The Final Destruction of Demons

Final is not a word you often hear in Christian teaching. Most Christians leave the final things until, well, the End. But this is not the language of the fathers nor of the Church. A good illustration can be found in the Orthodox service of Holy Baptism. During the blessing of the waters the priest prays:

And grant to [this water] the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan. Make it the fountain of incorruption, the gift of sanctification, the remission of sins, the remedy of infirmities; the final destruction of demons, unassailable by hostile powers, filled with angelic might. Let those who would ensnare Your creature flee far from it. For we have called upon Your Name, O Lord, and it is wonderful, and glorious, and awesome even to adversaries.

What can it possibly mean to ask that the waters be made “the final destruction of demons”?

The nature of the waters of Baptism reveals the Orthodox understanding of the world. These waters, now in a font, are none other than the waters of the Jordan. They are an incorruptible fountain and all the things we ask for. They are the final destruction of demons because they are nothing other than Christ’s Pascha. The waters of the font are Christ’s death on the Cross and His destruction of Hades. They are the resurrection of the dead.

For this reason St. Paul can say:

Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).

The realism of St. Paul’s teaching on Baptism is mystical realism (to coin a phrase). These waters become those waters. This event becomes that event. This time is now that time. Christ’s death now becomes my death. Christ’s resurrection now becomes my resurrection.

How utterly and uselessly weak is the thought that Baptism is merely an obedience to a command given by Christ! The idea that nothing happens in Baptism is both contrary to Scripture and a denial of the very nature of our salvation.

The anti-sacramentalism (and non-sacramentalism) of some Christian groups is among the most unwittingly pernicious of all modern errors. Thought to be an argument about a minor point of doctrine, it is, instead, the collapse of the world into the empty literalism of secularity. In the literalism of the modern world (where a thing is a thing is a thing), nothing is ever more than what is seen. Thus every spiritual reality, every mystery, must be referred elsewhere – generally to the mind of God and the believer. Christianity becomes an ideology and a fantasy. It turns religious believing into a two-storey universe.

The reality of in the Incarnate God was not obvious to those around Him: no surgery would have revealed His Godhood. The proclamation of the Gospel, from its most primitive beginnings (“the Kingdom of God is at hand”), announces the in-breaking of a mystical reality. Many modern theologians misunderstand Christ’s (and St. John the Baptist’s) preaching on the Kingdom to refer to an imminent end of the age. They hear, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” to mean, “the End of the world is near.” Thus we have protestant theologians creating an “interim ethic” to cover Christian activity in the “in-between” period – between Christ’s first coming and His second. If the coming of the incarnate God into the world did not fundamentally alter something, then the preaching of Jesus was in vain and radically misunderstood by His disciples.

The Gospels presume and proclaim at every turn that in Christ, the Kingdom of God is present. Christ says, “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Lk 11:20). There is a mystery at work in the presence of the Kingdom. Christ makes statements such as that just quoted, but also frequently says that the Kingdom of God has come near. The Kingdom is a reality and a presence that has both come near us, and come upon us. But in neither case does it simply refer to a later “someday.” The urgency of the proclamation of the Kingdom is not caused by the soon approach of an expected apocalypse. Its preaching is urgent because its coming has already begun!

The sacraments of the Church (indeed the Church itself) should never be reduced to “holy moments” or “instances of miracles” in the life of an otherwise spiritually inert world. If bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, then the Kingdom of God has come upon us! And nothing less.

The sacramental life of the Church is not an aspect of the Church’s life – it is a manifestation of the whole life of the Church. It is, indeed, the very character and nature of the Church’s life. The Church does not have sacraments – the Church is a sacrament. We do not eat sacraments or just participate in the sacraments – we are sacraments. The sacraments reveal the true character of our life in Christ. This is why St. Paul can say:

I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me, etc. (Galatians 2:20)

I am…nevertheless I…yet not I…but Christ….  This is the language of the mystical reality birthed into the world in the Incarnation of Christ. Thus we can say: This is the Blood of Christ…nevertheless you see bread…but it is not bread…but Christ’s Body sacrificed for you. This is the Hades of Christ’s death and the Paradise of His resurrection…nevertheless it is the water of Baptism…but it is not water…but Christ’s death and resurrection into which you are baptized.

And so we see the whole world – for the “whole world is sacrament” – in the words of Patriarch Bartholomew. We struggle with language to find a way to say “is…nevertheless…yet not…but is.” This is always the difficulty in expressing the mystery. It is difficult, not because it is less than real, but because of the character and nature of its reality. Modern Christian thought and language that simply dismiss the mystery and postpone its coming, or  deny the character of its reality, change the most essential elements of the Christian faith and inadvertently create a new religion.

But we have been taught something different. We have been given the Final Destruction of Demons, the Mystical Supper, the Kingdom of God. Why should we look for something less?

 

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.



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391 responses to “The Final Destruction of Demons”

  1. Steven Clark Avatar
    Steven Clark

    Fr. Stephen you knocked this one out of the ball park
    YEA VERILY!!!!

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  3. Walt Kennick Avatar
    Walt Kennick

    So well said. This is why I refer to western Christianity as “American folk religion.”

  4. Katherine Clark Avatar
    Katherine Clark

    What can one say?
    As someone said, We the laity have the “Amen” and the “Axios”.
    Amen! So may it be

  5. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    Hi. Fr. Stephen. I appreciate you continuing to allow me to be part of this community and I hope you will not regard me as a thorn in your side.

    Am I incorrect in assessing that the efficacy of the “blessing of the waters” is, experientially, null? If demons who would “ensnare (god’s) creature” actually did “flee far from it” then how is it that people claim that demons do in fact continue to tempt and harass even the baptized elect?

    Perhaps anti-sacramentalism and non-sacramentalism have arisen because people expected one thing from the sacraments (e.g. that they did what they claimed to do) and experienced something different.(?)

    The Kingdom is a reality and a presence that has both come near us, and come upon us.

    I offer my sincerest apologies but this sounds to me very much like Obama’s version of how great a state the nation is in. He sounds very convincing and there is a rather large contingency that actually believes (and do you not consider such people as willfully naive?) him but experience tells us that his perceptions are not well-founded.

    I have this nagging thought that if the kingdom was upon/near to us, people within that kingdom would not need to be told about it. No one in a healthy economy needs to be told how great the economy is. I would presume that if Christians were in fact experiencing “the kingdom” that they wouldn’t need to be told how great it is. (I also tent to append that people experiencing the kingdom would not be at odds with one another, but that may well be my own wishful thinking.)

    I say this because I spent so many years longing for the kingdom and never experiencing anything except disappointment and heartache. I cannot fathom that a god who saw one as hungry as I would continue to allow him to starve in a Protestant dream for so many years. How is it that honest seekers are not guided by god to where they can actually experience the kingdom? It is most vexing to think on.

  6. Michael Patrick Avatar
    Michael Patrick

    John, that’s a great line of questions. I’m eager to read Father’s reply.

  7. Anon Avatar
    Anon

    John you might find the works of Archimandrite Zaccarius, especially “Remember Thy First Love” to provide an interesting and experiential discussion of Divine abandonment and it’s meaning. Also if philosophy is your thing you may want to investigate Christos Yannaros.

  8. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    John Shores,
    It is a good question – on several levels (which is meant as a joke from a man who writes about “one-storey Christianity”).

    First, it seems rather odd that they crucified Christ, if he raised a girl from the dead; fed 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish; turned water into wine; healed a lot of seriously sick people; and raised Lazarus from 4 days of death including corruption of the flesh. But that it is the witness of the gospels – not the witness of His enemies – but of His friends and followers and those who were willing to die for what was written in those accounts. That is to say, true Christianity has never said anything different than what I am saying. I wanted that to be clear up front. It’s not that the Scriptures say one thing and I’m saying another. His enemies were not convinced.

    Second, if the Scriptures say what I’m saying, and the Kingdom of God and it’s coming upon us/near us, lacked the sort of evidence that you describe, then what the historical Christ said and did must be somehow like the sacramental Church that I am talking about, unless it’s all talk and nothing more. That is Christ must have taught and done something that left many people unconvinced. Even at the Ascension, Matthews Gospel says, “And some doubted!”

    There are Christians (plenty of them) who think of the world as having an utter continuity with the literal/historical/cause-and-effect/what-you-see-is-all-there-is kind of existence. They are those who teach a “Two Storey Christianity.” Their Kingdom is somewhere else, sometime else, very different from this, kind of place. Their talk is all talk because the reality to which they refer doesn’t get here until later or until after you die. I do not believe this to be authentic Christianity or what Christ preached.

    So. If what Christ did/preached has this sacramental quality that I’m describing, why is that so and what’s the point? Is there a reason for the Kingdom to be preached and given in such a manner? The short answer is yes, because only if the Kingdom is given in this manner can there be true salvation, true love and true freedom. (Now the answer is getting kind of BIG).

    If what Christ did/preached had the quality of a literal/historical/cause-and-effect/what-you-see-is-all-there-is kind of existence, its proof would be so obvious that believing in it would be no different than believing that up-is-up and down-is-down, that the sky is blue, etc. I would raise a man from the dead and you would say, “Yep! You raised someone from the dead. There he is. You’re right!”

    And what would be different? The dead man would be alive but you would still be the same. You would have added one more fact to rest of the facts in your brain. Jesus’ Kingdom would be among your facts, and you’d still be the same fact-toting man that you were before I raised the guy from the dead. The literal/historical/cause-and-effect/what-you-see-is-all-there-is kind of existence Kingdom is actually of little use – if the use involves freedom and love.

    There is no freedom involved in believing that the sky is blue, etc. It requires no love, etc. Believer and unbeliever differ only in the facts that one has and the other one doesn’t. The question you ask presumes that the only kind of life that exists, the only kind of human being that exists is the literal/historical/cause-and-effect/what-you-see-is-all-there-is kind of human being. More than that, your question presumes that if only you had some genuine Christian literal/historical/cause-and-effect/what-you-see-is-all-there-is kind of proof in front of you, you would be a believer, too. That’s not salvation. That’s just fact-collecting (with the presumption that facts only come in the literal/historical/cause-and-effect/what-you-see-is-all-there-is variety. It is why I say there can be no true salvation, true love or true freedom unless things are as the gospel presents them. And things are exactly like the gospel describes:

    Christ spoke to them in parables:

    because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand…. but blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it…(Matt. 13:13 and 16).

    The reason is because the Kingdom of God (and seeing it) requires a true inward change. This is not merely psychological but a true inward, ontological change. I actually think this change has occurred in you but you’ve been hurt and injured, even abused (may God forgive them and us!) and you’ve settled down in what feels like the safety of the literal/historical/cause-and-effect/what-you-see-is-all-there-is worldview. Only someone meeting the literal criteria will pass the test – because it’s a safety test.

    But the inward change begins to make a new kind of seeing possible. That seeing is a perception of the heart. It requires freedom (for we can choose not to see it), it requires love (for hate creates blindness), and it requires the bleeding mercy of God. It’s proof is not precisely “factual” in the literal/historical/cause-and-effect/what-you-see-is-all-there-is [lhcaewysiati for short] manner. According to Scripture it belongs to the fruit category. I struggle daily to live and walk in a sacramental world, a world in which I am increasingly perceiving what many others do not see. I see flesh and blood where they see bread and wine, etc. The whole world has this sacramental/mystery quality. And in that world even a raging enemy appears as a child of God and can be loved (and not just because I think it’s a nice, moral thing to do). I am beginning to hear what people mean rather than just what they say. I am beginning to hear the heart and not just the tongue. This same perception reveals many things – I would say that eventually it reveals the truth of everything.

    It reminds me a little of something that I have a hard time recalling (perhaps it was in some sort of game I once played). But if I am patient, and don’t try to do too much too fast, the perception abides. Too much, too fast, and I’m like everyone else, stumbling around in a lhcaewysiati world. Then I start getting stupid, anxious and I feel the need to force things and control them, etc. But with patience and love, I can walk slowly in this sacramental mystery, and I can see the fruit of it. I do not feel like an idiot. I don’t find myself stumbling over things (as if I were seeing things that were not there). But I see things that I wouldn’t see otherwise and I’m able to help others see as well.

    But the seeing requires an inner change. That change requires me to give up a lot. Giving up anxiety, fear, judgement, opinion, and a number of other things are required. I have to tell the truth – which is why I have to walk very slowly.

    I didn’t invent this way of seeing. It was taught to me. The gospels teach it. The fathers teach it (especially the Orthodox fathers who teach the nature and practice of the spiritual life). My confessor corrects me in it and it is slowly taking better clarity.

    I am extremely (way more than I could ever say) sympathetic to the longing of a heart not to be fooled or lied to, etc. I’ve been there. It was a long time ago that I was injured and I walked alone for a long time. I saw Orthodoxy way back then and thought that perhaps it was true. And it took me about 25 years to actually take up the path of the Orthodox faith and I’ve been walking in this for only 15 years now. I only started writing about 6 years ago. I pray God for more clarity and more time to write. But it is true. And I can only say come and see. Which sounds like a lousy invitation in the language of lhcaewysiati.

    I’ll briefly add that the lhcaewysiati world is properly described as the “fallen” world. It’s cause and effect are safety measures for us. It’s not a bad world (though it has dangers), but it is the arena of salvation. Christians say crazy things, “We have seen the true light!” the Orthodox sing in the liturgy. What does that mean in a lhcaewysiati world? Why would St. John Chrysostom ever have sung such a thing? We see a light – indeed – but it’s a different light. And that light is possible to all.

  9. peter Avatar
    peter

    Wow. Thank you so much.

  10. Charles Avatar
    Charles

    As a brother Catholic in the west, all I can say is right on. Everywhere people act as if there is no more mystery. All the while failing to note the infinite in the simple arc of a circle.

  11. yaya Avatar
    yaya

    ““whole world is sacrament” – in the words of Patriarch Bartholomew”

    Can you provide a source for this? I would like to read more about what Patriarch Bartholomew said and meant.

  12. dinoship Avatar
    dinoship

    Father,
    “The Gospels presume and proclaim at every turn that in Christ, the Kingdom of God is present”, as well as your lengthy comment (which I treasure) reminded me of something Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra once said concerning the second Coming.
    He explained that at that time the thundering trumpets and earth-quaking angels and terrible signs described in Revelations and the Revelation to all beings of the universe of the Lord Himself will NOT happen for the true faithful; it HAS happened and they LIVE within that presence already here and now!
    An obvious example of one person ‘living’ this amongst others who don’t is the last hours of Saint Stephen the “first martyr”.

  13. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    its proof would be so obvious that believing in it would be no different than believing that up-is-up and down-is-down…you’d still be the same fact-toting man that you were before I raised the guy from the dead.

    It seems to me that this type of belief is not inherently bad or that belief of the other kind is in any way superior. After all, whether or not a dead guy is now alive can’t be open to a lot of dispute. We’ve known it in modern medicine. To not believe it would be stupid, IMHO, but the question becomes “Why?” Did Jesus raise Lazarus to show off or to prove a point or did he do so to return a brother to his sisters? To my mind, the latter motive is more noble. Would he have failed to forgive the sins of the paralytic had the Pharisees not been watching? I certainly hope not.

    There is no freedom involved in believing that the sky is blue, etc. It requires no love, etc… It is why I say there can be no true salvation, true love or true freedom unless things are as the gospel presents them.

    I heartily disagree. I think it is impossible to even consider the question of the color of the sky without asking “why?” and thereby launching on a voyage of intense wonder that instills inspiration and, yes, love for the things (and ulitmately the people) around us.

    I also think that as an observed fact, the act of being kind to another person moves something in the giver, the givee and any observers. Observation of goodness breeds inspiration. Not all facts are cold.

    Only someone meeting the literal criteria will pass the test – because it’s a safety test.

    Yes. You are right about that. I am a big fan of being safe from other human beings. I am also a huge fan of stoning false prophets. Does that make me awful? (In the words of Jessica Rabbit, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”)

    …in that world even a raging enemy appears as a child of God and can be loved (and not just because I think it’s a nice, moral thing to do).

    You are a far better man than I.

    But the seeing requires an inner change. That change requires me to give up a lot. Giving up anxiety, fear, judgement, opinion, and a number of other things are required. I have to tell the truth – which is why I have to walk very slowly.

    In many respects, this aptly describes a great many agnostics that I have come to know. I think a quality of agnosticism is honesty – being willing to admit “I don’t know” is a huge step forward for anyone but being willing to learn about that which you have doubts but also being able to reject that which is plainly wrong is also important. This is where so many Protestants go wrong; they try to make sense of the insensible doctrines that they have concocted and are unwilling to admit they may be wrong. It is a phenomenon that I have not observed among the Orthodox. The thoughts and ideas that I have heard from you are sensible and not mental gymnastics are required.

    it took me about 25 years to actually take up the path of the Orthodox faith

    Well, if god’s not in a hurry to get me there, I won’t rush either.

    BTW, I don’t think you answered my initial question. Does the sacrament of baptism cause demons to flee from the baptized? If so, how can demons in any way tempt them? I always cringed at this when attending baptisms in the CEC because it rings so hollow.

  14. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    Charles stated:

    Everywhere people act as if there is no more mystery.

    I think you need to spend some time on Discovery or the Science Channel or randomly select any TED Talk. There is plenty of mystery and awe going around out there.

  15. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    “That is Christ must have taught and done something that left many people unconvinced.”

    It seems that many were convinced, but that they were disappointed and even enraged when He refused to assume the mantle of a national liberator — that is, a warrior king who return Israel to worldly glory. The Gospels make it clear that the people were deeply impressed by Christ’s miraculous actions and that they followed Him in huge numbers. However, as His ministry progressed, and it became more evident that His gospel was not this world, the crowds turned against Him. In the multiplication of loaves, the abundance of bread was obvious: Not so with the Eucharist. Or am I misunderstanding what you’re saying?

  16. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

    “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

    John 11:45-48

  17. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    “BTW, I don’t think you answered my initial question. Does the sacrament of baptism cause demons to flee from the baptized? If so, how can demons in any way tempt them? ”

    Well, to be fair, the prayer doesn’t state definitively that all marauding demons *are* destroyed. Rather, it begs that this may be so. God may still permit them to test His servants for reasons we cannot understand.

    Also, it strikes me that baptism is not magic. If there is not faith — or if faith wanes — than its effect is mitigated. For the nonbeliever, baptism is not a mystery of salvation: It is just a bath. (Correct me if I’m wrong, Father.)

    Finally, it’s worth saying that many — perhaps even most — “demonic possessions” are really just the product of psychological illness. This is why the Catholic Church is so cautious about exercising the rite of exorcism. The afflicted must be examined by doctors, psychiatrists, and a number of priests, sometimes even the bishop, before an exorcism is permitted.

  18. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    I would agree about many agnostics. Fr. Thomas Hopko once noted that some atheists are atheists by the grace of God – having fled belief in a false God. By the same token, many agnostics are closer to the Kingdom than many who profess to be Christian. The man who can truly say that he does not know is in a much better place than the man who holds tightly to his opinions about God. Of course, there are many kinds of agnostics just as there are many kinds of Christians. An honest man, whether agnostic or Christian, is rare indeed. I’m glad to keep company with an honest man, if I can be one myself.

    On the “unanswered” question. Baptism is the final destruction of demons. But I think “cause” is the wrong question.

  19. R. Warren Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    I’ve seen this false dichotomy (exorcisizing the mystery out of our sacramental world) at work in the theological circles I’ve moved around in. Some, sensing the “realized eschatology” that is similar to what you’ve posted here, have gone full force into Preterism — the belief that the second coming must have historically happened at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Others have, as you’ve noted, simply bifurcated the Christian life into the “interim ethic.” Both, it seems to me, have missed the point of the Bible’s own recapitulative hermeneutic: what Christ has done is what we are doing — we join in His baptism, His death, His resurrection, His session, etc.

    Hallelujah, for He is the ever-living and ever-saving Lord!

    RVW

  20. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    This is the sort of post that sends the Paschal joy abiding in my heart singing again! 🙂 Yes. Amen. It is true. Thanks so much.

  21. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    John, your thinking is excellent- it’s … um … thoughtful!
    That demons exist now is certain from holy scripture: Rev 12:9-12 describe the Archangel Michael throwing Satan out of heaven “and his angels were thrown down with him.” Since then they have been restricted to “the earth and to the sea”; for good reason does the verse say, “Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil has come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time.
    Paul prophesied that things would become worse here than in his day: 2 Tim 3:1-5. Jesus talked about a “great tribulation” to come, in which “unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved: but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened.” Mt 24:21,22.
    These facts being the case, is it reasonable to count on a ritual to protect us against evil? Jesus advised knowledge: “Now this is eternal life: That they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

  22. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Regarding “the unanswered question” –

    Father Stephen – I just finished reading the chapter in your book discussing the linear sense of time (and how it does not fit with true Christianity). It seems that John’s question, while a good one, tends to assume the linear. First I get baptized, then the demons are destroyed, then there should be no demons left – or at least they should flee from me. The way in which you are writing here is nonlinear – which is both very appealing and confusing to the linearly-trained Western mind. Rather than try to figure it out, I think I just need to spend time with it.

    BTW, do you have any place where you entertain questions/comments about your book? I realize that might be too time-consuming but I find myself wanting to discuss it with you!

  23. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    Russ,
    I might state it even more strongly. The problem with the “realized” eschatology is that it doesn’t understand the nature of the eschaton. It fails the sacrament/mystery test as well.

  24. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    Doug,
    I see that you can quote Scripture – but you don’t understand what you’re reading. And you don’t understand Baptism in that you think it is a ritual. If it’s only a ritual, how can it be a “burial with Christ” or a “union with the resurrection”? It’s better to understand the Scriptures and what they actually say, than to substitute modern Protestant thought.

  25. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    PJ:

    baptism is not magic

    I confess that even as I wrote what I did that the idea of magic had occurred to me. I think what Mary says about linear time coupled with your comment (“the prayer doesn’t state definitively that all marauding demons *are* destroyed. Rather, it begs that this may be so”) go a long way to clarify the issue for me. Not too bad for a Muggle.

    It seems that many were convinced, but that they were disappointed…

    I think this is an excellent point. There are few things more difficult to overcome than disillusionment, whether your potentially political leader turns out to be a spiritual leader or your spiritual leader turns out to be a church politician.

  26. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    Doug: I understand what you meant by the word “ritual” (though Fr. Stephen took exception). It’s not easy to think and speak in fluent Orthodox. I take exception to the use of the word “facts” in your reply simply because facts are observable. But I know what you mean.

    I do appreciate your conclusion (“…that they may know you”) but I believe that the word “know” here is not “knowledge” in the clinical sense but more the kind of knowledge that can only be gained via interaction (I know my wife well but darned if I understand her!).

    I am coming to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a “reasonable faith” (e.g. a faith that can be mastered intellectually) and I wonder whether or not the C.S. Lewis’ of the world are really very helpful in sending one further along on his spiritual journey seeing that all his writings are based on his massive intellect. I suspect that one day a small child will unravel the mysteries for me.

    My issue (as Fr. Stephen insightfully discerned) is more about safety and not being duped (again). I don’t know if there is a way for me to abdicate reason when it comes to “spiritual things” and therefore I am where I am. But I would rather be here than in the Protestant-thinking religion which cannot but drive one mad.

  27. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    …it doesn’t understand the nature of the eschaton.

    Isn’t that the name of the home planet of Megatron? 🙂

  28. dinoship Avatar
    dinoship

    ” is more about safety and not being duped (again).”

    Becoming part of the true Orthodox way liberates you from that danger but, we must still overcome a similar type of fear…
    There is a far greater “danger” felt when one screams from the bottom of his soul for God fighting like Jacob (possibly for years), then awaits in total silence(possibly for years), then starts being illumined by His light, then sees clearly his utter filth and his utter ignorance and unwillingness to even remember the God he thought he was screaming for all his life yet realises now this was 99.9% egoism and 0,01% love of Him, then takes the plunge against his egoism to let go of all his former safety and then chooses to be “lost” in union with Him rather than to return to his familiar old self. The “danger” especially at the later stages (after which one can say that, yes, he ‘knows God and how to call on Him’) is far greater than any other.
    There is no avoiding it.

  29. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    Father,

    Do you mind responding to what I said, if you have the opportunity? Did I misunderstand you? Are you saying that, say, the raising of Lazarus was “visible” only to those who believed in Christ? Or, rather, that it was visible to all, but only those who believed understood…?

  30. dinoship Avatar
    dinoship

    Is it not always a matter of interpretation PJ…?
    The astounding miracles during the martyrdoms of the early Martyrs would have the two opposite effects (“life” and “death” according to St Paul) on the onlookers, so we celebrate St George or St Catherine plus hundreds of others who believed because of what they saw on the same day (including some of the torturers themselves sometimes) , while others simply interpreted the whole thing (including a resurrection of someone completely decomposed in the case of st George) completely differently (explained it away as some kind of ‘magic’ for instance).
    Belief always contains something of our own volition.

  31. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    Dinoship, as a woman who has given birth, I see some parallels in the spiritual journey you describe with the process of pregnancy and childbirth. In particular, during the actual birth of a child and just before the point where the baby actually reaches the birth passage, there is a moment of crisis called “transition.” This is the point at which the labor is most intense, painful and overwhelming, and typically the woman in labor at this point is firmly convinced she just cannot do this anymore! But, in reality she has reached the point where she can begin actively helping to push the baby down the birth canal, and in a healthy and normal labor, the birth is, in fact, quite immanent!

    It is also a classic example of where mere human perception, conviction, and emotion does not match reality.

  32. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    PJ,
    I’m certainly saying that it was visible to all – but somehow didn’t matter. The gospels give us this strange bifurcation within humanity – it is certainly related to “purity of heart.” And it is this conversion and purification of the heart that constitutes the primary means by which we are saved through grace.

    There are two experiences of the risen Lazarus. Everybody sees him, but some want only all the more to kill Christ, others to follow Him. But it is made clear to us in the gospel, that simply to seek to follow Christ because of a miracle will do us no good in the end. The heart will win out. There are many wicked hearts that will follow miracles. “It is a wicked and perverse generation that seeks a sign.”

    After His resurrection things become even more bifurcated – even within the same disciple. Thus Mary Magdalen sees him but doesn’t recognize him, then she does recognize him (and I do not think this is just a “grief” reaction). The disciples on the Road to Emmaus, etc. Perception after the resurrection is clearly not predicated on what we would call “objective” evidence. They see him, but they don’t see Him. If you see what I mean.

    The same holds today – and the Church’s sacraments/mysteries have this very same character to them.

    On Dinoship’s observation that “belief always contains something of our volition,” I like the English word “ignore.” It is rooted in a word that simply means “not knowing,” but it carries with it a sense that our volition is involved. More than not knowing, to ignore is to not want to know. I propose a new verb: GNORE. 🙂

  33. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    Pascal gets a bad rap for his wager, but his Pensees are really worth a read. In one meditation, he posits that God provides just enough light to be seen, but not enough to make His reality a fact (like the sky is blue). As you suggest, this is to preserve the volition of man, but also to ensure that our relationship with HIm is not one of fearful obedience before blinding power, but rather charitable faith and joyous hope in the one whom we “love without seeing.”

  34. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    “That being the case Fr. Stephen, do the damned in the everlasting fire cease to exist at some point?”

    Just a thought: Does chronological language like “at some point” really make sense in the context of eternity? Eternity is not an amount of time, however large, but a state of being.

  35. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    Some early fathers wondered about that – but it has not become the teaching of the Church. More mainstream is that existence (being) is a gift from God of which He does not repent.

    Your account of first resurrection, creation of Church Triumphant, growing numbers, etc., seems a little “historical” to me – in the sense that one thing happens, then the next, and the next, etc. I’m not sure that we should think about events whose cause is the resurrection in a linear fashion. Holy Baptism (say in 2012 a.d.) is the final destruction of demons (circa 33 a.d.), but that destruction is also the “final destruction” (how to assign this a date?).

    The nature of Orthodox eschatology, in the deepest of the fathers, treats time in a very radical manner. Christ Himself, is the Alpha and Omega (at the same time). Thus wherever He is – there is both the beginning and the end. He is both Creator and Judge, the One through Whom all things come to be, and the One in Whom all things will be gathered together into one. And He is always these, not simply in a temporal, sequential manner. So the Eucharist is many things at once (Last Supper, Wedding Banquet, etc.).

    So many questions that we tend to ask or conclusions we like to draw simply fall apart in the face of such an understanding. But this is the Orthodox faith. This is why St. John Chrysostom uses the past tense to refer to the Second Coming, for example. He’s not trying to alter the time-scheme of things – he’s simply stating the mystical reality of the truth as it is made known in the Eucharistic Presence of the Risen Lord.

    Just some thoughts…

  36. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    Marc,
    There cannot be a state of non-being. Non-being is not anything, including a state. This would be fundamental to our understanding that God created the world “from nothing.” It was not in a state of non-being. It simply had no existence whatsoever.

    St. Athanasius makes a distinction between absolute non-being (ouk ontos in Greek) versus a more-or-less relative non-being (me ontos in Greek). Sin already has the character of me ontos (meontic being) as it moves away from God. We do not have the ability to make ourselves ouk ontos (utterly non-existent) because existence is simply not ours to give or end. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

  37. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    John Shores: When Jesus said in John 14:30 that the prince of this world had nothing in Him I think he was speaking to your question. Sin is like velcro and demons are attracted by it and can use it to influence us.

    We sin even after Baptism and therefore give the demons something to work with.

    The Sacrament of Confession is the most powerful tool in giving fewer attachments for the demons to use. It is a recommitment to union with Christ that we professed and began to enter into at Baptism. Confession as all the scraments are ontological, existential and ineffable all at the same time.

    I was received into the Church 25 years ago. I’m a different person now than I was then by simply living in the grace of His presence as I partake of the sacraments and all of the rest even as fitfully as I do.

    It is a matter of freedom though. We can have the demons if we want them and some activities make it much more difficult to get free of their influence than others.

  38. Mule Chewing Briars Avatar

    I think Father’s previous post about stillness are very apropos to this post.

    “For [however long], I will not –

    -use my phone (turn the ringer off)
    -use my computer
    -read a book (or anything else)
    -engage in conversation

    For [however long], I will not –

    -think about what I have done wrong
    -think about whom I have hurt
    -think about problems or difficulties
    -think about physical pain

    For [however long], I will

    -sit (stand if you must) before an icon of Christ
    -not talk to Christ or think about what I should say
    -not think about what I am doing
    -will not think about another person
    -will not think about God or imagine Him
    -will breathe”

    That is the hardest spiritual discipline I have ever heard of. I can’t do it. it is both impossible for me and necessary for me. The world Father describes, I believe, only intersects with and interpenetrates the LHCAEWYSIATI [great acronym] world Here and Now. It does not exist in the world of our regrets about the past or our apprehension of the future.

    But as I said, Being Here Now before Christ is the hardest thing of all for me to do.

  39. drewster2000 Avatar
    drewster2000

    Fr. Stephen,

    After the wonderful “outburst” you had in response to John Shores – and all the great comments here – I can no longer remember the post itself. You spoke from the heart and it was incredible. Not only was I better able to understand you as to the topic of The Kingdom and the way you see it and walk in it, I was also able to connect with you as the child of God that you are.

    Sometimes the words of the prophets and fathers are unsearchable for me. I suspect it is my deaf & blind state that makes this so, but I greatly appreciate your words in that comment. It was as if you took a moment to dumb it down for me and speak in the infantile language of my heart long and loud enough for me to hear.

    I don’t expect it to always be this way, but the break into the clouds of my heart was greatly appreciated. Thank you once again for your willingness to share journey you are on and how you walk it.

    in Christ, Drewster

  40. Doug Lawrence Avatar

    The Kingdom of God exists anytime and anywhere the Holy Spirit accepts an invitation to indwell a human soul, and the Holy Spirit never comes “empty handed”.

    The cardinal virtues of faith, hope and love are the primary products of God’s grace. So why are these virtues powerfully manifest in many of God’s elect, while appearing to absent or at the very least, dormant in so many others?

    It probably has more to do with humility than anything else, since it is very difficult for a proud soul to assent, even in little things, to the will of God.

    Without that assent, it’s our will (and our “kingdom”) which is typically manifest. Not God’s.

    Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues. Hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist, there cannot be any other virtue, except in mere appearance. ~Saint Augustine of Hippo

  41. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    Fatherstephen: I protest: I’m not a Protestant! As to quoting scripture, our Lord did that often. I misspoke if I seem to have belittled baptism. But it is a ritual in one important sense. It’s a public witness to one’s dedication to God; that’s done in prayer, privately. Paul gives us the privilege of reading Jesus’ own dedication prayer to his Father. Compare Ps 40:6-8 with Heb 10:5-7. It is a requirement for Christians, as you note. But the waters are not “the final destruction of demons because they are nothing other than Christ’s Pascha.” That’s the point I wanted to make with John Shores. Demons were very much alive and active in Paul’s day and certainly now in ours. They have a special interest in professed Christians. Otherwise, why the constant warnings of post-Calvary Bible writers against, well, “spirits of error and doctrines of devils”, as the Douay has it at 1 Tim 4:1? “Now the Spirit manifestly says that in the last times some shall depart from the faith.” (ibid.) Depart from Christianity! At the behest of mere demons! And they were all baptized!
    You’ll recall that they Jews also- God’s chosen ones- relied on rituals and buildings, and were warned against it. Jer 7:4- “Trust not in lying words, saying: The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, it is the temple of the Lord.” But the LORD did give them the temple and the rituals in Leviticus, so how were the words “lying”? Because their worship was by ritual words only. Later, the same prophet said “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Juda: Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers …” (Jer 31:30 ff.). And this did happen- Jesus gave us a “new covenant”. It includes baptism, observing the memorial of Christ’s death (the “Last Supper”), and preaching the good news of God’s kingdom just as he did it- “quoting from the Bible”. (My 24:14)
    Finally, as to quoting scripture, I notice that you and your respondents quote Archimandrite Zaccarius, Christos Yannaros, John Chrysostom, Thomas Hopko and such. I know of none of these men. I do know of Augustine, Aquinas and others of the Western folks, but they have this in common with yours: They did not write the Bible. Usually Christians commend each other for quoting the word of God. I’m sorry if I upset you, but I’ll continue to do it. Perhaps I’m demonized? 🙂

  42. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    To several, regarding “being and not being”. Where is Adam these days?

  43. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    John Shores: By “ritual” I had in mind a physical act, performed in a certain way, regularly. As such a ritual is neither good nor bad. I objected, as I replied above, to looking to it for salvation from demons or death.
    “Facts are observable”, indeed. But in Mt 24,25; Luke 21; Mr 13 Jesus gave future “facts” (otherwise he was a mere teller of tales) to his disciples, and we now ‘eavesdrop’ on that conversation by means of the Bible. My belief is that we are close to the time period he had in mind. I “observe” this in this way, which I invite you to do: Read those accounts, add 2 Tim 3:1-5, 1 Tim 4:1-4, and 2 Pet 3. Now compare them with the news on the ‘Net, TV and newspapers. Does the Bible’s composite sign match? If so, it’s time for all of us to get knowledge.
    “Reasonable faith” is exactly what Paul said he had: “beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service.” Rom 12:1; my Bible says, “with your power of reason”. Didn’t he believe in an invisible God, whose messenger was a man executed for crimes against God and the State? Didn’t he join with those who had “seen” [they said] that ‘criminal’ come back to life? Yet he says he is reasonable!
    John 17:3 was spoken by a man who was about to die. It’s recognized even in secular law that a man is ever serious in his death-bed confession, as this was, so to speak. Therefore he must have had in mind what the Greeks called “epignosis”, the highest knowledge. Moreover, as a Jew, he was aware that the Hebrew word included knowledge OF a subject, of HOW to practice it, and a demonstration of DOING the thing. (Did someone just now pass his written driving test? Can we say he “knows” how to drive? A Jew would not!)
    God is invisible; his son is nowhere to be found on earth. How then can we find this life-saving knowledge? What authority outside of his Father did Jesus consider reasonable and factual?

  44. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    Doug,

    If you’re not a Protestant or an Orthodox, then you must be a Catholic like me. If so, then you should really know John Chrysostom, as he’s one of the chief doctors of the Church, called “Doctor of the Eucharist.” He is often quoted by Thomas Aquinas (also quite a lot by Pope Benedict).

    Also, Father is of course not claiming that the demons have been universally destroyed. He’s referring to those who are baptized — that they are freed from the tyranny of demons because they enter into Christ. At least, that’s how I read it. This assertion is part of the Catholic baptismal creed as well, albeit in slightly different, and perhaps less dramatic, language. Also, the baptismal creeds of various high church/sacramental Protestants.

  45. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    ““Reasonable faith” is exactly what Paul said he had: “beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service.” Rom 12:1; my Bible says, “with your power of reason”. Didn’t he believe in an invisible God, whose messenger was a man executed for crimes against God and the State? Didn’t he join with those who had “seen” [they said] that ‘criminal’ come back to life? Yet he says he is reasonable!”

    I think bad translation has led you astray regarding Romans 12:1. “Reasonable service” is a poor rendering of the Greek “logike latreia,” which means literally “logos-like service.” Paul is not exhorting us to be “rational” in the modern, scientific sense, but rather to be conformed to the likeness of Logos. Thus the eucharist is often called a “reasonable sacrifice” in the ancient Christian liturgies, for it is both unbloody — that is, spiritual — and a participation in the true Reason of all things: the Logos, the Word.

  46. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    “And this did happen- Jesus gave us a “new covenant”. It includes baptism, observing the memorial of Christ’s death (the “Last Supper”), and preaching the good news of God’s kingdom just as he did it- “quoting from the Bible”. (My 24:14)”

    Interesting that your description omits the eucharist, since it was only in reference to that mystery — the sum and apex of all the other mysteries — that Christ Himself spoke of a “new testament”/”new covenant.”

  47. John Avatar

    How do you understand Luke 17.21? Note the ESV says in the midst of you instead of within you, which seems to imply a different meaning.

  48. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    John,
    The Greek is quite as ambiguous. It’s simply the preposition en which can mean, with, in, within, among, etc. But the context (both in the passage and in the general tenor of Luke) certainly makes me go with “among.” “Within” is almost too “mystical” in the sense of “private mysticism” for Luke, Matthew or Mark. You could argue for such a point in John perhaps. But here Christ is contrasting something as not being “over there” or “over there.” It’s not somewhere else, it’s among you. And I would say that Christ Himself is the Kingdom for which they are looking and they don’t know it.

  49. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    Doug, I think yours is a classic case of not understanding Fr. Stephen’s Orthodox vernacular very well (and, like so many of us in terms of background whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, being more steeped in a western theological tradition). That’s okay. It takes a little time. Keep reading.

  50. Andrew Avatar

    Well put indeed, Father Steve!

  51. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    “[T]he Son is neither simply one thing as one thing, nor many things as parts, but one thing as all things; whence also He is all things. For He is the circle of all powers rolled and united into one unity. Wherefore the Word is called the Alpha and the Omega, of whom alone the end becomes beginning, and ends again at the original beginning without any break. Wherefore also to believe in Him, and by Him, is to become a unit, being indissolubly united in Him; and to disbelieve is to be separated, disjoined, divided.” –Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 4:25

  52. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    Karen, I have tried to point out that the “vernacular” of the Bible writers (my “Doctors” and “Fathers” is clearer, simpler, and hangs together better than all the archimandrites in China. Just as it should be if the Bible is indeed God’s word for my salvation. Jesus (the Word incarnate) came to the “people of the earth” as the Pharisees called them- the thinly veiled meaning being “dirt”. (Hebrew am-harets.) Remember the first teachers? It was said of them, “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” And their preaching was understood by thousands wherever they went.

  53. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    Doug, how many archimandrites are there in China, anyway? 🙂

  54. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    PJ, a quick check of online Bibles shows me “reasonable”, “intelligent”, “spiritual”. None have “word-like”. I take the first two to be synonyms for our purposes, and “spiritual” means here ‘by God’s standards’; God being certainly intelligent and reasonable. I believe this validates my point to John Shores that a Christian’s faith is not “blind”, as opposers often say.
    Then you say, “Thus the eucharist is often called a “reasonable sacrifice” in the ancient Christian liturgies.” I’m not a capital-E Eucharistic believer, as I’m sure you can guess. My “ancient” liturgy is- as I have said- Biblical. More ancient than Chrysostom or Aquinas. Example of “reasonable”: I have often heard about the “unbloody” sacrifice of the Eucharist or Mass. How so, if Jesus is actually contained in the wafer eaten by the faithful? “Jesus’ shed blood”- meaning Calvary- is an exhortatory phrase often used by preachers. You and others say further that the sacrifice is ‘renewed as often as’ and so on. How then is it “unbloody”?
    Now look at what my “Doctor and Father” Paul says, at Hebrews 9:24 ff., “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, [which are] the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, … Nor yet that he should offer himself OFTEN, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; … but now ONCE in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself … So Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” And similarly in ch. 10. Paul also being a lawyer in the Law, and just the right person to explain the types-antitypes to us. And he is logical and reasonable.
    Back to the OP. Can’t we say, if Paul is correct, that re-enacting this interchange between God and his son is an ’empty’ ritual?

  55. Rhonda Avatar

    Doug,

    No one here has any objection to your quoting the Holy Scriptures for we (Orthodox) also greatly value them. The Divine Liturgy as well as all Orthodox liturgical services contain copious quotations & references to the Holy Scriptures. A copy of the Gospels is kept on the very altar itself. Orthodox Christians are highly encouraged to read & contemplate the daily lectionary readings. The Psalter (the Psalms) is considered the hymnbook of the Church & forms an integral part of every Orthodox service. It has been arranged into 20 sections (kathismata) for reading & is meant to be read through once per week, twice per week during Great Lent. There are many practices in which the Orthodox read the Holy Scriptures that have no equivalent in the Protestant world such as on Holy Friday when the book of Acts is read in commemoration of our Lord’s entombment or over the body of a deceased priest before his burial.

    Yes, the Orthodox greatly revere the Holy Scriptures. We revere them so much that there is one thing that we do not do. We do not subject them to our own individual/private interpretation(s) which can only lead to error upon error upon error. The Holy Scriptures were written by the Church for those in the Church. They were never meant to be understood outside of the context of the Church. We conform our understanding to the Holy Scriptures; we do not conform the Holy Scriptures to our understanding…nor that of the latest media headlines, newspapers, TV & etc.

    We do not read the Church Fathers or any of the others mentioned because we revere them more than the Holy Scriptures or we believe them over the Scriptures. They grant us valuable insight as to how the Holy Scriptures were understood & interpreted throughout Church history. I find it highly ironic that you so glibly dismiss our references to “Archimandrite Zaccarius, Christos Yannaros, John Chrysostom (which means Golden Mouth), Thomas Hopko and such”, Christians that have studied, lived & devoted their whole lives to Christ, because “they did not write the Bible”. And yet you propose that we “compare” the Holy Scriptures to “‘Net, TV and newspapers”! Really?

  56. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    “then you must be a Catholic like me”
    Nope. Catholics tell me, ‘You wouldn’t have the Bible at all if we hadn’t given it to you!’ Their next word, usually, is to contradict the clear statment of [their] scripture with a tradition of their men.
    BTW: “Catholic like me” isn’t so good here, is it? At least not since 1054! Perhaps fathersteven is mellower than the mutual-anathema guys. Now, THERE’s something to read.

  57. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    Doug, seriously, though, I have met many people who would say the same thing (and it sounds very like something I would have thought or said when I was an Evangelical Protestant steeped in the language of the Scriptures and the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura”). The longer I live as a Christian, and particularly now as an Orthodox Christian, the more I realize that it is one thing to understand the surface of Scripture’s text and something of the “literal” meaning and be familiar with its language (as well as that of the Fathers), which is not without value. Yet it is quite another to grasp its depth–which is the very Person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (and who can fully comprehend Him?). Having many times been frustrated in my attempts to understand the Scriptures in a coherent way that would consistently draw me into real experiential communion with Christ as an Evangelical, I appreciate very much Fr. Stephen’s efforts to clarify and remove the obstacles in the modern mindset (e.g., the historical approach to understanding the Scriptures) to understanding the Scriptures in greater depth spiritually as revealing Christ sacramentally that I may have true communion with Him, which is also the fruit of the Orthodox spiritual and liturgical tradition. This learning has been a long process for me, and I have been reading Fr. Stephen’s blog for a few years now, so that is the context of my earlier comment to you.

  58. Rhonda Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    I have been remiss in thanking you for yet another wonderful & insightful article 🙂 Your lengthy answer to John Shores was also excellent!

  59. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    Quoting from my last comment to Doug: . . . “it sounds very like something I would have thought or said when I was an Evangelical Protestant steeped in the language of the Scriptures and the doctrine of ‘Sola Scriptura’ . . .”

    And now having seen Doug’s last comment (apparently to PJ denying being Catholic): Bingo!

  60. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    Marc,
    You write about matters that are beyond the larger part of the Tradition – i.e. the treatment about the material in Revelation. It’s not somewhere I bother to go since I don’t find a lot of trail-markers there left by the fathers. It’s also a book that Protestants have spilt more ink over than any other and their error colors most people’s thoughts on the topic.

    As to linearity versus circularity. I certainly have no truck with circularity. But you don’t seem to be familiar with the teaching of the fathers on eschatological (last things) matters – which are not so much about “last things” as it is about the nature of time, space, mystery, sacrament, redemption, etc. St. Maximus the Confessor is a proper source for this in the fathers but is extremely difficult to read. I would recommend Met. John Zizioulas if its an area you’d want to dig into. His Being as Communion is a good book to start with – but also a very difficult read. The understandings in it a very non-linear and at first will feel confusing.

    Physics at present, as well as higher mathematics are quite non-linear. Linearity is not Judaeo-Christian, it’s just later Western stuff. The Latins forgot most of what the Eastern Christians knew.

    Apologies PJ.

  61. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    Doug,
    “Online” Bible tools are not a substitute for knowing Greek. I apologize that the discussion sometimes presumes that a reader know the underlying Greek word in Scripture. Often, I try to spell some of that out. We had very lengthy discussions a couple of months back about the word “logikos,” often translated “reasonable” and what it actually means.

    But online Bibles are simply insufficient. In this case, it’s listen, ask questions and learn, rather than read weak, secondary sources and argue. You don’t have to agree with what you read here, no one expects that, but ask questions and learn something rather than arguing with people who could actually teach you something. That’s the Christian way.

    You speak about the Scriptures as being a simple book, written for simple people. That’s not true. And the Scriptures say that it isn’t true. 2 Peter 3:16 – St. Peter says that St. Paul writes things that are difficult to understand and that many people don’t understand them. It’s why the Scriptures (again) say that Christ appointed “teachers” in the Church (Ephesians 4:11). I’m an ordained priest of the Orthodox Church, trained, taught, ordained and appointed for teaching in the Church. I’m glad to do it and the years of study and prayer that have gone into this ministry have been worth it. Of course, it would have been a waste if the Bible was a “simple” book.

    This is a very welcoming blogsite and disagreement is ok. But questions and discussion is better. Asserting points about things you don’t know is just argument and argument is useless.

    Forgive my frankness if it’s too blunt. I mean no disrespect.

  62. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    Doug,

    “PJ, a quick check of online Bibles shows me “reasonable”, “intelligent”, “spiritual”. None have “word-like”.”

    That’s the thing, Doug. Exegesis requires more than “a quick check of online Bibles,” especially when those Bibles are not in the original language.

    Word-like is a literal translation, as I said. “Reasonable” is acceptable. However, what you think “reasonable” means is not what Paul meant. “Logike latreia” had a very specific meaning in the intellectual and religious milieu in which the Apostle moved.

    Consider the words of Chrysostom: “If every day you bring Him yourself as a sacrifice, and become the priest of your own body, and of the virtue of your soul; as, for example, when you offer soberness, when almsgiving, when goodness and forbearance. For in doing this you offer a reasonable service (or worship, λατρείαν), that is, one without anything that is bodily, gross, visible.”

    “I take the first two to be synonyms for our purposes, and “spiritual” means here ‘by God’s standards’; God being certainly intelligent and reasonable. I believe this validates my point to John Shores that a Christian’s faith is not “blind”, as opposers often say.”

    We can agree on one thing: I don’t think our faith is “blind,” either.

    Nonetheless, you fail to grasp the nuance of Paul’s words because you are unaware of the context in which he writes — a context entirely foreign to modern day Protestantism (and, sadly, even much Catholicism).

    “Then you say, “Thus the eucharist is often called a “reasonable sacrifice” in the ancient Christian liturgies.” I’m not a capital-E Eucharistic believer, as I’m sure you can guess.”

    So you are a Protestant.

    “My “ancient” liturgy is- as I have said- Biblical. More ancient than Chrysostom or Aquinas.”

    Please, my friend, do not speak about that which you do not know. The liturgy of Aquinas and Chrysostom were (are!) Biblical and apostolic, as non-canonical literature — beginning with St. Ignatius, who was taught by St. John — makes clear. The heart of the Eucharistic celebration, as practiced by Orthodox and Catholics and some Protestants, is recorded as early as the late 1st century — at the very edge of the apostolic edge.

    “Example of “reasonable”: I have often heard about the “unbloody” sacrifice of the Eucharist or Mass. How so, if Jesus is actually contained in the wafer eaten by the faithful? “Jesus’ shed blood”- meaning Calvary- is an exhortatory phrase often used by preachers. You and others say further that the sacrifice is ‘renewed as often as’ and so on. How then is it “unbloody”?”

    First, Jesus is not “contained” in the wafer. The bread is a sacrament — a symbol in the true sense: it makes present that which it signifies. This sacred mystery is testified by the earliest Christians, some of whom were taught directly by the apostles. Those who taught otherwise are known as heretics even by Protestants (Basilides, etc.).

    The sacrifice of Calvary was of course bloody, but we partake of it in an unbloody, mystical manner. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, but it is received “spiritually,” “reasonably” — but truly. It is a great mystery.

    It is also called a sacrifice because in it “the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church).

    The Eucharist is more than just the sacrifice of the man Jesus Christ: It is the sacrifice of the whole Church — all redeemed creation — in and through the Word.

    We are saved precisely because God allows us to participate in the Son’s self-offering. And in His mercy, He allows this through the medium of bread and wine. This is why we call it the “sacrament of love.”

    “Now look at what my “Doctor and Father” Paul says, at Hebrews 9:24 ff., “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, [which are] the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, … Nor yet that he should offer himself OFTEN, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; … but now ONCE in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself … So Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

    Absolutely. There is only one sacrifice, once and for all time, but it is not bound by time. Christ is the Lamb “slain before the foundation of the world.” His self-offering transcends time and space, and we partake of it regularly in the Eucharst. We make it our own, for we are the Body of Christ, and so we bear His burdens and enjoy His benefits. We “lift up our hearts” and join in the heavenly liturgy, which is made present here on earth through the Holy Spirit.

    “Paul is correct, that re-enacting this interchange between God and his son is an ‘empty’ ritual?”

    We aren’t “re-enacting” like actors in a historical film. We are truly — if mystically, sacramentally — participating in the entire mystery of Christ: His incarnation, His self-offering, His resurrection, His ascension. This is the theology of the Bible and the Fathers, held unanimously for 1500 years. Even today, it remains the dominant paradigm.

    As the noted Protestant (!) patristic scholar JND Kelly noted: “The eucharist was regarded as the distinctively Christian sacrifice from the closing decade of the first century, if not earlier … The eucharist was also, of course, the great act of worship of Christians, their sacrifice The writers and liturgies of the period are unanimous in recognizing it as such.”

  63. Rhonda Avatar

    John Shores:

    I for one do not feel that you are a “thorn” in anyone’s side 🙂 You are sincere, thoughtful & contemplative as is evident in your comments.

    Your words echo my own before I became Orthodox approximately 10 years ago…I was not quite 38 & had left my childhood faith at age 16. They also echo the great majority of Protestant converts that I have met. They echo the words of many non-Orthodox that I discuss the Orthodox Faith with. We are all concerned with “…safety and not being duped (again).”

    You wrote: “I am coming to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a “reasonable faith” (e.g. a faith that can be mastered intellectually)…” Of course not! If God could so be “mastered intellectually” he would not be God & there would be no such thing as faith. However, the Church Fathers talk of us as being rational sheep & our reasonable faith.

    And yes, this is a stark contrast to “Protestant-thinking” & its resulting “madness”. The typical Protestant (& this includes Protestant converts to Orthodoxy) are typically quite neurotic. If I remember correctly, Fr. Stephen has also written about his experiences in dealing with this neuroticism & its effects. Perhaps he will be so kind as to refer us to past articles??

    “I don’t know if there is a way for me to abdicate reason when it comes to ‘spiritual things’…” At no time are we to “abdicate reason”! However, this is not the same as throwing all common sense out of the window! We can never fully comprehend God or faith or love or any one (including ourselves). God is beyond all reason, but believing in God is not therefore unreasonable. You are scared of others duping you again, but be careful that you do not in turn “dupe” yourself through your reason.

    “I spent so many years longing for the kingdom and never experiencing anything except disappointment and heartache. I cannot fathom that a god who saw one as hungry as I would continue to allow him to starve in a Protestant dream for so many years. How is it that honest seekers are not guided by god to where they can actually experience the kingdom?”

    Again, I understand what you are saying & I myself have thought much along the same lines. All I can say is that as I look back on my own life, I can now see God’s leading, working & love for me through it all. Also, I can see how I worked & rebelled against His loving will for me in so many ways. I don’t know all of the why’s of my life, but I understand enough that I am thankful for them. I am thankful for the long path I traveled to Orthodoxy & that I am still traveling, for that matter. You are wrong in your concluding statement, though. God does lead honest seekers, & He even leads the dishonest ones like myself 😉

    I wholeheartedly agree with Fr. Stephen’s words:

    come and see!

  64. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    Rereading what I just wrote, I realize that I gushed a bit. I’m sorry if I was overly verbose, but this is dear to my heart, and of such crucial importance.

    The main problem is that you’re working with Biblical words, but you’ve altered their meanings. I recommend a good study of early non-canonical Christian literature, if you have the time. It’s definitely worth it.

    You should stick around, Doug. You seem to be earnest and God-fearing, and that’s wonderful. I hope I didn’t come on too strong. Try to keep an open mind!

  65. Deacon Stephen Hayes Avatar

    One of the things I find significant in the part you quoted is the “make it to be”.

    Some people ask why, if baptism is for the remission of sins, did Jesus, who was sinless, need to be baptised?

    And it seems to me that the difference between our baptism is his is that when he went into the Jordan, the water was changed, but when we go into the water, we are changed. The Jordan valley is the lowest place on the surface of the earth, and that is where he went to take our sins upon him. In our baptism we put on his clean garment, whereas in his, he put on our dirty garments (Zechariah 3) and took upon himself the sins of the world. And in so doing he trampled upon the heads of the dragons who lurked therein.

    And all this is possible because he “made it to be”, and we can call on him to “make it to be” all those things.

  66. Rhonda Avatar

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen, for your frankness! Well said 🙂

  67. Rhonda Avatar

    I agree about Met. John Zizioulas’ Being as Communion. It is definitely worth the time, thought & effort! My very patient priest has had to answer a multitude of questions from this book for me.

  68. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    Deacon Stephen,
    Over the years, I’ve come to see that Christ was Baptized for the same reason He was crucified, dead and risen, because – it was essentially the same act, only done in a different manner. All of the texts surrounding Theophany and the Blessing of the Waters (and Baptism) make this clear. The “remission of sins” in Baptism, is the “remission of sins” in the destruction of death and Hades. This action of Christ – most fully revealed at Golgotha – is relentlessly revealed to us – if I may say it in such a manner. Christ’s Pascha, from the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the Creation from Nothing, the salvation of Noah, the destruction of Pharoah, Jonah from the belly of the whale, through to His Eucharistic wonders after the resurrection, and so many more are revealed again and again. He was sacrificed “once and for all” and yet that one sacrifice has been present even before the Creation. What goodness!

  69. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    ‘Online’ Bible tools are not a substitute for knowing Greek.

    Because, clearly, those who understand the original Greek have never disputed over its meaning. 🙂

    This has always bothered me. If I cannot take what the book says for what it says, what’s the point in reading it? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “What he really meant was…”, I’d be living in Malibu.

    That said, it seems to me that Orthodoxy has something of a right to make this claim simply because Orthodox understanding is not one man’s interpretation but the result of much, um, “discussion” among its founders. Said another way, it isn’t that everyone should learn Greek but that when an Orthodox teacher points to the Greek it is by way of explaining why the Fathers taught thus and such and not a means of saying “I know Greek and you don’t so you can’t possibly understand.” That’s a hard thing for my recovering Protestant mind to come to terms with though.

    Doug: I constantly feel the pull to present my side of a case and challenge people to poke holes in it but I have learned (largely via a growing respect for Orthodox Christians and my desire not to offend) how to sift things down to the central issues and present them as questions (as Fr. Stephen requests).

    There is nothing as simple as taking the Limbaugh approach (not that I accuse you of this but that I found that it was one that I had unconsciously adopted) and spout what I think while implying to others that this is how they should think. Ridiculing opposing viewpoints (even if it is self-contained ridicule that never leaves your own head) then becomes very simple (although unproductive).

    When I learned how to listen, I discovered what an idiot Limbaugh (and Maher and the rest, just to be fair) actually is. He has all the answers (so he thinks) and constantly tells his listeners “Don’t be fooled by what (insert name) actually said. This is how you need to understand his words” which, in essence, implies that his listeners are stupid, the person about whom he is speaking is insipid, and he (Limbaugh) is a pillar of wisdom. It is a formula that leads to the sort of divisiveness that we find polarizing us today. And it’s merely an echo of how Protestantism has operated for hundreds of years (“We’re right but they have it all wrong.”).

    I have found it better to take a moderate approach of asking and sincerely listening because that is the only way that people on both sides of a discussion will tell you what they actually think. I then decide what I think is right and I keep it to myself unless I am pried for a response.

    By way of example, after the last presidential debate, two of my daughters asked me who I was voting for. They wanted a definite answer. Instead, I explained to them the issues that I was weighing, none of which they had considered. By the end of the discussion, without any prompting except to expose them to the questions, they began to reflect on what the candidates were saying and one responded, “I hadn’t thought of this before. Now (the candidate that she initially opposed) is starting to sound pretty good.” I concluded by telling them that I would not tell them who I was voting for because it is more important to me that they learn how to think and make decisions than to be swayed by mine.

    This is a very difficult approach for many people to take since we are, at our core, followers who want to be told which way to go.

    This is (hopefully) how I have presented myself in this community. I am pretty incredulous over a great deal of what I read here but I will say that the views expressed here cause me to think and ruminate and I am not nearly as antichristian as I was six months ago. Call it progress, if you will. But even if I never enter the fold (I seem to be highly allergic to wool), at the very least I’m not castigating the whole of Christendom any longer.

    One thing is certain, it is not profitable to come to an Orthodox website and think that the community has no understanding of Protestant thinking. From my experience, most people that you find in Orthodox discussions are recovering Protestants. I would prescribe high doses of listening and reading the suggested works (and learning really big words that no one else uses) in order to combat the natural incredulity that comes from detoxing from Protestant indoctrination.

  70. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    Rhonda: Thanks for your reply. I must admit that at times the whole idea of god is so large and/or unbelievable that I see no choice but to either dive in and take my chances with whatever religious group I land in or to retreat and watch from the outside with the same fascination with which I view die-hard sports fanatics or people who are fulling into ComiCon. Just watching how they operate and how they so intensely discuss their team or comic-book characters is terribly interesting.

    Humans are fascinating. Particularly humans in troops.

    I haven’t even gotten as far as that there is a god but the writings here have helped me unravel a great deal of the neuroses of my heavily indoctrinated Protestant upbringing. And, I must say, I am becoming fond of several people here.

  71. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    …”fully”, not “fulling”.

  72. dinoship Avatar
    dinoship

    From an Orthodox perspective, Christ our Saviour is always portrayed as the Crucified and Exalted God-Man, our Pascha… He is, as made evident through the iconography and hymnography of the Church, hidden behind everything in that form, whether it is the ancient slain Abel, or the slain last martyrs. Understanding that, is not dissimilar to the understanding imparted by Jesus when he “opened the Scriptures” to his disciples on the way to Emmaus.
    Concerning the Book of Revelations and its connection to the playing out of history as understood by us moderns (only a small part of what that book is about), the few Fathers that commented on this adopt the “spiral method”. ie: both cyclical and linear with progressive, increasing density up to the very end. So, the fact that Pharoah, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Nero, Hitler, are all antichrists does not deny that there will be an antichrist at the last times.
    However, we do not dwell on this like so many Protestant influenced Christianity does, we constantly, singularly, passionately dwell on Christ alone.

  73. dinoship Avatar
    dinoship

    John Shores,

    “I see no choice but to either dive in and take my chances …”

    I enjoy your comments very much.
    This made me want to point out (generally) that taking the plunge is not a one time occurrence, and not capitulating with the ‘world’ isn’t either…
    It is something that requires renewal daily. (ongoing “metanoia” we would call it).
    This signifies that the one who does this the right way, (the Saint if you will) is never enslaved to it but voluntarily dives in again and again, having the ability not to (being in constant ‘danger’ if you will – though this is a result of his true freedom).

  74. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    “I for one do not feel that you are a “thorn” in anyone’s side 🙂 You are sincere, thoughtful & contemplative as is evident in your comments.”

    Agreed. John has turned out to be a fine resident skeptic. The loyal opposition, as the Brits say. 😉

    “This has always bothered me. If I cannot take what the book says for what it says, what’s the point in reading it?”

    The problem is not that Scripture is hopelessly obscure — though it is mysterious in places, as you’d expect with any text concerning the Divine Nature.

    Rather, the problem is that many modern Christians read the Bible without understanding the context, because they read it apart from the tradition that has preserved this “context.” As such, the meaning is distorted.

    The phrase “logike latreia” is a perfect example. “Reasonable” means one thing to a modern American; it meant quite a different thing to a 1st century Hellenized Jew. The same thing with the word “figure” or “symbol.” Protestants read the fathers calling the Eucharist a “symbol” and they believe this means that it is simply an empty sign. However, the Greco-Roman world had a “realistic” understanding of symbols: they believed that they make present that which they signify.

    Americans want everything to be simple, available to the common man. It’s part of our grossly democratic nature. This bent is especially pronounced in matters of religion, concerning which we’re regular Jacobins. But it just ain’t so …

  75. Rhonda Avatar

    JS:

    I haven’t even gotten as far as that there is a god

    You are way way closer than you think, my friend 🙂

  76. Rhonda Avatar

    …much closer than many of my Protestant relatives & friends 😉

  77. Rhonda Avatar

    John Shores,

    “I see no choice but to either dive in and take my chances …”

    My first priest told me (repeatedly) “Relax & breathe, Rhonda. Relax & breathe.” when I was an inquirer, catechuman & newly received. My current priest still tells me this, though not nearly as often.

    We have a catechumen (via the Baptist > RC > Orthodox route) who was an inquirer for over 2 years. After the 1st year his long-term fiance became an inquirer; that was 1 1/2 years ago. They are still several months away from being married & received along with her 3-year old grandson; the dates are still “tentative” at best. There is nothing wrong with this scenario & I personally think it is best.

    So…Relax & breathe, John. Relax & breathe. This is not much different than “Be still & know.”

  78. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    The problem is not that Scripture is hopelessly obscure…

    I had hoped that my following paragraph elucidated that I think that the Orthodox have more right to clarify Scriptures than other “Christian” groups. From what I gather, the writin’s o’ the fathers give the Bible context. They are the nuclear power plant that contains the uranium of the scriptures. The scriptures alone seem to be fatal to many.

    the plunge is not a one time occurrence

    This sounds like waaay too much work to me… 🙂 I find just being the me that I am is a full time job. I like Rhonda’s advice better… “Relax & breathe.”

  79. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    John shores,
    Interestingly, as time has gone on, I don’t have to “try” to be Orthodox. It is easily integrated into my life (One-Storey Universe sort of thing). In the modern world people seem to have to try to be a lot of things, because nobody is what they are.

  80. dinoship Avatar
    dinoship

    John Shores,
    point taken re “too much work”…
    At the same time however, anything other than what we were created to be is “too much work”….
    Forgetting oneself and remembering the Only One Who truly loves me, the ‘Centre’ of all, (unceasingly even) is only “too much work” for my “old self” who does not want to be forgotten as he always posits himself in the position of the centre of the universe.
    There is nothing easier or more natural if seen from the angle of Truth (as explained by Christ and the Orthodox Church). It is child’s play.
    It really is astounding how immense the variation of one’s perception of the “Cross” can be!
    It ranges the entire gamut: from the most vile (as was the worldly perception of the cross before – and still is) to the most desirable thing of all (a paradisal Pascha of the resurrection).
    The strength of my self-love or not is the measure of how it is perceived by me.
    In other wo

  81. dinoship Avatar
    dinoship

    In other words, the “sorrows” (the crosses) of the life without God as well as the “joys” of that secular life are, if analysed with deep existential honesty, without meaning and unbearable.
    While the crosses and the joys of the spiritual life in Christ are all full to the brim with meaning; especially the “crosses”.
    A famous hesychast Elder of our times (Ephraim of Katounakia – Athos), radiant and full of “fire” once said: I am more grateful for the “crosses” than the paradisal joys I experienced in my life (at 86 years old) , they were “joys” of which I cannot ever express my appreciation to the Lord.
    It is true that there is no greater honour bestowed on man than them – paradoxical as this might seem to our worldly rationality.
    St Paul also writes of being more grateful for them…

  82. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    Admittedly, I’m still in the “most vile” camp. Any form of human sacrifice (voluntary or otherwise), much less the cannibalistic nature of Eucharist (if one sees the wafer and wine as actual flesh and blood) is a bit too much for my sensibilities. Whether we are talking about reconciliation, forgiveness, remission of sins or what have you, horrific violence would not be at the top of my list of possible remedies.

    To my mind, it would be more than a little disturbing to sing:

    “You bloodied your baby
    Smashed his head against the wall
    You bloodied your baby
    To save us from the Fall”*

    …which is about on par with how I view the Cross at present. I believe that the scriptures mention something along the lines of how the natural mind reels at the thought so I hope I can be pardoned for this viewpoint.


    *La salvación por infanticida – Words and music by Juan Costas. All rights reserved.

  83. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    JohnS,
    Too much Calvin. Bad for the mind.

  84. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    “Any form of human sacrifice (voluntary or otherwise), much less the cannibalistic nature of Eucharist (if one sees the wafer and wine as actual flesh and blood) is a bit too much for my sensibilities. ”

    What about the soldier who jumps on a grenade to save the rest of his platoon? What about the priest who takes the place of a would-be-victim in a death camp? What about the mother who forgoes an abortion at the cost of her own life? These are all instances of “human sacrifice.” This is “giving yourself up for your friends” and “loving til the end,” to use Christ’s own worse regarding His passion. Indeed, in a real way, anyone who loves engages in “human sacrifice,” for they give themselves for the well-being of another — right down to the Average Joe who works his fingers raw so that his kids can have a good education.

    Pope Benedict writes about the true nature of Calvary thusly:

    “When our text says that Jesus accomplished the expiation through His blood, this blood is again not to be understood as a material gift, a quantitatively measurable means of expiation; it is simply the concrete expression of a love of which it is said that it extends ‘to the end.’ It is the expression of the totality of His surrender and of His service; an embodiment of the fact that He offers no more and no less than Himself. The gesture of the love that gives all — this, and this alone … was the real means by which the world was reconciled; therefore the hour of the Cross is the cosmic day of reconciliation, the true and definitive feast of reconciliation…

    “The Christian sacrifice is nothing other than the exodus of the ‘for’ that abandons itself, a process perfected in the Man who is all exodus, all self-surpassing love … By offering humanity to God, Christ incorporates it in His salvation … He who was crucified has smelted the body of humanity into the ‘Yes’ of worship …

    “The New Testament is the story of the God who of His own accord wished to become, in Christ, the Omega — the last letter — in the alphabet of creation. It is the story of the God who is Himself the act of love, the pure ‘for’ … He took from man’s hands the sacrificial offerings and put in their place His sacrificed personality, His own ‘I.’”

  85. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    It’s also worth mentioning that Christ did not *have* to die in such a terrible and horrific way. He intentionally chose to do so. Why? Not to legitimize human sacrifice, but to destroy it. On the Cross, God threw Himself on the cogs of the machinery of human evil and destroyed it with love.

    If this is not understood, Christianity is not understood.

  86. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    Indeed, if that is not understood, you have paganism, the rank satisfaction of a hungry, savage deity with the blood of an innocent victim. Sadly, as even the Pope admits, this notion has cropped up again in again within the minds and writings and pious practices of the faithful. Why? Because it is totally natural. The desire for expiation runs deep in mankind. It testifies to the reality of our fallen state. However, only through the Cross do we really understand that expiation means — and it isn’t the violent satisfaction of bloodlust.

  87. Rhonda Avatar

    John Shores:

    Penal substition theory has no place within Orthodoxy. Check out an earlier article from 8/31/2012 by Fr. Stephen entitled “Justice Enough?”
    https://glory2godforallthings.com/2012/08/31/justice-enough/

  88. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    Karen: Sola scriptura is not my doctrine; not anyone’s that I know of. I have encountered it most often as a red herring offered by Catholics in lieu of rational discussion. Example: A Catholic tells me of the value of the Rosary, a doctrine of his Church. [‘The one that gave you the Bible!’] I cite Jesus, “And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard” [as to the repetitiveness] and “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me” [as to the many prayers directed to Mary]. He responds, ‘Well, if you wanna go sola scriptura on me …’ 🙂
    You were “steeped in the language of the Scriptures” … which is a bad thing? Jesus- your God- didn’t think so: “… it is written … it is written … it is written …”. Neither did Paul, whom Jesus visited in a “special” way with verbal instructions: “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice: That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.”
    As you should have noted, I’ve used the scriptures exclusively in my comments here. I use them in English, my native language, because I understand it best. I believe that is what God intended in having them written, post-Babel, in Hebrew, then Aramaic (with some Persian loanwords) and then Greek. That Greek BTW was the common language of 2000 years ago, not of today. It was the English of its day. Wealthy Romans bought literate Greeks as slaves to teach it to their children. Fatherstephen should perhaps write his blog in Greek, to ‘preach in what he practices’ so to speak. God furnished the first translators himself, at Pentecost. Why? So that those in attendance- all Jews BTW- could ‘hear them speak in their own tongues the wonderful works of God.’ Why not today? Because there are men now with translation skills and printing presses.
    God’s word in your own language is a life-saving gift; don’t belittle it.

  89. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    “, “And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard”

    Again, you misunderstand because of lack of context. The pagans would recite long lists of “divine names,” as well as spells and incantations, in order to invoke the help of the gods. Jesus’ condemned this practice because God cannot be summoned or otherwise manipulated by prayer. He’s not making any commentary on the repetition of prayers that are meant to deepen our understanding of, love for, and communion with the Lord.

    Furthermore, nobody thinks that he is saved by Mary or any other saint. We pray for those who are alive in Christ — and ask for prayers in return — because we love them and we are members of the same mystical body. In short, we pray to them and for them for the exact same reasons why we pray to them and for them while on earth.

  90. dinoship Avatar
    dinoship

    Doug,
    sorry, it is not clear to me what position you are defending in that comment.

  91. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    fatherstephen: “Online” Bible tools are not a substitute for knowing Greek”. No? Those not in koiné Greek were translated from it, like my print Bibles at home. On the ‘Net the online Bibles are handiest, since I do this from a public computer. My responsibility is to make sure my quotes are correct and apposite; yours is to cite me if I’m wrong.
    “We had very lengthy discussions … about the word “logikos,” … and what it actually means.” What it actually meant the translators whose Bibles I cited was “reasonable” or “intelligent” or an equivalent. Next time please quote from your own fatherstephen translation. (I’m sure you have one; no doubt modesty has kept you from using it heretofore.)
    “read weak, secondary sources and argue” That’s not what those translators would say. “Secondary” yes, because we have no autograph copies. “Weak”? Not according to Strong, Tischenbach and many others, ’the nibs of whose pens I am not fit to carry’.
    God’s word in the vernacular is a life-saving gift. Belittle it if you will for yourself, but don’t keep others from it. Mt 23:15

  92. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    Jesus: “No one comes to the Father except BY ME.” PJ: Wait, wait … you don’t understand context! Sola Scriptura!’ [The context? Luke tells us, “one of his disciples said to him: Lord, teach us to pray”.]
    Not repetetive or unscriptural? Count the number of beads for the prayers TO Mary (they’re the ones beginning, “Hail, Mary, full of grace …”), multiply by the number of trips around the Rosary, multiply by the number of times you were assigned at confesion …
    And perhaps you can explain: Why is the Rosary assigned to sinful Catholics as punishment?

  93. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    John Shores: A good point about Limbaugh, Maher and their breed. The Bible is my absolute because I believe it’s the word of the Absolute God, but my auditors are not required to think so. And questions are better than dogma (otherwise I would be Catholic!)
    Start with this: For better or worse, we live on the earth. Not always fun, but we’re stuck with it. A question many have asked is, “Why was it created?” Please give me your own answer, and any answer you find in your Bible. (Any language; just don’t forget to translate. 1 Cor 14:13)

  94. John Avatar
    John

    Father and others,

    Perhaps it is best if we let this convo with Doug die. Some battles aren’t worth fighting. Methinks thjs might apply here.

    John

  95. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    PJ:

    What about the soldier who jumps on a grenade to save the rest of his platoon?

    So, god became a man to throw himself on a grenade? I don’t see the similarities. If a grenade is thrown among soldiers, that is hardly the same thing as knowingly leading your soldiers into a grenade factory that you created.

    If the story is true, he set up the conditions of the whole human experiment and as the ultimate power has the ultimate responsibility for how it played out. All this mess is therefore according to his will, however you slice it. I’m just a conscientious objector to the whole notion. I would prefer that god be more sensible. But, as I am learning, there are many ways to view things and I may very likely not stumbled upon the correct one (then again I may have; it’s so hard to discern these things).

    The gesture of the love that gives all — this, and this alone … was the real means by which the world was reconciled

    Again, reconciliation by its very nature does not require a sacrifice. If two are at odds, it takes forgiveness on the part of one or both. Again, that is an act of the will that requires no prerequisites except a charitable intent.

    Not to legitimize human sacrifice, but to destroy it. On the Cross, God threw Himself on the cogs of the machinery of human evil and destroyed it with love.

    By that rationale, he ought to have lovingly submitted himself to be raped in order to end rape. That makes no sense to me.

    Doug: Chill dude! We are all friends here. No need to be combative.

  96. dinoship Avatar
    dinoship

    The Church existed without the New Testament (for centuries) though never without the Eucharist.
    It was the Church that took the final decision as to what will be contained in Scripture, based on what conformed with the Truth hid in it: Christ the Divine Logos, crucified yet exalted.

    “God’s word in the vernacular is a life-saving gift”

    Well, Scripture can also, however, become an aid to perdition; I am not talking heresy here, I mean if used to judge others and justify oneself.
    We need to discover God’s Word – as in Christ, first and foremost; not God’s word -as in scripture.
    I need to discover Christ the Word and allow Him to change me into what He is showing me. This requires a measure of humility.
    If I have not come to know my weaknesses, passions and flaws, I am far from knowing anything at all; even if I know all of scripture inside out. all I am capable of is seeing defects in others.

  97. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    John Shores: “combative”? Boy, was I misunderstood! Just asking a question which many have asked throughout history; deserves an answer from God, if there is one. I agree that I do get dogmatic, so I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. 🙂
    BTW I have an agenda: The question does have a simple, clear answer in the Bible, as does another one, ‘Why am I here on the earth.’ And so on, one simple point at a time in order to determine (from the Bible, anyway) why it’s considered necessary for one man to die for others. I thought you were interested in an answer.

  98. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    For better or worse, we live on the earth. Not always fun, but we’re stuck with it. A question many have asked is, “Why was it created?” Please give me your own answer, and any answer you find in your Bible.

    My apologies but I cannot answer that because it presumes something that I have yet to hold true – that god is.

    To my mind, the question itself is without importance. Some things are. Some things are not. Some things happen. Some things do not. That’s the way it is. To imply an intent behind existence is not as important, as far as I can see, and to ask “How” about the workings of the things around us.

    “Why don’t pigs fly?” is not nearly as interesting (or important) as “How far will a pig fly if I launch it with a trebuchet?”

  99. John Shores Avatar
    John Shores

    ‘Why am I here on the earth.’ And so on, one simple point at a time in order to determine (from the Bible, anyway) why it’s considered necessary for one man to die for others. I thought you were interested in an answer.

    That is not nearly as important, to me, as the question of whether the Fall of Man story is or can be true in any sense. Christian doctrine cannot survive without this story being true (as far as I can tell).

  100. Doug Avatar
    Doug

    John Shores: I wrote, “The question does have a simple, clear answer in the Bible”. No mention of God. You might be asked in an English class, ‘Who is the narrator of Moby Dick?’ The book is fiction and the author is unknown to you because long dead, but the question does have a factual answer. [“Call me Ishmael.”] If you answer, ‘Queegqueeg’ you’re wrong. What I’ve found is that many nominal Christians have the wrong answers about the Bible, whether or not it is fictional or written by God. Why should that be, when we’re all so erudite? [On this blog, anyway. :-)]
    “Some things happen. Some things do not. That’s the way it is.” Not according to the Bible. Isa 55:10,11 Many are exposed to the Christian message in the Bible, but most have their reasons for not considering it. Mt 13:18-23

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