While we were in Kiev last week, another place we visited was the monastery of the caves, a warren of cells deep underground. The active monastery above ground is Russian Orthodox, and the holy things below constitute one of the most unholy things I have ever seen. But there are some Western Christians who think of Orthodoxy as this beautiful thing, as the next big shiny object ecclesiastically speaking, and they really need to get an eyeful of the unvarnished version, and then sit down and think for a bit.
The paths through the caves were just over six feet tall, and maybe a yard wide. There were little alcoves along the sides, where dead bodies of monks were laid out in glass cases. These paths were crowded with devout women, kissing the cases, praying and singing. The bodies of the monks were doing their silent service as icons, communicating divine energies.
Along the way were little holes in the walls, about the size of a cantaloupe. These were the places where particularly pious monks had had themselves bricked in, buried alive underground, because that was something that somebody, at some point, had decided would impress God. Food would be passed into them through their little hole, and their waste could be passed out. Eventually, after their years of vain glory in the dark, they would die in there, and nobody had to mess with a burial. They had been buried years before. All of this for Jesus—the demands of Jesus are total, and somebody thought that this obviously must include the concept of the total waste.
The monastery had been founded long ago, in the eleventh century, and some Western Christians, enamored of an East they do not understand, might be tempted to think that this is a form of devotion that we scarcely see anymore, since it is obviously such an old timey thing. Sure, you can find all kinds of weird things in the antique pages of the history books. Right?
Except this devotion and macabre worship was being offered up in the year of our Lord 2017. And the place was crowded.
Someone else might object that every church, every theological tradition, has dirty deeds in their past to be ashamed of. What is the sense in hauling out some tawdry object from someone else’s past? Why not concentrate on our own? Since I am a Calvinist, wouldn’t it be more edifying if I focused on something like the Salem witch trials?
Okay, this need not detain us long. Two things about that. First, that hysteria broke out during a time when the royal charter of Massachusetts had lapsed, and the colony as a whole had no lawful mechanism for dealing with the Salem monstrosity. As soon as someone got back from England with a renewed charter, the local insanity was suppressed by the governor at the request of the Puritan ministers at large. I dare say that you have never heard about how the Puritans opposed the witch trials? So I do reject the idea that the Salem trials were in any way representative of the Puritans as a whole.
But it was a filthy business, nevertheless, and it was something that called for the deepest repentance—something that the judges from the witch trials themselves came to understand, all but one. That one was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestor, by the way. And to whatever extent it does represent us, to that same extent modern Calvinists are heartily ashamed of the whole thing, and repudiate it utterly. Here were professed Christians admitting spectral evidence, centuries before people learned how to handle such evidence on the Internet.
And so what would we make of some modern sophomoric Christians, bedazzled by the psalm singing, say, who joined themselves to a little microbrewery Calvinist denomination, one that met annually in Salem in order to leave wreaths on the grave of that one unrepentant judge? We might ask such purblind Christians to give some modest account of themselves. We might stare at them in that baleful Parkeresque “what fresh hell is this?” kind of way.
And that is the same kind of stink eye we should be using when other Christians adopt something ugly because they read a beautiful passage in a book by Alexander Schmemann. Rather than getting a new groove, it might be better to get a grip.
So let us be honest here. The idea that piety could ever be displayed through being walled up in a voluntary dungeon, in what should be described as a literal and ultimate prison of will worship, is an idea that is demented, pathological, demonic.
And there is more. There was icing on this particular will worship cake. When we were entering the caves, my companion Bubu, who was wearing shorts, was given an apron to tie around his waist in order to cover up his bare legs. I have never seen such a striking example of straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel in all my born days.
Down below, we had people praying through carcasses, and we had dried out bones lying on the floors behind the silent walls, and up top we had people policing bare knees, and also making sure all the women had head coverings before going down below to witness, hopefully with admiration in their hearts, the remnants of what can only be described as a spiritual insanity.
In the West, Orthodoxy can be seen as just another denomination, with a liturgy that is merely a bit gaudier than most. And it can be seen that way because it is functioning in a largely Protestantized culture. Nobody can see what happens when it has had a dominant influence on a culture for centuries. But that kind of thing is visible in principle—there are places in the world where it can still be witnessed, out in the open, and where nobody is embarrassed by it.
They lay the wreath on the grave of that one valiant witch trial judge who never backed down. What a man of God! Or perhaps we can make him a man of God if we light enough candles in front of his bones. Or if we kiss his casket enough. That might do it.
My experience with the Eastern Orthodox in Bulgaria was similar. Americans flirting with Orthodoxy should see first-hand the Eastern Orthodox in the east. It’s rank idolatry.
It’s not idolatry, it’s an expression of faith in the Resurrection of the Dead. Do we not kiss living people that we love, or sometimes their pictures? And do we not believe that the dead are alive in Christ, and will be resurrected bodily at the Second Coming? Then it is good and proper to kiss the remains of the dead as well – or, well, the caskets containing them, as the case may be – as an expression of the belief that the dead are in fact alive in Christ. An inherent aspect of Orthodoxy is to stare death… Read more »
Please do not come around kissing my casket or my dead body when I am gone because I am not in there.
Give us time.
When our son died, we’d spend oodles at the grave site.
You would be temporarily absent, but you’ll return to your body eventually. As Christians, we believe in the BODILY Resurrection of the Dead at the Second Coming, after all. All the souls of the dead will receive bodies again – and who is to say those new bodies won’t include some pieces from the old ones, if they happen to still be around? Also, when the dead are resurrected, they’ll have to appear on Earth SOMEWHERE. The grave site (for those who have one) seems like the logical place. When Christ rose from the dead, He returned to His old… Read more »
Actually, you are. In there. You, but not all of you. What else would you call your body. “Him?” “Them?” “Other?”
We do stare death in the face and say, ‘Christ has defeated you…’ But we do not, nor are we anywhere in Scripture called, to star into the faces of *the dead* themselves and do this. 1 Corinthians 15 makes this clear. And this horrific practice of having yourself bricked into a wall with a small hole for food and waste is as anti-Biblical as it is absurd. Jesus specifically prayed: John 17:15 “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”
I don’t know, Doug seems to be a little PO’d at the perceived demonic nature of Orthodoxy. But I could be reading and projecting too much into his words. :-)
The pharisees in the time of Jesus were grossly orthodox.
Who did Jesus say their father was?
Jesus was more orthodox than they.
He criticized them for their hypocrisy and pride, not for being orthodox. In fact, Christ specifically said that the Pharisees were right about what they told people to do – it was the fact that they didn’t practice what they preached that was the problem.
“The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So practice and observe everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matthew 23:2-3)
The impulse to holiness signal is really not addressed nearly enough by modern pastors given how many times Jesus warns against it. The accepted means of seeking holiness being through solitary fasting and prayer. Humans have both an innate sense of guilt and an innate desire for status over their fellow human beings which, when acting together may push them towards dramatic costly acts of asceticism. Humans also exist on a spectrum of personality types, motivation, and sanity. Some are going to overachieve for holiness the way that J.D. Rockefeller overachieved at making money. At the extremes, asceticism is unbiblical… Read more »
The confines of a monastery offers precious little opportunity to display your ascendant holiness. You have to be out in the world, praying in the streets, for that. A cloistered man is by neccessity a humble man. Every age has had their charismatic soothsayers, the middle ages as much as our own. You may be thinking something more like the desert fathers, but they brought in huge crowds to hear them speak from their pedestals – they were hugely influential. Besides, I see little asceticism today. I would have to be convinced that our pathologies are the spiritual descendents of… Read more »
“A cloistered man is by neccessity a humble man.”?????????
What is “humble” about a lamp hidden under a basket,
compared to a lamp on a stand?
Salt and Light need to be savory and illuminating.
Salt and light are savory and illuminating when they are shaken out and put on the stand! ; – )
I would see one aspect of pride as self-reliance. “I’ve kept the law. I’ve avoided the temptations of the world.” This could be done just as easily – seemingly more easily to me – cloistered in a monastery as living out in the world. Pride is an inward thing seen by God, as is humility. I think you can have either no matter where you live or who is around you.
Lloyd, Sure, I meant humble colloquially, contra barnabas’s holiness signaling monk. I don’t think cloistering yourself is necessarily the genuine virtue, however, it isn’t a prime environment for holiness signaling. No wannabe revivalist or guru will be satisfied impressing the 12 monks or canons regular who share his habitation. I will also say, in defense of the monks that not all orders were cloistered -many performed important community services such as educating children and tending to the sick. Also, many cloistered monks performed immensely important tasks that required many hours of labor and extreme concentration, such as copying the scriptures… Read more »
They also kept Greek and Latin alive for us during all those dark centuries. They translated manuscripts. They gave us illuminated calligraphy. And–huge one–they gave us Gregorian plainchant.
Hi Lloyd, it is said that cloistered religious life will exaggerate any personal flaw or defect. If you are even slightly unstable–if you are not extraverted and normal–you will make yourself crazy. And you will certainly make the other people around you crazy. This is why convents and monasteries are extremely careful about whom they select. There are mechanisms in place to try to avoid spiritual pride. One is the frequent chapter of faults in which your co-religious get to tell you what you are doing wrong, and in which you admit your own shortcomings to the community. But, bear… Read more »
A hearty amen.
Would you consider the modern Christian obessession with adoption, particularly of the international variety, to be part of holiness signaling? I might. Interested in your thoughts.
Not in general, though I guess in individual cases it could be. Adoption has a long history in Christendom.
The problem with opposing “holiness signaling” is that it can easily lead you to “anti-holiness signaling” – trying to be as “normal” or average as possible in order to avoid standing out and having people admire you.
The Protestant opposition to monasticism strikes me as a form of such anti-holiness signaling. “Don’t dedicate your life to prayer, that will make people think you’re holy and lead you to pride. Instead, you should live a normal life.”
We Orthodox regard this as surrendering to the world, and to the world’s standards of what a normal life should be like.
Asceticism does not invariably imply a wish for greater spiritual status. One can be motivated by pure love of God. One can wish to discipline the flesh as an athlete might. One can believe, as Catholics do, that because we are united through the communion of saints, what I do can affect other people. I can fast for someone’s conversion, for example. If you happen to be aware of my penitential practices, something is very wrong. Unless a person is in a monastery or convent, his or her asceticism is probably (and properly) hidden. We are taught that if you… Read more »
I would reply that, histoically, this has not been primarily about holiness-signalling. This is an article about Orthodoxy and the strange -praxy that it brings about, but there is a close analog in the Roman Catholic church. In the RCC, historically, these self flagellations were a way of saving one’s self and also paying into the Treasury of Merit that the Pope could then dole out to all those who needed some more merit. Hence people cloisering themselves away and comments like demosthenes1d that rightly points out that monestaries were often not a place of holiness-signalling. Indeed, they were often… Read more »
This is delightful and beautifully written.
With all good humor here, be really careful saying things like this, “I have never seen such a striking example of straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel in all my born days.”
The universe just loves to take such things as a challenge and will promptly get about the business of showing you and even more striking example.
A book I read on the Coptic Orthodox Church distinguished clearly between “Orthodox Theology” and “Coptic Folk Religion”. While the two things can happen in the same church, that does not mean one is truly representative of the other. It’s something more akin to syncretism than a natural direction of Orthodoxy. For example, many American churches, in a country with Protestanism holds sway, will preach tenets of Protestantism side-by-side with American Civil Religionism. Does that mean that American Civil Religion is “unvarnished protestanism”? Same with churches that preached racism within the church, or lined up as avid supporters of certain… Read more »
Rather than church- state culture ties, I think it has a whole lot more to do with seeking the favor of people over the favor of God. Most cults, extremism, odd perversions of faith, are about people trying to get into that Inner Ring CS Lewis once spoke about. To be one of the few, the elite, the rare ones who have taken the red pill and escaped the Matrix. I don’t get it at all, but than again the desire for in group preference kind of eludes me.
Just to twang my old saw Memi, that “inner ring” you speak of, is the thing Lundy Bancroft offers to people who are inclined to be blind guides, alleged “gnostic knowledge”. A Cry for Justice, and their loose association of Wilson haters all have themselves down as wise in their own eyes, because they are duped by that particular charlatan, Lundy Bancroft. With a bit of self-righteousness and some bad information, these “abuse gnostics” are off to the races with their own little witch hunts. So much so that they think they have our host here “convicted”. But a lass,… Read more »
Yes, exactly. It is the lure of the” inner ring” that draws in the Lundy crowd and the cult of victimology.
Ironically however, those Red Pills are exceedingly good at it themselves, far better at bringing in converts, and often have an interesting obsession with Orthodoxy.
We shall, in response, continue to speak truth, to all rascally rabbits, who happen to be on the outskirts of any issue! ; – )
What you are saying might be true for cult behavior (or maybe the monks locking themselves in), but most of the rest of what Pastor Wilson describes isn’t cult behavior, this is pop-level folk religion. I was referring primarily to the pop-level stuff rather than the elitism stuff.
Jonathan, were you living in Los Angeles during the great Virgin in Tree Bark event of the early 1990’s? It began with somebody seeing an image of the Virgin in the patterns on a piece of bark, and ended with news vans, taco stands, and official condemnation from the Cardinal. I take it that this is the kind of thing you mean.
hahaha – I wasn’t there, but I vaguely remember news stories of more than one event like that.
While that’s definitely the right direction, I was thinking more of established practices. The Mexican church certainly has plenty of them.
Jonathan, GREAT point. I’m not an Orthodox, but your analogy is SPOT on. There is true Orthodoxy, and then there are deviations from it. Just like RC, etc.
If this is correct, then we should expect to see clear and unambiguous condemnation of this “deviation” from the “true” Orthodox Church. Is there? There may be, I am unfamiliar. But it doesn’t sound like it, given Pastor Wilson’s description: this is happening in an active monastery run and endorsed by the official Russian orthodox church right in the heart of the capital city of Ukraine. To further your analogy: yes, there may well be deviations from Roman Catholicism that don’t reflect their true position. But if someone claims that something an active Roman Catholic monastery in Vatican City is… Read more »
I’ve seen even more disturbing deviations in the most famous Catholic Church in the capital of the Philippines. Trust me, it happens. As far as condemnations and cautions, I can’t speak to the Russian Orthodox Church because I really have no experience with it. But in other churches – the Catholic, the Coptic Orthodox, etc. – I have indeed heard people in authority speak out against certain aspects. Both of those churches even imposed strict educational requirements for those making a decision to enter the monastery, to try to ensure that uneducated or naive persons didn’t encourage distortions to the… Read more »
It is extremely difficult to police, and people overestimate the enforcement powers of the Catholic church. Take the Tree Bark Virgin, for example. This happened close to my workplace, so I had a good look at the goings-on. As I have noted before the priest shortage here means that there might up be to 15,000 registered Catholics within a parish looked after by one or two priests. There are a whole lot of unregistered Catholics over whom the priest has zero authority. By the time the tree Virgin made the local media, there were throngs of people visiting daily. Enterprising… Read more »
Is there a link to any official repudiation of the Tree Bark Virgin by Roman Catholic authorities? Or does it just dangle in Limbo while the “wreaths” pile up?
I know for a fact that it was denounced by the priest of the parish in which it was located. I was also friends with the Cardinal’s secretary. Was there an encyclical from Rome? I doubt it. Local matters are dealt with locally.
The attached link describes the procedure for how the church responds to informal, unapproved “shrines”:
Fair enough. That’s the kind of action that makes it easy to disassociate the Tree Bark Virgin from Roman Catholicism, even if it was lay Roman Catholics who advanced the tree bark interpretation to begin with.
It’s the kind of thing we would look for from the Eastern Orthodox regarding these bricked-in monks in Kiev. And from Protestants regarding the snake handlers of the Appalachia.
Jill, I grant all you say…. but this isn’t a valid comparison…. Pastor Wilson was talking about something happening in there very “basement” of an active, Russian Orthodox Monastery, complete with denominational standards about how people are to dress in the area to ensure appropriate veneration.
It is one thing if the local priest doesn’t even find out about it…. it is another if it is the local bishop who is selling tickets.
Daniel Fisher wrote:
Jonathan, the difference is that while there is plenty of silliness that flies under the flag of Protestantism, it has that purifying subscription to Sola Scriptura, meaning that when silliness is displayed, no one feels the need to defend it as “Protestantism.” We don’t have to defend “that mountain” but rather defend whether we are worshipping in Spirit and Truth. EO, on the other hand, more or less have to defend this kind of thing. Or do they? I’d like to know… They have a hard time saying of such “old and ancient and revered” things “that’s a bunch of… Read more »
Daniel, great counter point . If I were to reply to Doug Wilson himself, in person, here’s what I would say. ” Great points, but I can’t help but think you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater here. The real story here, in my opinion, is the return to traditionalism/liturgical worship writ large. This is something that is going on, and although I can see you being leery of Protestants and evangelicals leaving their churches for liturgical ones, perhaps there is something positive worth noticing here. For example, if John Piper is correct, that we are created to worship… Read more »
John, Thanks for the link. I’ll save it for a listen next chance I have. I listened to the first little bit, and I’m not sure if I’ll even need convincing: I’m pro liturgy, pro ritual, and even to a degree pro “high church” (obviously, needs defining). All of this and more is fully the heritage of the Christian (and Protestant) church, always being refined by the Spirit and Word. If modern evangelicals wish to return to liturgical worship, great! But they don’t need to join the Eastern church (with its check-list righteousness and man-made traditions like self-burial/starvation) in order… Read more »
let me clarify–and thanks for reading my post. I think that there is GOOD, intrinsically, in the EO church. I also think there is BAD. So the point I’m making is that it just takes discernment. I think it’s fully conceivable for someone to feel like God is leading them to the EO church, and for that same person to not feel comfortable with some of the practices described in DW’s post. Hence, there are GOOD rituals (within the Christian church). Of course I denounce Buddhist monks’ practices, but it does prove James KA Smith’s point that humans are liturgical… Read more »
John, Thanks for the conversation. And first, yes – I do think there is good in the EO church. Take, for example, their rather staunch stand against the sexual wars. To my knowledge, there are no lady-priests in EO. Good for them! Also, my concern is less (though not absent) for those who grew up in Orthodoxy (and it is the only Christianity they know) than for those tempted to leave their Protestant churches seeking something “holier” or worse, seeking “the one true church” (code name: Fullness of the Church). What I am asking is not that every EO has… Read more »
Daniel, this is the toughest part (and easiest part) to answer, but you might not like it. I think (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) some subjectivity here. I think somebody can be a new EO convert and be fully knowledgeable of all this stuff and say “meh, not for me” (regarding those practices). I know it sounds like A = not A, but I just embrace people to be a little messy in their faith and logic. What I will do is look up some EO people and investigate this more.
“So the point I’m making is that it just takes discernment.”
Okay, but meanwhile we have a practice going on for a few thousand years, still being revered by the faithful today. When does this discernment finally decide to kick in?
Great point, but I think again you are technically right, but I am “people are weird” right. I think we all have to investigate this more, but I’d wager some of the practices in that Russian church might be localized. I mean I just talked to a guy who grew up Coptic, and he was describing how there is great diversity in the EO church (universal)!
I’ve visited a number of Orthodox churches in three different countries, and one monastery, and I’ve yet to see or even hear about any dead people in glass cases. I was aware that that was a folk practice in Russia though, as even their atheist heroes get the dead case/veneration treatment.
Yes, there are people who denounce such things, I’ve heard them myself, but it tends to happen in the in-group rather than in a way that would publicly shame the whole community. I don’t think the voiced commitment to Sola Scriptura inoculates Protestants from this tendency, especially when a state church forms. How many people have defended snake handling, clear abuses in the speaking in tongues and charlatan healers, allegiance to America, attacks on science, or the practice of White Supremacy, Black Slavery, and Manifest Destiny as part of Protestantism? How many people went as Protestant missionaries to various other… Read more »
Sir, If this is correct, then as I responded to someone else below, we should expect to see clear and unambiguous condemnation of this “deviation” from the “true” Orthodox Church. Is there? If there is, I am unfamiliar. But it doesn’t sound like it, given Pastor Wilson’s description: this is happening in an active monastery run and endorsed by the official Russian orthodox church right in the heart of the capital city of Ukraine. If this is a “wayward” corruption of Russian Orthodoxy, where can one find the genuine faith? Kiev WAS the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church at… Read more »
Jonathan — your input = super helpful.
Thanks Eric. Reading that distinction in that book really opened my eyes up to a lot of things in the church.
Not sure if we caught the title?
I had forgotten the title, but a Google search with the right phrases shows me that it was “Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity” by Otto Friedrich August Meinardus. I even was able to find the exact quote that was playing on my memory: “In sharp contrast to the official cultus, the folk religion of the Copts is very inclusive, since it touches every aspect of the personal and social life of the people. The folk religious attitudes and practices, which have their roots in the religious heritage of pharaonic Egypt, should be distinguished from the attitudes and practices of… Read more »
all denominations — zackly.
Do tell why you were checking that book out in the first place?!
I was speaking with a once-Baptist-now-EO acquaintance/friend in our Classical Conversations homeschool group who said while he is taken with the rituals, he can’t yet buy all those cheesy miracles attesting to the holiness of previous saints.
I think there are probably alot of RCers and others have same problem.
I wonder if official dotted line/ vowed “church membership” is of the folk factor ilk?
That weirdness is a hobby horse of mine, don’t mean to get you started on that …
Speaking for Roman Catholics, I am not required to believe in specific apparitions or miracles outside scripture. Some things are charming folklore –that the X on a donkey’s back comes from our Lord’s having ridden one to Jerusalem, or that the M on a tabby cat’s forehead stands for Mary because a cat warmed the manger of the baby Jesus. But if I choose to believe the latter, then I must bear in mind that some Moslems believe the M stands for Mohammed because of some legend involving him and a cat!
Jill Smith wrote:
It’s great that Jill is not required to believe in the Tree Bark Virgin, but what are we going to do with all of the “wreaths” that get left around the tree by Roman Catholics? Will the Tree Bark Virgin stand to represent Roman Catholics in practice? If there is only silence from Roman Catholic leadership, it seems that it will.
In this instance, practicing Catholics were instructed to stop leaving candles, notes, and flowers at the tree. The church has no authority over non-practicing Catholics. For it to be lawful for good Catholics to make pilgrimages to a new “shrine,” the local bishop must first launch a massive ecclesiastical investigation ruling out obvious natural explanations, fraud, mental illness, and any other possible reason for the appearance of such a thing. Until the church rules that it is a miraculous occurrence involving divine intervention, the faithful may be warned to approach it with caution, or, in the case of something as… Read more »
Jill — Could you clarify this phrase: “The church has no authority over non-practicing Catholics”?
How is it possible that God’s shepherds lose their authority?
Jill — Q:
If you were to disbelieve those things they (RC leadership / tradition) “require” of you, would you consider yourself NOT RC?
I.e., who — in your understanding — gets to decide whether your RC or not?
If, for example, the leadership in Jesus’ day gets to decide if Jesus is a true Jew or not (or vice-vesa — Jesus gets to decide if THEY are true sons of Abraham?) — who’s the real decider?
Unless I do something to place myself outside the church (such as converting to Scientology), I am still a Catholic even though I may struggle with required beliefs. Both Canon Law and the Catechism teach that “a human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.” If, after praying, seeking instruction, and sincerely searching my conscience, I find that I simply cannot believe in a particular dogma, I can continue to be a good Catholic–especially if I remain open to the possibility that my view can change and be brought into conformity with the church. With this freedom… Read more »
You’re answering a lot of good questions in a very clear way Jilly. Thanks for that!
Eric, I should have added below that there may be actual consequences if I act on my disbelief as opposed to merely keeping it in my head. If I decide that human life doesn’t begin until you feel the baby kicking, I will still incur automatic excommunication if I have an abortion. I must still attend church but cannot receive any sacraments except last rites until I repent.
Thanks — Don’t know how anyone could fault that!
The book was in my father-in-law’s library and I just picked it up from there. But without going too much further into the whole question, my denominational investments and influences are very, very diverse.
Not all that glitters is gold, and not all that’s gold is more than a thin layer of leaf over a pile of death.
I am no advocate for that sort of thing nor am I inclined toward Eastern Orthodoxy, but this does raise the question of how you decide which is the abuse and which is the real thing? On what basis do we decide that the people acting in bizarre and idolatrous ways in caves in Kiev are the unvarnished, authentic manifestation, and our Orthodox acquaintances who eschew such practices and live ostensibly Christian lives (at a more than superficial level) are just a cleaned up veneer over the ugly? Meanwhile, we can be easily assured that Salem can be written off… Read more »
“….we can be easily assured that Salem can be written off as a real, but non-representative, aberration..”
Well, we could except for the much bigger, more melodramatic “aberration” that went and happened all across Europe.
Also, I do so wish some of my Calvinistic friends would stop looking for rebellious women in pointy hats and start looking at the actual word for witchcraft, pharmakeia, because we are there already, we have now arrived, and she is so not a female with her head uncovered,out dancing in the moonlight.
I meant aberration in the sense of “in violation of the spirit of,” not “rare and isolated happening.” I have every reason to agree that it’s “in violation of the spirit of,” but since Reformedom is entirely populated and practiced by saints who continue to sin as well as those who are wolves in disguise, I don’t equate that with bad stuff being rare and isolated.
This is precisely the reason Sola Scriptura is our hill worth dying on.
Yes, it is, but I still have the issue of how when the elders of Salem throw sola scriptura to the wind we can explain how that was just something that needed to be corrected, but when we want to judge Orthodoxy we assume that the worst examples are actually the most authentic. Reformed heinous abuse: that was a failure of Reformedom. If you want to know what Reformedom is, look somewhere else. Orthodox heinous abuse: that’s the pure spirit of it. If you want to know what Eastern Orthodoxy is, look at that. I would like to see this… Read more »
But they weren’t throwing sola scriptura to the wind. Exodus 22:18 says, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Salem had some evidentiary problems as far as determining who was and was not a witch, but once a determination had been made that somebody was a witch, they did exactly what Scripture commanded them to do.
Well, I think a sound argument could be made that they did not understand scripture at all and were simply following the lead of others in Europe. Witchcraft, pharmakia, or as the theory sometimes goes, perhaps they should have been paying more attention to the fungi growing in their rye.
Interesting about ergotamine and witchcraft. Until the last couple of decades, ergotamine was one of the few effective treatments for migraine.
Fortunately, we’ve now fled the fungi and returned to the opium poppies, Jilly. Ai yi yi….
It really all gets very interesting when you study history through the eyes of pharmakeia, the witchcraft going on behind the scenes of our assorted atrocities, like the Opium wars, for example. Or the Nazis taking amphetamines.
The law also has very clear rules about evidence and testimony, and they were substituting their own ideas, so yes, they were.
If by Sola Scriptura you mean that our Scriptures = “the sole infallible rule of faith and practice”, then no — we shouldn’t die on that hill, because it’s not true.
For one thing, that statement may be self-contradictory.
And as an infallible rule of faith & practice, we also use right reason.
And as an infallible rule of faith & practice, we also use right reason. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. First of all, for right reason to be infallible, you must presuppose right premises. Your reason can be flawless, and yet if you begin with wrong premises, it won’t deliver right answers. Second, suppose that you expand the qualifiers so that you have “right reason from right premises.” Does that get you to infallibility? Yes it does…but only by means of a tautology. You might as well say “all doctrine is an infallible rule of faith and practice, except… Read more »
Thanks Vva70 — I’m grateful you’re engaging with reasoning.
Right reason must indeed be pulling from an accurate observation of true real premises.
What is being presupposed here is that such things are both possible & given.
This is not tautology, but presupposition.
IF A (right reason) goes to B (right premises) it will inescapably result in C (infallible truth), if it follows such path in love & Godliness.
Please explain where you see the repetition!
Are you not rather asking the question: “But how do you KNOW you’ve accurately hit X & Y in the chain?”
The repetition is found in the qualifier “right.” You didn’t say that “reason” is an infallible rule; you said that “right reason” is an infallible rule. It’s for good reason that you said that, of course, because “reason” writ large is by no means infallible. If you take reason, of unspecified quality, and some premise, also of unspecified quality, then you will get either truth or falsehood, depending on the quality of the reason and the premise. By declaring that we are only considering right reason and right premises, you are in effect removing every reason and every premise that… Read more »
Vva70, I’m with you so far. Actually, I DO want to say that reason writ loud & proud is by all means infallible — if we define reason as that method by which we cogitate in the manner He gave us — with those gears all oiled up and turning as He invented them. We can have defective equipment now. And if we do, we really shouldn’t be calling them “reasoning” but more “clunkiting”. It’s a shorthand thing when we say “reasoning” is the defective thing we often do. Defective reasoning does resonate with the echoes of what was once… Read more »
I believe that when most protestants who’ve thought seriously about Sola Scriptura say that Scripture is the sole infallible rule of faith and practice, they mean to imply not just the words on the page, not just the raw premises, but also all the resultant Truth rightly reasoned therefrom. It is true, then, that we in our fallen reasoning may only have a fallible knowledge of the infallible Truth of Scripture. I don’t see any reason for this to cause any great concern, nor for it to invalidate Sola Scriptura. You are right that the God-given yet fallen reasoning that… Read more »
I’m not sure how the assertion in the second half of the sentence fits with the assertion in the first half.
If I am presented with four books that have completely blank covers, and I am assured by a trustworthy source that one of those books is The Hobbit, I can know (at least in proportion to the trustworthiness of the source) that I have The Hobbit in front of me, even if I don’t know which book it is. Knowing which is not the same thing as knowing whether. Further, suppose I flip through the books, and find that the internal text of the blue one is Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, the internal text to the red… Read more »
That’s a colorful metaphor, but I am again unsure of how it relates to the question of the canon.
Are you saying that whether a book is canonical can be determined simply by reading it?
John, the metaphor’s purpose was to show a couple ways that the sentence you quoted could be non-contradictory. I’m not planning to get into a discussion of how we know the canon of Scripture right now, in no small part because my discussion with Eric is already quite wide-ranging.
Understood. Thanks for the explanation.
I’ll take a stab though. Callaghan wrote: Are you saying that whether a book is canonical can be determined simply by reading it? That’s a bit like asking whether Scripture can be understood simply by reading it. I think we would all affirm that the Holy Spirit is critical to understanding it, and to recognizing it as God’s Word. The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord stands forever. If we accept this presupposition, which is itself proclaimed in God’s Word, then we accept that God is the One who must ultimately make His Word… Read more »
The difficulty that Protestants have had with Roman Catholicism is the notion that Rome produced the canon rather than authoritatively recognized it. I have some good news for you! You can retire your difficulty. That is not a notion that the Church holds. The Church authoritatively recognized the canon rather than “producing” it. And so the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time. Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast… Read more »
This is subtle reasoning, and sounds all very well. But in practice, is it not the case that the Scripture is deemed unintelligible but for the authorized interpretations of the magisterium; that the church thereby interposes itself between the Scripture and the faithful? What good is a text equal in authority to the traditions of the church, if those same traditions deny me the right to read and interpret it? Is this, too, a misunderstanding?
Yes, that too is a misunderstanding. All Catholics have the right read and interpret the Scripture for themselves. The Church does, of course, provide guidance and does prohibit some interpretations (e.g., interpreting the Bible to deny the Trinity). The Church does not pronounce that there is only one authorized way to read the text. There are many ways to read the Scriptures, just as there are many ways to cook good food. But, there are also quite a few ways that food, if mishandled, can cause illness and death (or even just malnutrition and boredom). So, one could say that… Read more »
So would you affirm that Bible stands above and apart from Tradition, and that Tradition is consequently subject to falsification from Scripture?
The authority of Sacred Scripture and of Sacred Tradition is the same; it derives from the Author of both. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that one can “falsify” the other: “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.” Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own “always, to the close of the… Read more »
If Scripture and Tradition are due “equal devotion and reverence,” then I reply that you have no Scripture. You commit Scripture to Tradition to “preserve and expound”, and deny the possibility that Scripture can falsify Tradition. The hierarchy you establish is clear, and it reduces Scripture to a rubber stamp.
Superb long response Vv — thanks for putting in all that effort.
Let me volley back in separate bits!
Do I hear you saying that until we got all them books, Old & New Testament, Scripture was not yet the sole infallible rule of faith & practice?
Sola Scriptura fits only us folks post AD 100ish?
Vv — 2: “in full and proper context” — you’re arguing for the necessity of big globs of nature, so we don’t focus on bits of it trailing out to lead us to the wrong impression? I want to come back and say a woman with a few years of living under her sash has WAY more context in her experience with nature than a scholar with loads of learning about Bible lit. Ain’t Bible records a VERY thin slice of info from and about God, compared to every star twinkle, every poetic though, every cow sneeze that happens live… Read more »
Sola Scriptura fits only us folks post AD 100ish? Sort of. Special revelation given by God through speech or writing has a particular purpose, and I believe that this purpose goes all the way back to when God first spoke to Adam. That said, obviously throughout history this special revelation has had different forms and different degrees of completeness. I affirm that Sola Scriptura in the form that we recognize today could only exist once the Scriptures were complete. But I also see within the Scriptures that special revelation has always played a role in God’s relationship with His people… Read more »
Vv — thank you for the reasoned response.
May we agree that the intake or understanding of Scripture does NOT render men complete, but rather such comes from how it is used for teaching / rebuking etc?
Scripture must be combined with pastoral manipulation?
Eric, yes and no. I would say that understanding the Scriptures is what equips the man of God for every good work. This is based not just on 2 Tim 3, but also on other parts of Scripture such as Deut 17:18-20.
However, 2 Peter 3:16 says that “the untaught and unstable distort [Paul’s letters], as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” This implies as a corollary that the right approach to the Scriptures is taught, and stable. So teaching and training in the Scriptures is necessary for proper understanding.
“Right reason is infallible” is a meaningless statement. It’s like “Johnny got a perfect score on the part of his math test that he did right, but he got some other problems wrong.” The scriptures are infallible, reason is fallible. Therefore, scripture is the only *infallible* rule of faith.
You’re correct — better to say nature & Scripture are infallible, both being rules of faith that must both have our reasoning applied to get the message.
If there is remorse, repentance, or condemnation about this practice from the Russian Orthodox Church, I would be most interested to hear and would concur that this practice (and the current devotion given toward it) is the abuse/aberration. But as noted, this happened in Kiev when it was the center/headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the present-day Russian Orthodox Church has opened the doors of this area of their Monastery to allow their laypeople to come and do homage and devotion to those who participated in this practice. If this is repentance, you can’t blame some for doubting the… Read more »
Where’s the HQ of the Protestant Church, then?
Where’s the HQ of Christianity?
Isn’t it possible to view the Orthodoxish, the Romanaters, the Protestinians, et alles, as different persuasions of THE Church — and not as separate pillars with their own quadrants?
Most individual denominations, Protestant or otherwise, typically have some kind of administrative headquarters, often in a particular location. I’m sorry that you sound like you object to the many branches of Christianity having each established their own various administrative and/or ecclesiastical headquarters. But please don’t object to me, I am powerless to make such changes. If you wish to lodge an objection, I suggest you direct your complaint to each of the headquarters of the various branches of Christianity that have established such offices. To get you started: The headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church can be found in Vatican… Read more »
Thanks Daniel — when one is in the church but not in a denomination, where do we register our complaints then?
Jane, at the risk of getting myself banned, I’m going to speak completely candidly and say that this entire discussion was a major contributing factor to my abandonment of the Christian faith, because I reached the conclusion that there simply isn’t any such thing as a principled yardstick to distinguish which is the abuse and which is the real thing. You follow a version of Christianity that has been greatly sanitized by Western sensibilities, but you are still left with a God who can only be appeased by blood (animal in the Old Testament, his own son’s in the New),… Read more »
Your apostasy is well known around these parts. No getting banned for stating it plainly. I disagree with your point entirely, but you need not fear banishment.
“I reached the conclusion that there simply isn’t any such thing as a principled yardstick to distinguish which is the abuse and which is the real thing.” I’m so sorry, Krychek. I’m blessed in a way, I grew up with some very devout atheism and learned there really is yardstick. It is in the personhood and Divinity of Jesus Christ. People are simply weird, from the secular ones killing themselves in sweat lodges full of crystals, to the relic worshipers idolizing some one’s mummified finger. It isn’t faith that does that to us, we’re just weird, and we’re weird inside… Read more »
Krychek, while your claim about why “they kiss caskets and you don’t” might be true of those descended from medieval Europeans, it certainly isn’t the sole explanation for the absence of such practice in much of Christianity. You should notice the complete absence of anything remotely like that practice in Biblical Christianity, or in any of the preserved documents and writers for a very long time afterwards. People indeed do strange things, and I’ve seen no evidence that these things are unique to the Christian religion, nor do I find it disqualifying that the profession of Christianity has failed to… Read more »
So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 As a man was being buried, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha; as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he came to life and stood on his feet. (2 Kings. 13:20-21) From The Martyrdom of Polycarp (around 160 AD): The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took… Read more »
I stand corrected on the Martyrdom of Polycarp reference – I had very much forgotten about that ending. However, it bears noting that while Polycarp’s death was around 160, that particular version of the story hasn’t been verified to be any earlier than the 4th century. It is quite likely that the oral history of Polycarp’s martyrdom goes back all the way to the event, possibly with reasonable general accuracy, but the part about the bones could easily be a gloss added on by a writer seeking to explain the origin of churches who now claimed to have his bones.… Read more »
Jonathan, blood sacrifice may or may not have been a universal or near universal practice, but I can think of several other universal or near universal practices that at least in the West have been abandoned because of a realization that civilized societies just don’t do them — slavery, child marriage, torture, polygamy, to name just a few. And if you step back and look at it from a distance, blood sacrifice is just plain creepy, no matter how universally it may have once been practiced. The difference between my paradigm and yours is that mine allows me to recognize… Read more »
Jonathan, blood sacrifice may or may not have been a universal or near universal practice, but I can think of several other universal or near universal practices that at least in the West have been abandoned because of a realization that civilized societies just don’t do them — slavery, child marriage, torture, polygamy, to name just a few. Blood sacrifice: Ended in Christian society because we realize that the one true sacrifice has already been made. The concept of further sacrifice of sheep and bulls is “creepy” because it represents a denial of the true atonement of Christ. You, and… Read more »
Vva70, yes, after the church had been dragged kicking and screaming into the enlightenment, it did become a more humane institution. But all you need to do is look at what Christianity looked like before the enlightenment. Pre-enlightenment, the mullahs running ISIS had nothing on the Medici and Inquisition popes. I realize there is some dispute as to whether Christianity caused the enlightenment or whether the enlightenment de-fanged the church, but I think the answer to that question is obvious if you just look at how Christianity acted before the enlightenment. If the enlightenment values are Christian, it sure took… Read more »
Or, you could look at what the whole world looked like before Christianity. The Enlightenment itself was the product of a Christian culture, albeit a deviation from it. It is not really as obvious as you make it which was the chicken and which the egg.
Jane, there are two problems with your position. First, the church in countries that did not go through the enlightenment looks very different from the church in countries that did, as Doug’s Ukrainian example illustrates, which strongly suggests that it is the enlightenment and not the church responsible for those humane values.
And second, as I said earlier, to whatever extent those values are Christian, it sure took Christianity a long time to start expressing them.
But it took humanity in countries that were never significantly Christianized a lot longer — infinitely long, as far as we can tell so far.
What we Christianeters need to ask you to defend, Krychek_2, is a world without blood sacrifice.
We read of Abel instinctively / reasonably offering that “creepy” stuff, while enlightened Cain got dissed for his “advanced” thinking.
We want to diss you, my man, for thinking you can get by without it!
On what basis do you think you’ll get by, now or the by-and-by?
Or do you perceive all is and will be vanity, including your own position?
Eric, since I see no good evidence that Christianity is true, at one level it’s a moot point what is good Christian doctrine; from my vantage point, it’s a little like arguing over whether the apple the witch gave Snow White was a Granny Smith or a Macintosh. The practical difference, of course, is that I’m not surrounded by people who think that Snow White was an actual historical person and that public policy should be based on whether the apple was a Granny Smith or a Macintosh. But since there are people here who think that Christian doctrine should… Read more »
Krycheck — wait, “good evidence”? “true”?
What are those things in your “vantage point”? >> aren’t you looking out physical eyes connected to tissue encapsulated in scullatious hardacity?
You can never “see” truth or even “evidence” can you? >> aren’t those just convenient constructions you maybe adopted from what may or may not be a real world environment you can never really know?
Eric, the idea that there is no reality apart from God is very silly. I’ve got the same five senses you do, and presumably they work just as well.
I’m sorry — which sense did you use to spy “good” & “truth”?
Do those carry a certain sweetness for your buds?
Do you think they stimulate the same enjoyment that Hitler got frying Jews?
Or were his senses defective in the truth & goodness department, whereas yours are more tuned in to “reality”?
“…a book that commands child genital mutilation (i.e., circumcision)”
Well actually, the bible gives a pretty good argument for why we should NOT command such things. FGM, circumcision, transgenderism, and other strange bodily mutilations are actually far more prevalent outside of the faith than within in.
Krychek, at least half of the things you mentioned were condemned by Christians more than a thousand years before the Enlightenment.
Yes, there were certainly later issues of backsliding Church institutions choosing power over obedience to Christ. But that doesn’t prove that the earliest Christians condemning such things didn’t existence any more than Western backsliding on important issues today would someone mean that the Enlightenment didn’t happen.
The enlightenment changed everything, eh? Let’s see: Blood sacrifices: Christianity held to Christ as the one true sacrifice, ending animal sacrifices, over a thousand years before the Enlightenment. Chattel Slavery: Christianity brought a peaceful end to the horrific unrestricted Roman practice of slavery long before the Enlightenment. Rather than chattel slavery, Christian society mostly practiced serfdom through the middle ages. You and I would doubtless agree that serfdom is still not something we would consider ideal in society, but it was a far shot better than chattel slavery. And interestingly enough, when Christian society did begin to resume chattel slavery… Read more »
Krychek_2 wrote: The difference between my paradigm and yours is that mine allows me to recognize that and give it up. Krychek_2’s paradigm is that the universe is an accidental, purposeless happenstance. As such, he has no rational basis to give up anything, or adopt anything for that matter. Whatever is, simply is. Including blood sacrifice and slavery. Krychek_2 tries to sanitize his paradigm against the implications of his materialism by pointing to utility, etc, but our paradigm allows us to recognize how he has merely propped up utility on an altar of made up values and purposes. When will… Read more »
“but I can think of several other universal or near universal practices that at least in the West have been abandoned because of a realization that civilized societies just don’t do them — slavery, child marriage, torture, polygamy, to name just a few.” Krychek, I’m actually surprised at your naivety here. Apparently the actual difference between us is that I have a somewhat stronger understanding of the factors that led the West to give up such things. Who was the first to give up blood sacrifice? Why? Who was the first to universally speak out against slavery? Why? Who was… Read more »
Jonathan, you can cherry pick bits and pieces of early church history to make a claim that Christianity opposed this or that atrocity, just as I could cherry pick Paul’s tacit endorsements of slavery in Ephesians and Philemon, but the fact remains that when the church had unrivaled political power, it practiced atrocities and didn’t speak out against other atrocities. The catholic church issued slave charters “in the name of the Most Holy Trinity.” Not only did the church not condemn torture, it widely practiced it, in the Inquisition and in its enslavement of indigenous peoples. And at some point,… Read more »
Of course, civilization itself is an evolutionary happenstance, no more intended or expected than nomadic tribalism. At least in Krychek_2’s godless paradigm.
Slaving treaties were signed by governments, not the Catholic Church. The phrase “in the name of the most Holy Trinity” was used by government officials to lend and air of legitimacy to their dealings. Sometimes those dealings were despicable, as with treaties furthering the sale of slaves. Other times, as in this agreement to end the slave trade, the goals were laudatory. In no case were they official Church statements.
The re-introduction of slavery in the 15th century was repeatedly and officially condemned by popes imany times (e.g., in 1435, 1537, 1591, 1639, 1686, 1741, 1815 and 1839).
I would add here that persecution of the Jews was carried out by Catholic communities in spite of the fact that the Vatican was issuing simultaneous bulls demanding fair treatment and denouncing oppression.
Krychek, when ANYONE has unrivaled political power they tend to do terrible things to the rest of the world. I am just as much against the Church having unrivaled power as anyone else – it leads to terrible distortions of the faith. And no, it is not “cherry-picking” to state that: 1. animal sacrifice was absent from the church long, long before the Enlightenment 2. polygamy was absent from the church long, long before the Enlightenment 3. Depending on your definition child marriage was either also banned long before the Enlightenment, or is still practiced in secular society today 4.… Read more »
‘Chek, God is not “appeased by blood”, sin demands blood, as “pound of flesh”, so to speak. What with God being Infinite and all, he came up with His own Sacred blood to cover the debt of my sin, yours and everyone else’s.
People love God when they realize what Grace they have been offered.
Come back to God’s church ‘chek,
We need more wise guys!????????
adad, if I started a cult that shed blood — animal or human — for any reason whatsoever, nobody here would have any trouble seeing that it’s creepy, and most would probably say the law should shut it down.
You defend abortion.
I disagree with your premise that the fetus is human, and at any rate, the purpose of an abortion is not to pacify a deity.
I think you misspoke there. Whatever philosophical/logical/biological claims that you’re going to try to make to justify abortion, the fetus is undeniably as human as your nose.
Jonathan, the skin cells I scratched off my nose this morning are just as human as the fetus.
So the skin cells on his nose are human, but somehow Krychek_2 disagrees that a fetus is human? And he thinks he is scientifically enlightened?
Yes, the skin cells on your nose are very human, as opposed to canine or feline or reptilian, which is why I suggested that you must have misspoke.
When do you believe the fetus becomes “human”, whatever you mean by that?
Jonathan, there is a difference between being human, and being a person. Cancerous tumors are human. The cells I shed when I scratch my nose are human. The matter deposited into the toilet when I have a bowel movement is human. But none of those are persons, and neither is a fetus. So to clarify, I should have said person rather than human.
With respect to Katecho below, I’m sure in time there will be another abortion thread in which this can all be re-hashed over again, but that’s not this thread.
Krychek_2 wrote: With respect to Katecho below, I’m sure in time there will be another abortion thread in which this can all be re-hashed over again, but that’s not this thread. Krychek_2 seems to enjoy rediscovering just how little control he has over me, or the topics available for me to discuss on these threads. Krychek_2 wrote: The matter deposited into the toilet when I have a bowel movement is human. Krychek_2 is suddenly liberal in ascribing humanity to his own feces, but disagreed with the premise that the fetus is human? It doesn’t get any more sophomoric. Krychek_2 wrote:… Read more »
Katecho, just to clarify, I have zero control over what you write, but I have complete control over how I respond, and I’m not engaging you. Nighty-night.
Krychek_2 engages long enough to whine, just not long enough to be substantive or constructive. Nothing new there.
However, my critiques of Krychek_2’s worldview and fallacies have never depended on his response or engagement. They stand on their own, and if Krychek_2 doesn’t want to engage, all the better.
I think you would do better to dispute legal personhood rather than humanness.
Jill Smith wrote:
Indeed. But if he appeals to legal personhood, he would be conceding that his position has no scientific merit, merely being based on linguistic compromise and arbitrary legal fiat.
Krychek_2 has been challenged to provide a biological criteria by which the fetus is not human, or living. He just goes limp. Then he starts moving the goalposts, offering up untestable pseudo-science about personhood. He then ignores his own principle to defend abortion after personhood anyway. The irony is complete when we remember that Krychek_2 likes to think of himself as our enlightened scientific better.
On Krychek_2 and “human life”, vs. “human”, vs. “human being”, vs. “a human life”:
And, a more recent, and my current favorite:
You said animal or human. Whatever your classify a fetus, it is clearly not a plant!
@bethyada I hear they grow from seed though …
“For any reason”?
‘Chek, how weird is eating meat on your planet? Or making blood sausage?
Here on earth, those of us on the omnivorous predator class, shed blood in order to eat, never mind as a symbol for symbolic redemption! ????
Who knew McDonald’s was a cult?
adad, I meant for any reason relating to the cult itself. If I kill a cow for prime rib, that’s very different than killing a cow to appease a deity.
Still, a tofu centric McDonald’s wouldn’t be much of a cult.
I suspect it would create more sins than it absolved!
God actually didn’t “kill a cow to appease a diety.” We did that. We killed Jesus to appease our own bloodlust. That is our sin, not God’s. Like it or not, we are just a blood thirsty, corrupt and and vengeful lot. Heck, we’ve been known to get in a plane wreck and start eating one another. We brutalize our own children. We dehumanize and reduce one another to clumps of cells. That is our natural state of being. God didn’t do that to us, we did. If it were possible to remove God from the equation, which it is… Read more »
Krycheck, I asked Pastor Wilson presuming there is an answer, and I think I could come up with one myself. So I’m not really bothered by your conclusion that there isn’t one. I just want to hear what his is.
Jane, I’ll be interested to hear if he has an answer myself, and I’ll be very surprised if it’s internally consistent and can be made with a straight face. We’ll see.
I humbly submit it had more to do with the Reformation than the Renaissance, which of course would point back to sola scriptura as the yardstick you are asking about.
And whether or not blood sacrifice, or anything else, does or doesn’t feel creepy is really not a useful question. This amounts to the “argument against the existence of God by reason of personal preference.” I.e….
“If this God existed, I wouldn’t like him. Therefore, God does not exist. Q.E.D.”
Amen Jane. It’s a hard issue. I see a number of options: * That which was originally taught in the first creeds/confessions * That which was originally done in actual practice * That which has been historically most commonly practiced * That which is now taught by the theologians of the faith * That which is enforced by the leaders of the faith * That which is actually practiced by the majority of the faith * That which is practiced by the most authentically devout of the faith * That which is practiced in the originating region of the faith… Read more »
Fortunately, there is The Catechism of the Catholic Church to answer many of the essential questions.
On most everything else, it is left for individuals and groups to determine the best way for they themselves to live “authentically”.
Just because some folks wearing playful hats wrote a book and agreed what it means to be authentically Catholic, don’t make it necessarily so.
By definition the Catechism asserts what it means to be authentically Roman Catholic.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a very helpful starting place for understanding Catholics, but it presupposes that my 5th option, “that which is enforced by the leaders of the faith”, is the correct answer to Jane’s question. And to say, “Well it’s the correct answer because the leaders of the faith say it’s the correct answer!” is…well, you see the problem. Now I’m actually sympathetic to your answer in a sense, because I do see the Catechism of the Catholic Church as doing a decent job of depicting what really is essential to Catholic faith today. But the… Read more »
Thanks, Jonathan. I think those are good yardsticks. I guess in this case, I’m not throwing out a question for discussion, though, I’m literally asking Pastor Wilson what measure he is using. If those are his yardsticks, great. But I would want that fleshed out before I could just read his article and say, “Yeah, Ukrainians kissing caskets is ‘real Orthodoxy’ but we know the Salem Witch Trials were not real Reformedom.” In fact, I find the argument explaining why the Salem Witch Trials are not representative quite convincing, and not just because I want to agree with it. It’s… Read more »
Jane — We know it cannot be representative of the essentiality within the orthodox sect because the essentials of any & all folks in the Church are eternal & godly. Was circumcision an essential component of Judaism? — no If you hold the Church as commencing with Adam & Eve, then nearly all the practices of the various sects attached to it are in flux, and many are distortions. There is no Jew nor Greek nor EO nor RC or CREC, at the end of the day. I’m suggesting that we should charitably say that, whatever their history or purported… Read more »
That’s circular. That presupposes what is at issue — that Orthodoxy has a substantial component of what is “eternal and godly.”
If Orthodoxy is substantially composed of idolatrous abuses, then it is not “eternal and godly.” That is more measurable than “it looks eternal and godly to me, so clearly these abuses are not substantial.”
Jane — You were asking how we measure what’s good or bad in common EO practices? First step = acknowledge that any practice of any believer is by definition nonessential to their identity in Christ. So you’re asking how to judge their inessential behaviors. Next step = acknowledge that all affiliations of believers may practice their religion badly. So work on ourselves first since nobody & no group is perfect. Final step = apply the yardstick of love = whatsoever things are lovely, kind, edifying … If Doug finds kissing caskets in that manner gross and unseemly, he’s in good… Read more »
Again, that only works if you presuppose that everyone involved is a believer. How do you establish that in the first place?
Get to know them.
Some have shown up on this thread!
Doesn’t getting to know them include observing what they do, and considering it in light of scripture? Or do we just get to know them well enough to decide what kind of vibe comes off them, and if the vibe is Christian enough, then whatever they do must be okay?
Oh, I completely agree with you there, and really think that Pastor Wilson should answer the question but don’t have much hope that he’ll do it in a satisfactory manner.
I look forward to Pastor Wilson addressing the question. It’s a good question . I have my own answers but I am more curious about his.
I do not share your skepticism or your cynicism. He has answered such questions frequently, though not every time. However he might miss this one as he’s been traveling when I wrote it and may not have time to go back over all the comments and respond when he returns.
Pardon this quotation, but a mainstream website presents such veneration is integral to “real Orthodoxy”: “By piously venerating the holy relics of the Saints, the Church reveres them as temples of the Holy Spirit, temples of the Living God, in which God dwells by Grace even after the earthly death of the Saints. And by His most wise and good Will, God creates miracles in and through these relics. Moreover, the miracles which derive from the holy relics witness also to the fact that their pious veneration by the people is pleasing to God. The pious veneration of holy relics,… Read more »
Mainstream website? You’ll see such things said in real churches by actual church leaders at times. Doesn’t mean that they are right. Luther was a pretty strong authority on Protestantism who stated that anyone who gives a Jew a glass of water is going to Hell alongside them, but that doesn’t create conclusive proof that Antisemitism is integral to Protestantism.
As I’ve been thinking about this, Hypercalvinism (using whatever definition you like to establish it as clearly outside the pale, you will find it) is my go-to example. It’s well-established, it’s organized in some quarters, and it contains groups of people who haven’t repented of it for hundreds of years. But it’s wicked. There is a way not to tar all Reformed Christianity with it, however.
If you judge the orthodoxinfo website to be kooky and farout, tell me why. It looks standard and mainstream to me, referencing respected thinkers like Bp. Kallistos Ware, and Fr. Georges Florovsky.
Of course even respected persons might say something outrageous. I just don’t see that the view of relics discussed here is repudiated anywhere in Orthodoxy. Whereas I don’t know of any Lutheran person or website who does not repudiate those expressions of Luther.
We can start by looking at where the wreaths are still being laid today. I think that’s why Wilson raised the comparison with Salem.
I’m not sure you would so quickly agree that some of the wreaths currently being laid in America are “unvarnished Protestantism” simply because they happen to be happening in America and happening today.
Jonathan wrote: I’m not sure you would so quickly agree that some of the wreaths currently being laid in America are “unvarnished Protestantism” simply because they happen to be happening in America and happening today. Jonathan is sufficiently vague, but Wilson already anticipated all of this by considering a hypothetical microbrew Calvinist denomination that leaves wreaths at the grave of the one Salem judge who didn’t repent. The issue is not whether such a thing could happen in some backwater of Appalachia, but whether it is repudiated whenever it crawls out from under its rock. Wilson wrote: And to whatever… Read more »
Oh good. Nationalism, Militarism, American Civil Religion, Mammon-worship, belief in the state as the tool to forward our religious ends, the placing of our trust in our national safety primarily in the size of our military and the trust in our personal safety primarily in the guns we’re packing.
Approval of slavery stopped being a wreath across the “true Protestants” starting…when? Approval of racism and White Supremacy ended among the “true Protestants” starting…when? Segregation was no longer a characteristic of our churches…from what year forward?
This is a great article:
Ready. Fire. Aim. Jonathan needs to get a grip. How is he defining “Militarism” in a way that he can hang it around the neck of Protestants? Civil defense is at least one area that is actually within the sphere of legitimate civil jurisdiction, but can Jonathan differentiate that role from the warmongering and world policing that Protestant leaders routinely denounce? Who speaks out against “American Civil Religion” more than Protestant leaders? I’d like Jonathan to please tell us. Just because we disagree with Jonathan that wealth is an inherent evil, it doesn’t follow that we must be Mammon worshipers.… Read more »
Reposting his link is non-responsive.
Agreed, in a sense.
This comment regarding “the warmongering and world policing that Protestant leaders regularly denounce” had hardly been up for 24 hours before Pastor Wilson posted a link….lambasting Obama for not having engaged in more world-policing in Syria. And I’ll agree that Mainline, Peace, and many liberal Evangelical Protestant churches denounced the invasion of Iraq. Not to mention Catholic and Orthodox. But conservative protestant churches? I don’t see how you can possibly claim that’s not an issue for the Church, at least this corner of it. One of the times I was most depressed about the public face of a conservative church… Read more »
Okay switch it from Salem to Hypercalvinist theology, which is still being preached, consists of churches and denominations which refuse to repent of it, and drives people from the gospel.
And I’ll add the caveat that we don’t have to start a quibble about what exactly constitutes Hypercalvinism — I think we can stipulate that there are in existence forms of it that any of us would consider beyond the pale and inimical to the gospel, if only in the most extreme versions.
Jane wrote: Okay switch it from Salem to Hypercalvinist theology, which is still being preached, consists of churches and denominations which refuse to repent of it, and drives people from the gospel. Spots and wrinkles pop up from time to time. No wing of the Church is immune from it. Branches can whither and become fruitless. The Vine needs continuous oversight, and vinedressing. It’s a living organism. Where to make a pruning cut requires wisdom and attention, but the basic need for vinedressing is not a point of criticism toward any denomination. In Christ’s day, the people were saying that… Read more »
Those are good answers, but if those are Wilson’s answers, I think it would have been more helpful to make that explicit in the blog post. What I got from the post was, “We know Salem didn’t represent essential Calvinism because these reasons, but we just kinda know kissing caskets represents essential Eastern Orthodoxy.” I think your explanation is consistent with what he wrote but it would have been better if it had been explicit.
Fair enough. I took Wilson’s point to be that Salem could very well have come to represent Calvinism if Calvinists had never said anything to repudiate it. Likewise with Eastern Orthodoxy and the veneration of these imprisoned monks. Silence also speaks.
Jane wrote: On what basis do we decide that the people acting in bizarre and idolatrous ways in caves in Kiev are the unvarnished, authentic manifestation, and our Orthodox acquaintances who eschew such practices and live ostensibly Christian lives (at a more than superficial level) are just a cleaned up veneer over the ugly? Do they really eschew those practices, or just personally decline to observe them? Silence isn’t the same as authentically differentiating. However, I would be the first to permit a group to actually become something essentially different, in practice, while continuing their former identification. In other words,… Read more »
“Casket kissing”! It’s the new “Tomb Whitewashing”! ; – )
Somewhere in the Ukraine is a family who just returned home from a visit to the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name, Middlesboro, KY, where they witnessed a bunch of presumably sane grown-ups playing with venomous snakes.
The Blov and Mablovicoff reported within days that they had never seen such a striking example of stupidity in all their life…
Nobody plays with actual snakes anymore, but your point is well taken.
I beg to differ. Snake handling – and drinking of poison – is a very fringe sect, but still active.
Since I know you’ll ask for a reference, here: http://appalachianmagazine.com/2017/04/03/a-glimpse-into-the-snake-handling-churches-of-appalachia/
That link was less than helpful. It was a history of snake handling more than anything. Any links with up to date accounts? I don’t doubt the sincerity of your claim, but I want to have something more firm to point to if I am to change my understanding.
In fact, it is widespread enough that the pastors involved are dying on the regular.
This article claims about 125 churches doing it in the South/Appalachia. There are also at least 4 in Canada and some in Africa. http://www.npr.org/2013/10/04/226838383/snake-handling-preachers-open-up-about-takin-up-serpents
May 29, 2012. Matoaka, West Virginia: http://abcnews.go.com/US/serpent-handling-west-virginia-pastor-dies-snake-bite/story?id=16459455
February 15, 2014. Middlesboro, Kentucky: http://abcnews.go.com/US/snake-handling-pentecostal-pastor-dies-snake-bite/story?id=22551754
May 24, 2014, Middlesboro, Kentucky: http://www.kentucky.com/news/hot-topics/article44490747.html
July 26, 2015 Jenson, Kentucky: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/kentucky-man-dies-from-snake-bite-at-church-service/
And if you want, a whole pile of crazy Protestant practices that includes a South African pastor dying of snakebite in 2015: http://thesoutherndaily.co.za/index.php/2015/12/16/snake-pastor-bitten-by-his-own-snake-dies/
This seems fairly current.
Well, I did once handle a child custody case in which the father wanted the children to handle venomous snakes and drink poison, and the mother did not. The case was about ten years ago. The father lost (as in my opinion he should have, even though he was my client.)
I posted links showing a number of deaths just in the last few years, but it seems to be caught up in comment moderation.
It’s showing up now. Multiple links in one comment does that.
As an Appalachian boy, born and bred, let me assure you it still happens.
Hey BJ! Welcome back!
How is the Chaplain business?
Anything new with the new administration?
Thank you for the link.
To all, I stand corrected on my claim of snake handling. I didn’t know. Apologies.
Wilson’s point isn’t that snake handling (or some equivalent) can’t ever happen under a broad Protestant umbrella. Wilson’s point is that we don’t lay wreaths around the practice. It is roundly repudiated.
Damnant quod non intellegunt.
Christian in the West also sought solitude in remote and inaccessible locations such as Skellig Michael.
Much of monastic history has been destroyed over the centuries by Vikings, Mongols, Turks, Lutherans, Soviets and Modernists.
Still today, some men and women are drawn to the cloistered and contemplative life, withdrawing from society and dedicating their lives to God in their own version of what the monks of Skellig Michael created 1500 years ago.
Interesting that the cloistered contemplative orders are still doing pretty well in attracting vocations.
If you want to attract people you have to offer a true alternative.
Jill, I have days when life is completely crazy and a quiet life of contemplation actually sounds pretty good. Do they have monastic orders for athiests?
No, but you would be welcome as a guest at a monastery. Few people realize that you can visit a monastery for a few days, bask in the silence, attend services only if you want to, and walk around generally spacious grounds for a modest fee. Simple but good food, probably with homemade, artisanal bread, cheese, and wine.
There’s at least one, but I don’t recommend going there because a crazy person might bomb it soon.
Yes, they’re called asylums.
LOL! The year 2017, where people try desperately to break INTO the asylum.
“Do they have monastic orders for atheists?”
What about The Clinton Foundation?
I hear it will be about as quiet as the grave pretty soon!
I’m a bit troubled by the blithe assumption that something lawful, done purely for the love of God, is a “total waste”.
Believe it or not Jilly, I had that same thought. While I disapprove of such things, I have also seen people totally waste their lives for no reason at all. I suppose if you’re going to insist on hanging yourself from a spit somewhere, at least put some meaning into it.
There is something beautiful about martyrs. Conversely however, I think we often forget those who died for the faith did not actually nail their own selves to those crosses or consent to their own beheading or volunteer to be eaten by lions.
Actually, many of them did volunteer – in the sense that they publicly declared themselves Christians, knowing it meant death, when they could have just practiced Christianity in secret instead. Many of the martyrs could have easily avoided death simply by keeping their mouths shut, but they decided to speak up for Christ instead. An almost enthusiastic embrace of martyric death was a part of Christianity from the very start. St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred in Rome around the year 107, wrote: “I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the… Read more »
An enthusiastic embrace of martyric death is not the same thing as walling yourself up in a stone tomb and getting your fellow Christians to assist you in your dying.
Isn’t it? What’s the difference? Both are cases where a Christian intentionally seeks out death when they didn’t have to die. Why is walling yourself up in a stone tomb somehow more icky than walking up to the local Roman magistrate and declaring that you’re a Christian when no one accused you of being a Christian? (the latter is something that a number of ancient martyrs did) Now, of course, Orthodoxy would never _recommend_ that people wall themselves up – or voluntarily turn themselves in to murderous authorities, for that matter – but if someone does choose to make such… Read more »
Wow, Doug, I confess (that’s another thing we Orthodox do) I laughed out loud two or three times.
To say something like people “praying through carcasses” is so grossly inadequate as to betray the truly poverty stricken mindset of modern Christianity and it’s lip service paid to a very physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But iconoclasm always justifies its poverty through claiming some superior “spiritual” understanding. Talking about peering through a keyhole and trying to describe the mansion…
But, thanks for the levity.
I am Orthodox. What you describe as bizarre. I see as beautiful. Do you not know that death does not have the power to sunder the Body of Christ which is joined together by the bonds of the Holy Spirit? I have kissed such coffins only because they were interposed between us and the holy ones within. Those who rest there only sleep. Their lives were full of grace that overflow those who sought their aid and council in this life. Nothing significant changed. They still listen and give aid and council by the same grace in which they made… Read more »
Hello! I am Orthodox (born and raised in the East), I found this article through a link passed by a facebook friend, and I would like to join the discussion. I read many comments saying things to the effect that this may be a deviation from Orthodoxy, and others asking why it is not condemned if it is indeed a deviation. So, to set the record straight, let me say that it is not a deviation, it is part of standard Orthodox practice, and we believe it is a valuable and important expression of the faith that should be preserved… Read more »
May I “devils advocate” for a moment?
Much literature says that a lot of asceticism on one path, and, say, snake handling on the other, is done for self-deluding or deceptive self-exaltation or who knows what, just not for good.
So forgive our skepticism.
When we PRESUME this, the alien grossness of it oozes out all over our psyches.
Of course, you’re right that folks can & have done a lot of peculiar things vis-a-vis our experience, for good reason.
Can you cut us some slack for small throats, and we’ll do the same?
Of course, I understand the culture shock. I get culture shock at Protestant practices, too – or, to be more exact, non-practices (Protestantism strikes me as having an excessive impulse to strip down Christianity to its bare bones, as if “non-essential” meant “bad”). Things that are very different from what a person is used to, will always strike that person as alien and weird. This is understandable. Now, can asceticism lead to self-delusion in some cases? Yes. In fact, we even have a specific word for that in Orthodoxy: “prelest”. Prelest is the thing that happens when a very ascetic… Read more »
Does your experience include the phrases “left-handed sins” and “right-handed sins”?
I heard an Orthodox priest speak on this once, if I remember right the idea of “left-handed sins” being those things we typically think of evil and sinful, and “right-handed sins” all the sins that come along with pride, self-righteousness, Phariseeism, oversatisfaction in one’s own holiness, etc.
I’m very familiar with the concept you described, but I’ve never heard the phrases “left-handed sins” and “right-handed sins”. I know them as “worldly sins” and “spiritual sins”. Still, it’s the same idea, just different names.
Michael wrote: Mostly, this means treating the dead as if they were alive – because they ARE alive in Christ. That is why we kiss caskets and bones – because we would kiss those people if they were alive, so we still kiss them when they are dead. Michael seems to have latched onto a principle that he’s not at all prepared to follow through on. But let’s see. Using Michael’s argument, there would be nothing macabre about propping up a deceased relative at the kitchen table? Uncle Mac is still alive in Christ, right? What about continued sexual relations… Read more »
That’s a lovely slippery slope fallacy you’ve got going there. Your principle seems to be that no one can do anything in moderation – it’s all or nothing. I suppose we have to choose between discarding the bodies of the dead in the trash, or seating them at the kitchen table? Because if we show them ANY respect at all as an affirmation that they are alive in Christ, then we have to go all the way and do everything with them as if they were alive, right? But don’t listen to me, listen to the Bible. Kissing the bodies… Read more »
Michael wrote: Your principle seems to be that no one can do anything in moderation … How does one, ‘treat dead bodies as if they were alive’, in moderation? Do you bury them, or sit them at the kitchen table? Where is there room for moderation? Scripture teaches the separation of the soul from the body at death, and separation of the living from those departed souls, not their continued presence with us. Michael wrote: I suppose we have to choose between discarding the bodies of the dead in the trash, or seating them at the kitchen table? If Michael’s… Read more »
So, do you normally refer to someone in the third person when you are talking to them? It strikes me as a little… odd. Which is funny considering this whole thing was basically started by culture shock. Now, to go over your points in order: >”How does one, ‘treat dead bodies as if they were alive’, in moderation?” You kiss them, or kiss the casket or tomb that contains them. Because you would kiss a loved one if he or she were alive. So you take this one practice that is normally reserved for the living – kissing – and… Read more »
Thank you for your whole-hearted defense of your practices Michael. I might quibble here and there and culturally it’s not something that I’m ever going to feel fully comfortable with or called to practice, but I think you make good arguments in general.
Yes, Katecho refers to everyone in the third person. And yes, many of us have found it odd. And no, he will not change even if you repeatedly ask him to over the course of years and explain that it feels impersonal and uncharitable and is personally off-setting.
Do you mean to imply that monks who bricked themselves up are equivalent to someone who peacefully allowed their enemies to kill them? Is publicly giving your life for Christ in front of a crowd, at the hands of enemies the same thing as dying slowly in complete isolation, at your own behest?
Michael wrote: Thus, ironically, although they “hid themselves”, they touched more lives than you or me. Who knows how many souls have been brought to Christ by learning about the faith of the bricked-up monks? Performing stunts may attract a curious crowd, but that’s what outrageous stunts do. Outrageousness doesn’t automatically justify the spectacle, or render it pious, does it? Do we justify any behavior if it might bring someone to Christ? Does God need us that desperately? I find Michael’s defense of this practice to be particularly weak in the face of Scriptural instruction, but Michael’s rationalizations seem to… Read more »
katecho writes: “Does [Michael] have to accept and venerate all such perversion as some sort of calling from God that he can never judge or rebuke?”
What is katecho’s standard, briefly stated, for judging and rebuking?
When Juan Peron was living in exile in Spain, his first wife Evita’s (Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina) remains were dug up and delivered to him where he kept them in an open casket on the dining room table. Senora Peron III was required to comb the corpse’s hair from time to time. Similarly, when King Philip the Handsome (Felipe el Guapo) of Castile died prematurely, his already loony wife Queen Joanna the Mad (Juana la Loca) grew even more distracted by grief. She carried his body around on her travels because she couldn’t bear to be parted from it.… Read more »
//Now, as for the people who walled themselves up underground and lived and died in those cells, this is certainly not something that Orthodoxy recommends in any way, but it is something that we accept and honour if someone does decide to do it.//
Then you accept and honor sin.
This topic will be increasingly important to address in depth. First of all, don’t scorn the millennials who contemplate or do swing East. Now, having enough friends in this vein I see the tension. In my context, the Reformed churches are so secularized, so shallow, and so weak that you have sincere Christians looking to take cover in a Christian tradition that will not adapt to the culture. Secondly, there is the rise of Orthodox priest bloggers who are quite good at articulating the place these Christians find themselves (Stephen Freeman and Dammick sp?). So these young Christians look to… Read more »
(Paid for your trip? Wow)
I think Kat has really touched on a significant yearning in youth who are reacting against the dead-end emptiness of modernism, and the self-absorption of postmodernism. I think many sincerely desire a connection to something bigger than themselves, and an experience with the numinous. Unfortunately, they aren’t going to manufacture this by kissing icons or caskets.
Who needs Orthodoxy when you can have a Spirit-filled church like this?
Or maybe this is why more people are crossing the Bosphorus.
“You said avocado in a worship song”!! Poor girl. Clearly she has more discernment than some. :-)
That was hilarious.
Hilarious and a bit scary…since it was quite realistic until the “Nebuchadnezzar” line .The puzzled girl reminded me of myself during pretty much any praise song.
This comes across as intellectually lazy.
What you’re doing is comparing Wierd with Wierd when you should prepare regular with regular. I’m a Roman Catholic, returning to the Faith of my baptism after exploring other options, including the CRE. I sometimes visit a Ruthenian Catholic Church. I’m amazed at the consideration & discussion of the Liturgy. It’s like praying the themes of Augustine’s Confessions. I also pray vespers with the Coptic Orthodox. Go, actually participate in Liturgy, and then you can compare their normal with your normal.
Are you talking about this place? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiev_Pechersk_Lavra. There are some spiritual & heroic Giants here.
I tried to learn more via Google about these immured monks at the Monastery of the Caves, and couldn’t find anything. Can you mention a reliable source that describes them? Do we really know that they did this voluntarily? I could find sources that say that immurement was used to punish monks at various times and places in history (a harsh punishment to be sure), but nothing that specifically mentioned this monastery. And this wikipedia article, along with its source, which cites Gibbon as its source, says there have at times in history been Christian “immured anchorites.” But the examples… Read more »
I meant to give the link to this wikipedia article in my previous comment.
Peter McWilson puts the nail the casket! Orthodoxy defeated.