Hermenuetical Gnosis (Duex)

With our record postings below on “Watcha Mean…” it would be helpful to narrow the discussion a bit. There is a special knowledge when interpreting sacred texts from Armstrong’s type. That is, we assume as moderns that we can ‘trump’ Scripture (and Tradition) by appealing to science–especially the social sciences (we’ve talked about this some before). In other words, our idea of justice, fairness, rights, etc. carries more weight than the views of biblical writers and those who have passed on our faith. Current discussion around sexuality is case and point.

Therefore, there is a huge problem in the way we discern and are able to discuss issues of morality and spiritual practice. One’s personal spirituality trumps the historic Christian faith. Is there a ‘true’ Christian spirituality, or is all up for grabs.

112 thoughts on “Hermenuetical Gnosis (Duex)

  1. To quote a piece by an Orthodox priest that Morpheus mailed to me:

    “Whenever I teach Catechism, I inevitably have some student who, to every statement I make, says “I agree with that,” or “I don’t agree with that.” Rather than a student learning the Ancient Truth of the Faith, this man or woman has become the judge for all of Christendom, “judiciously” ruling on each Faith Statement, no matter how ancient, or even from the lips of Jesus, St. Paul, or St. Peter themselves. THEY are wiser than our Lord and the Saints, and rule on the truth value (for them, of course) of each statement.

    What ARROGANCE!!! Though the natural consequence of the horror and heresy of Protestantism, it never ceases to disgust me. Here is a barely educated barbarian (and that is all our ridiculous excuses for public schools are turning out) judging the statements of the Great Saints and our Lord! Billions of Christians may have believed the statement, and hundreds of thousands died for the statement of Faith, but here is an arrogant, narcissistic, self-centered, materialistic American DARING to judge the wisdom of those whose the straps of their sandles they are not worthy to untie.”


  2. I think our main problem today is that we want Christianity without the cross. So when we are confronted with the truth of the scripture, rahter than lining up with the truth of the scripture we try to distort the scripture to line up with our lives…. again, I really can’t see what is so difficult about don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t fornicate…etc. It seems very straight forward to me. I think we pretend we don’t understand because we don’t want to.

    But having said that,
    I don’t think that we have to accept all the traditions churned out by the church over the centuries. Some of our Popes and hierarchy have been abomniably wicked…even by today’s standards… Even though I “agree” with the general concept of what you are saying Jholder…you sound a little harsh in your view of those who don’t follow your line of thinking.

    Jholder — are you saying that all of Protestantism is heresy, or are you refering to heresy that may exist within protestantism?

    Jesus dared to question the “wisdom” of the religious leaders and traditions of his day. He didn’t call us to be as the blind, but rather He called us to be as the children with a trusting obedience, not to blind obedience.

  3. Whoa. This is pretty heavy stuff. Glad I stumbled across your blog. I think I’m going to enjoy being a part of this.

    I’d like to respond to some of the stuff posted. I can see your point about it being seemingly arrogant to question the thoughts of the great theological minds of history and even those of Jesus himself. But I also see this as being a wonderful characteristic of humanity and Christianity. I love that my faith is not a blind one. If you look at the way Jesus taught, he did not just tell people how it was, but he knew how to ask the right questions so that people explored these truths for themselves. Jesus encouraged us to think for ourseves and dialogue with the material. I want to own my knowledge, and not just accept something that someone else has said. I want to understand it and believe it with conviction. I don’t think it’s always that people are trying to find excuses not to do the hard stuff (although that can be a reason), but more an expression of the curiosity of human nature. Which I might add is God’s design of us.

  4. One of the things that constantly irritate me about theological historians (who are all undoubtedly better educated than I) is their neverending mantra that, things were so different then, we can’t understand them and people then and now have nothing in common. I say (again) that humans are, in essence, the same as we have always been. I note that the old testament talks about such things as justice for foreigners, fairness, womens rights to inheritance,sexuality, and protecting the poor.

    It is my belief that there is an objective Christian faith. We may differ in expression here and there but the core remains the same. If I were going to believe that all beliefs regarding spirituality carried equal weight, I might as well join the Unitarians.

  5. “For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand.”
    –St. Anselm

    Of course, this begs the question: Believe what? What’s essential and what’s not, etc.

  6. I don’t think it’s always that people are trying to find excuses not to do the hard stuff (although that can be a reason),

    Yes. I didn’t mean to make it sound as if everytime there is a question, it should translate as an excuse. Not at all. What I am talking about is when people chose to disobey or try to skirt around what is obvious, and then try to make statements such as, “Well the Bible doesn’t really say such and such is wrong…”

    As far as essentials…if I live with my boyfriend before marriage am I in error-yes.
    If I fail to genuflect and say novenas am I apostate? No.

  7. Ange, the entire quote is from an Orthodox priest, from the colon until just befire the ‘amen’. Makes one think, that’s for sure.

    Don’t you think the “I agree / don’t agree” with aspects of the faith puts us, and PRIDE, above Christ and Church? I do. Isn’t this idolotry of self?

    So no, even though he says heresy, I wouldn’y go quite that far, but say rather simply full of the sin of pride and the idolotry of self. (to sum up the rest of the missive from the preist.)

    Lord, teach us all humility.

    We do still have to think for ourselves. Another priest I know has said “100% of the Fathers were 90% Orthodox.” (Actually, that is a paraphrase, I hope I didn’t mess it up too much)

    Thinkseq, I agree with you. To think we are so different from the millions of Christians who have come before us seems like chronological chauvinism.

  8. thinkesq said:
    “We may differ in expression here and there but the core remains the same.”

    And I’d just add that I think the core ought to be what Jesus told us the most important thing is: Love God, Love people.

    I have definite opinions about a lot of stuff, but I tend not to be too critical of church-goers until they get to that point that they’re not being loving.

    If you want to believe that God is best represented by the idea of a Trinity or of a Quadrangle…that’s fine and can be interesting to discuss. But if you start yelling and calling curses down upon me for believing in the Holy Quadrangle, then you’ve left the realm of Love and that is problematic from a core of Christianity point of view.

    I know I perhaps draw my circle of what is core a bit more loosely than others, but it’s the example I see Jesus leaving. He didn’t spend time debating the pharisees on the finer points of the Torah, but let those pharisees do something to hurt the poor and watch out.

    Or so thinks this recovering Southern Baptist.

  9. Don’t you think the “I agree / don’t agree” with aspects of the faith puts us, and PRIDE, above Christ and Church? I do. Isn’t this idolotry of self?

    Above Christ, yes, above curch, sometimes, but not always. Yes I do agree with you in some respect, but was having trouble expressing how.

  10. Dan, of course, you are correct about loving. Realistically, we are all failures at that, me perhaps more than many others, although we are all called to pursue love to perfection.

    I think some of the problem can be when a person’s interpretation to “love God” ends up being loving a God that is not the God of the Christian faith passed down these 2000 years. This certainly implies that whether or not God is a quadrangle is actually important. (I’m not saying we can judge the heart of man, but that we have an imperative to follow Paul when he said, “Guard the rich deposit of faith with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us” (2 Tim 1:13-14) )

    Constantine, “what’s essential, what’s not?” This is something you determine with your spiritual father as you grow in your relationship with Christ. Mercy, grace, and economia are applied to each of us in this relationship. I know you are not one to think this, but it seems this often leads to a “what is the minimum I can do and be Christian” kind of faith. I think we should be asking the reverse, “what is the most I can do out of my devotion for my Lord?” Sadly, I fail often here as well, but it is not for me to decide.

    Seraph, after the sola scriptura discussion, you knew I was pugnacious. May God have mercy on me anyway!

  11. “Jesus encouraged us to think for ourseves and dialogue with the material. I want to own my knowledge, and not just accept something that someone else has said. I want to understand it and believe it with conviction.”

    So it was, and so it is today. IMO

    Ange, sharp again!

    Have you ever noticed how when you hear a thing – it means something to you? You hear it again and again, still means the same. Then, one day out of the blue – it sounds different – means another thing – related but different, same, but more!


  12. thinksq
    ” I say (again) that humans are, in essence, the same as we have always been.”

    That really is the problem – isn’t it?

    It is high time for a leap in spiritual evolution. Not away from the old, but a building upon the old. The adding of the depth spoken of here before.


  13. “It is high time for a leap in spiritual evolution. Not away from the old, but a building upon the old. The adding of the depth spoken of here before.”

    Gary, try reading “The Mountain of Silence” by Kyriacos Markides. Perhaps that will give you a taste of what a more ‘evolved’ spirituality might look like. Look to Cappadocia, look to Mount Athos, read the lives of the holy saints from those places, and then if you seriously believe that this isn’t the direction for going ‘deeper’, I’ll be quite surprised.

    May I suggest a modern Saint to start with? St. Nektarios has deeply inspired me, you can read more about his life in this fabulous book.

  14. The Quadrangle…Hmmn.
    Sounds like something from our house of bishops. No, wait, that would look too much like theology!

  15. Orthos,

    What’s the difference between a juristiction and a denomination? If it quacks like a duck…if it is not in communion with another duck…if it condemns other ducks of the same lake…

  16. Father, I will consider that. I did not intend to have a blog, and know that I could have the profile without a full fledged bolg.

    Actually, this is only the third religious blog I have commented on. I am still a ‘neo’-phite.(pun intended) 🙂

    Thank you once again for the open forum. Dialog is so important, and this medium is powerful.


  17. jholder,

    I read “The Mountain of Silence” by Kyriacos Markides and its predecessor too. Both were a trip. Good and interesting, but a trip to be sure.

  18. Gary,

    You know you CAN start a blog and create a profile there without ever actually posting anything on your blog. It’s a way of giving us insight in to the person on the other end of the comment.

    I’ve seen others do this. For what it’s worth…

  19. Father,
    I started to do a profile, got stoped. By your above comment maybe this will suffice:

    56 years old
    North coast of California (immediately east of the earthquake that started that tsunami warnig a while back)
    raised Catholic, alter boy
    Left the church when in high school.(they drove me away with the hypocricy)
    Married a Mormon, (that was different! the “h” word again)
    Now single.
    father of three girls (adults)
    I like 60’s – 70’s rock&roll. (pre disco)
    Favorite movies: Matrix(all 3), Ground Hog Day, Mind Walk,
    Will not post favorite books without your permission. (re, subject of my comments)


  20. Scottish theologian P.T. Forsythe said,

    “If within us we have nothing above us we soon succumb to what is around us”.

  21. So very true! Without external purpose and guidance we can succumb to anything. You onyl need to turn on a tv to see the result of this.

  22. I’m still chewing on the problem posed by Orthodoxy. I read Kyriakos Markides and harkened back to the lives of the saints that I read growing up in the Catholic church. To learn that their latter day brothers live in Greece is restorative. As some know, I spent 30 years studying with a yogi of some repute. By the grace of God, he and the Holy Spirit turned me toward Jesus and “organized” religion. Now I wander spiritually, but always follow Christ. I try to be open to all ways that He beckons. I’m awash in worship now which is 90% (?) of the liturgy of the Roman church in Rite I and II, but still wonder.

    Is the mass a yagya (i.e., does it create a sound and set of sensations that penetrates the thin places in creation resulting in theophany)? Does the exact performance of the liturgy and the exact holding of right doctrine generate enormous spiritual power, while a close approximation gives a weak or unpleasing result? I observe. I wonder. I read. I pray. I long for the full enfoldment of the arms of Our Lord. I help my brothers.
    Tick, tick. 59…60…61… tick, tick, tick.

    Come, Lord Jesus.

  23. Morpheus posed this question: “Does the exact performance of the liturgy and the exact holding of right doctrine generate enormous spiritual power, while a close approximation gives a weak or unpleasing result?”

    Wince. This kind of question makes me nervous. A candid review of Christian history will show this question to be unanswerable in any definitive or categorical sense.

    Which one Morpheus? The Tridentine Latin Mass of the Church of Rome? Or how about the post Vatican II Mass? Priest facing the people or with his back turned?

    Sung or spoken?

    For the Anglican, does the 1928 or 1979 BCP take precedence?

    For the Eastern Orthodox is it the Western rite or the Eastern rite? Old Calendar or New Calendar? And of course, what about the various vying jurisdictions?

    Blah, blah, blah…etc., etc., etc.

    The brilliant theologian Jaroslav Pelikan (a Lutheran who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy) said, “tradition is the living faith of the dead and traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

    I think “chasing” the perfect liturgy, church, doctrine, etc. can lead to a form of extremism that is prone to catching the “split virus” and can easily make one prey to mistaking “traditionalism” for “tradition.”

  24. Right on C. I chase Christ, having found He is perfectly capable of revealing Himself. He is not an inanimate object, and worshipping Him is not an incantation and dance, where if we say just the right thing in just the right way we evoke his presence. God looks at the heart. You can actually say the wrong thing with your words but mean the right thing in your heart and still touch the heart of God. Thus the power of praying grandmas.
    And by the way, all denominations are equally guilty of trying to reduce God to a specific formula. To me the result is a very impersonal and distant God. I want a close up Jesus. I NEED a close up Jesus.

  25. And to take it even further…I need a Jesus who understands me when I don’t make any sense. I need a Jesus who understands me when I am incoherent and incapable of expressing myself…when my only language is tears…

  26. Myself, I think that God – is God. Our understanding, description, beliefs, names for, etc. are the question marks. Understnading that may lead one to see that a great deal of the yak is unfruitful. Just write God in our hearts, well that’s my plan.

    The Quadrangle, Trinity? Unity?
    I am not stuck on right/wrong – but if God is God, Unity may be it.

    I have read a number of books over the last 5 years – most have a common denominator so to speak. I like, best, the 4 in a series called “Jesua, The Personal Christ”. It’s a series, so start at 1, if anyone wants to go there.
    ISBN 187855-08-1

    I find it interesting that the book has a foreword by the Most Reverend Dr. Marilyn L. Sieg, Bishop, Old Catholic Church, retired.

    I have come to think that organised religion is great, and it can be a problem. The problem comes form the right/wrong arguments. At some point it becomes a waste of time. If it is written in the heart, arguement stops.

    This may be more a phylosophy than anything else, but I feel that dogma and doctrine, and adherence, does not necessrily make one spiritual. It could and should.


  27. Ange likes to find irony.
    I find irony in the fact so many people seek to understand God, and what God is; without any understanding of what ‘they are’.


  28. MPN
    That is a good question, how indeed.
    You said who – I said what. The who is commonly stated as Children of God.
    What? Well I think we are a miracle. What we percieve as real is not the real us.

    Books and books have been written. I just think we/us/man needs to expand where the search for understanding takes us.

    I was commenting on the irony, not claiming an answer.

    Has anyone here seen Mind Walk? It’s about a conversation between a politician, poet and physicist. There is so much more to understand. I highly recommend the movie. (not religious)

  29. Gary,

    Jesus asked his disciples, ‘Who do they say the Son of Man is?(meaning himself)’ How would you answer that question?

  30. Father, I answer as I can, speaking from my understanding of the information I have assimilated.

    Jesus would have us come unto him, liken unto an elder Brother. I take that to mean we, as HE, are children of God.

    He also states “The Kingdom of our Father is to be found within the heart.” I take note that He said ‘our Father’.

    One more interesting statement, “The mountain tops, the books, the workshops, the retreats serve as catalysts for rememberance that after all is said and done – quite literally – the Kingdom is within.”.

    From my heart I would say that Jesus is the Father’s Son, we are His children and that if we wait for the Knigdom to come in some future time and place we miss out on our true nature.


  31. Gary,

    Is Jesus God Incarnate (in the flesh) and Lord of the Universe? Or, does his role end in showing us we are all children of God?

  32. I feel that, yes, Jesus was/is God incarnate and our Lord. The universe? I do not know, could that be the Father’s Domain?


  33. You know Fahter, that brings up another thought, somewhat connected to my comment #41 above. People seem to spend so much time and effort trying to understand the grandest concept of all – God. I am not sure we have the capacity, currently. However we do have the direct link in the Christ. If we just can come to know ourselves, our relationship to Jesus, and use it – well maybe that is all we need to accomplish in this life.
    I’m thinkin’ here, thanks for the catalyst.


  34. “the safest course is to do nothing against one’s conscience. With this secret, we can enjoy life and have no fear from death.”

  35. The post here is forwarded from the Orthodox priest jholder quoted in the second post here. He wasn’t able to master adding a comment and asked me to forward his thoughts on your posts here:

    I am the Orthodox Priest who wrote the statement about “agreement and disagreement.” Reading the postings, a couple of comments. The Church through the ages, in Scripture, in Councils and in the writings of the Fathers has determined what the core is. We are continuing, if united with the One Church, the Orthodox Church, to determine the core as we come, over the centuries, into consensus on things that are believed by most of us, until it becomes a common consensus. That is how Orthodoxy works. There are few things that Orthodox MUST believe…but those are non-negotiable. Many things are up for pious opinion within limits. THESE things we can discuss and question all we want. But the teachings of Scripture, Tradition and the Councils are settled by the Holy Spirit, and THERE we become prideful and sinful when we question them. And, no, Jesus does NOT want us to question Him or His teachings. He wants us to fall at His feet and adore and obey Him. This is anathema to modern Americans, but modern Americans, I think, are anathema to Christ.

    Yes, I believe Protestants, including Episcopalians, are heretics. They are not following the ancient teachings of the Church as taught by Jesus and the Apostles. Ordaining a gay bishop who is living in a gay relationship is clearly un-Scriptural. Attempting to ordain women to the presbyterate and the episcopate is clearly un-Scriptural. The feminism of the Episcopal Church is un-Scriptural. What sadly passes for their “theology” (what little they have) is heretical. And they’re one of the BETTER Protestant Churches.

    The responsibility of Christians is to follow the Lord, not remain in a Church that is apostate. The only “denomination” that is faithful to the teaching and fellowship of the Apostle is the Orthodox Church. No additions. No subtractions. Faithful and filled with the Holy Spirit for 2000 years.

    Morpheus (blogging for Fr. John Heckers)

  36. Father John said, “The only ‘denomination’ that is faithful to the teaching and fellowship of the Apostles is the Orthodox Church.”

    Father John also said, “And, no, Jesus does NOT want us to question Him or His teachings. He wants us to fall at His feet and adore and obey Him.”

    Questions: Did Jesus the Christ, Son of God, not give the keys of the kingdom of heaven to St. Peter (Prince of the Apostles)? And if He did and you do not submit to the authority of the See of Rome, does that not make Orthodoxy heterodox? If Christ gave the keys of the kingdom to St. Peter and you do not submit to the authority of the Holy Father are you not questioning Christ Himself and His teachings?

    Does Orthodoxy not have “issues” with a lack of continuity and union? I mean, who’s in charge??? Say what you will about the Chair of St. Peter, but we seem to be the only communion with union. We seem to be the only communion that is demonstrably catholic, as in universal.

  37. What a small, small world Fr. Heckers lives in. And what a narrow little God he serves. Still, playing king of the castle must be a hoot, no matter how miniscule the domain. How sad though, when one’s ability to truly hear is defeaned by the echoing sound of their own voice.

    Was I saying something about a narcissistic view of Jesus…?

  38. You go Ange! 🙂
    Too much contention, too many questions of doctrine, too many boxes. I feel that God is God, we are us, our connection is what it is – and it is simple. Why make it so complicated, unless one is trying to be human? (ok, pun intened)
    There are Christians, of many featheres, and Buddhists, and Muslims, and on and on. Myself I do not think God loves any one of these more – at the expense of the others! “In My Father’s manision are many rooms”.

    Father, please – Free Will?


  39. Should I note the irony of one who seeks to address the issue of pride in others while refering to those of said group as, oh let’s see here… arrogant,barbarians, barely educated, heretics, apostate, narcissistic,self centered, and materialistic? He also unashamedly states that they disgust him and blames it all on the “Horrors” of protestantism…. What a guy. well gee whiz, I feel so convicted about MY “pride” issue…

    I’m glad you clarified that this was a quote Jholder. And thank you Morpheus. I see now that my reference to the initial quote as being “a little harsh” was all too generous…
    I guess there is a fate worse that being an evangelical after all.

  40. I have a little story in the same vein.

    About 5 years ago, I was at a Catholic bookstore, and there was a quiet older lady tending the till. We were the only two in there, and got to talking a bit, and she told me she was a Carmelite tertiary. And I said, Oh how interesting, and she said, Yes, it’s VERY interesting and I’m glad I’m in the One True Faith, ands I said, Oh?.

    “Yes,” she replied, “What we need these days is a good Inquisition to deal with all these heretics and Protestants.”

    “Wasn’t John of the Cross a Carmelite?” I asked, “The Inquistion mentality didn’t work altogether well for him, as I remember.”

    “God used his pain for the good of the order,” she replied, and folded her hands.

    There ya go. Offer it up, boys. Justice and logic and mercy are just modern constructs of liberal confundifism… Gimme that ol’ time religion.

  41. I thouoght I would drop a comment a little more on topic.
    One of the ‘channeled’ defintions of morality from Jesua(Jesus) is “Morality is change for the better.”
    As for spirituality, I think all of the social issues mentioned by Father Neo, are and should be a product of spiritual awareness. Everthing about us is spiritual – everything. Every thing includes our bodies, social structure, thoughts, feelings, the planet we are supported by, plans and on and on. We, and everything we see around us, are part of a system. This system arises out of spirit. So, if we talk of Biblical matters or social matters they are all part of the system, the spiritual envelope that contains us.
    We are not our bodies. We are not our egos, although the ego sure likes to run things. It is our ego that is afraid to let go and surrender to spirit.


  42. I’d like to know which Orthodox Church we’re talking about here. Greek? Russian? Church Outside of Russia? What about the myriad of autocepholus juristictions outside of the ‘mainstream?’ What about the Armenians, Ethiopians and the Copts? Father Neo’s Anglicans are in a heap ‘o trouble, but is not Orthodoxy in utter chaos? Maybe Papa BXVI ain’t so bad after all.

  43. Gary,

    No one has absolute free will. It is a God-given blessing and part of what it means to be in His image, but we are limited by a number of factors–God, the laws of nature, our environment, nature and nuture, etc.

    PS: How does Jesua channel himself? (I’ve got some holy water right here, just in case)

  44. You know, when I think about denomination and protestant v. catholic (subset: Roman v. Orthodox), I think of some verse I read somewhere that says the only true religion is helping widows and orphans and keeping oneself unpolluted by the world.

  45. When John the Baptist sent his followers to ask Christ, “Are you the one?” Notice Christ response. He didn’t quote his lineage, He didn’t say, “How dare you question me?!” Even though John himself had said he wasn’t worthy to untie Christ sandals… He didn’t talk about how well He had kept the law and or the traditions of Judaism. He didn’t talk about His position or status. No. Jesus told John’s followers to go back and report the evidence that real ministry was taking place — the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the sick are cured, the deaf ears are opened, the dead are raised and the Good News is preached to the poor. These are the religious “traditions” that Christ presented as evidence of being “Spirit filled”. Even Jesus didn’t have a “Because I said so” attitude with John. He didn’t even call John names… Apparently having the authenticity of His ministry questioned didn’t really rattle Jesus, perhaps because he knew he had ample evidence to back it up… Rather than a carpetbag of abstract theologizing that benefits next to no one… where I come from we call that plantation theology.

  46. RE:
    “The only “denomination” that is faithful to the teaching and fellowship of the Apostle is the Orthodox Church.”

    What they all said.

    People who have room for only ONE “denomination” worry me.

  47. Since we were all blessed with the pugnacious diatribe from Fr. John, who has yet to appear in person, maybe a more productive way of proceeding is to ask jholder and our other occasional Orthodox visitors to tell us ‘why’ the Orthodox believe they are the ‘true church.’ We tried this discussion below once before (“Let’s get pugnacious…or not”), and I think it is possible without ad hominum attacks against one tradition or the other. The best way to proceed is not to say ‘the problem with your Tradition is…’ but ‘the beauty of my Tradition is…’

  48. You know Father, I feel that free will is free. We can do as we please. Really!
    Now as you point out, there can and well may be conquences for some of our choices. The consequences may come from God, the society we live in or Nature.

    You mentioned in His image, I am thinking that people do not grasp what that means. I think that the common concept of God has been somewhat fashioned by man to be more in line with his image.

    I do not mean to force the concept of channeling on anyone here, but, Ange, I feel I must identify where some of my thinking comes from.

    I have a great deal of admiration for the Bible, more so than the way it is used by some. It is a marvelous guide post, a wealth of historical data and instruction. It was certainly written for a ‘time’, yet I am not sure it was meant to be the only instruction for evermore.

    Thinkesq, I think you made a good point. It looks at times that some people equate religion (what we call our church) with spirituality (how we behave).

    Dan Trabue, I agree, “In My Father’s mansion are many rooms”.

    Father Neo, Jesua has used more than one to channel thru, however the books I speak of are authored thru a woman named Judith Coates. She may enjoy the spritz, if you did use the water! 🙂


  49. thinkesq said “the only true religion is helping widows and orphans and keeping oneself unpolluted by the world.”

    A response: How can we keep ourself unpolluted by the world when the world is even in many churches now, from “be like the worldly MTV” CCM scene, to a distinct desire to follow the example of the world in separation of secular from spiritual? Wouldn’t an incorrect belief or understanding of scripture lead possibly away from Christ and into worldliness?

    I agree with fr. neo on Free will: It seems but an illusion – you can choose for or against Christ. Should we be “Slave to Christ” or slave to His adversary? That ‘will’ isn’t very ‘free’. But I doubt I have expressed this thought as completely as I’d like.

  50. I am a bit saddened by what I see here. Fr. John either did not realize his audience here, or, (in my opinion more likely) saw the sorts of conversations and respectful pugilism here and chose to rattle some chains.

    I see dismissal and insult by Ange (small small world; narcissism), defensive questioning by Constantine regarding the Patriarch of Rome, and others.

    I admit, defensive posturing should be expected when one has called others heretics. But could it be he was possibly seeing just how much each of our traditions represented here model’s Christ’s love? Instead, responses have been mostly ‘in kind’ — consider your chains rattled.

    I’ll admit, I have gone overboard pugilistically here on one occasion, and I am sorry for it. (I was very much the little attack dog on the ‘sola scriptura’ discussion, although I hope I was not disrespectful, to Moody Padawan Neice. I apologize!)

    While Fr. John has been exceedingly blunt, his take on things is actually not much different than that espoused by Constantine and Ange’s tradition (Roman Catholic) in terms of its potential offensiveness. Pardon me, but I won’t detail this out.

    Offensive as it may seem, I believe Orthodoxy’s claims as the preserver of the ‘true faith’. I know, not very postmodern, or even modern, of me.

    As to Seraph, he wrote “Greek? Russian? Church Outside of Russia? What about the myriad of autocephalus jurisdictions outside of the ‘mainstream?’ “

    Well, seeing as I go to a Greek church which has one priest who was OCA(Metropolia) for MANY years, and our jurisdictions and the Antiochians all recognize each others ordinations, sacraments, etcetera, I don’t think the “mainstream” separation is as much as you perceive. I believe this is true even for Ukrainians, Serbians, etc, although that part of Eastern Europe (Serbia, Romania area) has a lot of separation having more to do with politics than faith. Even ROCOR is rejoining the Moscow church in the next few months, which would put them fully back in that same mainstream.

    Sure, there is the whole Nestorian/Arian split. I don’t really have a way to comment on it, as I know little.

    So, why do the Orthodox believe they are the true Church? I think it is worth pointing out that only the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches really have a claim in this area. For I believe Christ, that “the gates of Hell will not prevail” over His church. It didn’t ever cease to exist, visibly, or Christ is a liar.

    Now, I’m sure you would expect a lengthy itemized reason, point by point, on such a topic. But, I’m not going to do that here. I’m not sure I am in tune enough with the mind of the Church to offer a true apologetic. There are many book-length works on this subject. I could recommend some, but for now will only mention one, “The Orthodox Church” by Bishop Kallistos Ware. It is very informative on what Orthodox Christians believe and why, although, frankly, even in a single book of that length, which I found very rich, it now seems to only skim the surface. Yes, I know you and Constantine at least have already read this, Fr. Neo. And I know that the ethnic thing is probably what annoys Seraph more than anything.

    Before I go much further, I would like to quote Subdeacon Benjamin Anderson of the Antiochian church (yes, Fr. Neo, you know him), who recently wrote:

    “As … for converting to Orthodoxy, … I can say that I didn’t convert to it because I thought it was the purest and most primitive sect of Jesus Christ outside of whose visible boundaries there is nothing but darkness and sin and error. If that’s the authentic Orthodox view, then Orthodoxy has a lot more in common with Campbellite restorationist sectarianism than with a Catholic vision of the Christian religion.”

    Now, I think that his main point and mine would be the same. I do hold the first assertion “purest, (etc.)” to be true. And I think he probably does, as well. It is the part “outside of whose visible boundaries there is nothing but darkness and sin and error” that I cannot uphold, and I believe that is why he wrote this. Were I to agree with such an assertion, I would be denying the effect of Christ in my life up to this point, and for that matter, in any of your lives, and that is something I cannot do. For God will work where He wills. My priests have said much the same. They also are quick to point out that it is easier to live as a Christian in the Orthodox faith, because it is the fullness of the faith handed down by the apostles. Believe me, they know, and I know, that many who are Orthodox may not be saved, and some who are not may be. Over-defining God, a very Western thing to do, is not something the Orthodox east does much of — in fact, that is why most of our theological statements (with a few exceptions) are apophatic. (i.e., “God is not x” rather than the reverse)

    I do feel like the blinders have come off as I learn more and more about Orthodoxy. I have discovered so many sins I have been in without realizing it, simply due to the mindset I had as a Protestant. I have discovered the most intense worship I have ever participated in my life. Honestly, I’m often sorry it is over after two hours because it can take so long to center on our Lord and to dismiss the world. The liturgy is richer and more amazing than I had ever thought, and the more I learn, the more everything seems real and in focus. This is not to say that it is easy, or makes me ‘feel good’. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it rips me apart. It is not ever focused on me, rather it is always focused on God.

    Reading about Orthodoxy can do many things — it can bring to light many holy ways of living, spiritual insight, and can offend as well. But it cannot ever substitute for really living in the faith, in the praxis of what it fully is.

    Sure, there are nominal Orthodox, just like there are nominal Christians in any tradition (and we could argue, easily, that being a nominal Christian isn’t really being a Christian). Often times, these people are what a convert sees and focuses on, partly because of their ethnicity, and strange questions (“Are you Greek? No? Why are you here?”).

    But the true Orthodox faith is being lived. I do not wish to upset or offend any of you, but I do hope that my feeble words written here might encourage an investigation of Orthodoxy. There are a great many treasures therein. Ultimately, no blog post will convince, neither will any arguement. I treasure (an some time wonder greatly) at the conversations here. Please consider this, my meager contribution.


  51. “I see dismissal and insult by Ange (small small world; narcissism), defensive questioning by Constantine regarding the Patriarch of Rome, and others.”

    Did I say Fr. Heckers “disgusted” me?
    Did I call him a heretic?
    a barbarian?
    barely educated?
    self centered?
    Did I talk about the “horror” of Orthodoxy?
    I didn’t even call the man “arrogant”….
    And for the record, his quote was the first to use the term “narcissistic.”

    But it of course would be of necessity to downplay Fr. Hecker’s remarks in order to defend them. To try to do so otherwise would be an impossibility.

    But at least now I understand why Jesus and John the Baptist saved their most severe criticism for the religious elite of their day.

  52. Ange, I’ll admit, I posted the first quote to see what discussion resulted. This has always been an interesting crew to hear from. Thank you for the kind words. I much enjoy participating in these discussions with you, and appreciate your insights. Perhaps it was not one of my better judgements to post it, but I did. Any specific favorite of yours by Cornell West? I’m not sure it would be my thing, but I’ll give him a try because I know how transforming he has been for you.

  53. I’m working on the Cornel West reader at present. That is enough to keep me busy for a good long while…563 pages. His latest is Democracy Matters. He also wrote Race Matters.
    Be blessed Jholder. No hard feelings.

  54. Thank you Ange, none taken.

    I was not defending Fr. Heckers. That is up to him. Honestly, I’ve never met the man. Whatever he has said, or for that matter, anyone here, I have come to expect a lot from the crowd here, with good reason I think.

    I posted his first comment, because, although abrasive, and not worded perhaps how I have seen everywhere else, the view is pretty much an Orthodox one, and I wanted to see how the group responded. I can’t speak to his second comment.

    Many blessings to you as well!

  55. Well — if it was a response you were after, you certainly got one… LOL.

    Fr. Neo when I’m pulling apart my kids on the playground, I think of you.

  56. We had quite the night with the bloggers on Morpheus’ porch last night. I am still recovering from the Scotch and cigars. I’m not as young as I used to be (don’t worry, I did not over do it in case MPN is reading). Fr. John called Constantine’s communion the ‘Whore of Babylon’ and the rest of us ‘Her bastard children.’ That was interesting. Otherwise, it was a fine evening. I’m stragely OK with being Anglican at the moment (grin).

  57. Constantine is a papal loving, saint worshiping, superstition ridden, hell hatin’, rosary bead turnin’, member of the Whore of Babylon.

    Once you accept the Roman additions of the faith, you are in a state of eternal digression.

    PS: Angevoix is a faithful, God fearing, Bible-believing, Mary venerating, Real Presence receiving, member of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Go Benedict.

    PSS: Yes, I’m duplicitious. That is part of my charm. Aren’t we all?

  58. Fr. Neo,
    I just read your post on the Scotch and cigars. I’m not casting any stones…ask your brudder.

  59. All in all, an enjoyable evening. No cigars for me though. That Fr. John is something else, that’s for sure!

  60. Seraph,

    Too bad you never showed up last night. I defended your weak Pentecostal ass.

    “Is there any hope for the West??” Tell your buddy to quick asking this silly question.

  61. In retrospect, I do think we were bolled over by Fr. John. In the light of day and some deliberation, I think his passion could better focus on the enemy rather than on his brothers and sisters in Christ. I love exclusivity. But the invitation to breach the wall to Orthodoxy needs hospitality. It is possible to slap a man in love, but this device should be used judiciously. It wakes up the sleeper, but it can also sting, muddling the message. Not all men, present company excluded by the way, like the slap.

    What will save the West? Two nights ago a TV reporter interviewed an old woman about to enter the Superdome in New Orleans. He asked her if she was afraid. She said, to paraphrase, “No one will die tonight that God is not aware of. If I die, I’ll be with him. I pray for those who don’t know this.”
    Her salvation was in Christ alone. Her statement was not an Orthodox one. Our “religion” is very individual in this way. Could the Orthodox prepare to die as well, individually? Or would they need a priest and a community to do so?

    So, right now I cling to the cross of Christ. Seems safest.

  62. You’re right Constantine. It’s time we westerners started to take more pride in the historic faith that we also share. I think the real challenge is not for the ‘Western Church’ but for all churches ‘in the West,’ including the ones with onion domes on the top.

  63. Father, I am going to do one of those “Yes – But!” Things.
    I do believe there is a little of the devil in all of us. It may be of no small coincidence that devil – is ‘lived’ backwards. ( evil is live backwards)
    So, in that, seemingly backward living is the work of the devil – sure – the concept works.

    This is a world of duality. We think we have to have the balance of +/-, good and bad, postive and negative. The concept of God/Devil serves that duality. There is good basis for the belief.

    When I was a kid, I heard people say “Center yourself. Find your balance.” It took me 50 years to find out the magical meaning of the statements. It’s a hard concept for so many, yet I have come to see/understand the value and the power of it. Get centered, get out of the rut of right/wrong, etc..

    So, Do I believe in a demon trying to trick us into hell? No I do not. We don’t need him – man is good enough at doing that to himself. Hell is a condition far too often lived right here on earth. We need more to find the condition of Heaven, here.

    I will qualify all that with my belief in free will. I only state my beliefs with no attempt to change another’s.


  64. It is difficult to get out of our own way and trust spirit. Our ego thinks it is us. Not so.
    Spirit will not harm us, can not harm the real us.
    I still say, the only thing we need saved from is ourselves.


  65. You bring up a very interesting point!
    However crude we may be at times, crude matter is not an accurate description – not anymore. It turns out that what I was taught in HS/CSU about matter was not true. (burst my bubble!)
    Scientists, with their new technologies have shown that we/stuff are not solid. (please see Mind Walk – a great little movie)
    So – if we are not crude matter/solid – what are we? I say we are a miracle, manifestations of spirit. This is the rub, spirit in a reality of physical laws, seemingly strict laws/agreements.

    As ecentric as he may have been, Einstien said some interesting things, one: “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

    Science is coming up to par with religion, in my opinion, so it is time for the two to stop excluding each other.

    PS, what I said about not solid, the spiritualists have been saying that for over 30 years – more. I find it interesting that science now proves it.

  66. In doing my part to help these comments cross the 100 mark, let me comment on two previous comments, some thoughts from CS Lewis, actually.

    1. Lewis (in Mere Christianity, I think) stated that he did not believe in an entity opposite of God (God/devil); similar to what Gary said, if I recall correctly. That we are doing a devilish enough job ourselves.

    2. (on the question: How am I to know good from evil?) Lewis also makes the case (in Mere Christianity) that we do have an internal moral compass that is common to us all, whether we’re familiar with the bible or not. We all know intuitively that murder is wrong. We sense the injustice of it.

    There may be some caveats and other considerations, but for the most part, I buy that.

    For what it’s worth.

  67. Amen and amen Dan!!!

    Christianity is not dualistic (whether you believe in the devil or not, as I’m sure Lewis did), and scripture alone doesn’t work alone.

  68. He just jumped in there to be the 100th comment. He didn’t really have anything to say. Ego.

    On Dan’s first point, remember that C. S. Lewis’ biggest seller, before his renaissance, was The Screwtape Letters, conversations between two devils. So, he believes in the devil, perhaps nuanced, but quite personified in his own work.

    On comment 2, the innate moral sense is one of Lewis’ proofs of the existence of God. So, I’ll Amen that one.

  69. Mr. boat rocker here.

    So why all the cop-outs?

    Why can’t you just say that YOU know that YOU know.

    Again, I would not look in terms of right/wrong, but in terms of what serves me/does not serve me.

    By the way, I did not mean to indicate that Christianity is dualistic – the world is/our thinking is. (but that is changing)

    Father, what would you say is the purpose of life?

  70. ummm…I could be wrong, but if memory serves correctly, Lewis says specifically that he does NOT believe in a “devil,” but then, it has been a long time since I’ve read it.

    For what it’s worth.

  71. Dan,

    I’d bet big $ on the table that you’re wrong about Lewis and his lack of belief in ol’ Scratch…but…I’m willing to be proved wrong. His fiction “Screwtape Letters” wouldn’t prove this either way. The Anglican’s are notoriously broad and hazy (not always a bad thing btw; indeed it’s often a good thing, and I appreciate it), so I guess you could be right on this, but I’d be very, very surprised. If you could find him saying this I’d love to know the reference. I’d find it very interesting. Let me know por favor.

  72. It appears my memory is faulty. A Lewis quote:

    “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe and feel an unhealthy interest in them…”

    I know that I read him somewhere saying that he does not believe in the concept of a Devil, as being the opposite of God, with a pointy tail and horns… or words to that effect. And I thought it lead beyond that but apparently I’m wrong.

    There you have it. I’m Wrong!

    See? Liberals can be taught…

  73. I beleive in an actual devil, but don’t believe he is an equal to God, but is actually subordinate to the authority of God, and honestly, us as well… when the power of God dwells within us.
    He is actually a created being, as he is a fallen angel.

  74. Now teachable liberals. This site just gets wilder and wilder.

    Our purpose, Anonymous, is to glorify God and praise him forever, sometimes with gardening, mostly with the good works that he has created us to do.

  75. Morpheus, I asked of the purpose of life, as opposed to our purpose.
    so long as you said glorify, I ask “How does one glorify God”?

  76. Anonymous,
    Glorifying God is becoming fully alive to do the works that you were created for. Glorifying God is making every act and breath one of worship each day. Glorifying God is showing reverence for His word and His church. Glorifying God is living every minute in His kingdom as a loyal subject. Glorifying God is completing and fulfilling His creation, as His designated steward. Glorifying God is creating Disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Glorifying God is the purpose of life, and our purpose. It is our joy.

  77. Gary, Gary, Gary.

    The fear of the Lord is the beginings of wisdom. Now, you know that it isn’t fear as in “God is going to blast me from the face of the earth!” but in the way that takes Him seriously. When you have true respect for
    God, and want only to please Him, that is wisdom.

    Also, Don’t assume that the devil is nonexistant. Neither should we focus on him more than is necessary. These are two extremes that many Christians fall into. He is very real and still dangerous, but he is defeated. Furthermore, he isn’t the equal to God, he is finite. A created being. Enough said.

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