The Pontificator Posts Again – And It’s Worth the Read


Many of you know of my long friendship with Roman Catholic priest and blogger, Fr. Al Kimel, a.k.a. The Pontificator. I would not be writing today except through his generosity and encouragement. Earlier this year he ceased writing. But he posted an article today that I heartily commend. It makes me long for more such thoughtful and careful work from the heart on Pontifications. A quote:

I do not believe God to be the absolute predestinarian of Augustine, Calvin, Beza, and Bañez. I do not believe God to be a God who has eternally decreed, before prevision of irrevocable rejection of divine love and forgiveness, the eternal salvation of some and the eternal reprobation of the rest. I am convinced that for all of his greatness, St Augustine went tragically astray on this matter of predestination and that his theory has had pernicious repercussions on the spiritual lives of Western Christians. The theory of absolute predestination calls into question, at the most fundamental level, the identity and character of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Go here for the whole article.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



, ,



38 responses to “The Pontificator Posts Again – And It’s Worth the Read”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    I could not be in greater agreement with Fr. Al’s article. What I particularly like about it is that he strips away all need for the obscurity of rational construction. He quotes Hans Urs Von Balthasar:

    Love alone is credible; nothing else can be believed, and nothing else ought to be believed. This is the achievement, the “work” of faith: to recognize this absolute prius, which nothing else can surpass; to believe that there is such a thing as love, absolute love, and that there is nothing higher or greater than it; to believe against all the evidence of experience (”credere contra fidem” like “sperare contra spem“), against every “rational” concept of God, which things of him in terms of impassibility or, at best, totally pure goodness, but not in terms of this inconceivable and senseless act of love.

    I find my recent post on “keeping it real” to be a far less sophisticated statement of the same thing.

    Fr. Al’s article is Christianity at its heart and to the point. It is Orthodox and in its fullness.

  2. FrGregACCA Avatar

    Yes, it is, Fr. Stephen. Bottom line: God desires to save us, to be in communion with us, infinitely more than we can desire to be saved, can desire to share in that communion.

  3. Wei-Hsien Wan Avatar

    Father, bless. Thanks for calling our attention to this wonderful piece. I’m glad Fr. Alvin is writing again.

  4. David Avatar

    I know this is overly simple, but I’m an ignorant man (in good company). But you can’t say “for God so loved the world” and then say “that He ordained the vast majority of them to live in ignorance of His love and burn forever in hell.”

    It was largely my confrontation with a caustic form of Calvinism that drove me to look at Orthodoxy more seriously about 18 months ago.

  5. SunnySkies Avatar

    I read Father Kimel’s post and a quiet yes resonated in my heart. It is comforting to know that a man of Father Kimel’s wisdom and brilliance, a man who has done the hard reading, agrees with my simple heart. When my mother a lapsed Catholic was dying, she asked me if I wanted her to call a priest. When I asked her if she was asking for my assurance or her own, she smiled and said, “I am confident that a Lord who has been so generous and loving to me in this life, will not deny me heaven. She met her death with grace and beauty. I too hope that Father Kimel continues to write and share his gifts.

  6. Sirius Avatar

    For God came not into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved. The world was condemned already. This was the condemnation: Light came into the world, but men preferred darkness because their deeds were evil.

    In the matter of God’s foreknowledge, I should like add that knowing a thing will happen and causing it to happen are two separate things. God foreordained salvation from the foundation of the world because He knew, existing outside of time, it would become necessary that men would need to be saved, not because He had already condemned them. You might look at it this way: the presence an airbag does not suggest that the car manufacturer causes accidents; the presence of a fire extinguisher does not suggest that someone is determined to start a fire, but rather to extinguish one if it should occur; the presence of a plan of salvation, like any life preserver or fire safety plan [pun intended], does not suggest that someone means you destruction, but rather wishes to prevent it!

    – Sirius Knott

  7. a Avatar

    I think that Jesus made this very clear in the gospels–faith in God is the source of life. Believe and you will see the Glory of God. Jesus said this while on the way to bring a man back from life. He did not say it off hand, but to teach us that faith in God is life. This faith produces real fruit. Our faith in God produces fruit because God is merciful to us. Because he is merciful, he will save us. Because we are certain of all the above, we can do works of mercy and love, as we give because we know that we are loved not for what we have but for the grace of eternal life that God gives us because we trust in him. Jesus believed, even unto pain and a sad end on the cross. But God has turned the cross, a symbol of death and shame, into the symbol of life because Jesus remained in trust of his Father. God likewise has the power to bring each of us from death into life, if we only have the kind of faith in Him.

  8. Samuel Laurence Guzman Avatar

    How does he reconcile this with Romans 9, which clearly states that God creates some vessels for destruction and others for salvation? God did say, “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated” before either one knew to choose between good and evil. I struggled with God’s sovreignty too, but in the end I came to grips with the fact that God is God, and he can do what he pleases. His justice is not limited by human understandin. Indeed, if we as humans got what was just and fair, we would all be in hell. It is God’s mercy that saves any.

  9. fatherstephen Avatar

    There’s a leap from an illustration of St. Paul making a point, to using it to trump flatly stated doctrinal statements. The Consensus Fidelium always condemned the notion of a predestination to damnation. The Orthodox Church has clearly spoken on this, as, I have noted, the Consensus Fildelium. Those few teachers of Christianity who held differently, were largely influenced from a reading of St. Augustine whose opinion in the matter was not accepted by the Church, and certainly had no standing in the East. Thus, historically, it was ignorance that ever treated this as an acceptable doctrine. It is, as Fr. Al, noted, at its core blasphemous of the God who said that He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (that’s a doctrinal statement). Whether all do is another matter, but it is considered heresy to hold that anyone fails to be saved because God so willed it. Only an evil God would will such a thing. The Christian faith, in its classical and Orthodox form, have been abundantly clear on this and on how to read Romans 9. You cannot read such passages without comparing them to the rest of Scripture which is abundantly clear on the matter.

  10. Samuel Laurence Guzman Avatar

    I don’t think there is a leap, considering the point that the apostle Paul was trying to make was that the potter can do as he likes with the clay. I understand that the Greek Orthodox church may take issue with this theology, but I do not hold to the councils of the Orthodox church. There have been many other councils, such as the Council of Orange in the Roman Catholic church, which has differed from the councils in the Orthodox church. Believe me, I have examined the whole of scripture, and time after time, I have seen God’s sovereign call, his election of his own, his choosing. God is a choosing God. He choose Israel as his people, not for any merit of their own, but because it pleased him. Every time I read the old and new testaments, I see verse after verse describing God’s election, his calling, his predestining of his saints. The church is Christ’s bride, and I know of no one who does not choose their bride. Christ knows them that are his, and he has lost none of them.

    Also, I believe that it is clear that there are two wills in God. There is the will of God’s desire, at times referred to as his perfect will, and also his will of decree, or what God allows to come to pass. Before you deny this, consider the fact that God willed that his Son be crucified. This was a terrible thing, and it involved the sin of the Jews and the Romans. Yet God decreed the unjust (humanly speaking) murder of his own Son that the “scriptures might be fulfilled.” Christ submitted to this will when he said, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me…nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” This is not blasphemy, but a scriptural teaching. This is why I see no contradiction in the fact that God is not willing that any should perish, and yet some do perish. My point is that God at times allows sin to achieve his purposes, and yet he does not cause or create sin. I am in theologically deep water here, and I am not equipped to fully explain these concepts. And yet I believe that this is what the whole of scripture teaches. Show me otherwise and I will reconsider.

  11. fatherstephen Avatar

    It is not clear that there are two wills in God. This is medieval make-believe of the scholastics. They multiplied the idea of wills and the idea of graces when this clearly contradicted the Councils of the Church. Teach it if you will – call it what you will – but it is not Orthodox Christianity.

    This teaching is held as blasphemous by the Fathers of the Orthodox Church. I’ve already quoted enough Scripture that should settle this. “God is not willing that any should perish.” How clear is that?

  12. Samuel Laurence Guzman Avatar

    I do not want our conversation to become hostile, but I will provide a few Scriptures that I believe explain this matter.

    Matthew 20:16 “…many be called, but few chosen.”

    John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

    Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

  13. fatherstephen Avatar

    I’m aware of the Scriptural trail that is used for Presdestination of the wicked. However, the Church, who alone under the Spirit authoritatively interprets Scripture, has decreed this to be a false reading.

    Just like Arius (using similar verses to the Jehovah’s Witnesses of today) falsely interpreted Scripture – the Church spoke.

    So too, this is a false teaching. It can be argued ad nauseum. But it is not the Orthodox Christian faith and is considered heresy. God does not create people and then preordain them for hell.

    I don’t want to be hostile on it, but it is not ultimately subject to rational arguement. Fr. Kimel’s presentation is about as good a rational, theological presentation of the matter in short. But I am an ordained Orthodox priest. I can only teach what the Church teaches. I understand the differences. But this is an important area and has been devastating to Christianity in the West.

    Only the Church, ultimately, can interpret Scripture under the Spirit. But that is obviously a place we differ. Thanks for you thoughtfulness and may God bless you.

  14. […] doctrine of predestination to damnation, discussed in the previous article on the Pontificator Writes Again, is an excellent example of a modern (i.e. Reformation) doctrine that had never been accepted by […]

  15. Patty in WA Avatar
    Patty in WA

    Dear Father Stephen,

    I have been a lifelong Protestant, Presbyterian for 30 years, well aware of the doctrines of predestination but never able to believe them, not really. Mostly because of the verses you cited, but for other reasons as well. Long story short, my family and I will be baptised and chrismated Christmas Eve. We long for this day with great gladness.

    In my journey to Orthodoxy. I have kept “snippet” notes that will help me remember many of the “whys” as I am certainly asked often enough, and being over 50, written records. Anyway, here is the “snippet” from about a year ago that relates to your post and to the dear Pontificator’s:

    An enormous shocker to me was when I read on a Calvinism-focused blog an entire round of discussion that takes place in these circles about how “God killed Jesus”. This made me physically ill. My instantly-posted comment was something like, “This is the most revolting thing I have ever read. I am going to have to go to the Orthodox.” (And the responding comments were largely, “Don’t let the door hit you…if you can’t read your Bible any better than that…”) Yet this belief is the predictable outcome of a scholastic approach to what is perceived to be a juridical question of salvation. There were so many elements in this that repelled me:
    –That God who condemns “molech” could kill His own Son;
    –That the focus of “ransom” and “debt paid” leads to this end;
    –That the reasoning of it all—done with fallen reason, no less—is where the instruction goes in the juridical model;
    –That it removes from Jesus the willing freedom and act of love that identifies “human”.

    This snippet isn’t theologically complete; otherwise, it wouldn’t be a snippet. This understanding, this teaching of the Church, was a huge stepping stone for me in my journey.

    Father Stephen, your blog has been an enormous help to me and to my family. It is the only “Required Daily Reading” on my list. Thank you for your faithfulness to the Faith and to God in your steadfast work here. Please pray for all three of us as we approach our entry to the Holy Orthodox Church.


  16. Patty in WA Avatar
    Patty in WA

    Above, should say, “After 50, written records are a great help!”

    Sorry for cluttering up your box.

  17. mrh Avatar

    SLG, it’s ironic that you cite Matthew 20:16 “…many be called, but few chosen.” That’s as fine an example of pulling a quote out of context as you could wish for, as the parable it sums up cannot remotely be squared with double predestination.

  18. William Avatar

    Here are some points to consider in light of SLG’s arguments:

    I recall several fathers using a certain illustration to describe how God “hardens” or “softens” the hearts of people. It really isn’t God causing their perdition at all. God is like the sun, who shines the same on the hearts of all mankind. But how we have cultivated our hearts determines how these rays from God affect us. If we till our hearts with humility and obedience to the word of God and allow our hearts to be watered by receptivity to the Holy Spirit, then our hearts are softened and the sun shines down beneficially and brings forth fruit. If we neglect our hearts by behaving in the opposite manner, then this same sun shines down and hardens and cracks what is already dry and useless soil.

    Also, the verses in Romans 9 do not “clearly” say that God creates some vessels for wrath and destruction. It says “what if” God does this, i.e. God cannot be accused or questioned by men in any way or be considered to be at fault for the evil actions of men. What is also clear in Romans 9 is that it is only by God’s mercy that men and women are saved. If this passage was all there was to the Bible, then maybe we would be right to suppose that God was withholding mercy from some and offering it to others by some secret counsel. But the Bible is fraught with other passages that show how eager God is to show his mercy to all the world.

    When the Bible says that God loved Jacob and hated Esau, some readers neglect to see that God blessed Esau as well. It was not as great a blessing as the one given to Jacob, but it was a blessing. Jacob was chosen to be part of the salvation history leading to Jesus. Esau was not. The “hatred” of God is still love, just as Jesus instructed his disciples to “hate” father and mother, etc. If anything, it was comparative speaking, hyperbole, to describe how much more we are to love God.

    The history of God’s dealings with people certainly is one of successive choices. He chose people who would be recipients of his promise: Abraham, Jacob, Judah, David, Mary, and others in between. The basis of his choice is unknown to us, but certainly he foreknew who would be faithful to him. And each choice God made was not one made to the detriment of the rest of mankind. Rather these choices were made as steps in the history of salvation leading to the culmination of God’s plan in Christ Jesus. That is what God’s special choices have always been about, and God always made clear that he chose certain men and women, and the whole nation of Israel, because through them he was going to bless all nations. This he has done in Christ.

    When Christ prayed in the garden for the cup of suffering to pass from him, but then said “not my will but yours be done,” it was an instance of his sinless human will, which naturally hates and fears death, submitting to his divine will, which he shared with his father. It was not an example of two wills in God.

    To “God is not willing that any should perish” we can add “God is love.”

    God bless you all.

  19. Pontificator Avatar

    SLG, I realize that in your eyes Rom 9-11 plainly testifies to double predestination, but may I suggest that this is true only because you are reading the Scriptures through Calvinist spectacles. If you take off those spectacles you may find that these three chapters have everything to do with the question of the status of the old Israel and its relationship to the Church and absolutely nothing to do with the question of the eternal decrees of God pertaining to the predestination of individuals. I strongly recommend N. T. Wright’s NIB commentary on Romans as a good place to begin.

    The Augustinian/Calvinist blunders by giving greater authority to his theory of predestination than to the Church’s dogma of the Holy Trinity, which teaches us that God is absolute, infinite love. When the Trinitarian dogma is given its rightful hermeneutical place, then Scripture cannot be interpreted as supporting absolute predestination, as rightly noted by John Wesley:

    ‘This is the blasphemy clearly contained in the horrible decree of predestination! And here I fix my foot. On this I join issue with every assertor of it. You represent God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust. But you say you will prove it by scripture. Hold! What will you prove by Scripture? That God is worse than the devil? It cannot be. Whatever that Scripture proves, it never proved this; whatever its true meaning be. This cannot be its true meaning. Do you ask, “What is its true meaning then?” If I say, ” I know not,” you have gained nothing; for there are many scriptures the true sense whereof neither you nor I shall know till death is swallowed up in victory. But this I know, better it were to say it had no sense, than to say it had such a sense as this. It cannot mean, whatever it mean besides, that the God of truth is a liar. Let it mean what it will, it cannot mean that the Judge of all the world is unjust. No scripture can mean that God is not love, or that his mercy is not over all his works; that is, whatever it prove beside, no scripture can prove predestination.’

  20. kevinburt Avatar

    Father and SLG,

    I’ve been reading St. Basil on the Holy Spirit (SVS Popular Patristic series). He opens the letters to the younger Amphilochios by explaining how those who distort the faith do so with carefully crafted use of “prepositions” and other words. He then goes on to take the texts they were using (in this case, “from” and “through” in 1 Cor. 8.6, to mean that the Father and Son’s natures were different), and turns them around, showing other texts that said the opposite. Basil showed by this not that Scripture contradicted itself, but that their “textual arguments” against the Apostolic Rule/Faith were irrelevant, since one could show just the opposite using their same technique.

    Isn’t such the case with many of these texts proposed by Reformed Christians? For instance, the text of Matthew 20 is used as if “many are called, few chosen,” is an implication of God’s “sovereign choice” that occurs apart from our struggle or effort to live a holy life. But, if one reads the context, one finds that this text is right in the middle of a story teaching us that God rewards those who obey him. In fact, his “sovereignty” in this parable is his right to reward all equally, even if some only came to obedience later in life (“at the eleventh hour”). The landowner says that he “does no one any wrong” by giving equal payment to a latecomer. In fact, he expressly says that “I am good.”

    The Calvinist version of this story would need one worker being turned away, or refused a place of work when he came in obedience. The “choosing” here is done based on who chooses to come to the obedience of faith. It is emphatically not separated from man’s faith.

  21. Robert Bearer Avatar
    Robert Bearer

    Our brother, Samuel, asserts (correctly, of course) that God is sovereign, that the Holy Scriptures are replete with “God’s sovereign *call,* His *election* of His own, His *choosing.* God is a choosing God. He *choose* Israel as His People . . . because it pleased Him.” Samuel also reminds us that the Church is the Bride of Christ and that a husband typically chooses his own bride.
    But this begs the question: To what purpose was/is Israel chosen? To what purpose are we, likewise, chosen? And has the bride any say in the groom’s proposal? What does He intend to accomplish by this marriage?
    One answer that St. Paul himself gives at the end of Romans 8 is that we are who have been called according to His purpose He has predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Other texts remind us that Israel and now we are called to be His witnesses; to be member of His Body, that we may all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

    Charis & shalom,

  22. Robert Bearer Avatar
    Robert Bearer

    By the way, I am so thankful for our brother William’s post–and overjoyed to see Fr. Al posting again. Pontifications has been sorely missed.

    Charis & shalom,

  23. momesansnom Avatar

    Mr. Guzman,

    You mention the council of Orange, perhaps to support your view. But this council, which in any case was local and not given the same status as an ecumenical council, specifically anathematized “with all detestation” any and all who teach predestination by the divine power to evil.

    To say that God created some human beings as vessels for (eternal) destruction is to say that God placed in them, caused or created the sin and evil that leads to such destruction. But God most certainly did not cause or create sin and evil. To say that he did is to blaspheme his name.

    The Orthodox view certainly affirms that God’s grace is needed for men and women to come to him and to choose obedience. But the Orthodox also see that this grace has been poured out on all humanity.

    “I know of no one who does not choose their bride.” Have you never heard of arranged marriages? Or Isaac and Rebekah? Or Jacob and Leah? And, ideally speaking, would you suggest that a bride has no choice to accept or reject her groom?

  24. Bailey Avatar

    Perhaps if Orthodox Christian believers paid as much attention to the Bible as they do to the “fathers,” there would not be so much confusion. I haven’t done so, but I would be willing to be that if you surveyed postings in the past year of this blog, you would find more attention being paid to writings of the “fathers,” who were of course sinful, and often misled men themselves.

    Mr. Guzman is simply pointing out the clear teaching in God’s word, as opposed to interpreting what sinful men had to say.

  25. fatherstephen Avatar


    If you don’t include John Calvin among the sinners, you’re no student of history. Calvin himself would rebuke you for what you’ve said about the Fathers. And the Fathers, are judged as “Fathers” because of their holiness of life and the wisdom and faithfulness of their conduct and interpretation.

    We frequently look to them as the Scriptures tell us to: 1 Thess. 5:12 But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

    If this is true of our living pastors, how much more of those who have become universal teachers of the Church. There were no sola scriptura characters among the Apostles. Even St. Paul went to Jerusalem to check things out, and even Presbyterians have a presbytery. But in terms of Orthodox doctrine, which is a settled matter, the interpretation of Scripture that holds to double predestination is incorrect and not to be taught.

    And, as noted in my later posting on How the Orthodox read Scripture, we do so only in the context of the received teaching of the Church, not as our own minds and passions direct us. Quoting verses never settles anything by itself.

    Calvin did not reach his conclusions by a reading of Scripture only, but was largely dependent upon St. Augustine – which was a mistake. But you cannot accurately say he did not use the fathers. He thought he was. He just should have read more than Augustine on the subject.

    BTW, I only allow sinners to post on this blog. So I hope you qualify as well as I do. Nor do we think the Fathers to be without sin. Simply that the universal opinion of the Church (ok, the universal church of the East prior to the Schism) accepts certain writers as universal teachers of the Church.

    To disregard the Fathers is modernism, plain and simple.

  26. Phil Avatar

    In response to Bailey: it seems to me that Orthodox liturgical services are saturated with the Bible. And, personally, until becoming an Orthodox inquirer, I had never seen such clarity of interpretation of the OT.

    What attention to the Fathers does is establish a normative reading of Holy Scripture. Of course, if the Christian revelation is Truth, and sacred Scripture is a reflection of that Truth and the Living Word, we would expect just that: *a* normative reading. A short glance at your local Yellow Pages will demonstrate, in contrast, that Protestantism apparently has multiple reads on the Bible. One Truth does not equal multiple interpretations.

  27. fatherstephen Avatar


    I think your answer is spot on. In the course of a single weekend’s services, an Orthodox Church will have read more Scripture than the average Protestant Church will in nearly a month. Our services are quite long and consist primarily of Scripture, especially the psalms.

    At times we go overboard, I suppose. During the course of Holy Week, all 4 gospels are read aloud in Church. And in one service, all of the gospel accounts of the Passion of Christ are read in their entirety.

    From Friday afternoon until around 9 p.m. on Saturday, the Psalms are read continuously day and night in the Church. Then we read the entire book of Acts. Then we begin the many hours of the Pascha service.

    This long reading is interrupted by the Saturday morning service, which has 15 readings, including the entire book of Jonah.

    And I’ve barely begun to give account of our readings.

  28. jennyjuliana Avatar

    I am Orthodox now, but I used to be Presbyterian. My Presbyterian pastor told me that Presbyterians do believe in free will–we just also freely choose hell; God just chooses to save some of us in spite of ourselves.

  29. Bailey Avatar

    True, alot of scripture is chanted or sung in the Orthodox liturgy, but it is NOT explained. The Orthodox Christians I know are bascially Biblically illiterate.

    I believe this is the main problem with Orthodoxy, and why you see so little committment to reaching out to the poor in the Eastern Church. I belive if you were honest you would acknowledge this to be a big problem amongst the Orthodox faithful.

    And, it is simply wrong to say that Calvin depended on Augustine to understand scripture. He agreed with him on predestination, and disagreed with him on some ecclesial matters, but Calvin was a fine Biblical expositor in his own right.

  30. William Avatar


    Perhaps it doesn’t need saying, but your statements about Orthodox biblical illiteracy and neglect of the poor are hugely sweeping judgments of an entire Church made up of millions of people based on your limited contacts of, what, perhaps a few dozen at most.

    I’ve been in the thick of Protestantism and Orthodoxy, and I have met biblical illiterates and those who don’t think much about the poor on both sides of the picture. I’d have to say I’ve found more biblical illiteracy among the evangelicals I’ve known than among the Orthodox, and I’ve seen just as much help for the poor in Orthodoxy as I have in Protestantism.

    So, I guess it just comes down to who you know.

    It’s really unwise to make sweeping judgments of entire groups based on your limited experience, especially when the very same judgments could be turned around on your own group for the same reasons.

  31. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Bailey, what do you mean “reaching out to the poor”. Unless you have a far different interpretation of it than I do, you are quite mistaken in your assertion.

    The Church does not make an idol of the Bible nor do we reduce it to a source for endless, pointless, intellectualization. As we attend the services and participate in the worship of the undivided Trinty within the contex of the revealed truth of Holy Scripture, we are transformed, some a little, some a lot by the renewing of our mind (which is not in any way limited to the few brain cells contained in our cranium). We pray the Scriptures in the presence of a divine and loving God who condescened to pour out His Spirit on All Flesh so that as many as believe would be saved. We cry our unto our God for mercy because we know the depth of our sin and our need of that mercy. We pray his mercy that He not allow our hearts to incline to any evil thing, imploring Him to bring our souls out of prison that we may confess His holy name, for He is our God who delivers us from our transgressions. We are cleansed by His Blood and restored to the joy of His salvation by His Holy Spirit.

    The Church speaks of what she knows. The living presence of our Lord God and Savior confirms His word in our being. Let him who has ears to hear, hear.

  32. fatherstephen Avatar

    I’ll quote Augustine and make us all happy:

    “There are some that God has whom the Church has not; and some whom the Church has whom God has not.”

    And it cuts both ways.

    Presbyterians have had Scotland for 400 or so years and 5% of the population attends Church. Unless statistics have changed in recent years. And this without a Gulag or any such thing.

    Under communism, the Church was forbidden to practice almsgiving. Thus in former communist lands the Church is having to relearn its charitable works and is growing.

    In America, the is plenty of charity, etc., just no trumpets. Orthodox in America have much to learn about stewardship, but there are unique historical reasons for this – and it’s changing.

    But, you know, the Unitarians are real good at feeding the poor.

    The truth of Orthodoxy or of Calvin won’t be found in such comparisons.

  33. Bailey Avatar

    My observations about the Orthodox Church’s glaring lack of committment to outreach is based on extensive travel throughout Eastern Europe (Russia and Ukraine) and regular attendance at a local OCA mission church.

    I invite anyone to visit a country of the former Soviet Union to see who is working in the trenches to share the love of Christ. I’ve actually seen Orthodox priests in Ukraine stepping over beggars in front of the church, while those who are hungry and hurting know the only place to go for help is the local evangelical Christian shelter.

    The Orthodox Church is spending plenty of money though — contructing new temples. The difference is plain for all to see. The Orthodox Church is a come and see religion, where little emphasis is placed on what happens outside the liturgy.

    For those offended by my remarks, please note the sweeping generalizations and condenscensions targeted toward the evangelical Church on this blog. Aren’t Orthodox supposed to be above it all? It should be noted that we are ministering throughout the heart of the Eastern Orhtodox world because, quite simply, the Bible tells us so.

    If the Orthodox Church were doing its job, we wouldn’t have to!

  34. fatherstephen Avatar


    This is a sad understanding of East European history or an appreciation for what has transpired there over the past generations.

    Western Europe stands in shambles from Western Christianity, who now looks forward to carrying the good news to the East. It’s all too easy with no cross. Orthodox, including in America, are well aware of their problems, of which we have many. Sometimes the problems are trying to figure out who does more damage, our enemies or our friends. As St. Nicholai of Zicha said, though, sometimes my enemy has done me more good. May God bless them all.

    If you have been of help in Eastern Europe and Russia, God bless you. The poor of those nations need help. But recreating the religious world of America there will be of little help despite all good intentions.

    On the other hand, the Orthodox are returning the favor and chrismating protestants by the church load over here. Kind of strange. One nation starves for lack of infrastructure after 70 years of Communism, the other nation starves for storefront Churches and an Orthodox liturgy, despite 300 years of freedom and Protestantism. There’s an irony here that only God can sort out. May He have mercy on us all.

  35. Mary Lowell Avatar
    Mary Lowell

    Wow, Bailey, what a different view I’ve taken away from my sojourn in Russia’s cities, countryside and recovering monasteries! The hungry and unemployed find food, shelter and WORK there, not American religo-socialsim, which self-righteously assesses and condemns what it can only understand as a proselytizing opportunity. What I saw were destitute pensioners, those aged widows who lost their promised sustenance in the demise of the Soviet Union; displaced youth, longing for spiritual reconnection with their God-fearing ancestors; skilled laborers dumped from paying jobs under the Communist state, ner’do-wells looking for bread, all joylessly busy repairing roofs, readjusting tombstones desecrated by the God-haters, old women sweeping dirt from God’s House accumulated by 70 years of forced neglect, old men refitting obsolete plumbing, young girls tending abandoned gardens once lovingly kept to provide fresh blooms for the icons of holy martyrs and relics of the saints… on and on. Under no contract or promise of salary, they were amply feed at tables served by nuns and monks, who labored with the homeless to restore that which was stolen during the revolutionary exuberance to wipe the remembrance God and His Holy Church from the conscience of helpless people whose grandfathers and mothers held quick in their memory the True Faith of the Apostles received from the influence St. Olga upon her grandson, St. Vladimir in 988 A.D.

    Enter, evangelical hubris from the West with their guitars and candy bars at the moment of Eastern Europe’s most vulnerable, yet hopeful hour. Theirs a parallel socialist agenda to the one just defeated, albeit a self-congratulating noblest oblige, hatched from redress of quilt over African slavery. Fr. Stephen has offered here an open forum to peacefully discuss real issues on conscience. How dare you accuse the Orthodox of not caring for the poor! What do you know about a people who experienced of 100,000 priests, monks and nuns shot in the first wave of Bolshevik hatred of Christ, whose spiritual descendants now feed all who hunger and thirst after righteousness!

  36. fatherstephen Avatar

    My dear brothers and sisters – be gentle. I think the question is set by the Pontificator’s article, which has meat and a well reasoned point. If you want to comment on the point that will be fine. Other comments are not adding to the conversation but pulling us away. It’s past my bedtime here in Eastern time. I’ll check back in the morning. Comments that are on topic will be left undisturbed, but I’ll need to edit others. May God bless and forgive us all.

  37. William Avatar

    Father, if you will indulge me a few more words in this conversation, thank you. If you will not, then thank you all the more.

    I know it happens from time to time in the comments, but one thing this blog has not been for the year or so that I’ve been reading it is a place where sweeping generalizations are targeted against the moral standing of evangelicals (or others). In fact, I’ve found a great deal of charity and understanding towards evangelicals here. To be sure, there are uncompromising, and even at times harsh, theological critiques of Protestant doctrines, history and methods, but these are by and large based on clear doctrinal positions taught in churches and by church leaders and church confessions, not on anecdotal accusations that paint everyone with the same brush, such as “this group doesn’t know the Bible” or “that group doesn’t help the poor.” Every Christian group has its bad apples. Jesus told us that tares would grow among the wheat. For every story one can tell about Orthodox shortcomings or hypocrisy, I think someone can answer it with a story about Protestant or Catholic shortcomings.

    But all of this is a distraction from the teachings that are in dispute. There’s no question that Orthodoxy teaches the need for biblical literacy or care for the poor. The discussion was about the wrongness or rightness of the doctrine of double predestination. The rabbit trail started with the suggestion that the Orthodox might have caused all this “confusion” about predestination because they read too much of fathers and not enough of the Bible. But it should be emphasized that there has never been major confusion about this subject in the Eastern Church, and even the Western Church under Augustinian sway was fairly quick to settle the issue by condemning double predestination. The confusion was not revived in any major way until Calvinism became a force.

    So it is disingenuous to say that double predestination is so very clear in the Bible, as though only Calvin and his followers actually read their Bibles. Few Christians have ever believed in double predestination. Even today, few believe it. This can’t simply be chalked up to a paucity of Biblical understanding and a refusal to see what is supposed to be clearly taught in a handful of chapters of the Bible. It is instead due to a true Biblical reading that finds God’s abundant mercy described in countless chapters of the Bible, including the ones in question.

  38. […] doctrine of predestination to damnation, discussed in the previous article on the Pontificator Writes Again, is an excellent example of a modern (i.e. Reformation) doctrine that had never been accepted by […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to blog via email

Support the work

Your generous support for Glory to God for All Things will help maintain and expand the work of Fr. Stephen. This ministry continues to grow and your help is important. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!

Latest Comments

  1. Father, this discussion about true self/false self puts me in mind of your (frequent?) admonition that it is at the…

  2. Andrew, thank you so much for all of those wonderfully substantial and refreshing quotations about repentance/metanoia — I especially love…

  3. Father Stephen, Regarding Lossky’s book, do you think it would be of use to an unbeliever, or did it affect…

  4. FWIW, I think there’s some substance to the “false self” – not total illusion/delusion. Sifting through the mist is part…

  5. Matthew, Speaking for myself and my own understanding the false self is an illusion. It forms like condensation from the…

Read my books

Everywhere Present by Stephen Freeman

Listen to my podcast