"Orthodoxy's most essential element is its wholly integrated theology which is unique in that it is organically consistent with the theology of the early church. No other confession can make that claim with any sort of credibility......Having said that, Orthodox believers are no different from those in any other group. We're flawed, emotional, unacceptably slavish to our passions at times, and in short, complete and total messes trying the best we can to work out our salvation with fear and trembling."
With the Orthodox cache coming to full fruition starting next week, I thought I'd make a few observations about our corner of the Blogosphere. I suppose this is a pre-cache, cache (if you will).
* Anthony, and Tikhon, and Seraphim are all at Holy Cross and none of them have posted in more than a month. Guys, I know we need priests and you are working real hard, but get with the program, ok? Remember: Posting for our consumption, first; growing into your God-given vocation, a distant second. Sheesh. Nobody has the right priorities anymore.... :)
* Justin if you don't get a commenting feature up soon I am going to go out of my mind. Your last three posts have been so excellent they beg for comments....please, help us out here!
* I'd also like to point out that the commenting feature at this bloke's site keeps falling apart. One would hope that he'd have the sense to do something about it at some point. We'll see.... :)
* Jim at Life's Cocktails is a very enjoyable read and highly recommended. He has been looking into Orthodoxy the past month or so and has posted several great pieces on what he is learning and experiencing. Check him out.
* Again, if you know of an Orthodox blog out there that wasn't on my previous list, please let me know.
From Ode Eight of the Supplicatory Canon to One's Guardian Angel:
"Though my heart is the temple of Christ, yet because of the passions I have made it a lodging for noetic swine. O my soul's helper, strengthen me to cleanse it, cense, and sprinkle it with the perfumes and myrrh of prayers and purity, that it might again become a fragrant temple of Christ."
There is nothing quite like the beauty and poignancy of the Church's hymnody.
ESOB Update: A New Unofficial Listing of Orthodox Blogs
For those of you wondering, Dean and I are almost finished with the details of the Orthodox cache at blogs4God and we should be up and running in the next week or two. At this point it looks like we will have the Thursday slot.
Below are listed all 41 Ortho-bloggers that I know about and keep up with as well as 5 inquirers. (North Door made an unofficial list like this a while back, but this is my updated version.) This list does not include livejournalers. If you are not listed please let me know so I can add you. If anyone knows of Orthodox blogs that are not on this list *please* send me an email.
Once we are up and running at b4g, if you feel like you have a post worthy of a cache please send me an email letting me know. As moderator I will try and keep things as fair and as interesting as I can.
Here we are, listed in no particular order. (I would post links but I don't have the time):
Huw of Doxos, James of the NW, Clifton Healy, Kevin Basil, James of KY, David Holford, Bishop's Tower, Fr. Hans , Robert's Reflections, North Door, Sunday to Sunday, Serge, Morning Coffee, Havdala, In Communion, Pensate Omnia, Anthony Cook, Tikhon, Newman, Wayne O., Jeremy Stock, Fly in the Oil, Chris Davis, Justin Martyr, Violent Munkee, Meletao, Analysis Analyzed, Nicholas, Seraphim Sighs, So Joyful, Confessio, Anathemata, Chris Naughton, Moose, Glen, Sockmonk, World Tim, Andrew (Kingtroll), Dr. Bacchus, Lola, Simeon
Neo wrote, "Christian unity isn't a common belief system; it isn't even a common belief in Christ! Christian unity arises from the fact that we share in common Christ himself, the same Christ indwelling each of us."
--"Salvation is not adherence to a 'belief system.' It is total trust, and abidance in Christ. Which, by definition, means also the Church; for to trust Jesus fully means we will fully trust and abide in His Body. Will this affect what and how I believe? Yes. Do we have to have our intellectual ducks in a row to 'be saved?' Nope."--
The point I labored to make then (poorly, it seems) and that I will continue to make is that doctrinal unity doesn't need to be striven for or created by us because it already exits in the Church. *Doctrinal agreement is a result of, not a prerequisite for, ontological and sacramental unity.*
In other words, the historic Christian way is that we experience, we live out, we incarnate the truth first, and *through that common experience* come to understand and agree on doctrine. Jesus said "Take eat," not "Take, understand, dissect, systematize, rationalize, deconstruct, recontextualize...then eat."
Orthodoxy, no matter what culture the Church is in, is a way of life that for those who follow it will result in a particular worldview, a common vision and experience. We see this in the lives of the saints and the Fathers across the centuries. We simply call this the "mind of Christ" as St. Paul does. For more on this, check out this article by Frederica Mathews-Green I quoted a few days ago.
Within in the Orthodox Church there are many different practices, pious opinions, and perspectives on a wide range of topics. But the difference is that nobody disagrees on what the Faith actually *is*, who God is, etc. This core is not the "disputable matters" of which St. Paul writes about in Rom 14:1.
But while common beliefs do not guarantee unity, a lack of them is a fruit, a sign, of ontological disunity no matter how unified things may seem on the surface. Thus the manifest divisions and contradictory theologies in western Christendom prove, not that we share a "common Christ" and thus are unified beneath our differences, but that we are not unified. The fact that we do not believe the same things about reality, while horrific, is actually just a symptom of a much more terrible disease: schism from the Church.
Ironically, it is western Christendom that most represents what we would call a "belief system"; i.e. a Matrix-esque construct divorced in various degrees from the full sacramental and ecclesial reality God has established. As Silouan writes, "An individual Christianity dissociated from the communities founded by the Apostles can not claim to be historically, organically, the same congregation (ecclesia) which was born at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem on Pentecost. At best an individual, independent Christian or congregation can only claim to be an adherent to a belief system, or a para-Church organization."
This is why western Christians tend to always think of church almost exclusively in terms of "institutions", "programs", "models" etc. They have no real experience of Church as a living organism, a fully human AND fully divine living reality. Coupled with a repeated "either/or" perspective on the different paradoxes of faith instead of a more holistic "both/and" vision explains, in part, why Orthodox ecclesiology is so often misunderstood by the West.
Unity and The Kingdom: Part IV of a Response to NeoTheologue
Neo writes, "Craton's bad ecclesiology also manifests itself in his unbiblical concept of unity: namely, that the uncommon unity Jesus prayed for his followers in John 17:20-23 must manifest itself in visible agreement in all areas of doctrine...Isn't [the Father and the Son's] oneness instead mysterious, invisible, to be accepted by faith and not by sight?"
Well, it must be said that Jesus fully manifests and reveals the Father as he so pointedly reminded St. Philip. In the Church we see, touch, taste, and experience Jesus in the sacraments (albeit not as we will in the eschaton). Yet the life of the Trinity is fully revealed to us and available for us to enter into whithin the Church's life "as far as we can bear it." (as the troparian for the Transfiguration says).
So while this "oneness" includes the invisible (the prayers and witness of the departed saints, Heb 12:1, Rev. 8:3; the unknowable Essence of the Godhead; etc) it is not limited to the invisible but is in fact very visible for those who participate with faith in the sacramental (i.e. physical and visible) life of the Church. In Part V I'll tackle in more depth your definition of unity and the relationship it has to doctrine....
Neo writes, "Arguing for the "indestructibility" of the Church, Craton cites eleven different passages of Scripture, seven of which refer to the 'kingdom' or 'dominion' of the Lord -- which certainly encompasses more than just the Church!"
In what way? It is the consensus of the Church Fathers that "the Kingdom of God" and "the Church" are different ways of talking about the same reality. You'll have to do some serious work to make your contention valid that these terms are not synonymous or are in fact describing different realities. The radical dichotomy assumed between the two, especially as it is understood within the Em-church, is a very modern innovation which has within it several theological presuppositions totally foreign to the Orthodox worldview.
Take for example the words of Fr. Schmemann who writes, "The Church is both in statu patriae and in statu viae. As Christ in us, as the manifestation of the Kingdom and the sacrament of the age to come, her life is already filled with the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit, and it is this paschal joy that she expresses and receives in worship, in the holiness of her members, and in the communion of the saints that in fact the Church is the gateway or the foretaste of the eschatological fulfillment that is to come".
Jesus said, "the kingdom of God is among you." It is here, now, to be found in Christ, within in His Body. Participation in the sacraments of the Church allows us to know and experience that joy, life, and love that Fr. Schmemann writes. Life in Christ *is* the Kingdom and this life is to be most fully found in the Church.
The Pillar and Ground of Truth: Part III of a Response to NeoTheolgoue
In the original essay in question, John Craton asks these questions:
"Is it not within the church that Scripture is properly to be understood? Having been made the custodian of the Holy Scriptures, is it not the church's place, being guided by the Spirit of truth, to be the one to interpret it?"
Neo then writes, "I think Craton oversimplifies Paul's symbolism here. The church... is the pillar and foundation of truth, but the church is not The Truth."
Craton isn't talking about the Church *being* the truth itself; he is simply echoing St. Paul by noting that the Church is the guardian of truth, the pillar of truth, the interpreter of truth. It does not follow from this that the Church *is* the Truth.
No Orthodox confuses the Church for Christ as if they are the exact same. But neither do we worship a disembodied ghost of a God who has no physical presence on earth. Christology must be consubstantial with our Ecclesiology. The Church is unified and visible, just as Christ is. Just as a husband and wife are "one flesh" and as St. Paul said "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me" yet we still understand that there are two distinct persons we are talking about in those cases. This is why it is a mystery. "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body though many, are one body, so it is with Christ." 1 Cor. 12:12."
As Bishop Ware says, "The unity between Christ and His Church is affected above all through the Holy Spirit in the sacraments. For example, at Baptism, the new Christian is buried and raised with Christ (Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12); in Chrismation, the Holy Spirit is given as a 'personal Pentecost' to the newly baptized (Luke 10:34; Heb. 1:9; 1John 2:20,27; Acts 8:17); at the Eucharist the members of Christ�s Body the Church receive His Body. The Eucharist, by uniting the members of the Church to Christ, at the same time unites them to one another: 'We, who are many, are one bread, one body; for we all partake of the one bread' (1 Cor. 10:17). The Eucharist creates the unity of the Church."
The Church, as St. Ignatius wrote so eloquently about at the end of the 1st century, is a Eucharistic society, a sacramental organism that exists wherever the Eucharist is celebrated with the Bishop "in fullness of spirit and truth" (more on this phrase in part V). It is no coincidence that the term �Body of Christ� can be translated from the Latin to mean both the Church and the sacrament; "communio sanctorum" in the Apostles� Creed should mean both �the communion of the holy people� (communion of saints) and �the communion of the holy things� (communion in the sacraments).
In St. Ignatius' letter to the Philadelphians, he notes the connection between the Eucharist, the Bishop and true unity when he instructs, "Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants; that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to [the will of] God."
For St. Paul, the Church is not only "a single body," but also a "single Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:11, 13; Eph. 4:3-4, 7). Here we understand, not a conformity of ideas or a unity of religious convictions, (as seems to be the constant impression of what the Orthodox mean by "unity" and what western Christendom thinks when they use the word "unity"), but a single Spirit of God which penetrates the entire body of the Church, guiding it, preserving it's fullness, as the Holy Fathers and teachers of the Church teach and proclaim.
For example, St. Cyprian in his masterpiece "The Unity of the Catholic Church" asks, "Can anyone....believe it possible that the oneness of God, the garment of the Lord, the Church of Christ should be divided, or dare to divide it himself? Christ admonishes and teaches us in His Gospel: �And they shall be one flock and one shepherd.� And does anyone think that in any one place there can be more than one shepherd or more than one flock? . . . The flesh of Christ and the Lord�s sacred body cannot be cast outside, nor have believers any other home but the one Church."
Thus, we can see from the writings of the Fathers, the history of the church, and the biblical teaching that the Church is in fact the "pillar and ground of truth."
Seeking Salvation: Part II of a Response to NeoTheologue
Neo wrote, "The clear Apostolic teaching here is that in this period of time which began with Pentecost, God is pouring out His Spirit on any individual who comes to him through faith in Christ, seeking salvation...."
Of course. Nobody is disputing this. However these are loaded terms that beg many questions: what does it actually mean to "come to him through faith in Christ seeking salvation"? Does the individual believer get to define the terms or does he submit in humility to that which God established? What exactly is salvation? Historically, how has the Church understood this seeking and this faith? Etc....
The first thing we would say is that Jesus Christ did not come to establish such a thing as "Christianity." What he did establish was His Church. The word "ecclesia" appears one hundred and ten times in the New Testament, while such words as "Christianity" and similar positive generalities about a vaguely defined collection of "believers" are not found in the Bible at all. In fact, when sincere believers are found who do not have the fullness of the faith, they are *not* considered equal participants in the Faith until they have been properly brought into the one, unified Church (Acts 18:24-26).
Met. John Zizioulas writes about this in his seminal work ("Being as Communion") when he says, "The communion which man seeks with God is to be found in the Church, something which St. Paul calls a great mystery, in which we become members of Christ: of His flesh, and of His bones. (Ephesians 5:30,32) Ecclesial being is bound to the very being of God. From the fact that a human being is a member of the Church, he becomes an "image of God, he takes on God�s way of being; becoming a partaker of the divine nature (1Pet. 1:4). This way of being is not a moral attainment, something that man accomplishes. It is a way of relationship with the world, with other people and with God, an event of communion. That is why it cannot be realized as the achievement of an individual, but only as an ecclesial reality."
This distinction between "Christianity" and "The Church" is a critical concept and reality most western Christians need to understand. The Church is not an insitution made by men, nor is it an idealogy, nor a self-help program, nor a group of people with like-minded personalities, nor even a group of people with individual relationships with Jesus! Sadly this is how most would describe "Christianity" because that has been their only experience. The Orthodox experience and 2000 year teaching is far different.
After tweaking some code earlier tonight the commenting feature decided to go on a vacation. The comments are still there and the counter works. But they don't open up....Hopefully I can get enetation to fix this soon.
Update: Starting with this post and moving forward, the commenting feature should work. I'm still working on trying to get access to past comments. For the person who was able to use Netscape to comment on the 10/20 post, please email me your comment (if you saved it).
Being Led Into All Truth: Part I of a Response to NeoTheologue
This post is Part I of my response to NeoTheologue's critique (his 10/7 post--permalink doesn't work) of an essay written by John Craton. This series of posts will make more sense if you're familiar with these two papers. However what follows should be coherent enough to stand on its own (hopefully!). With all the introductory material, this post is the longest.
Rather than defend the Craton essay, per se, I'll stick to analyzing several quotes from Neo's paper. While I think the Craton essay has a lot of good things to say and I agree with his final conclusions, I concede he doesn't do a great job of explaining certain concepts. By the way, his essay also includes other chapters and was originally meant to be read only by members of the church from which he left as a brief explanation of why he was becoming Orthodox. Thus, I will concur that it is far from complete, sufficiently nuanced, or researched. In any event this is all to say that some areas of Neo's critique stand uncontested by me. Others may wish to add further comments.
Neo wrote, "Jesus wasn't promising his Spirit to a church in John 16:13, but was promising it to eleven individual men....there is no textual evidence that Jesus is speaking dogmatically here with the whole Church in mind."
The Greek in this passage is ambiguous, you are correct. So why couldn't Jesus have meant the promise to *both* the Apostles as individuals *and* to those who would follow the Apostles, who would read these words from the very pens of the Apostle, who would be fully united with them in the Church?
One could ask where the Scriptural text is to back an "either/or" interpretation rather than a "both/and" perspective. What you argue for seems like an unnecessary false dichotomy, especially since the Church for 2000 years has always interpreted Jesus' words in John 16:3 to apply to the whole Church. The consensus within the Tradition directly contradicts your interpretation.
You are right in one respect: Jesus wasn't speaking to "a" church, but to the very Church that the Apostles would go on to become pillars of; this same Church which is the Orthodox Church. Not counting all the references of St. Paul in the Bible (like 2 Thess 2:15), we also see from Church history that the teaching, direction, and truth Jesus gave the Apostles was to be passed on and lived out by all those in the Church, not just the eleven. I just posted these quotes in my discussion with Justin the last few days, but they are relevant here too:
St Basil: Of the dogmas and messages preserved in the Church, some we possess from written teaching and others we receive from the tradition of the apostles, handed on to us in mystery ... both are of the same force ... Indeed, were we to try to reject unwritten customs as having no great authority, we would unwittingly injure the gospel in its vitals ...
St Augustine: "... there are many things which are observed by the whole Church, and therefore are fairly held to have been enjoined by the apostles, which yet are not mentioned in their writings."
Saint John Chrysostom: (commenting specifically on 2 Th 2.15), "From this it is clear that they did not hand down everything by letter, but there is much also that was not written. Like that which was written, the unwritten too is worthy of belief. So let us regard the tradition of the Church also as worthy of belief." (Props to Christopher for these quotes)
Continuing on, Neo wrote, "The idea that it is the church (or even more exclusive, a particular church) that is indwelt with the Spirit and not individual Christ-followers is Biblically unsupportable."
Two things here. First, there is only One Church because there is only one Jesus. There is the Church and then there are "denominations" that splinter away from, not within, the Church. This understanding is a direct result of the Nicean Creed's "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic" description of the Church. See here for more on this....
Second, the idea that the Spirit only indwells the Church but not the people themselves is flat out not an Orthodox teaching! No Orthodox has ever posited that the Spirit is limited to just the institutional forms of "the Church" and is not for the individual believer to participate in. If you saw this dichotomy in the Craton essay, I'd be curious to see a specific reference.
Those who have studied Orthodox pneumatology understand the holistic experience we have of the Spirit. For example, during the Sacrament of Chrismation we personally and intimately share in the event of Pentecost itself. During the Liturgy we pray that the Holy Spirit "who is everywhere present and filling all things" may "abide in us and cleanse us from every impurity and save our souls..."
Many more examples could be given. Suffice to say, the idea that the Holy Spirit is limited to the institutional forms of the Church and is not intimately involved with the believer is absolutely not our teaching. However being most fully "Spirit-filled" and being a visible member of the Church are always interconnected in the Bible and throughout the writings of the Fathers.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as an "autonomous experience of the Holy Spirit." The Bible tells us that those who are "being saved" were added to the Church (Acts 2:38-47). They were not merely making "decisions for Christ", or beginning a "personal (i.e. private) relationship with Jesus" , or "receiving a special anointing." (None of these modern, subjective, and individualized concepts are Scriptural) Rather the early Christians were repenting, being baptized for the remission of their sins, partaking of the sacraments, and actively immersing themselves in the liturgical, ascetical, and sacramental life of the one Church.
Who do you think wrote the following three quotes?
"A Christianity not based on scripture, as well as the tradition of the church through the ages, is no Christianity at all."
"It offers the symbol and mystery and wonder of the faith without the annoying specifics, and as such, it is not Christian."
"If [they] want to continue to steal the outer appearances of a vibrant faith in Christ while maintaining a core of nothing more than Enlightenment individualism, fine, but they are not members of the historical faith called Christianity."
If your knee jerk reaction was to think that these are just the most recent musings of an Orthodox blogger triumphalistically trying to use Orthodoxy to beat western Christendom over the head, be careful. Things are not always as they seem.
Think about that for a minute and then go here to read the post the quotes actually came from.
My question for those involved in the discussion is this: Why is it that when it comes to morality so many Christians are more than ready to affirm the Church's teaching and Tradition, but when it comes to things like ecclesiology, sacramentality, and Christology we bend over backwards to affirm the exact hermeneutic that we first criticized?
What we fail to realize is that the very apostolic teachings we want to affirm are *directly* related to the ones we don't. Once you jettison one part of the Faith, the disintegration of the rest will follow. It is only a matter of time, but it is inevitable.
It seems Mr. Heddle is what we could call "camassia" (Greek for "one who asks questions we'd better be able to answer")
I hate to break it to the postmodern Christians, but if you can't agree or come up with non-contradictory positions on what Mr. Heddle's unbelievably simple sentence is *actually* saying about Jesus, then the fact that we all use the word "Christian" to describe our relationship with God leads any sane person to the conclusion that the word "Christian" has lost all meaning whatsoever.
Seriously folks, if we consider ourselves in a relationship with the true God we should know the answer to Mr. Heddle's question and we should all agree on the answer because what we say about it is fundamental to everything we claim about who the Christian God is and what our Faith is all about. Bottom line: Different answers means different Gods.
So here is your homework-- I'm not looking for the answer to Mr. Heddle's question; what I want is a coherent reason to believe that the contradictory statements in Mr. Heddles' comment box are equally true about the real God.
If you can "recontextualize" (to use a popular, Em-church phrase) these without resorting to total nihilistic relativism, your next task is to tell me why I should believe your answer and not the another "Christian" who will use Scripture, reason, and "experience" to give me an answer that totally contradicts yours.
If you find this task difficult, you may start to realize why the Orthodox believe what we do about the Church being the "pillar and ground of truth."
Update:In the October 15th "Apologia Cornucopia" Mr. Heddle notes my post and concurs: "The question 'Does God Love Everyone?' is a matter of Christian orthodoxy. The answer cannot be both yes and no. Fair enough."
"May we go back to it [Holy Tradition], retrieve the things we like, disregard those we don�t, and create Christianities that suit our times and temperaments?"
"No. This places unwarranted confidence in one�s own wisdom and ability to discern. It underestimates how brainwashed we are by our surrounding culture, as we affirm what is currently fashionable, and recoil from, or fail even to perceive, what is not. The wisest course is to submit to the accumulated faith of our older brothers and sisters, to immerse ourselves in it, and gradually to comprehend more as we ourselves are changed." ....
"Is nothing to be gained by choosing and implementing ancient elements we like?"
"Elements plucked out according to taste are like flowers in a vase. They are more lovely than no flowers at all, but they have no roots and will wither. It is like sewing an old patch on a new garment. It is a better solution than having a hole in your pants, but it is not a lasting solution. It will not bring you to the goal." ....
"Do we know Christ in order to possess correct ideas?"
"No. The goal of knowing Christ is to be healed and transformed. It is to partake of the presence of Christ, to dwell 'in Him.' It is to take on His fire like a coal in the furnace."
"Is there any value to correct doctrine?"
"Correct doctrine is indispensable, because otherwise we will fall into delusion. This is why the guidance of older brothers and sisters in the faith is so vital. Not one of them is dead. They are alive in Christ, in continual prayer in the presence of God. They pray for us, and we can ask their prayers. They worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, where seraphim shield their faces and cry 'Holy.' They invite us to join them. This is the Church we must enter, which has been formed and proved by the Spirit, and can safeguard us from delusion, and teach us how to know Christ."
My Greek Philosophy class has provided a lot to think about. These rules from the Pythagorean cult don't seem so strange:
"Assist a man in lifting a burden, not in laying it down." Sounds pretty biblical to me; i.e. picking up your own cross....
"Do not turn back from in the middle of a journey." Yep. Sounds like Matthew 24:13.
"Do not urinate in the direction of the sun." That's probably good advice, considering that if you can see the Sun while engaging in this activity you are probably outdoors. Which means, if you live in the city, that others may see you. That can't be good.
"Probably a pawn. No this is definitely not some attempted self-identification of humility as one might suspect. Pawns often are the first pieces out there, the first to stick their faces out in the battle, often alone. In this place they often realize the need for backup, a kind of "What the hell did I just get myself mixed up in?" Here they show their frailty."
"But in most games that I have loved, when they manage to stick it out, to hang in there through all the surrounding adversity, it is here where they begin to shine. They now become the bulwarks, they find their strength. Now the other pieces are able to make bold moves they were not formerly capable of. They are now the powerful backup of the defter. They are the jack of many trades, who can move slowly or quickly as needed. They can sidestep issues that others cannot, and even perform uncharacteristically when the situation warrants it (en passant)."
"And in the end, if they make it that far and have fought the good fight well, only they can pass on to greater glory, a refashioning into the image that the creator destines us to. But only by making sure to be in the place the creator designs for us. Last will be first in the Kingdom?"
So I turn the question to you, dear readers. What chess piece are you and why? The comment box awaits your response.
A "NeoTheologue" Looks at Scripture, Tradition, and Ecclesiology
A new blogging friend of mine has crafted an in-depth critique of a popular Orthodox essay. While reading the critique I spotted several false dichotomies (which, for the most part, are the foundation of the problems in his analysis) but I also agreed with a few points (surprised?) and also realized there are still many misconceptions of what Orthodoxy is and what we teach about the nature of the Church in his thoughts.
His comments box has a word limit (tricky there, my friend!), so I will work on a response to be posted here in the next week or two. In the meantime give his thoughts a read and join the discussion!
"To be honest, I've always wondered what the Orthodox Church had to do with God really. The *external appearence* is that He moved on a couple of millenia ago but no-one noticed! I appreciate that there are many sincere and devoted believers within an orthodox context, but I find it very hard to spot God in a liturgy. Sure, He was there when He inspired it, but He's the God of the living, and has had rather fresher things to say."
Ironically, James talks about this very issue in a great new post. In part he writes, "Life is not discerned by the extent of its animation...ponder this: the longest living creatures on earth are without exception the slowest moving. Nature and science know that the brightest burning flames burn out fastest...."
"The life of our religion is found in less surface level reasonings. There is depth, there is longevity, there is solidity, there is Life. To take a pulse you must reach out and touch...come and see before you put the coins on our eyes. The heartbeat is there. And the dead continue to be converted by the dead."
Many of you know I am (still!) trying to finish up my degree by taking one class per term at PSU. As part of my "Greek Civilization" upper-division requirement, I am taking a class on the "History of Ancient Philosophy: Thales through Aristotle." Fascinating stuff, as always. I love this quote from some recent reading of Heraclitus:
"Therefore it is necessary to follow the common [way]; but although the Logos is common, the many live as though they have a private understanding."
Icons and the Emerging Church: A Response to an Anabaptist
I've been having some interesting discussions the past few weeks with this anabaptist, as well as this anabaptist. Both consider themselves part of the Emerging church movement that has gotten so much cyber-ink in recent months in the blogosphere.
This post is part of the continued dialogue. Check out this post (and the great comments) and then take a peek at this response to get yourself up to speed....
When we say Orthodoxy is a "living" faith, one of the things we mean is that, like the human body, every part of it is ontologically connected to every other. In other words Icons are not *just* "windows to heaven" (although they are that). They are not *merely* tools to create "multi-sensory worship" (although they do function in that way).
More importantly they are the visual representation of our theology. They explain our soteriology. They illumine and deepen our ecclesiology. They show the richness of our Christology.
This history of the use of Icons in the Christian Church is intricately woven into the history of the Church as a whole. Thus icons (or any part of Orthodoxy) can only be *fully* understood or used in that context from which it was birthed. In other words, for us, Truth is a package deal.
This is what we mean by holism; there is no single part of the Orthodox life, either in corporate worship, or otherwise, that is not organically connected to all others. In fact to compartmentalize the Faith at all, betrays its inner �perichoresis.� (Gr. for "mutual indwelling).
So, for a group of well-meaning, sincere people who (although in many cases through no explicit fault of their own) base their theology on a scholastic philosophical system at odds with historic Christianity; who do not accept the ancient church's teaching on or experience of soteriology; who do not believe in the historic manifestation of the Church, and (in some instances) have a *radically* different Christology....then the use of these holy things by them is a totally different thing and can't be considered equally normative.
Now, does this mean that people outside of the Church can't derive benefits from using icons? Of course not! [read the last three words again!] I've said before and I'll continue to say it because it needs to be said over and over again: the interest in "the smells and bells" of Orthodoxy in the Protestant world is something to rejoice about! Much fruit has (and will continue to) come from this search.
But our point is that even more fruit will come when those who find themselves interested in and "experimenting" with Orthodoxy realize the holistic nature of this Ancient Faith and decide to embrace it, and not just the few parts that first appealed to them.
Stay tuned to Clif's (new!) blog. He's got a great preview of future essays and posts including a multi-part essay on why he wants to be Orthodox, the nature of free will, and an essay that attempts to answer this question: "Are arguments from Scripture essentially arguments about authority?"
That new study carrel is doing wonders, my friend!