America and the Perversion of Christianity

Many people in our modern cultures have only a vague or non-existent knowledge of history. This is especially true of Americans. The downside of such ignorance should seem obvious. Most modern Christians have very little acquaintance with Christian history – and strangely – even less with modern Christian history. Though some might be aware of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, or even the Great Schism, they know almost nothing about American Church history over the past two-centuries, much less the utter dominance that history has in much of present-day Christianity. I offer three examples coming from that history – with the general point that many things people take for granted (within Protestant, Catholic and even Orthodox circles), have a very questionable origin, and in some cases represent a hi-jacking of the Christian gospel.

Background

The importance of evangelism is taken as an essential element of the gospel by virtually all modern Christians. The importance of “sharing the faith” would be met with universal agreement – even if the content of that faith would not. Strangely, evangelism was not a common topic in Christian writing and discourse prior to the 19th century.

A revolution in evangelism took place as a result of two religious movements: the First and Second Great Awakenings. The First, beginning in the mid-18th century in both Europe and British America, was largely confined to Churches and represented a movement of renewal and “enthusiasm.” It emphasized the importance and power of immediate, personal religious experience. Many aspects of this movement (particularly the “Whigs” in British political life) eventually brought about a transformation of culture in addressing many social ills (slavery, women’s suffrage, alcoholism, etc.). The movement challenged the established Churches. In New England, Congregationalist Churches saw 98 schisms within this period, as divisions between “New Lights” (those who favored the new preaching and the emotional quality of religion) and the “Old Lights” (traditionalists who preferred a more doctrinal, sacramental approach) fell out with one another. At the same time, non-establishment groups, such as the Baptists, began to multiply across the Southern colonies at the expense of the more establishment-minded Anglican and Presbyterian Churches.

The Second Great Awakening, beginning in the early 19th century, turned more strongly away from established Churches. It’s revival-style preaching was, in many respects, “para-Church,” often having no association with any particular denomination or parish. Many of its leaders, though nominally ordained within denominational structures, operated independently. Large revivals and “Camp Meetings” were a hallmark of the movement. Those groups that were able to conform themselves to the shape and content of the movement benefitted greatly (primarily Baptists and Methodists).

The Imperative for Evangelism

Both movements shared a growing theology of personal experience. True Christianity was increasingly identified with a describable experience, marked by strong emotion, a deep sense of personal sin, and a confidence in God’s forgiveness. Sacramental theology was devalued in the extreme (hence the rapid growth in Churches practicing adults-only Baptism). The First Great Awakening had as its “target” audience, those who were already “churched.” The Second focused more strongly on the “unchurched.” Para-church revivals and tent meetings quickly gave rise to new frontier Churches. New denominations arose (the Restoration Movement is a notable example).

The result was a new imperative for the Christian: evangelism. The proclamation of the gospel now meant the proclamation of a message geared towards a specific experience with a specific result. The audience included both the churched and the unchurched. The social movements associated with these revivals were interpreted as manifestations of the Spirit. Revivalism, in a wide variety of forms became the hallmark of modern Christianity. The variety of “renewal” programs across Protestant denominations is almost legion. The mega-church is specifically designed by modern revival technology and media-savvy. The Roman Catholic Church has a history of revival within its own modern history. The charismatic movement within Catholicism as well as Cursillo and other efforts (regardless of their Catholic origin) make use of revival-inspired technique.

The Imperative for Mission

Christ told His disciples, “Go into all the world and make disciples….” The missionary imperative that has become a standard in modern Christianity was certainly a major part of the life of the early Church. Every reachable continent was evangelized. The Church in Ethiopia is Apostolic in origin. The Church of Georgia and Armenia as well as Ireland and Scotland point to mission beyond the bounds of empire. Nestorian Christians had a very significant presence in China in the latter part of the first millennium. The Church of India traces its origin to St. Thomas the Apostle. Missionaries traveled, proclaimed the gospel and often died as martyrs as part of their efforts.

In the Colonial Age, mission took on another role. Missionaries became tools for “civilization” as well as supports for the spread of empire. On occasion these efforts created some of the saddest points in Christian history. The evangelization of Native Americans comes especially to mind (in contrast with an almost ideal evangelization of Native Alaskans by the Russian Orthodox).

America made its own contribution to this period. The 19th century was both a time of “revival” in American Protestantism, but also a time of American expansion across the world. The Monroe Doctrine (1823) declared the Western Hemisphere to be America’s sphere of influence, exclusive of European powers. The same doctrine led to the war with Spain at the end of that century and the acquisition of the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico and Cuba (for a time).

Protestant denominations in America began missionary work in Central and South America early in the 20th century. Articles from that period document the clear understanding that Protestant mission work had a political objective as well: Catholic countries were considered incapable of democracy. Protestantism alone would produce democratic results. That same missionary imperative has slowly born fruit with Evangelical and Pentecostal movements spreading rapidly in formerly Catholic cultures. As American globalism spreads, so American forms of Christianity spread.

As a side note. One of my daughters lived in Siberia for a year. She had a college friend who announced she was attending a mission being run in a theater by the Vineyard. It used large icon prints on stage but with the normal American-style mega-Church. My daughter said to her friend, “Why are you going there? You’re Orthodox!” Her friend said, “There’s no difference. And they have rock-and-roll.”

Ecumenical Anxiety

Contrary to modern Orthodox conspiracy theories, ecumenism was not invented in the Vatican. It was invented on the frontiers of 19th century America. The Second Great Awakening was largely a para-church movement. It did not take place within denominational structures – if anything it created more denominations. It was the single most entrepreneurial moment in all of Christian history: anybody could have his own denomination!

But the phenomenon of common experience created a new question and a new anxiety. Why were Christians divided? Why, if they could meet on common ground in a common experience were they not together in a common Church? The result of this anxiety was an explosion of solutions. The Restoration Movement (origin of the Churches of Christ, Christian Church, etc.) was one solution. It sought to create the “New Testament Church” through a strict application of sola scriptura and reason. Created as a rallying point with a view to uniting all Christians, it produced its own set of denominations. Cult-like solutions arose as well. Mormonism comes from this period. The heart of its message was a “fresh start” for the Church. God makes a prophet out of a huckster in New York State, shows him golden tablets with magical spectacles, ordains new apostles, etc., and re-creates the Church. It was bizarre, but its success demonstrates just how bizarre the American frontier became (and still is). The same foment produced Adventism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. None of these solutions relieved the ecumenical anxiety – they only increased the problem.

The drive for mission created a different solution. A good measure of the work done in “foreign” mission fields had ties to the revival movement. This included a strong representation of non-denominational mission agencies. The threadbare theology of the Second Great Awakening saw denominational polity and doctrine as a stumbling-block for mission and coordinated efforts. The 19th century saw a growing popularity of large conferences organized to promote and coordinate Protestant Christian missions. The World Missions Conference in Edinburg, 1910, was considered the crowning achievement of these meetings. That conference became the springboard to the eventual creation of the World Council of Churches. Such groups as the YMCA and the Student Christian Movement were major players in these meetings.

The Protestant Evangelical consensus, in which doctrinal differences were minimalized and common efforts for the “conversion” of non-Christians maximalized, were typical of this work. The missions effort included a strong sense of millennial expectation (the watchword was “The Evangelization of the World in This Generation”). That same urgency was a driving force in ecumenical thought. The work of world mission was too important for the confusion of denominations. Unity was a requirement for the Great Commission.

Reflection

The missions movement was not uniquely American, but the simplicity and drive that characterized it were born in the American revival movements. The same urgency that powered early ecumenism continues to drive modern Evangelicalism. Mainline Protestant denominations have largely lost themselves in the eddies of these forces. Evangelism and Renewal have generally become programs for the general morale, ecumenical anxiety has yielded to ecumenical bureaucracy and institutionalism, missions have often been replaced with political action.

But the legacy of these Americanized Christian ideas remains very powerful. The drive for evangelism in its modern form was always somewhat heretical. The gospel was mutated into a Churchless Christianity, devoid of sacrament and structure. This minimized gospel was easily and quickly adaptable to various cultural needs, but for the same reason, completely vunerable to cultural forces. Evangelism is a gospel imperative, but the “making of disciples” entails their full enculturation into the Christian faith and not a single experience. Walking the aisle does not make you a Christian – it requires walking the way of the Cross. Mission is equally a gospel imperative, one that the Church has slowly and steadily fulfilled. Some areas where the Church was once planted now require the Church to be replanted. Some places, such as America, where a gospel has been preached, is almost entirely ignorant of the gospel – this will be proclaimed in time by the Church. There is no need for an ecumenical anxiety. Christ’s prayer for His disciples to be One has nothing to do with ecumenism and has no reference to present ecclesiology. The Eucharistic community of Christ, the ecclesia, is One and cannot be otherwise. We do not have a failure of ecumenism. We have long had a failure of ecclesiology.

A Christianity that is largely without doctrine and sacrament is a Christianity of slogan and extravaganza. A “Churchless” Christianity is simply, a heresy. It is a strange reading of the New Testament with conclusions as novel as they are effective. It is also destructive of the long term health of the Christian faith. Many who grow tired of its slogans and extravaganza do not turn elsewhere – they turn nowhere. The fastest growing religious group in America is the unchurched.

The truth and richness of the Christian faith is only found in the deep-woven fibers of the historic Church. The life of sacrament, rooted in a thoroughly Christianized network of families, parishes and monasteries, is the normative existence of the Christian faith. This is the faith that converted the Roman Empire and the barbarian ancestors of people like myself. From it grew a great civilization, one that has been challenged and dismantled at many points, but which has yet to disappear.

It is probably the case that only a vibrant fullness of the Christian Church, that is itself sufficiently mature to be the bearer of a Christian ethos, is capable of surviving the onslaught of modern secularism. A Christianity of slogan and style will find itself swept away by more attractive slogans and styles. The promise of God regarding the gates of hell is given only to the Church – not a parachurch movement.

For some, this reflection and its small history lesson will seem “old hat.” For many, this history isn’t known at all. Things have not always been as they are now, nor is everything now to be accepted at face value. To be the true disciple of Christ requires discernment and the acceptance of the gospel. It may also require the renunciation of modern attempts to reshape that work.

 

 

 

 

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.


Comments

138 responses to “America and the Perversion of Christianity”

  1. Steve Avatar
    Steve

    There were no people of color at the church or bible study, it puzzles me why not? What Eugene bought up has much insight into the modern living of our faith. I am often tempted to leave and join a more diverse group of people, yes such as your former Anglicans! Any insight would be very helpful.

    Taken as a whole, we seem to be watching far too much television. To quote Jeffrey D. Sachs:

    ” […] neuroscientists believe that the mental-health effects of TV viewing might run even deeper than addiction, consumerism, loss of social trust, and political propaganda. Perhaps TV is rewiring heavy viewers’ brains and impairing their cognitive capacities. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently warned that TV viewing by young children is dangerous for their brain development, and called on parents to keep children under two away from the TV and similar media.

    Of course, I don’t see this primarily as a mental-halth issue. The danger of television and other “flattening” media can only be remedied in the fullness of Eucharistic life. In the words of Christos Yannaris, the theanthropic “new creation”, the Body of Christ fully finds it’s mode of existence in the trinitarian prototype and the unity of the communion of persons (The Freedom of Morality, p. 120).

  2. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Ah, Joseph, persevere my brother. The Church in her fullness is the promised land, but there are a great many battles that must be fought to get there and remain there–battles in our own mind and heart that call us to stop where we are and go no further, to give up to the world. “The struggles that come after we are illumned”

    Yes, we all seek people like us to be around. Distrust of ‘the other’ is built in it seems. But the communion happens whether we realize it or not and it is precious.

    In my parish in Kansas which was founded by folks from southern Syria fleeing Islamic persecution (famlies who can trace their Christian lineage back to the time of the Apostles–that is a wow), we still have alot of Arabs and with the mess in Syria now, I expect we will receive more. We also have Greeks, Russians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Romanians, Afro-Americans, Native Americans and plain old ‘mericans like me. We love each other and that love is palpable, yet on a purely social level, I don’t fit well with most of the congregation. I’m weird. I don’t expect to fit that way, yet I know that I am an intergal and important member of the community. That knowledge took a long time. My late wife and I were Orthodox for about 10 years before it really began to happen ineffably. My son, baptized as a child but not born into the Church, has always been apart of that. He just accepts things that I still have to work through sometimes. Understands ideas that I have to think about.

    The most ethinic parish we have in town is a western-rite parish that escaped the Episcopal Church together. They have alot to work through before they can really be as open to others as I expect they will become. In a sense they are immigrants in this strange land.

    Some of the things that go on in my parishe grate on me from time to time but I have to decide if my desires are more important than the grace and presence of God in the people and the services, especially the Eucharist.

    It should be an easy choice, but its amazing how often self-will pops up.

    The Church is open to all and everyone, but people still have to choose. You have to be at home before you, personally, can invite others into your home.

    It seems to be the plight of a great many converts that we expect something specific and if we don’t find it right away, we go lookin’ some place else. That just doesn’t work. Part of the obedience required to be really in the Church is just staying despite our likes and dislikes.

    I’ve been in the Church for 26 years, my new wife only 3.5 years and counting. She tells folks all the time, I didn’t join the Church, I became Orthodox (and she has been just about everything else until she met me).

    Of course, the becoming is a life-long journey. It is a journey that can be taken no where else, unique and precious as it is, sometimes, difficult.

    Rest in the love of Christ that is poured out in the sacraments. Allow Him to change you and connect you. Be patient–six years is but a brevity. If that is not sufficient for you, nothing ever will be.

    I’ve been in that nothing, spent most of my life there before Jesus led me home. If He had given up after six years, I would have remained in the nothing, the velvet darkness of the world that promises so much and delivers only death.

    Choose life and allow the death to self that it entails. You will be glad if you do.

  3. Steve Avatar
    Steve

    Thank you, Michael!

  4. Joseph Avatar
    Joseph

    First, I just wanted to thank you all for your comments. My thinking is akin to me being in graduate school as well. I have a hard time believing that the, ” True Church” can act without not wanting different people in their church. I think that the reason some forms of Christianity are growing and with them some religions is because they understand that we do not live in the past anymore. My question on the church is one of a local experience in a major metro area. In my city it is even worse, it is clearly not because I could not take a comment from a Greek as the Father stated. To focus on one culture at the expense of others is a far cry from the pages of Acts. Could it even be seen as oppression by forcing new converts to follow cultures foreign to one’s own? The Church will run into problems especially since most of the now minority groups will overtake the majority in a few decades. Would it not be great if we can just preach truth instead of ethnicity. It’s such a big turn off to people. The questions I ask are some reason why so few young adults go to church, it is very different from the common experience of the everyday rat race. Anyway thank you for your time

  5. EPG Avatar
    EPG

    Also, thank you, Michael. I also have been struggling with some of the issues Steve raised, over the course two years attending a parish in the Antiochian Archdiocese that at times feels like an Arab-American club. I’m not saying that the members mean for it to be that way, but sometimes it is. I also perceive (at times) a bubbling anti-Semitic sentiment — a sentiment sometimes occasioned by, but not dependent on, criticism of actions of (or even the existence of) the State of Israel. A post above advocated dealing with the warts on the church, because it is the Church. But some of what I am exposed to seems like more than a wart. I guess, as a seeker, I need to ask this: Fr. Stephen articulated some of the perversions of Christianity that have arisen in the context of the American culture. Are there perversions of Christianity that have arisen in the context of the Arabs, the Russians, the Bulgarians, the Romanians, the Greeks (etc. etc.)? And, are they magnified, or perpetuated, by the experience of Orthodoxy in North America as an immigrant church?

  6. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    EPG

    I’ve run across all the same things you have as I am Antiochian too. Interestingly, the most overt anti-semitism was from a convert priest from the Episcopal Church.

    The Arab family consciousness is unlike anything in secular or American culture. Many of the people harmed by Israeli actions are extended family.

    Greeks, Russians, and Arabs have been Orthodox for a long time. Its in their genes in a way it will never be in ours. Converts come and go. It is not surprising they would want some proof you weren’t just passing through.

    That does not mean being Arab. It means becoming more you in the Church-not wilting away at the first challenge.

    Every person and culture has distortions they try to impose on the faith.

    We have to allow Christ to overcome them all.

    IMO the American perversion is much deeper and more immanent for all of us.

  7. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    Joseph,
    Of course you’ve identified a problem and a weakness -not so much of Orthodoxy – but of human beings and some parishes. My counsel or observations are simply along the lines of that’s the kind of thing that happens given cultural history. Orthodoxy is not the same as Evangelical culture. All Evangelical Churches will be more culturally aware – for the very reasons noted in my article. They are, to a large extent, American culture at prayer.

    The same can be said, in a different manner, of Russians, Greeks, etc. Of course culture is going to be manifest in our Church life. It cannot be otherwise. But with what does it interact? Is Russian, Arab, American culture interact with the fullness of the historical Christian faith, or is it interacting with a diminished cultural artifact? In an Orthodox context, the struggle will always be to maintain the fullness of that ecclesial life, so that we are being shaped and formed by the Truth. In many diminished settings (as in Evangelicalism), the struggle might be described as a need to recover so much that has been lost.

    For myself, I could not but be in Orthodoxy, because I understand and believe it to be what it says it is. I have no idea what my life within it will have been or meant in any larger scheme of things. To date, I have played a small role in the Appalachian region of the US, in establishing English-speaking Orthodox congregations. I pray God that they last til the end of time (for that is the prayer prayed at the dedication of a Temple). Very few ever change the larger world. But to die and be planted and bear fruit, some 30, some 60, some 100-fold, is all that is asked of us. There are lonely ministries in modern Orthodoxy. When Vladyka Dmitri of Dallas converted in the 1940’s, the number of non-native Orthodox in America (who were not Orthodox by marriage) might have been but a handful. But he became the first convert Bishop in America. When Met. Kallistos became Orthodox in Britain in the ’50’s, the same could be said there. He was told that he would never be a priest because he wasn’t Greek. Today, a majority of OCA priests are converts. About 25% of the Greek Orthodox clergy in the US are convert (I’m told). etc. It’s a measure of a change, of a mission, of something that is happening. How the story plays out is beyond my lifetime. I will not live to see it. But when it unfolds, I will rejoice and wear it like a jewel in my crown. How little the suffering inconveniences of my life will seem! And for all those who shoulder the Cross set before them! I will stand with Sts. Alexander and John, who labored in America and were martyred by the Bolsheviks. My little inconveniences exalting me to stand within such a company! Joy! Joy! Joy!

  8. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    BTW my wife came in and was immediately accepted. She is very social and understands family. I think women especially mothers have an easier time. Work with the Theotokos.

  9. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    “Work with the Theotokos.” I like that, Michael. Sound counsel, indeed!

  10. Eugene Avatar
    Eugene

    Hi, all,

    Just wanted to say that I had two very helpful discussions today, one with the igumen of an American Orthodox monastery here in the U.S., and one with my father confessor of many many years (25?). It was almost weird, like one of those Optina elder stories (don’t worry, nothing spooky or “mystical”); each one, without having talked to the other, made the very same observations and gave almost the verbatim suggestions, and it was pretty subtle stuff.

    I can’t go into detail, and it probably wouldn’t be profitable for the group. But it was encouraging enough to help me keep my focus where it ought to be — on Christ, and on the interior blocks I have that keep me from Him. It’s good to have friends and companions on the way, like my father confessor, and like that igumen who gave so generously of his time today on the phone. I think it will still be hard, feeling disconnected from both the mainstream American and the Greek culture, and not being able to worship with my wife. But then, nobody said it would be easy. God’s given me exactly the kind of perplexity and temptation (or allowed them) that I need.

    Thanks, everyone. Oh: and I want to ask forgiveness if I sounded arrogant or seemed to disparage anyone in particular from my parish. I’m a hot-headed person sometimes.

  11. Joseph Avatar
    Joseph

    Everyone I thank most of you for your kind responses. There were one or two that I totally did not understand. I had a question. How do we view the Coptic, Syrians, Ethiopians, etc?
    Are they truly Orthodox but just from a different culture?
    Again thanks

  12. sergieyes Avatar
    sergieyes

    Joseph, you are requesting regarding the “Oriental Orthodox”. This problem vis-a-vis the Oriental Orthodox and the Orthodox more or less centered in some manner on Constantinople–the “Eastern Orthodox” has been solved theologically for near to forty years. Some people are doubting it however.
    Here, we will recite what is relevant. We will ask Constantinople (C) and the Orientals (O) the significant Chalcedonian questions. Here you are Joseph.
    Question: Is Jesus Christ fully God?
    C answers: Yes, God.
    O answers: Yes, God.
    Question: Is Jesus Christ fully man?
    C answers: Yes, man.
    O answers: Yes, man.
    Other problems were involved in the Greek Eastern Roman Empire and its political tensions. The Oriental Orthodox had issues with the Greek Eastern Romans. Sad to say those issues are now dust, dead since ca. 1453. There is no real difference between the Oriental Orthodox and those who have a center of sorts in Constantinople. Bishops now have to learn how to administer economy so congregations of Copts and Russians, etc.know they are at one in the spirit. Diversity of Liturgy is NO issue,especially here amongst these different Orthodox, there has ALWAYS been diversity of Liturgy, and now, there mustneeds be unity in spirit.

  13. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The official position of the Patriarchate of Antioch is that we are not in communion with the “Oriental Orthodox” which means there are still significant theological differences. Dialog continues, but not all has been resolved.

  14. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    Sergieyes, you’re correct, as far as I know, that official discussions have resolved theological questions. There remain some “canonical” questions to be cleared up. It would also require a uniform action on the part of Eastern Orthodoxy (there’s not just one but many Patriarchates) to remove any canonical hurdles to communion. We should all be patient about these things and pray with hope and charity.

    The schism surrounding monophysitism created historical problems that need to be addressed. There were, for example, historical problems between Moscow and ROCOR (Sergianism, etc.) that, to a degree, could not be fully resolved. Those two groups showed, I think, great wisdom and charity and found a way forward towards full communion, despite some historical problems that had to be laid aside. I suspect, that full communion with the Coptics and the other Oriental Orthodox will require something similar.

    We should be patient. The burden of the communist yoke has only been lifted for 20 years. Much of that time has necessarily been spent allowing the Church to get back on its feet, address a number of internal concerns, and begin to look beyond itself. I am staggered by how far we have come in such a short time! And so should we all be! But we should be patient. Too much, too soon, could too easily undo a tremendous amount of healing. There is a need for education and maturity in many areas of the Church. Serious theological education has only been getting back on its feet in the post-communist period for a short time. Healing the breach of the 5th-6th centuries must be done carefully, with great love. I think the model of care and patience (and education and careful listening) that took place between Moscow and ROCOR is an example of many ways the Church will move forward.

    May God keep us firmly in the faith and help us!

  15. sergieyes Avatar
    sergieyes

    Father Stephen,if you cared at sometime to cover the reconciliation between OCA, ROCOR and The Moscow Patriarchate, I should be much obliged. I have attended Liturgies in each, and I adore the Russian Liturgy, and can keep up with it with the help of a Choir. Here in Seattle, where I live, we have St.Nicholas Cathedral, where there are some relics of the Saint John on Shanghai. He went to the Lord here and his major relics were taken down to San Francisco by his Jurisdiction. Worship of his relics is VERY
    healing. Of course, he was extremely active and accomplished in ROCOR.

  16. fatherstephen Avatar
    fatherstephen

    Sergieyes. I’m probably not competent to write about the in’s and out’s of the process (and I tend to avoid in depth conversation on the topic of jurisdictions-it too easily distracts from my main purpose in writing). But I greatly admire those who brought about the reconciliation.

  17. […] Next, from Glory to Go for All Things, “American and the Perversion of Christianity“: […]

  18. Hannah Avatar
    Hannah

    Great blog. Here’s a book I think you might find interesting and relevant to this topic. The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah. http://www.amazon.com/Next-Evangelicalism-Freeing-Cultural-Captivity/dp/0830833609

    Granted, it’s written from an evangelical perspective, but it’s about how the American [evangelical] church has conformed to the prevailing culture of individualism and materialism and consumerism.

  19. Steve Avatar
    Steve

    Hannah, St Iraneus has given this crucial subject matter the shape it shape it has assumed today (in Orthodoxy). The question is, to what archtype should the new creation conform? This of course, is somewhat of a non sequitor since the new creation is defined by Pascha (Christ’s crucifixion and ressurection) and cannot be defined by cataphatic criteria. Blessings to you.

  20. Hannah Avatar
    Hannah

    Hi Steve,
    Although I have been lurking on Orthodox sites for some months now, I’m still not familiar with all Orthodox terminology. Could you please explain what “cataphatic criteria” means? And when you say “new creation” do you mean Christians in their walk with God, or the new heaven and new earth in the next life?
    Thanks

  21. sergieyes Avatar
    sergieyes

    Re: Cataphatic, sometimes spelled Kataphatic, this indicates the use of positive terminology. The opposite pole is named Apophatic. Here is an article on Cataphatic Theology:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cataphatic_theology
    A cataphatic statement is that “God is good.” If we say that the ultimate reality of God is totally beyond words, that is
    apophatic.

  22. Steve Avatar
    Steve

    Hannah, if we take Orthodoxy to be the ground and pillar of truth, it quickly becomes apparent that the non-Orthodox emphasis is heavily geared towards a catagorisation of things. This approach is not without it’s problems as it introduces the “hearer” to distortions in the psychospiritual tapestry of the speaker and his or her milieu. It also deepens the speaker’s attachment to his own distortion. The ensuing co-dependencies can be decidely unhelpful. Orthodoxy gets round this problem by addressing the Person within a Trinity of Persons. The Orthodox walk is not so much as “with”, as within God.

  23. simmmo Avatar
    simmmo

    Indeed it will be a happy day when the Eastern and Oriental (these two “names” actually mean the same thing! i.e. “East”) come back into communion with one another. I have found that the material on the Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Church website to be some of the most succinct and well-written descriptions of the Orthodox faith I’ve seen anywhere. I don’t think there would be much there that an Eastern Orthodox would disagree with. It seems inevitible that they will rejoin. And whenever that happens it will be a wonderful day.

  24. Susi Avatar
    Susi

    Father, bless!

    I thank our Lord for blessing you with the courage to often write with fear and trembling, recognizing that the message will often be difficult to swallow. Your posts are founded upon love. I’d like to encourage you by stating that this love is evident and to warn myself and others that these valid points are not to be used as a stick with which to bludgeon others. Rather, we should follow your example and undergird our words with that same love. Thank you, Father Stephen!

    P.S. I recently purchased your book. It should come with its own highlighter, as I have worn out a pen while reading. The pages are now more yellow than they are white. Thank you for the nourishment of my soul.

  25. Steve Avatar
    Steve

    What a wonderful observation, Susi – thank you for saying something that needed to be said! Father Stephen, you make a most profound statement here, deeply infused with the love of God:

    There is no need for an ecumenical anxiety. Christ’s prayer for His disciples to be One has nothing to do with ecumenism and has no reference to present ecclesiology. The Eucharistic community of Christ, the ecclesia, is One and cannot be otherwise. We do not have a failure of ecumenism. We have long had a failure of ecclesiology.

    I can think of no more apt response than Mother Agnes Mary’s foreward to Dawn Eden’s beautiful book My Peace I Give You — reminding us as she does of the redemptive power of Christ’s suffering:

    As I journeyed with the saints through these pages I was reminded of a little poem that possesses a riveting image of Jesus as he descends to the dead on the first Holy Saturday. Our victorious Lord is received by the patriarchs and prophets, Adam & Eve, and all who have died under the law still marked by the wounds of his Passion. Those same wounds are “five crimson stars”. Allow me to share a few lines:

    And there he was
    Splendid as the morning sun and fair
    as only God is fair
    And they, confused with joy,
    knelt to adore
    seeing that He wore
    five crimson stars
    He never had before(*)

    (*) The Mary Book. ed. F.J. Sheed

    How wonderful! This really blessed me. I simply had to share!

  26. […] a Revival church.  Father Stephen Freeman, on his excellent blog Glory To God For All Things,  does a very good job of explaining the difference.  You become a member of a Revival church by “getting saved” and undergoing baptism as […]

  27. Charlie Avatar
    Charlie

    Just found your blog site and truly appreciated your article on the Perversion of Christianity. I am a former Catholic turned Independent Evangelical about 30 years ago. I would add two brief comments to your piece.

    1. While I agree with much of what you both wrote and implied about the historic church (Orthodox Church?) I am also equally convinced that the historic church needs to be re-converted to Jesus Christ. The effects of institutionalism and sacramentalism have had a deadening effect upon her and IMO this must change. Dr. Bradley Nassif has written about this extensively.

    2. I agree wholeheartedly about your assessment of evangelicalism and her desperate lack of a healthy ecclesiology. This tragic loss has IMO severely hampered her ability to grow genuine disciples and engage in substantive worship, settling instead for indications of “decisions”…many of whom may indeed be posers.

    God’s peace to you.

  28. sergieyes Avatar
    sergieyes

    Dear Brother Charlie. Welcome, and Christ is in our midst!
    “I am also equally convinced that the historic church needs to be re-converted to Jesus Christ. The effects of institutionalism and sacramentalism have had a deadening effect upon her and IMO this must change.”
    Thank you for this friendly voice which you use. It is very Christian. I wonder if you realize the full extend of the carnage of the historical persecutions, beginning with the Diocletianic persecution. These persecutions continued with Muslim Jihad and then Marxism-Leninism. The groups in the Orthodox Churches are often VERY family centered, and so the tales of Diocletian, Muslims and Enlightenment cults like Marxism-Leninism continue on and on and on. In Orthodox countries they are never forgotten.
    Is there any alternative to this? Is the nihilism foisted in America by public schools and the closing of America’s mind better than families in Greece or Egypt which talk of Diocletian, Muslims and Marx? You answer. For me, nihilism is nihilism, is nihilism.
    Recovery means having the Church parish as one’s community, and Jesus Christ as Savior, with the Paraclete. Please stick around and join us!
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocletianic_Persecution;

    http://www.jihadwatch.org

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_the_Soviet_Union

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecutions_of_the_Catholic_Church_and_Pius_XII

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_Mexico

    Here is America’s domestic nihilism:
    http://www.claremont.org/publications/pubid.664/pub_detail.asp.
    This is Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind reviewed.

    Finally the malaise ultimately is Nihilism:
    NIHILISM: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age
    by Eugene (Fr. Seraphim) Rose
    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/nihilism.html

  29. […] call a Revival church. Father Stephen Freeman, on his excellent blog Glory To God For All Things, does a very good job of explaining the difference. You become a member of a Revival church by “getting saved” and undergoing baptism as an adult. […]

  30. […] Fr. Stephen Freeman concurs, noting this problem is deeply embedded in American religious history: […]

  31. […] looking. Fr. Stephen can be equally dismissive about the blind side of his fellow Orthodox (e.g. here: “Contrary to modern Orthodox conspiracy theories, ecumenism was not invented in the […]

  32. […] Fr. Stephen Freeman, “America and the Perversion of Christianity” […]

  33. Liz Levesque Avatar

    Is it any wonder that Christianity is in a state of perversion (twistedness) when the Oxford dictionary tells us that there are in excess of 20,000 different Protestant denominations in the world right now and some say more? Any one can call themselves a “Christian’ denomination by getting a 501 (c) 3 non profit status. It doesn’t make it so. The first wholesale rebellion was Martin Luther in 1534 A.D. to the Roman Catholic Churches magesterium and apostolic authority from succession. Now we have “any clown or idiot who will tell you his dreams or visions as the Word of God.” (Bishops of Gloucester, 1530s.) There is one crazy nut job after another starting another “Christian” denomination and there appears to be no end in sight. Yet no one denounces these people.

  34. Nikkie Avatar

    Those who do not know and study history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. You’re dead on about people not studying or knowing history. Sadly, it’s true in Christianity and is a subject neglected in teachings by the church.

  35. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Liz, there were two wholesale rebellions prior to Luther. The first was circa AD 431 after the Council of Chalcedon. The second was in AD 1054. Luther began the third and that was not his intent (unlike the other two)

    The first contributed to the success of Islam. The second created a space for the third.

    Now we have chaos.

    Each rebellion made it progressively more difficult to maintain the integrity of Christianity.

  36. sergieyes Avatar
    sergieyes

    The reformation that Luther desired was already envisioned during the era of the Anti-Popes, and its solution, the Conciliar Movement. French politicians had kidnapped the Pope and placed him under duress in Avignon, which was an act unfriendly to everyone in Christianity. A reaction took place. In effect, local jurisdictions of the Catholic Church stated that they were not factotums of French politicians. Thus an election might take place in Germany or Spain, etc. Lots of Bishops were elected Pope, also a fact unfriendly to Christianity. The solution was found in an agreement to have regular councils, to manage. These councils actually took place in spots like Venice, etc. Luther was not unhappy with the conciliar resolutions, but fissiparation was occurring, so one Pope took a strong hand. The resolutions of the councils were set aside, and Luther was displeased, and this was the actually causus belli of the Reformation, at least from the perspective of Luther. Thus as Father states: “now we have chaos.”
    By the way, Revelation of John counsels us not to cry over the chaos: Revelation of St. John the Theologian:
    “5 1.And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.

    2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to loose the seals thereof?”

    3 And no man in Heaven, nor on earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.

    4 And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.

    5 And one of the elders said unto me, “Weep not! Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book and to loose the seven seals thereof.” All mysteries are under Jesus Christ, he manages them just fine.

  37. Anastasios Avatar
    Anastasios

    Karen,

    Jack Hyles’ disciples are pretty much all pieces of work. If you think Larry Smith is bad, you should see this guy preach:

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