me, not in terms of not having parts, rather as something being irreducible in its reality, of everything within a being as an expression of itself. Probably a discussion of different conceptions of simplicity in Orthodoxy and other traditions and the impact this has on our conception of God and ourselves would make a thread in itself.)

#3 Sacha

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 02:16 AM

Thank you Anna for starting this thread; I had mentioned St Vincent of Lerins in the discussion on the Bible and infallibility and so am glad to see him quoted here. I will reflect on what you have posted so far and will be back later with some thoughts. Thanks again for taking the time to write.

#4 Vlad

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 11:55 AM

In what regards „who is qualified to make this judgement?” i think we all are. And in order to make the judgement i think we have to search the opinions of the people that encompass in themself the spirit of the Church. For example: If i wanna know if ecumenism is a corruption of the faith or not, i will not seek the opinion of patriarch Bartholomew because i cannot know if he really represents the spirit of the Church or not. Instead i will try to find out the opinion of those people who i know for sure that where/are in the spirit of the Church (e.g.: Iustin Popovici, father Paisios, Seraphim Rose, Ignatius Brancianinov, etc.). However, i think that what matters the most is a sincere prayer for Christ to prevent us from tasteing the heretical spirit that is wondering around in all the orthdox churches these days...by heretical spirit i do not understand only heretical dogmas but also a heretical understanding of the orthodox dogmas.

Edited by Olga, 23 May 2012 - 11:10 PM.
removed formatting marks


#5 Father David Moser

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 04:20 PM

How do we discern what is true Apostolic Christianity and what is a corruption of it? And also, who is qualified to make this judgment?


What is it that we pray constantly in the Divine Liturgy? "Among the first, remember, O Lord (the appropriate ruling Orthodox hierarchs listed by name and title) whom do Thou grant unto the holy churches, in peace, safety, honor, health and length of days rightly dividing the word of truth" (emphasis mine). How do we discern? - we don't. Who is qualified? - our hierarchs who by the grace of their ordination receive from God the ability and the responsibility to teach and instruct and guard the true faith.

I think that too often today we in the Church have slipped into the bad habit of evaluating whether or not our hierarchs are rightly dividing the word of truth and forgetting that such judgement belongs not to us but to God who is the One Who gives the grace of doing so to the hierarch.

Fr David Moser

Edited by Father David Moser, 23 May 2012 - 04:40 PM.
punctuation and spelling


#6 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 05:08 PM

Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Whilst not in any way desiring to gainsay Fr David, there may be rare occasions when bishops fall into error, and then the laity have a duty to guard the deposit. One authority for this is the 1848 Encyclical of the Orthodox Patriarchs. But before that, one would expect other bishops to intervene. Thus when Nicolae, Metropolitan of Banat in Romania took communion in a Roman Catholic Church in 2008, first the Patriarch of Moscow demanded an explanation and then the Metropolitan was disciplined by the Romanian patriarch.

#7 Steve Roche

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 08:58 PM

How do we discern what is true Apostolic Christianity and what is a corruption of it? And also, who is qualified to make this judgment?


The “church” went through different developments in doctrine and “definitions”. The definition of “the fathers” had changed as time went on… from the 2nd & 3rd centuries, the “fathers” were exclusively held to be the second to fourth generation of teachers who were initially taught by the apostles and 1st century missionaries; such as Philip and Barnabas. These earliest "fathers" included men such as Polycarp – who was the disciple of the Apostle John; Irenaeus - who was the disciple of the Polycarp; and Hippolytus - who was the disciple of Irenaeus. Origen, who also learnt with Hippolytus, was considered to have been the greatest theologian since Paul. So the initial “fathers” were men of this ilk… Polycarp; Irenaeus; Hippolytus; Origen; Justin Martyr; Papias; Theophilus; Ignatius; Cyprian, and so forth.

At this time the church experience the first “anti-pope”; Novatian (Hippolytus is often confused by historians for being an antipope). The Novatians and Donatists occupied church politics for the next 200 years; during which the church went through multiple changes; including a period of extreme heresy under Constantinius, Constantine’s son, who made the church Arian; and Julian the Apostate, Constantine’s nephew, who returned the world to paganism. After this time, during the reign of Theodosius, a new order of “fathers” developed who are now the supreme authorities of Catholic and Orthodox doctrinal affairs. These men included Jerome; Augustine; Basil the Great; Gregory of Nyssa; Gregory Narzianzen; John Chrysostom, and so forth.

These new “fathers” were considered to speak for the “true” church on all matters. The 1st fathers of the second and third centuries were eventually replaced by the 2nd fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries. These 2nd fathers were giving new definitions of church teachings against the backdrop of extreme heresy. Arianism and Apollinarism had become the new “orthodox faith”. Almost all churches at Constantinople (and other parts of the world) had Arian bishops presiding over them. A party of Nicene sympathizers were given authority by Emperor Theodosius to replace them with Nicene doctrines and clergy. These “champions of Orthodoxy” are now the “fathers” of the church.

The above outline is a summary of the history; not a criticism of it. To critique it I would say that the “true fathers” are those who were of the 2nd – 3rd centuries. The fathers who came later were not teaching the bible alone… they were teaching the bible through the lens of Arianism and the ‘right’ of authority. This lens, I think, has clouded the doctrines and teachings of the church. That is not to say they were necessarily wrong; but that they presented the teachings and language of the bible through a specific social and political lens. Those who follow these fathers as authorities, without recognising this lens, are caught in a time-warp of teachings that do not present the fullness of the gospel. It behoves us all as individuals to determine the social context of the writings of the later fathers, and to compare them with previous teachings of the original fathers. We need this assessment to discover whether or not “the veneration of icons, the complexity of the liturgy, transubstantiation, certain types of theological reflection or ways of approaching questions about the faith, etc.” are in harmony with biblical teachings and the true traditions of the earliest fathers. This is a safety net for us so that we are not running the course in futility.

Steve

#8 Anna Stickles

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 12:39 PM

Instead i will try to find out the opinion of those people who i know for sure that where/are in the spirit of the Church (e.g.: Iustin Popovici, father Paisios, Seraphim Rose, Ignatius Brancianinov, etc.). However, i think that what matters the most is a sincere prayer for Christ to prevent us from tasteing the heretical spirit that is wondering around in all the orthdox churches these days...by heretical spirit i do not understand only heretical dogmas but also a heretical understanding of the orthodox dogmas.


This is more along the lines of what I see happening historically.

It is those who are truly living the faith who can discern truth from error because they have been formed in the faith. Someone who is not Orthodox, who has been formed in a different faith is not going to recognize the right faith in its fullness and integrity, because we only see the unity and wholeness of exterior practices primarily as we live them and find that wholeness in ourselves. And for those who are living those practices, but only in a superficial way, St Gregory says very clearly in his Oration 27 that someone who is not living the faith, but who is just talking the talk and not walking the walk, is not qualified either. Things which St Gregory says are going to distort our vision are an un-orthodox lifestyle, hostility, and pride of mind.

Also, historically I think we see that it is the faithful and bishops together who defend the faith. The faithful have a responsibility too, because our understanding of ecclesiastical authority is not such that Orthodoxy operates by a top down paradigm, with truth being "forced" on the people from above, with all the responsibility in the hands of the hierarchs. Rome tried this and it led to the Reformation. Rather in Orthodoxy it's a cooperation between God, his ordained authorities, those spirit filled leaders that arise, and the faithful.

That the Orthodox church has a system in place that looks to all of these sources protects us from mass hysteria, corrupt leadership, and false prophets. One of these may get the upper hand for a while, but the system of checks and balances, guided by God brings things back in line since no one source has power enough on its own to co-opt the doctrine or practice of the whole Church.

I certainly agree with Fr David, though, that the Church today has allowed itself to be infected by modern values that reject proper respect for our God given leaders. The faithful are far to quick to trust our own judgments and reject the judgments of others. Many of the modern saints and elders have spoken extensively against this trend of criticalness and self-trust. The Orthodox virtues of humility of mind and not trusting our own thoughts is out of favor, and even for those struggling toward this it is hard to come by.

#9 Owen Jones

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 01:26 PM

As I see it, the whole purpose of Monachos is to help the faithful become better informed in the faith. Spiritual formation is not really the purpose and cannot be conducted in a public forum. There is a real need for all of us to become better informed in the faith, and it is difficult in the typical parish to get the kind of info and guidance one gets here. Most people are not really all that interested in theology, and I can see a priest trying to conduct classes for the faithful on the various Christological controversies of the first 7 centuries! Probably not very many takers.

#10 Sacha

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 10:21 PM

Thursday we are not only celebrating the Ascension, but also we commemorate St. Vincent of Lerins and I think his writings are a good place to start this thread.

St Vincent saw the Church as an organic whole with an inner essence and integrity which all else must faithfully reflect and from which all progress must come for it to remain true to itself. He says (CH 23), “Progress means that each thing grows within itself, whereas alteration implies that one thing is transformed into another. The growth of religion in the soul should be like the growth of the body, which in the course of a year develops and unfolds, yet remains the same as it was.”

The Church then must be nurturing this type of growth, and to do this She must reflect within her doctrine and practice this essential simplicity*(see note below).

St Vincent continues “…it is logically correct that the beginning and the end be in agreement, that we reap from the planting of the wheat of doctrine the harvest of the wheat of dogma. In this way none of the characteristics of the seed is changed, although something evolved from those first seeds and has now expanded under careful cultivation. What may be added is merely appearance, beauty, and distinction, but the proper nature of each kind remains.”

Here again we see an analogy attempting to communicate to us this idea of faithfulness to her own inner essence. This doctrine is consistent with a view of the Church as an organism not an institution, and as such she grows and unfolds in the same way as any other created being that God has made. We are told in Orthodox doctrine that Adam, even though he was made perfect, without blemish, was also made with the capacity to grow in this perfection. God implanted His image and Adam was meant to grow in likeness. The Church as the Body of Christ is the new Adam.

This is a very different approach then using historical records to try to find out what are historically verifiable practices and beliefs of the early Church and then limiting what is valid practice or doctrine to these things in a mechanical and exterior way.

This is also a very different approach from trying to look and see which things have been believed by all Christians across all time (C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity”). It is even different from an approach to the Orthodox Fathers that tries to correlate various doctrines on an analytical level– the kind of comparative theology one tends to see a lot in the commentators.

In fact this approach to understanding how the Church can and should judge herself, itself reflects and is faithful to the inner integrity we are talking about here, while these other approaches are something foreign to who she is.

If we want to understand the various controversies in history or changes in liturgical practices, if we want to talk about the uniqueness of Orthodoxy, if we want to answer ecumenists who want union with the other traditions, I think this is really where we have to start.

In the end true Christianity is found when the corruption and the conflict caused by contrary thoughts existing in the same body is gone because everything foreign and mutually contradictory has been expelled and the perfection of all parts is according to the wholeness and simplicity God created in the first place.



Before I begin, I would like to reference Fr Aiden's insightful appeal to Gregory of Nazianzen's plea for civility and charity in theological discourse. Over time I have appreciated the latter on this forum and my hope and prayer is that my comments would not be construed as coming from a desire to judge or malign, but rather seen as originating out of geniune differences that are worth discussing.

I'll start with this: any appeal to the Orthodox phronema is invariably an appeal to that which is historical, because the church's teaching is itself predicated on apostolic succession. Succession is in and of itself, an integral part of the OC claim to authenticity and therefore, it is hard to imagine how a Tu Quoque can be avoided if the church shields herself from any type of historical analysis while simultaneously pointing out the flaws of the RC and Protestant churches.

Let me elaborate: In His own day, Christ faced the Pharisees' claim that they were the true Israel and that He was an impostor. His response to them was grounded in historical fact when He said in Matthew 23:31

"31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets"

Anna, this is where I find your analogy of the church as the new Adam as quite interesting. I see it differently: Adam was created innocent and God's will was for him to grow into perfection. But Adam transgressed and fell, resulting in the coming of the new Adam, Christ who delivers and heals us from our ancestral sin nature.
If you start from the presupposition that the church is necessarily growing into perfection, somehow automatically guided towards perfection simply because she is the church, then there is no debate. But if you recognize that the church is prone to sin and error, just as Adam was and just as Israel was, then this leads to important questions.

In Jesus' day, the exact claim was made by the Pharisees, i.e., "We are the true 'church' (anachronistic but illustrates the point) and this irrespective of our history, God has promised to have us be His chosen people forever." But the Lord's response did in fact involve history. It involved a record of their deeds as per Matt 23:31, the same criteria applied to the 7 churches in the book of Revelation where He says "I know your deeds...".

Did Christ not say "will the Son of Man find faith on earth when He returns?" and elsewhere to the Laodiceans, "..because you are neither hot nor cold, I am about to spew you out of my mouth". These cutting words point to the vulnerabilityof the church, even if one understands her to be an organism and not an institution. Otherwise said, even an understanding of the proper growth of unaltered doctrine as per Vincent of Lerins does not obviate the high standard which Christ calls His disciples to. Yes, it is indeed true that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, but it does not necessarily follow that the church has not erred along the way. As Peter says, ” For if the judgment begins with the house of God, what shall become of unbelievers?”

The objection is invariably: "But you cannot judge the church and who are you to judge her?" To which I would simply say that Christ has given His followers the prerogative to discern their teachers. Discerning and judging are two entirely different practices. The former involves an appraisal of the facts without condemnation while the latter instead rushes to condemnation. So while I whole heartedly agree with Vincent of Lerins that we ought to be extremely careful to ensure that after planting the doctrine of wheat we harvest the dogma of wheat, I think it would not be unfair to suggest that even Lerins himself would not object to this observation: What does it benefit us to have a theologically homogeneous harvest if the latter yields rotten fruit?

Again, Christ says "You shall know them by their fruit..." thereby implying that it is not only the nature of the harvest that matters but also its quality. I believe this was what Gregory of Nazianzus was getting at when he went into seclusion.I find it to be an excellent development to see his words studied and taken to heart:

Was he not the one who tried to prevent being installed as the Bishop of Constantinople and who told the emperor Theodosius that bishops behaved like a swarm of hornets? After the council of Nicea, when he heard that Theodosius was to hold another council and had asked him to preside over it, he deliberately refused, livingaway from all ecclesiastical pomp until he died around 60 years of age. What was Gregory Nazianzen doing but discerning the fruit of his peers and their historical record?

In that sense, in my view Nazianzen was much closer to faith once and for all delivered in the sense that he flatly refused to be associated with the state and violence at the councils, inasmuch as he could afford to make the choice. Was he placing himself above the church? No. But he was discerning the state of affairs and doing his best to honor his conscience.

#11 Steve Roche

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 10:31 PM

Judging when doctrine or practice reflects or is a corruption of the Apostolic Faith


Gregory Narzianzen’s emotional sensitivity really impressed me. When his enemies had challenged him he willingly stepped down to avoid further antagonism. Gregory was a true inner pacifist. I think he had a long time to contemplate the errors that emerged after Nicene. Gregory’s father became a Christian at this time (325 AD) and he was ordained a bishop shortly afterward. Gregory Snr was witness to the imperial conflicts that shortly followed with Constantine’s sons - Constantine II, Constans and Constantius II… they murdered all their family members who became possible rivals for the throne, and they faught against each other. After the death of his brother’s, Constantius II then made Arianism the official catholic and orthodox religion of the Church. This century experienced spiritual insanity!

These above mentioned events led to the spiritual isolation of future Emperor Julian (the Apostate), who abandoned Christianity completely. Julian was a preoccupation of Gregory Narzianzen’s writings (Against Julian – Oration 4 & 5). Gregory was deeply torn by the violence and conflicts occurring in the church. He was more acutely aware of how he was used as a spiritual pawn within the church; and he endeavoured (eventually) to have no part in it. You cannot read Gregory’s writings outside of the context of his environment he wrote in. This was the lens in which he viewed the world, and he reacted to it.

All these events need to be considered for “Judging when doctrine or practice reflects or is a corruption of the Apostolic Faith.” To evaluate our spiritual legacy thoroughly, we need to understand the faith as it was understood by the earliest Christians of the 2nd and 3rd centuries; before the corruption and insanity had reached every church within the empire.

Steve

#12 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 03:23 PM

Constantius II then made Arianism the official catholic and orthodox religion of the Church.


I think we need a bit of focus here, this and like claims are not true. It is not the Emperor who decides what the faith of the Church is, but rather the Holy Spirit. The emperor may favour the Church, a heresy or even heathenism and he may (and did) make it the official state religion, and persecute those who did not agree with him. Yet the Church remains the same, that known of the Holy Spirit.

The Church is not the total of Christian dominations with whatsoever the emperor decides is the correct doctrine, being the official orthodox teaching of the Church with other groups still being part of it. The Church is the Orthodox (right-worshipping/believing before God) bishop and his flock, she is the bride of Christ, whether most of the know world are members of her, or only one two bishops as it was with Saint Maximus the Confessor and his flock. When the emperor made Arianism the state church, it remained as it was a foul heresy, and the Church remained the Church.

May the Holy and God bearing fathers of the First Ecumenical synod of Nicaea who's memory we commemorate this day intercede for us. Amen

In Christ.
Daniel,

#13 Mary Lanser

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 01:35 AM

I was reading the following article today and thought it might be useful here in this thread:

http://www.scribd.co...enical-Councils

In Christ,

M.

#14 Steve Roche

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 07:14 AM

I think we need a bit of focus here, this and like claims are not true.


Thank you, but my statement is not “untrue”. Constantius II did make Arianism the catholic and orthodox religion of the Church. What you replied with to support your statement was simply semantics. I am trying to submit facts, not sentimental dirges. Apart from Nicea; the ecumenical councils had not yet taken place (except for a few erased councils of the Arians that we pretend never existed).

Christians were invaded by heretics ever since Pope Stephen allowed heretics into communion without repentance or confession. These heretics were the gnostics of previous centuries which found an open door from Pope Stephen to invade the Apostolic Faith. They invaded and caused divisions and splinters of every kind, backing and supporting every wind of doctrine. Nicea itself was a wind of doctrine; as was Arianism. The heretics that found entrance into the church came from sects of Adamite's; Antactics; Basilideans; Boethusians; Carpocratians; Cleobiani; Dorithiani; Ebionites; Elkesaites; Gortheani; Hemerobaptists; Marcionists; Simonians; Valentinians; etc... All of these groups were given “orthodox” communion from the year 250 AD onwards. They had burst through the doors of churches bringing with them thousands of demonic heresies.

These facts are glossed over in support of religious sentiments that often have no basis of truth. Even today theologians of every denomination still argue and debate over what the Nicene Creed even means. Christians are still unsettled about the economic subordination and eternal subordination from within the trinity. Scholars from both schools give the Cappadocian fathers as their supportive evidence. The argument is absurd; and the fruitage is demonic and senseless - leading to the violent murders of brothers and sisters in Christ for hundreds of years. While we think of the “fathers of the First Ecumenical synod of Nicaea who's memory we commemorate this day”, let us also remember the slaughter of the innocent who were butchered in the name of Christ. This was one of the reasons Emperor Julian cited for why he could not be a Christian. We can be so arrogantly proud and blinded to our own hypocrisy. Let’s try not to stumble any more of the “least brothers” in our pursuit of religious superiority.

Just a thought

Steve

#15 Steve Roche

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 11:41 PM

The Church is not the total of Christian dominations...


This view is not supported by scripture. Jesus said the exact opposite to this! Jesus said there were Seven Churches (Revelation 1:4), each of which had distinct doctrines and influences. These seven churches (denominations) are the "total of Christian dominations". If there is only “one true church”, why are seven distinct churches mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 & 3 in the first place? Why did John prophecy schisms in the churches, where one church would reject the doctrines of the Nicolaitans, and another church would endorse the same doctrines? Why did Paul write to Seven Churches, each with a different spiritual struggle which distinguished its doctrines from the other? Galatians and circumcision; Corinthians and Resurrection; etc…

To say that “the Church remains the same” is untrue. This claim is not supported by scripture or history.

Steve

#16 Father David Moser

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 08:06 PM

Thank you, but my statement is not “untrue”. Constantius II did make Arianism the catholic and orthodox religion of the Church. What you replied with to support your statement was simply semantics.


This view is not supported by scripture. Jesus said the exact opposite to this!


Steve,

These two statements reveal that you really do not know anything about the Orthodox faith or the Orthodox Church. You have been very free with your opinions in this forum, but just because you believe something that does not make it true.

No emperor can make anything the religion of the Church - the emperor has no standing in the governance of the Church, his responsibility is the well being of the society. The most any emperor could do is to make arianism (or some other confession) the officially sanctioned faith of the government - but he cannot impose that belief on the Church.

The meaning of the Nicene Creed has always been clear within the Church. The Creed belongs to the Church and is our confession of faith. Those who dispute its meaning are not those within the Church, but rather those who are outside the Church and who are attempting to compromise the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Steve, with all respect, your ignorance is showing for all to see. Perhaps it would be better to listen and learn than to open your mouth (or keyboard) and reveal your foolishness.

Fr David Moser

#17 Jesse Dominick

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 12:19 AM

i asked Dr. Christopher Veniamin this same question -- the answer basically boiled down to: "become a Saint and you'll know."

#18 Rick H.

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 11:17 AM

i asked Dr. Christopher Veniamin this same question -- the answer basically boiled down to: "become a Saint and you'll know."


That sounds right, I like that answer. Otherwise it is we seekers who try to 'judge' based on what we think 'should and should not be' based on our understanding of 'the Orthodox way' and what we have been taught so far. And, in the end, no matter how admirable our desires when we operate by means of 'what I want' and 'what I think should and should not be' we just get whirled around and run around in states of fear and a desire which dominiate us.

#19 Anna Stickles

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 03:08 PM

Sacha,

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to this.

this is where I find your analogy of the church as the new Adam as quite interesting. I see it differently: Adam was created innocent and God's will was for him to grow into perfection. But Adam transgressed and fell, resulting in the coming of the new Adam, Christ who delivers and heals us from our ancestral sin nature.
If you start from the presupposition that the church is necessarily growing into perfection, somehow automatically guided towards perfection simply because she is the church, then there is no debate. But if you recognize that the church is prone to sin and error, just as Adam was and just as Israel was, then this leads to important questions.


When you say that you see things differently you have touched on a core issue. Our ecclesiologies, our visions of what the Church is, are different. Sometimes it is hard to change the meaning of a word we commonly use, but please bear with me as I explain what I mean when I used the word “Church” in the post above.

When you talk about the church, you are talking about a gathering of people living on earth who are still full of corruption and imperfect, that, while they may believe in Jesus and try to follow Him, are not in fact united to Him in His resurrection. In fact you are seeing the church still in terms of the captivity and death that humankind has lived in between the Fall and the Resurrection. In this view the church as a corporate organism is still dead in her sins. As you specifically state there is no difference between the Church and Israel in this ecclesiology.

In Orthodox ecclesiology we receive our life from the Body. St John the Theologian draws a beautiful picture of this for us in John ch 15. St Ireneaus of Lyons also draws a wonderful picture of this in its full Eucharistic context in bk 5 of Against Heresies. We as individuals may be mostly dead in our sins, but the Church is alive. When I talk about "The Church" I am first and foremost talking about the Body of Christ, not as a metaphor but Christ’s real glorified Body. When we participate in the Church we are participating in the Body of Christ. This is a mystical ecclesiology, not a historical or institutional ecclesiology. I can say with perfect confidence that the Church sits at the right hand of God in heaven and has overcome hell and death.

Christ Himself, the God-Man is the Seed from which all doctrine and practice must grow, and anything contrary to this must eventually either be transformed or cut off. Notice how the harvest of dogma coming out of every single one of the councils had to do with a defense of the nature of Christ.

So you can see then, that when I say that the Church is the new Adam, it is a reference back to how the Church is the Body of Christ. The Protestants have a saying that there is no perfect church, and if there was one as soon as we entered it would no longer be perfect. The saying is good in expressing a certain humility and recognition of our fallenness, but it is very bad ecclesiology from an Orthodox point of view.

Orthodox ecclesiology is sacramental, growing out of a view of salvation that is participatory – Christ took on our fallen nature to transform it and raise it up and now we as individuals are called to participate in this Body in order to be transformed. In fact we not only participate in this Body we become this Body, as intimately as cells are members of our body. So as Orthodox we would say that we become participants in the Church in order to be made perfect, and that our imperfections do not in any way make the Church less perfect.

From this view of the Church then, grows a certain way of seeing the imperfections of her earthly members (we call the heavenly members saints because they have escaped the corruption in this world and are now fully perfected in the Church (the souls of the just made perfect see Heb 12:23) and also from this grows a certain way of discerning and dealing with error.

Because God in his love allows for our freedom, even the freedom to sin, even to harm each other, the grace of ordination is not a guarantee of salvation or purity for the individual bishop. But the grace of ordination, and the sacramental reality of the Church is such that the Seed of Life protects the Body in a similar way as our immune system protects us. When disease enters, a battle ensues and eventually the disease is killed, or if infected members are unrepentant they are cut off. This I think is how we can understand the various schisms and battles we see going on throughout history.

I John 2:9 "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us."

Of course as St Paul says, there is always the chance for branches that were cut off to be grafted in once again, if they repent, and we see this also happening at times, either with individuals who are banned from communion for a time, or whole congregations who have been cut off coming to back into communion.

#20 Owen Jones

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 01:41 PM

How do we know? We take on the mind of Christ. And we take on the mind of the Fathers. In that way we will see the truth. It is not an analytical problem.




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